Chapter 2 – Al
The Arch stood as a symbol of expansion into the west, but looking at from the west back to the east always felt different. It was like somehow looking back through a portal to the way things were, looking into the past. Al could feel the sadness creep into is mind like a worm that found its way in and made a bed in his brain, wiggling and burrowing and forever reminding him of how things were. Not that they were great to begin with.
“You coming in,” Jason called to him from just inside the door.
Al shined his flashlight into the dark expanse of the bar. The lights of the neon that hung above the bar hadn’t worked since a The Days began, in fact no power worked. All the power plants went down days after the outbreak and the city, hell the world was plummeted into the dark ages, literally. With half the country running for their lives no one came into work and the eventually the power ran out, and the world became dark. At first Al thought it was ok, he had seen stars that he had never seen before. It reminded him of when he was a kid and he had one of those light up toys with the light bulb in the back that you would put different colored pegs in a black piece of paper to make designs, but it was like someone had taken all the pegs out and left that black piece of paper and the light on to shine through.
He thought of how the place looked before. Back when Jason sat at his stool at the end of the bar with a drink in his hand and one on the light stained maple bar. Scotty, the bartender knew to keep them coming. He may have been five foot ten and one hundred eighty pounds but Jason could out drink any man at MacGyver’s Pub, hell probably most people in St. Louis. His drinking habit would break most any man, even a wealthy one, but the beers, and whiskey, were just perks of the job.
Her legs stood under a short skirt, poking out like two sticks from a tan bell. Her hips narrow, showed her lack of children which appealed to man with Jason’s tastes. Her blonde hair hung in two ponytails that parted the back and fell in the front covering up her small breasts with an Ellie May Clampett. Her shirt however was far from plaid flannel, a white silk blouse that buttoned half down her chest revealing her braless cleavage. The bottom of the shirt tucked into the front of her skirt tight to her stomach revealing her hours of work at the gym. She placed her long fingers on the inside Jason’s leg near his knee and slowing working her way up to his crotch, Al could see the pleasure building in his young face.
“I think I’m going to have to take this young lady home, Al. You wanna finish my beer?” He said with a smile, flashing his pearls.
His dark hair and pearly whites, young narrow face and smooth Italian features made him look like a young Johnny Depp and the ladies loved it.
“Please, take off.” Scotty said as he wiped the bar with a wet cloth, living a streak that did nothing to clean it. “I’m going broke here.”
“Think of all the money we save you by being here.” Jason said as he pulled the young woman through the door.
“You coming in or not?” Jason said again.
Al still stood in the doorway shining his light above the bar. “We sure its safe, right?”
“I haven’t seen anyone here in weeks.” Jason said hopping over the bar. He started throwing open beer coolers and turning over glass racks.
“We ain’t busting up the place. Calm down.” Al said.
“Man I haven’t had a beer in over a month. It’s killing me.”
“You probably won’t find any. I’m sure that it’s already been scavenged a hundred times.” Al said pouring himself into Jason’s old seat. He reached to his side and pulled his 357 out of its holster and plopped it onto the bar, the sound echoed through the otherwise quiet room. Al looked around and saw the tables and chairs turned over, blood stains ran down one wall near a pool table. No body, just blood.
“Its funny, huh?”
“How so, boss?” Jason replied.
“That you drank all those beers, I took payments from Scotty every month so he wouldn’t have any problems and the first sign of trouble, we ran.”
“We’re back now.”
“Yeah, a lot of good, huh.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself man, it’s business. You should know that.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Hey remember those fucking sausages that he had?”
“Yeah that summer sausage that he said he kept in the back. Said it was deer or some shit. Couldn’t sell it so it was in his office.”
Jason bolted for the back and Al fell in right behind him, jumping the bar and clearing a drop in beer cooler in one leap. But as he reached Scotty’s door he barreled into his buddies back, slamming hard and knocking him through the door.
As Al picked himself up off of the floor his eyes fell upon what had caused Jason to stop in the doorway. Curly blonde hair lay on the office desk, the hair was attached to the a head, well a half of a head. The back had been blown out and the remnants of it filled the wall behind it. Wide shoulders and a rock solid body with arms the size of a side of beef. Al knew the locks of hair and he knew the body were those that belonged to Scotty. His hand still lay in the position as if it were holding a gun, but it had been taken long ago.
“You think its still there?” Jason whispered.
“The sausage,” he said while pointing to the desk that held the slumping body.
“I ain’t going over there.”
“Why, he’s dead.”
“That’s why I’m not. He deserves that much. Hell we were supposed to protect this guy from thugs like us. We ain’t supposed to come in here and take his shit.”
“He ain’t using it. He’s fucking dead. We need it.”
Al sat in the rickety chair that sat across from the bloody head. He watched as his partner slinked nearer to the body. He softly touched the hand that had fired the shot and moved it slightly to the side. The way the body lay, pulled in close to the desk and arms spread wide suggested to Al that he hadn’t been moved. As he looked around however, he noticed that it was the only part of the building that hadn’t already been ransacked. His file drawers that he had in his office stood tilted like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, drawers pulled out and paper and folders littered the floor.
Jason stood beside the body and gave a little push, flopping the thing that had once been Scotty to the floor. Al could hear him opening the drawers one by one. Digging through the drawers like a dog pawing at dirt when Jason finally let out a holler and pulled up a bottle of clear liquid, no label on it.
“What you think it is?”
“I don’t know but its gotta be better than that water we been drinking.” Al said as he stood up. “Anything else?”
“Not in this drawer. One left.”
He continued pawing through the desk until his face fell flat. He pulled up a half eaten tube of summer sausage, covered in green fur.
“Damn it,” Al let out a cry.
“Not so fast,” Jason said. He pulled out another that had yet to be opened and looked as good as the day it was wrapped. “Not a bad haul, some meat and a bottle of booze.”
“That ain’t gonna feed us for long though.”
The two friends turned to walk out the door, back through the bar and out into the sunlight which Al so desperately missed. He always felt that it lent safe harbor from the diseased.
Until he stepped out into the street and saw at least fourteen men and women in bloody clothes headed toward them in full gallop. He could see the leaking boils on their faces and he threw up his gun. He looked over and saw Jason downing the bottle of booze and throwing up his gun.
One man tried to yell, but it only came out, “GRRGGGEG.”
Al leveled and fired his gun. It wasn’t first time he killed a man, but it had never gotten any easier.