Ambrose Returns
Ambrose Returns is a multi-part story, written "on the fly", as an exercise. I add a new part whenever the fancy takes me, and I give each part absolutely no thought before I write it. I write it directly into the HTML editor, and then post it without any rewriting or real editing. The only editing I do is to correct spelling mistakes and anything else that is obviously wrong. And I may even miss a few of those. Writing this way won't produce my greatest work, but that's not the point. The point is to exercise the creative muscles, and to practise. And to always remind myself to not be afraid to "get things out there". :)
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7
Part 7

So for the second time that night, I awoke from a coma. The second time wasn't so bad though. I could remember everything that had happened without a problem. I sat up straight in the unfamiliar bed, and gasped. My head was still banging. A head rush was not something I needed right now.

"Ok?" said a voice from the other side of the strange room I was in. That same voice. The one I half remembered, half didn't. Who was it?

The owner walked into the gloomy light that was being cast by a single murky bulb hanging on its own from a cracked and peeling ceiling. I squinted, my vision still blurry.

"Well?" the voice continued. Holy shit! It couldn't be. Could it? It was.

"Henry Ford Adams," I said simply, "You rescued me?"

"Surprised?" Henry asked, wiping his hands clean of something on a rag that already looked pretty dirty,

"I'll say. Thought you were dead."

He looked genuinely slightly hurt. "Dead?" he said. "Where'd you hear that?"

"Grapevine," I replied, giving a little laugh sigh.

"Grapevine? Damn. There goes my reputation. All the good deeds I've been doing, and everybody thought I was dead." He sat down on the edge of the bed, at the bottom.

"Sorry. What can I say? Death comes to us all."

He laughed this time. A good laugh. He wasn't hurt really. He probably liked the idea of people thinking him dead. His reputation would have been raised if anything. I smiled too, and looked down at the thin sheet covering me.

"Hey, at least you didn't take my clothes off when you put me to bed," I offered, trying to break the ice that seemed to have quickly formed around us.

"Seen it all before," came his reply, accompanied by a small unsure grin.

"Shit. Yeah, I forgot."

Now he really did look hurt. "Fuck you Lowdon!" he said, smiling. His acting had improved. I laughed. We both laughed. Nervously. Ex lovers who hadn't seen each other in years.

I lay back on the bed, put the back of my hand flat against my forehead. "My head's killing me."

Henry stood up, and was away into the shadows again. He returned with a glass of water, and a couple of pills. "All I got I'm afraid," he said as I took them eagerly. "It'll take the edge off though."

I swallowed the pills quickly, and gulped down the water even quicker. I couldn't remember the last time I'd drank. And inbetween then and now, I'd kicked the shit out of Bryce, fought off six Smokers, fallen twelve feet into the snow, and been thrown head first into a maternity unit's brick wall. I was thirsty as hell.

"Easy," Henry said, "we're not running out. I'll get you some more."

Off into the shadows he went again. And once again he returned with water. "What's with the lighting in here?" I asked, between gulps. "Feel like I'm on the stage or something."

"Thought I'd keep it moody for you. You did just get your head half caved in ya know."

"Really? That's what it was? I didn't know."

"Still sarcastic I see."

I smiled again. "But of course," I said, laying back down again.

"You want the real lighting?" he asked, expectantly. Hmmm, I wondered what he had to show me. I knew that tone. Henry had always been a bit of a show off. And he loved surprises. Two things that had annoyed me about him all those years ago. Two of the reasons, we'd fallen apart.

"Go on then," I replied, knowingly. "Show me what ya got."

He laughed. He still knew me, and I still knew him. Neither one of us had changed it seemed. Well, that probably wasn't true. But for now, I wanted it to be. After the day I'd had, the familiarity and safeness was nice. And comforting. I wanted it to last as long as it could.

"Ok," he said, "close your eyes."

"Cut it out," I grunted, a little too sharply. "We're not eleven. It's not my birthday."

"For your head stupid," he replied, also sharply. Nice, I thought. Give and take. One of the reasons I'd loved him. "I got some powerful beams up in here."

