Fiction: Afterlife (Chapter 27)

by Mike Monroe on October 20, 2014

in FICTION

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Afterlife is a sci fi/western action serial published every other week. Join us in a post-apocalyptic journey through a future where life has become little more than a struggle for survival. However, where there’s life, there’s always hope.


Read the previous chapter here:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 26

Where:

Horseman and Abby talk about what’s happened since they last saw one another.
Warrick finds Devin and they decide to head for Primrose.
Horseman tries to impress Abby.

Find the Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

 

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 27

For the next two weeks, Horseman made breakfast for Abby each morning, after he’d served his sister first.  The two would eat together, talking and laughing and growing closer.  Abby’s headaches and nausea went away after a few days, but the desire for pain killers and the longing were still there.  Bobby and Michelle, on the other hand, were mostly healed, and while Bobby seemed to be in good spirits, Michelle still seemed to want to stay off to herself for the most part.  Abby had barely spoken to her over the two week span.  Doctor Long had done a wonderful job surgically repairing Michelle’s face and her broken nose, but there were still scabs and there would always be scars.  Horseman placed his and Abby’s plates on the kitchen table and the two of them sat down while Horseman’s music transmitter, which he’d placed on the counter, played “Eyes of the World” by the Grateful Dead.  Abby didn’t like old world music much, but this particular song had a relaxed, soothing feel to it with its laid back groove and calming lyrics.  The kitchen was cozy like the rest of the safe house, with atlantium appliances including a dry refrigeration system and an even distribution stove, a ceramic tile floor, and an expensive wooden table large enough for ten people to comfortably sit around.  Abby started chewing on some bacon as Horseman sat across from her.  “How’s Shelly today?” she asked.

Horseman frowned.  “Same, I guess.”  He shook his head.  “Like I told you the other day, I can’t help but feel that her injuries are the karmic result of horrible things I’ve done.”

“I don’t know what these things are,” Abby said as she chewed and swallowed, “but I’m sure you’re being too hard on yourself.”

Horseman shrugged and sipped his coffee.  “Yeah, whatever.  I need to really think hard about what I’m doing with my life.  I tell myself we’re fighting a good fight.  I mean, we’re trying to ultimately save lives, right?”

Abby nodded.  “Of course.  There are always gray areas, though.  You just need to do the best you can.  Keep your moral compass, you know?”

“Right,” Horseman said.  “I need to meditate.”

“You still wanted to play Canyon Race after breakfast, though, right?” Abby asked, referring to the three dimensional video game Horseman liked to play.  It was something they’d been doing almost every day.  Abby was nearly to the point where she could beat him.  “Or holoball maybe?”

“I don’t know,” Horseman said.  “Maybe later.”

Abby grinned seductively.  “I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Don’t even joke about that,” Horseman said, smiling back.

They’d kissed a few times in the safe house, but Abby wanted to take it slow this time around, so they never got too far into anything.  She knew Horseman wanted more, but she was impressed with his patience and perseverance.  However, the last thing she needed right now was to mess up her emotional state any more than it already was.  “I’m sorry,” she said.

“It’s no problem,” Horseman said as he cut his pancakes.  “There’s nothing to be sorry about.”

Just then, Bobby walked into the room.  After saying good morning to Abby and Horseman, he started heating up some oatmeal on the stove.  When he was done, he joined the two of them at the table.  Not long after that, Della came in and cooked up some bacon and eggs.  The four of them were soon eating breakfast together.  Della looked over at Bobby’s oatmeal and made his best Mr. Yuk face.  “How can you eat that crap?” he asked in his effeminate voice.

Bobby shrugged.  “I don’t know.  It’s oatmeal.  You have a problem with oatmeal?”

“I’ve never touched the stuff,” Della said as he brought eggs to his mouth with his fork.

“You’ve never tried oatmeal?” Abby asked.

Della shook his head.  “It’s gross.”

“It’s good,” Bobby said.  “Especially with cinnamon, sugar, butter, and milk.  It’s delicious.”

Della shook his head again.  “It’s like eating snot.”

Bobby grinned.  “You’ve eaten snot before?”

“It’s just what I imagine snot would be like,” Della said.  “It’s the consistency of it.  It’s all slimy looking, you know?”  He cringed. “It looks like mucus stew.”

Horseman glanced at Della as he ate some bacon.  “I can’t believe you’ve never tried oatmeal.”

