Book One - Reality Bites
Chapter 9 - Silence Is Golden, Duct Tape Is Silver
"You should always tell the truth, because if you tell the truth you make it the other person's problem."
While Amy had been making her list, Preston had been getting the couch made up into a bed. He put clean sheets, a couple of wool blankets, and her quilt on top with a pillow. He figured he would grab his mummy-style sleeping bag and sleep across the room by the door. Not in front of it; that would be a stupid thing to do. But near enough in case there was trouble. He went to set it up.
“I’m done with my list,” said Amy.
“I’ll look it over tomorrow and we can decide what we have room for in the packs,” answered Preston.
“Okay. I am a bit tired. It has been a Twilight Zone day. Maybe after some sleep I’ll be able to think a little clearer. My mind has been all muddled up today. Tomorrow I’ll be able to help you prepare for the trip.” She turned, went into the bathroom and shut the door.
Preston focused on preparing his sleeping area. He was laying out his weapons and ammo, his flashlight. He thought about what Amy had said about tomorrow. He smiled. Wow, if all she had said and done tonight was with a muddled mind, what was she going to be like clear-headed? If she thought any clearer or assessed situations any better, she would soon be out-thinking him. He chuckled to himself. Boy, was she out of his league. He shook his head and smiled. She was a real find. She was a diamond hidden in a sea of pearls. He had never met a woman quite like her before. She was just so, so practical. The only other woman he knew of that was sensible and practical most of the time was Jane.
Amy shut the bathroom door and thought, Oh my God, he’s making a place for me to sleep. She had thought that she would go to her apartment to sleep for the night. No one since her uncle died had ever done something nice like that for her. She knew she probably wouldn’t get any sleep over in her own bed in her apartment. She would be worrying about all the little zombies walking around causing havoc and terror and what kind of problems they would have to face tomorrow. It was really nice of him to actually make a place for her to sleep. She might be able to get some sleep tonight after all.
Not being alone was really great. This whole thing today scared the hell out of her. Everything from this point on would be so very different. Uncertainty hit her. Why had Preston asked her to go with them to his retreat? She pondered that for a few minutes. She couldn’t come up with a good reason. She was nobody special. She didn’t really have any special skills at the moment that would be an asset to them at the retreat. She planned on having some skills in the future. She had a lot of information about snaring and trapping for food she would learn to use. She loved to learn new and interesting things. But she had to admit to herself she had no real experience yet.
Tears formed in her eyes and her breath hitched. What if these other two people at his retreat didn’t like her or didn’t want someone with no real skills there? What would she do then? Everything she had read about said only people with real skills would be let into survival groups. She realized that she really didn’t have a choice in the matter; she couldn’t stay here and hope to survive with no real supplies or skills. Her tears ran down her cheeks and she wiped them away; she hated crying. Crying never solved anything. Thinking and working through a problem was when a solution would be found. Crying about it never solved anything; it only made her feel worse, gave her puffy eyes and clogged her sinuses. She looked around and noticed some antibacterial wipes. She took one and washed her face.
She finished up in the bathroom and returned to the living room.
Preston looked at her. “You look tired. I made you a place to sleep on the couch. It’s a pretty comfortable couch, too. We’ll talk tomorrow after some sleep. Things are just,” he paused and smiled at her, “a bit different now. I hope you don’t think that I am presuming anything. I made up the couch for you without really thinking about it from your point of view. We really don’t know each other very well and I didn’t give a thought that maybe you wouldn’t want to stay here. I just did it and was thinking about your protection. I wouldn’t be able to protect you from the little zombies running around out there if you over in your own apartment.”
“Thank you,” Amy said. “That was very kind of you to think about protecting me at all. I appreciate all that you’ve done. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I went home. I would be too worried; I’d be up all night, so thank you again.”
Preston was puzzled a little by her answer. “You’re welcome.”
Amy sat down on the couch. She took her coat off and laid it at the end where her feet would be. She removed her jogging shoes and lay down, pulling all the blankets over her. She turned on her side, facing the room. It felt cozy and warm. She snuggled down, closing her eyes and releasing a sigh. Preston turned off the lantern. Without it, the noise outside seemed much louder. He got into his sleeping bag and lay facing the door. He sighed, too. It felt good to just be able to relax for a while. This might be the last time he could do so until they reached the retreat. He intended to get as much sleep as he could. He closed his eyes.
Preston was the first one up in the morning. They had a relatively decent night’s sleep. He was woken up a few times by noise, but nothing that was close enough to make him have to get up. It was now 6:00 am. He had overslept; he was usually up at 5:00. He got up and removed the sheets and things that he had covered the windows with the night before. It made it a little brighter inside. He didn’t want his windows to look any different than the others and bring attention to this apartment. He looked out the sides of the windows. It looked like a war had taken place out there. He shook his head and put the coffee on. He checked the water at the faucet. Nothing came out. He hadn’t expected it to; it had stopped last night. He was just double checking. Without the pumps working at the city water building, there would be no more water coming out of those pipes. He went into the bathroom to wash up and shave.
Amy woke up to the smell of coffee. She sniffed, appreciating the scent. She stretched and looked around. Preston was not in his sleeping bag. She hadn’t really thought that Sharon, the princess, would have been thoughtful enough to put coffee on for all of them. Of course not, it had been Preston. She got up and put her shoes on. It was cold. She walked into the kitchen and saw the coffee pot perking away. It looked done, but she didn’t want to turn it off, maybe he liked really strong coffee. She rinsed out the cups from the night before so they would be ready. She held her hands out to warm near the flame of the propane stove. Preston stepped around her, reaching for the coffee pot. She jumped in surprise, she hadn’t heard him come up behind her. He filled both cups and handed one to her. She mumbled a thank you. He reached down and turned the burner off. She looked at Preston all cleaned up and thought how unfair that was. She figured she looked like something out of a horror movie about now, hair all over, probably lines on her face from the pillow and puffy eyes from crying last night. But wow, he looked good. She could get used to looking at him first thing in the morning. She realized what she just thought and blushed, reminding herself not to go there and remember the princess. She turned and headed for the table to enjoy her coffee.
