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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

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

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.

………………………………

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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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 5

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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THREE

Joel and Haley

The Tug Hill Plateau

Early Morning

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.”

Joel nodded.

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

Late Afternoon

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.

Company:

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.

Early evening

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.”

March 6th

Watertown: The Mall

Joel and Haley

Morning

Amber had risen early to the smell of hot food. A few of the women had begun cooking sometime before dawn, and plates were filled with food. Eggs, sausages, toast made over the fire. Burgers, canned ham and more. The store was stocked with all sorts of food. Some of it was going bad, but much of it had stayed preserved in the freezers and coolers. No one had been inside so the cold air had lasted longer without doors opening and closing every two minutes. When would she have a chance to eat real eggs again, Amber asked herself as she devoured the food. She looked over at Haley who was eating as fast as she was.

“Pigs,” Haley agreed. She laughed. “I had no idea how hungry I was.”

“Man oh man. Me either,” Amber agreed.

“It is good,” Manny grinned from nearby. Amber gave him a smile and went back to eating. The conversation ebbed and swelled around them. What to do, where to go.

They had posted guards all night long, and although there were gunshots further away, and a few fires they could see burning back in the city, the night had passed uneventfully.

Their small group had finally decided to go towards Rochester, New York. Glenn had said that he felt that it may be their best bet, due to the fact that there were no large military bases very close to it, and the lake levels would be low for a while, so there should be no flooding.

“It’s probably dead center of the two major fault lines, and it’s further away from the Saint Lawrence,” he had ventured.

They had discussed Syracuse, which was much closer, but rejected it when Terry had pointed out that the finger lakes could easily flood the whole area.

Glenn had agreed, and recalled several articles that had been written about the supposed newly discovered fault lines that crisscrossed the finger lakes.

Haley had pointed out that Watertown had its own military base and reminded them of the new facility that had been under construction in the old caves under the city. More reason to wonder why the military wasn’t here.

“That whole complex is probably under water by now,” Glenn opinioned.

“I agree,” Scott had thrown in. “I worked there last year. It’s nowhere completely sealed up, couldn’t be. There are parts that might be okay, but if there was anyone other than a small staff down there I would be surprised. I don’t see how they could get out of there if they are there. Fort Drum would be a better bet for help.”

“And that didn’t happen,” Joel reminded, bringing the conversation full circle.

Glenn said that he felt the facility was probably destroyed, and had gone on to explain his own belief that anyone in there was either dead or trapped permanently.

“The Black River runs through that entire series of caves, even under most of the city itself. I can’t say for a fact, but I think what most likely would happen is that at least part of the cave system would collapse. They’re done for, if they’re there at all,” he had said.

In the end they had finally decided on Rochester, and they were now discussing how to get there. They had decided, at Terry’s suggestion, to use four wheel drive vehicles of some sort, and Haley had suggested that she and Joel check out the Jeep dealership across the street at the mall to see what they had on the lot.

She had also pointed out that there were several other car dealers in the same area, and if they couldn’t find what they wanted there, they would only have a short walk to another lot to find something suitable.

“If any of it runs,” Scott had added.

“Running as of yesterday,” Manny threw in. “I drove one back into the city to get my family.”

“Didn’t run for us the other day,” Joel added.

“Didn’t for me either,” Manny agreed. “CB said they thought some sort of nuclear bomb, or the meteor.”

“The meteor could have done it?” Amber asked.

“I don’t know, but they seem to think so… CB, they all think they are gods of knowledge.”

They were now discussing how many vehicles they would need, and how many people Joel and Haley would need to drive them back.

“I’m sure,” Terry continued, “that I can get a couple of the others guys to go with us.”

Glenn spoke up. “I really think then, that we ought to approach everyone else and find out who wants to go. They may not want to. We have to accept that you know.”

“He’s right,” Joel agreed, “they may not. How many of them do you know?” he asked of the small group.

“It’s a fairly tight community,” Haley said. “I’m not from here. I mean, the city seems big, the locals not so much. Very small tight knit community.”

“She’s right,” Glenn added. “I’ll go… Terry?” He turned back to Joel. “You too. Let’s go see who we got.“

“I don’t know that they’ll all want to go. I’ve already seen a few leave, and we lost a couple of people this morning,” Amber added.

“She’s right about that,” Glenn agreed, “I saw a couple of people hanging back talking together and they ended up leaving. I guess they aren’t convinced that we should leave. I can’t say I blame them really, the whole thing probably hasn’t even sunk in yet.”

“Well, let’s go see who’s left, and who wants to go then,” Joel decided. “No sense deciding this until we know for sure.”

“You mean if they don’t want to go, you’re not going?” Terry asked.

“No,” Joel said calmly. “I’m going, period.”

“Maybe we should decide right now if all of us want to go,” Glenn said. He looked around at the small assembled group, letting his eyes stop on Ed Weston.

“Ed, Dave?” Glenn asked.

“I’m in,” Ed replied, “I can’t see any reason to stay here, and I think you may be right, Glenn. I’m not so sure this is a safe place to be.” He seemed to be slightly out of sync, Glenn thought, but he answered quickly, and decisively nonetheless.

“I’m in too,” Dave said. “But what if we get to Rochester and it’s the same as here?”

“That’s a chance we’ll have to take,” Glenn replied. “In fact, I wouldn’t doubt that there is damage. My only argument is that it may be safer than here. It’s built on higher ground. It’s also a much larger city, and I think that would increase our chances of finding other people. Maybe it would allow us to get a little more insight, or information, on what happened. Who knows, they may still have power, or some form of police, hell, maybe the television stations there are still working. We don’t know, and the only way we will know is to go and find out. One thing is for certain though, Rochester is definitely built on higher ground than Watertown is. If that lake does rise, I would rather be there than here.”

Glenn looked around at the small group, and then continued.

“So, if we’re all in agreement, I guess we better go talk to the others and see how many of them are going with us, agreed” he asked turning to Haley. “You and Joel will have an idea of how many trucks we are going to need; get some drivers… How long you figure, an hour or so? I mean to get ready to go.”

“It will probably be a good three hours before we get what we need and get back,” Haley replied after a quick look at Joel who nodded.

“I think you better do the talking, Glenn,” Joel said, “They know you better than they know me, and if we’re going to get out of here today we better get our asses in gear too.”

With that the small group walked to the front of the store, where the other people had congregated by the shattered doors.

“Folks,” Glenn said as he held his hands over his head to get them to quiet down, “I’d like to talk to you.”

Most of the people there either knew Glenn, or knew of him, and they had an idea of what was coming, as most of them had been standing around listening when the conversation had first turned to leaving. They turned expectantly towards Glenn now, and waited for him to begin to speak.

“As most of you know,” Glenn began, “I’m in favor of leaving Watertown. I think you’ve all heard my reasons so I won’t go into them, but what I would like to let you know, is that if we’re going to go, and the eight of us are,” Glenn lowered his hands and gestured to include the group of people that stood around and near him, “we need to know if any of you are going to come along.”

No one answered for a few seconds. Glenn was about to begin speaking, if only to break the oppressive silence, when someone finally did. It was not what he had expected however.

“Hey? Who died and left you the boss,” a young teenager in the small group yelled out.

The young man stepped forward. His long stringy, dirty hair hung into his eyes, and he pushed it away with the back of his hand as he glared at Glenn.

“I never said I was the boss of anything,” Glenn replied quietly. “At least I don’t recall saying it.” Glenn stared calmly back at the young man.

“Well you’re the ones been doing all the talking. Who are you to say what we should or shouldn’t be doing? And how come I never heard about no fuckin’ fault line, huh?”

“Maybe if you could read,” a young man said from behind him, as he also stepped out of the small group, “you would know. It was in the paper just a few weeks ago. And if you went to school you probably would have learned about it there too. I never heard him say anything about being in charge either, but they were the ones who decided to at least do something. We were all standing around out here with our fingers up our asses before they showed up. What is it; do you still think somebody is going to show up and save us?”

The two young men were now facing each other, and the small group around them seemed to be waiting to see what would happen next.

“Listen,” Joel said as he stepped towards them. “This isn’t the time or place for this sort of crap: If you don’t want to be here fine. Nobody said you had to go anywhere. Glenn simply asked you if you wanted to go.” Joel paused as he stared at the two young men. “Sounds more as if you’ve got some sort of problem with authority. If so, that’s something you’ll have to deal with on your own time. The fact is that we can’t stay here, and we’ve decided we’re going. It’s an invitation for you to join us, but you can stay right here for all I care.”

“Oh yeah?” the kid glared at Joel.

“Look,” Joel replied, staring back, “If you have some real objections state them: Otherwise shut up, listen, or hit the road.”

“I’m outta here. Screw you people,” the young man said as he glared at Joel, and the others from the small group that had moved up beside him. “You guys do what you want, I’m leaving,” he finished. He pushed his dirty hair from his eyes once more as he turned and walked out of the store.

“Listen!” Joel said, raising his voice. “I don’t think we all have to start acting like a bunch of morons. We’re all in this together, why don’t you just listen to what Glenn has to say, and then you can decide.”

The other young man lowered the hands he had raised, and turned back towards Glenn expectantly. The rest of the crowd, realizing that the confrontation was over, and they weren’t going to see a fight, turned their attention back to Glenn. Glenn waited for them to quiet before he resumed talking.

“Let me make this clear,” Glenn said as he began to speak quietly. “I don’t want to lead anyone. All I really care about is getting out of here, same as most of you.”

Haley watched as Glenn spoke, and thought, kind of late for that, Glenn. She had noticed that everyone had seemed to gravitate to Glenn earlier when he had begun to speak. He had that kind of personality, she supposed. They also seemed to be drawn to Joel, and more than a few had asked her what her feelings were about the situation. Are we leading? She asked herself, as she turned her attention back to Glenn.

“What we have to know,” Glenn was saying, “is who wants to come with us.”

“Where will we go?” an older man asked as Glenn paused. Glenn explained their choice, and why they had made it as the group listened.

“Now, there are eight of us, and we need to know how many cars we’re going to need to get us all there. Joel and Haley are going over to the Jeep dealership and try to find us some four wheelers that will fit the bill. New if they will run, older ones if they won’t.”

“Ain’t that stealing?” someone asked.

“Not as I see it,” Glenn replied. “As I see it, they don’t belong to anyone anymore. I mean… Anyone see any police? Or really, if you think of it, has anyone seen anybody at all in authority?” he waited briefly, before continuing, half expecting the young kid to pop back in the door and say, Nobody ‘cept you, you old bastard. When he didn’t Glenn was relieved, and once again began speaking.

“No, I think being arrested for car theft is the least of our problems. I ain’t saying it wasn’t a good thought to bring up, but I’m not too worried about that at all. What I am worried about… The main thing right now anyway, is to get this show on the road before it gets much later,” Glenn said, and paused. “So, if no one has any real objections, I’d like a show of hands so we can figure out who’s going and who’s staying.”

With no discussion, five members of the dwindling group, among them the young man who had been involved in the earlier argument, turned and walked to the far side of the wide double front doors, shaking their heads as they went. The remaining people began, slowly at first, with glances at their neighbors, to raise their hands.

“Don’t just raise your hand if you’re not sure, or just because the guy standing next to you did,” Glenn said. “You have to be sure, and you should know that we may not make it. We don’t have the slightest idea what we’re going to run into on the way, or even if we’ll get there. So you better be sure, because once we go we ain’t coming back. So who’s positive?”

Several hands that had been up went down, and their owners quickly gravitated to the smaller group that had begun to form by the front doors.

Glenn looked at the young dark-haired kid he had been sure would end up with them, and then at Joel, who shrugged his shoulders and said, “Go figure.”

Four remained waiting.

“Okay then,” Joel said, “I guess we’ll only need three cars. Who wants to go with Haley and me?” There were two women and the older man who had spoken earlier.

“I’ll go,” one of the young women said, stepping forward. The older man stepped forward as well and volunteered.

“I don’t think we need both of you,” Haley said. “Jan,” she said speaking to the woman who had stepped forward first, “if you want to come, let’s get going.”

The woman followed Haley and Joel out the front doors, as the older man walked over to Glenn.

“Let’s go back to the rear” Glenn said in a low voice as he leaned closer to Scott. “I’m not so sure I want to stand up here and discuss our plans, if you catch my drift.”

“My thought exactly,” Scott said, as they walked towards the rear of the store.

Scott, Glenn, and Dave, rested up against a wide cooler at the back of the store as Glenn spoke. The two young women, Lilly and Gina, both of whom were in their late teens, stood nearby with the older man who Glenn knew as John Bolton, a retired city Councilman from the Rochester area. He had been leading one of the groups that had come in yesterday. Bolton had retired and moved to Watertown to escape the crime in Rochester. He would definitely be an asset, Glenn thought.

“Ed?” Glenn asked. “We’re going to need some other things before we go. I think maybe a couple more rifles, some camping gear, you know, things like that. If I make up a quick list, I was thinking maybe you and Gina might not mind getting it together, would you?”

“Sure,” Ed replied, “you a little concerned about that group up front?”

Glenn leveled his eyes at Ed. “Them and any others like them. I’m not so sure they can be trusted. I saw Brad Saser in the crowd there, and he had a gun of some sort stuffed into his waist band.”

“I saw that too,” Dave said, and then went on. “Did you see the way he tensed up when it looked like those two kids were going to get into it?” Dave finished.

“Yes,” Glenn replied, “I did, and it’s something I thought of earlier. I saw some others carrying guns, when we were down to the Square. I don’t much like it, but I think we have to have our own, even if only to play it safe. I mean rifles and shotguns are fine, but it doesn’t appear it’s just the gangs we have to worry about. Looks like the good guys ain’t all good guys.”

“I agree,” John said. “I spent a good deal of time in Rochester, and I took to carrying a gun with me wherever I went. I think, especially now, since we don’t seem to have any police to protect us, it’s the only smart thing to do.”

“I agree,” Scott said.

The others in the small group murmured their agreement along with him.

“Dave?” Glenn said, as he looked at him, “We’re also going to need some canned goods. Maybe some bottled water, soda, canned meats. How about you and Lilly start getting that together. Be sure to stick to the canned stuff, and toss in some basic medical stuff, you know aspirin, bandage, whatever you think we might need.” Dave nodded his head and left with Lilly. Glenn scrawled a quick list for Ed and Gina, and sent them on their way. The three remaining men watched them walk off, and then Glenn said,

“Scott? Did you see any state maps up front, at the checkouts?”

“I believe I did,” he replied, as he walked away to get one.

Scott glanced over at the group of people, who were still huddled by the front doors, as he picked up several maps and headed back to the rear of the store. They were all huddled together to one side of the front doors, talking in low whispers, and more than a few of them had turned his way as he picked up the maps.

Glenn and John were sitting on the rail of a long meat counter, talking, and drinking a couple of beers when Scott returned.

“They’re still cold if you get ’em from the back,” Glenn said as Scott approached.

Scott reached into the cooler and snagged one of the beers from the back of the cooler, where ice had formed on the condenser unit. It hadn’t completely melted in the cool interior of the store. He took a long drink of the cool liquid. Probably won’t be drinking too many cold beers anymore, he thought. He reached into the cooler fished out a six pack from the back, and carried it over to the two men who were still talking. Glenn and John both helped themselves to another beer as Scott spoke.

“Group up front is still there, and they eyeballed me pretty good when I went up to get the maps.”

