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Before you read part 3 don’t forget to go back and read part one to familiarize yourselves with the plot again Here is part one & two:
“It’s Time To Go Home – A SHTF Story” Part 4
Henry was still unnerved by Max and Daryl’s presence, but they were much more subdued than they had been, evidently their loud and obnoxious attitudes were dulled in the company of the Duke. They walked away from the cages, Henry glanced back at his fellow prisoners and he found himself wondering what crimes they had committed, but he wasn’t brave enough to broach the subject with his captor. The chilly ever-present wind whistled around as they walked through the compound, the Duke offering a commentary as they went along. Henry noted that the Duke was a man who liked the sound of his own voice.
“It’s a humble community we have here. You may not agree with that assessment given your treatment, but I can assure you it is the case. We have a lot of families so we need to be careful when we let anyone in. I’m sure you’re aware that there are a lot of dangerous people around. I like to think we’ve built a good reminder of civilization. It’s hard of course, but we’ve all lost people,” he seemed to drift away in a hazy memory for a moment, but in an instant the same friendly re-appeared on his face. “Adversity brings us together, and my aim is that this community thrives and becomes a testament to the human spirit. I think our history can be divided into phases – exploration, conquering, expanding, growing…now we’re in the survival phases. It’s funny how things change, success used to be having lots of money or a big house, now it’s having a roof over your head and a comfortable coat to keep you warm. It takes an entirely different set of skills to live in this world, skills that I think you have.”
He stopped and turned towards Henry, reaching out a hand and placing it on Henry’s shoulder.
“I truly am sorry for the way we treated you, I hope you understand. We’ve taken in some people and while we thought they were civilized they soon turned out to be feral and it’s not safe for anyone. Can we start again? They call me the Duke, but my actual name is William,” he said with an earnest look in his eyes.
“Henry,” Henry said, taking the Duke’s outstretched hand and clasping it firmly. The Duke smiled.
“See, we’re all friends here,” he said, but there was something about the way he said it that unsettled Henry. However, before Henry could dwell on it the Duke was away again, chatting jovially as their footsteps crunched against the layer of frost that blanketed the ground.
“Did you ever read Dante’s Inferno?” he asked. Henry shook his head. He wasn’t sure, but Henry sensed that the Duke was disappointed.
“No matter. Well, it’s very interesting because when most people picture hell they imagine it to be fire and brimstone with demons dancing around but in Dante’s Inferno hell was the place furthest from the warmth of God’s love, and as such it was a barren, desolate place. I think of that every time I look around. Are you a religious man, Henry?” Henry visibly squirmed, fearing that the wrong answer would lead to him being thrust back into the cage.
“Not for a long time,” he said, trying to sound diplomatic. The Duke scrutinized him for a few moments.
“I happen to think this is a grand test. Only the strongest would be able to keep their faith after suffering through this, but I have no doubt that we can resurrect the human spirit, would you like to be a part of that Henry?”
Their stroll had taken them beside the great bonfire that stood in the middle of the compound. Henry was grateful for the warmth that spread from his fingers and toes all the way to his core, but as he looked at the Duke he saw the flickering flames reflected in his eyes and they seemed to reveal a dangerous fervor.
After a few moments by the fire they moved away again. The Duke led Henry inside the complex. It was a makeshift shelter made up of tents, the ruins of buildings and rudimentary shelters. Sleeping bags were strewn all over the place and there seemed to be no order to anything.
“We’ll take you to the clinic, give you a once over,” the Duke said. Henry barely mustered a response; he was too busy trying to keep track of their path. He still didn’t fully trust the Duke, but in the event of a quick escape he would find it hard to escape the labyrinth. He was taken to the clinic, which was a room located in the basement of one of the buildings. There were a few people milling about, but he was taken to a table where a thin woman with curly locks of long black hair stood. It was strange for Henry to see people in normal clothes, the woman was wearing a long black skirt, a pale blue shirt and a white lab coat that was left unbuttoned.
She welcomed him onto the table and raised an eyebrow at the Duke, but no words were exchanged between them.
“I’m Roxanne,” she said, smiling warmly. Henry said his name. She told Max and Daryl to take Henry’s jacket off, which he initially protested but it was futile to struggle against them. He gazed longingly at it as the Duke took it away.
“We’ll just air it out and give it a scrub,” he said, and walked off.
While Henry was being examined the Duke went into a separate room and searched through the jacket. There wasn’t much of any interest, but then he flipped it over and looked in the inner pockets. Eventually he reached in and a satisfied smile spread across his face as he came across the picture of Henry’s family. He pressed his lips together as he studied it and then he stroked it with the outside of his fingers, trying to suppress a single tear that rolled down his cheek.
to be continued ……..