LuckSon stood straddling his bike and watched in envy as Stacy effortlessly mounted and took off. She rode down the street a little ways, then turned around and came back to him, smiling.
“See, it’s not hard. Just keep peddling and don’t forget what I told you about the brakes on the handle bars.”
He looked down and squeezed the two handbrakes. He was amazed at how they would cause the brakes to come together and lock the tire in place. Looking up, he saw Stacy circling in the street in front of him. She made it look so easy.
“Ok. Here goes!” he announced. Putting his right foot on the pedal, he pushed off and tried to lift his left foot onto the opposite pedal. Immediately he began to lose balance, so he frantically tried to turn the handlebars to keep from falling over. Unfortunately, turning the handlebars also steered him towards the edge of the road and the overgrown yard in front of Mrs. Whitting’s supply house, so he turned back quickly. Losing his balance he barely got both feet down on the ground to prevent himself from tumbling to the earth.
Stacy laughed at him. “Here, let me try and help.” She dismounted and, leaving her bike, walked over to him. “Ok. I am going to hold the back of the bike seat and kind of run behind you. I’ll help you with the balance. Just focus on peddling.”
“Ok,” he replied shakily. Once again, he put his foot on the right pedal, and after taking a deep breath, he carefully launched himself forward. This time Stacy half walked and half jogged along beside him holding his seat and helping him to keep from falling right or left. The two of them wobbled along slowly as he tried to get a feel for the bike and the balance it required. Miracle ran at their side, as the three of them made their way down the neighborhood street.
“There you go!” Stacy said encouraging him. “You’ve got it.”
They gradually began to gather speed.
“I don’t know. I think we should stop!” he called out.
“You’re doing great! I’m not even holding the bike anymore!”
LuckSon looked over and noticed that, indeed, Stacy was no longer there to help stabilize him. Rather than filling him with confidence, he was suddenly terrified. He started to lean too far to the left and had to turn the handle bars to keep from flipping over. This caused the bike to swing madly towards the side of the street, and before he knew it, he was headed towards an overgrown yard. The bike went into the tall grass and, turning sharply back to the right, flopped to the ground with LuckSon flailing to catch himself.
“Are you ok?!?” shouted Stacy as she ran up to him, panting.
LuckSon looked up from among the tall weeds. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m fine. Maybe we should stick to walking. I’ll never get this.”
“Oh nonsense. You can do it. If little kids can master riding a bike, I know you can.”
He stood up and picked up the bike. “Ok. I guess so.”
“Here, let’s try going back towards Mrs. Whitting’s house and the supplies. I won’t let go this time. You were actually doing really well back there. I think with just a little more practice you’ll get it down!”
Walking the bike back to the middle of the street, LuckSon looked back the way they had come. He was amazed at how far they had gone. Stacy was right. They had traveled several blocks in almost no time at all. If he could learn to ride this bike, they could cover more miles in a day than he had walked in a week. With determination, he once again straddled the bike and lifted his right foot. He had to figure this out.
“Ok. I’m ready,” he said. Once again he took off by pressing down on his right foot, while quickly lifting his left to find the opposite peddle. With Stacy and Miracle running at his side, they made it back to Mrs. Whitting’s house without him falling again.
“See! I told you, you could do it!” cheered Stacy as she tried to encourage him. “You did great!”
They spent the next hour going up and down the street. It didn’t take him long before he was no longer dependent on Stacy to hold the bike and give him balance. He still wobbled when he tried to turn, and more often than not, he would panic and put his feet down and try to stop himself rather than use the brakes, but he was getting the hang of it.
By this time the sun was arcing towards the horizon, telling them that the day was slipping away and they would need to get back to the church. Hurrying, they attached the trailers to the bikes and packed them with sealed boxes. LuckSon wasn’t comfortable enough to ride, so they both walked alongside the bikes and slowly made their way back to the church. It took them longer to get back walking with their newly found supplies, but they still had plenty of light to unload the boxes and carry them up to the belfry by the time they got back.
“I think we should bring the bikes up to the balcony so they are closer to us, just in case.” LuckSon said after they had carried up all the supplies.
Stacy agreed, so they carried the bikes up the stairs to the balcony and set them down in the back against the wall. When everything was settled, they found themselves sitting in the belfry surrounded by unopened boxes as they sipped on water from LuckSon’s storage supplies.
“Not bad for your first day,” LuckSon complimented her as they slowly drank.
“I guess not. I can’t wait to open these boxes and see what Mrs. Whitting left for us.”
LuckSon stood up and looked out over the trees to the North in the direction the slow muties had disappeared several days earlier. “I hope she left you a gun,” he said. “It’s been several days now since the slow muties were here. There’s no telling how long it will be till they run out of food and come back for us.”
Stacy shivered. Thinking of the monsters somewhere out in the woods frightened her to death. “How long do you think we have?” she asked, her voice shaking a little.
“I don’t know. Not long. I think we better be going soon. I can practice more on the bike and, if worse comes to worse, I will just walk along beside it, but we need to get going.”