“It’s probably a good thing we’re leaving,” John said. John had been in the crowd at the front of the store earlier and hadn’t liked the way the conversation had been going. “There’s a couple of loony’s in that crowd, and I’m just as glad they’re not with us.”

“I feel about the same,” Glenn said.

Scott opened one of the maps, and spread it over the glass top of the meat case.

“John thinks the best way is probably Route 3,” Glenn said.

“It cuts around the lake,” John explained, picking up the conversation. “If it’s true, what Glenn suspects about the fault line, it may be a tough way to go. But you’ve got to consider the other route, and I don’t think that’s a good choice at all. If we don’t go 3, we’re stuck with Route 81 to Syracuse, and the Thruway west from there. I think we all made up our minds to avoid Syracuse, so that leaves Route 3. That will take us into Route 104, and if we take that west it will bring us into Rochester. Of course there’s still the lake to contend with.”

“I don’t think the lake is a problem,” Glenn said, “the fault line runs across the basin of the Great lakes. If it did shift, it would be a problem we might have to face down the line, but that would only be if we try to go farther west.”

“If it shifted, let’s say it did for the sake of argument, there’s no real way to know at this point anyway, we could have one hell of a big river splitting the whole eastern end of the continent, from Canada, all the way down to the Gulf coast somewhere. I know, I already been beatin’ on that horse, but I think it’s the most likely explanation. I read about it, what could happen if the fault were somehow triggered, in an article in the paper a few years back. It may seem a bit far-fetched, but there’s a lot of fact to back it up. The lakes would drop at first, and then they would level out as the new river fills up, and begin to rise again. That’s a basic way of putting it I guess, but that’s the gist of it. Right now though, if that lake really is dropping, we shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into Rochester.”

“You don’t think the road will be busted up, or flooded?” Scott asked.

“I doubt it’ll be flooded,” John replied, “if the lake is dropping, that should keep the road dry. I’m not so sure it won’t be broken up some though, and we may run into some stalled traffic I suppose, but being as it was night time, the traffic shouldn’t be too awful bad, and Four Wheel Drive should get us around the worst of it anyhow.”

“I’d say it’s a much better bet than Route 81 and the Thruway,” Glenn said. “The traffic is pretty damn heavy there all the time.”

“Tell me about it.” Scott said, “I came down eighty-one on my way here the day I met you guys. I was out in Adams working that day, just happened to come in to the city. Nothing but Army trucks and traffic bumper to bumper.”

“Well then,” Glenn said, “that decides that. John, what do you think our chances are, when we get there, of finding it still standing?”

John shrugged his shoulders as he replied. “Good as any, I guess, there’s no real way to tell. I don’t think the damage here was caused by the meteor, I think we all agree it was most likely an earthquake, but that doesn’t mean Rochester’s still standing. And it says nothing about what’s beyond Rochester.”

The other two men nodded in agreement. He was right, Scott realized, as he pulled another beer from the plastic collar that held it. They would simply have to get there before they knew. He sat beside them on the small rail drinking the semi-cold beer.

A short time later a loud commotion at the front of the store, caught their attention.

“Shit,” Scott said as the three of them hurried in the direction of the front of the store, “What the hell’s up now?” …

………………………………

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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 4

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

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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.

………………………………

TWO

March 2nd

New York: Watertown

Joel and Haley

Morning

Joel Morrison awoke to the sounds of birds whistling in the early morning pre-dawn. Birds, he thought, usually the sounds from the mills drowned them out.

He had made it home around 6:00 PM the previous evening. He was working the midnight to eight shift and had stopped into the Rusty Nail after work to have a few drinks with some other guys from the paper mill.

He had wanted to leave before the bar began to fill up. The Rusty Nail had gotten more than a bit rowdy as of late. Two years before, one of Joel’s good friends, Moon Calloway, had been killed in the bar. That had seemed to turn the tide. After that point the bar had become much worse, a proving grounds of sorts for the young GI’s from the base. Joel often wondered why he even bothered to hang around there at all. Last night it had seemed as though the rowdy element was showing up even earlier than it usually did, when Johnny Barnes had offered the ride Joel had accepted.

The house on Linden Street wasn’t much, but it was paid for, and Joel knew a lot of guys at the mill who either rented or were damn close to losing their homes to the bank. Times were tough in the old U-S-of-A, and at least he had the place free and clear.

He had practically fallen into bed once he had gotten home. He hadn’t realized how tired he was.

He’d been working all the short shifts he could get, along with his normal evening shifts, saving the money after he’d paid off the house, and today would be the start of his first real vacation in over twelve years.

Joel had grown up in the small city of Watertown, and had never left. It suited him, he liked to think. Where else could you see the seasons change so vividly, or take a quiet stroll through the woods anytime you felt, he often wondered. The Adirondacks were close by. The southern tier, where he hoped to be in just a few hours, he reminded himself, stretched away for miles. Forever wild lands, Lake Ontario, wet lands. And if he wanted the big city it was just seventy miles away down route eighty-one.

This is going to be one great vacation, he thought, as he got out of bed. Despite the damn birds.

The vacation he had planned was a three week camp out in the State Forest Preserve that started only twenty miles to the east. The preserve was nestled up to the military reservation and stretched from there all the way into Central New York. Joel had no idea exactly where he would camp. He had decided to just hike until he found a spot that suited him.

As he headed for the bathroom he noticed that the clock on the dresser was off. Not blinking, but off, and he could vaguely recall dreaming of waking during the night to some loud noise.

It had seemed at first, when he had awakened within the dream, as though the entire house had been shaking. He had passed from that dream into another, but the noise and the shaking had seemed to accompany him into that dream as well. It had to have been the strangest dream he could ever recall having.

At first he had been in his bedroom; the walls shaking around him, and the next thing he knew he had been standing on a stone pathway that overlooked a wide and deep valley that stretched away for miles before it hooked to the right and disappeared. Its forward path blocked by even higher mountains, with others lifting even higher behind that. He turned to follow the ridge lines back to where he was and the scene had shifted to the bedroom once more. He had found himself sitting up in bed, breathing hard, frightened, the room silent, wondering if this was just more of the dream or an actual waking. As he began trying to figure it out, waiting for his head to clear, he had found himself sitting on a bar stool in the Rusty Nail, Moon Calloway beside him holding down the other stool.

He tried speaking to Moon, but he either couldn’t hear him, or he pretended not to. In his dream he had still known Moon was dead, so it made sense to him that he could not speak to him. He turned to Mort to order a beer and Moon had suddenly spoken.

“It was right here, Joel… Right here. Bad place to die… Used sawdust on the floor… Soaks up the beer… The blood…. You know….”

He tried to turn as soon as he heard the voice, but by the time he turned the scene had shifted again. Instantly the bar was gone and he found himself standing at the edge of what he took to be a lake at first. The water stretched away as far as he could see. There was a tang of salt on the air; red earth crumbled away as the waves came in, taking more land with it.  He could remember the salt smell from a trip to Florida as a kid with his grandparents. The smell of the sea.

“This is the place,” Moon said from beside him.

He turned expecting Moon to be gone, but he was standing a few feet away staring out over the water. He turned and looked at Joel. “You see it?” Moon asked.

“Yeah,” Joel managed. The word was barely audible, lost in the sounds of the sea as it worked to take the red dirt away. “Where,” Joel asked. “Where is it? What place is it?” He turned when Moon didn’t answer, but Moon was gone. He blinked and he was back in his bedroom, in bed in his own house on Linden Street, talking to a priest that was sitting on the edge of the bed. He remembered telling the priest that he just wanted to go back to sleep. That had apparently satisfied the priest, as he had shaken his head and seemed to float away.

Joel shook his head, recalling the dream as he entered the bathroom. He picked up his toothbrush from the small plastic cup that held it, squinted into the mirror, and turned on the cold water tap.

Nothing happened. No rattle of the old pipes in the wall. Nothing.

“What the hell,” Joel said aloud, “frigging water out too?” He dropped the brush back into the cup and headed into the kitchen to start the coffee.

“Shit,” he said as he entered the kitchen and remembered the power was off, and that there was no water with which to make the coffee. “Now what?” He walked back into the bedroom and tugged on the pair of jeans and shirt he had worn the day before; he walked through the house to the front door, shoving his feet into his sneakers as he went, and opened it to retrieve the paper that he knew would be there. The ends of the untied laces clicked and bounced against the old hardwood floors as he walked. At least he could read the paper, maybe even find out what the hell was going on.

The sun was just beginning to climb into the sky as the door swung open. He bent down.

“No damn paper either?” he muttered as he stood back up and began to search the lawn.

His eyes rose from the lawn and fell on the Hubert house across the Street.

Something seemed oddly out of place, and he puzzled over it for a few seconds before his mind told him what it was. The entire house was leaning to one side. That wasn’t all though, the street in between dipped and rose in places, and the lawn over there had large patches of brown dirt. The snow that had been everywhere the night before was nearly gone. His eyes had skipped over it, lending an illusion of straight lines until he had looked closely. His eyes rose to the Hubert house once more and he realized what else was wrong, the lot looked too big: He could see more of the Hubert house because the houses on either side were gone. No trace. Jumbled dirt and clumps of grass filled those lots. A leaning Oak that had been in front of the Schuyler house for two hundred years: Uprooted and on the verge of toppling onto the fresh soil.

As he left his doorway and started across the street to get a better look, his eyes took in the devastation that had changed most of the street overnight.

Broken cobbles from the old streets poked through the pavement in places, and the broken pipes below street level bought him the sound of running water somewhere deep below. The reality of it hit him and he stopped and turned to look back at his own house. His mouth fell open wide as he stared. The entire house was leaning from foundation to roof, the gutters had detached and snaked down to meet the ground. Almost seeming as though they were holding the house upright. Small sparrows where pecking through the debris that had fallen from the gutters, and singing in the warming morning air. Joel’s mouth snapped shut as he stumbled back into the street and sat down hard.

“What the hell is this?” he asked aloud to the street.

“What the hell is going on?”

Joel believed in the tangible. If it could be touched it must be real, and so believing, he reached down to feel one of the cracks beside him in the road. The road tipped, tilted, had separated, and the other surface had dropped lower. His fingers came away with small chunks of asphalt.

“Feels real,” he declared aloud, as he stared at the road. He pulled at it and a small piece of the asphalt he held snapped off into his hand. He bought it up to his face to examine it closely; threw it back to the ground, and got up from the street.

He looked slowly off in both directions down the length of Linden Street. As far as he could see in either direction the roads and houses were similar. In fact, he thought, the street doesn’t even look like a street anymore. It was still a street because he thought of it as a street. His street. There was now more gravel, dirt and broken asphalt chunks than there was actual street. And in several places it was gone completely. No sign. Wide spots that were wholly devastated.

Joel closed his eyes and then reopened them. It was all still there. Nothing had changed. He stood and stared for a few minutes longer before he started to walk off down the street in the direction of the downtown area, three blocks to the south.

He looked over the houses he passed. Most were partly, and some were completely destroyed. He felt as though he were in a bad dream. He knew he wasn’t though, as he had closed his eyes to blink away the sights several times to no avail. He had also pinched his left cheek until his eye had begun to water. No good. It was still there. He had done acid once, but only once, back in the seventies, and he had heard about flashbacks, and this could maybe be one, and he had been drinking pretty damn heavily yesterday, and…

He spotted a young woman sitting on the curb three houses down and walked up to her. She tilted her tear streaked and puffy face up to him as he approached.

“Is this a dream?” he asked when he stopped.

“No, it’s no dream,” she replied as she slowly shook her head.

“Where have you been since last night? Didn’t you hear the noise? Didn’t you feel it?”

Joel recalled the noise that had awakened him during the night. The noise he had thought was only an extension of the strange dream.

“Well, I thought it was a dream, you know, but I did hear a storm, or something, but I didn’t think it was a big deal… you know, they can get loud sometimes, but… What happened?”

“Yellowstone blew up,” she said simply. “Didn’t you see the TV?”

Joel shook his head.

“Well,” the young woman continued, “anyhow that’s what happened. They cut in to the TV last night; I was watching… you know, and they cut in and said that the Yellowstone caldera was going to fracture because of how close the meteor came. I came outside to see, and, well there was nothing to see at first, and then the ground started shaking, so I ran to get back inside. But the whole bottom floor of the building was gone.” She shrugged.

The young woman broke into fresh tears, and buried her face back into her hands.

Joel sat down beside her and put his arm around her in an attempt to comfort her.

“Is your husband here?”

“Not married,” she said, “There was a guy… A few years back. He’s stationed somewhere in the Middle East,” she finished, as she looked at Joel.

“Sorry,” Joel said, “how long have you been out here?”

“I called this cop that had given me his card… He said the police would come so I came back out to wait, but they never showed up, so I just sat here. I didn’t know where else to go or what to do! I’ve been here ever since, just watching the street crack.”

Joel looked around at the street.

“It happened all at once?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, also staring at the street. “One second it was still whole, the next it wasn’t. But it’s still going on. Every little while a crack will just appear and then another section will tilt or drop a little. Sometimes there’s no noise, other times it’s this horrible groaning sound… Like it’s alive or something.”

“Is your power on?” Joel asked changing the subject.

“No,” she replied, “went off right after the ground started shaking.”

“Mine’s off too,” Joel replied.

“The power lines fell while I was out here, arcing all over the place. Scared the shit out of me too, and then they just quit… Went dead,” She said.

“Listen… I’m going to walk downtown… see if the police department is open, or see maybe if everyone is there somewhere. You’re the only person I’ve seen so far… do you want to come with me?”

“Sure,” she said, as she stood and brushed at her jeans, “no use sticking around here I guess, is there?”

“I don’t think so,” Joel said. “I think… you know that everyone else is probably downtown. Getting organized or something,” his eyes betrayed the worry he felt. He hoped that everyone was downtown as he had said, but he wasn’t convinced himself. We have to find someone though, he thought, don’t we?

He stood up and they both walked off down the street toward downtown Watertown.

“Joel,“ he told her. Talking to you for an hour and didn’t even know your name.”

She laughed, halfhearted, but it instantly lifted the mood. “More like fifteen minutes if that… Haley.” She told him.

They exchanged small talk as they walked and it seemed to help quell the fear they both felt.

They wondered about the rising temperature as they walked.

“I wonder if it’s some sort of fall out from the earthquakes? Can it be radiation, Joel?” Haley questioned.

“Maybe. I flunked science, so I really don’t know. I don’t think so though. I mean, if it was, wouldn’t we be sick? I think ash is a possibility, maybe if they triggered volcanoes? Makes me wish I had paid attention in science class, or physics, history, one of those.” Joel said.

She laughed again, this time a little more fully. “No,” she replied. “I don’t think so either… I mean the earth shook… like an earthquake. I didn’t know we could get an earthquake up here.”

“Oh yeah… Lived here all of my life. It’s more than possible, happens all the time… You from here?”

“No… Syracuse, before that Texas.”

“Ah, the big city… Well up here we don’t have a hell of a lot to do so they teach us about fault lines, earthquakes. We have a huge fault line that bisects this entire region and continues on south to the Gulf.”

“All the way to the Gulf?” Haley asked. She patted his arm. “Big city my ass,” She laughed. “ You should see Houston you want to see big city, buster.”

Joel laughed and nodded. “Seen Houston once… I mean, a long time ago. And then only the Greyhound station downtown.”

