LuckSon II - The Nightmare

Chapter 2

Stacy stood in the belfry of the brick church on the hill and looked out in wonder over the woods of Tennessee in the year 2050.  She was about five foot four, thin, with long brown hair and pretty green eyes.  As she stood at the edge of the tower in the abandoned church and stared out at the landscape, a cool autumn wind caught her long hair and blew it back behind her.  Someone seeing her would have thought she was a teenager as she had always looked younger than she was, but she was actually in her early twenties.

Staring out over the forest, she couldn’t believe how much taller the trees were.  For her, only a few days had passed since she stood in this exact spot and hid a note for LuckSon to find.  Now, through the magic of the Dream Walker, she had leapfrogged forty years into the future and looked on a landscape that had totally changed.  She remembered being amazed at the beautiful view from high up in the church bell tower. Now, it was just as stunning, only all the trees were much taller, the vegetation was overgrown, and nature was doing her best to reclaim her domain.  Stacy couldn’t even see Old Hickory Lake anymore, as it was completely hidden by the forest heights. 

It was late November and most of the trees still had their autumn leaves.  The scene made her envision a canvas on which someone had taken a paint brush and splashed reds, yellows, oranges and golds to create a massive collage of beauty.  It was absolutely breathtaking. The cool fall morning air smelled cleaner.  It was fresh and rich as if it had more oxygen than she was used to.  It made her feel alive and full of energy.

LuckSon, a tall, lanky, young man with brown hair and steel blue eyes, was down below with Miracle, his black and gold hound dog. Like Stacy, he was also in his early twenties, but his body was lean and strong from years of surviving on his own.  At the moment, both he and his furry companion were “doing their business” out behind the church, which gave her a moment alone to think.

Part of her mind couldn’t believe she was there, forty years in the future.  It almost wasn’t real to her. She thought about the dream she had the previous night and how Mrs. Whitting found a way for her to escape from the Dark Death.  The Dark Death was a terrible disease that was created by an insane researcher who was trying to cure his own brain tumors.  Instead of creating a cure, he had unwittingly released a terrible plague that would leave all of mankind either dead, a walking slow mutie bent on destruction, or for those precious few who recovered from it, alive and immune to further diseases. 

LuckSon was one of those lucky ones, having been born to two parents who were immune to the disease.  Now, he was convinced that he was the last man alive.  It was just good fortune that he stumbled upon how to use a Dream Walker to travel back in time to visit her in her dreams.  Through the magic of the Dream Walker, he had saved her life, and then ended up pulling her into the future to try and save her from dying in her time.

As she thought about the past she had escaped from, she couldn’t help but think about Mrs. Whitting, the older woman who had rented her a room.  They had become close friends as they tried to stop the Dark Death from being released.  Poor Mrs. Whitting.  Stacy wondered what would happen to her, or what did happen to her.  A wave of guilt swept over her as she thought about how she had abandoned her dear friend in the past to the Dark Death.  Not only her, but everyone she knew, and everyone who was alive back in her time. 

She stared out over the trees at a world void of people and felt terrible.

From the trapdoor, she heard noises as LuckSon and Miracle emerged.  “Hey there,” she said cheerfully, trying to hide the concern from her thoughts of a moment ago.  “The view up here is absolutely stunning!”

“Yes, it is pretty amazing, huh,” he replied smiling.  “I, uh, brought you some breakfast.”  He handed her two open cans: one of pineapple and the other of beans.  As she took the cans from his hands, he smiled at her.  She was a very attractive young woman, dressed in jeans and a light blue turtleneck that made her green eyes pop out at him.  

Stacy laughed.  “Breakfast of champions.  Looks great.  I’m starved.”  She took the cans and looked back at him expectantly.

“Uh, eat up?” he said cautiously.

“Well, don’t we need to heat up the beans first?” she asked.

He looked confused for a moment.  “You mean, on a fire?”

“Well, of course,” she replied.  “Cold beans are, well, cold.”

