Chapter 10: Scavengers
Once outside, I found Bobbi already halfway across the street. She was heading towards the nearest house with the brisk pace of the annoyed. I practically had to sprint to simply catch up to her.
“Jeez, what’s the rush?” I panted and adjusted my speed to match her frenzied pace.
“I’m sick of this place.” She glanced at me, without slowing down. “The sooner we get our supplies, the sooner we can get moving again. The sooner we’re back somewhere sane and can split up, too.” She said so briskly, as if she were pissed I would even ask.
“We’re all eager to get going, but we can’t go anywhere with Tom in the state he’s in.” I was surprised that she hadn’t thought of that.
“Who the hell cares? It’s not like he’s been a help so far. Now he’s all heavy and stiff, seems like he might as well be dead. Alls he’s good for is holding us back.” She scoffed and came to a stop before the first house. She stopped to examine the overgrown yard we had reached. It looked as if it hadn’t been tended for weeks.
There was an old car, probably from the sixties or seventies, sitting in the gravel driveway which clearly hadn’t moved in ages. The house itself seemed solid enough, well kept and clean. It was just empty. Bobbi looked back at me, shrugged dismissively, and marched up to the front door. Grabbing the handle with a tug, it slid open apparently unlocked and unbarred. We both looked at each other with some surprise before entering the house.
Bobbi entered first, with me close behind. She paused to look around before taking a few steps toward the back of the house. I called out, as soon as I was inside. “Hello? Is there anyone here?” All I got in response was a glare from the pink-haired woman.
“What the hell’d you do that for?” She was looking at me like she was simultaneously angry and nervous.
“I don’t want anyone here to think that we’re a threat. If there’s someone still alive in this town, I would guess that they’re quite worried about more of those creatures. They might be armed.” “So you’d announce our presence to someone who’s extra paranoid and probably armed? Are you mad?” She rolled her eyes. “Even if there were someone here, they’re probably hiding for a reason. If they were to shoot us, they’d shoot us. If they don’t know we’re coming, they just might not have the time to pull the trigger. So, for the love of God, don’t announce us. Kay?” With a huff, she disappeared into the back of the house.
I took a deep breath to calm myself and consider what Bobbi had said. I could see the logic behind the idea. Not that it seemed to matter. We were alone. There had been no response at the very least. Sighing, I followed Bobbi’s lead and headed into the house proper.
I was looking around for anything that looked like a bathroom. As I searched, I realized that the furniture in the house looked rather dated. Rather, it looked as if the owners had found furniture at a Good Will or Salvation Army to furnish their home.
It seemed odd but I from my own experience I knew not to judge. A bargain was a bargain. Instead I focused on the task at hand. I needed to find the bathroom. I knew most people stored such things in their bathroom cabinets, and we needed all the first aid materials possible. It only took me a handful of tries before I found the downstairs bathroom.
Even this room seemed unfashionably decorated and I was beginning to suspect that something was amiss. Most of the furnishings in the room reminded me of my grandmother’s home with its brushed steel and ugly green porcelain. The tub was surrounded by tile in the same pistaschio color. The cabinets were stark white and had very simple handles. I paused to consider what all this could mean before shaking myself and refocusing on my goal.
I tore through the cupboards, finding little more than a simple first aid kit. The kit was unopened and seemed to have most of the supplies that I wanted. Unfortunately, there was no sign of antiseptic or any other medical ointments and liquids in the kit. Worse yet, the kit was too small and the supplies would not stretch past mending Rick. There simply wasn’t enough to patch up the scrapes and cuts on the rest of us, let alone last long enough to help with future wounds. We’d need more butt I took it anyway before going to find Bobbi.
I found her in the house’s kitchen. She had an armful of food and was looking around the room for something. As I walked in, she set the food on the table and I saw that she had found some good supplies. Canned vegetables and fruits, pastas, cereals, and even a few cans of canned ham. All good traveling foods which wouldn’t spoil for quite some time. I noticed that most of the labels were unfamiliar however, resembling brands that I knew but in drastically different packaging.
“You noticed too, eh?” Bobbi was watching me stare.
“Yeah, most of the things in this house seem weird and old.” I shrugged. “I was just assuming it was some elderly couple’s house, or something. Someone who didn’t want to, or couldn’t afford to, update anything. Y’know? But this food…”
“Yeah. That’s what I thought. Especially after seeing that ancient microwave over there and a blender that even my grandma wouldn’t trust. Then I saw that.” She pointed and my gaze followed along to a calendar. It was a simple thing, looking very vintage, until I noticed that the calendar was dated March, 1963. I blinked a few times and shrugged.
“Probably just liked the picture, or something, right?”
