Author's Note: Daria and all of its characters are property of MTV/Viacom. This is fanfiction and no money was exchanged for this story. It is non-profit and written for fun.
For those who do not know, the character of Scarlett is commonly known as the Ankh Girl, who started at Lawndale High School the same day that Daria did. For more information on her, check out the story Scarlett by The Angst Guy or the entry on her in DariaWiki.
This is a story that takes place in the same universe as Apocalyptic Daria, but told from the point of view of Scarlett Hawkins, who happened to be home in Lawndale when the world fell apart.
Part One: Rescue...and Escape
The end of the world began at 11:03 a.m. on a cool, crisp sunny Saturday morning in April...
She woke up when her alarm went off at 9:30. Almost instantly, she sat up, shut off the alarm and stretched loudly. Her normally shoulder-length and straight red hair was awry on her head and she blinked repeatedly as sleep left her. She yawned and glanced at the blank spot on top of her dresser. "Just a dream," she muttered. "A really neat dream." She smiled as she thought of the talking white mouse named Roger.
Her name was Scarlett Hawkins and she was a seventeen-year-old junior at Lawndale High School, located in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. The truth be told, she preferred her old home outside of Warren, Indiana, but minor children usually have little say in where a family lives.
Dressed in her normal (for the early part of Spring, that is) dark flannel pajamas and white socks, she got up, stretched again and put on her ankh necklace. She then plodded downstairs to find a simple handwritten note on the breakfast table:
Your father and I will be in Philadelphia
for the day. Do the whites and towels and
WASH THE DISHES!!!
We'll be back around seven.
No visitors, young lady!
Scarlett smiled as she read the note. She knew exactly where they were right then: Stuck on I-95 just outside of Philadelphia International Airport, where her dad was doing a slow steam over the amount of traffic he had to deal with. Her mother was doing her best to keep his temper from boiling over.
How she knew that was something Scarlett never told people about - not even her best friend Kristy Barton. Her dad knew, but that was because her dad was also something of a sensitive...just nowhere near her league. But ever since she went through puberty, she could "sense" things about people - things they never even told others about.
For instance, she somehow knew that the next door neighbor - 48-year-old John Fleming - had seen her naked once, and that he had liked what he had seen. She didn't know how he had seen her that way. She just knew that it had happened. The man himself was extremely polite and regularly hired her to do yard work. He never mentioned it to her or anyone else. In fact, he never even said or did anything out of the way to her. He didn't even stare at her.
All the same, it still totally creeped her out. But then, her dad had warned her that the biggest problem with being a sensitive was that it "limited friends." When you can see what jerks most people were under the veneer they presented to others, it puts you off, to say the least.
At the same time, it was a very effective weapon in dealing with crooked salesmen.
"I guess I'd better wash the dishes," she finally said to herself. "I've put it off for two days now."
She filled the kitchen sink with hot water and some dishwashing detergent, then put in every used piece of dirty silverware she could find, followed by the drinking glasses and coffee cups. As she did this, she ate two pieces of toast smeared in apricot preserves, accompanied by a tall glass of chocolate milk; in her opinion, that was the breakfast worthy of a queen. Or at least a spoiled princess.
After she ate her food, she moved to the utility room and started on the laundry. As the washing machine filled up, she turned on the radio to hear "Rock & Roll" Randy play the top 20 songs of the previous week. "Hmmm," she said as she heard his voice. "I didn't know you were on Saturdays, too."
The teenager danced, her arms raised up, as the sounds of a rock song filled the utility room.
Scarlett set a stack of dirty plates into the dishwater gently, allowing the still soapy water to cover them up. As they soaked, she waited until the washing machine finished its final spin cycle. Then she quietly loaded the dryer and turned it on. "I think I'll wait until after I take a shower to do the towels," she said to herself and walked to the bathroom.
Her hair moist, but not soaked (she had washed it the night before), Scarlett walked back into the kitchen and started to wash the dinner plates. She now wore a loose black pullover shirt and black jeans. Usually when she washed dishes, she replayed conversations in her mind...or played ones that she wished would happen. Like if that cute senior would look her way and ask her out. Or if Kristy would introduce her to a previously unknown cousin who just happened to be a hot actor from The O.C. or Smallville.
That thought made her laugh.
The washing machine had just started its rinse cycle and Scarlett set the next stack of plates in the sink, then rinsed the suds off of her hands. As she dried her hands off, she dropped the towel on the floor. "Crap!" she muttered and saw the digital clock change to 11:03.
She bent down and grabbed the towel.
Suddenly a white light enveloped everything and vanished almost as fast as it appeared. She stood back up and asked herself, "What the hell was that?"
She looked out the window and searched for the source of the light. Did Mr. Fleming just take a picture of me? she wondered and shook her head as she put her right hand at the top of her T-shirt. For a second, she thought that the light was unusually warm, but dismissed it.
It dawned on her that the radio was only putting out static then and she idly wondered what had happened to "Rock & Roll" Randy.
When she walked into the utility room, however, Scarlett realized that the washing machine had stopped as well. "Oh, come on, now!"
She stopped and stood still, suddenly aware that something had just happened. A chill swept through her and she shook.
Dad...Mom...I need you.
Scarlett walked to the living room, sat on the couch and grabbed the remote control. She pressed the power button, but nothing happened. She pressed the button several more times and stared dumbly at the darkened television screen.
Then she heard the thunder and noise. At first it sounded like the thunder she heard back in Indiana during bad storms, but when the house shook and she was tossed off the couch, she realized that it wasn't thunder. It took her several seconds to realize that what she mostly heard was her own screams. She stopped screaming, but the thundering sound got louder.
Then the bay window to the left of the TV cracked and she screamed again.
"Omigod!" She got to her feet and looked out the cracked window and saw nothing. Then she ran to the kitchen and looked out the window over the sink. The noise continued to grow.
The entire sky to the southwest was black, as if the earth itself was rising up into the air. "Oh, God! Oh, God!" It's a bomb! Washington just got nuked!
Scarlett stared out the window in shock and finally ran to the living room. She grabbed the cellular phone, opened it and tried to turn it on.
Tears ran from the redhead's eyes as she whimpered, "Dad? Mom?"
She sat on her father's blue recliner, drew her knees to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs. Slowly she rocked the chair and cried.
As the minutes wore on, Scarlett became more aware of other unusual noises. Multiple car alarms and horns could be heard, screams, yells and curses seemed to come from all around the neighborhood, and emergency vehicle sirens blared from several different locations at once. On top of that, Lawndale's air raid siren warbled into life. It was an old relic from the Cold War, but it apparently still worked, it's lonely wail a redundant, yet terrifying, signal of danger. All these noises joined the continuous roar and ground shocks from the Washington explosion to add to the chaos.
Dad...Mom...please come back. I'm all alone here. I need you. Please.
The girl shook uncontrollably as she covered her ears and closed her eyes in an effort to shut all the noise out.
It didn't work.
She finally gave up, stood and walked back towards the kitchen. She saw that a painting her mother had bought the previous fall had fallen. It hung just outside the guest bedroom and depicted the late actor Red Skelton wearing clown makeup. She picked up the painting and propped it against the wall.
Then she looked at the dining room table, swallowed hard, and walked into the kitchen. She sniffled as she looked out the window over the sink towards the southwest. The entire sky in that direction was now black, but the rolling darkness was laced by fingers of orange, yellow, purple and blood red. It was also occasionally streaked by white bursts of lightning.
It's as if the gates of Hell itself has opened up, she thought and grimaced.
Then a second flash enveloped everything in near-total whiteness; Scarlett felt a single, terrified and brief scream in her mind. She brought her hands up to her head and screamed herself. Then she dropped to her knees, bent over and let out a single loud wail.
"DAD!" She screamed again. "DAD! MOM! NO! No! No!" Then she fell onto her right side on the linoleum and bawled loudly.
After a minute of crying, the redhead teen sat up and got to her feet. She stood unsteadily and her face was tear-streaked. She walked to the front room and looked out the cracked bay window once again. The northeast sky was decorated by a black and red mushroom cloud; the top grew slowly, yet steadily.
Scarlett stumbled back to the blue recliner and fell back into it. What do I do now? Dad, I need you more than ever now. What do I do?
Then, she heard noises outside and rushed to the side of the bay window. Carefully, she peeked through the side of the thick blue curtain. Two older teen boys stopped in front of the house.
"What about here?" one of them asked. "Their van's gone."
"No," the other said. "The Lindner's has that new Mercedes. We'll see if we can get that and whatever good stuff they have in the house."
The teen paled, shook, and shrank back slightly. The second one to speak was only interested in what he could steal. She could read that much clearly on him. The first one, however, was angry. The anger itself seemed to boil over into a barely suppressed rage. He wanted revenge, but from what she could sense, it was against almost anyone he could get his hands on.
She recognized them both from Lawndale High. They were seniors when she had first transferred to LHS as a sophomore. One had been permanently expelled by Ms. Li not too long after that and the other had barely graduated. Both were troublemakers and were constantly involved in brushes with the local police.
