Category Archives: Horror

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…

New for the Holiday, free eBooks

Free eBooks you can download right now and through the holidays. Buying someone a phone? Tablet? Here are some free eBooks yo load it up with…

Author Dell Sweet:



Rocket: 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…

Get it free from these publishers:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/728792

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/rocket/id1245409334?mt=11

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rocket-dell-sweet/1127803268?ean=2940154403600

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/rocket-9


Earth’s Survivors: America The Dead: Begins the end.How could you look negatively at being able to live forever? Of course you would be dead, but other than that one small thing…. 

Get it free from these publishers:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/475763

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-begins-the-end/id918658946?mt=11

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123456002?ean=2940046165708

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/earth-s-survivors-america-the-dead-begins-the-end


Authors W. G. Sweet

Zombie fall is a collection of seven short stories including the title story Zombie fall. These stories have been best sellers on their own but never before offered in a collection. All these stories are short Zombie Fiction. 

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/274567

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-fall/id594797627?mt=11

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/zombie-fall-wendell-sweet/1114304085?ean=2940044250550

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/zombie-fall


Author George Dell

Earth’s Survivors: Apocalypse

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/515457

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-apocalypse/id963866999?mt=11

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-apocalypse-geo-dell/1129594134?ean=2940046551945

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/earth-s-survivors-apocalypse

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00YDAXFLE

Yellowstone, a preview from the author

YELLOWSTONE

Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet all rights reserved.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. 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 person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

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.


This excerpt contains graphic language and situations and has NOT been edited for content


    Jack and Maria

They had both been bothered by a feeling that they had been followed, or were being watched. It was unsettling, and they were constantly glancing around themselves as they walked, but they saw no one.

They were standing on the pavement of a car lot looking over a long line of vehicles, trying to decide which one to take, when the first shot came.

The side window of the truck directly in front of them imploded, covering the interior in small jewel-like chunks of glass. They both reacted instantly, dropping to the ground and rolling towards the rear of the truck.

When they reached the rear of the truck they both crouched low and sprinted deeper into the lot. Another shot rang out as they ran, and Maria watched as a wide hole was suddenly punched through the fender of a truck just a few inches ahead of her. She dropped to the ground and rolled over on her back, raising the machine pistol instinctively in front of her. It was all that saved her life.

Jack was still running deeper into the lot, not realizing Maria was no longer beside him. The sound of the machine pistols chatter behind him stopped him cold, and he turned and ran back toward the front of the lot.

When Maria had fallen, a tall dark haired kid had appeared from in front of the truck, and directly into the steel sight of the machine pistol. He raised what looked to be an automatic rifle, but before he could fire Maria began squeezing the trigger of the pistol, and it jumped and began to bark in her hands. Jack had just come up beside her, and watched as the man toppled over, nearly cut in two. The sound of screeching tires out on the roadway dragged his mind away from the still twitching body of the young man, and as Maria jumped up into a low crouch they both began to run towards the road. Jack stopped only long enough to pick up the automatic rifle from the ground where the man had dropped it.

When they reached the road a small Jeep was moving rapidly away from them, and a blond haired man, not much more than a kid, Jack realized, was crouched in the back aiming a rifle at them, while a dark haired young woman sat behind the wheel. They both dropped once more to the ground, and opened up on the Jeep as the young man began to fire. The slugs from the young man’s rifle ripped into the pavement, tearing huge chunks out of it close to Jack’s face as he fired back at the Jeep.

The blond haired kid suddenly bolted upright, and seemed to jump from the rear of the Jeep. He landed on the roadway, rolled, and then was still. Both rear tires blew out on the Jeep as Maria’s gun continued to speak, and before it had traveled far the young woman lost control, and it flipped several times rolling down the middle of the road. The young woman fell headfirst in a heap on the pavement where she had been thrown, and had then been rolled over by the Jeep as it continued to flip down the road.

Smoke curled up from the overturned Jeep. Within seconds it attracted a small circle of flames from under the hood that grew and began to curl up and lick at the rubber of the still turning front tires.

“You okay?” Jack asked, in a panicked voice as he looked at Maria.

“Aún estoy un poco… conmocionada… Good… A little shaken,” she amended.

They both walked slowly down the road to where the bodies of the young man and the young woman lay, they were perhaps twenty feet apart. Maria had thought that possibly the young woman might still be alive, but she was not. Her neck was broken, and they had quietly carried both bodies off the road and into a field before returning to the lot. They had debated briefly whether they should bury them, but had decided not to. It was not a decision made out of spite, but out of necessity. They had no idea whether the three were alone or not, and if they were not, and there were others close by, it might be best to get back to the lot, pick up a truck, and head back out to where the Chevy had broken down as quickly as they could.

They walked calmly back to the dealership, and went inside. They both felt safer inside despite the wide glass windows that fronted the road.

A huge four wheel drive Suburban sat on the showroom floor nestled in between other cars and trucks that surrounded it. It was obviously a heavy duty truck. It sat much higher than the pickup had, and the tires were much more aggressive, and the open cargo space behind the driver’s area would be an asset to them, Jack realized, much better than the open pick-up bed had been with its flimsy vinyl cover. He walked around the truck, noticing that it was also equipped with a winch as the pickup had been, but this one looked to be a lot sturdier to him, strictly heavy duty.

He walked over to a slightly raised area, where a board filled with keys spanned most of the rear wall behind a small, but long counter top. He gave Maria the keys to a convertible that was between them and the doors, and she moved it while Jack jockeyed the truck around until he managed to get it aimed at the wide glass doors set into the side of the building. He drove it outside, checking the gas gauges as he did.

The truck had dual tanks, and both of them were full. Not that they’ll last any longer than the pickups single tank, he thought, but he was still glad that they were full. They edged carefully around the still burning Jeep, and made their way slowly out of town and back to the pickup, watching the side roads as they went. They were both spooked.