“I was always a cream of wheat man myself,” Della said with a grin.  “I like creamy things.”  He winked at Horseman.

Horseman chuckled.  “You’re a perve.”

“What’s with this music, anyway?” Della asked as the Grateful Dead continued playing.

Horseman grinned and shook his head.  “You come in here and criticize Bobby’s oatmeal, and now you criticize my music?”

“I didn’t say anything about it,” Della said.  “I just asked what it was.”

“I know that face,” Horseman said.  “You’re gonna criticize it.”

“What does it matter, anyway?” Della asked with a smile.  “It’s not you playing it, right?  So why take it personally?  And like I said, you don’t know I was gonna criticize it.”

“I sort of like it,” Abby said, “and I don’t usually like this kind of music.”

“Well it sucks,” Della said with a chuckle.  “It sounds like a bunch of old white men who are so stoned all they know how to do is go up and down scales.”

“You know there’s more to it than that,” Horseman countered.

“Well what do you want to listen to, Della?” Bobby asked as he swallowed a bite of oatmeal.

“Something with some bounce to it,” Della replied, dancing in his chair.  “Something more modern.  Or if you really want to play old world stuff, some techno or hip hop or something.  Anything but this crap.”

Horseman stood and shook his head.  “Fine,” he said as he walked over to the music transmitter, “but you need to expand your musical horizons a little.”

Della glanced at Bobby.  “Did you like that crap?”

Bobby shrugged.  “It was all right.  I like that kind of music, though.”

Della shook his head.  “You all need to work on your musical taste.”

“Ambitionz Az a Ridah” by Tupac Shakur started playing from the transmitter as Horseman made his way back to the table.  “Is that better?” he asked Della as he sat down to continue eating.

Della smiled and shrugged.  “Tupac?  Really?”

“Oh my God!” Horseman blurted with a chuckle.  “Are you kidding me?  You just said you wanted to hear hip hop.”

“It’s an improvement,” Della said.

“I’m with Della on this one,” Bobby said.  “I’d rather hear Notorious B.I.G. if you’ve got it.”

“I don’t,” Horseman said.  “So this is what we’re listening to.”

“East coast all the way, my brotha,” Della said, winking at Bobby.  He grinned at Horseman.  “You gotta recognize.”

“I don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about,” Horseman said.

“I’ve been lost this whole time,” Abby added as she chewed some bacon.  “The music sounds fine to me, though.”  She’d never heard it before and it was hard for her to understand a lot of what the rapper was saying, but it did have a good beat to it.

“It’s an improvement,” Della said.  “I’ll give you that.”

“Can we get through one breakfast without you criticizing everything in existence?” Horseman asked Della.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Della said.  “How about next time you’re being beat up by a bunch of enforcer thugs I just leave your ass there.”

“That’s a little below the belt,” Horseman said with a grin.  “You know I was just messing with you.”

Della laughed.  “I know.”  He chewed some eggs.  “Of course, if you listened to some decent music, I wouldn’t have to criticize everything.”

Horseman smiled and shook his head.  “You bastard.”  A mischievous expression appeared on Horseman’s face and he flung some eggs at Della with his spoon.  They landed on Della’s lap.

“Food fight!” Della shouted.  He threw some eggs back towards Horseman.  Horseman ducked and the eggs hit Nat Bigum in the face just as he walked into the kitchen.  Della made a face of exaggerated worry, like he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or scream.

Nat glared at him and then at Horseman.  He shook his head.  “What the hell’s wrong with you people?”  He walked over to the cabinet and got some cold cereal, which he poured into a bowl.  “Bunch of idiots,” he muttered as he poured milk in the bowl and left the kitchen.

“Didn’t want to eat with us I guess,” Della said with a grin.

“I wonder why?” Horseman asked.  They started laughing, as did Bobby and Abby.

<>

Later that afternoon, Abby was resting in her room when there was a knock on the door.  “Come in,” she said, putting her cowboy hat on.

The door opened and a tall, thin man in jeans and a maroon turtleneck entered her room.  He had circular glasses and a mostly bald head with a half ring of grey hair encircling it.  There was a kind smile on his face.  “Hi, Abby.”

