Cayo Elina 34
The base was as secure as the marines could make it and eventually Sidney sent back three of his marines to provide more local security for the technicians as they worked, freeing up Gus and Elina to range farther from the helicopters. Hector came with them as they checked on the Marines around the engineers and was good company, despite the heat and humidity of afternoon sun.
Alban estimated they would have what they needed with twelve to sixteen hours of work. The Cessna did a fly by after two hours to gather news and, though they had only been gone less than six hours the pilot disclosed that Miami was under a full scale attack.
The Marine commander did not receive orders to pull back, but to complete his current mission. Alban shared the news with Gus and Elina, when the commander shared it with them.
“Kinda tough being stuck here, while that is going on.” Elina said.
“They’ll be okay. The Cubans aren’t exactly going to come in guns blazing.” Gus replied.
Hector kept his mouth closed as they walked. He was clutching the rifle that Sidney had given him when he found out the young man’s gun had been destroyed. The rifle had come from one of the men who had been evacuated earlier and came with a full set of ammunition that was weighing him down.
Trudging along the roads between the buildings in the hot sun was a task none of the three really wanted, but they felt an obligation to try and keep their people safe, so they were on patrol for anomalies.
Elina, cocked her head and gave Gus a pointed look, “Did you see the attack coming back there while we were here?”
“That’s weird, I would have thought you would have.”
“I can look into the future of everything, Elina.” Gus said swatting irritably at a buzzing fly., “Take this fly, for instance. I could follow his future, if I could keep up with him and see what happened to him, through my eyes anyway. Just like I could follow Sidney, Hector or anyone here and now. Because I am here and because, if I chose, I could stick to anyone here like glue, which would let me see their possibilities, if I were along with them. But I can only see their future through my eyes, not theirs. I can’t tell what’s going on in Miami any more than I can tell you what’s happening in Key West; I’m not there. I can’t see a future where I elected to stay in Key West anymore.”
“But you can explore a future where you forced Sidney to send you back to Miami. If you did that, what do you see?” Elina pressed.
“I could, but I won’t; develop your own power of prophecy, I’m not taking requests. Every time I do it seems like I get lost on a tangent, distracted by things that aren’t relevant to what I am looking for.”
“So you lose focus and stay stuck?”
“Something like that, look, I think we get back to Miami okay. I’ve seen me there and Hector there and Ricardo. Don’t forget the fight at Max’s. So this probably turns out okay.” Gus said.
Hector did interrupt now, “So you saw me back there? So you knew I would be okay this morning when you sent me out?”
Gus shook his head rapidly, “No. Don’t even think that. I see plenty of futures where you DO get back to Miami, but I see plenty where you don’t too. This morning was a crap shoot, I gave you about a fifty-fifty chance on coming back. Don’t take for granted that because I saw you in an alternate time path that you live. I can’t say that about anyone.”
Hector looked unhappy with that news and his shoulders slumped even more in the heat.
“Hey, if it helps, I’m doing my best to keep everyone I like alive. I can’t save everyone. At least I haven’t figured a way to do that yet.”
Hector offered up a faint smile, but shook his head at the same time, “No, that doesn’t really help.”
A new voice joined the conversation, “Hey ladies!”
They looked up to the top of one of the buildings and saw Ricardo grinning down at them.
“What are ya’ll doing out here?”
“Don’t use ‘ya’ll’ Ricardo, you don’t know how to use it right.” Elina told him.
“What do you mean?”
“Well we say it, ‘What’re ya’ll doing out here?’, not what you said.”
“I said the same thing!” Ricardo protested.
All three of the people on the ground shared a look and Hector muttered, “Yankee”, which caused them to laugh.
“Hey! I heard that! I’m from New Mexico!” Ricardo yelled down.
“Which was on the Union side in the war.” Gus said with a note of finality.
“No it wasn’t….Wait, I know you’re pulling my leg about this New Mexico wasn’t even a state until…1911! The civil war ended in the 1800’s!”
Elina, still shaking her head yelled back up, “But your people were sympathizers; that makes you a Yankee. Which means you shouldn’t try and talk like we do.”
Ricardo shrugged his shoulders and put both hands on his hips, “Whatever. So what are you doing out here?”
