As the last of the ghouls had begun to round the corner, Edgar and Jimmy dropped low to the roof, out of sight of the wanderers. From their vantage, the two men could see the rooftops of a nearby RV park. Aside from the sound of scuffling feet and low moans the area was silent.
Jimmy hadn’t got used to the silence yet.
“Christ, these things are dumb. I’ve had dogs smarter than them,” Edgar whispered.
Jimmy shrugged. True, the ghouls had no real smarts, as far as he could tell. They just kind of wandered toward whatever caught their attention. But they were still winning the numbers game. That was the fucked up part of all this.
“Let’s get back down the ladder,” Jimmy whispered.
“Yo, old man. What’s going on with the ladder situation” Jimmy asked.
Bob looked up at the two men on the roof of the row of units. “The name’s Bob and I want to be sure you’re cool.”
Dani leaned on another row of units across the lane, the ladder leaning up against the structure. She observed the situation with caution. Bob’s play was risky.
“The hell? What’s not cool, Bob? This.” Edgar gestured to the edge of the roof with a flail. “Not fucking cool, Bob.”
“We just want to know why you were trying to break down our gate, that’s all,” Dani chimed in.
Edgar looked dumbfounded. Jimmy stepped forward. “Edgar had a unit here, we just wanted to grab something. We didn’t know anyone was still here.”
“What unit?” Bob stepped forward, “what unit was your unit, Edgar?”
Edgar stepped closer to the edge of the roof. “Don’t see how that’s any business of yours, Bob.”
Jimmy watched Edgar step closer to the edge and reach his right arm behind his back. His fingers grazed the pistol tucked into his waistband.
Jimmy made his way over to Edgar and placed the back of his hand against Edgar’s chest, gently pushing him back. Jimmy glanced and Edgar, eyes wide in frustration, shaking his head slightly. Too slight for the two people below to notice, he hoped.
“Let’s be honest with them, man,” he whispered.
Edgar’s brow furrowed.
“Nobody needs to die today,” Jimmy continued, “play it friendly.”
Edgar looked down at Bob. “K34. That’s the unit. It has our weed. We were going to haul it out and use it to negotiate for some supplies elsewhere on our way out of town.”
Bob nodded. “That’s fair, but we cleared this place and locked it down. You nearly cost us our safety.”
“Sorry about that,” Edgar said through gritted teeth. He stepped forward. “We didn’t know anyone was here.”
Sandy wandered out of the office and stood near the door. She was peeking out, observing the scene. Dani noticed how stiff and rigid she was. Clearly, she was upset. Then again, when wasn’t she?
Bob gestured to Dani. Dani grabbed the ladder and carried it over. She leaned it against the units and the pair began to climb down.
Bob tucked his revolver into his pants. “Could you spare some dope to make it worth our while?”
Dani stood outside the unit and Edgar and Bob negotiated over the marijuana bundles. Jimmy stood just inside the entrance.
“How long have you been here?” Jimmy asked.
“Me? Just a couple of days. Bob and Sandy have been here since the start.”
“What, like, you just joined up with them?”
“I was isolated in my apartment for a couple of weeks, had to leave when…” An image of Dani’s now dead neighbors flashed before her and she felt slightly disoriented. She shut her eyes tight and took a sudden sharp breath.
“You okay?” Jimmy asked.
Dani rubbed the back of her neck with her wrist. She glanced over at Jimmy, who seemed genuinely concerned.
“I’m fine. Sorry, not sleeping much lately,” she murmured.
“No shit,” he said. Jimmy laughed.
Dani smirked. She walked a bit closer to the unit’s entrance, leaning on the frame. “Anyway, I, uh, ran out of supplies. Came here because my Dad kept a gun here when he was running it.”
“Oh shit, this place is yours?”
Dani shrugged. “I mean, not really? Not sure what good owning a business does for you these days. He paid the bills. Paid for Bob and Sandy to work here. I haven’t really been here in… god, like, two years?”
Dani looked at Bob and Edgar. Bob appeared to be haggling over a second plastic-wrapped bundle.
“If anything the place is Bob and Sandy’s. They’re just kind enough to let me stay. I dunno how long I’ll be staying, though,” she added.
“Seems like a pretty good place, honestly.” Jimmy sighed. “Edgar and I were trying to find a larger pool of people somewhere, maybe closer to San Diego. Figured we could barter some essentials with some weed, y’know?”
Dani sat on a cardboard box. “A sound plan as any right now I guess.”
“Is it?” Jimmy asked. He didn’t seem to be asking her as far as she could tell.
Bob and Edgar shook hands. It seemed like the trade was done. Edgar carried several bundles in his arms. “Yo, Jimmy. Let’s get going.”
Jimmy scratched at the patch of red hair on his cheeks. It was a weak growth. “Actually, I’m thinking maybe we ask to stay here a bit, to just kind of rest up.”
Bob stepped forward, rubbing his chin. “How long are you thinking, kid?”
“Honestly, could we just stay for, like, the night?” Jimmy gestured over to the fence that they had hit repeatedly with Edgar’s Cadillac. “I’d be happy to help you reinforce the gate tomorrow before we leave.”
Edgar brushed past Jimmy. “Dude, are you kidding me with this shit? What about San Diego?”
Jimmy shrugged. Edgar looked angry.
“Look, man, we had a plan,” Edgar said. “We can get down there and find someone to exchange with.” He held up one of the six packages he was holding and waved it in front of his friend. “We had a plan.” He tapped Jimmy’s forehead with the bundle for good measure.
Jimmy looked around the storage facility. The grey concrete had begun to take on an orange hue from the encroaching sunset.
“I… don’t think San Diego is worth it, man. All those things… the city would be full of them.”
“That’s a solid point,” Bob said. “We got completely overrun here. Imagine a big city.”
Dani stepped in. “You two can take an RV for the night if you want. That’s fair, right, Bob?”
“Can’t imagine Sandy is going to be thrilled, but I don’t mind if we’re all cool about it.”
Dani started off toward the RV area. “You two coming,” she asked.
Jimmy and Edgar stared at each other, shrugged, and followed, with Bob right behind them.
Sandy wasn’t happy about the strangers staying the night, but she was outvoted. How she was outvoted in her own home was beyond her. She wasn’t sure why Danielle had any sort of say. She was leaving soon, anyway. The only compromise made to put her at ease was that she would hold onto the stranger’s car keys so they wouldn’t escape in the night and leave the gate open. Everyone had retired to their various RVs, and she to her apartment, locking their doors behind them.
Sandy sat in her chair in the living room. She had turned it toward the window to keep an eye on the world outside of her domain. There was smoke in the far distance. Maybe it was a wildfire. Maybe it was something else.
She sipped at her tea. She was running low on the mix. She wasn’t a fan of cold tea, but heating anything had been a problem, so all her tea was at room temperature. She hated that there was still no power. Bob suggested the power might never come back. Sandy was not so sure. She had a brother in the military. Surely he and the whole would be on their way to save her. It made sense. This was all just a little societal blip. The government would cure the sick and restore order in no time at all.
The apartment was dark and there was no glare on the window. She could sit comfortably on her seat and stare out the window toward the hills toward the west, past the outskirts of the city of Emmett. In the distance, she saw what looked to be some sort of light flashing. She approached the window, setting down her glass of tea. After a brief time, the lights faded.
How odd, she thought. I hope they don’t come this way.
Thank you for reading the tenth installment of the Haunted MTL original series, The Dead Life. Please share your thoughts about the story with us.