Book One - Reality Bites
Chapter 7 - The Best Of Plans Have Flaws
“When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it.” Charles de Lint
George Jr. was in his beat up twenty-year-old Chevy truck. It was the only kind of vehicle he could afford. He insisted that he had to have a truck when he went looking to buy his transportation. Trucks were handy for just about anything. They were a lot better than getting some beat up old car. Trucks had class. His dad drove one. Now that he was eighteen and in college, he felt he should make his own decisions about things. The truck was his very first major decision. It would have to last him all through college. After he graduated and had a good job, he could buy a better one. Until then, this would do just fine. He thought for a while on what life would be like after he was an engineer. He imagined all the things he would design and build after he got his degree.
He also thought about college as he drove down the highway. It certainly was different than high school. College seemed to be a world into itself that was not touched much by the outside world. It was a lot harder, too. There really wasn’t anyone around to make sure you got up on time to get to class. It was up to you to make sure you did it. And there were a lot of other things you had to make sure you did, too, like laundry and studying. You had to remember what times meals were served, if you got busy doing other things and missed getting there on time, well, it sure wasn’t a pretty sight seeing all the leftovers that others had handled and mangled up. He had ended up missing a few meals because he wouldn’t touch those leftovers with a hundred foot pole. He shuddered with disgust just thinking about it. Some of those guys he had seen touching the food were real dirt bags. They probably hadn’t washed their hands in years. It was a whole lot harder being a grown up than he ever thought it would be.
He smiled just thinking about the first time he did his own laundry. His mother had never taught him how to do it. He thought it couldn’t be very hard. People did it all the time. You just put your clothes into the machine, added some laundry soap and presto, clean clothes, right? What’s so hard about that? Any moron could do it. He laughed at himself. He had bought a new red hooded sweatshirt a few days before he had to do his laundry. Well, he had to. He didn’t have anything clean left to wear. He just put all of his clothes into the machines like everyone else. He ended up with pink socks and underwear. He still remembered the shock and outrage he had felt over that. No way was he wearing pink socks and underwear. A girl he had a crush on had seen what happened and explained to him about separating the colors and things. She also had him rewash the pink stuff with some bleach. They came out almost perfectly white. A few more times with bleach would do the trick, she told him.
It seemed everyday brought new things to his attention that he had to make a decision about. It sure was hard being an adult, but it was fun, too. He could go to parties and not have to worry about a curfew anymore. His whole dorm was a party sometimes and there were lots and lots of girls. He had his eye on a pretty blonde named Gayle down the hall from him. She was his dream girl. It had been so nice of her to help him with the problem of his pink underwear and socks.
She hadn’t tried to make him feel like a moron for not knowing about separating the colors. He was working up the courage to ask her out. He kept kicking himself for not having the courage to ask her out when she helped him with his pink laundry. He wasn’t sure how he would be able to take it if she turned him down. Maybe it would be better if he didn’t ruin his dream of her. Maybe he shouldn’t ask her out after all. Maybe it was better to just leave things as they were. She did say hi to him when they saw each other in the hall. They also shared a couple of classes. He wasn’t sure if she even knew that. He sighed. Sometimes things just seemed so complicated. When he was in high school,
if you asked a girl out and she said no, it was no big deal. The guys would rib you about it for a while, but that was it. This was way different. This was the big leagues. If he got shot down now, everyone in the dorm would find out about it. They would label him a stupid loser. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to face something like that. He had seen how a few other guys had been treated after they had been shot down. Oh well, he would leave that alone for now and make a decision about it some other time.
He was looking forward to seeing his dad; he hadn’t seen him since he started college. His father had come to his high school graduation, and Junior was very glad he had. There had been a few awkward times between his dad, his mom and his stepfather. He chose to spend as much time with his dad as possible; his mom and stepfather hadn’t liked that at all. They had made plans for dinner and such after graduation. Well, that was just too bad. They hadn’t asked him what his plans were. They just made the plan without consulting him, as usual. His mom always resented the time he spent with his dad. He was glad that his stepfather got transferred to Hawaii. Now they were far enough away that he could breathe. They were always telling him what he was going to do. No asking him what he wanted or anything. Now, they were far enough away that they couldn’t call him all the time, either. The time difference definitely worked to his benefit.
Earlier this morning a main water pipe had broken in his dorm and water was everywhere. It had flooded the carpets in the halls before they had been able to get it turned off. What a mess. Some rooms had water a couple of inches deep in them. They closed the whole dorm down. Told the students they had to leave for a week so they could repair it. They were going to have to tear some walls down while doing the repairs. They were afraid that there might be asbestos in the walls. They would have to get someone out to inspect them and everything. They were excused from classes for this week, too. He had called his dad and asked if he could come out and hunt with him since it was bow-hunting season. He thought he would miss out, being in college this year. He had been planning on coming out for Thanksgiving to hunt this year instead. Now, he would be able to do both. He was very happy the way it had worked out. He loved being with his dad.
