Fiction: Afterlife Volume 3 (Chapter 10)

by Mike Monroe on October 16, 2017

in FICTION

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If you’ve never read Afterlife before, click here to go to the first chapter.

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.

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Read the previous chapter here:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 9

Where:

Abby escapes from jail in Black Rock.
Eileen Traymont discusses her next moves with her men.
Della and Ace arrive in Black Rock.

Find the Volume 3 Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

Check out Afterlife on Goodreads and don’t forget to rate it.

 

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 10

Della hated the leather and metal he was dressed in.  How could the bandits and IAO thugs stand walking around in such hot, sweaty clothing in the desert?  The good thing was at least he’d been able to shoot the two bandits in the head as they rode past on their sand bikes, avoiding any damage to the costumes he and Ace were now wearing.  Ace’s armor seemed to fit him perfectly, but Della’s was just a little too loose and baggy.  Better than too small, at least.  He followed Ace as they entered town, heading for the place the most noise seemed to be coming from.  There was shouting and cheering, but there was also crying and screaming.  If the recent rumors Della had heard about the IAO were true, they were probably heading towards the public executions.  Ace stopped and greeted three bandits walking past.  “Do you all know where the prisoners are kept?  Our boss told us they needed extra guards.”

One of the bandits chuckled.  “Prisoners?  They’re executin’ ‘em right now.  You’re headin’ in the right direction.”  He and his two buddies continued on their way.

“Well at least we know where Abby would be if she’s here,” Della said.

“But we need to get there before she’s executed,” Ace added.  He picked up his pace and Della followed him as they walked past the gray stone buildings of Black Rock.  The houses and shops to their right had been carved out of the side of the mountain, and switchback roads twisted up the side of the rocky cliffs to more houses built above them.  The houses to the left had been built from the stone that had been leveled off and carved out to make the roads and the houses in the cliff.  A plateau stretched out for about a mile, creating the mostly level space where the majority of the town had been built.  Black Rock was just large enough to be considered a major town in the region, but it wasn’t anywhere near as big as Tequila City or New Atlantis.  Still, it had been known for being the seat of enforcer activity beyond the Rockies, at least until the IAO took over.  This was mainly because one of Rennock’s largest banks was in the town.

As Ace and Della approached a crowd gathered in some sort of public square, they pushed their way forward to get a good look at the prisoners.  Most people moved out of the way, since they thought Ace and Della were members of the IAO.  There was a man wearing a rumpled dark blue suit and glasses standing on a wooden platform.  A huge man behind him was holding a headsman’s axe which was dripping with blood and there was a man seated next to a table behind him.  He was inspecting surgical knives and scalpels that were in a box on the table.  A man’s naked headless body was lying on the platform and there was a man with long, scraggly blonde hair holding up a severed head.  “What is this?” Ace asked in disgust.  “The Dark Ages?”  Della shushed him.  There was a line of frightened prisoners standing near the platform.  Some were naked.  Some were wearing underwear.  Most of them were bruised and bloody.  Della scanned the line, looking for Abby.  There was no sign of her.  There was, however a young woman in a nightgown trying to comfort a boy who appeared to be six or so.

The crowd cheered as the man with the scraggly hair threw the head out to them.  “Have at it, folks,” the man in the suit said.  “Here’s another shattered brick from the wall of corporate oligarchy!  Now that we’re in charge, we’ll see that you all have equal opportunities to succeed.  All you have to do is give us twenty percent of all you have, chosen by us.”  Some of the people stopped cheering, but no one had the guts to boo.  Della could see that there were IAO plants everywhere throughout the crowd.  “Who’s next?” the man in the suit asked.  Two large bandits in leather and metal led a frightened young woman in black underwear onto the platform.  The brown hair on her head had been mostly cropped off, leaving clumps of stubble, and her body was covered with dirt and bruises.  “This young lady was his wife,” the man in the suit said, nodding towards the naked, headless body.  “What a trophy.  I know a gold digger when I see one.  What’s in store for this one?”

The man seated at the table smiled.  “Let me have this one,” he shouted.  “How about a good, old fashioned disembowelment?”