“Right.  Of course I was going to heat them up.  That’s how I always eat beans in the morning.  I was just joking with you.” LuckSon stammered out his response, and then looked around as if he had lost something.

Realizing she had made him uncomfortable, Stacy quickly said, “Oh, it’s ok.  Really, I like my beans this way anyway, and it would take too long to make a fire.  I’ll just eat them like this.” 

LuckSon smiled in relief as he started working on opening another can for himself.  Stacy just stood there.  After a moment, he looked over at her.  “Uh, you don’t have to wait for me,” he said politely.  “Go ahead.”

Stacy paused for a moment.  “Um, do you have any forks?”

LuckSon again looked up from his can of beans and tried to smile.  “I, uh, kind of live a primitive life.  I usually just tip the can up to my mouth to tell you the truth.”

Stacy didn’t want to make the young man uncomfortable, but she couldn’t help but think she was going to have to work on helping him with some basic eating etiquette.    “Oh, well, don’t worry.  I know there are some forks and other utensils in the metal closet in the room below us.  I hid some there myself just a few days ago.  I guess that was forty years ago now, but they might still be there. I can go grab one.”

LuckSon silently breathed a sigh when she offered to go down and get them.  He could tell that having someone else around was going to take some getting used to.

She went to the trapdoor and descended down the stairs.  When she got to the large storage room below, she called up. “Hey, it’s dark down here and the lights don’t seem to work.”

LuckSon again felt a pang of guilt.  This was going to be harder than he thought.  “I have your flashlight you left me, you can use that if you want, but the main lights don’t work anywhere anymore.”

“Oh, right,” she answered.  Of course the lights wouldn’t work, she thought to herself.  There wouldn’t be electricity anymore.  “Actually I can see well enough, I think.  I’ll be back up in a moment.”

LuckSon finished opening his can of beans, and dumped half of them on the ground for Miracle.  Miracle was a medium sized black hound dog with golden markings.  When he first found her, she was as thin as a rail and looked like she was barely alive.  Now, she was filling out and looking much better after a steady diet of canned food.  He watched as she quickly wolfed down the beans he had poured out and then licked the floor of the belfry.

Poor Stacy, he thought.  What had he done?  He had stolen her away from a world of functioning ease, and brought her to this crazy end of time.  She was going to hate it here, and hate him for bringing her.  Maybe this had all been a big mistake.

After a few minutes, Stacy’s head reappeared coming up from the trapdoor.  She was carrying a fork and an envelope.  As she lifted herself up through the hole in the ground, she waved the letter triumphantly.

“Look what I found!  It’s from Mrs. Whitting!”  She stood up and walked over to LuckSon and then noticed the expression on his face.  “Is something wrong?” she asked.

“Oh nothing,” he replied.

“Really?  You look like you’ve got a slug in your mouth and you don’t want to swallow it.”

LuckSon looked down at the ground.  “I’m sorry I brought you to my messed up world.  You’re going to hate it here.”

Stacy laughed and threw her arms around him. “Oh, LuckSon.”

Surprised, he slowly raised his arms and tenderly embraced her.  It was such a relief to feel her close to him.

“Don’t worry about that.  Really.  I’m a big girl.  I’ll get used to it.  Besides, it sure beats staying back in my time and getting killed by slow muties.”

They held each other for a moment.  “Stacy, I’m so glad you’re here.  You have no idea.”

“I’m glad I’m here too.”  She lingered in his embrace for a moment and then reluctantly pulled back.  Smiling, she proudly brandished the letter.    “Hey, I found this while I was looking for a fork in the closet.”  Inside was a note from Mrs. Whitting.  They stood side-by-side and read it.

My Dear LuckSon and Stacy,

I am so glad that the two of you are together in the future.  Don’t worry about me.  Although I am sad for all the suffering and death that surrounds me, I am filled with joy to know that the two of you are together somewhere in the future. 