Preston smiled at Amy’s back as she headed to the table. She didn’t look like a morning person. She was cute with her shiny, light brown hair pulled out of her braid and hanging around her face. She looked young, real young. She had blushed, and had a scowl on her face. She didn’t look like her usual bubbly self. It was quite attractive, really. She was human after all. He still had a hard time believing she was as old as she said she was. He was just reaching for the coffee pot when he heard Sharon mumbling in the bedroom.
He turned and walked into the hall, seeing her disappear into the bathroom. He sighed. Sharon would be all put together when she came out. She always was. He realized how unnatural that was, like a mannequin or something. He looked over at Amy and saw how real she looked in her rumpled, slept-in clothes and uncombed hair. She was much more beautiful in a natural way than Sharon could ever be. Sharon worked hard to keep looking good every day; it was an illusion. That thought shocked him. He realized that he had never seen Sharon in a natural state like Amy was right now, with no makeup on or in rumpled clothes. He wondered if he would think she was attractive without makeup, probably not. He had seen her a few times in the morning with her hair a little messed up and it had never struck him how attractive she was at that time. He shook his head. What in the hell was the matter with him? The world they knew had ended and here he was comparing these two women. He took a deep breath, shaking his head at himself and poured more coffee into his cup. He kept telling himself over and over again, get your priorities straight right now.
Preston was going through the things he had set aside in the spare bedroom to put in the packs. Space was really limited in the packs for the two women. He knew it would be a losing battle to try to talk Sharon into leaving any of her makeup or hair stuff behind. But, she would have to carry it on her back herself. He smiled at that thought. I wonder how long before she starts to throw some of it away? He hated the thought of wasting the very valuable space they had with that kind of stuff. But Sharon was Sharon, after all. He doubted he would be able to reason with her about it. He finished his pack and set it aside. He would carry all of their essentials in his pack and the saddlebags he had made for the bikes.
Sharon was just about done getting herself put together to face the day. She was frustrated and upset because she couldn’t shower or wash her hair. She debated whether she should wash her hair anyway with the water in the bathtub. She decided that wouldn’t do, because with the power out, she wouldn’t be able to style it properly without using her hot rollers. She sighed and swore. It was very important to her to look her best at all times. Now, how was she going to accomplish that without the power to do so? Hopefully, the power would come back on soon. It made her feel dirty to not follow her morning routine, especially after walking all the way home and perspiring yesterday. She shuddered at the thought all that had happened to her the day before.
She left the bathroom and walked back into the bedroom. She went over to the dresser and grabbed her cell phone. It still didn’t work. Well, just as soon as the power was on again that problem will be solved. She walked into the kitchen, ignoring everything around her. She reached inside the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water. She went back into the bedroom and got out a couple of tablets of pain reliever from her purse to help with the headache she had. That was also his fault, she thought angrily. She was going to finish getting ready for work. As soon as the power came on while she was at work, she would call the police and have him arrested. How dare he treat her like that? She decided to wear a business pants suit. She’d have to wear something soft on her feet because they still hurt and were a bit swollen. The pants suit would cover that fact up. She was looking in her closet, deciding what pair of shoes would do when Preston walked in. She ignored him. He was a problem that soon would be gone.
Preston heard Sharon in the bedroom and wondered what she was doing. He walked in. She was dressed to go out and standing in front of her closet.
“Sharon, what are you doing?”
She ignored him.
He tried again. “Where do you think you are going?”
She ignored him.
He touched her on the shoulder and she turned around and pushed him away, screaming, “Don’t touch me, you asshole, don’t ever touch me.”
Preston looked at Sharon. “Fine. But answer me this, where do you think you’re going?”
“I don’t have to answer you. You don’t exist to me anymore. Do you understand me? You do not exist. Get out of my apartment. Go. Go. Just leave me alone.” She angrily grabbed a pair of flats and shoved her feet into them. She winced. “Shit, that hurts!” She adjusted the shoes and walked out of the bedroom with her head high, her body tight with anger.
Preston got up, sighed, and went after her. He ran into the living room and almost knocked Sharon over. She was standing there with an angry look on her face. She turned to him and slapped his face real hard, screaming, “How dare you? How dare you sleep with her here in my apartment? You bastard. Get out now. Get the hell out and take that slut with you.” She pummeled his chest with her fists.
Preston grabbed her hands. “Sharon, calm down. Just calm the hell down.”
Sharon continued to screech at him. He didn’t let go of her. She started kicking him with her pointed shoes. He was hopping around, trying to avoid her kicks while explaining why Amy had stayed the night. Sharon was past hearing anything he could have said in his defense. Preston saw Amy walk up behind Sharon and stand close to her. She grabbed Sharon and shoved her right at Preston. Preston was able to get her turned around so he could hold her still with his arms wrapped around her. Sharon’s volume increased. Preston couldn’t do a thing about it; it took everything he had just to hold her. Preston saw Amy coming with something in her hands and smiled at her. She maneuvered around to get close to Sharon and Sharon reached out and slapped her and scratched her face. Amy didn’t even look mad, just a bit surprised. Sharon tried to slap her again and Amy lunged right at Sharon, knocking her hands away and applied what she had in her hands across Sharon’s mouth, finally shutting her up. It was a piece of duct tape. Sharon had a shocked look on her face and stood absolutely still in Preston’s arms. They all panted for breath for a few moments. Preston and Amy were enjoying the quiet.
Amy was the first to move. She grabbed the roll of duct tape and came back to Preston and Sharon. She showed the roll to Sharon and said, “Do you want me to tie you up with this?”
Sharon looked at the roll of duct tape, then looked at Amy, and then back to the roll again.
“Shake your head and tell me if you want me to tie you up or not? I won’t wait very long for your answer, Sharon. I’ll just tie you up and be done with this, this…” Amy paused, not even sure what to call it, “this fit of yours. Do you comprehend me?”
Sharon looked at Amy with fear in her eyes and nodded her head yes.
“If Preston releases you, will you sit down so we can have an intelligent conversation about your wrong impressions?”
Sharon was shooting daggers at her with her eyes, but nodded yes.
Amy looked up at Preston. “Okay, let her go, but if she starts her crap up again, I’ll duct tape her up into a little ball. This is ridiculous.”
