EARTH’S SURVIVORS LIFE STORIES: BETH
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Plague Year One
Cammy sat drinking coffee
with Annie and staring down the length of the valley. It was an hour past
sunrise. The sun had finally lifted past the mountain tops in the distance, and
golden light had spilled into the length of the valley.
“I know you said it was
this nice, but no way did you do it justice. Or I’m so damn jaded that I just
couldn’t believe it.”
“If you live here, you
take it in stride sometimes, I guess. But, coming back this time? Being away
after being here, living here… I will never leave again. I don’t care,” Annie
The door to the main area
of the cave opened, and Candace came out with Lilly and Patty. A second later
Jana, Sandy and Bob stepped out. Tom followed shortly after, sipping at a cup
of coffee as he and Bob talked. They both said their hellos, Tom bent and
kissed Lilly, she had sat on the wall next to Annie, and then he and Bob
started down the wide ledge into the valley below. Jana settled down next to
Cammy lifted her eyes to
Sandy. “How’s our girl?” she asked.
Sandy smiled cautiously.
“I want to say okay… I took the rest of her forearm, pumped her full of
penicillin. She seemed to tolerate that well. I think she’ll be okay.”
“They say anything at all
about how long they think they’ll be?” Candace asked. She looked from Cammy to
Annie shook her head, as
did Cammy. “I think though,” Annie said, “That things were going well. It
seemed like things turned up fast… maybe…”
“What was it like?” Lilly
asked. “I mean, with so many dead around. How did you manage? We didn’t have
that to deal with, and we still barely made it here.”
Cammy shook her head. “I
had no direct dealings with it. Bear and Beth… Billy, Mac, David to a lesser
extent.” Her voice seemed to choke up for a moment. “Bear and Beth; those two
have no fear. I guess we owe them a lot. They lead us together. That was
something I thought would be bad, but they seemed to click.”
“The city… we came from
the city. It’s bad there. I mean, the dead are everywhere. They’re different
too. When we were in Pennsylvania, Bear and Beth told us that. The dead there
were not smart like the dead in New York.”
The door opened, and
Arlene stepped out onto the wide stone ledge and sat on the wall.
“The radio here tells us a
lot. But it’s tough to believe some of it. They’re stronger than us? Some
people are turning without being bitten?” Lilly said. “I know I should let you
be… Ask another time. I don’t mean to push you.”
“It’s okay,” Cammy said.
She sipped at her coffee and then began to talk.
On The Road
Bear and Tim
Bear sat silently with Tim
as Mike talked to the young woman a few yards away.
“She’s had it pretty
rough,” Tim said.
Bear Nodded. He looked
over at the girl talking with Mike once more. “She was one of the ones that
tried to kill you guys?” Bear asked in a near whisper. They were far enough away
for her not to hear, but Bear pitched his voice low anyway.
Thirty feet away, Mike
stared across the fire at the young woman. She met his gaze levelly, but her
eyes were still red and puffy and told a story about a long, searching night.
Her hands seemed at war with each other, the black fingernail polish chipped
and flashing in the muted light.
“It was back at the
campground,” Tim told him. “It started in Watertown. That’s where we came from,
up north next to Canada…” He looked at Bear.
Bear nodded, and Tim
“So these guys tried to
kill us there. They did kill one of the girls that were with Mike and Candace
before I was with them. Then they all out attacked us. That was when Molly and
Nellie escaped from them. We killed a bunch of their guys when that happened.
That put us right into it with them as far as they were concerned. Annie?”
Bear looked at Tim and
“They had made a deal with
the people that had Annie. They intended to have her, but she escaped too. So
they came to us to try to buy her back. The guy thought Mike would do it.”
“Christ,” Bear said.
Tim nodded. “Not long
after that we got away, but they followed us.”
Mike spoke quietly. Too
quiet to hear his words, but at his words Chloe’s eyes began to leak once
again. Bear fought back the anger that was bubbling just below the surface.
Although there were no
words for context, Bear understood she was asking how the others might feel.
“If they forced her, then
it’s not her fault,” Bear said. He focused on a patch of scuffed dirt on the
ground. Ronnie and Tim seemed to be bird watching. There seemed to be huge
birds of prey everywhere now. Two of them floated high in the sky now. He turned back to Tim but there was nothing
to say. They would be calling the Nation on the Radios in a short while. Let
them know they were on their way back. Let them know about Molly and Nellie. It
would be nice to talk to Cammy, find out about Beth. He turned back to Tim once
“I’m sorry that your girl
had to go back,” Bear said.