I know it will be difficult and dangerous for you, so I have done what I can to help.  Directly east of this church there is a small brick home.  The address is 185 Riverbend Rd. It’s not far from you.  I have purchased it and left some things for you there.

Go to this home when you find this note.  In the basement, there is a wall with the mark of the Dream Walker on it.  That wall is a false wall, and should be easily knocked down.  Behind it you will find plenty of food supplies, a tent and sleeping bags, weapons and tools. I also left plenty of clothes for Stacy.

In the garage you will find bicycles with buggies that attach to them.  You should be able to use these to travel faster to escape from the slow muties you come across.

One more thing.  Be careful in the First World.  Something strange is going on there.  It may be nothing, but after I last saw you I received a warning that makes me believe there may be danger there.  Best to avoid it.

Be safe!  As God once commanded the first man and woman, ‘Go forth and multiply and replenish the earth, and have joy in your posterity!’

Your dear old friend,

Sheshebens Whitting

As they finished, Stacy turned to LuckSon.  “Good old Mrs. Whitting,” she said.  “Those supplies will certainly help.  I don’t even have a comb for my hair.”

“You look great, I don’t care if your hair is a bit tousled,” LuckSon said with a smile that made Stacy blush. “I think we should go get the supplies she left us as soon as we can.  We have a lot to do.”

“What do you mean?” Stacy asked quietly.  “I thought it was all over.  The Dark Death is out there now.  Back in my time it’s already spreading.  Isn’t it too late?”

LuckSon looked at Stacy with strong determination in his eyes.  “We can’t stop now.  There still may be a way to prevent this.  Mrs. Whitting will be able to talk to you in your dreams.  I don’t have a Dream Walker anymore, but I’m sure she will contact you soon.  Maybe we can still find something that will help.”

His determination and positive outlook were contagious.  Sure, it seemed like an impossible task, but he was right.  They couldn’t just give up.  They would have to try and do something to defeat the Dark Death.  Maybe from the future, Stacy would be able to help Mrs. Whitting so she wasn’t just left on her own to perish.  She owed it to her and everyone else back in her time to try.

“Ok.  I like it.  Breakfast first, then supplies.”  Stacy purposefully ignored the fork she had just retrieved from the storage room below and raised the can of beans to her lips.  She took a small bite of cold kidney beans.  Her mouth didn’t seem to want to swallow so she had to chew a little longer than usual until she could force it down. 

As she ate, LuckSon couldn’t help himself.  He started to laugh as she kept chewing.

“What?” she asked in exasperation.

“Sorry, now you look like you have a slug in your mouth. Tell you what, if you will help me, then we can try heating up our food.  We just have to be careful that we don’t alert the slow muties to our presence.”

Stacy smiled back sheepishly.  “Thanks, these really are better warm,” she said holding up the half empty can.

The two of them finished eating as Miracle begged for another helping – Stacy obliged him and let him lick her almost-empty can clean, which made the dog wag her tail and whimper with delight.  Soon enough, the feast was over and Stacy was standing up and stretching her arms.  “Well, that wasn’t so bad,” she said cheerfully.

“Good.  Cold beans aren’t much but they’re better than an empty stomach.  I’m glad you liked it,” he replied.

“So, guess it’s my turn to go do my business out back.” Stacy said.

“Here, I better go with you, just in case.” The young man held up Mrs. Whitting’s revolver.  “There’s still a horde of slow muties out there that could show up at any minute.”

“Ok,” she said cautiously.  “Just don’t peek.  So, where’s the toilet paper?”

LuckSon looked at her with a confused look on his face – he had no idea what she was talking about, as he’d grown up without what used to be thought of as a necessity.

“Never mind,” she said, shaking her head.  “I’ll figure something out.”

 * * * * *

Later that morning, LuckSon and Stacy headed out in an easterly direction from the church.  LuckSon carried his Marlin 336SS, lever action rifle held loosely in his right hand and the silver .357 Smith and Wesson revolver that he found in Mrs. Whitting’s bedroom tucked into the back of his pants. Both guns were fully loaded.  Stacy carried the flashlight as the two of them walked casually down the center of the street with Miracle following along behind them. 

