Toast to the Dearly Departed

Posted: April 19, 2012 in History, Safe House Lore
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The world was divided into fewer sounds than it used to be: The sounds of gunfire, the sounds of the moaning dead and the screams of triumph and panic from the living. These were the sounds we had come to know that kept us company in the night and that we contributed to. Gone were the hum of constant traffic and often the buzz from a million electric devices that used to surround us, alive feeding on energy. Now in most communities their carcasses were harvested for parts to build weapons and shelters and they were skeletons of what they once used to represent, wealth, progress and prosperity. Coming to The Colony broke my heart anew. Briefly within the shelter of the fenced walls I was able to forget what the world had become. Death was far away, another world and instead it was a friendly town with laughter and children playing. People greeted one another and the grass was green not scorched from fire or soaked with blood. It was a perversion of all that was wholesome within The Colony that day I stood beside Pinkersnitch and heard the gunfire erupt within the Brewery.

About us others stood in horror and I saw the hope and happiness dim within the eyes of others about me. Faces paled and people wept. It was therefore frozen we all stood when mwpeterson broke out the front doors half dragging a woman bloodied at his side. He looked at the crowd and yelled, “What the hell is wrong with you, can’t you see I got an injured person?” None of us moved at first I am ashamed to admit. Our eyes were on the woman’s crumpled form, the thought shared by all: injury or infected? Even here compassion was tempered with fear. mwpeterson shook his head and snarled, “Pinker get the fuck over here, she had a beam land on her, she’s not one of the infected.” His words had an opposing force in some. The confirmation that there was an infection outbreak sent people scurrying, gathering up the children to head indoors. Pinkersnitch and I rushed forward to help mwpeterson with the injured woman, carrying her towards the clinic.

“mwpeterson, what the hell happened in there?” I could see the gleam in Pinkersnitch’s eyes, fear and anger balanced with the reporter’s need to know. I never completely understood the thirst for knowledge that drove some people but if that was the focus that was keeping her moving I couldn’t criticize it.

“Everything went to shit,” mwpeterson answered. “Someone fucked with my brew, that’s all I can guess at.” Pinkersnitch sucked in a breath and I exchanged glances with her.

We brought the woman in to the clinic and waited outside while mwpeterson was checked over to confirm he had no bites or cuts that could be infected. Mattyyy soon made an appearance and I was startled to realize that he had been one of the armored individuals who went into the brewery; the helmet that had covered his face was now under his arm. “Ms. Chyram, I believe we should revisit that earlier conversation.” His mannerism was stiff but I suspected that had more to do with the grim task of having to put down some of his own people than any negative emotion towards me.

“We should wait for mwpeterson. He’s being checked over and will be out shortly.” Pinkersnitch’s comment was directed to us but her eyes were looking towards the brewery. I felt my own gaze drawn to the front doors where body bags were being brought out and loaded onto a wooden cart. None of them were moving, at least not yet.

It was not long after that I was back seated in a room with the previous members of The Colony but without the Algiers Point representative. mwpeterson also had joined us and he was the first to speak, telling the tale of the taste test that had gone horribly wrong. It was suppose to be the start of a new tradition, the tasting of the previous year’s yield which had been fermented. mwpeterson had reserved that honor for those who had toiled in the fields and spent their waking hours harvesting the grapes. The barrel was opened and mwpeterson had begun pouring into glasses the golden liquid inside. The first person to receive a glass swirled the liquid and taken a whiff before halting mwpeterson. It was likely this unfortunate soul’s actions that had saved The Colony as a whole. He complained that the wine’s smell was off and took a small sip. A few others had now received glasses and they too took drinks. The transformation had taken less than two minutes, those that drank screamed in pain and panic before falling to the floor convulsing. Others rushed to help them and often were the first that were bitten in arms or legs. Panic ensured and mwpeterson had the presence of mind to hit the alarm to warn The Colony’s arm forces about the disaster. All told by the time the report came in ten people had been infected and had to be eliminated. Their bodies were being taken to a pit to be burned. There would be mourning within The Colony that night.

