Category Archives: Nook

Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 5

EARTH’S SURVIVORS

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

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet

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LEGAL

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

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

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

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THREE

Joel and Haley

The Tug Hill Plateau

Early Morning

The camp was a makeshift place off an old logging trail. It was dry under the pines where they had set up camp, but the logging road had flooded over, the water had receded, and now the road was a quagmire of mud steaming in the early morning sun.

They had encountered no major obstacles on the way in. Joel knew the way. The road was cracked in a few places, flooded in a few others, but only a few inches of water. The major stuff had held off until they had arrived and settled in.

The last few days had bought rain, snow, and what felt like earthquakes or explosions far away. Heavy vibrations they could feel through the pine needle covered ground. No one was sure what they really were, but they were all worried about it.

They had made up their minds late last night, when the rains had stopped to get out of the woods, but the two new trucks they had driven in would not start. Joel’s old truck turned over and started fine. They had spent most of the sunrise checking over the two trucks, but they found nothing wrong with them. The batteries were up, the starters turned over, but they would not fire. There was no spark at the plug. Scott and Glenn who were both mechanics were puzzled over what could be causing it.

“If we go, most of you will get stuck in the back of my truck… No other way for it,” Joel said.

They had spent a great deal of the last few days wondering what was going on in the world. Twice, slow moving cargo planes had overflown them. They had seen no markings on the wings, but they had both been painted the olive drab of army equipment. The battery powered radio they had listened to had stopped working. Their wristwatches, cell phones, the two trucks, all dead. The had wondered about a Nuclear blast, maybe that was what had happened to the electronics.

Scott nodded. “Maybe that is the deal though. Your truck is old, no electronic brain… Maybe we could find another like it… Or two.”

“If it was a nuke, would it knock out electronics like that? And wouldn’t we all be sick right now?” Amber asked.

“Not necessarily… If it was it wasn’t close, so it would just depend on which way the wind was blowing,” Haley said. “Electronics? I have heard that, but I don’t know. Makes me wish I paid attention to all of that apocalypse stuff on the internet.”

“A dirty bomb… I think that’s what they called it, but it could have been that meteor… I think I read once that a near miss could be as bad as a direct hit. Mess things up the same as a nuclear bomb.” Glenn shrugged.

“But they said that would miss us completely,” Ed threw in.

Dave nodded, “Maybe it didn’t. Wouldn’t be the first time they said something that turned out to be bullshit.”

“What? You don’t trust your own government,” Amber asked in mock surprise.

“Yeah… Well, either way we’re back to sticking it out here or going back to Watertown to see what’s going on… Or somewhere else for that matter,” Joel threw out after a few moments of silence.

“I say we go back… Maybe the guard is there, or has been there.,” Amber said.

“Can’t hide out up here forever,” Ed agreed.

“We’ll run out of food… At the least we have to stock back up,” Scott added.

Glenn nodded. “With more too… We don’t know how long this is going to be.”

“Or if it still is,” Haley added.

“There is that too,” Glenn agreed.

“At the least then we should go back and stock up. I mean if no one is there, we can stock up, come back here if it’s bad and decide what to do… Get on with the old life if there is someone there,” Terry said.

“Who wants the front seat… Two,” Joel asked.

“Probably the girls,” Dave said.

“Why is that,” Haley asked.

“What?” Dave asked.

“Why the girls,” She shook her head before he answered. “Well, I’m not a girl. I’m a woman. It was a rough road to become a woman, and I don’t want to be called a girl.”

“Hey… Peace. I didn’t mean anything by it,” Dave said.

The silence held for a few minutes.

“Well, let’s get this place picked up… I guess store everything in the other two trucks… Maybe we’ll come back for them,” Joel said.

“Maybe not,” Glenn added. “So bring what you want to keep, only make it a small amount.”

Joel nodded.

A half hour later Joel drove the old truck down the logging road, sticking to four wheel drive and the sides of the road where he could. Twice he had had to make everyone get out and then take a run at a particularly bad section of road before they all climbed in once more. It was late morning before they found route 177. A short time later they found route 11 and headed back toward the small city of Watertown.

Watertown: Joel and Haley

Late Afternoon

The city was a mess. Buildings toppled, streets blocked off with debris, no power and no people out on the streets that they had seen. It had taken most of the early afternoon to work their way back to Jacob’s Superette. They had all wondered more than once why they were bothering to go back there. A place to start, Joel had finally decided, and everyone had agreed. If they had not left that is probably where they would still be, riding out this disaster.

Joel had wheeled the truck up next to the closed doors and they had all climbed out of the truck. The doors were closed and reinforced from the inside. Twice they had seen movement behind the stacks and pallets that had been used to barricade the wide and tall front windows, but no one had opened the doors or answered their calls. They had finally decided that even if they did open the doors they didn’t want to be there. There were plenty of other places in the city that could offer as much, maybe even more.

“We need better weapons,” Haley said as Joel drove. She had changed from the back to the front as they were leaving the market. She sat in the center, Glenn on the other side of her.

“Why?” Glenn asked.

