Sometimes, she played a game after a hard-won scavenge, challenged herself to find the most frivolous use of her time.
Tonight, it was five-token whiskey, a plush chair in what was once a luxury hotel’s lobby and a half-doze under a barely powered ceiling fan.
Only tonight’s game was interrupted, by a rough voice growling, “Boss wants a meeting,” and the voice owner—a large, ugly man, wearing an M-shaped burn on his cheek—dragging her, blinking, bewildered, through the dusty, dank labyrinth of hotel halls.
And the only coherent thought in her mind was: I don’t have a boss.
Continued from my last 100 Word Challenge response: “The Scavenger.”
“O.K?” Gerald grunted.
“Scrounger attack,” she said, fingering the goose-egg on her temple, “collapsed a roof on me, stole my pack.”
He winced, cast a furtive look at the empty spaces on his shelves. And she, shaking her head slightly, opened the pouches on her belt, said “Wasn’t what I went out for, but…” and slapped several plastic bottles onto the counter with a flourish. “Antibiotics.”
“You do come through.”
“Can’t come back empty-handed. And I won’t,” she insisted. “Now, howsabout my tokens?”
Gerald, grinning, retrieved the lock-box, counted a shining array of plastic and metal coin into her palm.
First, she was aware of the bitter mélange of blood and dust on her tongue. Then the weight of broken sheetrock on top of her.
When she dug her way out from under the collapsed ceiling, she realized her pack was missing.
“God damn it.” There went a week’s worth of scavenging. The depot store, well hidden by half an overpass and a copse of trees, had been a gold mine. She doubted anyone had set foot inside it since the world went to hell.
That doubt led her to break her only real rule: Be paranoid. (You’ll live longer.)