Mac was nearly asleep when he heard the shots ring out. It wasn't the first time, but they were exceptionally close. Deb stirred in her sleep, but she didn't wake up. At least, not yet. She had been worn out from the stress of worrying, and she was sleeping. A lot. Mac was worried, but when her mother had died in a car wreck, she had done the same thing. This was how she processed, and it was nice to have the hours to himself, to do some processing of his own. Shouts came from the west. Shit. If the shufflers weren't drawn to the shots, that would do the trick. He entertained the idea of sticking his head out and hollering for them to shut up (and get out of his yard!) but that wouldn't do much good. As quickly as he could, he slid his boots on and grabbed his rifle. Adam met him at the door. He had heard them as well. Mac whispered for him to stay put, secretly relieved someone knew where he was going and why. He had forgotten to look at the clock, but the sky was pitch black. The wind was blowing hard, carrying the smell of grass and the unmistakable odor of oily smoke. As he crept towards the sounds, he started to put it together. Four or five people (he could count four voices in his head for sure) had broken down on the highway. Whether it was bad luck or stupidity, they had attracted shufflers. He wasn't crazy about the idea of them shooting in the dark, but maybe he could get to them before it got any worse. A few minutes later, he was there. The moonlight barely picked up the chrome and glass of the car. It looked like a family sedan, nothing exciting there. He stopped and could hear panicked whispering. He was close enough now that he had to make his presence known, or risk being mistaken and shot. "Can you guys hear me?" Yes, they could. Immediately, their whispers stopped. Shufflers didn't speak, but Mac could imagine if he was on the road with his family his next thought would be jerks and roadside robbers sure could. "Look, I have shelter right here, you can stay while you figure out what to do. At least it's inside, safe from them." They must have decided it was the lesser of the two evils (Mac would also have thought so if he was in their position). The heavy, rough voice he had assigned as the leader spoke a few muffled words, and then they stood up and came out onto the road. There had been precious little traffic the last few days, and Mac hoped anyone who came by had their headlights on and their wits sharp. They abandoned the car and he counted heads as they approached. It appeared they had the typical American family, Mom and Dad, two older kids and a toddler. Deb always called them "oops babies" when she saw a ten year gap between siblings. They picked their way over to him, and were very quiet. "Follow me, and be quiet," he told them. "I have a few traps set out so stay in sight, whisper if you have to stop. We'll get inside and help you from there." Dad nodded, and they worked their way across the yard. At one point they froze as a unit, and listened to something stumble clumsily through the treeline. Though he couldn't see them, by the unsteady gait and lack of fear, Mac assumed they should be glad to have missed each other in the night. When he got to the door, Adam opened it immediately. He had been listening, out of fear and to make sure they were able to get inside. He had lit a candle, and by its flickering light Mac took a close look at their visitors. They looked hungry and scared to death, neither would do. Deb could sleep, it was time for an early breakfast. "Let's get some food going, while you guys relax a little," he said. Mom sighed and the older boy's eyes widened at the mention of food. Not too long ago, Adam had gone through a growth spurt, and Mac figured this boy would give anything for some food. He could do that, at the very least. While he was boiling water for some eggs, the sun began to tinge the eastern sky, and a new day began.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Posted by Bon Tindle at 6:08 PM