Cayo Elina 12
The gator meat was tough and gamey, but the best meal either of them had eaten in months. There was more of it than they could eat but they loaded the grill up, turned it low and let the meat dry out for the next morning.
Elina had found a bar in the house when she looked for more supplies, in a cabinet underneath it she had found a whole case of Kraken Rum. Six unopened bottles that they could enjoy themselves, or even better; use as trade goods in Miami. Gus had been surprised at her find and when Elina carried the box out and revealed her find he had smiled and held out two glasses of sweetened coconut milk for shots of liquor.
Now they were lounging in two of the chairs where it was looking like they would be sleeping for the night. The liquor had made them philosophical and talkative. Lightning and thunder played offshore, casting the two of them in brilliant shadows from time to time and punctuating their conversation.
“Why do you think the mosquitos leave us alone?” Elina asked, noting that the common house flys still buzzed around them, but that she hadn’t been bothered by any of the more annoying bugs since they sat down. On the island the constant breeze from the sea kept the bugs away from them, but she had been expecting to be eaten alive out here close to the wetlands.
“Don’t know. Maybe we don’t taste good anymore. I think they are attracted to our breath, but why they don’t bite us, I couldn’t tell you.”
“Could you ‘see’ it?”
“No. Why would I be able to?”
“Well, the way you describe it, you have different paths to travel down. What would happen if you only went down the paths to answer that one particular question? Wouldn’t you end up with the answer in some distant future that you could know now?”
“Hmm. So I just choose to seek out and answer the question of why we aren’t bitten by mosquitos as much as I think we should be?”
“Yes. On a more practical note, we…well, you, could use this ask more important questions.”
“Seems like cheating. I think it would work. Alcohol interferes with it. I can’t concentrate as well and get distracted.” Gus raised his latest glass of coconut milk.
“These are pretty good.” Elina said. She had drank one glass for every two of Gus and the bottle of Kraken was down by two thirds. “So what did you see, you know, when you went out before dinner?”
“It was confusing. Something far off. If I live that long, things are going to be interesting.”
“Did you know how far off it was?”
“No. But there was a lot of fighting.”
“Was I there?”
Gus shook his head, but hesitated for a moment before continuing to shake it. “I…I don’t want to give you false hope, but I thought I might have seen you. I can’t be sure.”
“Well, you said it’s tough to see things that far out, so I might have been there or might not have.”
“Maybe.” He conceded.
“Don’t be so goddamned morose, Gus!”
“You know I can’t help it. I like you.”
“I know. I more than like you, Moley.” Elina said, blushing as she confessed.
Gus sighed, “I like you like I love my cousins or a sister.”
“You’ve never made a move on me before.”
“I was afraid of contaminating you.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Is it the lack of an excuse that bothers you? You don’t need one, you know. I’m not going to be hurt. Now you don’t have to worry about that.”
“Yeah, I already infected you.” Gus said bitterly.
“It’s not so bad. I feel stronger, better than I was before.”
“You didn’t die.” Gus admitted, “That is what I was really afraid of.”
“So what is the problem?”
“You could have.”
Elina laughed, a noise that was muffled by the humidity around them. “So, is it still going to rain?”
“Alright, let’s move inside and get settled before we get wet.”
They pulled the chairs into the kitchen, but stayed near the doorway so they could see outside. Gus refilled their cups once again and soon they were chatting in lower voices about how to get to Miami.
“Route one is the fastest.” Elina said.
“And the most likely to be patrolled.”
“You think anyone is that organized?”
“You heard what Ricardo said.”
“He has his own agenda. He could have been bluffing, trying to make his faction seem more powerful than it was.”
“Where is our faction?”
Gus laughed and toasted the remark, “Back at your island, I guess we represent them.”
“Pretty small potatoes compared to the Cubans and the zombies.”
“Let’s not forget the living people up there too. He mentioned them, so they must have some power.”
“Well, I just keep wondering where the Navy is. Our Navy I mean, Perry.” Elina said.
“Probably called away doing more important stuff. Or maybe the living people up there are Navy guys?”
Elina thought about that for a moment, “That’s possible. Where is their ship?”
Gus could only shrug in response.
“I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
“So, we do this the easy way then?” Gus asked.
“I don’t see why not, not if you are sure where we’ll end up anyway.”
“Okay, then we to go to sleep. We need to get moving early to make things as easy as they can get. I’ll keep moving us towards the path of least resistance.”
“Alright. Keep me up to date on what is going on though, okay, Moley? Don’t leave me out because you don’t like what is going to happen.”
“I wouldn’t do that. Good night, Elina.”
They bedded down side by side on the lounge chairs, within arm’s reach of each other as the rain started outside. Elina was asleep within minutes, but Gus stayed awake staring at her in flashing lightening for well over an hour before he rolled over and dozed off.
Elina woke before dawn to hear Gus talking outside. The sun wasn’t yet up, but there was enough light to see by, not that she needed it. Gus was talking to a dog. The mutt was standing over ‘Paul’s carcass giving out a low growl that sometimes turned into a whine as Gus spoke to it.
“That’s okay boy, c’mon, you can have a bit more.” Gus tossed a scrap of meat to the animal. “Get it boy, go on.”
