Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 6

EARTH’S SURVIVORS

Earth’s Survivors is copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet

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LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignee Andrea Scroggs. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

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Haley was standing over the young man with the long greasy hair who had caused the earlier argument, with her fists clenched. Joel and Jan were standing in front of her trying to hold back the small group of people.

“What the hell’s going on here?” Glenn shouted as he came up the aisle with Scott and John.

“This ass-hole,” Haley said, waving her hand to indicate the young man on the floor, “and his buddy over there,” she pointed towards Brad Saser, who was standing in the crowd. “Tried to jump us when we walked in the front door.”

Dave and Lilly emerged from one of the other aisles and stood next to Haley and Terry, as the kid picked himself up off the floor, and retreated to the safety of the other group. The two groups stared at each other across the small space for a few seconds, and then Brad Saser stepped out of the small group with a pistol gripped in one hand.

“Don’t have to be nobody killed,” he said, as he waved the pistol in their direction. “We want them Jeep’s, that’s all.”

Joel returned the man’s icy stare. “If you want one, why don’t you go get one? If I recall correctly, you didn’t want to come along in the first place, and if you want to leave now there are plenty more cars just lying around waiting to be taken. Take one and go for Christ’s sake.”

“Oh, I want to go. In fact we all do,” he replied, as he waved the gun around to include the group behind him. “We will too, but since you already got three good Four-Bys all gassed up and ready, it’ll save us the trouble of bothering, and this gun says we’ll be takin’ em. Now give me the keys, Bitch,” he snarled, glaring at Haley.

“You want them?” she asked sweetly, “You come and get them.”

“I swear I’ll blow your brains right out the back of your fuckin’ head,” he said as he started towards her.

Joel took two steps, and placed himself between them.

“Buddy, I don’t give a fuck about you at all,” Brad said, and pointed the gun at Joel’s head, “I’d just as soon…”

Before Brad Saser could finish what he had been about to say, a voice from the front of the store broke in.

“You got two seconds to drop that gun, Brad, or I swear I’ll put a bullet right through you.”

Ed was standing in the doorway with Gina, and both of them had high powered deer rifles pointed at Brad.

“I shit you not, Brad, I’ll shoot you like a woodchuck and leave you laying there, Man,” Ed said, as Brad turned around.

Brad looked back at the group of people behind him for help, but no one moved. Joel reached out quickly and grabbed the gun from his grip, and with one meaty hand shoved the man to the floor.

“I believe we’ll be leaving,” he said, first to Brad, and then lifting his eyes to include the group of people behind him. “And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay the hell out of our way.”

Dave retreated down one aisle, and returned within a few minutes pushing a large steel stocking cart.

“I’d watch them kind of close,” Glenn whispered, as he moved up to Joel’s side, “that may not have been the only gun they had.”

Joel held the pistol in his hand, pointed towards the silent group of people as the others left the store through the wide front doors. Glenn waited with him.

“I’d like to say it’s been nice, but it hasn’t,” Joel said to the crowd of people.

“You really should give some thought to coming with us,” Glenn said, “I ain’t so sure you picked yourselves a very good horse if you’re counting on him,” Glenn finished, pointing at Brad, who was still on the floor. The small group of people remained silent.

“Suit yourselves,” Glenn finished. He followed Joel out the front doors and into the parking lot.

The two men paused outside, waiting in the drizzle falling from the rapidly darkening skies,   as Dave and a couple of the others loaded the Jeeps. “You think,” Joel asked, “that there will be others like them?”

“I hate to say it, but yes.” Glenn replied as they slowly walked across the lot towards the three Cherokee’s that sat idling, “I’d like to think a little better of the human race, but we are what we are. I expect we’ll run in to a whole shit load of those types.”

“It’s a good thing Ed and Gina picked up guns then,” Joel replied thoughtfully. “No telling what kind of animals we’ll run into and I don’t necessarily mean the furry kind.”

Once the vehicles were loaded, Joel and Glenn climbed into the open rear door of one of the Jeep’s with John.

Haley was in the front driver’s seat with Amber beside her. The second Jeep, with Scott driving and Jan in the passenger seat, Lilly in the back, pulled in behind them. Ed drove the last Jeep, with Dave riding beside him, A shotgun was resting between his knees. Gina in the back seat with her own rifle, a wire stock model that looked wildly military to Joel when he had seen it. Terry on the other back window, a heavy shotgun resting between his legs, and two 45 caliber pistols on a wide belt at his waist. There were a few more of guns scattered among them, Joel knew: He, Haley, Scott, Amber, a few others, but a few had stuck to rifles or shotguns.