When they were still more than a hundred yards from the pickup, they could tell that they’d had visitors while they were gone. Jack edged the Suburban up carefully to the truck and they searched the surrounding countryside, but decided whoever had been there was gone.

The truck was demolished. Someone or some-ones had attacked it with a vengeance. All the windows were smashed, and the black vinyl cover that had spanned the bed of the truck was slashed to ribbons. The tires had been flattened, and they had dented or punctured nearly every body panel. The camping gear, along with the rest of the venison, was gone. The map they had been using lay ripped and shredded across the front seat, which had also been slashed.

They only walked around the truck once, but it was enough. They both turned without speaking and walked back to the Suburban.

“Doesn’t matter,” Jack said once they were safely back inside the Suburban. “We can pick up more gear down the road. I saw a small sporting goods store about a mile back, it had a little shopping center right next to it.”

“I guess we don’t have to deal with the dead here because these people are here and killed or chased them off. But then we got to deal with people alive trying make more dead out the living… One or the other and no in between, I guess,” Maria said.

Jack shook his head slowly as they drove away.

When they reached the small sporting goods store he pulled as close to the front doors as he could. The parking lot looked deserted, but the dealership had also looked deserted, and he was taking no chances. They looked the huge lot over for better than ten minutes before they left the truck. He wished they didn’t have to stop at all. The sooner they were on the road the better, as far as he was concerned. He supposed it probably wouldn’t be any better stopping somewhere else though. They entered the store and took turns watching the lot as they picked up what they needed. Besides a handful of dead, all head shot, the store was empty. Maria looked over the bodies.

“I guess some archaeologist is going to dig all this up in forty thousand years, if we all survive and have to come up with some explanation as to why so many skulls show evidence of bullet holes… Makes me wonder what they’ll say… Religious practice? Sacrifices to Dios?” She asked.

“Hopefully they’ll never know what this was really about,” Jack said quietly.

By the time they had re-outfitted themselves it was nearly dark. The setting sun casting the lot in deep shadows, and Jack was glad he had parked the truck close to the doors. They debated staying. They could sleep right inside the small shop Maria argued, but Jack didn’t want to, and Maria’s argument was halfhearted at best. They both decided they would rather put as many miles as possible between them and the small town. In the end they left despite the descending darkness, and they did not stop that night at all.

Jack drove while Maria slept, and towards daybreak as they were nearing Fort Deposit the road disappeared into the water. They had stood looking as the sun rose higher into the sky. It was water as far as the eye could see. The air carried the tang of salt. They were both at a loss for words. Finally, Jack angled the truck down off the pavement, turned it around and drove back to an old logging road he had seen a few miles back. He dropped down off the pavement and followed the rutted road into a quiet, forested area and killed the hot motor.

They quickly set up a small camp in the sparse morning light, and then crawled into the tent. They held each other tightly as they drifted off to sleep.


         

Yellowstone: A disaster that may bring humanity to its knees. #Yellowstone #Volcano

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K62RMV3

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/yellowstone/id1441067513?mt=11

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/yellowstone-6

NOOK: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/yellowstone-wg-sweet/1129809358?ean=2940155864776

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/904314

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1730871143



 

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

 



 

Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 7

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.


Mexico NY: Joel and Haley

Early Evening

Joel had been able to pick up speed once they had left Mexico. The pavement was fairly even, but after the first three or four miles the traffic began to block the highway and they were down to a slow crawl. He could go no faster than ten miles per hour. There were several blind hills, and curves, and there were a lot of abandoned cars and trucks that seemed to be in the least likely places.

The four wheel drive had come in handy, as several times they had to go over the road and into a field, or someone’s yard to get around it. As evening fell they drove partway up the side of a concrete bridge escarpment and set up a camp. They were protected by the trucks, yet high enough to see in all directions.

NYS Route 104: Joel and Haley

Late Afternoon

By the time they reached the outskirts of Oswego the next day, they were ready to stop and rest. John pointed out a large shopping center on their left, and Joel pulled into the mostly empty parking lot and rolled up to the front doors of a large department store. “Thrifty Deal?” he asked John.

“Chain store,” John replied. “You can find a little of everything.”

The other two Jeeps pulled in behind them as they were getting out. Joel walked up to the front doors and tried to open them. “Locked,” he said.

“That’s okay,” Glenn smiled, reaching back into the Jeep. “I’ve got the key.” He handed the jack handle in his hand to Joel as he walked up to the glass doors.

“Well,” Joel said, “I guess here goes.” He swung the jack handle at the door and the glass shattered into millions of green-tinted crystals that skittered across the pavement.

“It’s my first real crime,” Joel said, turning around with a large grin on his face.

Just then a loud alarm began to whoop from within the store, and a split second later an even louder alarm, mounted in a steel box above the doors, began to bray into the quiet afternoon air. Joel, along with almost everyone else, had turned and began to run back towards the Jeep when it went off. The jack handle clattered to the pavement.

“Holy shit,” he sputtered.

Haley was doubled over laughing, leaning up against the Jeep for support. Joel looked at her stupidly for a few seconds and then smiled. Most of the others began to laugh as well, breaking the tension the alarm had caused.

“Y-Y-You,” she tried to say, but couldn’t stop laughing. “I thought you were going to have a heart attack, Joel,” she said, once she had gained some control. She held her stomach and began to laugh again. Joel began to laugh himself, along with everyone else.

“Well… it scared me at first,” he protested. He hadn’t been the only one, he knew. Glenn’s eyes had looked as though they were going to pop right out of his head, he recalled. He seemed to be all right now though.

Glenn walked forward and picked up the tire iron from the pavement. Standing on tip toe he pried the metal box open. He hit the large siren inside with the jack handle, until it finally screeched and then quit. The other alarm inside was still going off. He disappeared into the store, and a few seconds later that one stopped too. Glenn came back outside and peered sheepishly at the small crowd, most of whom had finally stopped laughing.

