He stirred in his sleep, finally awaking after a long slumber. He slept well and his amnesia was gone, he could clearly remember what had happened to him in the woods. He was attacked.

He looked around and remembered where he was, in the back room of the gas station with the old couch. He noticed a figure was sitting across from him. The figure was examining Marcus as he moved. A sense of dread filled him as he realized he was being watched.

How could I have been so foolish? He thought. He just walked into a strange village he knew nothing about and fell asleep. For all he knew he had walked straight into a trap and evil intentions were about to be carried out on a now vulnerable Marcus.

“Who are you?” a masculine voice asked demandingly.

“Marcus, my name is Marcus.”

“What are you doing in my town? Arnold took a big risk letting you stay back here.” The figure said, referring to the first man Marcus had run into during his stay here.

The man was tall, even while sitting Marcus felt tiny compared to him, he also had a big bushy beard that seemed to hid his face with help of the room already being quite dim.

“I just needed a place to stay, I was quite weary and needed a place to rest. I was attacked and robbed by a group of bandits. They left me for dead in the woods near here.”

As soon as Marcus said the word bandits, the man’s face grew pale with fear.

“What? You were attacked by bandits?! And then you came here?” The man screamed hastily.

Suddenly, on the defensive, Marcus yelled back, “I did not led anyone here, after they attacked I-“. Just then, the sound of a large vehicle filled the valley, the noise getting louder with each passing second.

The instant he heard the noise, the tall bearded man grabbed the shotgun that laid on his lap and ran to the window. “Those had better not be your friends! If they are I’ll kill you where you stand!”

Marcus then joined the man by window, they saw a large armored vehicle creep down the road in the direction of the station. In the vehicle sat twelve men, their faces shrouded by gas masks and their hoods. The man ran out of the room leaving Marcus alone.

Marcus sat and tried to listen to the events unfolding outside. It sounded like a heated argument but he could not clearly hear what each person was saying. He desperately hoped that this was a peaceful arrangement, he knew that this looked very bad for him, if the conversation outside went south, the man would surely kill him for bringing ill fortune to his town. But even despite this, that was not his main reason for wanting peace of course, he had become so weary of war and destruction, the world had seen enough violence and bloodshed.

Finally, he got up to investigate what was going on outside. He sneaked up to one of the old windows and watched the strangers speak with the residents of the gas station. There were three men speaking with two of the townsfolk, them being the bearded man and the man who had let him stay in the village. Most of the strangers stayed near their vehicle while three of their comrades spoke with the two men The strangers were all wearing armor that looked military grade and they all looked identical. They wore gas masks covered by a hood and had chest armor that looked like football gear in nature but was obviously made out of a tough metal. The rest of their bodies were covered in dark clothing. All of them carried impressive assault rifles.

All the residents of the station stood outside of their shacks, watching the event unfold with their weapons out ready to fight for their lives. That was the law in this cruel new world; fight for your life and trust no one. That’s what these people were doing, honoring the law.

As he walked closer to the crowd, everything turned for the worst. Suddenly, gunfire rang through the air, who started the confrontation Marcus could not tell, but he saw the bearded man and his companion laying lifeless on the ground. In such a small moment of time the entire town became a war zone. Gunfire rang from every corner. The people of this town would fight to the death if they had to.

Marcus fled back into the main building, he saw a back door and ran through it escaping into the back and then ran straight into the forest. He ran until his body could take no more, the adrenaline coursing through his veins gave him enough vigor to keep going until the now distant gunshots dissipated.  After being completely worn out from his flight, he sat down on the ashy cold ground for a while to regain his strength, he was tired and cold. He wanted to start a fire but knew it would give him away to anyone who maybe searching for stragglers from the fight. No, he didn’t want to risk being exposed to anything for that matter.

He sat against the trunk of a burnt dead tree and pondered what had happened while he waited for the proper time to return to see if anyone survived. He wondered who the strangers were, they didn’t fit the M.O. of the typical marauder, they were much too civilized and equipped.

After sitting there for about an hour he grew very cold. He began to pace around to keep himself warm. But finally after two hours had passed he had had enough, he turned back towards the station. He hiked through the dark desolation that was the forest and made it to the old gas station once again, he hid nearby and watched the town for any life. He waited, but there was nothing, not a single noise, did anyone survive? He wondered. He walked into the town, bodies littered the ground, the buildings were covered in bullet holes. No, nobody who lived here survived the battle.

He mourned those who died, but now he had to move on. He scrounged through the towns shacks for supplies, all of them were in disarray, as if someone had searched through everything, but the odd thing was that nothing was taken. The strangers came here for something in particular. This theory was supported even more when Marcus found in one of the shacks, a hidden safe that had a hole busted into it. Its contents were removed, and whatever was originally in it Marcus could not tell. But it was the only thing in town that may have been looted, but even then he had no way of knowing for sure.

He found in one of the shanties, the townspeople’s supply cache. In it were some varied ammunition, a few cases of canned food, some bottled water, and a few planks of wood. He guessed that there might be an abandoned town nearby, and that’s where the townsfolk had gotten their supplies.  He also found an old, but still running ATV in the back of one shack. After finding the key in the main building of the gas station, he loaded the ATV with as many resources that he could fit. From water, to food, to other useful miscellaneous items, he loaded it all.

He started the ATV and headed down the cracked, ash covered road, making sure to go in the opposite direction of a set of tracks leading away from town, the ones left behind by the strangers after they left. Evidence showed that after the battle, they returned to their vehicle and headed west. Because of this, Marcus decided to go east.

He saw on the side of the road an old burnt, but legible road sign. It read:

Argyle 75 mi.

Seneca Falls 16 mi.

He then decided to go check out Seneca Falls, perhaps there were enough supplies there to sustain himself for a little while. Given the name, he guessed there may be water there, likely fresh given the region he was in. Mountainous regions, like where he was, weren’t affected as badly by the fallout of the war, so most mountain water was safe to drink. It was water that flowed from the ruined cities that could never be trusted.

He drove down the road for several miles, watching the frozen war torn landscape for any threat that maybe hiding around a corner ready to pounce on him like a mouse. He didn’t worry too much though, with humanity slowly fading into obscurity the roads began to be a lot less populated, highwaymen were becoming much more of a rarer sight. Even so, especially after his last run in with marauder, he made to keep an observant eye on anywhere someone could hide.

Eventually, the road brought him up a mountain and through one of its saddles. Once atop of the saddle he could see a great distance. This was where the small mountain range ended so he could see for miles and miles. He looked down and made out a small ruin down below. He could see several grey buildings but that was it. This was the remnants of Seneca Falls. The distance and dim sunless light blotted out any details of the ruin.

Nightfall was coming, he needed to find shelter soon. The already dark world would be pitch black in a matter of hours. He began to drive but the engine of the ATV started to spudder, and then the vehicle shut off. Out of a gas. He was stuck.

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A special thank you to Alan K. Jackson who worked as my scribe in this short story.
Check out his New YouTube channel: A.K.Jackson Channel

Featured Image: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-x5DnF0u02zs/T4KdsnbYU6I/AAAAAAAAAT4/1ow5AecQJMA/s640/gasstation_easterroadtrip_MG_3184.jpg

I hope you enjoyed this story.
-Michael B. Kubly

3 thoughts on “Ash V. II

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