MoboReader > Short stories > After Grace

   Chapter 5 Shiver

After Grace By MatheusHMacedo Characters: 8593

Updated: 2018-01-05 17:15

The house was pitch black. Tom pushed an overturned table against the door behind me as I came inside. I followed close behind as he hurried through a door with a rotten staircase falling to the basement behind it. I dropped down each step as a blind man treks down a steep hill. When we finally reached the basement I saw that he had set a small fire on the cement floor by using broken pieces of furniture and papers he'd found around the house. The firelight pulsed orange against the walls, I could see two small shapes shivering in the corner. Children.

"We have to keep them safe, " I heard him say behind me. When I turned back to him, it was as if I'd been slapped in the face. Blood fell in streams down his arm.

"Jesus! You're-"

"We can stop the bleeding."

I sat him down against the wall and pulled off the jacket hanging off his limp body. He had been shot twice in his left arm-- once in the shoulder, once above the elbow.

"Get my bag, " I said to the two little shapes. The biggest one stirred and stood. I could see she was a girl of about twelve when she came into the light. She was thinner than anyone I'd seen before. She gingerly took the straps in her hand and dragged the pack along the floor. I reached inside and wrapped the gauze Tom had taken from camp around both of his wound sites.

"Where are the other people?" I asked Tom.

"I don't know. They ran, couldn't catch up to them, " he said grinding his teeth as I tightened the bandages.

"What do we do?" I asked.

"The kids are malnourished, we have to get them back to camp."

"You're not going anywhere. Not for at least a couple days."

"They'll send a messenger out, if we don't leave at dawn we'll be surrounded by noon. We need to get to camp. Hamilton will stitch me up. We have to convince the others to come back here with us. If we can push these fuckers out, we won't have to keep moving. We can survive the winter. There can't be more than a dozen of them-"

"There are, " the girl said. "They're not here now but they're coming. There's a lot of them."

"We have a good place we can go, it's safe there, " I told her.

"We have to help the others, some of them can't run, " her eyebrows furrowed with worry.

"We will, but we have to help you first, " I said. "Then we'll come back with more people." She nodded, turning her attention to the pool of blood on the floor. "You're the one who tried to save Devin, " she said to Tom. He didn't look up. "I know he died. They hurt him too much. Thank you for trying."

"The people from our camp gave him a really good burial, " I told her. She smiled.

"I don't think that matters, " she said.

"They need to see these kids, " Tom whispered in my ear. "They'll come if they see them." He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes in pain. I'd done all I could.

"What are your names?" I asked her.

"He's Camden, " the girl said, pointing to the boy. He looked about nine. The skin over his collarbone sank in deep ridges beneath his neck.

"I'm Annie."

"I'm Grace, " I said. "Is Annie short for something?"


"That's pretty, " I said. "Are you siblings?"

"No, we were just caught by the same people."

I pulled out some of the cans we'd brought from the pack, I could see Camden's eyes grow wide, even in the dark, even from afar. I held out one of the cans to Annie, she simply stared.

"Take it, " I said.

"But, it's yours."

"We brought enough for everyone." She hesitated before reaching out. I could see she was surprised by the weight of it. "Eat it slow, and only a bit, your stomachs can't handle very much right now."

She nodded and pulled the lid open and smiled at the smell of it. She held it out for Camden, he smiled twice as wide. They began to eat.

"Get some sleep, " Tom said when we'd finished.

"You need it more than me, " I told Tom.

"I can stay up."

"I can stay up, " I said. He gave me a grateful smile.

"Wake me up as soon as it's light out."

"I will."

Before long, the room was silent. The fire burned down to shining crimson crumbs and eventually it went out altogether. I sat in the dark, waiting for dawn, hoping tomorrow would be a better day.


The black sky faded into pale blue, inch by inch I was able to see

more of the street outside. There was no sign of anyone. No scared prisoners, no patrolling bad guys, nothing. The children slept on the floor, I watched them for a minute, the realization slowly set in that if not for Tom coming back, it was entirely possible they'd be nothing more than someone's meal now. I knew I had made the right decision by coming with him.

"You were supposed to wake me, " he said, rubbing his eyes.

"Sorry, " I said and moved beside him. I knelt down and looked at the bandages. The bleeding had stopped for the most part. "How do you feel?"


"Let's eat before we go, I'll wake the kids."

"You were right, " he said as I was about to stand. "I'm not just doing this out of the goodness of my heart." I sat back down, waiting for him to continue. "I'm looking for someone."


"A girl. I guess she's a woman now."

"Your daughter?" I asked. He laughed.

"No, no kids for me. She's someone I was close with. We got separated during a fight, then the camp moved. I don't even know if she's alive."

"But you're looking anyway."

"What else am I supposed to do?"

"What's her name?"


"How long has it been since you lost track of each other?" he thought about the question and smiled.

"More than ten years. You must have been about four or five years old."

"Me?" I asked, behind us, the children started moving.

"Are we leaving now?"

"We have to eat first, " I said.

"No. We're not safe here, " Tom said, struggling to stand. "We have to go now. They'll be coming to check the houses soon."

"You're not strong enough, " I told him.

"I'm okay, but good lookin' out, " he smiled. "Alright, let's hit it, we can eat when we're clear of here." Tom slung the duffel bag around his good shoulder and reached inside. He found a colt .45 and pulled it out. "You take that, " he said handing it to me. He reached down to the floor and picked up the rifle I had used the day before. "Heavy?" he asked when he noticed me looking at my handgun.

"It's alright, " I said, not wanting to agree.

"Good. Alright everyone keep quiet." He grabbed the gun I had taken off the dead man the day before and slipped it in the back of his pants. I picked up the heavy backpack on the floor and put it on. Tom tucked his wounded arm into his jacket and climbed the stairs. He winced as he moved. The pain had come back, and by the looks of him, it was worse than before.

As I reached the top of the stairs, the cold air hit me and I began to shake. The children felt it too.

"I'm gonna cover you, " he said when we reached the front door. "Take the kids across the street, then I'll cross and we can use the houses along the way to get through town."

"Maybe I should carry the duffel, " I said.

"I'm okay, you got the backpack." He put his eyes to the window. He looked right, then left. "It's clear, " he said without turning back to me. He slowly opened the door and aimed the rifle outside. I signaled for the kids to join me behind Tom.

"Go, " he whispered. I took Annie's hand, she took Camden's. I put myself in front of the kids as we hurried across the silent street. I hadn't realized it yet, but that was the first time I had thought of someone else before myself. We reached the corner of the house on the other side. I checked the area to make sure it was clear then gave Tom a quick wave.

He pulled his eyes from the scope and jogged quietly onto the pavement. A loud crack rang out and echoed in the wind, like the sound of a branch collapsing in the forest. Tom's head snapped back. His legs buckled. He dropped to the floor, his skull shattered white and red.

"That's right!" someone yelled. I heard two men laughing somewhere to the east. Then the clicking sound of a rifle's bolt being pulled back and locked in place again, reloaded.

Annie and Camden stood shaking by my side. I watched the trail of blood lazily making its way along the asphalt like a red liquid snake slithering toward us. I could feel the cold air sink though my skin and into my bones. I couldn't stop shivering.



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