“If we’re gonna do this on a regular basis,” he said, “we better pick up some real burglar tools while we’re here.” Everyone laughed again, but the laughter died down quickly, and once it had they all crunched across the glass and into the store.

The power was off, it turned out. The alarm had been backed up by battery, and had apparently switched over automatically when the power went off. The mood changed once they had gotten into the store. Just the fact that no one did come when the alarm had  gone off would have been enough, but the empty store had also contributed its share to their somber mood. It served as a reminder that they still had met no other people at all. They had traveled over seventy miles and seen no one, and it reinforced what had happened in all their minds. No cashiers at the empty checkouts, no police cars screaming into the parking lot to see who was breaking in, there was nobody, anywhere, it seemed.

Although the power was off, the water was not, and they availed themselves of the employee showers after they had quickly moved through the store and picked out what they needed. They had gone together through the deserted aisles of the store, unwilling, or unable, to split up.

Joel, his hair still wet from the cold shower; dressed in a faded pair of jeans and a blue chambray work shirt, leaned up against the wall outside the rest room with the other men, and waited for the women to come back out. They talked quietly among themselves as they waited.

“You think Rochester will be the same as here?” Dave asked. He had seemed especially shaken by the alarm in the parking lot, and still seemed shook up over it.

Terry stood silently next to Glenn, tapping the heel of one work boot against the cinder block wall. “It does sort of seem like everyone is gone,” he said, as he stopped tapping the boot heel and straightened up.

“Could be,” Glenn said, solemnly. “It really could be, but I don’t think so. I think there are probably people right here in Oswego. They’re scared, is all. I can’t say as I blame them either, they don’t know any more about what’s going on than we do. Even if they saw us come in, I don’t think they’re about to come running up to say howdy. I wouldn’t,” he paused, before continuing. “If I saw a bunch of people come driving in, I’d probably want to stay away. No police means there is no protection, and they don’t know who we are, or even where we came from, or what we want for that matter. I think though, that there are people. Maybe it’s just going to take some time before we all get back together. I just can’t believe we’re it, I guess.”

“I have to agree with you, Glenn,” John said. “If we were to stay here a while, I would bet we would probably see someone. The curiosity would bring them out, I think.”

“I agree,” Joel said. “I was none too keen on approaching you guy’s back in Watertown either. I thought about avoiding you, as a matter of fact, just going in the other direction.”

“Glad you didn’t, Joel,” Glenn said. The other men nodded agreement as he spoke. “I can see though where a body wouldn’t want to. Especially since there was more than a few of us carrying guns, or rifles, at that point. I am glad you did though. I sure as hell wouldn’t have wanted to end up with that Brad Saser trying to take charge. He was already pushing it pretty hard. Probably would have shot him myself if he had tried, who in hell knows what a guy like him would do.”

“You don’t think they’ll follow us do you?” Terry asked.

“No telling,” Glenn said, “but I wouldn’t doubt it. Guy’s like him are all over though, and I suppose we’ll run into a few just like him eventually. Not much we can do except to be careful, I guess.”

“Think we’ll make Rochester tomorrow?” Dave, asked, as Gina and Jan came walking out of the rest room.

“It’s not far, only about another sixty, maybe seventy miles,” John answered, “but I doubt it. We will probably get there tomorrow or the next day sometime, depending on the stalled traffic of course.” He seemed to consider for a second. “Maybe longer. The stalled traffic is even heavier and it might be ten times worse than this once we get closer. I mean they may have also taken to the secondary roads, so there may not be any real way to get there in one straight shot anymore.”

“That’s about what I figure,” Glenn chipped in, “at least a few days.”

Haley and Lilly opened the door and walked out, and the small group prepared to make a meal and settle down for the night.

Everyone, at Glenn’s suggestion, had changed into sneakers or boots in case they ended up walking. They had taken the time to pick up extra clothes, as well as some more canned goods to replace what they had eaten, and Joel had found some Quick Cold in one of the side aisles.

Quick Cold had only become popular in the last couple of years as a retail item. Before that it had only been used by the medical profession, to transport anything that needed to stay cold, or frozen. Organs for transplant, fresh blood, and countless other things. The plastic bags contained a small stick shaped tube. Joel had filled three large coolers with soda and beer, and tossed in several of the bags after snapping the small cylinder within, to activate the chemical the bags contained. They had instantly frosted up and began to cool the warm cans. A few minutes later they rolled the trucks inside the store and built a fire for the night. Joel took the first shift of guard duty with Scott. Just inside the main entrance.

Oswego NY: Joel and Haley

Late Morning

They spent the morning scouring the store for useful items. After they had loaded the Jeeps, they had left the abandoned shopping center and began to work their way through the seemingly empty city, when they reached the first bridge they were forced to stop.

The bridge was still standing, that was not the problem. The problem was that it was packed bumper to bumper with wrecked and burned out cars and trucks. A large city bus also sat within the wreckage. Dave and Joel scrambled over the cars to see what had caused the huge accident.

At first it seemed that the wreckage went on forever. But as they neared the second bridge the problem became apparent.

The bridge, or more properly put, the twisted steel girders and huge chunks of concrete that had been the bridge, lay at the bottom of a deep gorge, partially submerged in the water. Reluctantly they scrambled back over the cars to tell the others that were waiting.

“Think we could move them?” John asked, as Joel and Dave returned. “I saw a wrecker back up the highway a bit; we could go back and get it.”

“Wouldn’t do any good,” Joel said his voice somber. “The second bridge is nearly gone. Even if it weren’t, I don’t see this one standing much longer either. We took a look at the underside from the other bridge, and a couple of the pilings are cracked pretty badly. I wouldn’t trust it. There is another bridge though, looks like only a couple of blocks over. It’s still up, but I can’t tell from here whether it has traffic on it, the sides are enclosed.”

