John scoffs at the sight of the plump legs sticking straight in the air.
It’s the third time the man’s fallen, and each time he’s slower to pull his rotund carcass off the concrete. His son and wife struggle to pull him up, and John can hear the cannibal Cutters howling in the distance closing in.
He sets the tin can of water down next to the window and methodically works his way through the warehouse, passing a series of bolted, double boarded doors. As he reaches the only street opening left in the facility, John hears the father crying out again through the heavy door. His wife’s words of encouragement are transforming into anger and fear, and their communication has devolved into screaming obscenities.
John uses the entirety of his gaunt frame to raise the door, thrusting it into the heavens with a vicious grunt.
“Oh, thank God!” the husband cries out, and John waives the family over.
“In here. Let’s go!”
The trio sprint for the opening as the Cutters round the dilapidated corner where Frankie’s Pizza used to stand. The husband steals a glance behind him, and cries out at the grizzly sight of the approaching naked bodies covered in entrails. John notices the extensive amount of skin shavings tied around their arm, and recognizes them as the most experienced of the hunters. And the most dangerous.
“Get inside now!”
The husband falls again, but his wife and child don’t notice this time. He crawls forward, crying out for help again as his family reaches the safety of John’s hideout. John pushes the boy and his mother inside and stares coldly at the husband as he wrenches the door down.
“No! Don’t leave m-“
John turns to the wife and son, staring silently at them as the husband cries out. As the Cutters tear into him, the son bursts into tears.
“Open the door!” he screams through each gulped sob. “Hurry! They’re killing him!”
“Sssh, now,” the mother instructs, but her voice cracks in devastation. She wipes her eyes and pulls the son into her chest. The son glares hatefully at John as the mother strokes his hair.
“Let’s go inside,” John replies flatly. “You don’t need to hear this.”
He leads them into a small office and points to two chairs. The husband’s screams continue, and John shuts office door to drown out the cries for help. The son quietly whimpers, but his mother is steadfast, not allowing her face to show any further emotion. John sits down behind a crumbling wooden desk and rests his hands on the sagging surface.
“I don’t know how much my partner Severyn told you,” he begins sternly, “so I’ll go over the details now. My name is John, but you won’t need it past tonight. Tomorrow, we don’t talk. I talk, and you listen. Don’t tell me your names, because I don’t care. I won’t need them at any point. I am not your caretaker. I am your coyote. You pay me, and I get you where you need to go. You are simply two boxes for shipment. With Severyn’s confirmed receipt of your food payment we have now entered a contract, and I am a man of my word. Tomorrow I will lead you to Sanctuary.”
John points to an empty bed behind him. “You sleep there. I sleep out here. We leave at dawn. Any questions?”
The wife shakes her head sullenly, but the boy stares daggers at John.
“Why did you leave my daddy out there? You left him, and now the monsters got him.”
“Your dad was a liability,” John answers flatly. “He had a bad leg and a fat stomach. He would have slowed us down, and gotten us killed.”
The son sniffles quietly, and John leans closer. “And I don’t get killed, kid.”
Stephen Reynolds is a former Journalism student pursuing his love of fiction. His writing has appeared at What Culture, Saturday Night Reader, and Just 100 Words. Visit him on the web at stephenstories.com.
Image by Grégory Tonon