Thad felt the rock-hard cock in his mouth spasm, and Jonah filled his mouth with warm release. He sucked gently on the sensitive, softening little member, making Jonah squeal contentedly.
Jonah walked for about an hour, but he walked slow. Everything hurt, and eventually the pain got too bad to function. The moon made everything look silvery and ghostly, and the insects had been bad, biting his arms and hairline and neck. He was glad that he had worn jeans instead of shorts.
They hadn’t seen a single crazy since they had taken over the farmhouse, but Jonah was terrified of meeting one in the dark. He wanted to climb a tree, where he would be relatively safe. The problem was that he had a fucked up sense of balance and a battered body, so climbing a tree would be nearly impossible.
He found his shelter that night under a massive spruce tree. It had huge lower branches that sagged all the way to the ground, making a rough umbrella of dead branches near the very trunk of the tree. It provided shelter, camouflage, and even a soft pile of accumulated dead needles to sleep on.
Jonah was exhausted and hurt and scared. Fear made him irrational. Part of him kept expecting a furious Mark to burst through the foliage after him. Another part of him expected a crazy. It was hard to say which one he was more afraid of. He guzzled water from his canteen and made a little hollow in the dead needles. He spread the blanket there and wrapped it around him while he curled into a little fetal ball.
He was exhausted, and he slept deep.
When Jonah woke up there was an aching throb from his left ear. He was still deaf, and still off balance. It was very quiet out here, very peaceful.
Jonah found the stream, the same one from around the farm and he got ready for his first day on his own. It was eerie, and his left side felt strangely numb and heavy. He kept turning swiftly to his left, trying to compensate for his lack of hearing by scoping his left side as often as possible. He felt naked, exposed.
He washed himself quickly in the stream, leaving his clothes neatly folded on top of the backpack, and using his shirt to dry off. The cold water revived him, and felt good on his sore body. He had forgotten to pack any toiletries, so he scrubbed his teeth with his shirtsleeves to get rid of the scum and gargled with his clean water. He would have to boil more water soon, he couldn’t trust the stream water… But boil it in what?
He felt so stupid. He felt sick with his stupidity. The half-gallon would only last him so long, and a quarter of it was gone already. Then he remembered the cans, it would take longer, but he could boil some water in the cans if he emptied them out.
Suddenly he was outrageously hungry. He dug in the bag for the biggest can, a 20 oz can of beans. It was one of the only cans with an opening tab, and he was grateful. He peeled back the top and ate about a third of the beans ravenously before forcing himself to stop. His bruised throat ached like he was trying to swallow sand.
He held the can in his hand as he moved a little closer to the road and continued down it, nervously looking over his left shoulder every few seconds.
He never encountered anyone from the group. He had guessed that he wouldn’t, but he still felt better with every mile, every step that he put between himself and Mark. The only vehicle they had was the RV, which had horrible gas milage. They wouldn’t be able to guess which way he had gone, and he had only taken eight cans of food. He had purposely not taken any of the guns or ammo, which would be a reason for them to hunt him. He was one less mouth to feed, so hopefully they wouldn’t chase after him.
He hoped that they would find Mark out, realize Mark’s part in driving him to running away. Maybe there were bloodstains on the rug. Jess knew that Mark had been getting blowjobs, but he hadn’t known how badly Mark was using Jonah, scaring him.
Jonah missed them. With the exception of Mark, he badly missed them all. He would have given the world to hear Bert cuss at him, or to see Harold’s sneer. Given the world to be safe in the farmhouse with a supply of guns and two of them always keeping watch.
His nose clogged up and his eyes ran and he had to give a choked cough to stop himself from crying. The going was slow. He had such a hard time balancing. He clung to tree branches as he passed them, just to get his bearings.
When the sun was overhead, he allowed himself to scarf another third of the beans. He had eight days of food, and scant food at that. He needed to find some houses. Maybe enough of the crazies were dead so that he could find some more supplies. Or maybe the looters were way ahead of him. How many had survived?
Sweat dampened the back of his shirt and rolled down his sides and chest in trickles. It was a hot day, and he was losing water fast. He tried to drink sparingly, but the half-gallon was still going fast. He estimated that he had walked a bit more then twenty miles, and was feeling tired and lightheaded.
