Haven Page 2


“It means this,” said Winky, reaching over and flicking my arm.


I frowned at her and rubbed the spot that was now stinging. I was going to let her get away with it since soon I’d be getting my revenge in the kitchen. Winky hadn’t seen the inside of that fridge yet.


“No, not that kind of flick,” said Derek. “It means he used to be in the flicks, but he’s not anymore obviously.” A ghost of a smile moved across his lips.


“What is da flicks?” Bodo moved to stand nearer to Derek.


I looked at Flick, studying his face closer. “The movies. Flicks are the movies. You were famous?”


“I hardly ever watched ‘em,” said Winky, shrugging. She obviously wasn’t impressed.


Flick shrugged, not saying anything. His hair was like a rat’s nest it had so many knots in it, and his face so dirty it was hard to see the guy beneath, but he had brilliant blue eyes and now that Derek mentioned it, I could see something there; like he was familiar or something. And possibly very cute underneath all the grime and stink.


“Wait a minute …,” said Ronald, pointing at Flick’s face, “…I know you! You’re that kid! That kid!” He started snapping his fingers and looking up at the ceiling. “Come on, come on … dang my memory is full of holes these days.”


Flick sighed heavily. “Any chance we could just let this drop?”


“Nope, hmm-umm,” said Ronald. He looked back at Flick. “Don’t worry. I’ll figure this out. Unless you want to cut to the chase and enlighten us.”


“No, thanks.”


Ronald grinned. “Challenge accepted.” He looked at Derek. “Don’t tell me. I’ll remember eventually.”


“Whatever you say, man. It’s Flick’s secret, not mine. If he wants to tell you that’s his thing.”


Derek reminded me of a totally zen surfer or something. He was tall and probably blonde. It was hard to tell these days what was dirt and what was brown hair. He was the leader of the kids who’d just arrived and someone I wanted to consider as a possible more official leader of Haven. I planned to watch him closely over the next few days or weeks to see if he was up to the task. I knew we’d eventually take a vote, since I wasn’t cool with being a chiefesse or dictator, but still … it was worth knowing what we’d be getting ourselves into. A revolution or revolt was one of those things-to-be-avoided-at-all-costs as far as I was concerned. Haven needed solid leadership.


“Come on. We still need to get some other things that are down this way,” said Ronald, walking again.


“Like what?” asked Bodo.


“We need carts to roll the bodies on. I think there are some in the kitchen, but there could be some supply closets nearby with other things we’ll need.”


“Like bleach,” Winky suggested.


“Yeah. Like bleach,” agreed Ronald. “Although we’re probably going to need another crew for that. After we lift all those bodies we’re going to be too tired to do much cleaning.”


“And too disgusted probably,” I mumbled. I wasn’t looking forward to this task at all. I knew it had to be done, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with.


***


We spent about twenty minutes exploring the kitchen without opening the fridge. We found four large rolling carts that would be big enough to put bodies on, lots of rubber work gloves, and plenty of cleaning products.


Jamal came in with Gretchen, both of them loaded down with coveralls, masks, gloves, and boots.


“Sweet,” said Flick. “Total hazmat setup.”


“We tried to guess everyone’s sizes,” said Jamal. “Gretchen or I can go back and get new stuff if it doesn’t fit.”


“Here,” she said, handing me a suit. “This was the smallest they had in there. Same with the boots.” She dropped a pair of black rubber boots at my feet that looked like they belonged to a guy as big as my father.


I stepped into the suit and zipped it up. The material wasn’t plastic, but it felt like it would repel moisture; it was heavy canvas with some sort of shiny coating on the outside. The leg parts and sleeves were about six inches too long. Gretchen immediately stepped over and helped me roll them up. She already had her own outfit on, and it fit a lot better than mine did; probably because she was about four inches taller.


I put my rubber boots on right over my regular shoes because they were so big, but the guys all took off their regular stuff and put the boots on either over bare feet or nasty, dirty socks.


“I think we’d better get a laundry team put together asap,” said Gretchen, looking at the brown socks being shoved into boots.


“I think we just need to have a giant fire pit where we can burn all of them,” I said.


“You said it.” She looked around. “Need anything else?”


“No. You can finish getting your stuff on.” I positioned my mask over the top of my head. “What was Peter doing out there?”


“Triage. Trying to figure out all the injuries we have to deal with and who’s qualified to help work on that stuff.”


“How’s Fohi?” I asked, sliding my mask over my face. It was the chemical warfare type with filter canisters on the sides.


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“He’s in bad shape. We need to deal with him first. I think he’s the worst of everyone.”


“Maybe I should go back,” said Winky. “I have all the medical stuff in my backpack.”


Gretchen looked over at her. “Don’t worry about it. They have a kid in their group who does medical stuff. Doctor Billy they call him. His mom was a nurse and his dad was a doctor. He’s good. I talked to him when he first got here. They already have your stuff set up.”


“Nice try,” I said to Winky.


She stuck her tongue out at me before pulling her mask down over her face. Her hood came up next, and she stood still while Gretchen secured it under her chin. The outfit was as oversized on her as mine was on me.


