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A free look at a short story from the short story collection, Mister Bob.


MISTER BOB

Collected Short Stories

Mister Bob: Collected Short Stories is Copyright © 2015 Dell Sweet

Copyright © 2015 by Dell Sweet All rights reserved

Cover Art © Copyright 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 © 2015 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. The Name Dell Sweet is a publishing construct used by Wendell Sweet. Portions of this text are copyright 2010, and 2011, all rights reserved by Wendell Sweet and his assignees. 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 or assignees permission.

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


This content has not been edited for languge or situations. 18+


Blackness Of The Soul

Paul Brown settled the barrel of the nine Millimeter pistol against his left palm, curled his hand around it as if to hold it forever, and then released it finger by finger. A sob escaped his throat and a fat tear drop rolled down his left cheek and splashed against the butt of the pistols grip where the clip protruded slightly. He took his free hand, wiped the tear away and then reached for the beer that sat beside him.

He raised the can to his mouth, drank deeply, and then continued to stare at the black pistol that rested in his right hand. Once again his left hand closed around the barrel, but lightly. Stroking it. Caressing it. He fished a cigarette from the pack beside him on the floor, thumbed the wheel of his old Zippo and pulled the harsh tobacco smoke into his lungs.

The smoke, or the beer, or both seemed to calm him, at least momentarily. His chest hitched but he stifled the sob this time. The sobs frightened him more than the gun. The sobs came on their own and there seemed to be no way to fight or stop them. They were a life unto themselves. The gun on the other hand only had to speak once. And technically he would never hear it.

Probably never hear it,” he whispered into the semi darkness of the living room. He had pulled the curtains on the outside world. Blocked it away from him.

Probably never hear it. He wondered about the truth of the statement for what seemed to be an excessive amount of time to him, caught himself, and took another deep drink of the cold beer followed by a near frenzied pull from the cigarette. He waited on the sob but it came when he didn’t expect it. A flood of tears came with it, falling from his eyes, staining his reddened cheeks before he could think to try and stop it.

“Oh, God,” he moaned. He sucked in a deep breath, lifted the pistol to his mouth and bumped the barrel across his teeth and into his mouth.

Everything seemed to freeze. The taste of oiled metal flooded his mouth He gagged, and then nearly squeezed the trigger too hard because of it. Panicked, he ripped the gun from his mouth tearing open his upper lip on the gun site as he did.

He was breathing hard. He needed to calm down. The tears just continued to fall. His cheeks felt raw. His eyes full of sand. His head began to pound harder. It had begun to pound earlier. He thought about that too. No more headaches. None. No more worries. No more anything at all. He sighed and returned the gun to his lips. He could taste the oil and metal once more, mixed with the blood from the torn lip.

His lips did not seem to want to part. He eased the gun away, took a deep drag off the cigarette, his breath shuddered in and out. He tipped the can and took a deep drink to rinse his mouth of the tastes that had made him gag, then upended the can and drained it. He reached over and pulled another beer from the bag on the carpeted floor, took another deep drink to rinse the tastes from his mouth and then lit a new cigarette from the butt of the old one. He dropped the old butt into the freshly emptied can beside him. He pulled the smoke deeply into his lungs and then let it drift from his nose as he slowly exhaled, trying to calm himself. If he could only think this out, his mind jabbered. He took another deep drink from the can.

In a way it would be nice to sit down and think this through, but in another way he didn’t care if he ever had another thought in his life. He didn’t want to take the time to think it out at all. He had made up his mind earlier. In a few minutes, when he finished the cigarette and the beer he’d do it, he decided.

He didn’t want to die with a lit cigarette in his mouth and burn down the house. Anne had to live here… Well, maybe not, but even so she’d have to sell it or something… If she didn’t lose it…

He pulled hard on the cigarette as if rushing it to its end so he could rush his own end. He took a deep drink from the beer and felt the headache ease back a little.

He could feel the buzz from the beer. Maybe it would knock down the headache after all. Either way the headache was not long for this world, he decided.

Calm seemed to come over him all at once. The sob that he had been waiting for didn’t come. His chest didn’t hitch. His cheeks still felt irritated, his eyes full of sand, his mind weary and removed from him to a degree, but the hysteria he had been sure was going to grab him didn’t make another appearance.

Through the curtains he could see the late afternoon sunlight. Still gold in the sky. Heating up his part of the south. There was no noise except the steady rumble of the air conditioner. Whatever heat the sun held was lost on him today.

He pulled on the cigarette, noticed that it was all but dead and dropped it into the can with the last one. He upended the beer can and drained it. He waited, expecting the sobs to come back but the calm remained. He sighed once, was surprised to find that the gun was only inches from his lips, opened his mouth and slid the barrel in. The hysteria stayed at bay. He adjusted the barrel so it would be more comfortable, sighed at the absurdity of that thought, and then squinted his eyes down as his finger tightened on the trigger.

~2~

“How do you feel, Paul?”

Paul blinked and tried to look around him. He found that it was not entirely possible. He couldn’t really turn around to where the voice had come from no matter how he tried.

“It doesn’t matter though,” the same voice said.

And it didn’t. It became completely unimportant right then. Just like that.

“How do you feel?”

“I’m pretty upset. I…” He stopped. He had been pretty upset, but he wasn’t now. Now he felt… Well, at peace.

“That’s good, Paul. You should feel at peace.”

“It feels good,” he said. It seemed entirely normal that whoever was behind him could read his mind… Am I dead?

“I wanted to talk to you about how you got here, Paul.”

“How?”

“How.”

The time spun out.

“I stole about… I guess I don’t even know how much… I kept stealing and it kept adding up. And I knew they’d catch it… And they did… My boss must have called the cops,“ Paul said.

“Actually the company accountant… But I meant how you got here… To this point.”

“I… … I don’t know what you mean.”

“To kill yourself, Paul. I mean how did you get to this point where you decided to kill yourself… Take your own life… How did you reach that point, Paul?”

“Oh… I thought about it… I…” He stopped and thought about it. “I see… It’s just tough to understand… I don’t really know exactly… Are you God?”

“Do you think of me as God?”

Paul thought about it. “I think I do… I think so… I believe you are God.”

“Then I am.”

“You are? … Really? You really are God?”

“I really am, Paul…”

His voice was soft. Reassuring.

“I… I thought you would sound different… I… Am I dead?”

“No… Not yet… You have some little time left… I thought, since you asked, that before you do something that will change everything we should talk.”

Paul nodded. “I prayed… Earlier I prayed.”

“I know… You know, Paul, people sometimes think I don’t listen to prayer anymore… If I ever did. They tell themselves that and then they begin to believe it. I do listen though. I do. Every prayer. Every time. Do you believe that, Paul?”