“Which way, Joel?” Glenn asked.

“Looked like down a little way,” Joel said, pointing back the way they had come. “Take the next right, and it should be only a couple of blocks away.”

“Well,” Haley said, trying to sound positive, “let’s go find out.”

They piled back into the Jeeps, and after some careful maneuvering, managed to turn them around and head back the way they had come. Joel made the next right and started down the street, while Glenn and John, as well as Haley, watched for a bridge on the side Streets that bisected the one they were on. Joel had just slowed to cross a set of rail road tracks, when Haley suddenly yelled out.

“There!” she shouted, pointing down the tracks.

Joel looked in the direction she had pointed, which happened to be down the tracks.

“Shit, that figures,” he said, “a rail road trestle.”

The trestle was a newer one, and the sides were enclosed steel with concrete reinforcements. Probably why I didn’t realize it was a train trestle, he thought, and then said aloud. “Well that blows that, but there ought to be other bridges. This can’t be the only one.”

“Actually,” Glenn said, from behind him, “it ain’t necessarily bad news.”

“What do you mean?” Joel said, staring back down the tracks at the bridge.

“Well, just what I said. It’s still a bridge ain’t it? It’s not a rickety old wooden one either, solid steel and concrete, it’ll hold us, and it does cross the river right?”

Joel looked at the bridge doubtfully. “I suppose so, but… You think we could fit across it?”

“I’ve seen cars and trucks both on trains,” Haley exclaimed, “they would have to fit, or else how could they carry them on the trains without smashing the hell out of them?”

“Good point,” Glenn said, “how about you park this buggy, Joel, and we go take a look at the bridge.”

The other two Jeeps parked, and all of them walked off down the tracks to look the bridge over.

The wooden ties, and the tracks that lay upon them, were well supported. Heavy steel girders ran the length of the bridge, and were supported by massive concrete pilings sunk into the river bed far below. Joel peered down through the ties at the concrete. It was cracked in a few places, but all the pilings seemed still to be firmly anchored in the river bed. “Do you really think it would hold us?” he asked.

“If it will hold a train, Joel, it will hold us,” Glenn replied.

“I mean the cracks, wise ass,” Joel said. “The pilings are cracked. They seem to still be solid, but… I don’t know,” he finished lamely.

“Tell you what. You drive one, and John and I will drive the other two. Everybody else can walk across. I’ll go first even. If it looks the least bit shaky we call it off, and search for something else, okay?” Glenn argued.

Joel thought for a moment before he replied. It might be a good idea after all. Where else were they likely to find a bridge that wasn’t blocked off with traffic? The bridge did seem solid, and it couldn’t hurt to try he supposed.

“Okay, but I’ll start out. You watch, and you damn well better let me know real quick if she starts to go. I’ll be pretty pissed if you dump me and my new truck in the river,” Joel finished, smiling widely.

“Wouldn’t think of it,” Glenn said, solemnly.

“See you on the other side,” Haley said, and before Joel could reply she quickly kissed him. “For luck,” she said, a bit breathless. She turned and along with the others started walking across the bridge.

Joel watched her go. The kiss had taken him by surprise.

“Ah, Joel,” Glenn said grinning, “better close your mouth before the bugs start flying in.” Joel closed his mouth with a snap, and looking a bit embarrassed, walked off towards the Jeep.

John threw Glenn a wink, and they both walked out onto the bridge to wait. Joel started the Jeep, backed around, and drove slowly over the ties towards the bridge, straddling the rails as he went, and he was still thinking of the kiss as he edged slowly out onto the bridge. He looked across and saw Haley waving from the other side. He waved back and then brought his attention back to the truck.

“How’s she look, Glenn,” he asked out the open window, as he inched cautiously out onto the trestle.

“You might scratch the paint a little, but the deck didn’t budge a bit when you eased on to her,” Glenn replied. “I don’t think they brought too many auto-carriers across this deck though, more like freight cars. You only got a couple of inches on either side.”

“Well here goes nothing,” he muttered under his breath as he moved further out onto the bridge. “Still okay?” he asked.

“Good as gold,” Glenn replied. Joel was not entirely blocking the bridge, and Glenn and John squeezed by on one side of the truck. “We’ll be behind you,” Glenn said, as he paused at Joel’s window. “I’ll wait until you’re off, and John will wait until I’m off.” Glenn looked at both men as they nodded their heads.

“Let’s do it,” Joel said.

He eased off the gas and let the Jeep idle its way across the bridge. When he reached the other side he angled off the tracks, parked, and walked back to the bridge. He stood quietly beside Haley and watched until the other two Jeeps were across. As he stood next to her, he noticed how much more aware of her he was. Funny what a little kiss can do, he thought. In fact, he noticed, she seemed to be a little flushed, and with that thought, Joel began to wonder just exactly what the kiss had meant.

Oswego NY: Joel and Haley

Early Afternoon

Once they were back on the main road again, it was late afternoon, and by the time they finally reached the other side of Oswego, they had all agreed to stop for the day.

As they entered the small town of Martville, and pulled into a large field, Joel found himself wondering more and more what the kiss had meant.

They made a half-way decent meal out of the canned goods they carried with them, and once they tired of rehashing the day’s events, one by one they went off to find a place to sleep. They had sleeping bags, and rather than set up the tents they had also brought with them, they all agreed they would rather use the bags.

Joel watched as Terry walked off in one direction with Gina. Obviously something had sparked with those two, he thought. He sat talking quietly with Glenn and John, as well as Haley. When he finally said his goodnights, a few hours later, Haley got up, and saying goodnight, walked away by herself.

While Joel waited for sleep to come, he found that instead of thinking of all the bad things that had happened, he was thinking of Haley, and all the good things that could happen.