The dog, a shaggy, lean fellow with matted fur, cautiously took the meat and backed away. Gus backed away slowly into the kitchen and rummaged around quietly for a bowl before he noticed that Elina was awake.
“I found us a friend.”
“Another mouth to feed.”
“Another set of eyes to watch over us.”
“I suppose you can keep him, but you have to take care of him.” Elina said, opting to play the part of a disgruntled mother.
“Yes, mom! Thanks!” Gus said, pitching his voice to that of a child and causing Elina to laugh.
“You’re really something, Moley. I didn’t think you were a dog person.”
“Me either, but look at the poor guy. I think I’ll name him ‘Paul’.”
“Creative. How about dee-oh-gee?”
Gus shook his head after he understood what she had said. “No, my dog, I have to take care of it, I get to name it.”
“Well naming it after our dead alligator isn’t a good start. It doesn’t say much for your ability to keep pets alive.”
“Elina, the alligator wasn’t a pet!”
“And the dog isn’t a meal, is it?”
“No! How could you say that about Paul!”
“Fine, name him what you want, I gotta go answer nature.”
“I’ll be making friends with Paul, see if you can find something to carry the meat in.”
Elina headed upstairs, the water was off, but they had filled the toilet tanks with water so they could flush them. Best of all they had found toilet paper, a sure indication that this house had been looted early after z-day and then ignored; toilet paper was a hot commodity now.
By the time Elina finished her constitutional Gus had the dog calmed down enough to brush its fur out and remove the matted sections, making it look almost like a family pet again. She shook her head, but couldn’t quite stop a smile from coming to her face. “Why haven’t we seen more pets?”
“Alligators, starvation, zombies. I suspect most of them died when their families did. Paul here, he was smart he got away and lived. I’ve always wanted a dog, but was never in a position to have one.”
“You think now is the appropriate time?”
“It’s like having a kid; if I wait for a ‘good time’ to have one, I never will. I’ll take what I can get.”
“Wait. You want a kid?”
Gus shook his head, “Someday, not right now.”
“Have you seen yourself with children?”
“No. But I think I do need to do a few things before I settle down. I’ll start looking after things stabilize.”
Elina laughed, “So…never then?”
Gus shrugged, “Maybe. Who knows? We gotta get moving. I see us catching a ride into Miami if we make it up to the highway.”
“Really? In a car?”
Again Gus shook his head, “A car? Do you think I would subject Paul to a car? No, a pickup.”
“Who is going to be driving a pickup to Miami now?”
“I’d hate to spoil the surprise.”
They gathered up their gator meat, both the uncooked and the dried out stuff and tucked it into a sports equipment bag Gus found in the garage. Elina also put together a package of items they found in the house that they should be able to barter away if they needed to. She packed more than she normally would have because if what Gus said was true, they wouldn’t have to tote it all the way into Miami. Twenty minutes later they were walking along route 1 heading north.
“When’s our ride get here?” Elina complained, the heavy load was causing her to sweat profusely.
“We can stop up here, by that old fruit stand.” Gus said, pointed to a shack by the side of the road that advertised oranges for ten cents each.
“Do you think they ever made enough money selling oranges for a dime a pop?”
“Not on oranges.” Gus said, looking around the shack. The side facing the highway was still propped open, allowing them to see inside. “But I bet the people who stopped also picked up a couple sodas or chips or alligator jerky too, so they probably made some money here. Good business sense.”
Paul was nosing about behind the shack and started barking at something in the murky water, Gus looked over and saw a shambling zombie, missing one arm and most of its clothing coming towards them.
“Shoot. Whens the last time we saw a slow zombie, Elina?”
“Its been months.” She replied, looking the pathetic woman figure over as it tried desperately to reach them.
“You want to do it?” Gus asked.
Elina reached into the large canvas bag she had been carrying and drew out an aluminum bat. “I suppose. You killed the ‘gator, so this one falls to me.”
Paul continued to bark as the sodden zombie lurched to drier ground, where Elina stepped up to it and swung her bat. The thing’s head clove in like a rotted melon, surprising her.
“I didn’t even hit it that hard. Do you think it was rotting?” Elina said this hopefully, if the zombies rotted the world would be safer.
“Don’t know, maybe it was just from being in the swamp so long. How do you feel?”
“Fine. Why are you asking?”
“Well, sometimes, well things get weird after the maxson infection; sometimes killing zombies has an effect on you.”
“How many infected do you know?”
“Not many.” Gus admitted.
“Does it affect you?”
Before Gus could answer the sound of a vehicle reached their ears. Paul turned towards this new threat and started barking again.
“Quiet, Paul!” Gus said, moving to the dog and trying to calm it down.
Elina stood facing the oncoming vehicle, a nice looking black pickup truck with tinted windows. She didn’t make any effort to hide from it, but did wipe the bat off on the tall grass beside the road before tucking it back into the heavy canvas laundry bag she had snagged from the house. The truck pulled up to the stand and stopped on the highway, less than a car length away. The passenger’s side window rolled down and Elina felt the cool air hit her skin, even from where she was standing.
“You.” She said, shaking her head, “C’mon, Gus, let’s get loaded up.”