She stopped. “Get out, really?”

“Really.” Joel told her. “Very bad place too,” he seemed apologetic.

“Yeah.” her eyes had suddenly gone sad. “Very.” She started her feet moving again. She had come close to telling him just how well she knew that area of Houston, and had nearly bitten her tongue to stop the words. Emotional situations… You never knew the things that would just jump right out of your mouth, she thought. Leaving you all kinds of vulnerable too.

They talked back and forth as they continued down the street. When they reached Fourth Street they turned and walked the short block to Main, turned left this time, and headed into the downtown area.

March 2nd

Joel and Haley

They both stopped short as they topped the small hill at the crest of Main Street, and stared down at the downtown area on the other side of the river.

It appeared to be more of a war zone than a city. The buildings that were still standing leaned crazily to the left or right, and only the tallest seemed to have been, as yet, untouched. Haley wondered aloud at that.

“The taller ones are not that old. Built with federal monies. Earthquake proof…. To an extent: When I was a kid the tallest building was the Baptist church tower.” He pointed to a gray stone spire that reached into the air.

There was a small crowd of people milling around in the center of what had been the Public Square.

“It looks bad to me” Joel said softly. He pointed. “City police building?” He met her eyes with his own. “Gone… There should be thousands of people down there…”

Haley shook her head. “Ought to go down.” She looked up to see what he thought about it.

Tiny people walked aimlessly around the square or stood, seemingly transfixed, by the huge gray spire of rock that capped the State street end of the square. The sight of the people broke the spell. Joel nodded once and they began the walk down the hill.

They stopped and looked over the bridge that crossed the Black River. It seemed fine, almost untouched. It was so strange a sight that Joel laughed.

“What?” Haley asked.

“Doesn’t it seem strange to you? Everything destroyed and the bridge sitting here untouched?” He looked from side to side before he stepped out on the steel decking and began to walk. As they neared the other side they could see that there was a crack that ran from side to side and the road dropped down more than a foot. They leapt easily down.

“That makes me feel better. It just seemed too weird that it had no damage at all.”

Haley nodded and they continued to walk into the downtown area.

The walked up a small rise that had once been the bank of the river just a few hundred years ago, before the dams, mills, and reservoir projects had changed the water flow, Joel thought. The Public Square spread out before them.

“At least there are other people,” Haley said aloud. “Last night when I was sitting there all alone I was wondering whether there were.” She breathed a sigh of relief which was echoed by Joel.

When they reached the first people at the bottom of the hill, they could tell that many of them were in shock. An older woman wandered by completely naked. Blood ran down one calf from an ugly looking wound, and she was covered with dirt and grime. When Joel attempted to talk to her, she tried to hit him with a baseball bat she had been holding at her side.

“Leave me alone, you bastard,” she screamed into his face. And then she had run off towards one of the still standing buildings.

Joel was shaken by the experience and jumped when Haley touched his arm.

“…think,” he caught as he turned around to face her.

“Wha-What?”

“I was saying, I don’t think she knew what she was doing,” Haley repeated. “Hey? Are you okay?”

“Fine,” he answered, in a small voice.

He was still a little shook up when an older man began to approach them, and he found himself wishing he would turn and head in the other direction. He didn’t even recognize him until he was nearly upon them.

“Glenn,” he asked, “is that you?”

Joel had worked for Glenn driving truck at the gravel pit two summers before, when things had slowed down at the mill. Glenn Dove owned the gravel pit, and most considered him a hard guy to work for.

Joel had liked him though. He seemed to be honest; always paid on time, and he always bought Joel a beer when he ran into him. He was forever trying to talk Joel into leaving the mill, and going to work for him full-time. Today he seemed old and tired. Joel supposed he didn’t look much better.

“How are you, Joel,” Glenn asked, “some vacation, huh?”

Joel had run into Glenn just the week before down at the Rusty Nail, and had told him he’d be leaving, but he hadn’t given the vacation a second thought since he’d gotten out of bed this morning.

It seemed odd to think of it now. Wonder what the rest of the world woke up to this morning? He thought. It had only been a short time since he had awakened this morning, but it felt like years had gone by.

“I guess my vacation got canceled,” he said, trying a grin on his face. “Hell, looks like a lot of vacations got canceled,” he continued, as the grin slipped from his face. “Did you see any of this happen, Glenn?”

“No,” he replied solemnly. “I was out at the pit, and I didn’t come into town until this morning. But I saw plenty out there, thank you just the same.”

“As bad as this?” Joel asked, waving his hands at the damage that surrounded them.

Glenn paused and looked around at the destruction.

“Pretty damn bad,” Glenn said, as he shook his head in agreement. “I was moving the trucks down to the loading area, down the bottom there, and the ground started to shake and the shaking threw me right out of the cab. I jumped down and got the hell out of that pit in a quick hurry, let me tell you. Good damn thing I did too, as about ten minutes after I did the bottom just cracked open and she started to fill. Spent the night in the woods and when I walked out this morning the water was up the top of the pit. Never seen nothing like it.” He paused and looked around the small town square. “So I came down here, but I’ve been over to city hall, nobody’s there. The police department, you know,” he gestured helplessly with his hands.

“Gone,” Joel agreed.

“Seen you coming across here and figured to see what you might know,” Glenn finished, nodding.

Joel shook his head. “You can ask Haley,” he said pointing to the young woman beside him, “she saw it on the television last night.”

Glenn looked expectantly towards her.

“Well… not like I know it all, but I was watching the TV last night, and they said…”

Joel turned to stare out at the people who stood nearby in small groups, as Haley spoke to Glenn.

“Shit, don’t that figure,” Glenn exclaimed, when she finished, “So another politician lied to us. All last week they said that meteor would be no problem. Yesterday morning there was some yak attributed to the web about Yellowstone being closed down and already in a bad way and they denied that too,” He swore under his breath. “Figures. Seen any sign of the Guard around, or the Army?”

“We just got down here ourselves,” Joel answered, “but I expect they’ll be here soon, don’t you?”

“That’s right!” Haley exclaimed, “They should be coming, shouldn’t they? I mean, we’re alive, hell of a lot of people are alive, they’ve got to come, right?”

“Maybe,” Glenn said slowly, looking from one to the other, “but it seems as though they should have been here already, doesn’t it? I mean, if they were coming, it ain’t that far to the base… Eight miles? I mean, well, hell, it ain’t a long way for them to come.”

Joel nodded his head. “Well, if they aren’t here by noon… Anybody got a watch?”

Haley nodded and held up one hand so he could see the slim silver dial on her wrist, 9:32 he noted.

“Well, if they ain’t here by noon, I vote we go look for them.”

“Sounds good to me,” Glenn said, as Haley nodded her head in agreement.

They spent the morning wandering between the few remaining buildings and talking to the small groups of people that had formed around the huge church spire in the middle of what was left of the city’s downtown.

Haley found several other people with similar tales of the destruction they had witnessed the through the night. A few had slightly different takes on what had happened. One woman was convinced the end times had come and spent most of an hour trying to convince Haley to repent of her sins and join her. She had been polite and firm as she told her thanks, but no thanks. She had also stuck closer to Joel after that. Joel was disheveled. He probably hadn’t realized he’d forgotten to even comb his hair when he had walked out of his house this morning and witnessed all the destruction. His eyes were a little wild looking. People tended to shy away from him when they saw him.

She sat at the bus stop bench overlooking the square and wondered what had happened to some of the people. Joel sat quietly beside her, lost in his own thoughts.

One woman had stopped by the bench and tried to convince them that flying saucers were to blame, and she actually had several people convinced of it. They formed a small protective group around their leader. Haley supposed that with the way things were this morning, that it wasn’t as far-fetched as it may have been just yesterday. She listened cautiously, courteously, and they both breathed a sigh of relief when she became distracted by a small after shock and then moved on, her group hovering protectively.

“Jesus please us,” Joel said.

“Amen,” Haley agreed.

They had discovered earlier that though none of their cell phones worked, some phone lines were still working. Well, sort of, Haley amended as she thought about it now. You could call out, but all you got was static or a busy signal. There was a bank of old style pay phones in the Arcade Mall. Joel had tried for over twenty minutes, calling every emergency number in the telephone book. He had finally given up about ten minutes ago, and had ambled back over to sit beside her on the bench.

“You still want to go out to the base?” he asked now.

“No.” she replied, as she released a deep sigh. “I really don’t see a reason for it… I mean, if they were there, and everything was up and running, they would be here by now. So I just don’t see a reason for it. We were fooling ourselves to think that they would come. Let’s face it, they’re probably at least in as bad shape as we are.”

Joel, who had been feeling the same, nodded agreement.

“So what do we do then?”

“I don’t know, Joel. I don’t know what we can do.”

The conversation ended, and they once again sat staring out over the square, neither knowing what to say.

Glenn wandered back over from a small group of people he had been talking with, and sat down next to them.

“What did you find out?” Joel asked.

“Well,” Glenn began, “mainly a lot of strange stuff. For instance, you know Lilly Roberts over there?” he pointed at a tall woman, standing with the group he had just left.

Joel and Haley both nodded.

“I know of her,” Joel said, “she ran that little diner out on River Road, didn’t she?”

“Yes,” Haley confirmed, “I worked out there last summer, part-time.”

“Well,” Glenn continued, “she said she was at home with her husband and, well… You guys know him?”

They both nodded their heads to indicate that they did, and Haley said, “Kind of hard not to know him, or at least to know of him.”

Earl Roberts, Lilly’s husband, had established his own church three years before. The local paper had published numerous stories about him, and the church itself. He had obtained his license through a mail order ministry, and the church was based on the book of revelations; specifically on the principal that the planet Earth was in the last years. Jesus was on his way back, and not the easy going Jesus of the New Testament, a darker, angry Jesus.

“He’s the guy who had the church out in Fort Drum, right?” Joel asked.

“The same wacko,” Glenn said. “Well, anyway, they were at home last night, having an argument about that church of his; she says they were awful close to divorcing over it. So they’re arguing and she’s telling him how she doesn’t feel as she knows him anymore, and bang the first quake hits… She says there were three, at least three,” Glenn said and paused.

“Maybe five,” Haley said… “At least I felt five.”

Glenn nodded. “Better number. That’s what I felt, but I didn’t correct her. … So, he just turns away from her and stares at the front door for a few moments and then leaves. She’s chasing him down the street, but he’s making for the river fast… Snapped.”

“There’s plenty more here that have slipped over the edge,” Haley said.

Glenn nodded. “Well, he did just that. Slipped over the edge. Walked right to the river, and starts talking like there’s somebody there. She said at first, she thought maybe he had just gone clean over the edge, you know? A second later he just jumped in. Nothing she could do the water was high, churning. Bad … She never saw him come back up again.”

“Sometimes Happens,” Joel said as Haley nodded her head.

“I’ve heard of that too,” she said.

“Well there’s a couple of others who swear the same sort of thing happened to people they knew. A few others are talking about end times.” Glenn paused and looked out over the lake wringing his hands restlessly in his lap.

“I don’t know,” Glenn continued. “I guess it makes about as much sense to them as anything else.”

“You mean they think it is the end times? That it was real?” Haley asked.

Glenn shook his head. “I ain’t saying I believe it at all,” he replied. “I’m simply telling you we’re going to have to be really goddamn careful who we deal with.” He arched his eyebrows. “Strange winds blowing.”

“Seen it while we sat here. I can’t believe something like this can throw someone that far off. But we’ve heard a few similar things this morning.” Joel said.

“And that was strange stuff while we weren’t seeking it out… Just sitting here minding our own business.” Haley added.

“Well,” Glenn began, “let’s say that this is the beginning of the end of the world. I ain’t saying it is, but for the sake of argument let’s say it is.”

“All right,” Haley replied, “let’s say it is.”

“Well, so let’s say it’s the end of the world. What does that really mean?”

“I can’t say I follow you.” Joel replied calmly. “I think it’s self explanatory, right?”

“That’s about how I feel about it too,” Haley said when Joel had finished speaking.

“You went too deep,” Glenn said, as she finished speaking. He laughed lightly. “I meant, what is the end of the Earth? It’s obviously not the end of the Earth right now or we wouldn’t be here. What it really means to these people, I think.” He raised his hands to gesture at the people milling around everywhere. “Is the end of their way of life. They can’t call a cab. Take the train into New York and see a play, fly to the Bahamas for vacation. That is their end. They can’t see anything past that, and so when that ceases to exist it is the end of everything for them. They snap… Jump in the river… Sit down in the road and wait for God… Or Moses, or Muhammad to show up. The mother ship… I don’t know.” He sighed, leaned forward, cupped his face in his hands and looked out at the devastation. He straightened up, rubbed at the small of his back with both hands. “It’s too soon in my life to be the end of anything. I need some more time. And, anyway, when something ends something else begins.”

Joel was surprised into laughter. “The Mother Ship?”

“Hey, I talked to that lady earlier… She’s pretty much doing just that,” Haley said.

“I don’t know what I believe myself. It’s a question that I never felt a need to answer. I mean, I’ve had a few Bible-thumpers come knocking on my door from time to time. I ain’t mean about it, I just listen politely is all, and when they ask me if I want to be saved, or get to their point, I just pass. I just always figured to each his own, you know? I mean they ain’t hurting me,” Glenn continued, “and if they want to go around knocking on doors, hell, let ’em do it.”

“I just don’t answer the door anymore,” Haley said.

“Me either,” Joel added, and continued. “I kind of got into the habit of looking through the peephole lately anyway, on account of the crime being what it is, and if it’s a Jehovah, or some other Bible people, I just don’t answer the door.”

They all three shook their heads in agreement.

“I’ve done that too,” Glenn said and then went back to his original argument. “But suppose it is their end? Then what?”

“Well,” Joel started, “I suppose that you could have a lot of people just waiting for God… Or maybe even the mother ship. Right?”

Haley just sat quietly, listening to the conversation, as it went back and forth.

“So you would, but,” Glenn continued, “what if there really is a God and a Devil? How does that change things? What if the people that believed in God were taken up?”

“I’ve thought of that,” Joel said, “I guess probably it was the first thing that jumped into my head this morning. It seems pretty far-fetched to me. I mean… Would God have a need to be this dramatic? And doesn’t God just do things and then, I don’t know, after ten thousand years or so the people fall in line and things are okay again?”

“Yes… God is not known to be really easy on his believers.,” Glenn agreed.

Joel continued. “Take Joanne Hamilton over there for instance,” he said as he waved his hand at a group of people. “I worked with her husband down at the mill, and he’s one of the meanest bastards I ever knew. Everybody knows he used to beat the shit out of her, and there was that business a few years back where he got himself caught with a young girl out on Jefferson Road, parked to the side there where the kids hang out. That kind of blows their theory doesn’t it? I mean if there was ever a meaner son-of-a-bitch I don’t know him, and I can’t see what good side there could be to him, do you?”

Glenn seemed to think a second before he shook his head. “I don’t see anything good about him either,” he stated flatly. “I knew him myself, and I couldn’t stand him, but hear me out a second, Joel.”

Joel nodded his head, and Haley leaned closer to Glenn to listen.

“I think those people are dead as dead. Swallowed up by the Earth, drowned in the rivers. They’re gone and that’s that. But what about these others? All I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter to us whether we don’t think that’s what happened, it only matters that they think that’s what happened.”

