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.
As a freelance editor, I am privy to several lists of manuscripts that editors do not wish to see. For more than five years, topping those lists is any manuscript with a zombie apocalypse (oh shite!).
However, there are several authors and some of the smaller publishing houses that have bucked this trend, and went ahead and published a zombie apocalypse book. Even some of the smaller indie publishing houses bucked the trend publishing a zombie apocalypse novel.
With the rise of print on demand, Amazon’s Author Central, and Kindle self-publishing services, (among other self-publishing venues) there are several authors doing well bucking the supposed trend, publishing a zombie apocalypse novel. The rise of more self-publishing venues has also seen a few more zombie novels hit the streets, some with a fair amount of success.
Now, granted, success is relevant. How do you define success as an indie author? Sell one book? Sell a thousand books?
Here is a link to the Goodreads Top 140 Zombie Books:
Now dear readers, I have a few questions for you:
- How many of these books have you read?
- Are there any books that you feel are absent from the list?
- Are there any books you feel need to be removed from the list?
Under a hail of bullets, Shack and I dive into the command tent. Most of the minigun fire hits the command tent and the area around it. Landing just inside the command tent’s entrance in a tangle of legs and arms, Shack and I attempt to untangle ourselves. Or rather I attempt freeing myself from Shack who does not move. Frantic I shake Shack.
I hear Shack grunt painfully. I realize there is blood all over my side and hands. Fuck! Shack’s hit. I frantically tear at Shack’s clothing. On the other side of the tent, taking cover behind a woefully inadequate, perforated folding card table, I hear the colonels shouting obscenities.
“I don’t give a fuck if all you have loaded is HE-CVT! Shoot the fucking helo!” Sam screams in the radio.
Low crawling backwards dragging Shack, I try ignoring the bullets striking the shredded tent. One of the cooks, the pretty black one that I never caught her name lies dead on the floor beside the table in a puddle of blood. Near the dead cook lies a dead Scout, shredded by the minigun’s rain of lethal lead.
Reaching the imagined safety of an ABS plastic folding table, I notice that Doc lies over Sam pining him to the ground. There are several holes in Doc’s uniform; his back is soaked in blood.
“Doc, you are hurt.”
He looks over his shoulder at me. “I shielded Sam; thankfully, I heal much faster now than I used to. Probably would have died if it was not for the KCAP infection. KCAP has infected more of my body now. I am still learning what my limits are.”
“Doc that’s nice, but can we focus on the fucking helo shredding our people with a Goddamn minigun. Don’t think I am ungrateful. (Sam looks at me.) Crazy fucker’s moving before I even heard the minigun. Man’s scary fast. He took several rounds for me.” I can barely hear Sam over the fucking scream of the minigun. I hate those fucking things – they sounds as if the universe is ripping apart.
“Doc, Shack’s hurt,” I yell over the din of the minigun and the sudden steady ear and chest shattering, thump, thump, thump of the 105mm MGS Stryker. The steady scream of the minigun abates as the pilot takes evasive action avoiding 105mm shells.
Doc first checks Sam, who nods at him and then low crawls over to Shack. He obviously does not like what he sees as he puckers his lips. A worried frown creases his face.
While Doc checks Shack, with my heart in my mouth, I wait fearing the worse. Over the radio, I hear the Quad-50 state that they are blocked from swinging to engage the helo. The Oerlikon 20mm is blocked as well.
Sam orders both mobile guns to stay in their place. Over the din of the minigun and the 105mm cannon, I hear the occasional pop of small arms fire and screams as 7.62mm bullets hit flesh. There is a brief pause in the steady thump of the 105mm, and then it commences steadily firing again.
Nikola dressed in full combat gear leaps into the tent through a huge tear in the side his Stechkin pistol clutched in one fist. Nikola carries three ballistic shields, the same kind issued to SWAT teams and riot police.
Shielded by three layers of bullet resistant Kevlar and carbon fiber, Sam continues to call for Stingers while the 105mm continues to bang away. One of Rain’s Russian husbands, the one that used to be OMON police arrives carrying more ballistic shields. It takes more time to read these words than it did for the men to erect a small shelter. Rain’s husband has a Stechkin pistol in its red Bakelite holster on his hip.
