AMERICA THE DEAD: SURVIVOR STORIES ONE
America The Dead: Survivor Stories One is copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet.
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Joel and Haley
The Tug Hill Plateau
The camp was a makeshift place off an old logging trail. It was dry under the pines where they had set up camp, but the logging road had flooded over, the water had receded, and now the road was a quagmire of mud steaming in the early morning sun.
They had encountered no major obstacles on the way in. Joel knew the way. The road was cracked in a few places, flooded in a few others, but only a few inches of water. The major stuff had held off until they had arrived and settled in.
The last few days had bought rain, snow, and what felt like earthquakes or explosions far away. Heavy vibrations they could feel through the pine needle covered ground. No one was sure what they really were, but they were all worried about it.
They had made up their minds late last night, when the rains had stopped to get out of the woods, but the two new trucks they had driven in would not start. Joel’s old truck turned over and started fine. They had spent most of the sunrise checking over the two trucks, but they found nothing wrong with them. The batteries were up, the starters turned over, but they would not fire. There was no spark at the plug. Scott and Glenn who were both mechanics were puzzled over what could be causing it.
“If we go, most of you will get stuck in the back of my truck… No other way for it,” Joel said.
They had spent a great deal of the last few days wondering what was going on in the world. Twice, slow moving cargo planes had overflown them. They had seen no markings on the wings, but they had both been painted the olive drab of army equipment. The battery powered radio they had listened to had stopped working. Their wristwatches, cell phones, the two trucks, all dead. The had wondered about a Nuclear blast, maybe that was what had happened to the electronics.
Scott nodded. “Maybe that is the deal though. Your truck is old, no electronic brain… Maybe we could find another like it… Or two.”
“If it was a nuke, would it knock out electronics like that? And wouldn’t we all be sick right now?” Amber asked.
“Not necessarily… If it was it wasn’t close, so it would just depend on which way the wind was blowing,” Haley said. “Electronics? I have heard that, but I don’t know. Makes me wish I paid attention to all of that apocalypse stuff on the internet.”
“A dirty bomb… I think that’s what they called it, but it could have been that meteor… I think I read once that a near miss could be as bad as a direct hit. Mess things up the same as a nuclear bomb.” Glenn shrugged.
“But they said that would miss us completely,” Ed threw in.
Dave nodded, “Maybe it didn’t. Wouldn’t be the first time they said something that turned out to be bullshit.”
“What? You don’t trust your own government,” Amber asked in mock surprise.
“Yeah… Well, either way we’re back to sticking it out here or going back to Watertown to see what’s going on… Or somewhere else for that matter,” Joel threw out after a few moments of silence.
“I say we go back… Maybe the guard is there, or has been there.,” Amber said.
“Can’t hide out up here forever,” Ed agreed.
“We’ll run out of food… At the least we have to stock back up,” Scott added.
Glenn nodded. “With more too… We don’t know how long this is going to be.”
“Or if it still is,” Haley added.
“There is that too,” Glenn agreed.
“At the least then we should go back and stock up. I mean if no one is there, we can stock up, come back here if it’s bad and decide what to do… Get on with the old life if there is someone there,” Terry said.
“Who wants the front seat… Two,” Joel asked.
“Probably the girls,” Dave said.
“Why is that,” Haley asked.
“What?” Dave asked.
“Why the girls,” She shook her head before he answered. “Well, I’m not a girl. I’m a woman. It was a rough road to become a woman, and I don’t want to be called a girl.”
“Hey… Peace. I didn’t mean anything by it,” Dave said.
The silence held for a few minutes.
“Well, let’s get this place picked up… I guess store everything in the other two trucks… Maybe we’ll come back for them,” Joel said.
“Maybe not,” Glenn added. “So bring what you want to keep, only make it a small amount.”
A half hour later Joel drove the old truck down the logging road, sticking to four wheel drive and the sides of the road where he could. Twice he had had to make everyone get out and then take a run at a particularly bad section of road before they all climbed in once more. It was late morning before they found route 177. A short time later they found route 11 and headed back toward the small city of Watertown.
Watertown: Joel and Haley
The city was a mess. Buildings toppled, streets blocked off with debris, no power and no people out on the streets that they had seen. It had taken most of the early afternoon to work their way back to Jacob’s Superette. They had all wondered more than once why they were bothering to go back there. A place to start, Joel had finally decided, and everyone had agreed. If they had not left that is probably where they would still be, riding out this disaster.
