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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 52: Beam 174
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 233
There was no breakfast the next morning. Sophia had locked the door to her bedroom and had the food cart with her, and what beef remained had spoiled such that Beam did not trust it. Of course, Sophia could have cleansed it, but she wasn’t speaking to him.
He had gone hungry longer before, and knew that Bron was up to it. He quickly got everyone working on the project for the day, emptying the bodies from the basement.
Ashleigh’s job was to grapple one of them, at which point Beam and Bron hauled it up and out, using the shovel to help support the weight, and dropping it in the emptied weapons cart. Three seemed to be the maximum load, volume-wise, at which point Dawn led the cart outside into the back yard, and Bob helped stack the bodies. Beam didn’t bother to count the trips, and didn’t bother trying to break for lunch as he knew it was unlikely that there would be any. He thought about having Bob catch another cow, but given the hard work they were all doing he was not eager to butcher the animal.
By the time they had finished and were satisfied, with Bob’s help, that there were no more bodies or stray body parts in the basement, it was late afternoon. Beam was trying to decide the next step; Bron and Ashleigh collapsed in chairs in the living room.
A few minutes later Sophie entered.
“Good morning,” Beam said, trying to sound at least a bit upbeat. “The job is done; all the monsters have been removed from the basement. Any chance we can get some food?”
An obviously groggy Sophia sort of nodded and stumbled off toward the kitchen. A moment later there was a shout.
Raising his voice just sufficiently to be heard in the kitchen, Beam responded, “What’s what, dear?”
“In the back yard!”
“Oh. Those would be the bodies of the monsters.” He walked toward the kitchen, something in his mind wishing he had actually seen her reaction.
“In the back yard?!?!”
“Well, where did you expect them to go? We don’t have trash service, you know.”
“I--I don’t know. I didn’t expect--this! I thought somehow you’d, you know, get rid of them.”
“In case you forgot, we only have one magician in the party, and she wasn’t interested in helping with this project. So we did what we could, Ashleigh fishing them out, Bron and I loading them into the cart, and Dawn and Bob stacking them outside. So I managed to fulfill your--” he wanted to say demand, and changed it to condition, and then settled on “--request. The invitation stands for you to join your husband and his other wife in the larger bed tonight.”
The look on her face was somewhere between anger and defeat. She turned and headed for the stairs.
“Food?” Beam called after her.
“I’ll get something,” she said, half defeated and half angry. He strolled back to the living room.
“She’ll get something,” he said unnecessarily, and waited.
She returned a few pouches pulled from the food cart. She handed two to Bron first, who opened them and said, “It looks like dried beef with potatoes, and cider. Thank you, Soph.”
The second pair of pouches went to Ashleigh, who examined them and said, “What is this?”
“Powdered eggs and orange juice,” was the reply, and Beam realized that Sophie was mistreating Ashleigh in the apportionment of food. Maybe he would give her his.
Or maybe not. Sophie handed him two packets. One was apparently dried spinach. He did not much care for spinach in any form, although well buttered was acceptable. This, though, was something he would have to choke down. Then the beverage was powdered milk. That meant he was going to have to reconstitute these in the kitchen, and without the use of the cookware. Well, it was better than nothing, and he was certain she wanted him to complain, so he wouldn’t.
As he was returning with his reconstituted milk and slightly moistened spinach still in their packets, he paused when he heard Sophia saying something.
“I’m confused,” she said. “You apparently helped get the bodies out of the basement, so that I would have lost my objection to sharing the bed with you. I would think you would object to that as much as I do. Why did you do it?”
It was Ashleigh who replied. “Oh, I would be quite happy if you never joined us; but in my world, husbands often have several wives, and often sleep with them in bunches. I am required to make him happy, and if he wants to have you in bed with us, I will do what I can to make him happy.”
You tell her, Beam thought.
“That’s ridiculous,” Sophia said.
Well, he shouldn’t have expected something different. He walked back to the kitchen quietly and finished his paltry supper, knowing that it would be better not to ask for more.
He realized that the heat of the day was going to make the house hot, and it had no fans and they dare not leave downstairs windows open. It also occurred to him that the heat would probably raise a stink from the carrion they had dragged outside. Of course, it was carrion, right? It should attract scavenger carnivores. He stood by the large kitchen window, and as he watched a vulture swooped down, landed next to the pile of rotting meat, apparently sniffed at it, and flew away. It seemed that although it smelled enough like meat to attract scavengers, there was something about it that they wouldn’t eat. That might be a problem. Maybe he should have Sophia burn them all--that would at least get rid of what remained of the flesh and reduce the smell. Not today, though.
He continued looking over the world behind him, wondering whether there was anywhere they could go or anything they could do besides sit in this house and wait to be overwhelmed by zombies. He saw the cattle in the distance, and once again wondered why they weren’t prey for whatever parasite this was. He wondered what animals might be--pigs? monkeys? chimps? dolphins?
There wasn’t any evidence; he could only speculate.
As the world outside began to darken, he decided there was no reason to wait for night. On his way to the stairs he called out, “I’m going to bed.”
He had barely straightened the covers when Ashleigh came dancing in. That was expected. He stripped down in the fading light and climbed under the covers, and she did likewise.
There was abruptly a knock on the door. Making sure Ashleigh was covered adequately for modesty, he called, “Come,” and the door opened to reveal Sophia, complete with her bedding.
“O.K.,” she said, “you won. Can I join you?”
With a big grin, Beam said, “Ashleigh, let’s see to it that Sophia enjoys her first night with us.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eleven other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #484: Characters Maneuver. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: