Beth Hamebone author-mrboo end_of_the_world safe sam

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Hambone and Sam

Part Five: Beth’s Story

By Mrboo


“I gotta go pee!” Beth whispered to her brother.

“The movie just started. I told you to go first.”

“I didn’t have to go then.”

“Man, I’m gonna miss the best part.”

“I don’t need your help. I can go by myself.”

“Okay, just remember where we’re sitting.”

Beth got up and sidled out to the aisle, then walked up to the exit. On the screen behind her robots clashed and starships exploded at high volume, the bass shaking the ground. In the lobby, she entered the women’s restroom and quickly found a stall.

As she sat down, there came a loud concussive sound. At first she thought that it was part of the movie’s soundtrack, but as the sound repeated, it grew louder until the floor began to shake. The lights flickered a couple of times before going out completely. Beth heard screams in the darkness and as she tried to pull her shorts up, the shaking knocked her against the wall of the stall enclosure. Before she could get the door open, the ceiling collapsed, and she was knocked unconscious.

When she came to, it was dark and all she could hear was dripping water. Her head ached and feeling it, she discovered a large welt on the top of her head.

“Hello! Can anyone hear me?” she waited for an answer, but none came. “Is there anyone there?”

She had to get out of the restroom, but it was totally dark. Feeling about, she found the door to the stall, but it was blocked by debris that had fallen into the enclosure. As she tried to move some of it, a violent tremor struck and more wreckage crashed down around her. She braced herself against the walls and waited for it to stop. Just as the shaking tapered off, there came a boom so loud that it left her ears ringing.

Curled into a ball, she began praying for God to save her, promising to be good for the rest of her life if He would save her. Opening her eyes, she began to be able to see shapes in the darkness. Enough debris had shifted to allow some light into the ruined restroom.

“Thank you, God and baby Jesus!” she said with relief. She decided that instead of just sitting there, calling for help, she was going to take matters into her own hands. She was able to crawl underneath the stall door and then clamber out of the restroom into the lobby.

The lobby was in no better shape than the women’s room but more light was coming in and she could see sky overhead. She and her brother had gone to see a matinee and the sky was now dark.

“Hello! Anthony! Can anyone hear me?” Again, nothing but silence and water dripping from the destroyed plumbing. “Is there anyone there? Hello!”

Climbing over the wreckage, she came across a broken concession counter. She reached in and grabbed as much candy as she could; some Red Vines, a box of Raisinettes, Milk Duds, even some Mike and Ikes. She found that she was hungry and took the time to eat some candy. She took a bottle of water from a broken cooler before moving on.

Once she was able to climb out of the theater, she took a look around. The mall the cinema was attached to was almost completely destroyed. She could see a fire burning in one corner, so she moved into the parking lot for safety. She expected to see emergency vehicles and crowds in the parking lot, but it was empty, except for the cars. Where had her brother gone to, she wondered? How would she get home? They lived five or six miles away and she wasn’t sure in which direction. Twelve year olds weren’t expected to know these things.

All around, she could see the glow of fires burning, the smoke filling the sky and covering the stars. A strong cold wind began blowing and she was wearing only shorts and a t-shirt. I need to find shelter, she thought, until someone shows up to rescue me. Looking around, she saw a recycling center at the edge of the lot that was still standing. Figuring that it would be her best chance she walked towards it.

That’s when she saw the first body.

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“Wait a minute,” I interrupted, “all of those people in the theater and all of those cars and you just then saw a body?”

“Yeah, the first one. There were more, later. Remember, it was dark,” she replied.

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Beth tripped and almost fell, but caught herself it time. Looking back, she saw the body of a middle-aged woman, dressed in shorts and a checkered shirt. She lay on her back, her unseeing eyes open to the night sky. The girl gave a shudder and moved away quickly.

The recycling center’s door was open and she took shelter inside the tiny building. She huddled up in a corner and ate some more candy and sipped some water while she waited for help to come. Eventually, fatigue caught up with her and she fell into a light sleep.

She awoke to the smell of smoke and filtered sunlight in her face. Her head ached as she stood, swaying uneasily on her feet. The day brought no help, the mall was blazing away still and the horizon was ringed with rising smoke.

