EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S: HOME IN THE VALLEY
Blog Preview Edition PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet
Earth’s Survivors: Home In The Valley is © Copyright 2015 Wendell Sweet, all rights reserved.
Additional Copyrights © 2010 – 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Wendell Sweet, All rights reserved
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Earth’s Survivor’s: Home In The Valley
Mike and Candace
West of Manhattan
“Nobody,” Ronnie remarked as he clicked off the CB and stepped down from the truck.
“Maybe the weather,” Alice said as she took his hand.
“May be,” Ronnie agreed with a smile. He bent forward and kissed her softly.
“You do that so well,” Alice told him. She had that secret little smile on her face, the one that turned up the corner of her lips. The one that had made him say yes when she had asked to join them.
They had met her and the small party she had been traveling with the day after they had left Billy’s camp and started on their way. Ronnie thought back on it now. That had been more than two months before. They had spent those two months just trying to get out of the city, past all the stalled traffic that went on forever, and into a place where they could actually have trucks, drive, make time. That day they had still been driving, or trying to. They had come around a curve on a barely held together state route that paralleled the thruway and there they had been: A truck parked in the middle of the road. Mike had locked the brakes up, the curve had not given much warning. Alice had been standing at the front of the truck and she had never even flinched.
Mike had stopped a good fifteen feet away. When he and Ronnie had stepped from the truck she had hit Ronnie with the smile. He had fallen right then. No arguments.
“Could’a killed us,” Toby Black had said. He was the leader of the six party group. “Shouldn’t ought to drive so goddamn fast.”
Mike was speechless, it was Ronnie that had fired back.
“That may be,” Ronnie had allowed,” But maybe you should give a little thought to parking in the middle of the road too.”
“On a goddamn curve,” Candace added, barely cracking a smile.
“Yeah, well,” Toby said. He seemed to consider a few moments, tugged at his graying beard, and must have decided to say nothing. He had just nodded, dusted one hand against his jeans and extended it to Ronnie. “Toby,” He had glanced from Ronnie to Mike to Candace, nodding as he did. “This’s Andy,” he had nodded at a skinny man who stood a few feet away. “Galloway over there, Flint at the back of the truck, Lucy siting inside there, and Alice right here.” He had tried to slip one arm over Alice’s shoulders, but she had smiled and shrugged it off.
“And who are you,” she had asked Ronnie. Behind him Candace had chuckled.
“Ron,” he had said.
She had taken his hand and held on, her eyes on his own.
“Listen, you can stay to dinner with us if you like. Fresh venison, killed a deer a few hours back.” Toby had pointed at a fire where what looked like both haunches of a small deer had been spitted: Fat dripping and sizzling.
“Yeah,” Candace had agreed. “We’d be glad to.”
“Yeah,” Mike had added. His stomach had been growling so loudly he had been sure that everyone could hear it. He had reached in, shut down the truck, and then shifted his rifle to his opposite shoulder as he shook hands with the others including Alice who had finally let go of Ronnie’s hand.
A little work had secured some late corn from an overgrown nearby field, that and the venison had made an excellent dinner.
“So where you folks going to,” Toby had asked.
“Alabama,” Mike had answered around a mouthful of corn. “Dammit this is good.”
Toby had laughed.
“There are, I think, more deer than there are people. Could have had a cow, in fact, but it would have been a waste of meat,” Alice had said.
They had traded small talk as they ate, sharing road information. Toby was bound for Manhattan, even after he had talked to them. Mike had shaken his head. The man was stubborn, there was no changing his mind. Mike had offered them to join with them and continue on to Alabama.
“Maybe,” Toby had agreed. “I might come back and look you up, but I got to know for myself.” They had been getting ready to leave a few minutes later, having refused politely the offer of spending the night, when Alice had asked if they would accept only her since the others didn’t want to go.
“Yeah,” Ronnie had said, nearly immediately. Toby had not seemed surprised although more than a little let down. He had, had a hard time hiding his frown. Ronnie smiled now thinking about it.
“What,” Alice asked.
