He was pitching a tent for horses.
He wasn’t working alone, of course. No way in hell could he get one of these big blue and white monsters up without help. But for horses?
Davon exhaled. Of course he understood the logic—the barn they’d found the horses in was much too far away for them to hike every day to check on them even if it wasn’t in constant danger of collapse, so they’d brought them back to campus, knowing that there were at least two more large tents that they could use. Davon had tried not to feel bewildered when he’d seen the small group of riders leading more horses by their reins trotting up between shattered buildings. He’d even wondered aloud if anyone knew how to take care of horses. One of the camps staffers, Stasia Lane, piped up that she’d grown up around animals all her life and was more than capable of taking care of the dozen horses they’d found. Everything would be fine, she’d declared, and with that, Davon had found himself working with a few others to pitch another one of the large tents.
I guess I shouldn’t be too upset, he thought glumly. At least this way, we’ve got help with heavy lifting and hauling. It was small consolation. He was still in part struggling to understand why no one had shown up to help them, trying not to admit to himself that he already knew the answer—there was no one out there who could.
So he’d pitched in to help, hoping that everything he did would be for naught, that all of a sudden the National Guard would show up and take them away from the shattered wreckage of the university, take them to a place where there was still civilization. The more he looked around, though, the more he realized that was never going to happen.
Doesn’t mean I have to be cheerful about the prospect of freezing or starving to death out here. When his friends had ‘picked teams’ for the end of the world, he’d jokingly attached himself to one of them. Now that it seemed that the end had come, he found himself wishing he’d been among the lucky ones to die.
“Davon! We’re ready to start getting those walls up. You done with those stakes on that side?”
He shook off the morbid thoughts running through his head and cursed under his breath. “Yeah, it’s set, Matt,” he called back. “Let’s get those walls up.” He ducked through the center of the tent to help Matt Astoris with the walls.
“You had a thousand mile stare going on there for a minute,” Matt observed as they started clipping up the tent’s heavy walls. “You okay, or should I not ask questions I don’t want to know the answers to?”
Davon grimaced. He wasn’t sure which one it was. “Just wondering if this is worth it. Hell. Wondering if it’s going to work.”
Matt poked his head around the side of the heavy tarp. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I just…Matt, do you think it’s the end? You think they’re right? That what we’re doing here is a good idea?”
“That’s a lot of questions there, Davon.”
“I know.” Davon shook his head and went back to rigging up the walls. “Part of me thinks it’s crazy and part of me thinks we’re not working toward the long term fast enough. Then another part of me wishes I died with all of those people we buried out by the PAC.”
“It’s not crazy,” Matt said.
“No, it’s crazy.” They finished with the first tarp Davon headed to grab the next one. “Who the hell could have predicted this shit happening? Who would have imagined it?”
Davon made a face. “Marin had a nightmare a few years ago. That’s all it was. I don’t know why we’re all hanging on her every word like it’s gospel.” He paused, watching Matt’s expression darken. “Look, I know she’s your sister and everything, but this is a little nuts. Maybe we should be working harder on finding somewhere else to be than working on building something out of this wreck.”
“Three days ago, you were all for finding a way to eke out an existence.”
“Three days ago I was happy the library hadn’t collapsed on us. Now I’m bloody tired.” Davon scrubbed a hand over his eyes. “You believe them, don’t you?”
Matt shrugged. “Not sure what else to think, Davon. She’s my sister. I used to think she was full of crap, but now I’m not sure anymore. You’re right. No one could have predicted this, but she did.”
Dammit. I was afraid he’d say that. “And then the world ended, and now we’re setting up a tent for a bunch of horses.”
Matt managed a wry smile. “And probably supplies, too. Horses won’t take up the whole space. One of the groups is trying to hotwire one of those trucks out by the new apartments they were going to build so they can haul the wood and bricks over here. Rory thinks he can get it pretty close.” Matt hauled the tarp up toward the lines hanging underneath the tent’s roof flap and held it there while Davon started clipping the wall into place. “If the National Guard was coming, we’d know by now. If there was something else out there, we’d know by now.” He shook his head a little. “I’ve been fiddling with the radio at night. There’s nothing out there, Davon. Nothing but static.” The other man swallowed and shook his head. “I really think we’re on our own.”
“Your professional opinion, huh?”
Matt shrugged a little. “Such as it is. Don’t you think that we’d have heard something by now, even if it’s just an emergency broadcast signal?”
He hated to admit it, but Matt was probably right. That didn’t make it any easier to stomach. “There’s forty of us, Matt. How’re we going to pull this off?”
“What we’re doing right now is a start,” Matt said, coming around the edge of the wall as they finished getting it up into place. He started knotting off the overlaps.
“Can we start bringing them in, Davon?”
It was Stasia’s voice. She held one of the horses by its bridle, already unsaddled, tail swishing lazily back and forth, standing near the edge of the wall they’d put up, the open edge that faced the tents on the hill. Davon considered for a moment, then nodded.
“Yeah, start bringing them in. Don’t tie them to anything of the tent, though. We’ll have to figure something else out to make sure they stay put.”
Stasia smiled. “We can drive a few stakes into the ground and tie them off, I think, though when the weather turns again, I think these guys’ll be happy not to be out in it.” She patted the horse’s cheek. The horse stared at Davon and he felt a strange tickle at the back of his mind. He stared back at it for a moment, then the horse nickered and tossed its head a little. She let go and the horse edged forward, nudging Davon with its nose. Stasia laughed. “I think she likes you.”
A sense of gratitude spread through Davon, though he didn’t know where it had come from—certainly not from him. He smiled back at Stasia. “Maybe.” He glanced toward Matt, who was waiting for him. “We’d better finish getting those walls up.”
Stasia nodded. “We’ll leave you to it. I’ll grab someone to come drive those stakes for us. Is it okay if we set these guys up at the far end?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Need us to leave access back there, too?”
“Would be nice,” Stasia said, then led the horse away. Davon headed back over to Matt.|
Davon nodded. “Yeah. Let’s get back to work.”
Matt nodded in agreement. Davon took a breath and exhaled it slowly. The feeling of gratitude was fading. Where had it come from? Stasia? She didn’t seem that grateful. He mopped his brow with his sleeve. No time for it now. Probably imagining things.
Yep, that’s it. Imagining things.
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