They all slept. Xander had no idea for how long, only that he awoke truly warm; he’d eaten fresh fruit; and was clothed for the first time in nearly two years. He was spooning Spike from the back and realized that the warmth at his back must be their little blue friend. The other vampire was the last in the set, but no less grateful for the comfort and heat.
The human lay awake simply enjoying the sounds. His ears were still ringing a little, but not so that he could not appreciate. A tractor started somewhere in the distance. The back fly screen of the house banged shut and sounds of country music on a radio drifted across the yard from inside.
His stomach rumbled a little, he remembered they still had a muffin and some water. He smiled. After what they had been fed for the last two years… he wasn’t really that hungry.
There were chickens somewhere nearby and the good folks obviously kept a turkey or two. Xander realized he had not heard the sound of a bird for the entire time of their captivity.
Two children skidded their bikes to a halt, obviously just arriving home from school. The door banged several more times and Xander began to cry silently as he heard the sounds of the two youngsters organizing to play catch.
He squeezed Spike a little closer, burying the sobs into his hair, trying to stay quiet, trying to stay hidden, trying to… survive. His arm throbbed, he shifted a little. The small blue figure behind him pulled in a little tighter. He fell asleep once more. They were still safe for now.
They all woke to the insistent sound of the ‘Blue suede shoes’ phone tone. The southern twang was unmistakable. They were somewhere in the south of the USA.
“Well Good Lord what did they all expect!”
“Well Cherise. I for one, am more than happy that those aberrations of life, are dead and gone! I cannot believe that our dear lord would countenance such filth! And that our government would do anythin’ but get rid of those insults to our lord!…
“Why In the name of our father! Of *course not* We were guaranteed… and there was never a mistake here at least!
“Well y’all know my feelin’s. Good riddance say I …
“Well of course(!!) I grieve for the families of the wonderful folks on that establishment!!!…..
“Were there many?.... Well that’s a relief…
“Pie? Why of course… What’re you makin?”
“How many on Sunday?…
“Were they believers?...
“Shame… Many children?
“Well thank God for that…
“Of Course not! Doesn’t make any of us a bad person! That murderous bastard… pleased he died with his truck.... demon filth!
“Yes of course see you tomorrow.”
They all heard the click as the phone went off. They all knew their current abode was in jeopardy... except that… at least two of them could not walk into the day and the third was blue.
“Gaahh” [thump… scrambling noises below them] “S@$%”
The dog barked.
“Mom will have you fer cussin’!”
The older voice now much closer, “You *baby*! Not if she don’t hear me she won’t!”
It was daytime, Xander knew as he woke. Perhaps a little bit human and in an old set of exercise gear, he might not ‘scare the locals’.
The noise was getting closer. He pushed his way out of their ‘igloo’, praying to every deity he knew that the precious friends inside would remain safe. Before the two entered the building, he kissed Spike then dropped to the ground floor, moving with less agility than he would have liked, and shifting to where the two young lads could see him.
He called on all his television watching of old, and tried for his best soft southern drawl in the desperate hope that he might not startle the youngsters.
“Hey y’awl…. Not meanin’ t’ startle you…”
“Hey Mister! Yer not s’posed ‘t be here.”
Xander attempted to step into the sight of the two boys, but they paled as his legs gave out with residual exhaustion, and he cried in pain when broken arm hit barn floor. He passed out with the simple audible word, “Don’t.”
A small soft hand was patting him. “You OK mister? ‘Cause my mom is not that great with folks from out of town… ‘specially thems what pass out.” And a cool wet towel pushed across Xander’s forehead. He knew the word, “Thanks” came from somewhere inside him. He assumed he had been recaptured, vaguely hoped Spike and their other friends had made it and passed out again.
Sometime shortly after, consciousness returned. He slowly registered the barn, which surprised him, but managed to whisper, “Food….. please???!!!”
The older of the two boys objected, “Pa said… no strangers”
“But *Jake* likes him, so he *can’t* be a ‘stranger’!!”
“Jake’s a dog”
“But he barks at Brother Bernard”
“Brother Bernard’s weird”
“You can’t say that!”
“I will and to father!”
“You can’t say *anything* to father… not about Brother Bernard or this!”
Xander looked on desperately as the two argued. The dog jumped suddenly, bumping his injured arm. He blanched and curled up further. A tear dropped. The boys ceased their quibbling.
