Tomorrow: Chapter I
The report of a rifle broke through the dead quiet. The sound was shockingly loud and vulgar in the dead street. Had there been vehicles driving it might have been mistaken for a car backfire. Since there were only fossils Mercedes and Buick frames parked forlornly behind once beautiful homes, lost and forgotten, it wasn’t a question of what; but of who.
Of the people who’d heard the sudden shot, only a small handful wasted any curiosity over the logistics of what was going on, and of those few, only one peeked out a dusty window to see for themselves. The boy was immediately yanked back by his small yet dominating mother, who slapped him across the face and bid him to never for the life of her to do that again. He wore the red mark for two days. Nobody mentioned it.
Following the gunshot, a woman ducked behind the corner of a building, panting. Chips of plaster bounced off her sleeved arm as the bullet tore a hole into the spot she’d only seconds before been standing. Without pause, she sprinted the direction she’d turned.
Tall and lithe, the woman might have easily been mistaken for the men who were chasing her if not for her face, twisted in a mixture of desperation and exhaustion. Dressed in black leggings, and a dark colored tunic with long sleeves and a collared neck, she’d avoided detection for most of the night, slipping between abandoned houses and collecting what hadn’t yet been scavenged.
Her flimsy canvas sack had been mostly full of dry goods that nobody wanted; canned asparagus, baby corn, baby food. There had been a house, however, where she had hit the proverbial jackpot. It was one of the smaller houses of the community; only a four bedroom, two bath, three thousand approximate square footage. She hadn’t had any hope when she’d snuck into the house. The windows had long ago been broke in; the glass littering the dead front lawn was covered in growing weeds.
As was her original thought, the house had been ransacked at least once. The cupboards were bare and anything of value had been taken. Whoever had come through the house hadn’t been neat; they’d swept through the place like a tidal storm, leaving broken cabinets, knocked over vases, and junk littered across the expensive hardwood flooring. Beds had been stripped, paintings had been knocked aside, and a safe in the downstairs had been opened and emptied.
After looking around, the woman decided to move onto more houses. Daylight wasn’t far. A red tag caught her eye as she made her way back through the maze of a living room. While leaving through the front door would likely mean suicide, there was a window that opened over a flower bed. It would be easy enough to wriggle through and then go back. Pausing at an over-turned recliner, the woman eyed the red tag for a moment before shoving the chair aside. It moved easily.
Beneath the chair was a bag of long grain rice. She had allowed herself a small smile when she saw it. Rice lasted a long time for it’s volume. She’d been hoping to find someone since she had begun her scavenging shift nearly two weeks ago. Slinging the bag into her canvas sack, she smiled again and the location she’d found it. Unsurprisingly, she heard her grandfather’s voice telling her that leaving a bag of rice in the living area of a new home would ward off evil spirits.
It had been the rice that slowed her down. It wasn’t heavy for her but it did make the sack a little awkward to carry. She’d managed for a few blocks and that’s when the problems started. She saw them before they saw her, and that’s probably what save her life.
There had been three of them, three men in the same dark clothing she was dressed in. It wasn’t a coincidence. She had been one of them, after all. Then she’d left, and you didn’t leave the Brotherhood. That had been made very clear to her. She knew she needed to get out of the city, go somewhere far away, somewhere they didn’t know her, and had never heard of the Brotherhood.
She had to ditch her pack if she was going to stay ahead of them. She heard the loud crash from the rifle and picked up her pace, ducking down into another alleyway. She rested against the wall, a hand on her side where a stitch had formed. She wouldn’t be able to move forever. She needed to find shelter, and she needed to find it now.