"That snotty little redhead named Scarlett lives here," the first boy, who she knew only as Tim, said. "I'd like to beat that snottiness right out of her. Stuck-up little bitch thought she was too good for guys like me."
I've never talked to you before, she thought, or about you. I don't even know you and you don't know me. What have I done to you? Why do you hate me so?
"Forget her, Tim," the second boy said. "That Griffin chick down the street is a lot snottier - and hotter - than that redhead. If we got time, we'll see about getting her. Or even her mother. They're both hot. Besides, we need to get the hell out of Lawndale before that shit from Washington gets here."
They walked off then and Scarlett relaxed. She looked across the street and saw a small dog run around in circles briefly, apparently blind. Oh, no, it must have looked at the flash when it happened.
She thought about what the one boy said about leaving Lawndale, and tried to decide what she needed to do. For several seconds, she shook as she thought, then ran to the radio near the washing machine. The sounds of static still came from it and she adjusted the tuner quickly up and down the dial. She couldn't find any FM stations, and tried several more times.
"Slow down, Scarlett," she told herself in a shaky voice and moved the tuner slower this time. "Be calm." In spite of this, she felt her heart pound in her chest and sobbed as she thought once again about her parents.
As she searched, she found no FM stations she could pick up and switched to the AM band. She slowly moved the tuner to as high as it would go, then back down. When she reached somewhere near 600 on the dial, a faint voice came in.
"...a nuclear attack at this time. Take appropriate cover in a bomb shelter or fallout shelter in your community. Listen to this station for continuing updates as we get th---"
The power died then and Scarlett looked at the radio for several seconds before she set it on top of the washing machine.
Then the second shock wave hit and she screamed as the window on the utility room's back door shattered. She also lost her balance and fell on her butt. The radio fell off the washing machine and she rolled to her left; the radio broke in three pieces as it hit the tiled floor.
Something upstairs fell with a loud crash; she jumped and cried out from the noise.
As the shock subsided, she got back to her feet and moved slowly back into the kitchen. The water in the wash sink still moved slightly. She walked back into the living room, grabbed a folded up comforter from a coat closet and wrapped it around her shoulders.
"I don't know what to do," she said. "Do I leave or stay here?"
If I leave, where do I go? What do I take? I've never thought about anything like this ever happening before. I need to get ready.
Scarlett stood up and walked upstairs to her bedroom. The curtains waved with the breeze because the window near the head of her bed had broken in several pieces. She grabbed her suitcase and held it to her chest tightly. It was solid black in color and she had found it at a rummage sale once in Decatur, Indiana, when she was twelve. She could remember clearly how much her mother didn't like it. It's black, Scarlett, too...too gothy. But she had bought it, anyway.
For the next minute, she rummaged through her dresser drawers and packed clothes in a haphazard fashion. When she closed and latched the full suitcase, she then remembered the whites in the dryer - which included her underwear and socks. "Crap," she muttered and took the suitcase downstairs. She set it on the floor near the couch and moved toward the kitchen again.
Then she felt a presence, stopped, and gasped. Omigod! They're back!
"Let's see what we can get here," she heard the boy named Tim say. "Maybe we'll get a bonus." Then there was a loud thump as an attempt was made to kick in the front door.
"Let's just use the window," the other boy said and a large rock shattered the largest portion of the bay window. Most of the remaining glass fell both inside and outside the home.
Scarlett screamed and got to her feet as the two boys came in through the opening.
The boy named Tim smirked as he saw the small redhead back away from them. He stood nearly a foot taller than her and had long stringy dark hair. Then he smacked his left palm with his right fist and said, "Looks like it's payday for you, bitch." He smacked his palm again. "With interest." He smacked his palm again. "Sucks to be you. Bonus for us, though."
Scarlett turned and ran. As she raced around the dining room table, Tim ran and jumped over the couch after her. He overtook her at the kitchen entrance.
"NO!" she yelled as he wrapped his arms around her. She struggled to free herself as he picked her up and pulled her back into the living room.
"Come here, you stupid little pussy!" he said and threw her onto the couch. When she tried to get up, he quickly jumped onto her thighs and held down her arms. He laughed as she struggled against him.
"We don't have time for this, man!" the other boy said loudly and looked around several times. He was also tall and skinny, but his head was shaved bald. "We've got to get out of Lawndale, now! We'll take her with us and screw her later."
"NO!" Scarlett yelled and swung her head. "Let me go!"
"Shut up!" Tim yelled and slapped her face hard with his right palm. Her head whipped to the right and she was suddenly silent. Then he slapped her with his left palm and her head whipped back to the left; tears poured from her eyes and she cried as he held her down with his weight. "You just shut the hell up!" Then to the other boy, he said, "I'm doing her right now, Carl! So you just shut up, too. While I'm busy with her, you search the house for stuff we can use."
"Don't do this to me!" she begged and cried some more. "Please." Then she bawled and shook her head.
Tim balled his right hand into a fist and drew it back. "I told you to shut up, bitch! Now, I'm gonna hurt you bad."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," a new voice said from near the ruined window.
All three teens turned to look and saw a middle-aged man there, clad in navy suit pants, a short-sleeved white button-up shirt and a dark blue tie. He wore black-framed eyeglasses and his light brown hair was short cut, as if in imitation of military style haircuts. He held a dark black crowbar in his right hand.
Mr. Fleming! Scarlett thought. Thank God! "Help me!" she cried out.
Tim released the girl and stood up. "Go away, old man. You're too old to see what's going to happen in here."
Carl pulled a pistol out of the back of his pants and the man saw it. Before the youth could even aim or cock the weapon, the man moved forward and swung the crowbar up and back. The iron tool hit the right side of the youth's face with a loud crunching sound and he staggered back as he dropped the pistol. Then the man brought his bludgeon down on top of the youth's bald head and the young man fell to the floor. He laid still, his face turned to his right and darkened dent on top of his head.
Scarlett stared at the fallen youth in shock.
Her neighbor then turned to Tim, smiled, and held up the crowbar. "Now, it's your turn, punk."
Tim scrambled away from Scarlett and tried to jump over the coffee table and towards the open window. The crowbar, however, connected with his left shoulder in mid-jump and a loud crunching sound could be heard. The youth screamed in pain and fell to the carpeted floor in front of the small table. He whimpered and tried to get up as the older man moved up beside him.
"You're real tough when you're slapping around a young girl," John Fleming said and kicked Tim's left hip hard with a polished brown shoe. "I bet that you think you're a real tough man."
The youth fell back down and cried out in pain; his left arm shook and when he tried to move it, he cried out again.
Scarlett cowered on the couch as she watched the fight.
"Where's your tough talk now, punk?"
"Please...I didn't hurt her," Tim said in a whiny voice and lifted his left arm slightly. He sobbed and added, "Let me go! Don't hurt me anymore!"
John lifted the crowbar above his head. "You touched Scarlett," he said and smashed the boy's left elbow hard.
The youth screamed and his arm fell back to the floor. He rolled over onto his back. "Please, stop! Don't kill me!"
"She told you to let her go and you slapped her - twice." He lifted up the crowbar once again. "You had no right to touch her, you asshole." He brought the crowbar down onto Tim's head, and a spray of blood hit the carpet between them. The teen boy collapsed then and the man turned to the terrified girl. "Are you O.K., Scarlett?" he asked.
The redhead gawked at him and looked at both fallen bodies in shock.
"Scarlett! Are you O.K.?"
She jumped and looked at him, her eyes filled with tears. She couldn't speak, so she nodded quickly.
"Where are your parents?" he then asked.
Scarlett then looked down and sobbed. "Phil...Philadelphia," she said, her voice weak.
"Oh, God," he muttered and moved to her right side. He touched her right shoulder and said, "I'm sorry, Scarlett. I'm really sorry."
You want to hug me, she thought and looked at his hand on her shoulder. But you want me to hug you first. Instead, she covered her face with her hands and cried hard.
He patted her shoulder gently and waited for more than a minute, then cleared his throat loudly. She looked at him and he said, "We need to leave, Scarlett. We need to get out of Lawndale as quickly as we can."
"What?" she asked, her voice suddenly high-pitched. She looked at the two bodies again, then at her neighbor.
"We can't stay here, Scarlett. The fallout from Washington will be here real soon - if it isn't here, already. We've got to leave." He looked outside, his features nervous. "The longer we stay here, the worse it will get."
"What do you mean 'we'?" she asked quickly, her voice cracking and her eyes wide open. "Where are you wanting to take me?"
He looked at her silently. It was obvious that he wanted to go right then, but he kept calm and took a deep breath. He spoke to her, his voice slow and calm. "There will be rescue centers and refugee camps out set up in the clear areas. There has to be." He forced a smile on his face. "I'll take you to one of them - and see about getting you to one of your relatives."
"We have to leave?" she asked.
Fleming nodded. "Yes, we do. The longer we stay here, the hotter things are going to get. We need to get out of here quickly."
"What...what about Mrs. Fleming?" She blinked and wiped her eyes.