Stacy stood up and walked over to stand next to LuckSon, then looked off to the west. The sun was setting and the sky was turning a beautiful orange and red. The sunset highlighted the autumn colors as it shown on the leaves making Stacy feel like she was in the middle of a work of art. It was so beautiful, and yet it was also scary knowing that somewhere out in the surrounding forests was a horde of monsters that wanted to rip them apart.
“I like the idea of getting as far away from those things as possible,” she said quietly. The two of them were silent as they looked out over the trees, thoughts of slow muties and phantom howls filled their minds.
* * * * *
LuckSon, Stacy and Miracle stood and looked around at the contents of the boxes they had retrieved from Mrs. Whitting’s supply house as they lay scattered across the belfry floor. Everything was unpacked.
“Wow!” exclaimed LuckSon. “This is incredible!”
There was a large white plastic container that claimed to contain a hundred and twenty dehydrated meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There was a whole box dedicated to clothes for Stacy including hiking boots, jeans, a few shirts, a few sweatshirts, and a good winter coat. LuckSon was happy to see that she had also packed up some clothes for him. They looked like they would generally fit although they were a little large around the waist. Thankfully she had included two belts just in case.
Along with the clothes and food, they found plenty of gear. Mrs. Whitting had packed Stacy’s pink revolver along with several boxes of ammunition. There was even a shoulder holster for each of them. At first LuckSon laughed when he saw the pink gun, but Stacy reminded him that it was the same gun that had killed Dr. Stevens.
There was a two man dome tent, and two good sleeping bags. She had also included two foam bed rolls to sleep on. Then there was an assortment of camping supplies such as a camping stove with cans of propane fuel, pans, cutlery, knives, some serving and cooking utensils, matches, and the list went on. They also found a compass and a laminated map of the United States along with a detailed map of Atlanta. Everything was wrapped in heavy duty plastic with the words “Nitrogen Sealed” stamped on the outside. Amazingly, it was all in excellent condition.
The most important thing they found was in a small wooden box with the symbol of a Dream Walker on the lid. When they opened it up, they saw a beautiful Dream Walker, with extra black and white feathers and beads.
“Wow. This was her father’s Dream Walker,” Stacy said in a hushed voice. “She left it for us.”
“This means we can still Dream Walk. We can go back and visit Mrs. Whitting now.”
“How? I don’t have anything of hers that you could use as a dream token,” Stacy said sadly.
“I do. I still have this.” LuckSon pulled out Mrs. Whitting’s revolver and held it up smiling.
“This is great. We have all these supplies and equipment, and now we have a way to contact Mrs. Whitting.”
“There’s still hope Stacy,” LuckSon replied. “Maybe we can find a way to make a difference and stop the Dark Death.” He looked at the Dream Walker in awe, not wanting to take it out of the wooden box for fear of damaging it. Looking around at the treasure trove of items and gear, he grinned from ear to ear. “I’ve never seen supplies like this in such good shape,” he said happily. “Usually when I find stuff, it’s rusted out and worthless!”
“Mrs. Whitting sure took care of us.” Stacy said. “This must have cost her a fortune!”
“I just can’t believe what good shape it’s all in. The bicycles, the trailers, all this!” he said waving his hands around at the floor covered in items.
“Well, I’m starving! How about we eat something,” Stacy asked.
“Sounds good to me.”
“Let’s see how these taste.” Stacy walked over to the large plastic bucket full of dried food and took out two sealed pouches labeled Italian Pasta with Marinara. “What do you think? Italian for dinner?”
LuckSon didn’t know what to say. “Anything sounds good, but I don’t really know how to cook. I usually just eat what I find.”
“Well, get ready to be amazed my friend. Can you help me figure out how to work this stove?”
“Sure,” he replied. The two of them unpacked the camping stove, and together, they were able to attach the fuel canister and get it started. A warm blue flame came from the burner.
“I’m surprised the stove even works after all these years!” he said.
“It’s in perfect shape. Here, can you get me some water?” she asked as she handed him a small pan.
“As you wish,” he politely said. He was surprised to see the startled look on her face. “What? Is something wrong?”
“Oh no, it’s just, you reminded me of a movie I saw when I was young,” she stammered, blushing. “Never mind. That would be great. Thanks.”
LuckSon smiled and went over to where their water storage containers were stacked. In a few moments he was back and handed it to Stacy. She took the water and went to work at the stove. LuckSon didn’t know how to help, so he just sat next to her and watched. Once the water started to boil, she stirred in the contents of the sealed packet and to LuckSon’s amazement, suddenly there was a pan full of noodles covered in red sauce.
“Dinner, is served,” Stacy proudly stated. She dished the food out onto two heavy duty plastic plates. LuckSon’s stomach growled and he eagerly took it from her. He was about to use his fingers to start scooping it into his mouth when Stacy stopped him. “How about we use forks?” she politely asked.
“Yes. Forks. Like civilized people.”
LuckSon grinned. “Ok. Why not. There’s a first for everything,” he jokingly replied.