“I do… I mean I do now. I do know that now. I’m ashamed to say that.”

“Don’t be. There is no shame here. You are used to saying words that really don’t mean anything true. They are there, you say them… In this case you say that you are ashamed when you are not ashamed.”

Paul examined himself. “You’re right… I don’t feel ashamed. I feel good still. At peace still.”

“So how did you get here. How did you come to be here? Who told you that suicide was a solution?”

“I… It was painful… My wife will leave me. We’ll lose everything… The kids… I can’t imagine what the kids will do… Feel… It seemed… It seemed right.”

“Did it?”

Paul thought about it. “Maybe not… It felt like the only choice I had.”

“Yet you called out to me. Why?”

“Because… Because I used to believe in you… I…”

He laughed. “And I am still here. Did you think I had died? Did you think I had stopped believing in you?”

“Some people think so… That you died.”

“You?”

“No… I guess the truth is I just stopped believing… I believed in other things… Taxes… Bills… Mortgage payments… Summer… Fall…”

“The things you see every day.”

“That’s a good way to put it.”

“I have a way with words.”

Paul laughed and then stopped. “I thought maybe that was a joke.”

”It was… Do you wish you had not stopped believing? Do you see how things could have been different?”

“I can see that now, but what good is it after the fact? I pulled the trigger… I remember that.”

“Did you? I think you asked me to help… Sometimes I help in unexpected ways… Thomas needed to see… To place his hand in my side… Peter needed to see me risen… Sometimes my people ask me for help and then don’t recognize the help when it comes.”

“Like now?”

“Like now, yes. It’s time to think. To breath… To make a decision… A different decision.”

“Then what?” Paul asked.

“Then? … What comes, comes… I know what it is to live. I have felt what you feel. Struggled with the same temptations. We take it as it comes to us, Paul.”

“So the problems would still be there?”

“Yes.”

“That’s help?” Paul asked.

“I will help you all that you will allow.”

Paul thought about it and realized it was true.

“So… How did you end up here?”

“I guess I just walked away… I guess I chose to do that.”

You still choose words that are untrue. Do you guess or do you know?”

“I know. I walked away.”

“You know, it’s a split second decision… Many times if you take the time to think you can get through whatever comes at you.”

Paul nodded, took a deep breath. “I see.”

~3~

The finger stopped. He remembered something… Something… Summer. A thousand years ago it seemed… Anne… When they had first met… The picture in his mind was so perfect, so intense. So real, and a flood of images followed it… But… There had been something else there for a moment, hadn’t there? He had been focusing on the trigger… The pressure… And there had been something else there… Just for a moment… It seemed so. It seemed as though he had been ready to pull the trigger and… And someone…

He pulled the barrel from his mouth and sucked in a deep breath. Whatever it might have been it was gone now. The sobbing came back with the fresh air. The pistol slid from his hand and fell to the carpet with a soft clunk. He lowered his head into his hands and let the tears take over…


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Free preview of the book Zero Zero from author Dell Sweet

ZERO ZERO

By DELL SWEET

Copyright 2014 Dell Sweet

Copyright 1976, 1983, 1987, 2009, 2014 independAntwriters Publishing & Dell Sweet. Copyright renewed 2015, Dell Sweet. All rights reserved

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’re 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.


FOREWORD:

Somewhere in everything that I have written over the last seven or eight years, resides the story of this book. I spent a few hours trying, but I could not find it. There are times where I irritate myself and this was one of them: Because although I could have easily rewritten the information I spent the better part of an hour looking for it; as if somehow that made more sense. Of course it didn’t turn up. Things that were close to explaining it turned up, but not the text I remember writing. So I will write the story once more.

In 1976 I was a young man and I wanted to be a writer. I wrote a short story about this closed up series of caves where bad things happened. I didn’t know what bad things happened there, only that they were bad; probably very bad. I had some vague ideas, Russians, Dead people, Military types. All the things that used to scare me back then. I struggled for what was probably a few months and managed a short story that had very little to do with the caves and more to do with some post apocalypse cave man who was affected by radiation deformities, part of which made him want to kill and eat other people. That short story was sixteen pages long, handwritten, and everyone who read it thought maybe it was a joke of some kind and maybe I should consider doing something else instead of writing.

So I put it away and life took a giant step forward to 1983. I found myself working at home and had a lot of extra time on my hands. I happened across the manuscript as I liked to think of it, all sixteen yellowed and dog eared pages, and began to re-write it. It held my attention for a while and then life took another step forward to 1987. Still working at home, only now involved in the world wide web, as we called it. A thing most people thought would go nowhere at all. I got back into writing and fell into that story. This time it actually went where I wanted it to go, where I thought it should go all those years before. I wrote it and then wrote a sequel, and then a few dozen short stories and then life took another giant step.

When things shook out again it was 2010 and I was in a position to once again write. I thought about that first book, and the sequel, and the short stories, all lost now, gone to who knew where. Thinking didn’t bring them back but it did get me writing again. The first thing I did was re-write that book. It came out nothing like that long before first book had: It had taken a few twists and turns in the writing; in trying to remember what the other book had been about so many years before, and colored by all the things that had happened during that passage of time.

In any event I liked it, so I wrote another part and added it to it, and then another, and pretty soon there were twenty books written from that long ago first book. A series really. Then I wrote another book, and  another, and one day I woke up and realized that I was not still hoping to be a writer, I was a writer.

Sometimes I would think about that first book and regret losing it, but I would also remind myself that if I had not lost it I would have never written all of the other books that I had written, or at least not the way they were written,. Maybe they would have been better, maybe worse. Who can tell when you think about changing circumstances. I moved on, literally forgot about those books and stories, and then one day my son called me and told me he had found those files in a digital format. All of them. He doesn’t know if we can get them or not, or if they will be readable if we are able to get them. He only knows we have a shot at getting them.

To make a long story short we did get them, and everything except for the second book was easy to get and download to my own computer. The second book was not easy at all. I ended up using a program that downloads the file no matter what condition it is in. It simply fills the corrupted sections with zeros. Amazing. I got about 95% of the second book that way. Small sentences missing here and there, a few words or a paragraph there, but easily reconstructed.

I marveled over the technology that allowed me to pluck that book out of time, nearly twenty years of it, and then took a walk back through time and read that first book and those short stories from way back then. There were some that I did not even remember writing until I began to read them and then the story flooded back into my head. It was great.

The thing was life was busy and I had a lot of work laid out in front of me. It took awhile to get back to that first book. I debated over whether to do anything with it except read it and then let it sit. But after I read it I decided that in very many ways I liked it as much as the books I had written to replace it. In some ways even more.

