“So, the idea would then be to find a compound surrounded by walls that has access to, at least, a hand water pump because everyone smells like shit. I want my castle to be—”
“Calm down, Hotshot.”
Enang cut Joey off.
What the fuck?
She’s the only one that might be seeing this. Enteng was dozing off at the back of his seat. George was watching him like a Guardian Angel, and Uncle was sitting cross-legged on the floor, internalizing something as sweat beaded his face.
She was supposed to start the talk about finding another place, and this man sat down beside her and took charge of everything. He got everyone’s attention like he didn’t just deliver a pathetic villain speech that circled around the plot of Commander America.
What the fuck?
“Right. I’m sorry. I know a place. I went there during Christmas one time. I was with some friends. I was drunk. I got this maracas-like thing made out of flattened bottle caps that would just clink and did a performance so bad that they threw us coins so that we would just leave them alone. As far as I can remember, that’s what we’re looking for. They had two water pumps. They’ve basically walled themselves. The top of the concrete wall was dotted by shards of broken bottles.” He held his hand up to Enang when she grimaced. “Don’t ask me how. I know things. That’s my thing.”
“Sure.” Enang shrugged.
Joey cleared his throat, looked around, and moved on. "And the only way for us and someone else to get in there would be to go through the gate at the front and back of the compound. The right of way would be enough to jam two cars going in opposite directions without any trouble. It’s a good starting point.”
Was he always this…
“What’s your job before this all happened?” Enang asked.
“I was a Telemarketer, why?”
Was he always this useful?
This motherfucker flashed her a confident smile before jumping on his feet. He marched towards the door, drawing everyone’s attention again like a mighty peacock. What the fuck? Enang rubbed her eyes and turned to George for solace. He looked cool for a moment, and she had to burn that away from her memory.
Joey clapped and raised his chin to poise himself for a speech. He narrowed his brows. He pursed his lips. He took a deep breath through his nose as his lips curved into a smile, but his clogged nose snagged a mosquito and he ended up coughing for the rest of the minute. Still, he straightened his back, full of confidence like nothing happened.
There it was. Punching him—no, gutting him would be better. The machete should be good enough, but this man bowed even before Enang could think of how his guts would spread open like a curtain.
“I need everyone’s help, please. I need your help so that everyone else can survive.”
The tall, buffed dude that beat him up earlier clicked his tongue. “Fine.”
Wait. What the fuck?
“That sounds reasonable,” the small girl with the bleached hair responded. “We’ll guard the house while you search for the stuff that you need to search.”
Joey clapped and nodded. “Sounds reasonable.”
“Oi,” Enang interjected.
This piece of shit named Joey dared to raise his brow at her like she’s the one doing something wrong. She raised a finger and tried to stitch her words. Violence was not her utmost priority. No one in this room would hurt her, even at this point, so behaving like a monkey would not be needed. Right. She could settle this with a normal conversation.
Enang’s eyes passed from the tall man sitting on the floor and stabbed onto that smaller girl. “You can’t expect him to do everything, right?”
“Of course he could do it. What do you mean?” The girl smiled, reminding Enang that being a monkey might be a good choice.
“I can do it—”
“Shut the fuck up, Joey.”
Joey thinned his lips and stepped back. “Alright.”
“Look,” Enang sighed. “we need your help.”
“And you’ll get our help. It would be easy for us to defend an old man… a beaten dude… and a…” Her eyes fell to George. She bit her lower lip and narrowed her brows. She pointed at it, gave herself a few more seconds to think about how nice it would be to touch this plant’s prickly skin, and turned back to Enang. “I can also guard this cute… Whatever this is.”
The girl scoffed. “I’m sorry?”
“His name is George.” Enang frowned.
“Funny how you guys named a cactus—”
“Funny how I never asked for your name.”
“Ho… Scathing. You must’ve been piling up your words after your trip to the bathroom. What, did you suck yourself off?”
“I…” Enang’s body tensed for a second. Joey wouldn’t help her. Enteng doesn’t give a shit. Uncle was flapping his lips to recite a mantra in total silence. “But I don’t have a dick…”
“I rest my case.” The girl widened her grin.
“You can’t pretend you’re clever, and… You know what?” Enang turned to Joey. “Change of plans.”
“Congratulations. You’re part of the cool kids now.”
“What?” Joey laughed in disbelief. “I mean, I’m flattered that you want me—”
“We’ll look for food ourselves. We’ll secure the place ourselves. And we’ll defend it ourselves. The rest of the people here could die.”
“Wow. Going strong there, lady,” the small girl commented.
“I can’t even leave Enteng, Uncle, and George to the care of these fucks. They probably had too many closets in their homes that those monsters didn’t bother searching.”
“Oh yeah...” She got on her feet and gave the girl a patient smile. “I’m sorry,” she scoffed. “I should’ve straight up called you a pussy.”
The tall, buffed dude pulled himself from the floor and marched towards her with a dark smile. The rest of the people backed away like he was some kind of giant. What a joke. But he toppled the table. George fell. Bloodlust surged. Enang blinked. Uncle and Enteng were already in front of her, squaring against that man.
“I’m sorry,” Uncle mouthed, copying the tone of a flight attendant.
The larger man widened his smile. “You ain’t landing a hit on me again, little guy.”
“I only promise to try.”
“Settle down, you two,” Enteng interjected, placing his hand on that tall, buffed dude.
“Why are you even here?”
“I stood to pick up the cactus,” Enteng licked his lips upon forcing a grin. “the one you chose to fuck with, kid.”
“I can handle two dudes. I can do both of you with an arm tied behind my back.”
“Oh yeah,” Uncle smiled. “I’ll fight you without my headband.”
Enteng stepped back and turned to Uncle with genuine concern. Everyone else followed.
“It’s to prove a point.”
Enteng shook his head. “That’s not how it works.”
Uncle shrugged, smiled, and threw his fist towards the larger man. But he stopped his punch, hit him back in the face, and crashed him into the couch. Joey was now by the door, about to break into a run. Uncle gave everyone a thumbs up and was mumbling something about his health being low. George was looking at everyone, looking a bit lively for a reason. Enteng didn’t move yet.
“That’s for knocking me out earlier, man.” The larger man stepped back and raised his hands in surrender. “Sleep tight. That being said, I don’t want to fight.”
“It would’ve sounded more convincing if you hadn’t tried to knock him out,” Enang commented.
“I just proved a point. But from here on out, we’ll do our own thing.”
He scanned the whole room with a smug grin plastered on his face. They were a bunch of old dudes, some children, women, and boys. He clicked his tongue. No one would be able to help him, after all. He looked back at Enang.
“What’s your name, miss?”
“I’m Jonathan.” He pointed her at the girl with bleached hair. “This is Lucy.”
“I’m Lucy Thompson.”
“Oh look, a roleplayer,” Enang commented.
“Let’s do each other a good job to survive together, yeah?”
Jonathan sighed, dragged Lucy and the guy by the door outside, and waved everyone else goodbye before something else could happen.