His smile widened and she fought to keep from squirming. You want to be alone with me, she thought, where you hope that I'll come onto you. But you really want to help me, too.
"Lisa flew into Cleveland last night," he said. "Her sister's going through a bad custody battle and she's there for moral support. She's safe enough there." He held up his cellular phone. "It's not working right now, but hopefully it will once we get away from the Baltimore and Washington areas. Then I can call Lisa and you can call an aunt or uncle or someone in your family." He stood up and held out his right hand.
Scarlett took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. She looked at the two bodies on the floor. "What - what about them?"
His face became hard and he looked at Tim's body, contempt evident in his features. "Forget 'em," he said. "Neither of us have time to help them or guard them." He sighed and said, "Right now, the cops have their hands full and we have to take care of ourselves." He moved to Carl's body and picked up the pistol. Then he looked at her. "I'll go get my car while you get your stuff together. Take clothes, any food we can use and anything you particularly treasure - for instance, pictures, videos, or your diary. We may never be able to come back to Lawndale for a long time." He walked to the broken window. "Oh, and check that bald kid's pockets for any bullets. I don't have any guns or bullets and we may need them." Then he stepped outside.
Scarlett shook as she knelt near the boy's body and ran her right hand down first down his right front pocket. There she found just keys. Then she searched the left front pocket and found a box of bullets. She took them and shoved them down her right front pocket of her jeans.
She then rushed into the utility room. She quickly sorted through the partially dry whites in the dryer and stuffed a plastic Food Lord bag with her socks and underwear. Then she filled a small box with canned food items and bottled drinks.
An unopened jar of apricot preserves sat in front of her and she briefly stared at it before putting it with the food.
In her bedroom, Scarlett took her father's old brown gym bag and packed a photo album, several books (which included her diary) and other items she valued too much to leave behind.
Then she remembered that her folks had money "hidden" in their bedroom. She went in their room and moved to her father's feather pillow. A small pocket had been sewn on the pillow ticking and she found several folded up twenties there. She took that money, then started to walk off when she picked back up his pillow. She could smell her dad's scent on it and her chin quivered as she held it to her chest. "I'll take it," she muttered and left the room
As she walked back downstairs, John Fleming pulled his car, a four-door green Mercury Topaz, in the driveway and parked it. He rushed inside, grabbed her suitcase and smiled as he took the box of food. "Get your shoes, on, Scarlett," he said. "Then you can help me load up the car."
She blushed when she realized that she hadn't even thought of footwear. As she put on her shoes, her neighbor came back in and took the bag of whites and the gym bag outside.
When he came back in again, she stood up and said, "I'm ready...I think."
"Get some blankets and your pillow," he said. "It may get cold out there. I...I don't know what to expect with weather patterns now. I'll check for anymore food we can eat. Oh, if you have to use the restroom, do it now."
She blushed once again as she nodded and walked upstairs. You make me nervous, but I hope your desire to help me outweighs your desire to have me.
As they stepped outside, Scarlett looked around the neighborhood. So far, the houses didn't look very different, outside of the occasional broken window. It was the cars that got her attention. Several different vehicles had wrecked - apparently right after the bomb flashes. She laid the rest of what she brought in the back seat and climbed in the passenger seat.
John Fleming turned to her and said, "Keep the doors locked, and if I tell you to cover yourself up, do it. There may be a lot of bad things out there you don't need to see. It hasn't even been two hours yet and some people are already acting like animals. Trust me and I'll protect you."
Suddenly she blushed as she thought, You mean, you love me. But you don't really know me and I'm young enough to be your daughter. You're older than my parents! She nodded then and said, "Thank you for helping me out, Mr. Fleming."
"I know your folks told you to address me formally, but we're going to be together for a while and I prefer that you call me John."
"O.K." She nodded again. "Thank you, John."
He started the car and pulled out of the driveway. She looked back at the home she and her family had lived in for the previous two years. Then she looked at the blackened skies behind the property and noticed how the darkness seemed to expand by the second. I'll never be back here again. I'm not sure anyone will ever be here again.
Scarlett grabbed the comforter from the back seat and spread it out over herself. She turned on her side and faced the window as John drove down the streets. She closed her eyes and shook as she cried.
After a minute or two, she could hear him mess with the radio in an attempt to find a station still on the air, but all he got was static.
She thought about her parents and could still "hear" her dad's scream in her mind. Then she remembered how he had warned her about that once.
"We're connected, Scarlett," Conrad Hawkins said to his daughter, then just thirteen years old.
"What do you mean, Dad?" the redhead teen asked.
"You know how you can tell what people are really like?"
"Uh-huh," she said.
"Since we both share the same abilities, we also share a mental connection. I've noticed lately that when I'm dreaming, you're there as an observer. No matter what the dream is, you're there - at the side - somewhat bewildered. Like that dream I had of dancing and singing in my underwear."
The girl blushed and he laughed. "They're simply dreams, Scarlett. They're no more real than a story in a novel or comic book."
"Yeah, but Dad, you were in your underwear and dancing." She grimaced. "And I saw you. Eww!"
He laughed again, then cleared his throat. "To get serious a minute, since we're connected, there's a bad side to keep in mind."
She blinked. "What?"
He sighed and looked down briefly. "If I get injured...or worse...you'll feel what happens to me. I've seen you wince and rub your face when I nick myself shaving - and you weren't watching me, either. I just want you to be prepared in case something bad happens to me."
"This is serious, Scarlett. When you fell in the driveway gravel two weeks ago, I felt it - and it hurt." He sighed again. "I don't know how to break the connection between us or I would." He hugged her and said again, "I just want you to be prepared."
The teen opened her eyes and sighed. "Dad," she whispered. "What am I going to do without you or Mom?"
At most of the houses they passed, people rushed about as they loaded up vehicles with anything they could tie down. Mattresses, couches, rocking chairs and electronic items were among the items seen atop cars and trucks.
One Ford F-350 they passed had a refrigerator and freezer tied down in the back, with a couch atop it. More stuff was being loaded on and around that.
John glanced briefly at his passenger and looked back at the street. "Scarlett," he said.
She turned her head slightly, cleared her throat, and asked, "What?"
"If you want to talk, we can talk." He swallowed, slightly nervous. "If you don't want to, that's fine, too. I'm...I'm available if you need me. I know you've been through some bad stuff today and..."
"'Bad stuff'?" she interrupted him, her voice loud and breaking. "My...my parents are dead and I was attacked! I can't go back to my house ever again and I have no idea where in the hell I'm going!" She shook her head and groaned. "I wish I was dead."
"Your parents may not have been in Philly," he said quickly. "They could have just been in Wilmington or Chester."
"They're dead," she said and sobbed. She looked back out the passenger window. "I know it for certain. They're dead."
There was an awkward silence and John then asked, "Did you know those boys? I've never seen them before."
She winced as the memory of being slapped replayed itself. "I don't want to talk about them," she said quickly.
He blushed and cursed under his breath. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. I will say this, though. If your parents really are dead, they would want you to live, to go on. To keep their memory alive."
You're trying to suck up to me, she thought, and you're hoping that I'll let you 'have' me. She looked at him silently for several seconds, then asked, "Why did you come to my house today?"
John looked at her face, then back at the road. "When the Washington bomb went off, I locked up my office to come home. It was a slow day anyway. I couldn't get the Lincoln started, though, so I ran home from there with the crowbar from the office's utility room for protection."
Scarlett thought briefly and said, "That's a mile from your house!"
"I know," he replied and nodded. "There was a lot of cars dead out there - fried ignition systems, I guess. I don't really know. Probably what happened to the Lincoln. Still, even with all the stalled cars, I nearly got hit twice by panicked drivers. A dog even tried to bite me once. Then I saw the two punks as I reached my place. I saw them go to your house and throw a rock through your window." He looked at her again. "I consider all three of you my friends and I'll be damned if I let some punks hurt any of you." A wave of anger passed through him and it showed on his face. "When I saw that one hit you, I wanted to break him in two."
After several seconds, he added, "I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you earlier. Your face is too pretty to be hit like that."
Scarlett gawked at him and her face turned beet red. Too 'beautiful', you mean. If you knew that I can 'read' you, what would you act like then? It's probably a good thing that I can't see the images you conjure up in your mind. Just knowing what they are is bad enough.
He didn't notice her reaction and continued his rant. "As long as I'm around, no one else will ever hurt you. I promise you that." He moved his right hand towards her, stopped halfway, then pulled it back to the steering wheel.
She shuddered and turned to look back towards Washington. The blackness seemed to expand over the entire southern half of the sky. Some areas in the distance seemed to have small black tendrils streaming towards the ground from the huge cloud. "Can we get away in time?" she asked.
"Yes," he said. "Stay calm, and I'll get us out of Lawndale and Baltimore itself."
Easy for you to say, she thought.
They didn't hit their first actual traffic jam until they reached State Road 139, and headed towards Sheppard and Lutherville. From the looks of it, several stalled cars had been pushed off the road and onto sidewalks and onto lawns and green-spaces. One had even been propped up against a light pole, its front bumper smashed in.
