After the House Of Hell had been dragged to the soil of the earth by flame and thunder, the trio of Hollow, Cyan and Osiris were not the only survivors.
But even those who did live were ruined beyond true repair. Solomon had dragged himself up from raw ground.
The wound pulsed in his head, he always walked with half-dizziness. Pain ever-present. But on the day he had risen above death’s high wave, Solomon had seen something so angering that it had fueled his anger and his body to keep moving.
Allizan, he had seen Allizan, skulking and slowly making his way along the dirt road that lead to the town of Tin eventually. But between the former nightclub compound and the town
of Tin, which itself led to Zoltan via train, was a long brush of woodlands, a not so small forest.
Solomon made that choice to follow Allizan.
From there weeks had slowed to a sludge of slow days and cold nights.
But soon enough, using common sense and thought patterns fueled by adrenaline and anger, Solomon caught up to the fucker.
Solomon had found a shack perched on a hill, a warm glow ebbed out from the windows and doorframe. Solomon was willing to bet his life that Allizan was squatting in there. Either way, he was hungry and needed a good kill to calm himself down. Solomon climbed up the well-crafted wood wall and dumped himself through the window. Not much noise was made from that. But then the music had to be faced. To his left was a staircase. Then-
“Took you long enough…have you decided if I’m real?”
Solomon paused on the third step. He looked at the dweller, Allizan, mind lost for a moment. Then he gave his only honest answer for the night. “No. Not decided yet.”
“Well that’s understandable.” The dweller smiled, no gaps between his teeth. It was indeed Allizan, but the man who looked up at him, with a wild beard and zoned out eyes, looked like someone who had been purged through a cosmic looking glass.
The bowl the Allizan was holding had beans in it. Both the bowl and its beans were cold. “If I were you I’d be on the fence too.” He paused, eyes on the bowl rather than Solomon. Not in a weak way, but more from disinterest.
“Speaking of which, the fences outside need to be mended, fix ‘em.”’
Shock was not the word for it. Bewilderment was too flowery of a word, so Solomon settled on bemused.
He’s gone mad, bloody hell, the bomb, the isolation....
Solomon woke up his legs and finished climbing down from the shack’s second floor. Tonight would be one of their last night’s alive. One had to die. But morbid curiosity began to guide Solomon, himself more than a tad delirious.
“I’ll fix it, stay there.”
The dweller smiled and shoveled in a spoonful of cold beans.
It was the closest thing Solomon could get to an agreement. Allizan the apparent dweller, gave no indication of feeling threatened.
Outside the shack the sky held a few dozen stars, clouds drifted by, slow and lazy. The dweller’s shack was perched on a big hill with ugly grass. For a moment Solomon entertained the thought of rushing back into the wooden shithole and breaking the dweller’s neck.
Solomon laughed, crouched down, and began fixing the fencing.
Try something. Solomon thought, as the rain began to drizzle. Try something you scruffhead fuck. Or better yet, lie to me.
Madness was weaving its own routes through Solomon’s veins too.
After picking up some heavy fence posts and straightening them, the third step took up the most time. Planting them back firmly into the ground. Soon, even when the storm began in full swing, Solomon was happy enough to leave it as a job well done.
Solomon’s clothes were smeared beyond all recognition of their former expense. Soot, blood and flesh stains coated him like a constellation covers a universe,
He gazed at the landscape down in front of the hill. Observed how the edge of the thick cut-through of woodlands ended abruptly before the town of Tin started.
Without any more words he flicked his eyes to the furthest distance they could see. From Tin a long old rich train track shuddered across the sketchy mountains that lay further west.
Deep on the Horizon, the train track lead to Zoltan. Where all this came from. Murmurs coffins and the whole lot of it.
“Where I came from…”
It was true, once. The original Eden had been true and for good. Once. Solomon had grown up there, treasured memories were worked into every street and every familiar brick. Once.
Not just me. Solomon thought. We all came from there.
He considered the madman lost in the shack and his own skull. He considered the boy who’d been ripped up by his experimental Murmurs. How his small empire of dirt had been turned to nothing.
Eden is calling us, the real Eden. And they’re on their way, no doubt no doubt...
Solomon allowed himself to let the image of those three vicious bastards drift into his mind’s eye. If he lived through this night, they were next. And then Eden would embrace him, yes.
Truth whispered in his ear. “I’m sure Pan will love that you’ve killed his son, and some of his “angels”
That was what Pan had called the Murmurs. Angels. Solomon shook the thoughts away and turned back inside.
By the time he got back in, Allizan had finished the beans. Solomon only let himself be half-surprised.
But Allizan’s long sharp face stayed blank. Solomon noted how worn and haggard his old friend looked. It was the look of a man dying from confession.
“I saw them three days ago.”
Solomon sensed a lie. “Three?”
The dweller paused, then stopped hiding a cheeky grin. “Fine. Seven days, saw them last week. And that’s the Lord’s truth.”
Solomon sensed enough truth in that answer, not enough to fill a church, but it was the best he could hope for. He narrowed his eyes. “Describe them.”
The dweller nodded, his mind elsewhere and eyes fogged. Elsewhere in the good way, drawing out tired bitchy memories. With a hunched back, the dweller walked over to the other side of the shack. Over a small orange coal-fire, a fresh pot of soup bubbled. He stirred it with a spoon. The more he stirred, the more he nodded to himself. Quiet, but still present in the slow conversation they were having.