“But I don’t understand how this could have happen!” The harsh emotional pain in mwpeterson’s voice was obvious to those in the room. He was taking personal responsibility for the tainting as the brewery was both his idea and his project. It was meant to be something to bring joy to The Colony.

“Have you,” I hesitated, an outsider who spoke up in what felt very much like an intimate moment among comrades. “Have you brought any new people into the brewery who previously had worked the fields? Say the northern fields that had blight last fall?” It was a delicate topic to bring up as I was admitting to knowing events within The Colony that I had no right to be privilege to. I could see the suspicion on mwpeterson’s eyes and I didn’t fault him for it.

Mattyyy’s hand moved to mwpeteron’s shoulder to temper his response. “We have had a few, why do you ask?” I was relieved that Mattyyy was so on top of the movement of his people that I didn’t need to wait for the response from others.

“Is it possible that someone might be responsible for both the blight and the tainting of the brew?” My tone was hesitant again. I inwardly cursed at myself for not speaking with strong conviction rather than tempered meekness.

Mattyyy’s expression harden a bit again resisting the idea of what I was suggesting, that there was both a cult and they had a presence within his people. At first I was frustrated with his stubborn pride before a voice in my mind reminded me, these are his people who he cares for and takes pride in. The thought that one was betraying them, betraying him, would cut very deeply. frizzlefried spoke breaking the silence, “Shannon. Present both at the blight and transferred into the brewery less than a week ago. Around the same time you choose the cask that would be tested as I recall mwpeterson.” His youthful tones spoke with an innocence that his eyes did not share. I was seeing the lawyer carefully speaking to a jury and he was speaking in defense of me.

“Well why don’t we get this,” my words were interrupted by Mattyyy using some harshness for the first time.

“Ms. Chyram, remember you are a guest here with no authority.” I settled down on the most part, my eyes narrowing as I glared at Mattyyy in frustration. There was no way in which I could have prevented what occurred today. Not if I had arrived a day earlier and not if he had listen to me when I first arrived. We both knew that but our tempers and our nerves were frayed. Mattyyy stood up and left the room briefly. We could hear him speaking in the hallway with someone before returning. The room was quiet for several minutes, none certain they wished to break the tension until a woman was brought into the room flanked on either side by armed guards. “Shannon, we are beginning to interview the survivors of the incident earlier at the brewery.” Mattyyy’s voice had returned to the smooth tone of a diplomat, his expression gentle with the woman. I turned to look at this woman and felt some of my possible compassion for a tragic survivor melt away. It was in her eyes that you could see the crazy, this burning fury and hate. She was looking at me, straight at me. Was I the only one who could see it? How could I get them to know the truth about this woman?

“I’m sorry Mister Mattyyy but I can’t tell you very much. I was working sweeping out the back for mister mwpeterson.” Her smile was gentle a mockery of what I saw in her eyes. I looked back at The Colony and saw that none could see the unspeakable evil that stood before them. No not none; Pinkersnitch saw it. Our eyes met and she nodded her head very slightly at me.

Pinkersnitch gently spoke next, “Shannon, how are you managing? This has to have been very difficult so soon after what happened to your last safe house.”

Shannon’s eyes flickered from Mattyyy to Pinkersnitch and then back, “oh no madam, this is a safe place. Must have just been an accident. Maybe mister mwpeterson wasn’t as careful as he needed to be.” I saw mwpeterson visibly bristle at that and gently kicked him beneath the table. He scowled at me but didn’t speak.

Pinkersnitch nodded her head and thoughtfully answered, “was an accident at your last safe house too if I recall what I wrote when I was introducing you to the community, a poisoning?” Mattyyy’s eyes sharpen at that comment. Silently I cheered Pinkersnitch for her encyclopedia of information.

“Yes madam was dreadful.” It struck me then that Shannon was refusing to call Pinkersnitch by her name, as if somehow detaching her value by only using a title.