Even with the road cleared, the speed was intermittent, going from a low of barely coasting speed to a high of twenty miles per hour.
"I'm surprised that it took this long to get in a jam," John said, more to himself than to Scarlett.
She ignored him anyway and looked out her window. Since they moved slowly, she was able to watch the frantic activity at several homes and at a strip mall they passed. A Chinese buffet-style restaurant had its entrance blocked by a car and the door guarded by two of the cooks. One held a weapon, either a shotgun or a rifle, and the other held a broomstick.
One store, a mini-mart, was in the process of being cleaned out. What Scarlett couldn't tell, however, was whether the people in there were shoppers or looters. Then she saw one man run outside with a cash register in his arms; he was followed out by another man in a long apron and armed with a pistol. The gunman fired once and the other man fell; the register hit the parking lot and the cash drawer opened. Paper money scattered and caused a minor panic amongst a few men and women in the parking lot.
"Cover your face up!" John said quickly. "You don't need to see that."
She ignored him and looked at the man who had been shot. He laid face down and still on the tarmac, while people in the lot rushed after the greenbacks. Blood pooled on his left side.
"Please, Scarlett," he said, "look away."
She sighed. "Hiding under the covers isn't going to help either one of us," she said and glanced at him. "You concentrate on driving and I'll keep a watch for any trouble."
He sighed. "Very well. But if you feel sick, there's a plastic bag in the car door - or you can roll the window down and puke outside."
"Why should I feel sick?" she asked.
He snorted. "When I ran home earlier, I passed an accident scene. There was a lot of blood - and other stuff." He shook his head. "I just don't want you getting upset - or sick."
Scarlett looked at him and laughed bitterly. "UPSET?" she yelled. "I can still feel that bastard's hands on me! He carried me like I was a toy, threw me on the couch and slapped me! If I'm not thinking about my parents, I'm thinking of what he was going to do to me! He intended to rape me and beat me to a pulp! Shit! I'm not a little kid! Stop treating me like one! I was nearly freaking raped and you think some blood will 'upset' me?"
Her explosion startled him and he looked at her. "Scarlett, please, don't talk like that," he said, his voice soft. "Young ladies shouldn't talk like that."
"Dammit! What do you think I am? Some prim Sunday school student? I'm not!" She grabbed her ankh and held it up for him to look at. "Does this look like a cross to you?" She forced herself to calm down. "I...I'm sorry, John. I'm still upset and...and I shouldn't take it out on you."
A wry smile appeared on his face and he chuckled briefly. "I did say that if you wanted to talk to me, you could. It's better if you can get it out of your system."
She looked ahead and sunk into her car seat slightly. "I'm afraid," she said, her voice quieter.
"What if the rest of my family's dead, too? What do I do then?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "But I'm here for you." Then he reached over and patted her left knee gently for a few seconds. "You won't be alone, I promise."
Scarlett watched his hand as he moved it back to the steering wheel. Then she looked back outside and shuddered.
The traffic thinned out as they passed Sheppard and John was able to speed up to fifty miles per hour. He sighed and looked at Scarlett, a small smile on his face. "How are you holding up?" he asked.
She looked behind them. "I feel a little better getting away from that cloud."
"Well, the weather this morning said that the winds were out of the west, but would change to a northeasterly direction. Once I get us several more miles north, I'll turn and take us west."
"Where are you taking me--I mean, us?"
He sped up and switched lanes briefly as he passed a slow moving flatbed truck, then got back in the right lane. "I'm taking us to Hampstead," he said and sped up to fifty-five.
"A storage business, where my insurance business uses more than half the spaces. I figured that if we get there by sundown, we could stay in one of the spaces overnight - get some rest - and try to get some news and find out what the government's doing and where the refugee or relocation centers are."
Scarlett looked at him skeptically and asked, "Are you allowed to do that?" O.K., suddenly I can't read you. What's up with that?
He glanced at her. "I have before. We keep an RV in one enclosed space and when we had business in the Hampstead or Hagerstown area, it was a cheap place to crash." He smiled smugly. "When you own a controlling interest in a business, you pretty much make the rules." Then he saw her expression and added, "Don't worry. It's pretty comfortable. It beats paying hotel rates and all their hidden fees and taxes. We'll be safe there."
But will I be safe there?
The store-and-lock business was actually a fenced in lot they came to about a half-mile before they entered Hampstead itself. John unlocked the fence, drove in and relocked it again, then negotiated the gravel drives between the several buildings.
He finally stopped outside a large garage door labeled "73" and put the car into park. "Wait here," he said and got out.
Scarlett looked around nervously as John unlocked a small control device and pushed a button inside it. The garage door opened and she looked inside as he turned on the overhead light.
The space was huge; it had to be, since a large recreational vehicle sat parked along one side and there was room for two more such vehicles to be parked.
John jumped back inside the car and pulled in the garage. He ignored Scarlett as he shut off the car and got back outside.
She looked out the rear window and suddenly felt cold as she watched the garage door shut. Then she winced as the door lock activated - loudly.
"We're here," he said. "Come on and I'll show you the RV."
The redhead teen got out of the car and stretched to work out the kinks in her limbs as John opened the door to the RV and waited for her.
She climbed up into the darkened interior and hesitated.
John lit a candle and carried it in behind her.
The first thing Scarlett noticed in the candlelight was a large queen-sized bed in front of her. Two pillows laid at the head, both fluffed up. She hesitated and gawked at the bed as he shut the door to the RV behind them.
She froze in place as John set the candle on a small dinner table; he said, "Time to relax, Scarlett," and gently patted her left shoulder.
She looked at his hand as it rested on her and nearly groaned when he gave her a small squeeze. Relax? How am I supposed to relax? Are you expecting us to sleep together? At the same time, however, she could sense relief from him, as the tension of the drive seemed to flow away from him. Why couldn't I sense your thoughts for awhile?
He pulled out a chair from the table and glanced at her briefly. "I know we've been sitting for a long time," he said, "but I figured that we'd at least sit down while scanning the radio for some news."
She shuddered as she looked at the bed. Then she looked at him and said, "But you couldn't find anything on the car radio."
John nodded. "That's right," he said and opened up a cabinet. "The car radio leaves a lot to be desired. It isn't as good as this radio is, for instance." He pulled out a large portable radio and held it up. "Or should I say 'boom box'?" He laughed and sat it on the table. "That's what the salesman at the electronics store called it when I bought it. On a good night, I can pick up Cincinnati, New Orleans and Montreal with this."
Scarlett looked at the bed again and swallowed nervously. "Big bed," she commented and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Yes, it sure is," he said and plugged the radio in. "Took four of us a whole day to get it in the RV. He pulled up the antenna and smiled at her. "It was worth it, though. It's very comfortable."
I'll bet it is, she thought and shook. She grabbed the back of one chair to steady her hands and arms. She did note that his attention was on the radio, however, and his thoughts reflected a desire to learn what had happened. She gave him a curious look briefly. Do I also detect some 'fear' in you as well? If we're 'safe' in here, then what are you afraid of?
"Normally, I would walk around and get a little exercise," he said and clapped his hands together in nervous excitement. "Besides, I have a feeling that this situation will bring out the worst in some people. That keeps me inside right now, plus I find that I really want to know what's going on - how bad off we really are." He blinked and looked away briefly. "I have a feeling that it isn't very good." He sighed and his shoulders slumped briefly. "Have a seat, Scarlett."
The redhead sat down quickly in the nearest chair and put her hands on her lap. She waited as he turned on the radio and adjusted the tuner slowly.
John sat across from her and continued to adjust the tuner. Very faint voices could be heard, but they faded almost as soon as they were heard. He occasionally moved the antenna slightly in seemingly vain attempts to improve reception.
Then, after a few minutes, the radio quickly came to life. "...knows, we have lost our nation's capital. Washington, D.C., the seat of our government for more than two hundred years...is no more. We have received word from unnamed military sources that the president and vice-president are safe and in places of security as they turn their attention to fight back against the unprovoked attacks against our land.
"Other cities we know of that have been lost include Norfolk, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania..."
Scarlett blinked and her chin quivered. Dad...Mom...why did you go to Philadelphia? Why didn't you take me along with you? We...we'd be together now. She closed her eyes and tears then flowed down her cheeks.
"...and Jacksonville, Florida. We have heard rumors and stories that New York City has also been bombed, but our sister station in the Big Apple is still on the air. They report that there has been missile damage in the Bronx, but that it is under the control of emergency services.
"We know of no other destroyed cities at this time, but we have also lost contact with cities west of Pittsburgh and Atlanta. We don't know if this is due to sabotage or side effects of the bombing itself. There are reports, though, of massive evacuation efforts in New York City, Boston, Atlanta and other cities. We have..."
The radio then squealed and they lost the station, though an occasional word or part of a word could still be heard. Scarlett cried silently as John continued to search for more stations.
Finally, he turned the radio off and sighed in frustration. "Well," he said, "at least we still have a government. Scarlett, are you--" He turned towards her and stopped.
