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From Ashes and Dust - 2. Chapter 2: Socialization

 
I found myself awake before the moon had sunk below the horizon. It was a dim gray splotch against the hazy black sky. Although my body told me I hadn't gotten enough sleep, my brain, accustomed to the eternal presence of danger told me to get moving. That was one thing that I learned early on in life: you should never stay in one spot for more than a day unless you had a death wish. And I had a dozen or so scars as a testament to that. I suppose I should be thankful for them though. They do give me the appearance of a warrior, which makes me less likely to be attacked; however I could do without the sling. I always make a point to take my arm out of its sling when I'm traveling through some questionable territory, because a cripple may as well be wearing a giant target and be screaming "Here I am!". Regardless, this was one of those days that I just didn't feel like adding to my collection of scars, and so I decided I may as well get moving. At least the night would hide me just as well as it would hide any predators.
 
Before leaving the car, I checked out my supplies in my backpack. Three candles, two boxes of matches, some expired water purification pills, a half full bottle of water, two rolls of bandages, and a knife. I never carried any food with me, because canned food is too heavy and fresh food just attracts savage animals. I decided to make food my first priority of the day, considering I have not eaten much recently, mainly because all the shops in the city I passed through were pillaged long ago, which would also explain the lack of civilization there. Normally small groups will form within cities, but to do so they require at least a base of materials to support themselves while they scramble to get established. I have always been curious about these groups. How can so many people gather under one person and unconditionally listen to everything they say? What can that person possibly offer that would make them willingly become mindless slaves? Perhaps that's why this all happened. The world noticed that humanity was fucked and so it decided to solve the problem itself, leaving the few survivors to begin anew and hopefully not mess it up this time. Well, so far I'm not impressed.
 
Nevertheless, I thought It would be best if I stopped off at a 'civilization' if I can call it that. I figured there would be one nearby, as they usually do not stray too far from cities, and almost always form on main roads, like the one I was currently standing on. Finding one would at least give me a chance to get some food, and see what the local theories for our current status are. I've heard almost every theory there is, so at this point, I'm kinda just waiting to see which is the most popular, and then I'll deem that one as fact. I don't know why I want to find out so much though. I mean, can the information really be of use to me? I'm not sure, but all I know is that somewhere deep inside of me, I have a yearning to know. Even if I'm aching and starving to death, that little flicker for knowledge within me never seems to be snuffed out. And so, once my restless stomach reminded me it was time to search for food, I set out, this time with the moon watching over me.
 
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There's something about seeing almost the same barren house with the same overgrown lawn and rusted car that tends to drive you a little crazy. I guess that's why there are a lot of insane people around, either it's from the gloomy monotony of the landscape or it's from the isolation. The first, I will admit, does get to me sometimes. Staring at the same dusty, decaying landscape, with the same murky gray sky all the time does make me feel like a clamp is being put on the sides of my head. As for isolation though, I have grown to appreciate it. That is one of the perks of being a Feral I suppose, and I do find it ironic that as much as I enjoy my secluded individuality I still use that colloquial term for myself. You'd think I would be creative enough to find my own definition, at least, but I guess I'm just too lazy to. That's not to say that I'm against socializing and visiting towns, though, and I do see the importance that community has in this bleak world. And so, I do try to stop by some towns, even if I don't feel like it, I know that it has some important effect to my psyche and may hopefully keep me from going insane. At the moment though, I was far more concerned with finding a town for food rather than sanity, as my eyes continuously scanned the horizon for just one glowing building.
 
After travelling until the sun was about to break the horizon, I finally found what I was looking for. A two story house, in somewhat decent condition, stood a few houses away, with it's bottom floor illuminating the darkness surrounding it. I was a little hesitant to approach the house, but really, was I ever not hesitant? I would feel safer to approach a town though, because at least then the likelihood of them all being lunatics is not so high, but you'd be surprised. Approaching a solitary house is risky though, because if there is just one person living inside, likely there is a reason they are alone, and most often, it is a negative reason. I was tired though, and very hungry, so I decided 'fuck it' and approached.
 
