Chapter 21

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Chapter 21

“Scouter Mike, come quick!” Martin called, running into the tent area. The Scouts had setup camp in the park’s picnic area and were now settled in. A few of the boys including Ricky with his ever present shadow, Michael, looked up at Martin.

Mike shaded his eyes to see the boy better. “What’s going on, Martin?”

Martin knelt to the ground to catch his breath. “There are a bunch of people walking down the road from the highway toward the park!”

“Are they the undead or survivors?” Mike asked.

“I don’t know. They’re too far away to tell for sure.”

Mike grabbed his walking stick and hat and started walking. “All right, then. Let’s go have a look!” He turned and faced the remaining Scouts. “Stay put guys, but be ready to come running. Bring your ropes and be ready to do like you practised. And Ricky….”

“I know, Scouter Mike. Michael and I need to stay together and stay put.” The boy sounded like he had said that very sentence a hundred times before. As Mike thought about it, he smiled to himself. Ricky very likely had.

“You got it, Ricky. Michael is very important and so is you sticking with him.” Michael had been showing signs of improvement. The wounds on his neck were healing and he was starting to remember things. That could only be good.

Martin stood and followed Mike out of the camp.

“How many people did you say were coming, Martin?” Mike asked.

“I don’t know for sure, Scouter Mike. Maybe a dozen?”

A dozen? Mike hoped against hope that the dozen were survivors, not more of the dead. But even if they were survivors, that was a pitiful number when one considered that the city had a population of over a million people when the Troop had left weeks before.

“Well, keep your fingers crossed that these are actual real-live people. I like you guys, but I could really use some new stories. Maybe even some news of the world,” Mike said, smiling to take any sting out of his words. Since they had arrived at the theme park, Steve had been trying to get news through his radio. There had been nothing except for an emergency channel.

Mike got to the gate where several Scouts and the other two Scouters were gathered. “What’s the news?”

Steve turned to face him. A pair of binoculars were in his hands. “Don’t know for sure yet. Whoever or, whatever they are, they haven’t done much more than clear the outer gates of the parking lot yet.”

“I’m going up on the tower to try and get a better look,” Mike said.

“You’d better take these then,” Steve said, handing the binoculars over to Mike.

“Thanks Steve,” Mike said. He looked closely at the gates. They were securely locked.

Steve caught him looking and winked. “Not my first rodeo, Mike. Nothing is coming through those gates unless I say so.”

Mike grinned. “Sorry. Force of habit now, I guess. “

“Don’t apologize. You wouldn’t be doing much of a job leading us if you didn’t.”

“Thanks Steve.” Mike turned and trotted over to the park’s observation tower. The thing was painted a garish purple and built to simulate stone. It was ugly and Mike was grateful it existed. The thing towered almost sixty feet above the park and allowed the Scout troop to see for several miles in every direction.

He climbed to the top of the tower to get a better look, training the binoculars on the advancing figures. They appeared to be walking normally, although at the distance of half a mile made it difficult to tell.

Mike stood, watching, still unsure if they were living or dead, until it was obvious the front gate was their goal.

He hurried down to Steve.

“Were you able to make anything out?” Steve asked.

Mike shook his head. “No. They could be alive or they could be dead. It’s like you said; they’re too far a way to tell for sure.”

“So, what do we do?”

Mike shrugged. “I guess we wait. If they are living, we need to know their intent coming here before we let them in. If they are dead, their intent is clear enough.”

“You’re the boss,” Steve said with a  smile. “Do you want the boys to have anything ready?”

“No,” Mike said. “Maybe we should have Ricky and Michael come by, just in case they are dead. That head injury he suffered that first day seems to encourage the dead to leave us alone.”

Steve’s smile faltered. “I’ve been watching and talking to Ricky. I think that concussion or whatever he had is pretty much healed. He hasn’t been complaining about headaches as much lately. I’m wondering how much of a deterrent he is now.”

“I’ve been thinking the same thing, Steve. But see, that’s a good thing in a way too. It means Michael’s recovery is real. It isn’t just his proximity to Ricky anymore.”

“So, you’re saying this, whatever it is, might be curable?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know what I’m saying,” Mike said. “Honestly, I’m just guessing here. I’m no doctor. Heck, I’m barely a Scout leader.”

“That’s where you are wrong,” Steve said. “You’ve done a great job keeping us together and moving forward. I’ll admit, I gave up that first day. After we lost Connall all I could think about was getting home to my family. When it was obvious that we couldn’t even ever do that either, I gave up entirely.”

“What do you mean?” Mike said. “I still have some hope that we’ll see our families again.”

Steve’s laugh was bitter. “You better than most know how unlikely that is, Mike. No radio signals, no one except a single guy found alive by us. What are the odds that there’s anyone left alive in the city.”

“I don’t know the answer to that, Steve,” Mike said. “And maybe this is just me being delusional, but I choose to believe that there are still pockets of people alive in the city. We just haven’t found them yet. Maybe these people coming here are some of them.”

“Maybe,” Steve admitted. “I hope you’re right. I just can’t let myself hope at the moment.”

“Then, I’ll do the hoping for both of us,” Mike said. He looked over at Martin who was watching the far end of the entrance for the people coming. “Martin, could you run back to camp and ask Ricky and Michael to join us, please?”

“Sure thing, Scouter Mike,” Martin said, sprinting off.

Kyle was standing near by. “Kyle, could you take these binoculars and go up the tower please? When our guests are almost to the entrance, come down and let us know, okay?”

Kyle took the offered binoculars. “You got it, Dad. I’m guessing you don’t want anyone out there to see me?” He grinned when he said it.

“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Mike said.

Mike marvelled at the boy as he ran to the tower and carefully made his way up to the top. Kyle, had really matured over the past weeks. Come to think of it, most of the boys had matured. Mike was proud to have them as his troop.

The Scouters and Scouts waited anxiously for the visitors to arrive.

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