“Because that place creeped me out. Who doesn’t open up to let someone in? Why did they close it all off? What if they have weapons and decided that not answering us wasn’t good enough? What if they had opened up on us? We wouldn’t be discussing this now, that’s for sure.”

“Jesus,” Glenn said.

“Yeah,” Haley said.

“Creeped me out too,” Glenn agreed. “Guess we can’t pretend the whole thing’s going to be fine any longer.”

“Guess not,” Joel agreed.

“Haley is right then… Better get ourselves to a place where we can stock up… Get some trucks, guns and get out of here.”

“What about that wholesale place out across from the mall,” Joel asked.

“Might be the same, but we can try it. Probably have what we need,” Haley agreed.

“Better let the others know,” Glenn told her. Haley turned, slide the rear window of Joel’s truck open and Amber leaned near. A second later she closed the slider and watched as Joel slowly picked his way through the downtown streets and headed for the outskirts of the city.

The Outskirts of the city: The Mall

Against all odds the outskirts of the city seemed completely deserted. At least at first glance. The wholesale place was deserted, the doors barred, chained and locked. A little work with the tire iron from Joel’s truck freed up the chains and a nudge from the nose of his truck shattered the heavy glass doors. Joel and Ed pulled the doors aside and Joel drove the truck in, crunching over the safety glass.

“Might be safer inside,” Glenn said as Joel turned the truck around, narrowly missing one check out aisle and faced back toward the doors.

“I think we’re stuck here for the night,“ Joel said. Stock up, get whatever else we need in the morning and head out. Little gun shop across the street… Truck dealership over at the mall across the street… Should be easy to get what we need.” He levered the door handle and stepped down to the ground.

“Company,” Dave said as Joel turned toward the opening.

“Seven or eight… Came out of that strip mall entrance way across the street,” Terry added.

Joel turned to Haley. “Shotguns… Rifles in the sporting goods’ area.” She nodded as she and Amber sprinted toward the middle of the store.

Company:

The small crowd of people was armed, Joel saw, long before they actually reached the wide street and crossed over into their parking lot. Behind him, in the store, he had heard the sound of breaking glass several times. Presumably Haley and Amber breaking open display cases.

“Think they can see us in here?” he asked.

“Probably too dark,” Glenn answered as Haley and Amber came back with their arms loaded down with high powered rifles and shotguns.

“Careful,” Haley said, her breath coming fast. “These are loaded.” A small line of blood ran away from one knuckle as she passed Joel a rifle that looked like it would be more at home in a war.

“You’re hurt,” Joel said.

Haley laughed. “Just glass from a case… It’s nothing.”

“Not a girl,” Joel said

“Or even close,” Haley agreed with a smile. She stepped close to the front of the entrance way, still deep in shadow, but just behind the shattered doors.

There were a dozen of them when they came to a stop just thirty feet away from the doors. Women and kids, the old man and a younger guy hanging toward the back. The two men and three of the women were armed.

“We know you’re in there,” The lead man shouted out. He was an older man, short silver hair, thin, the ragged remains of a suit hanging from his shoulders. “We don’t want trouble… Just company… Safety… The nights are pretty bad now. I guess you know.” He made to step forward again.

“No… Right there is fine,” Haley said.

The man stopped. “I told you, we come in peace.” The man said as she stepped from the shadows. Scott moved out with her and a second later Amber and Joel joined her. Joel motioned to the rest to stay inside.

“Every bad alien movie I ever saw started just exactly that way,” Haley said.

“Is that what you think?” The man asked. “Aliens? Well, I’m no alien… I don’t know what happened but I don’t think it was alien, or aliens, unless you count the meteor that might or might not have hit us. And I’m obviously not one of the gangs or I wouldn’t be out here in the daylight talking to you.”

The silence held a long time.

“You hear me?” The older man said.

“I heard you,” Haley agreed. “What do you mean one of the gangs? Not one of the gangs?”

The man laughed. A short hard laugh that had nothing to do with amusement at all. “Are you serious?”

“If I wasn’t serious I wouldn’t have asked,” Haley told him.

“But… Okay… Why can’t we do this in there? Look at what I have here… A handful of scared mothers with a few children. The young guy at the back is okay. Why don’t we do this in there. I don’t like being out in the open. It’s just the gangs we have to worry about.” He looked off in all directions as he talked.

Haley looked over the group and then over at Joel. “Nothing we can’t deal with,” Joel agreed. Her eye’s met Amber’s and then Scott’s. They both nodded. “So you know, there are more of us inside. Don’t be stupid.”

“Wouldn’t think of it,” The old man agreed. “John,” he said.

Haley just nodded and motioned him forward.

Early evening

They were all gathered around a small fire that Glenn had started for heat and light. The nights were still cold. Glenn had built the fire in an empty fifty five gallon drum they had rolled out from the back. It the smoke detectors had still been working they would have had trouble, but as it was the smoke just gathered high up in the steel rafters and found it’s way to the outside from there.

“What do you know,” John asked. “That might be a better place to start.”

“Practically nothing,” Glenn answered. “We all met downtown a few days back… Earth quake… Meteor. Everything wrecked and no answers.”

