Gray is the Color of Death

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Post-Apocalyptic life on the edge. This is a story about a woman's sacrifice and a glimpse of the scariest monster out there. Man kind.

Submitted: July 16, 2016

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Submitted: July 16, 2016

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 (The sounds of their screams were like rusty nails pushed into her brain. She had to make a decision.)

 

Sherita never wanted to leave anyway. Life was hard wherever you were but at least she knew the devils in "her" woods. This was a strange country to them. Together they crossed lifeless mountains and salt deserts.

‘The trees are dying.’ she thought.  

"I'm dying, Lem." she said out loud.

She got no response. He just pulled his collars up tighter and kept walking. That was last summer.

 

She was born cold and always searched for warmth. She thought that was why she was attracted to Lemuel. He was heat. He had always been her source of warmth but she wasn't feeling it much now and it scared her.

These days it was always cold. They moved further to the south and west with every second winter. Food was always scarce and the water was bitter. There were fewer encounters with others as well, which was fine by her. There was always a mistrust among the surviving generations, but a sickness had spread too. There were those who were as gray as the landscape and had all but stopped talking. They eat people sometimes too, she had heard.

 

(Sherita held her head with one bloody hand tightly. Knuckles pasty white. The sound was unbearable.

She has to make a decision.)

 

It was well into July. There wasn't even breeze, just a biting cold in the air. Lem had found and fitted-out a clapboard shack for sheltering through the second winter. Their first winter and summer thaws here were spent in an old school house on the gray plains between the slopes of the dead mountains. What life there is, hides and what life that doesn't is eaten. Hunger and cold is all there is. Lem holds out for a god no one sees or cares about, an absent god. Gray is all she can touch, taste and feel. Her god was Hunger and he kept his promise.

 

Sherita walked the valley floor under dead Cottonwoods and kicked the brush to scare up small animal life. Leaves and twigs make dull snapping sounds as her light and deadly frame pass over the dying earth. Lem had a talent for finding shelter but was useless for killing. In her world death meant life and that meant surviving. She was good at both.

 

A lot has happened since they had reached this valley. They needed more food now. Lem had been dead-set on keeping livestock to get them through not just the winters, but to improve their chances of survival. So far he had gathered a few goats and a couple of pigs. After her big sick, Sherita spent less time with them and more time in the forest.

 

Her arm was deadly fast and within a blink of an eye she had spotted, aimed and killed a scrawny brown pika with a rock the size of her thumb. That was two hours ago.

 

(‘Anything! Anything to make it stop!’ she thought.)  

 

Sherita had been making her way back to the shack while always keeping a deadly eye out for varmints. With the fleas from the dead rodent jumping on and off her bare neck, she bent over suddenly and instinctively tried to make herself part of the natural scenery. The ground was hard and scentless with dead leaves and talc like soil.

She stifled a sneeze.

There were people signs.

She could smell sickness.

The Gray people were near.

Sherita hastily stowed the dead pika through a rust colored crack in a large granite wedge, then checked her pouch for rocks. She made a beeline for the shack. Her heart was racing, her breath fast and shallow.

'What was this feeling? Was it rage? For what?' she thought. ‘Was this fear for Lem and everything they had created together, worked and suffered for? The unchecked feelings of a killer instinct?’ she didn't know, but the stink of the Gray was getting stronger.

 

(She thinks ‘I can't take it anymore.’)

 

Sherita went around the back and up through a trap door in the kitchen of the shack. Before her were five Grays in the middle of the floor, unarmed but deadly hungry and fighting for Lems squealing piglet. She grabbed her out of his arms in a flash, just as they pounced on Lem. The cacophony was immense. Two Grays tried ripping Lems arm off while the others came at her. She held tight to Lems screaming piglet with one arm while taking out a Gray's eye with a well aimed agate. Lem was a mess but still fighting. She took quick stock of her situation.

‘Was it worth it? Was anything worth this?’ she thought.

 

(Sherita couldn't take it much more. ‘This had to end!’)

 

She had taken out two Grays now. The last with a four inch shard of a mason jar she had broken over his head first and then sliced through the soft flesh under his chin. Lots of blood, but mostly hers. The Grays didn't bleed much. Lem was finally getting the best of his attackers. He broke a timber over one's knee and stomped the another's head into a sick pink/white jelly.

‘Everything was gonna be alright.’ she told herself. ‘Lem was struggling to get to me and his screaming little pig.’

The front door exploded with three more Grays adding to the melee. In a flash Lem was was pinned to the back wall with a pitchfork through the right shoulder. The biggest of them looked from Lem to her, then set his sick gaze on Lem's piglet. She knew that instant what he wanted. Lemuel did too and looked at her with the pleading eyes only a father could make in such a position. To get his point across, the big Gray put a broken shovel handle into Lem's left leg, right above the knee.

Their screams were unbearable. It went on for an age, it seemed. When, finally, she could take no more of it. Sherita released her head from her blood crusted hand. She knew what she had to do.

She handed her baby girl over...


© Copyright 2017 R.Guy Barringer. All rights reserved.

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