The rain that had been threatening began to fall hard as the small caravan pulled out of the parking lot, turned right on the crowded street, and began to weave through the stalled traffic heading out Route 3.

Mexico NY: Joel and Haley

Late Afternoon

“So, what do you think?” Joel asked Glenn.

Joel, as well as Haley, stood facing the road along with Glenn and John: They both shrugged.

The group had stopped just ten minutes before, when they had come to the turn off for Route 104 in the tiny town of Mexico, New York. The road was so bad in places that the Jeep vehicles bounced roughly over them no matter how slow they drove.

For nearly ten miles they had been reduced to a crawl as they crept slowly forward down the broken road, passing over the thick chunks of asphalt that tilted crazily into the air. In some places the drops from surface to surface was more than six inches. Nothing the vehicles couldn’t handle, but the driving had turned into a slow crawl for long stretches.

They had spent the last two days bogged down just a few miles outside of Watertown. Torrential rains, thunder and lightening. They had spent two miserable nights in the Jeeps trying to get some sleep. They had started out early this morning with high hopes. In the last three days combined they had moved no more than forty miles tops. The rain had finally stopped. They were hopeful.

They had maps, but the roads and small villages were so torn up that it was hard to find landmarks that could tell them where they were. The occasional highway marker, Village Limits sign, even business signs that listed the name of the town or village, was nearly all they had to go by. By mid morning the rain was back and their spirits had plummeted.

The trees had been winter brown three days ago when they left Watertown, but as they drove through the steady rain more and more green came into view. To the small group of people trying to negotiate the road it had sometimes felt like driving through a jungle. The road steamed where the asphalt had been warmed by the sun earlier in the morning before the rain had come back. The trees, seemingly bent on shedding their winter grays and browns and covering the landscape in green. They had finally stopped to move a fallen tree out of the roadway and then Glenn had wondered aloud if the road would get any worse. They had all stared at the overgrown landscape for a few moments longer, but there was no way to see what may lay ahead, and backtracking now was out of the question.  After a short discussion they had returned to the Jeeps and once again set out on the cracked pavement toward the west.

Noon, or what they judged to be noon, found them parked under the tilted remains of a gas pump island: The rain was back, beating on the steel panels above them. The convenience store that had anchored the gas pumps was gone. Churned up earth marked the most likely spot. The air reeked of raw gasoline despite the rain.

Glenn was bent over a map which was spread across the hood of one of the Cherokees. The other two Jeeps were parked beside it, tailgates down as the rest of the group sat eating a lunch of cold, canned-meat sandwiches they had made. Joel and the others stood talking and studying the map. They sipped at warm sodas and ate, talking between mouthfuls.

“This,” Glenn said, “leads straight into Rochester.” He pointed with one finger down the roadway as he spoke. “Of course…” he said, pausing to swallow, “there’s no real way to know what shape it’s in, or how much traffic we’ll run into.”

They had decided farther back not to take either of the turnoffs that could have shortened their trip, because of the traffic they contained. They seemed to have been more popular, and therefor much more heavily traveled.

Both of the turnoffs had been built after the main route, and had been designed to bypass the small towns, offering a more direct route, and both had been blocked with large tractor-trailers, several of which had been involved in accidents.

They had stopped momentarily to gaze at the scene, walking quietly through the twisted and blackened steel shells. They had expected to find bodies, but none of the trucks had any passengers, dead or alive. They seemed to have been driven by no one at all, wrecked, and then abandoned.

As far as they could see down the road they were now on, there was no traffic at all. The road on the other hand was buckled and twisted for as far as they could see so there would be little time that could be made up. A trip that would take three hours at the outside just a few days before looked as though it would now take three or four days.

In fact the entire small town seemed to be completely deserted. They had met no one as yet, and had begun to wonder aloud to one another whether they were completely alone.

It felt that way. It seemed as though everyone had simply decided to leave at the same time. Perhaps a mass exodus of some sort had occurred. Even so the feeling of being watched was pervasive. Creeping up on nearly everyone one, making them stop what they were doing, quickly lift their heads and look around, only to find no one there.

“It can’t be any worse than the alternate routes we’ve stopped at,” Joel said, staring down the empty road.

