Author’s Note: My partner said that he really enjoyed “The Unlucky Ones” and encouraged me to write it into a series. So, here we go.
Suni stretched and yawned as she pulled herself up out of bed. She looked over to find that Adrienne was already up. Suni shrugged her blanket off and wandered barefoot into the kitchen. Adrienne was sitting at the desk with a headset and microphone on. The headset was plugged into the front of the desk, next to a small thumb drive. The desk – which doubled as a touch screen monitor – displayed a list of audio files that Adrienne was mindlessly tapping through while scribbling in her journal.
“I’m going to make toast; do you want some?” Suni asked through a yawn.
Adrienne mumbled almost inaudibly, “I’m fine, but thanks.”
Suni shrugged and dropped a single piece of wheat toast into the toaster. She slid the door on the refrigerator built into the wall. She grabbed the quail eggs that were in a wire basket on the second shelf and the vacuum-sealed package of bacon she cut from the side of the hog she shot earlier this month. She slid the refrigerator door closed and watched the light flick off inside.
Setting the food down on the kitchen island, she asked aloud, “Do we still have tomatoes?”
“Only the ones we canned. Unless you want green ones. You can pick those yourself,” Adrienne muttered as her eyes darted from her journal to the display screen and back to her journal again.
“Canned is good,” Suni replied. She spun around and opened the kitchen cabinet closest to the refrigerator. In it were many clear mason jars with the same kind of white label. Black, green and kidney beans, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and white beans, all stacked and lined up in alphabetical order, just the way Adrienne liked it. Suni grabbed the first jars of tomatoes she saw and shut the cabinet again.
She bent down and fumbled through a drawer until she found a large, deep frying pan. She set the pan down on the electric range that took up a third of the counter space in the small kitchen/tool shed. She turned a dial and watched the thermometer on the range rise. She unzipped the package of bacon and retrieved three slices. When the pan was ready, she dropped the bacon in and heard the pleasant sizzle. The sound alone could rouse her from sleep, but the aroma that filled the room immediately after was her favorite part of this morning ritual.
Suni had made a point for the past two years to bag one hog every four months. The first two years in the bunker, she suffered through an almost entirely vegetarian diet. It would have driven her to drink if she had the resources. She vowed to never do it again after she bagged her first hog. Adrienne didn’t seem to have minded it so much; she had spent a few years on her own before Suni came along. She caught small game then, but not enough to sustain a true carnivore’s diet. But the garden she had nursed in the bunker provided her with everything she needed.
Suni continued to prepare her meal. She resealed the package of bacon and stuffed the zipper end into a slot in the wall. She pressed a button to the side of the slot and watched as the air was vacuumed out of the plastic package. When it was complete, the slot spit the package out onto the counter to the right of the range. She scooped the package up and threw it back into the fridge before returning to her cooking.
“Smells good,” Adrienne commented absently.
Suni didn’t reply. She pulled open the cooking utensil drawer and retrieved a spatula. She also remembered her toast and reached over to the toaster to push the button down until she heard the familiar click. She flipped her bacon while tapping the drawer shut with her hip. Then she spun around and grabbed the basket of eggs from the island in one swift motion. She cracked five small eggs above the pan and watched as they quickly fried in the hot bacon grease. She shuffled over to another cabinet and grabbed a plate, picked up the pan, and slid the contents neatly onto the plate. She heard her toast pop and grabbed it instinctively. After juggling it for a moment – having forgotten how hot it would be – she dropped it on top of the rest of her meal. She pulled a fork from the silverware drawer and walked over to Adrienne.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything? The pan’s still hot; it’d only take me a minute,” Suni asked again.
Adrienne finally looked up. There was still a dreariness in her eyes; it was clear she hadn’t slept well. She smiled and sighed, “Really, I’m fine. Go ahead and eat.”
Suni shrugged. She grabbed a stool from the dining table and set it down next to Adrienne. She sat and after a moment of annoying hovering, Adrienne finally conceded to filling Suni in on what she was doing.
“Remember the thumb drive we found on that guy last night? Well, I’ve been going through the contents. It’s a pretty average audio journal, for the most part. I’ve been writing down anything that sounds a little interesting, like good hunting spots or fresh water sources. But there have been a couple entries that sound a little stranger. Here, listen to this one.”
She yanked her headset out of the desk. She tapped a file on the screen and the desk speakers crackled as the recording began:
It’s, um, Wednesday, October nineteenth. Michael and I have been on this hunt for a couple days now. It’s pretty scarce. Disheartening, really. But we made camp here in this abandoned fishing shack at the edge of the swamp. This place hasn’t seen much action for a while, except maybe some rats. Anyway, we ran into them again. Same pack as before, but it looks like they’ve grown. They don’t appear to be aggressive. I mean, they clearly saw us. But they just watched us for a little while and then they were on their way. We still haven’t been close enough to get a good look at them. But they look like dogs. I think, anyway. Big dogs. Big, weird looking dogs. Michael says they have to be like, mutated or something. Well, that’s it. Until next time.
Suni, with a mouthful of food, muttered, “You said there were more of these?”
Adrienne nodded. “Three others that I’ve found. Two before that one, one after. I’ve still got about twenty files to listen to, but those four mention this pack of big dogs. They don’t attack people or anything. They just watch them. Maybe they’re wolves?” she asked rhetorically.
