Writing and Reviews – Denise Pasutti
Cal told Marco it was time to go. I thought the kid was going to stay put but he climbed over the seats out of the car and took Cal’s hand. Marco looked sullen and there were dark circles under his eyes that didn’t belong there. I let it go and started walking, taking it slow so that I could scan the trees along either side of the road as we walked. We went along for a couple of hours before the trees started to thin out and I saw what looked like 2 turn offs with roads leading into the trees about 5 miles to the right. We carefully approached the first one and saw a short road leading to a single campsite with electrical hook-ups. It wasn’t a large space, just enough room for a small trailer or tent and it sat vacant.
The next turn off was about 20 feet away and was separated from the first one by dense forest. It was like both of the spots have been carved from the woods. Before I reached the turn to what I guessed must be another campsite, I spotted a small building further down the road at a junction. The front of the little shack – it reminded of one of those little huts that people sit in at toll booths or at the border crossing – faced another road leading to a highway; I could see the black asphalt shimmering many miles in the distance. Parked off the side off the road sat a jeep that didn’t look like it had been there for very long but from a distance it was hard to tell.
I noted the booth and jeep in my mind as a reminder to inspect them after we checked out the campsite, and then turned to the driveway looking down the trail at a larger, double capacity campsite. I continued slowly walking toward two large RV’s sitting side by side like ominously silent witnesses; the front windows dark hollows watching our approach. I motioned for Cal to stay behind and went between the two vehicles stopping mid-way and getting down on the ground, to check underneath for anything that may be lying in wait to attack.
In my life before this apocalypse (if it truly was one) I had loved horror movies and my best friend in high school,Parker and I devoured them no matter what they were about – the gorier the better. That’s why my mind went to a scare tactic lying in wait, a monster hidden under the RV ready to attack. I was damn near disappointed to find nothing under either vehicle except for dirt and clumps of grass sodden with something that looked like oil. I finally made my way around both RV’s and back to the front where Cal and Marco were anxiously waiting. I shrugged and shook my head to confirm there was nothing and that again struck me as being very odd. Two large recreational vehicles, obviously not here long and no signs of human or otherwise activity in the area.
“Well, which one do you want to check out first?” Cal almost looked excited at the prospect.
I had to admit, but not out loud, I was just as anxious to have a look inside. Even with my limited camping experience, I knew people stocked up before heading out into the middle of nowhere and if the RV’s were empty of people, we might have a way out this damned forest in a heavy-duty vehicle that would provide a comfortable and safe sleeping environment. The thought of a bed, even in a motor home, floated through me with the beautiful possibility of sleep bringing my near crippling weariness to the forefront of my mind and making the urgency of examining the RV’s more important.
I tried the passenger side door handle, surprised that it hadn’t been locked but concerned that, that might mean it wasn’t empty or abandoned either. Opening the door a waft of musty air washed over me but there didn’t seem to be any scent of decay or death accompanying it. I nodded to Cal then pulled one of my guns and stepped on the first of two steps leading into the cavernous maw of the motorhome. I hadn’t been in anything this modern before and as my eyes adjusted to the dim light I looked into the interior of the cabin seeing a microwave, a flat screen TV mounted on a swivel against the wall and stacks of DVD’s and books strewn about. Homey. Standing between the passenger and driver’s seat, I focused on the body of the vehicle and then rapped my knuckles on the roof disturbing the silence. Nothing moved. It appeared to be more or less safe and I felt ok to turn away from the interior and search the front end for what may well be our salvation – the keys.
I dared to hope they had been left in the ignition, just to make everything easier but of course they were not there. I checked the visor on the driver’s side, found nothing, dropped the visor on passenger’s side and came up with nothing again. Opening the glove box a map of what I assumed to be the area fell out, which I gave to Cal, followed by a pack of melted gum, a flashlight that went into my pocket, a pair of cracked aviator style sunglasses and lastly the vehicle registration -Kurt Helms was the owner – but still not what I wanted.
“No keys? Maybe they’re in the back somewhere.” Cal had stepped up the first step to watch.
