– CHAPTER TEN –
Approach any seemingly rational person in any of the communities that sprouted in the days after the lights went out, ask him or her about the ruins. Most will say the spires and streets are haunted. Folk tales say the ghosts of the people who died the day of Black Out Thursday linger in the most familiar surroundings their shades recognize. The familiar was high up in the cloud punching towers, squeezed between the road golem clogged cracking streets, the dark signage once lit brighter than the sun but now dark as night, a warren of junk and bones, metal and human. Only the wild animals feel comfortable exploring the ruins and making homes in the sites of humanity’s final days as demigods. Beasts and conduits, that is.
Clara had a hard time believing these superstitions. She believed the Lighted wanted to forget the old world. Originally, they left the darkened ruins because the maintenance of things built by demigods was near impossible now without the tools of those titans. As time wore on, people made excuses to avoid what humanity had lost. They could never go back to lives made convenient by flipping switches and relying on the labor of obedient machines. Getting down to it, forgetting was less painful than mourning. Move on. Never look back. The Lighted continued to pass on stories from the old days, but this was different from visiting or living in a graveyard filled with the reminders. Only thing is, by not facing the ghosts they passed their delusions on to the Lightless generations through virtue of not accepting the past, and this became acceptable by community precedent.
Clara’s father and Uncle Marty raised her different. They began taking her into the ruins when she was small—maybe five or six. Not far, but far enough so she could dip her toe, to prepare her to plunge into the water when she grew older. In all Clara’s time visiting the ruins, she had never seen ghosts. Although, when the wind blew between the buildings, the sound did remind her of a sad ghost’s whistling.
In truth, to Clara the forests were more frightening. Outside the walls surrounding each community, the open road held more dangers. After all, the Junkers and the other common bandits called those lawless roads their domain. Ghosts wailed at our hearts, tugged at memories. Road pirates killed you and took your coin!
She harbored no hesitations about entering Nork. At least, Nork was not what she feared.
Several moorings where set up on the other side of the river, far enough away from the crippled bridge that once allowed access to Nork. That bridge had long ago crumbled into the river, a mile or so of the middle gone now, the ends of the breakaway drooping into the river as if with no hope. Those concrete and metal pieces created a dangerous reef, difficult to navigate for any ship wanting to take the river access into the ruins.
Slynt’s long boat drew up to one of the moorings. Golems and large stones filling in many of the gaps had been used to create each of the moorings, the surfaces uneven but manageable with well-placed steps. Roos leapt out almost immediately, by how quickly he covered the distance to the beach he seemed keen to place both feet on dry land.
Clara was in the middle of digging through her pack in search of the money purse she’d stowed there when Slynt put a calloused and leathery hand on her arm.
“You know how much you owe that fella?” he asked quietly.
Worry must have flashed across her face. Clara was still unsure how much Uncle Marty might have agreed to give the salvager. After paying Slynt for passage, would she have enough coin for Roos? You don’t stiff a friend, not in a world where trust is just as valuable as coin.
“Don’t worry about it, lass,” Slynt said, adding a shake of the head and squeeze of her arm. “I’ll square things with Martin when I see him next.”
“Thanks, Dano.” Relief flooded Clara’s body.
Slynt looked over Clara’s shoulder and past the mooring to Roos. The river rat’s expression was not kindly.
Scratching his right mutton chop, he spoke only for her ears. “This is your first time, aye? Going into Nork by yourself, I mean? Don’t be giving me no sass, lass. I have four daughters and a wife tough as nails, Tilly’d need to be to put up with a salty river rat like me. Hah! Anyway. The daughters are grown and with capable husbands. But I worry about them the same in this un-trustable world. It’s a world we need to face. Aye, baring the doors keeps out the trouble.” He shook his head slowly. “Doors can be broken down mind you. So I tell you the same as I tell me girls… be careful, lass.” Once more he glanced at the young salvager on the beach, weighing the young man as he would a suitor for one his daughters.
“Dano,” Clara said firmly, trying to keep the unfairness she felt out of her voice. I’m not a child. At some point people need to treat me as an adult. Trust me. Her thoughts went to her mother and yesterday, about her mother not trusting her to use her conduit abilities responsibly. “I’ve got to head into Nork on my own sometime, Dano. Today is that day.”
“Marty don’t know you’re here then?”
She sighed and shook her head. They’d gone over this, discreetly, not wanting to speak about Marty’s addiction. At some point she would need to intervene beyond making sure Uncle Marty got home safe when he was in the haze.