She handed him a fork, and turning his attention to his plate full of noodles, he hungrily took a bite. As LuckSon wolfed down the pasta, Stacy ate some as well. It tasted bland to her. She wished she had something to spice it up with, but she didn’t want to say anything. She could tell LuckSon was thoroughly enjoying it.
“This is wonderful! I can’t believe how good it tastes!”
“Yeah, I slaved over it for at least five minutes,” she replied. They both laughed.
“Can I have some more?”
“Of course. Finish it off.”
He hungrily took the pan and spooned what was left onto his plate. He was about to dig in, when they both heard a soft whine escape from Miracle.
“Oh, you poor thing!” cried out Stacy. “We forgot all about you! Come here, Miracle.” She took the plate out of LuckSon’s hand and placed it in front of the cute dog. LuckSon looked in surprise from Stacy to Miracle. He was tempted to take the plate back, but he saw Stacy’s expression and thought better of it.
Miracle looked from the food to LuckSon and back at the food again. She sniffed the plate, then took a small taste. Making her mind up that it was not only edible, but good, she wolfed it down without chewing. It only took a few seconds before the plate was licked clean.
“I guess Miracle likes it too,” he said sadly.
Stacy laughed. “I suppose she does. Oh well.” She reached down and scratched the dog between the ears. To her surprise, the dog allowed it.
“The way to Miracle’s heart is through her stomach,” LuckSon said, smiling and yawning.
“I guess so.” Stacy crouched down in front of Miracle. Then, in a high pitched baby voice she asked, “Who’s the prettiest doggie in the whole world?” as she scratched the dog’s head.
Miracle seemed to grin and wag her tail as if to say, why, I am, of course!
* * * * *
Not far from the church where LuckSon and Stacy had enjoyed their dinner and were now heading to bed, was a deserted gated community. At least, it had been deserted up until just recently. Now, the gates were flattened and lay across the roads that lead into the previously upper class neighborhood and the houses that used to be empty were filled with a mass of mindless, hungry, slow muties. They had spent the past several days feasting upon their own fallen comrades and destroying the homes that they had temporarily taken as their own.
One slow mutie stood out from the others. He was different from the many mindless monsters that surrounded him. Whatever had taken the humanity from the others had not been as effective in him. He was the largest of the slow muties, and acted as their leader. In fact, he thought of himself only as Leader now. The others literally looked up to him, as he was easily six and a half feet tall.
On this particular evening, he once again stood staring out towards the church where LuckSon was hiding. He hated the young man. He had seen him defeat his hordes time and time again. He could still remember the frustration he had felt the last time they had tried to take him. They had trapped him in the top of a tower, only to be defeated by their inability to swarm him. As follower after follower fell trying to get to him, the others had lost their blood thirst for the young man and had turned on their fallen companions. Satisfied that there was plenty of food to eat, they had turned and left the young man alone.
Leader had reluctantly followed them but his hatred for the young man burned strong in his mind. Somehow, the young one possessed everything he needed to be a true leader of his horde of muties. He wanted to be able to use the weapons that the young man had mastered and to be able to use his voice to order his followers. He was convinced that if he could only eat the insides of his head, he would rediscover what he had lost.
Well, he would get another chance. The fallen bodies were mostly devoured, and his followers would soon be getting hungry again. This time, it would be different. For the first time in longer than he could remember, he was seeing something that looked like a plan form in his mind. The idea of a plan at all was a foreign thing for him. His brain had been incapable of such things since he had fallen ill many years ago. Yet, it was as if a thick cloud was clearing in what was left of his mind and he was regaining some of the faculties he once had.
The sun was setting off to his right. Soon it would be dark. He would leave his followers and go back to the church. He would watch the tower. He would learn when the young man came and went. Then he would time their next attack for when the young man was no longer within the safety of the church and finally, he would have what he longed for.
As the sun sank beneath the horizon, Leader began walking with a purpose down the street. He stepped over the fallen gate of the neighborhood and continued down the road towards LuckSon’s hiding place. The sky grew darker as he made his way through the trees and finally came to the edge of the church yard.
Looking up, he saw a faint light and heard a sound that pained him. There were two voices now. They were laughing. The sound seemed to resonate with a part of what was left of his mind. He felt a yearning for what they had. He had once known what it was to laugh. A picture slowly surfaced in his mind. He was sitting somewhere across from a beautiful woman. A candle burned on the table between them as he reached out and took her hand. She smiled at him, then the image faded, leaving him grasping at thin air. Anger welled up inside him and his mind was almost blind with anger and fury.
The young man was no longer alone. He was building his own horde of followers. Leader knew he would have to act soon, but that part of his mind that had managed to restore some logical thought held him back. They still had the weapons. They were unreachable in their tower.
He clenched his fists and stared in hatred at the top of the tower and the flickering light. They had something that once was his. Somehow they had taken it from him, but he would get it back. He would kill them and then he would find what he had lost so long ago.
Dream Walker Novels