Last night in the wee hours of the morning I finished the penultimate chapter to my next novel, Hello Defiant, the sequel to The Hound of Endtown. I decided it would be great to revisit Endtown and Scout's adventure across the waste and introduce this tale to new audiences. So here it is, I hope you enjoy it. If you haven't purchased the book yet make sure to visit the store to order a copy. You'll want to be all caught up as we continue Scout's story.
There was a palpable staleness in the air. Specks of dust glittered in the jaundiced glow of the sun-rays that peered through the windows. Day by day more dust bunnies gathered, slowly consuming the house in soft decay. Already they amassed in the corners of the room, hanging on cobwebs spun by daddy long legs. Without the Big People, they would soon claim this unremarkable prefab suburban home and turn it into a ghostly ruin.
Scout could only faintly remember when it was a warm and loving place. The carpet had been clean cream decadent softness. He loved rolling around on the floor. He could see himself lying on his belly, chewing on a rubber ball or some other colorful toy the Big People had given him. They’d sit with him on the floor and play.
“We love you, Scout.”
“You’re such a handsome boy, aren't you?”
“Give me the toy, Scout.”
He didn’t understand these words. He only knew by the tone in their voices that the Big People cared for him.
From the floor he’d watch these soft caring giants carry out their lives. Each movement they made was simultaneously graceful and cumbersome. With colossal hands they could shape the world, and give Scout the gentlest caress. They were the masters of the house, of Scout’s entire universe.
The Big People were mysterious beings.
Both of them shared a curiously intense interest in the television. Scout loved the evenings when the Woman would pick him up off the floor, settle him in her lap, and watch her shows. She’d run her lithe fingers over him until he’d fall into a beautiful half-sleep while drooling peacefully on her thighs.
He didn't much care for whatever was on. Most of the time he’d just lie there content as he napped peacefully. The Big People, on the other hand, cared about their moving pictures. The Man would yell or cheer at the sight of men chasing balls up and down a field. Scout could appreciate the fun in that. The Woman would watch grizzly shows with dead Big People as she gasped in entertained horror.
Now the dying memories of those days were the most beautiful treasures left in this haunted new world. The only reminders of those golden times were left imprinted in the pictures on the walls and tables. Scout spent large parts of his days looking at them. He missed the Big People.
The world changed on the television. There were more stories about death and violence. The Woman’s vicarious fascination with murder shows turned to outright fear. There were images of the dead being thrown into piles. Stories became grim realities.
The Man stopped going to work in the mornings. At times they’d hold Scout tightly together in horrid trepidation or leave him on the ground as they watched civilization crumble. On the worse nights, Scout would wake to see the Man standing at the window with a rifle.
Scout didn’t understand any of it; he just knew he didn’t like it. He cried and whimpered, hoping the two loving Big People would meet his fear with reassuring affection and attention. Yet it only seemed to agitate them. The Man would yell for him to stop. The Woman would scream back in anger, scolding the man for raising his voice at Scout.
The nightmare of the End came to a climax. The growing fear, paranoia, and panic ate into the minds of the Big People. Scout couldn’t reason like them. He didn’t fully grasp what was causing this terrible change, but the comfort of the old life died that day.
“Sweetheart, we have to,” the Man cried to his wife.
Scout lay between them, half awake, trying to listen. He was so tired emotionally. The chaos of everything was wearing him out. He had no idea things were about to take a drastic turn for the worse as he enjoyed the plush down of the comforter, his eyes fighting to watch the Big People as they held hands and cried sorrowfully.
“I can’t do it,” she bawled. “I’m afraid. God damn it, I’m terrified.” Scout could feel her trembling body through the sheets.
The Man took an orange bottle sitting on the nightstand. Its clicking and clacking echoed the inevitable. “It won't hurt. I promise. It’ll be like taking a nap.”
“I can’t.” She pushed the bottle away. “I can’t, I can’t,” she repeated deliriously.
He wrapped his hands around her face. Tears gushed profusely from their weary eyes. They kissed.
“I’m more afraid of what’s out there, of what we might do to survive. You’ve seen how things are getting. It’ll only get worse. We either go now, here in our home, holding on to some kind of peace, or we go out there, at the hands of rapists, murderers, madmen, and the things ripping the world apart.”
He opened the cap and poured the pills into his palm. “Here.”
The Woman took her share. Her hands were shaking. She hiccuped as she cried, gasping for air, or for some reason in this insanity. Their hearts raced. Scout only watched wistfully.
“What about Scout?” the Woman asked.
“I’ll give him some too. He should be able to swallow them. We go as a family.”
Scout’s eyes opened more at the sound of his name. The Woman pulled him up between them. They settled him down under the blankets.
The Big People, masters of the house and masters of his life, wrapped their giant arms around him. They kissed one another then kissed him. Over and over they said, “I love you,” until a steadfast silence took over. It would be the silence that would infest this home.
“Scout first,” the Man said.
He lifted a few pills into Scout’s mouth. Scout wasn’t really accustomed to swallowing things without chewing them. He gagged and choked while the Man roughly lifted his head to help them go down appropriately. The feeling was sickening but after a little struggle and some coughing, Scout choked them down.
The Woman pulled Scout close. “I love you. I love you. I love you,” she repeated.
“Are you ready?”
They each took their handful of pills and closed their eyes.
“I’ll see you on the other side, darling,” the Man whispered.
The blankets began to feel heavier than normal and a serene yet fearsome chill crept over Scout’s skin. His lids stayed closed longer and longer. He was fading.
“Goodnight, Scout...mmmm,” the Woman’s voice cut out. Scout couldn’t tell if it was her or because he was passing into unconsciousness. Everything went black. There were no dreams. There was nothing.
An hour later they were dead.
Two days later Scout woke up.