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LJ Idol X - Week [25] - 52,596

Nobody can continually keep running. The “flight or fight” response is only a temporary jolt. Eventually, the adrenalin will wane, the muscles will tire and ache, the oxygen will be more difficult to process and the heart rate will level and reduce.

There is also the matter of needing sustenance. Eating nothing but fish for days and weeks at a time, with only some of it properly cooked, might be enough to survive, but there was also the possibility that even a little was tainted, poisoned by radiation still in certain areas. Consuming only as much as needed and continuing to keep moving through was the best way of handling the circumstances. It had been a very long time out on the road.

The good thing was the solitude. With no one else to share the journey with, there was no one else to need to deal with, to protect or to have to debate when the next choice of how to proceed came up. Full authority about when to go and where to go made for quick functioning.

The bad thing was the solitude. With no one else to share the journey with, there was no distraction, no diversion, no way to prevent all of the thoughts that came from all of the experiences that were part of the need to escape. With nothing but the imagination, the memories to share the journey, there was no avoiding the history of what created this circumstance.

The problem was being a recognizable person. Traveling during the day was more dangerous but it also helped to change the skin tone and, to a degree, the hair color with some sunlight.

As the area just negotiated was mostly flooded, it didn’t seem to matter. There were no search parties here, certainly none coming from any similar direction. But, the circumstances were finally changing, as the waters finally receded at the entrance to the Arid Zone.

A community was up ahead. It was time to make some decisions. Sneak by, be stealth, stay low profile. Or walk in, be bold, act like you belong. The tendency was always the former. But somehow, seeing a rather wide open and rollicking town, the latter was a little more appealing.

Jailee smelled it, in the air, the smell of food! She noted the sign in big black letters on large yellow squares: WALE HOSE. Though she had been dieting on fish this whole while, at least this place was cooking something that didn’t “smell” like whale.

She entered the brown building and was greeted by applause from the people working there.

“Welcome to Day fifty-two thousand five hundred and ninety-six!” smiled a waitress.

“Sorry? What?”

“We have been open twenty-four hours a day, every day, for, how many days is it again?” called the cook working over a hot grill.

“Fifty-two thousand five hundred and ninety-six!” yelled the rest of the staff.

“And you’re our first customer of the new day!” The waitress smiled, as she sat Jailee down in a booth by the windows. “Let me get you a menu and a cup of coffee.”

Another worker brought over a placemat and the menu, with a small glass of cactus juice. “Hi, Ma’am,” he said.

“Hello,” Jailee nodded wearily.

“I’ve never seen anyone that looks like you before.”

Jailee just scanned the menu. There were pictures of things she had never seen before that you could supposedly eat. The waitress returned with a pot of coffee and a cup, pouring, and placing.

“Do you know what you’d like, darlin’?”

“I don’t really,” Jailee said. “What do you recommend for someone who is hungry to have something other than fish?

The waitress finally looked at her customer, emaciated, gaunt, no matter how you described her, she was definitely not looking healthy.

“Gimme The State Breakfast, Charlie!” The waitress called, then went over to greet the three gentlemen who walked in.

Jailee glanced over at the group being seated. One of the men looked strangely familiar. She immediately went into defense mode. How would she exit the building if she had to right now? Busting through the window was the obvious choice, but was there a less noticeable way? Could she run through the kitchen and exit out back? She took another glance at the other table and noticed that at least one of the group was staring over at her. She quickly turned her face toward the windows. She got out her little Nerve Blaster and pretended not to pay any attention. Just then, a hand touched her shoulder.

“Aah!” Jailee yelled just before pressing the trigger, then realized it was the waitress with her meal.

“I didn’t mean to startle you, Darlin’!” she said, “but this plate is hot and I didn’t want you to get burned. Now you’ve got some pure goat sausage and bacon and two eggs, scrambled because that’s the safest way, and some hashbrowns!”

“What’s this round thing?” Jailee asked, looking at the separate dish.

“That’s our house specialty,” the waitress said. “Pour some of this syrup on it and enjoy! Oh, and let me refill your coffee.”