“Hi, Doctor Long,” Abby said.  “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine,” Doctor Long said, gazing at her with kind brown eyes.  “You’re making good progress, as are your friends.  I didn’t come here this time to talk about medical issues, though.  I had something else I wanted to talk to you about.”  He sat in a chair next to her bed and she turned on her side to face him.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“I’m not sure if you know this Abby,” Doctor Long began, “but I was a close friend of your father’s.”  Abby nodded.  “I was sorry to hear what happened to him,” Doctor Long continued, speaking in a hushed voice.  “He was one of the smartest men in Numurka, and a great friend to the resistance.”

“So you’re a part of the resistance, then?”  Abby asked.  “I was under the impression, talking to Ginny, that you didn’t take sides.”

Doctor Long shook his head.  “Those are outward appearances.  It’s important that Herman Rennock and his people think that, so we can continue our operation, but I’ve been assisting the resistance with finances and information for decades.  This is between you and me, as I’m sure you know.”  Abby nodded.  “I wanted to tell you about something,” Doctor Long continued.  “Something your father was a part of and we’d like you to be a part of, now that, whether you realize it or not, you are the new Prometheus.”

Abby frowned.  She wasn’t sure she liked him calling her that.  “What is it?  And why do you say ‘we’?”

“Your father and I were both members of a group called the Free Society Federation.  I’m still a member, actually, as is Alexander Harris, whom you’ll most likely meet in Primrose, which is where I’m assuming you’re heading.”

Abby shrugged.  She wasn’t sure if she could trust Doctor Long.  If he healed Herman Rennock’s uncle, there was a chance he was some sort of double agent, even if he was helping her friends.  “So what’s the Free Society Federation?  What does it mean if I’m a member?”

“Your ancestor Kevin Song, the original Prometheus, founded the Free Society Federation when he started the resistance against New Atlantis, which was then run by George Garrison, an ancestor of the founder of the city.”  Doctor Long smiled at Abby.  “This is all new to you?”

Abby nodded.  He must have seen her curiosity through her facial expression.  “I’ve heard some of it.  Not all of it.”

“Winston Cooper,” Doctor Long continued, “another member of the Free Society Federation, is a famed historian who lives in Green Rock.  He has access to resources many people don’t know exist, and he knows much of the hidden and forgotten history of our world.  I’m sure you’ll be meeting with him at some point during your journey.”

Abby nodded.  “He’s a historian?  Does he know what ended the old world?”

Doctor Long shook his head.  “I don’t think anyone fully knows what destroyed the old world.  Whatever it was took out our technology and we had to start over from scratch, at least that’s the legend.  Entire libraries were lost.  What we know of the old world is limited.”

“But something must have survived,” Abby said, confusion on her face.  “We have the music, the movies, the art, and much of the poetry and literature.  It must have been recorded somewhere.”

“If it was, we’ve lost the originals,” Doctor Long said, “and if someone knows where all of that came from, they’re doing an excellent job of hiding it from anyone else.  I’m getting off track, though.  I wanted to talk to you about the Free Society Federation.”  Abby nodded.  “So it was started at the same time as the resistance,” Doctor Long continued, “a sort of secret society of intellectuals and powerful people who thought New Atlantis and its denizens, and others like them throughout the world, were leading us all in the wrong direction.  We were the brains behind the resistance fighters, you might say.  We try to inform the people, but we still need to remain secretive so New Atlantis doesn’t find out who we are and send their minions after us.  It’s a fine line.”

“Which is why you treat Rennock’s people as well as the resistance,” Abby said.

Doctor Long nodded.  “Anyway, we’re the ones who helped your father come up with the constitution I’m sure you have now.  We’re the ones who meet and discuss where the resistance is heading.  And we’re the ones who will help you found our new nation.”  He smiled at Abby.  “We’ve been secretly spreading word about you.  Primrose is already awaiting your coming.  All of the members of the resistance throughout the world are waiting for you to declare yourself and your nation, so they can join you in your fight.”

Abby’s mouth was hanging open.  “I’m a twenty year old drug addict.”

Doctor Long chuckled.  “Don’t play this game with me, Abby.  You’ve known all along that you’d be doing this.  What, does it just seem more real now?”  His expression became serious.  “I do see how it could be overwhelming.  And I know you’re recovering from your addiction.  If there were a better time for me to tell you all of this, I would, but this is the only time.  This can’t wait.  Time chooses you.  You don’t choose it.”

