Clown World…Book One, Chapter Two…unedited…

On the morning we left, we ran smack dab into Emily and B.D. They seemed as shocked as we were that other people were abandoning the state. B.D. was his usual self, and Emily, well, she was as gorgeous as a gal could be under such extreme conditions. She gave me a small smile.
“Look, babe. It’s those rednecks we saw that day at the set.”
“Hi,” Emily said. Her voice was subdued, her demeanor calm, almost too calm. Ted lifted his chin in her direction, I gave him a nod, so he’d know I noticed.
“Hello,” I said, hoping to skip any conversation with B.D.
“Where are you rednecks going?”
“We’re headed to Colorado,” Ted said testily. “What’s it to you?”
“So are we, bro. We can go together.”
“Why would we want to do that? I don’t even know your name douchebag.”
“My name is B.D. That’s Emily.”
“Can you fight?”
“I did my own stunts…”
I walked up to B.D. and shook my head. Ted had his fun with the actor, but it was high time we got underway. Emily cleared her throat and looked at the ground.
“Do you honestly think bandits and raiders, not to mention every hick town between here and Colorado, are gonna ask you to perform? This is reality, and if you don’t how to fight, you’re not gonna last.”
“That’s why we want to go with you, Jake.”
“I can’t do it, B.D. The rules in Clown World won’t let me help you.”
“Screw you, Jake.”
“Yeah, okay. Um, good luck to you guys.”
B.D. walked up and put a middle finger on my forehead, and kept it raised until he and Emily were a ways down the road. I picked up my backpack and weapon and started to walk, when a figure came into view. It was Emily.
“Hi. Um, could we get directions to Colorado?”
I suppressed my grin, and took out an extra atlas I had packed. Ted spread it out on the ground and circled where the supposed ‘safe haven’ was located. We traced the shortest path to the location in yellow. I handed it to her, and I got another weak smile from her. I motioned for her to turn around, and I unzipped her pink backpack and shoved the atlas inside.
“Cute backpack,” Ted said grinning. It had a diverse group of young women, all wearing crowns, representing the leading ‘kid-friendly’ corporation. The truth about the company was that they’d churned out drug addicts, alcoholics, and sexual deviants. Emily grinned and nodded her head. Then, she gave us a wave and headed back in the direction she came from.
“I swear dude, when she nodded her head I could hear her brains rattling around in there.”
“Shut up, Ted.”
“I’m just looking out for you, bro.”
“Come on. We best get started.”
I strapped my 9mm sidearm to my right hip, and we started off. After several miles we came upon a black Hummer, and the keys were still in it. Vehicles littered the interstate, abandoned buildings stood a silent vigil, and I was tired of walking. I shook the keys at Ted and said, “get in.” The roads were empty, minus the wreckage and dead bodies, and we made good time until the vehicle ran out of gas.
We got and continued our journey. A pink backpack, like the one Emily had worn, sat in the middle of the road, and it sat in a puddle of dark red blood. I walked toward it, and motioned for Ted to keep his eyes open. The backpack was unopened. After searching the immediate area around the backpack, I unzipped it. The last model of phone produced had cost over a thousand bucks. One fell out and hit the ground. Immediately, I grimaced. “OH, CRAP. NOT THE SCREEN.”
When I picked the phone up, the wallpaper popped on. It was B.D. and Emily, both were in their underwear.
“Aren’t they cute?”
“Un-huh,’ I muttered.
“I imagine you’re wanting to play Captain Save-A-Ho?”
“It’s the right thing to do, Ted.”
“Bro, listen to me. Those old-fashioned values you have, those aren’t going very far in this world. Look around you, bro. The strong rule the world now. Ain’t nothing changed but the fact that the elites are down here in the sewer with us.”
“So, what now? We just leave the sheep to be slaughtered?”
“They have it coming, bro. It’s overdue.”
We walked to the nearest car and took cover behind it. Both of us kept watch to see if someone had seen us, but nothing moved. Finally, I turned to my friend and said, “you remember that last raid we went on?”
“Don’t do that, bro.”
