On a midday afternoon, a diminishing sun hangs in the distance casting balminess onto the outstretched land. It teases its disappearance behind meandering hills in the far off terrains, spreading more than just an announcement that the night was approaching, but with it so was crippling trepidation. The stale air is stifling and difficult to respire, like slowly suffocating with your head in an oven. The ground is fractured and dense, crying for natures tears to revive it’s once soft roots. The suns glow blankets the ground and dry bushes, spreading out and over the tin roof of a decrepit stack of crooked lumber a small group of people call shelter. Just to the right of the house, three people reside near a shallow hole in the ground.
Tears and sweat run down his face, zig zagging past his brown shaggy hair and thinning beard, and off his sharp edged chin onto the dried out soil. Bent over in a crooked shape he continues to dig, pressing his mud boot on the edge of the iron shovel. The soil was tough to break, but this rare occasion had purpose. It was necessary. Jack stands up to stretch and hears his back pop, he doesn’t make any noise or change facial expressions, he just continues to look ahead toward the darkening hills and half covered sun. The hole he stands in is up to his knees, not enough to be considered a grave but well on it’s way.
An older man stands nearby, wearing a jumpsuit and broken cuffs with dangling chains around his wrists. One hand steady on the grip of a rifle with it aimed towards the floor, he keeps his eyes on the sun and in-between glances checks on the man digging. Creaking his chapped lips apart, he slowly starts, “Jack, I don’t mean to rush you but-”
“Then don’t,” Jack replies, not looking up from his concentrated position. The back of his shirt sticks to his thin body, a muddled bundle of cloth and sweat rolling upwards into thin creases. The man in the jumpsuit keeps quiet and continues to look ahead. As the sun droops downwards more, his grip constricts the handle. He clears the dust from his throat and glances over to the woman in a wheelchair near his side.
A teenager with the sides of her black hair shaved into a short mohawk leans in her metal seat. She bites her lip and looks to the sky, in her shaking hand a pistol sits positioned in her lap. Her mouth opens to repeat the warning unto Jack, but she swallows it and regretfully keeps her mouth shut. Rushing wouldn’t make anything go by faster, tension was already thick enough to cut with a knife. Jack wipes his grout stained arm across his head and steps out of the hole. Three small bags double wrapped in plastic sit on the ground. Picking them up one by one he gently places them into the small crater. Where they sat was now a small puddle of coagulated blood stirred with black fluid. He winces and shoves the tool into the mound of dirt, spooning it over the trio of garbage bags.
Standing over the grave, he tilts against the shovel with two hands clamped over the tip. Letting the sore muscles in his neck relax, he plummets his head and stands in silence. The sun sulks behind the protuberant hills, expectorating the last bit of radiance. The man in the jumpsuit arches the gun up aiming it towards the outskirts. The girl mimics his move and aims in the opposite direction. Darkness begins to envelop over the land with lurking shadows swirling through.
“Jack,” the girl mutters, “I’m with you, just please consider the time.”
“No one told you two to be out here with me.” He responds in a way that wasn’t necessarily raising his voice, but enough to show agitation.
“Jack,” the man starts while reaching one arm towards him, “she wouldn’t want you to be out here.” Jack walks past the man and wipes his red eyes before mumbling something. It wasn’t clear what he said but he continued to walk towards the house. The man in the jumpsuit sets the rifle across the arm bars of the wheelchair and quickly begins to roll the chair to the door. Gravelly, hoarse grunts begin to choke and spew to life from the dark.
“Kirk, hurry!” The girl yells while keeping the barrel aimed left to right. Jack shambles his feet in a zombie like state, barely shuffling to the door. Kirk rolls her chair up the ramp and into the house. He swings around with the rifle and yells, “Jack, move it!”
Jack ignores his cries and walks at the same pace. Stepping into the house, Kirk slams the door shut behind him just as the sun disappears. Sliding a wooden board through two metal rods screwed by the door, he locks it in place and begins to do the same with the windows. The girl rolls to the kitchen and blows out candles that allowed a small source of light in the kitchen. Jack walks past them both and up the stairs towards a bedroom.
“Jack!” The girl yells but is cut off by Kirk leaning in with a pudgy finger pressed to his lips. He points towards the door. Softly, scratching noises slide on the other side in a slow pace. Barely audible at first, it tears into a frenzy accompanied with roaring. What starts as one possible source begins to multiply as the echoes become deafening. Kirk blows out the last candle then wraps his arms around the girl.
Upstairs Jack lays in bed caressing a frayed photo, in the picture is him with his arm around a woman. “I’m sorry,” he pleas while dropping the photo and rolling over. Sliding his arm across the other end of the mattress, it comes across cold wet blood stains. Carefully he rubs his palm across the sheet, and continues to whisper his previous phrase while concentrating on the gore splattered bed. “It’s just a dream,” he says. “Wake up, Jack. Just wake up already.”