Preston let go of Sharon and took a couple of slow steps away from her just in case she did something again. She didn’t. She marched over and sat down in a chair, not making a sound. Amy let out a relieved breath. Sharon took off the duct tape and threw it aside.
Amy sat down the closest to Sharon. She looked up at Sharon with a hard look in her eyes. “Sharon we will get one thing straight right now,” Amy said. “I will not put up with your fits. Get that into your head right now.”
Sharon huffed. “Who the hell do you think you are to tell me what to do?”
Amy sighed again. “Sharon, this is Preston’s apartment. This is not your apartment. He lived here long before you came along. You are a guest here in his apartment and you had better start acting like one. I will not permit you to treat him like you do. He doesn’t deserve it. Do you understand me?” Sharon was outraged at what Amy was saying. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, Amy said in a threatening voice, “Before you say one word, you had better think long and hard about your answer to me.
“You will treat Preston and I with respect, Sharon. You will talk nice and calmly to us about any concerns you have. We will answer you in the same way. But, I am warning you right here and now, I will not put up with your shenanigans, your screaming, cussing and hitting. Do you understand me? Those are the ground rules we will abide by. In times like these, we must have some kind of order and respect between us. If you get out of hand with Preston again and attack him, or even don’t talk to him with a respectful voice, I will tie you up in a little bitty ball of duct tape. If you ever raise your hand to hit me again, I will punch your lights out. You have been warned, Sharon. I will not warn you again. Preston is too nice of a guy to make you behave. I am not as nice as he is. Now, think before you open that big mouth of yours.” Amy rubbed her temples to ease the headache Sharon had given her. It was way too early in the morning to deal with this shit.
Sharon pouted for a while. Amy sighed once again, irritated with Sharon. She said, “Sharon, I stayed overnight here because it isn’t safe out there. I don’t have any way of protecting myself. I don’t have a gun and I don’t know how to use one. I slept on the couch and Preston slept in his sleeping bag over by the door to keep us safe. Preston was a perfect gentleman last night. None of this had anything to do with sleeping with each other or anything like that.”
Sharon looked at Amy and then at Preston. “Are you going to let her talk to me like that?” she demanded. When Preston didn’t do anything or say anything, she said to him in a squeaky voice, “How dare you let her talk to me like that. You let her in here and you are letting her treat me this way.” She started to cry. Amy sighed again. Sharon sounded broken hearted. Preston moved to go to Sharon and Amy grabbed his arm and pulled him back down on the couch. She shook her head no at him.
She turned back and looked at Sharon. Sharon was obviously faking it. Amy turned to Preston and looked at his face. He was feeling sorry for Sharon. He wanted to go to her and comfort her. Oh boy, did he need to be educated. After a few minutes of fake crying, she got up and dramatically ran from the room, slamming the bedroom door.
Preston let out a shaky breath. “Sharon is delicate and can’t handle things like this. I thank you for helping me with her, but I don’t think you were right to be hard on her like that. She’s just upset right now and got the wrong impression about us. She’s crying, and I should go and reassure her.”
Amy sighed and thought, oh brother. She looked at Preston. “You think she was really crying?”
Preston looked at her, shocked that she would say such a thing. “Yes, she was. You were really hard on her and she can’t take being treated like that. She has a delicate constitution.” Amy laughed. “Why are you laughing?” asked Preston. “This isn’t funny. You were very mean to her.”
Amy said, “Preston, she has you wrapped around her finger and can make you do anything she wants. All she has to do is look up at you with one of those delicate expressions in her baby blue eyes or cry and you cave in like an earthquake hit you.” He didn’t quite know what to say to that statement. She continued, “What do you want to bet that she isn’t really crying?”
Preston stared at her. “I know her better than you do and I know she’s crying. She can’t handle situations like this. She’s too delicate.”
Amy was getting irritated at Preston’s innocence of what Sharon was doing. “Okay, I’ll prove it to you. I’ll go into that room and accuse her of faking it and let’s hear what she says to me. You sneak up and listen by the door, okay? Don’t make a sound or anything. I want her to think it is just her and me. Okay? Is it a deal?”
Amy’s attitude toward Sharon angered Preston. He said firmly, “Okay, I agree. But this is my apartment, as you said earlier. Don’t think you can come in here and tell me what to do. You understand that?”
Amy looked at him with amusement dancing in her eyes. “Absolutely. I agree with you. But we’ll talk after we check if Sharon is really crying or not. When I motion you with my hands, come in and see for yourself.”
Amy walked down the hall. Preston kept his word and stealthily made his way to the door, leaning on the wall where he would be hidden from sight. Amy softly knocked on the door, then opened it up and said, “Sharon?”
Sharon glanced at Amy out of the corner of her eye and saw that she was alone. Sharon faced her with her hands on her hips and said haughtily, “Get away from me, you bitch. You think you’ve won Preston with your tough attitude? I’ll show you how little effect you’ll have on him. He loves me. Me. Not you. Just look at you. You’re a fat cow. I’m beautiful. You have an ugly face and body. Who would even talk to you? People walk right by you and don’t even see you. You blend into the walls. He’ll come in here and I’ll make him not listen to you. I’ll make him get rid of you. All I have to do is cry again and he’ll do whatever I want to make me stop. You’ll be out on your big tramp of an ass, you cow slut. How dare you come into my apartment and tell me how to treat him? I’ll treat him however I want to, and there is nothing you can do about it.” Sharon had a very smug look on her angry face. She reached up and smacked herself on the side of her face and started to cry. Amy never moved from the door right next to Preston.
Preston stepped around Amy, pushing the door open all the way and saw Sharon crying on the bed. She looked up at him with tears falling down her face, the reddened slap mark showing up very prominently. “Oh Preston,” she complained, “she was so mean to me; she hit me. Help me, please, help me. Get her away from me. Please, please get her away from me. She was hitting me.” She cried like her best friend ever had just died. She leaned over, hanging onto Preston and looking up at him with those pretty blue eyes of hers.
Amy started to laugh so hard she almost choked. “Now do you believe me?” she asked. Amy walked away, laughing.
Several minutes later, Preston walked out into the living room looking a little lost. Amy had spent the time straightening everything up and folding the blankets.
