Iain pokes his head out from underneath the tarp. “You’re not gonna believe what that nasty fuck has under here,” he says softly.
“What is it, Iain.”
“It’s a F-86 Sabre nose section with an enlarged and strengthened gun bay housing holding six M39 20mm cannons. I know why he needed four large draft horses to pull this damn thing. There are also some old, rusty OD green 20mm ammo cans as well. Mostly APIT (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer – pronounced “apit”) and HE. Behind the plane’s nose section is a small, Gray Marine, two-stroke, V8 diesel engine hooked to a Heemaf generator.”
“That is the nose of a plane, correct.”
“Yes, honey. It’s an old fighter from the Korean War. Not very many of the 20mm variety were made – I can’t remember how many. Stupid 20mm cannons replaced the 50 cal six-pack the F-86 normally carried. Looked good on paper, but the smoke from the much larger 20mm cannons tended to cause compressor failure in the engine. This version was abandoned after some trials. It’d be interesting to see where this plane came from. A museum or private collector maybe.”
“Do we have a 20mm at home?” Since the red-head is listening, I do not want to tip her off that we have a reinforced retreat. We usually refer to our home as the bunker.
“Nope, and don’t really need one either, but having one can’t hurt. Although I won’t run all six barrels at once – that’s just stupid.”
“When I was with the Convoy they had a Oerlikon 20mm cannon.”
“What happened to it?”
“As far as I know they took it north with them.”
Since the morning is shot, we decide moving the wagon off of the road into the trees and brush beside the Powder River is better than sitting in the roadway. Iain ties Joker and the mules to the back of the wagon. He drives the wagon like an old pro off the old highway.
Iain makes the gorgeous red-head walk in front of the wagon the whole time. I follow behind on Mary-Margaret keeping an eye out for stragglers.
Reaching the shelter of the trees beside the river, Iain hobbles the black draft horses leaving them to munch on the grass growing beside the river and to drink from it when they want. Our horses and mules are similarly situated but farther from the draft horses as they are strangers to each other and not likely to get along (at least according to Iain whom I trust with all things horse).
Securely tying the red-head to a tree in a sitting position, Iain leaves me guarding the motley collection while drags the headless corpse off of the road into the bushes. Iain disposes of the head by kicking it swiftly. I hear the rustle of branches as the head bounces into the brush on the opposite side of the road.
There is nothing to be done with the lake of blood in the roadway, so Iain leaves it. He comes trotting back carrying something small in his hands.
“Nasty fucker had this in his pocket,” Iain says holding out his huge hand. Appearing tiny by comparison, lying in Iain’s massive paw is a Beretta 950B .22 short pistol. I may not know planes, but I am good with small arms.
“May I,” I ask. Iain nods his head. I take the tiny semiautomatic pistol immediately ejecting the magazine into my left hand. I note that the Beretta’s magazine holds five, slightly green tarnished Remington .22 short rounds.
Tipping the barrel up, I remove the chambered round which turns out to be just as green tarnished as the rest. Reloading the little pistol, I hand it back to Iain who drops it into his jacket pocket.
We spend the rest of the morning searching the wagon. Iain discovers red clover and buckwheat seed in large, vacuum sealed bags. Iain likes growing red clover for his bees although the sheep and goats seem to like it as well.
I have heard Iain talk about buckwheat, but lacking the seeds I have never had the opportunity to see the plant. From Iain, I gather that buckwheat grows fast and is easy to harvest. He says that bees love buckwheat flowers although the flowers do not particularly smell good.
Bees make a dark honey with a spicy malt-like flavor from buckwheat flowers. Darker honey is supposed to be richer in antioxidants, but I could care less, as I crave something different in our diet. Our diet is rather bland if nutritious, but I desperately crave more variety.
Having spent the morning searching the wagon, we eat a cold lunch of hard biscuits, fake high fructose corn syrup honey from an MRE, with some venison jerky. We feed our quiet captive who has watched us all morning.
After appropriate calls of nature into the bushes, Iain reties the woman to the tree, but with some more slack so that she can at least keep her legs from going asleep. I cover Iain while he secures the woman who still has not spoken.
We spend the rest of the afternoon carefully searching the wagon. In a secret compartment underneath the automobile bench seat, Iain finds several rounds of ammo wrapped in old newspapers. Iain carefully unwraps each bundle of bullets, saving the newspaper for reading later.
Iain has always loved reading the newspapers; he laments when most of the papers went out of business. From the few pages I see, most of the newspapers are but mere shadows of their former selves. After unwrapping all the bundles of ammo we carefully look at the rounds.
I grow cold as I immediately recognize the Russian, silver plastic-tipped bullets in 7.62×54, 7.62×39, 7.62×25, and 9×39.
“I have seen these before, be very careful with those bullets Iain. Each one has enough nano-concentrated puffer fish poison to kill 10,000 people give or take a few.”
“Puffer fish poison – tetrodotoxin. Nano-concentrated tetrodotoxin. Also known as TTX.”
I should not be surprised that Iain knows exactly what kind of poison is in a puffer fish. A few years ago Nikola explained the poison-tipped bullets as he issued them to the convoy snipers and guards. Body shots on zombies were ineffective, but head shots (which are instantly fatal to most things anyway) worked well.
I never thought I would see Russian poison-tipped bullets again. Body shots on uninfected humans resulted in death within a few seconds as the poison hits the nervous system very fast. The nano-concentrated TTX in the bullets is even deadlier than the venom of a Palestinian yellow scorpion AKA “Deathstalker scorpion.”
With a sibilant, evil hiss Iain’s sword sweeps from the sheath on his left hip. In shorter time than it takes to read these words, Iain’s sword cleaves the scabrous man’s head from his shoulders. Great gouts of blood fountain from the man’s severed neck splashing the wagon’s side and bench.
As the scabrous man’s severed head bounces on the cracked asphalt like a discarded volley ball, Iain turns Joker avoiding most of the blood gushing from the headless corpse. Morbidly, I watch as the severed head rolls in front of my mount’s hooves, the eyes still blinking.
I hear a thump and see that the twitching headless corpse has fallen from the wagon’s bench and lies in the cracked roadway where it continues spasming for a little while, settling on its side. Distracted, I did not realize that I had loosened the grip on my filly’s lead.
Spooked by the smell of blood the filly breaks from my hold, tearing down the road. My mare whinnies at her daughter, but to no avail as the young filly is gone in a flash of hooves disappearing in the morning mist.
“Don’t worry about your filly Ruth, she is just spooked. The filly is very young, and has not had a lot of time to run. When they are young the horses love to run. She probably just needs to run a little. We’ll find her up ahead munching on some grass beside the road.”
I appreciate Iain’s calm assurance, but I worry about the filly being loose. Packs of feral dogs are frequent in the abandoned cities, Baker City is no exception. I have noticed that with the passage of years, the feral dogs are reverting back to their wolf ancestry, getting larger with every generation.
Iain drops his reins on Joker’s neck. Joker is trained to stand still when the reins are dropped on his neck. Iain pats Joker’s neck and climbs from the horse’s broad back into the wagon’s blood spattered driver’s box.
After wiping his sword off on the filthy rags covering the driver’s bench seat, Iain inspects the sword’s blade. Satisfied everything is ok with the broadsword, Iain pulls a small blue and gold aerosol can of WD40 from his jacket pocket. After lightly spraying the blade, Iain sheaths his sword with another sibilant hiss.