“No,” Glenn said, and then continued after taking a deep drink from the warm can of soda he held. “This tastes horrible,” he said, making a grimace. “Anyway, I would bet that we’re going to hit some of that truck traffic again before we get to Oswego. The last alternate we passed, 104 B, comes back into 104 just before we get there, at…” he paused as one finger traced the route on the map, “…New Haven. Have you been there, John?”

“It’s the gas fumes,” Joel said. “Messes your taste buds up.”

Glenn nodded.

“Wide place in the road is all it is,” John replied, looking at the map as well. “Problem I’m concerned about is Oswego. Mighty damn close to the lake.”

“True,” Glenn said, “but I don’t think we have too much to worry about. It’s a good twenty-seven feet above lake level, according to the map. I guess the big worry would be damage from the quake though. Road might be all busted to hell, maybe some buildings down, no way to tell ’till we get there, for sure anyway, but I think we ought to count on a tough time getting through there…”

“…All that truck traffic will be back, and they do a lot of container shipments from the Oswego docks, mostly by train, but a good portion by truck, so that’ll add even more traffic. It’s also a college town, and even though most of the kids there would’ve been gone on break, they do run classes’ year around.”

“There’s another problem too,” John said. “Although the map doesn’t show it, there are two bridges that we have to cross… dead downtown too. I think one’s a canal of some sort, and the other spans the Oswego River. You think the quake took them out?” he finished, looking at Glenn.

“It’s possible I suppose, but like I said, there’s no real way to know till we get there,” Glenn replied, frowning.

“What about a boat?” Haley asked.

“No good,” John replied, “good idea, but the banks are too high. It might be something to keep in mind though. If we have to we can take to the lake and skim around the roads. There are quite a few marinas all along 104, so if we had to go a way before we could get back in, it would at least get us back somewhere down the line, even if the water’s still down.”

“You think it is?” Joel asked, looking at Glenn.

“Well, it was farther back. A lot depends on whether the locks in the Sea Way held or not…”

“Hey!” Amber shouted. “Hey don’t run off!”

Joel looked over to see what she had yelled about, but she was standing on the edge of the protected pump area staring back down the road. He caught Haley’s eye, but she only shrugged as she walked over to her.

“Something?” Glenn asked.

“Don’t think so,” Joel said… “Maybe a mutt or something… Go on, Glenn.”

“Okay, So… Oh yeah, the Locks, I don’t imagine they could have all been down. I’m not positive, but I think it drops somewhere around twenty-two feet from the Atlantic to Ontario, and the levels of all the lakes are different too. Most people don’t know that, unless you live up here of course. I’d bet though that they held, at least so far, or at least the ones that were closed: If not I think the lake level might have already started to rise again, unless… Well, could be like I said before. There could be a whole new river cutting through the middle of the country, and if so I wouldn’t want to bet on anything.” Glenn drew a short breath and then continued after looking over to where Haley and Amber were talking.

“I got side tracked with that damn fault line right after I read the article about it. You know, one of those things that sort of grabs your attention. Hell, until I read it I wasn’t even aware we had any fault lines up here. You hear earthquake, you think California, not northern New York.”

“But I thought you said you read about it in school?” Haley said as she walked back over.

“No… What I said was you could read about it in school. I checked it out at the library. You know, I just couldn’t believe it, and I learned a long time ago not to always believe what you read in the paper, so I went to the library and asked,” Glenn said grinning. “Everything okay, Haley? With Amber?”

“Oh yeah… Thought she saw someone across the road in that wreck of a diner. Ran as soon as they saw her.” Haley shrugged.

“We could go check it out,” Joel said.

“If someone doesn’t want to be found, goes through the trouble of avoiding us, maybe it’s best to let them be,” John said.

Glenn chuckled.

“Library,” Joel prompted.

Glenn nodded.

“I am sorry,“ John said and smiled heartily.

“Me too, Glenn,” Haley agreed.

“Library,” Joel prompted again.