“One more piece of advice, if you will allow?”
When she did not protest, Slynt continued. “That salvager I have not seen before. Never charted my boat and I’ve not seen him around the docks trying to find someone else to take him across. Not that Rivend has too many boats going across to Nork, not many people wanting to head to the ruins.”
“Ignore the handsome face and stay on my guard?” One side of her mouth turned up. “Is that what your suggesting, Dano?”
Slynt touched his nose. “You got your knife? Your dad’s old blade?”
She touched the area of her lower back and swung her pack on to her shoulders.
“Good, lass. Wearing that coat as you are, reminds me of Mo. His spirit is with you, it is. Meet you back here before sundown. We’ll get drinks with Martin after, aye?”
Clara watched Slynt and his crew row back into the river and the broken bridge caught her attention. It’s skeletal remains, the spine and vertebrae snapped and missing, the thick wire support cables cut, frayed, swaying in the wind, steel bent at unnatural angles. All of it was like a bad omen.
No problem. Not like I haven’t been inside Nork before or seen the bridge before. Just another walk in the park. Yeah. Walk in the part.
Except, in Nork no one could just walk anywhere. To get around, a person exploring Nork needed to climb and possibly swim as much as walk.
Unlike the roads outside the ruins, road golems still congested the streets within all the crumbling old cities. In the days and weeks following Black Out Thursday, the food stores ran low, and no one was transporting replacement provisions. No cars or trucks were running either. People abandoned the cities when their stomachs started rumbling, taking their families and seeking the smaller communities that would sprout up near the farms and ranches that could produce the food stores without machines. Being close to these agrarian areas was essential for survival, and still is. But in the haste of leaving, people didn’t bother to move the sleeping golems, they left them there, instead moving around and over the obstructing junk hulks.
The riots just after the evacuations didn’t help either. Looting. Fires. Death. People left behind everything either not bolted down, too heavy, or they considered useless junk since the lights went out. The chaos cannibalized and broke down the cities like Nork into the ruins people disdained generations later.
In the following years, storms and broken levees flooded parts of the ruins. The rising levels swept away and scrambled the golems and other debris, further clogging the avenues. These days, the ruins were jumbled messes. Difficult to navigate. No man’s lands.
Nork was like any of the ruins, except it was a massive island with numerous bridges connecting it to the mainland. Like the southern-most bridge—nearest to Rivend—most of the bridges were unusable and cut off visitors unless by boat. There was one bridge intact, a short half mile structure supported by stone trusses; solid, sturdy, it was far north and not worth the walk unless coming from north. Boats were faster, saved time, and plenty at Rivend would take a person across. Less than a handful ferried, like Dano Slynt’s vessel.
Only salvagers and possibly conduits looking for machines to pick clean for parts came here anymore. It was easier when an explorer knew her way around the ruins, possibly having created maps of the changing layout of the ruins, marking the obstacles and the clear paths to through the warren. A map akin to the one pinned to the wall down in the Wrench Works’ basement workshop.
Roos seemed to have a handle on the navigation today. Good, because Clara was sure the area he was leading her to was flooded on all sides, an island within an even larger island. She couldn’t help thinking this was a wasted trip, yet she kept her mood neutral for the time being.
The scavenger and the conduit set out that morning with the sun barely over the horizon, the ball of light not even in midair yet, seeming to rise from a bath dripping with the morning’s mist. Silence was their third companion, always between the two youths.
Clara kept herself occupied by noting the street signs and buildings they passed, she wanted to mentally track the course Roos was following. She wished she could use her portable device and the map application held within its digital memory. But Roos didn’t know she was conduit. Best to keep that detail about herself a secret until absolutely necessary. No telling in what regard Roos held conduits.
With that thought Clara’s eyes glided across the two pistols holstered against Roos’ thighs and secured with leather cord, the grips huge compared to his long, lean legs. He kept his hands close to those weapons, ever ready. She couldn’t tell for sure but by the curve of the grips, the pistols appeared to be revolvers. Common projectile weapons today, a reliable type, the ammo readily available, and hardware easy to maintain unlike the automatic weapons that fell out of style more than fifty years ago.
A round to the chest would not make this a good day. Clara reminded herself again to watch herself in Nork, she didn’t know this pretty boy.
Tink buzzed across the Field, her tones gently tickling Clara’s sense. Clara couldn’t see Tink, the Nite was hiding in the Field where normals couldn’t perceive her. Where Roos wouldn’t see her. You sure this guy won’t end his business with you with one of his pistols?