He looked at her and started to say something, then changed his mind and shook his head. He sat down at the table and looked down at his hands. Amy felt sorry for him. It was a hell of a shock to find out you were a sucker when it came to the Sharons of this world. She had seen other men when they realized they were just being played.
She went to the bedroom and knocked lightly before she opened the door. Sharon was straightening her clothes in the drawers. She didn’t even look up. Amy set the tray down on the dresser and said, “I brought you something to eat. Preston said you don’t eat any meat, so I brought you some fruit salad, cheese, and crackers, and bottled water to drink.” Sharon still didn’t acknowledge that she was there. Amy tried again. After all, they would be going through all of this together and she was trying to make the best of the situation. Amy moved closer to Sharon. “What are you doing?” Sharon ignored her. Amy sighed. “We’re all going through this together. Can we please try to at least be civil to each other and get along?”
Sharon turned to Amy. “You don’t exist. I am not talking to a fat cow like you. You were mean to me and I’m having you arrested as soon as the power comes back on.”
Amy smiled and thought, That’s the best you can do? She said, “Sharon, the power is not coming back on for many years to come. Everything changed because we were hit with an EMP bomb. Nothing electrical will work. We all have to start over from scratch. Nothing will be fixed for at least five years.”
“You’re as crazy as he is,” she replied. “He’s just a conspiracy nut. Don’t believe him when he says this stuff. He’s wrong. He’s so very wrong. You both will feel pretty stupid when the power comes back on. But what can you expect from morons and fools like you two?”
“You really think the power will come back on?”
Sharon just looked at her, rolled her eyes, and continued to straighten a dresser drawer.
Amy thought for a few minutes and then asked, “What do you think happened when the power went out and the vehicles, watches and cell phones stopped working for everyone out there? Everything stopped working at the same time, Sharon. This isn’t just some power outage for a few days. This is permanent. This can’t be fixed easily. ”
“You’re crazy. I’m not listening to anything you say,” Sharon said. “What do you know?”
Amy had just about enough of Sharon burying her head in the sand and not accepting what had happened. She reached out and grabbed Sharon and dragged her over to the window. She opened the blind and said, “Look at this, Sharon. Does this look like a typical power outage to you? Those are dead bodies out there, Sharon. If this was just a temporary thing, don’t you think the police or an ambulance or someone would have helped those people? There’s no one left out there that can help anyone. This is something none of us have ever seen before. You’d better wake up and accept this situation for what it is. It is complete chaos out there. Look at those fires burning everywhere. We have to get out of the city tonight, Sharon, before the bad guys that killed those people come here to kill us, too. Because they will come and kill us, that’s what they do and there isn’t anyone left to can stop them. They’ll hunt us down, rape us women, and then kill us. If you have a gun, you might be able to make it out of here. This is the situation we’re facing now. Do you understand what we’ve been saying now?”
Sharon just stared, a shocked look on her pale face. Her eyes were glassy. She wasn’t blinking right. Amy realized she might have been a bit too plain speaking to her. Well, tough. They didn’t have time for anymore of her tantrums or her inability to really look at this situation. Amy reached up and closed the blind. Sharon just stood, staring. Amy led Sharon over to the other side of the room and sat her down on the bed. She got down and looked Sharon in the face. Sharon was still not seeing her. Amy clapped her hands in front of her face. Sharon blinked a few times and then reached out and pushed Amy away.
“Get away from me. You’re crazy. The power will come back on. You wait and see. The power will come back on. What happened out there is just a … a … a … riot or something. Get out of here. I don’t have to listen to you.”
Amy couldn’t believe it. Sharon still refused to believe it. Amy threw her hands up in the air. “I tried, I really tried.” She turned around and walked out of the room.
She found Preston in the second bedroom. Preston had his head stuck in the closet, doing something. Preston turned and looked at Amy. “I heard what you said in the bedroom. I didn’t think she’d change her mind and believe what we’ve been saying to her. But please, don’t open the blinds again. We don’t want anyone to see that people are up here in the apartment. Okay? It will let the bad guys know where we are.”
“I’m sorry for doing that,” Amy replied, “but I couldn’t think of anything else that would make her face what’s happening. I won’t do it again.”
In the afternoon, Preston looked at the list Amy made. He was surprised. She had listed: Survival Kit
For The Future
2 Mora Of Sweden Knives.
Preston thought, Wow, she has been preparing for a survival situation. He smiled and thought no wonder she didn’t think he and Joe were nut cases. He laughed softly. He had no idea his neighbor was a survivalist, too. He would have to think about all of her supplies and what they could take with them. His stuff was already packed up. He’d look over her stuff and decide what could be brought and what would have to be left behind.
Preston called Amy out to the dining room; she came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. She saw he was looking at her list. “Ready for some coffee?” she asked. “I just heated the pot up.”
“Yes, thank you. I wanted to talk to you about your list.”
“Okay, I’ll get the coffee and be right back.” She returned with the coffee, filled the cups, and sat down across from him at the table.
“Were you preparing for an emergency situation or a disaster?”
“Yes, I was. After New Orleans,” Amy stopped a moment to take a sip, “I got to thinking what could happen here. So, I started preparing. I looked things up on the web and learned about survival. The things I read scared me, too. I saw how easily we could just fall apart like a crumb cake if something serious happened and we weren’t ready. I’ve only been doing this for about a year now. I didn’t have that much money, but I did what I could afford to do. I just didn’t have enough time to get all I wanted to. I know it’s not much, but I did what I could. I was buying a gun and taking a shooting and a safety course for the next item. Then I was going to get non-hybrid vegetable seeds and so on till I had a large stash. I was going to take a survival course for trapping and snaring to provide meat and animal skins to tan. I was going to prepare my uncle’s hunting camp up north for my retreat.” She looked down at the table with a sad look on her face. She then looked back up at Preston with a very serious look on her face. “There just wasn’t enough time for me to do it all. That is why I said I didn’t have any real skills yet. I had planned on having several skills to offer a group and we would go to my retreat and somehow survive together.”
Preston was really blown away from her answer. She was so far ahead of the game for the average person. He looked at her and said, “The first thing we’ll do when we get to my retreat is run you through a shooting course for handguns, shotguns and rifles. You’ll learn gun safety at the same time. I can teach you that. I’ve taught shooting before, so we can take care of that. You’ll then have a very valuable skill. You’ll be able to protect yourself and others.”