“Thinking about how I like the way your mouth turns up at the corner the way it does,” Ronnie said. He reached forward and pulled her to him, at the same time walking back to the fire and Candace and Mike. Alice laughed.
“Dead,” Ronnie repeated to Mike and Candace.
“Kind of weird,” Candace said. “I mean, it’s been chatter, chatter, chatter the last few days and now it’s dead. Doesn’t make sense.”
“Is strange,” Alice agreed. “But we’re also further away from the city. Maybe all that chatter was the city… Or most of it.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Mike agreed. “We need to find a map and see what is near. Maybe the largest cities close by were destroyed.”
“I imagine they were: When we came this way it was the same. The few times we got close to a city it was bad. Destruction, the smell was horrible, and the sick ones too,” Alice said.
“Sick?” Mike asked.
“You haven’t seen them yet?” Alice asked.
“I don’t think we saw as much of the really bad stuff I have heard on the radio…” Candace paused for a second. “Back there, Manhattan, when we were with Billy, we heard some bad stuff out of the city. I mean like horror movie stuff. People looking dead but still walking around… Going without food for days, but not dying; attacking other people,” She shrugged. “Had to kill them, the ones that told us said so: Had to kill them because they were just gone. Come right at you and try to kill you if you didn’t… Some kind of bad sickness,” Candace finished.
“Zombies,” Alice said with a small nervous laugh.” She held her hands up when Mike and Ronnie shook their heads almost in unison. “I know, I know. They are not zombies, living dead, whatever, but I’m telling you I’ve seen them and they are bad shit. Bad shit. They may as well be zombies. No real thoughts seem to be going on in there.” She tapped her head with one finger. “They will attack you. They will try to kill you, eat you” She shrugged. “Not zombies, some sort of disease, but it is some very bad shit.”
“Like… Like plague of some sort,” Candace said.
“Yeah… Yeah, but they keep moving. I mean they should be dead, right? Their necks are swollen, faces black and blue, skin all messed up, running sores, this mass of black lines, like infection, running all through them, under their skin; but they don’t die. It’s like they are rotting on the bone, but they keep moving somehow. I don’t get it, but I have seen it a dozen times. Crazy too, not rational, I mean they are attacking and trying to eat other living people, how is that rational? Head shot, yeah, maybe you could kill them some other way too, but you don’t want to be screwing around, because maybe they’ll bite you. I have seen what happens to those who get bitten, they get sick pretty fast… A day or two tops. And in just a few hours they got those little black lines running off under their skin. Like I said, bad shit.”
“Jesus,” Mike said. “Billy told us about some that were camped near them. They didn’t even know it. They live like animals, nests in the woods, darkness, got one of their women, never found her, never found them, but the smell in the clearing was bad… Like death. And a few from the city told other stories. Central Park is over run with them. Thousands of sick and dying, only they aren’t dying for some reason, like… I don’t know, like they can somehow stay alive when they shouldn’t be able to stay alive.” He shivered involuntarily. “Little spooky… I can see why some are calling them zombies.”
Alice nodded. “Difference is these are real. I think zombies are a made up thing, these are something goddamn close to that, but they’re real. And there are some who seem sane, or… Calculating. I know that sounds even crazier, it’s like they evolve into something else… Some higher form of insanity that is so far gone they’re almost, well, sane again.”
Silence held for a few moments, Ronnie broke it.
“But a shot to the head does it, huh?”
“Yeah. Works every time. I mean, it sort of makes sense. Whatever the hell it is keeping them alive it requires them to have a brain so they can at least function on that… Well, on that animal level, I guess. No brain, no functioning at all.” Alice nodded once she finished and the silence held again for quite some time. This time Candace broke it.
“Well,” She squared her shoulders, “I guess if they look suspicious it has got to be a shoot first ask questions later sort of deal then, right?”
“Yeah,” Mike agreed.
“Yeah,” both Ronnie and Alice chimed in.
Candace leaned forward and threw a few heavy chunks of wood onto the fire. Night was not far away and the shadows were closing in fast.