“No sign of Abby,” Della said quietly to Ace as he looked through all of the prisoners.  There were about forty of them.  There were also several bodies on the ground in front of the platform in various states of dismemberment.

Ace pulled Della by his arm, pushing through the crowd until the two of them were in a quiet spot away from all of the people, near a stone building.  “We have to do something about this,” Ace whispered.

Della smiled.  “You have a conscience after all.”

“We can’t let them kill all of those people.”

“I thought you killed children yourself,” Della said.  “That’s what Annabelle said, anyway.  Didn’t you kill a baby once?”

“That’s just a story we spread,” Ace said.  “To make ourselves more intimidating.  To keep people in line while we were robbing banks.  We never did anything like this.  Sure, maybe I killed a teenager once or twice, but they all would have killed me if I hadn’t.”

Della frowned as he listened to the screams of the woman being tortured and the cheers and taunts of some of the people watching.  Luckily they couldn’t see anything from their current location.  “I wish there were something we could do.”

Ace shook his head.  “Look.  I know situations like this.  I’ve seen stuff like this before.  All it takes is a few people to start something.  You hear all of the people cheering, but there are just as many who are sickened.  I saw lots of people turning away.  The IAO are probably forcing people to watch that insanity because they want to scare them into submission.  Well I’m not scared.  I’m pissed off.  Let’s go piss the rest of them off so they fight back.”

“How are we gonna do that, honey?” Della asked.  “We came here to look for Abby, not get ourselves killed.”

“Well Abby’s not here,” Ace said.  “But we are.  And since we are here, and we’re wearing these disguises, let’s make it worth our while.”

Della shrugged.  “All right.  Do you have a plan?”

“No,” Ace said.  “But that’s never stopped me before.”

<>

Ace pushed past more people as he tried to get as close to the platform as possible.  He had to be right up front for his plan to work.  “This young woman spat on one of our men,” the man wearing glasses and a suit said as the scraggly-haired man pulled a frightened young girl away from the line of prisoners and onto the platform.  She wasn’t quite a teenager yet, with shoulder length blonde hair, dressed in a long, dirty white t-shirt that went down to her bony knees.  Ace assumed the earlier woman had been added to the dismembered corpses on the ground in front of the platform.  He didn’t feel like looking.  “Sure, the man she spit on killed her father,” the man in the suit said, “but he was being unruly, and now we need to make an example of her.”  Some IAO men cheered, but the rest of the crowd was silent, looking on in horror.

“You bastard!” someone shouted.  “Pick on someone your own size, you coward!”  Through the corner of his eye, Ace noticed a laser blast through someone’s head and blood squirting out.

“You see,” the man in the suit said with a grin, “it’s very simple.  You do what we say, you pay our price, and you thrive!  You don’t and you die.”  He looked around at the faces in the crowd.  “All of you can become very rich with our help.  It beats the alternative.  But this girl here.  She needs to pay.  So what do we have in store for her?”

“Disembowelment?” the man at the table suggested, holding a bloody scalpel.

“I could take her head off,” the large man holding the axe said as the girl shook, tears dripping down her cheeks.  “Or the blood eagle maybe?  We ain’t had a good blood eagle in quite some time.”

“Burn her at the stake?” the man at the table suggested.  “That’s always a good one.  Or draw and quarter?”

The scraggly haired man grinned as he held the horrified girl’s skinny arm.  “Maybe we can start by dragging her through town by the neck from the back of a sand bike.  I always like when we do that.”

The man with the glasses shook his head, smiling.  “No, let’s do something special with this one.  I say we…”  A laser blasted through his face, pulverizing his glasses and spraying blood and brains out into the crowd.  Everyone looked to see where the shot came from as lasers blasted through the heads of the huge executioner and the man at the table with the scalpel.  Ace glanced at the five story building a few blocks away where Della had decided to take his position.

The scraggly haired man pulled the girl to himself and spun to look at the rooftops behind him.  “You wouldn’t want to hit the girl!” he shouted.  A laser blasted his brains out the back of his head and he collapsed, freeing the frightened girl.

