Fiction – Ruth’s story #31 taking the slow scenic route out of the Emerald City still in convoy
Not receiving an immediate response, I punch the transmit button again, and yell “This is Ruth, ah fuck, contact left!” The two Ghillie-suited blobs disappear and reappear from my sight momentarily as they bob and weave around the cars.
One of the Ghillie suited blobs is significantly taller and skinnier than his stout companion immediately making me think they resemble a Ghillie suited Laurel and Hardy. Except this Laurel is significantly taller than the shorter, stouter Hardy.
The skinny, tall Wookie suited blob that I have dubbed “Laurel” carries a long Ghillie material wrapped object that from its general size and shape, I am almost certain is a long barreled military bolt action sniper rifle with scope and suppressor. His companion “Hardy” carries a similarly wrapped but much shorter blob that is probably an M4 judging by its size.
My radio crackles, and then Sam’s voice comes over the radio, “Sam here, that would be the scouts returning, Randy and Sutton.”
Our convoy comes to a slow halt. I watch the two Wookie suited blobs as they keep running between cars towards the front of the convoy. From their direction of travel, I am guessing they are either getting in the deuce and a half or the dump bed of the snow plow.
After a brief pause, my radio crackles to life again with a heavily-accented Asian voice, “This is Nguen, in the back of the truck, reporting two loaded.” His transmission is cut off, but he still has the transmit button pressed as I hear in the background someone say, “Give me the fucking radio!”
A brief moment of silence follows and then a new voice comes over the radio, “Sutton here, the Sergeant Major and I are loaded in the deuce and a half. We report that, for the most part, the road way ahead is clear. About a mile east you are going to come to a roadblock manned by some hard cases, mostly armed with bolt and lever action deer rifles and a few semi auto civilian rifles, with a couple of 12 gauge pump shot guns. The Sergeant Major and I convinced them that refusing us passage or attempting to charge us a toll could be hazardous to their health. They have agreed to let us pass, but I would be on the lookout for a double cross if they think they might obtain an advantage. Rangers lead the way, Sutton out.”
I assume once the new riders are settled we start rolling again. Our speed remains right around 15 – 20 mph actually hitting 30 mph in some stretches depending on the number of abandoned cars and how much weaving we have to do avoiding larger vehicles.
As our convoy weaves around avoiding the larger vehicles that the snow plow might damage itself against, I occasionally catch a glimpse of the two Wookie suited blobs sitting in the back of the deuce and a half across from the young Asian male that I learned is named Nguen. The dark, shaded back of the deuce and a half, with the flopping curtain covering the access, makes it difficult to get an accurate head count inside the truck.
The two soldiers have pulled the Ghillie material off baring their heads, but their dark-painted faces look strange. I believe both of the Ghillie suited soldiers are Caucasian males, but the dark face paint and Wookie suit cover so much I cannot be certain.
My radio crackles to life again as Sam’s voice comes over the radio, “Sutton, how are you and the Sergeant Major for ammo?”
A brief pause, and then Sutton’s voice comes back over the radio, “Sir, the Sergeant Major reports he still has full combat load. I report that I also have full combat load for my M4 and 64 rounds of .300 Win Mag. We still have two frag grenades each and one green and one white smoke grenade each.”
“OK, thank you Sutton, and please call me Sam, I am not a colonel anymore.”
“Yes sir.” “Sir, one of the hard cases in the road block ahead has a semi auto Benelli rifle in .300 Win Mag. I’m carrying all the .300 Win Mag ammo we have; it would be nice to acquire some more. Maybe we could trade something for a box or two.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” comes the reply.
With that the radios fall silent and we ride in silence alone with our thoughts awhile. Bobbing and weaving down the roadway, slowly heading east we travel through a mixture of residential and business buildings. Some of the buildings and homes look like nothing is amiss, while others have suffered visible damage; some are either burnt out, smoldering or currently burning.
We pass several businesses along Lake City Way, obviously well marked; dedicated to dispensing medical marijuana. Most of the medical marijuana businesses is burnt out and appear looted. Several of the medical marijuana businesses have bullet-ridden facades that might have been caught in a pitched battle.