John nodded. “Okay,” He rested his head in his hands for a moment, and then looked up. His eyes were red; the bags under his eyes bruised and heavy. “The second. It happened overnight, the first, the end of the first. I don’t know what it was, anymore than you do, but I suspect the meteor they said would miss us didn’t. Maybe that started a whole chain of events. So, aliens? No. I think our own government did us in though. I can see your view too, because there is something alien about it. About the way we would view it, the way you would view it. Yesterday the planes came over. Big Cargo planes. Sprayed blue stuff over the entire city. We thought for sure we were done right then, but whatever that was it didn’t kill us, didn’t seem to do anything to us… But I wonder, I really do…” He seemed to zone out for a second.

“John?” Glenn asked quietly.

He laughed. “Sorry. I need sleep. Sleep is what I need. Gangs,” he took a deep breath. “This city, most of the cities I’ve been hearing about on the CB are controlled by Gangs now. They’re out all night rounding us up. The other survivors…” He frowned heavily. “I’ll be straight, not much use for other men… ‘Less they think like them. Not much use for the children either. Women, gas, cash,” he laughed again. “They seem to think a day will come when it will all be worth something again.”

“You don’t?” Haley asked.

“I don’t,” John agreed. “I think somebody mucked up badly… I can’t believe it was all an accident. Washington? Dead. L.A.? Dead. New York? Dead as well. There have been reports of the President being killed. In the end the Secret Service deserted him. The few that remained fled. The whole thing fell apart. And it’s no better in other countries from what I have heard on the CB. Some of it could be exaggerated… Could be fear talking… But I don’t think so. I think most of it is absolute truth. I think it all failed and we’re on our own. That’s what I think.”

Haley looked over as Amber sprang to her feet and walked away into the darkness of the store. “I’ll be back,” Haley said. She got up and followed.

“I appreciate the truth, John,” Joel said.

John nodded. “Upset us too. Nothing for it that I can see.”

“Where are you from,” Joel asked.

“Rochester… Haven’t heard much from it except there is a glow to the west… Could be they still have power there.”

“Hey inside!” This from the parking lot that was now edging quickly toward twilight.

“Shit,” Scott said. “Forgot all about that.” He jumped to his feet and headed to the opening, Joel right behind him.

“Guess we’ll have to post a guard or something,” Joel agreed. He stared out at two small groups that stood in the darkness looking around at the deepening shadows. Scott spoke.

“What is it you want?” Scott asked.

“What is it we want? Are you kidding me? We want in there, out of the cold, the night.” The guy was tall and dirty looking in the darkening light, but Scott supposed they all probably looked a little rough. “Talking like that ain’t gonna get you in here,” Scott told him. “In fact it will get you an invitation to hit the road.”

A woman who was leading the second group, off to the right of the first group spoke up. “Look, man. We’re all on edge right now. We just want to share your shelter. Manny is not so good with diplomacy.”

“Manny?” Scott asked.

She nodded to the other group, “Manuel… Manny.

“These groups ain’t bad,” John said from beyond the doorway, hidden in the shadows.

“You vouch for them?” Joel asked.

“No… I won’t go that far. I will say I have seen them around… They are not part of the gangs that are all over the place at night in the city. Not these two.”

“Good enough for me… Ed? Scott? Anyone else have an objection?”

“We’ll just watch them kind of close,” Dave said.”

“Okay… Well, somebody better go get Amber and Haley… Just to be safe.” He turned back to the parking lot and the two waiting groups. “Slow,” he called out. “Slow and keep those rifles pointed down.”

March 6th

Watertown: The Mall

Joel and Haley

Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If any of it runs,” Scott had added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ed, Dave?” Glenn asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh yeah?” the kid glared at Joel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ain’t that stealing?” someone asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four remained waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I agree,” Scott said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I feel about the same,” Glenn said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

………………………………

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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 4

EARTH’S SURVIVORS

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

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

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

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

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

………………………………

TWO

March 2nd

New York: Watertown

Joel and Haley

Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What the hell is going on?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel shook his head.

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

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

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

“Is your husband here?”

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

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

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

Joel looked around at the street.

“It happened all at once?”

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

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

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

“Mine’s off too,” Joel replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They wondered about the rising temperature as they walked.

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

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

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

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

“No… Syracuse, before that Texas.”

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

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

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

She stopped. “Get out, really?”

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

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

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

March 2nd

Joel and Haley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Haley asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wha-What?”

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

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

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

“Glenn,” he asked, “is that you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glenn paused and looked around at the destruction.

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

“Gone,” Joel agreed.

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

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

Glenn looked expectantly towards her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus please us,” Joel said.

“Amen,” Haley agreed.

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

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

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

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

“So what do we do then?”

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

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

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

“What did you find out?” Joel asked.

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

Joel and Haley both nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve heard of that too,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They all three shook their heads in agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s that,” Joel asked.

Haley answered the question for him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What else did he say?” Joel asked.

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

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

“Jesus,” Joel whistled softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel nodded.

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

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

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

They looked back at Glenn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacob’s Superette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glenn nodded.

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

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

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

“Smart,” Scott said.

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

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

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

“I’m on that,” Scott agreed.

Dave Jackson and Ed Weston agreed.

