Haven Page 5


“Yeah, how did that go?” asked Peter, stepping away and waving the air in front of his face a little. He looked like he’d just bitten into a very sour lemon.


“Well, it went okay. Not great. We tried to do it the nice way, but that didn’t work, so we just burned the mother down.”


Rob smiled, bobbing his head and dancing in place a little. “The roof … the roof … the roof is on fire …”


Fohi’s weak voice spoke up. “We don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn …”


“Burn motherfucker … buuuurn,” finished Rob. He nudged Fohi. “Good one, man. You’re not dead yet.”


Yokci’s jaw clenched, the muscle bouncing out on his face and making him look really angry.


I swallowed hard. Is Rob serious?


“So what’s up, Fohi?” I asked. “How are you feeling?” I walked over and sat down next to him, looking at Rob for direction. Fohi’s eyes remained shut.


“Like Rob said. I ain’t dead yet. But I kinda wish I was.” He started coughing and then moaned, moving his hand to rest gently on his abdomen.


“Dude’s got an infection from his wounds. He’s gonna be fine, though.” Rob cleared his throat after it suddenly went husky.


“He’s too much of a pain in the ass to die,” added Yokci.


“Dudes can’t live without me,” said Fohi, his voice barely above a whisper. “And the chicks … the chicks will give up all hope if I go.”


I reached out and took his hand in mine. It was cold and clammy. “Hang in there, Fohi. You’re going to be fine, I know you are.”


“Have you seen my wounds yet?” he asked, peeking one eye open. “I hear they’re pretty gnarly.”


“Uh, no. Not since before, when you first got here.”


“He’s got three deep wounds,” explained Yokci. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”


“I hear I’m gonna have some killer scars.” Fohi tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a dry cough.


“Chicks like scars,” I said, barely able to move the words past the lump in my throat. “Dude, I have to go eat. Please don’t die while I’m gone. I’ll be back in a few.”


“Is that an order?” he asked, his eyes closing but half his mouth going up at the corner in an attempt at smiling.


“Yes, as a matter of fact, it is. You are not allowed to die while I’m gone. Or when I get back for that matter. I order you to live to annoy us another day. Or year. Or fifty years.”


“Consider it done,” he said, just before his face went slack and his mouth dropped open a little.


I squeezed his hand and leaned forward sharply, my heart seizing in my chest. “Fohi!”


He frowned. “What?” His eyes opened halfway and squinted at me. “Why are you yelling at me? Can’t you see I’m sick?”


My heart was racing. “Oh. Sorry. I thought …”


Rob laughed. “You totally thought he was dead. She thought you were dead, dude.”


I breathed out a heavy sigh. “Yeah, I totally did.”


Fohi smiled, eyes shut again. “Tricked ya. Ha. Now I know you like me. Played right into my hands.”


Yokci was shaking his head, saying nothing, but his jaw muscles had smoothed out and he looked less tense.


I leaned over and got close to Fohi’s face. “I do like you. And I need you here helping me, so seriously. No dying.”


“‘Kay.” He frowned and turned his face towards Rob. “Oh, man. What’s that smell? Oh, shit, Rob. Smell of death! Grim Reaper’s coming for me!” His hand floated up blindly and landed on Rob’s arm, gripping it and shaking it a little. “Help me! Help me! Don’t let him take me! I’m too young to die!”


I backed away. “Eff you, Fohi. I’m going to get some lunch.” I stood to leave, but didn’t get out of the alcove before I heard him say, “She better be going for a shower too before she kills someone with that Grim Reaper action she’s got going on.”


Peter giggled all the way over to the buffet with me.


***


I was swallowing a big lump of stale bread down with a gulp of tepid water when movement out by the gate caught my eye. I slowly lowered the bottle down to the nearby counter and walked towards the glass door, picking my way through the seated and standing settlers. Several of our newest members were already at the lobby entrance, staring out.


“Who is that?” asked one of them.


“Canners?” asked another, fear in her voice. She backed away, tripping over someone sitting on the ground. “Oops, sorry!”


“Watch where you’re walking,” grumbled the older girl sitting with several others in a circle.


“Those aren’t canners,” I said, recognizing the tattoos and shaved head hairstyle of one of the guys standing there.


Yokci came up to stand beside me. “That’s Paci,” he said. “What’s up with that? What’s he doing here? And who are those other people?”


“I have no idea.” We both moved to the door at the same time.


“Where are you going?” asked Peter from the clinic area.


“We need to go let them in,” I explained, turning the lock on the front door.


“Take this,” said Ronald, appearing at my side to press a gun into my hand.


I looked down at it, hesitating. “I don’t need that. These are friends of ours.” I raised my head and looked him in the eye. “Seriously. They’re family.”


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“All of them?” he asked, eyebrows raised at me.


I looked out the front doors again. “I guess. I don’t know. We don’t know all of them.”


“Exactly. Take the gun.”


I scoffed at his suggestion. “What … you think our friend is bringing canners in? I don’t think so.”


“Ever heard of kidnapping? Bad guys forcing good ones to do bad things? Geez, don’t be so naive.”