He saw the road sign for his turn to get to his dad’s place. He turned and drove down the two-track dirt road that led to his house. His house was so cool, too. His dad had all this stuff hooked up to be self-sufficient. He loved looking at the systems his dad had rigged up. His dad was really smart. Someday he was going to find out how his dad had done it all. He had been asking him for years and his dad just laughed and said he had done a little of this and a little of that and put it all together to make this. He was curious about how it all worked. He was determined that one day he would find out. He was really curious about why his dad was so mysterious about it all. That made him more determined than ever to find out. He had inherited his love of tinkering with things to see how they worked from his dad. He parked his truck by the garage entrance and turned the engine off. He gathered his stuff and walked to the front door. He set his stuff down and went over to the rock his dad hid the key under. He moved the rock and there was his dad’s key ring. He picked it up and walked back to the door. His dad had said he would be out on the evening hunt by the time he got here. He had said to go ahead and get comfortable. He would be along as soon as it was dark, unless he got his deer, then he would be back sooner and expect him to help haul it out of the woods. He smiled at that thought. Just like old times. He hoped his dad did get a deer.
He went into his bedroom and got one of his textbooks. He would read while he waited, he didn’t want to fall too far behind. He was engrossed in his book when he heard a key turning in the lock on the door. He closed his book and stood up.
His dad came in with his bow. They hugged and his dad said, “It’s good to see you, Junior.” Junior was what his dad always called him. It was ridiculous to call him George Junior all the time. Sometimes he called him son, too. Those times just made Junior’s day.
Junior said, “Did you see any deer out there?”
“Just one little doe. I’m still waiting for that old monster buck to come by. I saw him just before hunting season opened up. I just haven’t figured out what time he is coming through. I’ll get him yet.”
Junior looked around the living room at all the deer racks his dad had and said, “I bet you do get him.”
His dad took off his coat and boots off. “You hungry? I made venison stew and baked some bread for dinner.”
“I know, I can smell it, and I peeked in the kitchen at what you had cooking. I’m starved … when can we eat?”
His dad laughed and said, “Boy, you are always hungry. When I know you are coming, I make sure to go into town and stock up on food or you would eat me out of everything with those two hollow legs you have.” Junior laughed. It was an old joke between them.
After cleaning up from dinner, he went into the living room and sat down in his favorite chair. It was a chair he had found one day at the Goodwill when they had been browsing around town. He asked his dad if he could have it. It was a recliner like his dad’s. After hunting, they would take naps in them. Junior smiled at the memories. He had so many good memories with his dad. He found his dad more interesting than his mom and stepfather. His dad was watching the news.
George Sr. did this everyday at this time. It seemed like the world was going insane. Another city had started to riot and burn things down. Why are people doing this? he wondered. What a nightmare. Why would they burn their own neighborhoods down? It all sounded nuts to him. Had the people in these cities contracted some kind of disease or alien virus like in the movies? They sure were acting like it. Maybe it was even something like in the movie, The Body Snatchers or something. Maybe they aren’t even real people anymore. They sure were acting like something other than human. Maybe they had been turned into animals.
George Sr said, “Things are getting real bad. These people are so stupid. The more they riot, the longer it’s going to take to get food to their city. I don’t think they even have an intelligent thought in their heads. Look at how they are acting.”
“I was just thinking the same thing,” Junior replied. “They aren’t even acting human anymore. It’s like they have some kind of sickness or something that is making them crazy.”
His dad sighed. “You’re not too far off. They have what is called ‘mob fever.’ They work themselves up into a frenzy until they start hurting each other and burning things down. Just remember all the things I told you and showed you about surviving. The way things are going, these people may cause some kind of a money collapse that will take our government down with them. The total of rioting cities is well over a hundred now. You still have your bug out bag with you?”
“Yes, Dad, I don’t go anywhere without it. I’ve kept my promise to you.”
“Good. Keep it that way. I think this could be it. I can’t see how we will recover from all of this. The monetary amount is in the billions now. With the businesses that were destroyed because they couldn’t get supplies, the trucking companies going broke, the food distributors going out of business because they can’t get their supplies out to the restaurants and what nots, the property damage; the list just goes on and on. If things get bad, Son, in the city where you are going to college, you immediately get into your truck and drive straight here. Okay?”
Junior said, “Count on it, Dad. I’ll be up here as soon as possible if anything happens there.” Junior was thoughtful for a few moments. “Dad, on the way up here, I saw several fast food places that had signs up saying they were closed until they could get a delivery.”
“I was expecting that to happen sooner or later around here. The fast food places are franchises; they can only sell the supplies they buy from the franchise company. They can’t just go to any store and buy what they need. With the trucking companies going out of business, they might not be able to find anyone who can move the supplies to the places that need them. Just remember what I said, Son. These are dangerous times we’re living in.”
Junior said, “I won’t forget. I have all of that to remind me.” He gestured at the TV. “They aren’t really talking about any of this at the college. I think that’s kind of weird. There has never been as much civil unrest as right now in our country and no one there even mentions it.” He was thoughtful for a few moments. “Now that I think of it, it’s kind of creepy. In a way, it’s like one of those Twilight Zone episodes.”
His dad smiled at Junior and said, “Life does seem that way sometimes. I’ve had a few days that I thought would make a good episode.”