“Mattyyy you know you’re going to have to destroy all the food processed and scrub down the brewery. Nothing can be let out. In fact you’re probably going to have to shut down food distribution until you get to the bottom of this.” I kept my tone reasonable and watched as Mattyyy responded with a thoughtful nod.

“Oh no, mister Mattyyy that won’t be needed, I’m sure of it. In fact it was probably the work of some stranger.” Her eyes turned a poisonous glare towards me. Gotcha! I thought to myself. You want that food going out, don’t you witch? What have you done?

Mattyyy shook his head, “thank you Shannon but we can’t take any risks on the matter, and there are lives at stake.”

Shannon scowled at me before pointing her finger, “it was you, and I know it was you. I was there sweeping up and I saw you sneaking about. And you used this!” She slipped her hand into her pocket before bringing out a small glass vial. “You used this and a needle on the barrel. And I thought to myself that was a strange thing so when you threw them away I kept them. So the rest is safe. This is all her fault!”

Pinkersnitch gently spoke at that point, “Shannon, Chyram has been in my constant supervision since she stepped into The Colony only a few hours ago.” All eyes were on Shannon now, including the guard’s. Realizing she had been caught in her own lie by being so eager to place the blame on an outsider Shannon changed.

She sneered and stood up straighter, the old woman with the bad back faded away.  The guards on either side of her took hold of her arms at that point. “You all have no idea what is coming next. Death is coming; a new god and we will all be his servants or his sacrifice. His prophet speaks and those who are wise listen!”

Mattyyy’s expression turned to disgust, “take her to the cells. We’ll discuss what to do about her next.”

mwpeterson stood up, his eyes blazing with fury, “I’ll see to it she’s under full guard.” The four left the room and I turned again to face frizzlefried, Mattyyy and Pinkersnitch.

“Will you be executing her?” I was more curious at this point than vindictive, feeling emotionally drained.

“We will have to consider that as a possibility,” Mattyyy responded.

Pinkersnitch further explained, “The Colony has not faced such a threat from the inside before. This is unprecedented and unpleasant.” I nodded my head falling silent.

Once again it was the young among us that spoke with wisdom, “as I understand it you have been running from place to place looking for the source of this cult?” frizzlefried’s eyes hone on me. I nodded my head with hesitation knowing there was more. “That seems like a good strategy if you were rooting out a blemish, something limited. But this was not a chaotic attack. It took planning and organization to enter The Colony and attempt not just one but two attacks upon the food chain. We provide half of the safe houses in circulation with fresh food. We were targeted by an organized enemy. Perhaps what you should be trying to do rather than find the source’s location is ask yourself who would benefit if the living were gone?”

Pinkersnitch murmurs, “I’ve been hearing stories about talking zees, Rite Aid is their flag I believe.”

“No.” My tone was firm. “The Raiders are in the clear on this; I can speak on their behalf.”

“How can you be so sure?” Mattyyy’s tone was respectful but still authoritative.

I drew in a slow breath, “I’ve lived among them, travelled with them and they have treated me like family. Its true there is an infection among them but it is not this. None of them are following a cult. They are more like a band of gypsies and on the most part they just want to be left alone. They could have infected me or killed my safe house multiple times but instead they have helped us on a number of occasions. More than they let me know I’m sure. In fact none of the safe houses I’m aware of can be behind this attack.”

“Then who?” frizzlefried’s eyes turn to Mattyyy.

“If we can believe Ms. Chyram we don’t know.” Mattyyy’s hand came up to gently rub at his eyes. “The only advantage is now at least The Colony believes in the threat. They won’t catch us unaware again Chyram. And I will put word out among all my contacts and those we hold contracts with. As soon as we get information it will be sent to you.”

Pinkersnitch murmurs, “In person. Let’s keep this limited on the CVC.” The reporter could see the same concerns as I with the open communication on the CVC.

Mattyyy’s hand reached out towards me to shake, “let’s get your contract written up. It seems like we’re going into a rather morbid business together Ms. Chyram.”

I grasped his hand back to shake, “you slipped back there and dropped the Ms. I rather liked it, how about we stick with that.”

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