Amy smiled. “Thank you, Preston. I really want to learn to protect myself and others. I hate the idea of being so vulnerable right now.”
Preston looked down at her list. “What do you feel you must have with you? I need to know what you won’t part with as I calculate what will fit in your backpack.”
Amy immediately said, “All the things listed under for the future. They’ll be valuable to have. I’ll learn those skills from the books I have. I’m taking the DVDs with me in case sometime in the future I can run across a working DVD player. I figure there has to be one working someplace. I also want to take my two egg beaters, the apple peeler, the three can openers, the radio, the flashlight, the key chain LED small flashlights, my survival knife with a compass, my two Mora Of Sweden knives, the shake chemical flashlight, my Swiss Army knife, a flint and the six bags of chocolate bars.”
Preston had been checking them as she named the items. He looked up at her. “How big of a pile is this and how much does it weigh?”
“I really don’t know how much it weighs,” said Amy, “but the pile will be about this big.” Amy showed him the size of the pile with the box she had emptied. Well, it would be doable, but he had to find out how much all this weighed first.
“Could you go get it and bring the items here before dark so we can get packed up?”
Amy grinned when she heard this. “I’ll get my stuff right now.”
“Okay.” Preston got up and let her out the door.
That afternoon they had all of Amy’s things packed up and ready to go. Preston told Amy he was going out to see if he could find her a bike. He took some things with him in a small shoulder bag to trade for the bike. Amy barred the door. Preston had told her he would come back and knock on the door. Before letting him in, he wanted her to knock back on the door, then he would knock three times. That would let both of them know that everything was okay. Preston asked Amy if she would please get Sharon ready while he was gone. He was anxious to head out as soon as it got dark. He had already spray painted Sharon’s ski jacket. It had been yellow and pink. Now it was a matte black color. Amy’s coat was a dark navy blue, so he didn’t need to do anything to it.
Amy walked to the bedroom door and sighed. She reached out, tapped the door, and then opened it. Sharon was sitting on the bed, looking through a magazine. Amy stepped into the room carrying Sharon’s backpack. She had noticed that while he had a very large backpack, her and Sharon’s were quite a bit smaller. Amy dropped the backpack on top of Sharon’s magazine and said, “Get this packed up with what you’re bringing with you. We’ll be leaving soon. I’m giving you about fifteen minutes to pack this up. If you don’t do it, I’ll come in and do it for you. You probably won’t like what I would pick, so you had better get busy.”
Sharon said, “I am not going anywhere, you stupid cow.” Amy turned around and left the bedroom.
Amy went into the kitchen to get a few more things ready, then she sat down at the dining table to some coffee. She was thinking about all that happened today. What a day. It almost matched yesterday for weirdness and distress. Sharon was lost in her own little world, refusing to believe anything was wrong. All afternoon she had kept saying the lights would be on soon. They could hear her moving around turning the lights on and off, testing them. Every time either of them had checked on Sharon, she would refuse to talk except to say that she was not going anywhere and called them names. Amy sighed. She was a hundred and twenty-five pounds, and the doctor had told her that she was a little underweight for her bone structure and height. She wasn’t fat. It was time to go find out what Sharon had put in the backpack.
When Amy went into the hall, she saw the backpack lying empty on the floor outside the door. She rolled her eyes and picked it up. She opened the bedroom door and went inside. Sharon had finally eaten some of the fruit from the fruit salad, and the cheese and crackers were gone. Amy started opening drawers to go through Sharon’s stuff and pack.
“Get your fat cow hands off my stuff!” Sharon screeched.
Amy ignored her, continuing to go through the clothes, separating them. The next thing she knew, she went flying into the wall, dropping the backpack. Her head bounced off the wall. She lay there, stunned and dizzy.
Sharon jumped on her, pulling her hair, screaming, and slapping her. “You are not touching my stuff, you fat cow. Get out of here. I will kill you. Don’t ever touch my things again!”
Sharon slapped and scratched Amy a few more times in the face and on her arms, leaving bloody scratches behind. Amy felt like a tornado had just hit her. She reached up and pushed Sharon off. She tried to stand up, but her knees were too weak and her head was spinning. Sharon jumped on Amy’s back, pulling her hair again, and trying to knock her head into the wall again.
That’s it, Amy thought. Amy reached back and grabbed Sharon by the hair, lowering her upper body and throwing her over her shoulders. Sharon landed with a loud thump on the floor. Amy crawled over to the wall and stood up on her shaky legs. Sharon was still lying on the floor trying to get a breath. Amy made her way over to the bedroom door and left. She walked a little steadier the farther she got down the hall. She went into the dining room and grabbed the roll of duct tape. She made her way back to the bedroom. Sharon was neatly putting all the clothes back into the drawers.
She turned and saw the duct tape in Amy’s hand. Sharon’s eyes got big. She backed up to the bed. Amy just kept coming. Sharon fell back on the bed and rolled over to the side nearest the bedroom door. She took off running. She plowed into Amy, but Amy was ready this time. She grabbed Sharon and both of them swung around in a circle. Sharon was able to elbow Amy in the stomach in an attempt to get away. Amy huffed out a breath, but kept a hold on Sharon, swinging her around again. They swung around by the doorway and Sharon shoved Amy at the door. Amy’s head banged into the door and she lost her hold on Sharon, falling down on her knees. Sharon took off running down the hall. Amy stood up on shaky legs and raced after her. Amy rounded the hall into the dining room and flew though to the living room. Sharon was at the door trying to open it. Amy took a flying leap and tackled her. They both went down to the floor in a jumble of legs and arms, but Amy was on top. Amy grabbed Sharon’s head and banged it a few times on the floor, then pulled her hands up and ripped a strip of duct tape free. She grabbed Sharon’s arms and tried to tie them up, but Sharon got one hand free and scratched Amy’s face again.