“Just looking around. Anything going on?” Elina asked.
“No, it’s all quiet on the western front. You get that reference, Rebels?”
“Sure, geez Ricardo the war is over, we were integrated by the time that book was written.” Elina said.
Ricardo looked like he wanted to fire something back, but he held his tongue.
“So, you sense any zeds nearby?” Gus called up.
“Yeah, yeah.” Ricardo nodded and raised one arm to point in a northwestern direction, “There’s a lot of ‘em over there. They’re moving slow, so it’s mostly shamblers with a few herders keeping them moving this way.”
“Are they going to get here soon?” Elina asked with some alarm.
“A few days probably. I can’t sense them yet. I had a little pow-wow with one of the free zombies around here. He’s pretty sure they are up at the crater, but that they’ll be heading this way soon. He said they came from further north and he kinds doubts this trip to the crater is a pilgrimage.”
“What’s the crater?” Hector asked.
“You want to answer that, Elina?” Ricardo asked.
She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
A look of surprise flashed across Ricardo’s face, “No shit? I know something you don’t? What about you, Gus?”
Gus shook his head, “I might have an idea, but I thought it was just a…a fairy tale, maybe that’s the right description.”
Ricardo stood taller for a moment, then called down, “I’m coming down, everything is all clear for the moment.” He leaped down beside the others and continued his conversation.
Elina realized that he had been speaking into a radio mounted on his shoulder before he jumped.
“So, Gus, what do you think the crater might be?”
“Well, I ran into some guys a few weeks after this whole thing started, they said they had detonated a bomb somewhere along the east coast of Florida, near the north end, if I remember right. I thought they were exaggerating when they talking about the damage.”
“What did they say it did?” Ricardo asked.
“They told me they made a new harbor, about half a klick across. And about that deep, one guy said he saw it for a minute, before it filled with water, I didn’t believe him though. I mean anything that made a hole that deep would have killed anyone close enough to look into the hole before the sea rushed in.”
Ricardo raised an index finger and shook it from side to side in front of them, “Not all fairy tales are lies, children. Sit.” He gestured to various barrels and debris that they could sit around them. Gus shrugged his shoulders and hopped up onto a barrel to prepare for story time.
Elina, started to protest, but she too, just took a seat. Hector sat down in the humid shade on a large tire that was missing the truck it belonged to.
“Okay, everyone comfortable? First I have to say, I got this information second hand over a year and a half ago. It got me curious and sort of led to me working with Phil.” Hector had a puzzled look on his face so Ricardo added, “The leader of the zombie faction coming down on Miami right now. Anyway, I didn’t’ have anything tying me down, so I thought I would go check it out and see exactly what it was. I’ll spare you the details of the trip, it didn’t really get interesting until I ran into Phil and his crew and that was when I was heading west from the coast.”
Hector took out an olive green canteen and took a long swig from it, getting a look from Ricardo. “Whatcha drinking?”
“Dog soup? Ugh! I thought you’d be tossing back tequila or something.”
“Would it matter?” Gus asked.
“No.” Ricardo shook his head, “Liquor doesn’t do anything for me, smoking either and forget about injecting things! Nope, this new unlife seems to have removed all such mortal temptations from my grasp. There are those, zombies I mean, those who claim that eating a drunk or high person gives the consumer a bit of a buzz.” Again he shook his head, “But I say their full of shit. I’ve had a piece of a drunk before, it didn’t do anything at all.”
“No highs? That’s rough, but you’ll pardon me if I don’t feel too badly for you.” Elina said.
“I didn’t say it removed all temptations or pleasure for that matter. Eating life, now that is something…imagine, well imagine the best drunk with your best friends around you during the best time of your life. Then imagine the best orgasm you ever had. There has to be one.”
Gus looked down slightly, “They’re all pretty good, in general.”
Violently shaking his head Ricardo said, “Liar! You never pity-fucked someone?” He paused and looked intently at Gus and Hector, Gus eventually let his eyes drift away from Ricardo’s gaze, “There! See! I knew it Gus! You’ve done it. So have I, I don’t include Elina in this, because hell, a woman’s orgasm is like the Miami unicorn herd; you know there’s lots of ‘em, but proving they exist is impossible.”
“Hey! They exist!” protested Elina.