Route 104: Joel and Haley

Early Morning

The next morning they were on the road early. The going was still slow, but by noon they were on the outskirts of Alton, a small town about forty miles from Rochester. They were only thirty or so miles from Webster where they would turn off 104, and take route 250 into the small village of Fairport.

A run-down general store, with two old gas pumps sitting on a chipped concrete island, was all that marked the small town. The low speeds and constant use of the four wheel drive, had taken a toll on the fuel tanks of all three vehicles, so when Joel had spotted the small store as they passed a sign for the township limits; they had pulled off into the dirt parking area. The other two Jeeps followed him in and lined up by the pumps.

When Haley and Terry, along with Gina, had first picked up the jeeps, they had filled the tanks by siphoning gas from the dealership’s underground tanks. It had been a fairly easy process as Terry had worked at a gas station before, and had been responsible for, among other things, checking the levels of the tanks and comparing them on a daily basis to the numbers on the pumps to make sure they matched up. He had known where to look for them. The tanks were fairly simple to access. A long piece of hose slipped down into the tank had been adequate to siphon the gas into cans and then fill the Jeeps.

Terry had found a hand operated pump, mainly used to pump kerosene from cans into small heaters, at the department store back in Oswego, and, along with Dave, had adapted the crank operated pump to use it to pump gasoline. The adaptation had been simple. A long section of heavy hose had been slipped over the pumps short tube, and held in place with a small hose clamp.

One by one the Jeeps were pulled over next to the underground tanks, and quickly filled. Haley had been impressed with the idea. It was a lot better than the mouthfuls of gas they had swallowed filling the Jeeps back in Watertown.

After the Jeeps were gassed up they decided to take a short break and eat lunch. They were all getting sick of the canned meat, so they foraged through the small general store to see what was available. Once each had found what they wanted, they had carried it out onto the wide front deck to eat.

Joel sipped at a cold beer while he sat in an old wooden chair eating a large bag of chips. Glenn and John were talking quietly beside him.

“Where do you think the best place to go is?” Glenn asked of John. They had been discussing several places where people may have gathered. They were all hoping to find other people once they arrived in Rochester, but until now they had not discussed where to go once they arrived.

John answered. “Well, the compass is open. I think it would be a good idea to stay away from the North side though. The whole area has been run down for years, and I’m not so sure we’d want to meet anyone who was still alive in there.”

“That bad, huh?” Joel asked.

“Actually, more than that bad,” he replied. “When I was still living there, and still on the City Council, I remember we had constant problems there. The city was always being accused of not caring much about the north side, and to be honest it was based in fact to a certain extent. The city and the council, me included I hate to admit, did let it run down pretty much. Trouble was, when we tried to retake the neighborhoods we couldn’t.”

“Why?” Glenn asked. “Didn’t you have support from the neighborhoods?”

“Not really,” John said. “Don’t get me wrong. There were still a lot of good people trying to live there, but by the time the city stepped in, drugs had pretty much taken over. It got so the police couldn’t even go in there after dark. The drug dealers knew it and used it to their advantage. After a while… well, the good people who had tried to change things just left. The last time I was there, on Clifford Avenue, it was pretty bad. We, myself, and two other board members, decided to take a tour through some neighborhoods ourselves, to see just how bad it had gotten. We had to have a police escort, and even then we ended up seeing only a small part. Most of the neighborhoods were full of drug houses, prostitution, burned out buildings. I’ll tell you, truthfully, it scared me. That was one of the reasons I didn’t run again and ended up moving to Watertown.”

“A lot of parts of Watertown were like that too,” Joel said. “I got to the point where I really had begun to hate the place.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” John said. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not glad that this happened, but… who knows how much worse things would have gotten? At least now there’s a chance to start over again, maybe.”

“You know what really got to me?” Glenn asked. Both men looked at him waiting for him to speak.

“You know where Mobile Alabama is?” they both nodded. “Well, I was down there a few years back to see a buddy of mine I was in the Navy with. We were always telling each other we were going to get together and finally we did. So we were driving down Airport Boulevard, kind’a the main street so to speak, and I was, you know, sort of looking around out the window. Sightseeing, I guess you could say. Anyway, I see this young girl standing in the middle of the island that splits the lanes holding a sign. I figured it was one of those ‘Will work for food’ signs, but as we got closer I saw it wasn’t. I could also see she was pregnant, couldn’t have been more than sixteen or so. I asked my friend to slow down so I could read the sign. I couldn’t believe it.”

“Well, what did it say?” John asked.

“Well, it was misspelled, you know, but it said, ‘I’m pregnant and abandoned, please help me.’ I couldn’t believe it, so I asked my buddy to turn around and go back, but by the time he did she was gone. I couldn’t believe that things had come to that.”

“That’s bad all right,” Joel said. “I’ve seen the other signs, the food signs, but I’ve never seen one like that.”

“I haven’t either,” John said, “but I can’t say it surprises me a lot.”

“Well,” Glenn continued, “that wasn’t the end of it, two days later I picked up the paper and there was an article about her in it. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had seen her. The police had picked her up earlier, and told her not to stand there with that sign. That was in the morning, and it was afternoon when I went by, so she must have come back. Quite a few people had seen her back there in the afternoon, according to the paper. Well, the thing is that somebody did stop and pick her up, but not to help her. They found her body in the bay the next morning. If they hadn’t picked her up the day before, they probably wouldn’t have known who she was, but they did, I guess. The story said they had fingerprinted her, and taken pictures too. I guess they arrested her, ain’t that a slap in the face? Anyhow, that’s how they identified the body… I’ve always wondered about it. Who would just abandon her in the first place? I mean, being pregnant and homeless? I’ve always felt that I should have convinced my buddy to stop right there. Fuck the traffic, just stop and pick her up…”

“…So, I’ve gotten pretty sick of the world myself. It never seemed to stop, and it seemed that people kept coming up with more ways to be cruel. To tell the truth, I’m glad it’s mostly gone, I hated it that much.”