They sat for a while, just watching the TV. “People react in strange ways to these kinds of things. Most people just want to stick their heads in the sand like an ostrich and pretend none of this is happening,” George Sr said. “They feel that if they don’t think about it, it will just go away all by itself. The rest of the people react like they’re spectators at the Roman Coliseum. They are panting in anticipation of the next spectacular gory thing that will happen. They cheer for whatever side they are on, too. It will either be for the police and the violence they have to use to try to stop these people that are rioting or for the rioters and the violence they are just plain doing to each other. I think they are sick in the head. This is an awful thing to have happened and you don’t hear anyone really wanting it to stop or even do anything to help it to stop. It is completely out of control. Our whole society is really messed up.” The telephone rang. His dad got up to go answer it. While he was gone talking on the phone Junior decided to get back to his textbook. He picked it up from where he had set it down earlier and started reading.
They both went straight to bed a little while later. When you get up before the chickens, you tend to go to bed pretty early. In the morning, they were both up and eagerly looking forward to getting to their tree stands. It was a typical hunting day. They had no idea what this day had in store for them. They met back at the fork in the trail at mid-morning, like usual. They ate breakfast and had their nap. They did a few chores around the place. After lunch they decided to go into town. They got into George’s truck and drove to town. On the way, they saw a few cars and trucks broken down along the way. That was not unusual enough to capture their attention. George told Junior about the woman he had been seeing in town named Marion that he really liked. Marion’s daughter, Gayle, was up visiting her mother this week, too. They were all supposed to get together sometime this week so everyone could meet each other.
As they approached the town, they could see something was wrong. The street was clogged with cars. People were standing around all over the place, talking, shouting, and they could see a fistfight had broken out down the street. Did some kind of accident happen? Something was terribly wrong. The traffic lights were not working. Power was down in the whole town. George inched his way closer to the grocery store. They got out and walked up to the front and saw that the store was closed.
They were walking back to the truck when a woman stopped them and asked, “How come your truck was running?”
“What do you mean?” George asked. The lady explained that all the power in the whole town was out and that the vehicles had stopped working all at the same time. George got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Do you have on an electronic watch?”
The lady was looking at him strangely, trying to figure out why he wanted to know what time it was when much more important things needed their attention. “I don’t know what time it is. My watch stopped working at the same time as everything else. Why do you want to know what time it is? The cars are a more serious problem than what time it is.” She stomped angrily away.
George turned around and saw someone trying to steal his truck. He grabbed Junior’s arm. “Come on, hurry, someone is trying to steal the truck.” They ran back towards the truck as fast as they could. The guy trying to steal it saw them and backed up with his hands spread out in front of him, showing that he was not a threat. He turned around and ran away. “Get in the truck,” George said. “Hurry. Lock your door, too.” He got in and pushed the lock button.
Junior looked at his dad and asked, “What’s wrong? What has happened?”
George looked at Junior hard and said, “This is the worst day of your life. This is the day the whole world will be without power.”
“What do you mean the world will be without power?”
“Someone set off an EMP.”
Junior stared at his father in shock, then shook his head. “I couldn’t have heard you right. Someone was crazy enough to push the button?”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
Junior sat silently for a while. He looked at his father and said, “Everything electronic is fried, right?”
“I’m afraid so.”
Someone pounded on the driver’s side window. They both whipped their heads around to see who it was. It was the mayor. They couldn’t make out what he was saying. George rolled down the window an inch and said, “What do you want?”
“That lady over there said your truck is still working,” the mayor said. “Is it?”
“Yes, my truck is still working,” George replied.
The mayor said, “Get out of the truck. I am taking this truck over.”
George and Junior didn’t budge. They just stared at him.
The mayor started beating on the window again. “Get out of the truck.”
The mayor’s face turned an ugly shade of red. He beat on the window again, then stopped and grabbed a guy who was walking by. “Get the sheriff. I have a job for him.”
George and Junior looked at each other in panic; they weren’t armed. George started the truck up. The mayor grabbed the door handle and tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. He grabbed onto the top of the window so fast his hands were a blur. “Get out of this truck right now!”
“No.” George started moving the truck forward. A crowd had appeared around them. He slowly pressed forward.
“I’m not letting go, so stop the truck right now!” the mayor threatened.
George gunned the engine and moved faster. The mayor tried to push the window down. George really gunned the engine and the truck jerked forward. The crowd parted like the Red Sea. Most of them were staring at the mayor like he had lost his mind.
“Let go of my window,” George said to the mayor.
It was the mayor’s turn to say, “No.”
“You have been warned.” The truck sped up. “Reach across me and roll up the window. It will cut off the mayor’s fingers,” George instructed Junior. Junior reached across his dad for the window handle to roll it up, when the mayor let go. They both watched him bounce around and come to a stop with one boot missing. As they rounded the bend in the road, he was blocked from their view.
George cut down a side street that looked pretty empty. He swung the truck around so they could get onto another street. “I’m heading for Marion’s to get her and Gayle and bring them with us to the house. It won’t be safe here for long.” They pulled into Marion’s street and stopped at her house. The whole block looked deserted. It was so very quiet. They approached her door; it flew open and Marion looked out at them and smiled.
“Get in here you two, and hurry,” she said. “You’re letting the cold inside.” She stepped back and they entered the house.