“Then I guess they try to bring us into their psychosis,” Joel said. He looked around at the crowd.

“But that doesn’t make it so,” Haley said.

Glenn Laughed wryly. “I wasn’t looking for truth,” he said softly, “I’m just trying to make sure I live… Both of you too. We have got to be careful with some of these. I have been in war, seen how easy it is for people to turn into primitives just like that.” He snapped his fingers. “I say, we need to think about leaving here. It’s only going to get worse.”

Joel turned from looking over the crowd and nodded. “Makes sense. You have a long way of getting to the point, Glenn, but logical… Thought out.”

“I spent a whole six months in college before I had to leave to help my mother run the gravel pit after my dad died,” Glenn continued. “This makes me wish I’d spent a little longer. Maybe I’d know more about it. Whatever it is though, it’s natural. Something that just happens. I don’t want to get tangled up in someones ideal.” He paused and then began to speak once again, changing the subject slightly.

“The other thing that’s been bothering me is something we can all agree on.”

“What’s that,” Joel asked.

Haley answered the question for him.

“I think I know,” she said, “it’s the Earthquakes. I mean if we really were hit by that meteor, shouldn’t we all be dead by now? What I mean is, when I was outside last night, I didn’t see any fall out, but I did feel the earth shaking, it felt like an earthquake too, a big one, but that couldn’t have been the Yellowstone one, that’s, what, a few thousand miles away anyway, we wouldn’t have felt it like that, would we? And still have aftershocks?”

She stopped and drew a deep breath inward and then continued.

“The television said that the meteor was sighted inbound, and I could have sworn that, for just a few seconds, there seemed to be a huge glow from the west in the sky. I remember thinking it was where it landed, but when I looked again it was gone. If it was though, why are we still alive?”

“That wasn’t my exact concern,” Glenn said, “but it runs along the same lines. I felt the shaking too, and it felt more like a heavy thuds the first couple of times I felt it, something close… Not far away.”

“…I’ll tell you what though, I was talking to Jasper Morrison, he fishes Lake Ontario for a living, you know, and he was just docking when it started. He had a pretty good view from there, out across the lake, I mean, and he said he could clearly see a white streak running across the western edge of the sky. He said he was expecting to see a mushroom cloud or something, but the sky glowed for a split-second or two, then the glow just disappeared. But a mans line of sight is only about 3 miles or so, after that the curve of the Earth drops off. So you are looking at something fairly close, or further away but high up in the air.”

“He also felt the ground shaking after the hit,” Glenn continued. “But that’s not hard to explain. You may not know this, but there is a fault line that runs all across the Great Lakes basin. Ontario included. The fault line runs all the way across the continent to the gulf coast. Could be that the impact did trigger some sort of earthquake. My point though, is that if that meteor did hit in the west, close enough for Jasper to see, we should be dead.”

“Joel was telling me about the fault,” Haley said.

“What else did he say?” Joel asked.

Haley nodded her head slightly as if to voice the question herself.

“Well, like I said, he had just brought the boat into the dock and tied it off. That ain’t a little boat, I’ve seen it, forty-five-footer, and the water where he ties it off is damn deep too. Well,” he continued. “He tied it off, and he’s standing there and the waves are starting to really build so he hot foots it off the dock. Just as he gets off the whole damn thing just sinks. It took his boat and a couple others with it too. That ain’t the end though. As he’s standing there, this is the weird part, the lake just drops about five feet, real fast. He knows that lake, and it could be, if that fault line opened up, it could have dropped. If so I’ll bet we have one hell of a new river running from here down to the Gulf a Mexico, or at least one hell of a lot of damage.”

“Jesus,” Joel whistled softly.

“I don’t know… Food for thought though,” Glenn concluded and leaned back into the bench.

Joel recalled the dream of the night before and quickly related it to Haley and Glenn. When he finished, Glenn turned to Haley.

“Did you see anything? Maybe dream about anything?”

“No,” she replied, “nothing at all, except for what I told you. But I was up all night after it happened”

“I haven’t had any myself,” Glenn said quietly, “Of course; I was awake all night too in the woods.”

All three sat back into the bench and stared out over the square, lost in thought.

“So what does it all mean?” Joel asked to no one in particular, as he continued to stare at the lake.

“I wish the hell I knew,” Haley said, as she turned her gaze away from the Square and back to the two men on the bench beside her.

Besides a few guy’s from the mill that he would have an occasional drink with, or maybe shoot a game of pool with, Joel was a loner, and he had never married. It was not something he had chosen to be, it was just the way the world was. You really couldn’t trust people, he thought, you could never really know what they were like. It was a thing that had bothered him for as long as he could remember.

He had known men who seemed to be perfect fathers and husbands, but when they were at the bar, and the kids were home with the wife, they were completely different. It was something he had always hated, and something he had constantly fought with whenever he had noticed the same sort of inconsistencies in himself. It was a battle though that he had always won, and would continue to fight. It was one of the main things that had decided him against religion when he was a kid, that and his father.

His father had been a strict Catholic, and had fought with Joel’s mother to get her to agree to let him take Joel to attend the local Catholic Church. Joel had hated it. His father, who was normally drunken, or at least drinking, would sit calmly through mass with all his other drinking buddies every Sunday, then when he got home it was, “Bring me a fucking cold one, woman.”

He had actually been glad when his father had died, he had never said it aloud, but he had been. He had only wished he had died a lot sooner so that his mother could have had more than the one year she had lived past him, to enjoy life. He pulled his mind reluctantly back to the conversation, when he heard Glenn speak his name.

“Sorry,” he said. “I was just thinking.”

“That’s okay,” Glenn smiled, “we all are.”

Glenn continued. “What I think is that the world has changed… That simple. We just need to get on with this different life. I know that’s over simplistic, but it beats staying around here waiting for the mother ship to show up. What I was wondering is what you’re going to do. Hell, what all of us are going to do now?” He paused as most of the silent crowd that had gravitated to them turned their eyes towards him.

“Maybe it’s time to sacrifice an animal… Pray,” an older woman in the crowd said.

Glenn continued when no one else answered. “I don’t think, or maybe I’m just not convinced,” he offered the woman who had just been speaking a small smile, and then continued, “That praying, or a sacrifice, will do us much good. Maybe what we should be doing is trying to figure out what we should be doing. Catch my drift? We can’t just stay here and wait for someone to come, it ain’t going to happen, and I think we can all agree on that.” He looked around at the faces that surrounded him, and stopped at Joel’s.

Joel nodded.

“Did any of you notice the temperature?” Glenn asked.

Several people looked expectantly to one corner of the Public Square, where the Watertown Trust Bank had sat with its digital clock, which alternately flashed the time and temperature. They turned quickly back when they realized it was no longer there.

Many of them had noticed the difference in temperature though. Northern New York, even in the summer months, rarely reached the high seventies, low eighties, on the hottest days. The surrounding air was much hotter and humid.

They looked back at Glenn.

“Haley and I noticed it this morning,” Joel said.

“I picked this up when I went in Samson’s Five and Dime earlier,” Glenn said, holding up a small plastic thermometer. The red line on the thermometer hovered just short of one hundred degrees.

As he looked at the thermometer, Joel recalled how warm it had seemed this morning. When he had first opened the front door he had felt it, but then forgotten it as he had gazed out into the street. As he looked around now he noticed that several people in the small crowd were sweating profusely. In fact, he realized, he was sweating a great deal himself.

“Anyway, my point is this,” Glenn said as he began to speak again, “there may be something to that earthquake theory some of you have been kicking around. It could be that the fault line may have been triggered,” Glenn was saying. “If it was, we really ought to be thinking about finding a safer place to be. I remember reading about that fault line, and it seems to me the book I read, said that if the fault were somehow triggered, it could, and probably would, crack the entire Great Lakes Basin. That means that Ontario, along with all the other lakes in the chain, probably would drop. At least a small amount at first, but after they recover from the initial drop, they’re probably going to rise… They’re probably going to rise, a lot. I don’t know what most of you know about this city, but I’ll tell you what I know. Got it from the same book,” he paused. “…It’s built on pretty low ground. Now… that river,” he said indicating the bridge that spanned the Black river on the opposite side of the Public Square, “has surely been rising.”

With that the discussion went back to where they should go, and what they should do once they got there.

“You’re right,” Joel said at last, “We do need to make some decisions,” he paused for a moment and then continued. “When was the last time anyone here ate? I know that sounds a little stupid at a time like this, but if we’re going anywhere we should also think about food, and in this heat dehydration could become a factor as well, couldn’t it, Glenn?” he finished, looking toward him.

“I should have thought of that myself,” Glenn said, “how many of us are there?”

Haley quickly counted heads and replied. “Twenty-seven, Glenn.”

Glenn nodded his head. “Okay… Let’s do this. We do have to eat, so let’s head up Maple Street to Jacobs Superette, get something to eat, and finish this discussion there.”

Everyone agreed, and the small group left the public square and walked the three blocks to Jacob’s Superette in a light rain that had begun to fall.

Jacob’s Superette

Joel, Haley, Glenn and several others were standing by the rear doors that led to the stockroom in Jacob’s Superette.

They had been discussing where they should go. A few others from the small group, were there with them.

Joel looked around at them as the conversation went back and forth. They seemed solid enough. Terry Jacobs who had worked for Glenn, Amber Johnson who was married to a GI from the base who was now stationed overseas, and Scott Vincent, a carpenter working on one of the many housing developments in the area. There were others but many of those others that had followed them to Jacobs Superette did not really seem to be doing anything other than following. The ones that had gathered at the back of the store seemed to be on the same page, leaving Watertown.

Ed Weston and Dave Jackson had joined the small group earlier. Ed had worked for Glenn at the gravel pit for over ten years. He was tall with dirty-blonde hair and a slim muscular build, and Joel liked him. He’d grown up right here in Watertown on Fig Street, down by Jackson’s Lumber. A piss poor family, but Ed himself was a damn good man. He seemed a little rattled today, but weren’t they all? He was a hard worker and would be an asset to the group if he chose to come along.

Glenn and Haley both knew Dave. He owned one of the local lumber mills: A small family mill. He had also driven truck for Glenn once or twice when things were slow. Joel had never met him, but he had seen him around: Watertown was a small city. Neither of the men had voiced their opinions, but had been standing quietly as the other three had talked. Dave was younger than Ed, but just as tall, and his dark black hair was tied in a small ponytail that hung down his back.

The conversation at the market never really got going. The crowd that followed had spread out into the store, taking what they wanted to eat and then split up into smaller groups, discussing their own plans. A few had congregated near the beer coolers. That discussion was sometimes heated, and more than once Joel had caught some nasty looks directed at them from that crowd.

“I guess not everyone is on the same page,” Joel said now.

“It was a good idea,” Glenn said. “You can’t make people see a good idea. Look at cigarettes. People knew for years what they were doing to them and they still smoked. Some of these people haven’t hit the wall yet. They still believe the system will save them.”

“Yeah, except there is no system,” Scott said.

Glenn nodded.

“Listen,” Joel started. He paused until they were all looking at him, not sure if he really wanted to proceed. “Might sound stupid,” he said after a few moments of silence.

“I don’t think anything would sound stupid right now… We’re trying to figure this out,” Haley said.

Joel frowned. “Okay.” He frowned deeply, and then nodded decisively.  “So it’s this. I was leaving this morning for the Southern Tier. I’m thinking, the truck is all packed, what are we,” he paused and counted heads, “Eight? I have enough food packed to keep us all fed for a few days… We could head out to the Tug Hill Plateau. Close by. We could pick up some stuff here to take with us too…” He paused again, but no one spoke. “I say let’s get another truck or two and get away from the city for a few days. Maybe the Tug Hill Plateau wouldn’t be a bad place to be right now. Let things calm down, especially the hot heads.” He paused, his face grim. “We can come back in a few days… Maybe the Guard will be here by then, maybe not, but it would give us a few days to think this out, if it… Well, if it really is as bad as it seems to be…” He looked from face to face as he stopped speaking.

“Smart,” Scott said.

“Probably for the best,” Glenn agreed. He had all been listening to the nearby conversations, some loud and argumentative, and the beer cooler was emptying quickly: That certainly wasn’t going to help the problem.

“Yeah… These guys seem bent on getting drunk and figuring it all out,” Amber said.

“I’ve seen that sort of thinking before,” Haley agreed. “I vote go.”

“I’m on that,” Scott agreed.

Dave Jackson and Ed Weston agreed.

“I make that all eight?” Joel asked.

“Only, let’s get some trucks and get what we need here before we go. This place is going to get picked over fast,” Haley said.

“Who do you want to go with you?” Joel asked.

“I’m open,” Haley replied.

“I’ll go,” Amber said.

“Me too,” Scott added.

“That’s enough… I guess we’ll get stuff ready here… Wait on you,” Joel said. He held Haley’s eyes until she nodded. A second later she and the others left and the rest of them began to put together some bags of supplies.

………………………………

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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 3

Earth's Survivors Weekly Serial presentation - 3

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

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

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.


Public Square

Pearl (Pearly) Bloodworth

6:20 PM

The streets were clogged with snow, but the sidewalks were impassable, so she had no choice but to walk in the street.

She made her way carefully, slipping and sliding as she went. It was just before 6:30 P.M. and she might make it to work on time if she could make the next two blocks without incident.

She had been working at the downtown mission for the last several months: The night shift for the last two months. The mission night shift was an easy shift. Everything was closed down. Those who had made the curfew were locked in for the night. Occasionally there would be a little trouble between residents, but that was rare. Watertown was small, as a consequence the homeless population was small. And trouble, when it came, was usually settled long before her shift. Her shift amounted to catching up on paperwork, dispensing an aspirin or two, and being there if there was an emergency of any kind. At 4:00 A.M. The kitchen staff would be there to start their day. Shortly after that the rest of the day-shift would be in. At 6:00 A.M. The mission doors would open and the homeless would take to the streets. She would have an hour of quiet at the end of her shift, sitting and listening to the bustle from the kitchen as they cleaned up after breakfast and began to prepare for lunch.

She heard the approaching vehicle as she was stepping around a mound of melting snow and ice. It was late and there had been no traffic on this side street when she had stepped into the street at the cross walk three blocks down. The alternative was the foot deep snow and ice thrown onto the sidewalk from the plows. She would never get through that and make it to the mission on time.

The Mission was on upper Franklin street, a short walk in a straight line, or even if you had to walk around the square and start up, as she usually did, but tonight the square was packed with traffic and so she had chosen the shortcut instead. Unfortunately it was not well lit: A four block wasteland of parking lots and alleyways.

She had almost turned completely around to make sure the car had seen her when the horn blared and startled her. A second later she finished the turn, hand clasped to her throat, and watched as the car skidded to a stop and three men piled out of the back seat slipping and sliding in the slush, laughing.

“What’s up, bitch,” one asked as he found his feet and stood staring her down. The laughter died away.

“Nice ass,” another said as he moved toward her.

She turned to the second man, the one who had just spoken, as she shrugged her purse from her shoulder, caught the bottom of it in one hand, and slipped her other hand inside. The third man, really just a boy, looked frightened as his eyes slipped from his two companions and then flitted to her. The driver leaned out the window,

“What the fuck! Get the bitch!” He was looking over the roof-line, sitting on the windowsill of the driver’s door, a smirk on his too-white face.