“I make that all eight?” Joel asked.

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

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

“I’m open,” Haley replied.

“I’ll go,” Amber said.

“Me too,” Scott added.

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

………………………………

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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 2

Earth's Survivors Weekly Serial presentation - 2

EARTH’S SURVIVORS

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

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet

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

 

LEGAL

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

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

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


Watertown Center New York

Shop and Save Convenience store:

Haley Mae

1:30 AM

“Last one,” Neil said.

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

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

“Who’s next?” Don asked.

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

“Haley Mae,” Neil said.

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

“EM. A. E,” she said with a smile.

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

“Japanese,” she told him.

“Nice name,” Neil said, “Haley.”

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

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

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

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

“Nothing,” Neil supplied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go out with her?” Don asked.

“No… Never… I…”

“Don’t swing that way?” Don added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haley laughed.

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

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

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

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

“I can do that,” she said slowly.

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

“Jimmy Vincioni,” Haley asked.

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

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

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

“Beautiful,” Neil said.

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

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

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

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


ONE

March 1st

Watertown New York

Off Factory Square: Joel Morrison

5:00 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Joel, you ready?” Mort asked now.

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

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

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

“Vacation?” Mort yelled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me too,” Joel agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

Haley

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But,” I started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s late. Creeps around maybe.”

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

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

I nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. I let the Doll remark go.

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

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


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Earth’s Survivors Weekly Serial presentation – 1

Earth's Survivors Weekly Serial presentation - 1

EARTH’S SURVIVORS

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

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet

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LEGAL

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

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

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


PROLOGUE

Route 81 rest-stop

Watertown New York

April 20th

1:00 am

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

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

Both men stopped and looked from him to the sign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” The man asked.

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

“Really,” the first guy repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not tonight, Michael.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s going to hit us?” John asked.

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

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy said.

John nodded in agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alice,” he said.

“Um hmm,” Alice murmured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


More? Check out the whole series at:

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


 

The Earth’s Survivors series on Nook

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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



 

Earths Survivors The Zombie Killers: Origins by Dell Sweet

Earths Survivors The Zombie Killers: Origins

Overview

Earths Survivors The Zombie Killers: Origins by Dell Sweet

THE ZOMBIE KILLERS: ORIGINS

Bear
August 4th

We were down along the river checking over some of the old buildings that are perched on the cliffs there, high above the water. Fall was not far away, and we knew we had to get moving, get out of this dead city. We had half the country to cross and find a place before winter came back around again.
We had left the others in our place off the park – an abandoned factory building I had found after I had lost Donita – and struck out looking for food earlier that morning. With the park and its crowds so near to us, the shops and small stores for blocks around us were stripped clean. Another reason to get out of the city. It was time. I remember thinking that as I walked along.

I was thinking back to March as I walked. Not really paying attention to the walk, where I was going… March… Just a few months ago, but the world was still the world then. And for the next little while there, we didn’t even know about the dead. Dead was still dead. When you closed your eyes for the long eternal sleep you didn’t wake up a short minute later as something else. No. We were ignorant up until they decided to come after us. Ignorant. Stupid. Didn’t know a thing. Didn’t have a clue.
I had been in Central Park a few days after the first earthquakes hit. I had left Donita alone and went down on my own to see what the deal was. I found out nothing. No one knew any more than any one else. There was a lot of speculation, but that was it. There had been earthquakes. It had rained hard for nearly twenty four hours straight. The really freaky stuff hadn’t happened yet. We were just starting down our new path, but what was clear was that thousands of people had died in the city, maybe more than thousands, maybe a million or more. And certainly millions if the damage here was the same across the country… or worldwide.

And my initial estimate turned out to be a kind. In the city alone: collapsed buildings, fires, exposure to the elements because there was no shelter. There were millions of bodies. It was not so bad in those first few days, but a few days later, when the smell of the dead rotting under the rubble began, it was horrible. The diseases started then too. And the diseases took thousands more, and we thought that was the end of it, but it was not. The dead came next. The same dead, newly risen to some other sort of life. But that day in Central Park I did not know about the dead yet. I had no idea what was ahead; what was before me was bad enough…

The Zombie Killers are the men and women who keep the new settlements safe for the other Earth’s Survivors. Those in the Nation and those in the Fold, and the many independent colonies that would not be able to exist without their help and intervention. They are the ones who search out supplies, fight the Zombie Plagues and live in the constant danger of the real world so that the others can live in the safety of their settlements.

In this first book they come into their own as a team and set themselves on the true course that they will follow from then on, with one mission only: To wipe out the Zombie Plagues infesting the world and make it a safe place to live and die once more. Whether through fighting them or finding the reason and the cure for the Zombie Plagues that have infested the world.


Read More: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-the-zombie-killers-dell-sweet/1123356143



EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE

EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE

Based on the series by W. G. Sweet

Episode 1

PUBLISHED BY

independAntwriters Publishing

AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE

Copyright © 2013 by independAntwriters All Rights Reserved

Writers: W.W. Watson, Geo Dell, W.G. Sweet, G.D. Smitty


This book, in this blog format, is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share this book with another person please point them to this blog entry. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This material is not edited for content and is rated 18+


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

This novel is Copyright © 2013 independAntwriters. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission.