That is this book you are about to read. Started when I was a kid just out of the service with a young wife and son, finished when I am at the other end of that spectrum. Kind of funny. Maybe it puts end to what I began. I don’t know. I do know I liked the book then, I thought the story just flowed from me and I really felt a part of it, and that has always been the hallmark of good writing to me, being right in the story. Falling into it. Starting to care about the characters and their circumstances.

So here it is forty years late: The road to publishing this book was a hard one, but I hope that you like it as much as I have enjoyed watching it come together.

Dell Sweet

July-24th 2014


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 © 1976 – 2014 Wendell Sweet & independAntwriters Publishing. Dell Sweet is a publishing name for Wendell Sweet. All other copyright notices are herein encompassed. All national and foreign rights are reserved. 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.


 ZERO ZERO

Preamble

June 15th

Ira Pratt stared at the squared board lost in thought. If he moved to the right, he would surely lose two checkers. Maybe, he thought, as many as four. Moving to the left would not help either. There was actually only one semi-safe move to make, and that was straight ahead. But even that move could put a hurtin’ on his few remaining checkers, he thought. Nothing to do for it though, but move it, and see what happened.

He stared into the thoughtful eyes of the older man across the table, trying to read them. No good, he was a master at hiding his thoughts. His face was calm and carefully composed, not so much as a smile played at the corners of his mouth.

Ira gave in and decisively moved one checker forward and then leaned back into his chair, waiting to see what the older man would do.

“Well, I see you have left me little choice, Ira,” the older man said. He picked up one of his own checkers and carefully slid it forward as he finished speaking.

“That was what I was hoping you’d do,” Ira said grinning as he jumped two of the older man’s checkers.

“No doubt about it, Ira, you’re just too good for me,” the older man replied. He smiled widely, and pleasantly, and then changed the subject. “How about we take a short break, Ira, maybe go for a walk. You must get tired of beating me all the time?”

“Well,” Ira replied, “I kind ‘a get the idea you let me beat you some times, but sure, I wouldn’t mind a break at all.”

“I would never let you beat me, Ira. It is a good thing we don’t play poker though. I might gamble the entire kingdom away trying to beat you,” the older man replied laughing. “Besides I have my reasons for wanting to take a break right now. I see it like this, if you and I take a break, maybe once we return your concentration will not be so keen, and then maybe I will win one of these games for a change.” He rose from the small table as he finished speaking. “Ready, Ira?”

“Yep.”

Ira closed his eyes. He could have kept them open, and a few times he had, but the trip was unnerving enough without adding the visual aspects to it. Not that there was anything to see except darkness for the split second they would be traveling, he thought. Still…

He opened his eyes. They had actually only been shut for less than a second, but in that space of time they had traveled a considerable distance, or at least seemed to have. The small table that had been before him was gone, replaced by a lush green valley. A calm blue river flowed across the valley floor far below. He followed it with his eyes as it wound away in the distance.

“It’s beautiful,” Ira exclaimed, “but will it still be…?” He let the question trail away.

“Yes it will, as will several others, Ira. But it need not be this place, there are so many to choose from,” the older man informed him. “Come.”

Ira blinked, and when he opened his eyes they were standing in a high mountain meadow. Wild flowers covered the meadow, and a large, summer-fat herd of deer grazed peacefully among them. A large buck raised its heavily antlered head and stared at the two men, but perceiving no threat went back to grazing the field.

“This is also beautiful,” Ira said quietly.

“It only matters where, Ira. There are so many. There were even more, and there will be again.”

“I’ll have to tell Cora about this place, and the other,” Ira replied, still watching the deer graze.

“You should, Ira. In fact, there will be many things to tell her. Things she will need to know, Ira.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes. The time is short.”

“I was afraid of that,” Ira said slowly.

“There is no reason to be afraid, Ira.”

“I know that. I guess I mean afraid, as in I wish it didn’t have to happen.”

“I knew what you meant, Ira, but it is necessary. As much as I would wish that it was not, it is.”

Ira nodded his head slowly. “I know.”

The two men stood in silence for several minutes, watching the deer in the field. It seemed so peaceful to Ira, a good place to be, a good place to live, and that made it harder to accept that most of it would soon be gone. The older man spoke, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

“Would you like to look at some others, Ira?”

“I believe I would at that. I think I’d like to look at as much as I kin before it’s gone, I guess. Does that sound wrong?”

“No, Ira, it does not, I too wish to look… Ready?”

Ira nodded but did not close his eyes. Darkness enveloped him, and a sense of speed. The absence of light was complete; he could only sense the presence of the older man beside him as the traveled through the dark void.

– 2 –

Far below the small city of Watertown New York, Richard Pierce sat working before an elaborate computer terminal. He had just initiated the program that managed the small nuclear power plant hidden deep below him in the rock. A small handset beside the computer station chimed, and he picked it up and listened. He did not speak at first, but as he listened a smile spread across his face. “Very good,” he said happily, when the caller was finished, “keep me advised.” He set the small handset back into its cradle and turned his attention back to the screen in front of him. The plant had powered up just as it was supposed to, no problems whatsoever, and that made Richard Pierce extremely happy. Two more days tops, he thought, and then maybe I’ll get out of this dump.

He supposed he should feel honored that he was even here. It was after all one of the biggest projects in the country, albeit top secret, but he could not help the way he felt. He was close to a mile underground, totally cut off from everything and everyone, and he hated it. If he had a choice, which he had not, he would never have come at all. But he had written the software that handled the power plant, as well as several other sections of the underground city, and that made it his baby. There were a couple of small bugs, mainly due to the fact that no one had been allowed to know what the entire program was supposed to do. The way the rewrites were going however, it looked as though he would not be stuck here anywhere near as long as he had originally thought, and that was something to think about. He had begun to feel that he would never leave this rock bound prison, and wouldn’t that be a real bitch.

– 3 –

At a large gravel pit on the outskirts of Watertown, Gary Jones carefully maneuvered the wide mouth of the loader bucket over the dump box of the truck, and pulled back on the lever closest to him to release the load. Ain’t this something, he thought as he slowly topped off the dump box, barely 10 AM and we’ve already sent out twenty seven truckloads of gravel to the base.

Six men out sick, and another forty truckloads to deliver before five tonight. What in hell are they doing with all this gravel? He wondered. It was a question he had asked many times before, and still had not gotten an answer to. Uncle Sam paid well though, and on time to boot, so he guessed he probably shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He signaled the driver, and he pulled away with a whoosh of air as he released the brakes. Another dump truck lumbered up to take his place, and he pushed the questions out of his mind as he began filling the box.

– 4 –

In Seattle Washington, Harvey Pearlson sat at his wide mahogany desk and talked quietly into the phone.

The extravagantly appointed office was located on the top floor of one of Seattle’s most highly regarded newspapers. Pearlson had worked his way up from the bottom, after starting as a carrier in 1955, sixteen floors below.