Abby closed her eyes.  “I’ll do the best I can.”

“So we’ll be meeting in several weeks to discuss some things,” Doctor Long explained.  “We’d like you to join us so we can officially induct you into the group.  Is there a secure number where I can reach you, or an encrypted digital address of some kind?”

Abby nodded.  She wasn’t sure it was a great idea to give things like that out, though.  She had the communicator Pete had given her, and she had Einstein.  Perhaps Einstein would be best.  She had an encrypted digital mailbox she rarely used.  “PrettyPrincess555**SuckIt#2” she said.

Doctor Long eyed her with a sardonic grin.  “Have you got that, Maggie?”

“I do, Doctor Long,” said a female voice from a computer on the doctor’s wrist.  Abby hadn’t noticed it before.  She realized Einstein was turned off and charging.  She wished he’d been on to record their conversation, though.  She felt like kicking herself.

“It’ll be great to have you in the loop,” Doctor Long said.  “I’m sure you have some good ideas.”

“I do,” Abby said.  “I’ve seen a lot over the past years.  I’ve seen firsthand what Herman Rennock’s policies have done to people.”

Doctor Long nodded.  “It’s not just him the resistance is up against, though.  The Mexican Territory’s not much better.  In fact, they’re worse in many ways.  They lean too far in the other direction.  Laissez faire capitalism and pure communism both have the same major flaw.  They’d perhaps work in an ideal world, but they fail to take human imperfection into account.  Both can be manipulated to serve the whims of those in power, and it’s always the common people who suffer in the end.”  He leaned forward in his chair.  “We’ve strived to create a system that does take human flaws into account, a system that takes the best parts of each previous system and combines them, using what’s best for a specific time and place.  There’s no dogmatic, mindless following of any one idea.  We try to allow ideas to grow and prosper, and take the best from all of them.”

“You sound a lot like Pastor Earl right now,” Abby said.

“He’s a wise man,” Doctor Long said.  “I’ve had some good talks with him over the past couple of weeks.  He studied political science and has a strong mind, so you’d be good to stick with him.  Maybe he’ll be a member of our group someday.”  Abby nodded.  She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to be a member of their group.  It seemed a little elitist to her for some reason.  “I’ve enjoyed talking with all of your friends,” Doctor Long went on to say.  “Pete Ahmad’s an interesting man, too.  We’ve had some problems with Muslim fundamentalists coming up from the south lately.  Acts of terrorism, beheadings, bombings, those types of things.”  He frowned and shook his head.  “These people aren’t like your friend, Pete.  They’re thugs and murderers posing as religious fanatics.  Talking with Pete reminds me that most Muslims just want to practice their religion in peace, just like anyone else from any other religion.  This violence is more a tribal thing than anything else, I think.  The thugs twist scripture to justify their heinous actions.  It’s been done for centuries, by all religions.”  Abby nodded.  “Tribalism is rampant in this world,” Doctor Long continued.  “People of a like mind get together and wall themselves off from everyone else, perpetuating their own dogmatic ideas throughout their groups.  And they don’t trust outsiders.  There are millions of people in groups like these, whether they’re Muslim or Christian religious fanatics, racists, militants, laissez faire capitalists, communists, hard line liberals, hard line conservatives…  They’re all similar in many ways, and I believe that any one of them can become dangerous if they get to the point where they believe the rest of the world is out to get them.  This is what the Free Society Foundation is fighting against in all its forms.  We encourage people to overcome their differences and use them to help society better itself.  We encourage people to come together, rather than isolate themselves with like-minded people.”

Abby nodded.  “That sounds like a noble goal.”

“And from what I’ve seen, your little group you’ve got going is a microcosm of this.  Despite your differences, you work together and are stronger for it.”

“I guess you could say that,” Abby said with a grin.  “Hopefully we’re strong enough to finish what we’ve set out to do, though.”

“I have faith in you,” Doctor Long said.  “You’re Henry Song’ daughter.  I’m sure he raised you well, and if you have any of his intelligence and headstrongness, you’ll be successful.  He could accomplish anything he set out to accomplish.”

“He could,” Abby said.  She’d known him as her father, the man who brought toys home for Christmas, took her to amusement parks, laughed and joked over dinner, and helped her with her math homework.  But he always made her feel like everything was going to be fine, no matter how hard things got.