Lasers started blasting the many guards around the prisoners as Ace rushed onto the platform, still wearing his IAO outfit.  “Calm down!” he shouted.  “Calm down!”  The people in the crowd were running and shouting.  Two IAO men in leather and metal rushed onto the platform with Ace.  “We have orders to take all of these prisoners to the edge of town in the event of an ambush,” Ace said.  “Hurry.  Or we’ll be next.”  The two men nodded and started shouting at the prisoners.  As the crowd continued going crazy, Ace and the two IAO men rounded up the prisoners, including the still-frightened girl on the platform, and herded them through the street towards the five story building, past stone buildings and storefronts.  It was like a ghost town where they were.  Everyone had been forced into the square, apparently.

Three more IAO men in leather and metal were running up the street from the other direction.  They stopped and aimed laser rifles at the prisoners.  “What’s happening here?” one asked.

“We have orders to take these prisoners to the edge of town,” one of the IAO men with Ace said.  Lasers blasted through the three newcomers’ heads as Della appeared from the doorway of the five story building, aiming a laser rifle.  He blasted the two IAO men with Ace through their heads, also.

“All right,” Ace said to the confused prisoners.  “This is a rescue.  I suggest you get out of town.”

“Where will we go?” one woman asked.  “Your people are everywhere.”

Ace grinned.  “Oh, these are disguises.  We aren’t with the IAO.”

“We’re with the resistance,” Della said.  “And we need to get out of here fast before they cut off our way out of town.  Our best option is to split up.  Anyone who can shoot, grab a weapon off one of these dead men.”  Three men and two women who were prisoners grabbed laser rifles off the bodies.  Two teenaged boys and another man grabbed laser pistols out of the holsters of the dead men.  “All right,” Della said.  “Split up into groups with one armed person in each group and head for the outskirts of town.”

“Good luck,” Ace said as the groups split up.

Five prisoners stayed with him and Della.  There were two men, two women, and the girl who’d been on the platform earlier.  She smiled at Ace.  “Thank you.”

Ace smiled back awkwardly, trying his best to fight off the warm and fuzzy feeling that was washing over him.  “It’s no problem.”

Ace and Della led the five prisoners up a twisty road that led up the side of a cliff, past stone houses that had been carved out of the rock.  “How was it getting on the roof of the building?” Ace asked Della as they walked, the five prisoners in tow.

“Not too bad,” Della said.  “I only had to kill three IAO thugs.”

They didn’t get far before someone shouted “Stop!”  Ace looked to the left to see three more IAO men aiming laser rifles at them.  They’d been hiding beside one of the stone buildings they were walking past.  Two of the men were in the usual leather and brown outfits and the other was wearing a black suit.

“Where are you going with these prisoners?” the man in the suit asked.

“We have orders to take them to the edge of town,” Della said.

“Those are faulty orders,” the man in the suit said.  “We’re going to execute them right here.  You two.”  He nodded at Ace and Della.  “Kill them now.  Or we give your brains some fresh air.”  There was a loud hum as a flurry of lasers blasted the three IAO men to bloody pieces.  Della and Ace looked on in surprise.

“Drop the weapons now.”  Ace and Della did as they were told and put their hands in the air.  They turned to see four men come out of one of the buildings near where the IAO men had been.  These men were dressed in black with black masks which hid their faces.  Three were holding laser rifles.  The other was holding a smoking RLR.

“We’re with the resistance,” Della said.  “We’re trying to free these prisoners.”

“Prove it,” the man with the RLR said.

“I’m Della Luscious,” Della said with a grin.  “Former leader of the Silver City Faction.  These are disguises.  Ask your boss to send you a picture if you don’t believe me.  You’ll see it checks out.”

“Who’s that?” the resistance man asked, nodding towards Ace.  The five prisoners were visibly nervous.

Della swallowed.  “John Holiday.  I picked him up along the way.  You know how it is.”

“What are you doing in Black Rock?” the resistance fighter with the RLR asked.

“We were tracking some IAO men,” Della said.  Ace thought it was smart that he didn’t mention Abby, even if these guys really were with the resistance.