“No, you remember it, right? When intel got it wrong? We painted a building of innocents for a bunker buster bomb. How many people died that day?”
“It ain’t the same thing, and you know it.”
“Why? Because it’s only B.D. and Emily? Shouldn’t we try to help them?”
“Fine, Jake. You want to help them, we’ll help them. The blood trail leads over that hill. Just know, if we stop and help everybody, we’ll never make it to Colorado. Our supplies won’t last forever, and winter is coming.”
“Great,” I thought to myself. “I’ve angered my friend, and he’s not wrong. Winter is coming, and our supplies are limited. Still, I can’t just walk past someone in need.”
We followed the blood trail over the hill, keeping low to the ground, we saw a junkyard with piles of cars stacked one upon another. Laughter drifted into the air from the center of the camp.
“Come on, boy. You’re gonna show us a good time, ain’tcha?”
Ted and I slipped down the hill, and followed a worn trail to the right. I moved to a stack of cars and knelt beside them. After waiting for a moment, I motioned for Ted to move up. In the center of camp a group of men gathered around a naked B.D. Emily was tied to a pole close to our position. Ted motioned for me to move to Emily while he covered me.
I slipped into the shadows and eased around the stack of cars. The eyes of the men were upon B.D. Emily saw me from the corner of her eye, and she gasped. The men never noticed. I cut Emily free, and we rejoined Ted. The three of us moved up the hill and away from camp. Emily stopped, Ted and I turned to face her.
“We’re just going to leave B.D? Aren’t you even going to try to save him?”
“No,” Ted said. “He’s done for.”
I cut my eyes to Ted, and he closed his mouth. Emily turned to me and I shrugged.
“Ted and I can’t fight all those men ourselves, Emily. There were thirty men there, they have numbers on their side.”
“But you have weapons…”
“Yes, but even with surprise on our side, we would only end up captured. Look, I know it’s not easy, but that’s the truth of it. We can’t save everyone.”
“But to not even try, it’s wrong.”
“I’ve got a knife, if you want it darling.”
Emily glared at Ted, and he put the knife away. She stomped over to where he stood and said, “you’re a classless human being.”
Ted laughed and shrugged. I shook my head and started for high ground. The sun was going down, and we needed a place to rest. We could revisit this in the morning if they wanted. Ted and Emily fell in behind me. As we crested another hill, a wide-mouthed culvert with a lid partially covering it, was built into the side a small hill. It was partially hidden from view by shrubbery. I pointed at it.
“That’s where we’ll camp for the night.”
My company nodded and we all walked to it. Ted broke a chem light and tossed it into the culvert. Then, he followed it in.
“Clear,” he shouted. Emily followed him. I looked around before going in.
The road ran underneath us. A small stream ran below us as well. Satisfied we would be safe, I crawled in a few feet and leaned my head back against the cool concrete. My eyes grew heavy and soon I was asleep. I woke to Emily tapping me on the shoulder.
“Do you hear that?”
Moans came from further in the darkness. Emily gasped and scooted closer to me. “Lurkers,” she whispered to me.
“What? Lurkers?”
“Yeah, they’re mutated humans that the virus didn’t kill.”
I scoffed. “You’ve been in too many unoriginal science fiction movies. Lurkers nor any other ‘mutated’ species exist in real life.”
The moans continued throughout the night, but nothing came of it. At daylight, we crawled out of the culvert and stretched. Ted wandered off a piece to relieve himself. Emily came to me with a deep frown on her face.
“I am Hollywood royalty,” she exclaimed. “I do not sleep in culverts or…”
My hand covered her mouth as I dragged her down to her knees. On the road below us a search party scanned the area. It was the men from the camp. A red-bearded midget, well, the politically correct term is ‘little people’, stood in front of the rest of the men.
“Stay here, Emily. Stay quiet and wait for Ted.”
“Please don’t leave me, Jake.”
“I’m not. I’ll be right back.”
I sneaked down a piece and watched the men. The man in the back was the leader as far as I could tell. He stood about six feet tall, weighed in at about 185, wore a muscle tee, and had blonde hair and a sparse beard. From what I could see of him, he didn’t appear to be happy.