Glenn laughed. “Okay, library; as it turned out I wasn’t the only one interested in that fault line. I had to wait better than a week to get the book I wanted. It was worth the wait though. The book was written by a fellow name of Jack Frederick. Guess he was living somewhere up here at the time. I haven’t ever heard of him though. He told all about the fault line, and the locks. Got into a lot of boring shit, and used a lot of fancy words, but the gist of the whole thing was that he felt the thing was getting ready to go at any time. Course he wrote it back in the fifties, and I suppose when nothing happened right away people just forgot it. Till the article in the paper anyway…”

“…He thought it was more likely to go before the big one ever hit California, and I guess writing that book was his way to call attention to it. I’m running at the mouth here, but bear with me and I’ll try to get to the point. See, he thought the whole damn continent would crack right down the middle, with a hard enough quake. The newspaper article was aimed at that side of it too. He also thought that it would eventually drift apart, course that goes back to the theory that the continents are not  finished moving yet. But he thought it would move pretty quickly initially, leaving a huge gap more than three or four miles wide and running from north to south. If that’s true then it’ll probably be even worse through the middle states, as the land’s all low to begin with.”

“So,” Glenn continued, after a brief pause, “you’d have one hell of a big river, and then almost an inland sea in the middle of the country. In effect it would pretty much cut the country in half, I guess. Of course, who knows? Science ain’t based entirely on fact like most people think it is. It’s just a bunch of theories, and whoever gets the most people to believe their particular theory comes out on top, I guess. Thing is a lot of people forget it’s just theory and start to believe everything they say. I remember in school being taught about dinosaurs and people living at the same time. Hard science,” he laughed.

“This guy though, he did a lot of research on it, and I think the reason no one wanted to believe him was because it’s a scary thing to think about. So, I guess that’s it. It still boils down to the same thing. Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know till we get there, and we ain’t going to get there if I keep running my mouth, are we?” Glenn smiled, as he finished.

“You do talk up a storm,” Joel agreed, “but at least it’s interesting stuff. I’ve read about it too, not to that extent, but I have to agree with a lot of what you said. Hell, I’m a skeptic. I rarely believe anything I read,” he laughed as he finished.

“I think that’s everyone,” John said. “You get bamboozled a few times and that’s it. You think it’s all garbage. And,” He chuckled a little, “The sad thing is a lot of it still is junk.”

Haley nodded. Her eyes cut to Amber who was still watching the wrecked diner on the other side of the road. Shading her eyes to see better.

“Seriously though,” Joel continued, the smile leaving his face. “I still don’t know what the hell was going on in those caves back in Watertown, not entirely anyway, and it bugs the hell out of me. Makes me wonder if that had anything to do with this.”

“Not likely,” John said. “If the damage was not so wide spread, say just localized, I would say hell yes, it probably did. But this thing is nationwide, so no. One secret whisper-the-name military base isn’t gonna get my vote. I’d say this was a natural event. A meteor and a bad set of circumstances of where it hit at an active volcano site. We might find, once we get to Rochester that this thing is confined to the U.S. Maybe Canada and Mexico, parts of South America, but it doesn’t seem it could have affected Europe… Australia. We may be able to expect help from those countries.”

“I would like to think that, John. I surely would, but I’ll need to see it proved,” Glenn said.

They had talked a little about the base as they had driven. They had all known that something had been going on. The Army had kept Glenn’s gravel pit running day and night, and he had sent so many truck loads to the base that he had lost his own personal count more than once. “The thing was,” he had said, “we off-loaded right into their trucks, and off they went right back into the city with it. It was pretty clear they didn’t want us there, and when they ordered concrete mix they sent their own trucks out to get it.” Glenn had been forced to invest in a new computer system just to keep track of things, and had been hiring as much extra help as he could get just to keep up.

They all agreed that something was going on, but they had no idea what. “It makes no difference anymore,” Glenn had said. “The whole downtown section of Watertown is pretty much destroyed. Those caves are right under that. That river will probably keep rising, and that complex they built can’t be far below, probably no more than eighty feet or so, it’ll flood.”

“Here,” John said, walking back from the rear of the Jeep. He held a warm six-pack of beer in his hand. “Stole this for us, to wash down the taste of that orange soda.”

“Aren’t you afraid we’ll get pulled over for drinking and driving?” Joel said, smiling as he opened one of the cans.

“Hell no,” John said, smiling back. “Of course I ain’t the one driving, you are. Don’t worry though; we’ll post bail if you get arrested.”

“Ha, Ha,” Joel said, as he climbed in behind the wheel of the Cherokee, “you’d probably let me sit there.”

Lightening forked across the sky and Haley jumped. Amber laughed and put one hand on her arm. “Easy, Haley,” she told her. “I thought I was spooked.”

“Why,” Haley asked. “The people that might be across the road?”

