With one pressing need sated, others eagerly take its place. I find trains of thought, so recently barred, reopened to traffic. A rushing freight of memories flows to the frontier of current events, reacquainting me with close-up pictures of sharp claws and long fangs.
Self-preservation and his cronies, Paranoia and Alarm, browbeat Compassion about the ill-advised back down. The ferocity of their argument gives me a splitting headache.
Kristine feels guilty after winning and fawns over me.
I understand she’d tired of waiting for me to hear her pleas, or recover enough from the spider-on-face experience. I’d never be lucid enough to discuss this trip sensibly without her drastic actions. That doesn’t stop me taking advantage of her sympathy.
My choices lead around in circles.
I won’t let her go out there by herself.
And, I’m not going alone.
So that leaves two options, one of which is already decided. Staying put hasn’t been as popular as I might have hoped. We’re going together.
Kristine wants to take a ute and do several trips. I insist we take the truck, loading it to the top and never doing this again. It’s an air tight case that she readily agrees with.
The truck hasn’t moved for some time and needs some maintenance. We gear up and toddle off to the loading dock where it’s parked. A dump truck alongside it holds several month’s worth of rotting garbage. Getting rid of that will be another challenge to put off for as long as possible.
We’re in less danger here than servicing the genset. The loading dock is fully enclosed with mesh. Huge electric gates are closed and locked. I remain armed and wide eyed.
A boot kick tests tyre pressures and a glance at the fuel gauge shows minimal litres remain in the tank. I crank the motor over and it starts easily. I’m amazed the battery has held its charge.
The truck is a decent size. About a seven tonne capacity with steel framed canvas canopy. It should be big enough. The hydraulic ramp on the rear is a godsend for heavy lifts, like pallets of beer.
We prepare a game plan and crash out early.
The barest hint of dawn’s light finds us back at the loading bay. I hold a shivering finger over the gate switch. Kristine sits in the idling truck, sipping coffee, warmed by the heater. With bleary eyes I judge the sunlight’s strength as passable and hit the button to roll back the gate.
We fuel up at the tanker. Kristine shivers in a cool breeze while holding the thin fuel hose that slowly fills the tank. I guard her back. She wears a prison smock, hopefully with underwear on for a change, as well as an oversize parker, and her combat boots.
I have dressed more appropriately with requisite firearms. The trusty backpack is full of ammo, drugs and water. My helmet is trialled and rejected for Kristine’s smaller head. We include another as an essential item on a new list I preside over.
The truck putters down the driveway to the main gate. I press a card against the proximity sensor and the gate slides open, whining as it tears free of a possessive vine. I mentally make a note to poison those weeds before the works jam up completely, maybe with us on the wrong side. I should write stuff like that down; my mental notes aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
No Creeps are in sight.
I idle through the gate and watch it glide shut.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
Good to see Mr Pessimist has come along for the ride.
“Don’t worry. Nothing will go wrong.”
I’m astounded Kristine would say such a thing. Just because I don't believe in fate doesn’t mean we should provoke its wrath.
“Should see your face. You’re so superstitious.”
Oh, ha, ha fucking ha. I almost turn around and go back in.
“I was only kidding.”
She’s contrite, alarmed by my tense jaw grinding flattened teeth. I let in the clutch and we roar down the quiet, empty street.
I take the motorway. It’s covered in wrecked cars, but the army had bulldozed a single line through to the city centre before they were overwhelmed. Kristine monitors her mirror and reads the road ahead with fierce concentration. All jokes are put aside in the tense atmosphere.
Several pistols and boxes of bullets rattle around in the document tray between our seats. A readied shotgun sits between Kristine’s legs, pointed to the floor for safety.
We’ve decided to hit a minor mall on the south side of town. It’s big enough to contain everything we need and far enough from the rioting, fires and looting that has destroyed every other major shopping centre.
Nothing moves, other than huge flocks of birds and the occasional cat or dog.
Hosts are absent, still in bed or otherwise engaged.
The deserted streets wrack our nerves. Kristine shoves a CD into the player. I hear some girl harping on about love and loss and grit my teeth, wishing I’d thought to bring a relaxing heavy metal album.
We arrive at the mall without incident. A street conversion with preventative bollards, brick paving and airy canvas roof. One of the concrete posts meant to keep us out has laid down its life to a hit and run. A jagged stump marks where it stood. I bump over it and slowly weave between garden beds and benches.
The far end is a place to wait and watch. Almost every shop has been ram-raided and we are disheartened. Some morons have no thought for the future. I’m a rough and ready thief but I’m not stupid. The places I raid are carefully entered and closed up afterwards. Windows shut, shutters closed. Preserving goods that will never be manufactured again for later use.
Even a suicidal manic can have a sense of responsibility.