Hey! Happy Sunday! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and you’re all ready for Halloween! I’ve got my candy and my scary movies lined up. We’re going to be having a few people over, getting into some trouble. What are you guys doing? Whatever it is, I hope it’s legal. :D Haha! Well, it’s Sunday. So, that means it’s time for another installment of Heart for Trade. This is going to be my weekly story for a while. I know some of you were asking me when it was going to be finished up. It’s not a quickish. It’s going to be a serial story that I do until I feel it’s finished. Don’t expect a finale for a long time. J
Now onto the goods….
HEART FOR TRADE WEEK 5
Ryan leaned against Jarum for support. His tears had slowed, but his heart still ached. Momentarily, he was distracted from his woes. The wind whipped through his hair as the buggy took the road quicker than he ever could dream of running. The tires underneath were smooth against the cracked pavement—one of the small remnants left from the past. Now the trees loomed overhead, large and sprawling where houses had been. Wildlife scattered away from the vehicle where families had lived their lives in pristine house he had only seen in books.
But none of that mattered to Ryan. He had never seen any of the old world. To him, this life was normal. He had nothing to miss except the family that had been by his side since his beginning. With Whispering Creek behind him, his family still in his heart, he now sought to understand his new path. The vehicle that lulled his body into relaxation, the strange materials Samuel and Benny were accustomed to, even the bluish beams of the headlights entranced him—all of it was foreign to him.
Jarum hugged him tighter, equally mesmerized and scared of where they were headed. Their eyes met briefly, speaking silently. At least they had each other they thought.
“Almost to the turnoff guys” Benny chirped from the front seat.
Samuel smiled, turning a little to peek at the boys. Ryan stared back. Heat crept over his cheeks. He turned away from Samuel’s intense eyes—darkened by the night. Clearing his throat, the leader shifted in his seat again. Had he done the right thing? Was this all a big mistake—taking these boys away from their family and hoping Ryan would even want him? Would they fear him from now on? Would Ryan ever look at him and think something other than disgust? Deep breath, he told himself. It’s all new to them. You can’t expect him to fall into your arms. Give it time.
Samuel settled into his seat and sighed. The turn was right up ahead. In a few minutes, the boys would probably run away screaming over things they head never known before, things that didn’t exist in their previous life—their antiquated village, rustic and despaired. Hands fidgeting with the bottom of his coat, Samuel took a deep breath as the buggy began to slow. Give them time, he repeated in his head.
“Why are we stopping?” Jarum sat up, gripping the back of Benny’s headrest. They were in the middle of nowhere. It was dark now. There was no road to turn onto. Jarum panicked. Was this a trick? Should they run?
Two men stepped out of the tree line to their left. Ryan gasped, tugging Jarum back to the corner of their bench seat. Thin limbs entangled around the safety of each other’s bodies.
“It’s okay guys. Just relax. They’re with us.” Benny offered them a smile. He waved a hand at the men and they nodded. “It’s just us for now. They’re bringing the trailer back later.”
One man stepped further into the moonlight, a piece of heavy machinery in his arms. Ryan’s eyes went wide. Was that a gun? He slinked further into the bars of the buggy, scared half to death.
Benny groaned. “Will you put that away, Rajim? You’re gonna freak them out.”
“Sorry,” the man muttered, swinging the rifle around to his back. “You know I don’t work night shift. Got a little carried away.”
“It’s fine, Raj. Would you please lift the gate?” Samuel looked into the backseat. He saw the terror in the boys’ eyes and turned coaxing eyes to Andrew, the other guard.
“Have a good night, Sir.” Andrew saluted stiffly. He was the real soldier out of the pair. His rigid stance melted as he turned back into the woods. “Rajim! Gate. Now.”
Rajijm cursed, lumbering after his superior. “God, I’m no good at this. Why did Stella have to be sick?”
“She’s not sick. She’s got womanly troubles. Deal with it, Raj,” Andrew cut back.
“Women, another thing I’m not good at.” Raj waved a hand at the buggy, disappearing into the dark.
A squeak of metal, a grinding sound and a loud ping made the boys jump. Where three trees had stood off to the side of the road, a bridge into the dark now left a hole into the woods.
Ryan shook his head. “What is this place?”
Benny chuckled. “Home, Ryan. Welcome home,” he murmured.
“That is not home. That looks like the road to death!” Jarum put himself in front of Ryan, who was shaking so badly he felt like he was going to throw up.
“This is only the road, Jarum. Please relax. We’re almost there.” Samuel couldn’t turn around this time. He knew that if he did, he would want to kill himself at what he saw. He could hear Ryan’s ragged breathing from behind. He didn’t need to see the eyes that went with that kind of terror. Reassuring them would only serve to glare Jarum’s protective streak.