Stacy glanced back to see the dog a few feet away.

“I wish Miracle wasn’t so afraid of me.  Each time I try to pet her she acts like I’m going to hit her and slinks away.”

“She just needs to warm up to you,” LuckSon said encouraging her.  “She was the same way with me for the first little while.”

Turning, she crouched down, and held her hand out.  “Come here, girl,”

Miracle stared at her hand for a moment and then slunk over to stand behind LuckSon.  “I hope so,” she said to him with a touch of disappointment, standing back up and brushing her hands off on her jeans. 

The three of them continued down the road as it bent away from the church and led down a gentle slope.  The tall, leafy oak trees on either side left the road shaded and cool, blocking out the sun’s rays. 

Stacy was amazed at how rough the roads were.  They were cracked in places with weeds and other plants poking their way through the crevices – nature had already started to break through the pavement in places in the last forty years, and in another forty, the signs of man’s existence would be covered over or blotted out altogether.  The world definitely had an empty feel to it, she thought as she stepped over a large crack with weeds growing out of it. 

“I guess we don’t have to worry about any cars coming around a corner and smashing into us, huh,” she said brightly.

“Nope.  No cars.  I doubt any cars would even still work.”

“Mrs. Whitting had an old car. It was an old Honda in perfect condition. It was probably twenty years old but had barely been driven.  I have a great VW bug.  It’s very reliable. Never had a problem with it.  I wonder what happened to it.”

LuckSon just shrugged his shoulders.  He had no idea what a VW Bug was, but he assumed it was some kind of vehicle.

“So, how is your foot feeling?” Stacy asked as they walked along.

“It’s much better, I think just about fully healed,” he replied happily.  “I can walk around on it without any pain now.  I think I could even run if I had to.”

“Oh good.” They walked for a few minutes in silence as Stacy looked around her.  “I can’t get over these trees!” she exclaimed.

“What about them? They’re just trees.”

“They’re huge!” she said while throwing her hands up above her head and gesturing around them.  “I mean, these oak trees must be fifty feet tall!  When I was here just a few days ago, this whole forest was so much…shorter! You can’t even see Old Hickory Lake from the church tower anymore.”

“There’s a lake around here?”

“Oh yes.  It’s a beautiful big lake.  There are actually two big lakes.  Percy Priest is probably my favorite.  There is some great fishing there.”

As they walked, they could see a small neighborhood coming up on the left.  The entrance had a sign that read Riverbend Rd.

“Looks like this is the place,” announced LuckSon. They turned into the neighborhood and were met with overgrown yards and small one-story homes.  The houses weren’t much to look at.  They were modest brick homes with single-car garages and small chain link fences in the backyards.  Many of the roofs were partially caved in, and vegetation had invaded through broken windows and cracks caused by forty years of wear.    “Kind of reminds me of Mrs. Whitting’s neighborhood.”

“Yeah.  It does.  It’s so weird to see all these homes just overgrown and abandoned.  I can’t believe all the people who used to live here are dead,” Stacy said in awe.

“The world is pretty empty of people.  There are lots of animals though: coyotes, raccoons, beaver, deer, you name it.  Just not a lot of people, unless you count the slow muties.  I’ve been on my own now for five years.  The last time I saw anyone else alive was about two years ago.”

“Where was that?” Stacy asked.

“In Chicago.  I’ve been making my way across the country.  I started off in what I guess used to be the Northwest. My mom showed me an old map of the United States and I think we lived around a place called Seattle.  I’ve slowly been heading east and south. I keep moving because I hope to find others like me.”  He paused long enough to bend down and pick up a small rock from the street in front of him.  “Guess I didn’t want to accept that I was the only one left,” he said as he casually tossed it into the woods around them.

Stacy glanced at him and smiled demurely, “Well, you’re not the only one now.”

LuckSon smiled back.  “I’m not, am I?”

