Hi everyone! Here is a little bonus post now that What Remains is out. This is the original opening that I wrote for the story. But I didn’t like it, so went back and changed it quite considerably, I think. The changes were made to make it flow better and simply because I didn’t like Den’s position relative to Enrique’s and the interaction between them. I thought it lacked something, but see what you think.
Dennis Waites, or Den as everyone calls him, knocks on the door of the town elders’ home, Enrique Powers. He knows the hour is late but this is important. He can’t, he won’t, sit by and just wait for more people to be killed in their sleep by the cannibals that are sneaking their way into the small town of Haven every night. It just isn’t right. He understands Enrique has to keep things organised but how many more have to lose their lives before something is done.
All he wants is to ask the elder if he and his squad of five others members can be given permission to seek out where the cannibals are coming from and put an end to this violence. It’s what everybody wants; no it’s what everybody needs. There has been enough death in this world to last lifetimes.
Den gently wraps on Enrique’s wooden door. The elders’ house isn’t large. None of the houses are large here. This town didn’t even exist until fifty years ago. It was built after the floods that saw the oceans swallow most of the land.
Scientists had got it wrong, very wrong, and sea levels rose nearly a thousand metres. Den doesn’t know all the details. He isn’t old enough to remember the world before the floods. In fact, very few people are anymore. But those who are rarely speak of it.
“Come in.” Enrique calls. His voice muffled by the walls of his cabin.
Den hesitates for a few seconds as he thinks over what he’s going to say. The truth is all that rings through his head as he takes the door handle and pushes the door away from him and into the cabin within.
The interior is simply furnished. No one has more than they need. People no longer live in luxury with huge houses and expensive cars and enough gadgets to fill rooms. Satellites, mobile phones, computers, stereos and televisions are all gone. There are no power stations to produce electricity and no factories to produce goods. What people have is what they have found or made for themselves.
“What can I do for you Den?” Enrique asks as he finishes putting the plates and cutlery into the metal sink.
He isn’t surprised to see the patrol squad leader but he had hoped that it wouldn’t be until tomorrow morning. The only blessing he can take is that at least Den had the thought to leave it late enough that dinner with his grandchildren has concluded.
His wife, Mary, took them back to their daughters’ house, again a cabin like everyone else’s. She should have returned by now but is likely busily chatting away. It’s probably for the best Enrique thinks as he looks at the six feet tall man with a shaved head and grey eyes. He looks early thirties Enrique decides as he waits for Den to respond.
“I’m here to ask that you let me and my squad…” Den starts. He sees no point in wasting time or skirting round the issue.
“No.” Enrique replies with a brief shake of his head while he wipes his hands on a dish cloth.
“Enrique you haven’t even heard what I’m proposing.” Den replies. He isn’t surprised by the elders reply, but he thought he’d at least be allowed to get a little further before being refused by the man in his late fifties who has thinning white hair and hazel coloured eyes that stands several inches shorter than he.
“I don’t have to. It’s the same thing you always propose Den and I can’t allow it. You know that.” Enrique has lost count how many times Den has asked over the last few months that he be granted authorisation to go on a wild goose chase to try and find where their attackers are coming from and he’s tired of it. It’s why he had hoped it wouldn’t come until tomorrow, but it seems the patrol squad leader is becoming more persistent instead of less.
“We have to do something. The attacks are getting worse.” Den tries to reason. It isn’t a lie the attacks from the cannibals who appeared out of nowhere months ago have been getting worse. He’s seen the results first hand and it made him sick. He doesn’t understand how anyone can do such things to another person. In fact, he’d been convinced at first that the deaths had been the result of some animal and not another human being.
“We don’t have the man power Den, you know that.” Enrique replies as he stares back at the younger man. He understands Den’s desire, but it doesn’t change the fact that the patrols are a necessity. Without them the number of casualties they would have suffered from the cannibals would have been much much worse than they are.
“I know. But all I’m asking is for me and my squad. No one else. That’s it. And just for a couple days. If we find nothing we’ll come back and I’ll drop this for good.”