George shut and locked the door. Marion looked at him and raised an eyebrow in question. George said, “Where’s Gayle?”
“She’s downstairs in the basement, getting the wood stove going so we can get the house warmed up. We waited over two hours for the power to come back on and it hasn’t yet.”
“That’s what I wanted to talked to you about. Can you please call Gayle up here?”
“What in the world is going on, George?”
“Just tell Gayle to come up here,” he insisted.
Marion could hear the seriousness in his voice. “Okay. Have a seat while I get her.” She walked away and went through the doorway into the dining room. George and Junior both sat down and waited silently, thinking of the implications of what happened and what this all meant. They heard both of the women coming, and stood up.
As they came in, Gayle looked at George and said, “What do you need me for? I need to get back down there and get the woodstove going. It’s a temperamental beast and it’s being real stubborn today.”
George said, “Can we all sit down for a minute?” Marion and Gayle shared a puzzled look, then sat down. “We were just in town and things are not going too well there.”
Marion said, “What do you mean, George, not going too well?”
George sighed. “Let me tell this as it happened and you can judge for yourself, okay?” They explained all that happened.
Marion starting laughing. “I swear I would’ve paid a thousand bucks to have seen that arrogant, obnoxious, jerk bouncing around. But George, this will get you in trouble with the law. That jerk of a mayor holds a grudge. He’ll probably have you arrested. You’d better go some place and hide out for a while. Oh, you’re an outlaw now. I’m dating a bad boy.”
“Marion,” George said, “please listen to me very carefully. An EMP has been set off and this is the start of the world being without power. This date will remain in everyone’s mind for generations to come.”
“What do you mean an EMP was set off? What is that exactly?” George explained patiently. “Someone set off a nuclear bomb here?”
“Where? Where did they set it off at?”
“Over the United States Of America.”
“Wait a minute, I’m confused now. How can you set off a nuclear blast all over America and we can still be here alive?” she asked.
“It was a high altitude blast way, way up in the sky. It won’t do anything to us except fry the electronics.”
Marion sighed. She threw her hand over her heart and said, “What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack? You said a nuclear blast.”
“That means a bomb,” George said. “It was a bomb.”
“But we’re still here. How can that be, then?”
“Marion, you watch too many movies. An EMP is made to destroy electronic components only, not to kill people. Indirectly, an EMP going off will eventually be responsible for killing most of the world’s population.”
Marion laughed again. “George, you’re confusing the hell out of me. If it doesn’t kill people, how can it kill off most of the world’s population?”
“It will happen because the world will become a very dark place. No power, no lights. It’s electrical power that keeps everyone in line. It’s the light that keeps most of the monsters hiding in the shadows. Without lights, how can we scare away the monsters?”
Marion shook her head and said, “I’m not understanding anything you’re saying here.”
“Marion, listen to me. You and Gayle go pack a bag and come back to the house with Junior and me. Things are going to get a little out of hand now. Without the police around to help with the monsters, it is going to get very bad for everyone, but, it will be especially bad for women. I know what I’m talking about. I’m retired from the Navy, Marion. I’ve seen this before.”
“But you drove here. How come your truck is working when you said everyone’s vehicles won’t work? I tried my car earlier and it won’t start, just like you said.”
She looked at George, awaiting his answer. “My best guess on that is it might have been because my garage is a metal building that is grounded on all four corners or it was the hilly terrain that stopped the blast affects from reaching my garage. I’m not really sure.”
“What does that mean? You are guessing at this?”
George sighed again deeply and said, “Okay Marion, I’ll start over and try to help you understand what this entire situation means.”
Tim was jogging down the road that led to town. The angry rhythm of his feet hitting the pavement echoed loudly in his ears. He knew that his old chief was responsible for this mess. He vowed to get even with him. He would do whatever it took. He wanted him dead for everything he had done. His feet seemed to echo dead, dead, dead, with each step. He started thinking of his favorite daydream. He walked up behind his old chief and turned him around quickly and slammed his fist into his face, making him fall to the ground. He would jump down and straddle him and put his hands around that bastard’s neck and squeeze as hard as he could. He would watch until he saw the fear in his eyes as he realized who it was doing this to him. He would laugh and tell him, “I told you I would kill you, you fucking bastard.”
He could feel the delicious sensation of having the power of life and death over someone. When you take someone’s life you realize that you are a God. He laughed again, thinking, “Yeah, I’m the reaper God of death.” He got close to town and noticed all the cars clogging the roads. The stoplights weren’t working. He began to wonder if they had lost power, too. He headed down the street and was just about to turn the corner and go to the repair garage when he noticed that three guys were dragging the mayor between two cars. The mayor looked like he had been dragged behind a horse or something. One boot was missing and he was screaming. He couldn’t make out what he was screaming about. Everything looked strange. There were people standing around huddled by each other in groups. He wondered idly what could have happened as he headed to the garage.
