Sometimes, on days when the wind galloped down from the mountains, the smell of dead people rushed away before it could rise up to his house. On those windy days he remembered the smell of growing things, or the way rain used to make the mud smell brown. He remembered being a child.
But when the air paused, like a comma, the smell rose up into his shack. This wasn’t offensive – to him the rank odor of dead people was the smell of comfort, of home. He was safe there.
He could see the dirt road as it twisted and turned an angular path through the tens of thousands of stacked graves on which his house was built. They were lined up neatly in rows, five coffins high, hundreds wide, but the road that went through the middle of them was haphazard, as if the person placing each stack thought, at the time, that there was no need for order as surely that would be the last stack ever placed.
As if death would stop.
For a short time (weeks? months?) he had lived on the outskirts of the Great Cemetery, but wandering gangs of people who had escaped the city made his life difficult, so he moved to the middle of the graves, built his house on top of them out of discarded wood. He bartered for a rifle.
The dirt road left the Great Cemetery and darted in a straight line through the dust-laden valley where it became a dark brown thread in a sea of tan. Nothing lived in the valley. Nothing breathed. Nothing moved.
Just at the edge of what was visible, he could see the walled city.
* * * * *
A small, distant cloud of dust swirled along the road. He grabbed his rifle and ran across the stacked, cement coffins. After ten minutes, he stopped and sat down, caught his breath. Three large trucks plodded forward in the cloud’s swirling midst.
He approached the edge of the cemetery just as the trucks pulled to a stop. When their engines shut down, the world stopped – stillness rushed in from the mountains. Before anyone spotted him, he climbed down among the dead, then crept along the road where it stumbled through the stacks. He stopped just inside the last pile. He peered out at the trucks, each one occupied by two of the city’s soldiers. Then he lifted his rifle and aimed it at the head of the first truck’s driver, stopping only when the man’s forehead was in his cross hairs.
* * * * *
This is where you decide what happens next:
1 – He pulls the trigger
2 – He shouts out that he is there and ready to make the exchange
3 – He pulls back in surprise when civilians are taken out of the back of one of the trucks
If you missed the first few episodes, you can read the story from the beginning HERE