What should I do, she thought? Stay here and wait for mom and dad to come look for me? And where’s Anthony? Did he make it out of the theater? She decided to stay in the general area but she wanted to check out some of the other shops located at the edge of the parking lot. She knew that there was a Starbucks and a fast food place and she was already getting sick of candy.

Stepping out into the daylight, she took a look around. The coffee shop was probably 100 yards away to her left, so she started walking towards it. Now that it was brighter, she could see bodies strewn about, some hanging from open car doors, some laying in groups and for some reason, an elderly man in blue checkered shorts and a yellow sweater laying on the hood of a pick-up truck.

Crossing one aisle, she saw the body of a young dark-haired woman, completely naked, sitting against the side of a car, her clothes piled beside her neatly. Beth shuddered and kept walking, trying not to look anywhere but straight ahead. Her young mind was unable to fully understand what was happening and she desperately wanted her parents and her brother.

As she neared the Starbucks, she could see that the strip of buildings was still standing. In addition to the coffee shop, there was a Baskin Robbins, an H&R Block tax office, a nail salon and a chiropractor’s office. At the end, and detached from them, was a Burger King.

The door to the Starbuck’s was open and the inside was in fairly good shape. Some of the gondolas had fallen over and it smelled strongly of the coffee beans that littered the floor. Picking her way over the debris, she found some pastries in a display case. Beth grabbed a handful of muffins and scones and sat on a red couch to eat. Looking out the window, she watched as the mall continued to burn unheeded. Black clouds, that she thought were smoke, were coming up from the right, along with a rising wind.

Full of pastries, and her head feeling better, she decided to check out the Burger King. Outside, she noticed that the temperature was dropping as the wind increased. She wondered if rain was coming. If it is, at least there’s shelter in the Starbucks, she thought.

The first thing that she noticed stepping into the restaurant, was the body seated at one of the tables, its head resting on an uneaten hamburger. She took a deep breath and went through into the kitchen. Unfortunately, all the food was raw and without electricity or gas, she had no way to cook anything. She didn’t even have any matches to start a fire.
She filled a couple of bags with hamburger buns and cheese from the cooler. A cheese sandwich didn’t need to be cooked, she thought. She ran her loot back over to the coffee shop, then returned for a second load, this time taking some milk and bottled water as well. Something told her that water was going to become very important soon, if no one came to save her.

As she was leaving the second time and walking past the drive-thru lane, she heard a sound coming from the dumpster enclosure.

“Gu way, munstah! Weabe fwuffeh ‘wone!”

Investigating, she discovered a cat had cornered an orange and blue fluffy.

“Shoo! Get way stupid cat!” she yelled, clapping her hands. The cat hissed and fled.

“Fank ‘ou, nice wady, fo’ sabe fwuffeh!”

Beth had never owned a fluffy before, although she had wanted one. Her father told her that they were too expensive and too troublesome. Besides, they already had a dog and two cats. She understood, but loved to play with her friend’s bio-toy whenever she could.

“You’re welcome. Do you have a home?” she asked. It looked awfully clean to be a feral, she thought.

“Yus, am Jo-boy. Hab mummah, an’ housie, an’ toysies! Am gud fwuffeh!”

“Well, then why are you out here?” she asked.

“Mummah an’ mummah fambwy aww gone. Hab tummeh owwies, nee’ nummehs fo’ speciaw fwiend and babbehs!”

“You have a special friend? Where?”

“Oba hewe!” the fluffy led her to a corner behind the dumpster where a lilac and black mare cowered with two foals on her back.

“Jo-boy bwing fwiend!” he announced.

“Nyu fweind?” the mare asked cautiously, “Nu huwt fwuffehs?”

“Yes, I’ll be your friend. I won’t hurt you. My name is Beth.”

“Am Mina! Hab babbehs!”

“I see that. They’re so cute,” Beth told her.

“Dey onwy nu-see chiwpie babbehs. Mina am bestest mummah!”

“Why don’t you two follow me and I’ll feed you, okay?”

“Yay! Nummehs! Wub nyu fwiend!”

They followed Beth back to the Starbucks, arriving just as the skies let loose with a violent storm. Rain poured down and the wind whipped against the building. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled across the sky, frightening the fluffies. Beth moved them to the back of the store and fed them. They calmed down and soon Mina was nursing her foals.