“There were stories about that shit the planes sprayed on us,” Ronnie said after a long pause.
“Like?” Candace asked.
“Billy said he heard about it more than once. Almost all of us have stories about planes spraying stuff on us. I saw it back in Watertown, I… I think it was the next day… March 2nd, maybe March 3rd. We were up there in the Southern Tier… Raining all goddamn day, remember? Planes flying overhead. I remember seeing them. Blue shit… You guys?”
“I don’t remember the blue shit… Seems I remember the planes, but I thought, I don’t know, military transport planes. I really didn’t think about it until we got back to Watertown and there were no troops there at all. I expected them to be,” Mike said.
“I remember planes,” Alice said. I was in Schenectady… Planes, I remember thinking the Army had arrived, but they just flew over real slow, cargo doors open, that was weird, I half expected paratroopers to jump out… No blue stuff though, not that I remember… Why? What was it about?”
“I remember the blue shit,” Candace added, as Alice finished. “What was it about. What did Billy say?”
“Some government shit designed to strengthen us,” He held his hands up as everyone spoke at once. “I didn’t say I believed it. Hell, Billy said every time he tried to nail someone down about what they heard and who they heard it from, they would get all sketchy. Oh, it was a soldier I met on the road, told me he knew because the planes flew out of the base he was assigned to. But no name of the base. No facts about it, just like a… You know what it reminded me of? Like an urban legend. They get going the same way. Always sketchy details, low on facts.”
“Yeah, well, that’s one hell of an urban legend,” Candace said.
“Yeah, but the thing is there is always, they say, some seed of truth there,” Ronnie said thoughtfully.
“Maybe is,” Mike agreed.
“All I know is those things are real. We’ll have to be careful,” Alice said. The silence fell and held this time.
“Well,” Mike said at last. “Sleep beckons.” He looked over at the tents they had been using. “Maybe tomorrow, take some time, pick up bigger trucks… Maybe taking a chance sleeping outside isn’t smart.”
“I was going to mention that,” Alice said. “They might not bother us… Seem to hate fire, bright light. But if they did,” she shook her head. “I don’t want to go that way.”
“Me either,” Candace agreed.
Mike sighed. “Why don’t you two girls sleep… Ronnie, you too. I’ll take four hours and then wake you for the next four.”
“Done deal,” Ronnie agreed. They all rose from the fire, Candace stretched up and kissed Mike.
“Be okay?” She asked.
“Perfect.” he kissed her again. “Listen… Why don’t you and Alice sleep in the truck, you know, just to be safe.”
“I second that,” Ronnie agreed. “I’ll take the tent. You guys can do most of the driving tomorrow, let us nap a little to catch up.”
“After we get better trucks we can sleep in,” Alice added.
“After,” Mike agreed. Candace stretched up on her tip toes and kissed him once more. She left without another word.
“Sure you want first?” Ronnie asked.
“I’m good,” Mike agreed. He watched Ronnie walk away and then turned toward the black landscape and the trees that surrounded them, wishing he had not parked so close to the woods.
September 16th Year one
They left in three Jeeps just as dawn began to spill its light over the mountains in the south.
Katie had promised herself that there would be no tears, but it was a promise she couldn’t keep. Tears were practically the first thing to come. Leaping from her eyes of their own accord.
Amy had been unable to hold her tears back either, but both of them had been able to step back and let them go.
“Hormones,” Janna told them. And for some reason that made both of them giggle and neither one of them had been able to stop.
Sandy came up to the top of the ledge path, looked down at the two women giggling uncontrollably with tears running down their faces, turned to Janna and they both said “Hormones” which caused both of them to laugh.
They both walked over to Katie and Amy, took them under the arms, helped them to their feet and started down the ledge.
“Coffee,” Janna said. “It’ll do both of you good.”
Amy had slowed to a sniffle.
“Hormones,” Katie said, and they both began giggling again.
On the Trail
They made good time with the lightweight Jeeps, and found themselves at the head of the first valley by late morning. They took a few minutes and used the radios.