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


EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S – AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE


CHAPTER ONE

June 1st

We were down along the river checking over some of the old buildings that perched on the cliffs high above the water. Summer was coming on full and we knew we had to get moving, get out of this dead city. We had half the country to cross and find a place before winter came back around again.

I was thinking back to March. Just two months ago but the world was still the world. And for the next little while there, we didn’t even know about the dead. Dead was still dead. When you closed your eyes for the long eternal sleep you didn’t wake up a short minute later as something else. No. We were ignorant up until a few weeks ago when they decided to come after us. Ignorant. Stupid. Didn’t know a thing: Have a clue. We didn’t know what the blue shit the government planes sprayed us with right after everything went to hell was. And I am still not convinced I know all there is to know, but I suspect things. I have been told things. I met a guy a few weeks back that said he worked at the Army base. He knew what it was. What I do know was it was designed to strengthen us. Keep us alive a little longer. Make us stronger somehow. Some dip shit scientist’s idea.

I suppose it was meant as a help for us. A help. The world slowed down, fell apart, everything stopped working. They knew they couldn’t get to us. We would die. So they sprayed the blue shit on us. And I could suppose further that some of us survived the last few months because of it. I can’t prove it but I suspect it did help us evolve into… I don’t know.. Whatever the hell we are now. I know we’re alive? I know our hearts beat. I still feel human and I truly think I am still human. If it made changes to the living they are very small changes… At least so far.

But the dead. Oh, the dead. That’s a different story. It did something else to the dead.

I walked along thinking my thoughts. I was lost in them, I’ll admit it. We were right in front of a line of cliffs that overhung the water, spread out a little, at least I was. It’s funny how you can forget to be careful so Goddamn fast. It was somewhere past midday when they came for us.

Mason! Mason!

Emma from a hundred yards down. The panic and fear in her voice made my heart leap into my throat, and because of her fear, and probably some of my own, I did a really stupid thing right then that cost me time. I was so panicked that I threw my rifle down and sprinted towards the sound of her voice. I got maybe twenty feet when the realization of what I had done hit me. It would have been comical to see the way I locked my legs up and tried to turn around ,before I had even come to a stop, if it had not been so Goddamned serious.

I had the rifle back in my hands, the safety off, just a fraction of a second later when Emma and Madison opened up on the UN-dead closing in on the mouth of the cave on the narrow trail up from the river. I added my fire to theirs before I had run another fifty feet and their leader, a shambling wreck of a corpse folded up and then flopped over the side of the trail and down into the river. I continued to run as I fired and was shocked to realize that I was screaming at the top of my lungs as I closed in.

Goddamn-son-of-a-bitching-goddamn-bastards,dead-fuckers!” All strung together, fear words. I did not hear them at first so I did not know when they started, and I could not shut them down once I did hear them, the panic and fear were just too hot.

I watched as, unseen by Emma and Madison a Zombie crouched on a narrow path above them swiveled his rotting head to me, seemed to take my measure with a wide, yellowed grin, and then dropped from the ledge on to Madison’s back.

No! Goddamn-son-of-a-bitches-dead-bastards-bastards!” I could not say Madison Look Out!Or speed up my feet or any other damn thing. Time had slowed, become elastic, strange, too clearly seen… The Zombie hit her hard and she folded like an accordion and was driven into the ground, a few hundred pounds of animated corpse riding her down into the dirt. Clawed hands clutching, mouth already angling to bite…To taste her…

I was still thirty or more yards away. I could not see how that could even be possible. I should have been closer but I was not. I saw Emma turn, panicked, take her eyes off the other UN-dead, and start towards Madison. Unchallenged the other Zombies closed ground far faster than they should have been able to. I saw the Zombie on Madison take a mouthful of her back and rip the flesh away from her spine. Emma’s rifle came up and barked and the zombie blew apart, raining down on Madison like a storm of red. Somehow I managed to switch to full auto, get my rifle up, and spray an entire one hundred round clip into the other Zombies where they rushed along the path towards Emma and the fallen Madison.

Madison screamed. Time leapt back into it’s proper frame and I found myself five feet away as Madison arched her back, screamed, and tried to stand. Blood ran in a perfect river from her gaping wound, across the white of her T-Shirt and down to the waist of her jeans.

I think… I think…” Madison tried.

Baby… Baby,” Emma sobbed. She dropped to her knees and pulled Madison to her. “Oh, Baby… Baby,” Emma sobbed.

I looked back up at the trail. Empty. At least of moving UN-dead. Three or four, it was hard to tell with the tangle of legs and arms, lay dead on the pathway. Silence descended. I heard a bird in the trees above calling as if nothing was wrong with the world. Emma sobbing. Madison crying, hysterically. The wind moaning through the empty buildings of the downtown area, which was set just back from the cliffs and the river on this side of town.

I was thinking… “That wind is colder. Colder even than when we started out this morning. Fall is here. Maybe it will slow those bastards down… We will be okay… My, God… They bit Madison… They BIT Madison!!!” I sagged to the ground my mind full of confusion and numbness.

