That’s how HE had survived the end of the world. HE was disciplined whereas the rest of the world was scared meat. Scared lemmings running off of cliffs. Scared lambs going to slaughter. Scared opossums playing dead. In the end all their fear made them food for the gods. But not HIM.
Discipline kept him safe; discipline, routine and The Laws. They weren’t rules or guidelines or pleasant suggestions. If you broke any of those the worst you would have to face is being chastised. The Laws kept you alive. If you broke The Laws you were fucked; you were dead.
HE wasn’t dead. HE was surviving.
Everyday the discipline kept HIM going. It kept HIM regiment and safe. It was the same thing that day as well, six years, two months and ten days post-outbreak.
HE woke at 7:00 AM, sans clock or alarm (HE hadn’t had either for five years, three months and one day) and undid the locks on the inside of the “fat boy” coffin. HIS armor creaked slightly as HE rose to the brisk morning air. The second floor of the three story home wasn’t as cold as the first floor was, buried in all the snow, or as drafty as the third with all the holes in the roof. That being said, if it weren’t for the layers of cotton bandaging HE wore beneath the armor HE would have frozen to death in HIS sleep during the first winter.
Out of the coffin HE quickly fell into HIS routine. The apartment was swept to make sure everything was where HE had left it. HE checked the refrigerator to make sure that it was still running properly off the car batteries it was hooked to. Then it was down the hall to the bathroom for quick relief.
The bathroom door was sealed shut. Only then could HE remove HIS armor; only there in a room with a heavy door, no windows and sturdy walls could HE be free of HIS shell. HE pissed quickly into the bucket, sealed it tight and donned HIS metal skin again.
Exiting the bathroom HE turned back up the hall and was confronted by the door to the back bedroom. It was barred, locked and sealed with duct tape. The sign upon the door read “Pardon Our Mess. Work In Progress”.
“Today I can do it,” he muttered low and to himself as he extended his hand towards it. Just another inch and he’d be there. “Today I can touch the door.”
A soft “thump” from behind the door shook HIM back to reality with an unexpected start. A shiver cascaded down HIS spine. There was no time for this nonsense. HE had a routine to keep.
Every window in the apartment had a car hood over it, inside and out. In each hood was burned a slot connecting to an opening on the outside hood. HE moved from room to room and slot to slot, pulling them back and scanning the world outside. Only after HE was satisfied that the world was safe enough would HE exit to start HIS day.
HE was on the last slat, back in the office at the front of the apartment. It was the last one to check before stepping out onto the porch and into the cold.
The slat hung up briefly from the cold air and HE had to give it a solid tug before it would free itself. HE grunted and made a note to grease it when HE got back when a glint caught HIS eye.
“THE YACHT CLUB,” HE screamed within HIS mind. “Third floor at the western opening!”
HE moved quickly and grabbed the spyglass from its hook by the porch door. HE damn near dented the car hood as HE jammed the glass against the opening. HE narrowed his eyes and growled.
The asshole was under a pile of old carpet and had done his best to camouflage himself but the binoculars he was using caught a glint of sunlight. There wasn’t a glint in this neighborhood that HE didn’t know about and that had been the spy’s fatal flaw.
The slat was slammed shut. The spyglass was returned to the hook. HE began pacing. “Again,” HE muttered under his breath, over and over and louder and louder. Why did they have to spy on HIM? Why couldn’t they just leave HIM be?
HIS frustration grew. HIS routine had been broken. HE needed direction and HE knew where to get it.
The ham radio was old when he bought it, before the end of the world. It was just something for him to toy around with and had actually been forgotten until the day HE found HIMSELF just that desperate to find someone, anyone to talk to. That was when HE found Mr. E.
“Mr. E,” HE whined into the mic. “Mr. E, are you out there?”
The tubes of the old radio began to flash and glow red. Every second between transmission and acknowledgement always felt like a millennia. HE was always filled with fear that one day HE wouldn’t get an answer.
“*YAWN* Yeah, kid. I’m here,” came the grumbling, gruff response. “What’s going on?”