When Glenn finished they were all silent for a few minutes.

Joel thought about the food signs. How many times had he seen them? Countless, he guessed, but he had never stopped. He had been, well, sort of afraid to.

“I think we all made our share of mistakes,” Joel said. “I know I did. I wish I hadn’t, but I did. I guess maybe things are better, in a way,” Joel finished his beer, got up, and retrieved three cold ones from the cooler in the Jeep. He handed one to each of the men before he sat back down in the chair.

“So,” John said, easing back into the conversation of where to go once they arrived in Rochester. “North side is out I think, there’s no way I’d want to go back in there, especially now. East side is mostly old mansions; East Avenue, Park Avenue. West is made up of mostly poor neighborhoods and shopping centers, and farther out small business. South side is a mix, some places are as bad as the North side, and others are as nice as the east side. Farther out though, it’s all malls and big discount stores. I’d say downtown would be a good place to start looking.”

“Why?” Glenn asked.

“Just a hunch, I guess,” he replied. “But where did you go after it happened?”

“I see your point,” Glenn said. Downtown, Glenn thought, was the first place he had thought of going. It made sense to him that it should be the first place to at least check.

“We’ll have to walk, at least I’m pretty sure we will,” John said.

“I believe you,” Joel agreed. “A city that size has a lot of traffic I suppose.”

“Unbelievable,” John said. “An awful lot of it ends up on the Can-of-Worms, but its heavy downtown too. There are still a lot of small companies down there, so I’m fairly certain we’ll have to walk down. We should be able to get within a block or two of the War Memorial though, and that’s dead downtown. City Hall is across from that, and if there are people, that’s where they should be. Of course the only real way to find out is to get there and see.”

The small caravan pulled back out onto the highway and continued on a few minutes later. Long before they reached Webster the stalled traffic began to back up, and they lost a great deal of time winding their way through it, or where that was not possible, pulling into the center traffic divider to get around it.

Even the center divider, a narrow, sloped grassy area double the width of the two lane highway, began to fill up with stalled vehicles, and several times they were forced to get around some other way. Fortunately the areas along the highway were crowded with small restaurants, shopping malls, and gas stations; the closer they got to Rochester. And they all had feeder roads. Roads that were mostly empty now.

The parking lots were fairly empty, and they managed to get around the stalled traffic that way.

When they reached Webster it was nearly 6:00 PM, and a light rain had begun to fall. The exit and entrance ramps were packed solid with cars, and impassable: As a consequence they were forced to drive the Jeeps down the side of the steep escarpment to the road below. Some cars appeared to have either been trying to enter or exit using the wrong ramps, and the results had been catastrophic.

Most of the cars were crushed and blackened shells. A large gasoline tanker sat amid the wreckage. The tanker had apparently tried to exit the entrance ramp and had crashed and burned.

It looked as though gas, from the ruptured tanker, had spread the flames under the entire bridge, and everything had caught. Joel supposed that several of the cars gas tanks had probably exploded too, helping to fuel the inferno.

Once they had negotiated the steep and muddy embankment and driven out of Webster the stalled traffic eased up.

“Most likely everyone stuck to the main routes,” John said. “I’d hate to see what the Thruway looks like though, it’s probably packed tighter than a drum.” The others nodded agreement.

Even though the stalled traffic had lessened, they were still forced to detour off the road several times to avoid accidents or vehicles that seemed to have been abandoned in the middle of the road. It was well after 8:00 PM when they reached the four corners in the small village of Fairport, and the sky was beginning to darken. The rain was coming down harder.

Joel angled the Jeep into a deserted gas station and they all ran toward the door which had been left propped open, thankful they were out of the rain.

They were no sooner inside, when the rain began to pelt the tarmac outside in great sheets. The sky darkened rapidly, and a stiff wind kicked up, blowing the trash that littered the streets through the air.

Joel was staring out the wide glass window when suddenly the street lights began to glow. Within a few minutes they were all glowing brightly, illuminating the wind driven sheets of rain. Haley walked over and flicked on a switch next to the door, and bright fluorescent lights buzzed to life overhead. She clicked on several of the other switches next to the first one, and the outside sign, along with the pump islands lit up.

“Looks like you were right, Glenn,” Joel said. Glenn, grinning, blew lightly on his finger tips and rubbed them on his shirt. “Elementary, my dear Watson,” he said, still grinning.

He was still grinning a few seconds later, when Lilly began to point out the window and screamed excitedly.

“Look!” she exclaimed, “a truck, people!”

Everyone quickly crowded toward the windows to look out.

An older Chevy sat at the curb idling, its wipers throwing great sheets of water from the windshield. The darkened side windows gleamed, reflecting back the bright glare of the station lights. Lilly, and several of the others were waving through the glass in an attempt to get the drivers’ attention.

“Looks like a Suburban… Where did it come from?” Joel asked, puzzled.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I turned around and there it was. Aren’t they going to come in?”

“Maybe they’re afraid,” Haley said, shrugging her shoulders. “They must see us.”

Everyone stood silently for a few seconds staring out at the Suburban. It still sat at the curb, and it appeared to Haley that the person or people inside it were not going to come in. Just as she had the thought though, the car reversed, and began to slowly back up towards the entrance to the station.

When it reached the station entrance, it pulled slowly onto the edge of the pavement and stopped.

“What are they doing,” Terry asked, sounding slightly afraid.

Everyone else turned towards Joel expecting that he might be able to answer the question.

“I don’t know,” Joel said. “Could be they’re afraid, like Haley said.”

“Might be better to flick off the inside lights,” Glenn said, in a low tone of voice. “It doesn’t look as though they intend to say hello.” He peered out at the truck.

