Hope you enjoy the post below, another fanciful tale about a thing, that happened, this morning. Told in the style of a sequel to a story that I wrote a while ago.
The old Landrover bounced over the uneven ground, its ancient leaf springs making some very concerning noises.
'How far Ranth?'
'I don't know, that survivalist guy we found said that we just had to follow the river and we'd trip over them, you know exactly as much as I do.'
They'd been following the river for hours, there was nothing indicating that a settlement was nearby, no smoke, no signs, no nothing.
'Do you think we'll find him there?'
'Ellie, I don't know, but it seems that this is the only settlement for miles, can't think where else he'd run to.'
Ranth was starting to get sick of Ellie's constant questions, She'd found him hanging from a tree, luckily by his wrists not his neck, about a week ago. He said that it'd all been a big misunderstanding with a group of outlaw survivors that he used to run with, she wasn't so sure that they hadn't just got sick of his incessant talking.
'Wait! What's that?' Ellie pointed into the trees, 'I saw something move!'
Ranth stopped the 4x4 and looked into the trees,
'Over there, by that big rock, it's a shambler, I know it!'
'I can't see anything.'
'Look, between the rock and that dead tree, you can just see its head.'
Ranth took the binoculars out of her pack and looked again, scanning the treeline for the rock,' I see it, ' She said, 'It's not a shambler, not any more at least.'
'What is it then?'
'It's a skull, on a stick.'
They looked at each other, Ellie paled, Ranth started the engine and turned the car towards the grim totem. The skull wasn't that old, and it looked as if the local wildlife had been helping themselves to whatever choice morsels they could find.
'Looks like we've found the settlement then,' Said Ellie,
'Unless someone's got very interesting ideas about garden furniture,' Replied Ranth, 'Whoever they are, one of them's a decent shot, blew the top of the head clean off,' She poked her fingers into the hole where the cranium used to be. 'We'll continue on foot, get your gear.'
They'd only been travelling for a few minutes when a disembodied female voice sounded through the trees.
'Stop where you are, put your hands in the air.'
'Do as she says,' Whispered Ranth, she raised her voice and shouted, 'We don't mean you any harm, we're looking for someone!'
A rustling of leaves above their heads made them look up, to be greeted by the sound of snapping twigs and the silhouette of someone making their way through the branches, towards the trunk of a huge Elm tree. They looked at each other again, and shrugged.
'Don't move, we have you covered!', said another, younger, voice from behind them.
The tree-creeper dropped to the ground and immediately drew a Desert Eagle handgun, that was obviously much too heavy for her. She was about thirteen years old, with matted blond hair and about six weeks worth of mud covering her face and arms.
'What do you want?' She growled, never taking her eyes off them.
'Like I said, we're looking for someone.'
'Well, I don't exactly know, but he stole something from us whilst we were asleep a couple of days ago and we think he came this way.'
'Nobody comes this way, not if they've got any sense at least, not since Danny came.'
'Yeah, he lives in the woods, we hear him at night sometimes, stumbling around.'
'No, he kills shamblers, that's where we get the skulls from.'
'We use them to mark our territory, the shamblers mostly stay away, I don't think they like their own dead.'
'Can you take us to your settlement, so we can ask about the man who stole our stuff?'
'Settlement?' She laughed, 'There's no settlement any more... Not since Danny came.'
'Well, where do you live?'
'Here,' replied the girl with a smile, 'In the trees, we don't bother Danny, he don't bother us.'
'Can we talk to Danny?'
Both of the children started to laugh, 'You can try, but he doesn't say much.'
'What do you mean?'
'He mostly just says his name, we think he might be simple, but we don't want to get close enough to find out, he's too big and funny looking - You can try if you like, he's in there somewhere,' She pointed into the forest.
'Come on,' Ranth turned to Ellie, 'Let's see if we can get some answers out of Danny.'
Picking up their packs they started off into the jungle, being careful not to make too much noise as they trod through the heavy undergrowth. they were starting to lose the light when they both stumbled and fell to the ground with a shout.
'I think we're getting close... What was the guy who stole the gear out of the Landrover wearing?'
'Erm... Brown leather jacket, cargo pants... I think.'
'Like these?' Ranth held up a scrap of brown leather and some beige canvas, both covered in blood.
'Exactly like that... Should we leave?'
'When we've got what we came for, it must be around here somewhere.'
'Do you have anything left to barter when we run out of diesel next?'
Ellie shook his head.
They started to poke at the grass, avoiding the bloody mess that had once been the thief, trying to find the box of trinkets that was their only remaining currency in the world.
'Did you hear that?'
'Don't tell me, a shambler?'
'No, there's someone talking, shamblers don't talk... Do they?'
'Nope, that's the one thing I like about them,' Ranth gritted her teeth as she lifted the remains to search underneath.
'Maybe it's the kids, it sounds weird though, too deep.'
'Ha!' Shouted Ranth, as she held aloft a gore spattered box, 'Right, let's go!'
They both stood and started to make their way back to the path, when there was the noise of splintering wood from behind them. Slowly, they both turned, to be confronted by the oddest thing that either of them had ever seen.
'You can see a panda, right?' Ellie breathed.
'There's good eating on a panda, probably,' Ellie slowly reached for his gun.
'Maybe it's Danny's pet,' replied Ranth, 'I think he'd be upset if we shot it and ate it...'
'I didn't say anything.' Ranth whispered, pointing at the panda and backing away,
'But, panda's don't...'
'That panda spoke!'
'Back away, very slowly.'
'What's he saying?'
'I don't know, I don't speak panda, but it sounds awfully like Danny to me.'
'He wants Danny!', exclaimed Ellie, 'Maybe you were right about him being his pet.'
'No, I think this is Danny, who's been killing all the shamblers, and scaring off the settlers.'
'DA-NAO!' Screamed the panda, dropping his head and charging towards them.
'RUN!' Yelled Ranth, 'Make for the Landrover!'
They both ran until they could feel their hearts beating in their mouths, but the panda was still gaining.
'I can't... I can't run any... any more...', choked Ellie.
'Just a few.. more... yards...'
When the explosion came, it deafened the pair of them and they fell to the floor. They looked up to see the little girl, sat on the ground, with the smoking gun on the ground behind her.
'Owwww,' The girl said, massaging her swollen wrists, 'That's a big bear!'
'That's not a bear Baby, that's a panda.' Remarked Ellie, who had suddenly got his breath back.
'Whatever it is, I goddit - Right through the heart!'
'You did, nice shot, OK - let's get out of here, you kids coming with us?'
'I don't know... It's nice here.'
'I've got a feeling that the shamblers won't be leaving you alone as much now, think they might have been scared of this guy all along.'
'OK then,' said the girl, 'C'mon Mal!'
A little boy, no more than eight years old, climbed out from behind a thornbush, walked over to the panda, kicked it and started off down the path towards the car.
'Let's try and find some food, but not anywhere around here,' Smiled Ranth, as she got into the Landrover and slammed the door.
Far behind them, on the forest path, the panda slowly rose to his feet, stared at the receding car and wailed, 'Daaaa.... Naooooo?'
And in this instance, my wife lost her purse, which had my petrol money in it, and we all turned the house upside down looking for it.