“No,” Pearlson said quietly, “I don’t want to know. I just thought that maybe it could be handled in some other way.” He listened for a few minutes nodding his head as he did.

“Yes, yes I see, but?” He rubbed his eyes as he listened. “No, I don’t,” he said emphatically, “I happen to like him a great deal, and if you give me the time…” The voice on the other end of the line cut him off, and he once again listened quietly.

“I see,” he said, once the voice had finished speaking. “No, I do understand. I won’t. Do you think I’m that stupid? Give me a little credit here, will you. You wouldn’t even be aware of it if I hadn’t called you in the first place, for Christ’s sake.” He listened for a few seconds longer, then hung up the phone.

There was no reasoning with Weekes, he told himself, and he was going to do what he was going to do. For Frank’s sake, he wished he had never called him at all. Too late now though, he told himself, far too late. After all, he had done his best to swing Frank away from the story, but Frank Morgan was not a man who could be easily swayed, and, he told himself, unless he wanted to find himself in the same circumstances, he had better just shut up and let it go. He reached over and thumbed the intercom button.

“Cindy?”

“Yes Sir?”

“I’m going to be out the rest of the day, Cindy, and if Frank Morgan comes looking for me before he leaves, you don’t know where I am, correct?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Anything important comes up you can reach me on my mobile, Cindy.”

“Yes Sir, Mister Pearlson.”

Harvey Pearlson picked up his briefcase and left the office. Whatever Weekes had in mind, he wanted nothing to do with it, and he didn’t want to be available for any sort of questions that might arise either. It was unfortunate enough that he had started the whole ball rolling;he had no intention of sticking around to see where it ended up stopping. No, he told himself, the lake was the best place to be. The only place to be, and he intended to stay there until the whole thing blew over just as he had been told to.

He took his private elevator down to the garage area, walked across to his Lincoln, and drove out of the parking garage, turning right on Beechwood. He passed a hooker standing at the corner of the building, and thought just how badly Beechwood Avenue had gotten as of late. He would have to speak to the security people when he got back from the lake. Putting up with the hookers that had taken over the avenue at night was one thing, but broad daylight? Standing right in front of the frigging building? No, something would have to be done, and if the security people couldn’t take care of it, maybe he’d speak to Weekes. After all, he owed him one now, didn’t he? He pushed the thought away, signaled, and pulled out onto the loop. In an hour he’d be at the lake, and then he could forget about the whole mess, for today at least. He eased the car up to sixty, and leaned back into the leather upholstery to enjoy the drive.

– 5 –

April 11th 1952

Ira Pratt drove the old tractor carefully down the side of the slippery hill. It had been raining for close to three days, and it didn’t look as though it was going to let up right quick, he thought.

The rain was causing all sorts of problems, and not just for him, he knew, but for the cows as well. The biggest problem was the creek, and the only way the creek wasn’t going to be a problem was to unplug the thing.

He sat on the tractor as it slipped and slid its way down the hill through the gray sheets of rain. Ira let out a sigh of relief once it reached the bottom. For a second there, he had been sure both he and the old tractor would end up in the creek, but God was smiling on him today.

He slipped the worn gearbox into neutral, and sat looking at the rush of muddy-brown water. The creek was a good four feet above the point of flooding, and he wasn’t sure it was a smart move to try to put the tractor in that. The tractor was sure footed, but so was a goat, and he’d seen more than one goat end up on its ass. But there wasn’t anything else for it. If he didn’t move the trees that were clogging the creek, and flooding it out and over the banks, then he might as well just sit back and watch a couple more cows drown.

Ira knew cows, pretty much anyhow, and every one that he and Cora owned were just as stupid as any other cow he’d ever seen. The cows didn’t understand flooding, they didn’t understand how the water could weaken the banks, and so the big dummies just walked on down to the creek, just like any other day, and got swept away when the bank crumbled under their weight. Three days of rain and four dead cows, and though cows were stupid, they weren’t cheap.

Ira sat in the pouring rain and stared at the creek. Normally, the creek was no more than eighteen inches deep at the most. Course normal wasn’t what it was today, he thought, and wishin’ it was wouldn’t make it so. It was his own damn fault, he reminded himself.  Two of the trees that were clogging it had been there last summer, and hadn’t he promised Cora he’d take ’em out before fall? He had, but he hadn’t, and so here he was in the pouring rain fixin’ to half kill himself to get ’em out.

Looked like the best way, Ira thought, might be to try and snag the biggest one right from the bank. He squinted as he shielded his eyes to peer through the rain. One thing was for sure, sittin’ on the tractor and thinkin’ about it, wasn’t gonna get it. Reluctantly, Ira climbed down off the tractor and edged closer to the bank. The rain was coming down hard, but the section he stood upon seemed solid enough. “Probably what the cows thought,” he muttered as he moved closer.

He walked back to the tractor, unwound a long section of chain from behind the seat, and walked back to the creek. The top of the bigger tree was sticking a good three feet over the bank, and he was glad that it was. He could see that the water was rising faster, and moving along quicker, and he had no wish to get any closer to it than he had to. Quickly, but carefully, he wound the chain around the tree and pegged the links with an old bolt to hold them. Looks good, and solid as well, he thought as he slipped the other end of the chain over the bucket. He genuinely didn’t want to try and turn the tractor around. In fact, he thought, as muddy as the ground was, he’d be damn lucky just to get it back up and away from the creek when he finished.

He gave an experimental tug at the chain, and then climbed back up on the tractor. Carefully, without grinding the gears any more than he surely had to, shifted into reverse. He played the clutch out slowly and brought up the slack in the chain.

“Well God?” He asked, looking skyward, “You keepin’ a watch down here? I could sure use a hand about now, Lord. Amen,” Ira finished.

He let the clutch out a little further, playing the gas pedal as he did, and let the tractor go to work. The oversized tires spun, caught, and the tractor began to slowly back up the steep bank, pulling the tree out of the muddy water as it did. Ira released the breath he had been holding, and just as he did the chain snapped in two. Ira barely had time to register what had happened, when the old tractor flipped, crushing him beneath it.



Check out Zero Zero now

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/461423

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zero-zero/id904702423?mt=11

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/zero-zero-dell-sweet/1120020211?ean=2940046071467

Paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/zero-zero-dell-sweet/1120020211?ean=9781500662967



Things I have written

I decided to write about what I have written. It might surprise you to know what I have written and published, and what I have written that remains unpublished at this time and may always remain unpublished…

Zombie: I would love to start out by saying I am done with writing  the Zombie series of books, but I am not. I began another that I may eventually publish and it has about 50 pages to go, maybe. I say maybe because I have cut the story down twice and it has still ballooned, right now about 111,000 words.  With 50 pages left to proof, and the ending as yet unwritten, only suggested with a few hundred words, I am unsure where it may end up. I do know that it will finish up sometime this coming week, I will do a read through, and then it will go to the editor when she is ready for it. I would say some time toward spring it should be ready. I will give it away for a weekend and then it will settle into its place. That will determine whether there will ever be another Zombie book. But I am sure there will be though. It is a really good story.