He sat down on the road, wiping his brow and taking a long swig of warm plastic-tasting water. He caved and ate more of the beans. He walked further, swabbing the inside of the can for the sweet sticky residue.
That night he found another evergreen tree, though not nearly as nice and protective as the old one. He made his fire a good fifty yards away from it. He dug a pit in some soft sandy soil with a flat rock and his hands. He made a hot little fire, and filled his can from the stream, which fortunately followed the road.
It took all night to boil four cans full of water. In the end, he gave up with the half-gallon still about four inches from the top.
He put the warm half-gallon by his nest under the tree and shoved dirt and sand into the fire pit. He heard a noise. He froze, his eyes wide, and a whimper in the back of his throat. The noise was a hungry moaning sound.
Jonah ran. He sprinted. He could feel his scabs breaking and feel blood leaking down his thigh and he was so dizzy that he nearly fell, but he ran. When he got under his tree he scrambled up the low brittle branches like a drunk monkey.
The tree was spinning, the world was spinning. Branches scratched his face and arms and ripped his clothes. He fled up the tree, clinging to the branches so hard that his hands got cut by the twig stubs and needles. The cuts stung from the sticky resin leaking from the branches. The moaning was delirious and shrieking and furious. Jonah could hear crackling at the base of the tree.
So close. It was so close. Jonah scaled the tree, fighting through the thick growths of thin delicate branches. Slipping and sobbing and closing his eyes because he was so fucking dizzy. He vomited a thin soup of half-digested beans over his left shoulder, trying not to get any of it on himself.
Higher and higher, until the moaning and breaking wasn’t as loud. Jonah sat down on a branch about as thick as his calf, and clung to a branch in front of him. His legs swung in midair, and both of the branches creaked softly. He kept his eyes closed tightly, sobbing and panting and tasting sour vomit in his mouth. A trickle of blood was seeping down his leg. His hands were smeared with blood and resin and bark flakes and needles. His face was scratched and cobwebby and smeared with resin. His clothes were sticky. Everything hurt.
Jonah opened his eyes and clung harder to the branch in his hand. He was a good forty feet off the ground. He could see clear sky outside of his branches, and the setting sun like a blood-red ball on the horizon. He looked down, and dimly, through the layers of thin needled branches, he could see a crazy snarling and trying to climb. The crazy was too heavy, too clumsy. The branches kept snapping. The rage in those small piggish eyes… The sheer rage…
Jonah clung to the trunk of the tree and started to cry weakly with shock and fear and relief. Now he was stuck up here. The crazy couldn’t get him, but he couldn’t get his food or water. He would have to wait until the crazy died, and that could take days. The crazy at the bottom of the tree looked very healthy. Maybe he had succumbed to the disease recently.
It fell about six feet and got up, unharmed to try again. Jonah carefully climbed up about ten more feet. After that the branches got too narrow even for him. He straddled two branches that grew next to each other and leaned his back against the tree trunk. He rested one arm on a natural arm rest and the other clung to a branch above his head.
It was going to be a long sleepless night.
Jonah had belted his belt around his waist and the thin section of trunk. It barely fit, and cut into his stomach, but he felt safer. He was very glad that he could do it, because without it he would have fallen.
The night was cold and dewy and windy. It was nearly the end of April, but in Minnesota you never knew what kind of weather you were going to get. It was barely forty degrees, with a high wind. He shivered all night, his arms crossed inside his t-shirt. He would have killed for his sweatshirt, killed for that warm fleece-lined jacket the crazy was wearing. Tears beaded in his eyes. He had handled this kind of cold before, but to just be sitting still… To be unshielded against the wind and weak and exhausted and uncomfortable and barely eight degrees above freezing was unbearable.
The crazy at the base of the tree continued it’s mindless snarling attempt to climb the tree. It had broken several of the branches at the base of the tree, it was so heavy and clumsy. It only climbed more then ten feet once, and it had promptly fallen down.
Jonah slept in feverish little bouts. Never more then a few minutes. By the time the first light peeked over the horizon he was pale and sick with deep hollows under his eyes. The crazy had a thick sheepskin coat on, it hadn’t suffered from the cold. Jonah could not say the same.