Haley reached over and flicked off the inside lights.

Almost immediately the Suburban’s headlights came on and it pulled ahead slightly, angling the beams into the station interior. The lights flicked up to high beams, flooding the interior in harsh bright light. Almost as soon as the lights had flicked up, the two front doors opened and two shadowed figures stepped out into the rain. The headlights were blinding.

“Listen, man,” One of the figures shouted in a deep voice. “You ain’t welcome here. You come into the city and you will get fucked up.” Silence held, rain drummed against the steel roof. The figures got back into the car. The headlights winked out.

Tiny spots floated in front of Joel’s eyes and he quickly blinked them away. The truck was backing slowly into the road, away from the station.

“What in hell are they doing?” Dave asked, looking at Glenn. “What the hell was that all about?” he asked again.

Glenn shrugged. “I guess we’ve been warned… I didn’t much like it, I can tell you.”

“I didn’t much like that either,” Joel said as he looked over at Dave. Glenn stood beside him, his eyes locked on the car.

Once the Suburban reached the roadway it pulled slowly up to the stop sign at Route 250 and once again sat idling, its lights still off. Joel tried squinting his eyes tighter, to see into the darkened side windows, but they were pitch black, like a limousine, he thought.

“What should we do,” Gina asked? Joel looked at her, and it was obvious she was frightened. In fact, he noticed, everyone, himself included, seemed frightened. Terry was the only one who had brought a rifle into the station with him and Joel noticed it.

“Terry, give me that,” he said motioning at the rifle.

“Be careful, Joel,” Glenn said, “No telling what they’re up to. I don’t know if it’s wise to go out there.”

“Don’t!” Haley said, turning to face Joel. She seemed on the verge of panic.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I only want to show them we’re armed… maybe they’ll take off. Think they’re armed, Glenn?” Joel asked.

“I don’t know, but who knows how friggin’ long they were sitting out there watching us, if they’d wanted to shoot us they could have easily. The lights in here probably lit us up like a damn Christmas tree,” Glenn stated. “I ain’t so sure you should be going alone if you’re going out there though. I’m going too.” Terry and Dave followed them out the door.

The four men advanced slowly toward the car in the pouring rain. The Suburban stayed put, its engine softly idling, and curls of white exhaust floating up through the sheets of rain. They stopped about ten feet from the still idling car, and Joel stepped to the front of the small group with the rifle clutched in both hands. He didn’t want to seem too threatening, but he wanted them to see the rifle.

“Hey, you in the car!” He shouted above the deafening roar of the rain. The taillights flashed briefly as if in answer, and a cold chill crept up Joel’s spine. He shuddered involuntarily. “What the hell is with these guys,” he muttered, to no one in particular.

“They are some kind of assholes all right,” Glenn whispered. Joel looked over and saw that they were all shaken. He tried again.

“Hey, what’s the problem?”

He had meant for the question to come out strong and loud, but it had not. Instead, the words had seemed to choke up inside him, and had sounded strangled when they had come out. The eerie feeling had gotten stronger, and Joel noticed that he felt an almost panicky urge to run back towards the station.

He looked at the others, and noticed they seemed to be panicked as well. What the hell, he wondered, as he fought to control the panic. He found himself suddenly raising the rifle and aiming at the car.

“Don’t shoot the bastard,” Glenn whispered.

“Don’t intend to. I just… I…”

Just after he began to lower the rifle, the Suburban’s headlights suddenly flicked on, and the rear tires spun on the slick pavement, smoking and screaming as they clawed for purchase. The engine whined higher in pitch and the big Suburban seemed to jump out into the intersection. Joel watched as it skewed around sideways on the wet asphalt and roared off towards Webster. A passenger leaned out the window and aimed a rifle at them.

The rifle in Joel’s hands bucked and the rear window of the Suburban burst inward in a spray of glittering black diamonds as it sped away. The shooter ducked back inside. Shapes moved and shifted in the back of the Suburban, maybe as many as half a dozen, Joel thought, maybe even more. No way to know, he decided. The pitch of the motor rose higher, and a few seconds later the taillights slipped out of sight.

“Christ.” Joel said, as his dry mouth tried to work.

“I counted at least eight with the driver and passenger,” Glenn confirmed.

Joel could still hear the Suburban accelerating in the distance over the sound of the rain as it sped away, and feel the heavy pounding blat of its engine in the pavement under his feet. The four men turned away and walked slowly back towards the station in silence.

Joel stopped at one of the Jeeps before they entered, and waited for the other three to catch up.

“Listen,” he said in a low tone, almost a whisper. “I don’t think it’s wise to scare the shit out of the others. Maybe we should tell them the back was empty. Agreed?”

Terry was still swallowing convulsively, but nodded his head up and down like a puppet. Glenn and Dave both mumbled agreement.

“Terry,” Joel hissed, “snap out of it. It won’t do any good if we walk in there with you looking like that.” Terry nodded and tried to calm down. “Maybe you can get Terry aside and talk to him, Dave.”

Just as Joel had finished speaking, the door to the station swung open, and the people inside poured out into the rain. Haley, looking badly shaken, walked towards them with her hands folded across her chest.

“They all had guns… The ones in the back, Joel,” she said. “I looked, we all looked, Joel…. When you shot out the back window.”

Her voice had risen as she spoke, and at the end she was nearly screaming. Joel pulled her to him and held her in the rain. To hell with it, he thought, keeping secrets was never one of my strong suits anyway. It’s probably better this way.

“Joel,” Glenn said. “I think it might be best if we stay here for tonight, instead of going into the city. I also think we ought to pull the Jeeps inside the service bays for the night… keep an eye on them. Probably ought to keep the rifles with us from now on too.”

