Posted: October 9, 2012 in End of Times, Fiction

The four of them sat around the campfire. Shift had done the tracking, but Refrax had bagged them a deer for the night. It was a feast worthy of kings, especially in the dark days since the Fourth Rider had passed through. Refrax pushed his glasses back up onto his nose. He thought to speak, but his three companions were eating so noisily that he let his gathered breath puff out again. A white fog trailed out, visible in the firelight. They were still headed south. Fall was no time to be caught in the open in the United Wreckage of America. Refrax smirked, noting how Shift’s way with words had leeched into his own. He took another bite out of his own impromptu kebab.

Shift was an odd fellow, but good at heart. The first time they met, Shift had insisted on fixing Refrax’s glasses. Of course, Refrax had waded into a pack of hellhounds with his fire-ax in defense of the weirdo, so it was basic commerce at that point. Still, the rather strange collection of skills behind that gaunt face had been invaluable ever since. The other two had been useful too, but in different ways. Refrax and Shift had met Ruin and Trill almost a year later. Shift had wanted to venture into the ruins of Chicago to find something or other. Refrax couldn’t recall if they had ever found whatever Shift needed, but he assumed so. The man hadn’t brought it up again, and he would have at great length if his needs weren’t met.

Refrax kept eating. He watched as Shift paused from his meal to clean the lenses on the military-grade optics he kept strapped to his head. He watched as Ruin ate with his dark eyes riveted to the fire. He felt a brief surge of sorrow. The man swore up and down he was a jinx. No extraordinary bad luck had befallen them, but Ruin continued to swear that just being near him would be their downfall. As for Trill… That sorrow went double for her. Refrax had never asked her, but he knew she had survived something horrible. Probably the death of her family. The hellhounds were vicious. The last time Ruin had been unusually sociable, he had alluded to saving Trill from something. Then the troubled young man had clammed up again.

Refrax finished off his meal. The others were still eating, so he rose and unstrapped the tent from his frame pack. He heard Trill’s voice behind him. “You want help?”

“No, I got it. You keep eating, kiddo.” Refrax had set up his tent so many times alone in the dark that he could do it in his sleep. Sweet of her to offer, though. The rustling and clanking drowned out the crackle of fire and the sounds of Ruin’s noisy eating. Refrax smirked to himself in the dark. Of course the brooding loner would have no manners.


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