The story-line (No spoiler here) will take us back to March and the beginnings of the whole thing. We will not be back with our familiar friends, Mike, Candace, Patty, Ronnie, Bob and the rest of the eight though. Instead we will be somewhere else with other characters. By the end of the book we will have come up to current series time, IE: to the same place that Earth’s Survivors Book Three ends, and a little past that. So that when Earth’s Survivors Book Four comes out this fall the Zombie killing team will be in place and known by you, whether  you read both book series or not. That is because you could get by with the description and brief introduction of some of the characters from the Zombie books at the end of Earth’s Survivors Book Three. You could pick enough up through the balance of book four to get an idea of who they are.

So, the upthrust is, you do not have to buy one to understand the other. There are other books planned where they will bleed together. There are two that I can think of where they will be in the same time line exactly. But, with very few exceptions the characters are their own. The exceptions are Mike, Candace, Ronnie, Patty, Bob, Janet, Lilly, Annie and Tim, Tom and occasionally a few other minor characters from the Earth’s Survivors main series showing up in the Zombie books. This is because they work for the Nation. They are part of the Nation. They protect the nation, and so there will be some back and forth. Of course Donita will be in both series as she plans to kill the nation and bring them into her own armies, and she will be in constant conflict with Bear and the other Zombie characters.

The main focus of the Zombie series will be the battle with the dead, the other living factions, and keeping the Nation resupplied. These are meant to be fast paced action based stories. There are six more  books written at this time.

As you can imagine, Bear, Cammy, Beth, Billy, Pearl* and Donita will be in the main Earth’s Survivors series as well. I believe I explained that well. At least I hope I did not confuse you.

*As yet you have not met Pearl. She is from the UK and is introduced in the first Zombie book near the end. I can’t say much more about the circumstances, except Pearl is a permanent character in the series.

America The Dead: America The Dead is the third leg of the Earth’s Survivors series. It is written. Six books worth of it. America The Dead was available for a very short time, but was never actually sold. This is a series that occupies the same timeline as Earth’s Survivors, and they do eventually meet one another, but a very long way into the series for both series of book. There is approximately a half million words written for this series. I have not firmly decided whether the series will ever be released.

Rebecca Monet: The Rebecca Monet novels follow a young woman as she works her way up the corporate ladder in the Television News business. There are six books written (Seven or eight outlined), and two more outlined for this series. My next project, in just a few weeks will be finishing Billy Jingo, the first novel in the series. Then I may as well finish Hurricane, the second Rebecca Monet novel, because a few months back I spent quite a bit of time working on first one then the other. They are ready to be written. There are four other books written,  Alone – Kat and Pat-  Rebecca, and a second Billy Jingo novel to cap the series.

Rebecca, the lead character from These novels, is in the Earth’s Survivors series. Her name is changed, but she gives herself away.

Candace, Patty and Mike, main Earth’s Survivors Characters, all have cameos in the Rebecca Monet books, which are set in the before times.

Earth’s Survivors: Book four will be out in the fall of this year. Book four, and the books that follow, will concentrate more heavily on the community and the lives of the people as they rebuild their world. Yes, there will be dead, wars, action, but the main overall focus will be on the people and their lives in the valley and where ever else they may find themselves.

Other Projects:

Eve: Eve is a small two book series that really focuses on the struggles of a small party as they try to stay alive in the changed world. They are in the same circumstance as Earth’s Survivors, except some ten years in the future when we come to know them. These two books are intense people books. They never cross lines with the Nation unless there is some point in the future that I have not yet written.

Yeshua: One of the things time alone will do for you is cause you to examine your self.Your motivations. What you truly believe in. I did that. I found there was a great deal of myself that was not worth keeping. I found that I had fairly strong beliefs. I also found that I don’t believe everything I am told. So, I sat out to be able to understand enough Greek, Latin, and Chaldea to be able to read the actual biblical translations and decide for myself what they said.Easy. That is sarcasm, Sheldon.

Ten years later I had a book. My own translation of the bible. It took a very long time to write. It deals only with the New testament and nothing else. I do not know if I will ever publish it. I do know that before I do three ministers I know will read it. I do not want to be mistaken when it comes to God.

Short Stories: Dozens and Dozens of them. I will publish them in volumes. There are currently 24 books of writing that has to be transcribed. That is not counting Lyrics, Poetry, etc.

Space Travel: I have a series of short stories that lead to a space novel. It’s there, someday I’ll finish it past Rocket and Base One.

Dreamers: Three more books in the Dreamers series are written. I currently have no plans to publish them.

Zero Zero: There are three more novels finished with these characters. Right now I can not see them being published.

The Editor: Yes. There is an editor now. She is very good. She has the right to put her name in the books as she edits, I don’t know that she will do that though. You may never hear about her again except as you read you should find no mistakes in the books. I had hoped for this solution a few months back, waited, but it did not happen. It actually has happened now. She finished work on previous books and will go down the line, including new books as I finish them. I will not bug her, hurry her, I will just be grateful for her.

And, the last word on writing: I will attempt to answer the why of the writing, or at least the most often asked question.

“Why, if you have written all of these novels, don’t you simply publish them?”

A few reasons. The first direct answer, is that all of them are written, but they are written in long hand. In composition notebooks. At the time it worked for me. But the problem now is to get them from that long hand and into a word processor format that can be published.

I have tried a few ways of doing this. I thought the easiest would be Speech to Text (You can’t hear me but I am laughing; I am laughing hard). Let’s say that if the speech to text software improves at some point in the near future I will try it again, but thus far my experience has been poor to say the least. (Ithink you can find more on that in one of my blogs).

Second, more involved answer: They are complete novels. Start to finish, but, as I re-write them into the word processor, I jump right back into that story and the story grows. It is a creative process. There is not much I can do to speed it up. I can sit down and write a fresh story in about two weeks start to finish. I mean a 75k to 100k novel. It may not be perfect, but it will be complete, in need only of editing and regular re-writes. Reading my own crappy handwriting, and then typing the story in with revisions, however, takes me about a month. I sometimes think it would be better to just write a whole newbook. IE: That is exactly what I did for the first Zombie Book. There was no Outrunner team that explained the characters origins. I wanted one. Two weeks ago I sat down with the First Mission book to write it, instead I wrote the new story that introduces the characters. I was pretty happy with it, but you can see how the time gets spent.