Amy drew back her arm and punched Sharon in the face. Then she grabbed Sharon’s arms and pulled them down, rolling her over on them after tying her hands together, then pulling them down close to Sharon’s body. Amy tore some more tape free and started tying Sharon up. Sharon started screaming. Amy started rolling Sharon across the floor, taping her up into a tight bundle. She then tore a strip off and taped up Sharon’s mouth. Sharon was lying, squirming on the ground with her nostrils flaring out. Amy sat there for a few minutes to get her breathing under control.
She finally stood up and pulled Sharon over to the corner and sat her upright. She got into Sharon’s face and said, “I warned you that I would duct tape you up if you got out of hand again.” Sharon’s eyes were very wide and glassy. She was shocked senseless. Good, Amy thought. She sat down on the couch and assessed the damage Sharon had done to her.
There was a knock on the door. Amy raced over as fast as she could and knocked once on the door. Three more knocks came from the other side.
“Who is it?” asked Amy.
“The bike guy.” It was Preston. She moved to open the door, hissing in pain. When she finally got the door open, Preston quickly entered, wheeling in a mountain bike. He took one look at her and did a double take. He noticed Sharon taped up in the corner. Amy was having a hard time getting the bar back down into place. Preston stepped forward and grabbed the bar. “Let go. I’ve got it.” Amy let go and stepped aside. Preston secured the bar. Amy walked slowly over to the couch and sat down.
Preston went over and looked at Sharon sitting in the corner. She was staring at him with shocked, wide eyes. She kind of looked like she had last night when he had to be rough with her to get her to shut up, except she now looked like she would have a real shiner tomorrow on her left eye. It was red and puffy. He took a step back and really looked at her. Her arms were taped to her chest, and all the way down to her waist. Her legs and feet were taped together snuggly. He wondered how Amy was able to get the tape so tight. Sharon had to have been squirming around. Maybe she had knocked her out first. He turned and looked at Amy. She looked like she had just had a fight with a wildcat. She had scratches all over her face, arms, and hands. Her hair was out of her braid and hanging all around her. She was leaning back on the couch with her eyes closed, deeply breathing. She had smeared blood in her hair on the right side. He turned back around and looked at Sharon. Wow, he must have missed a hell of a fight. He walked into the bathroom and gathered supplies up and got a basin of water and a washcloth. He shook his head at the scene before him in the living room. No one would believe it if he told them. Nope, no one would believe it. He went over to Amy and set everything down on the coffee table.
He gently touched her arm were there were no scratches to get her attention. She opened her eyes and looked at him. He noticed that her pupils seemed to be dilated more than they should be. He reached up and felt her head where her hair was streaked with blood. She hissed at him. That was a painful bump. He dipped the washcloth in the water and gently patted the area. It came away with fresh blood. He cleaned the blood out of her hair, then applied light pressure to stop the bleeding.
When it stopped, he looked at it and decided it would be fine. There was just a small scraped area on the bump. Head wounds always bled a lot. He applied triple antibiotic ointment to it. He knew he should cut the hair around the area, but women were picky about their hair, and after seeing what she been through and the shape she was in, it was not something he wanted to approach right now. If necessary, it would be done later. He then cleaned the cuts and applied more ointment and bandages. He asked her if she was hurt anywhere else.
“No. Thank you. I was resting first, then I would have cleaned them up.”
He said, “That must have been some fight you were in.”
She smiled. “Yeah, you should have seen us rolling around the floor. You would have liked that scene. That’s how I duct taped her up.”
Preston laughed at that. He would have really liked to see that happen. He gathered everything up and walked out of the room. Amy stared at Sharon. Even with all the aches and pains she had, she still felt a bit sorry for her. She looked so pathetic sitting in the corner with her wide, shocked eyes.
Amy walked into the bedroom and Preston was there looking at some of Sharon’s belongings. He turned and faced her. “You should be resting. I think you have a slight concussion. Your pupils are a little dilated.”
“I said I would help Sharon pack up and I’ll do it,” she said.
“Okay, tell ya what. You sit down on the bed and tell me the items to put in the pack. Okay?”
“I’m not delicate, you know. It’ll take a lot more than that to put me down for the count.”
He smiled. “I don’t doubt that at all.” Amy turned and started to sway with dizziness. Preston caught her and said, “You’re lying down on the couch and resting. No complaints. You need rest.”
“Okay, twist my arm,” Amy said. “I won’t complain at all.” Preston led her to the couch. Amy lay down and Preston took the sheet and the other two blankets and pulled them over her. Amy shut her eyes to stop the room from swaying. It felt good to rest for a few minutes.
Amy woke up with a hell of a headache. She tried to get up, but felt nauseous. She lay back down. Preston had the lantern on in the dining room. She looked around and saw that the sheets and things were back up on the windows. She also noticed that her comforter was on top of the two blankets covering her up. She started to feel really bad that they hadn’t been able to leave when it got dark. She vaguely remembered Preston waking her up a few times. She wondered what time it was. Slowly, she sat up. It wasn’t as bad this time. Her stomach was still upset, but not too bad. But boy, her head was really pounding in time with her heartbeats. The light was making the headache worse, too. She was thirsty. She got up to get a drink. She noticed that Sharon wasn’t in the corner any longer. I wonder what Preston did with her? She moved slowly to the kitchen. She grabbed a glassful of water and took a drink.
Preston walked into the kitchen. “Don’t drink that too fast or you’ll be throwing it right back up.” Amy turned around and looked at him. “How’s the head doing?”
Amy said, “A heavy metal drummer is in there rehearsing for a concert.”
“That good, huh?” He held out his hand and said, “Take these. They should help. Then you need to go lay back down. Rest is the best thing for you right now.”
Amy took the two tablets from him and placed them in her mouth, swallowing them with another drink of water. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m sorry we couldn’t leave when it got dark. Do you know about what time it is?”
Preston said, “It’s about 11:00 pm. Sharon wasn’t in any shape to leave, either. Can you tell me what happened this afternoon?” Amy told him all about it. He smiled. “Wow, that was some fight. I was wondering, because you had a lot more damage than Sharon.”
“What can I say? I underestimated how tough she could be. She fought like a wet wildcat. She attacked me when I wasn’t looking; I wasn’t ready for that. After the first surprise attack, I got her under control.”
Preston chuckled. “Yes, you did. I had a hell of a time cutting her out of the duct tape.”
“You undid her? Why?”