“Yeah… It was really weird though… I thought,” she laughed, “Don’t laugh at me. Well, the person sort of lurched across the doorway, like a horror movie Frankenstein or something.” She screwed her face up, but she wore no smile at all.

“Yeah?” Haley asked. “Maybe it was just the rain… Or sniffing this gasoline, that will make you see things for sure.”

“Yeah… Yeah, what I told myself. Just the way they moved… Maybe they were injured.”

“Yeah… Probably were, Amber,” Haley agreed.

“Funny though that they would run away if they were hurt.” Amber finished. She climbed into the back seat.

Haley had also grabbed one of the warm beers and grimaced at the taste as she climbed in beside Joel, and said, “So, you going to keep this buggy? I mean this was supposed to be a short test drive, and I don’t know how I’m going to explain the scratches to my boss.”

Joel reached over and picked up the factory sticker from the floor boards where he had tossed it, after tearing it off the rear window back in Watertown. They had been playing this little game most of the day. After what had happened they were all attempting to lighten one another’s moods, and it seemed to be working, at least most of the time, except with Ed. Ed had simply withdrawn into himself, and no one seemed to be able to draw him out.

Joel let out a long whistle as he looked at the sticker price at the bottom. “I haven’t made up my mind yet, lady, do you suppose your boss would mind if I kept it awhile longer?”

“No, I guess not,” she replied, “but you’ll have to keep me along with it,” she finished, laughing.

“Oh,” Amber said from the backseat.

“Well, okay,” Joel said, playing along. “I guess that kind of makes the sticker price worth it. What did you say those payments would be?”

They joked back and forth as they drove along the road, and Glenn and John joined in from the back seat. It helped to take their minds off their situation a great deal of the time, and Joel was actually growing to like Haley. After she had decked the young kid back in Watertown, he had immediately liked her. Not because she hit the kid, although the kid had deserved it, but because she seemed to have her wits together, and wasn’t afraid to do whatever she had to, to protect herself and stay alive. She had seemed pretty shaken at first, and he had wondered whether she would be able to get past it and go forward. She was trying to see past it. That was all any of them could do, Joel thought, just try to get past it to whatever was in front of them.

The whole group had begun to tighten up, he realized. The others had all gravitated towards Glenn, himself, John and Haley. They had discussed that. It had made Glenn especially nervous. While it was true he was used to taking charge, this was not the same thing as running a business, he had pointed out, and he wasn’t so sure he liked it. He accepted it though, as did the others, although it was a reluctant acceptance.

Eventually the subject turned towards the more serious topic of Rochester, and what to expect when they got there.

“I can’t tell you everything about it,” John said, and then continued. “Most of what I know about it is a couple of years out of date anyway,” he said pausing.

“Well, anything you know is more than we know now. For instance, when we get there what’s the best way to get into the city? Or should we stay out of it?” Haley asked.

“Well, it’s a big city. I think we should go in, but I think we’ll probably have to give up the Jeeps, due to traffic. The best thing to do would be to get off 104 when we get to Fairport.”

“Fairport?” Glenn asked, looking at the map once more.

“It’s a long way around, sort of, but I think it might be the best way in. I think we have to get down in the city, at least at first anyway, just to see what there is. Like Glenn said, who knows? Could be that the police are still there, or at least someone in authority.”

“Nice pipe dream,” Glenn returned.

“You’re probably right,” John answered, “but I would bet that glow we could see across the lake last night was Rochester, and if it was, that means the power is at least still on. They just gave the okay last year to Rochester Gas and Electric to fire up that new nuclear plant out in Livingston County.”

“Where’s that,” Joel asked.

“Well, Rochester is in Monroe county, Livingston county starts out past Henrietta, which is a small suburb of Rochester. It’s maybe fifteen miles or so away from the city itself, I guess. There was a lott’a bitching when they first proposed it, but it ended up being built anyway. Anyway, I’m starting to sound like Glenn now, I guess. The whole thing’s computerized from top to bottom. Oh they have people working there, but they’re only there in case something goes wrong, not to run the place. Even if something does go wrong, the computer shuts the whole thing down, not people. They supply electric for the entire city with it, with some to spare. All the excess power that the place produces gets sold to New York City. They built a new plant to handle it downtown, on Broad Street. It’s a way from the lake, so if that was Rochester we saw last night, the plant must still be up and running. That means there may still be some sort of control there, you know, police, or something, at least other people I would guess anyway…”

”…You know, I think I am becoming a Glenn clone. I guess I should get back to what I was saying before I started running at the mouth. Fairport looks like the best route in. We can get off at Webster and shoot across 250 straight into Fairport, and from there we have several routes to choose from. There are quite a few loops that surround the city, Can-of-Worms it’s called. Most of the traffic would be there. They rebuilt the whole system just a few years back so it would be easier to get around the city. Almost all the old routes in and out were pretty much secondary after that, you know, really light traffic, but all of those routes in should be pretty well open.”