Beth went back to the front and started pushing the red couch away from the window. Looking out, she could see a string of tornados in the distance, marching across the horizon. She pushed the couch into position and then took some cushions from the other chairs to make a nest for Jo-boy and Mina and together they waited out the storm.

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“How long before you realized that no one was coming to save you?” I asked.

“I think that I knew that second day. I figured that whatever had happened, must have happened everywhere, otherwise they wouldn’t have left the mall to burn and left all of those bodies there,” she answered.

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The storm lasted three days. It quenched the fires burning through the mall and around the city. She saw several more tornados, but none came close. After the storm, the sun came out and soon, the smell of decomposing bodies filled the air.

With the food running low, Beth decided that it was time to move on. She and the fluffy family moved to the closest neighborhood, looking for food and shelter. The girl found a red metal wagon and used it to carry her stock of food. She went through each house, breaking windows to gain entry if she had to, and built up a supply of canned goods and clothing. She tried spending the night in houses at first, but found that she was fearful that the homeowners would return suddenly in the middle of the night. She preferred garages or stores, instead. On cold nights she cuddled with the fluffies in a hybrid fluff-pile.

This went on for months. They traveled through whole blocks where every house had burned to the ground and in some places, tornados had turned the homes into matchsticks. She became accustomed to the sight of decayed bodies and skeletal remains. In fact, she surprised herself with what she would do in the name of survival. Going into grocery stores, she would step over, or push aside, bodies to get the food she needed, without a thought.

Her method of operation was to go to a neighborhood, find a place she could stay, be it a garage, workshop or garden shed, then plunder each house before moving on and starting over. She also kept her eye out for fruit trees and backyard gardens that she could glean from.

Meanwhile, Mina’s foals matured and became weanlings. The colt, red and brown, was named Anthony, after her brother, and the pink and purple filly was named Gina. Jo-boy and Mina tried to make more babies, but the mare never caught, no matter how often they tried.

One evening, Beth was cooking her dinner over a portable grill as the fluffies grazed in the unmown grass. Suddenly Jo-boy rose up on his hind legs.

“Fwuffehs!” he called out.

Beth stood and looked in the direction he was facing. Several yards away, a herd of fluffies were also grazing in the grass. There were a couple of dozen of them, adults and foals. They didn’t notice Beth yet. She sat down and addressed the fluffies.

“I think that maybe it’s time for you to join that herd. To be with more of your kind.”

“Miss Beff nu wan’ fwuffeh nu mo’?”

“Nu wub fwuffeh?”

“No, no. I’ll always love you, but don’t you want to be with other fluffies? So Anthony and Gina can find special friends?”

Mina looked at Jo-boy. “Babbehs need speciaw fwiends, Jo-boy.”

“Miss Beff cum wiff fwuffehs?” Jo-boy asked.

“I don’t think that that’s a good idea,” she replied, “it’s time for you to go your way and I’ll go mine.”

“Otay,” he said sadly, “Jo-boy unnerstan’.”

They exchanged hugs all around and Beth watched as they were warmly welcomed into the herd. She went back to her dinner, only crying a little.

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“That must have been hard, letting them go like that.”

Beth wiped a tear away. “Yeah, but it was the right thing to do. It would have been selfish of me to deny them their own families. It wouldn’t have been fair.”

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Months passed. That first mild winter turned into spring, then to summer. She followed the same pattern as before: set up camp, scavenge the surrounding area then move on. Without the fluffies for company, she was lonely, but she held out the hope that she would one day find more people.

Finally, as summer was fading into fall, she found what she was looking for. In a park, she happened across an encampment of several tents. She could see people cooking over fires and working at other chores. To her, it looked like New York City, even though there were only twenty or so people in the camp. Weeping with joy and relief, she ran to join them.

She was received with open arms, like a returning family member. The group was mostly younger people in their teens and early twenties. The oldest member was the leader, a man named Martin, who was in his fifties.

“I’ve gathered up everyone I’ve come across,” he told Beth, “I don’t know why they’re all so young. Shit, I wonder if I might be the oldest man alive now.”