The teen sat still and shook hard. She looked down as she cried.
"Scarlett?" he asked.
She opened her eyes and looked at him through tear-blurred eyes. "I want my parents," she said, her voice weak and trembling. "I want my parents." Then she bawled and covered her face.
The man looked at her uncertainly for several seconds, then knelt down in front of her and touched her left arm. "Scarlett?"
"I'm alone!" she cried out. "I have nobody! I really have nobody!"
John took a deep breath. "You aren't alone, Scarlett," he said and patted her left shoulder gently. "I'm here with you."
She shook her head and took several quick and shallow breaths as she cried. "My...my Dad...my Mom...they were all I had and now they're gone! Why couldn't I have been with them? Why? Why? WHY!"
He moved his right hand behind the girl's head and gently guided her to his left shoulder. Her body wracked with sobs as he patted her back and said, "You're not alone. I promise you that. You're not alone."
Scarlett cried in his shoulder hard as he wrapped his arms around her. He rocked her gently and said quietly in her left ear, "It'll be O.K. Let it out, Scarlett, let it out. I'm here for you."
For the next several minutes, the girl cried hard and John held her firmly, yet gently. After a minute or two, he moved his right hand down her back to the back strap of her brassiere, then over the hooks, and back up to her neck.
"I'll take care of you," he whispered and lightly kissed her hair near her left ear. "You aren't alone."
As her cries slowly died down, she became more aware of his hold on her and lifted her face off of his shoulder. You just kissed me! "John?" she asked, her voice scared.
He moved his hands to her upper arms and broke the hug. Then he gave her a small smile and said, "You aren't alone, Scarlett. I will help you out as much as I can."
Not only did you kiss me, but you also touched my bra strap and hooks, she thought. You wanted to unhook it.
"Are you hungry?" he asked. "I can fix us a quick dinner."
The teen blinked and simply looked at him. "A dinner? How can you eat after what we've seen and heard today?"
He released her, stood up and gave her a small smile. "We need to keep our strength up," he said. "There is canned food and soft drinks in the RV and I'll heat up something for us."
She sat there, and the more she thought about it, she was hungry - famished, actually. Memories of the attack and her parents' death, not mention her fear of John and the entire situation had simply taken over her mind. "Um, O.K. Do you want my help?"
John glanced at her and smiled, then shook his head. "You're a guest. I'll take care of it. If you need to use the restroom, though, there's a small one on the other side of the bed." He lit a second candle off the first and handed the candle holder to her.
She blushed and nodded as she accepted the light. You think I'll feel better with a meal inside me and a rest. Maybe you're right - but I'll keep an eye on you all night. She stood up and walked around the bed. But why couldn't I sense your thoughts for awhile earlier?
"Scarlett?" She turned around. "What kind of soft drink do you like? Cola, root beer or orange soda?"
She thought and said, "Orange, please."
He smiled and said, "O.K., go on and I'll take care of it."
The girl then stepped into the tiny bathroom and shut the door.
They ate canned spaghetti and meatballs with crackers and soft drinks. That was followed by canned fruit cocktail. The meal passed in silence, but Scarlett watched him as she ate.
After he finished his food and sat back, she covered her mouth and burped.
"S'cuse me," she said. "Thank you."
He finished his cola and said, "I always believed in being prepared. We had a lot of work in this area and this RV, with the food in it, came in handy, as well as made us a profit." He shook his head. "A lot of people need storage for personal junk."
"How come you don't have the power hooked up in here?" she asked. "You used a camp stove and the drinks weren't that cold, but the storage bay door was powered."
"Because sometimes, we wouldn't be here for more than a month." He stretched and stood up. "Usually, I'd come here first, hook up the power, and go about my business. Then, I'd come back that night and rest." He yawned and covered his mouth with his right hand. "Pardon me. I'll plug in the trailer later."
Scarlett blinked as his face seemed to waver slightly in front of her. She shook her head and said, "I think I'm getting tired." His face seemed to waver again.
He looked at her intently. "I know I'm tired," he replied and yawned.
"How..." She blinked and shook her head again. Oh, shit! He's drugged me! She got to her feet and then stumbled onto the floor.
John bent down beside her and helped her up.
"No..." she managed to say as he then picked her up in his arms.
"Shhh," he said quietly and smiled at her face. "You've had a long, bad day and you need to rest." Then he lightly kissed her chin.
"Don't do this," she muttered and felt her consciousness fade.
The man managed to pull the blankets back and laid the unconscious girl down on the right side of the bed. He propped her head on the pillow and smiled down at her. "You get some rest, honey," he said as he removed her shoes and laid them on the side of the bed.
Next, he removed the ankh necklace from around her neck and set it on a bedside table. "You've had a very bad and very long day." He pulled the blankets up to her neck and lightly stroked the right side of her face. "You are so beautiful. I'll give you a few days to mourn and then we'll...discuss intimacy."
He went to the restroom briefly, then blew out both candles. In the darkness, he moved to the other side of the bed and took off his shoes. Then he got under the blankets and moved closer to the unconscious girl.
"Good night, Scarlett," he said and kissed her unresponsive mouth for several seconds. He moved his right hand down over the front of her T-shirt slowly and then kissed her left ear. "I'll take real good care of you, I promise." He kissed her again. "I love you, beautiful."
Then he turned on his side and closed his eyes.
Scarlett suppressed a groan as her consciousness returned to her and she quickly opened her eyes, then looked down. Then she winced in pain and closed her eyes briefly. Oh, man, I've been in the same position all night. Wonder what time it is? Then she blinked and drew in a deep breath. John drugged me! Oh, dammit, he---
She tried to move her arms and realized that they were tied to the head board. Oh, shit! Next she tried to move her feet slightly, but found that her ankles were bound together. A look of confusion appeared on her face and she slowly turned her head to look towards the kitchen.
John was at the camp stove cooking something up. Scarlett didn't know what it was, but it did smell good and she tried unsuccessfully to keep from salivating. She turned her head back, closed her eyes and tried to calm her nerves.
Then she heard him sing and winced. "I don't want to set the world on fire. I just want to start a flame in your heart..."
For the next minute or two, she ignored him as she laid still and paid attention to how her body felt. From what she could tell, she still had her clothes on, and they didn't feel weird on her - so apparently he didn't strip and redress her. Neither her crotch nor her butt hurt, so apparently he also didn't rape her - yet - but that didn't rule out being felt up.
She moved her mouth and grimaced at the normal morning taste she got from a dry mouth, but that was normal whenever she slept with her mouth open. That confused her even more. She looked at John and thought, Just what in the hell did you do to me?
Then he turned around and saw her opened eyes. "Good morning, beautiful!" he said, his voice loud, and smiled at her. "How are you feeling?"
Scarlett took a deep breath and coughed. "Don't call me that," she said hoarsely and closed her eyes briefly.
"Why not? You are beautiful."
The teen narrowed her eyes and glared at her captor. "What did you do to me?" she asked.
"In fact, you are a total vision of loveliness."
"What did you do to me?"
"I could just sit and look at you for hours."
"WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME?"
His smile widened and said, "You mean after I put you to sleep?"
John chuckled and said, "I kissed your lovely mouth, ran my hand over your firm boobies for a minute, then slept beside you. After I woke up this morning, I tied you down so that...you wouldn't give me any trouble."
For several seconds, she stared at him, then said, "You had no right to do any of that to me."
He sighed and shook his head. "You kept making comments about how you wished you could die," he said. "I put you to sleep to keep you from doing that."
"Bullshit! You put me to sleep so you could do what you wanted to me."
John blinked and took the skillet off the camp stove. He then turned off the burner and walked to the bed.
The redhead let out a shocked cry as the man got on the bed, then mounted her and moved his face right in front of hers. "So what if I did?" he asked, his voice and expression calm. He then ran his left hand over the right side of her face. "I think that I've earned that right, don't you?"
His response was to kiss her mouth. She tried to pull her head away, but he grabbed it with both hands and held it in place. When he broke the kiss, he said, "There are some rules for you to follow now, Scarlett."
"Get off of me, dammit!"
He kissed her mouth again, then kissed the tip of her nose. "First of all, you must remember that I'm in charge. I understand that this is all new and scary to you, but I'm not trying to be mean here. Remember those boys who attacked you back at Lawndale. and remember how I rescued you. I'm going to protect and take care of you, and in return, you will be my...close companion...and lover."
The redhead tried to bite his lower lip and he quickly pulled his head back. He smiled at her, but she could read his thoughts clearly enough. One more word, little girl, one more attempt to hurt me, and I'll strip your ass bare...and you'll stay that way. Then I'll screw you to death!
Scarlett blinked and stared at John's face for several seconds, then closed her eyes as she broke down. He's not afraid anymore. He's...excited. Tears ran from her eyes as she cried and she turned her head to the left.
"There, there," he said and stroked her face gently. "It'll be O.K., Scarlett. Don't be afraid of me. I'm not going to hurt you if you cooperate with me."