“You started this whole mess downtown?” the resistance man asked.  “Freeing the prisoners and all that?”  Della nodded.  “You jackass,” the resistance man said.  “We weren’t ready yet.  It wasn’t the right time.”

“The right time?” Ace asked.  “You were just gonna let them execute forty innocent people?”

“Yup,” the resistance man said.  “There’s nothing that could be done about it.  We’re still building up our forces here.  Or we were until you went and ruined it all.”

“Apparently there was something that could be done,” Ace said, “because we just did it.”  He shook his head.  “And they call me a criminal,” he muttered under his breath.

“What was that?” one of the resistance fighters asked.

The man with the RLR stepped towards Ace.  “Look, you may have temporarily saved a few people.  We were going to free the whole town.  Now they’re going to up security here big time.”  Three IAO men appeared from around a corner and drew laser rifles.  The man with the RLR quickly blasted them to bits.

“We need to get out of here,” one of the other resistance fighters said.

The man with the RLR nodded.  “They’ll swarm us if we stay here.”  He nodded to the prisoners.  “You five are welcome to come with us.”  He pointed at Ace and Della.  “You two are coming with us whether you like it or not.  You’re our prisoners.  At least until we can prove who you really are.”

“Where are we going?” Della asked.

“Rose City,” the man with the RLR replied.

Della frowned.  “We need to pick something up first.”

“What’s that?” the resistance fighter asked.

“Fifty-one billion dollars,” Della said.  “For the resistance.  Hidden in the trunk of a hover car in the mountains.”

The resistance man squinted at him.  “What?”

“Fifty-one billion dollars,” Della repeated.

“Show us,” the resistance man said.  “And if this is some sort of trick, your time in this world is up.”

<>

Ayman Ali waited patiently for the show to start.  He was sitting in the front row of a stadium-style amphitheater that had been carved out of a mountainside in a lazy Mexican border town called Pequena Montana.  The town hadn’t yet been touched by the IAO, though news was spreading of IAO takeovers of other nearby towns and villages.  Ayman was happy he and his fellow travelers had yet to run into any IAO bandits or members of the Holy Warriors.  He’d helped Wild Joe and the others set up for the show in order to earn his keep, hauling boxes and crates and unpacking a wooden stage, fencing for the bull riding competition, some barrels for the barrel race, and various other things.  The huge hover trucks were parked near the stone amphitheater, providing easy access to anything else the performers needed during the course of the show.  There were hundreds in the audience, which seemed like a lot for such a small town.  Most were of Hispanic descent, though there were some other races mixed in here and there.

Ayman was taking in the beautiful mountain sunset when lights came on surrounding the theater.  Wild Joe emerged from a tent in the arena, dressed in gaudy blue chaps and a gaudy blue vest, all with prominent red, white, and blue rhinestones. Two huge old style pistols were in holsters on his hips and his belt buckle was as big as a grapefruit, picturing a copper buffalo.  His blue cowboy hat was also covered with rhinestones, as were his brown cowboy boots.  He was wearing a red bandana around his neck and huge gold spurs on his heels.  The crowd jumped to their feet, cheering, hooting, and hollering.  Joe made motions with his hands for them to quiet down.  “Thank ya!” he shouted as the crowd grew quiet.  “Thank ya kindly!  As I’m sure you know, you’re about to witness the greatest show in the Wild West!  In the world, even, so hunker down, leave your burdens outside, and enjoy the marvels and wondrous feats you’re about to witness.  The Wild Joe Rodeo Show is about to begin.  First, we’re gonna kick things off with the famed Jimmy Thumb, the smallest man in the world, descended from the famous Tom Thumb of Barnum and Bailey fame!”