“Well, with that, I should get going,” Doctor Long said with a smile and a wave.  “I have more patients to see to.”

“Okay,” Abby said.  “It was good talking to you.”

“It was good talking to you also,” Doctor Long said.  “Make sure you think about what I said.  I’ll be contacting you in the future.”  Abby nodded as he left the room.  She pondered the conversation as she lay in bed.

<>

Pastor Earl and Abby stood atop a dune near the safe house.  The desert spread out in every direction like a sandy, rippled blanket beneath the blazing sun.  Pastor Earl had been trying to help Abby become a better shot with her laser pistol.  He hadn’t had much success teaching her, though.  Nat was training Bobby to shoot with his left hand, and each day when they were done, Pastor Earl and Abby would go out and practice.  Abby had fired at the target several times that day with little success.  Of ten shots, one hit the target, but it wasn’t anywhere near the center.  Pastor Earl figured Abby would probably be better off letting everyone else do her fighting for her.  “Not all of us can be soldiers,” he said to her.  “We need leaders, too.”

“That won’t help me much if I’m alone and need to defend myself,” Abby said with a frown.

Pastor Earl sat on the dune and Abby sat beside him.  “If you need to defend yourself,” Pastor Earl began, “just aim at their belly and fire as many shots as you can.”

“Why belly?” Abby asked.  “Why not head or chest?”

“You don’t necessarily need to kill them,” Pastor Earl replied.  “You just need to stop them.  If you aim at the belly, you could miss in any direction and still hit them somewhere.  Fire ten shots, and one’s bound to immobilize them.”

“What if they’re shooting at me, too?” Abby asked.

“Never feel like you’re too proud to turn and run,” Pastor Earl said.  “A smart man runs and fights another day if he knows he’s gonna lose.”  He smiled at Abby.  “Or woman, in your case, of course.”

“Besides, it’s not Christian to kill a man, right?” Abby asked.  “I mean, we’re supposed to turn the other cheek, right?  Live by the sword and die by the sword and all that.”

Pastor Earl nodded.  “In a perfect world, but if someone’s pointing a gun at you, I don’t believe you accomplish anything by letting yourself be killed.”  His blue eyes looked at her gravely.  “Like I said, point at their belly, and shoot as many times as you can, and if you think there’s any chance you won’t be successful, turn tail and run as fast as your legs will take you.”

Abby nodded, looking out at the horizon.  Pastor Earl also looked out where the dunes met the sky.  “There’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately,” Abby said.  “I’m not really sure why.”

“What is it?” Pastor Earl asked.

“How do you think the old world ended?”

Pastor Earl smiled.  “I don’t know.  I think there’s a good chance we were responsible for it somehow, though.  Who knows?  A war, maybe?  Could have been a natural disaster, also, though.”

“Maybe a holy war of some kind?” Abby asked.  “I remember from history that there were supposedly a lot of wars fought over religion in the old world.”

Pastor Earl shook his head.  “Many so called holy wars were really about money or property, though.  Just because one religion is on one side and another is on the other side, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re almost always fighting over a piece of land, or an oil field.”

Abby nodded.  “I guess I can see that, but you don’t think religion sometimes motivates that fighting, regardless of what they’re fighting over?”

“Maybe a little,” Pastor Earl replied.  “I’m not saying there haven’t been instances where people used violence to try to force their beliefs on others.  I’m just saying I think people often use religion to justify awful things they were going to do regardless.  Bad people are able to twist good things to suit their bad purposes.”  Abby nodded.  “Take Christian fanatics, for instance,” Pastor Earl went on.  “I can’t think of their name, but there’s a cult of some kind west of here, where they believe that we’re living after the end of the world and that Jesus is coming soon.”  He shook his head.  “Now first of all, Jesus said that even he didn’t know when the end of the world was going to be.  Only the Father knows.  So any man saying he knows when the end of the world is going to be is presumptuous at best.  Anyway, so these people think we’re living after not just the end of the old world, but after the Biblical apocalypse.  Their leader claims to be some prophet who has a direct connection to God and he keeps saying Jesus is going to come on this day.  Then, when Jesus doesn’t come, he changes the date.”  He chuckled.  “Pretty convenient if you ask me.  This guy’s been doing this for decades now.  He fits his words to the world he observes, and twists the Bible to fit his agenda.”

“What’s his agenda?” Abby asked.

