Dawn came upon the town as Hayden slept in a heap upon his mattress. The tapping of raindrops against the bedroom window pane could be heard sounding out rhythmically in the quiet of the morning. With great difficulty Hayden managed to open one eye and then the other, releasing a yawn and burying his face back into the mattress. He felt no need to wake up. There was a sense of ease and peace at that time as if all of the terrible things that had happened, were nothing but a nightmare. Only the stale smell of mildew on the walls betrayed the reality of his situation. Hayden closed his eyes again and drifted back to sleep.
A few hours later, Hayden was startled awake by the sound of an approaching vehicle. He quickly hopped out of bed and ran over to the window where he could see to the streets down below. He could make out the shape of two vehicles rolling down the road towards him. It looked as if a large black pickup truck was leading another vehicle into town. He couldn’t see who was inside at this distance, but he had decided that he didn’t want to wait to find out and he hurriedly threw on his boots and packed his bag.
As Hayden was preparing for his getaway, the two vehicles stopped to park just outside of the house that he was in. With his heart racing, he rushed back over to the window, crouched down really low and peaked out from the corner just enough to get a glimpse of what was going on. Two men stepped out from the truck. The man on the driver’s side was tall and skinny with greasy dark hair and dead eyes. He wore a dark tan trench coat and the butt of a revolver could be seen at his hip. He walked and spoke to the others with an air of authority.
On the passenger side of the truck was a short man with a machete on his back, he was stocky and fat with a tight fitting jean jacket and a face half-covered by a large orange mustache. The fat man waddled over to the front of the truck. The other man was already up front and signalling to the men in the car behind them to approach.
“This can’t be good…” Hayden thought to himself. “These guys don’t look too friendly at all. I have to get out of here.”
Three men stepped out from the blue sedan and into the wet streets where they waited for their orders. Each of the men wore jackets and backpacks or bags to haul supplies. They held various melee weapons like hatchets and hammers with rifles strapped to their backs or pistols on their hips.
Hayden watched attentively as the dead eyed-man barked orders to the three of them while pointing to the building across the street from where he was standing. They set off in that direction. Hayden’s heart raced faster than before as the skinny man with the greasy hair turned towards the house that he was hiding in and began to approach with his stocky companion.
Hayden quickly grabbed his backpack and rushed out of the second story bedroom into the neighboring hallway. Down a long stretch of hardwood floors and white walls, there was a winding staircase that led to the main floor and just beside the staircase at the end of the hall was a sliding window that looked large enough to climb through. He ran over to the window began to pry it open in a panic. He could hear the sound of two men shouting out at the door downstairs.
“The door is jammed, somebody’s barricaded it closed from the inside!” shouted the fat man with his raspy voice.
“Well, kick it open then! …and if anyone’s in there, shoot them!” boomed a reply.
Hayden quickly dropped his bag out the window. It hit the ground with a thud and a splash of mud. Luckily, the sound of the rain did a little to drown out the sound of some of his movements. He climbed out through the window and lowered himself down from the window sill without ever letting go. Just before he was about to drop he heard the crash of the front door being kicked open and the table used to prop it shut sliding across the hallway floorboards.
Hayden released his grip on the window frame and hit the wet grass below. He was covered in mud and just missed landing on his pack. He grabbed his bag and checked around the side of the house towards the street where the vehicles were parked. He looked to see if any of these men were still outside, then he ran as fast as he could towards the pickup truck. With the hunting knife from out of its sheath on his hip, he stabbed both tires of the truck as he passed by and relished in the satisfying whoosh as they deflated.
Rain and sweat dripped into his eyes as he ran towards the car with his heart in his throat. He was just about to pop the tires on it as well except he looked inside and saw the keys were still just stuck in the vehicle’s ignition. He threw his bag into the back seat and clumsily slid across the passenger seat to the steering wheel. He had only ever driven a car a few times before, but he knew enough to work the damn thing.
Hayden cranked the key of the vehicle and the vehicle sprung to life with a roar. Just after the car had started up, one of the men from the house across the street stepped out of the front door and onto the porch. He was tall and blonde with blue eyes and facial features young and fine like a teenager’s, late in his youth. The two of them locked eyes for what felt like an eternity before Hayden quickly put the vehicle into gear and hit the gas pedal as hard as he could while cranking on the steering wheel. He clipped the rear bumper of the truck ahead of him and then spun the car around sharply spraying mud and rocks into the air as he drove. The sound of gunshots and the smell of burning rubber filled the vehicle as it peeled off down the road in the direction from which the looters had come into town.
In the rear-view, Hayden could see multiple men running out into the wet streets to fire in his direction. The rear window shattered and the sound of metal on the car rang out as bullets hit and then ricocheted against it. Hayden instinctively jerked his head down low and kept his foot on the gas pedal, dodging abandoned vehicles along the road as he went. He had nearly lost his assailants around a bend in the road when a bullet grazed his shoulder and he screamed out in agony. He jerked the vehicle to one side of the road and then gathered his composure again.
He had peeled the jacket with the bullet hole from off his body as he was driving and threw it in a pile on the backseat of the sedan. He drove as far away as he could and as quickly as he could. All the while, a warm trickle of blood flowed steadily from the wound and down his arm soaking his dirty white t-shirt in crimson red. He drove in that condition for an hour feeling faint through the forests and landscapes of Northern Ontario before finally pulling down a dirt road that led to a nearby lake. As he put the vehicle into park his vision was becoming blurry, he was feeling thirsty and fatigue was getting the best of him.
He reached back for his bag with shaking hands and retrieved a roll of bandage and some antiseptic that he had been hoarding for some time. He then proceeded to clean and dress the wound, securing the bandage around his shoulder and tying it off tight at the base of his armpit. He took a big swig of water from his jug and then he crawled into the backseat of the car, threw his bag down on the floor and sprawled out to have a rest in pain and exhaustion. There he drifted off for some time…
Click here for Part IV..