“It’s okay,” Tim said.
“I’m actually relieved… Especially after what happened with Nellie and
Bear nodded and the
silence descended once more. He felt used up, out of words. He scuffed at the
ground again with his boot heel, shifting gears, pushing the remembering out of
his head, wondering what he would say to Cammy, whether Beth would be able to
“Hey,” Cammy smiled. “I
thought you were just going to go on sleeping forever.”
Beth levered her arms down
to scoot up in the bed and nearly banged the stump of her arm against the side
of the bed before Cammy stopped her.
“Honey… Honey… Your
arm. You have to be careful,” Cammy told her. She took her under the arms and
lifted her gently back into the pillows.
“Oh God,” Beth whispered
through her dry lips as she stared down at the stump of her arm. “Somebody
chopped off the rest of my arm.” Her eyes came up to Cammy’s own.
“Honey, Sandy had to take
it. It was infected,” Cammy told her. She gently pushed her back into the
pillows. Sandy appeared over her shoulder with a wooden cup of water. Cammy
took it and helped Beth to take a sip. “Easy, Honey, just go slow,” she told
Beth cleared her throat
and took a larger sip. “Oh my God… I have such a bad headache. Kind of sick
to my stomach too.”
Sandy took her hand, and
her fingers rested lightly against her wrist for a moment, feeling for her
pulse. “The stomach is a couple of things, most likely. I have no idea when the
last time you ate is, but I would bet it’s been a few days. Pain killers and
penicillin on an empty stomach are tough. I gave you a sports drink when I
could get you to swallow, but you need real food. The headache is probably the
morphine. You’ve been living on it the last few days. I can give you some
aspirin for that.”
“She told me I couldn’t
have aspirin,” Beth said as she looked at Cammy. “Said I had to have the
Morphine.” She licked her lips for what seemed like an hour and then took
another deep sip from the glass Cammy still held.
“She wouldn’t take it at
first, true,” Cammy agreed with a laugh.
“Said I had balls…
Thinks I don’t remembner… Rember,” she sighed.
“Remember… Remember, Honey. Yes. I asked you if you had balls,” she turned to
Sandy and her arched eyebrows. “She wanted to take only aspirin after Bear took
her arm off.”
Beth nodded. “I did. She
talked me into Morphine, and now look at this… I woke up with the rest of it
“Only from the elbow
down,” Sandy said. “You’re lucky.”
Beth tried a lopsided
smile on and then took another sip of the cold water.
“Listen, Honey, you needed
the Morphine. You still do, really, and you can still have it if you want it.
It just plays hell with your body when you’ve been on it a few days,” Sandy
Beth took a deeper sip
that was more like a real drink. “That is really good water,” she said.
Cammy and Sandy both
laughed. “How about a sandwich, soup, broth? What do you think you can handle?”
Sandy asked her.
“I think I can handle some
more water,” Beth said.
“I’m sure you can. And you
need liquid. I just want there to be some nourishment in it,” Sandy told her.
“Hot anything doesn’t
sound good. My stomach is still off,” Beth said.
“How about some cooled
beef broth? Soup? Doesn’t have to be
hot,” Sandy agreed.
Beth swallowed, took a
deeper drink of the cold water and nodded.
Billy and Pearl
“Bill, Billy… William?”
“Billy’s good,” Billy told
her. “William makes me feel… too high class, I guess.”
Pearl laughed. “It’s not
wrong to think proper of yourself.”
The two were walking
slowly down through the valley. Billy looked around at the valley. “You came
with them? Helped to build this? It’s awesome… really incredible.”
“I would love to say it is
so, but no, I was here visiting family, in the states, I mean. I came across
country with friends I only met them after the fact. I’ve been here about three
months so far. I believe this place began in April. I arrived in June,” she
brushed a shock of thick brown hair out of her eyes and looked up at Billy. “I
did help to build the second and third barns. The rest has been catch what
comes, for all of us really.”
“I could listen to you
speak for hours,” Billy said. He blushed a second later. Pearl blushed too and
looked up at the clear blue sky and then back down at the stone path they
walked. “What will you do?” Pearl asked.
“Well, I’ll wait for Bear
to come back. When we left, we really didn’t talk about it. I just don’t know
yet.” He looked up at the sky and then back down to the stone flagged pathway.
“He may not want to stay.”
Pearl nodded. “And if this
Bear of yours decides to go, then you will go with him, I suppose. That man
thing. All for one and one for all… follow you to the ends of the Earth?”