Suni scraped a forkful of food up and waved it in front of Adrienne’s mouth. Adrienne rolled her eyes and scowled at Suni for a moment before opening her mouth. Suni grinned proudly and pushed the food into Adrienne’s mouth. She finished off her plate and got up to clean.
Stacking up all of the dishes and carrying them to the sink, Suni noted, “Whatever they are, we haven’t seen any around here. So I don’t think we have to worry about it, right? But those hunting spots you wrote down. Those could be useful.”
Adrienne nodded as she plugged her headset back in. “Well, if I find any more hunting spots, I’ll let you know,” she sighed.
Suni could hear the sarcasm in Adrienne’s voice. She set down the pan she was washing into the steel basin sink. “You sound so disappointed that I’m not more interested in your monster dogs.”
“It just sounded interesting is all. But like you said, it’s not something we need to preoccupy ourselves with. it’s not important,” Adrienne remarked.
Suni sighed heavily. “Fine. If your dogs get more interesting, let me hear it. I mean, the dead guy ended up here. Maybe they followed him,” she responded mockingly.
Adrienne slammed her journal shut and threw her headset onto the desk. “I hate how you refer to these people as ‘dead guys.’ They were people. Trying to survive, like we are. And they didn’t make it. God, it’s like you have no respect.”
“Jesus Christ, Reenie! You really think I’m such a heartless bitch, don’t you? Does that make you feel better?” Suni shouted as she slammed the pan down again with a loud bang. “Does it make you feel so much holier-than-thou when I’m not the selfless, compassionate fucking saint that you are?! I’m sorry, but I can’t cry over every John and Jane Doe that dies on our front porch! People die all the time. I’m just glad it wasn’t you or me.”
Adrienne stood and stomped out of the living room and into the garden room, slamming the door behind her.
Suni clenched her fists and pounded them both on the kitchen counter. She could feel her cheeks burning up. She took a few long, deep breaths and resumed cleaning. Once she was finished, she walked back into the bedroom and sat on her bed. She stared in front of her. Adrienne’s bed was neatly made, as always. She spread her feet apart on the ground and reached between her legs to open the drawer under her bed. She retrieved a set of clothes and then shuffled to the bathroom, near the front door.
She closed the door behind her and locked it. She angrily threw her clothes onto the counter and stood in front of the sink and mirror. Her hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail. She had black flyaway curls pointing in every direction. She grimaced at it, pulling the elastic band out and watching her hair explode into a disheveled mess. She ran her fingers through it, trying to make some sense of the chaos.
Looking into the mirror again, Suni frowned. She looked tired. Her brow seemed to be permanently furrowed. Her thick eyebrows made her look much angrier than she was most of the time. And her eyes were something else entirely. One eye was an average, ordinary brown. The other was half brown, half pale blue, as if someone had dropped bleach onto one side of her eye. She had dark circles under eyes, aging her far beyond her years. Her lips were thick – one of the few traits she was fond of – but cracked and broken, with a small scar on her top lip on the left side. She had many freckles, dotting her mocha-colored skin. She also had three small, light patches of skin on one cheek from a burn scar that never regained its color. All in all, she thought, it was a pretty rough sell.
She stripped down, stepping out of her clothes and leaving them in a pile in front of the mirror. She left her key around her neck. She stepped into the small shower and turned on the water. It spurted out, sporadically at first, then in a steady stream. It was cold, as it always was. She had always thought the cold water was refreshing, but Adrienne never forgot to mention how much she missed hot, steaming showers. Suni stood there for what felt like hours. Her hair seemed to fall into submission under the water. As she washed it, she felt knots untie themselves. She noticed that clumps of hair were collecting in her hands as she combed her fingers through. She was used to losing more and more hair with every shower, but it was always a little disappointing. She washed and rinsed the rest of her body, taking note of a few new bruises and scrapes, then shut the water off.
She opened the shower door and grabbed a white towel off of a hook on the wall. She stood in the shower and dried her body as much as she could. Folding her hair into the towel, she walked over to her pile of fresh clothes and pulled each article on. There wasn’t much variety to her wardrobe. Another white tank top and long brown cargo pants. She buckled a leather belt around her waist to keep her pants from sliding off of her hips; they had fit her better before. She pulled the towel off of her head and replaced it on the hook. Then, she scooped up her old clothes and opened the bathroom door. As she walked back into the bedroom, she heard food being cooked in the kitchen.
Suni walked into the kitchen and opened the weapons’ cabinet. She grabbed her sniper rifle and slung the strap over her shoulder. She turned on her heel to grab a knife out of a drawer. Her gaze met Adrienne’s, who was standing on the other side of the kitchen island with a plate of eggs and tomatoes.
“You forgot to use the tomatoes,” Adrienne commented quietly.
Suni chuckled, “I knew I’d forgotten something.”
Suni quickly dropped her eyes to the drawer in front of her and began to mindlessly shuffle through knives. Adrienne began to walk back to her spot at the desk when Suni blurted out, “I’m sorry I’m such an asshole.” She quickly found a large hunting knife, sheathed it, and stuffed it in her waistband.
As she shuffled out of the room towards the front door, Adrienne replied timidly, “You’re not an asshole, Su. You’re good.”
Suni paused for a moment before unlocking the door and stepping out. She turned to close the door and looked in to see Adrienne smiling at her. “Happy hunting.”