Once I neared the door, I could hear a faint humming inside, which I decided sounded masculine. While walking up the fractured asphalt path to the door, I discretely pulled the knife out of my backpack and slipped it into my pocket. The windows of the house were, for the most part intact, with all the cracks having been taped over. I thought that was a good sign, at least the person inside was logical enough to construct a decent shelter. Feeling a little better about the situation, I swallowed a little and then knocked my fist against the splintering door three times.
 
Abruptly the humming ceased and was replaced by the sound of floorboards progressively creaking their way to the door. A man, probably in his early forties pushed open the door slowly and looked down at me. His hair was parted cut short, with random bald spots and his eyes seemed tinged yellow. He squinted as he examined me, as I did the same, taking in his dirty yellow shirt, torn jeans, and discolored, flaking skin. The tremors shooting through his arms completed the puzzle for me, and I quickly concluded that he was a cannibal. Hardly the first I had met, so I just waited patiently for him to make his move.
 
"Can I help you?" He asked, with his voice cracking from ages of being unused.
 
"I'm just looking for some food" I admitted, my voice coming out equally hoarse.
 
"By all means then." He swung open the door and held out a shaking arm, directing me towards the kitchen.
 
Inside his kitchen stood a row of dusty cabinets, their edged stained from rusty hinges. A stove was placed beneath them, next to a sink, both of which seemed well maintained. A fridge was also in the corner, but seemed abandoned, likely due to the lack of power and a lack of having any surplus food; although I doubted anyone could eat an entire person in one sitting, so I was a little curious as to where he put his leftovers. I didn't dwell on it though; I felt as though I should maybe concentrate on the current situation, and so I took a seat at an old rickety table, located across the room from the oven. Staring at the peeling floral cream colored wallpaper and the splintering oak floorboards, I waited for him to speak.
 
Pouring two glasses of water he explained, "The house has a generator out back. I have been able to keep the well going and the lights and stove, but that's about it. Don't really want to waste gas, because there's no telling when it will be gone."
 
I nodded, a little impressed at how coherent he was. Most cannibals are drooling morons from the diseases carried in human flesh.
 
"You don't say much do you?" He asked. "What's your name anyways?"
 
"Does it matter?" I shrugged and taking note of how that sounded a little rude, I added, "It's not like there's much of a use for them anyways."
 
"True," he smiled, displaying crooked blackening teeth, "people don't really stick around anymore, do they? By the way, you said you were hungry?" By now he had joined me at the table, and placed a glass of water in front of me.
 
"Not really," I shrugged, playing with the rim of the glass. The thought of consuming human flesh did tend to kill any pains in my stomach. After all, it's an acquired taste and the few times I've been forced to try it, I didn't care for it at all.
 
"Are you sure?" He raised his eyebrows, exposing his cloudy yellow eyes.
 
"Look, I know what you are. The only reason I came in was to get any information, and then I intend to leave." My honesty seemed to sting him, and his eyes narrowed a little and he paused.
 
"Well, if we're going to just get to the point like that!" He yelled and quickly flung the table over.
 
Falling backwards in my chair, I grabbed the knife in my pocket, swearing audible when I grabbed the blade instead of the handle. By the time I pulled it out, he was already on top of me, knees on either side of my chest, and grabbing onto my neck. As quickly as I could, and before he could notice, I plunged the knife into his chest, and rapidly his grip loosed. Relaxing a little, and gasping for breath, I kicked him off of me, and he fell backwards onto the floor, his back arching in pain. I got up and stood over him, looking into the widening yellow eyes. I didn't say anything as I took hold of the knife and twisted it ninety degrees, holding back a smile while he screamed. I then slowly pulled the knife from his chest, kicked him in the head for good measure, and then went to the sink where I washed clean the knife, and my hand, which was now dripping blood from when I grabbed the blade. Once the knife was clean, I put it in my bag, still on my back, and then I examined my hand, judging the severity of the gash. It was about two inches long but not too deep. Enough to keep me from using my hand for a while, meaning for the next few days I would likely need to rely on my weak left arm. I was a little annoyed, but considering I could do nothing to change the situation, I decided to let it go. I cleaned my hand once more and neatly wrapped it with one of the bandages in my bag. Then, having enough of this place, I took my leave, without looking at the man, who was now staining the floor a deep crimson.
 
 
 
Copyright © 2014 Ace_of_Spades; All Rights Reserved.
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