Drabblecast 369 – In The Walls



Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Cover for Drabblecast, In The Walls, by Hannah HollowayThe deadliest things in war are not bullets and guns, but hunger and desperation.
I’m hungry.

Penny gets the bed tonight, I’m on watch, Erik is out looting for food and supplies. If he were white, he tells us seriously, the press would say he was scavenging. But for him, it’s looting.

Not that there’s a press anymore. The newspaper we stuffed inside our makeshift mattress were all from three weeks ago. Then the newspaper company was bombed. That was a week after the Internet service provider was bombed. And while we missed the Internet, no one missed Comcast.

 

In the Walls

by Mur Lafferty

 

The deadliest things in war are not bullets and guns, but hunger and desperation.

I’m hungry.

Penny gets the bed tonight, I’m on watch, Erik is out looting for food and supplies. If he were white, he tells us seriously, the press would say he was scavenging. But for him, it’s looting.

Not that there’s a press anymore. The newspaper we stuffed inside our makeshift mattress were all from three weeks ago. Then the newspaper company was bombed. That was a week after the Internet service provider was bombed. And while we missed the Internet, no one missed Comcast.

I’m sorry. I’m out of sorts. I was a research assistant to Dr. Dyer at the local university, but that was before the shelling started. I was working in his office, cataloging the items from his last adventure, when we were hit. I don’t remember much after that. Erik and Penny pulled me out of the rubble when they were looking for supplies in the ruins of the university.

They patched me up and brought me back here to this boarding house. They tell me we’re the only ones here.

Erik didn’t think I should be guarding. He says my head isn’t healed well enough. Not to mention my glasses are somewhere under the rubble of Dr. Dyer’s office. But the fact is that Penny needs a break from building all day, and they don’t want me to scavenge. Or loot. Whatever.

They definitely don’t want me to go back to scavenge in the university, they say.

Erik’s out now, I said that, didn’t I? Penny’s asleep. I’m here with my candle and a knife, waiting if the raiders come back. Sometimes I don’t see too well and the world doubles, but then it comes back to normal. Waiting is boring, though, and sometimes I read to pass the time. Funny, when I read, my vision never doubles or blurs.

I enjoy reading about Dr. Dyer’s adventures, and am glad we escaped with his journals and some of his priceless goods. When the world returns to normal, he will be happy that we kept his things safe.

#

Erik got injured last night, shot in the leg while trying to get some food out of a locked freezer. Now he and I are hurt and Penny is suffering from exhaustion. We’re in a bad shape. I tore up one of our blankets to wrap his leg up, since they used their last bandages on my head wound, but the blanket was pretty dirty. I’m worried about infection.

They’re both asleep. They don’t look peaceful, though. It makes me sad. I wish we didn’t have to go out for supplies.

But I’m always hearing the scattering and slithering of animals at night. They’re in the walls of the house, and if we could set up the right traps, I bet we could catch them to eat.

Erik and Penny will be so proud of me. I’m finally pulling my weight.

#

It was hard work. I had to look through some of our books; I realized I’d never built a trap before. Luckily one of the books had plans for trapping creatures, and it looked like just what I needed. Thank goodness I had the knife from Dr. Dyer’s collection. He may be less pleased with me for fashioning a trap with his knife, but I’d rather be alive and have him angry with me. I used it to carve the sign in the floor that the trap required – that makes no sense to me, but the book was very clear that it was needed – and I felt very bad about having to use the knife for that. But after all that, the knife is still sharp. I had to use it to cut my hand to bleed in the trap for bait.

Now I just have to wait. I can hear gunshots out there, and it scares me. I worry about Erik and Penny and myself. I’ve stopped wondering when someone is going to save us. We’re going to have to save ourselves.

#

My trap caught something!

I find this out when Erik shakes me awake. I’d fallen asleep against the wall while on guard, so it’s no wonder he’s mad. But he is screaming. Not words, just screaming. I ask if we have been raided again, but his eyes are wide and he’s gesturing behind him where I placed the trap.

Beyond the trap, the door is half open, looks to have been pried open with a crowbar. So we had been raided after all! I ask Erik what is missing, if Penny is hurt. But he is still screaming.

He limps from the room, still screaming.

I go to check the trap. I call to Penny that we’ll eat good tonight, but I can’t hear her over Erik.

It’s a big, big rat we’ve caught. It fills the trap, its black body bulging out of the cage. I think it’s a rat, anyway. With the beady eyes and the thin tail, it definitely looks rat-like. But it could be a dog. My vision is still bad from the concussion. Sometimes I see two eyes, sometimes four, sometimes eight. Still, I know it’s in there. I know nothing is going to survive a knife to the back of the neck. I’m lucky it looks slow and sluggish, as if it were drugged. Or had just had a large meal.

I take Dr. Dyer’s blade and cut its neck, or what looks like might be its neck. It gibbers and cries, and then stops shaking. I’d feel bad for it, but that’s the old me speaking. The current me who has to survive while the rebels and the military go at it in our previously quiet New England town, that me is not above cutting a dog’s neck for some meat.

I think it’s a dog, at least.

Now that it’s dead, I can see the shoes scattered everywhere. Bits of shoes, anyway. Looks like they had been chewed on and spat out. A bloody belt buckle is by the open door. I don’t recognize it.

I go to tell Penny and Eric to get some water boiling, that we can eat well for at least today. But they’re not there. Many of our supplies are gone, and Penny’s backpack and coat are gone. They usually don’t go out during the day. Too much military activity. It’s dangerous to go out. I know that. Everyone knows that.

The dog/rat thing is so big I have to cut open the cage to get it out. I’m not too happy about that, but honestly this thing will keep me fed for a while. It’s getting cold now, and I can hang the body outside so it won’t rot. I can build another cage while I eat this one.

It’s not as hairy as I expected. Dogs and rats have hair, right? This is slimy, its skin almost bubbly. I worry about possible disease, but I’m so damn hungry I can barely wait for water to boil. If I die from foodborne illness, at least I’ll die full.

#

Erik and Penny don’t come back, which makes me sad. I think it was the fact that we got raided one time too many that scared them away, although part of me is wondering if the person who broke in saw me sitting there beside my caged rat and got scared away. I’ve been told I can be intimidating.

The meat is strange tasting, a bit like chicken that has been marinated in screaming sriracha. but it stays good for a few days, so I’m actually doing OK. The carcass hangs outside the front door. I’d rather not invite hungry people to steal from me, but the raiding seems to have stopped in this area of town. No one comes to steal or ask for help.

I’ve gathered some firewood, but the room with the new animal trap stays comfortably warm. I’m nearly done with my first animal, and must catch another one soon. My trap is set, and I’ll bait it tonight with the carcass from the first animal.

I hope my friends are somewhere safe, and are well-fed. I hope that I can catch another animal tonight. I can hear them in the walls, closer than ever. And I hope that the carcass of the first one is enough to feed the second one so it will be complacent when I bring the knife.

They say war is hell, but they’re wrong. I’m pretty sure hell is in the surviving.

Play
Mur Lafferty's Shambling Guide to New York City Escapepod Episode 500
Episode Art:  Hannah Holloway

Twabble:  “Tightly grasping the ancient sundial's twisted gnomon, I ease it straight. The Sun roars and lurches. Darkness falls. ”  by  seani


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