Joel had wheeled the truck up next to the closed doors and they had all climbed out of the truck. The doors were closed and reinforced from the inside. Twice they had seen movement behind the stacks and pallets that had been used to barricade the wide and tall front windows, but no one had opened the doors or answered their calls. They had finally decided that even if they did open the doors they didn’t want to be there. There were plenty of other places in the city that could offer as much, maybe even more.
“We need better weapons,” Haley said as Joel drove. She had changed from the back to the front as they were leaving the market. She sat in the center, Glenn on the other side of her.
“Why?” Glenn asked.
“Because that place creeped me out. Who doesn’t open up to let someone in? Why did they close it all off? What if they have weapons and decided that not answering us wasn’t good enough? What if they had opened up on us? We wouldn’t be discussing this now, that’s for sure.”
“Jesus,” Glenn said.
“Yeah,” Haley said.
“Creeped me out too,” Glenn agreed. “Guess we can’t pretend the whole thing’s going to be fine any longer.”
“Guess not,” Joel agreed.
“Haley is right then… Better get ourselves to a place where we can stock up… Get some trucks, guns and get out of here.”
“What about that wholesale place out across from the mall,” Joel asked.
“Might be the same, but we can try it. Probably have what we need,” Haley agreed.
“Better let the others know,” Glenn told her. Haley turned, slide the rear window of Joel’s truck open and Amber leaned near. A second later she closed the slider and watched as Joel slowly picked his way through the downtown streets and headed for the outskirts of the city.
The Outskirts of the city: The Mall
Against all odds the outskirts of the city seemed completely deserted. At least at first glance. The wholesale place was deserted, the doors barred, chained and locked. A little work with the tire iron from Joel’s truck freed up the chains and a nudge from the nose of his truck shattered the heavy glass doors. Joel and Ed pulled the doors aside and Joel drove the truck in, crunching over the safety glass.
“Might be safer inside,” Glenn said as Joel turned the truck around, narrowly missing one check out aisle and faced back toward the doors.
“I think we’re stuck here for the night,“ Joel said. Stock up, get whatever else we need in the morning and head out. Little gun shop across the street… Truck dealership over at the mall across the street… Should be easy to get what we need.” He levered the door handle and stepped down to the ground.
“Company,” Dave said as Joel turned toward the opening.
“Seven or eight… Came out of that strip mall entrance way across the street,” Terry added.
Joel turned to Haley. “Shotguns… Rifles in the sporting goods’ area.” She nodded as she and Amber sprinted toward the middle of the store.
The small crowd of people was armed, Joel saw, long before they actually reached the wide street and crossed over into their parking lot. Behind him, in the store, he had heard the sound of breaking glass several times. Presumably Haley and Amber breaking open display cases.
“Think they can see us in here?” he asked.
“Probably too dark,” Glenn answered as Haley and Amber came back with their arms loaded down with high powered rifles and shotguns.
“Careful,” Haley said, her breath coming fast. “These are loaded.” A small line of blood ran away from one knuckle as she passed Joel a rifle that looked like it would be more at home in a war.
“You’re hurt,” Joel said.
Haley laughed. “Just glass from a case… It’s nothing.”
“Not a girl,” Joel said
“Or even close,” Haley agreed with a smile. She stepped close to the front of the entrance way, still deep in shadow, but just behind the shattered doors.
There were a dozen of them when they came to a stop just thirty feet away from the doors. Women and kids, the old man and a younger guy hanging toward the back. The two men and three of the women were armed.
“We know you’re in there,” The lead man shouted out. He was an older man, short silver hair, thin, the ragged remains of a suit hanging from his shoulders. “We don’t want trouble… Just company… Safety… The nights are pretty bad now. I guess you know.” He made to step forward again.
“No… Right there is fine,” Haley said.
The man stopped. “I told you, we come in peace.” The man said as she stepped from the shadows. Scott moved out with her and a second later Amber and Joel joined her. Joel motioned to the rest to stay inside.
“Every bad alien movie I ever saw started just exactly that way,” Haley said.
“Is that what you think?” The man asked. “Aliens? Well, I’m no alien… I don’t know what happened but I don’t think it was alien, or aliens, unless you count the meteor that might or might not have hit us. And I’m obviously not one of the gangs or I wouldn’t be out here in the daylight talking to you.”
The silence held a long time.
“You hear me?” The older man said.
“I heard you,” Haley agreed. “What do you mean one of the gangs? Not one of the gangs?”
The man laughed. A short hard laugh that had nothing to do with amusement at all. “Are you serious?”
“If I wasn’t serious I wouldn’t have asked,” Haley told him.