“Financial gain,” Pastor Earl replied.  “At least that’s what it seems like to me at this point.  Everyone who joins the cult donates everything they own to him.  He says God will give them even greater rewards.  Be faithful and follow him and they’ll all be billionaires and they’ll never get sick.”  He chuckled again, shaking his head.  “By His stripes we are healed.  This cult leader and his followers don’t seem to realize that Jesus was talking about spiritual healing.  He healed people physically while he was with us to prove who he was, but the main healing was cleansing of sins.  That’s not to say God doesn’t answer prayers, because he does, but not always in the ways we expect.”  He glanced at Abby.  “There are a lot of sick people in this world who think they’re sick because they don’t have enough faith, all because of the lies guys like this cult leader spew.  The Bible makes it clear that it’s not easy being a Christian.  There’s a lot of pain and suffering, some of it a direct consequence of our beliefs, but in the end, the spiritual rewards are worth it.”  He looked out at the horizon again.  “Anyway, I hope financial gain is the extent of it.  Who knows when somebody like that’s gonna take up arms and start killing the unbelievers, just like the Muslim terrorists are doing now?  It’s all about land and money, though.  Don’t think for an instant that guy really believes a word of Christianity.  If he does, he’s twisted it so far it’s not even the same message.”

“You seem like you have experience with people like him,” Abby said.

“I do,” Pastor Earl said.  “Some of his followers joined my congregation in Dune Post.  It took me years to reverse the brainwashing, to teach them that they were free to choose whether to follow God or not, and even whether to believe or not.”  He frowned.  “Abby, I feel so terrible about leaving them.”

“It’s okay,” Abby said.  “We needed you.”

“They needed me, too,” he said with a tear in his eye.  “It’s not the first time I left someone who needed me, either.”  He took a deep breath.  “Abby, I had a wife and two kids.  A son and a daughter.”  He closed his eyes and frowned, trying his best to remember what his wife, Ellen, looked like.  “I left them to join the resistance in New Brazil.  I thought I was defending them.  I thought I was doing the right thing.”

“You probably were,” Abby said.

Pastor Earl wiped his eyes and shook his head.  “No.  I should have been there.  Bandits killed my wife and kids, Abby.  And who knows what else they did…  While I was off fighting someone else’s war.”  He looked into her eyes.  “I have a history of leaving the people who need me the most.”

Abby leaned close and hugged him.  “You’re a good man.”

Pastor Earl put his arm around Abby.  “Abby, I’m never going to leave you.  I’ll fight by your side until the end, whatever happens.  I promise you that.  I’ve run away too many times.”

“But you weren’t running,” Abby said.  “You were fighting.”

“That’s what I told myself at the time, too.”  He smiled at her.  “No, I was running.  Running straight into a fight, but running all the same.  I ask for forgiveness every day, but I think what I’ve done is unforgiveable.”

Abby shook her head.  “God’s forgiven you for it.  You need to forgive yourself.”

“That’s the hardest part,” Pastor Earl said, looking out at the dunes.  “I ask myself what my life would have been like.”

“You might have never become a pastor,” Abby said.

“And I was a terrible pastor.  Leaving my congregation to die, just like I left my family.”

Abby shook her head.  “You always do what’s right.  We have to make tough decisions sometimes.”

Pastor Earl shrugged and the two of them sat for a while, looking out at the dunes.  Eventually, Pastor Earl stood and brushed himself off.  “Well, I think we should be heading back.  It’ll be dinner time soon.”

Abby nodded and stood.  “Pastor Earl.”

“What?”

“You haven’t left me,” she said, “and I believe you won’t, but if you do, I’ll understand.”  She smiled at him.  “I’ve learned something, about my father and my family.  Be grateful for the time you have with someone.  And don’t blame yourself if something happens to someone you love.  If you’d have been with your family or your congregation, you’d be dead too, and I’d never have had the pleasure of meeting you.”

Pastor Earl smiled.  “Thanks, Abby.”  The two of them walked across the dune, back towards the safe house.