The third thing is, what to write? Should I write only Earth’s Survivors books because there are fans and the books pay the bills? ‘Yes, I tell myself, do that.’ but then there are other books that speak to me. So, I am trying to fairly split these books up. Most authors offer one or two books a year, I have given three Earth’s Survivors books this year, and you will have the Zombie book, which is also an Earth’s Survivors book, and you will get one more Earth’s Survivors book before the year is out, so, five. And, as long as there is a demand from you for those books I will write them. In fact, if there were no demand I would write them. That is how I wrote the first twenty.

There were just two guys back then who gathered to listen to my stories about the end of the world. Two guys. That was it. Before them there was only me. I had to like it, get into it, to write it. In a creative writing class I took, there were about sixpeople that showed up on a regular basis to class. We read each other stories, short stories only, and encouraged each other to write.

My point is, I think some people who read books, think writers sit down and write for them. And, in a sense we obviously do. If you didn’t like what we write we would be back working our old jobs, mine would be a carpenter, singer/song writer, in a minute. But, we don’t really do that at all. Our first fan is us. I have to like what I write or it will not come to me. I think a blog I wrote a week or so ago gets into the creative process and how it works for me. It really comes to a miracle. I have no real way of knowing how the process works. I only know it does work. And I know the first fan is me. Then maybe a few people I trust, and it goes outward from there. And then, once the process has come to fruition,  I try to write for you, try to write what I believe you want to read, but it comes out as it comes out.

So, that is the longer explanation. Because, when I sit down to write, what comes to me comes. Like sitting down with the first Outrunner book and then writing a  whole new novel. Just stick with me though, I will write it all out, and I will listen.

Other Things: IE, A little humor

Rain and New York: The rain in New York this year has been ridiculous. It seems that the only time it isn’t raining is when the humidity is 98% and the temp is 89 to 99 and it’s getting ready to rain, and you can’t move without melting. Arrgg. Oh, and when it’s drizzling, which I believe is rain, but I was warned is not called rain, but drizzle, so therefore may not actually be rain. Hmm. And…

Six billion cable channels: I have noticed that although I have six billion cable channels there is nothing at all to watch. Unless I like cooking shows, selling shows, reality shows, basketball, baseball and football Girlfriend/Wives shows, guys with70’s hairdos selling music from the, surprise, 70’s. Um sitcoms from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, oh and 90’s too. Um, tractor pulling, Bear hunting, NASCAR racing, witch hunting, alligator wrestling, speedboat racing, and some stuff that I pause and go What the Hell is that, as I’m going by. Doctor Phil, Price is Right, Jerry Springer, Ellen, Holy God, the list just goes on and on.

So, I said to myself, why can’t I find something out of all of that to watch? But the answer is clear, IDHTC Envy. IDHTC Envy is a very real thing. It is propagated by the cable network of course, because it pays them to do it. IDHTC Envy,  (I don’t Have That Channel Envy) is a rough deal. Here’s how it gets me.

I know I don’t get HBO, CINEMAX, ENCORE and a sixty two thousand other channels. Okay. Great. I don’t get them. I’ll just go look at the ones I do get. But, on the way to the channels I do get, I happen by the channels I don’t get, and I see all the really great stuff they have that I don’t get. Never mind I get all theShowtime channels. Sundance. IFC, Free Movies on Demand, The Movie Channel andthe LMN movie channel-More about that channel. I mean, how many movies cant here be about a guy who screws over a woman and she ends up paying him back? Tracking him down and bringing him to justice. I mean, do all men do these things? Apparently dozens and dozens of them do, because that is all that LMN shows. Oh, and I get the second LMN channel that shows all the other movies like that that the first channel doesn’t have time to show, because, alas, there are only twenty four hours in a day, thank you God.

Where wasI? Oh, so, I do get good channels (Excluding that channel and  channels I like to think of as the wacko channels. I’ll just shut up about those channels, but we all know they are there). But, I get good channels too. However, every time I go by HBO orCinemax I tell myself… DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK! And I try not to look, but Ihave to know what channel I’m on as I pass, right? And I see it… It doesn’tmatter what, only that it’s something better than what I get on the channels I can watch.

So then I get depressed and dive right in. Torture myself going through all of the channels I don’t get. I click on them anyway. “Click to buy !,” the screen says. I chicken out. I have better uses for my $7.95 I tell myself. But, I have looked. Now I can not go back to the same old same old.

Oh, I will go and watch my sub-standard movie on the channel I do get, but all the time my heart is lusting after the movie I saw the description of on the other channel Idon’t get. Why, I ask myself? Why Why Why!

So, I decided in the end, I have plenty to watch, I am simply suffering from IDHTC. I take an aspirin and watch Grapes of Wrath for the fifteenth time. I can really feel for the Joad’s, I’m suffering too. If Henry Fonda only knew.

That’s my week here, except the rain, which never seems to stop. I am pretty sure it will though about the time the snow starts flying…

Have a good week…

Zombie series from W G Sweet

I have been absorbed in the world of Bear, Beth, Billy, Cammy and the other Zombie characters. When I write, that is the way it is for me. I jump in and it is as good as a movie for me, in many ways even better. The craft, or art, of writing is like that for me…

I imagine it is like that for other writers, I know several, but I have never really asked. So, for all I know, it is only me. That sort of brings me to my topic for this week. Writing and writers.

I thought about this the other day. I do not have any non-writer friends. And, I realized the other day that I live in a bubble. I don’t purposely live in a bubble, but, a bubble is a bubble, purpose built or not.

Some of it is unavoidable, because of the way I am, the rest is how it becomes because of that same thing. My time is my own. there is no one at all to put designs on it, make me feel guilty about how I spend it, and, I have lived that way for so long that I am pretty sure I could not be housebroken now.

Not all of my writer friends do that to the same extreme that I do, but nearly all of them do it to at least a lesser degree. To me eighteen hours of writing is no big deal. To me pounding out a novel in fourteen days, also no big deal. But ask me what day it is? That isn’t a joke. I can not tell you how many times one of my friends has said, ‘Hey, it’s Friday,’ and I’ll look at them like they’re speaking Russian. ‘What do you mean Friday?’ ‘Ha Ha.’ ‘No, it really is Friday,or Tuesday, or the 28th, or whatever.’ Of course I’ll look at a calendar, watch, something, like they would really take the time to lie to me. They’re writers but their imagination isn’t that good, is it? Nope. It’s me. I fell into this world or that one and the time slipped away. It’s that simple.

What is pretty cool, what makes it so addictive, as a writer, is watching something come from nothing at all. No, I do not know where it comes from. I can not force it to come if it isn’t there. I have rarely been able to write exactly what I choose to write either, but when it shows up and it’s right there at the tips of your fingers, pouring out onto the page, and I am reading it, it is amazing. When that happens I don’t want to stop. I am afraid that if I do the words will go someplace else. To someone else, and they will write my story, only it will no longer be my story, it will be their story. So I hang in there, type, let the magic pour out of my fingers, and then someone says, ‘Uh, you do know it’s Friday, right?’

