We are between Fort Kearny and Chimney Rock. We stopped at Kearny but there wasn't enough food for two children, a pregnant woman, and a man, so we took what was left and made our way to Chimney Rock. Not even a week passed and we are down to our last strip of dried meat and half a loaf of bread. James and John clench their stomachs and whimper, “When are we gonna eat mama?”

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Martha replies, “Soon baby, all will be fine because the Lord is watching over us, and if we pray he will help and protect us.” Martha and the boys clasp their hands and pray together. I’ve thought about eating the oxen but then we would have to travel on foot. Martha can't do that, she's with child. What are you going to do William?

The sun is setting but, there is still enough light for the wagon to cast a shadow. “William, we need to stop,” Martha says.” It’s gonna get dark soon.”

“I know honey. I love you”

“I love yo — STOP!”

The wagon stops as I pull the oxen's reins. Martha hobbles off the seat and leans on the wheel and proceeds to vomit.

“You alright Marth–”, A stench hit me as if someone punch my whole body. Jesus Christ! Martha’s vomit smells almost as pleasant as daisies compared to whatever that smell is. There is nothing around except a couple of bushes and trees on the plane. I jump out of the wagon with rifle in hand and walk a head towards the smell. Martha starts a fire. It casts a flickering shadow of myself on the ground in front of me. I look behind to see Martha kindling the fire while the boys look for tinder. That smell is coming out of that bush.With each step closer the smell gets stronger. I walk ten yards to discover that it is a bison. It’s been dead for about 3 weeks or more. The bison is almost picked cleaned and nothing left to spare. I squat down to get a better look at the poor creature to find that there is leg underneath the body that still has meat. Meat! God has answered our prayers! The rifle falls as I grab my knife from my belt to cut off the leg. Maggots crawling all over the leg like James and John did on the rocks back home. I walk back to the wagon.

“Our prayers have been answered!”

Martha looks up to see the decaying leg . she wrinkles her face and her nose while saying, “I guess beggars can't be choosers.”

We both laugh while the boys run back to see what the commotion is about.

“John, go get the pan and James get the salt and pepper”

Martha cooks the leg and I realize there's only enough for Martha and the boys. Martha sees it too.

“William, you need to eat.”

“I’ll be fine. You and the boys should eat. The boys are young and growin’ and you’re eatin’ for two.”

“I can share.”

“No. Martha, you need every bite you can get,” I smile at her letting her know that I’ll be fine.

“Ewww! There's a bug in my food Pa!”

“It’s extra protein. Eat up James”

Martha looks and smiles at me. After dinner I tell the boys a story of what our new lives are going to be like once we get to our new home. John disrupts the story.

“Pa, my stomach hurts.”

“Mine too daddy.”

“You should go to bed and rest, you’ll feel better in the morning”

I walk the boys over the the wagon and get them ready for bed.

“Don’t forget to say your prayers.”

“We won’t daddy.”

I walk back over to Martha by the fire side and sit next to her with my arm around her shoulder.

I look into the flames and watch them dance.

“Ooh! I felt the baby move”

I set my hand on her stomach. “I felt it!”

We smile at each other and kiss.

“What should we name the baby Will?”

“I’ve like the name Joseph”

“That's a boy’s name Will.”

“I know.”

“What about a girl's name?”

“I dunno. I can’t think of any.”

“Well, I like the name Mable”

“After your mother?”

“Yes William,”

“Okay then, If the baby is a boy his name is Joseph, and if its a girl, Mabel it is”

Martha gets up and brushes the dust off her dress and says, “I’m going to bed Will. Good night. I love you.” Just before I could say “I love you too” Martha collapses to the floor with her arms around her stomach yelping in pain and in tears. “Is the baby coming?!” She screams and cries. I lift her dress to see her legs covered in blood. What is happening? I hear moans coming from the wagon. The boys! They don't need to see this. “Martha, what is happening?” She continues to scream and cry. I cry too. Her body moves in jerky convulsions. I have to hold her down and I can feel something pushing against my stomach. I move back and to see Martha's stomach throb. What the hell? I rip open her dress. The boy's moans are growing louder. Martha please. A spray of blood hits the sky and her stomach is ripped opened. Martha’s screams stop. I get up and look down at her. There's something moving in her stomach. It shows its face. It hisses and growls at me and I back up. I hear the boys get off the wagon “James! John! Stay in there!” they don’t listen. “Boys! Stay in the wagon!” they reply with a moan. The oxen jerk and shriek in fear. No. I back away crying. James and John covered in their own vomit and blood coming out of their eyes, nose, and mouth. Their skin is translucent. Their bright eyes now dull. Those aren't my boys. I Walk away and watch my boys go over to their mother and rip her flesh off her body. They are eating her. I walk farther away until the fire is only a flicker in the distance.

Submitted October 09, 2018 at 01:15AM by swanhandler

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