Fiction Friday – Open prompt
An Evening with Abe
The demon was rattling the doors, testing each of them in turn with a tug of its yellow hand. It was exasperated, and as it reached the last one, it slammed a ham-sized fist into the glass. Spiderwebs of cracks appeared in the wake of the assault. Grunting a noise that might have been a form of speech, it wandered away, apparently deciding that there was no one inside.
“Keep on moving, Homer,” whispered the man on aisle four. He had seen enough of the same breed of demon that he had taken to calling them ‘Simpsons’, a reference to their yellow skin and the fact that they had only three fingers and a thumb on each hand.
He peeled back the internal seal on a jar of peanut butter and plunged a spoon into it, shoveling the substance into his mouth one spoonful after another. He forced it down, knowing he needed the protein and fat that it would supply. He pulled a bottle of Coca-Cola from the shelf, chugging the fizzing liquid to help the peanut butter hit bottom.
“Your diet sucks, Abe,” he murmured to himself.
Since waking on the morning of the third, his entire world had been turned upside down, and he was not as concerned with what he ate as he was with supplying his body with what it needed to keep moving. Waking to a town that had been invaded by hellish creatures and with no communication to the outside world, he found himself operating alone. That added up to long periods of no sleep, and the frequent encounters with monstrous things that wanted to eat him as much as he wanted a cheeseburger and fries meant that he was burning energy at a rate he dared not calculate.
On the positive side, the demons had removed the vast majority of the town in the early hours of the attack, with his skill at movement and concealment keeping him alive, but the stores and homes had not been ransacked very often. An occasional roving gang would strip a place to the bones, but they were infrequent.
The thought of the gangs put a sour taste in his mouth, and he swished the soda around his mouth and spat onto the floor of the convenience store. It had been one of their members that had necessitated Abe doing something he had avoided since the war: killing a human being. The demons were fair game to him, but he had studiously avoided contact with others. That worked until the weaselly little kid in the black hoodie had run into him as Abe was slipwiring the back door of a Taco Bell. The baseball bat the youth carried made a whistling sound as he whipped it back and forth while trying to force Abe further into the alley.
“We gonna eat you up,” the kid said, his lips peeling back over a mouth full of freshly-filed teeth. Abe shuddered as he saw the jagged points the teeth had become.
“There’s enough food to share,” he said, holding out a hand.
“Well, I’m a hunter,” he said, trying to defuse the situation with a little humor. “Elk, bear, caribou, bighorn -”
He was cut off by the bat as the kid tried to turn his head into a tee-ball. Ducking benath the strike, years of muscle memory took over and he came up hard, driving a shoulder into the chin of the youth as his left hand drew the heavy Bowie from his waist and buried it to the hilt in the abdomen of his would-be assassin. It went in and up, slicing through a lung and nicking the heart before he pulled back a bit and worked the blade like a recalcitrant gear shift lever. When he pulled it free, a lot of the kid came free with it to splash on the pavement.
He had abandoned the Taco Bell. Not only had his appetite been suppressed for the moment, he supposed the other ‘Hunters’ would be coming to look for his victim.
That had been two days ago, and the things he had seen since then were far worse than what the scavenging ganger had made him do. He was becoming numb to it again, as he had human cruelty during his days as a soldier. It was the only way he could do his job then, and now it was the only way he was going to stay alive. It would be so easy to just break, to fall in place and gibber with fear when faced with the creature he had seen on Twelfth and Flagler. Dozens of mouths filled with pointed teeth that gnashed incessantly, situated seemingly at random around the surface of what looked like a conical gelatin mold of humanoid flesh and hair, towering above the streetlights as it lumbered down the street.
Abe Tallcloud was built of stronger stuff than that, though, and he would continue in the manner he had since the incursion began. Sitting on a bag of cat food, he finished the small jar of peanut butter and kept working on the liter of soda. He used the down time to check his arrows and the Bear recurve bow he carried. The heavy revolver on his right hip was full of .44 Magnum loads, and all the spares he had were easily accessible. He kept hoping that he would be able to find a store that had a box or two of his caliber, but given that he had only fired it twice since the third, he figured that was not currently high on his list of priorities. The noise had a tendency to bring the demons.
He crept past the doors, watching to ensure that nothing was looking in at him, and took up position behind the clerk’s conter. A few minutes of sleep would be welcome. He let his eyes drift closed, praying that just this once, his dreams would not be filled with the horrors that surrounded him. When he opened them again, a glance at his watch told him three hours had passed. In a near panic, he checked the store again, seeing no signs of intrusion.
He refilled his canteen from a gallon jug of water and slipped another jar of peanut butter into his rucksack, adding a few granola bars and a package of four Bic lighters. He looked wistfully at the cigarettes on their shelves behind the counter, but shook off the desire to grab even a single pack. It had been just over a year since he quit, and despite the situation, he was determined that he would stay smoke-free.
Opening the lock to the back door took him a full thirty seconds, so slowly did he turn the mechanism. Staying in one place for too long was a sure way to wind up dead, and Abe intended to see this strange situation through to the end. He opened the steel fire door a crack, letting him peek out through the gap. The alley looked clear enough and he opened the door. The Ruger revolver was in his hand.
Once satisfied that he was, indeed, alone, he jammed a piece of wood under the corner of the door. The makeshift door stop might delay the demons, or at least make them think the door was still locked.
He looked around, took a deep breath of the stinking, sulfurous air, and holstered the revolver. He looked back and forth down the alley, finally shrugging his shoulders. To his right the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon.
“East sounds good,” he said aloud. He took off at a jog, heading for the beckoning sunlight.
(Author note: Abe Tallcloud is a long-term character of mine, created initially for a session of the ‘Dark Conspiracy’ roleplaying game. I have used his character to work through a few things in the past, and tonight it just seemed like a good time to drop him into a horrible situation and see where he took me. Apparently we’re headed east.)