The crowd cheered, hooted, and hollered as the dwarf emerged from the tent and made his way out onto the wooden stage.  He was also decked out in full cowboy regalia, though his clothes were mostly yellow rather than blue.  He was holding a small banjo which he started playing when he was in the center of the stage.  Ayman was impressed with his skill.  When Jimmy was done, Big Bob the Giant was introduced by Wild Joe, and he came out, also wearing flamboyant cowboy clothes though his were red, and started a comedy routine that involved some awful singing and him throwing Jimmy around a little bit.  There was one point where Bob threw Jimmy into the air and Jimmy did two flips before Bob caught him.  They were followed by a barrel race where Mary Cassidy, in a flashy pink getup, rode her horse swiftly around the arena, turning around barrels that had been set up.  Two other girls rode also, but Mary was the winner by a landslide.  Wild Joe proclaimed her time a new record as the crowd cheered, though Ayman had some doubts about his credibility.  Buckaroo Billy, in white cowboy clothes, was in a bull riding competition with three local competitors which he won, also supposedly breaking a record.  Mary led the cave bear around the arena and he did some tricks including standing on one foot at her command.  The fifteen foot tall bear also hugged her, eliciting a gasp from the audience.  Chief Resting Crow, in Native American clothing with a huge headdress made from colorful feathers, and Belle the Beauty, who was wearing a fancy red evening gown, acted out a part in a play which ended in a musical number.  Ayman was impressed with both of their voices.  Wild Joe came out and told some embellished stories about his exploits in the deep west.  He then grabbed a guitar and preformed a cover of “Don’t Fence Me In” made famous by Roy Rogers, which was actually quite good.  The final act was Princess Floating Feather, and Ayman sat on the edge of his seat.

She was dressed in a tan Native American fringe dress with colorful beads and a single red feather jutted up out of her black hair.  In her gloved hands was an expensive looking old style rifle and she had two revolvers in holsters on her hips.  She walked to the edge of the arena and turned to face her alleged grandfather, Chief Resting Crow, who was standing at the opposite edge of the arena, about one hundred yards away.  He took off his headdress, took an apple out of his pocket, and put it on top of his ancient head.  He took a smaller apple out of his other pocket and balanced it on top of the first.  Princess Floating Feather rested the rifle on the ground and stood facing the chief, her face as serious as death itself.  In a flash, she drew the revolver on her left hip and fired.  The large apple on the chief’s head flew backwards and the other fell and rested on his head.  Princess Floating Feather swiftly drew her other revolver and fired, blasting the second apple to pieces.  The crowd went crazy.  Ayman stood with his mouth open, clapping.  The princess went on to shoot apples off the chief’s head while she was standing facing away from him and firing the rifle over her back.  She did several other tricks including under the leg and between the legs, and the crowd went crazy every time.  When she was done, all of the performers in the show walked out onto the stage together and took a bow.  “That’s it, folks!” Wild Joe said as he stood in the center of the line of performers.  “We’re glad you enjoyed our show and we hope to see you again someday.  Have a great night and give someone a kiss for me!”  Mary Cassidy and Buckaroo Billy walked in front of him and shared a kiss as the crowd continued to cheer.

As the crowd thinned out, Ayman helped the performers clean up the arena, taking everything back to the hover trucks.  The lights around the arena shut off and the moon and the stars in the night sky provided the only light.  When Ayman and the others were almost finished cleaning the arena, he noticed Princess Floating Feather sitting by herself on a barrel, smoking a cigarette.  As Ayman approached her, he realized it wasn’t a cigarette as he caught a whiff of the stinky sweet smell.  She looked at Ayman with her big, pretty brown eyes as he approached her.  The heavy mascara added to the exotic look of her eyes, though the feather sticking out of her head looked a little ridiculous.  “What the hell do you want?” she asked in her breathy voice as she breathed out marijuana smoke.

“That was amazing what you did,” Ayman said.

“Yeah,” she blurted.  “Sure.”

“Why the attitude with me?” Ayman asked.  “I’ve never done anything harmful to you.”

“You stare at me,” she said.  “All the time.”

“I don’t mean to stare,” Ayman said.

“You think that makes it okay?” she asked.  “Get away from me.”

“You know, smoking marijuana is haram.”

She laughed.  “Why should I care what’s haram?  Besides, what are you, my father?”

“I know you aren’t a Native American,” he said.  “You’re from the Middle East, like me.  At least your ancestors were.  I’d say New Persian.  I’ve seen enough of your people over the years to know where you come from.”

“Maybe you should be a detective.”  She spit on the ground and glared at him.

“Why lie?”

“Because people here hate us,” she said.  “They especially hate Muslims.”

