The Cold to Come, Flash Fiction

The noon sun beat down on the city of rubble and ash and dirt. Color had long vanished from the building from the constant baking from the sun and a perpetual grey conquered the entire city. If it weren’t for the footsteps of the fifteen person caravan the city would have been enveloped in a perfect, human-less silence. Having no regard for the peace nature finally bestowed to the land, the caravan headed into the city.

The caravan itself carried a diverse crowd of people, who were so diverse in fact, that some of them were injured so terribly so as to be maimed or otherwise unable to walk. Those were the people who limped, rolled, or otherwise moved at the back of the caravan. The other ten were healthy but frail. Their ribcages popped through their thin shirts and their eyes sunk into their skulls. The didn’t ride on horses, but rather pushed rickety shopping carts or pulled wagons.

The caravan stopped at the first intact building, an old apartment building. The stairs leading to other floors crumbled to a pile in front of the main entrance and so the fifteen of them piled in for shelter in the four rooms accessible on the first floor. The five of those who were injured shared a room. They would take refuge from the murderous heat until before sundown then they would either set out again or decide based on wind and visibility to stay where they were.

The hours passed in silence. The crew had known each other for so long they had nothing to say to one another. Being in each others presence was enough to bring peace. Jeb, as he was called, was in the room next to the injured with the leaders of the caravan.

“We’ve got to do something,” said the tall brown leader of the caravan.

“There’s nothing we can do,” said another darker man.

Jeb interrupted the leaders, “If we’re so desperate, let me settle the problem.” He showed his crooked yellow teeth as he said this and he played with a rusting metal handgun.

“Has it really become this dire?”

“I think it has,” said the leader of the caravan. He faced Jeb and said, “make it discreet.”

Jeb giggled and shot to his feet. After grabbing his pack and hat, he left the room and knocked on the door of the injured. A man with a major limp opened the door. “Yeah?”

“Boss says we got to go on patrol.”

The man looked shocked as did the others who had overheard what Jeb said. But couldn’t complain, it was orders right from the leader. The crew of six ventured into the waning heat of the desert. One of the injured had to be brought along on a wagon. Jeb took them back the way they came and into the harsh wasteland. When he was sufficiently in the desert Jeb yelled “Take off your clothes and don’t move, or I’ll shoot you.”

The man in the wagon laughed but it ended abruptly as Jeb put a bullet in the man’s head. “Take off your clothes, give me your gear, or I’ll shoot you.”

The leaders were continuing their council. The world was silent again save for them, and then they heard the first gunshot ring out. “Did we make the right decision,” Asked the leader.

“Killing them gives us a few more days to find food. Killing them brings the rest of us a bit of hope. And Jeb won’t even feel bad about it anyway. A win-win situation I’d say.”

After a few moments four more loud concussions permeated the desert and silence was restored. The wind blew ever so slightly causing the wind to howl within the open windows. The sun was setting, lending its space to the bitter cold to come.

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