“Yeah… How about a ride, baby,” the nearest one said. The other had finally found his feet, stopped slipping, and was skidding his feet across the slush heading in her direction. She pulled her hand from her pocket and aimed the mace canister at them. They both skidded to a stop.

The closer one, the one that had made the remark about her ass, cocked his head sideways, shrugged his shoulders and then pulled a gun from his waist band. “Yeah… Kind of changes the whole situation, don’t it?” He asked.

“Roux! Don’t shoot the bitch. She’s no good to us dead!” This from the man-boy leaning out the window of the car.

The boy, Roux, turned to the driver and nodded. He looked back at Pearl. His gun was aimed at the ground, close to her feet. She had only a split second to decide. He was less than five feet away, the gun rising from the ground, when she pushed the trigger and watched the stream leap at him. His face went from a sarcastic smirk to alarm just before the stream of mace hit his nose and splattered across his face and into his eyes. A second later he was screaming. She had just turned to aim at the second guy when the world turned upside down.

She found herself tumbling sideways. Somewhere, close by, a roar began and rose in pitch as the ground below her feet began to jump and shake. She found her knees after she fell and skidded across the roadway as she tried to hold herself, but the shaking was just too hard. She collapsed back to the roadway and the relative softness of the slush and snow, her body jumping and shaking as she seemed almost to bounce across the short expanse and into the snowbank on the opposite side of the road.

The roar went on for what seemed like minutes as she tried to catch her breath and steady herself at the same time. Both seemed impossible to do, but almost as soon as she had the thought the trembling of the earth became less and a split second after that the roaring stopped. There was no silence. The sound of breaking glass, tumbling brick, blaring horns and screams in the dark night replaced the roar. Sounds that had probably been there, she decided, she had just been unable to hear them.

Pearl made her feet and stared back down the street where the car had been. The car was still there, the nose tilted upward, the back seemingly buried in the street itself. She blinked, but nothing changed. She noted the broken asphalt and churned up dirt, and realized the car had broken through the street. There was no sign of the men, including the driver that had been hanging halfway out of the window.

She drew a breath, another, and suddenly the noise and smells of the world rushed back in completely. The screams became louder. Horns blared. The ground trembled under her feet as if restless. She could smell sewage on the air. Broken lines below the pavement her mind reasoned. She swayed on her feet as the earth trembled once more, lurching as it did. She waited, but the tremble was not repeated. She sucked in another deep breath and then began to walk, slipping on the broken pavement and slush as she did.

Franklin street appeared untouched as she lurched from the side street, slipping over the broken pavement, and retching from the overpowering smell of sewer gas. She collapsed to the icy pavement, skidding on her knees and was surprise to hear herself crying as she struggled to get back on her feet.

She nearly made it to her feet before the next tremor hit, this one much harder than the last one. She bounced sideways, knees slamming into the ground, crying out as they did, but unaware of her own cries. Just as the trembling stopped she made her feet again and stood, hand clasped to her knees to steady herself, breathing hard, holding herself rigidly, wondering what was coming next. When the shaking stopped and silence flooded in she was shocked.

She finally opened her eyes, she had no idea when she had closed them, straightened from the bent posture she had found herself in, quieted her sobbing and looked around.

Forty feet away, the gray stone of the mission that had rose just past the sidewalk was no more: Churned earth had replaced it. The sidewalk was still intact, as though some weird sort of urban renewal had occurred in a matter of seconds. Her eyes swept the street and now they took in the sections where the sidewalk was missing. The entire side of the street was gone for blocks. What was in evidence was an old house several hundred feet away, perched on the edge of a ravine. Beyond that, houses and streets continued. She was on the opposite side of complete destruction, and there appeared no way to reach that side.

She turned and looked back at the side street she had come from. Churned earth, tilted pavement, the car was now gone. Farther down the short hillside that had appeared the public square seemed completely destroyed. Water had formed in the middle of the square and ran away to the north, probably toward the Black river, Pearl thought. To the west everything appeared to be intact, to the east, Franklin street stretched away untouched toward the park in the distance. Close by someone began to scream, calling for help. She took a few more calming breaths and then began to walk toward the screams: The west, angling toward the opposite end of the square.

The screams cut off all at once, and a second after that the sound of a motor straining came to her. Cycling up and then dropping. She paused in the middle of the road, listening, wondering where the sound came from. As she stood something ran into her eye, stinging,  clouding her vision, she reached one hand up and swiped at it and the back of her hand came back stained with a smear of blood.

She stared at it for a second. The ground seemed to lurch, shift suddenly, and she reached her hands to her knees to brace herself once more, expecting the shaking to start again, but her hands slipped past her knees and she found herself falling, her legs buckling under her. The ground seemed to rise to meet her and she found herself staring down the length of the roadway, her face flush with the asphalt. The coldness of the ice and slush felt good against her skin: As if she were overheated; ice wrapped inside of a dishrag at the base of her neck on a hot day. She blinked, blinked again, and then her world went dark.

She floated, or seemed to, thinking of London. A hot day. She was a child again: Standing in the second floor window and looking down at the street far below. The dishrag dripped, but it felt so good against her skin. The memory seemed to float away. She was rushing headlong through a never ending stream of memories. All suddenly real again. Urgent, flying by so fast, but sharp in every detail.

Pearl had grown up on a council estate in London: When her mother had died she had come to the United States only to find herself in the Maywood projects on the north side of Watertown. From one pit to another. Just different names, she liked to tell herself. Up until a few weeks ago she had still made the trip back and forth every day, but she had found a place, a small walk-up, not far from the mission on the other side of the public square. It seemed extravagant to have her own space, but living in the downtown area suited her.

She seemed to be in both places at once. Back in her childhood, staring at the street below the window, yet hovering over her body, looking down at herself where she lay sprawled on the winter street. She wondered briefly which was real, but nearly as soon as she had the thought she found herself struggling to rise to her knees from the cold roadway, her eyes slitted, head throbbing.

In front of her a shadowed figure had appeared staggering through the ice and snow, angling toward her. She blinked, blinked again and her eyes found their focus. The man from the car, suddenly back from wherever he had been. One hand clutched his side where a bright red flood of blood seeped sluggishly over his clasping fingers. Her eyes swept down to his other hand which was rising to meet her. A gun was clasped there. Probably, her mind told her, the same gun he had been going to shoot her with before. The gun swept upward as if by magic. She blinked, and realized then that the sound of the motor straining was louder. Closer. Almost roaring in its intensity. The gun was rising, but her eyes swiveled away and watched as a truck from the nearby base skidded to a stop blocking the road from side to side no more than ten feet from her. She blinked, and the doors were opening, men yelling, rushing toward her.

Bright light flashed before her eyes, and a deafening roar accompanied it. An explosion, loud, everything in the world. A second explosion came, then a third, and she realized the explosions were gunshots. She felt herself falling even as she made the discovery. The pavement once again rising to meet her. Her eyes closed, she never felt the ground as she collapsed onto it, falling back into the dark.

She was back standing in the window, looking out over the street. The heat was oppressive, but the ice wrapped in the rag was mothers’ wonderful cure. She tried to raise it to her neck once more, to feel the coldness of it, but her arm would not come. She tried harder and the window suddenly slipped away. A man was bent toward her face. A helmet strap buckled under his chin. Her hands were somehow held at her side. The motor screamed loudly as this world once more leapt into her head. She was on the floor of the truck, vibrations pulsing through her body as the truck sped along… In the back of the truck, her mind corrected as her eyes focused momentarily. Other men squatted nearby, including one who was partially over her holding her arms as the other man was tapping the bubbles from a syringe with one gloved finger. The mans face angled down toward her own and he aimed something in a silver canister into her face from his other hand. The hand opened and the canister fell to the ground.

“Itzawight,” his voice said in a far away drone. “Awightzzz.” She felt the prick of the needle, the light dimmed, his voice spat static: The light dimmed a little further, and then she found herself falling back into the darkness.

Watertown New York

Project Bluechip

11:00 P.M.

The first quake had been minor, the last few had not. The big one was coming, and Major Richard Weston didn’t need to have a satellite link up to know that. He touched one hand to his head. The fingertips came away bloody. He would have to get his head wound taken care of, but the big thing was that he had made it through the complex above and down into the facility before it had been locked down.

He laughed to himself, before it was supposed to have been locked down. It had not been locked down at all. He had, had to lock it down once he had made his way in or else it would still be open to the world.

He had spent the last several years here commanding the base. He had spent the last two weeks working up to this event from his subterranean command post several levels above. All wreckage now. He had sent operatives out from there to do what they could, but it had all been a stop gap operation. The United States, hell, every government in the known world was finished.

The public had known that there was a meteor on a near collision course with the Earth. The spin doctors had assured the public it would miss by several thousands of miles. Paid off the best scientists in some cases, but in other cases they had found that even the scientists were willing to look past facts if their own personal spin put a better story in the mix. A survivable story. They had spun their own stories without prodding.

The truth was that the meteor might miss, it might hit, it might come close, a near miss, but it wouldn’t matter because a natural chain of events was taking place that would make a meteor impact look like small change.

The big deal, the bigger than a meteor deal, was the earthquakes that had already started and would probably continue until most of the civilized world was dead or dying. Crumbled into ruin from super earthquakes and volcanic activity that had never been seen by modern civilization. And it had been predicted several times over by more than one group and hushed up quickly when it was uncovered. The governments had known. The conspiracy theorists had known. The public should have known, but they were too caught up in world events that seemed to be dragging them ever closer to a third world war to pay attention to a few voices crying in the wilderness. The public was happier watching television series about conspiracies rather than looking at the day to day truths about real conspiracies. The fact was that this was a natural course of events. It had happened before and it would happen again in some distant future.

So, in the end it had not mattered. In the end the factual side of the event had begun to happen. The reality, Major Weston liked to think of it. And fact was fact. You couldn’t dispute fact. You could spin it, and that was the way of the old world, spinning it, but the bare facts were just that: Bare facts.

The bare facts were that the Yellowstone Caldera had erupted just a few hours before. The bare facts were that the earth quakes had begun, and although they were not so bad here in northern New York, in other areas of the country, in foreign countries, third world countries, the bare facts of what was occurring were devastating: Millions dead, and millions more would die before it was over. And this was nothing new. The government had evidence that this same event had happened many times in Earth’s history. This was nothing new at all, not even new to the human race. A similar event had killed off most of the human race some seventy-five thousand years before.

There was an answer, help, a solution, but Richard Weston was unsure how well their solution would work. He had put it in motion anyway. Teams were, even now, deploying the SS-V2765 compound. It was, like everything else, a stop gap measure, and probably too little too late. It was also flawed, but he pushed that knowledge away in his mind.

While most of America had tracked the meteorite that was supposed to miss earth from their living rooms, and had been side tracked by all the trouble with the former Soviet Union, he had kept track of the real event that had even then been building beneath the Yellowstone caldera. And the end had come quickly. Satellites off line. Phone networks down. Power grids failed. Governments incommunicado or just gone. The Internet down. The Meteorite had not missed Earth by much after all. And the gravitational pull from the large mass had simply accelerated an already bad situation.

Dams burst. River flows reversed. Waters rising or dropping in many places. Huge tidal waves. Fires out of control. Whole cities suddenly gone. A river of lava flowing from Yellowstone. Civilization was not dead; not wiped out, but her back was broken.

In the small city of Watertown, that had rested above Bluechip, near the shore of the former lake Ontario, the river waters had begun to rise: Bluechip, several levels below the city in the limestone cave structures that honeycombed the entire area, had survived mostly intact, but unless sealed, it would surely succumb to the rising river waters. By the time the last military groups had splashed through the tunnels and into the underground facility, they had been walking through better than two feet of cold and muddy river-water. The pressure from the water had begun to collapse small sections of caves and tunnels below the city, and that damage had been helped along by after-shocks.

When the last group of five men had reached the air shaft, carrying the inert form of a woman between them, they had immediately pitched in with a group Weston had sent to brick the passageway off. The remaining bricks and concrete blocks were stacked and cemented into place in the four foot thick wall they had started. The materials, along with sandbags initially used to hold back the rising waters, had been taken from huge stockpiles within the city, and from the stalled trucks within the wide tunnel that had once fed traffic into the base. There was no way in, and no way out of the city. With one small exception.

The exception was that air ducting. The ducts led away from the city towards a small mountain-peak about a mile from the city. There the ducts merged together, inside a huge natural rock tunnel that had been part of the original network of caves and passage ways. That tunnel culminated deep within the mountain at an air treatment facility. There were also several access points where the ducting came close to the surface via tunnels and passageways that ran though the huge complex of caves. And it would be possible to walk through one of the many air shafts to the tunnel, break through the ducting, follow it to the treatment facility or outside to the surface and freedom. It would be difficult, but it would be possible. The end of the trip would bring them to the surface, from there they could go anywhere.

Watertown New York

Project Bluechip

Pearl

She came awake with a start. In her dreaming she had been leaning, leaning, holding the window sill and staring down at the street below. The heat, the cold dishrag freezing her tiny fingers. She had leaned back, shifted hands, placed the rag against the base of her neck once more, leaned forward and braced herself against the window frame and her fingers, slicked and unfeeling from the ice had slipped. She had plunged suddenly forward, falling, faster, panicked, and she had awakened as she had slammed into the surface of the bed, a scream right on the edge of her tongue waiting to leap.

“Here.” A woman’s voice. A soft hand at the base of her neck, holding her, easing her back down to the bed. “It’s okay now.” She held Pearl’s head up and bought a water glass to her lips. Cold, ice clinked together in the glass, she took the straw between her lips and drank deeply. She collapsed back against the bed.

“Where?” She managed at last. “Where is this place?” The ceiling was florescent lights in a panel ceiling. Dropped ceiling, her mind supplied. An Americanism.

“Blue,” the woman told her as Pearl’s eyes focused on her.  She was short, slim, dressed in fatigues, a pistol in a holster at her side.

“Blue?” Pearl sounded as doubtful as she felt. She must have misheard. “Drum?” She asked. It was the closest military base.

“Blue,” the young woman shook her head. “The new base… Blue.” She smiled, but it was a tired smile. “You remember anything at all?”

Pearl shook her head, but then spoke. “A car… A boy with a gun… An earthquake?”

“English?” The woman asked.

Pearl nodded. “Was it then? An earthquake?”

“More than one,” The young woman sighed. “It’s bad up there. You’re lucky they found you, Jeffers and the others. Lucky.”

Pearl nodded and then moved her legs and nearly fainted. She looked down, both were bandaged. She recalled the gun. “Shot?” She asked.

“No… No, just scraped up, banged up maybe” The woman told her.

“Badly scraped up?” Pearl asked.

“No… A few cuts, but they are swollen. A day or two and you’ll be fine.”

Pearl didn’t hear the rest as she sagged back against the bed and fell away back into the dream once more…

Watertown

Franklin Street

Roux

The roadway was tilted crazily, the snow was gone. Cold persisted, but it didn’t bother him in the slightest. A small, silver canister lay just a few feet away. Inhaler, his mind supplied. Maybe his other self agreed, but something inside him didn’t seem to want to agree. He ignored the canister and the line of thought for the briefest of seconds and it was gone completely. Slipped away from him to where ever thought ended up.

He had been lying half in, half out of the gutter for the last several hours that he knew of. He had no idea how long before that. Days? Weeks? Weeks seemed wrong. Days, he decided. He turned his attention back to the roadway before him. Was it a roadway? When he thought roadway, he thought highway, something like that. From what he could see this was more like a city street.

