"Morning, dad." A small boy, probably not even 8, greeted Norman as the older male sat down in his designated lawn chair. "How'd you sleep?" The boy smiled at him, making some of Norman's dread slip away. It was hard to fear anything when he saw his son's smile, which revealed his new canine tooth coming in.
Norman messed up the boys curly brown hair with a small smile. It was hard to be upset with him around. "I slept wonderfully." That was a lie. "How about you, Holden?"
"I slept fine." An older boy laying on the ground a few feet away replied, his voice laced with sarcasm.
Norman sighed and glanced at the older boy, a teenager with curly blonde hair. "That's good, Jacobi.." he muttered, losing his smile yet again. Just like Tanya.
Jacobi sat up and grinned a little at Holden. "How did you sleep, Holden?" He repeated the question his father asked, like it had yet to be asked.
"I slept good." He replied with a toothy grin.
"I slept nicely, you mean." Jacobi smirked, laying down again as he tried to correct the younger boy.
"That's... not right." Norman muttered, but decided he wasn't in the mood to argue with his hotheaded son, so he kept it to himself.
"You ever teach your kids English, Norman?" That earned a snort from Jacobi, who sat up again to look at the man who had just spoke.
Norman stared, almost blankly at the other man. This man was younger than him, but still probably about twenty or thirty. Hell, a lot of people were younger than Norman these days. No one made it much past 60 anymore, and he was already... How old...? 40...? 45...? Yes, he had to be older than 45. Maybe he was 50... No... He wasn't balding yet, and that's when his father had started balding. He was somewhere between 45 and 50, so of course this man was younger than him.
"Yes, Becker. These days, it is quite hard to teach much of anything though, other than maybe survival."
"And, you know, the thing you teach best. How to be a disappointment."
Norman rubbed his face a little. He had woken up for this? Should've just stayed in bed.
"Is it true we don't have supplies left?" He decided to change the subject. The last thing he needed was Becker disrespecting him even more in front of his sons. When his sister was around, she would stop Becker before he even started, but she wasn't here anymore and he had only gotten worse.
"We have two cans of beans and I think some toilet paper, which we will use up fast since we only have two cans of beans to eat." Becker replied, earning a grin from Jacobi.
Norman let out a stiff sigh and ran a hand over his face again. He felt the bags on his face, the puffy sacks under his eyes. It seemed as though he never slept enough anymore. He also felt a few wrinkles around his mouth and on his forehead. Why did he doubt those were from smiling too much?
"How are our crops doing?"
Becker sighed and sat back in his lawn chair. "They're..." He fell silent for a while, running a hand through his black hair. "Well, we haven't had much rain. They're alive, and there is some spinach that could be picked and some peppers and radishes ready... but..."
"Yeah. It's too early in the season too.."
Norman sighed and rubbed his arm. "Maybe we ca-"
"What's on your arm?" Holden asked. He hadn't really been paying attention to the conversation, and seemed to have been more interested in tying a feather to a stick with some grass then the current situation.
Norman looked down at his arm, where the sleeve had come up a little from him rubbing his arm. More bumps, bigger, more visible ones, had shown up around the scratch on his arm, but the scratch was still not visible. The bumps almost looked like-
"Ant bites. I brushed up against a tree and I guess a few got me." He smiled a little, praying his lie would hold up.
There was a pause, then Becker sighed and stood up. "Well, I'm gonna go try and see if I can go find some dandelions. Tanya swears she'll be able to actually make something that tastes different with the roots, but I doubt it..." He muttered, the last part half way to himself, then headed out of their little camp.
Norman sat there in silence for a while, watching his two sons. After a few minutes, he stood up and headed out of the camp, a different way from where Becker was going.
YOU ARE READING
A Traveler's BurdenScience Fiction
Several generations after the fall of society, the infection still runs through the human race. Those infected typically locate near the City, which is where the supplies are. When Norman goes to get supplies, he becomes infected. Now he must live w...