Fiction Friday! This weeks prompt: This week’s assignment is to write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly – and find the beauty in it. Word limit is 600.
Outside of the gate we immediately fall into a 5 person formation. Ulysses has point, Tyler and Billy on the flanks, I’m pushing the cart and Toby is taking the rear, walking backwards most of the time. We only have about 15 blocks to travel, but many of the streets are virtually impassable, requiring clearing and we avoid areas where we know that others have set up their own strong holds. Our compound aims to be self-sufficient, understanding we can’t live off the crumbs of what was, but not all groups have this philosophy and just like it has always been the world quickly breaks down into predator and prey.
As we head to the East River I gaze at the still stunning Manhattan skyline. During the day, from this distance you can hardly tell how much the world has changed, if it weren’t for the deadly quiet. Without cars, trains, buses, taxi’s, iPods and people talking incessantly on their cellphones the silence is so deafening that I literally jump at the sound of a can being knocked over.
Ulysses puts his hand up, “hold.” We all stop and drop to a crouch as we have been drilled to over and over again. Tyler indicates that he can hear something moving in the space between the two buildings to our left, a gap not big enough to be called an alley but wide enough to hold more than one adult. Billy’s face is white and his coal black eyes are burning fiercely as he scans the rooftops. He’s so young, not even nineteen and I wonder what his life expectancy is now. My legs are starting to burn and I’m getting unreasonably annoyed with Ulysses’ caution, when he waves us on.
Tyler leans in to me, “Probably just a cat.”
“As if there are any of those left.”
We reach the water. They fan out while I check for dead bodies, sewage, animals, anything that could contaminate it. Today the current is moving at a pretty good clip in the center and the immediate area seems clear. I wade in a couple of feet and am about to tell everyone that we’re good when I see her. She’s on her back floating a foot below the surface. Her black hair waves gently in the current and her open eyes are an extraordinary gray, dark on the outside, lighter in the center. Her hands float near her hips just above her body, like she’s getting ready to bring her arms up for a plie. Her bluish lips curve upwards mimicking the giant gash across her throat. Her left leg is neatly amputated at the hip joint, probably for meat and I have the simultaneous thoughts of wondering why whoever did this didn’t take all of her flesh and if it was more difficult to butcher something so beautiful.
“Sci, what’s going on?” Ulysses voice is tense.
“We need to move up river. Dead body.” A life summed up as an inconvenience.
“Yea, I know, we don’t have to go up river that far, the area was clear except for…”
“We have another problem.”
Seven problems to be exact. They are bearing down on us from the north armed with what look like spiked clubs and a chainsaw. All I have right now is the animal hope that they don’t have guns and that they are as badly trained as they seem from this distance because those two things may be the only things separating us from the girl in the river.
For all of you who left comments on Tuesdays post, Quickly Sketched, I wanted to thank you, you were all extraordinary in your kindness and with your support.