Watching Iain with eyes wide the poor, blood spattered red-headed woman has remained frozen in place. Iain steps over the rag-covered bench seat so that the woman is now kneeling at his feet. With his left hand resting on the hilt of his sword, Iain – all seven feet three, inches of him – is an intimating sight.
Inhaling I am about to speak, suggesting that Iain may not want to loom over the poor, blood-spattered woman, when she suddenly moves. Grasping Iain’s fly she starts unbuttoning his pants. Momentarily stunned by her actions, I stay sitting on my horse, mouth open.
Iain must have been startled by her actions too, because she managed to get two buttons of his Levi 501s undone before he reacts.
“What the fuck are you doing,” Iain shouts pulling back from the woman slapping at her hands. Iain cannot go very far lest he fall out of the wagon. The woman leans forward bringing her arms together underneath her breasts, pushing them together and up towards Iain.
She has way more tits than I do. Gob smacked by her actions, Iain stands there, mouth agape looking at the white creamy flesh of her remarkably deep cleavage. A light dusting of freckles accents her deep, creamy cleavage, her dark areolas just visible underneath the tops of her bra.
“I thought you would want me,” she purrs. She has a slight burr in her voice, Scottish I think, but she has worked hard to lose her accent. Her accent probably comes back when she is nervous or excited.
“Get up,” Iain grabs the woman’s upper arms and shoulders. He jerks her bodily off the wagon floor. “Stand,” he commands in a tone that brokers no compromise. Frightened, the woman stands woodenly in Iain’s arms.
Rigid with fright, like a fence pole, Iain lifts the poor woman by her shoulders setting her standing on the cracked asphalt. “Ruth, watch her. If she moves, shoot her as if she is a terrorist from back in the day.” As I place my hand upon the butt of my pistol, the woman’s eyes widen.
I nod, understanding Iain’s reference. I have told Iain, the first person that I have ever completely confided in, the whole story of my service in Israel, including Mossad.
I was a different woman back then – brutal and cold.
Once I nailed a keffiyeh to a male Hezbollah informant’s skull using short, self-tapping screws. Mossad was famous for using power drills for torture. I preferred the Tucker telephone – I had finite control, my subject tended to survive longer and it was neater. I hate blood in my hair, particularly other people’s blood.
While in Mossad, I attended the US Army’s SF pistol school. Very few graduate that school due to its tough curriculum. My American instructors said that it is one of a few US Army schools teaching proper use of a pistol.
I shot terrorists on sight. My idea of a warning shot is through the forehead. I am ok with a rifle, but I am scary good with a pistol. It is not bragging when you can back it and prove it. Even Iain admits that I am the best with a pistol he has ever seen. I still dry fire practice every day.
Most US Army doctrine focuses on rifle or carbine use – the pistol seen as a secondary or “oh, shit” weapon. I enjoyed the SF pistol school, graduating first in my class.
Shack often saw center-of-head shot zombies – my trademark. In the rare instances that I missed, he would teasingly scold me. I never did tell that poor boy how I got to be so good with a pistol.
Iain’s brief whistle brings me back to reality. I glance at the red-head, making sure she has not moved. She has not moved from where Iain set her down. Leaning against the wagon side, the woman is pointedly avoiding the dripping blood.
Iain has disappeared into the covered back of the wagon. I wonder what he has found. I hear something tear – sounded like fabric.
“Iain,” I call softly, imagining a bevy of beautiful women in the back of the wagon.
Despite the Redhawk revolver’s six-inch barrel, Iain can whip it out quickly. I have seen just how frightening fast he is for a man so large. I know that Iain does not have many of the .44 magnum rounds for his revolver.
I remember the early days of the KCAP outbreak when we treated ammo as an inexhaustible commodity. The days of indiscriminate ammo use are long gone. Every bullet is precious. What little reloading components Iain has stockpiled over the years has dwindled to nearly nothing.
I doubt that Iain will use his pistol unless he has to. Not only is ammo scarce, particularly for his .44 magnum hand cannon, but the shot will be heard for miles possibly attracting too much unwanted attention.
I have a suppressor mounted on my rifle. My ancient Hi-Power pistol wears its trusty suppressor but it is in its sheath on my right thigh. I have no way of getting my pistol without telegraphing my intention to the man.
Iain stops in the roadway, and the man stops about six feet away. The man looks at me and then back to Iain. The man’s oozing face is a plateau of scabs, weeping sores and clumps of pustules matted in small clumps of stringy hair.
The man’s enlarged left eye protrudes grotesquely from his face the milky orb nearly resting on his cheek. His left eye is cloudy with infection. Running down his scabbed face like tears vitreous humour drips from his left eye.
Dressed in layers of rags and blankets so filthy that it is impossible to guess what color they might have originally been, the man appears as a walking bale of rags. Various knots, duct tape, rope, zip ties and various belts secure the mass of rags to the man’s body.
I suspect, due to the way that the layers of rags that sheath the man’s body, that he never removes his garments, if you can call layers of rags clothes. I cannot see his feet or legs from my position but I bet that they are equally wrapped in layers of rags.
I cannot see the man’s hands clearly as they appear as bunches of rags on the reins. Watching as the man pulls on the reins stopping his horses, I fail to see any distinct fingers. I wonder if the man has any fingers at all.
A gentle breeze wafts over us bringing the man’s body odor with it. I nearly gag at the horrendous smell. I am not quite sure that I can adequately describe the cloying stench emanating from the man sitting on the bench seat of the wagon.
Sitting on a bench seat taken from some automobile the man leans forward and spits in the roadway. The bench seat is covered with an old plaid-patterned blanket. To his right lying on the bench beside the man is an ancient model 50 Reising machine gun.
I wonder where the horridly smelling man got the iconic machine gun. I also wonder if the horrible man does not have any fingers how does he load and fire the Reising?
The wooden wagon has a large tarp covered rear. Whatever is underneath the motley collection of blue, green, brown and silver tarps is anyone’s guess. Nothing distinctly can be seen from where I sit, my mare Mary-Margaret paws the cracked asphalt impatiently. Perhaps Mary-Margaret does not like the smell of the man either.
From my distance, I cannot hear what the man and Iain are talking about. I see the man stand up in the wagon and I realize that he is very short – possibly no more than 65 inches tall or so. The man gestures at me and then says something to Iain.
Iain shakes his head and yet the man points at me again. I see the unmistakable signs of Iain getting angry. Suddenly the man turns around and pulls on a long chrome dog leash. From underneath the tarps a beautiful woman emerges.
At first all I can see is a cloud of wavy red hair. Then the woman stands up.
She is the epitome of sex appeal. She has the aura of a confident woman with a sinful body. She stands perhaps five foot eight or so in stiletto heeled, knee-high black leather boots. Her hips and breasts flare out from a tiny waist. Long, thick chestnut hair flows in waves down her back landing in the depression between her ass and her lower ribs.
She has the face of an angel – green eyes, framed with thick, dark red lashes and porcelain skin with a generous sprinkling of freckles. Her lips are perfectly shaped and full – pouty, and red, the kind of lips that make men and women think naughty thoughts.
It has been a long time since I have seen a woman so lovely. Dressed in a short black leather skirt, with a button up long sleeve white shirt, the woman looks frightened and cold. I cannot place the woman’s age but I would bet that she is not over 30 years of age.
The man jerks on the dog chain in turn yanking on the chrome, dog choke collar around the woman’s delicate neck. The man says something to Iain gesturing at the choking woman. The woman, struggling to breathe, drops to her knees beside the man. Face turning red, she frantically tears at the choke collar with her fingers.