Slowing her pace to drift out of earshot, Clara began to speak low. “He’ll want the second payment he’s owed for taking me all this way and showing me the route.”
Okay then… he could shoot you after you pay him.
Clara felt the muscles in her face go rigid as she frowned. “Why would he do such a thing?”
Clara waited with annoyance. Sometimes Tink’s attitude was too human for her taste, and much too cheeky.
So he could then resell the route and cache location to someone else. Double his profit. Humans love that shiny stuff.
“How do you know coins are shinny? You can’t see. Tink, you have no eyes and the Field doesn’t perceive textures, colors, and fine details. You’re from the Field.”
We discussed this, Tink intoned hotly, her blips quick and short. We don’t know where I came from. Shesh! Humans have poor storage capacity.
True. That was the first question Clara asked Tink when the Nite appeared to her after her father’s death.
“Besides, Marty knows about Roos,” Clara assured Tink. “If I don’t come back Uncle Marty will go after him, avenge me and all that macho nonsense.”
Tink was not convinced. Or Marty will think you and Roos died in Nork. It’s dangerous here. Roos could disappear and Marty would think you both died together. Face it! Things in Nork and the other ruins are lost to begin with, tossing two more things in and they become lost too. Everyone knows that.
“Now you sound like my mom.” Clara groaned. “Burn it! Do you have to be so harsh on Marty? He doesn’t have much! His family, my dad…everyone he cared about is gone, Tink!”
He has you, Clara. That should be enough to keep the lazy haze head going.
Wise for a Nite. Then again, Clara’s father always said the energy in the Field came from humans, partly at least. “Some part of us all goes back there when we die, sparkplug. If we listen closely we can hear the whispers of those we love, reaching out to guide us.”
Sometimes, Clara believed Tink was her father’s whispers.
The Nite had a point. Nork was dangerous. If she didn’t come back, Roos too, Slynt would confirm he’d dropped them off and they never came back to the meeting place they’d agreed on. Both of them—Uncle Mary and Dano Slynt—would look for her and if they didn’t find a body, that was one more Danvers family member lost to the junk pile.
I won’t do that to Mom and Leo, Clara promised, her resolute nod punctuating her pledge. Not to Uncle Marty either.
She just had to survive her first solo salvage venture into Nork.
Danger threatened to void her promise, around every corner, in every shadow.
The sudden paranoia shifted Clara’s attention to a gloomy alley they were passing. Roos had already passed by the alley. He was walking across a section of sidewalk littered with glittering glass shards from a recently broken window, probably from wind.
Branches sprouted from the shadows of the alley, fingers wrapping around the walls of the two buildings. More growth punched through the concrete sidewalk and up the fronts of the buildings, like vines on a lattice. Each branch from out of the alley was thicker than Uncle Marty’s wrist and stretched up, growing into the cracks, reaching inside windows and holes. Clara’s eyes followed the growth to the tops of the buildings, where the branches wove together into a wooden arch that leapt across the alley’s height to connect the two structures. Vines dangled down from the arch. Flowers bloomed along the vines and along the lip of the natural bridge.
Wind tossed the arch and countless flowers shook loose. Time seemed to slow as Clara watched the spectacle. On their way down, another gust caught the half-open buds, spun them in a dance. The delicate flower petals broke from the buds and scattered as if spooked like cattle hearing a loud noise. Pink and white rained down, blasting out of the alley, swirled by multiple winds that fought for the pleasure of this dance.
How people could see the ruins as frightening graveyards of humanity’s mistakes with technology, Clara would never know. The merging of concrete, metal, and wood was a quilt that warmed her. She extended her sixth sense and knew the Field too was part of the quilting, part of the merging, the needle stitching the world together, holding the world together with millions of golden threads.
She was so caught up in sensing the Field that she didn’t notice Roos had turned back around and was stalking back toward her. He’d drawn both his pistols and was pointing them at her head.
Clara went for her knife and was ready to spring to either side, to dodge the revolver shots.
Free hand raised, she started to ask Roos what he meant by brandishing his weapons at her, why he aimed the guns at her face. His own face was stern, composed, the way a hunter becomes when their kill is in their sights and they know the animal is already dead.
He fired a round from each pistol and cut off her speech. The action was so sudden, unexpected, the only action Clara managed was a flinch, to blink. She was too slow to roll away and seek cover.
