The small fire is warm. I keep it small. No need rousing the neighbors who can sometimes find the light annoying, especially when the dope they are fed starts to run out of their system. They get as agitated as their feral brethren.
I call this third-floor attic my home, my refuge. No roof above me. That caved years ago. But I like the view, able to lay here or stand here, unmolested and without care, for hours looking up at the starlit heavens on a clear night such as this.
Down at the driveway below, encircling the house, wandering aimlessly along the street and sidewalks, the doped undead hiss, and mew, and whine, in their garbled, tortured vocal cord way. I know they are talking to each other, talking to me, talking to others who aren't there. Many of them, those rotting, poor ex-living civilians of the city, are still "living" and "seeing" their former lives as they shamble and teeter about.
I feel for them. That's why, I suppose, I live among them.
I have been cast out like them. Jobless. Homeless. The living city had no place for me, and I was tired of the awful stares and unkind words whispered as I passed: my shopping cart full of my last earthly goods.
I paid a GRCC gate guard an old diamond bauble from my late second or third wife (I forget which now). She, the kindly soldier, let me through the gate, into the UCRA enclosure. She may be the only one who knows I am in here. Bless her soul for keeping me secret. (With the recent fighting in the city, and what I hear from outside the city, I hope she is still alive and well.)
I feel at peace with these citizens around me. We are all the poor, the lost. Cast out and quarantined from the opulence of the Living and Thriving community on the other side of the river, I am at least one with THESE downtrodden people, even if they are somewhat considered not "human" anymore.
The stew is almost done. The can of doped meat, label burned away. The can is red hot. I boil away whatever the chemical slurry is in the processed meat slop. To a still living, breathing goof such as I, ingesting the doped meat is like drinking too much alcohol, followed by a week-long hangover that feels like it will never end. The shit was not meant for LIVING human consumption.
But a dreg like me has to eat. And I've found cooking the piss out of the meat slop makes it almost palatable. Almost. But it's better than starving to Undeath...as I fear is the direction I may go if I let go of my living, breathing, mortal coil.
Old Miss Karo sings her death knell below. She isn't dying. She's already dead. But she knows that I am up here. Her and her "children" are hungry. Even with a rotted brain, she knows me, knows who I am, what I am about. She trills all the louder as I take a moment to finish my own meal.
I dowse my small fire, not wanting to burn my only refuge down, at this old home on Lake Michigan Drive.
I take up some pre-opened cans of uncooked meat slop, make my way down the attic steps, then down the second floor steps to the first floor.
I go to the old enclosed porch. Tall, bulging, overgrown arborvitae trees and bushes block what must have been a nice view of the street from the porch's full sized windows.
Miss Karo is at the porch door, dragging her black, bony stubs weakly against the aluminum porch door.
"I'm comin', girl. Hold your horses," I say, my throat a little numb and scratchy. I must not have cooked the meat thoroughly.
But the cans I slip out to Miss Karo and her small mewing, grumbling children, it's the real deal. The real doped meat slop. The Z-rations as the military call it. She won't have to wait for the next pass-through from the big growling vehicles that come through twice a week, dropping off crates of the stuff for the first-come-first-serve undead denizens of this west side neighborhood.
Miss Karo scratches at my arm. It is her way of saying thanks. The razor sharp index finger, just a bone tip, hurts like hell, but I know it's her way of--perhaps in her own rotted mind--grasping my forearm and thanking me up and down for my generosity.
It is those black, weeping scars along my arms that tell me, at some point, I am not long for the Living world.
True death would be great.
Undeath, well, if I can stay in here, fed and protected...I guess that wouldn't be so bad. The city does watch out for her local undead.
I see Miss Karo off, then lock up and climb, wearily, back up the levels of steps to my attic abode. The night is going to be a cold one. A four-sleeping-bag night.
It's okay though. I get to lay there, alone, free, alive, and stare up at the starlit sky.
It's okay. Really.
The TRANSPORT Series can be purchased here:
TRANSPORT (Book One)
Barnes & Noble
TRANSPORT (Book Two) HUNT FOR THE FALLEN
Barnes & Noble
TRANSPORT (Book Three) UNCIVIL WAR
Barnes & Noble
If you are in the Grand Rapids Michigan area, Schuler Books has paperback copies on their shelves (in SciFi/Fantasy section). Store location is:
2660 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512