Preston looked at Amy for a while before answering. Then he said, “She was traumatized by it all and in shock. I cut her out of the tape and got her into bed. She hasn’t spoken a word to me or even looked at me. I found her a little while ago going around the apartment, trying the light switches again. She saw me coming and ran back, got into bed, and buried her head under the covers.” He sighed.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that to her, but she crossed the line.”
“Don’t worry about that right now. We’ll have to leave tomorrow night. We can’t put if off anymore than that or we won’t have much of a chance to get away. You lie back down and rest and gain your strength so we can leave tomorrow.” He took a small flashlight and shone it into each of her eyes. She flinched and closed her eyes. “Your pupils look normal now.”
“That should be gone by morning.”
It was just getting light out when Amy opened her eyes. She looked around and saw Preston asleep in his sleeping bag. She stretched, then flinched at the stiffness and soreness that seemed to be everywhere on her body. She got up and put coffee on. She went into the bathroom and got cleaned up and put clean clothes on. There was nothing like washing your face and body with icy water to wake you up. The coffee was done. She poured a cup and sat at the dining table. She felt really good. She just had a small headache and a tender sore spot on her head. She was clear headed. She had felt so groggy last night. It had been really nice to have someone to take care of her. She wondered what this day would bring. Ever since the EMP had hit, it had been nothing but one thing after another. She sure hoped they would be able to leave today.
She heard Preston stirring in the living room. He came into the dining room, running really fast; he looked at her, then headed on through down the hallway. He came back and said, “The door was unbarred and Sharon is gone.”
“What? Where would she go?”
“I don’t know.”
“When could she have left?” she asked.
“I don’t know that, either,” he answered. “I must have slept harder then I thought. I didn’t hear her open the door.” He walked over to the window and looked to see if he could see Sharon anywhere. He turned to her and said, “I’m going to get ready to leave. If someone grabs her and makes her talk, they could find out that we have food, water and lights and they’ll be coming to take it from us. We’ll take the bikes and our packs and go out in the woods over there.” He pointed to a woody area. “We’ll wait and see if she comes back or if anyone has forced her to tell them we’re here.”
She looked at him seriously. “And then what?”
“If she doesn’t come back,” he said, “we’ll just head out without her. I don’t even know where we could look for her or which way she went. If she comes back with someone, we’ll have to play that one by ear and decide what to do.” He turned and walked down the hall. She prepared to leave.
Sharon lay in bed for about an hour after she heard Preston settle down and turn off the lantern. She silently crept out a few times to make sure they both were still asleep. She put her good wool winter coat, gloves and hat on. She walked slowly and quietly into the living room and went to the door. She took a long time opening it so she wouldn’t make any noise. Slowly, she made her way out of the apartment building. It was so very dark out there. She felt her pocket to make sure she had the little flashlight that Preston kept in the bedside drawer. She was going to need it to see the street signs. She had decided after Preston had cut her out of the duct tape that she wasn’t staying there anymore with those two crazy people. They were trying to kill her. At least that bitch would. She just knew it. How dare Preston leave her alone with that bitch and go off to who knows where while she had to fight for her life? Her whole world had turned upside down. She still couldn’t believe that he would believe that bitch over her. That had never happened before. He hadn’t been very nice, either.
She decided to go to her Cousin Monica’s house to wait it out until the power came back on. Then she would have them both arrested at the same time for the horrible things they did to her. How dare they treat her this way? Well, she would show them just as soon as the power came back on. She’d been checking the phone and the light switches all day and night, because she was calling the police as soon as the power came back on. She made her way along the highway. She had a long ways to go. Monica lived about eight miles away. She made sure to wear her new jogging shoes so her feet wouldn’t hurt too bad, remembering the horrible walk home she had to do. It was creepy out here. You could see fires burning all over the place in the distance. The cars were just sitting there. Some of them had the doors open. She stopped to rest frequently. Boy, this walking stuff was hard. She took out her bottle of water and took a drink. She recapped it and placed it back in her pocket. The small bag she carried was getting very heavy. She was still pissed at that fat cow bitch and Preston because she couldn’t find some of her makeup or her good hairbrush. God only knew what they had done with her stuff. That cow bitch probably stole them and Preston let her do it. Who did they think they were? Nobody treated her like that and got away with it. Yup, just as soon as the power came back on, they were going to jail and out of her life for good. Good riddance. She still couldn’t believe that cow bitch had hit her and given her a black eye and tied her up. Half her face was swollen up and she couldn’t even open her eye on that side of her face. It hurt, too.
Sharon remembered she had to go up an overpass to get to Monica’s house. It looked different walking than it did when she was driving. It was pretty high up, too. She came to an intersection and got her flashlight out to read the street sign. She must have made a wrong turn back there; she was on the wrong road. She walked back and looked around and went the right way. She kept stumbling over things on the sidewalk. She had to stop to rest more often; she was so tired. The sun was rising. It was scary out here. She knew she had to keep going. She could hear weird scuttling sounds and a few times she thought she heard footsteps. She hid in a doorway for a while and the sounds went away. She was walking past an alley when a hand reached out and grabbed her. She screamed. She felt herself being thrown into the wall. She heard laughter.
Preston and Amy got everything together they were taking. “I’m going to take this bike over to the location we’ll be spending the day. I’ll be back in a few minutes. Then we’ll go down in storage and get the other two bikes and take them over, too.” Amy nodded. He looked at her and said, “Lock up and wait for my knock.”
Amy walked to the door. “Be careful. Watch out for all the little zombies.” He smiled and nodded his head as he stepped into the hall. Amy barred the door. She went into the kitchen to check one more time for anything they said they were bringing that might have been left by mistake. She sighed deeply as she went back into the living room and watched the wooded area for signs of Preston. It was a scary thing happening. They were taking off into the wild blue yonder together and just leaving everything behind. She wondered how long it would really take them to get to the retreat. What would the retreat be like? Would his friends there like her? She was more worried about that than anything else. She closed her eyes and sighed. Take one day at a time and deal with it before worrying about what the next day after that would bring. Deal with one problem at a time, too. There would be a lot of problems on this trip to get through. What had Sharon been thinking of to take off like that? If she thought being tied up with duct tape was bad, what in the hell would she think of what the little zombies would do to her? There was a soft knock on the door. Amy turned and walked to the door.