The disgusting man says something to Iain gesturing at the woman and grabbing his crotch suggestively. Oh fuck me – a slaver! There is nothing that Iain despises more (other than cannibals) than a slaver.
Iain nudges Joker closer as the man recreates gestures of sexual acts for Iain while pointing at the struggling woman. I guess the man is suggesting that the woman is quite adept at certain sexual acts. Realizing what Iain is likely about to do; I reach behind me and flip the safety off on my Galil hanging on my back.
Iain turns Joker so that the lewdly gesturing man is on his right side.
To my faithful readers – thank you for being patient with me. Last weekend, did not get a chance to get the next Ruth chapter posted. Below is what I should have posted last Sunday as well as this Sunday’s installment.
Today, Iain and I left the bunker to rendezvous with Flower and the other feral children. Iain rides Joker, his elder Akhal-Teke stallion. I ride Mary-Margaret Elizabeth, one of the older, experienced Akhal-Teke mares.
Following behind Iain and Joker tethered with long lead ropes are Brutus and Constantine, a pair of Iain’s cantankerous mules heavily loaded with gear. On an equally long lead, I guide Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, another of Iain’s cantankerous mules. Thankfully, I only have to deal with one mule, because I have my hands full with another horse.
Led by a short lead, so that she walks directly beside my mare, is my new Akhal-Teke filly. Iain gave me my own Akhal-Teke filly – something that I was completely unprepared for. No longer is she nursing from Mary-Margaret, and my filly is just starting to take training.
I have never owned a horse before; Amy was a good horsewoman – I am not. Iain helps me gentle the young filly, and using non-cruel ways Iain will help when it is time to accustom her to a saddle and then me upon her back. He does not believe in cruelly breaking horses – ever.
Also accompanying us is a couple of Iain’s British Black Mouth cur dogs. Cyclops, the old male stays close to us. Cyclops does not get so close to the hooves of the mules, which Iain tells me is how he earned his name. Cyclops is quite friendly coming near for petting and scratching during rest breaks.
Tripod, a pregnant, aptly named, young bitch also travels with us. She is not as friendly as Tripod, remaining just out of touch. Despite her pregnancy and lacking her front left leg, she has no trouble keeping up with the horses and mules. Iain does not know how Tripod lost her leg. Missing a leg does not hinder her very much.
We are not pushing the animals very hard anyway, as there is no reason for a hard drive. The easy pace is easy on my filly as it is her first time off Iain’s property.
We are hoping that this trip along with her mother will help accustom my young filly to working with us. The little filly is still all gangly legs, and bundled energy. She is not used to being tethered to her mother, and it is a learning experience that she needs to understand when it is time to work and when it is play time.
We camp just outside of the ruins of Baker City. As is our usual habit, we camp in a depression along the Powder River. We followed the Powder River almost all of the way into the ruined city.
The Powder River parallels the ruins of old Highway 84, offering plenty of places to water the animals, fish for dinner and perhaps shoot some chukar, quail or deer that might be near the water.
While we could have made it into Baker City in one day, Iain would rather arrive during the earlier part of the day. We have no way of communicating with Flower and the other feral children. We do not wish to surprise anyone. We also have no way of knowing if Flower is still leading the small tribe.
Iain and I feel it is better to camp beside the Powder River and enter the ruins of Baker City in the morning. We are not sure how well the feral children patrol the area around the city. We are certain that once we enter the city, we are in Flower’s territory. Better to enter during the day when visibility is better.
Iain sets some snares for quail and chukar. A fantastic shot from his bow netted us a nice jake wild turkey. I usually prefer my Wild Turkey from a bottle, but these days you cannot be too picky about food. Anything that does not come from a can or that is reconstituted is a boon to our limited diet.
Iain is a master of cooking in the bush. He soon has the young turkey spitted and roasting over a bed of hot coals. Turning the bird occasionally, he heats water for tea.
While the turkey cooks, Iain makes some simple bannock to go with the bird. Using a round, cast iron griddle Iain fries the bannock. Iain tells me that he prefers his bannock more Scottish and less native. He uses baking powder, and a little sugar and salt in his recipe. Iain really likes a lot of raisins in his bannock, but we have none right now.
Iain also likes spreading butter and honey on his hot bannock, which we do have. With our fire below the ridge line in the small river channel, there is less of a chance of someone seeing the fire. I worry about the smoke, but there is almost no wind so it raises straight up.
Iain is also a master of ensuring the fire does not smoke too much or put out too many sparks, things that can attract too much unwanted attention. We only use a fire at night when the smoke cannot be seen easily. At night even if you smell the smoke it is harder to find the direction it is coming from.
After devouring the small turkey, Iain and I each open a small can of spiced peaches. A generous shot of peach schnapps in the peaches gives me a warm glow in my stomach as we prepare for bed. The horses and mules are hobbled, munching grass on the opposite side of the river.
Iain rakes hot stones and coals underneath our bed, covering them with a layer of dirt. The coals and rocks will help warm our bed during the cold night. The heavy, dun-colored canvas cover of our bedroll protects the warm wool and flannel sleeping bags inside.
Tripod and Cyclops lie together in the grass near the foot of our bed keeping each other warm. Iain gives the dogs some dried mutton and venison to eat. For a treat, the dogs each get a nice, long rib bone with some dried sinew and meat attached. After wolfing the dried meat, the dogs settle beside each other gnawing on the raw bones with relish.
After ensuring our weapons are close to hand on the respective sides of our bed, Iain strips naked before crawling in the bed roll. Not as crazy as my lover, I keep on my long-sleeved flannel shirt and an off-white, long-sleeved thermal underwear top. I quickly crawl into our bed roll, diving underneath the covers. Curling against Iain’s shaggy warmth, I try to stop shivering.
Our bed warms quickly with our body heat and the warmth seeping up from the coals and rocks underneath. Resting on my stomach, Iain rubs my back, butt and legs in a familiar way. God what is it with this man and the outdoors?
Something out here makes Iain horny as hell. He wants to jump my bones every time we camp outside the bunker. As any longtime lover should, Iain knows just how to touch me. I am soon ready for Iain who, ever the considerate lover, ensures that I am plenty wet.
Iain is physically, the largest lover I have ever been with and the most conscientious about his size. Sometimes I wish he was a little rougher in bed. I understand that in the past he has hurt lovers with his size, so he is super gentle. In this position, Iain cannot hurt me with his size.
Sometimes in missionary, if Iain shoves my ankles near my ears, he can strike my uterus too hard. Iain is always so apologetic, that I try not to let him realize that he is thrusting too hard and hurting me. In missionary, only after he has come, and is starting to go limp can I take him fully. Doggy style – forget it; he is way too long for balls-deep slamming into me.
Bringing my musings to an end, Iain’s fingertips finds that I am not yet wet enough to his liking. With a blast of cold air, he slides down the bed roll ducking underneath the covers. He lightly kisses my back, the curve of my ass cheeks, and the back of my thighs before his furry face lightly descends on my ass.
I have ridden a horse all day. I do not exactly feel just-out-of-the-shower fresh, but Iain is not put off in the least bit. His large warm hands slide up my legs spreading my legs and lifting my hips slightly. I rest on my shoulders, as Iain takes most of my weight with his arms.
