[If you’re new to Oasis, you should probably start with Chapter 1: The Last Shift. In other news, it looks like I’ve settled on how the header pictures for the chapters should work. Also, If you haven’t seen the Oasis page recently, you should go check out the doodle I did of Corbin with a baseball bat.]
Fuel To The Fire
It was plenty hot inside the warehouse by now. As a bonus, the morning’s arguments had dropped off into lazy napping and sitting around.
Carl was having another meeting with the family leaders.
As I approached the door, I could see them arguing through the big window.
I knocked on the door and stepped into the room. “You looking for me?”
They all turned their heads and stared at me. It was even hotter in the office than in the main room, and no one looked particularly pleased to be there. My arrival didn’t seem to make any of them any happier.
It felt like I was on trial.
Carl stood. “Don’t bother sitting, you won’t be long.”
I straightened and looked around at the various upset faces. “So, what can I do for you?”
Carl stared at me a moment before speaking. “Everybody under this roof has proven themselves both useful and faithful.”
My first urge was to roll my eyes. I fought it back, knowing it would only cause trouble. After all, I had definitely proven myself useful on the way back from the storage unit, and I could think of at least one major bit of unfaithfulness among them.
Carl folded his arms. “As a family council, we’ve decided to give you a chance to prove yourself.”
His statement threw me for a loop. Prove myself? Was this a not-so-subtle ploy of Carl’s design just to get rid of me? Or was this one of the others’ plan to secure me a place in the family once and for all? I had no idea what they all wanted me to say, so I just nodded.
Carl edged away from his chair. “We have almost everything we need to hold out in the warehouse for as long as this virus business takes. One of the few things we could stand to have a lot more of is propane. You know, fuel to keep the cooking fires burning.”
“So you want me to brave the…” I made quote fingers. “…elements and get some.”
The faces around the table just continued to stare at me.
Carl pointed to the youngest brother. “Max will go with you to our nearest station. You will haul the canisters, and he will provide protection.”
The idea of going back out on the street bit at me. It was dangerous enough out there, and I was fairly certain Carl and Max had something up their sleeves. I feared the worst. Everything in my gut told me not to go. Unfortunately, I knew the ugly truth of the situation.
I don’t have a choice, do I?
Within five minutes, I found myself pulling a large garden cart down the street following the youngest Cooper brother.
He was armed with a hunting rifle which he carried in his hands, and a handgun worn at the hip.
There was a peculiar spring to his step as we made our way down the deserted streets.
Something’s definitely up.
The replacement lookout on the roof had identified the safest exit from the warehouse and had given us the clearest path that he could see.
Knowing that we were on “probably the safest road” still wasn’t a great relief to me.
As we walked, I wondered exactly who’s side Max was really on. I figured maybe I could get him to tell me.
“So how far to the gas station?”
Maybe another prod.
“What’s the plan when we get there?”
Still no reply from Max.
“So you’re not going to talk to me at all, are you?”
Max chuckled to himself.
That sound made me feel even worse about the situation. Fine, I won’t play that game. I gave up asking questions and focused on my surroundings.
The silent buildings around us seemed to crawl with hidden activity.
Several times, out of the corner of my eye I was certain that I saw a survivor peeking out, or one of the dead rambling within.
I had the sickening feeling that at any moment a hundred deads would appear from shadowy doorways and trap us.
A metallic sound followed by a short scream echoed through the streets.
My stomach dropped.
Max stopped and raised his rifle. He jerked his head around, trying to figure out the source.
I couldn’t tell where it came from, either.
Just another reminder that the city is dying.
Max apparently became satisfied that whatever happened had happened far enough away to not concern him. He lowered the rifle and set off with a little more haste.
Two loud pops rang through the streets.
I couldn’t tell, they might have been gunshots.
I got more and more edgy.
The hot desert air felt pregnant with danger, but none showed itself.
In the ER, at least the problems had a way of getting in my face. I had to deal with the I.V., or help stop the bleeding. The problem was always right there in front of me, and I could at least try to do something about it.
I hated not knowing where the deads were. I hated not knowing where Max was leading me, and not knowing what he was planning to do.
I made a silent wish that something exciting would finally happen and break the tension.
We turned a corner and I saw our goal.
Up ahead and on the right side of the street a sign read “Four Brothers Convenience Store.”
It was a beautiful thing to behold. We were close. Just grab a few canisters and get back as fast as my legs will pull the load. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Perhaps a moment too soon.
On the left side of the street was a jewelry store. Its large display windows had been broken. Inside, something moved. Then, something made of glass shattered.
A ragged form appeared in the window and stumbled off the two foot drop from the display to the sidewalk.
I hastily repented of my wish for action. I looked over at Max.
He just stood there, mouth open and paralyzed.
The dead form got to its feet and walked straight for us. On its face was that unnerving blank stare.
I glanced again at Max. He hadn’t moved.
“Hey Max. Feel free to do something anytime now.”
He shook his head like he was coming out of a trance and raised his rifle.
The dead man kept walking.
I yanked on the handle of the empty garden cart and ran for the gas station.
Read on as the crisis in sunny Oasis get even hotter in “Chapter 27: Fire To The Fuel“