They continued to walk down the road looking at house numbers for the address Mrs. Whitting had mentioned in her letter.  Soon they came upon a small one story home with a one car garage.  The windows were broken and the porch had collapsed in on itself. Kudzu weeds had invaded the broken windows and there was thick grass, three feet tall as well as every manner of thistle and weed about the yard.

“I guess this is the house.” she said disappointed.

“Looks a little rough, huh.” he said with a grin. “Well, let’s see what Mrs. Whitting left for us.”

LuckSon led the way as the two of them walked cautiously and slowly to the front of the house.  With the porch roof debris blocking the front door, they decided to walk around back.  Wading through the tall grass they rounded the front of the house and could see that the ground sloped downward at a steep angle.  Carefully making their way down the side yard through the tall grass and weeds, they discovered a glass sliding door in the back wall that led into a walk out basement.  There was a wooden deck above that used to allow access to the main floor but it looked old and rotted out now.

“I don’t think we should try going up there.” LuckSon said.  “Looks like our best bet will be to go in this glass door.”

He reached out and pulled on the door.  With effort, he slid the door open and they looked inside.  The room was small.  It looked like it was once a small playroom.  There were old toys and small tables as well as a few undersized chairs scattered around the room. 

“I’d better go first,” LuckSon said.  He knew from experience that feral animals often set up housekeeping in abandoned houses like this one.

“No argument from me,” came a relieved reply from Stacy.

LuckSon turned to look at her. She stood several feet back from the glass sliding door, her face white as a ghost.  Her eyes looked frightened and full of dread. She was obviously bothered by the sight of the house. 

“Hey,” he said, coming back to her. “Are you ok?”

“Yes.  No.  Not really.”

“What is it?” he asked.

“It’s just that, well,” she stammered. “I guess the Dark Death, the plague, I know you told us it killed everyone, and in my mind I knew it, but now, looking at this neighborhood, and these houses, I guess it all feels more real to me.  Everyone really is dead. We failed them. I failed them.”

LuckSon didn’t know what to say.  All he could think to do was walk over and take her in his arms and hold her. She welcomed his caring embrace and the warm comfort of his arms around her. 

With a determined look in his eye, he declared, “We haven’t failed them yet.  We still may be able to do something.  Who knows?  We can’t give up.” 

Together they stood for a moment in a silent embrace.  His touch brought her thoughts away from the sense of failure that had enveloped her and back to the reality that they were there together and still had a chance.  She tentatively reached her right arm around him and together they stood for a time, each providing the other with comfort and reassurance.

“I hope so.  I just keep seeing that young boy and his mother from my dream,” she said remembering her nightmare from several days before and how they had accused her of letting them die.  “We have to figure this out and do something.”

“We will.  I promise.  Now, let’s see what’s in there.”

LuckSon walked around a little until he spotted a medium sized rock.  Turning back to the open glass door, he whistled and threw it into the room, listening for any wild animals that might be inside.  After a moment, he stepped into the basement with Stacy close behind.  Miracle didn’t follow them and instead lay down outside in the tall grass with a heavy sigh. 

Inside, the room was small and littered with long-abandoned toys.  Stacy saw a small toy xylophone with wheels, resting on its side.  Young children’s books with titles that Stacy recognized were scattered in front of a white bookcase and covered in dust.  There were a few old stuffed animals and toys that were long forgotten littered around the floor, and a single baby doll with an eye missing sat in the corner in a baby high chair. 

To the left was a stairway that led back up to the main floor.  To the right was a blank wall.  Some light shone in from the glass sliding door making it possible to see in the dim room. To help with their search, LuckSon switched on the flashlight and shone it around.  The additional light only made the playroom seem more gloomy and forlorn. 

Turning to the right, LuckSon directed the flashlight on the blank wall, illuminating the faded outline of a Dream Walker.  It was stenciled in what once might have been blue paint, but had since faded to the point where it was barely visible. 

“Ok, well, that must be the fake wall.  So, how do we get through it?” Stacy asked.