“If we die, I’m going to come back to haunt you both. Just so you know,” Jarum growled.
“Just don’t bother me when I’m sleeping. I don’t like being woken up.” Benny grinned.
Jarum snarled. “Asshole.”
“It’s impossible to be an actual asshole. Just so you know.” The redhead chuckled, quickly dying off when he saw Samuel’s narrowed eyes. “Just kidding.”
When Jarum went to punch the seat, Ryan held him back, shaking his head with a finger to his lips. He didn’t want trouble. Jarum always got them in trouble.
“Fine.” Jarum didn’t move an inch, but kept his mouth shut.
The ride to home was strange. The boys knew they were being watched now. Moving so quickly through the trees and being close enough to touch them was spooky. It was as if at any second someone was going to snatch them right out of the vehicle. Ryan wheezed from anxiety when the buggy slammed to a stop minutes later.
“Benny!” Samuel gave him a look.
“What?” He laughed. “This is how I always stop.”
“No. You’re messing with them. It’s not funny right now.” Samuel hopped out of the vehicle. He immediately went in search of his smokes with shaking hands. Pulling one out, he lit it up and took a deep drag to calm his nerves. “Boys, this is our stop. You can get out now.”
“We are not getting out of this vehicle. This is not a home. There is no village here! We’re in the middle of the fucking woods with two strangers!” Jarum rose to his feet in the back seat. “Where are we? I demand to know!”
Benny laughed all the way to a large tree trunk. God, he loved this kid—so much damn spunk. He twisted one of the knobs in the bark—a small keypad and speaker hidden behind it. “Oh Avery,” he sang into the box. “It’s Benny. Be a doll and open up, please?”
“Why should I?” A voice returned. “I know it was you that ate my chocolate cake. The entire thing I might add.”
Jarum paled, scouring the dark for the source of the female voice. “Who’s there?” Ryan’s head flicked from side to side, his knuckles white as he gripped the seat for dear life. This was like living a nightmare. Yes. He folded in on himself. They were in a nightmare.
Benny tapped the box to annoy Avery on the other end. “What I have out here is better than chocolate cake, doll face.”
“You are such a pig, Gardent! You can wave that excuse for a dick somewhere else. Sleep outside for all I care. It will probably do you some good. If you aren’t eaten by a bear that is.”
Samuel narrowed his eyes at the box, at Benny too. “Open the door, Avery! It’s cold and our cargo has arrived!”
“Commander?” She asked quietly.
“That’s right,” he growled. “And I command you to open the damn door and don’t make me tell you again.” He took another hit of his cigarette in an attempt to avoid the pitiful looks on the boys’ faces.
“Yes, Sir,” Avery almost shouted through the intercom.
Benny made a kissing noise to the speaker. “Thanks, doll.”
“Fuck off, you redheaded degenerate,” she spat back. The com went quiet and the ground vibrated as the garage tunnel access began to open.
“Oh. My. God,” Jarum breathed.
An arc of small lights lifted into the air, attached to a leaf covered door—the very ground opening up for them. Light after light flickered on, down and down until the trail disappeared. A large tunnel appeared before their eyes. Ryan, fascinated and still scared, stood up next to Jarum. Their hands found each other, gripping on tight for what was to come.
Samuel got back into the vehicle, grinding his smoke against the sole of his boot before tossing it into a small can on the floorboard. “Welcome to Rineway, boys.”
“Your village is underground?” Ryan looked down, noticing how Samuel still wouldn’t look at him. “And you have lights, real lights down there?”
“I’ll answer all your questions once we get inside. I don’t like being out here in the dark any more than you do and it’s getting cold. You’ll get sick. Please, sit down.” Samuel finally turned. “Okay?”
Ryan and Jarum sank into their seat as one. “Okay,” they said together, in complete and utter shock or terror. They weren’t sure what to call the feeling.
A smug smile on his face, Benny slid into the driver’s seat. Samuel shot him a look. “Was that necessary?”
Benny snorted. “Come on, Sam. She’s been a beast to me for weeks. Plus, she teases too easy. I didn’t even eat her damn cake. It was Stella. I caught her in the mess hall with a mouthful of chocolate early this morning.”
Samuel tried to keep the smile from his face. “That does sound like Stella. But you shouldn’t mess with Avery. She has the ability to make your life hell and if she wanted to, she really would let you sleep out in the cold. With your luck, a bear would eat your ass.”
“Nah. I’d take that bear down and make a rug of it just for Avery.” Benny laughed. He put the buggy in gear, easing up to the entrance and taking the lip of the tunnel slowly. He hit the gas as the tunnel dipped down and back up.
Licking his lips with thoughts of chocolate cake that he’d never had, Ryan stared around the tunnel. Bright lights whipped by above them. Cold air caressed his face and steel gray concrete twisted and turned to accommodate the buggy. He turned to Jarum who was too busy staring up at the lights. It was all so extraordinary.