Emma was sobbing uncontrollably, Madison had lapsed into shock. I was sitting crossed legged wondering where in Hell this would all end up, my rifle fallen from hands and laying on the ground next to me. Time spun out. Dragged. Seemed elastic once more, sticking in places and jumping ahead from those places to where it should have been had it continued to run properly.

Emma sobbing, holding Madison up. Kissing her forehead. Telling her how much she loved her… How she was her world… Madison… Eyes rolled back in her head… Face pale… Fine beads of sweat standing out on her forehead… Her back a bright slick of red running across Emma’s hands where she held her. Slowing… Slowing… Emma mouthing words in such slow motion that I could not understand what she said… Madison’s body sagging, eyes rolled up to the whites… Bright dots of blood speckled across Emma’s cheeks… Then time jumped, staggered, came back to normal and Emma was screaming and screaming…

No! … NO! … Not my… My, love, my Madison, my…” Collapsing to the ground with Madison, crying still… Softer but continuous.

“Emma…” My voice, but I did not know it at first. I actually stopped speaking and looked around, startled, before I realized it was me speaking. I turned my attention back to Emma. “Emma… Emma, it’ll be okay… It’ll be…”

“NO!….NO!” She scrambled back pulling Madison’s unconscious body with her. She wiped one hand across her eyes trying to stem the flow of tears… “NO! She’s… She’s okay… Okay… You can’t… You…” She broke down into sobs, pulled Madison to her and began dragging her away from me.

“Emma… Emma, it bit her… Bit her… Emma… Emma, it’s… It’s just you and me, Emma… It bit her… It bit her…”

She let go of Madison and lunged for her rifle. I sat, still cross legged, stupidly, as she grabbed it and leveled it at me.

“Get out,” She said very calmly. Much more calmly than I thought she should have been capable of.

“Emma… What are you doing… Emma.”

GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT!” She screamed. I reared back as the rifle barrel came up and then slashed down across my face. I jumped back but not fast enough. The steel barrel smashed into my lower lip, through it and then hit my teeth. I immediately tasted blood, machine oil, and I could feel pieces of my broken teeth on my tongue. Sharp splinters.

The pain was delayed but it came never-the-less. Hard, heavy, fast, down into my lower jaw and then ricocheted back up into the top of my head. I scrambled backwards, tripped over my own rifle, got it into my hands and then time did that funny slowing, elastic thing again.

The blood dripped from my chin onto the ground. My rifle was pointed squarely at Emma, safety off, and an empty clip, but Emma didn’t know that. The blood dripped slowly. Emma’s eyes swam in and out of focus but remained on me. Her rifle barrel dipped and rose again, leveled on me.

She seemed to take a deep breath that went on forever, and then, once more, time sped up. “I’ll kill you,” Emma told me. “If you touch her, I’ll kill you… I will,” She started out strong but ended in a doubtful, whining whisper.

I didn’t drop my rifle barrel but held one hand out in front of me in a placating gesture. “Not touching anyone… Not,” I managed through my busted lip and broken teeth. The pain was a live, throbbing thing.

“You will… But… I know you will… You think… You think…” She seemed all at once to realize that she no longer held Madison in her arms. She took a deep shuddering breath and then dropped her rifle to the ground. She collapsed back down to the ground and crawled to Madison’s body.

I stood. Shocked. Not knowing what to do. Time side slipped. The bird went back to calling out, if it had ever stopped, the wind came back, blowing cold against my face, pushing the flush of heat that the situation had bought with it away, cooling the sweat on my brow. The bird called… Another picked it up and soon all of the birds were talking a though nothing at all had happened. It became a perfect storm of noise after the deepness of the silence. Time slipped away again, clouds moving across the cold, blue of the sky.

Emma sat, Madison pulled up into her lap, a large smear of maroon on her forehead, stroking Madison’s black hair. The birds called. The coldness of the wind seemed to bite at my bones. Nipping. Tasting. An Undead thing of it’s own.

I can’t tell you why I did it but I am glad I did. I pushed the button on the rifle butt, dropped the empty clip in to my waiting palm, and slid another up into the rifle where it socketed itself home with a solid click. I did it perfectly. Like I had been doing it all of my life instead of just the last six months since the Undead disease, epidemic, disorder, what-ever-the-fuck it was had happened. She never looked up. The birds didn’t stop singing their birdsong… Just in case, I told myself. Just in case.

I stood, my knees screaming, flexed experimentally and then walked a short distance away, leaning up against the cliff face. Emma’s voice had fallen to a barely audible whisper as she stroked Madison’s hair and held her. A private conversation. A private conversation in the wide open, which thanks to the UN-dead was a very private place. No one at all around, alive anyway, and the dead could care less about love, secrets, whispered promises, goodbyes. The UN-dead only cared about the hunger that seemed to drive them. Flesh, and more flesh… The time turned elastic once more and spun out of control for some unknown length. I only know that when I came back to myself the sun had moved across the sky. My thoughts were about darkness, Zombies, staying alive.