Behind her a beast roared with indignation at the sound disturbing the silent peacefulness Clara had observed moments ago in her revelry.
Pivoting on her heel, Clara came to face a big cat. It was in the middle of leaping for her, paws reaching to maw her, light coat bristling, its jaws open wide and dripping saliva as it descended to rip at her flesh.
Panic washed over Clara. She forgot her knife. Instead, she drew on the Field, the abundance of potential at her fingertips, within arm’s reach. And remembering the road ambush only a day ago, she shoved those Nites she’d just created into the big cat.
The big cat’s tan and gold body, larger than Uncle Marty’s barrel frame, reared in sudden shock. Clara dropped to her right and out of the big cat’s path.
Pain struck at Clara’s shoulder as she fell into the street, her head scrapping the side of a curb.
Ignoring the blood slipping from her brow and down the side of her face, Clara crab-walked away from the big cat, knifepoint held out ready to stab.
The big cat lay still, its heavy breathing quickly slowing to a wheezing trickle of air. Faint grey tendrils of smoke wafted from dark holes in its hide. One caught the beast in the head while the second hit the chest. The faint smell of burning flesh mixed with bitter powder tickled Clara’s nose. Nothing like roasted cat meat and spiced with an overkill of gunpowder.
Roos had shot the big cat. He’d aimed for the big cat, not her! And she’d struck the beast with Nite lightning while it fell to its Roos had shot the big cat. He’d aimed for the big cat, not her! And she’d struck the beast with Nite lightning while it fell to its death. A little more than overkill. I’m a spaz.
Clara noticed her heart race to find the nearest exit out of Nork, her head liked the idea and was keeping pace. The wound on her head felt like it was gushing blood.
Not taking her eyes off the beast, Clara put three fingers to her forehead. The wound stung and she winced. Blood was on her fingers when she drew them away.
Clara! It’s gone. Life… it’s life is gone. This came to the conduit as a sad little series of blips.
Tink flittered slowly around the big cat, a fly attracted to a putrid corpse. No. That was not right. Not accurate. Flies were attracted to death, the decay of life. They fed off the lack. Tink was drawn to the big cat out of mourning. The Nite sensed the lack of Life and almost… what? Did she desire to fill the void?
“Tink, come here,” Clara commanded, her breath still thready. “Leave the beast alone. Come here. To me.”
The Nite faded into the Field, the blue light dribbling back into the larger source of gold, a stream connecting with a mighty river.
Still not sheathing her knife, Clara slowly rose to one knee, then to a crouch. When she got herself standing again, knees wobbly like the flat rubber tires on a road golem, Roos was already hunkered over the big cat.
“It’s dead,” he confirmed after laying a hand on its deflating chest. The trailing tails of smoke from his shots were almost gone.
Another thing a person coming into the ruins had to worry about… wild animals. People had set free the animals living in the city zoos, in safe—barred—areas controlled by humans who fed them and gave them a place to live without fear of survival. Many of the animals didn’t survive outside their pens, without a hand offering them food. Others went wild, taking on the proper moniker of beast. Those survivors grew larger, leaner, nastier. Many of the beasts found their way across the bridges and into the forests, staying away from the roads and human communities, reestablishing a natural food chain once more. Some of the beasts remained in the ruins. This was a jungle all its own, safe from humans.
Shortly after confirming the big cat’s demise, Roos was by Clara’s side examining her head. His rough fingers were surprisingly delicate as they prodded her wound.
“Could be worse,” he told her. “Are you weak? Can you hoof it a few blocks, to a safer place? We can tend the wound when we’re away from the immediate area.”
Up and down the street, her eyes attempted to dart between the clogged road golems, looking out for more predators that might have caught a whiff of the blood and death. She understood the beasts. A kill. Easy. No hunting. Just get to the carcass first and protect. Easy.
A nod. “I can make it. I feel fine. My head just hurts a little is all, the pain is fading.”
Funny. She just created a bunch of Nites, more than she probably needed, and used them to charbroil a big cat with enough meat to feed all the people living in her apartment building for a couple days. I should be exhausted.
“C’mon! Clara, let’s gets a move on before—”
“Yeah. Sorry. I-I’m coming. Right behind…”
She bent to pick up her floppy hat. In her tumble the hat had fallen off her head and a gust of wind must have taken it a few feet across the street.
Together they ran between the road golems, eyes alert for the movement of shadows, ears pricked for the slightest shift in the air. This was a field of metal grass, a perfect place for a concrete jungle predator.