It had never occurred to him in the passing hours to move his head, but the thought of it being a street in a city had caused him to move his head slightly so he could look around to be sure. Slightly, but enough to know he could move it. And he had moved it enough to know it was a city street. And if he could move it that much…

His face came away from the asphalt with a wet sucking noise and he nearly stopped. Expecting pain to come. Expecting the sky to fall. Expecting something, but nothing happened. The sucking sound stopped when his face finally pulled free and he pushed off with his hands and found himself in a sitting position. He flexed his jaw, it worked, tended to click when he moved it quickly, but perhaps it was just residual of… Of?

He didn’t know what it might be residual of. There was something he had had in mind when the thought had popped into his head but he couldn’t get it back now. His mind seemed slow. Not slow as in stupid though. He considered. It was slow like a computer he had once owned. The damn thing took forever to boot. That was what this felt like. A slow boot. He laughed at the thought, but all that came from his throat was a low buzzing sound that frightened him back into silence. He nearly laid back down on the cold road right then, but caught himself. Whatever this was it seemed real. Not a dream and if he could just get his mind to work right he could probably roll with it. Roll right with it. Whatever that might mean. He lost himself for a time again. Sitting at the side of the road, starring into the dim, gray afternoon sunlight.

He heard the noise before he saw the little boy. The noise was more persistent: Crying, weeping, something like that. Something he understood, had known, did know… He wasn’t sure. His head came around and he watched the little boy walking along the opposite side of the road, his face was dirty, tear streaked, one arm swollen, infection, he knew, he understood infection. He had sen it somewhere. Infection was… Bad, he decided.

The hand was mangled. It looked chewed, a finger missing, maybe an accident with a dog, his mind supplied. Accidents with dogs happened. He watched the little boy stumble along. The arm a grotesque parody of a real arm, swinging freely from its shoulder socket. Their eyes met a moment later, but it was already too late for the little boy. Roux had used his hands to prop his knees so he could stand. A second of standing had told him he could walk, and a single limping step had told him he could walk well enough. It had probably been the standing, his mind supplied now. His feet scraping on the loose gravel at the side of the street. His one ruined leg dragging slightly

He held the boys eyes with his own. Large, frightened, transfixed by the odd glow in his own eyes. He had closed the gap quickly, limp or no. Long before the boy had ever thought to call out. A second of standing and looking down into those, large, sad eyes and he had reached forward quickly and pulled the boy into the air with both hands wrapped around his neck, cutting off his startled squawk. A second later and he had dashed him onto the street surface and fallen once more to the asphalt himself. He pulled the still warm body to him.


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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 2

Earth's Survivors Weekly Serial presentation - 2

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

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

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.


Watertown Center New York

Shop and Save Convenience store:

Haley Mae

1:30 AM

“Last one,” Neil said.

Neil was a detective for the sheriffs’ department. It was closing in on 2:00 AM and he and his partner Don had just come back from six hours of sleep to get a jump on the day. Yesterday one of the checkout girls had disappeared between the Shop And Save, a small mini mart on the western outskirts of the city, and home. Earlier this morning she had turned up dead in a ditch just a quarter mile from the front door. The techs were still processing the scene, but it was looking personal. Stabbed to death, multiple wounds, no defense wounds, at least none that he or Don had been able to see, and fully clothed. Her purse had been found nearby, wallet and cash inside. No ID, but her store ID had still been clipped to her shirt. They would know more in a few days once the coroner did her magic. It all pointed to someone she knew, and they had no known boyfriend. The trailer park where she lived had turned up nothing, they had questioned some people at the convenience store, but some had been off shift, so here they were back at the store questioning the other employees.

They had commandeered the night manager’s office which was barely larger than a broom closet, but at least it was a place to sit with enough space left over to call in the workers and ask their questions. Free coffee via the same night manager, who had still not gone home, was taking a little of the six hours of sleep sting off, but to Neil free coffee in a convenience store was like a whore offering a free shot of penicillin to the first twenty five customers.

“Who’s next?” Don asked.

The last half hour they had been interviewing the people who worked the same shifts as Amber Kneeland.

“Haley Mae,” Neil said.

Don looked up and stopped writing in his little notebook.  “How do you,” spell her name, he had meant to ask Neil, but she was right in front of him.

“EM. A. E,” she said with a smile.

“Vietnamese?” Don asked. She was obviously mixed race, African American and Asian, he questioned himself.

“Japanese,” she told him.

“Nice name,” Neil said, “Haley.”

Beautiful girl, Don thought. “Did you know Amber Kneeland?  Sometimes works this shift?” he asked.

“Not really,” she answered. “I mean, I met her, but only in passing… I just started here myself.”

She really is beautiful, Don thought. “You wouldn’t know if she had a boyfriend… Other friends?” he asked.

Haley shook her head. “Sorry,” she said… “What has she done?”

“Nothing,” Neil supplied.

“She went missing last night,” Don said. “Turned up dead this morning.”

Haley shook her head. “Oh my God. That’s horrible. She was such a nice girl… Quiet.”

Neil nodded his head. “So maybe you did know her a little better than you thought?”

“I just started here a few weeks back, and like I said, I don’t really know her… But it might be a girlfriend not a boyfriend.”

Don looked at her. “You wouldn’t know who?”

“No. It’s just a rumor. Someone said it to me… I don’t even remember who… But I’ve never seen her with a guy, and I have seen her with other girls… Maybe also the way she looked at me a few times…”

“Go out with her?” Don asked.

“No… Never… I…”

“Don’t swing that way?” Don added.

Haley frowned slightly before she answered. “I work. I don’t swing any way. But if I did she wasn’t my type. She never asked me out, I never asked her out.”

“Didn’t mean to offend you,” Don said. He shrugged. “She’s dead.”

“She would probably do the same for you,” Neil said.

Haley nodded. “That really is all I know. I hope you find who did it though. She seemed like a nice girl,” Haley said.

“You don’t seem the type for this… Bagging groceries at 2:00 am,” Don said, changing the subject. “You aren’t local or I’d know you… This city really is small despite the base.”

Haley smiled. “Came here a year back with a boyfriend, Army. He left, forgot all about me, I guess. I had this idea of modeling… Tough to get a foot in a door though.”

“Wow, if he left you behind he must be a fucking idiot… Any good?” Neil asked.

Haley laughed.

“Excuse mister smooth there,” Don told her. Neil feigned a hurt look and Haley laughed again. “He meant, have you done anything? I know somebody… Might be interested.”

Haley arched her eyebrows. “I can model. I did a You Jeans ad back in Georgia a few years ago. I just need to prove it to the right person.”

“Escorting? Maybe dancing. It’s strictly escorting or dancing, no funny stuff. Dance clubs… Clothing modeling,” Neil said.

“Probably start out escorting… Dance a little… Then if he likes you he’ll put you into the modeling end of things. He owns a lot of shit… Several car dealerships across the state… Some of the biggest dance clubs, clothing outlets, those bargain places, but still, modeling is modeling, right? Not the big name stuff, but it is a foot in the door,” Don added.

“I can do that,” she said slowly.

Neil passed her a white business card with his own name scrawled across the back. “Tell him I sent you… That’s my name on the back.”

“Jimmy Vincioni,” Haley asked.

“Just V… Jimmy V, good guy,” Neil said.

Haley nodded and tucked the card into her front jean pocket. “I’ll call him… Thanks. Look…” Her voice dropped to a near whisper. “I’m pretty sure she had a girlfriend here… I just don’t know who,” Haley added quietly.

Don finished writing in his notebook, nodded once he met her eyes and then shook the hand she offered. She walked away.

“Beautiful,” Neil said.

“Absolutely,” Don agreed. “You ain’t getting none of that though.”

“Yeah? But if Jimmy V hires her? It’ll be the next best thing.”

Don shook his head, but smiled. His eyes rose and watched as Haley walked away. “Guess I’ll have to have a few drinks at the club if that happens.”

Neil chuckled low. “You and me both,” he agreed.


ONE

March 1st

Watertown New York

Off Factory Square: Joel Morrison

5:00 PM

Joel sat at the bar and watched football on one of the big screen TV’s Mort had put in. It was a slow game, he was tired, and his mind kept turning to other things. He couldn’t concentrate. Part of the allure of the Rusty Nail was the quiet. After a 12 hour shift at the mill with the constant noise from the huge machinery, the quiet had been nice. But that had all changed once the bar had become popular with the nearby base. He needed to go home. The crowd in the bar was starting to build and the noise was giving him the beginnings of a headache. He caught Mort’s eye and went back to his thoughts as he waited.

The Rusty Nail had always been a locals only bar up until a few years back when the economy had taken a nose dive. The nail was wedged up a side street off Factory square. Not exactly easy to find, and that had hurt business too as the old people left and the new people came in.

Mort, Mortimer to anybody that felt like being tossed out on their ass, had nearly lost the small bar and the building above it to the bank. The building above it had six small apartments that Mort had purposely left empty when he had bought the building fresh out of the service thirty years back. Who wanted to deal with tenants, he had said then. But times changed, and so he had sold his house, moved himself into one of the apartments, and then sold the bank on remortgaging the whole building as well as renovating the other five apartments. The bank had come up with a loan that took all of that into account and added a second income source from the apartments that could pay the monthly mortgage and put a good chunk of change into his pocket too.

He had signed on the x, taken their money, renovated the building, moved in the tenants and then taken a hard look at the Rusty Nail. He had decided to completely gut the bar and do it over. He had dumped far too much into the renovations though, including being closed for nearly a full month, and then opened it to find that the economy had taken an even deeper nose dive during those nearly thirty days. The third month into the new mortgage and he had found that he was maybe in a bad spot already.

Joel remembered now that he had sat right at the end of the bar when Mort had talked it over with some others, Moon Calloway, Johnny Barnes, Jim Tibbets, Joel had been welcome to include his two cents which he had declined to do.

“Well, what you do is put the word out to those cab drivers. Believe me, I’ve seen it. They will have them soldiers down here in no time, even if you are off the beaten path,” Jim had said. Jim was a school bus driver for the north side district and less than a year away from a fatal car accident on the interstate. Jeff Brown, who had been a local football star, was doing ten years up at Clinton Correctional for hitting Jim’s car head on drunk and killing him. But that night Jim had still been alive and had wanted to be a part of the New Rusty Nail that Mort had in mind. Something a little more modern. Modern bought the soldiers, but more importantly it also bought women.

“I’m not paying a cab driver to bring me G.I.’s,” Mort had said. “And I know your game. You’re just hoping to get laid out of it.”

They had all laughed at that, except Jim who had turned red. But after a few seconds he had laughed too, and the conversation had plodded forward the way bar conversations do.

“Well, you ain’t got to pay them exactly, give them a couple beers,” Moon threw in.

“Jesus Christ,” Mort exclaimed. “That’s why you boys ain’t in business. You think the beer is free.”

“I know it ain’t free, Mort,” Jim said. “But it don’t cost you that much. You get it wholesale.”

“Wholesale? I drive right out to that wholesale club and buy it by the case most of the time just like everybody else. Cheaper than them beer guys, except draft, of course. That ain’t free. You got to pay the yearly club fee. You got to pay them taxes to the feds. You got a lot you got to pay for. Some fuck crushes your can you’re fucked for that nickle. Jesus… wholesale my ass. It ain’t no bargain.”

“Yeah? … Let’s see,” Moon starting writing in the air with his finger. You get it for let’s say six bucks a case, I know that cause that’s what I pay out there too. So six bucks divided by 24 is,” he drew in the air for a few moments, erased it, and then started over. “How the fuck do you do that, Joey… The six goes into the twenty-four? Or times the twenty-four?” Moon asked.

“Uh, it’s a quarter a can,” I had supplied.

The argument had raged on from there. Once Moon found out he was paying a buck fifty for a can of beer that only cost a quarter he was pissed off.

In the end Mort had talked to a couple of cab drivers. Free draft beer one night a week if they bought soldiers by all week long and told as many others as possible about the place. Within two weeks Joel hadn’t recognized the place when he had come by after shift to have a couple of beers. The soldiers drank a lot of beer, the bank mortgage got paid, and life was fine. Except for the fights, Joel thought, but you can’t load young guys up on alcohol and not expect trouble. Especially when those young men were just waiting on the word to go and maybe die in another battle that remained undeclared as a war. High stress levels meant heavy duty unloading. The M.P.’s got to know the place as well as the soldiers did.

“Joel, you ready?” Mort asked now.

Joel smiled. “I was thinking back…” He had to shout to be heard. Tomorrow his voice would be hoarse. “This place was empty! … Yeah… One more then I gotta go,” Joel agreed.

Mort leaned closer. “Gov’ment tit. I know it, but screw it. It’s all the Gov’ment tit. Road and Bridge projects. Job centers. One way or the other it comes out the same. Even them subsidies so the paper mills can still run. It’s all the Gov’ment tit, ain’t it, Joel?”

“Its is,” Joel shouted. He nodded. It was. This town would have dried up years ago without it. Mort left and then came back a few moments later with a fresh beer.

“Vacation?” Mort yelled.

Joel nodded. “Two weeks of silence,” He shook his head at the irony and Mort’s laughing agreement was drowned out by the noise.

“If I don’t see you, have a good one,” Mort said leaning close.

Joel nodded. “I will.” He raised his glass and then tossed off half of it. A few moments later he was outside on the relatively quiet sidewalk punching numbers into his phone, calling for a cab. The night was cold, but the cold sobered him up. It seemed nearly capable of washing away the smoke and noise from inside the bar. He stood in the shadows beside the door waiting for the phone to ring on the other end. The door bumped open and Johnny Barnes stepped out.

“You ain’t calling for a cab, are you?” Johnny asked when he spotted him.

Joel laughed and ended the still ringing call. “Not if I can get a free ride from you.” Joel told him.

“Yeah, you were always a cheap prick,” Johnny agreed. “Hey, I heard you’re heading into the southern tier tomorrow?”

“Two weeks,” Joel agreed as he levered the door handle on Johnny’s truck and climbed inside. His breath came in clouds of steam. “Get some heat in here, Johnny.”

“Coming,” Johnny agreed. “Man, I wish I was you.”

“Me too,” Joel agreed.

Johnny laughed. “Asshole, but seriously, man. Have a good time. You gonna hunt?”

“Nothing in season… Maybe snare some rabbits. Not gonna be a lot this time of year.” Joel said.

“Maybe deer,” Johnny offered. He dropped the truck in drive just as the heat began to come from the vents.

“Probably, but they’ll be out of season. Rabbit, and I got freeze dried stuff. Trucks packed, which is why I didn’t drive it down here.”

The truck drove slowly through the darkening streets as the street lights began to pop on around the small city: The two men laughing and exchanging small talk.

Haley

The traffic leaving the parking lot had slowed to a trickle, the lot nearly empty. The live shows were over, the bands packed up and gone, the dancers gone before or at the same time.  It was barely sunset and the day was over for me. The next shift would be starting up, I had watched several of the workers trickle in as the others left. A harder group worked the late nights. Even the dancers were a rougher group. For the moment the club was empty except Jimmy, the club boss, Don, the main door security, and me.

“Why are you still here, Honey,” Jimmy asked as he came up to the bar. He was on his way back from the parking lot. It was a short trip across the parking lot to the bank night deposit on the lot next door.