“The answers still no.” Enrique concludes with a stern look and finality to his words.
The elder isn’t willing to continue this conversation further. This is the end of the matter and his answer will not change, no matter how many times Den asks. This is the lesser of two evils. The patrols must continue as planned. There are simply not enough people and weapons for even a single squad to disappear off into the wilderness while simultaneously keeping the cannibals from attacking. There just isn’t. They are a small town on the coast. Most of their food is either grown of caught from the water. They live basic lives and it’s hard enough without them purposefully handicapping themselves.
“Final answer?” Den asks. He already knows the answer but he feels he needs to know for sure.
“Final answer Den. I’m sorry.” Enrique replies. He doesn’t know why the younger man has asked because he thought he’d made it pretty clear from his expression and tone, but maybe he was wrong. He doesn’t know if it’s him not making it clear enough or Den not wanting to listen. Either way it’s clear now.
Den simply nods. It’s exactly what he’d expected. He isn’t even sure why he came here, but he did. Maybe it was just to make sure? Give Enrique one final chance to change his mind he thinks as he turns on his heels crosses the open space of the cabin and calmly opens the front door.
“Thank you for your time Enrique. Have a good evening.” Den says with a forced smile before closing the door behind him.
Enrique stares at the door. He begins to doubt whether he has done the right thing but after a few seconds shakes the feeling off. That’s what he wants you to do, question yourself, a voice in his head says as he stands looking at the plain furniture that fills his cabin. He doesn’t own anything extravagant. No one does now. He can just about remember how the world was before the floods, but he never talks about it. The few that can remember never do. He doesn’t know why the others don’t, but for him is because he doesn’t want to lead them down the path that led humanity to destruction once before. Too many were lost when the waters rose and the race are still mourning them even if most of the reminders are buried beneath the waves.
“What did he say?” Callum Steele, a member of Den’s patrol squad asks. He’s an old friend of Den’s. They’ve known each other since they were kids. Always running round together doing stuff and none of that had changed as they’d got older either. Except Callum had kids, three, while Den didn’t.
“What he always says.” Den confirms with a shrug.
“Why do you look so down?” Callum asks.
“I thought he might change his mind after the last attack.” Den replies honestly. Sixteen people had lost their lives the last time the cannibals had attacked, two nights ago. They only ever attack at night but no one is sure why. Den guesses it’s because everything is harder to see at night especially with all the shadows cast by the cabins and store houses, but he like everyone else don’t really know.
“No you didn’t. You just hoped he would. You knew he wouldn’t say yes.”
“True. Either way it’s a no.”
“So what now?” Callum asks as he leans against a cabin wall. The pair are a hundred feet from Enrique Powers home, but it’s late and there’s no one else out. Most of the people of Haven now stay inside at night because of a fear that the cannibals could strike at any time. Their attacks are random. There is no pattern to them at all. Den should know he’s been looking for one, but there just isn’t one. He wonders if it is purely when they get hungry, or something else. He hopes it’s not something else, even if he doesn’t know what that something else could be.
“We have a patrol at first light.” Den offers.
“We’re going to do nothing?” Callum says surprised.
“No, we’re going to complete our patrol and then head out.” Den clarifies.
“Why not just head out now?” Callum offers.
“They’re active at night. We need all the advantages we can get. We go out on patrol as normal then peel off once it’s complete and go searching. Tell the squad to prep for a few days in the wilderness. Make sure they bring enough supplies and know what they’re getting themselves into. Ok, Cal?”
“Sure Den. Not a problem.” Callum confirms before the pair part ways for their respective cabins. They don’t have long until they need to be up for their first light patrol.
Den doesn’t like the idea of going against Enrique’s orders but he doesn’t see any other choice. He can’t sit by and watch countless others become dinner for the cannibals. They have to be stopped sooner rather than later. If they’re not then it’s not going to matter how much the death toll is reduced by patrols like his if in the end they all end up dead anyway.