There are quite a few corpses spread around these locations. Not sure if they were zombies caught in the cross fire, defenders or assailants. Time, the soggy elements, and various scavengers winged, two and four footed have taken their toll on the dead.
Numerous feral dogs of all sizes and breeds, some still wearing collars, feast on the dead. I spot a tiny, fawn-colored, bat wing eared Chihuahua wearing a sparkly rhinestone-studded blue collar dragging a light blue leash, rip a finger off a corpse and flee with its prize. So far there have been no reports of canines being susceptible to the KCAP virus. If the KCAP virus, mutates so that canines are vulnerable, it will complicate this epidemic even more.
In the absence of modern medical treatments, older uses for natural medicines like marijuana are going to come into use again, and not just for recreation. Getting stoned out of my gourd during a zombie apocalypse does not sound like a good idea. I had never done marijuana before coming to the States, despite its prevalence in Israel.
Amy and I decided to buy some weed one night, walking home from dinner, after we were propositioned on a street corner. The experience was intriguing, but I disliked sex while stoned and thoroughly disliked the next morning. We were slightly intoxicated, having drunk a bottle of decent chardonnay with dinner when we bought the weed; otherwise I might have refused. Mixing alcohol, sex and weed just did not sit well with me, and I have never done marijuana again. Amy I knew, occasionally partook of marijuana, how she dodged the piss test at work as a DC fire fighter and EMT, I never asked.
Passing another burnt out, bullet ridden medical marijuana business, I wonder just how many of these medical marijuana places were in operation around the city before the KCAP virus. I guess they do not call it the Emerald City for nothing. That thought makes me chuckle a little bit.
We also pass several Rite Aids and a Walgreens all of which are looted and burnt out. More corpses surround the drug stores than the medical marijuana places and there are definite signs even an idiot could see that several pitched battles happened around the drug stores. The battle over the contents of the drug stores appears to have been more ferocious than that over the medical marijuana businesses.
Passing a large, burnt out Rite Aid to the right causes a large flock of dark birds to take wing with a raucous cry. The feral dogs scavenging the dead outside the Rite Aid stand their ground bearing their teeth at us as we pass. One large dog, I cannot tell if it is a large Malamute, Newfoundland, or Saint Bernard, it does not even bother looking up as it lays in the street gnawing on a large femur bone.
There are a few homes interspersed with the businesses, but the homes are unquestionably in the minority. Several of these homes are boarded up with heavy boards over doors and windows; perhaps the occupants are attempting to make a stand and reinforced their home. Some of these boarded up homes have numerous bullet holes in the façade, and others show signs where people attempted to remove some of the boards perhaps to loot after gaining entry.
Scattered around some of these homes, littering the lawns and driveways like nasty lawn ornaments, are numerous corpses. It is hard to tell if some of these corpses were zombies that were shot or if these corpses are the result of pitched battles. Probably a little of both I am guessing.
Suddenly the radio crackles to life. “There is a road block ahead manned by armed folks with mostly lever and bolt action deer rifles. They are blocking the roadway in front of some businesses on the left. Looks like a Chinese restaurant called Chiang’s Gourmet. Roadway is blocked with a couple of cargo containers several over turned cars and at least two Metro buses. The Metro buses are the gates, both of which external surfaces have been wrapped in industrial fencing, and enough razor wire to make Ho Chi Minh proud. The barricade is dual ringed with the cars and the cargo containers serving the outer ring, while most of the barricade interior ring is scavenged commercial fencing haphazardly welded and chained together topped with lots of rusty razor wire. The car’s width no man’s land between the two rings is liberally forested with spikey, often serrated metal punji sticks made of metal fence posts, and lots more razor wire weaved through the punji sticks.”
“Sutton here that would be the hard case roadblock I warned about. If you look to the left, there is a Chinese restaurant, a dry cleaner and a couple of homes in a diamond-shaped lot. They have managed to get several abandoned vehicles and all kinds of garbage like construction fencing and shopping carts to make a barricade around the block. The hard cases either own or have taken possession of the homes, restaurant, and dry cleaner. The restaurant is a Chinese joint. The dry cleaner was once a drive in burger joint. If we get into a fire fight with these guys, a few rounds of .50 or 20 mike mike into either the restaurant or the homes might discourage them from pursuing further hostile actions.”