Once the men erect a small shelter from the hail of bullets, Doc pulls Shack inside of it. I slide in among the men, fearing for Shack. There is really nothing we can do until the helicopter runs out of bullets or gets tired of shooting.
The radio squawks again. The lads have found the Stingers but they are buried at the bottom of the ordnance trailers and will take hours to dig out. Sam says more than a few choice words then orders the lads to seek cover and forget about the Stingers for now.
Looking at Doc, Sam swears that the convoy will not get caught with their pants down again. As Nikola and the other Russian quietly converse in Russian, which I was not privy too, they keep looking at the bottom of the table.
Nikola reaches around the shelter, pulling a small, black plastic box with a flashing LED light on the bottom. Nikola mouths ‘homing beacon’ to Sam and Doc. I see the anger reflected on Sam’s face.
“That fucker planned this,” Sam growls.
“All warfare is based on deception,” Doc says.
“Quoting Sun Tzu does not help me right now Doc,” Sam replies. Indeed, I would not hear so much Sun Tzu until I lived with Iain, another devotee of the ancient Chinese general.
“Sun Tzu said, ‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.’”
“Great, now Ruth you are getting into the act as well. Can you guys give the Chinese general a break? He never had to deal with being pinned down by a minigun.” Sam is really pissed.
The sudden steady rip of the minigun is cut off suddenly with an exploding fireball that plummets into the bay illuminating the whole camp. When silence, like an oppressive blanket settles over the camp, I hear slight scattered applause. I guess the 105 finally found its mark. I hear the shouts of the injured and the dying within the camp.
Doc first checks to make sure that Sam is okay. Then he lifts Shack as if he weighs nothing. The man is preternaturally strong. Shack probably weighs about 180 pounds, all of it muscle. There is no fat on the young man. Despite the heavy burden, Doc leaps with Shack in his arms, clearing the folding table in a single leap.
I frantically trail Doc; desperately trying to keep up with the exceedingly tall man carrying my injured lover.
We start walking towards the command tent at a brisk pace.
“Junior what’s goin’ on?” Shack asks as we walk together still holding hands.
Junior answers without looking at Shack.
“Your father is here under a sign of truce. He has taken control of the Adventist village and wants you back there with him. I shouldn’t say more, but I don’t think Sam and Doc are very happy about the situation.”
We walk in silence until we get to the command tent. The inside of the command tent, warmed by a large wood fire in a 55 gallon drum takes some of the chill off of the evening. I am thankful for the warmth in the tent.
Sam, Doc and Shack’s father sit around the folding card table usually used by Junior for administrative duties. I am struck by the differences between the two Rogers men. Both men are tall, but that is where the similarities end.
Shack’s father is slenderer than his son, and has a harder look. Shack is slightly taller, but is much thicker in the shoulders, arms and waist. Shack is much more muscular than his father. Both men exude an aura of strength and assuredness. The elder Rogers lacks Shack’s youth, but possess experience his son lacks.
Looking at Shack’s father sitting at the table, legs crossed in front of him I get the impression that the man is impatient, and wants to get this over with as soon as possible. Before Shack or his father can say anything, Sam speaks.
“Shack, please sit at the table. Ruth we are out of chairs, so if you could remain standing I’d appreciate it.” Sam points to an empty chair between Doc and him. Shack takes the offered chair without a word. I stand beside the warm stove, thankful for the heat sinking into my back through my jacket.
“Bob, since you asked for this meeting, why don’t you start,” Sam suggests.
Shack’s father speaks. “It’s simple; I want Shack to join me in the village. My only surviving son should be with me. You don’t respect him; shortening his name is disrespectful. You also allow the infected within your camp – displaying both a lack of leadership and poor decision-making. Once I took control, I shot all the infected and those that had anything to do with the infected. I also got rid of any niggers, Jews, wet backs and WOPs in the village. I shot all the infected lovers. The fact that you sit here with an infected nigger, shows you are not fit to lead.” Shack’s father practically sneers at Doc.
I can see Shack’s face flush with anger. “Dad, Doc’s not …” but Doc cuts him off by holding a hand up and shaking his head.
Shack swallows and tries again. “Dad, I prefer to be called Shack. It’s much easier.”