When he arrived, the door was locked. He knocked and called for Fred. He couldn’t see or hear anyone inside the building. He was really getting curious now about what could have happened that Fred wasn’t there, but his tow truck was. Tim was going to explain to him about what happened, and he could come see for himself that the vehicles were not starting. It just might save Phil his job. He at least owed Phil that. He felt a little bad about turning on his brother like he had before he left. But Phil just didn’t understand what happened wasn’t his fault, and that stupid chief was responsible for the mess his life was in these days. That girl had asked for it. Everyone said so. Everyone except his chief and the officers. Of course, they had a holier than thou attitude. Their word was law and anything anyone else said was a lie, no matter what. They didn’t believe him that she asked for it. They were just useless assholes, anyway.
He walked over to Main Street and looked around to see if there was someone he could ask about Fred’s whereabouts. He decided to go to the courthouse to find out what had happened. Everyone was looking pretty bewildered and confused. What was up with that? And why were all the cars just left like that everywhere? Whatever happened must have been pretty big to cause such a reaction.
He was a block from the courthouse when he spotted a guy he had gone to school with. He hurried up to him. “Hey, Brian. What happened?”
Brian turned to look at him. “Hey Tim, how are you?”
“I’m fine. Do you know what happened?”
“I’m not really sure. Everyone is saying we were hit with an EMP and that’s why nothing is working. I’m on my way to the courthouse to find out what they know about all of this.”
“Do you mind if I come with you?” Tim asked. “I was on my way there myself to see what happened.”
“Of course, I don’t mind. Do you know anything about EMPs and what this means?”
“If we were hit with an EMP,” Tim said, “we’re fucked, completely and truly fucked.”
“What do you mean?” Brian asked.
Tim explained what he knew about EMPs. “Like I said, we’ll be fucked.”
Brian looked shocked. “How long until they can fix it all and get everything working again?”
Tim said, “I don’t know. But it won’t happen quickly, that‘s for sure. Do you realize what they would have to do to fix everything in the whole country?”
“That would take fifty years,” Brian said. “So, what do we do now? How do we get to work and home and everything?” He started panting and looked like he was going to pass out.
Tim grabbed him and shook him a few times. “Brian, get ahold of yourself. You had better get what you need right now in town and get home with it before everybody else takes everything and you’re left with nothing of value to survive with.” Tim turned around and said, “I’ve got to get home right now.” He took off running.
Brian called after him, but he ignored him. The implications of the situation were starting to dawn on him, too.
Tim saw the sporting goods store up ahead. He ran along the building and around the side to the back. He looked around. He tried the handle on the back door. It was locked. He looked around again. Still no one around. He stepped back and raised his foot. He aimed to kick the door beside the door handle to break the lock. The door swung inward. He waited a minute to see if anyone was coming to investigate the noise he made. He saw no one. He went inside. He knew no one was inside the store. He saw how empty it was as he passed by on his way to the back. He went straight to the backpacks. He picked out as big a one as he could find. He went over to the counter where the ammo and guns were kept. He broke the glass and reached inside and grabbed all the ammo that was there. He made sure to take only the boxes that they had guns for. He next ran around the store and threw this in here and that in over there. A little bit of everything he thought might be useful. They could come back and take the rest of the stuff later. He put the backpack on and looked out the back door. All clear. He stepped out and pulled the door closed as far as it would go, then took off running. He had to get home and explain the situation to his pa and brothers. They had things to do to assure their survival. He smiled. This was a golden opportunity to take out that bastard, Johnson. Oh yeah, he thought. A plan was forming in his mind. I will get you and your place, too. He laughed and ran faster, knowing this was the best thing that could have happened for him.
“And that is the situation we are in, Marion,” finished George. “Now, will you please get some things together so we can leave before things get even crazier out there?”
Marion smiled at George. “I thank you for your concern, but we will be fine here. My family has never run from trouble, not ever. I’m not going to start now. We stick like glue and don’t let trouble make up our minds for us. My family survived the Civil War and stuck together. We will stick together now, too. I will not just run off and abandon my house to whatever might happen. Might happen, George. You don’t even know for sure if it was an EMP or not. I will not leave, absolutely not.” She stamped her foot and glared at him. “I’ve made up my mind and that is that. There is nothing that you can say that will make me change my mind, either. I can’t even believe you would suggest such a thing to me. If we have hard times coming now, my place is here in town. I will be needed here to help with this emergency, whether this is an EMP thing or not. You expect me to just abandon my friends and neighbors? I can’t do that. I will not do that. I can’t believe you are selfish enough to even suggest that I abandon everyone and save myself and Gayle. That would be a horrible thing to do. I am a Christian woman and I will not abandon anyone who may need my help. I will thank you to get out of my house now!” she yelled at him. She pointed to the door. “Get out!”
Junior and Gayle had sat through this whole conversation between their parents and just looked back and forth as each of them spoke. Now they looked at each other. Gayle just shrugged her shoulders at him and said, “She’s my mother.”
Junior looked at his dad. “Dad, you can’t just leave them here.”
George looked at his son, and then at Gayle. He finally said, “Gayle, the invitation is open to you, too. I hope you come with us now.” Gayle looked at her mother standing there and saw how angry she was.
She sighed and said, “Thank you, George. That is very kind of you to invite me after the way my mother’s treating you. I can see that you have her welfare and safety in mind and that you care what happens to her. But she is my mother and I can’t just leave her here.” She turned to her mother. “I say we should go with George and Junior.”