Jonah’s immune system was compromised. With a mixture of the chronic stress from Mark and the crazies, and the frozen sleepless night, his immune system was hardly working at full efficiency. He coughed weakly, and though his entire body was frozen, his forehead was like the side of an oven.
Jonah could see dew glittering like diamonds between the green fans of needles. He reached out from his perch, plucking bunches of needles and lapping the dew from them.
He managed to drink about a mouthful of water from the dew. It wet his dry dusty mouth. He rested his aching head against the dry resiny trunk, closing his eyes for just a moment.
The day was so long. The crazy never stopped attacking. It wheezed for air and snarled and tried to climb. the ground was a litter of broken branches, the crazy’s hands were a torn and bloody mess. It was so hot and so dry. First it had been cold and miserable, and now it was hot and dry. Jonah just wanted to cry out in frustration. He wanted to curl up on a warm bed and sleep for days.
Jonah’s mouth felt chalky and his tongue felt too big in his mouth. His throat felt tight and hot and sore. His lips were cracked, and his thirst was like a slow painful itch in his mouth. Whenever he closed his eyes, he could imagine drinks. He could see orange juice in a tall sweating glass, the smell was sweet, and almost metallic.
He imagined coffee, rich and black and steaming. He thought about milk, ice-cold. He could almost taste it when he thought about sweet ice tea, almost see the lemon wedge floating in it, hear the ice clinking softly.
He drifted all that day, trying not to cry, because he knew it would waste water. The sun moved through the trees in a high arc. The crazy lost it’s voice, but still gasped and gurgled at the base of the tree, trying to climb with hands that looked like slabs of raw hamburger.
The sun started to set, and Jonah closed his swollen eyelids… Just a nap… Just a little one. He was so tired.
A gunshot jerked Jonah from his uneasy sleep. The crazy let out a furious howling cry. Not of pain, the crazies didn’t feel pain. Just rage. Jonah looked down and saw the crazy running away from the base of the tree, but nothing else. He was too high up. Another gunshot, another cry, but this one gurgling and clogged.
A third gunshot, and then silence. Jonah felt a deep surge of fear and relief. The feelings mingled strangely. The sun was halfway set, and he could feel the cold setting in.
“H-Hello?” He whispered. He couldn’t bring his voice above that, his throat was too badly bruised, his mouth too dry. He let out a weak hoarse cry. “Hellooo?”
The voice that came from below was huge and booming and healthy. The voice was smooth and deep and male. Every muscle in Jonah’s body with limp with relief and fear.
“Hey… I can hear you, can you get down okay? I wont be able to climb up and get you. Get down as quick as you can! There are fewer of them, but if there are any nearby, they heard my gun.”
Jonah carefully undid his belt, and backed down the tree. He was dizzy and weak, his grip was pathetic. At one point he fell nearly ten feet before a tangle of branches stopped his fall. By the time he reached a point about eight feet off the ground, all of his energy was spent.
He could see the man who had saved him. A tall black man who’s muscles strained his white shirt under his leather jacket. The leather jacket was worn and used-looking. His face was hard and concerned. He had high cheekbones and a high forehead. His shoulders were very broad. He held a light grey pistol in his hand.
Jonah’s limbs were shaking. “I c-can’t. I can’t go any m-m-more.” His voice was shaking and tears were leaking down his pale sunken face.
“Just drop kid, I’ll catch you.” The man stood under him, his arms outspread. His face was scared, his eyes darted around the woods. “Come on kid, I have a place we can hide in, just a little ways away. Not even a mile, come on kid. Trust me.”
Jonah clung to the branch even tighter. He tried to let go, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t drop, couldn’t trust this man. This man would drop him, hurt him, rape him, kill him, maim him. This man was a crazy in disguise. This man was Mark, and he had followed Jonah to this spot. Jonah’s thoughts were nightmarish and confused. He clung to the branch and closed his eyes, sobbing weakly, without a voice.
Jonah let out a weak sob, and let his muscles go limp, his grip go slack. His skinny body fell through the clawing branches and he landed in those strong arms. The man grunted softly and set him on the ground. Jonah weakly tried to rise, but he felt so dizzy. He was shaking so badly. The man slung Jonah’s discarded pack over his shoulder, and picked him up again.
