AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece about forager David Collier is not part of the novel. This is also a Three Word Wednesday post. Please to go the Three Word Wednesday for more fun!
The smell of dust and molding cardboard choked the air and somewhere in the darkness was a skittering sound of rats. David pulled a knife and slit open the box. Peanuts. He did a quick mental calculation. How many packets could he keep for himself without the others finding out? He trusted no one, not even his fellow gang members, in the pandemic-ravaged city. And with good reason.
The heavy crunch of footsteps on shards of broken glass caught his attention. He shut off his flashlight and ducked behind some boxes, his heart racing and his pulse pounding in his ears. Of all the rotten luck – a rival gang of hungry survivors. He held his breath and hoped they would walk past in the darkness. But then David saw the sweep of a flashlight beam and heard a familiar voice.
“Here’s something, guys.”
David jumped out of his hiding place and brandished his knife. “Back off, Gallows. This is mine.”
The young man who had been in the lead paused, but affected no surprise. “Hi, David.”
“Don’t ‘hi’ me. I found this stash first, so take your friends and leave.”
“Forget it,” one of the other boys said. He pulled a .45 from a holster at his hip, but the one who David had addressed as “Gallows,” motioned for him to put it away.
“It’s all right. David’s cool. He won’t hurt us.”
David stood a little taller. Who was Jay Gallard to take up for him? Oh sure, everyone liked Gallows. They had been with the Kevorkians until a few months ago, where Jay stole, scrapped, and killed with the best of them. But that didn’t stop him from being popular with the girls. They said he was kind and thoughtful. They loved him. Especially David’s girl.
“I don’t need your endorsement, Gallows. Just get the hell out of here.”
Jay gave him a steady look. “We can’t do that. We’ve got fifty people to feed.”
“You think I don’t have a gang to feed, too?”
“I know you’re with some Kevorkian offshoot.” Jay gave a little shrug. “Why don’t you join us instead? I’m with the Regents now, and it’s a good group. We’re organized. We’ve got a school and a clinic. We’re going to rebuild civilization.”
“Like you would know about civilization,” David scoffed. “Who do you think you're fooling? Don't forget, I know things about you.”
“Besides, not just anyone can join us,” one of the other kids said. He cast a suspicious look at Jay. “No one would trust this guy. Everyone knows what ex-Kevorkians are like.”
“I’m an ex-Kevork,” Jay reminded him. “David is one of the best foragers in the city. He’ll be an asset.”
While the others rolled their eyes, Jay turned back to David. “So how about it? Want to join us?”
David hesitated. Why should he accept any favors from Jay Gallard, stealer of pretty girls and two-faced liar who could string up rival gang members, then toss back a glass of whiskey and weep over the chaos in the devastated city?
But David was weary of the constant fights in his small, violent gang. He was tired of always having to watch his back, even among so-called friends. The Regents were one of the better gangs - as peaceful as anyone could be in this apocalyptic mess of a world. Perhaps they would suit his purposes for now.
“Will you vouch for me?” he asked.
Jay stuck out his hand, and after only a moment's pause to consider, David took it.