“Hey mister, are you hurt?”
Xander’s had folded into a full fetal position on the floor his injured and splinted arm cradled safely against his waist. The question was direct, he looked up and gave the only answer possible. He nodded a little.
“Arm broken… maybe ribs too.”
A chirpy voice replied, “I had a broken arm once! Chad pushed me over..”
“I just tagged you and you fell!”
“B.S. You pushed!” [heavy sigh] “Anyways … it hurt and I had plaster… how come you don’t have plaster?”
Xander looked into the innocent face of the boy. He was placing his life in the hands of a child who could not be older than eight, and his brother who, by the looks of him, was a burly eleven or so. “I was hurt last night….” He closed his eyes again, “‘S OK.”
The youngest piped up again, “We should tell Mom! He smells somethin’ fierce, that's not right!”
“No tellin’ Mom! She’ll think we did it.”
“Will too… and she’ll take yer bike again!”
“Will too and you know it!”
The younger of the boys prodded the curled figure on the floor, “If we bring ya food ‘n all ya won’t go telling Ma will ya?”
Xander managed to shake his head. His arm throbbed; he desperately needed to pee; he stank; his throat was begging for a drink; and he was at the mercy of two small boys, knowing that three other friends were in even more dire circumstances if he failed.
“Well… can ya get up? ‘Cause if Pa finds you we’ll all get whupped”
Xander gradually and painfully uncurled… “Is it OK if I sleep in the hay?”
The younger of the two held his nose and answered, “Sure! But ya gotta promise t’ wash, ‘cause the straw is fer the animals!” His brother kicked him then added, “There’s water out back. And Pa always has a bottle of soap. Mom won’t let him in the house afore he washes his hands.”
Xander smiled a little, tried to give a thankful nod to the boys but was too slow. They had moved off.
He stood and did as instructed. He relieved himself in the bushes, drank deeply, then used the tank of icy cold water at the rear of the barn to wash. The sun was still up. He filled the wooden bucket, took off the putrid shirt and dunked it in the water. He washed the dust of the blast and filth of many months from his thin frame using the shirt, sadly noting that though incredibly thin, he was still the proud owner of female ‘parts’ and had no need to shave.
Without contaminating the water, he discarded the soiled water then carefully filled the bucket again. He soaped the smelly garments he had been wearing, wrung them out and hung them out of sight underneath the water tower.
As the cleaned and ‘watered’ Xander climbed the ladder to join his friends again, tears fell. He was grateful for the respite, but they really were so far from safe. Yet he was thankful, there had been a day before their obviously inevitable recapture, when he had walked freely and seen the sun. He took the time to be thankful to the gods. He knew that they had abandoned him, them, but was still grateful for the one day they had granted. The human cuddled into the embrace of his friend, the tightening of a reciprocal hug was so welcome…. He cried a little more, then oblivion took him.
They all woke to the quiet calls.
“Hey stinky man.”
“Shhh ya can’t say that!”
A scuffle was audibly apparent. Xander pulled himself from his sleeping position pulled the muffin from the bag and shoved it into a startled blue hand then shushed his fellow fugitives. He was risking himself to the two preteens once again, but now there was no other choice.
The tussle ceased instantly as he leaned over the loft’s edge and said, “I washed my clothes but they were still drying under the tank… do you think..?”
With the deer in headlights response of the boys, Xander’s heart fell, but then the youngsters moved, and he was briskly tossed two perfectly dry, sweet smelling garments. What staggered him the more was the size of the meal the boys had procured.
Along with the clothes came a sack of old school lunch, a full loaf of bread, a large serve of (albeit frozen) chowder, and a small bag of caramel popcorn, topped off with a carton of strawberry milk. There were no words. And strangely, two small boys felt they had done the right thing as the thin man said nothing but shed silent tears.
They had never seen a man cry before. They left him, confused but sure they had done something good and resolved to repeat the exercise.
Xander had eaten and drank and now lay quietly sharing his blood with his friend, just as Eddie (the blue demon’s name) shared his manually sliced wrist with Jonothan, the other blood dependant of their group. Xander mused… they had run for two days together before names were exchanged… he’d learned it was easier if they died without a name. He didn’t like losing the named ones… He hoped that would not happen again…
He pulled on the newly clean clothes and snuggled further into Spike’s reassuring grasp.
After The Fall: 5