"My family's dead and I'm alone!" she cried out and sobbed. "Now, you've got me tied up and I...I am afraid of what you're going to do to me!"
John stroked her face some more as she cried.
She heard his thoughts again as he did that. I've got you right where I want you, little girl. As long as you are the one afraid of me, then I'll get what I want.
"You don't have to be afraid of me," he said, his voice calm and cool. "Just remember that I'm in charge and what I say goes. Understand?"
Scarlett cried some more, then her sobs subsided. She swallowed and nodded several times. "Yes, sir," she said, her voice barely a whisper.
He frowned. "Don't call me 'sir', Scarlett. My name's John."
He kissed her again, then turned his attention to her neck and kissed her there for nearly a minute.
"John?" she asked as she fought to keep from squirming.
The man lifted his head and smiled down at her. "What, honey?"
She suppressed a grimace and said, "I'd...I'd like some time to mourn my parents before you...well, you know, with me."
John nodded and rolled off of her. "That's fair," he said and sat up beside her. "I'll give you three days to mourn, but we'll still kiss and share the bed."
Scarlett blushed and looked away. "What about Lisa?" she asked. "What do we tell her?"
He chuckled. "You don't worry about Lisa," he said. "You aren't the first young lady I've had in here."
The teen blinked and gawked at him. I didn't read that in your thoughts!
John laughed even louder and smiled down at her face. "Lisa will accept whatever I tell her. So you don't have to worry about it. But I do have some rules for you to follow from now on."
"First off, I've never understood why you dressed so modestly...or darkly." He hooked his right index finger in her T-shirt neckline, pulled it up and looked down her shirt. The teen squirmed and blushed, while he leered at what he saw. "Nice brassiere, Scarlett. It looks good on you. It'll look even better when it's off of you. After breakfast, though, we're going to look through some of the storage lockers for brighter clothes that fit you. I think you'd look real good in a halter top and shorts..."
Ew! she thought. Quit looking down my shirt, you freak!
"...but the best thing would be to tie your hair back in a pony tail and get that dark lipstick off of your lips."
"My lipstick and hairstyle are parts of who I am," she said, then looked down and noticed something missing. "Where's my ankh?"
"I took it," John said and released her T-shirt. "You don't need any of that pagan shit."
"But it's also a part of who I am!" she protested.
He smiled and stroked the left side of her face. "It's not a part of who you're going to be, though, Scarlett." Then he ran his hand down her neck, over her breasts and then down over the outside of her left hip. "You're a beautiful girl. A very beautiful girl. I'm going to be impatient having to wait for a piece of your ass, but it'll be worth it."
Scarlett blinked several times and kept her emotions under control, but inside she seethed in anger. You were afraid of me. That was the fear I felt from you yesterday. If I get a chance, you asshole, I'll run away from you. And you looked down my shirt and touched my breasts! Ew! You are older than both Dad and Mom and if you keep touching me there or between my legs or kissing me on the lips, I'm gonna barf! Ewwwww!
"I have a request, John," she said, and looked at him.
Quit calling me that! "If you wouldn't tie me up, I might not be as afraid of you." He looked skeptical and she quickly added, "What if you needed my help? I can't help you if I'm tied up. I'm not going to fight you! But I'm going to really hurt if you keep me in this position all the time!" She looked away. "Besides, you did help me and...like you said, I owe you."
John looked down at her, then reached down to her ankles and untied them. He laid the rope aside and then untied her wrists.
The redhead sat up in the bed and rubbed her wrists for nearly a minute as the man watched her.
"Just remember, Scarlett. This isn't a right. It's a privilege. I'm giving you a trial basis and if you give me any trouble, I'll have your naked and tied-up ass back in this bed."
"I promise I won't be any trouble," she said. "But what if we have to evacuate? What do we do then?"
"Let's eat breakfast, and I'll try to pick up another station."
They went back to the table, where John served her warmed up roast beef hash and cold canned apricots, with a room-temperature box of apple juice.
Scarlett ate in silence as John alternated between tuning the radio and eating his food. I wonder where he has my ankh? I hope he didn't break it...or throw it away.
Finally, John turned from the radio in disgust and slammed his fist on the table, which caused the girl to jump and flinch away from him. "Dammit!" He looked at her and said, "It's O.K., Scarlett. I'm not mad at you. It's just that this radio is usually better than this. The bombs must have caused the reception to get screwy." He smiled at her then. "We'll try again after supper."
"I hope you understand that I'm a little nervous," she said.
"Yeah, I understand," he replied and smirked at her. "You have pre-invasion jitters."
'Pre-invasion jitters?' You sick son of a bitch, you really think that you're being romantic with me, don't you?
He then nodded. "Finish up your food, then we'll get to work. Not only do I want to find you some brighter clothes, I want to look for hunting, camping or survival gear."
She drank some juice and asked, "What if the...uh, renters of the storage units show up while we're searching them?"
"I changed the fence locks when we got here. Nobody else is getting in here, honey. We're going to be all alone in here, so go ahead and finish your food."
She turned her attention back to her food and closed her eyes when he touched her hair and stroked it. When he moved his hand down to her left breast and fondled it, she bit her lower lip hard enough for it to hurt.
After several hours of going through different storage lockers, they mostly found a bunch of what really was junk and few things of any practical use. The only clothes that John found which Scarlett could even wear were two thin white crop tops.
The redheaded teen shuddered as she looked over the thin and see-through T-shirt material. I probably could have fit good into these...when I was thirteen or maybe fourteen. Now, they're gonna be really tight over my breasts...if they even cover them at all. She looked at John as he kicked one box in frustration. You'll naturally love how they look on me...pervert.
As he relocked the fifth storage locker, he muttered and turned to the girl. "I tell you, Scarlett, most people are not like us."
"Like us?" she asked. "What do you mean?" I am NOT like you, creep! I will never be like you!
"Lisa and I kept our place neat and clean. So did you and your folks. But you saw the shit in those lockers. I should have charged those filthy freaks a lot more than I did. I can't believe that people valued trash like that."
"I know what you mean," she said. "Most of that stuff stunk."
The older man stopped outside the next locker and said, "We'll go through this one, then relax awhile. O.K.?"
He smiled at her. "I love you, Scarlett."
She blushed and looked away.
"Don't worry," he said and laughed. "I don't expect you to say it yet. But you will."
The hell I will.
John opened the door and turned on the light. Inside were at least three dozen boxes on pallets, several pieces of furniture and a teardrop trailer. "Cool," he said.
"What's that?" Scarlett asked and pointed at the trailer.
He opened the door and showed her. "A camping trailer. A couple could sleep in there, then prepare food outside on the rear kitchen attachment. Kind of compact, but cozy." Then he smiled at her. "We'll try it out sometime."
She blinked. Ew.
"I'll take the boxes on the right," he said. "You go on the other side of the trailer and search those boxes. If you find anything good, let me know."
Scarlett sighed silently with relief as she stepped away from John. Besides the lust he had for her, she could also sense that he now had an attitude of responsibility over her since she had "agreed" to his demands. He thinks that if he takes care of me and protects me, then I'll just 'love' him to pieces. Idiot!
She opened the first box and looked at several assorted magazines and newspapers inside. This is going to be boring. Maybe I'll find something to read later...if John lets me, that is.
In the fourth box Scarlett opened, she found several Army green packages labeled "MRE" with several different food items offered and nearly yelled out to John, but stopped and squinted at something under one package.
She moved the ration package and found a very small knife in a scabbard. When she pulled it out, she found the blade to be only four or five inches long, with a thinner piece of metal connecting to a handle that was perpendicular to it. She unfolded a piece of paper that laid under it and muttered, "A push dagger?" She looked up at John, who was busy skimming what looked like a men's magazine. She rolled her eyes and quickly put the dagger back into its scabbard.
She then stood up and placed it in her right front pocket, her gaze on John the entire time. Then she pocketed the paper as well and cleared her throat. "I think I found something," she said and got his attention.
He closed the magazine and walked over to her. When he saw the MREs, he laughed, quickly hugged her and said, "You did good, Scarlett. This kind of thing was what I was hoping to find. Thanks, honey." He quickly kissed her right cheek and picked up the box.
As he carried it towards the door, the redhead stared at him through narrowed eyes as she wiped her cheek and thought, You have to sleep sometime, you son of a bitch. She punched her left palm with her right fist, smiled slightly, then followed him.
Scarlett and John walked outside the storage units to number 73, and she looked up at the skies as they stopped. Looks like snow, she thought and shuddered.
John opened the door and held it open for her as she walked in. He smirked as he looked at her backside. "Nice ass," he said and chuckled when she stopped, turned around and stared at him. Then he followed her inside the locker and set the box down on the hood of his car. He locked the door again, crooked his right index finger towards Scarlett and said, "Come here, lover."
She suppressed a groan and her shoulders slumped as she moved up to the older man. When he grabbed her upper arms and pulled her to him, she closed her eyes. His lips came into contact with hers and she shuddered as she waited until he broke the kiss.
Scarlett opened her eyes and looked up at him. "Do you have to keep doing that?" she asked.
