Horror and Thriller Science Fiction posted September 13, 2022


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An unusual pair

Man's Best Friend

by Thomas Blanks


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.

“I’m glad you made it, Rose. That was a long walk, girl,” Roshan said to the one-eyed, mixed-breed, mostly-white bulldog with snaggle tooth sticking out one side of her lower jaw and a small tumor under her chin. Rose and the thirtysomething black man had joined up by mutual consent. Roshan wasn’t homeless in the traditional sense of the word. Half the world was homeless since the three superpowers took turns lobbing nuclear warheads at each other the previous year. The fire-roasted squirrel had satisfying crispiness on the outside and juicy goodness inside. Wiping his scruffy beard, Roshan Johnson looked at Rose, who was drooling.

“You know you always get some,” he said, pulling loose the ribcage and tossing it to the dog; she started crunching.

Many surviving Americans had walked to Mexico to escape the cold as dust and debris from multiple nuclear explosions around the globe blocked the sun’s warmth, triggering a mini-ice age. Between the destroyed cities, electronic fried by electronic pulses, the advancing cold, the wrecked economy, no food, no electricity, no gasoline, or other services, the United States was simply a shadow of its former self, or perhaps a skeleton. Everyone looked out for themselves; those who couldn’t didn’t survive. Rose’s ears perked up as Roshan finished eating, and she looked into the woods, growling.

“Who’s there?” Roshan said.

“I saw your fire. Can I come out?” asked a voice, “Or will your dog attack me? It’s pretty scary-looking.”

“She won’t attack you unless I tell her, but what do you want?”

“Maybe some food?”

“I just ate the last of it. You best move along. There’s nothing for you here.” There was a moment of silence, and Rose settled back on the ground, closing her eyes.

“Good dog, Rose,” Roshan said. “You earn your keep.” Rose wasn’t listening. She was snoring.

#

The following morning in southern Mexico, it was sixty-seven degrees Fahrenheit in August. While surprising, it was comfortable. Roshan had to find a permanent place to live now that he was in the temperate zone. There were many more people here than he had seen in weeks; ragged, tired, dirty, smelly, dazed, lost people. One young woman had a severe cut on her lower thigh near the knee. The woman was perhaps twenty-six or seven with long braided hair and puffy, red-rimmed eyes. She was probably five-foot-six.

“Hello,” Roshan said, but he got no reply. “If you want, I can help tend to that wound on your leg.”

“What?” the young woman said, brought out of her daze.

“My name is Roshan. I can help treat your leg wound if you would like.”

“Will it hurt?”

“It might hurt some, but it will keep it from getting infected and killing you. That’s a bad cut. You need stitches and something to ward off infection,” he said.

“You can do that?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” Roshan took a vial of oregano oil from his pack and a small case containing a curved needle with black thread.

“What’s your name?” Roshan asked.

“Raina. What is in that vial?”

“It’s oregano oil, Raina,” he said, handing her a bottle of Southern Comfort he had found in an abandoned home. Start drinking this so that it won’t hurt as much. As she drank, Roshan poured the oregano oil over the wound.

#

Raina had passed out, and Roshan had the wound fully stitched. When she woke up about an hour later, Roshan spoke, “How does it feel?”

“I feel it, but it doesn’t hurt badly.”

“Good.”

“Do I know you from somewhere?” Raina asked.

“I don’t think so,” Roshan said.

“I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere.”

“I’ve never met you.”

“Hey, now I know. You’re that rapper Strick9!”

“Not anymore,” Roshan said.

“You must have had millions of dollars!”

“Money doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s survival of the fittest. We’re all going Charles Darwin out here. No one gives a rip about my rap. There are no concerts, no new songs, and no radio stations playing my music. I’m just Roshan Johnson.”

“That sounds better than Strick9.”

“My manager came up with that name. I wanted CooloBloo.”

“Excuse me, Sir,” an armed Mexican policeman said to Roshan. “Could I please see your passport?”

“My passport? I didn’t bring my passport! The world is coming to an end,” Roshan said

“How did you enter Mexico? Passport control officers are on all roads crossing the US border.”

“Cars don’t work anymore. The electromagnetic pulse fried the electronics, plus you couldn’t get gasoline. I walked.”

“You walked around the passport control officers?” the officer asked.

“I didn’t know they were there. I didn’t walk on the road. That’s dangerous.”

“How about you, young lady?” the officer said to Raina. “May I see your passport?”

“I don’t have a passport either,” Raina said.

“You are both in Mexico illegally and are under arrest.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Roshan said. “Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans have illegally crossed the US border for years, and now you arrest Americans?” The officer placed handcuffs on Roshan and led him and Raina away, leaving Roshan’s .22 caliber rifle resting against the wall. They got into a jeep and drove away slowly. Rose followed.