Jailee knew that if she ate too much too quickly, in her present physical condition, she wouldn’t be able to keep the food down. So she sipped a bit of the Cactus Juice, and nibbled at the egg and sausage before attempting the larger round item with the accompanying liquid, what did she call it? Sauce? She poured a little bit on and got a small bite. It was sweet!

She was ready to swallow it whole, when she noticed someone from the other table standing and walking towards her booth.

Immediately she got up and moved towards the women’s privacy hatch and closed the door, quickly inspecting the room. There was an air vent that looked like it led to the roof and might be big enough…

Just then the door flew open! The person walked in and shut and locked it. The bravado.

Jailee’s eyes widened as she realized the other person was a woman, too. “Who are you?”

“You don’t need to know that,” she stated and held up a medic reader. “We only have about forty-five seconds before this appears suspicious to the other people I am with. Why did you come here?”

“I had to get away from…”

“You really didn’t, you know. You were safe where you were.”

“That isn’t true. An agent followed me to where I hid and…”

“I meant you were safe where you were with my fa…” and the woman shook her head. “Take this.” She handed Jailee what looked like a keyring with three keys and two padlocks on it.

“What do I do with this?” Jailee asked, looking at the ring.

“This is a Sector ring.” She said. “the green padlock and the green key will transport you to a region you select, where no Sector officers are located – designed to get Sector officers to a location where they’re needed, quickly. The Red is a small storage of weapons, knives for close combat and a handgun.”

A knock on the door. “Is everything alright, Agent Bingham?”

“Yeah, but I shouldn’t have had that last taco,” she called.

Footsteps running from the door.

“Why is there an orange key with no lock?” Jailee asked. Bingham held up the lock.

“Because we’re about to use it right now. Get the green key ready and grab me as you turn it. Bingham opened the orange lock as Jailee turned the green key. Bingham jumped into her arms. The light of an explosion was just starting to flash in Jailee’s eyes when –

Suddenly they were on top of a tree lined mountain. Several kilometers away and below, they could see the explosion and fire. Jailee was devastated.

“Oh, no, did all those people…”

“No. I tipped off my fellow agents, I’m sure everyone got out of the building before the blast.”

“I didn’t get to finish my breakfast.” Jailee said. “And now, there’s one less place to eat around here.”

“That’s really okay,” Agent Bingham said. “They’ll be open again before sunset. They always are.” The agent pointed towards the building and that a hook and ladder and engine had already arrived and extinguished the blaze, and a construction crew had already begun measuring the area for materials.

“Very efficient.” Jailee said, sadly.

“But we still need to feed you,” Agent Bingham said. “And I can’t take you home because I’m presumed dead.” She took a long look at Jailee. “I guess we’re both outlaws, now.”

“I don’t think I can climb all the way down this mountain,” Jailee stated, looking at the height from where they were back down.

“We can use the transport lock again,” Agent Bingham said. “But the more urgent issue is what our story is supposed to be.”

“OUR story?” asked Jailee.

“I can’t be seen in my agent togs anymore. And you can’t be seen. After all, you killed a Sector Agent before making your escape.”

“When you put it that way, you made my situation even worse. Now they won’t stop hunting me until I’m found, and the punishment will be…”

“Not a problem, because I’m not actually dead,” Agent Bingham reminded her. “I think I have an idea. You really believed I was a man, so why don’t we play it like that? Boyfriend Girlfriend?”

Jailee raised an eyebrow.

“It makes sense. I know all the protocols. I can get you some skin cover to make you look more normal, um, I mean…”

“I know what you mean.” Jailee said quietly.

So, let’s get us dressed up and to the other Wale Hose before they reopen the first one,” Agent Bingham grinned. “I haven’t had my breakfast, either!”

//

This story was written for LJ Idol using the prompt The Waffle House Index.

Here is an Index of all previous LJ Idol appearances of Jailee

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
bleodswean
Jul. 26th, 2017 09:41 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this! I love the idea of a Waffle House still slinging hash after some sort of apocalypse! Well done.
penpusher
Jul. 27th, 2017 04:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much. It's been decades since the apocalypse and they probably had a limited menu even then!
halfshellvenus
Jul. 26th, 2017 10:16 pm (UTC)
Wale Hose! I had to think about how that might abstract into something recognizable, and then the problem of letters shorting out or falling off the sign came to me.