Sharon woke up feeling really cold and hearing more laughter. Someone poked her. She looked over and one guy was going through her bag, throwing stuff all over the place. She tried to get up and realized someone was holding her down.
“Get your hands off my stuff,” she yelled. They laughed harder. She struggled to get up and couldn’t do anything but wiggle.
“She doesn’t have nothing good in here,” said one of them. “There’s no food or water.” The other one held her bottle of water in the hand that wasn’t holding her down. They both took a drink. Sharon kept squirming around, trying to get free.
She was saying over and over, “Get your hands off me.”
Finally, the one that had been going through her stuff looked over at her and asked, “Where did you get the water?”
Sharon just said, “Get your hands off of me.”
He reached out and hit her in the face on the side that was already bruised. Sharon screamed. “Answer me right now. Where did you get this water?” he demanded. Sharon struggled with all her might. She was scratching and kicking as hard as she could. He reached over, grabbed her throat, and yanked her up so he was face to face with her. “Tell me where you got the water from.” She started crying. He shook her. “Tell me where this water came from!”
She barely could get a word out. “My apartment.”
“Do you have more water there?” She tried to shake her head yes but could barely move at all. She was trembling in terror at the look in his eyes. He tossed her back on the ground. “Where do you live?”
“24012 Maplewood Drive,” she whimpered.
“What else do you have at your apartment?”
“Some food and a lantern.”
He stood up and dragged her up to her feet. “Let’s go. Lead the way.” The two men started laughing. One reached out and pushed her. She stumbled and fell to the ground. He yanked her up again and said, “Get up and get moving.”
“Who is it?”
“Very funny.” Amy was already opening up the door. He stepped into the living room, looked around and said, “Let’s go.” Amy picked up the backpack and got the rest of her things. Preston led the way down to the storage area. He went over, unlocked his storage space, and brought the bikes out one by one. They walked them over to the door. Preston looked around and said, “It’s clear. Follow me.” Amy walked closely behind him, steering Sharon’s bike. He would stop behind things or beside them and look around before proceeding. When they got across the road and into the wooded area, Amy saw where Preston had the other bike. It was hidden in a little space underneath some trees. Preston motioned her to lean the bike by a tree. He took the saddlebags and secured them to the bikes. He then pulled out a tarp and put it on the ground, then opened up two sleeping bags and indicated for her to sit down on one. He sat down on the other. “We’ll stay here today and wait to see if Sharon comes back. We’ll only wait until dark for her. Then we leave.” Amy got them a couple of sandwiches and poured them some coffee out of the thermos she had filled. They sat quietly and ate their breakfast.
Amy was looking at his bike now that it was a little lighter out and she could see things better. “What is that on your bike?” she asked.
He had rigged up a mount for his bike. It was a swivel that held a 20-gauge semi-auto Charley Daley shotgun. He had sawed off the stock so it had a pistol handle and sawed off the barrel down to fifteen inches. “That’s a shotgun. It will cover any head-on assault we run into.” He held up an AR-15 and said, “I’ll carry this on my back.” He laid the AR-15 back down and patted his 45 his side. “And I have my trusty .45 Colt on my side.”
“Cool,” Amy said. She indicated the shotgun on the bike. “How did you get it up there like that?”
“I used the swivel part from a boat oar. I modified it and locked it down. It worked like a champ. I took a bike air pump clip design to snap and hold an air pump on the bike frame and modified it to hold the handle of the gun. It worked really well. I simply pull up and the gun will be free to swivel around where I need it to point to.”
Amy smiled at him. “Wow, that’s going to work great. Good thinking.”
He smiled back. “Thank you. We should get as much rest as we possibly can today while we’re waiting. We don’t know how long we’ll have to go until we can find a safe place to stop for the day after we leave here tonight. Later this afternoon, we will go over a little gun safety and you can practice going through the motions. I have a 9mm Hipoint with a shoulder holster and two extra magazines that you can carry for personal defense.”
“Okay.” She thought for a while and then asked, “How long do you think it will take us to get there?”
“We should be able to cover about eighty to ninety miles a night. The trip is going to take three to four days, maybe more; it will depend on what we run into between here and there.” They sat in silence, deep in their own thoughts.
Amy had practiced with the handgun all afternoon. She felt comfortable with it now. She didn’t know if she would hit anything she was shooting at or not, but she would give it her best effort. They took turns lying down and having a nap. The other would stay up and keep a look out for anyone coming near them and to keep an eye out for Sharon. When the sun started to set, they got everything ready to leave. There had been no sign of Sharon. When it got dark, Preston sighed. “Okay, it’s time to go.”
Amy looked at him. “Are you sure you don’t want to wait a little longer to see if she shows up?”
Preston said, “No, we’ve waited long enough. I don’t think she’s coming back.” They left the third bike and Sharon’s backpack there. Preston had Amy take Sharon’s bike because he had equipped the bikes with tubeless, airless tires. That reduced the weight they had to carry. No need to carry patches and air pumps. They climbed on the bikes and started riding. Preston led the way with Amy following.
It was about a half hour after full dark when Sharon and the two guys finally made it to the apartment building. They pushed Sharon up the stairs. She was freezing. She had lost her hat on one of her many falls. She hadn’t even realized it. She had seen so much today that made her climb inside herself and refuse to see anything else that was out there. The smell of rotting meat was everywhere. She stopped at the apartment door and fumbled to get her keys out of her pocket. Her hands were cold and her palms were bloody from the pavement. She had lost her gloves, too. She didn’t remember when. The one guy-standing behind her had a gun pushed into her back. Finally, she was able to get the door open. No one was there. They went inside. The guys commented on what a nice place it was. They walked around and saw all the water and searched the cupboards for food. One of them grabbed a bottle of wine and ate some cheese as he walked around. Sharon was still standing in the middle of the living room.
The two guys came back and looked at Sharon. “Now we can party. We have everything we need. Food, water, wine and a woman to entertain us.” The one guy set his bottle of wine down and went over to Sharon, taking her coat off and whispering in her ear, “It’s party time.”
Grid Down: Book One Reality Bites
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