“Don’t worry kid.” The man panted. He was running through the woods, Jonah lolling in his arms. “Don’t worry, almost there, we’re almost there.”
Jonah weakly clung to the man’s neck and put his feverish face against the man’s chest. He trembled and closed his eyes to the comforting wild smell of him.
Thaddeus Weaver carefully replaced the camouflage over the tiny two-person airstream trailer and the dull red pickup truck. He had taken it after he found it abandoned on the road. It had been a good home. He had driven it into the woods with the last half-gallon of gasoline.
The camouflage was a heavy brown tarp covered with branches and dirt. The trailer was in a bit of a natural depression, so when the camouflage was on, he could barely see it. He had smeared the parts of the trailer not covered by the tarp with handfuls of mud. He had a very frail sick boy in the trailer.
Thad looked around for the monsters before slipping inside the trailer. He had lit the space with a single flickering candle. All of the windows were covered with towels and pillowcases. It was very dark, but the candle was all he had. The boy was huddled, fully clothed under his own comforter on the one narrow bed.
Thad brought the candle over, to see his face. The boy’s face was thin and pale, with deep dark hollows around the closed eyes. The skin was smooth and ghostlike and iridescent with droplets of sweat. His soft matted hair spilled over that pale forehead. The lips were badly cracked and swollen.
The boy was showing obvious signs of sleep deprivation and of course, being knocked around by the tree. Dehydration had also taken it’s toll. The previous night had been cold, and he was just wearing a thin t-shirt, how long had he been in that tree? It couldn’t have been more then a few days, because he wasn’t starving. He still had a slight softness to him. He actually very slender, but after the recent events, Thad had become all too familiar with what the sharp angles and swollen joints of real starvation looked like.
Thad had seen the bands of looters in the cities. Had this boy been one of them? Fleeing a gang war with a bag of stolen food? The boy was beautiful.
Thad could feel stirrings of desire for the boy in his trailer. The boy was very small and young and vulnerable and pretty. Thad had always loved smaller men, slightly feminine men, and he had a weakness for twinks. The boy owed Thad his life, and that was a pretty intoxicating feeling of power. Thad shook his head, he couldn’t abuse that power, couldn’t stoop to that level of inhumanity.
The boy moaned and stirred softly. That pale brow was furrowed with worry and fear. Thad reached out and shook the boy awake. Those pale eyes opened wide, and looked at him with a mixture of gratitude and fear.
“Wh-Where are w-we?”
After meeting his eyes briefly, the boy looked down, not meeting his gaze. The little waif he had taken in was terrified of him.
“First thing’s first. My name is Thaddeus, and you can call me Thad. What is your name?”
“J-J-J-J” The word got stuck. The boy shut his mouth, those thin cheeks reddening with shame. “J-Jonah.”
“Alright. We’re in my trailer. It’s camouflaged, so don’t worry. I found that monster and it had treed something. It was you, so I shot it. I don’t have much food left, is it okay if I cook up some of yours?”
He nodded wordlessly, reluctant to speak. He stuttered badly, and Thad wondered if he had stuttered before the world had gone to hell. “You thirsty?” Another nod.
Thad filled up a cup from one of the jugs of boiled water. It tasted nasty and flat, but he didn’t trust the river so close to the town. He also treated it with iodine. Jonah sat up and greedily slurped at the water, a little of it slopping down his chin, making desperate little noises as he drank. He finished the cup, and looked scared to ask for another. The boy was a shivering frightened bundle of nerves. Thad suddenly pictured a tiny trembling white rabbit, cowering in the shadow of a predator.
Thad filled the cup again and handed it to the boy. Thad had to wonder. If he had been alone and treed he would have been grateful if someone saved him. What had happened to make Jonah so terrified of him?
“Th-Thank y-y-you.” He whispered. He was daring to look at Thad again, and some of that frozen terror was leaving that worn pretty face. The boy was relaxing, ever so slightly. Thad smiled at him, and the boy smiled back tentatively.
“Try to relax Jonah. I’m glad I met you, I’m glad to have someone to talk to. The last human being I talked to was about a month ago.” Thad stood up and set the candle down on the counter.