I cannot see what is going on at the head of our convoy, but we come to a slow, gentle rolling stop. As we sit idling, suddenly my radio bursts to life again. I hear a muted conversation which sounds like Sam and Jamal and then we hear a pair of car doors open. Looking ahead, I see Sam , and Jamal have gotten out of their VW station wagon and are putting on Interceptor vests, Kevlar helmets and move their side arms to be easily accessible into holsters on their vests. Pulling their M4s out, both verify a round is in the chamber.
Both colonels shut their doors on the VW station wagon, which is left idling, and start to walk towards the front of the convoy. They nod at each other, both wearing dark sun glasses. Walking towards the snow plow Sam is on the left and Jamal on the right. I can hear the crunch of the gravel underneath their boots.
As the two non-colonels are walking, somebody transmits “hot mike;” military jargon for somebody has their transmit button stuck and a call to check your radio. Usually a hot mike prevents communications and can be a noisy nuisance.
“It’s on purpose” I think Sam transmits and the mike remains hot as we listen to the gravel crunch under the boots of the colonel. I can tell as they walk past the idling HEMTTs and get to the M35 deuce and a half because the difference in sounds of the idling trucks. I cannot tell the difference between the deuce and a half and the snow plow, their engines sound too similar to me.
We hear a conversation transmitted through the hot mike. “You the colonels the two Rangers told us to expect?”
“Yes sir we are the former colonels. I am Sam, and this is Jamal. We’d like to pass through your compound since it straddles all lanes of Lake City Way.” I hear Sam reply.
“And if I say no or demand a toll, like say half of the ammo, food and weapons you have?”
“Things could get mighty unpleasant.” Jamal responds, his accent decidedly distinct.
“So I understand, the two soldiers in the Ghillie out fits said that you would be carrying some heavy ordnance, but I don’t see it.”
“Do you want to make me bring our heavy ordy out?” I think it is Sam that offered that pearl of wisdom. I cannot tell if Rick or anyone else from the front of the convoy have joined the parlay.
“No I suppose not. I see the dual .50 on the deuce, and that looks like a M60 that kid in the back of the snow plow has and looks like another 60 on the Humvee in the rear. I’ll be honest; I do not have that kind of firepower, but how about we trade. I’ll let you pass, and you give me six machine guns and 1,000 rounds of ammo for each gun.”
“How about you let us pass and I will not destroy the restaurant, dry cleaner, the houses and kill most of your men while flattening most of this barricade you so obviously worked hard to erect.” That is undeniably Sam, offering a none too subtle threat.
“Well, no need to get hostile; I was just trying to get some better weapons. A well-armed group like yours may be alright, but we have to watch for gangs and other raiders. It’s all fine and dandy for you soldiers, but us regular folks do not have weapons like yours. We have to keep the looters, crazies, KCAP-infected cannibals, and the damn white slavers away with what we have.”
Jamal again speaks his accent decidedly distinct. “What do you mean slavers?”
“Where you been man? It was all over the news before the power went out. Several gangs have started snatching women, especially the young, pretty ones and selling them for sexual pleasure. Us old bastards are going to die off fairly soon. If we do not start producing children, our species might cease to exist. A big fucking rock took out the dinos;, it looks like a smart microscopic bug might be the end of us. Some groups like ours that have no women of child bearing age or ability probably will not last many more years without children. Other gangs been selling people to the cannibals. If you have any women in your group, protect them because women are becoming rare, and a highly prized commodity. Looters been breakin’ into homes just to snatch women. Even the rumor of a young, pretty woman is enough to cause some of these gangs to attack.”
“I understand that rifle you carry is chambered in .300 Win Mag. We are a tad low on .300 Win Mag and would be willing to trade, almost anything but vehicles, weapons or ammo.” That sounds like Sam again.
“That tall, skinny feller told you that huh? Yeah he asked me when he was here yesterday if I would part with some .300 Win Mag ammo. I told him no then, and I am disinclined to trade now since you won’t trade a machine gun or ammo.”