“Same as when you last saw them. Except for the one that was hanging with you, the one with the hat.”
There was a pause.
“He’s fucked. Skin ruined, nasty burn scars. Looks painful to walk.”
Allizan gestured to his own injuries. “I can relate to that.” Then he went back to stirring.
“Anyone else with them?”
The dweller frowned and stopped stirring the soup. Its smell
hung in the air, impatient to be taken off the fire.
“No, clean out your ears. Three, said that didn’t I? Yes I did.
“Okay.” Solomon knew not to press the issue. Instead he
steered the questions back on track. “Just to clarify, they didn’t see you...”
Grunting, the Allizan the dweller heaved the soup pot off the fire, and with the hot metal handle in both hands, he kicked at the floor dirt, scuffing out the stone-couched fire. The shack got darker. Setting the soup down on the floor between them, the dweller was clearly enjoying the long silence.
Then the dweller laughed. “Clarify, what a dummy word.”
Outside on the dark kill, rain hit heavier on the streaks of grass, dirt and rock.
“They didn’t see me. This place? Yes.”
“Weren’t they interested with in having a poke around?” Now Allizan’s turn came to frown. It was one of confusion. “Hard to say. But I was glad to not go to them. They’re on a lost cause.” A tinge of emotion poured over the last few words. Internally, Solomon snorted. Lost your mind, melodramatic idiot.
Then he said, “Lost cause indeed.”
“Any idea where they were going.”
“Well as I say, up there.” The dweller paused in eating his soup to gesture upstairs with a spoon.
“From that window. So, left to right from where I was.”
“So they’re heading west.” Solomon asked, taking his time with the question. He already knew the answer, he just wanted to test Allizan’s sharpness.
Allizan seemed to give no thought to the answer, or how Solomon had asked that last question. “Yes.”
Solomon nodded and zoned in on the soup. Allizan wasn’t drinking it, still taking slow deliberate spoonful’s.
Solomon knew he would have to kill the dweller. Maybe not right that moment, but the facts of logic stood for themselves, he could not leave the shithole shack with Allizan alive. Too many unwanted variables popped up in that case. Variables where the dweller would tell people about Solomon. Even just a passing comment over the next bowl of soups or beans could fuck things up in a universal way. For the time being Solomon focused on the soup.
The rain died down to a crawl, already well on its way out. After that the night hours ran by fast as anything. The grass gained a deeper colour by morning. For Silo it had to be an early morning. Ever since the fiery end of the compound, waking up early had become part of him as much as bones or blood. Though in most cases he simply did not sleep all in during the night. That night however he did get some sleep. So when Solomon awoke, half groggy in the light of a dying moon. It would be a good death, half-crazed in the shack inhabited by madness.
But not good enough. Another shake of the head sent those miserable notions away. Far away.
After carefully checking to see if the Dweller was still awake (he seemed to be, tucked under a patchy blanket), Solomon examined the injuries that were bringing that nagging pain.
Not great. Fucking awful. A patchwork of burn-marks scorched themselves around one deltoid. Scratches made up the rest of the arm damage. The worst of the pain waited in his right shoulder. Set deep like a parasitic worm.
Solomon rolled onto one side. Then pushing up onto one knee and fist, under that fist the wood of the shack’s second floor creaked stiffly.
Solomon did not doubt that if he jumped up a few feet, he would break the wood and fall right through. If push came to shove. Maybe that would be how he killed the dweller.
For fuck’s sake, do it now pussy. Solomon swore silently.
Another peek at what was going on at ground floor. Answer: still nothing. The fire that Allizan had smothered early the previous night, looked like a magic-eight ball in the dusty wood floor. The soup bowls were circled by crusty stains and had been unceremoniously lumped into the soup pot.
Maybe you don’t have to kill him. Just leave, get on the road to Zoltan. Ha.
With a scratching of his chin, Solomon hunched for a moment, gazing out the window like an owl. Truth be told the once mediocre leader was analyzing which way to walk.
Because it was going to be a long walk before Tin.
Solomon crept down and out through the window.
Cold as anything, the grass poked up and out through the mended fencepost, where Solomon was caught off-guard. The dweller was picking at blades of grass, his eyes zoned in and dark in the early morning light.
The dweller noticed and smiled, from that smile Solomon wasn’t sure how long the squat old man had been aware of him. Solomon tried to mask his surprise, thinking of the perfect line.
“I’ve decided. Honesty is the best policy...one of us has to die.”
The dweller laughed, it came out much different than it had
last night. Cold and reluctant, each rapid breath was stilted. “You’re rather slow aren’t you.” Grits of smarminess in his tone ground down into a fine pearl by the end of the sentence. The dweller shuffled around in a lotus pose, making sounds in the dry dirt, and when the wind began to whistle its tune again, he found what he had been looking for. A blanket, he wrapped it loose around both shoulders. Then he looked up at Solomon, eyes round and focused as intently as he had done for the grass. In one hand he still clutched a green blade.
Eyes met, disdain in both, curiosity in only two round ones.
“How easy will it be? Going on from this.”
After saying that, the dweller shrugged the patchwork blanket from his shoulders and walked back into the hut.