That is writing for me. And there are times when it has to stop. When sleep has to take over. And in the old days I would come back from that break for sleep, slouch back to my chair, stare at my monitor, and think. Well, that’s that. My head is empty. The story is gone. Shouldn’t have gone to sleep. Two seconds later the words are pouring out. The story is back from where ever it went to and I am along for the ride again. So when my other writer friends ask me about how I wrote this or that I really have no answer. In fact, usually I’ll look at them like, well, where do you get your stuff? Walmart Writers Aisle? Or I’ll get the writer I don’t understand who will give me the song and dance about how he or she plotted this out, and then did this and then pulled teeth to write it, and then… I have no idea what he or she means. The process is not that way for me at all and I have tried it, writing on demand, the same way they do it, and I turn out stuff that seems like cardboard.

That is not to say I can not write something off the cuff. I can. But, it works this way: Someone says, ‘Hey. Could you write me a story about a three legged dog that stops to sniff at a dead cat on the interstate during rush hour traffic, gets run over by a Semi and comes back as a Vampire dog that sleeps in the woods, flags down Semis on the highway and kills the drivers as retribution?’ … ‘Uh,no… Sorry. And, if you can find someone who can, well, you should hire them.’

But, I will go back and think… Hmm a three legged dog… Dead cat… What the hell happened with that cat anyway? And why didn’t the semi driver stop?… Hmm…Maybe he didn’t stop because he was distracted by the truck stop cutie he had picked up… Right, and the cat… The cat had been on the way to it’s kittens which were across the highway… Hidden in the woods… And I’ll work it out in my head like that. But then I’ll set down and the story just shows up. It ends up being about the Truck Driver and his drug addicted Daughter and it turns out the Cat and the Dog were simple distractions. Huh, I’ll think as I write it. I’ll be damned. Then, just at the end, the damn Cat comes back, abetted by her three legged dog friend, and kills the trucker. And I’ll think ‘Son of a bitch, I never saw that coming.’

Let me give you an example: In the  Earth’s Survivors series, Molly and Nellie, major characters, are along on a resupply trip. Nellie gets shot and killed. I am shocked as I write it. I stop writing and think, ‘Wow, That sucks.’ I wonder about undoing it. In the old days I would have highlighted the whole scene and then deleted it. Kill a major character? No way. So I would then spent hours, days, weeks, re-writing it. And all to no avail because after that period of time I’ll see it had to happen that way because that was the story. Now, I may stop, look, but then I’m back at it. I am curious to know where it is going now. What will Molly do? Well, if you read it you know; Molly could not deal with it. She turned her own gun on herself before anyone could react fast enough to stop her. Another shock to me. But, that is writing to me. That is the gift God gave to me, and the way it comes out of me.

I suppose people will read that and think, bullshit. But it really is the process for me. And for all of the writers I know too, at least the ones I hang out with. And, hang-out is a loose term for me. I don’t hang out with anyone at all, not really. Hanging out to me is giving up that time I was talking about earlier, and I don’t like to give that up. So hanging out might be a 3:00 AM Skype conversation. No, no camera, just chat. If the conversation lasts more than ten minuets before it lags, then something is really wrong, and that is not just me talking.

The other person has some sort of project open on their desktop, same as I do, and they are either writing as we talk or thinking about writing as we talk, or actively wishing I would shut up or get to the point, so they can go back to writing. I know that because after the ten minute mark that is what I am doing, and the few times I have asked a writer friend honestly what they are doing they say those things, or, they are not as diplomatic as I am and just tell me to get to the point or shut up. No, that doesn’t offend me.

That is the craft of writing for me with all of the mystery and magic stripped off. I guess it is about as attractive as that dead cat in the road, huh? I wonder how that cat got there…

Have a good week…

Smashwords links for author Dell Sweet and W G Sweet

The Sweets on Smashwords

 


The story of Jessie Stone who goes on to form The Fold, a rival to the Nation. This story starts in the city of Watertown and tells the tale as Jessie leaves and makes her way across the country looking for whatever might remain of society… #Dystopian https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/870188


Across the United States the governments in cities, large and small have crumbled. The military has ceased to exist. There is no government that rules the people any longer. There are no laws and there is no one coming to set things right. #Apocalypse https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/870174


Being dead took the killer out of you, at least at first it did. You forgot all the little things of the old life. You nearly forgot your name: Where you had lived; what you had done. And then it changed, and you became #UNDEAD https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/819190


Nothing truly ends. We think highly of our race and we believe that the end of society means the end of the world, but it does not. #SpaceOpera #SciFi #SpaceTravel https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/797262


Star Dancer is an inner galaxy cruiser, transporting inmates and materials between the penal colonies on the Moon and Mars but the last few trips for her captain, Michael Watson have left him longing for more adventure out in deep space… #SciFi https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/728792


John is an average guy. He doesn’t believe in monsters. That may have to change. Kate has never believed in much of anything including herself, but she is learning to believe again. Together they take their first steps into the land of the dead… #Horror https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/725161


A little girl awakens screaming in the night, convinced that someone she calls Mister Bob has come to her window in the middle of the night to plead for his life, hoping she will intervene for him… #SciFi #Horror https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/696952


Fresh snow today. The whole world is covered in clean, white snow. It makes it look like nothing ever happened here. I can’t keep on this way it is too hard on me: Holding out hope, I mean… Little left… #ApocalypticFiction #Horror https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/666726


Kohlson saw Clayton Hunter lurch to his feet and stumble into the soldiers who were firing at point blank range in the tight confines. A series of bullets finally tore across his chest and into his head and he fell from view. #Zombie https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/666725


CBS had stopped broadcasting here three days ago: They had been dependent on travelers coming out of the east or up from the south.They had not stopped soon enough as viewers had witnessed the network studios overrun, and the anchor attacked and killed… https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/666722


“So, what happens next? We leave,” Bear said. “Manhattan’s dead.”

Madison looked around as Bear shrugged his shoulders.

“Jersey’s looking better and better.” He laughed a little.

Madison laughed too, “Yeah, it is.” #Survival #horror

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/666721


The tires caught, and the truck flipped into the air. It rolled before bursting into flames in the road.