Mr. E had been the only person that HE had ever been able to contact. The name was just something that they agreed upon. The man on the other side of the radio told HIM that he would never get his real name.
“If you know my name then you might be able to find me,” he told HIM. “If you find me then you can hurt me, one way or the other, and that’s just not gonna happen. I’m gonna survive this shit.”
HE never questioned this and never made another push to learn more about Mr. E. HE couldn’t run the risk of pushing him away. He had kept HIM safe for so long; he had given HIM The Laws.
“They sent another one,” HE growled. “They sent another fucking spy to watch me! He’s down the block in the old…”
“Simmer down, kid,” Mr. E cut in with a voice as chilled as the air. “If they hear you freaking out they’ll bring hell down on you for sure. Calm down and take a breath.”
HE did as he was told. HE always did what Mr. E told him to do.
“Now we know he wasn’t there last night,” said the radio. “So what you’re gonna do is let him get frosty. He can’t build a fire, we know that. And he can’t get much closer without setting off one of the booby traps.”
Early on HE had rigged homemade explosives all throughout the neighborhood to keep the meandering hordes of infected at bay. When the scumbag raiders started showing up a year or so later the booby traps proved to be doubly beneficial.
“Let him sit out in the cold. Let him get well into the grips of hypothermia. Then,” the radio took a dramatic beat. “Then you collect the bait.”
HE nodded and said his goodbyes, promising to make the 11:05 AM check-in per the routine. The response of “yeah, sure, whatever blows your hair back” never sat well with HIM (that was something SHE liked to say years ago and SHE…) but HE took it in stride as HE returned the radio to the foot of the coffin and returned to HIS day.
HE pulled the locks from the door in the office and stepped out onto the second story porch. HE quickly locked the door behind HIM and spun quickly to survey the world around HIM. A good blanket of snow had fallen during the night and it had to be addressed quickly before it put too much pressure on the floor below. HE grabbed the shovel from under the tarpaulin awning and got to work.
HE only caught HIMSELF looking towards the yacht club twice. HE tried to tell HIMSELF that they had been natural movements on HIS part but still HE was nervous.
“No time for this,” HE hissed to HIMSELF. “Gotta get back on routine.”
And so HE did.
The next three days were spent trying to fall back into HIS normal routine. HE checked the water lines HE’d set up from the ocean two blocks away to the house. HE worked on the solar still that kept HIM in fresh water. HE worked on the airport step truck that was both HIS transportation and the only way to get up to the porch of the house. HE kept busy and always, ALWAYS, made sure to check in with Mr. E three times a day.
Every conversation with respect to the spy was punctuated with the simple question of “Now?” The response was just as simple. “Nope.” That is until the fourth day. On the fourth Mr. E finally said yes.
The word was like blood in the water and HE was the alpha predator in these waters.
HE was in the truck propping up the dummy armor behind the wheel before HIS mind started to come back to HIM. The passenger door was cracked and HE was slipping down to the snow covered ground within seconds. From there it was quietly easing himself to the open manhole and down into the sewers.
Part of HIS routine was checking all the traps he had set, above ground and below. It wouldn’t do for anyone, living or dead, to wander into the world below HIS home and mess with the water supply. HE knew the sewers like HE knew HIS home. It took no time at all the disable and reset the traps. HE wouldn’t be coming back this way at all.
Up a block and over three HE wandered until HE reached the basement entrance to the yacht club. From there it was up the stairs like a ghost to the third floor. For someone HIS size to move so silently was creepy, even in HIS eyes, but it was a must in the world now as was dealing with those who would do HIM harm.
HE had been standing in the shadows for almost ten minutes watching the raider. HE could feel the slickness of frozen urine under HIS boots. HE shifted for a better footing and heard HIS armor creek ever so softly. HE couldn’t risk having been heard.
The luger slipped noiselessly from the leather holster with ease. The time was now.
“shit,” the raider whispered as the walkie-talkie came to life. HE knew that the piece of shit knew HE was there and now it was time to end it all.
HE cocked the hammer. HE had the bait. It was time to set the trap.
To Be Continued.