“fuck me it’s cold,” he whispered to himself.
Benny scratched at his beard. He missed shaving. He missed shaving, bathing and, right now, being able to piss somewhere other than in the corner of a near crumbling building overlooking Boston Harbor.
The building used to be lovely. He’d seen it once when he was young. His dad had him and his brothers for the weekend and took them to Constitution Beach. He remembered seeing the yacht club as they walked down to the beach. It had been a great weekend. His father was sober, for the most part, and he and his brothers played in the water for hours until they were well pruned from the salt water and horse from laughter.
That was a long time ago.
His father was dead, having died in prison three years later. His three younger brothers weren’t as lucky.
When the infection hit full force all three had been killed in the first month. Only the grace of God and the fact that he was a career criminal had kept him alive. He knew how to run. His straight as an arrow brothers did not.
That was over six years ago. He’d been running ever since, either by himself or with whatever strong man was holding power with the Southie holdouts.
Maybe that’s why he drew the short straw for watching the freak in East Boston. He had been lucky enough to live six years into the end of the world when bigger, meaner and smarter had long since gone tits up. Besides, what was he going to do? You didn’t tell Joey and Tommy Nee no. They ran the Southie crew like it was planned genocide. You didn’t say “no” to them unless you were planning on gutting yourself at the same time.
The walkie-talkie next to him exploded and he quickly fumbled with the volume. There weren’t any casual sounds in the world now. The faintest sigh was a neon sign, especially when you’re spying on a guy like the freak.
“Lou are you trying to fucking kill me?”
“Sorry, man. We hadn’t heard from you in almost a day. We thought the weirdo got you.”
“I told you,” Benny said through gritted teeth, “I’d hit you when I saw something. He’s just been sitting in his fucking truck for the past two hours. No movement. Now shut the fuck up.”
The walkie-talkie went dead with a quick fuzzy pop. He set it down gently like it was made of fragile hope and picked his binoculars back up.
The East Boston neighborhood used to be lovely, with row after row of brightly colored, warm homes. Mostly three story walk ups cut up into apartments but still it had been a happy place in his memory.
Six years after the outbreak most were still standing but the majority were just shells of what they had been. When you added a heavy snowfall in the middle of a New England winter it turned the neighborhood a sickening pale grey that just smelled of bad things to come. But then that was the world now, wasn’t it?
It had all happened so fast, the outbreak. The news either rushed to the wrong answers or dismissed it as a hoax on a massive scale. By the time anyone figured out what was really happening it was too late. There was madness in the streets and the infection spread like wildfire.
Benny thought about his youngest brother, Albert.
He’d come running through the backdoor of Benny’s shitty basement hold-up clutching his side biting his lower lip so hard that he was drawing blood. The men in his family never screamed or cried or showed any weakness whatsoever. Their father had beaten that into them at a young age.
Benny thought Al, or Lil A as the brothers called him, had been shot. He wasn’t saying anything as his eyes went glassy with tears that he refused to let fall. He just lied on the carpet clutching a bloody side while Benny rushed for the medical kit he kept handy.
It wasn’t until he saw the teeth marks that…
Benny felt tears welling up in his eyes as he thought about his brother and then the thing that his brother became and what he had to do to…it.
He tried to tell himself that by then IT wasn’t Lil A anymore. IT was something else, something sick and evil. That’s how he slept for the most part.
He felt moisture on his cheek. Not tears. It was snowing again and coming down heavy turning the world into one long shivering hell.
The heavy snow did have one advantage. The freak couldn’t sneak up on Benny without cutting his way through about four feet of snow. A cut path in snow stuck out like a sore thumb in this place.
The Nee brothers had sent out several scouts to keep an eye on the freak. None had come back. One look at the guy through the binoculars and it wasn’t much of a question as to why.
They just called him “the freak” because that’s what he was. No one lived long flying solo in the world now but this guy found a way.
He was huge which was another oddity. Big guys were easy to pick off for being slower and larger targets. A larger target had more surface area, more places to get bit. He had to go about 6’6 and close to three and a half bills but this guy obviously had a plan for keeping all of that safe.
He wore armor.
The story, from the rumors that worked their way around the camp, was that this guy built his own suit of armor like some sort of knight. Benny had doubted it at first but then he got picked to scout him and, sure enough, the rumors were true.
You couldn’t see an inch of skin on the guy. The helmet was decked out with a double filtered gas mask like you’d see on a guy who painted cars for a living. After that every inch was covered with lobstered steel or the God awful looking smelters apron. It draped over his body like the tunic for a knight but it was leather, covered with pockets and stains; the type of stains you’d see on someone working on a slaughter house floor.
When Benny first saw him it was like seeing a unicorn in the real world or a Lakers, Yankees, Giants and Canadiens parade through downtown Boston. It just didn’t seem possible but there he was…and there he’d been sitting in the cab of his step truck for a couple of hours. He hadn’t moved an inch. He hadn’t even…
“shit,” Benny whispered as his hand moved in slow motion to the walkie-talkie.
Benny had thugged long enough to know the sound of the hammer coming back on a gun. It was that sound that cut him off in mid-sentence. The only move he made was to slowly turn his head towards the corner of the room he’d been pissing in. It was washed in shadows save for the metal arm holding the old Luger that jutted into the dim sunlight.
“Put it down,” came the muffled rumble from the shadows.
Benny was slow to comply but killed his hesitation as the freak stepped from the darkness. He was much larger in person than he had expected and it was the shock of this that sped him to full compliance.
“Hey benny whatchyagot,” squawked the walkie-talkie.
Benny’s eyes shot to it and then back to the freak. The armored man shook his head slowly to say “no, you don’t want to do that”. Benny sighed, thought of his brother one last time and turned the walking-talkie off.
Six years. He’d been lucky for six years. Now it seemed as though his luck had run out.
To Be Continued.