Wade bumped along in the white box truck, each sharp jerk of the vehicle seemed to bring back another lousy memory. Things always seemed to go from bad to worse with them. A bad childhood, after which it had taken a while to get their life together. Then just when they did, some kind of dang apocalypse came down over them. Now they have this to contend with, he thought, refusing to look into the back of the box truck again.
"What are we doin'?" Wade said wearily, bringing his hand up to his forehead.
Tom shot him a look, the cheery red of Wade's shirt at contrast with the despair of his childhood friend's face. It was clear Wade was talking about more than this moment of being in this truck going down this road. "We're doing our best. It's all we can do."
"Is it enough? Is it enough to keep us alive? Enough to keep us human?" Wade thumped his arm onto the truck door causing a small smack. "Look at us, we're huntin' humans, for Pete's sake."
"We have to. The Sick can't just roam the mountain. They could attack one of our people. Someone, maybe several someones, would get attacked if we didn't take care of this."
Wade's voice rose with emotion. "There's a little girl cryin' back there. Afraid of where we are takin' her."
"I know. It sucks, it really does. But this has to be done. You know it does, I've heard you say it."
Wade scrubbed his clean-shaven face with his hand. "Don't make it any easier. And this ain't their fault."
Tome sighed. "I look at it the same way I did when I was just doing Sheriff work. The criminals I picked up then were a menace to society, and some of it wasn't their fault either. Maybe they weren't thinking straight. They might've had a mental disorder, or been strung out on drugs and did something they would've never done in a million years otherwise, or maybe the person under the thumb of someone else. But they still were a danger to others. They still needed to be picked up and put away until it was all sorted out. I do the same thing now. My first call of duty is to protect. That's what I did then. It's what I do now."
Wade nodded. He could see that, he really could, if there wasn't a sad little girl drilling the back of his head with her eyes. Of course, that sad little girl would be more than happy to take a chunk out of him if he let her. What if someone like her got hold of Jesse or Sue Ellen. Tom was right; Wade knew he was, they had to do this no matter how bad it made them feel.
Concern covered Tom's face as he looked at Wade. "We are doing okay, Wade. Way better than I would've ever guessed we would do. In the beginning—Well, I didn't think anyone would make it. The chaos alone killed so many people, and, of course, the disease. I prayed every day that somehow Tricia and I would make it, and we did. By some miracle, we are still here on God's green earth and not only that, but we've got a nice home near the protection of family and friends."
"And decent food to boot," Wade said. "Naw, I don't suppose there's many that feel as comfy as we do. I need to feel grateful for that instead of dwellin' on the bad stuff." Wade tapped his short fingernail against the glass window a few times hoping things continued to get better. In a few months, any infected left would start into full-blown sickness. A few weeks after that, those Sick would all be gone. Then, other then the low-lifes out there, the rest would be easy for most of those on the mountain.
Wade shifted, slouching down to lay his head on the back of the seat and pulling his hoodie tighter around him. He was tired and hoped for a bit of shut-eye before they arrived at the containment center. Before he faded off, he wondered how his brother was coming along.
Skye laughed as she tried to coax Dylan into eating another spoonful of vanilla pudding. It wobbled on the spoon in time with her giggles. "Really, Dylan, vanilla pudding is where you draw the line after all the gross things I've seen you eat?"
Dylan, sitting up in the bed, took the spoon from her and pulled another face as he braved another bite. "I'd rather eat roadkill."
"Now that is disgusting! Doc says you need to eat and this is what we've got right now."
Sue Ellen popped her head in the door. "I could make up some beef broth. Would that be good?"
"A whole lot better then this bland, milky stuff," Dylan said as he waved her off. "Go make it, the quicker, the better."
Sue Ellen giggled. "Yes, sir."
"Thank you!" Skye called after Sue Ellen. The girl had made her way over to Doc's and had helped out with so many small chores Skye couldn't number them. Not only was her help appreciated but it was nice to see her so engaged with the family. Skye said as much to Dylan.
"Yeah, she's really doin' her share for once."
"Dylan! She is a traumatized girl. It's going to take her a while to get settled."
"Umm—I'm going to be traumatized before she's done."
Skye pushed on his arm and hushed him. "She's trying."
"Well, just remember, Mister, it wasn't long ago I felt the same about you."
"I doubt it. You always had your eye on me."
"Yeah, well, not always the way your thinking. At first, I just thought you were a bossy, arrogant, man-child who liked his own way entirely too much."
"Stop mouthin' me, woman, and get over here." Dylan pulled her over to him as Skye giggled and fussed that he was going to hurt himself.
Dylan kissed the top of her head. "She's comin' along. Jesse's doing well. We've got food, clothing, and shelter. Pretty soon, I'll be healed up and back to work. I was worried for a minute there, but we're doin' okay, darlin'."
Skye gave up on the pudding and set it on the side table. She leaned back on his shoulder and for the first time in days relaxed. She soon drifted to sleep and began to dream.
It was a beautiful, breezy summer day and the family was once again going to the farm market. Smiling, they walked toward it, and Skye felt the excited anticipation of a joyful day. At the entrance, there was a massive sign with the name of the farm market, Sue Ellen's Exchange, lit up. An arrow, with old-fashioned cascading light bulbs, pointed right at Sue Ellen, and the girl turned to Skye and laughed when she passed underneath it.
The smell of sizzling meat and vegetables filled the air; one ambitious neighbor had even bought pizza. She took a deep whiff, the food smelled just as good in this pretend world as it did in real life. Jesse excitedly downed a slice, then left them to wander the market.
The dream jumped to Skye and Dylan sitting in red Adirondack chairs, plates sat on their laps piled high with steaming food, and they held hands. She felt the rough caress of his callused fingers as if she was awake.
The sun dipped low on the horizon, hitting Skye across the eyes, but she didn't care, she was happy. She felt a small tug on her light green shirt, and she swatted at it. It pulled again. This time she looked down. Her shirt's color had changed from green to orange.
When she looked back up, sun, trees, people, market, Dylan, everything was gone.
Skye quickly pushed to her feet and turned in a fast circle.
She stood in a black void. Alone.
A/N: Thanks so much for reading Sanctuary's Aggression 2: The Captive! I appreciate every read, vote and comment. :)
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Sanctuary's Aggression Book 2: The CapturedScience Fiction
#47 in Action/Adventure, #6 in post-apocalyptic. This sci-fi post-apocalyptic survival story continues with Skye and Dylan hope to enjoy the calm of Cole's Mountain. The community builds homes, plant, and tentatively rejoice that the worse is over u...