Marion huffed out, “Absolutely not. We are staying here together. We will help our community through whatever crisis this is. We will never abandon our friends and neighbors.” She glared at George. “I told you to get out of my house. I mean it. Go. “
He turned to Gayle and started to open his mouth to tell her to be careful when she jumped up and said, “I’ll walk you out to your truck. You’re lucky your vehicle still works.” She walked over to the coat rack and grabbed her coat and scarf and went out the door. Junior looked at Marion and his dad, and then followed her outside.
Gayle was pulling her gloves on as he walked up to her. He didn’t quite know what to say or do. He looked earnestly at her and said, “Gayle, this is a very serious thing that happened. You both are not safe here. It was really bad when we were in the middle of town and it’s going to get worse.”
Gayle sighed. “Don’t worry, I’ll work on changing my mother’s mind. Why don’t you see if you can talk your dad into coming back in a few days? I’m going to wear her down. I’ll be relentless in my pursuit to change her mind. I’ve seen all those end of the world movies, too, you know. I have a basic idea of how this could play out. The whole world will be murder, rape and mayhem, with everyone running around, gathering up as much food and supplies as they can. I can’t believe it just yet. It seems like a nightmare that you know you might have, but it hasn’t caught up with you yet. Sorry, I’m so shook up I’m not even making sense.” She gave a nervous laugh.
“Don’t worry about it,” Junior said. “It does seem unreal, like a bad movie or something.” He paused and looked at her intently. “Gayle, I’m really worried. Believe my dad. He has never been wrong about what the military or government will do. He’s told me many times how situations will play out about things you see on the news and the internet.”
George walked out the door and saw Junior and Gayle talking. He headed straight for the truck, got in, and shut the door. Junior nodded to Gayle. “I have to go now. Take care. I or my dad will be back in a few days, if we can, to check on you.” Junior walked over to the truck and got in. George started the truck and drove down the street. “Were you able to change her mind at all?” he asked.
His dad sighed. “No. She’s a very stubborn woman. She says I’m overreacting and I’m an unfeeling, cold, heartless bastard to abandon everyone. I asked her how I can be both at the same time and she just screamed at me to get out.”
“Don’t worry, Dad,” Junior said. “Gayle said she’s going to work on changing her mind. Gayle seems to be very determined. She asked me if we could come back in a few days. She feels certain that she can change Marion’s mind about this.”
His dad said, “I’m glad Gayle is optimistic, because I’m not. I really don’t think she can change her mind. This situation that we’re in will change every single person on this planet. No one will get by without seeing, hearing or feeling something horrible at one time or another. It will affect us all. It will cause us to think differently, to react differently than we have ever had to before.”
They drove in the back way this time. His dad stopped the truck and turned off the engine.
There were noises coming from the front of the place. It sounded like they were trying to be real quiet. There was some whispering, but they couldn’t make out what was being said. George said quietly, “We’ll go in through the garage and see what’s what.” Junior followed his dad and did everything exactly like he did. His dad stopped at some shelves and gently pulled them out towards himself. He then reached back and worked the paneling out and set it aside. He reached inside and removed two SKS rifles, two chest pouches and two ammo cans. He handed one of each to Junior, then whispered into Junior’s ear, “Chest pouches have two hundred rounds for stripper clips, ammo boxes have sixteen hundred rounds.” Junior was surprised. He hadn’t known there was a secret hiding-hole in the garage. His dad looked at him seriously, then bent over and whispered in his ear again, “We may have to kill whoever it is out there. We’ll give them the chance to leave peacefully, but don’t count on it. Do you remember how to use the stripper clips?” Junior nodded yes.
“Load up your clips and put ten rounds in the rifle.” They both got busy getting everything ready. George could see how nervous and alarmed Junior was, so he leaned over and whispered, “I got these two as back ups at a gun show in the 1990s. I paid only $79.99 for each of them.”
Junior gave him a nervous smile and whispered, “I’m impressed.”
“We can’t let them get in the house and seal it up. Even I couldn’t get in if someone did that. We would be left out here in the cold with no real supplies. You do understand why we have to stop them, don’t you?”
Junior nodded yes.
His dad smiled at him. “You do remember how to use an SKS?”
Junior smiled more easily and whispered, “Of course, they are a blast to shoot.”
His dad reached into his chest pouch and pulled out the camo face paint and started applying it to his face. He motioned for Junior to apply some to his face, too.
Junior whispered, “Why are we using face paint?”
“So we can sneak up real close before they will be able to notice us.”
Junior nodded and started applying the paint to his face too. “What’s the plan?”
“You need to get higher than me so you can cover me. I need you to sneak up to next year’s wood stack. You remember where I cut that maple down on the little hill?”
Junior nodded yes.
His dad continued, “Get behind the stack and put the gun over the top of it. It will help you keep it steady. That should give you a clear view of the area, too. I’ll come up on the left side down in the low area. If this turns into a shooting match, don’t hesitate at all and aim for the center mass of each target. Okay?”
Junior nodded yes.