His thick beard tickles my thighs as at first just the tip of his tongue teases me. Delving deeper, he then licks me with broad strokes. Pressing his lips against my sex tightly, he lightly sucks on my labia, while his thumb lightly rubs my clit. Holding his mouth firmly against me his thick tongue snakes its way inside of me, causing me to bury my face in the pillows screaming with my first orgasm.
While recovering from my orgasm, Iain lets me down so that I am lying flat on my stomach. Using his knees he nudges my legs closed, while sliding up my body. The blunt and hard yet pliable tip of his penis nudges against the tight pucker of my anus.
The tip of his penis is wet with pre-come. I momentarily fear he may attempt to slide it up my ass. I lift my hips slightly attempting to redirect Iain’s penis. I have never enjoyed anal sex. Amy was very fond of anal sex, but those are stories for another time.
Lifting my hips a little more, I try again to redirect Iain who is now firmly lodged in my perineum. Iain assists by pushing his penis down. The tip of his penis finds the wet mouth of my vagina. With a groan from both of us he slides to the hilt in one, long easy push.
Resting against my back, Iain brushes my hair from my neck. He rests his weight keeping it off of me with his elbows and knees. His large, warm hands wrap themselves underneath my shoulders, his long fingers wrapping around my clavicles.
He kisses the back of my neck and the side of my face, whispering loving words. His beard is wet and smells like me. He slowly strokes inside of me, keeping me on the edge. I must not be coming enough for him, because he slides both of his hands down my body.
His large, calloused hands slide underneath my belly and into my vagina. Iain is so much taller than me that he reaches my groin easily. One of his hands spread the lips of my vagina while the other hand finds my clit rubbing it in light circles.
Lightly pinned underneath Iain’s weight but not crushed, I come several times before, with a grunt, Iain buries himself inside me. I can feel the hot pulses of his semen as it pumps into me.
Afterwards Iain pulls me to my side, still holding me. He eventually withdraws from me, his flaccid wet penis slipping out of me to lie against my leg. Curled in the warmth of Iain’s arms I fall asleep with him kissing the top of my head.
I awake with a naked, steaming Iain kneeling by my shoulder offering a cup of equally steaming Labrador tea. Iain has a very small fire going enough to heat water for breakfast. After a quick trot to the bushes, Iain hands me a washrag and some hot water to clean up.
Iain knows that I like to bathe the morning after we make love. A quick bird bath satisfies my hygiene desires. Damp and shivering I dress quickly.
Iain splashes naked across the shallow river retrieving the mules and horses. I guess that is Iain’s idea of a bath this morning. Crazy man! That water is fucking cold! Steaming, Iain lies near the fire before donning his own clothing.
We eat our breakfast of instant oatmeal decadently sweetened with some of the last of the brown sugar. Iain is not much for talking during meals. Drinking hot Labrador tea sweetened with some of Iain’s honey, I wipe my tin cup clean with some of the left over bannock from last night.
While cleaning our tin dishes in the river, we give the horses and mules a little grain, with some dry hay in their feed bags. The horses and mules munch while we load our things and prepare to leave camp. The dogs get a mix of dried venison and mutton to gnaw on.
Iain’s bird snares were a bust last night. His ground snares did not much better, only netting us a small ground squirrel, which is fed to the dogs in about two bites.
After making sure that we have erased most of the evidence of our presence along the river, we leave the Powder River behind. I am sure that we will back along the river sometime, but we are careful not to camp in the same spot twice.
Just outside of Baker City along the remains of highway 84, we ride towards a scabrous man driving a large flatbed wagon with truck axles and truck tires. Four coal-black horses pull the man’s wagon which has the bars and general shape of a prison wagon from long ago.
The scabrous man is waving at us – I wonder what the fuck he wants. I notice Iain’s right hand drifts towards the leather chest holster underneath his left arm. His fingers are near the butt of the Super Redhawk .44 magnum revolver.
The rest of the meeting covered evacuation orders. Sam and Doc are concerned with the possibility of a Dunkirk-like disaster. With our backs against the bay, a Dunkirk-like disaster is a possibility.
Scarecrow and Lady escaped from Kayak Point killing two of our guards and slipping through the barricade. Both are obviously infected, so the elder Rogers (I refuse to think of him as Shack’s father) will not accept them back in his company.
From the guards who were too far away to help it as Scarecrow and Lady slipped through the barricade it appears that Scarecrow was badly injured in helo crash, with Lady breaking both of her legs. Only KCAP infection would have let them heal fast enough to escape from Kayak Point.
Despite being infected, the guards describe Lady as still beautiful, while Scarecrow is his usual cadaverous self. The fact that Lady and Scarecrow are half-brother and sister (same mother different fathers, I am told), did not prevent them from being lovers.
We do not know who Scarecrow and Lady will join next, but they seem to find the least-desirable people. Shit attracts more shit, so I am sure the pair will join some other infected group. We need to be gone before the pair can return with reinforcements.
Our enemy has access to airborne weaponry and the ability to capitalize on a weakness of our defense. Until now the convoy has not been concerned with airborne threats, as most of the infected do not fly armed aircraft.
Brenda and her family along with her bees and all of the animals are the first to be evacuated from Kayak Point. Most of the local tribal members have a compound to the south of Kayak Point in an old tribal administration building on a hill.
Taking the lessons learned from the barricade around Kayak Point, the tribal elders are reinforcing the barricade around the tribal administration building. Brisk trading between the tribes and the convoy has significantly increased the tribe’s weaponry including crew-served heavy machine guns.
The convoy has always had plenty of weapons and ammo but not enough hands to use those weapons. With food more of a pressing concern as the convoy moves north, trading some of the surplus weapons and ammo to the tribes for food makes sense.
The next few days are a blur of activity as Kayak Point is evacuated in a hurry. Brenda whined about not getting enough of the lye from the ashes before her husband’s shoved her pregnant ass on to an old 125 foot long commercial crabbing boat owned by the Hibulb tribe.
The convoy lost and gained members as couples formed. Whenever you have a large number of single personnel, there are bound to be coupling. There are teary partings as people separate probably to never see each other again.
We even traded with the bunch of infected living in the old beach houses north of Kayak Point. After Lady and Scarecrow slipped out of Kayak Point, relations with the infected were rather frosty.
Our trucks are loaded and as quickly as possible the convoy moves away from Kayak Point. Doc his H&K UMP with a 25 round magazine inserted bouncing on his back directs traffic up the hill away from the water.
As I pass Doc in our old Dodge truck, I notice that Doc’s UMP has a four-position fire selector – safe, 2-round burst, and full auto. I still wonder where Doc the old H&K gun as the UMPs were never that popular.
Our old Dodge truck we affectionally call “Rolling Smokey” is manned with the usual suspects. I drive while Honey takes the passenger seat, replacing Shack who is still in hospital. LM sits on the bench seat between Honey and I, playing with some Legos. LM also wears an OD green paracord survival bracelet with P-38 can opener, handcuff key, fishing line, weights and fishing hooks on his right wrist.
Honey and I got to check on Shack as he was loaded into one of the HEMTTs with the other medical gear. Riding along with Shack is the wounded raider who, despite raging infection in his hip from the amputated leg, is still alive. Shackled to the HEMTT like a dog, the wounded raider and Shack are the only non-movable injured we have in the convoy.
Doc does not want to risk breaking any of Shack’s barely healed bones so the poor boy is strapped tightly to a gurney. I got to see Shack for a little while before they loaded him on to the HEMTT. He is still in a lot of pain and loopy from the pain meds. Shack has been given OxyContin, Roxiprin, and Percocet as well as Morphine.