“She was our brood sow,” he yelled. “Someone took her from us, right out from under noses no less, and I want her back.”
Emily and Ted sneaked down to where I was hidden among the spruces. They knelt beside me as the conversation continued.
The red-bearded man laughed and agreed with the blonde.
“Her boyfriend didn’t even struggle. I like it when they fight back.”
Emily’s eyes grew large as she listened to the men talk about how B.D. suffered. She covered her mouth, her tears seemed to be genuine. We listened to them talk, and watched as they disappeared over a hill to the north. I motioned we should follow them, so we stayed above the road and back from the group.
“I don’t want to be their brood sow,” Emily said over and over.
Ted put his hand over her mouth, but I waved him off. He shrugged and walked away.
“Emily…Emily…hush. It’s okay.”
“Jake, they want me to bear their children.”
Ted walked back up to us and said, “yeah, that’s right. Just think it wouldn’t be any different from when you were breaking into Hollywood. Plus, being their brood sow would save you.”
Emily shuddered, and not for the first time I wanted to take her in my arms and protect her. I resisted the urge to do so.
“I don’t want that little person crawling all over me,” she said emphatically. Ted scoffed.
“I’m pretty certain they didn’t plan to use you as a jungle gym,” I said. “But I’m pretty certain what they had in mind was a type of gymnastics.”
“Or calisthenics…cardio maybe,” Ted added.
Emily paled under the heat of the noon day sun. I patted her hand and assured her that everything would be okay. She sobbed and kept repeating ‘poor B.D.’
“I can’t imagine life without him,” she sobbed. “He was the love of my life.”
“Was,” Ted said. “Unless you plan on ending up like him, I suggest we get a move on.”
I agreed and pulled out my atlas. We’d not made good time the past two days. There was a lake further on, and if we could find an abandoned cabin, we could get a good night’s sleep. Ted knelt beside me and nodded. According to the map legend, we were 6 miles away.
“Let’s get in the brush, and move out. We can bypass these guys if we go easy.”
The group had walked several miles before we got close to them again. The midget stood close to the blonde-haired leader, and I heard someone call him Alf. They were discussing going around the lake and circling back, which would put them on the same ground we currently held.
“They’re gone, boss. We should head back.”
“Is that right, Alf? That’s what you think we should do?”
“It was just a suggestion, boss man.”
“Fine. We’re close to the lake and cabins. Plus, town’s just on the other side. Don’t want no trouble, especially when we didn’t come prepared for it. Round up the men, and let’s head back to camp.”
Alf motioned with his right arm for the men to fall in, and they turned and walked back toward their camp. Emily let out a breath and sighed. Ted kept an eye on the group until they disappeared over the hill. He gave me a nod, and I led us toward the cabins.
“You heard that, didn’t you Jake?”
“What, Ted?”
“There’s a town on the other side of the lake and cabins.”
“Yeah,” I answered softly. “Did you hear the bit about trouble?”
“I did. Can we avoid it?”
“No. We’re going to have to go right through the middle of it.”
“Oh well,” Ted said. “Maybe we can get through it before they know we’re there.”
I hoped that was the case. So far, our journey had been eventful. We started out with Ted and I, and now had another member. Our number had grown, but she didn’t have any rations, bullets, or weaponry to add to it. I didn’t like it, and Ted had made sure I knew he wasn’t happy either.
We crawled into an abandoned cabin, and took turns pulling watch. Emily got the early morning shift, given that she wasn’t a fighter. I took first shift, while she and Ted searched the cabinets. We ate pork-and-beans from the can and washed it down with water. Then, both stretched out on the floor and fell straight asleep.
Between the light snores of Ted and Emily, I wondered how we would ever make it to Estes Park before winter. The more I chewed on it in my mind, the more stressed I became. So, I decided we’d get there the same way we’d gotten anywhere else prior to the end of the world.
“We will get there one step at a time,” I muttered. “One freaking step at a time.”

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