“I don’t think so…” Bobbi pointed at the cans on the table. “Check the labels, particularly the expiration dates.” I picked up the cans, looking them over. I noticed that none of the dates went past 1968. Then, it finally clicked. I looked back at my companion, and she only nodded in response. “Yeah.”
“That’s not possible, is it?” “Normally? No. Makes sense, don’t it?” Bobbi was smiling, a weird pride in her expression. “I mean, we haven’t seen anything that looks modern since we found this damned village.” She shrugged. “Explains why.”
“Does this mean that we’ve gone back in time?” “No clue. Maybe. Maybe they came forward. Or its one of those weird sci-fi moments, you know, like the ‘land that time forgot’ or something. All frozen in time and such.” She shook her head. “Either way, it don’t seem that weird after what we’ve seen lately.”
“I guess not, but wow.”
We gathered up the food and my first aid before heading for the door. As we neared the entryway, I stopped and dug around in the closet. I didn’t find much, but an old coat could serve as a makeshift blanket, which I proceeded to wrap around our goods and throw over my shoulder like a clumsy sack. We then proceeded to the next house.
We had explored nearly half the town, just under a dozen houses, before we were satisfied with our findings. We had traded the jury-rigged sack for a series of backpacks and satchels that we found as we dug through other people’s houses. Each time we entered a home, much to Bobbi’s chagrin, I would announce our arrival for anyone still in the house. We never saw another soul.
We only took what we needed and left anything valuable untouched. We took only food and medical supplies with] one exception, a well worn road atlas spotted in an unlocked truck. Bogged down with everything we could carry, we made our way back to the diner.
Upon arrival we found Rick and Tom just where we left them, but not how we left them. Tom was sitting up in the corner, having righted a chair and pushed himself up to the table where the bowls now sat empty. He was smiling merrily, content with himself and quite happy. Beside him Rick sat on the floor and clutched a hand to his face. When Bobbi and I entered the room and set our bags down beside the door they both looked up at us. Rick. Tom wore a deadened grin and Rick shot an annoyed glare at the other man.
“About time you got back.” Rick stood and adjusted his disheveled uniform, the hand falling away from his face to reveal a freshly developing black eye. “The bastard woke up about ten minutes ago, and he was ornery.” He looked back and away again, I guessed he was eyeing Tom. “Still hasn’t said a word, or stopped that damned smiling. It’s creepy. He just kind of sat up and looked at me. I tried to ask him if he was okay, but he didn’t seem to notice I was even there. At least, not until I told him to lay back down ’til you got here. Then he started flailing around, like some sort of crazy person and he managed to clock me in the face and chest a whole bunch.” He pointed at his eye. “His gift to me.”
I looked over at Tom, who was ignoring us while we had been talking. “Is he okay, otherwise?”
“Like hell if I know. I’ve been trying to keep him under control, but he seemed determined to do something. It wasn’t until I gave up that I realized he must be hungry.” He pointed with his thumb back at the table and Tom. “Nasty bastard made a beeline for the table and started scarfing down those nasty old bowls of people soup.” He looked up at me with disgust.
I watched as Tom finished licking the bowls and began to look around the room. His eyes lingered on us, in much the way that a hungry man would eye a steak, with his gaze finally settling on my throat. I couldn’t resist a nervous gulp. His grin seemed to widen as I watched it stretch impossibly and his teeth seemed to grow longer and pointed. I recognized the symptoms from the little man. It was then that I knew that something had gone terribly wrong with Tom.
As he sniffed the air his gaze finally left my throat and I released a breath that I hadn’t even realized I had been holding. He continued sniffing as he walked up and away from the table, following what I could only guess was the smell of the long forgotten and probably burning stew that the little man had been preparing. As he disappeared through the kitchen door way, the rest of us in the room glanced at each other with a worried expression.
We stood there for a moment, listening to the terrible slurping and growling that began to drift through the door frame. I knew it was only a matter of time before something worse would happen. I saw Rick glance at the supplies and turn his gaze to Bobbi, who merely nodded. They then both glanced at me, inquiry in their eyes. I hesitated, knowing that they were asking me to flee. I was worried about Tom. I had been worried about him since the crash. Now, something was happening to him and I felt obligated to help him. It was why I had ever studied medicine, to help others. Since the crash, my priorities had begun to shift though, and I needed to think about survival over duty.
I glanced at the kitchen door, now hearing the sound of tearing limbs and I knew that he had likely found the remains of the little man’s butchering project. It was only a matter of time. As my gaze drifted back to my companions, my sight lingered on the neglected butcher’s knife that still lay on the floor. The blood on the blade was finally enough. I nodded to my companions and we each, silently as possible, picked up one of the bags from the floor and retreated back into the impossible day without, never a word being said.