Benny took one last turn with a laugh, gunning it for fun. He screeched to a stop where a large door stood closed in front of them. Turning to another com box on the wall, he rolled his eyes.
“Come on, Avery. I was just messing around,” he whined playfully. “Open up for me.”
The box crackled. “If you weren’t with the commander, I’d lock you in there and let you feel the effects of isolation for a night, you immature little—”
“Avery!” Samuel barked.
“Sorry, Sir,” she grunted. The light beside the door lit up green. The thick metal parted down the middle, each side sliding into the wall to let them through. “Have a good night, Sir.”
“Thank you, Avery.” Samuel eyed the box.
The boys were glued to their seats, breathing heavily. A room the size of their entire village put together sat on the other side of the doors. The room, painted a crisp white, reflected off the bright lights above—effectively blinding them both. When their eyes adjusted, the buggy was parked in the middle of a dozen small vehicles. Some were painted in a camouflage design. Some were made for one person, off road big wheelers. They had never seen anything like this in all their lives.
Ryan and Jarum almost screamed when a man rolled out from under the vehicle next to them. Black smears covered his coveralls and some had managed to get on his chin and forehead. A large metal device in his hands, he chuckled.
Samuel blanched, turning around with his hands raised in comfort. “It’s okay. It’s only Colby. He’s a friend.” His head whipped around. “Colby, mind dropping the wrench?”
“Yeah. Sorry about that, Commander.” The older man grimaced. He put the wrench on the seat of the vehicle and extended his grease covered hand. “Didn’t mean to scare ya. I’m, Colby.”
Breathing again, Ryan sat forward, feeling like an idiot. He took the hand offered slowly, coming away from the shake with black in his palm. He tried to wipe it off on his pants but ended up staining them too.
“Ah shit. I’m so sorry about that. I wasn’t even thinking. I think I got a towel around here somewhere. Hold up.” The man ran a hand over his gray hair, streaking it with black from his fingers. Jarum sniggered quietly, finding Colby to be something of a comical mess in their strange situation.
“It’s fine, Colby. We’re going to show them to their rooms and get them cleaned up anyway.” Samuel stopped the flustered mechanic as he climbed out of the vehicle.
“Right. Of course. I’m real sorry about the mess. Sometimes I don’t think about anything but tinkering around in here. I’m not used to other people around here.” The black grease traveled over his trimmed beard as he fingered his chin in thought.
Ryan covered his mouth with his clean hand, hiding a laugh as Jarum turned away. Catching their quiet giggles, Benny smirked. “Hey, Colby. I think you got a little something around your eye there.”
“Oh. Yeah. This one? Feels a little itchy now that you say something.” The mechanic rubbed around his left eye, leaving black everywhere.
“Nope. The other one.” Benny tried to keep a straight face. Colby rubbed the other eye. “Yep. I think you got it.”
The boys burst out laughing, Samuel included. Colby looked like a walking raccoon. Ryan put his face in Jarum’s shoulder, attempting to muffle the giggles spilling out.
“Now what is so darn funny?” Colby cocked a brow.
“Nothing,” Samuel snipped. “Nothing at all.”
“Uh huh. Well, you better take that laughter on down to the mess hall.” Colby grinned.
“Mess hall?” Ryan was suddenly intrigued to see more of this place. The terror was still present, but it waned at the thought of exploring other treasures he’d never seen.
“It’s, uh.” Colby looked to Samuel, getting the picture. “Right. It’s where we eat.”
Ryan’s stomach rumbled in response. He licked his lips again. “Is it time to eat or something?” He asked quietly but wanted nothing more than to run to this food place and stuff his face.
“Well, new kid. It’s not just any time to eat. It just so happens to be taco night.”
Sam and Benny looked at each other with subdued excitement before turning back to the confused boys still in the vehicle.
Jarum cocked his head. “Sorry, but what’s a taco?”
“Yeah.” Ryan nodded. “And... what is this place?” He gestured at the walls filled with shiny tools and strange materials.
Colby smirked, raising his brow. “This is Rineway, boy—the last U.S. military base in the country.”
Jarum and Ryan looked at each other in shock. Samuel groaned, rubbing his eyes of stress. It was about time for a drink, a big one at that.
“What?” Colby looked between Benny and Samuel in confusion. “Did I say something wrong?”
Samuel stomped his foot, not ready for this conversation so quickly. “He meant the garage, Colby!”
“Oh. Right. Sorry about that, Commander.” Colby chuckled nervously at the boys. “I did say I wasn’t used to other people in here, right?”
Ryan flicked his eyes to Samuel. “Did he say military?”
To Be Continued….