“Stop where ye are,” yelled Pastor.
The stranger halted, metres short of the wall, staring at him.
“I’ll get someone te orpen the gates. Come arround the other siide o the carmp.”
Instead of moving off, the stranger took a moment to peer around Pastor, as if to see gates. To Pastor’s horror, the stranger headed for the wall.
“No the barrs wi fry ya to a…”
He turned away with his hands over his head, too afraid to see the stranger’s demise. Chinking noises forced him to look. When he opened his eyes, the stranger hung by what looked like claws from the top of the nearest crenelation. They retracted, allowing the stranger to drop halfway down before they latched on again, holding him firm. Retracting once more, the man dropped the rest of the way to the ground and rolled fluidly to his feet.
He tore the mask and goggles from his head and gaped.
“Are you real?” he asked.
Pastor couldn’t believe he looked at a fresh faced male. As this young man ran across the field, he expected see a man in his late 20s, possibly early 30s, not this…
“How old are ya?” he felt compelled to ask.
“Sixteen, I think”
His physique and prowess made him seem older. He continued to gape as the stranger stared.
“Who are you?” the boy asked.
“Ii’m Pastor,” he said, breaking from his stupor.
“I’m Brad Morton,” he said looking around. “How many of you are there?”
“91,” Pastor said with authority. “Where did you come from?”
Brad gave a cursory nod behind himself. “I don’t know how far. A few towns that way.”
Pastor took in the road splitting the valley. It curved out of sight beyond the hills.
He caan’t have.
And yet, the youth stood before him.
“Come wi me,” said Pastor. “We’ll get ya something ta eat and somewhere te rest.”
He led the way back through the cornstalks and into the open fields. Children ran as their parents walked behind them. Curious faces of all ages began to form a hedge around Brad. The first of the adults joined the children, the nosiest of all the women.
She opened her mouth to speak.
“Hes naame is Brard Morton, Mrs Bairker.”
The children asked questions among themselves. Some of which, Pastor overheard, but chose to ignore as he continued leading Brad to his private domicile. He paused a moment to stare over the children’s heads as more of the adults came closer.
“Go baack to work,” Pastor cried. “Our new friend needs tiime te rest!”
The adults wandered back to their duties as the children continued to follow. Pastor decided to tolerate them until he reached his living quarters.
“Ya canna blaame them,” he said, leaning closer to Brad. “They havna seen a stranger in nigh a year.”
He reached the concrete ramp, leading underground, then turned on the children with a mask of comical rage, making them laugh.
“Go on noo; get going.”
They ran off in mock flight as Pastor turned back down the ramp, coming to a sealed steel door.