“This thing is frigging hot,” said Winky. Her voice was muffled by the mask but still understandable. “And not in the good-hot kind of way. It’s hot in the I-have-sweat-running-down-my-ass-crack way.”


All we could see were her eyes, and they didn’t look happy.


Gretchen stepped over to secure my hood for me. “Consider it a beauty treatment. Pretend you’re at a spa in the sauna, sweating all the toxins out of your body.” She walked away from me when she was done, pulling her own mask on and fixing her hood.


Winky went over and helped her with the last bit of it. “Sauna my butt. Here, let me help you cinch this up really tight so you can enjoy your own personal sauna too.”


A few seconds later Gretchen’s muffled voice came from behind her mask. “Wow. These things don’t breathe at all, do they?”


The sweat was already trickling down my back, and I knew I needed to distract myself quickly or I was going to start freaking out about suffocating or something. It was going to take a gallon of water to rehydrate myself when we were done.


“Okay, let’s go,” I said. “Open the door.”


Ronald stepped over and pulled on the big metal handle of the refrigerator. I inhaled sharply as the interior was revealed, hoping the gas mask would do its job. I breathed out a sigh of relief when all I could smell was the odor of plastic coming from the inside of my mask.


We gathered around the opening of the fridge and stared at the carnage inside. Bodies - or what used to be bodies but were now just piles of mostly dry muck, bones, and clothes - were stacked on top of each other from floor to shoulder-height. Maybe the caretakers had tried to do it respectfully at first, but at some point they must have just been tossing people in. There was a small space just inside the door that was kind of clear of skeletons, except for a single body that was lying on its side, curled up like it was sleeping. Not much of it was left but bones and old goo and the clothes the person had been wearing. It was impossible to tell if it had been a man or woman, but I was guessing it was a woman by its small size.


“Jesus save me,” said Jamal, standing next to me, staring at the person who must have been the last one in. She’d closed the door behind herself and laid down to die, all while surrounded by dead bodies.


“Dat’s disgusting,” said Bodo. “Look, dat head is just dare with no body on it.”


I refused to look where he was pointing. “Let’s just get them in bags as best we can and then onto the carts. Work in teams of two,” I said. “One girl, one guy.”


I paired up with Bodo, Gretchen went with Jamal, and Winky was with Derek.


Flick looked at Ronald. “We’re out of chicks.”


“Yeah, but we’re not out of Flicks,” said Ronald, giggling behind his mask. “You can work with me, Chick Flick.”


“Dude, that was lame,” said Flick. I could tell he was smiling though, because his eyes were crinkled up in the corners.


Jamal and Gretchen grabbed a stack of black rubber bags they’d found in the supply closet and dumped them on the floor just inside the door. “Put the bodies in here if you can,” said Jamal. “They’re not big enough to fit an entire person in, but I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about that.”


I stared at the mess in front of me with extreme distaste. I knew what he meant; they were so decomposed they were probably just going to fall apart when we touched them. My stomach rolled uncomfortably.


“Come on. Let’s get this done,” said Derek, walking up to the body in the middle of the floor. He bent down to lift her by the upper body and the funkified gelatinous mess that used to be her torso sludged out on the floor and over his boots.


This sealed fridge had apparently been the perfect storm for awfulness. It had accelerated the decomposition with its heat but had kept everything from drying out completely. Without any fresh air getting in or bad air getting out, what should have been totally old bones, dried up and without any goo … were just not. Total ew.


He stood up quickly and twisted his upper body around to face us. I could see his complexion under the mask, and it was a lot whiter than it had been thirty seconds earlier.


“Uh …” He swallowed loud enough that I could hear it. “That’s not … uh … gonna work.”


“Be right back,” said Gretchen. We all stood pretty much frozen in place until she returned about a minute later. “I found this in one of the pantries over there.” She held up a shovel.


“Why would they have a shovel in a kitchen?” I asked.


“I think it was used to make big batches of stuff. It was in a huge garbage can thing full of sugar.” She thrust it out at Jamal. “Here you go partner. Have at it.”


Jamal just stared at the handle. “I’m not sure I can … I don’t know if I …” He ran out of the entrance to the fridge and across the room, where he whipped off his mask and bent over a trash can to vomit. As soon as he was done he threw the mask back over his face. The smell had to be unbelievable.


I sighed. “Well, I guess we can cross Jamal off the shoveling bodies crew.”


Derek reached out and took it. “I’ll do it. Someone hold the bag open for me.”


Winky stepped up with a bag and tried to hold it open. She was struggling, so I moved over to help. Between the two of us, we were able to make it ready so Derek could put the shoveled gore inside.


“Well, dis is an ugly business, but soon it will be done. Come on,” said Bodo, gesturing to Gretchen. He grabbed a black bag and walked over to a short stack of bodies. After setting the bag down on the ground he reached up and wrestled the top body off.


Gretchen jumped to the side as it fell into a messy pile at his feet.


Bodo looked down. “I don’t pray very often, but today I am gonna pray for every one of dese poor peoples in here. Dis is a bad way to be dead. Dis is a problem for me.” He pulled the bag over and worked with Gretchen to get it around the person’s upper body.

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