Monday, May 31, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 8e

We walked back the way we came. Nothing had changed that I could see. Why should it have?  I hadn't killed anyone. I had picked the kid up and played it by their rules. Lowell would get over his nut whacking and Mrs. Greene still had her virginity of mind and spirit.  Yet something was off.  I got distracted from trying to figure out if and where a threat could be coming from by the kid.

"Excuse me sir."

I told him "The name is Gardener. The guy in front is Thursday. Sir is on vacation from reality somewhere on a mountain top. What?"

"I'm hungry...Gardener."

He couldn't have timed it better. We were approaching the diner and I could smell the food cooking. I was hungry too and my nose was telling me that someone was baking apple pie and grilling meat.  "You hungry Thursday?"  He just grunted for a reply. I took it as a "Yes."  I told the kid "Okay. We'll eat." We crossed the street. I noticed the kid didn't even check for traffic so I smacked him lightly upside the back of his head and told him "Look both ways when you cross a street." He in turn looked at me like I was an idiot.  I let it slide. My mouth was watering.

We walked into the diner an everyone stopped to stare. Nothing unusual there. We had caught them between lunch and dinner so everyone wasn't much more than a couple of tables occupied.  I ignored the waitress who came up to seat us and took a table by the wall.  I nodded at the people we passed, checked their plates, and was greeted with nods in return.  The place was like Shelli's diner. A limited selection. We had our choice of stew or the special which was steak.

She greeted us and I asked her "That smells like beefsteak. Is it?"  She laughed.  "Yeah. Once it's gone it will be awhile. We got a side of beef in. Some farmer got his cow through all the stuff that happened by hiding it. Then just lately he decided it was safe for her to graze and he let her out. She stepped in a hole or something and she broke her leg." She laughed "God works in mysterious ways."

"That apple pie I smell too?"

"Yep.  We might be the only place in 30 miles that has it."

I told her "I'm surprised you don't have people lined up down the street."

She grinned, and told me "Ask me how much this is going to cost you."

She was right. Plus I had to pay a "conversion" fee to cover the changing of my silver into "Freedom" dollars. I had to dig embarrassingly deep to cover it as it was cash up front. Thursday of course looked off into the distance while this all happened.  When she left he looked at me and said "So who is doing the plundering here?" I just glared at him instead of replying.  Of course he ordered his steak rare or as he said "Carve a piece and put it on a plate." That didn't go over well with the waitress. She wasn't to pleased with my "medium rare" either. The boy ordered "well done" which got him the waitress smile of approval.  I asked Zane, after she left "What's up with the meat?" He knew what I was talking about. He told me, and he didn't look to happy to be saying it. In fact he whispered it "If it bleeds sometimes people think bad things of you or remember bad things."

"Oh." I told him. That made sense. 

Thursday was not the kind of guy you wanted to sit across from at a table.  His table manners were on the same level as Woofs.  He took a look at his steak. Picked it up in his gloved hand and began ripping pieces off and stuffing them in his mouth.  It didn't bother me or the kid enough for us not to eat. Damn, I had forgotten how good beef was.  The pie was even better. Not as sugary as I liked but still good.  While we were eating the remaining tables emptied out.  I was getting increasingly uneasy. Uneasy enough that I was stuffing my face in the same style Thursday was.  I told the kid "Hurry up. We got to roll." Thursday was already done. He leaned back in his chair, belched, and said "They come."

He was right. I looked out the window to see a Humvee rolling up in front of the diner right about then.  "Time to go guys" I told the other two. We had stood up when they came in through the back. It wasn't a bull rush. They just casually sauntered out into the dining area. All of them dressed for the occasion. The officer in charge smiled at me and said "Hello Gardener. We've been expecting you. Nice of you to drop by."

I smiled back and said "I'm not going to leave a tip now."

He replied "That's understandable. We knew you or Max would be coming for the boy. Some would have preferred Max. Personally I don't give a shit. That 'Medal' shit may have meant something back in the day but it don't mean nothing now."