It feels good to be moving again. Kayak Point was too crowded. With so many people crammed into such a small area, disease was a possibility as well as sanitary issues.
I do not know where this Anacortes is, but I understand it is on the way to Whidbey Island. I just need to follow the colonel’s station wagon.
Honey skids to a stop tossing dirt and pine needles against my boots. “What’s wrong, Ruth?” Honey has a blank look on her face. As if I do not suspect what new she is about to impart. I must have scowled at her, because her face suddenly registers shock.
“Oh, you thought me running up to you was bad news. I am sorry. I was in a hurry because I don’t want our breakfast gettin’ cold.”
I sniff and wipe my eyes, trying to hide my embarrassment. Thankfully, Honey ignores my tears and plunges ahead.
Honey pulls a pair of apple-cinnamon, instant oatmeal packs from underneath her coat. Filled with hot water, the instant oatmeal packages were pulled from a Swedish 24-hour Military Ration Pack (MRP). (I know the oatmeal is from a Swedish MRP because it reads ‘Swedish MRP 24-hour pack’ printed in English in neat black, block letters on the side of the oatmeal packets.)
“It should be ready now,” Honey says handing me one of the oatmeal packages. As we walk, Honey pulls her brown plastic US MRE spoon from her LBV digging into the hot oatmeal with relish.
“Shack is fine. I checked on him this morning. He is being force-fed by Doc, because the dope makes him lose his appetite. Doc threatened either Shack eat the food or Doc would use the other opening to the human digestive tract to make sure Shack gets enough calories to heal.”
Honey spoons more hot oatmeal in her mouth. Talking through the food in her mouth, Honey continues her tale of Shack’s woe.
“Poor Shack, you should have seen his face when Doc threatened to cram some odd-ball rice and sweet and sour pork combination bowl of stuff from a Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) MRP. I don’t know if Shack likes Asian food, but I don’t think he wants it crammed up his ass.”
Still shoveling hot oatmeal in to her mouth with her MRE spoon, Honey chuckles at her own joke. Pulling my own brown MRE spoon, I dig into my oatmeal as well. The oatmeal is not bad, being neither too sweet or two plain with just the right touch of cinnamon without being overpowering.
“Hey remember that injured looter you and Shack brought in?”
Honey continues after I nod my head. “He survived the surgery during which Doc removed his bad leg. Doc thinks that if he survives the next few days, and infection doesn’t kill him, he might make it. Doc’s worried the looter might have chipped a few teeth. Doc didn’t use any anesthetic on the poor bastard when he chopped of his leg at the hip. He is not giving the poor bastard any pain meds either. Oh, and he had this shoved down his tighty whities.”
Honey holds out a little stainless, semiauto mouse gun with black plastic grips. I take the pistol from her. Inspecting the small pistol I realize that I am not familiar with this particular brand.
The little pistol is nearly the same size as my hand. For a woman, I do not have a particularly large hand which means this pistol is quite small. The little pistol is a Seecamp chambered in .32 ACP. I am not familiar with Seecamp pistols at all but I am aware of the caliber, and consider it woefully underpowered.
The little Seecamp pistol would not be my first choice of pistol even for a backup, but it is better than nothing. I am not sure how much .32 ACP ammo we have as it was a rather rare cartridge even before KCAP.
I hand the little pistol back to Honey butt first as I assume it is loaded. Pistols such as the Seecamp do not have a manual safety, so I am sure to keep my fingers far from the trigger. Honey tucks the little Seecamp back in her coat pocket as we walk into the command tent.
Honey and I grab seats towards the back of the tent, which fills rapidly with people from all of the groups represented at Kayak Point. The tribal members are easy to spot as are the infected. Everyone is well armed, but not overly hostile although I do notice some tension in the room.
Honey hands me our much-abused plaid colored Thermos, as she munches on MRE snacks from God-knows-what ration package. “God, child do you ever stop eating, other than when you sleep,” I mutter under my breath as I pour hot tea from the Thermos.
Through a mouth full of dry roasted peanuts, Honey answers. Damn, I forgot about the infected and their damn hearing.
“Doc says us infected have somewhere around 30% more oxygen in our blood which helps us digest food faster than normal people. Doc also says that one of the first changes the KCAP virus engineers in the human body is greater flow of blood to the lungs and stomach. KCAP enlarges and strengthens our heart. This increases the amount of blood pumped per heartbeat and the forcefulness of the heartbeat. Our hearts also beat faster.”
I hand Honey a cup of tea which momentarily disturbs her diatribe. “Those infected as adults have slightly less aerobic capacity, but Doc feels that those of us infected before maturity could develop even larger lungs and hearts. Doc thinks that if LM and I do develop larger lungs and hearts, our aerobic capacity could be as much as twice that of a non-infected person.”
Doc and Sam walk in the tent. Without preamble Sam opens the meeting. “We’re evacuating Kayak Point.” Oh, shit.
A sudden burst of activity against my back followed by a cold blast of air awakens me from a deep sleep. Goose bumps erupt on my suddenly exposed naked flesh once warmed by Honey’s body.
Opening my eyes, the first thing I see is Junior standing beside my cot eyes wide with fright. The covers pooling around her waist Honey kneels against me, her right hand resting on the side of my left breast. The second thing I see is Honey’s left hand holding a US Army M9 bayonet, blade wickedly honed to a razor’s edge underneath the corner of Junior’s left jawbone.
The point of the M9 bayonet touches the tip of Junior’s left ear. The knife blade bobs with the movement of Junior’s Adam apple as he swallows. A thin line of red blood drips from the edge of the knife against Junior’s neck.
Junior holds both hands, fingers splayed, palms up towards Honey and I. A tense moment passes when I was sure that Honey would slice Junior’s neck. Honey removes the blade from Junior’s neck and rests on her haunches. She does nothing to cover her nakedness while she bends over replacing the bayonet in its sheath on her belt on the floor beside our cot.
Dabbing at his neck with his hand, Junior turns bright red when he realizes that he is staring at Honey and I. My breasts are still exposed my nipples harden in the cool air. Honey had just bent over and presented her ass to Junior. I notice that Honey’s nipples hardened in the cool air as well.
“Well, Junior did you come to stare at Honey and I naked or was there some purpose for you almost getting your throat slit?”
My question seems to startle Junior who blushes a furious shade of red again. He mumbles something, possibly distracted by Honey still naked, remains kneeling beside me. Honey’s left hands rests on my hip while her right hand once again rests against the side of my left breast. I wonder if her touch is intentional or accidental.
“Ruth, you’d better get up.” Junior mumbles the words the first time horribly enough that I have him repeat what he said.
My first thought is of Shack. Alarmed, I leap from the bed almost knocking Honey from the cot. Honey using the momentum from my unintentional shove back flips, landing on her feet. Honey dresses on her side of the cot.
After shoving Junior out-of-the-way, I frantically dress on my side of the cot. Belatedly as I dress I realize that I can still feel the touch of Honey’s pencil eraser hard nipples against my back. I still can also feel the ghost image of her hand against my left breast.
I push the thoughts of Honey touching me aside as I concentrate on dressing. When I sit on the cot tying my boots, I bombard Junior with rapid-fire questions about Shack. Junior waits until I exhausted my barrage of questions and sighs.
“There is a staff meeting in the command tent in about 30 minutes. I don’t know about Shack – ask Doc at the staff meeting.” Junior dabs at his neck as he is still bleeding slightly. Having delivered his message, Junior leaves quickly.