His response was to lightly stroke the left side of her face and kiss her left cheek. "In a few days, we're going to be doing a lot more," he said. "A whole lot more. Relax and accept this. The world has changed and you should see this for what it is."
The redhead blinked and moved her hair away from her right eye. "What is it?"
"This is a blessing for both of us. I protect you, shelter you and feed you. In return, you provide me with affection, warmth and comfort in bed."
The girl felt her anger flare up inside her, but held it in. You really think this is some sort of trade off, you stupid freak! How in the hell can you even dare call this a 'blessing' for me?
She cleared her throat, looked him in the eyes and said carefully, "I don't see how what happened changes anything. Basic decency and kindness should still be practiced...or else we'd be that much closer to anarchy."
John nodded and kissed her forehead, then her lips. "You're right. That's why I'm giving you time to mourn." He hugged her briefly. "Not only are you beautiful, you're smart. That's a winning combination and I'm a lucky man to have you."
If it wasn't me, you'd have some other girl in here. She tried to see if she could detect how many girls he had taken in the trailer, but the thoughts and memories she could read revealed nothing about that. What happens when you're done with me? She moved her right hand over her hip pocket and felt the outline of the pushdagger. What did you do to the other girls?
Suddenly, John kissed her lips again and she grimaced as he tried to push his tongue in her mouth. Her clamped teeth kept him from that, but when he broke the kiss, he laughed and ran his right hand over her left arm. "Let's go on inside, beautiful. We'll eat and try to find out some more news."
As she opened the RV door, he added, "After lunch, you can try on the crop tops for me."
Scarlett winced and frowned as she entered the vehicle. He followed her in a couple of seconds later.
Once he shut the RV door, he tried the light switch and smiled when the power turned on. "Good," he said. "I wondered if the power would be out. We'll save the candles for later, just in case we need them." He set the box of rations on the kitchen counter and looked the teen over slowly as she watched him. "Of course, we'll use the candles for our first screwing. It'll be much more romantic that way."
The girl gasped, blinked and moved back slightly. Oh, shit! You're going to do it tonight! You're going to wait until I'm asleep and attack me. Your thoughts on that are so clear - and graphic. She sat down quickly at the table and gripped the edge with both hands to hide her nervous shaking. She also looked away from his face, but still felt his lewd staring.
He threw something at her and she jumped as the crop tops landed on the tips of her fingers. "Why don't you try these on for me?" he asked as she quickly looked back up at him. "Let me see how you look in them."
Scarlett noted again how thin the material was and swallowed hard. He's definitely going to rape me tonight...or after lunch. This leaves nothing to the imagination. "What if they...reveal too much?" she asked, her voice seemingly smaller. "I'm embarrassed by this whole situation as it is."
John moved up to her and knelt on one knee in front of her. He tapped her left breast with his right index finger and said, "No reason to be embarrassed, Scarlett. No reason to be ashamed. I've seen you totally naked before." He cupped her breast then; she gasped and visibly shook as he squeezed her. "You're a very beautiful girl - I mean, young woman. I've longed for the chance to see you like that again."
Then the man moved up closer and hugged her awkwardly. She grimaced as he did and thought, Oh, hell, I can feel his...thing...through his pants against my leg. And he's excited. She tried to move her leg, but he pressed harder against her.
"What's the matter?" he asked, his voice a taunt. "Feel something?"
"John," she said, her voice shaky, "you're scaring me."
"When the time comes, we'll sleep naked, girl." He smiled at her and winked. "Once you relax and accept your place, you learn to like it."
To the girl's shock, he bent his head down and kissed her left breast, then stood up. "Go in the bathroom," he said, his voice firm. "Take off the T-shirt and try on one of the crop tops. Now." He moved back to the counter. "I'll heat us up a can of beef chow mein while you model for me."
The girl felt a strong urge to pee...and vomit. She stood up slowly, balled the tops up in her left hand and moved away from the table and around the bed towards the bathroom.
She turned around and felt his gaze burn into her eyes. "Yes?"
"Before you put on the crop top, take off your bra and throw it away. You won't need a bra again after today."
You might not even let me eat lunch, she thought and nodded. "O.K.," she said, in resignation and walked into the bathroom.
Scarlett nearly broke down in the bathroom and resisted the urge to lock the door. He'll just break in and get me if I do that, she thought and wiped at the tears than ran down her cheeks.
She pulled off the T-shirt and laid it on the hand sink. Her hands shook as she reached behind her back and she bit her lower lip as she unhooked her bra.
Her thoughts went to the pushdagger in her pocket. I don't know if I can do this, she thought as she removed her bra and put on the first crop top.
From the image in the mirror and her own self-consciousness, the top called total attention to her chest and she blushed. "I was right," she muttered and suppressed a sob. "It leaves nothing to the imagination. It doesn't even fully cover them!"
"Scarlett!" John's voice yelled from the kitchenette area. "Hurry up and show me how you look in it!"
A wave of anger swept through her and she frowned. I can do this. She reached into the pocket and made sure that she could pull the weapon out quickly...if she needed to. Then she made her frown disappear, opened the bathroom door and stepped out for his inspection.
A low wolf-whistle greeted the teen and her blush intensified. She stood there as he stared at her chest.
Behind John, a microwave oven heated up the food and suddenly beeped as it finished.
"Damn, you're not just beautiful," he said. "You're freaking gorgeous!"
She stared at him.
"Come on and have a seat," he said. "We'll eat and listen to the news."
Scarlett exhaled slowly and obeyed him. When she sat down, she tried to hold her arms in front of her breasts and waited.
After a minute, John set a bowl of chow mein and a bottle of orange soda in front of the girl. He saw her attempt to shield herself and laughed. "Hell, girl, I can see your boobies, so you might as well stop it, relax and just let me look. Like I said, I've already seen you in all your glory."
"When?" she asked quickly and stared at his face. "When did you see me naked?"
John's smile widened; he served himself and sat opposite her. "On one Saturday last July, you mowed for me when your parents went out for the day. Remember?"
"You went home after than and took a nice long shower. I watched you the entire time."
The girl's face went pale. "You...you were in the bathroom with me. I thought something was wrong then!"
He chuckled and nodded. "While you took off your messy shoes and pants in the garage, I snuck in the unlocked utility room door, went up to your room and waited. You went straight to the bathroom and undressed. You left the door open and I came in as you adjusted the shower strength and temperature." He sighed as the memory replayed in his mind. "You made me really hot then. As you finished, I went home...and Lisa showed up nearly ten minutes later. I barely let her get the front door shut that day...and I took her right there near the front door."
And you thought of my naked body the whole time you had sex with her, you pervert! "What...what if I had caught you then?" she asked. "What would you have done?"
The man said nothing, and simply smiled at her.
A cold chill swept through Scarlett and she shuddered as she realized the answer.
"It would have been fun," he said, "but I'm glad you didn't catch me. It would have caused...problems."
No shit! Dad would have killed you! If Mom or Lisa didn't first. Then her face paled and she looked down. You would have killed me right after the rape...to keep me from telling on you. She took a bite of her meal.
John turned towards the radio and turned it on. "Enough about romance, let's hear the news."
Scarlett nearly choked on his use of the word "romance". She bit back her response and quickly washed the food down with a drink of soda.
For more than a minute, the man slowly tuned the radio, until a voice came in crystal clear. "...president is in an undisclosed location at this present time, while an attempt is now underway to determine how many members of the Congress and Supreme Court have survived the bombings yesterday. It has been confirmed that St. Louis, Missouri and Cleveland, Ohio, are among the list of destroyed cities..."
John turned off the radio and sat there, his expression shocked. "Lisa," he said, his voice weak and uncertain. He covered his face with both hands and sat there, still and unmoving.
Scarlett looked at him, unsure of what to say, or even do. A small part of her wanted to touch his arm in a gesture of comfort, but she knew that he would misinterpret it and held herself back.
In fact, she could see his arms tense as the minutes passed. Oh, hell, here it comes. She tensed as well and slowly moved her chair back.
He lowered his hands and looked at her face. "You don't need to worry about Lisa anymore," he said, a small smile crossing his face. "It's just you and me, all alone now...lover." Then he stood up.
She stood up as well and backed up slightly. "You...you promised to wait, so I could mourn my parents!"
"You've had enough time, girl!" he said and rushed at her.
"NO!" she cried out as he grabbed her and threw her onto the bed.
Before she could get up or roll away, John mounted her and immediately forced his mouth onto hers. He kissed on her as she tried unsuccessfully to push his body off of hers.
Scarlett gave up that struggle and groaned as he pulled her top up to her neck with one hand. The other hand moved to her pants and unbuttoned them. Then he tried to unzip them.
Quickly, she reached into her pocket and closed her hand on the pushdagger's handle. Almost instantly, her hand felt hot and she had an sudden image of the knife in front of her, while two or three Asian-looking men in military outfits stood in front of her, knives in their hands.
She turned her head and broke the kiss, but could still only see the three Asians. She screamed at the top of her lungs and ripped the weapon out of her pocket. Then she struck again and again as the image of the three overrode all of her senses.