Shack’s father ignores him. He turns to look at Sam. “You booby-trapped the mortar Stryker. I lost several good men when it exploded. It also killed Carmine who was standing beside it. Saved me the trouble of shooting Carmine myself, because I thought he was sneaking people and livestock out of the village.”
Sam sighs. “Carmine was sneaking people and livestock out. He is also the one that warned us that you were in the village and attempting to pull a coup. The mortar Stryker was irreparable with a tranny that was shot. Carmine helped sneak the last of our people out. He also knew the mortar Stryker was rigged – we told him before we left. I think he chose to die. Maybe he felt guilty.”
Sam takes a sip of coffee. “While you were busy purging the village and taking over, you did not realize until it was too late that we were wise to you. We had already moved all the livestock and critical gear from the village. You can have the village, but we are not leaving you any equipment.”
Shack’s father is silent for a moment. Then he stands. “Meshach, come with me – now.”
Shack is silent for a moment. He shakes his head slowly. “No dad. I’m staying here.”
“Is your little Jewish slut worth that much to you that you would forsake your only living family member?” Shack’s father asks with an ugly sneer. I have been called much worse than a Jewish slut before, but Shack reacts as if slapped.
“Before Pastor committed suicide by swallowing a whole bottle of sleeping pills, drinking a bottle of vodka and tying a plastic bag around his head, he told me you’ve been fucking the little Jew bitch.”
I have never seen Shack turn so red. The veins stick out on his neck. His fists clench. Through clenched teeth, he speaks slowly.
“Dad, please leave. I never wish to see you again.”
Shack’s father, silently looks at him for a moment. “I’m disappointed in you, son. Is she really worth alienating yourself?”
“Dad, I don’t know you anymore. The man I knew was not a bigot, and not the cruel person you are.”
“You just didn’t know me that well,” Shack’s father responds.
“I wish that I did not know you now. I wish you had remained dead, and not killed my memories of the good family man. Please leave, you are dead to me.”
Bob turns to look at Sam. “This isn’t over,” he says with a sneer. He haughtily marches out of the tent, shoving past Shack. He does not even look at me.
Shack turns to leave and I step close to him. “Shack, Ruth please wait a moment. I’d like to speak with you both for a few minutes.” Sam reaches into the foot locker at his feet. He carefully places his old 45 back in it.
While Sam digs in his footlocker, Doc speaks for the first time. “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
“Doc, I do not think now is the time for you to quote Nietzsche,” Sam says. He places a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23-year-old bourbon on the table. “Everyone sit. After a meeting like that, we could use a drink.”
Sam pours everyone a very stiff shot of bourbon. I have never cared for bourbon, finding it too course for my tongue, but the warmth it imparts when the booze hits my stomach is very pleasant. This bourbon is actually quite good.
“I believe that Shack’s father feels that KCAP, in Nietzsche’s words, freed him from certain obligations of right and wrong.” Doc stares at his mug in silence, sipping bourbon.
“Fuck me that was difficult. Sorry Shack. Some of the Russians with a few convoy stragglers were the last to leave the Adventist village. The Russians left some surprises behind them. They were the last to arrive at Kayak Point and rejoin the convoy. We knew about the elder Rogers’ coup d’état, and the regrettable hanging of several of our former members. Carmine was able to sneak most of the convoy members out of the village before Shack’s father took full control.”
“Now that Shack’s father has crawled on to the tiger’s back – let’s see if he can ride it,” Doc quips.
Falling silent, Sam sips bourbon from a chipped, blue enamel coffee cup. We sip bourbon for a few minutes in silence. Sam offers a second snort, but I decline. About half of the bottle of bourbon is gone. We quietly wish Sam goodnight as we step outside into the early evening.
Kayak Point, before all of the trees were cut down must have been, at one time, quite beautiful. We see something moving over the water. Suddenly we hear the distinct noise of a low, fast-flying helicopter.
The helicopter, flying dark is difficult to see against the moonless, cloudy night. It suddenly banks, and a column of fire leaps out the side of the aircraft. The distinct, ear-splitting roar of a minigun shatters the night. Thousands of 7.62mm rounds shred the area near Shack and I, pelting us with dirt and chunks of rock.