<>

Bobby saw Michelle standing alone on a dune not far from the safe house, watching the desert sun set.  The sky in front of her was a mix of orange and pink streaks, with stray clouds here and there soaking up the color.  Michelle’s stunning figure stood out in silhouette.  Bobby made his way through the sand towards her.  He was soon standing next to her, looking out at the dunes with her.  She turned and glanced at him with tired blue eyes.  The bandages which had covered her face for the past two weeks were gone now and the stitches were gone, also.  Bobby saw the long scabs on her olive skin where the knife wounds had been.  There was one on each cheek, one on her forehead, and one just above her chin.  The doctor had done a wonderful job with her nose.  It looked straight as ever.  The scabs didn’t look as bad as they could have, either.  They were just thin red lines.  Bobby also noticed that her sidecut was growing out, and her long, wavy, sandy blonde hair was blowing in the breeze with her white dress, giving her an otherworldly aura.  She was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, even with the scars.  Bobby thought that on a scale of one to ten, she’d maybe gone from an eleven to a ten.  She was still beautiful, just no longer blemishless.  He also felt like there was a spark that had been in her eyes that was gone.  He hoped that with time, it would come back.

“I forget how beautiful the desert is sometimes,” Michelle said as she looked out at the setting sun.

Bobby nodded, trying hard to overcome his nervousness.  “It is.”  He looked out at the sunset also.  He had to say it.  He couldn’t hold it in any longer.  Everything became surreal, and he forgot to breathe for a second.  “Almost as beautiful as you.”  He realized how stupid it sounded immediately after the words left his mouth.  Had he really just said that out loud?

Michelle smiled at him.  “Bobby, I think that was the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Bobby swallowed hard.  Oops.  No, he meant it.  He was gonna stand by it.  “I’m serious.  You really are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

Michelle frowned, looking down at the sand in front of her feet.  She shook her head.  “Not anymore.”  She looked at Bobby and he saw the anger in her blue eyes.  “Look at me, Bobby.”  She pointed at the scabs as if Bobby couldn’t see them.  “Look what Warrick Baines did to me.”

“Michelle,” Bobby said, looking into her eyes.  The nervousness was quickly going away.  “You’re still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life.  Nothing anyone does can change that.”

Michelle chuckled.  “You really think so?”

Bobby nodded.  “Yeah.  You’re the girl all the other movie stars are jealous of.”

“I used to be.”

“You still are.”  Bobby started getting nervous again.  His hands were shaking a little and he felt his right arm twitching in its sling.  He just had to come right out and say it.  He’d been thinking it since he’d seen her.  It was time for him to man up.  “I don’t know, you know…”  He kicked some sand.  Michelle looked at him, confusion on her face.  “I don’t know,” Bobby repeated.  “When we get to Primrose or wherever…”  He shifted his stance.  “Do you think, ah, you might want to go out on a date?”  He looked at her.  He had no idea what she was thinking.  She seemed shocked.  “With me?”

Her mouth opened.  “Bobby, is this just sympathy?  Are you just trying to making me feel better?”

“Of course not,” Bobby said.  “I mean, I hope it does make you feel better, and not worse, you know?”

Her look of shock slowly became a smile as the sides of her mouth curled up.  “A date?  Really?”

“Yeah, you know,” Bobby said, “if you want to.  I know it’s weird and all…”

“No, it’s not weird at all, Bobby,” Michelle said, still smiling.  “That would be great.  I can’t remember the last time I went out on a real date.”

“Really?” Bobby asked.  He knew he was beaming, but he tried hard not to seem too excited.

“Yeah, of course,” Michelle said.  “I’d love to go on a date with you.”

Bobby cleared his throat.  “Then it’s a date.”

Michelle nodded and licked her lips, still smiling.  “It’s a date.”

Bobby laughed.  “Okay, then.”

“Okay,” Michelle said with a laugh.  “For now, though, you can stay and watch the sunset with me if you want.”  Bobby nodded, and looked out at the colorful sky again.  He knew there was a war on the horizon.  The world could have been falling down all around him and he wouldn’t have cared.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so happy.

 

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 1, Chapter 28
Where:
Abby and her companions leave the safe house.
A sneak attack separates some members of the group from the others.
Mavery and Big Ed arrive in Primrose.

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Mike Monroe

Michael Monroe was born in Baltimore, MD and has lived there most of his life. He’s a poet and fiction writer whose preferred genres are Science Fiction and Fantasy, and he’s always had a thing for Allen Ginsberg and the Beats. His poetry has been published in Gargoyle Magazine, nthposition, the Lyric, Scribble, the Loch Raven Review, Foliate Oak, Primalzine, and various other publications.

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