He opened his mouth to say something more when Thursday casually dropped the head of his hammer on our table. They hadn't reacted to him having it in his hand. Who is scared of a short handled sledge when you are armed with state of the art black plastic? Our table collapsed. I heard a roll of thunder overhead which was weird as the day had been only moderately overcast. At first I thought it was a flyover or something hovering overhead.  I heard Thursday mutter "We'll see who gets to babysit the dogs..." Then all hell broke loose.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 8d

I dug into my left cargo pants pocket and pulled out the Transformer t-shirt and tossed it to the kid. "This yours?" He caught in the air, unfolded it, sniffed it, and said "Yes sir."

I asked him "Your Mom named Carol Morton?"

"YES SIR!" The kid was literally quivering in place.

"You want to go see her?"


I grinned and told him "Okay. We can do that."  I looked at Lowell and told him, not asked him "So we're good." He croaked out a "Yes."  I looked at Mrs. Greene "You okay with this?"  Tight lipped she replied "Yes." I stared at her, waiting for the tirade I knew she so wanted to bust loose with. Nothing. Good. Let the toxic hate inside stay inside. Maybe she would have a stroke.  I looked around the room, and then said "Well, I guess we are out of here."

The kid stopped us. He asked me politely "Can I say goodbye to Mr. Lowell?"

I wanted to say "Are you freaking crazy? The man is an asshole." Then I thought about it, "Maybe he was good with kids? Maybe he let him be head of the hall patrol. Shit. Who knew?"  So I told him "Sure. Make it fast." Mr Lowell didn't seem to enthusiastic about coming out from behind the counter so I told him "Get your ass out here Lowell. I don't have all fucking day."

He pushed through the little swinging door at the end and came out and stood about as far away as he could get from me. I told the kid "Do your thing little man. We got to roll."  Zane looked up at me smiled, and said softly "Thank you sir."  Then he marched up to him. I couldn't see his face but I was interested in the flicker of fear I saw cross Lowells face. I heard Zanes little kid voice say "Thanks for everything Mr. Lowell" and then he punched him in the nuts.

He did a nice about face, marched back to me, and said "I'm ready now sir."

I laughed, and said "Yeah. I guess so.

I looked at Thursday. He understood what I wanted. He strode out of the room and stopped a couple feet out the door and looked around. If anyone was out their waiting for us with a weapon Thursday was dead meat which was okay with me. Better him than the kid or me. I didn't hear anything so I told the kid "Follow the hammer."  Once I saw him moving I started backing towards the door behind him. My body in their line of fire. I thought about shooting them both but I wanted a quiet exit from this town.

"Well. It's been real" I told them and we walked out of there.

We hit the street and nothing was waiting for us. "All right." I told them. "Lets move." I let Thursday walk in front while us while the kid and I walked side by side." The kid was looking around, about breaking his neck in the process while trying to look like he wasn't at the same time.

I knew what he was looking for. I had looked for her enough myself. I told him "She isn't here but she  isn't that far away."

He looked up at me, smiled, and said "I know. I can feel her."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 8c

I told Thursday "Go get one of them midget honor guards and tell them to find Zane and bring him here." I smiled at Mr. Lowell and said "You don't have a problem with that do you?"  He was looking a little ill and just nodded his head in agreement. "Good" I told him.  I added "We just had a misunderstanding...didn't we?" He nodded again. I let him go and stepped away from him. He looked like he was going to bark any second.

I smiled at Mrs. Greene. She didn't return it. Instead she snarled and said "You wait. You heathen, foreigner loving, terrorist piece of crap. You wait..." She shut up. Not because of me. Mr. Greene was giving her the death glare though I didn't find it all that scary. I told her, speaking quietly, "Talk to me like that again and Mr. Lowell  will be cleaning your head off the wall with a sponge." She looked like the type that keeping her mouth shut was something she wasn't accustomed too. I gave her ten minutes before I painted the wall with her poor excuse of a brain.

Thursday strode into the office. He was perking up. I guess the old guy enjoyed this. It had to be better than sitting around in a village outpost watching a lot of nothing go by. I also noticed the gloves he had tucked into his WWF belt were now on his hands and the hammer was out and being carried.  The hammer looked different too. It was lighter in color but it was inside illumination rather than a metallic shine.  Mr Lowell was gripping the counter edge tightly but his color was better.

"What's up Thursday?"

"One of the little men went to find him. He will bring him here."

"Thanks Thursday."

I looked at Mrs. Greene and asked her "Got anything to say?"

She opened her mouth, thought better of it, and shut it.  I laughed.