“So you are Muslim,” Ayman said.

“Yeah,” she said.  “So we’re both Muslims.  Let’s get married.”  She was still glaring at him.

Ayman shook off the sarcasm.  “You know that hiding your faith is unacceptable unless your life is threatened.”

“Mine is,” she said.

He squinted at her.  “How’s that?”

“Look.”  She took another drag from her joint.  “If I wanted a lecture, I wouldn’t have run away from home.  So why don’t you go to your tent, go to sleep, and mind your own damned business.”

Ayman frowned.  “Will you at least tell me your real name?  You know mine.  Ayman Ali.  Enough of this Princess Floating Feather silliness.”

She frowned.  “My name is Ava Hadid.  Now leave me the hell alone.”

Ayman nodded and walked away.  As he walked beneath the stars towards the hover trucks and the small plateau where the tents had been set up, he wondered what other lies she had been telling.  Her performance seemed to be too good to be true.  Ayman suspected blanks and firecrackers or something similar.  The whole show seemed to be a sham.  When it came to Ava Hadid and the Wild Joe Rodeo Show, Ayman had no idea what was real and what wasn’t.  He knew that where there was one rat out in the open, there were sure to be dozens more hiding in the darkness.

<>

Paul watched as his door opened and Aiyana McGowan walked into his room.  He sat up in his bed and smiled.  She smiled back, giving Paul goosebumps.  “How are you feeling today?” she asked, looking him over with her big brown eyes.  Paul noticed there was a white flower in her long, black hair which matched her white robe.

“I’m good, ma’am,” he said.  “I’ve been reading the books you gave me.”

She smiled again as she looked over the dressing on his leg.  “Anything good?”

“Oh.”  Paul chuckled and shook his head.  “So much, ma’am.  I wouldn’t know where to start. The book on environmental issues was very interesting.”

“The Other Apocalypse?” she asked.

Paul nodded.  “It was interesting to learn that the world as we knew it probably would have ended anyway because of the effects industry was having on the environment, global warming and climate change and all that.”

“Or so the author alleges,” Aiyana said.  “The author does make a compelling argument, though.  And there was already some flooding in some coastal cities just before the nuclear apocalypse.  Some cities had been abandoned completely, becoming underwater ghost towns.”

“But the politicians and the big companies who were most responsible chose to just deal with these issues as they arose,” Paul said, “rather than to try to curtail the effects.  Just like Rennock.  The almighty dollar always seems to be calling the shots.  There was never much profit in environmental regulations.”

“There were motivations, though,” Aiyana said.  “Staying alive should have been a pretty big motivation.”

“That’s not how laissez-faire capitalism works,” Paul said.  “You just make as much profit as you can and push things like keeping the world livable on to the next guy, until it’s too late.”

“Some things never change,” Aiyana said as she checked under his bandage.  “Though we’ve gotten around that here in Denver.  We don’t use money.  I’m not sure if Noah told you, but we use a barter system where each individual determines the value of things for himself or herself.  And all trades are mutually beneficial, agreed upon by both parties.”

“He did mention that,” Paul said, “though he didn’t get into much detail.  Does it work?

“It’s worked for thousands of years,” she said with a smile, “for us at least.  What else interested you?”

“Well I’m not sure interest is the word,” Paul said, “but I was amused when that one history book explained the wall situation.”

Aiyana chuckled.  “I always thought that was a funny story.”

Paul nodded.  “One political party built a wall at the border between the United States and Mexico to try to keep illegal immigrants out.  Then the other political party won all the elections in the next cycle and their president had the wall torn down, costing the taxpayers just as much money.  Then the other side won again and rebuilt the wall.”  He laughed and shook his head.  “How many times did the wall go up and come down again?”

“I think it was eight,” Aiyana said with a grin.  She was done looking at his leg and now she was just standing beside his bed.

“Eight times,” Paul said.  “All costing the taxpayers billions each time.  The ironic thing was that those on the right were always touting fiscal responsibility, but they were the ones who started the big waste of money in the first place.  And then the nuclear holocaust happened and destroyed everything anyway.”