The light in the body of the RV was dull, defused by slat blinds and the trees surrounding us. I used my newly acquired flashlight and headed into the kitchen/living area and rifled through cabinets, checked under the seat cushions and looked under the mess of books and movies. Nothing. Searching the small bathroom revealed shampoo, toothpaste and toilet paper; items that seemed so lavish at this point, but nothing else. Finally, I headed to bedroom at the very rear of the motorhome. Modest clothes hung in the closet that could either be male or female, and finally I lighted on an oasis – two twin beds with rumpled bedding. It took every ounce of willpower not to curl up in one of the piles of warmth and comfort and just go to sleep for a few days.
“Anything Louis?” Cal and Marco had come into the motorhome and sat at the kitchen table looking exhausted and filthy.
“No sign of the keys. There’s food in the cupboards but I didn’t check the fridge.”
Cal got up and did a quick survey finding warm bottled water, pop and a can of ground coffee in the fridge. No meat or fruit except for tinned stuff in the cupboards along with other non-perishables. There was probably enough food for two people for at least a week. We could definitely make it last long enough until we got back to civilization. Hell, we could probably even make a feast out of it.
“We should check the other RV.” I wanted to eat and sleep but I couldn’t quite bring myself to relax not knowing where the keys were and hoped they might be over there. “It looks identical to this one, might have more food and the keys.”
I gave the motorhome one last paranoid check to make sure I hadn’t missed something hiding in the small space and then ensured all the doors were locked before taking Cal and leaving Marco safe inside. I told him to lock the door after we left and stay at the driver’s side window and when we came back to let us in. The kid nodded as he drank a bottle of apple of juice and munched on crackers. I figured 10, maybe 15 more minutes and I could go back and join him before sleeping.
We approached the second RV the same way, me taking the lead at the passenger side. We were both surprised once more when the door swung open however, this time the air wasn’t stale, it was putrid. This smell was much worse than that of burning bodies and I could feel it seeping into my clothes and skin. There is no good way to describe the scent of rotting bodies but it is a smell I will never forget because of its horrid distinctness. I had to back out, coughing and gagging. Cal had already moved away, covering his mouth and coughing. Marco moved to open the door but I signaled not to, giving him the OK sign.
Cal tied a handkerchief around his face and tossed me another one. I looked at him quizzically and he just shrugged. Before I tied it on I saw the name Cal monogrammed in the corner in green and couldn’t hide a smirk. The thin material barely blocked the smell but it was better with it than without. The front seats were empty but I sadly found that the rest of the RV was not as my flashlight illuminated the living room. Four bodies, what appeared to be two men and two women, older judging by brittle white and grey hair, were slumped around the laminate table where a pitcher and four glasses stood, tiny bits of liquid left in each of them. Other than the natural decay the bodies looked to be unharmed. Suicide had probably been the cause of death but I couldn’t see why. Maybe they thought the apocalypse had come and there was no hope, no point in fighting to live a world of zombies. I didn’t know and it didn’t really seem to matter at this point.
I heard Cal cursing or maybe praying behind me. I told him to check the front end while I simply stared at the bodies and hoped the keys were not among them. Cal came up empty so I headed into the back to search, taking shallow breaths as I went. Pushing aside one of the limp, discoloured hands on the table I gave a slight yelp as a set keys slide out onto the table covered in a thin-film of God’s knows what. These could be keys for either vehicle and while I wanted the RV’s to be the same make and model, I couldn’t rely on these keys working for both. We needed both sets.
“Louis, look there.” I followed Cal’s finger pointing at the body on the end of the bench and saw a glint of metal protruding from the pants pocket.
Taking the makeshift mask off my face, trying to hold my breath and gagging, I pulled the keys out of the pocket then grabbed the other set with the handkerchief as well. I briefly looked around at the open cupboards full of supplies but the food would be saturated with the stench of decaying flesh and ruined. Fuck it, I left it and followed Cal outside, puking once and trying desperately to get the smell out of my lungs and nose. I closed door and tried one of the slime covered keys in it to see if it worked and it did. I locked the remaining doors and placed the keys on top of the hood sealing the suicide club away in their luxurious RV tomb forever.
© 2015, Denise Pasutti