His dad reached out and put his hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. He whispered, “Son, if anything happens to me, the keys are under the front tire of the truck. You get in the house and shut it down tight. Don’t come out for six months. The main chaos will be over by then. I left the manual for the house in my desk drawer. It will explain everything to you about all the systems of the house.”
He looked around and listened for a moment. He smiled and whispered, “They’re sure having a hard time getting in, aren’t they? Now, when you hear me yell out that you are covered by five guys, I want you to shoot in front of one of them. Hit the dirt. That will be their one and only warning. If it goes bad out there, put them down just like you do a deer. Hopefully, we can convince them to move on without bloodshed. I’m going to go take a look out the window. Stay here. I’ll be right back.” His dad moved silently to the window. He stood with his back to the wall. He slowly turned around and peeked out. He drew back and waited for a reaction. After a minute, he decided that they hadn’t seen him. He came back over to where Junior was and squatted down.
“Do you think they saw you?”
His dad shook his head no. “The sun is shining right into their faces. I would’ve looked like a shadow if they saw me at all. There are three men out there trying very hard to get in the house. Let’s go ruin their day and make a statement that they definitely picked the wrong place to try to break into.” They quietly left the garage. George relocked the door.
They both snuck into their positions. George hid behind a large rock that was fifty yards from the front door. He looked up at where his son should be. He could just make out the tip of the barrel on top of the woodpile. Good, he got there safely. One of them was trying to kick the door in. The other two were standing back and talking quietly. He couldn’t make out what they were saying. All three of them were armed and had hunting knives in a sheath on their belts. These guys were serious. This wasn’t a normal break-in, either. They wanted in very badly. What could they possible want all the way out here? He started to get an uneasy feeling about all of this. Shit, thought George. I should have left Junior at Marion’s. He wasn’t ready for the big time just yet.
The guy at the door was getting pissed. He was screaming and yelling and cussing up a storm like some demented, insane creature. That made George smile. If he were alone, he would’ve just stayed hidden in the woods until they gave up and left. But Junior was here and he didn’t know if he would be able to handle the pressure of staying in that position for hours without knowing where his dad was, or even if he could stay still for that long without giving himself away. Better not take the chance of losing his son. That was one thing he couldn’t live with. Just thinking about it brought a cold shiver down his spine. He slowly moved a little closer around the rock to see if he could hear what they were saying.
The guy trying to kick the door down was screaming at the top of his lungs, “You son of a bitch, open this door!” He turned to the other two and said, “This isn’t Fort Knox, you know. Why the hell doesn’t this door open?” He motioned to the other two guys. “Get over here and help me kick this door down. Get over here.” The other two hesitated. The first guy screamed at them, “Now!” They hurried over.
Man, that guy is really pissed. George was quite pleased with the way his defenses had held up. He sighed. It was time to end this nonsense. He stepped around the rock and yelled, “Freeze! Turn around.” They abruptly stopped what they were doing and whipped their heads around to look at him. They didn’t move. He repeated, “Turn around slowly and keep your hands away from your sides. If you don’t move slowly, I might mistake that for a move to go for a weapon. You three don’t want me to think that, do you?” All three of them had long hair. Two of them had their hair tied at the back of their necks. The third one’s hair was all over the place. His hair was covering most of his face and clung in sweaty clumps. It was hard to see what he looked like.
George said again, “I won’t tell you again, so you had better comply this time or your blood will be soaking into the dirt by my front door. Turn around slowly. Keep your hands out away from your body. You’re covered by five guns.” A shot rang out and the dirt kicked up in front of the one in the middle. They turned around slowly. George said, “Turn your weapons around to face you and slowly lay them down on the ground.”
What happened next is hard to explain, it happened so very fast. A woman stepped out from the woods ten feet from George and said, “Drop the gun, old man.” She was holding a Ruger 10-22 on him.
George wanted to laugh. He replied, “Your friends will be let go just as soon as they place their weapons on the ground. Young lady, put that gun down before someone gets hurt.”
“Shoot that son of a bitch Carol, right now!” yelled the punk on the left. He lunged forward onto his left shoulder, reaching under his coat.
George was already swinging his rifle towards the young lady and didn’t see him lunge forward. Junior, up on the hill, couldn’t see what the guy was doing because the other two blocked his view.
Damn, George thought. He didn’t want to shoot a woman. He felt a tug on his jacket and a 40 SW slug caught him under the right arm. He didn’t feel any real pain. It was more like a stinging, burning sensation. He turned his head and saw the handgun in the hand of the guy on the left. Before he could react to the new threat, the young lady started firing at him. He quickly dropped her with a double tap. He turned back toward the thugs. The one on the ground kept firing at him and yelling, “I told you I would kill you!”
He felt like he was in a dark void. The only thing he could see was the SW semi-automatic kicking up as the thug shot at him. He felt another hit and a stinging, burning sensation in his stomach. Why didn’t he shoot? His finger was on the trigger wasn’t it? Then he realized that he was shooting. He got the thug on the left, the one that kept yelling something at him about killing him. He shot him twice in the chest. He aimed at the next one and his vision started to blur. He wasn’t sure if he got that one at all. He could feel something warm and wet running down his right side. The other two were scrambling around, trying to aim their guns. Why wasn’t Junior shooting? Oh my God, what happened to Junior? Then he saw the dirt kick up behind one of the thugs. Junior. Thank you, God. He was all right. He had to drop those two fast before they could get to Junior. He tried to raise his rifle up to aim at the two thugs, but his arm wouldn’t move. Everything felt like it happened in slow motion. Why was he moving so slowly? He fell to the ground and never even realized it. He looked at the sky and thought what a beautiful day it was. His last thought was, Oh God, Junior, I failed you. He saw the darkness closing in.