“But… Okay… Why can’t we do this in there? Look at what I have here… A handful of scared mothers with a few children. The young guy at the back is okay. Why don’t we do this in there. I don’t like being out in the open. It’s just the gangs we have to worry about.” He looked off in all directions as he talked.
Haley looked over the group and then over at Joel. “Nothing we can’t deal with,” Joel agreed. Her eye’s met Amber’s and then Scott’s. They both nodded. “So you know, there are more of us inside. Don’t be stupid.”
“Wouldn’t think of it,” The old man agreed. “John,” he said.
Haley just nodded and motioned him forward.
They were all gathered around a small fire that Glenn had started for heat and light. The nights were still cold. Glenn had built the fire in an empty fifty five gallon drum they had rolled out from the back. It the smoke detectors had still been working they would have had trouble, but as it was the smoke just gathered high up in the steel rafters and found it’s way to the outside from there.
“What do you know,” John asked. “That might be a better place to start.”
“Practically nothing,” Glenn answered. “We all met downtown a few days back… Earth quake… Meteor. Everything wrecked and no answers.”
John nodded. “Okay,” He rested his head in his hands for a moment, and then looked up. His eyes were red; the bags under his eyes bruised and heavy. “The second. It happened overnight, the first, the end of the first. I don’t know what it was, anymore than you do, but I suspect the meteor they said would miss us didn’t. Maybe that started a whole chain of events. So, aliens? No. I think our own government did us in though. I can see your view too, because there is something alien about it. About the way we would view it, the way you would view it. Yesterday the planes came over. Big Cargo planes. Sprayed blue stuff over the entire city. We thought for sure we were done right then, but whatever that was it didn’t kill us, didn’t seem to do anything to us… But I wonder, I really do…” He seemed to zone out for a second.
“John?” Glenn asked quietly.
He laughed. “Sorry. I need sleep. Sleep is what I need. Gangs,” he took a deep breath. “This city, most of the cities I’ve been hearing about on the CB are controlled by Gangs now. They’re out all night rounding us up. The other survivors…” He frowned heavily. “I’ll be straight, not much use for other men… ‘Less they think like them. Not much use for the children either. Women, gas, cash,” he laughed again. “They seem to think a day will come when it will all be worth something again.”
“You don’t?” Haley asked.
“I don’t,” John agreed. “I think somebody mucked up badly… I can’t believe it was all an accident. Washington? Dead. L.A.? Dead. New York? Dead as well. There have been reports of the President being killed. In the end the Secret Service deserted him. The few that remained fled. The whole thing fell apart. And it’s no better in other countries from what I have heard on the CB. Some of it could be exaggerated… Could be fear talking… But I don’t think so. I think most of it is absolute truth. I think it all failed and we’re on our own. That’s what I think.”
Haley looked over as Amber sprang to her feet and walked away into the darkness of the store. “I’ll be back,” Haley said. She got up and followed.
“I appreciate the truth, John,” Joel said.
John nodded. “Upset us too. Nothing for it that I can see.”
“Where are you from,” Joel asked.
“Rochester… Haven’t heard much from it except there is a glow to the west… Could be they still have power there.”
“Hey inside!” This from the parking lot that was now edging quickly toward twilight.
“Shit,” Scott said. “Forgot all about that.” He jumped to his feet and headed to the opening, Joel right behind him.
“Guess we’ll have to post a guard or something,” Joel agreed. He stared out at two small groups that stood in the darkness looking around at the deepening shadows. Scott spoke.
“What is it you want?” Scott asked.
“What is it we want? Are you kidding me? We want in there, out of the cold, the night.” The guy was tall and dirty looking in the darkening light, but Scott supposed they all probably looked a little rough. “Talking like that ain’t gonna get you in here,” Scott told him. “In fact it will get you an invitation to hit the road.”
A woman who was leading the second group, off to the right of the first group spoke up. “Look, man. We’re all on edge right now. We just want to share your shelter. Manny is not so good with diplomacy.”
“Manny?” Scott asked.
She nodded to the other group, “Manuel… Manny.”
“These groups ain’t bad,” John said from beyond the doorway, hidden in the shadows.
“You vouch for them?” Joel asked.
“No… I won’t go that far. I will say I have seen them around… They are not part of the gangs that are all over the place at night in the city. Not these two.”
“Good enough for me… Ed? Scott? Anyone else have an objection?”
“We’ll just watch them kind of close,” Dave said.”
“Okay… Well, somebody better go get Amber and Haley… Just to be safe.” He turned back to the parking lot and the two waiting groups. “Slow,” he called out. “Slow and keep those rifles pointed down.”
America The Dead Survivor Stories
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