Glenn traced the route on the map as John spoke. “Looks good to me too,” he said. “Looks like we can get pretty much anywhere on the east side of the city from there.”

“We can,” John agreed, “but don’t let that map fool you. It’s not as straight forward as it appears. I think we’ll head out on East Avenue from Fairport. Try that first, and see.” Glenn looked for East Avenue on the map, but couldn’t find it.

“Thirty-one,” John said.

“Route 31?” Glenn asked.

“Yes, straight out of Fairport. It’s really East Avenue still to me, but I think they list it as Route 31 on the map,” John said.

“Got it,” Glenn replied.

“It doesn’t go straight in anymore like the map shows,” John warned, “They changed it, but it goes far enough to hit Winton road.”

“According to the map,” Glenn said, “it’ll take us north or south, and that opens a lot of ways in to the city.”

“Sounds like a done deal,” Joel said, as he turned on the heater in the Jeep.

“Hey,” Glenn said, “don’t you feel a little guilty driving around in a stolen Jeep?”

“Nope, If you’re gonna steal something make it something nice, I always say,” Joel replied, with a smug look on his face. “Besides, it’s getting colder out again, isn’t it?” he asked, turning the conversation back to something more serious. “I mean I’m from Watertown of course, and you never know what it’s going to be like there. Cold in the mornings, usually, this time of year. Summer doesn’t last for long, and I guess I expected it to stay cooler here too.”

“It does stay cooler, or at least it did,” Glenn said. “It can get hot in the summers, maybe edge up to the eighties, even low nineties on very rare occasions, but not as high as it was earlier. I really gotta believe that there’s another reason for it. It seems to be swinging back to cold again though. Of course it’s right back to the friggin’ scientists you know,” he continued, “only time will tell on that one, I guess. Remember that Japanese island that had the quake about thirty, thirty five years ago?”

Joel said. “Moved it, right?”

“About six feet,” John said, “and that was just a quake, not a meteor blast. Who’s to say what a large blast like that, coupled with a super quake, or whatever it was, would have caused? Or several large quakes, volcanoes for that matter? I don’t pretend to know.”

“I don’t guess we’ll be finding that out right away,” Haley said.

“No… More wait and see,” Glenn said. “I’d sure like to get my hands on a compass though, but who knows if a compass could tell us much? Probably not anymore, I’d guess. Shit, where the hell can you find a good scientist when you need one?” Everyone laughed, breaking the tension that had been building, as it always did, when the conversation turned serious.

“Hey,” Joel said, as he thrust his open hand over the seat back, towards the rear. “You guys hogging all the beer back there? No wonder you’re both starting to sound like a couple of fifth grade scientists.” Glenn laughed as he passed Joel another beer. “Your license,” he said.

“Guy’s?” Haley asked. She waited until they looked at her. “Well, I was wondering, if, well… When we get to Oswego, if we could stop and get some clean clothes? I’ve been in these for two days now, and if there’s no one there, in Oswego I mean, I’d like to stop and get some clean ones.”

Joel looked down at his dirty shirt; he could use some clean clothes too. He had jumped into the same clothes he had been wearing the day before, everything started. That meant the same stuff for three days now, and he looked it. Come to think of it, he thought, we could all use some clean clothes. And a shower wouldn’t be bad either. Aloud, he said, “I vote yes, does anyone know where there’s a shopping center, a mall?”

“There are a couple just inside the city limits,” John said, “They should have just about anything you’d want.”

“It would probably be a good idea to stop,” Glenn said. “It would give us all a chance to clean up too. Of course that’s if there’s running water.”

“Even if there isn’t,” Haley said, “there’s the lake, right?”

“True enough,” Glenn replied, “but we may not be able to get close to it. I’ll hope for running water myself.” A chorus of ‘Me too’ greeted Glenn’s last statement.

Joel spread his fingers apart and looked from face to face. “Well, let’s get this show on the road.” …

………………………………

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