#SampleSunday – After The Virus, Chapter 3:
Over the next 12 weeks I will be sharing a chapter of my novel After The Virus each sunday. Warning: for coarse language and brutal content. This is a post-apocalyptic love story. I hope you enjoy getting a peek. Feedback is welcomed and appreciated. If you are so inclined, purchase links can be found on the side bar. – Meghan
She’d found a wheelbarrow for the dog from one of those urban garden centres. The place seemed stripped of anything remotely food related. A motorcycle with a sidecar, even if she could drive one, would be too conspicuous. Her last group had figured that out the hard way.
The dog’s leg was dislocated. She certainly wasn’t a vet, but she could read. Finding medical books was as simple as opening the front door of a veterinarian. Stitching through actual flesh was gut wrenching. And still, even calculating for weight, she’d worried about dosage.
She’d also found a tiny strawberry plant under the mulch she’d salvaged as rain protection. Wasting precious time, she’d repotted it.
She was headed to the haven of the mountains. There was no reason for them to follow, except revenge, which, she hoped, wasn’t worth it.
Then she saw the sign: REWARD FOR LIVE CAPTURE. The words a child-like scrawl in red paint slashed across a billboard from her last modeling gig. The campaign itself was so recent she hadn’t cashed the cheque before the dying started. She’d never thought her eyes looked that blue in real life, but they sure did when her face was hawking mascara. So…they’d recognized her.
She glanced down at her chipped fingernails. She was sure she didn’t resemble her last film; she’d spent the entire time in a wedding dress and wielding a gun. She wondered what the reward would be; valuables held no value now. This wasn’t the first time her face — and body — had gotten her in trouble. Even he had told her, he, her stepfather, that he only touched her because she was so beautiful. She was a prize or a pricey piece of meat.
She named the dog B.B., because she was just blood and bones when she found, rescued, and patched her up. B.B. didn’t mind the wheelbarrow.
They traveled evenings to early morning, and got off the highway ASAP. When you had no idea where you were going, time didn’t factor at all.
She hoped they’d assume she’d head down the coast to LA, but she hadn’t been there when the chaos had really hit and wasn’t ever going back.
B.B. didn’t stay in the wheelbarrow for more than a few days, which was good, because, despite all the Pilates, her shoulders screamed.
Going was slow with B.B. limping. They stopped, often, for supplies, but never slept where they scavenged. Dog food was oddly easy to find. She tried to not let B.B. gorge, but it was difficult, rationing a starving animal, and, despite her injury, B.B. bulked up fast.
It was four days before they saw another human.
Memory was a trap as sure as chain or concrete; one that she’d armored against even before she found herself living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland — were haunting and terror were everyday events. It didn’t do to dwell, wasn’t a functional way for her at least, but some days, like today, with the sun warm on her back, and B.B.’s nails click, click, clicking on the pavement, her mind wandered.
Often, when people got hint of the bits of terrible she’d confronted in her life, they wondered at the fact that she wasn’t lying in a basement somewhere with a needle in her arm and a hole in her soul.
She couldn’t answer those survivor questions, couldn’t be a life coach or some sort of role model, because she had no idea what made her different, what made her brain different than others who had suffered — she’d made the best of the situation, controlled it as much as possible and walked away when she got the chance, though some ties proved harder to break than others.
Sometimes the other person refused to let go.
In moments of weakness, she worried that the armor — all the years of protective layers built up around her heart and soul — had nothing underneath to protect.
Enough dwelling, Rhiannon. Keep on moving onwards. She had a plan — get away — and someone to protect — B.B. — that was as far as she needed to focus.
Except, except — the billboard haunted. She’d thought, when she’d had time to even think, she could shed that image and become, what, she didn’t know, but something other than herself. But that billboard, the fact they hadn’t raped her, the fact they’d given her a guided tour on the way in; it felt — planned? Contrived? Maybe she was just paranoid after so many years of so many fan stalkers, only one of which had ever laid violent hands on her and she had to admit, if only to herself, she had had some culpability in that situation.
B.B. pressed a shoulder against her knee and even before her brain cleared of its memory fog she could feel the tension rippling through the dog’s flank.
B.B. must have sensed the man about a mile before, because her nose was glued to the ground.
She, confident they’d left the city behind, had carelessly pushed their traveling further into daylight.
He, the man, had laid traps.
B.B.’s questing nose dislodged a pile of ripped up, wilted wildflowers and she yanked the dog backwards seconds from triggering a wicked leg hold trap — a trap big enough for a bear.
She froze, standing in the middle of the road with her fist clench around B.B.’s collar; every muscle in her body screamed exposure. Sheer rock rose to her left and dropped into a massive river to her right. No one was crazy enough to ride those rapids. Not any more.
She tamped down on her flight instinct. She let her gaze wander further up the road where seemingly random piles of leaves, weeds, and grass barely covered more traps. So, he was a moron then, but, obviously, violent.
B.B. growled; her target uncertain, but her belly low. She finally unfroze, had sense enough to drop to the ground, and crawl to the cliff edge. B.B. followed.
He was a hundred feet below: naked, hairy and fishing. Weren’t two of those three illegal? Or at least they used to be. She’d be worried about that hook, as a man.
The idea of fresh salmon beckoned, but leg traps? That’s a big no way, no how.
She tried to ease back, but then, just as she thought she was out of sight, she dislodged some rock — shale, her useless brain offered — with a twist of her foot. In the endless second it took for rock to hit river rock, she wondered if she should put more stock in astrology and that doomsday horoscope she’d read before this bad run.
He saw her.
She ran forward not back, because she was miles past any decent place to hide. B.B. could barely keep up and wouldn’t be able to maintain.
She twisted her ankle, fell, and bloodied her palms. B.B. whined through her panting.
She looked up to find her forehead inches from a trap.
Fucking bastard. Fuck, fuck, fucking bastard with his little shriveled dick — and she didn’t give a shit if that river was fed by a glacier or what.
This wasn’t the time to fall and stay down. That time had passed, years before this shit. If her mother hadn’t destroyed her, nothing would.
So she got up.
Only then did she see the path carved in the cliff. Unless he had a fucking elevator, they’d be gone long before he got here.
He came for them that night, reeking of rotting fish and human waste. He hadn’t bothered to dress, perhaps clothing would have slowed down the plan that was evident by his engorged dick; it was, she noticed, as puny as she’d thought it would be.
He slunk in by the light of her embers, his belly low as he, on all fours, stalked her. She’d expected him, but was still thrown by the sudden, full body, vicious attack.
Of course, not as thrown as he was by the bear trap in her sleeping bag.
He screamed and thrashed, but still managed to show surprise when she swung down from the tree. Unbelievably, lust hardened his face even more than the pain. She didn’t take this as a compliment, knowing that any woman or maybe any warm body would do for this crazy — he considered himself a hunter, after all.
She was sorry to see that the sleeping bag softened the teeth of the trap. Unless it got infected, he probably wouldn’t lose the leg. What a pity.
“Get this the hell off me!” he demanded, “I wasn’t coming to kill you! I haven’t seen a…woman…talk… I just wanted to hear your voice.”
“I believe the common way a living being is forced to get out of this sort of mess is to chew their own leg off,” she sneered. “Try that.”
B.B. lunged for his throat and she half-heartedly held her off. Revoltingly, he fear pissed; the spray soiled her runners.
“You’re right about the bitch part, on two counts, but certainly not the fucking.” And, leaving him to his hopefully dire fate, she pulled the still snapping and snarling B.B. away.
She always did like a great exit line, though she mourned the loss of a perfectly good sleeping bag.