Hi again, another entry into the travels of Doctor Schultz and his companion Caleb as they trek east across a barren world. Now, they find themselves escorting a young girl named Abby and are off in pursuit of her ailing mother to see how, or if, they can help.
This will likely be the last entry into the Plague Series for a short time as I’ve been invited to partake in several short competitions/contests and will be giving it my all, in concocting new and enticing worlds. If you’re interested in any of my contest work, check over here (link to DeviantArt page) as it will be posted/updated their first and then here, depending on the rules of the contest.
Regardless, this won’t be the last ever update on the Plagued Doctor and his friend, so keep checking back for more!
As always, comments and thoughts welcome.
Anyway, continue below the line for the latest on the Plague Road!
Power lines hung overhead and ran the length of the alley. Abby raced a ways ahead. She led them like a sprightly little monkey through the overgrown jungle that stretched behind the houses. Schultz was able to keep pace, looking every part the bird on his mask as he flew after her. Caleb lagged behind as the heavy pack caused him to sway with every footfall.
“Doctor, slow down…”
He tried to quiet his breathing. His gasps for air echoed through the alleyway, joined only by the muted clapping of their shoes. There were no children running about, no laughing or giggling as they played care-free games as children were ought to do.
A feeling of dread began to work its way through his chest as he struggled to keep up. He glanced down each driveway as they passed, eyes set on the main road that divided the rows of houses, north and south. The street was quiet. Abandoned cars and open topped buckets lined the street under a canopy of plastic tarps set to catch falling rain water. Everything about the place looked as if it would have worked; as if it would have been the type of place to settle and carve out a living.
It looked like it should have survived.
“C’mon, this way,” Abby said, standing atop a broken fire escape landing several feet above ground.
Schultz had already begun to scale the nearby dumpster, eying the landing where the girl awaited as Caleb caught up.
“Just. One second,” He drank in deep, gulping breaths and bent over, hands on his knees, “just need a second.”
He looked up at the sound of the hollow ring of metal stairs under light feet. Abby was looping around the rail on the next landing up with Schultz close behind.
Caleb adjusted the weight of the pack again, pulling tight the shoulder straps so they were again snug against him. He glanced up at the fire escape landing well above his head and even his outstretched arm. He sighed and moved toward the metal dumpster nearby. Leaning to one side, he slipped one foot up, shifted his weight and rolled up onto the lid. His arms and legs felt like dead weight, he took his time, step by step pushing up to his feet and looking up after Abby and the doctor.
“Hey,” he said, his voice raised enough for them to hear, “wait up, will ya…”
He reached up and gripped the metal rail along the side of the landing. He took a deep breath before hoisting himself up and over the edge of the landing. He laid his chest against the cold metal grate, while his legs dangled, the weight of the backpack pinning him down. A moment later, with another deep breath, he wriggled one foot up, caught the rail and pushed with all the strength he had left in him. He slid across the little metal edges of the grate and debated just staying there. Staying down on that uncomfortable rusted landing to wait for Schultz to come back for him.
“Caleb, we need the supplies…” Schultz called down from a landing above.
Caleb sighed, his every muscle feeling as though they’d given their last. Even his lungs struggled to draw in air with each gasping breath.
He pushed up to his feet and started the slow trek up three flights to join the doctor.
“We have antibiotics, we’ll get you the medicine you need and you should start feeling better.” Schultz said, speaking to a sickly woman on a foldout bed, as Caleb appeared in the window.
Schultz turned to acknowledge him, “ah, there he is now. Caleb this is Jennifer, Abby’s mom.”
The doctor shifted out of the way, enough to show the feverish woman bundled in blankets, sweating and shivering all at once. Heavy, dark bags under her bloodshot eyes.
“We’ll need antibiotics, the tube with the yellow label,” Schultz said, gesturing for him to hand it over.
Caleb slid the backpack around and set it on the floor in front of him and shifted through the jumbled mess. He pulled a red-orange plastic tube with a large strip of yellow tape over its lid and held it up.
“Yes, bring it over, please.”
He hurried over, tube in hand and joined the doctor at Jennifer’s bedside. She looked up at him, a puffy redness at her nose and eyes and a clear line of snot escaping down her lips. He forced a smile, practicing courtesy despite what the situation would’ve allowed.
“Here we are. Take this, you’ll start to feel better.” Schultz said, dropping two small pills into her open mouth with a cup of water on the table nearby.
Caleb imagined the doctor smiling behind that lifeless mask. Even a fake smile, he thought, as some part of the doctor would’ve wanted to believe what he was telling her was true.
“Now, get some rest and we’ll check on you in a few hours.” Schultz moved strands of thin, greasy, hair out of her face and helped her lay back.
Abby, standing beside the doctor, watched over her mother. She reached to grab the doctor’s hand as he went to stand up.
“C’mon, I have something for you,” she said as she started to drag him off to a back room.
Caleb watched as Schultz played along. He stood and traipsed after the little girl until the two of them disappeared into the hallway.
Jennifer shifted and worked to sit herself up, licking at her lips and the dry cracks lining them.
Caleb leaned over to help her adjust, “you gotta get some rest, you-”
“Take. Take her,” Jennifer let out a dry hack, “take her.” She repeated. Caleb frowned and shook his head, ready to protest when she continued.
“The men’ll be back any minute, you can’t be here. Take Abby and go.”
“What men? Did they do this to you?” Caleb asked, still confused.
“No, work for them,” she turned away, tears gathering at the corners of her eyes,”I get travelers that pass by to stop. The guys, they beat ’em an’ take whats left.”
“Alright, calm down, we’ll figure something out.”
“No, there’s no time, please!”
Caleb went to back away, but she grabbed onto his shirt, “Please, since I got sick they’ve been eying Abby.”
A crash came from the back room, the sound of glass falling to the floor. Caleb pulled away and hesitated as he looked at Jennifer. She fell back onto the couch, unable to fight off crying and moaning. He turned and ran into the back hallway not knowing which way to go.
“No! Uncle Billy, no!” Abby screamed.
He followed the panicked scream back to find Schultz standing over the body of a man lying on the ground. The man on the ground lay curled up in a fetal position, clutching his stomach as blood ran from his abdomen into a pool around him. Schultz looked from the body back to Caleb, the unmoving mask staring through emerald eyes.
“He tried to knife me but then grabbed her. When I tried to explain, he moved the knife to her throat. I had no choice.” Schultz said. He sounded calm, almost relaxed as he explained himself to the crying child.
“Doc, we need to go…”
A loud engine snorted outside, the vehicle’s brakes squealing as it slowed to a stop, announcing its arrival.