“Is something wrong,” Katie asked.
“No, Babe. We’re already at the first valley so we thought we had better call now… We may be out of range later on in the day, or tonight when we stop.”
Aaron was carrying on a similar conversation with Amy on a different channel Dustin and Annie sharing a phone talking to Lilly as well and then Amy too.
Conner told Katie he loved her and then handed the phone to Molly. Aaron handed his to Nellie.
A half hour later they were following the straighter lines of the tall pines through the forest.
“This is not a slow trip when you’re not driving a huge truck loaded down with cows and pigs and all that other stuff,” Aaron said.
“I was thinking that too,” Conner agreed. “It seems as though we are so removed from everything. So isolated, but it looks like we’ll drive out in a little more than a day.”
“We’re only what, a hundred miles in? Little more, little less?”
“Little less, I think,” Conner agreed.
“Why does it seem to be going by so fast,” Aaron wondered.
“Because, if you think about it. On the way in we drove slow. And we moved everything out of the way. Dead limbs, branches, trees, there isn’t anything left to slow us down.” Conner said.
Aaron nodded. “Plus. No cows, horses, pig-chickens. Either.”
“Plus we know where we’re going too. We didn’t before. What’s a pig-chicken anyway?”
Aaron laughed. “I meant pigs and chickens.” They both laughed.
The Old State Campgrounds
Adam and Beth
The State Park sign was overgrown, sun faded and leaning at the side of the road.
The four trucks sat idling just inside the treeline of the old narrow road that lead down into the campground. The driver’s door of the second truck in line popped open, and Beth, wearing military style fatigues and carrying a wire stock machine pistol, walked up to the driver’s side of the lead truck and tapped on the glass.
Billy looked up from the map he was reading. “Beth, just checking out this map. I think this is right.” His finger jabbed at a spot on the map that had been circled with red ink. “This used to be a state park. It’s early. I thought we should stop, plan where we go next.”
“Good a place as any, I guess,” Beth said. She looked up, staring down along the gloomy road and into the abandoned campground.
“What?” Billy asked.
Beth shook her head. “Nerves are on edge, Billy. I just thought I heard something.”
She smiled and turned back to Billy where he sat, map spread across his lap, the truck idling in park.
“But it doesn’t feel right. That’s why I stopped here, didn’t drive down in. Feels funny,” Billy told her.
Another truck door opened on the third truck back and Adam strode toward the front. He left the door hanging ajar. Halfway between the lead vehicle and his own he lifted his arms up into the air and shrugged his shoulders. “What’s the deal?” He asked in a deep bass voice.
The window on the last truck rolled down, the electric motor whining as it dropped. Mac stuck his head out of the window. “What the fuck, Adam?” he asked.
Adam stopped and turned. He shrugged his massive shoulders once more. “Something with Billy and Beth.” He turned and began walking back to the lead truck once more.
Beth lifted her eyes from the map just as the first man stumbled from the trees behind the back of the last truck.
“Jesus! Jesus, Billy…In the woods!” She shrugged her machine pistol off her shoulder and caught it with both hands. She was already moving toward the back vehicles. In front of her, Adam was turning away from her, back toward the rear, his massive frame blocking her view. Somewhere towards the back truck someone began to scream. Iris, she thought, it was Iris who was screaming.
She found herself running at that point. Her legs pumping effortlessly, the adrenaline surging through her veins. Iris was in the truck with Mac.
She had no sooner had the thought than she heard another voice began to scream. She couldn’t place it, but as she rounded Adam, catching up and passing him, she saw that two men had Mac on the ground, biting and snarling as he tried to fight them off.
“Beth!” Billy screamed from behind her. “Right. Your right!”
She had been just about to fire at the two men attacking Mac, and so even as she turned, she did not turn her pistol completely, but kept it aimed to the front towards Mac and the two men. By the time she registered how close the three men were to her, there was no time to turn the pistol and fire. They were nearly on her. She had no more registered their faces, jaws wide, eye’s milky and leaking puss, teeth gnashing – she had not even had the time to worry about her own fate yet – when the lead man’s head blew apart in a spray of black blood and bone.