Nothing molested them as they made their way down the street they’d been traveling and over a couple avenues, cutting through an alley to shave some distance. Behind them something called out a challenge. Come take my meat… if you dare. Easier than chasing down rabbits.
They found an empty drug store not far from where the big cat had attempted to swipe at Clara’s head. Most important detail, the store was empty of animals and medicine supplies. They could not even find a cough drop to suck.
Good thing I bring my own kit, Clara sighed with relief, leaning her head against a wall.
Although evacuating residents had picked the store clean it still had a metal roll-up safety gate across its front windows and doors. That would keep out the beasties.
The other thing the drug store did have was a pharmacy with a waiting area. Four comfy chairs waited for Clara and Roos’ choosing, along with outdated magazines and journals with the name Ms. Charlene Cooper—possibly the pharmacist—printed on the delivery label. The space in the back of the store even had a sleeping machine that could test a person’s blood pressure. Nifty and convenient, although Clara thought the machine looked like a torture device with its arm restraint, hard wooden bench, and seizure inducing lights. Clara wanted to Wake the machine, she itched to see it work.
Roos returned from the restroom carrying a tin cup filled with water, the cup from a dented mess kit he’d salvaged for his gear.
She wouldn’t Wake the blood pressure torture device, though, not with Roos around. It worried Clara enough that he may have seen her little trick with the Nite lightning when the big cat attacked her. Then again, maybe he hadn’t seen her use her abilities. Things happened quickly. Either way, she’d messed up enough today.
Open on the table atop the dusty magazines sat Clara’s medical kit. A wooden box made of a bone-white wood, a red cross painted on the lid. Roos put his tin cup down on the table and knelt in front of Clara.
He pointed to her forehead. “How you feelin’?”
“Like a blacksmith mistook my head for a piece of metal on an anvil,” she replied with a small grin.
He winced. “That bad?”
Shrugging, Clara went on with less humor. “Ache is gone. Unless I touch my head, when I do the blacksmith takes another whack.”
A curious expression on his face, Roos tilted his head to one side, staring at her like she was a piece of junk no one had laid eyes on in a hundred years. “You’re touching your head right now.”
“And I feel like my head’s been shaped in to a horseshoe. Thank you very much.”
“Sorry about startling you,” Roos said softly, not meeting her eyes, “I didn’t want you hurt.” He hesitated.”It’s not good business.”
Was he always this reproachful toward himself or was it her?
“Are you kidding? If you hadn’t warned me I would have been a kitty snack!”
“You handled yourself well enough. Here take away the cloth and I’ll clean the wound.”
How much had his guy seen? Does he know what I am? If he does, is he hiding his superstitious bigotry? Why would he fake knowing?
She was holding a strip of cloth to her head, torn from the bottom of her shirt. If Clara tore away any more of the material, she’d be running around with a bare midriff and a draft. Taking away the cloth as asked, Clara saw the dark green material was now black because of the blood it had soaked up.
Roos dipped another strip of shirt in the cup filled with water and began whipping away the blood from her face, being careful around the head wound. This close to her, Clara found Roos smelled of earth and gunpowder. He was close to her, so close she could feel the heat of him.
Plucking a loose thread from the frayed hem of her shirt, Clara began to wind it around her index finger, tightly, until the fingertip was scarlet from the staunched blood circulation.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I wish this place had more light, I want to see the wound better, get the dirt away before an infection sets in.”
At the back of the drug store—no electricity available in generations—little useable daylight stretched back to them.
On the other side of the counter separating the pharmacy from the general public waiting for medicine, there was a lamp on the wall. One Nite would Wake the—
“Could you do something about the lamp over there?” Roos asked casually, squinting in an attempt to see past the dimness in the store.
Guess that answers my question.
Clara had two possible responses for Roos in this situation. She could play off the quasi accusation.“What are you talking about? Do you think I’m some freak that can bring machines to life? A… what do you call them…?” Or, she could be proud of what she was. Her father always wanted her to stand tall.“Sure. Of course. I’m a conduit after all. Here’s some light.”
She attempted to work her mouth, to force the words past her lips. Instead, an odd hollow clucking came out. You’re a chicken, Clara!
Sighing, Clara inhaled deeply, closed her eyes, and flicked her open hand at the place on the wall where she knew the electrical lamp was fixed. She heard the lamp struggle to light. Some bulbs had burned out on the day the world blacked out forever, as if the energy within them grew too much and the filament burst against the surging stress.
