World of Radiation

Fiends

Continued from ‘Trust No One

“So… where are we going?”

An amused smile trickles off shaggy-hair’s face as he glances over his shoulder at me. “Some place safe.”

His vague words irk me. It annoys me when people can’t just give a straight answer. I blame my curiosity. Though, in this case it’s worse. For all I know, he could be leading me into a trap. I don’t even know anything about him. “If you won’t tell me where we’re going, can you at least tell me who you are?”

His feet stop. He faces me. The smile washes away. “Derek,” he says without emotion. He doesn’t even ask my name before continuing on his merry way.

I have to job to catch up. “Okay, Derek. Why are you being so mysterious?”

“Because we’re being watched.” He says it so casually, like we were talking about the weather.

I halt. My breath catches in my throat. My head turns to glance around, to find whomever it is that’s watching us.

“Don’t look,” Derek orders.

I snap my attention back to him.

He walks away from me. “Hurry up. I’d feel awfully guilty if I left you out here to the fiends.”

I scramble to his side and, despite not trusting him, stay close. “The fiends? You talk like this is a video game.” I laugh pathetically, barely able to get it out over my fear.

His dark eyes snap to me. Intensity swirls within them. “This isn’t a video game.” The seriousness in his voice cuts through my attempt at being light-hearted.

“Then, why do you call them fiends? Their humans. Not monsters.”

“Humans can all to easily turn into monsters.” The lead pipe taps against his shoulder as he glances about casually, like he’s just enjoying a stroll through the city. Yet, his fingers clutch the metal tight enough for his knuckles to whiten.

My stomach churns. I try to remain calm, but the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. A shiver runs down my spine. Why’d I leave my dorm room? 

Clang!

My heart jumps into my throat. My hand snatches Derek’s arm as I press closer to him.

He pauses in the middle of the sidewalk, eyes trained on the street in front of us.

Vacant. Dilapidated. It sure doesn’t look like the city I was in just a week before. What’s really going on out here?

“What is it?” I whisper, my voice shaking.

“Probably an alley cat,” he returns, his voice lower than mine, but steady. “Come on. We need to keep moving.” His fingers pry my hand from his arm, but he doesn’t let go. He holds onto me and tugs me down the street like my arm were a leash.

A deep chuckle rattles against the brick buildings.

I gasp.

Derek squeezes my hand. He pushes me behind him, the lead pipe out before him.

“An alley cat, huh, son?” A woman’s high voice drifts through the air. A moment later she steps from the shadows between two looming buildings, a wicked smile tugging at her lips. “That’s an insult. Don’t you think?”

Is she asking us?

A man emerges from the alley behind her. His dark eyes gleam as they land on me, like I’m some kind of play thing.

I step further behind Derek. My body trembles at the thought of what these two want. Why’d I leave my dorm? Why’d I leave my dorm?!

“We don’t want any trouble,” Derek informs them, one hand on the lead pipe, the other touching my hand.

“You don’t want any trouble?” The woman questions, a sorrowful expression puckering her bottom lip. “But where’s the fun in that?” Her green eyes glance to the tall man beside her.

“Can’t say as I know any fun activities that don’t have a little bit of trouble in them.” He doesn’t look to her. His eyes stay on me as he takes a step forward.

My heart lurches. I jump back.

He bellows a thunderous laugh, apparently amused by my fear.

“Derek,” I whisper.

“It’s okay.” He informs me, never taking his eyes off the two aggressors. “What do you two want? A toll to cross your territory?”

Territory? They’ve claimed this section of the city? What is going on here?

The woman’s eyebrows hike up her forehead, seemingly surprised by the proposition. “A toll.” She says it like it’s a fascinating concept. She glances to the man next to her.

His eyebrows furrow in confusion. “Do we have a toll?”

She rolls her green eyes and situates her attention back on us. “Yes, a toll, young man. It seems you know how to do business.” Intertwining her fingers, she steps toward us.

“Fine. What do you want?” Derek demands like he’s patience has run thin.

One corner of her smile curls upwards, evolving it into a dark smirk. “I dare say you probably don’t have much to offer given that your weapon is a lead pipe.” Her green eyes run over us like she’s appraising an item to borrow. “Though, I dare say you’re quite protective of that young lady right there.”

I gasp.

Derek steps to block off her green-eyed stare. “People are not items to pay tolls with.”

“Then how about lives?” The woman asks with a wicked tone. She advances again.

The man advances next to her. His arms tense at his sides, like he’s preparing to attack.

My hand clutches Derek’s, no doubt cutting off his circulation.

Next Installment: Still Human

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