She blinked involuntarily and managed to bring her pistol around as the two remaining men tried to reverse direction in mid stride. Their eyes were wild, trapped looking. She brought up the pistol and pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened, and her heart staggered in her chest. The safety… the fucking safety, her mind screamed, and that was when a woman hit her from the side and she went sprawling onto the dirt road. There were two more on her before she could get turned over. She felt the first bite to her arm and ignored it, as she concentrated on getting the safety off the pistol she had somehow managed to hold onto as she fell.
The passenger door on the second truck flew open, and Dell jumped from the truck, machine pistol spiting fire as he ran. The gunfire all along the road was crazy. It had instantly become a war zone. Dell made it halfway around the hood of the truck when he stepped into a crossfire and his head exploded, spraying across the hood of the truck.
Adam sprayed the woods with his machine pistol. The infected had all come from the same direction, and once he had focused on them, it had been easy to mow them down. They began to slow, some turning to run back into the woods, some standing as if they didn’t know what to do. Adam launched himself away from the truck fender he had been leaning against and began to run at them, firing as he went, a scream building from his throat.
Billy had staggered to a stop just past the end of his rear bumper. He had watched Dell come into his line of fire, and he had instantly let loose of his trigger, but it had been too late. He was in shock and time seemed to slow to a crawl. His eyes swiveled back around, and he saw that Beth was pinned to the ground by two women. Blood ran from one forearm as she struggled to hold them off. Both women were infected. Mucus scaled their cheeks, mouths yawning, teeth gnashing, necks swollen. He yelled and charged them, raising the stock of his rifle, smashing in the back of the head of the first one, kicking the other aside with a hard shot to the ribs and spraying her with a short burst that took her head from her shoulders after she had rolled a short distance across the ground.
One of the infected had stopped at the last truck and dragged the young man inside out through the open window. Two more joined him and pulled him the rest of the way out of the truck.
The first man then lunged through the open window and fastened his teeth on Iris’s throat as she tried to fight him off, and the inside of the truck became a slaughter house. He was so engrossed in feeding, that he did not see the machine pistol barrel as it thrust through the open window a few minutes later. He only barely felt it as it bit into the back of his head. Adam pulled the trigger, and his head blew apart. Iris stopped screaming.
The remaining infected stopped in mid stride, tried to turn back to the woods, but the machine pistols mowed them down where they stood or as they turned to run. Adam, Billy and Beth were on their feet moving in a loose line toward the wooded area once again.
Behind them, Cammy, Jamie and Winston, who had stayed in the trucks with the children, came out now and joined them. The gunfire held strong for a few moments, and then everything stopped at once. The last of the infected fell or managed to get far enough into the woods as to no longer be seen.
Silence crashed down all along the road. It held for what seemed like minutes. The swirling haze of smoke from the gunfire hung heavy in the late afternoon air. The headlights of the trucks cut through it, making it dance through the blue-white beams of light. The overcast sky and the sudden silence made it seem as though night had arrived all at once. There was very little to hear in the silence: the still running trucks, a scratching, scrabbling sound as one of the infected tried to crawl off the road and into the woods. Beth turned shakily from the woods, her face hard, set. She pulled her knife from her side sheath, took a few steps and straddled the man. She reached down, grabbed his hair, pulled his head back as he snapped and snarled, trying to reach her with his teeth. The knife flashed as she embedded it into the side of his head. She thrust one booted foot against his head and pulled her knife free, letting his head fall into the dirt. She pulled a rag from her pocket and cinched it tightly around her arm, cutting off the blood flow.
The silence held for a second longer, and then Beth began to sob as she sank down to the ground…
Earth’s Survivors: Home In The Valley
Home in the valley concentrates on the building of the first and most important settlement of The Nation. The valley settlement is where the people that run the Nation will come from. They will rise to leadership positions across the former United States.
The first supply trip out for the Nation nearly turns to disaster, and more of the separate parties join and become one under the Nation Flag. More