“I just said I know they did, honey. But proving it…that’s a horse of another feather.”
“Nice.” Gus said smiling, Elina cast him a dark look, but said nothing and Hector hide his expression by taking another swig from his canteen.
“I set up a ten point scale a long time ago myself, makes it easier to keep things in perspective. Pity sex is a 1 or a 2. Run of the mill sex will get you a 5 or 6, let’s use that as the base point and call it ‘married sex’. I’d say a generic session of flying solo will vary anywhere between 3 and 7; nothing comes close to the real thing after all, but plenty of things come in below the grade versus your fantasies. Now think on some of your hottest experiences. I’m talking the 9s or 10s here.” Ricardo looked pointedly at Hector, “I know, Junior, you might not have any experience to draw on, bear with me. So think of your best sex ever. Got it in mind? Now go back and think of the best high you ever had, you know, with all your friends alongside you. Got those locked in?”
The others nodded, playing along. Elina, with a frown said, “What does this have to do with the crater?”
“We’re on a tangent, roll with it. So you have the best high and the best sex, think about those for a moment.” Ricardo leaned back and let them do just that.
“Okay, I got it. Make your point and move on to what we sat down to listen to.” Elina said impatiently.
Giving the men a look Ricardo said, “And they say men are impatient? Jeez. This isn’t irrelevant; it ties in with the crater. Combine those two great things and that, my friends, is as close as I can make you get to how I feel when I rip into a living person and start feeding.”
The three others sat looking at Ricardo, shifting uncomfortably. Elina cleared her throat, “So why aren’t you eating now?”
“At first you have no control; you just go after everyone you can. Eventually you come back to yourself a bit and can rein yourself in. Much like junkies have good and bad days. When I see you, I see big ole walking bags of orgasmic high just waiting to be tapped. Keep that in mind when you’re dealing with other super zombies, they might not have my willpower. I will say this though, the longer I go without, the easier it is to go without and I don’t seem to fade.”
“So you’ve reached your peak?” Elina asked, more interested now.
“I don’t think so, there are zombies out here more powerful than I am. I think if I moved up a bit, by continuing to hunt, that I could grow stronger too. I also think there is another way, but I’m still working on it.”
“What way?” Gus asked.
“I’m working on it, not ready to share yet. But back to the crater. I went up there and poked around a bit, looking for where it was. I’m not a coastal boy, you know that, mid America that’s me! I’ll stay well away from typhoons, tidal waves, most of the earthquakes and other bad stuff that comes from the sea and take a nice dry heat any day of the week. Even a landlubber like me can see when a building is cut in half though and when streets are missing, just cut off with no bridges or anything. It wasn’t hard to find the crater and it was a good four hundred meters across, no joke. I couldn’t. toss a rock across it then and I’m sure I couldn’t now, even though I’m a bit stronger since I joined up with Phil.”
“Why not?” Hector asked.
“The crater is getting larger.”
Gus laughed, “Next you’ll tell us the bomb is still going off?”
“There is a glow, it just hangs there. It’s faint, but real visible at night. You can go see it yourself if you want, you don’t have to believe me. It’s like a will-o-wisp hanging close to the water about two hundred meters in.”
“Really?” Gus asked.
“On my mother’s grave.”
“What is it?”
“Bomb residue maybe something radioactive left from when it exploded?” Elina put forward.
Ricardo shook his head, “Nah, well, I don’t think so anyway, I think anything physical would have been blown away by the wind or carried away by the water by now. This is something else. I wanted to take a boat out to it, but I couldn’t find one. I suppose anything floatable has already been stolen or sank by now. I met up with a few of the zombies near the edge and they told me some stories though.”
“Like you’re telling us?” Elina joked.
“Yes. I can’t say what they said was true, but told me that sometimes, well people, zombies mostly, will go out there, either swimming or floating on something and, well, they said not me, they said sometimes they don’t come back.”
“Bullshit!” Elina laughed.
“Could be, I didn’t see that myself, so I don’t know if it’s true or not. What’s really hard to believe though is the other thing they told me.”
“Alright, I’ll bite, what?” Elina asked.
“They said sometimes other things come out of it. They call it the rift, and they think it’s the door between earth and heaven.”