“I had an idea that Harry would be by tonight. He wanted to talk to me,” I shrugged. Harry was a bookie, at least on the surface. Off the surface, or maybe it would be truer to say under the surface, Harry controlled most of the organized crime north of Syracuse. Jimmy… Jimmy managed the club, among other things, but the best description for Jimmy was to say Jimmy solved problems for Harry.

“Wants to talk you into staying here. That’s about all,” Jimmy said.

I turned away and pretended to check my face in the mirrored wall behind the bar. I wanted to Dance. I had suggested to Harry, through Jimmy, that maybe it was time for me to move on if there wasn’t any hope of me dancing. “Anyway, I ended up tending bar. So…”

“So it’s not dancing.” He dug one hand into his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of bills. He peeled two hundreds from the roll and pushed them into my hand, folding his hand over my own and closing it when I started to protest.

“But,” I started.

“But nothing. We did a lot in bar sales. You and I both know it was because of you.” He smiled, let go of my hand and stepped back. “It was me, not Harry,” he said.

I fixed my eyes on him. I knew what he might be about to say, but I wanted to be sure.

He sighed. “It was me that put the stop to your dancing. You’re too goddamn good for dancing, Honey. And once you start?” He barked a short, derisive laugh. “The law thing?  Right out the window. What’s a cop make anyway in this town? Maybe thirty or forty a year?” He settled onto one of the stools that lined the bar, tossed his hat onto the bar top and patted the stool next to him. He continued talking.

“So, thirty, maybe forty, and what’s a dancer make? I can tell you there are dancers here who make better than one fifty a year. And that’s what I pay them. That’s not the side stuff or tips.” He moved one large hand, fished around behind the bar and came up with a bottle of chilled Vodka from the rack that held it just below eye level. He squinted at the label. “Cherry Surprise,” he questioned in a voice low enough to maybe be just for himself. “This shit any good, Honey?”

“It’s not bad,” I told him. I leaned over the bar and snagged two clean glasses when he asked me, setting them on the bar top. He poured us both about three shots worth. “Jesus, Jimmy.”

He laughed. “Which is why I don’t make drinks. It’d break me.” He sipped at his glass, made a face, but sipped again. I took a small sip of my own drink and settled back onto the bar stool.

“So, I said to myself, smart, beautiful, talented, and you have that something about you that makes men look the second time. You know?” He took another small sip. “Man sees a woman walking down the street or across a crowded dance floor, beautiful or not he looks. That look might be short or it might be long. Depends on the woman. Then he looks away. Does he look back? Not usually. But with you he does. There are women men look at that second time for whatever reason, and you’re one of them. I looked a second time, and then I really looked, for a third time. And I’ve seen a lot. That tattoo makes men and women look again.” His eyes fell on the tattoo that started on the back of my left hand, ran up my arm, across my breasts and then snaked back down over my belly and beyond. I knew it was provocative. That was the rebellious part of me. I had no better explanation for why I had sat, lain, through five months of weekly ink work to get it done.

Jimmy rubbed one huge open palm across the stubble of his cheeks. “Jesus do I need a shave.” He took a large drink from his glass. “It wasn’t the tattoo. It caught my eye, but that wasn’t what made me look that third time.”

“Honey, I took a third look because I saw a young woman that doesn’t need to have anything to do with this world. You’re too goddamn smart, talented, for this. So I said no. I let you dance a few times, but I didn’t want you to fall into it. I made the decision that you should tend bar instead of dance.” He tossed off the glass.

“I see that,” I told him, although I didn’t completely see it. He was reading a lot about what he thought, what he saw, into who I really was.

“Yeah? I don’t think so, Honey. And that’s a reason right there. Honey… like a treat. When did it become okay for anyone to call you that, because I remember a few months back when you started hanging around, it was Haley, and pity the dumb bastard who didn’t understand that. Now it’s Honey to any Tom, Dick or Harry that comes along.” He saw the hurt look in my eyes, reached below the bar, snagged the bottle  and topped off his glass. I shook my head, covered the top of my glass with my hand and smiled. He put the bottle back and continued.

“I’m not trying to hurt you, only keep you on track. I’m giving you the keys. You drive. All I’m saying is set your ground rules. Make them rigid. Don’t let anyone – me, Harry, these boys that work here, customers – Don’t let anyone cross those lines. You see, Honey?”

I nodded.

“Yeah? Then why not call me on calling you Honey? I’ve done it since we sat down. Why not start there?”

“Well… I mean, you’re the boss, Jimmy.”

“Which is why you start there. I don’t allow anyone to talk anyway to anyone that doesn’t want that. Let me explain that. You got girls that work the streets. You don’t see it so much here. It’s a small city, but it happens. I spent a few years on the streets in Rochester, bigger place, as a kid. Happens all the time there.” He sipped at his drink. I took a sip of my own drink and raised my brows at what he had said.

“Yeah? Don’t believe it? It’s true. I fought my way up. I have respect because I earned it.” He waved one hand. “Don’t let me get off track.” He smiled and took another sip from his glass. “So, I’ve seen girls on the streets… Whores… It is what it is. Would you hear me say that to them? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t. If a woman sees herself as a whore, if that’s all it is, what it is, then who am I to say different? Do you see? It’s a living, or it’s a life… There is a difference. Now back to you. You want to dance. Some of these girls,” he waved one meaty hand at the empty stage area, “work the other side. Some of them do that for me, some do it on their own. Some don’t,” he sighed. “Either way you would not see me treat them any other way than what they want to be treated. I mean that. If you believe you are a whore and that is what you see, then that is what you show the world, and that is how the world sees you… treats you,” he settled his eyes on me.

I nodded. I didn’t trust my voice. I had been down this road on my own. What did it say about me? That it only mattered that I made it? That money mattered more than anything else? Would I be swayed by the money? Was I even being honest with myself about my motivations? I really didn’t know. I knew what I told myself on a daily basis… that I wanted to follow my Father into law enforcement, but was it whimsical like so many other things in my life that I never followed through on?

“You are not just a dancer. There is a part of you that is, a part of you that likes the way a man looks at you, likes the money. But there is another part that is the private you, the real you. You need to keep those distinctions.” He rubbed at his eyes, tossed off the rest of his drink and rose from the bar stool. “Let me drop you home, Honey,” he asked.

I stood, leaving my mostly full drink sitting on the bar top. “I have my car,” I told him.

“It’s late. Creeps around maybe.”

“Jimmy, every creep in my neighborhood knows I work here… for you. Guys stopped talking to me, let alone the creeps.” I laughed, but it wasn’t really all that funny. It had scared me when I realized who Jimmy was, who Jimmy worked for. In effect, who I worked for. Another questionable thing? Probably.

Jimmy nodded. “Smart creeps. The southern Tier’s a big place. Easy to lose yourself, with or without a little help.” He looked at his watch and then fixed his eyes on me once more. “So you keep your perspective, set your limits, draw your lines,” he spoke as he shrugged into his coat, retrieved his hat from the bar top and planted it on his head, “Don’t let anybody cross those lines. You start next week, let’s say the eleventh?”

I nodded.

“Take the balance of the time off. By the time the eleventh comes around you should be ready for a whole new world. A whole new life.” He stood looking down at me for a second. “The big talk I guess. For what it’s worth, I don’t say those things often, Honey.”

I nodded. “I believe that. And, Jimmy?”

He looked down at me. He knew what was coming. He expected it, and that was the only reason I was going to say it. I knew better than to correct Jimmy V. There were a lot of woods up here. They did go on forever and they probably did hold a lot of lost people. I may be slow but I’m far from stupid.

“Please don’t call me Honey,” I told him.

He smiled. “Don’t be so goddamn nice about it. Don’t call me Honey,” he rasped, a dangerous edge to his voice. “Look ’em right in the eye. Don’t call me Honey. Put a little attitude in your look. A little I can fuckin’ snap at any minute attitude. Let me see that.”

I Put my best street face on. The one I had used growing up on the streets in Syracuse. I knew that I can snap at any minute look. I’d used it many times. “Don’t call me Honey,” I told him in a voice that was not my own. My street voice, “Just don’t do it.”

“Goddamn right, Doll,” Jimmy told me. “Goddamn right. Scared me a little there. That’s that street wise part of you.” He took my head in both massive hands, bent and kissed the top of my head. “I will see you on the eleventh,” he told me.

I nodded. I let the Doll remark go.

I followed Jimmy out the back door past Don who nodded at me and winked. Don was an asshole. Always hitting on us when Jimmy wasn’t around. But Jimmy was his uncle. I was employing my best selective perception when I smiled at him. I wondered if I would ever get used to him. Probably not, I decided, but maybe that would be a good thing. Of course, it didn’t matter. I never saw Don again. Or Jimmy. Or anyone else from that life.

I said goodbye to Jimmy V, crossed the parking lot for the last time and drove myself home. I parked my rusted out Toyota behind my Grandparents house, and twenty-four hours later my world, everybody’s world, was completely changed…


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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 1

Earth's Survivors Weekly Serial presentation - 1

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

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

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.


PROLOGUE

Route 81 rest-stop

Watertown New York

April 20th

1:00 am

A black truck pulled into the rest stop and two men climbed out; walking toward the rest rooms that sat in from the road. Concrete bunker looking buildings that had been built back in the early seventies. They had been closed for several years now. In fact the Open soon sign was bolted to the front of the building; rust streaked the sign surface. It seemed like some sort of joke to Mike Bliss who used the rest stop as a place to do light duty drug deals. Nothing big, but still that depended on your idea of big. Certainly nothing over a few thousand dollars. That was his break off point. Any higher than that, he often joked, you would have to talk to someone in Columbia… Or maybe Mexico, he told himself now as he sat waiting in his Lexus, but it seemed that since Rich Dean had got himself dead the deals just seemed to be getting larger and larger. And who knew how much longer that might last. He watched the two men make a bee line for the old rest rooms.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself. He pushed the button, waited for the window to come down, leaned out the window and yelled. “What are you, stupid? They’re closed.” He motioned with one hand. “You can’t read the fuckin’ sign or what?”

Both men stopped and looked from him to the sign.

“Yeah, closed. You can read right? Closed. That’s what it says. Been closed for years. Go on into Watertown; buy a fuckin’ burger or something. Only way you’re getting a bathroom at this time of the morning.” He had lowered his voice for the last as he pulled his head back into the car, and turned the heater up a notch. The electric motor whined as the window climbed in its track. He looked down at his wrist for the time, 1:02 A.M., where the fuck was this dude. He was late, granted a few minutes, but late was late.

A sharp rap on the glass startled him. He had been about to dig out his own supply, a little pick-me-up. He looked up to see the guys from the truck standing outside his window. “Oh… Fucking lovely,” he muttered. He pushed the button and the window lowered into the door, the motor whining loudly, the cold air blew in.

“And what can I do for you two gentlemen,” He asked in his best smart ass voice.

The one in back stepped forward into the light. Military type, Mike told himself. Older, maybe a noncom. A little gray at the edges of his buzz cut. With the military base so close there were soldiers everywhere, after all Watertown was a military town. It was why he was in the business he was in. It was also why he succeeded at it.

“Did you call me stupid,” The man asked in a polite tone.

“Who, me? No. I didn’t call you stupid, I asked, what are you, stupid? Different thing. The fuckin’ place is closed… Just doing my good deed for the day… Helping you, really, so you don’t waste no time,” Mike told him.

“Really?” The man asked.

Mike chuckled. “Yeah really, tough guy. Really. Now, I did my good deed, why don’t you get the fuck out of here ’cause you wore out your welcome.” He opened his coat slightly so they could see the chrome 9 mm that sat in its holster.

“Really,” the first guy repeated.

“Okay, who are you guys, frick and frack? A couple of fucking wannabees? Well I am the real deal, don’t make me stick this gun in your fuckin’ face,” Mike told them. He didn’t like being a dick, but sometimes you had to be.

“You know what my mother always said about guns?” The second guy asked.

“Well, since I don’t know your mama it’s hard to say,” Mike told him. He didn’t like the way these two were acting. They weren’t cops, he knew all the locals. If it had been someone he had to worry about he would have handled this completely differently. These guys were nobodies. At least nobodies to him, and that made them nobodies to Watertown. If he had to put a bullet in… His thoughts broke off abruptly as the barrel of what looked like a .45 was jammed into his nose. It came from nowhere. He sucked in a deep breath. He could taste blood in his mouth where the gun had smashed his upper lip against his teeth.

“She said don’t threaten to pull a gun, never. Just pull it.”

“Mama had a point,” Mike allowed. His voice was nasally due to the gun that was jammed hallway up to his brain. “Smart lady.”

“Very,” the man allowed. “Kind of a hard ass to grow up with, but she taught me well.” He looked down at Mike. “So listen, this is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna drive out of here right the fuck now. And that’s going to stop me from pulling this trigger. Lucky day for you, I think. Like getting a Get Out Of Jail Free card, right.”

“This is my business spot… You don’t understand,” Mike told them. “I… I’m waiting for someone.”

“Not tonight, Michael.”

“Yeah, but you don’t.” He stopped. “How do you know my name?” he asked. There was more than a nasal quality to his voice, now there was real fear. Maybe they were Feds. Maybe.

“Yeah, we know you. And we know you use this spot as a place to do your business. And I’m saying we couldn’t care less, but right now you gotta go, and I’m not going to tell you the deal again. You can leave or stay, but you ain’t gonna like staying,” The guy told him.

Listen… This is my town… If you guys are Feds you can’t do shit like this… This is my town. You guys are just…

The guy pulled the trigger and Mike jumped. He fell to the right, across the front seat. Both men stepped away from the car, eyes scanning the lonely rest stop from end to end, but there was no one anywhere. The silence returned with a ringing in their ears from the blast as it had echoed back out of the closed car interior. The shooter worked his jaw for a moment, swallowing until his ears popped. He lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Guess you saw that,” he said quietly.

“Got a cleaner crew on the way up. You’ll pass them in the elevators. The boss is waiting on you guys.“ The voice came through the implant in his inner ear. No one heard what was said except him.

He nodded for the cameras that were picking him up. “In case you didn’t hear it, someone is supposed to meet him here so your cleaner crew could have company.”

“Got that too… We’ll handle it.” He nodded once more, and then walked off toward the rest rooms as the other man followed.

Once in back of the unit they used a key in the old rusted handset. It only looked old and rusty, it was actually an interface for a state of the art digital system that would read his body chemistry, heat, and more. The key had dozens of micro pulse sensor implants that made sure the user was human, transmitted heartbeat, body chemistry, it could even tell male from female and match chemical profiles to known examples in its database. Above and to the sides of them several scanners mapped their bodies to those same known profiles. Bone composition, old fractures, density and more. All unique in every man or women. The shooter removed the key and slipped it into his pocket. A few seconds later a deep whining of machinery reached their ears, the door shuddered in its frame, and then slipped down into a pocket below the doorway.

A second later they stepped into the gutted restroom. Stainless steel doors took up most of the room; the elevator to the base below. They waited for the cleaner crew to come up, then took the elevator back down into the depths.

~

The Bluechip facility stretched for more than five miles underground. Most of that was not finished space, most of that was connector tunnels, and storage space bored from the rock. The facility itself was about three thousand feet under the city of Watertown in a section of old caves that had been enlarged, concrete lined and reinforced. The rest area was one of several entrances that led into the complex. An old farm on the other side of Watertown, an abandoned factory in the industrial park west of the city and a few other places, including direct connections from secure buildings on the nearby base.