Billy laughed, but stopped
when he looked back down at Pearl. “I…” He started. She smiled up at him, and
he lost his words.
“I didn’t mean to do that
to you,” she said. “Take away your words.”
He thought of a dozen
retorts but said nothing for a second. “Well, maybe I would have said something
dumb. I wouldn’t have meant to. I suck at conversations like this, Pearl.”
She nodded. “Is she your
girl? Jamie?” She blushed harder. “You don’t have to answer; it’s really not my
business. I’m sorry.”
“No… No… Don’t be
sorry,” Billy told her. “Is she my girl?” He looked at her frankly. “No.
Probably was once upon a time. In fact was… but I screwed that up, like a few
other things I’ve done.” Billy looked away.
“Look,” Pearl told him.
“Doesn’t matter. I pry too much sometimes. I know that about me. Come with me
if you like. I have to make a patrol. Just the valley, foothills, takes most of
two days to do. I have a truck with four wheel drive, a camping tent that I
never use, and I go around and check all the perimeters. Boring, I suppose,
unless you like the solitude… the mountains,” She smiled up at him. He
towered over her by at least a foot. “I promise, no dead people, at least there
never has been. Of course I’m looking for them though, aren’t I?”
Billy laughed. “Just like
Pearl stopped on the path
and looked up at him. “Just like that? What did you think, then?”
Pearl burst into laughter,
slipped her arm through his and pulled him forward once more on the path.
“Rattled you. I did, no use contradicting it.”
Billy laughed after a
second. “You did. You did,” he caught up, leaving her arm where it was. “So two
“You’ll love it,” she told
“Okay. What do I need to
“Not a thing. No one to
say goodbye to?”
“No,” Billy agreed.
“Then we go.” She pulled
at his arm. “Come on. I’ll show you the truck.”
Beth sat up on the edge of
the bed, got her feet under her and then stood. “Whoa,” she said as she sat
“Slow, Honey,” Susan told
her. Susan was on one side, Sandy on the other, Cammy anxiously standing in
front. “Take a deep breath or two. Let the lightheadedness pass.”
Beth did as she was told,
the lightheadedness passed, and she stood once more. This time her feet felt
steady. Her stomach did not flip flop. All three of the other women hovered
close by but did not attempt to help her. She laughed nervously and then walked
to the door.
“Hmm. A little shaky,”
Sandy said. “You feel up to an outside trip?”
“Oh, God yes. Please,”
Cammy laughed. “She will
never be any sweeter,” she said.
All four of them laughed.
Sandy stepped ahead, opened the door to the room, and Beth followed her out
into the main cave area.
Beth looked around as she
walked through the main area. “I had no idea it was so big.” Her eyes rose to
the ceiling some hundred feet above her.
“This is nothing, only the
main meeting room. The passages go all through the mountain. It’s riddled with
them,” Susan told her.
Sandy swept open the main
door, and a cool breeze came in as she did. The four women stepped out onto the
rock wall edged ledge and its view of the valley below.
Beth drew a quick breath.
“My God, it’s so beautiful,” she said.
Cammy came up behind her
and rubbed one hand across her low back. Beth turned and looked at her.
“Anything else?” Beth asked.
“No. They’re on the way,”
she told her.
“Cammy,” Beth started.
Cammy shook her head. “I
know. He told me that he told you, and what he told you was the truth.” She
smiled as she finished. Susan and Sandy slipped past them and walked over to
the long waist high rock wall that had been built on the edge of the ledge.
Beth looked pensive, but allowed a smile to float up from the depths of her
worry. She made her way across the ledge and looked down into the valley.
“It’s so pretty,” Beth
said. She breathed in the cool, fresh air.
“You are officially off
bed rest,” Sandy said.
Beth smiled. Her eyes
slipped over to her arm and the thick pad of bandage at the elbow. She sobered,
but as her eyes swept back out into the valley, the smile surfaced once more
and stayed. Cammy settled beside her and looked out onto the golden foliage of
the trees and the tall golden-brown fields of wheat.
“I will never leave here,”
Cammy looked at her. “Do
you think this can hold him?”
Beth shook her head, but
the smile stayed. “I don’t think a woman or a place can hold Bear,” She said.
Cammy nodded her face a
“Feel up to a short walk
down there?” Sandy asked.
“I say, let’s go,” Beth
“You get tired, say so,”
Susan told her.
“She will,” Cammy said.
She linked one arm through Beth’s good arm, and the four women started down the
ledge that dropped down into the valley.
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