13

In the warmth of the Sunday afternoon, Pastor Dominick Luzak strolled beside Dave and Karen, away from the Zabelton crossroads, along the gravel road that went through the thickly overgrown woods to the east. They stayed on the road, hearing birds singing around them. The road turned left, went down a hill, then turned right, and continued on for a quarter mile, until they came to a one story, yellow, rectangular building to the left.

The building had a sign out front that said, "Luzak's Motel". The office was on the building's far left, with a line of eight rooms to its right. Each room had a dark green door, with a large window facing the road. Three hovercars were parked, each in front of a different room.

Across the road was small, stagnant pond, overgrown with old tree stumps sticking out of the water. A handmade wooden sign beside the pond declared, "No Swimming Allowed."

Dominick said, "A visitor from Scranton drowned here three years ago. His father made that sign with his own hands."

Then the three of them left the road, walked across the hard packed ground of the parking lot, and stepped inside the Motel's office.

Dave heard Karen make a very soft sigh of relief.

She whispered, "At last. We're inside."

A 19 year old woman sat behind the desk, dressed in shorts and a halter, watching a television that was set on a high shelf in a corner of the room. Unlike the mirror thin TV's in the City Building; this one was a rectangular box, with a 19-inch screen.

She watched an old black and white movie, showing the inside of a nightclub, where a black man seated at a piano, sang "As Time Goes By".

When the three entered, the woman stood up and smiled.

"Hi Uncle Domnick." She said, "My father's gonna be in Scranton all day."

"Good afternoon Charlene." He said, "I have pair of guests for you."

He, Dave and Karen walked up to the desk.

Charlene said, "Right. Hi."

She handed a check-in card to Dave, along with a pen. He picked up the pen, looked at the card and hesitated.

"I'm sorry," he said, "but there isn't enough room on this card, for both of our addresses."

"Not enough room?" Charlene asked, "Just what is your address?"

"Cubicle 18, Apartment Compound 903, West 53rd Street, Level 1378, City of Manhattan Building. Her address is..."

Charlene said, "City of Manhattan Building?"

She looked at her Uncle, who nodded.

His niece was horrified. "They're people from Hell?"

Domnick told her, "They are people just like you and I. They come from the City of Manhattan Building, where they attend Worship at a Christian Church.

"Remember what the Lord said, 'I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the Lord said, 'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'."

Charlene's voice was shaky. "But they have no baggage. They'll have to pay in advance."

Dave and Karen looked at each other.

She whispered to Dave, "Do you have any money?"

He said, "Yes, but I don't know if it's the right kind."

He told Domnick, "I don't know if City money will be acceptable out here."

The Pastor announced, "The Church will pay for their lodging Charlene."

"But Uncle Domnick, I don't know if my father's gonna like having people from Hell staying in his place."

"If he has anything to say about it, he can say it to me."

"Yes Uncle Domnick."

Charlene handed Dave the key to the room furthest from the office. Then Dave, Karen and the Pastor stepped back outside, while Charlene returned to the movie.

"I'll be back in about an hour," Domnick told them, "with food that you can cook in your room's microwave oven. I'm also going to call around, and speak to members of the Congregation. I'm sure they'll have some extra clothing to contribute, so you'll both have enough to wear. Then please come to the barbecue on Wednesday. You'll meet other members of the Congregation. Some of them might have jobs to offer to both of you."

The Pastor headed back along the gravel road toward the Church, while Dave and Karen came over to Room 8. Dave unlocked the door. Then he and Karen stepped inside, and shut the door behind themselves.

They were in a room with two double beds, a large dresser drawer, roomy closet with many hangers, a writing desk beside the window, and another box television. In the corner there was a knee-high refrigerator, along with the microwave oven that the Pastor had mentioned. There was also a bathroom behind a door in the corner.

"Will you look at this place?" Dave said, "All this for just the two of us. Back in the City Building, only the richest people have this much space."

Now Karen breathed a sigh of relief. "At last! We're inside. All this open space has been just too much. I'm used to being behind walls and under ceilings, with a lot of people around. Now we're stuck in the middle of all this empty land that they drove us through. There's nothing but farmland and woodland, and we hardly saw anyone at all. It's just too different. It's too much for me to deal with."

