Zeke-Chapter 6

“They spotted us coming out of the cave,” Alice began, her eyes absent and red. After they hugged for the first time, Alice had moved away from him, her hands demurely crossed over her stomach. “It was just bad timing. If we’d left at a different time, they never would have seen Da. But once they did, there was no hiding the cave. Da knew he’d been seen so he got his rifle ready, handed me the 9 millimeter and then we waited for them to try and force their way in. ‘We can shoot them dead before they have a chance to aim,’ Da said.

“But they didn’t try to come in. They were shouting outside, probably so we could hear everything they said. They were just going to burn us alive. It wouldn’t be worth the fight, they said, but they could still have the fun of hearing us scream.” She shuddered and a fresh round of tears began to fall. She didn’t seem to be paying any heed to her streaming eyes. She only continued to look towards the blue expanse of the Bay, stretching north and south of them.

Zeke reached for her hand, but she drew back in a jerky motion. She almost gasped at his touch. For a moment, her eyes locked on his with a look of shock and fear. Then she shook her head, sweeping her gaze back towards the water.

“Da started shouting for them to stop. Through the brush, he told them that they could have everything, as long as they left his family alone. He figured that they wanted our supplies more than they wanted to kill us. When they came in, one of them stood at the mouth of the cave, his gun drawn on us. Me and Ma and Da, we all sat on the mattress with Ma wheezing and coughing. Two of them went through everything, taking our guns, our food, smashing things. Not one of them could read, so they started tearing up Da’s books. He just sat watching, but I could see his jaw clenched and the look of murder in his eyes.”

Zeke thought suddenly of The Once and Future King. It was the last surviving member of that collection. The last book from father’s rather eclectic findings. He patted his messenger bag, just to make sure it was there. It was, a solid rectangle of weight. Behind it, he could feel the muzzle of the gun, evident even through the thick canvas of the bag.

“It was Harry,” Alice said, pointing at the guy with the fedora. “He was the one with the gun, the one at the door. When they’d gone through everything, he nodded to me. ‘Ain’t you a hot piece of ass,’ he said. ‘Give old Harry a smile.’ I didn’t. I just looked away from him. He started getting worked up, wanting me to look at him. We all just ignored him. Then he called me a little bitch and Da stood up.

“As soon as Da was up, Harold pulled the trigger. Da fell back down, bleeding from a hole in his chest. Already I could tell that he would die. Ma started to scream, but you know how she’s been lately. All she could do was moan, really, with her fingers pressed against the shot, not stopping the blood at all. I started to scream, but Harry said, ‘You shut the fuck up. I’m going to have to teach you to have a little bit of manners, already. You’re going to want to shut up before I shut you up.’

“They grabbed me and started to pull me away from Ma and Da, one of them holding each arm. I fought the best that I could, but Harry said he would kill Ma if I didn’t go along with him. Outside, they forced me to the ground and tore off my clothes,” she said, her voice becoming high and choked. “Harry was about to start, to…rape me, and I started screaming and fighting against them again. He pointed the gun right at my face as he leaned over me. He said I could do this either dead or alive, but either way, it was going to happen.

“I stopped fighting, but I couldn’t stop from crying. He pushed my legs open. That’s when one of them said, ‘She’s young, Harry. What if she’s a virgin?’ He stopped and made me look him in the eyes. ‘Are you intact?’ he asked me, the gun still there in my face. I didn’t know what he meant, so he screamed ‘Are you a virgin or aren’t you?’ I said I was and he laughed. ‘The bitch is intact,’ he said.

“One of them didn’t care. He said that that just meant that they would be the only ones to ever…take me. But Harry didn’t want to take me. He wanted to sell me. He knew of somewhere that they were looking for virgins. Someone rich, with all the ammo, food, and women that they could ever want. He told the others that if they put up with me until they could sell me in New Frisco, they’d all be able to get themselves some women.

“The man that you shot first said that he didn’t care. He said that the other women would be ‘worse for the wear,’ and he wanted a fresh piece of ass. He tried to make his move, tried to get inside of me, but Harry pressed the gun up against the side of his cheek and said, ‘She’s worth a hell of a lot more to me than you are. If you can’t hold yourself back, then I’ll fucking end you. It’ll just mean that I only have to split the reward two ways.”

Zeke shook his head. He wanted to reach out and hug his sister, to hold her and comfort her, but he’d seen the way she flinched at his touch. He hadn’t asked what went on the day that their parents died, but it seemed she needed to tell it just the same. She sat quietly now, looking out over the bay, so Zeke waited. He knew there was more to come.