~

When I think back on it now I realize a noise had brought me back. Had to be, otherwise there was no reason for me to come back at all. Just stay gone. Let the sun go down and the UN-dead take the night, me, Emma, Madison and whatever else they wanted. But it didn’t go that way…

A noise. A sliding foot. A pebble falling from above… I really don’t know. I know that this time I reacted fast. My rifle came up, my mind was clear. I focused, two of them dropping from the cliffs above… Like cats… Like dead, stinking, feral cats… Dragging that stink of death with them. The stench of rotted flesh falling from the sky along with them and enveloping me even as I fired into them.

I had a choice. I couldn’t get them both. One falling at me, one falling at Emma where she sat with Madison cradled in her arms oblivious to everything around her. My reaction chose for me. The rifle came straight up and spat short, little barks of noise and flame. The Zombie started to come apart before it hit me. A shower of cold, dead blood rained down on me, splattered against my face. The body hit the barrel of the rifle and took me down to the ground clutching the rifle hard to keep from losing it as the full weight of the Zombie came down on it.

I kept it, but only by sheer determination. The Zombie had impaled herself onto the barrel. Her flesh so rotted that it had simply punched through her breast and out her back. I shoved her off as quickly as I could. One booted foot kicking against her chest. Knocking her apart, pulling the barrel back through the soft flesh and hard bone.

I expected to see Emma done for. I expected to see her dead or dying, but she had somehow ended up about twenty feet from where the Zombie had fallen. She looked herself as if she had no real idea how that had happened, but when I raised my eyes and they took in the whole scene before them, I saw exactly how it had happened..

Madison must have been awake. Laying there badly injured but not gone. Taking the comfort from Emma that she offered. When the Zombie fell she saw it. Saw it and managed to push Emma away from her and take the attack on herself.

The Zombie was no match for her, wounded though she was. She straddled the Zombie with a rock easily the size of her own head and bought it down hard. Once. Twice, and then I lost count and the Zombie quit fighting. The UN-dead dead again. This time for good.

The silence came back hard. Like a curtain on the last act of a play just when the audience isn’t expecting it. It crashed down.

~

Time did it’s elastic trick and then snapped back before I was ready for it. My senses were shot. A first I could not connect the dots of memory that I needed to connect to make sense of what my eyes were seeing.

Emma rose to shaky legs and started towards Madison. Sobbing once more. Madison’s eyes swiveled to me. A sick look in them and pain riding there too. She slumped forward, one wrist flapping uselessly and lunged for the rifle that Emma had had trained on me not that long ago. Time stopped it’s elastic trickery right around that time. I knew exactly what she intended to do before she did it. Emma stopped in mid stride and nearly fell backwards at the effort of stopping so quickly. I think she believed for a second that Madison intended to shoot her. I really believe she thought that, but that was not the plan and I knew that was not the plan. Because the plan that had resurfaced in her mind was the one we had talked about, half seriously, half jokingly for the last several weeks that we had been traveling together. Before she followed through on that plan I heard her tell it to me in my mind once again, the way she had several weeks before. Several weeks before when she had been unmolested… Whole.. Not about to join the ranks of the UN-dead herself.

“If I ever fuckin’ have to I won’t hesitate,” Madison had said, “Once I’m dead I don’t want to be alive again.” She shuddered and grimaced at the same time.

We had been in an old house on the outskirts of the city. We had had gas lanterns for light. The windows were boarded. The UN-dead scratched and cried and pleaded, but they could not get in. The four of us–John had still been alive then, in fact he had died just two days later… Fell through a rotted section of floor in that same old house… Impaled himself on a pipe in the basement… Madison had shot him in the head nearly as soon as he had stopped his struggles. Emma had bent double and vomited. I had held it in but barely–but that night John had been alive, he had still been with us. With us as we listened to the sounds of the UN-dead that were trying to get us. To kill us. To eat us. To satisfy their ceaseless hunger. In the flickery light from the gas lanterns, she had said it, and he had nodded his head, agreeing immediately with what she had said. And I had not. It had not been a real thing to me until two days later when John had died and she had wasted no time. None. “He would have expected it,” she had said, and nothing more. But that night… That night she had said it right out. Like a mantra. Like looking into the future and seeing this day.

“If they come for me? If they get me? I’ll put a bullet in my own head. I will . I swear I will.”

And Emma had begun to cry. “Don’t say it, Maddy… Don’t say it.” And she hadn’t said it again, but it didn’t matter. She had already spoke it into truth. I had heard it. I had heard it and I knew she meant it.

And now… Time stopped it’s trick. She jammed the rifle under her chin and squeezed the trigger… Her head exploded in a spray of red and gray. I swear I could hear the sounds of small bits of bone and blood pattering down to the ground. And then the silence was roaring again.

I took a breath, another… And then Emma began to scream once more…

~

It’s been three weeks. I thought Emma would never talk again. I believed she wouldn’t right up until she did yesterday.

I just kept us moving. Out of the city and south. Walking days, seeking refuge at night. The zombies smell us, you know. They can smell us for miles. So at night it’s strong places. Strong places where they can’t get in and then hope like hell these were not some of the new breed, the ones that didn’t seem to have a need to avoid the day, and they would be gone in the morning.