John Pauls and Sammy Black had Alpha clearance. Both were ex-military, but most likely military clearance was no longer a real matter of concern this late in the game, Sammy thought as they made their way down the wide hallway. The word coming down from those in the know was that in the next twenty-four hours the human race would come very close to ceasing to exist at all. No confirmation from anyone official, but regular programming was off air, the news stations were tracking a meteor that may or may not hit the Earth. The best opinions said it didn’t matter if it hit or not, it would be a close enough pass that there would be massive damage. Maybe the human race would be facing extinction. The government was strangely silent on the subject. And that had made him worry even more. The pass was estimated to be right over the tip of south America. So maybe formalities like Alpha clearance weren’t all that important any longer. If only Mike Bliss had given that some thought before he had pissed him off.

The halls were silent, nearly empty. Gloss white panels eight feet high framed it. It had always reminded Black of a maze with its twists and turns. Here and there doors hung open. Empty now. Always closed any other time he had been down here. So it had come this far too, Black thought. He stopped at a door that looked like any other door and a split second later the door rose into the ceiling and Major Weston waved them in.

Alice, he had never learned her last name, sat at her desk, her eyes on them as they walked past her. One hand rested on the butt of a matte black .45 caliber pistol in a webbed shoulder holster that was far from Army issue, and Sammy had no doubt she would shoot them both before they could even react. Alice was etched into one of those name pins that the Army seemed to like so well, but oddly, just Alice, no last name, rank or anything else. She wore no uniform, just a black coverall. The kind with the elastic ankle and wrist cuffs. No insignia there either. He had noticed that months before. Her eyes remained flat and expressionless as they passed her desk.

“Alice,” Sammy said politely. She said nothing at all, but she never did.

“Sit down, boys,” Major Weston told them. He spoke around the cigar in his mouth: Dead, but they always were, and there was never the smell of tobacco in the office. They took the two chairs that fronted the desk.

The Major was looking over a large monitor on the opposite wall that showed the north American continent. This map showed small areas of red, including the northern section where they were. The rest of the map was covered with green. “Where we are, and where we need to be,“ he said as he pushed a button on his desk. The monitor went blank. He turned to face the two.

“So here is where we are. You know, as does most of the world, that we are expecting a near miss from DX2379R later on tonight.” He held their eyes.

John shrugged. “I’ve been doing a little job, must have missed that. It’s not gonna take us out is it?”

“Saw that on the news a few days back. Guess we dodged a bad one,” Sammy said.

“Right… Right,” Weston said quietly. “But that cover was nothing but bullshit.”

“It’s going to hit us?” John asked.

“Maybe… The fact is that we don’t know. One group says this, another group says that, but it doesn’t matter because it will probably kill us off anyway. Direct hit, near miss, it is going to tip over an already bad situation with the Yellowstone Caldera.” He raised his eyes, “Familiar with that?”

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy said.

John nodded in agreement.

Weston laughed. “Put simply, yes. Yellowstone has always been an anomaly to us. Back in 1930 the Army did an exploratory survey of that area. What we came up with was that there was a section of the Rocky Mountains missing. Looked at from the top of Mount Washburn it was easy for the team to see that the largest crater of an extinct volcano known to exist lay before them.”

“I guess that’s about what I thought,” Sammy agreed.

“Yeah. We all think that. Except it is not true at all because the Yellowstone caldera is not extinct, it is active. Active and about to pop. There have been several warnings, but we took the recording stations off line quite some time ago, so there has been no mention of it in the news. Budget cuts,” he shrugged. “So everyone is focused on this meteor that may or may not hit us and instead this volcanic event is going to blow up and when that happens the rest won’t matter at all.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor came to life. “All the red areas are spots where the surface pressure has increased. There was, at one time, many active volcanoes on the north American continent.” He clicked a button and the map changed to a view of the European continent with many of the same red shaded areas.

“All over the Earth… Higher pressures. Up until a few days ago the brainiacs were still arguing over whether this could even happen.” He laughed. “It is happening and they are arguing over whether it can happen. Well, we had our little debates and then we realized that history shows clearly that this has happened before. Several times. Call it the Earth’s way of cleansing itself.”

“But it’s not an absolute, right?”Sammy asked.

“Don’t start sounding like the scientists.” He reached below his desk and came up with six small silver cartridges. Each had a red button mounted on the top with a protective cap over the button itself. He clicked a button on his desk, and a picture of destruction appeared on the screens. It was obviously an aerial shot, looking down at a chain of islands. Smoke hung over the chain, reaching as high as the plane itself. As the plane dropped lower, rivers of red appeared. “That picture is an hour old. That is… Was, the Hawaiian chain.”

Sammy twisted further to the side, staring at the monitor. “How can that be… I mean everyone would know about it.” He turned back to Weston.

Weston nodded. “And that would be true except the satellites are out because of the asteroid. Shut down to avoid damage. That is the official word.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor went dead once more. “I started this out saying that none of it matters and that is true. The Yellowstone caldera is going to erupt sometime in the next few days. Not a maybe, not an educated guess: If the satellites were up you would know that the park is closed. It has already started. We have had a few small quakes, but the big stuff is on the way. He rolled the cartridges across the desktop; Sammy and John caught them.

“Super volcanoes… Earthquakes that modern civilization has never seen… The last super eruption was responsible for killing off the human population some seventy-four thousand years ago. Reduced it to a few thousand. And that is not the biggest one we have evidence of.” He lifted his palms and spread them open, sighing as he did. “So it is a double whammy. If we survive the meteor the volcanoes get us, or the earthquakes because of them, or we’ll die from injuries. And I think those of us who die outright will be lucky. The rest of us will have a hard time of it… Staying alive with nothing… We will probably all starve to death.” He paused in the silence.

“Those cartridges are a compound developed right here in this complex for the armed forces. Project Super Soldier. SS for short. That kept people from looking too deep, they assumed it was something to do with the Nazi youth movement here and abroad. We let that misconception hold.” He waited a second for his words to sink in. “SS is designed to prolong life past the normal point of termination. It allows a soldier to survive longer without food and more importantly without water. Does something to the cells of the host, I don’t pretend to know what. What I do know is that the people above me made the decision to release this…” He picked up a mug of coffee from the desk and sipped deeply. His eyes were red road maps, Sammy noticed now. Like he hadn’t slept in a few days.

“So this is it for us. I guess you realize that you probably won’t get paid for this. No money is going to show up in your account. I will run it through before I pull the plug, but I truly believe the machinery will be dead by the time payday rolls around. So this is something I’m asking you to do.” He pointed to the cartridges that both men were looking over. Sammy held his as though it might bite him.

“Those babies are really all we have to hope with. Most people will die outright. They will never make it past the quakes, eruptions, and the resulting ash clouds and gases. Up here we should be okay as far as gases go, eruptions, but there are fault lines that crisscross this area. This whole facility is bored from limestone caverns. Probably won’t make it through the quakes, although it is a good eighty miles from the closest line,” he shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. My point is there should be a good chance for survivors here.”

“So we do what with these? Can they harm us?” John asked.

“Harm you, kill you? No, but you will be infected the minute you push that button. It will protect you the same as anyone else. There is enough in a single cartridge to infect about five hundred million people,” Weston said quietly.

“Whoa,” Sammy whistled. “Why infect… Why not inoculate? And why six cartridges… Three Billion people?”

“Minimum, three billion. That is before those infected pass it along themselves: After a while it won’t matter. As to the question of infected, this is a designer virus. You catch it just like the flu. We infected whole platoons by releasing it in the air over them. Eighty-Nine point seven percent infection rate, but that doesn’t really matter because it infects people close to you and those people will infect you… Sneezing, waste, sex, water, food, it gets into and on everything. And once it is in you, either orally or via bloodstream you will be infected. The human body has nothing to fight it, no reason to be alarmed or believe it’s anything more than a virus. And that same response will help to carry it to every area of the body as your own defenses manufacture white blood cells to fight it. So you may as well say a one hundred percent infection rate.” He paused and rubbed at his temples.

“Be glad they decided on this. They have some others that will kill everybody in the world in a matter of days.” Weston nodded at the raised eyebrows that greeted his remarks. “I don’t doubt that the merits of which way to go were hotly debated,” he finished gravely.

“The virus is designed to live within the host, but it can live outside of the host. It can stay alive in a dead body for days, even if the body is frozen. In fact that just freezes the virus too, once the body is thawed it will infect any living person that comes along. So those,” he pointed to the silver cartridges, “are overkill. Same stuff is being released across the globe. Great Briton… Germany… Australia… West coast just a few hours ago. Manhattan has already been done, all the East Coast in fact. I want the two of you to head out from here. One vial here, then one of you head west, the other south. Go for the bigger cities… Water supplies… Reservoirs… Release it in the air or water, it doesn’t matter. There are men heading out from the south, the west coast. The Air Force will be dispersing the same stuff via cargo planes tomorrow or the next day… As long as they can fly, if we can even make it that long, and that isn’t looking really good right now…” He rose from the desk. “I’ll see you out.” He turned to Alice. “Alice… Pack us up.” Alice nodded as Sammy and John got to their feet, but her hand remained on the butt of the pistol. Rubber grips, Sammy noticed as he passed her.

“Alice,” he said.

“Um hmm,” Alice murmured.

Sammy nearly stopped in his tracks, but managed to hide his surprise as he passed by into the hallway. The Major fished two sets of keys from his pocket. “Parked in the back lot. A couple of plain Jane Dodge four-bys. Drive ’em like you stole ’em. Leave ’em where you finish up. Hell, keep ’em if you want ’em. Nobody is going to care.”

The three stood in the hallway for a few seconds longer. Sammy’s eyes locked with the Major’s own, and he nodded. The major walked back into his office, and the door rose from its pocket behind him. Quiet, except the slight buzzing from the fluorescent lights.

John shrugged as his eyes met Sammy’s, waiting.

Sammy sighed. “You heard the man… West or south?”

“Flip for it?” John asked. His mouth seemed overly dry and he licked his lips nervously.

Sammy pulled a quarter from his pocket and flipped it into the air. “Call it, Johnny.”

“Tails,” John said just before the quarter hit the carpet.

Sammy bent forward. “Tails it is. You got it, Johnny.”

John looked down at the carpet. “West, I guess.” John said.

Sammy nodded, looked down once more at the quarter and then both men turned and walked away toward the elevator that would take them back to the surface.


More? Check out the whole series at:

Amazon U.S – U.KiTunes | NOOK | KOBO | Smashwords


 

iTunes and the Earth’s Survivors book series

iTunes and the Earth’s Survivors book series


  1. Seven books in one collection. Follow the survivors as they struggle to survive in a vastly changed world, where the living are just as likely to kill you as the dead are… This release of this box set puts the series to an end…


  2. When he had first tried to sit up pain had flared everywhere and the black curtain had descended once more. The second time the fires had been out. Heat still came from the blackened shells, but the fires were dead. The moon was high in the sky…


  3. Something hit the truck hard and it rocked on its springs. The smell of death hit them and Beth hit the gas, mashing the pedal into the floor boards. A rotting hand came through the open back window and fastened around Beth’s throat…


  4. Since this journal will be part of who we are, will document The Fold as it continues to grow and is established, I want the understanding to be there from the beginning of our creation. They forced us out, simply because we challenged them.


  5. Watertown tells the story of Billy Jingo, Alice Tetto, Ben Neo and Jimmy West and a drug deal designed to hide the transfer of a top secret drug stolen from the Underground Bluechip facility, that goes very wrong…


  6. Plague outlines the sudden rise of the dead, chronicling the spread across the country. It follows Adam, Beth, Billy and Pearl as they head north looking for an antidote that can bring the plagues to end.


  7. Mike and Candace have left New York in search of the land Billy and Beth swear exists in the former state of Alabama. They will lose people close to them as they travel and the fight against the plague will be bought home to them forcefully


  8. The Earth’s Survivors series of books follow the people that survive and set out to rebuild their lives. At first hoping only to make it day by day, but ultimately looking to the future and rebuilding a society where fear does not rule…


 9.

From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule. The dead lay in the streets while gangs fight for control of what is left. Small groups band together to leave the ravaged cities…


10.
A meteorite becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Police, fire, politicians, military, governments: All gone. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive.



Authors at Amazon

Authors at Amazon

  Dell Sweet On Amazon:

The Zombie Plagues: Book Two

Jul 4, 2010

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The Zombie Plagues: Book One

Apr 10, 2009

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The Zombie Plagues: Book Four

Apr 5, 2018

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The Zombie Plagues: Book Three

Apr 5, 2018

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The Zombie Plagues: Book Three

Mar 28, 2011

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The Zombie Plagues: Book Four

Apr 11, 2012

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The Zombie Plagues: Book One

Apr 16, 2015

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The Zombie Plagues: Book Two

Apr 16, 2015

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The Zombie Plagues Collection Two (The Zombie Plague Collection) (Volume 2)

Sep 27, 2015

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The Zombie Plagues Collection One (Volume 1)

Sep 27, 2015

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$18.48(8 used & new offers)


 Andrea Scroggs on Amazon


 

Invariant: A Graphic Story

Apr 11, 2014

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Amazon’s Andrea Scroggs Page

Author of Invariant – Ranked Number #1 in Military, Sci-fi and Horror Graphic Novels on Amazon. Ranked Amazon Top #100 in Graphic Novels.

After graduating high school Andrea Scroggs spent a few years traveling to places like Kenya, Japan, More about Andrea Scroggs

Bestselling Books: Invariant: A Graphic Story.



 Geo Dell on Amazon


Earth’s Survivors Collection Two

Oct 31, 2016

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Dreamer’s Worlds: Sparrow Spirit (Volume 2)

Oct 14, 2015

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Dreamer’s Worlds: The Dreamer’s Worlds (Volume 1)

Oct 14, 2015

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Top Dell Sweet books on Amazon

Rocket

Feb 27, 2018

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The Earth’s Survivors series on Nook

Earth’s Survivors: Apocalypse: This is a free Nook eBook! Follow the survivors http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-apocalypse-dell-sweet/1121153067?ean=9781507793053


Earth’s Survivors: Rising From The Ashes. Those who have survived begin to rebuild… http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-rising-from-the-ashes-dell-sweet/1121175996?ean=9781482301731


The Nation: Adam and Cammy have made their way as best they can despite the gangs. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-the-nation-mr-wendell-g-sweet/1122031857?ean=9781482512274


Earth’s Survivors: Home In The Valley. The valley is safety, until the first mission out… http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-dell-sweet/1122252251?ean=2940152008579


Earth’s Survivors: Plague. The plagues have come. The living must fight or join the dead… http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-dell-sweet/1122252296?ean=2940152010350


Earth’s Survivors Watertown: Two of the virus were missing, enough to infect millions Previews! http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-dell-sweet/1123456106?ean=9781530650651


World Order: The Fold becomes the biggest challenge to the Nations power. #Nook #eBook #Horror FREE Previews! https://t.co/RmYEvdioyr


All of Dell Sweet’s books on Nook, paperback and eBook formats… Earth’s Survivors, Short Stories, more. #Stories

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22dell%20Sweet%22


Earth’s Survivors box set contains the entire Earth’s Survivors series in one volume. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-box-set-dell-sweet/1124605603