Finally, she said, “After they’d decided that they were going to take me with them, they went back inside the cave. Only Harry stayed behind, his hand gripping my wrist. I didn’t fight him at first, but then Ma started moaning and coughing again. I didn’t know what they were going to do to her—I was scared to death that they were going to take her the way they’d wanted to take me. Then there was the sound of a bottle breaking, and smoke started to pour out at the mouth of the cave. They came out carrying armfuls of books, which they piled up in around the base of the brush. Then they soaked it in alcohol—believe me, they had more of the stuff than they needed—and they set it on fire. The last thing I heard was Ma gasping for breath.”

She felt silent. Zeke added, “After that, I came back home and they spotted me.”

Alice nodded. “I wanted so badly to warn you, but I couldn’t. They hadn’t seen you yet and I hoped that they wouldn’t. Then you started shouting, so they started shooting. When you got away, they wanted to follow you, but I started fighting with them again. By the time they got me back under control, you were gone.”

“Thank god I got you, though. And thank god they’re dead. You’re safe now, Alice.” From the way she just sat staring, with her eyes wide, empty, vacant, Zeke could tell that she knew this was a lie. There was no safety left in the world.

*          *          *

Zeke had always wondered what it would feel like to kill another person. He’d killed animals before, rabbits or small birds mostly but that had always been for food. It had been utilitarian, necessary. He’d thought that killing another person, even one as despicable as a Vulture, would have left him feeling guilty. He’d thought that he would have felt dirty or tarnished at the very least.

Now that he’d done it, though, he felt strangely…satisfied. Perhaps the adrenaline was still pumping through his system, though he doubted it. He felt calm, certain of his actions, certain that there had been a need. They were bad men and this had been the end demanded by their actions. More even than the rightful desire to defend his own family, he felt that his vengeance was righteous. This was a word he’d read about before, but he supposed he’d never really considered it in application. This was justice. And he felt no remorse for having carried it out.

He and Alice searched the bodies for what supplies they could glean. Zeke was disappointed that he didn’t find much ammo. Each of them had some ammo, but not much of any one kind. Most of it was 12 gauge buckshot, but they didn’t have a shotgun. There was a lot of 22 Long Rifle, but again, no gun that actually used 22s. They had a Glock 45, Alice’s 9 millimeter, and Da’s rifle, but Alice said that they had used much of the ammo shooting at road signs. Zeke took all of it, though. He didn’t know what they might find tomorrow, and ammo could always be traded.

The greatest boon for them was the food. The three Vultures had taken all of the family’s

canned goods, hauling it in two tiny backpacks. Zeke took the packs, handing one to Alice along with the Glock 45 and what little 45 ACP they found, then hoisted one of the packs himself.

Finally, before they started out once more, they hauled up the bodies of the three Vultures and tossed them over the edge of the bridge. Alice didn’t want to at first, but Zeke didn’t want to leave them here. This was a place of death, a place that belonged to the victims of the war that had scorched the world. He wouldn’t leave that pack of vultures to rest with them. Better they be consumed by the Bay.

By the time their bodies landed, there was only the muffled sound of crashing water, followed by silence.

*          *          *

“Where are you going?” Alice asked as Zeke started towards the east, following the frozen flow of traffic on this level of the bridge.

“I don’t know. But there’s nothing for us that way.”

“There’s home,” she said.

“No there isn’t. Home was a place with Ma and Da. Now there’s only a burned out cave and a pack of monsters who only feed on the dead. We’re not going back that way.”


“But nothing. There’s not a life to the west of us. But there has to be something to the east. Somewhere we can find a new home for ourselves.”

Alice watched him, tears forming at the corner of her eyes. Zeke wanted to be mad, but he really couldn’t be. She’d earned the right to her tears in the last three days. Finally, she nodded, wiping at her eyes. “I guess you’re right. Sausalito really isn’t our home any more. And there are towns out there, places where you can be safe.”

And so they began east, making their way slowly through the tangled mass of cars and wreckage. They stopped an hour later, and Zeke ate well for the first time in what seemed like years. It had been easy for him to forget just how hungry he really was, to put away first the hollow feeling, then the neasuea, and finally the ache. He ate straight from the can, just as his sister always had, a whole can of something he thought had once been beef stew. At the end of it he felt too full, almost sick with it, but he also felt satisfied.

Once they’d eaten, they started again. Zeke finally decided he needed a question answered, even if it upset his sister. He just couldn’t let it alone. “Alice, did Harry or the others tell you who they were going to sell you to?”
She shook her head. “They never told me, but I heard them last night talking about what they would do with their money. And Harry said ‘Saunders will be able to get us anything we’ve ever dreamed of. He has a real thing for these pure broads.’ So it must be this Saunders… Zeke, what’s wrong?”
Zeke felt suddenly cold, like ice was running through his veins in a torrent. He’d only heard the name once before, that very morning. “Alice, Abram Saunders is the mayor of New Frisco.”
To continue to Interlude: Abram Saunders Part 1, click here.

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