The Broken Promise
by Joshua D Evans
Aaron slammed the door as he entered their house. He carried a box, filled with family pictures, a potted plant, and used pens. Aaron dropped the box next to the door.
“Aaron?” Samantha said as she entered the living room. “What’s happened?”
“I’ve had enough Samantha,” he said. “I gave them everything I had. I was so close to finding a cure and they fired me.”
“Well, they did, with a month’s severance as though that could somehow make up for the lives I could have saved. They just care about their damn bottom line.”
“There’s other places you can work.”
“No,” he said. He held up a USB drive in his hand.
“The data from my hard drive. I’ll find a cure to the virus without them and then they’ll beg me to come back. Get the kids, pack what clothes you can carry, and let’s get in the car.”
The warehouse at the edge of town was better than Aaron expected. With the money from their sold house, Aaron could work for a long time on finding the cure. Samantha believed in his work and would sacrifice anything for him. Even if it meant cooking over a gas burner and a ten mile trek to the nearest store. Jake, his oldest son was pissed at having to leave his friends behind. Molly was as strong as her mother and little Andy, who was only ten, was just happy to be with everyone. They fell into an easy rhythm. Samantha home schooled the children while Aaron plunged through the data. The answer was there, he just needed to find it.
When the virus caught him, everyone was shocked.
Aaron called his children to his side. The virus ravaged the body quickly with no discernible pattern, making even the strongest man weak as a baby.
“Children,” he began. “I fear your mother will follow my path soon. You must always remember there are evil men in this world. Whatever you do, take care of Andy. He’s too small to fend for himself.”
“We promise,” the older children said together. Andy smiled, not realizing what was happening to his father.
As their father predicted Samantha died eight months later just as the chill of fall was starting to touch the city. They all knew the reason was a broken heart. On her death bed she called her children to her side.
“You must never forget the promise you made your father.”
“Never,” the children said.
Jake stepped into the role of provider. He found odd jobs nearby and kept his siblings fed throughout the winter. As spring came the snows melted and Jake found himself restless.
“I met a girl,” he told his sister. “She said her father can get me a job fixing cars.”
“You must remember your promise to father. Andy needs us.”
“I have work to do. I’ll be back.”
Jake never returned that night. Molly continued to take care of Andy, scraping together for them what food she could find. Fall came, settling a chill into the city. Winter then set upon them with a vengeance. As the temperature grew colder, so too did Molly’s heart.
“Andy, I’m going to find our brother and bring him back. There is food here for a few weeks. Don’t waste it.”
Molly found her brother. He wasn’t hard to track down and she spied him with his girl, her belly round with a child. Molly couldn’t bring herself to bring Jake back or face Andy again.
Andy finished the last of the food within a few weeks. With no one there to watch him, he started to explore the areas around the warehouse in search of food. It was on one such trip that he found a gang that called themselves The Wolves. They scared Andy at first, with their tattoos and leather jackets, but they left him scraps of food too. Eventually one of the gang members took him in and they started to teach Andy their ways.
Andy pulled a ski mask over his face, tucked a pistol into his belt and set out to earn his place with The Wolves. He came upon a car stopped at a light. Never a good idea in this neighborhood but Andy wasn’t going to complain. He ran up to the driver side window, drawing his pistol as he went. He slammed the butt of the weapon into the window, sending fragments of glass flying through the car.
“Get the fuck out of the car,” Andy ordered.
“Hey man chill,” a familiar voice said. “Just let me and my girl go. You can have the car.”
“Good, play it smart.”
The man opened the door and slid out of the car, his empty hands in the air.
“Jake…?” Andy mumbled. The gun in his hand wavered.
“… Andy … is that you?”
“Not anymore,” Andy said. “Get out of my way.”
“Hey brother,” Jake said. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Jake, what’s going on?” the girl said as she struggled to get out of the car.
“Yeah, looks like you looked really hard for me.”
Jake crossed the distance with his arms spread wide. Andy lashed out with his pistol striking Jake with the butt of the weapon. Jake crumpled to the ground blood welling up on this forehead. The girl started to scream once she saw Jake fall. Andy turned and fired his pistol, the shot ringing out on the empty street.
“I’m a wolf now,” Andy spat. He jumped in the car and gunned the engine.
Jake dragged himself across the street to where his girlfriend lay on the ground. Blood poured from a wound in her shoulder.
Jake cursed himself for breaking his promise.