The sound of bending and breaking branches, escaped the edges of the woods. I listened in earnest while resuming my pace. I paused again at the sound of more breaking branches. When I moved the source of the sound moved. It was paralleling my path and this wasn’t the Visitors’ normal mode of operation. These creatures hunted better in the daylight with their vision being terrible under low light conditions. This meant something else was responsible for the sounds.
I strained to see deeper into the dense foliage. I could hear the sound of my own heartbeat drumming at a frantic pace. If there were eyes looking back at me, I couldn’t see them. I decided, now would be a good time to get off the road and scrounge for supplies among the left-behinds of any nearby farm. Looking over my shoulder, I monitored the rear to be certain nothing was following me.
A shadowy figure ran out of the woods ahead and directly across my path. I froze in place, totally gripped by fear. The creature stopped in the middle of the road and turned its head to look at me. I couldn’t see any eyes, but all cues indicated it was looking back at me. Whatever, the creature was, it was wasn’t a Visitor – too small. The thing held the shape of a person, of a woman to be exact. Her hair was long and fell in dreaded curls over her face, obscuring any expression. My curiosity was now slowly outweighing my fears. I called out to her. “Hey!” She continued to stand in place, unmoving, just staring at me.
I yelled, “Hey,” one more time as I began to walk toward her.
“Shhhhh!” She responded. Her head then cocked in curiosity. It appeared as though we were more curious of one another than fearful.
Once, I’d walked to within a couple feet of her, I swung my backpack around and fished around for the flashlight. Pulling on the crank a few times, I pointed the flashlight at her face. She flinched and raised her arms to shield her eyes from the harsh light. I pointed the flashlight at my face and smiled. Hoping to disarm her. I said, “My name is Mehki.” I patted my chest. “Mekhi.” Her arms began to lower. I pointed the flashlight back up toward her face. I could see her eyes, colored with a tint of grace and fatigue, just above her smile. She knocked the flashlight out of my hand and pointed at me. “Idiot, you.” She patted her chest. “Me, Sofia.” Her expression flattened. “Drop the first contact lingo. What are the chances you would have a travel abroad experience in the middle of America after an alien invasion.”
Her sarcasm registered, but I was too grateful to see another person. Lost in the moment, I became completely unaware of my surroundings. We were standing in the middle of the road, with the wooded area to the east. The Visitors hang out in the woods. How did she escape the Visitors? My mind filled with many questions to ask her when I noticed the change in emotion in her eyes. Fear was filling them as she reached out and grabbed my arm. Her pace started out brisk, but soon escalated into running.
We topped the hill and glimpsed the silhouette of a couple of farmhouses in the distance. As we approached the nearest one, I could see no lights showing from the inside and the front door lay open. Hopefully, we wouldn’t run into any surprises on the inside. And above all I hoped, no I prayed the last inhabitants left the toilet paper behind. No one in their right mind takes toilet paper when they are running for their lives and carrying space was a premium. As weird and as funny as the pursuit of toilet paper, even seemed to me, I understood it for what it was – a momentary return to what was that is no more – a return home.
After moving inside, she ran around to each window that faced eastward toward the woods, keeping a paranoid watch. Without any prompting, she began to talk in a low, more congenial voice. “My name is Sofia. I’ve been on my own for a long -”
“What were you doing in the woods? The Visitors lurk in the woods.” I interrupted.
She quickly turned and looked at me. “What? The Visitors aren’t in the woods.”
“Sure they are.” I replied, furrowing my brow.
She laughed. “I know for certain they aren’t.”
“Why are you watching the woods then?”
“I am watching the woods to see if the men I was running from are still following me. They were chasing me when I ran across you.”
After a while, she dropped her watch of the woods and we began to look through the farmhouse for food and supplies. During our inspection we noticed nothing out of the ordinary. We ran across your basics, a kitchen table, sofa, chairs, partially scavenged pantry, empty fridge, country pattern drapes, and appliances. The family room must’ve been prone to keeping a cold spot. A space heater sat in the corner between a recliner and a floor lamp.
Once we’d covered the upper levels of the house, we headed into the cellar. Rounding a corner, we came across a generator covered in dust, with a metal frame littered with chipped paint. A couple of containers of gasoline were sitting nearby. Sofia had the excellent idea to use the generator to power the space heater in the family room for a short while – just enough to warm the room for a few hours. “Spending a night in the warmth of heat would do wonders for the soul.” She said.
We wheeled the generator out of the corner, carefully keeping the connections in tact, so we could reach the containers. I wasn’t sure how electrically inclined she was, but I wasn’t entirely the handiest person, so I preferred to keep all of the cables connected. I’d learned to jimmy things because survival does that to you, but I had no desire to summon those skills for an on-demand performance.
After firing up the generator, we made our way back upstairs. We didn’t turn on a single light for fear we’d attract the attention of the Visitors. They had poor eyesight, but they weren’t blind. I hung back just a little in stride so I could visually catalog everything about Sofia. I surmised that she was about the same height as my wife. Their hair length and color were nearly identical.
Looking from the doorway at the layout of the room, the TV stand, sofa, and bookshelves were laid out haphazardly against the far wall of the family room, as if they had been moved from their original places on purpose. A light from a plugged in smart phone sparked our attention. The battery icon lit up showing five percent power available. I picked it up and surfed through the apps on the phone. I opened up the music app and hit play. All of the songs were in a single playlist. The low murmur of drum beats drifted out cool and clear. I recognized the salsa rhythm. I fell back onto the sofa marveling at the sound of music. It was a familiar friend I thought I’d lost, to never return again.
Sofia hopped to her feet and began to move her hips. Her curly hair tossed back and forth, framing the elated expression on her face. The faint glow of the smartphone fell upon her angles just so to remind me of my wife. She clapped her hands to the rhythm and smiled as the song faded into another one.
The guitar strings tripped along slowly into an Al Green song. I recognized it. The song was called “Simply Beautiful.” There weren’t many songs on the phone, but the owner had a lot of the good ones. Sofia motioned for me to join her.
♪♪ “Hey, baby! When you needed me I was right there, beside you girl…I ahhh, baby.” ♪♪
I stood up and slowly walked over to her, taking in everything beautiful about her. We’d first met only a few hours prior, but she felt so comfortable and familiar. Her smile. Her coffee eyes. Her scent was so familiar.
Her waist was small like my wife’s. It felt good to fold her into my body. I loved that about my wife’s frame. “I’ve missed you so much.” I whispered into her ear. She lay her head on my chest while we slowly danced while embracing one another. “I’m so sorry I neglected you – neglected us.” I said through my tears. She didn’t respond. Her head never moving. It didn’t matter. What was she gonna say?
♪♪ “Sometimes when you’re feeling low, all you got to do is call me. Yeah, simply beautiful.” ♪♪
We slowly moved in a circle around the family room of the abandoned farmhouse. I hadn’t felt whole in a long time. For the moment, I forgot about this world and it’s problems.
by malakhai jonezs
(c) Copyright 2016