If you're not from around "here," you might not realize that what you see isn't necessarily the full, original name of something.

Goat sausage is making me cringe a little, though.

Agent Bingham isn't ringing any bells for me, but perhaps I haven't crossed her part of the larger story before?
penpusher
Jul. 27th, 2017 04:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot! The first thing I thought was the signage of the place and how that wasn't going to survive, intact, from one reality to the next! Linking it to a kind of water element was a snap. Yeah... I'm not certain any pigs survived, but the goats are good climbers. And Agent Bingham will be a surprise for a few people, I'm sure... thanks for reading!
i_17bingo
Jul. 27th, 2017 01:02 am (UTC)
I like how the Wale Hose waitress didn't seem at all put out by the color of Jailee's skin. She seemed a little jaded. Perky, but jaded.
penpusher
Jul. 27th, 2017 04:37 pm (UTC)
When you're a waitress, you get to see a lot of things... thanks for reading!
beeker121
Jul. 27th, 2017 01:39 am (UTC)
It's good to know that even 52,596 days after the apocalypse, waitresses will still indiscriminately call everyone darlin'. things may have shifted but the world is firmly on its foundation.

Wale Hose took me longer than I'd care to admit, but then I'm nor from the Waffle House part of the country so I've never eaten at one.
penpusher
Jul. 27th, 2017 04:49 pm (UTC)
Admittedly, I've never eaten at a Waffle House either, though I have passed some in my travels. The closest one to New York City is in Bethlehem, PA - about 80 miles from here. I have to say, now, I sorta want to go to a Waffle House! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!!
rayaso
Jul. 27th, 2017 03:44 pm (UTC)
I imagine Waffle House would survive the apocalypse, making do with goat sausage and only part of its name, but still open. You did a great job with Jailee's consternation at being confronted with such a place for the first time, and being confronted with such mysterious food. At least there are other Wale Hoses for her to go to, so civilization may be on the brink, but essential parts remain.
penpusher
Jul. 27th, 2017 04:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot! I had a feeling that Jailee would return when I saw the prompt and that it certainly related to surviving devastation. The pieces of the larger puzzle of the tale are actually starting to come together. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
marlawentmad
Jul. 27th, 2017 07:25 pm (UTC)

This character is intriguing, I am glad there is an index of stories to wade through!

penpusher
Jul. 27th, 2017 11:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much and I strive to make each entry a stand alone, to a degree, but they are all starting to interconnect. Thanks for commenting.
flipflop_diva
Jul. 28th, 2017 09:22 pm (UTC)
Waffle House does seem like the kind of place that would survive an apocalypse! I've only been to one once, when I was in Florida, but people sure seem to love them.

This was fun! I love her reactions to all the food. I'd be wary of that goat sausage myself!
penpusher
Jul. 29th, 2017 01:36 pm (UTC)
I have never eaten at a Waffle House - though I've passed by many on the interstates heading to Florida. Now I want to finally go to one! The goat sausage was partially inspired by gator on several menus in the south and how wary I was about trying it, but when I finally did, I loved it and now I get it every time I go to Florida or Louisiana! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
murielle
Jul. 28th, 2017 11:03 pm (UTC)
So much tension, excitement, angst, and drama! And then kinda cute at the end! And that breakfast! Mamma Mia! I'm craving pancakes!

Excellent read!
penpusher
Jul. 29th, 2017 01:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Jailee has been a real touchstone for me throughout my Idol experience.
messygorgeous
Jul. 28th, 2017 11:40 pm (UTC)
Lord, the Waffle House near my college always had a few letters out. We affectionately called it the Affle Hose, lol! I kinda love the thought that I will still be able to get hash browns after the apocalypse. I really enjoyed this!
penpusher
Jul. 29th, 2017 01:27 pm (UTC)
I think college town Waffle Houses probably get defaced as a matter of course! Thank you very much for reading and commenting!
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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