Junior was shocked when his dad fell. Rage built in him until he couldn’t breathe. The second guy that his dad had shot at and missed when he fell to the ground fired at him, sending splinters flying all around in the air in front of him. That broke him from his rigid shock. He quickly swung the rifle at the guy that shot at him and fired one shot. The guy went down. His rage kept building until he felt it would fill the whole world. He let loose a bellow of rage, a primal instinct in him that he thought he could never feel. He spotted the other guy running for the hills. He started pouring lead in his direction. He fired four shots. Three of them hit his center mass and he went down. His breach locked open. He bent down by the woodpile and reloaded the stripper clip. The click, click, click of it sounded very loud to him. When he had the last one in, he yanked back hard on the lever and let it go. The bolt slammed forward, putting a fresh round in the chamber. He popped backed up, swinging the rifle and looking for threats.
He strained his ears to hear every sound that was out there, but all he could hear was moans. He ran down the hill and over to his dad. George lay motionless. He felt for a pulse. It was very faint. He was still breathing. One of the intruders moaned. If these four assholes hadn’t showed up, he and his dad would be locked together in the house. They would have been safe from killers like them. His rage built until he couldn’t contain it anymore.
He stood up and calmly, deliberately, walked over to each of the killers and shot them in the head. He looked at the woman who had shot at his dad and caused him to be hit. She was coughing up pink foaming blood. That was good, it was a lung shot. He walked over to her and kicked her rifle away. “I hope you suffer a long, painful death, bitch,” he screamed at her. He could hear her straining for a breath.
Junior ran back over to his dad and checked his pulse. It was still faint, but it was there. He was still breathing. “Hang on, Dad. I’m going to get the truck to take you to the hospital. I’ll be right back.” He took off running. He grabbed the keys from under the wheel and jumped in. He had it started almost before he was all the way inside. The door was still open when he put it gear and took off. The door swung closed. He drove over the intruder that he had shot running away. He didn’t even give it a conscious thought. He pulled up next to his dad and jumped out. Junior picked him up and raced to the other side to put him in the passenger seat. He got the door open and set his dad on the seat. That’s when he saw the blood. It was everywhere. Both of his hands were colored red. His dad wasn’t breathing. Quickly, Junior felt for a pulse. Nothing. He tried again. Still nothing. He stood there and stared at his bloody hands. His dad was dead. He was all alone. His legs gave out and he slid to the ground. Tears leaked from his eyes. When did I start crying? he wondered. He held his head in hands, feeling so very lost. The full impact of what had just happened hit him then. The world was coming to an end. His dad was dead. What was he supposed to do now? He was in a very dark, lonely place and just wanted to let go of all the confusion and pain he was feeling.
Many hours later, after darkness had long since fallen, he stirred. He stood up and walked like a zombie to the front door. Oh right, the keys were in the ignition of the truck. He slowly walked back to get them. He saw his dad’s body and started to cry again. Great wracking sobs shook his whole body. He grabbed for the keys and kept missing them. Finally, he grasped them in his hand and stumbled to the front door. He had a hard time seeing the keyhole through the blur of his tears. He couldn’t seem to get the key to go into the door handle. He threw the keys down in frustration and started to kick the door and beat on it with his fists. He was screaming and beating on the door until he could hardly feel his hands. He lost his balance and fell down when he tried once more to kick the door. Junior just lay there, staring at the sky. He really didn’t notice the stars or the moon or anything else. He just lay there, staring at nothing, lost inside himself.
Junior regained awareness a lot later that night and realized he was lying on the ground. He rolled over slowly and got to his feet. He looked around for the keys and saw them next to the rock that his dad had placed them under just two days before so he could let himself into the house. He reached down to grab them and had a hard time getting his fingers to close around them. After several attempts, he was able to snag them. He stumbled once again to the door. This time the key went right into the lock. He had difficulty turning the key to open the door. His fingers were so swollen and numb he couldn’t feel them. He just kept applying pressure downward and eventually he heard the lock click open.
He pushed on the door with his shoulder and stumbled inside. He looked around for a few minutes in the dark, then walked into the kitchen. He knew where everything was in the house. He reached up above the refrigerator to the cupboard and fumbled around, trying to grab the bottle of Canadian Mist. His fingers weren’t cooperating, and the bottle started falling out of the cupboard. He caught it and pressed it to his chest, holding it very tight. This was all that there was right now. Nothing else mattered. He dragged his body to the living room and sat down on the couch. He opened the bottle with his teeth. His fingers were too swollen and would barely move. He held the bottle up with both hands and took a long, deep drink. When he brought the bottle down to rest on his lap, he noticed his dad’s recliner. He sat in the dark just staring at the empty chair.
Grid Down: Book One Reality Bites
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