They operated the same way she had. Setting up a base camp, then sending out parties to find whatever they could. Once an area was cleared, they moved to a new area and did it again. The camp was well organized, with a kitchen, a sanitation tent with camp toilets and even a shower tent, when enough water was available.

Everyone worked a rotating schedule and Beth was assigned to a tent with three other girls. She found that she relished the routine and although she preferred to be out with a scavenging team, she did all of her chores gladly.

As the autumn progressed, Martin sent out a team to find a place with more permanent shelter. They returned a few days later after finding an intact, but empty warehouse. The camp packed up and moved the next day. There was water nearby, and an open grassy area that could be cultivated when spring came. It was idyllic.

They rode out the winter there in relative comfort and when the warmer weather came, the group set out planting a garden. Things went well until Martin suddenly died one day. Some of the older members tried to take over, but squabbles broke out and order collapsed. When two of the boys got into an actual fight over one of the other girls, she knew in her heart that it was time to go. Without Martin’s protection, none of the girls were safe.

The next day she went out on a solo scavenging mission and never returned. It was difficult, starting over with nothing, but she was strong and refused to feel sorry for herself. She worried that she might be pursued, and moved fast at first, putting distance between her and the others. Slowly, she gathered up supplies as best as she could, but this far out from whatever had happened, food was harder and harder to find.

Raiding one house, she found an old shotgun, but couldn’t find any shells. She took it anyway, hoping that it would be enough to scare off anything that might try to hurt her. As time passed, things got worse for her. She went days without eating, her hygiene suffered and she felt increasingly depressed. She tried to stay strong, remembering something that her father had once told Anthony when the girl he liked turned him down for a date: “Son, when things go wrong that’s no excuse to suck at the pity teat.” But lack of proper nutrition was wearing her down. She was losing the little body fat that she had and she found herself crying for no reason.

One day, she stopped to drink and looking across the stream bed, she saw the remains of a shopping center. She crossed to the far side and began to explore. As she was poking around, looking for anything she could eat, she heard a voice. A man’s voice. He seemed to be arguing with a child.

Beth panicked. She was afraid that whoever it was meant her harm and she looked for a place to hide. Seeing a wooden garden shed, she quickly ducked inside, hoping that the owner of the voice would leave her alone. Gripping the old shotgun, she waited in the dark.

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I went to the stove and put some more wood in. The rain was still falling outside. “Do you want some more tea?” I asked.

“Yes, please,” she said, holding out her cup.

When it was ready, I handed it back to her. Neither of us spoke for a time. She was out of words and I didn’t know what to say. Hambone lay in her lap, snoring quietly.

Finally, the silence was too much for me. “It’s a hell of a thing.”

“What is?”

“This. All of this. The fucking world ended, and yet, here we are. You, me, even numbnuts there.”

“And somehow, we found each other,” she said.

“I guess that we did.”

“You know, if it weren’t for you, Hammy and I wouldn’t still be alive.”

“No, no, no, I’m no savior. It was just luck,” I explained.

“Was it?”

“Yes, yes it just fucking was. Don’t read anymore into it.”

“Well, whatever it was, I’m grateful that you were there to save me.”

I suddenly felt flustered. “Don’t make me wish that I hadn’t.”

“Typical Sam,” she said, shaking her head, “your heart’s so closed off.”

“Maybe that’s how I want it. Now, it’s late and I’m tired. I’m going to bed,”

As I crawled into my sleeping bag, I heard her moving Hambone back to his bed. She blew out the lamps and in the darkness I heard her say, “Thank you for all you’ve done.”

To Be Continued




Uploader MrBoo,
Tags Beth Hamebone author-mrboo end_of_the_world sam
Rating safe
Source Unknown
Locked No

Comments


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MrBoo: Next chapter. Feedback welcome, as always.

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Ceron: God, it's such a compelling universe. The little touches like the folded clothes are what really make this creepy as hell
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Anonymous1: I'm still wondering what event brought about the end of the world. But then it doesn't matter - great story, dude. Your characters and the plot so far are a refreshingly good read.
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Anonymous2: Great read.

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Veej:
Son, when things go wrong that’s no excuse to suck at the pity teat.


Huu huu, buh fwuffy nee miwkies!!
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CwinicawDepwession: Fuckin great read my dood, I've been bingeing your stories and the world building is always great. Cant wait for more