And shoot they didn't.
They lowered their weapons and we walked the golden road to paradise.
Well, not quite. But it was almost as good. All (except the young man) lowered their weapons. Close enough.
"Please," I say again, not entirely sure what I'm asking for. That I'm not shot, probably.
"Look, the back door is opened. It's how I left. Please, go on in." I gesture toward the house and let my rifle catch itself on its sling around my shoulder. We all stand there frozen, again. The stillness is eerie. It is foreign to the moving world, the active birds and speeding clouds. The falling leaves and slight breeze.
The older man lightly sets his hand on the small of the back of the older woman, urging her to the house. She goes in with the other older man. "Abby," The man who I have been speaking to, my identified leader, starts: "You know him?"
I look at her, pleading once again. I am deathly aware of the rifle pointed at me from her similarly aged counterpart. I fear it is her brother because I know a brother would do a lot more than kill for a sister. I know. But I also fear it is her lover because a lover could do more. And hoping it's some random dude seems rather far fetched. Still not liking my chances.
"Yes," she finally says. I let out a shaky breath I wasn't aware I was holding. Though the fear still clenches my chest and my throat still throbs. And, very frankly, my finger still thirsts for blood. "I used to go to school with him," she says slowly. Her voice also practiced and strong! Unlike my sorry excuse meant for human articulation.
The older man stares at me cold and hard, gears turning incomprehensibly fast as hundreds of scenarios flash across his mind, ideas falling like rain.
"And how do we know you're still at least a half-decent human being?" He asks; I notice his right hand reaching for his weapon. I push down my instinct to reach for mine and cross my arms.
"I followed you through the forest," I say with confidence I don't have through a voice that isn't there and an unsaid threat that can't be supported. "If I was going to do killing I'd've done it when your back was turned" The man glares at me before gesturing toward the back door.
"Not a lot of respect, shooting a man in the back," I say slowly, my veins icing. A sharp thud exploding at the base of my skull, a warning from my instincts not to turn my back on them. I can't go in first. Death sentence. The man looks at the younger, then gestures for him to lower his weapon.
"No, no respect in that. Go inside." And so, with my arms still crossed, I walk inside my unlit house to an uncertain future I brought upon myself. For company.
We sit around the living room, warm (probably (definitely) old) corn beef hash on our plates. All of them eat slowly, trying not to appear as famished as they are. I watch them, hardly eating my own from excitement and dread. It's quiet except for the scrapes of metal forks on glass plates, clicks clinks bangs and swallows. Shuffle of feet and gulping of water. Smacking and licking mouths.
Along the Southern wall, three of them sit on couches, the other three on the Western wall. I sit in a singular chair, on the Eastern wall. And for all of us to look upon (when not scarfing down food) is a wall of books stacked neatly according to genre. A collection of around fifteen hundred books, many of which I have read. Lots of time in three years where there is a lack of school, work, and societal expectations. And I'm not much of a traveler, haven't moved in all that time. So now I have books and books and more books. No electricity? No problem. I have twenty Romeo and Juliets, seven Art of Wars, James Patterson for months (quite literally), and Mark Twain by the dozens. Then there are my cookbooks, my magazines, the newspapers. The historical books next to nature books. Sci-fi and fantasy with erotica and historical fiction. Star Trek, Halo, Divergent, Hunger Games, and Twilight. Language books and dictionaries. Even travel guides and instruction manuals. Children books by the troves, though those are upstairs. Piled into a corner of a room I don't visit much. Only to pile more children's books into. I don't bother counting those.
It feels like Fahrenheit 451 (of which I have several). Stashing books in the hundreds. Whenever I come across books in a house I begin the slow process of packing them in my scavenge bag and transporting them home, making several trips if necessary. I try to leave repeats but I also don't read every title (or remember every title for that matter). The only places I don't take books from are stores and libraries, the latter I visit seldom due to a plethora of reading material in my living space. Oh and the manga, those are stacked up in the dining room. I am still learning to appreciate those, though with the lack of entertainment I am considerably less picky. It's only for so long that one can play chess against oneself.
That's not to say there is nothing to do, my guitar (or the guitars I've honorably liberated from neighboring houses) have seldom seen more use. And while I could not bring it with me, I do consistently play the piano I found in the house down the street. I also liberated several violins before finding one that fit me, I have a good drum set seven houses down to the left. Two (well cleaned) clarinets, a ukelele, and one of every band instrument. Name an instrument and chances are I can find my way around. Find an instrument that I can't and I can further guarantee I have a book that explains it anyway.
I could rival the loneliest person in solitaire. Even took up drawing, not any good, but at least a thousand pictures lay around the house; drawings of my books, my forest, my house, neighboring houses, even the sky. Just whatever caught my eye that day. None of people though, no subjects to mimic (other than the countless art booklets of course). And living next to what used to be a military community, I've found countless small arms tactics, bomb-making manuals, and equipment-care manuels. So if anyone needs me to call in an airstrike from an AC-130, Angel of Death, I got you. But chances are, thanks to my medical studying, I could just shoot you dead. Given I'm a good shot (which I am).
But to sum it all up, I'm bored out of my mind.
And I'm lonely.
In the end, it's the stars that keep my company; lying in the grass or on the roof, watching them slowly rotate. The pure black of the sky paired with the twinkling stars. Just lying out there, cool air, perhaps a slight sprinkle. The hard ground beneath me, itchy grass brushing my skin and clothes. An occasional bug crawls over my hand or leg, but all I do is watch those never-ending, never-aging stars. Each star impossibly old and getting older, or maybe already gone. Each white speck in the wonderfully clear nights could already be long gone, never to be seen again. Yet, with the thousands or millions of light-years of space between me and the stars for all I know they could all have already winked out of existence and I only see their shadows. Their shadows that light up the night sky.
And with that thought, even the stars may have left me. All that remains are the lights that tell a story of what used to be, but no longer is. Much like the books, the houses. The instruments, the technology. The paintings, and the memories. The memories.
And so each night I stare up at the stars. I wonder what unique story each has and will have and can never have. And I hope.