“I guess you’re right, Glenn. Haley, why don’t you and the others go back inside and get the doors up. We’ll pull the Jeeps in… Okay?” She hugged him fiercely before she let go and ran back into the station. The three of them quickly drove the Jeeps into the service bays, and then locked the wide doors behind them. They locked the front door to the station as well, and they all walked back into the rear section of the garage bays by a small parts room.

Joel propped open the door to the parts room, and turned a small light on inside. The bulb was dim, but flooded weak yellow light out into the garage area, it was enough, he felt, if the Suburban came back he didn’t want them to be perfectly silhouetted inside the station by the florescent overheads in the garage bay.

Haley and Connie began to fix some cold sandwiches, while the others unloaded the sleeping bags and ice chests from the Jeeps.

Joel was into his second beer and his heart was just beginning to resume a somewhat normal beat. Terry walked back from the front of the garage where he had been staring out into the rain. They all half expected the Suburban to come roaring back at any second. The rifles were out of the Jeeps now. Close at hand, just in case. Haley and Connie brought a large stack of sandwiches over, and both grabbed a cold drink, sitting down as Glenn began to speak.

“This changes everything,” he said to no one in particular. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to just ignore it either.”

Joel took a deep gulp of the beer before he spoke. “I guess you’re right, Glenn and, it was stupid to think we should keep it to ourselves. I shouldn’t have suggested it.” He looked around at the small group of frightened people and his eyes locked on Haley’s as he continued to speak. “I thought it would shake everyone up for no reason,” he said. The argument seemed empty and somewhat foolish even to him. “Glenn’s right though. We started to discuss it back in Watertown, and didn’t. Maybe we should have…I don’t know.”

His eyes were sad, Haley noticed, and he shrugged his shoulders helplessly when he finished. Silence hung thick in the air for a few minutes until Glenn reluctantly began to speak again.

“I don’t pretend to have an answer for one,” he said quietly, as he looked around from one to the other. “I guess we can only go with what we know for now. What I mean is what we know from our own personal experience back in Watertown,” he waited but no one spoke.

Glenn continued. “I said before that I spent the night at the gravel pit, and I did, but I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. I was too keyed up. Hell, we all were. Whatever this is it looks a lot worse now than it did then. This little trip has proven that it was not a localized thing. Probably Rochester is gone,” he shrugged. “No way to know, but is it worth an armed fight to find out? That sounds nuts, right?”

“No… Sounds sane,” Joel said. “We knew this, I think. I think we knew this. Maybe not that it would go this bad this fast, but I think we suspected… Suspected is a good word.”

“Possibly,” Glenn replied. He shook his head. “No, most likely. Most likely subconsciously we knew and didn’t want to face it. I guess the pretending is over now though… Maybe that’s for the best before one of us gets killed taking too much for granted.”

Joel nodded. “I… No, Glenn, I don’t think you’re nuts, if you are then we all are. I think the world ended. I mean the sensible part we all understood. I don’t know what in hell this part is… I mean there has got to be some way to explain or at least understand this.”

“You just did,” Haley said quietly from beside him.

“She’s right, Joel,” Glenn said, “You did. I don’t think this is a rational or predictable world anymore. If it isn’t, then all that’s left, Is simply survival or,” he motioned toward the outside, “Death… Let those people tell you how to live… Or Worse. There is no in between anymore, no walking the fence, the gloves are off, just one or the other.”

“So what’s next?” Gina asked, expectantly.

“If I knew that,” Glenn answered. “I guess I would be God. I’m not, so I don’t know…”

“…Just to make my position clear though, I don’t intend to start waxing religious, but you can bet that I might just start praying. It used to seem superstitious to me. Not anymore. Now it seems important.”

Silence hung in the air for a few moments, and Connie spoke up. “But what should we do? Should we go back, or go into Rochester, or should we maybe go somewhere else?”

“I think that question needs to be answered by all of us individually,” Glenn replied calmly. “It’s not a question one person can answer, and we’ve pretty much stuck together so far, I can’t see splitting up if there’s a disagreement. I think we all need to decide together.”

“I don’t see any reason to go back to Watertown,” Lilly said

“I agree,” Dave joined in.

“There’s nothing there for us,” Amber said.

One by one they all voiced their opinions, until only John, Haley, Joel and Glenn were left.

“I don’t see the sense in it,” Joel said quietly. The remaining three nodded their heads in agreement.

“So… do we go into Rochester, or somewhere else?” Glenn asked softly as he looked around the cramped garage.

“I for one would hate to think we came all this way for nothing,” John said. “I vote we go. If it’s bad,” he shrugged his shoulders, “we get the hell out and go somewhere else.”

Glenn looked back at the small group. “Well?”

Silently, they all nodded their heads in agreement.

“That’s that then,” Glenn said. “We’ll go in the mornin’,” he paused. “Tonight though, I think we need to keep watch. I’m going to take the first watch, who’s next?”

“Me,” Scott said.

“I’ll relieve you,” Dave said, “just get me up when you get tired.”

“That should see us through the night,” Glenn said. “…I think it’s best if we all sleep in here tonight, and on this side, behind the trucks. It might be a bit crowded, but I don’t want to take any chances.” Glenn finished, picked up his rifle, and headed towards the glass enclosed front of the gas station, and the small group began to break apart. Haley spoke up, after most of the others had drifted away.

“Joel?”

“Ssh,” he said, as he put a finger over her lips, “no need.” He led her away and they pushed two sleeping bags together in front of one of the Jeeps.

“Joel?” she said, “I just need to be held.”

“I know,” he said quietly. “I need to hold you.” He took her into his arms and held her as he tried to push the thoughts that wanted to crowd his mind away. Haley slipped off to sleep quickly, but sleep eluded Joel. He lay quietly thinking, still holding her, until he drifted off to sleep himself much later.


More? Check out the whole series at:

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

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

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.

………………………………

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:

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