A man screamed out some obscenities, but Scarlett ignored that as she fought. A knife blade barely missed her right arm and she buried the blade into the chest of the man who held it, then yanked it out. He fell to the floor and his body shuddered as it laid there.
The pushdagger blade dripped with blood and the redhead attacked the other two Asian men. A loud, animalistic scream escaped her lips as she slashed and stabbed at them, until they both fell under her attack.
Then the image faded and Scarlett stood in the RV at the side of the bed. On the blankets, John laid, multiple stab wounds in his chest, neck and even his face. He groaned and shuddered as he laid there.
The girl saw the blood that coated her right hand and she quickly threw the pushdagger onto the floor. A startled cry escaped her lips and she backed away from the man and the bed. "Oh, shit, what did I do? What did I do?"
She finally came up against the kitchen door and sat on the floor hard, her right hand in the air in front of her.
Scarlett Hawkins sat there and cried as rivulets of his blood ran to her elbow. She cried for several minutes, her tear-filled stare on John's body the entire time.
He was still alive, however, as was proven by his loud groans. He also coughed weakly and moved his right arm up a few times, but other than that, he stayed on his back. From where she sat, she could see that at least three of his stab wounds still bled profusely.
Finally, the redheaded teen awkwardly got back to her feet and held her right hand out in front of her. She could tell that the blood was drying on it and grimaced at both the sight and smell of it. She moved around the bed at the farthest distance she could; his hate-filled stare followed her as she moved.
"You lousy witch!" he spat out and coughed. "You...you've killed me."
Scarlett said nothing in response, but still watched him as she moved into the bathroom. She washed her hands thoroughly, and continued to watch him through the open door the entire time.
"Help me, damn you!"
The girl walked back around the bed and looked at John, her expression cold. Then her gaze fell on the blood-covered pushdagger on the floor and she stopped.
After several seconds of hesitation, she remembered to breathe and knelt down carefully. As she did that, she glanced at the man, then back at the weapon. Her expression as she watched the knife was both fascinated and terrified. What did that thing do to me? Who were those men?
"Dammit, girl, I'm going to bleed to death if you don't help me!" He coughed again. "It hurts all inside me. Help me!"
Scarlett glanced sideways at the man, then looked back down at the pushdagger. She slowly reached out and touched the handle for a brief moment, then drew her hand back. After she cleared her throat, she swallowed and her bottom lip shook.
She touched it again; the metal was already cooling off and the blood was starting to dry on it as well. Then she grabbed it, stood up and stared at John for several seconds.
He saw the weapon in her hand and whimpered. "Don't...don't...please don't..."
The girl snorted in disgust and walked back into the bathroom. She washed the man's blood off the pushdagger and carefully dried it off with the spare crop top.
As she started to throw away the wet garment, she saw her bra laying on top of the wadded up tissues and paper towels. She pulled it out, then removed the crop top she had on. She saw several blood smears on the material and gasped. Then she looked in the mirror at her chest and belly. John had apparently bled a lot, for it had gotten on her arms, chest and belly. There was even a smear of blood on her left cheek near her lips.
She looked down at her jeans and buttoned them. From what she could tell, she hadn't gotten any blood on them. She walked to the doorway and stared at John, who laid still on the bedspread.
Then the girl washed herself more thoroughly; not only did she clean her face, she wet her hair down, scrubbed her arms and chest, then removed her jeans to make totally sure that she didn't get blood on them.
It was nearly fifteen minutes before Scarlett returned to the bed where John still laid. She now had back on her jeans, which had been washed near the left hip and a small section on the right thigh. She also wore her bra and T-shirt again.
He was still alive, and looked at the girl weakly. "You're just going to let me lay here and bleed to death?" he asked and coughed. The cough sounded as if he had congestion.
I must have punched a hole in his lung, she thought. "Where is my ankh?" she asked, her expression still cold.
"You got me in this state!" he responded. "Help me!"
"Why should I?" she asked then.
"I...I saved your life and protected you."
She blinked and exhaled loudly. "You drugged me, molested me, repeatedly kissed me against my will, made it very plain that you intended to screw me whether I wanted it or not and then you tried to rape me!" She spat on his face and he gasped in surprise. "YOU BASTARD! I OWE YOU NOTHING!"
"Please, help me," he then said, his voice pleading. "I'm begging you!" He coughed again. "I won't hurt you or do anything else to you. I promise."
Scarlett snorted, positioned the pushdagger in her right hand and held it up for him to see. Then she asked again, "Where is my ankh?"
John closed his eyes briefly and slowly shook his head. "Why should I tell you? You're just going to kill me anyway."
A small smile formed on her face and she looked down at him. "Yes, I am going to kill you. But you're still going to answer my question."
His eyes bulged out and he said, "My right front pocket! It's in there! Just don't kill me, please!"
The girl looked down at the man, and shook her head. "You know, John, if you had played your cards right with me and treated me like a friend and not a sex toy, I probably would have...responded to you." She shook her head again. "I would have comforted you for your loss. But, you blew it. You really blew it badly."
She moved to his right side and shoved her left hand down his pants pocket. After a couple of seconds, she grimaced and said, "Ew, gross. You keep your hanky there."
"That's not..." he started to say as she pulled out a pair of her white panties.
The girl stared at the garment in her hand for several seconds and sighed loudly. "Tell me, John, does stealing some of my underwear do something for you? I understand why you took my ankh. After all, it does mean something to me." She held up the panties in her hand. "This is simply clothing." She then shook her head. "I will never understand the male mind."
Scarlett dug back into the man's pocket and sighed in relief as she pulled out the ankh. Quietly, she put the necklace back on and looked down at him. "I have another question for you," she said. "How did such a decent, God-fearing woman like Lisa get stuck with a sick, depraved freak like you?"
When John simply coughed and didn't answer her, she continued, "I mean, I'd watch her on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights when she went to church. You never went with her, because apparently, you'd rather watch me and lust after me than to strengthen your marriage to a very nice and beautiful woman."
"Please, Scarlett, help me."
The girl crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. "I'm sorry, John, but no. If I did and you got better, you'd make my life a living hell. I don't want to spend the last days of my life being raped, beaten, and tortured."
"I wouldn't..." he started to say and coughed again. This time the cough sounded very congested.
"You told that one boy that he had no right to touch me - right before you killed him." She sighed and shook her head again. "You had no right either, but you did it anyway. You're older than my dad, yet you kissed on me, felt me up and laid on top of me!" She shuddered in disgust. "I take back what I said. I wouldn't have comforted you. Ew!"
"I would have treated you like a rare treasure," he said, his voice nearly a gasp. "A goddess, even!"
"Bullshit!" She moved her hand to his left side. "You don't rape a goddess, idiot!" She reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He blinked as she placed it in her left hip pocket. "This is payback for the groping you did," she said. She then removed the two sets of keys he had as well. "The car is for putting me to sleep and kissing on me."
"You stabbed me!"
"Yeah, I know, but you tried to rape me and I had to do something to protect myself."
"Scarlett, I would have loved you."
The teen pulled one of the kitchen chairs nearer to the bed and sat down. "Love and rape are mutually exclusive, John," she said and smiled slightly. "I wrote that in an essay once."
"What are you..." He coughed hard, then groaned. "What are you doing?"
"I'm waiting," she said, "for you to die."
The man looked at her and shivered, then coughed again. "Would you...would you cover me up, please?" he asked. "It's so cold in here."
Scarlett found the temperature to be slightly warm and stuffy, but she could also smell the coppery odor of John's blood. She grabbed a crocheted cover from off a chair, unfolded it and laid it over the man.
When she sat back down and watched him, he blinked, coughed several times and said, "You are one cold-blooded bitch."
She said nothing and watched him.
Sometime later, John Fleming lost consciousness and his head turned to the right. Scarlett stood up, looked at the man, then touched his neck to feel for a pulse. She found nothing and pulled the covers up over his head.
Without a word, she grabbed the box of MREs and took them out to the car. Then she returned to the RV and carried out the rest of the food.
Last of all, she put the pushdagger back into its holder and stuck it in her back pocket. Then she walked to the bed.
"Goodbye, John," she said and looked down at his body. "Too bad it ended the way it did." She sighed and shook her head. "We could have been friends."
With that said, she walked out of the RV and shut the door.
(To be continued...)
Author's Notes: This comprises parts one through eight of Apocalyptic Daria: Scarlett's Tale as it first appeared on the PPMB, SFMB and on fanfiction.net.
I appreciate the comments and compliments I received for this tale, but I'd like first thank The Angst Guy, whose own story Scarlett motivated me into writing this chapter of the Apocalyptic Daria franchise.
Thanks also go out to legendeld, eltf177, Gouka Ryuu, Dervish, NightGoblyn, waldnorm, smk, KatrinaMedina, Brother Grimace, psychotol, respite, UU, The Sidhe, Disco316, Decelaraptor (I miss you, Guy!), vlademir1, JrGtr42, undefinedlust, and Sockpuppy.