Joel mashed the brakes on the truck, and slid to a stop. A split second later the kid spilled from the wreckage and started toward him… #Horror https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/896450


Zero Zero begins with a secreted base that holds the keys of destruction: A madman who holds those keys, and a small group of men and women who challenge him as the clock ticks down to Zero Zero. #Armageddon #Dystopian https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/461423


Billy intended to go for a walk downtown and kill some time. It seemed the safest thing in the world. He bent to take a look in the window of a car, two dead men, but the driver was not dead, he saw, as he raised his gun and leveled it on him. #Crime https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/487747


Joe and Laura are dreamers. They meet in the dream worlds and Joe begins to fall in love with the beautiful Laura, but the dream worlds are treacherous: Nothing can be trusted, and nothing remains the same for long #scifi #Horror https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/617155


Yellowstone: A natural disaster that may bring humanity to its knees. Super volcanoes, super earthquakes, the likes of which no living person has ever seen. Not a maybe, but an certainty. Who will survive? #Survival #Apocalypse #horror #Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/904314


WHITE TRASH: Fourteen million dollars in a burned suitcase. Parts of a dead man in a duffel bag. Two hired killers, a drug dealer, organized crime kingpins; all chasing two white trash kids from New York into the Deep South… #Adult #urban #Violence  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/902330



 

America The Dead: Book One; The Yellowstone Caldera problem

America The Dead: Book One

The Yellowstone Caldera Problem:

“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…”


Get it now:

NOOK: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one-w-g-sweet/1124661961?ean=2940155816812

IBOOKS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one/id1436765995?mt=11

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one-1

SMASH: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/896450

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01H5PM49W



“In 1930 the Army did an exploratory survey, and what they found was a section of the Rocky’s missing; the largest extinct volcano known. Except it’s untrue; Yellowstone is active and about to pop.”


“So here is where we are. You know, as does most of the world, that Yellowstone has always been an anomaly. For a time we thought it was extinct. Put simply, Yellowstone caldera is not extinct, it is active: Active and about to pop.” #Earthquake #volcano


“Are you familiar with the Yellowstone Caldera?”

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy asked.

Weston nodded. “A team of Army engineers determined that it was the crater of an extinct volcano. Except it isn’t true. Yellowstone caldera is active and about to pop.”


“So here is what we know.” He held their eyes.

“Yellowstone is about to blow… We’ve took the sensors off-line more than a week ago… The public doesn’t know.”

John shrugged. “It’s not gonna take us out is it?”

“It will end the world as we know it…”


margaret Lane

July 3, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

 



 

Roku TV

Roku TV

I saw a deal a few days back for a 32-inch HD TV from Walmart with built in Roku. TV, shipping and all came to barely over a hundred bucks and so it seemed like the next best thing to review.

A mention: I do not work for or get paid by any of the products I review. They are them, I am me. Just so you have that straight. I review what I want to try or own, and because I am not doing it for any of these companies I say what is what.

Walmart: I was surprised to see the changes in on-line shopping for Walmart: Including free shipping and even accepting Pay Pal now, which made my checkout a breeze. I looked over the specs before I ordered. I was looking for a replacement TV for the living room. I was also looking to go down a few inches. Sometimes people buy bigger because bigger must be better, and sometimes bigger is not always better. I had purchased a 38-inch HD TV for the living room and it was a little overkill because it is not a big room. It completely dominated one wall. It was also about 5 years old and had lost one pixel that drove me crazy. 28-inch seemed too small, I saw the deal on the 32-inch and took it.

The television was supposed to arrived on a Saturday, it arrived a day early on Friday after work hours, which was nice, no worries about leaving it outside unattended. When I saw the box I thought maybe I had gone too small, after all the next size up was not much more, but after I pulled the TV out of the box I realized it had a very small trim area, whereas the old TV had a good 4-inch trim around the entire screen which made it look much bigger than it was. All in all I was happy with the look of the new TV, but how about the way it worked…

I had purchased a universal wall mount for the first TV and so it worked for this one. That made it a simple matter of taking down the old TV and installing the bracket on it and then hanging it back on the wall mounted bracket. The cables that need to be connected to a Roku included TV are less than the old TV. I would not need my FireTVStick as Roku can access my Prime membership: My Netflix Account, Hulu, CBS All Access, YouTube, Crackle and dozens upon dozens of other Apps. So I connected what few cables were needed and fired it up.

The Roku app is built into the TV and so it comes right up when you hit the power button. The first thing was to get it to recognize my router. Straight forward, except it will not allow you to use the WPS button on top of your router to connect without a password. You will need to know your password for your router, and of course, if you are in a semi city area as I am, and have the same cable company as your neighbors do, you will need to know which router on the list is your router. This should be easy to do. First the program will list the strongest signal on top. That should be your router. If not look at your router and find the routers number on it and then compare that to the list. Type in your router password and it will connect and keep your router connected.

Once connected I had to open a Roku account. Credit Card or Pay Pal. It was easy to set up. The Pay Pal or Credit card are because there are in app purchases. But don’t worry. You will assign a four digit pin during setup and without that no one, kids, can charge anything to the account. After setting up the Roku account the screen refreshed on my TV and I was ready to set up my home page.

The rest was straight forward. You should have all of your account information for your other apps that you already have, such as Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, Pandora etc. As you install each app it will list it on the home page which is where your TV Will start each time. I installed mine and then I noticed that it had the Antenna connection listed and so I decided to install that too for my local channels.

I had purchased the antenna and put it up a few years back but the TV had no RF connection, only HDMI and so without a converter there was no way to use it. I had purchased CBS All Access to get local news just for that reason. I connected the RF from the antenna and clicked the button. It found my local channels and added them with no problem.

When I finished I followed the directions to move my icons around so I had them lined up the way I wanted them. Done. Let the fun begin.

Previously I had had to use three remotes to get around in the TV. Now just the one suffices and there are even hot buttons for Netflix and a few other apps.

The picture, although smaller seems almost as big with the loss of the huge frame on the older TV. The Roku app loads fast and the search feature is very useful. It knows what you already have and so if you search for something that is included on one of your apps it tells you so; if not it tells you where you can get it. It searches by Actor, Movie etc. I searched, for instance, for Robert De Niro. It returned a picture of him and all of his movies. Amazing.

The picture quality is good. The Blacks are black, the streaming was excellent, no issues. The load when you first turn it on is about a minute, after that everything is right there. Once loaded, when you hover over antenna it will show you what is on whatever antenna channel you left it on. What was better is that my mother, who is in her eighties feels confident enough to turn it on and go find what she wants to watch. Previously she would leave the TV off until I came in and changed channels, because with the TV remote, Fire TV Stick remote and the cable remote she would get lost, frustrated and quit or have to call me. I eliminated cable because the shows she wants are on the local channels or Hulu, and with the Roku app everything is in one place.

All in all I think this is an excellent combination of products. It works well. It does exactly what it says, and that is tough to find these days.

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.

………………………………

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?” …

………………………………

More? Check out the whole series at:

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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

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.

………………………………

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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