A Pious Man (Part II)Submitted by ridiculous at 2010-05-21 12:06:45 EDT
Rating: 1.84 on 22 ratings (22 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Part I: http://www.ubersite.com/m/125235
Nizhnevartovsk engulfed Sergei as he walked through its deserted streets. The wind howled mournfully, a trick of the jagged and scorched outcroppings that were once the walls of homes and businesses. The snow crunched beneath him with every step as he scanned the ruins surrounding him.
Looking side to side, he spotted a more or less intact home. Its roof collapsed and its door charred, he thought it may still hide something serviceable. The markets had been the first looted after the “attack”. They no longer held anything of interest. The new game was finding the stashes others had horded in the subsequent months. The stashes they hadn’t lived long enough to return to.
He crossed the street, approached the door and peeked through the shattered window. The contents of the home were a mass of tangled steel, concrete and cinders. Reaching out with his left hand he pressed down on the door handle and found it unlocked. A shove revealed the door jammed shut, putting his shoulder into it, the door stubbornly resisted. Sergei hit the door again and it begrudgingly gave way to a tiny antechamber where a blackened coat peg revealed fragments of the trappings it once held. Whoever had lived here was dead before the burners came.
Turning into what must have been the living area that he had glimpsed through the window; Sergei moved over the debris field and turned into what was once a kitchen. The dilapidated cabinets hung open, most of their doors on one hinge or missing altogether. Sergei began rifling through their contents looking for anything useable. He found numerous cans of spoiled food; the expanding gasses from cooking in the fire caused them to burst. Some batteries coated in their own acid and a pile of broken dishes. Thinking there was nothing of use in the kitchen he had just turned to the hallway when something outside the kitchen window moved, in his peripheral vision.
He didn’t react; it was nearly always a mistake to react immediately, if you didn’t know that you were in danger. He turned and started picking his way down the hall. As soon as he had passed out of the windows line of sight he turned around, raised the kalashnikov and continuing half way down the hallway, walking backwards. He stopped, knelt and waited. If it was soldiers the building would soon be sundered with machinegun fire.
When the walls didn’t spontaneously evolve into Swiss cheese and burning steel, Sergei allowed himself to consider other possibilities. Perhaps he hadn’t been seen? The sound of shifting rubble on the other side of the wall he was huddled against removed that possibility. Maybe it was a wolf or a wild dog? He couldn’t hear any sniffing. A shard of glass was crushed under foot and a quiet curse carried through the house… A voice… Not muffled behind a gas mask. He waited.
The passing minutes were agonizing. His hearing strained to its limits. The muscles in his forearm twitched involuntarily from supporting the weight of his weapon. His eyes lost and regained focus, squinting down the rifles aperture. His brow beaded with perspiration. He shook from the cold. The chill wind continued to howl through the house, it carried her voice with it.
“I saw you.”
Sergei’s mind flew into a thousand directions simultaneously. He hadn’t been spoken to in nearly three years. The last time he had a conversation was with Yakov. He had heard machinegun fire for several minutes after they had parted company. He hadn’t gone to investigate until a full week later; Yakov’s body was the only one remaining, but the blood told him that his only friend had taken at least three of the bastards with him before they emptied their magazines into him.
For the first time in a long time he didn’t know what to do. He wanted to answer her, but he didn’t want to give himself away. She could just be waiting for him to make a sound so she knew where to shoot.
“I know you’re there. I heard you stop in the hall…” She pressed with a certain sweetness in her voice.
Sergei cleared his throat and attempted to keep his voice steady.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“Akilina.” He could hear the smile in her voice.
“What are you doing here, Akilina?” His tone was sarcastic, he didn’t appreciate her dodging the question.
“The same as you, I think. Just trying to survive.” She said.
“You’re lying! I’m the only one left!”
“Oh…, there are others…”