I burst out in giggles. Powerful beams. What the fuck was that? He was giggling too. He knew I'd find that funny. And stupid. It was like we'd never been apart.

"Alright, alright, alright," I said, half channelling Matthew McConaughey, "Just get on with it will ya. I'll die of boredom over here if I don't get to see whatever it is you want me to see."

And with that, he left the dull circle of light for the third time. Only this time, he didn't come back. The light went out. And a second later, it came back on. Brighter and bigger than ever. He was right. He did have some powerful beams up in here. Of course, they weren't really. They were just normal lights. But he'd been spot on. My eyes felt like they'd been stabbed. I closed them, then opened them just a little, trying to focus on what I saw before me.

"Holy mother of Andrew Bakerson!" I exclaimed, "Look at all that shit!"

Henry beamed in the corner, his arms folded in front of him, like a proud Dad at a football game. "I know," was all he said, "Pretty neat huh?"

I nodded, opening my eyes a little bit more, as the stabbing pain subsided. The walls were lined from floor to ceiling with every possible firearm you could imagine. Glocks. ARs. AK-47s. MP5s. A Barrett 50 cal, one of my favourites. There were knives, grenades, enough claymores to level ten city blocks. I was in heaven. There was body armour, bug out bags, medical supplies, food, drink. This was a real prepper's lair.

I looked over at Henry, "Expecting the shit to hit the fan?" I asked, more concern in my voice than I intended.

"Always," he replied, suddenly serious, "But not in that way. I aint gonna be on any TV shows talking about the revolution."

I sighed with relief. "Thank God for that. I thought you'd lost your mind for a minute."

He didn't smile. "Serious Ange. This is no joke." And I could tell that it wasn't. "You've been gone a long time. Things have changed. A lot. We're prepping alright. But for something far worse than any of those guys could ever comprehend."

By "those guys" I guessed he meant those YouTube gun nuts who wanted nothing more than to be able to live in abandoned prisons, and shoot zombies.

I looked at Henry again. All the humour had gone out of him. He looked smaller suddenly. Like he'd shrunk, in height and weight. He looked tired. Worn out. His face wore at least a week's worth of stubble. His hair was long and messy. His clothes were tattered. I hadn't noticed before. He looked like he'd just got in from a month long trek into the mountains. Only he didn't look happy or proud about it. He almost looked scared. And jumpy. I didn't like it. He wasn't what I had left behind. Suddenly I felt a wave of guilt wash over me. What had I left them all to, all those years ago? Had they needed me? Had I run away from something? Left them in the lurch, alone to face something that was mine to face as well?

I looked at him. He looked down at the ground, moved imaginary dirt with his boot. "What's happened?" I asked, all serious now. "Tell me. I need to know."

He looked up now. There were tears in his eyes. His voice was shaky and cracked. "Oh Angela," he simply started, "It's all gone to shit. And it's only gonna get worse."

He turned away from me, into the corner of the room. I could see he was crying. But he didn't want me to see him. Stupid bastard, I thought, slightly irritated. After everything we'd been through in the past. And he was scared to show me this side of him? I climbed out of bed. My head hurt like hell with the movement. The two pills had done nothing. I walked over to him, slowly, having to steady myself with every step. When I got close, he didn't turn around. Idiot, I thought again. I put my arms around his body, and buried my cheek into his back. I felt his hands find mine, and close around them.

"All gone to shit," he said again, quietly, the crying stopped.

"We'll turn it around," I told him. "When did we ever not turn it around?"

He gave a small laugh, "Yeah. We'll turn it around. If you're gonna stay that is."

I closed me eyes. He couldn't tell. I squeezed my arms almost imperceptibly around him more. "Where else would I go now?" I asked, not even really a question. "I can't run away this time. I won't."

He unclasped his hand from mine, and ran his fingers up my forearm, gently. "Good. Cos we need you. You don't know how much."

And so we just stood there, as we were, safe again, for the time being at least.

Copyright © 2015 Daniel Lee Peach