I started carrying a radio the other day. Clips on the belt. FM. Picks up a lot of talk during the day. There’s a place that a lot of the people I hear from have heard about. In the middle of no place. Somewhere in Kentucky… Tennessee. Some swear they have even talked to the people that founded this place. I had never heard them myself until today, but the word I had heard was that it was a safe place. That it is open to everyone.

So that is where I’ve been walking us too. I don’t know who these people are. If they even exist, I only know the whole world is fucked up. I have come to understand that even if I get us as far South as I can, we wont make it for long. We’re only two. The dead are getting smarter. And that is not just my point of view. It’s on the radio. They all say it.

L.A. and New York both are barely hanging on. Both! Barely hanging on! Nearly over run! If they can’t make it how can we? No. I’m heading for this place. I’m hoping it’s real. Today on the radio I caught something. Someone named Conner. I heard that name. And it sounded like he was talking about the same place I have heard about. I’m just hoping it’s true. That I didn’t just imagine it to assuage my mind.

Meantime I am trying to keep us alive. Find strong places to stay through the nights. There are strong places. Places you can find if you give it some thought. Stairwells in highrises. Steel and concrete. They can’t get through those doors. Deep freezers in grocery stores. Heavy steel doors. Vehicles if you have to and we have had to. You can find a big truck with a steel trailer. The roads are jammed with them. They can’t get in there either. A little fire at night if I can. The Zombies are afraid of fire. Don’t like the smell of smoke. Canned stuff to eat. Christ, we’ll be eating canned shit until we die. Get up the next day and push on. Get moving again. And that is what I’ve done. Kept us moving. Kept us safe. And she came willingly, although silently, like a big, semi animated puppet. And then yesterday she was walking beside me, silent as she had been since the thing with Madison, and she spoke.

“I don’t like beans, Mason. I just don’t… Maybe we could find something different tonight?” She had lifted her voice at the end and made it into a question. I stopped in the middle of walking between an abandoned car and a wrecked, burned out truck. Months old. I looked back at her. She smiled, tentative at first but then it lit up her face. I had to laugh. I had had so much pent up inside me.

“The beans are a bit much then,” I asked?

“A bit,” she agreed.

I stood for a second not knowing what to say.

“You could say, welcome back,” she said softly

“Welcome back,” I repeated every bit as quietly. “Welcome back…”


Available from Barnes and Noble

Book oneSeries link


Writers and how we think

Writers and how we think

Writing Posted by Geo

Writers… We often sit around and think things like this…

It was a warm winter that year…”

No, no, no… Hmm…

It was the winter of our…” No, already used… Damn…

Winter came quickly to the north country as it was wont to do. My brother and I had just come around to our turn to wear the fall coats, there were only the two coats for the fifteen of us children. With them, we were able to play outside while our siblings were stuck inside. It would have been better if we had also had the shoes, but it wasn’t our turn yet…”

No, no, no. Too melodramatic…

It was a long, cold winter. The cat had a litter sometime in there. A few kittens, maybe four. I often wonder what happened to those kittens. I only know we had meat for Christmas that didn’t in the slightest resemble Turkey…”

No, no, no… It was the dog…

The dog had a litter that winter… They were fast growing puppies and by December they were half grown, as fat and sassy as could be. I remember petting the one I had named Dingo on the head just before bed a few nights before Christmas. I remember that clearly, yes I do, and it was the last time I ever saw Dingo…. I think so anyway. It’s tough to tell. All I know is that we had meat for Christmas dinner. A small ham, Mom said., but it didn’t resemble any ham I’d ever seen…”

Geo!”

Yes, mom?”

PETA called, knock it off.”

Yes, mom.”

It was a long cold winter that year. The rats in the basement had eaten the corn crop and left us starving… Daddy said we wouldn’t have to resort to eating rats, but as he headed toward the basement with a claw hammer I wondered…”

By Geo Dell.


Hey! Check out the Zombie Plague on NOOK! By me!


The Zombie Plagues Book One (A FREE Nook eBook!)

What if the world ended tomorrow? What would you do? Would you be able to survive?

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-zombie-plagues-book-one-geo-dell/1116974111?ean=9781492798668


The Zombie Plagues Book Two

The Zombie Plagues books follow a small group of men and women as they struggle to survive on a vastly changed earth

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-zombie-plagues-book-two-geo-dell/1116974114?ean=9781492798743


The Zombie Plagues Book Three

Life is good for those who are lucky, but out in the real world it’s a different story…

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-zombie-plagues-book-three-geo-dell/1117027340?ean=9781492798798


The Zombie Plagues Book Four: The Outrunners

I saw the Zombie on Madison take a mouthful of her back, just below the curve of her neck…

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-zombie-plagues-book-four-geo-dell/1117475716?ean=2940045439084


The Zombie Plagues: Book Five

The Fifth Book picks up the Story of Billy and Beth and their flight out of the ruins of L. A.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-zombie-plagues-geo-dell/1121785682?ean=2940151878876


The Zombie Plagues Dead Road: The Collected books.

Contains books 1 thru 6. Books One through five were published, book six was not…

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-zombie-plagues-dead-road-geo-dell/1124233945?ean=2940153142777