“Are you sure you know where we are going Zach?” Amy asked, approaching the front of the group, where Zachariah was pushing the cart full of tents.
“Yeah, it is still about another mile up the road.” He responded, glancing back at the rest of his companions, who were beginning to lag behind. “Do we need another break?” Zach looked towards the sky. As they had walked through the town, a wind had picked up and ominous clouds had begun to roll in.
“Well, we passed through the entire town, and we’re back out in the country now.”
“I know,” Zach smiled at the Amy. “We’ll be there shortly, we should be coming up on my dad’s property soon. Hey, I wanted to thank you for taking care of my arm.”
“First off, it was no problem, I’m glad you pulled through.” She returned his smile, “and secondly, what kind of property did your dad own?”
“He was a farmer, his ranch is out here.” The faded wooden fence that lined the road to their right gave way to barbed wire, with thick wooden poles every six feet. They crested a hill and the ranch came into sight. A sprawling, single story house laid out before them, it’s blue siding and white trim looking warm and inviting. A matching barn stood to the dwelling’s side, and behind that stood a metallic silo. A scorched mark ringed the remains of a pickup truck in the property’s long dirt driveway.
“Are we there yet?” Peter called up from the rest of the group, having yet to top the hill.
“Almost,” Zach responded with half of a smile. He remembered riding around in the truck, and seeing what was left of it made him feel that coming here was a mistake.
“What’s wrong?” Amy asked, noticing the look of worry that had dawned on Zach’s face.
“They’re not going to be there, but what if they are? I mean their bodies. What if we get down there and my dad is hanging out of that truck, burnt to a crisp?”
“Oh… What did your dad grow?” Amy asked, looking at the large field that lay before them and trying to distract Zach from his line of thought.
“Usually wheat, but he raised cows, chickens and horses too.” Zach replied. “But, I would be surprised if any of them are alive, they would have required some care.” He frowned.
They had stopped atop the hill to survey the land and wait for the rest of their companions, who finally arrived. As everyone took in there new home, the front door of the blue house opened, and a dark skinned man stepped out onto the front porch.
Peter felt exposed atop the hill, both to anyone that could be watching, and to the elements, as the heavy wind began to whip by him. “Um, Zach? Looks like someone is already there.” Peter said, his worst fears realized. His comment fell on deaf ears though, as Zachariah was already running toward the distant house.
The glint of metal in the dark skinned man’s hand caught Peter’s eye and he took off running too, yelling for Zachariah to stop, but the wind stole the words before they ever reached the leading man. He shifted his gaze from Zach to the man at the house, who stood there, looking down the barrel of a rifle at the two men running toward him. Peter saw the man’s mouth open and braced himself for the muzzle flare, but it never came. The gun dropped to the man’s side as Zachariah drew closer and then the two men were embracing.
Slightly embarrassed, and glad no one had heard his shouts, Peter slowed his run to a walk, catching his breath as he made the final approach.
“Peter, I’d like you to meet my father, Judson Turner.” Zachariah said, and noticing Peter’s glance between the pale skinned Zach and his much darker father, he added “Step father.”
“If you’re a friend of Zach’s, you can call me Jud.” Said the older black man, offering a warm smile and an extended hand.
Peter graciously took the hand that was offered to him, the rough calluses of hard days work still fresh on the mans hands. A large woman, matching Zachariah in complexion came bursting through the door, a white apron half tied around her waste, covering a blue and white checked dress.
“Zach!” she threw her arms around Zach and almost knocked him over.
“Hi ma!” Zach’s grin was as wide as his face as the rest of his companions finally joined them, Rocky barking at the new faces.
Zach introduced Jud to everyone and then, after an elbow in the ribs from his mother, introduced her as Aubrey before they were all invited inside. Candles lit the foyer mounted in the chandelier where lightbulbs used to sit and a delightful smell assailed there nostrils.
“This place hasn’t changed,” Zach remarked, looking at the rustic decorations that reminded him of his youth.
Jud looked at the candles and the piles of melted wax that lay on the floor and laughed. “It has, but we’re surviving.”
“Y’all have to forgive us,” Aubrey began, “we weren’t ‘specting company,” she motioned toward the back of the house, where a glass door stood open allowing the scent of two small birds roasting on a spit.
“It’s all right ma, we have our own food, we can do a feast tomorrow.” Zach said, a touch of country drawl appearing in his voice.
“So, what brings y’all out here?” Jud asked.
Zach looked to the floor, knowing what he was about to say, but Peter spoke up.
“Well, we were hoping you guys had survived and would let us stay the winter. We’ll pitch in and help with the chores of course.”
Jud looked at Aubrey, who pursed her lips. “That’s a lot o’ extra mouths to feed.”
“Nonsense, we’d love to have all y’all.” Jud dismissed his wifes comment. “On two conditions.”
“Yes sir?” Peter asked.
“First, you help with planting the wheat when the time comes…”
“Ok, we can do that,” Peter said despite Zach’s furiously shaking head, “and?”
“And you tell us how you survived.’
“As long as we get to hear your tale as well.” Zach said, reaching out and squeezing his father’s shoulder.
YOU ARE READING
Hollow WorldScience Fiction
The world as they knew it has ended. Anything running on gasoline has either blown up or will--very soon. Peter and his ragtag group are traveling toward Boulder City while Graham and his band of Ancients head to White Sands. Insert the Pennyman, a...