called, fantasy, flash, flash fiction, future, going west, good read, highway, post-apocalypse, read, scifi, short story, society collapse, travel, write
Last Week’s FFF: Descended
Deckland rolled his wrist around, grinding the joint together with an audible pop. With his left hand, he rubbed his right, massaging away the tightness in his muscles. He flicked his arm back and forth, returning the feeling to the limb.
Once renewed, he reached for the water canteen on his hip. Hands slick with sweat, he fumbled with the lid. He opened it, and held the container to his lips. He let the last trickle of hot water run into his mouth. He held it there for a long second, absorbing most of it with his parched tongue before swallowing.
He returned the container it’s holster and wondered when would be the next time that he’d come across water. It’d need to be soon if he had any hope of surviving.
He shielded his eyes and looked towards the sky. Pale pinks and oranges were visible in the distance. The sun would be down soon. He looked forward to being relieved of the heat, but the night brought it’s own dangers.
He stretched his arm out, returning his thumb up into the air. He had held this posture for days, hoping that some passerby would pick him up. So far, none had.
He knew the dangers when he took to the highway.
He was at work the day the calling happened. It was a day like any other. He stared at the green text on his computer screen, using as little brain power as the task required. He had worked in an office for three years. It made him doughy, slow to react. He figured it must be what it felt like to turn into a zombie. Most mornings he struggled to get out of bed.
He’d do anything to get those days back.
In a collective, world wide movement, humanity was called. Called to what, he wasn’t certain. All he knew is that everyone, as if they no longer had a will of their own, left their lives and split into two groups. They’d been at war ever since.
Deckland had no calling. He didn’t hear any distant voices telling him to go anywhere. He stood, confused and alone, as everyone dispersed and society fell away. He had no allegiances.
In his travels, he had run into a few others in his situation. As alone as he felt, he had no desire to camp with the others like him. They seemed to feel the same way. There was no comradery. No sense of sameness. There was just the need to survive, and a deep distrust of anyone else.
Deckland needed to survive.
Sometimes he wondered if he did have a calling, but instead of a scream, he had only a whisper.
He didn’t leave his house until he ran out of food. He scavanged grocery stores for awhile, but they quickly became hazardous. The called thought the food was theres, and would fight anyone outside of the group. Going outside brought the possibility of death. But staying inside, with no food or water, spelled certanty.
So he took to the highway. He geared himself up the best that he could, and began to walk. He had no idea where he was going. He wondered if that was how the called had felt, or if they had known exactly where they were headed. He couldn’t exactly ask. But something to the west did tug at him.
A truck came barreling down the highway. Deckland held his ground. If it was someone called, he was as good as dead. But what choice did he have?
The truck slowed as it neared. The perspiration on Deckland’s brow intesified. He swallowed hard, trying to hid his fear. The truck stopped, and the passenger door opened. Deckland hesitated, waiting for a wayward bullet to errupt from the cab.
“Getting in or what?” a voice asked.
Deckland grabbed his bag and climbed inside. A woman sat behind the wheel. Her arms were covered in tatted sleeves and sculpted with toned muscle. Her eyes were dark as her hair, which was pulled back in a messy pony tale and stuffed under a trucker’s cap. She had a pistol on her lap.
“Thanks for stopping,” Deckland said.
“Sun’ll be down soon. Couldn’t just leave you to die.”
“It’s appreciated. Speaking of which, do you happen to have any water?”
She moved her hand to her lap. Deckland held his breath as her hand passed over the gun. It kept moving, reaching between the seat and door, and produced a liter of water.
“Don’t take more than you need,” she said, passing it over.
He nodded and took sips.
“Where you headed?” he asked.
“West, I suppose.”
“Don’t get any ideas. You can get some rest, but come sun up, the highway is your home again. Get it?” she asked.
Miles went by without another word said. He thought about asking her about her life before. If she had lost anyone to the calling or in the war. But none of that mattered. Whoever they were before, they weren’t those people anymore. The lives they came from might as well have never happened.
She began to look tired.
“Want me to drive?” Deckland asked.
“I’ve got it,” she said.
She squeezed a pill bottle between her knees and twisted of the cap. She shook out took capsules, put them in her mouth, and chased them down with a long pull from the bottle.
“What’s your name, anyway?” he asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” she said.
Deckland looked at the pill bottle as she returned it to the dashboard. Never-Sleep, the bottle promised. He could tell it wasn’t her first time popping the pills. Still, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch some sleep. She may not want it, but he certainly did.
He awoke to her shoving his shoulder. The sun had come up and they were stopped.
“Get out,” she said.
He didn’t protest and opened the door.
“What do you think’s out west?” he asked.
“Don’t know. Guess I’ll find out when I get there.”
Deckland hopped down from the truck. He turned to her before closing the door.
“See you there,” he said.