“I’ll check on Shack for you,” Honey offers as she finishes dressing. Carrying her old M3 grease gun with the bandolier of magazines over her shoulder, she ducks out of the tent. While the tent flap was open, I noticed that it is raining lightly outside.
Walking alone with my thoughts I absent mindedly pass an occupied park bench. I am almost past the park bench when I realize that I have not seen a park bench in quite some time. Junior and the Princess’s daughter are busy loading a pile of M16 magazines while sitting on the park bench. The couple sits on the park bench made of recycled plastic. Only reason that the park bench survived is because it cannot be burnt.
Junior and his girlfriend are busy loading empty M16 magazines from a wooden crate. Filling a second wooden crate with full magazines, the pair has a good rhythm going, filling magazines with little wasted effort.
Both Junior and his girl (damn I forgot her name again) are using commercial 20-round loaders quickly filling magazines. I notice that neither is being particularly careful of what type or manufacturer of ammo they drop in the loader and then shove in the magazine.
I notice a mixture of FMJs, hollow points, and soft points filling the magazines. I think to myself that I am glad that I filled my own magazines. This eclectic collection of ammo is not something I would want to run through my gun.
Three open 50 caliber ammo cans lie between the pair on the bench filled with a mixture of loose military 5.56mm and commercial .223 Remington ammo. I visit with Junior and his girlfriend for a little while. I do not ask, but as I walk away, I wonder how they fucked up to get stuck with that shit detail.
After a latrine stop, I head for the chow hall. Grabbing some Flying Dragon tea bags from an Estonian Individual Combat Ration, I grab a decently clean cup and make a very strong cup of tea. I pass on the rye bread and goose liver pâté offered for breakfast. God knows what ration pack that shit came out of.
I am sure as hell not hungry enough to eat pâté – yet. Sipping hot tea and wishing for a drop of honey to sweeten it, I walk towards the command tent. I wrap my cold hands around the warmth of the tea-cup enjoying the heat as it seeps into my skin.
I am pleasantly surprised to pass Sarah and Gennady on their way to the chow tent. The couple finally made it into camp. We quickly catch up and I am saddened to learn that they lost their child, LM’s brother to an upper respiratory infection, probably pneumonia.
My platitudes for the bereaved couple sound false and flat to my ears. How do you comfort someone who has suffered so much when they lose their child?
Before I reach the command tent, I notice Honey running towards me. She is running as only the infected can run – like a goddamned rocket of doom.
My stomach plummets and I begin to cry.
Despite my wish to see what all the shouting is about, both Honey and I bolt for the hospital tent. Bursting into the tent, we find Doc sound asleep in his cot; LM tucked against his stomach both dead to the world.
Honey and I slip past the sleeping pair into the ward. Shack is sitting up, attempting to solve a much-battered cross word puzzle book. A battered, bright yellow portable US Navy battle lantern hangs from some bright red paracord, vainly attempting lighting the puzzle lying in Shack’s lap.
Shack’s face lights up when he sees Honey and I standing in the doorway. “Hi babes, what’s the only state with two unique words in its name?”
God, Shack is stoned out of his gourd! His eyes have that glassy, emptiness drugs impart.
“Rhode Island.” Doc, holding LM in his arms, answers behind Honey and I causing us to jump.
“Doc, I thought you two were asleep,” I grumble. I do not like being startled.
“We sleep lightly – not sure if that is true of all infected, but LM and I knew immediately when someone came close to us. We were fully awake by the time you passed our cot. We’re both hungry and so is Honey, so we’re gonna grab some chow.”
Reaching into one of the many OD green steel cabinets typical of a US Army field hospital, Doc pulls out several c-ration cans. Doc opens the cans using an old P-38 can opener. He sticks a brown US MRE spork in each opened can.
As Doc hands the cans to Honey and LM, I read the printing on the jagged, opened top. The cans are labeled ‘chocolate, nut roll, c-ration,’ and ‘pound cake’ packed in October of 1970. The ancient contents, packaged when my parents were little children, are dry and crumbly. My stomach lurches at the smells of the old rations.
Doc, Honey and LM eat the ancient rations with relish. Doc, seeing the look of horror on my face, explains. “KCAP appears to give us a little more flexibility in our choice of foods. While no one else in camp could probably consume these way past date c-rations, we can and do, saving the newer food stuffs for the non-infected.”
Smacking her lips, Honey adds her explanation. “But we are not going to be able to survive on these old rations for long. We are going to need some serious caloric intake, and soon.”
A panting out of breath, red faced Junior pokes his head into the tent. “They was hiding in the camp bathroom pits. They climbed out sometime this morning leaving wet footprints in the cement, visible in the daylight. The tribes are trying to find dogs that no one has eaten attempting to find them,” he says in a rush between gulps of air.
“And?,” I ask arching my eyebrows at him.
“Sam says get some sleep he is breaking the Scouts and other volunteers, which there is no shortage of, into groups searching the camp again with a fine tooth comb. Brenda and her crew are canning like crazy getting ready to move to Whidbey Island first. Sam is sending Brenda and all the livestock first to get them out of harm’s way.”
I know Brenda has been canning sardines caught with gill nets in the bay at Kayak Point like a fiend. I get tired of her whining because she is unable to recover ashes for lye. We do not have the time. I guess that Brenda will have to save her soil block makers for starting seeds in garden outside for Whidbey Island.
Brenda is also canning fish at Kayak Point using wood stoves. Trucks full of canning jars, lids, and pressure canners are spread throughout the camp. The preserved food is split between the convoy, tribes and the infected from the beach homes. Fish that cannot be canned is smoked and dried then stacked in boxes for shipment.
Sharing the gathered food causes some grumbling, but Sam attempts keeping a lid on the disgruntled. The current attitude in camp, with the horrific slaying of the small child, towards cannibals and infected in general, is poor at best.
One of the surviving cook helpers drops off wooden bowls containing wood sorrel, wild mint, and dandelion and chickweed leaf salad, sprinkled liberally with pickled nasturtium seed pods. A tasty red vinaigrette dressing covers the greens. The seed pods have a sharp peppery taste without the saltiness of brine. A chunk of cold Indian fry bread accompanies the generous salad.
I break out one of my precious, cold Matcha canned green teas. Shack contends himself with a Monster Mean Bean coffee drink. Shack crosses his legs making room for me sitting at his feet. The cast on Shack’s left shoulder and his injuries cause difficulty for Shack feeding himself.
Setting my meal down I take pity on Shack and feed him. After Shack finishes and lies down, I finish my own meal. Shack is nibbling on MRE cheese and crackers when Honey enters the ward carrying a loaded syringe for Shack. I have heard Shack suck through his teeth so I know the pain is bad.
Honey gently injects Shack with the pain killers kissing him lightly on the forehead afterwards. “He’ll sleep for a while,” she says to me.
As Honey and I watch Shack as he drifts into drug-induced sleep, one of Brenda’s workers ducks his head inside looking for collections. I heard that Brenda got tired of the smell from the overflowing latrines. She wanted to build something called a tree bog.
Note that in this instance the word bog is used in its British slang term meaning toilet. Brenda made a raised structure of pallets that she managed to save from the fires. Within the frame she then tossed saw dust, ashes (after extracting the lye), straw and other dry material in it making a sort of composting toilet.
Brenda planted nettles, lots of willow, mint, black currant, ivy and oleander around the toilet. The plants consume the waste, converting it to plant food. The plants are also supposed to cut smells; we will see how that works.
