Steel Skies

As Ash aimlessly forked his kidney bean dinner, he wondered whether the rogue drones ravaging the skies or the two people at the table would murder him first.

Adam and Jasmine sat to his left and right, respectively. Their only light source was a small scented candle. It illuminated their faces enough for Ash to peek the two of them glancing at him and then each other several times throughout the silent meal.

Normally, the candle light would cause a glint off Jasmine’s wedding ring. Tonight, however, the only glint came from Ash’s ring. He suppressed a bitter grin. She barely hid what her and Adam were doing any more.

“You alright mate?” Adam asked. He focused on his dinner instead of Ash as he spoke.

“Yeah, fine thanks” Ash sighed.

There was a pause, in which Ash could feel them glance at each other once more.

“You’re kinda’ quiet tonight. Something on your mind?”

“No….nothing. Just eating”

“You sure mate?”

“Yep”

“Babe, you ain’t eating” Jasmine piped up.

“What?” Ash asked.

“You’re just moving your beans around the plate. It’s going cold”

“I’m eating” Ash insisted quietly, still looking at his plate.

“You ain’t. You’re just playing with it like a kid”

“Alright, Jas, easy” Adam cautioned.

Ash raised his head to lokdirectly at her.

“Who fuckin’ cares?”

Jasmine glared back at him. Ash wondered whether the drones could detect the heat from her violently red face right now.

“Are you fuckin’ serious?! Me and Adam nearly got hit getting this food for us all” she hissed at him.

“Yeah, and I cooked it” he responded, though he could predict her counter.

“Oh well done!” she gushed with sarcasm, clapping theatrically.

“Why don’t we all just chill, yeah?” Adam said, raising his hands slowly as if being confronted by a mugger. The small candle light glinted off the small flash of steel from the knife tucked in his pocket.

“You boiled some beans for ten minutes while daydreaming like you always do!” she said, her voice rising.

Adam’s skin grew ever more pale as he tried to calm Jasmine down.

“Well I’m sorry I didn’t go on the day trip with you two” he told her., narrowing his eyes.

He caught the momentary look of panic on Adam’s face. Jasmine’s expression was stone cold. She narrowed her brown eyes in response as she stared him down.

“And what would you have done out there with us? We sent you out before and you came back with fuck all”

He had to admit, she had a point. Last time he went hunting for supplies all he found was an abandoned shop stripped bare of any food or medicines. All that was left was cheap stationary, some rat poison and a bottle of washing up liquid. Nothing exactly edible.

Before he could raid any other shops, two drones on the horizon forced him to flee back to the cottage.

“Well I guess you two work better when you’re alone, right?”

The question hung in the air. Adam was now ghostly pale and panic infected his expression permanently. Jasmine glared at Ash in silence for a few seconds before turning to Adam.

Ash wondered whether that was her signal for Adam to finally use the knife in his pocket. His heart raced. How much longer would he have to wait?

“Adam!” Jasmine barked.

The order snapped Adam out of his paralysis and the milkiness of his eyes cleared. He looked at Ash, his upper lip trembling. He reached for his pocket with a shaking hand.

At that moment, a skin peeling scream pierced the tension. They all jumped. Ash and Jasmine accidentally knocked their plates off the table.

“Get the blankets!” Adam screamed as he covered up the windows.

Jasmine grabbed the foil blankets that they always left out in the open. Her and Adam huddled under theirs. It took them a few seconds to realise the third blanket lay unused on the ground.

Jasmine peeked out from under her blanket to see that Ash was standing at the door, holding the candle.

“Aaaash” she tried to get his attention. “What the fuck ya’ doing?! Blow it out and get in here! You’re gonna get us killed!”

“We should save her” Ash replied. His voice was devoid of emotion and his eyes icy cold.

The scream coming from the menacing night outside was definitely from a woman. It was followed by the distant but clear hum of a drone.

“Ash!” Adam shouted. “We’re not saving anyone. They’re already dead! You can’t let that thing find us!”.

“I need one of your blankets” he said matter-of-factly, looking back at them.

Jasmine’s eyes bulged and she bared her teeth.

“What. the. fuck!” she jeered.

Ash grinned. “You won’t need them”

A loud thud to her side made Jasmine yelp. She turned to find Adam writhing on the ground. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and white foam gushed out of his mouth. His trousers were soiled with his piss and shit.

Jasmine shrieked and clawed herself away from him. She looked back up at Ash.

“What did you do?!” she screamed at him. Tears soaked her cheeks.

Ash looked down at her with contempt.

“I cooked”

Jasmines eyes widened so much that she looked cartoonish. The realisation dawned on her right before her body started writhing too. Her face contorted with anguish and agony as the intense stabbing pains consumed her stomach. She wet herself too. The room wreaked of piss.

The cheap rat poison Ash collected on his last supply run took its time but did the job in the end.

Ash donated Jasmine’s blanket to Helen, the woman screaming outside. She came to him terrified and on her last legs, certain that the drone tracking her would get its prey.

This is why she was so grateful to Ash when he offered her safety and refuge. He opened up his cottage and offered the blanket to shield her from her airborne tormentor. Her empathy for him grew as he told her of the supposed who friends who abandoned by committing a suicide pact. Two lovers who could not cope with the new world and wished to die in each others arms.

In turn, Ash was pleased with Helen. She was older than him but not unattractive. She also started off with the right attitude. He would teach her well.

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