They looked around the room.  There were a few small plastic chairs seated around a child’s table.  A lone tea cup rested in front of one of the chairs as if it were the only toy left still holding out hope that someone would show up and play again. 

“Let’s see,” LuckSon replied.  He picked up a small chair and went to the wall.  Swinging the chair, he shouted “LOOK OUT!” The chair hit the wall which crumbled beneath the swing. The old Drywall was mostly rotted and easily smashed through.  He kept swinging, using the chair to clear away the drywall.  It turned out that the wall was made almost entirely of thin sheet rock and was easy to clear a hole through.  Soon, there was a space big enough for them to gain access to the area beyond.

Shining the flashlight into the hidden room, LuckSon said hopefully, “I hope she left us some food.  I’m getting hungry.”

On the other side of the wall, was another room roughly half the size of the small playroom.  The walls were unfinished and insulation hung loosely from between the wood studs that framed the other sides of the hidden storage area.  In the center of the room were several boxes of various shapes.  Each box was wrapped in thick clear plastic and sealed shut. 

“Alright, Mrs. Whitting!” declared LuckSon cheerfully.  “We’ve hit the mother-lode!”  The two of them started grabbing boxes and carrying them back outside. All in all, there were six boxes of various sizes that they brought out into the sunlight and carried up to the front of the house. 

“I think we should try and get these back to the church,” he said once they had them stacked in the front yard.  “We really shouldn’t spend too much time out here.  I’m worried about the slow muties.”

Stacy shivered.  She remembered seeing the slow muties in her dreams with LuckSon from before.  They were terrifying to her, almost like visions of her worst nightmares.  She certainly didn’t want to see them in real life.  “Mrs. Whitting’s letter said something about bicycles in the garage.  Let’s see what she left us in there.”

LuckSon tried to lift the garage door but it was locked.  “Here, let me go through the basement.  I’ll be right back.”  He took off running around the house with Miracle chasing after him. 

Stacy stood outside the garage and waited. It was quiet.  She looked around at the empty street lined with deteriorating houses and overgrown yards.  It was creepy.  The entire scene reminded her of some kind of apocalyptic movie.  After a moment, Miracle came trotting back around the house. 

“Come here, Miracle,” Stacy called.  The dog looked at her and stopped.  She didn’t run away, but she wouldn’t come any closer.

From within the garage, she heard noises, and then the garage door squealed as it slowly rose up.  LuckSon appeared with the flashlight in his hand.  “Hey.  Sorry that took so long.  The stairs were in pretty bad shape, so I had to be careful climbing them.  Look at what we have here!”

Inside the garage, hanging from the ceiling and enclosed in large heavy duty plastic were two bikes, and two trailers.  Against the wall were several small boxes labeled “Spare Parts”.  LuckSon reached up and lifted one of the bikes down.  On the outside of the plastic was printed in black letters, “Nitrogen Packed”.  The plastic had aged well and was difficult to rip so LuckSon pulled a knife from his pocket and slit each plastic sheet open, revealing the strangest bike Stacy had ever seen.

It looked like someone had taken a really expensive bicycle and made the tires four times too wide and big.  On the side of the bike was written a brand name that she didn’t recognize: Boreals. 

“Whoa.  Now those are some serious tires,” LuckSon said.  “I’ve never seen a bike like this and it’s in almost perfect condition!”

“They look kind of funny with those huge, fat tires,” Stacy said.  “I wonder how hard they will be to ride.”

Suddenly, LuckSon looked over at her.  “How hard is it to ride a bike?”

“You’ve never ridden a bike before?”

“Uh, nope.” LuckSon grinned nervously. “I’ve seen a lot of rusted out bikes, but none that actually worked.  These look as if they’ve never been used.”

“It’s not hard.  You’ll get the hang of it.  I can teach you.”  Stacy smiled at him, making his stomach do a funny lurch. He couldn’t help but smile back at her.  She really was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  If she said it was easy and would help him, he felt like he could do anything.