Light bloomed like the yawning of a rose’s peddles.
“Thanks,” Roos said, as if everyone he knew could simply flip a switch to light a room as opposed to needing to strike a match light a candle.
He began to clean the gash on her head, which after closer examination he declared no bigger than her thumbnail. His work was silent. It was not the quiet that accompanies methodical work but rather the quiet between two people avoiding a conversation, neither having anything else to fill the space. Either Roos did not approve of her being conduit—like Clay doesn’t—or he was still blaming himself for her injury.
She decided to jump across the echoing cavern holding their silence. Someone had to. “If I say thank you, Roos, will you stop taking the blame for what happened with big cat back there?”
Roos shifted, pretending that he needed to reposition himself because of a stiff leg.
He exhaled when it became clear he could not find a comfortable position. “You’re welcome, Clara.”
Their eyes met then. His the color of green-brown moss, her eyes nearly golden. Roos’ expression was asking if this particular conversation was finished. Clara nodded and then added a grin. Since you were so gracious… sure.
The alcohol the salvager used to wash and disinfect the wound nearly made Clara leap out of her seat. She hissed like hot metal shoved into a barrel of cold river water.
To divert her mind from the sting, she jumped across another gapping cavern mouth. Clara always met conflict head on.
“Stand up tall and shout to the world you’re a conduit,“ her father’s memory encouraged her.
“When did you know?” she asked, tone quiet.
“Me being a conduit?”
Roos shrugged. “Back when you hurled light into the big cat. I’ve never seen anything like that before. But I know the Nite light when I see it. It’s unique, like rushing water or lightning. Close thing I know to electricity.”
“No one has seen electricity in a long time,” she said but not in a disagreeable way.
He rolled one shoulder before bandaging her head. He did not offer the further explanation her words requested.
My head must not be bad enough to warrant stitches, else he would have used the needle and gut in my kit, she observed.
The urge to bolt, to run back to Dano Slynt’s boat as quickly as possible, kept Clara tense. Most people who met conduits turn them over to the His Hand for cleansing. No one usually saw the conduits again—if a person could be called a conduit after the religious brain scrubbing! Rumor was the former conduits lived as monks on the His Hand farms, cut off from machines, from any “temptation” from the ruined world. How the thumpers managed to convince a conduit to give up who they are, Clara had little of an idea.
“Are you okay…” She wanted to test the waters. Roos was busy packing up her kit now. “… I mean, are you okay with me? With me being a conduit?”
“Conduits are useful,” he offered without hesitation.
That made Clara’s back stiffen further. Flight had turned to fight.
“‘Useful’ you say? What does that mean?”
“Just that machines make life easy,” Roos said honestly, unaware he’d offended her. “Conduits can Wake machines. It’s a useful ability is all.”
Offering her the medical kit, the lid latched shut, he frowned when he noticed her wounded expression. And by wounded, not her head. “Did I offend?”
Once again he retreated in his shell and bumbled with an apology.
Should I be hurt? No one has ever told me my powers could be useful… useful to them to other people. Would it be so bad to let someone call me useful? It’s a compliment… I guess.
She exhaled and shook her head. No pain. She felt a little pinprick at the temples but nothing she couldn’t manage.
The lamp light in the pharmacy shuttered, as if a draft of cold air had drifted into the room and tried to snuff out its flame. It held on for a five count but ultimately lost the battle. All machinery did. All Nites had a naturally pull back toward the Field, like metal to magnets.
Clara decided she wasn’t offended by Roos’ comment and that she might like the young man after all.
When she didn’t answer he started to rub his nose, where his scar cut across. He realized this and started running his fingers through his hair, giving him a bad case of bed hair—and his hair was unkempt to begin with.
She chuckled and patted him on the shoulder. That was all the answer he needed to settle things.
They left the drugstore after Roos tossed the excess water from his tin cup and packed the mess kit away again. Both he and Clara checked their weapons. He loaded shells into the rotating cylinder and she loosened her knife from its sheath.
Up front the security gate was rusted and would not roll up. Vines and finger thick branches grew between the slats, further impeding the rollup door’s movement. Thankfully there was a space between the bottom of the door and the floor, big enough for a small man to squeeze through on his belly. Clara and Roos left the drugstore easily enough, crawling underneath the stuck metal security door and back into the wild ruins of Nork.
Wanna keep reading?! Turn the page to Chapter Eleven.
© 2015 Clinton D. Harding, All Rights Reserved