“I guess sometimes people just want something to fight about,” she said.  “Not us here in Denver, though.  We rarely have political arguments, since we’re all considered leaders here.  Everyone has an equal voice in the town halls.  And everyone’s given responsibilities regarding how to implement our decisions.  There’s no ruler or group of politicians telling anyone how to live their lives.”

“Sounds like a utopia in some ways,” Paul said.  He didn’t mention the fact that he wasn’t allowed to leave.  “Though I have to say, I’m surprised it works.”

“It has,” she said.  “For thousands of years.”  She walked to the sink and turned on the water, getting a washcloth wet.  She brought it over to Paul and smiled.  “Would you like me to wash your face for you?”

“Sure, ma’am,” he said.  She wiped the warm, wet washcloth over his face with gentle hands.  Paul looked up at her pretty tan face, with its big brown eyes, small nose, and small mouth.  Her skin was smooth other than the one inch tumor just under her right ear.  Paul still thought she was one of the prettiest girls he’d ever seen.  “Thank you, ma’am,” he said as she walked back to the sink.

She turned and smiled.  “You’re so polite.”

“I guess it’s the way I was raised,” Paul said.

Aiyana walked over to his bedside once again.  “You’re a very good person, Paul.”

“Why do you say that?”

She shrugged.  “You’re always polite, for one thing.”  She frowned.  “And you haven’t hit on me.  Everyone always hits on me.  It seems like every man in Denver has hit on me at some point.”

Paul nodded.  “I hope you don’t mind my saying, but that’s because you’re a ten.  Or a high nine at least.”

“What do you mean?” Aiyana asked.

“I mean…”  Paul tried to formulate his thoughts.  “…sorry ma’am, but a man is only going to come across so many tens in his lifetime, so a lot of men feel like they have to give it a shot when they see one, just in case.”

“Well I’m tired of their shots.”

“There’s so much more to you than your looks, though,” Paul said.  “I’ll bet most men don’t see that.  They probably don’t see that you’re kind, and you’re smart.  Have you dated many men, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“A few,” she said, rolling her eyes.  “They all treat me like dirt.”

Paul nodded.  “That’s because they don’t see who you really are.  You need a man who can see past looks.”

“See past looks?” Aiyana asked.

“They’ll be able to appreciate you for who you truly are,” Paul said.

“And how will I know when I’ve found one of those?” she asked with a smile.

Paul smiled back.  “He won’t come after you, ma’am.  You’ll have to go after him.”

Aiyana frowned and turned away.  “But I’m shy.”

“I understand,” Paul said.  “I’m shy, too.  But sometimes, to get what you really want, you have to go out of your comfort zone.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but stopped and thought for a few seconds.  “How did your rehab go today?”

“It was painful,” Paul said.  “But less painful than yesterday.  I can sort of get around on crutches, at least.”

“I hear that tomorrow they’re going to give you the okay to leave the infirmary for a little while.”  She smiled at him.  “Would you like me to show you around town?  It might be hard with your crutches, but…”

“I’d love that,” Paul said with a smile.

“All right,” Aiyana said.  “Well I’ll leave you to your reading.  It was nice chatting with you.”

“It was,” Paul agreed as he watched her leave his room.  As soon as he was able to walk without the aid of crutches, he’d start looking for the best way to sneak out of Denver and rejoin the resistance.  Her showing him around town would help him formulate an escape plan.  Though he also looked forward to spending time with her.  He’d have to be careful he didn’t grow too attached.

 


Continue on to the next chapter:

Afterlife, Volume 3, Chapter 11
Where:
The IAO continue their hostile takeovers of towns throughout the Southwest.
General Rodriguez and Foxtrot attempt to train some villagers.
Abby looks for a place to fuel up on her way to Drummond.

Find the Volume 3 Table of Contents page here.

View the Map here.

Check out Afterlife on Goodreads and don’t forget to rate it.

Check out Michael Monroe’s page on Amazon to find other stuff he’s written.
Like Afterlife on Facebook to find out when the next chapter is posted.
Follow Afterlife on Twitter to get updates on new postings and other news.
Follow Afterlife on Tumblr for access to supplemental material.

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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