“We don’t want you down here using up the now limited resources. Mexico is for Mexicans.” The policeman said as he took them to a large prison where the stone wall was twenty feet high and topped with razor wire. It extended so far that Roshan could not see the end of the wall.

“You’re going to lock us up without a trial?” Roshan said.

“The judge is busy. He will get around to your case eventually.”

“How long is eventually?”

“Less than one year in most cases.”

“You can’t do this to us!” Roshan said. Two guards walked out of the prison with rifles. One dug the barrel of his gun into Roshan’s back.

“Andale!”

“This is like a joke,” he said to Raina.

“Are you going to put us in the same prison?” Roshan asked the guard.”

“This is the only prison,” the guard said. “Once inside, find a cell and protect yourself.”

“There aren’t guards on the inside?” Roshan asked.

“No.”

“What do we eat?” Raina asked.

“Whatever you find.” Pushing them through the first rusted metal gate of the sally port, the overweight guard locked Roshan and Raina inside. Then he pressed the button that unlatched the door into the prison.

“What if we don’t go in there?” Roshan asked.

“I will kill you where you stand.”

“Come on, Roshan,” Raina said.

As soon as they entered the prison, an older white man approached them, wearing thick glasses and a dirty ball cap. He had an unruly, white beard.

“Oh, don’t take her in there without a weapon,” the old man said. “My name is Henry. There are a few evil men in here.”

“What kind of weapon do you suggest, Henry?” Roshan asked.

“Well, a baseball bat or a nightstick would be the best, but you must make do. Lots of guys pull the legs off chairs or tables.”

“Can you help me find a table or chair?” Roshan asked.

“Yes, if you will share food with me later.”

“What is there to eat inside the prison?” Roshan asked.

“You can grind up cockroaches and bake them under a clay bowl in the sun for a day to dry them.”

“Gross!” Raina said.

“What else is there?” Roshan asked.

“There are rattlesnakes, but you might die trying to kill them.”

“Sounds better than the roaches,” Roshan said.

“Then there is the fire-roasted rat.”

“Roshan, we have to escape from here!” Raina said.

“People have tried that,” Henry said. “The Mexicans sit on the walls and shoot people who try to get out. The mason’s started building the wall forty feet below the ground, so a tunnel’s no good. The only opening is the sally port, which has two armed guards. There are towers every fifty feet. If you try to climb over, it’s suicide.”

Roshan walked back to the sally port. Rose was sitting nearby as he expected, watching with her one good eye. Roshan waited until mid-day, and one of the two guards left to eat lunch.

“Hey, Guard!” he said. “Come here. I want to talk to you.”

“I have nothing to say to you, gringo!”

“You think you’ll come out of this smelling like a ROSE?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I said ROSE! You need to do something. Now, ROSE!”

“Gringo, you have lost your—Augh!!!” Rose had hit the man like a sixty-pound meat missile at a full run, knocking him from his feet, locking her jaws onto his arm, and ripping. The guard had dropped his rifle and tried in vain to keep the dog from his neck. Rose kept fighting, shaking her head back and forth until the guard stopped struggling.

Since she had been watching, Rose knew the button that opened the inner gate, and she pressed it with her paw. Roshan and Raina came through to the front of the port.

“Get the keys, Rose.” The dog pulled the keys off the guard’s belt and brought them to Roshan. “That’s a good dog. Thank you, Rose!” She licked his hand. Roshan unlocked the gate, grabbed the guard’s rifle, and scratched behind Rose’s ear. “Let’s get out of here!” Rose let out a playful “Woof.”

“She loves you!” Raina said.

“She loves roasted squirrel.”

“Blech!”

“What have you been eating?”

“Pecans and pistachios. There are trees all over down here.”

“That’s where Rose and I got some of our squirrels. So, what is your plan, Raina?”

“I’m staying where it is warm and easy to find food.”

“I respect your decision, but I’m not risking my freedom again. I’m going back to the US. It won’t be easy living in the colder climate, but Rose and I will make it. Won’t we, girl?” He reached down to rub the dog’s head, and Rose barked. “Together, we can do anything!”

“I can’t.”

“I understand. How long have you been allergic to animal protein?” Roshan asked. Raina seemed impressed that Roshan had figured it out.

“It started when I was in grade school with milk but has gotten much worse. I can only eat plants.”

“You would have died in that prison.”

“Yes.”

“And you would die back in the US, where it is winter.”

“That’s right.”

“So, I guess this is goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Strick9,” Raina said as she simply turned and walked away. Roshan watched her for a while. Then, he and his best friend began the long walk north.

“You know Rose, that woman never once said thank you. See, that’s what’s wrong with people today. My momma taught me always to say thank you, especially if someone saves your life. Didn’t I thank you for getting us out of prison? That’s what I’m talking about—no home training! Are you listening to me, Rose?”




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