There didn’t appear to be a gate or door in the palisade as the path ran into the wood logs. Though, as John approached, there was a small slat in the wall. He knocked upon the slat. His daughter Kayley leaned back against the wall beside the slat. Her clothes, once a bright windbreaker, were now dulled through months of dirt staining the fibers. Muddy pink, muddy blue, muddy yellow, muddy jeans. He wished they could come across a clothing shop to treat her to a new set, maybe give her a chance to try on a few impractical outfits. However, unless some rural nowhere had a real shop they were all too likely to be cleaned out or in too dangerous an area. Besides, they’d found the safe haven he’d heard rumor of and there was no intent on his part to leave. She’d adjust, it’s not like he’d been able to give her a normal upbringing anyways.
The slat slammed open. Two metals tubes extended out, nearly giving John impromptu dental work. He stumbled back, shoving Kayley to the side.
“The fuck?” she yelled.
However, John couldn’t hear her over the, “Go the hell away,” from inside the walls.
“Sir,” John said, stepping aside the shotgun’s arc of fire. “We don’t mean you any harm.”
“Don’t care,” the voice interrupted.
Kayley had sat up against the wall. Her head looked down into her lap. The clips that kept the hair from her eyes had slipped in her fall and now scratched against her cheeks. John couldn’t decide if it was exhaustion, fright, or complete resignation that made her look frighteningly like the yet to decompose corpses of yesteryear.
“Sir,” he pleaded. “We’re, my daughter and I. We’re just looking for a safe home.”
“It ain’t here. Nobody in. Nobody out. That’s why we’re safe and you’re not.” The slat slammed shut.
“Sir,” John pleaded, reaching to a tone he’d not thought himself capable. He wasn’t one to cry, but he felt the tears amazing in the corners of his eyes. He never tried to be a tough guy and hide his tears, but between exhaustion at night and the need to move throughout the days, it’d been a long time since he’d even had the time.
He turned to Kayley. Rigid lines ran across her forehead. Her eyes were narrowed, focused, looking past him. Moistened lines drawn together replaced once cracked and chapped lips. The hate in her eyes surprised him more than the shotgun. Her hand was already withdrawing from her backpack. In it, she clutched a small lighter. In normal circumstances, he’d have interrogated her about smoking habits, but now he couldn’t speak, couldn’t even manage a cautious word about how her plan would be an unlikely failure unless she set the whole woods ablaze. Her eyes, however, suggested that the woods wouldn’t be enough to satiate her.