"But you've been in large open spaces before. The Gym is an enormous place. It occupies the space of an entire City block."

"Yes, but there the walls aren't too far away for me to see them, and neither is the ceiling."

"And you've been completely alone before."

"Yeah, when I shut the door, but people were still all around me, on the opposite sides of the walls."

He said, "This is just something else, that we're gonna have to get used to."

"Get used to it? Dave, when we came outside the City Building, we thought it was just gonna be for a few hours; but instead we're gonna be living out here for who knows how long? We weren't prepared to deal with this."

"On the other hand," he told her, "when everyone we meet, calls us 'People from Hell', we may not be living here, or any place else, for very long either."

"Yes we will Dave." Karen said, "The Lord is not going to let either of us die, before you've given me children."

"Karen we agreed." He said, "You and I are too young to even think about marriage, let alone children. I don't want to sound nasty Karen, but even if we were old enough, I know that I don't want to marry you or have children with you."

She told him, "Forget about Louise Torelli Dave. You can't fight against God."

He told her, "But I'm not sure that I'm the one who God chose for you Karen. What I do know, is that I'd rather be with Louise."

"Forget it Dave. God has made his choice. He's put you out here with me, and kept Louise back inside the City Building. We can't avoid it. You're gonna have a long healthy life with me. All Louise is gonna be, is a dead Warrior Girl, who you might have some nice memories about."

"I don't want memories about her. I want her."

She said, "Then it's better if we don't talk about this. I don't want to even think about marriage either."

"Okay." He told her, "We won't think about that now. We'll just concentrate on one thing at a time, one day at a time."

"Good idea." She told him, "What we have to concentrate on now, is what we have to do, to get along with the people who live around here."

He said, "If we just let them all know, that we're not gonna be killing or eating any of them, I think we'll be off to a good start."

"Then after that what?" She said, "What do people around here do anyway?"

"Farm labor, obviously. They raise crops and animals for food, which is why they don't kill and eat each other. Too bad though. That lady in the office looks like she'd be very good to eat. I think she'd be a lot of fun to harvest too."

"Dave." Karen warned, "If you said that to me, or any other City Girl, we'd consider it a compliment. The Pastor's niece might not think of it that way. She might think you threatened her. We just have to be careful what we say"
"Then what do we talk about?"

"Good question." She said, "What do these people talk about; and what do they do for fun around here anyway?"

He told her, "Well there's that Holiday Barbecue, that they're gonna be having at the Church on Wednesday."

"Right. We have to attend that. That's when we'll get to know them, and they'll get to know us. We have to make sure they know that they have nothing to fear from us."

"You're right." Dave told her, "It would definitely help, if neither of us make any comments, about killing and eating the Pastor's niece; even if it is intended as a compliment."

"Right, or anybody else."

He said, "They might ask about us being warriors. They'll ask how many people we've killed in combat games."

"Well as a cheerleader, I never got to kill anybody. As a matter of fact, I've never killed anyone at all, and as long as we're out here, it's never gonna happen."

He told her, "Out here they might actually consider that a virtue."

She asked, "How about you Dave?"

Dave said, "Well I just joined the Team, so I haven't had a chance to kill anybody."

"Didn't you ever kill anyone at all either?"

"Oh sure. Last August. I was in the Level 700 Amusement Center, at a shooting gallery. You may have heard of it. There's a place where you can shoot string bikini tops off women, with crossbows."

She giggled, "Yeah I've heard of it. How good were you?"

"Well I did manage to cut the bow she'd tied, just below her shoulder blades."

Karen spoke with scorn. "You shot her in the back?"

"No." He grinned. "Through the front. The crossbow shaft went all the way through her, then out her back, and cut the string. Then her bra went flying off, and she was dead before she hit the floor."

Karen said, "That's something else we shouldn't tell anyone around here about."

He asked, "What about the reason we left the City Building in the first place? If we tell them that you were hanged, then God brought you back to life; and then you were killed again and He brought you back to life a second time, I don't think they'll believe us."

"I find it hard to believe myself." She told him, "A week ago yesterday, I was just one among who knows how many cheerleaders who got hanged, and all was right with the world. Today I'm alive, the world turns upside down."