Someone found a tractor trailer full of 50 pound bags of Effective Micro-organism bran that was originally horse feed. Unfit for animal feed due to the mold and rot, the bran works well as a toilet adjunct.
I am not sure if Brenda’s tree bog will work for so many people, but as we prepare to cross the bay to Whidbey Island, a smaller population might be able to use a tree bog. It would be better if Brenda would construct two or more. That way they could be used without fear of over loading them.
Climbing into my bedroll, cold absent Shack’s warm body, I try to sleep. Eventually I drift off to sleep. I briefly wake as a hot, clammy Honey, slips in against my back. Honey wraps her warm arms around my shoulders, spooning against my back. Honey’s ultra-smooth body nestles against mine.
I drift off to sleep again, but before I do, I realize that Honey is naked, as am I.
I wake sometime later to someone lightly shaking me.
“Ruth, you’d better get up.”
The sight of the slaughtered child causes me to retch, something that I would not do again until I come across a similar scene many years later with Iain.
Longfeather kneels in the rocky sand. Placing the back of his hand near the fire pit, he feels for warmth. “Fire pit’s still warm. This was recent. Maybe an hour or so ago.”
Doc studies the remains carefully. I wonder what he is thinking while looking at the small, butchered carcass. Hunger? Envy? Disgust?
“Blood has not coagulated, less than 30 minutes, I would guess. Meat was ripped off, half-cooked at best. Impatient and in a hurry. Choicest parts eaten first – buttocks, thighs, and calves. Then arms, chest and some organs. Parts with the highest caloric worth eaten first, partially satiating their hunger.”
Doc looks at the Scouts. “Anybody ID the child yet” The Scouts all shake their head no. Two Scouts appear carrying a wool US Army blanket. They drape the blanket over the dead child, covering the horrific sight.
“Fucking cannibals,” someone yells in the crowd. “Let’s kill them all!”
“Now hold on,” Longfeather says studying the tracks in the sand. Despite not shouting, the elder Apache’s quiet words carry over the assembled mob.
“Doc – wait a minute – you said their, as in more than one. Then you agree with the tracks I see coming from the water. Someone was injured; I can see the drag marks and the blood in the rocks. Someone dragged a wounded person from the bay, by the looks of the marks; the injured person has two shattered legs.”
Longfeather falls silent as he looks at the tracks some more. “It appears that two people survived the helo crash; one badly injured the other perhaps less so. As Doc was saying, the infected’s metabolic rate requires a higher calorie diet – much more so when healing from injury.”
Sam silent until now looks around the gathered crowd. “Leaders and sergeants, you know your people. Rouse everyone in camp, everybody goes armed. Load for bear. If we have infected in the camp eating our people we need to remove them now. You know your people, find anyone that you do not recognize and bring them to the command tent – alive!”
The gathered crowd busts up with everyone heading for their respective part of the camp. Sam and Doc leave for the command tent while community, tribal and convoy leaders with the convoy sergeants, and squad leaders shouting orders. Longfeather as our Command Sergeant Major takes control of the situation.
Radio traffic crackles as the all guard personnel posted on the edges of the old park are told of the situation. It takes a few minutes, but eventually everyone is dressed, armed and standing on the beach, their backs to the water in a long, ragged, single file line. Most carry flashlights or lanterns. Not a torch or pitchfork to be seen — amazing.
Longfeather lifts a megaphone to his lips. “All right people this is what the squids call a FOD (Foreign Object on Deck) walk down. We’re going to walk in a loose line across the whole park. Leave no crevice or hole unsearched. Make sure you remain visual contact at all times with the person to either side of you. Anybody you discover hiding – call out, and the Scouts will secure that person for questioning later. Let’s get on with it – we are all tired and short of sleep.”
I find myself standing between Nikola and Carol with little Stiva swaddled deep within Carol’s Navy pea coat. Longfeather, with the Scouts spread out in a loose line, walks in front of the FOD walking people. The line stops often as people enter tents, shelters, look underneath boats and canoes, and search vehicles.
Occasionally a shout goes out as someone is found sleeping or more often than not, drunk and passed out. The drunks and sleepers are unceremoniously dumped out and searched. As the night wears on, we search the old park bathrooms, and administrative buildings.
While standing outside the burnt out remains of the Park Ranger’s home, Nikola produces a thermos from somewhere in his great-coat. He pours Carol a healthy cup and then pours me a cup as well.
Holding the chipped blue enamel cup in my hand, I am grateful for the warmth seeping into my hands. Sipping the hot tea with milk, I realize Nikola has liberally spiked the tea with alcohol — probably vodka. The warmth of the hot tea and the alcohol washing through my core is a blessing.
Nikola for his part is happy sipping from the Thermos directly. While there are a few cows and goats in the camp, I suspect the milk in the spiked tea is sweetened, condensed milk from a Russian IRP.
Nikola opens and then gives Carol a can of peaches in heavy syrup from an American MRE. I decline a can of Soviet-era smoked sprats in sweet tomato sauce. After opening it with a can-opener-cum-spoon, Nikola tears into the tinned sprats with gusto.
I nibble on one of my last packages of peanut M&Ms from an American MRE. Nikola and Carol each eat a Soviet-era bar labeled “chocolate ration” in neat, black Cyrillic letters on the white paper wrapper. The black hammer and sickle emblem of the former Soviet Union is clearly marked on both chocolate ration bars and the empty can of smoked sprats.
The night passes with little excitement. We finish the FOD walk down just as the sun rises over the waters of the Puget Sound. Most of the people disperse, many to go to sleep as I should be. I sit on one of the many tree stumps dotting the former park.
Nibbling on a stale, Hostess apple fruit pie in a waxed paper wrapper, I am lost in my thoughts when Honey walks up. Sitting on the ground at my feet, Honey eats a warmed packet of muesli from an Estonian MRE.
After wiping the inside of the muesli package clean with her fingers, she pulls a small strawberry and honey squeeze fruit pocket from an American FSR (First Strike Ration). Honey loudly chugs the squeeze fruit pocket.
Smacking her lips from the sticky sweet fruit pocket; “they didn’t find the two infected responsible for the attack,” she says without warning. “They’re still loose in the camp.”
Honey hands me our much abused plaid colored Thermos. Opening the Thermos, I inhale deeply of the steam rising from the contents. Ah, chamomile tea sweetened with some of Brenda’s precious honey. I gratefully sip the hot tea, feeling the warmth seep into my core, while Honey talks enough for the both of us.
After a slight belch which she politely covers with her hand, Honey continues. “The colonels are going north of the park to talk to the infected in the old beach homes. The improved park perimeter fence made of telephone poles, trees, tires and old cars was finished a few days ago. The perimeter snipers are armed with thermals. The colonels don’t think they could’ve gotten out. They’ve got to be here, somewhere.”
Suddenly, shouting erupts from the center of the park near the old bathrooms.
I wait nervously while Doc, assisted by Honey operates on Shack. After what seemed like an eternity, Doc dressed in bloody scrubs emerges from the surgery suite. He is followed by Honey wheeling Shack on a gurney.
Doc looks at me. I am sure that he can read the worry on my face. “Shack has a sucking chest wound, three broken ribs, a broken clavicle and a shattered scapula. He made it through surgery, but is still unconscious. I pieced his left scapula back together as best I could but he is going to have some lingering pain and may lose some movement in his left shoulder. He asked for you several times.”