“You don’t know Paci,” is all I said, pushing the gun back into his hands. I left him standing there and strode out the front door, Yokci hot on my heels.


By the time I was halfway to the fence, I was surrounded by not only most of my old friends and those picked up on the road but also Flick and Derek.


My heart was racing the closer I got to Paci.


His eyes bored into mine, not sparing a second look for anyone else.


Bodo was next to me. I glanced over at him and noticed he had no expression on his face or any obvious body language that would tell me anything about what he was thinking. That could be good or bad.


The heat was rising in my face to the point that I probably looked like a tomato by the time we finally got to the gate. What is Paci going to say? What will Bodo think? I can’t believe I kissed him! Man, he’s as cute as he ever was.


Paci rested his hand on the chain links in front of him, still staring at me.


“Bryn,” he said when I got close.


“Paci. Glad you made it.”


He nodded once, now finally looking at someone else. “You found him.” His eyes were on Bodo for only a second before they were back on me.


“Yes. I did.”


Bodo put his arm around my shoulders. “Yess she didt. She rescued me from da Amazons because she luffs me.”


Part of me wanted to push Bodo off, and that just made me feel terrible. He loved me and I loved him. It was so simple. So why it suddenly felt all complicated, I had no idea. I didn’t love Paci, I just … admired him. I was grateful to him for standing up for me. That had to be why I couldn’t stop feeling all messed up whenever he was around.


Yokci solved the temporary problem of my inability to form a semi-intelligent sentence by speaking up. “Are we going to let them in, or what?”


Peter jingled the keys behind us. “If I could get through, I could do that. Excuse me.”


The group behind me shuffled around, making room for the key master.


Peter stopped when he was next to me. “Ready?” he asked, lifting an eyebrow at me.


It was like time stood still for a few seconds. Peter was sending me all kinds of vibes, and several unspoken questions danced between us. I had a feeling I was in for some serious girl-chat after this, and I wasn’t feeling bad about that at all. I needed to talk to someone about it, and it couldn’t be Bodo. Peter was the only one I could trust to not only give me good advice but also keep my secrets to himself. The time would come for me to tell Bodo what had happened with Paci, but that was not now.


“Yeah, I’m ready.” I looked at Paci. “Who are these other people?”


“Stragglers I found on the road.” He gestured with a jerk of his head over his shoulder. “They used to live near the canner place. Said they were part of a network dedicated to giving them false recon.”


I nodded. “I heard about them.” I looked over at Bodo. “From Alejandro.”


“Ah. Da sexy man-meat guy. He wass dare neighbor maybe.”


I looked at Paci again. “As long as you vouch for them, I’m okay with letting them in.”


There were two guys and one girl. None of them looked starving but neither did they seem like canner barbecue attendees either. How will I know if I’m letting a canner in, other than to weigh them on a scale of starving to cannibal-size? I shook my head at the awfulness of it. I was sickened by the idea that I could end up sharing my home with a man-eater who had snuck in under the cover of friendship.


Peter opened the lock and Bodo and Jamal rolled the heavy gate open to admit the newcomers.


I stepped back with everyone else to give them room.


I was planning to just let them walk to the lobby, but Ronald stopped them from proceeding any farther with a hand held up and a wide-legged stance.


“Wait. Stop right there.” He turned to me. “Bryn, aren’t you going to have them say the oath first?”


“Yeah. They have to say the oath,” said Derek. “We did. Everyone should have to.”


“Oh. Yeah. Okay, I guess.” I looked to Peter and he nodded.


“Oath? What oath?” asked the girl. She had a sour look on her face that instantly put me on edge. It reminded me of Coli. Her hair was thin and stringy, very greasy. Her eyes were small and her nose sharp. She looked like an angry, mangey bird.


“It’s a promise to help and not eat your fellow man,” said Flick. It should have been funny, but no one laughed.


I separated from the pack and moved to the empty space between them and the front door. I raised my voice so they could hear me over the sound of muttering coming from my friends.


“Anyone who comes to Haven must be willing to sacrifice what he needs and wants for the good of our group. We promise to keep you safe, fed, sheltered, and cared for - to the best of our ability. But anyone who messes with us or tries to hurt us will pay the price.”


“What’s the price exactly?” asked the girl. “Death? Are you guys killing kids who refuse to live in a dictatorship?”


One of the guys nudged her. “Shut up, Gail.”


“No, I don’t have to shut up. It’s a legitimate question.”


Peter walked around the outside of the crowd to stand next to me. Whispering out of the side of his mouth, he said, “Everyone’s watching. Don’t take any crap from her.”


I jabbed him with my elbow, whispering back, “I got that. Thanks.”


I lifted my chin a little. “This isn’t a dictatorship exactly. But for now, I’m in charge. You don’t like it, stay out. It’s your choice. But if you come in, you have to accept that.”


“Without holding back,” added Derek. “Just like the rest of us. No one’s any better than anyone else here.”


The entire group was nodding, and none of them looked happy. I had to doubt the intelligence of a chick who’d walk up to a place like this and make such a terrible first impression. I was almost hoping she’d walk away when she finally spoke.

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