Fall of the Risen – Week 19 – Clark
Before I opened my eyes, before I even realized I was awake, I heard the distinct sound of a shell being loaded into the chamber of a shotgun. Chik-chuk!
My eyes popped open to see the barrel of that same shotgun inches from my nose.
“Morning, sunshine,” said the gruff voice I had last heard through a speaker. “You ready for that talk?”
The man standing in front of me, holding the shotgun, wore an old set of blue coveralls. Wisps of bright white hair stuck out from under an old ball cap on his head. The shotgun vibrated in his hands as a result of his shaky hands.
I was sitting in a steel chair, hands secured behind my back. Daffodil was in another chair to my left, staring at the old man. Gianni was on the other side, starting to stir, but with his chin still resting against his chest.
“You gassed us?” I said.
The old cackled. “Yeah. Nice little trick, huh? Can’t be too careful. When the world ends, people get desperate. Decent people will try to take what you got, even kill you to get it.”
“Not us. We were just looking for a vehicle.”
“Sure, sure. And what did you bring to pay? Weapons. Makes you seem like a real peaceful lot.”
“You know what it’s like out there,” I said. “If we walked around unarmed we’d have been killed a long time ago.”
“Really?” The old man sat in his own chair and leaned in close. “Dog eat dog world, eh?”
“You could say that.”
He inched his chair even closer.
“Tell me about it. Details. Where were you just before you found me?”
“We were searching the area for cars.”
“For how long?” He asked, inching even closer to me.
“A week, give or take.”
“Without breathing equipment? The air can’t be safe to breathe…” He broke off into intelligible muttering, turning his attention away from me.
“Look, sir, I don’t know much about air quality, but I know there are two things you need to watch out for: people and zombies.”
“People have always been dangerous,” he said with a deep sadness. “What the hell is a zombie?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“What do you mean by zombie?”
“You don’t know what a zombie is?”
“Only in movies and TV shows, and that’s not real. So I’m asking what you mean when you say zombie.”
I looked over at Daffodil who just shrugged at me.
“How long have you been down here?” I asked the man.
He stood and backed away until he stood leaning against the wall.
After a long silence, I wondered if the old man had forgotten about us.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Murray. Murray Rafferty.”
“How’d you end up here, Murray?”
What came next was a story that seemed too wild to be real, but I guess the existence of zombies fell into the same category.
Murray worked for an extremely wealthy man. Wealthy and eccentric. The employer, who Murray called Mr. Macadamia, thought he could predict the future. His prediction was World War 3, a war that would only end with the planet’s near-complete destruction. He was way off on the cause, but half points for the end result.
We couldn’t tell how long Murray had been down there, but the maintenance man claimed he was a young man when Mr. Macadamia herded dozens of his employees into the underground vault.
“We’re probably talking decades,” Gianni said. “How the hell are we the first people to find you?”
“You’re not,” Murray said. “The opening of the tunnel used to be covered. Not sure what happened there. But 10 years ago, people started coming up to the door. Never let any of them in, though.”
“Why’d you let us in?” I asked.
Murray shrugged and studied his dirty fingernails.
“You’re the last one, aren’t you,” Daffodil said.
Murray looked at Daffodil, but didn’t answer. He didn’t have to. Daffodil was right. Murray was all alone.
“What happened to everyone else?” I asked.
He shrugged again, almost childlike in the way it attempted to avoid any real answers. “Everyone got….” He looked at the palms of his hands, and slowly turned them over to peer at his knuckles. “…old.”
We sat in silence for a while until Murray smiled as if he hadn’t been thinking the most depressing thoughts a person could have and stood up.
“Let’s get you untied, huh?”
He got to work loosening the rope around my hands.
“You suddenly trust us?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Murray said, moving to untie Daffodil. “Guess it doesn’t really matter. How much time have I really got left? Besides, the old gut says you’re all right.”
Once we were all loose, he gave us our weapons back and beckoned us to follow him.
“Got something to show you.”
He navigated a series of hallways, turning left then right, another left, and I was lost after the second turn. We ended up back outside of the room we had been gassed in. The large bay door stood before us.
Murray pushed a button on a small remote he had in his pocket. The bay door rolled up to reveal dozens of vehicles.
“You said you were looking for a car,” Murray said, holding the arms out. “Did you have anything in mind?”