Sisyphus, Part Four

Larssen’s been gone for two hours. The sun’s getting lower, and Pavlov is almost out of cigarettes. Dusk is the worst time. The light reflects off of the mirror-polished saltflats, and the horizon is bright blur for raiders and animals to hide in. Pavlov’s been getting an ugly feeling in his stomach for a few hours now. Deadwater Flats is the next stop down the pipeline from Hill 232. Marquez Gully was the one before Hill 232, before last year.
Pavlov has an ugly feeling in his stomach. It’s the ugly feeling he got last year when he was on a supply truck watching shadows flit around the red canyon rocks fifteen clicks beyond the safe zone. It’s the feeling he got a year before that when he saw the entrance to a dusty tunnel in the bowels of the bunker, two days before those kids went missing.
Pavlov shivers, and pulls the bolt back in his rifle to console himself with a little bit of mechanical noise. The loud chk-SNAP of the bolt gives him some courage.
Courage that disappears when he sees the critter.

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