Placing a Black and Mild cheroot between his lips, Doc steps outside to smoke. Doc’s silhouette is lit against the tent when he lights his cheroot.
Honey reenters the front “waiting room” of the medical tent. “He’s awake. He’s loopy from the pain meds, but he’s asking for you,” she says to me.
Blinded by tears, before Honey even finishes speaking, I rip through the canvas door separating the waiting room from the recovery area. Diving to my knees, I clutch Shack’s uninjured hand.
His eyes watery and hazy with pain and medication, Shack looks at me. I see no recognition on his face. “Who are you,” he asks looking at me blankly.
My hopes dashed, I start crying again, dropping my head on Shack’s torso. “Easy babe, ok … sorry bad joke,” he says with a chuckle patting me on the back of the head.
Whipping my head up, I fight the momentary temptation to slap him silly. The anger must have reflected in my face as Shack holds his right hand up, palm towards me. “Easy … easy Ruth, I was joking.”
“Doc listed your injuries, I am worried about you,” I tell him.
“Yeah, well any acrobatic stunt sex is out for a while, but I like it when you are on top anyway.” He chuckles at my blushing red face.
“You are beautiful when you blush.”
I am not used to be calling beautiful by my lovers. Adept, strong and athletic – certainly, but not beautiful. The moment passes as I grip Shack’s hand again.
“I still do not know your middle name,” I tell him kissing him lightly on the lips.
“I don’t have one; Meshach Rogers is enough of a mouthful. What’s your middle name?” He cocks his head at me.
“Elizabeth, but I rarely use it. I prefer to just put ‘E’ down.”
Shack sucks air through his teeth, his eyes clench shut. Honey as if by magic, appears with a hypodermic needle filled with a clear serum.
“Doc said pain meds and Versed would be wearing off about now. When I give him this Buprenorphine, it might put him to sleep for a bit, which would be good for him.”
I watch Shack’s eyes cloud as the pain medicine hits him. He drifts off to sleep. Honey still kneeling beside Shack on the opposite side of his regulation cot, looks at me.
“You’re lucky you know that, Ruth. He was worried that you had been hurt as well. Shack wouldn’t let Doc put him under until we assured him that you were uninjured.”
Honey gets up and drops the used needle in a sharps disposal. “Doc considered infecting Shack as it might be the only way he recovers fully from his injuries. Doc’s talking to Sam now while doing the SIR (Soldier Injury Report). Doc wanted you to think about infecting Shack.”
“Honey’s correct Ruth, we should consider whether or not to infect Shack if he does not get better. Would you consider infecting him with a highly intelligent virus that hardens and heals the host increasing the viruses’ chances of survival?” I did not realize that Doc reentered the hospital accompanied by Longfeather.
“I chose not to infect myself with KCAP,” Longfeather says. I rarely hear the old Apache speak. “Doc chose infection, accepting the changes to his body. I could not live with myself if I did. When I run out of Metformin, I will join my ancestors as a whole man.”
“Would you choose infection over death, Ruth?” Doc asks through a mouthful of tough John Wayne bar. I notice that he has already eaten three MRE John Wayne bars as I see the shredded wrappers sticking out of his left BDU pants pocket. The top of a Russian IRP (Individual Ration Pack) sticks out of the top of his right BDU pants leg pocket.
Doc chugs a cool bottle of Fat Tire Amber Ale, and pulls another bottle out of his BDU blouse pocket. Using his front teeth, Doc pops the bottle cap off of the bottle of beer. He pulls another John Wayne bar from his pocket.
“I am not sure Doc. Hungry much?”
“The caloric load of maintaining the body with KCAP infection is significant. When we infected are injured, that caloric demand goes up significantly. We infected benefit from near instantaneous healing. An injury that would take someone, normally a week or so to heal we heal in minutes. That rate of healing comes with a very high cost. I believe it is sheer hunger, and drive for any source of protein that causes infected attacks on people.”
Doc chugs more beer. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Doc tosses the bottle in the trash. Tearing the OD green plastic John Wayne bar package open with his teeth, Doc takes a large bite of the dark chocolate and peanut butter bar. Doc continues talking through his food.
“KCAP floods the body with gonadotropins. Coupled with KCAP hyper stimulating the adrenal gland fueling both growth and aggression. Somehow, KCAP hijacks the RNA polymerase messengers, hyper stimulating the pituitary gland releasing a flood of hormones. Pituitary gland hyper stimulation is one reason why Honey and LM – for their age, have gotten so tall. If Honey continues to grow she will stand around six-foot or so.”
Doc pauses mid diatribe. He pulls out another MRE packet. This bar is an Italian MRE muesli chocolate bar; he rips the tan-colored plastic open with his teeth. Cramming half of the dry muesli bar into his mouth, Doc continues his KCAP monologue.
“LM if his growth rate holds steady, will easily stand seven feet or taller. KCAP dumps an incredible amount of an undocumented immunosuppressant that has defied classification. KCAP also does something to the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D and iron; but there is not enough completed research. Heavy KCAP infection causes loss of the frontal lobe and loss of reasoning. KCAP also enlarges and activates the dormant vomeronasal organ (VNO) in humans, bettering their sense of smell. If you haven’t noticed the flehmen response before in the infected – that is why.”
A Scout, wet to the waist enters carrying an International Ordnance MP2 9mm submachine gun. The lad talks to Longfeather quietly. Longfeather nods at the wet lad and he leaves.
“Search of the Blackhawk helo wreckage revealed less than 100 rounds of 7.62 NATO, co-pilot and gunner died instantly. Pilot drowned pinned in the wreckage, his head less than an inch from the surface.” Longfeather was going to say something else, but is interrupted by shouting outside.
Out of a weapons cabinet, Honey pulls out an ancient, original M3 grease gun – not an M3A1. She slams a magazine home loading the M3. Honey tosses an OD green canvas bandolier holding five grease gun magazines over her shoulder. The old American grease gun is very common in Israel. An original, unaltered M3 grease gun is very rare.
“I will watch Shack and make sure nothing happens to him,” Honey says to me. She places her fingers in her mouth producing a long, shrill whistle. A few seconds later, LM trots in carrying an old Beretta 92FS Inox and a SAR-21 bullpup.
The rifle is nearly as tall as LM. The SAR-21, made by Singapore Technologies is an ok bull pup weapon; its main problem is its proprietary mags.
LM drops the weapons at Honey’s feet and leaves momentarily. He returns dragging a brown canvas knap sack bulging with magazines for the SAR-21 and boxes of PMC Bronze 45 ACP ammo.
Honey looks at me and nods. “We got this,” she says.
From the same weapons cabinet, Doc grabs his LBV tossing it over his BDU blouse. He grabs an H&K UMP in 45ACP. While Doc’s back is to me, I notice that his BDU pockets bulge with MRE snacks.
Honey remains behind guarding the hospital, and more importantly to me – Shack. I am not sure how I feel about an armed LM. Thankfully, I am still dressed from yesterday’s supply run, so my AR15 hangs on my back.
While running across the park and on to the beach, another Scout joins us carrying a battered H&K 416 with an H&K M320 40mm grenade launcher mounted under the barrel. “You’re not gonna believe this – the fucking cannibals attacked us,” he says to no one in particular.
On the beach, we come upon a grisly sight – one that caused many gathered to toss their supper on the beach. Behind a small bluff, where it could not be seen from the camp, is a scene I have longed wish to forget.
Spit roasted on a jagged piece of rebar hanging over a fire pit are the bloody, butchered remains of a small child.