By the time Austin gets to the top of the steps, Templeton is nowhere to be seen. The stairway intersects a hallway in both directions. Austin flashes the light around, revealing family photos hanging on the walls and a heavily stained carpet.
“Templeton, where did you go?” Austin scans the floor. Nothing. He creeps down the hallway – looks like there are three rooms and a bathroom up here. The doors are closed, save the bathroom, which doesn’t even have a door. A quick peek in reveals some water in the toilet and not much else. The med cabinet is empty – thoroughly empty, in fact.
Thoughts of creeping through the haunted mansion on his Playstation horror games come to mind. Except, this time, the doors are real.
“Templeton?” Austin knocks on the nearest door, turns the knob, and pushes the door open.
It’s a kid’s room, covered in dust. Clothes are thrown all over the place and the drawers on the armoire hang open. Either someone ransacked it or the owners fled this place in a hurry. Austin continues down the hall, keeping an eye out for Templeton.
“Over here.” Austin flashes his light towards the voice in the left door frame. Templeton sits proudly on his back legs, chewing on one of his front paws. “I found something you may want to see in here.” Templeton gestures, in an uncomfortably human way, to the room.
“What is it?”
Templeton disappears from the ray of light into the room, and Austin follows.
It’s an office. There’s a desk with a dead terminal, a lamp, a bookshelf, and a corpse sitting up, chin-to-chest, propped against the wall. Dry blood is sprayed across the paisley wallpaper.
“At least there are no mushrooms.” Templeton states as he crawls out from behind the corpse. Though pretty decayed, it’s clear that this guy shot himself. “And look here.”
In the corpse’s right hand is a revolver.
Austin pries the gun from the corpse’s hand and opens the cylinder. It contains two cartridges – one spent, one ready to go. He eyes up the revolver and places it inside his backpack. He’s fired a handgun maybe twice in his life, but it feels like the sort of thing he should take anyway.
“Well damn,” states Templeton. “They are always loaded in the movies.”
“I don’t need your commentary on everything,” Austin says, as he pulls open the drawers in the desk. Nothing useful, just some magazines and stationery that reads “Quick-Fix Editorials.”
With a sigh, Austin checks the forseeably ransacked master bedroom across the hall. Satisfied that nothing is there and seeing that the bed is in particularly bad shape, he returns to the child’s room and drops his pack. It would make some sense to get some rest, but sleeping here isn’t a very inviting idea.
Austin sits on the bed and has a look around the room. The walls are sky blue, and the dusty curtains are printed with stars and planets. Austin feels 12 again for a second as he swigs some of the water from his backpack. The sun is setting now, and tomorrow, if he makes it that far, will be a big day. He has a last look around, shakes some of the dust out the blankets, and lays down. Templeton jumps up on the night stand, does a quick turn, and plops down.
“Goodnight Buttercup,” says Templeton.
Sleep doesn’t come easily.
Austin snaps awake, drenched with sweat, to sunlight streaming through the windows.
“What the fuck?” He sits up and looks around the room. “Nightmare. It was a nightmare.”
“You look like a nightmare. We have a big day.” Templeton stretches his back on the night stand.
Austin stretches. He feels hazy and hungry, so he eats a bit of his rations and drinks a bit of water. He makes his way downstairs, which still smells like death, and avoids the kitchen on the way out the door. Templeton has opinions.
“Okay, after today, water is going to be a pressing issue. Food, less so – but still a big deal.” Templeton pads out onto the patio behind Austin. “What’s our move, chief?”
“My move. You even don’t exist.”
“Hey now, I feel like I’m contributing to this affair.” This forces Austin to pause.
“Mitch’s pharmacy is a couple blocks from the edge of town. If I can make it there, there might be something useful – including water, or food, or meds,” Austin states.
“Sounds like a party,” says Templeton, and Austin can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic.
In less than an hour’s time, Bella – named for its New England beauty – appears on the road. Bella is small. From the road, he can see almost all the service buildings in town. From here, it doesn’t look like anyone through the streets, breaking windows, or looking generally dangerous.
“Where is everyone?” asks Templeton. He sounds uncharacteristically nervous. “I thought we’d have to wade our way to Mitch’s.”
“I really don’t know,” Austin replies as he realizes Templeton is right.
He passes the town cemetary on the way to Mainstreet, where a couple of particularly fortuitous birds meander about the headstones. It seems appropriate to be afraid of the cemetary, but it looks pretty placid in the sunlight. Besides, corpses aren’t the problem – it’s the freshly dead that concern him. A sign reads “Welcome to Bella. Stop in for a Bite!”
The town looks just as dead from mainstreet as it did from road. It looks like everyone just disappeared. Empty cars spot the street, some in notably good condition, broken windows are more uncommon than dirty ones, and short of a handful of patches of dried blood, it looks like nothing went horrifically wrong here.
“There’s the store,” Austin points out. It’s a couple blocks down, with a big red sign that says Mitch’s Drugs and Stuff. It’s maybe a ten minute walk. “Should we… just go?”
The two stand in silence for a moment, eyeing up the town.
“Well, what could go wrong?” asks Templeton. Austin shifts his backpack, tucks the revolver into his pocket, and they walk down the street, side by side.
Continue to Psych Meds: Part III