Joseph loaded the car with everything he thought they might need for a two-day journey. He closed the trunk and saw three pickup trucks approaching him from up the street. They were full of men and women. Five men held guns. The others appeared bound, gagged and blind-folded. His heart stopped, and he felt his body paralyze from the fear. Oh God! They’re here!
He ran to the front of the car, started it, and ran for the house. “Maria! They’re here! We have to go now! Get Jeremiah, let’s go!” As he came to the front door, Maria was coming out with Jeremiah in her arms. He was wearing his backpack, and she had a large bag thrown over her shoulder. He took Jeremiah from her and they both headed for the car.
The trucks were seconds away. Joseph strapped Jeremiah into the seat in the back and got in the driver’s seat. He put the car in gear and stepped on the accelerator. Nothing… they weren’t moving. The engine died. The trucks pulled up alongside them and surrounded them. Several of the men opened the doors to their car and dragged him, Maria, and Jeremiah out of the car. They threw them on the ground and stood over them, guns pointed at their heads.
The leader stepped forward, “Kill the woman and boy first, and then kill him.”
Maria screamed, “No!” Her voice challenging the man’s order.
Joseph looked at the man. No, not just a man. My neighbor. A friend. Mr. Harden. He and Virginia would babysit Jeremiah from time to time. Joseph had mowed his lawn for him many times. They had gone to dinner before all the chaos started. Maria took them food last month.
A shot rang out. Jeremiah was no longer crying. Maria was screaming. Another shot. The silence screamed in his ears.
A tear ran down Joseph’s eye. “Why?”
A muffled sound. His vision went red. Silence.
Nightmares, Maria, and Running
Joseph shot up in bed dripping with sweat. The crisp air in the tent bit into his skin. His heart was racing and he could still feel the fear coursing through his body. Panicked, Joseph looked on the other side of the bed. A sigh of relief forced its way out of him. Jeremiah was here. Oh, thank God. It was just a nightmare. Maria
Looking looked around the tent, Maria was nowhere in sight. “Maria?” he called out. No answer.
Wisps of clouds formed in front of his mouth as he exhaled. Jeremiah was still fast asleep. His angelic face flushed with the peace of innocence. No scars, no pock marks, no bruising, nothing. Somehow or other he’d been immune to the diseases the Brotherhood released into the world. They had only been partially immune. Carriers of at least a dozen viruses, they suffered from a few minor symptoms; frequent skin eruptions being the most notable. It left them scarred from head to toe but still not contagious. Not Jeremiah though – he was still perfect.
He needed to go find Maria but couldn’t just leave Jeremiah alone. Joseph kneeled beside the sleeping child and nudged him. “Jeremiah. It’s time to get up.”
Jeremiah shifted and covered his head with the heavy comforter. Joseph smiled and nudged the boy again. “Come on, young man. We need to find mommy and get breakfast. Do you smell bacon?”
Jeremiah jumped up wide awake and alert. “Bacon! We haven’t had bacon in forever. Where’d mom go?”
“I don’t know Son. Get your coat and boots on so we can go find her. Maybe she’s gotten us breakfast with bacon.”
Jeremiah got up and slipped on his boots and coat. “Alright Dad, let’s go!” taking Joseph’s hand and dragging him through the door in the tent.
Outside, the scent of smoke was much stronger than the bacon. Joseph zipped up his coat to block the brisk air from his already cold body. He checked Jeremiah’s coat, making sure it was buttoned up tight. Scanning the park, hoping to glimpse Maria, Joseph spotted several people gathered around the makeshift “kitchen” that the refugees had built. There was a lot of smoke coming from the fire with pans and pots sitting on grates and hanging from spits.
“There’s people around the kitchen. I bet that’s where Mommy is…and the bacon. Let’s go make sure she doesn’t eat it all.”
Jeremiah looked up at him and smiled. Jeremiah took off exclaiming as he went, “Race ya! First one there gets the other’s bacon.”
Joseph smiled and laughed. Waiting until the Jeremiah was fifteen yards ahead, he ran after the slender boy. Joseph caught up quicker than he thought. If he didn’t slow down he’d reach the finish line a good six feet before Jeremiah. He adjusted his stride to stay three feet behind the young boy. “I’m right behind ya. I’m gonna beat you and eat your bacon.”
Jeremiah ran faster. “No you won’t! I’m gonna eat yours!”
He’s getting stronger. Couple of more years and I won’t have to slow down so he can win. He’ll do it on his own. Boy, I’m getting old.
Joseph watched as Jeremiah crossed into the kitchen a good five feet ahead of him.