“How are you fixed for medical supplies and do you have a medically trained person in your group?” That would be Jamal, cannot mistake that accent.
“We’ve got a couple folks that were Boy or Girl Scouts, but not a medical person as such, why?”
“Would you be willing to trade some first aid and medical supplies for some Win .300 Mag ammo as well as passage through your compound.”
“It’s .300 Win Mag.” “Whatever, would you be willing to trade?” Jamal obviously is not too gun savvy, most doctors are not.
“Yes, we could use some medical supplies, if someone gets hurt maybe we can patch them up.”
“I will go back to my car and get some medical supplies. I will include several broad spectrum antibiotics as well as general purpose medical supplies. As I am walking back, please open the barricade. I will give you half the medical supplies now, and the rest when our convoy is through your barricade and outside your compound back on eastbound Lake City Way.”
I hear gravel crunch underneath someone’s boots as I assume Jamal is walking back towards his VW. I hear “beastly man” muttered as he is walking. Shortly I see Jamal appear around the last HEMTT on the right side. His M4 hangs from a single point harness attached to his vest.
Jamal opens the front VW wagon passenger door and reaches in to grab a brown wooden clip board with several pages of lined white paper stuck on it. Jamal flips through the pages and taking the pencil out of his sleeve pocket makes some marks on a couple of pages. I am betting that is his inventory, and he is marking off what he is giving to these, what did “Laurel” call them, hard cases.
Jamal places the clip board back inside the car and closes the passenger door. He walks to the rear of the car and opening the hatch back starts digging around until he finds a squat, dark brown Army box. The box has the distinct red and white medical symbol on it and says “US Army general purpose medical case.”
Jamal pulls the brown square box towards himself and flipping the six metal latches opens the box. He sets the box lid to the side and lifts out the contents of the box. From the box, he lifts two large brown plastic bags each labeled “General Purpose, US Army, Special Operations Forces, M5 Medical Kit.”
Jamal drops the two M5 medical kits back in the box and closes the lid, snapping all six latches closed. He then reaches into a large, green military duffel bag pulling out several large, clear Zip Lock baggies filled with small medical items. He begins collecting items from these large Zip Lock bags. Only a few of the items I can identify from here. I recognize four SOF-T Tourniquet (Special Operations Forces-Tactical) in their bags, five HyFin Chest Seal, a handful of either Celox or QuikClot small bags and several Emergency Trauma Dressing (AKA Israeli Battle Dressing) which I am extremely familiar with. The rest are syringes of what I assume are the broad spectrum antibiotics Jamal promised.
Jamal puts the small medical items in one large, clear Zip Lock bag and then puts it in his front pants pocket. He then picks up the large brown medical case containing the two M5 medical kits. Jamal closes the hatch back still letting his M4 hang from his vest, starts to walk back towards the road block. After Jamal is out of sight, I continue to listen to the gravel crunch under his boots. I believe both former colonels have their radio transmit buttons locked down.
“Here is the first part of the medical supplies. When you administer some of these drugs be very careful and read the instructions, several times if need be. I will give the rest of the medical supplies to you including the broad spectrum antibiotics when our last vehicle is through.”
“Thanks, wish you boys would leave us some machine guns though.” I note that Jamal does not correct him on the presence of us ladies. Carol and I are going to be easy to spot as women; I am not sure about the female mechanic in the Humvee. Not that, she is mannish but rather in her dark, bulky military coveralls and short hair, a casual observer might not realize that she is female. I have never been fond of makeup, and I did not notice any makeup worn by either Carol or the female mechanic.
I was so interested, or nosy depending on how you look at it, in what Jamal was doing that I totally missed the fact that several other men had backed two of the Metro buses out of the way clearing our path straight through the roadblock nearly in the center of the compound.
Sam walks back while I listen to the gravel crunch under his feet and climbs in the VW driver’s seat. “Alright folks let’s get rolling.”
We start moving slowly, when suddenly over the radio “contact right!” is screamed. I am not sure who screamed the contact report, but all eyes turn to see what the contact entails.