Two minutes later I heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Light ones. Kid sounding ones. Honor Guard kid came in and saluted the room, he said "Corporal Zane Morton is here." He then did a snappy about face and left. Probably back to his post.  That's when Zane stepped in the room, saluted, and said "Reporting as ordered sir." 

I stared at him. He wasn't much to look at. Just a scrawny kid in a green t-shirt and khaki shorts. His corporal stripes had been drawn his t-shirt sleeve with a black magic marker. There was just a couple problems that I was trying to process and I was having difficulty doing it.  The flow in the room changed when he entered. Not just a little. A lot.  He didn't have any African American ancestry. At least not in the last 40,000 years or so. No, that I was certain of. What was also I was certain of was I knew who his daddy was. It just didn't seem possible. I tried doing the math in my head but it wouldn't compute. I was looking at Max's son.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 8b

She said "I see. Please wait here." She disappeared down a hallway and I listened to her footsteps until she went inside an office at the end of it. She whispered "They're here." I heard a male voice reply "Thank you Mrs. Greene." She came back to us smiling and said Mr. Lowell will be with you in a minute." She went about doing what had to be busywork. He made us wait of course. I was being remarkably patient I thought. Too bad Night wasn't here to see it. She would have approved. Thursday was not good at patience. After a couple minutes he said "Where is this Mr Lowell? Perhaps we should go find him."

Mrs Greene heard this and sent a disapproving stare our way. We both ignored it.  After about seven minutes I was done with being patient and was going to go find him when I heard a chair squeak and the heavy footsteps of a large and graceless man coming towards us down the hallway. I almost laughed out loud. Mr Lowell was wearing a Scoutmasters uniform that looked two sizes too big for him. There were a few additions. Like the black plastic handgun in the brown leather holster. He was beaming, balding and needed to start wearing sunblock from the looks of his florid face. I hated him on sight. The hand he extended was as soft as I expected.  He smelled like old cum and sweat.

He extended his hand to Thursday. He ignored it. Instead he told him "Make us wait again and they will be able to mail your head to your Mother in an envelope."  I laughed. I liked that. I was surprised by the dropping of the medieval thing but I guess he didn't like to wait anymore than I did. I told him "We're here for Zane Morton on behalf of his Mother."

"I see." He looked down at his boots which were nicely polished. Took his index finger and rubbed his nose, then said "Certainly. We do have procedures." He looked over his shoulder at the woman and said "Please explain to these gentlemen the procedures." Then he started to walk away. That was a mistake. I went over the countertop and landed in front of him. I grabbed him by the shirt, twisted, and slammed him against the counter hard. He winced and groaned. Then I hit him in the sweet spot right below the rib cage. Mrs Greene started moving and without looking at her I said "Don't." She froze.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 8a

Me and Thursday started walking the direction of the school. Thursday was ogling the local women. Apparently they didn't have any where he was from. I had to admit the locals had a few good looking, big breasted young ladies.  Thursday noticed that I was looking at one particularly fine young woman walking down the opposite side of the street. He grinned and said "Yep. They need a wall."

I just grunted. I was trying to figure out how to do this. I didn't like the feeling I got from those two officers. Plus, this was going way to smoothly. I was trying to remember the last time I had a plan that had worked out as nicely as this one had so far. I couldn't think of any. I was trying to figure out if that was a good or bad sign when Thursday asked me "They got any rivers or maybe an ocean near here?"

I wanted to tell him how incredibly stupid of a question that was when I saw the school.  Instead I told him "That's the school. Let me do the talking. Okay?"

Of course he said "Sure" and of course I didn't believe him. I was trying to figure out if I was going to kill him or let him join the Horde.  It was going to be close at this rate.

We went in the front doors. It still smelled like an elementary school. That was where the resemblance ended.  Two little midget soldiers stood in the lobby flanking a large portrait of the Colonel. Their rifles, they looked like Enfields, were damn near as tall as they were.  Painted in block letters above what used to be the administrators glass cage was "MY LOYALTY IS TO GOD AND THE PEOPLE"  I thought they might want to work on that. It did nothing for me.

We went into the administrator area and were greeted at the counter by an old woman who probably never stopped working there. She looked exactly like the librarian who banned me from the computers at school for watching youtube videos back in the day. She asked us "Can I help you?" Very polite and even colder.

"Yes. We're here to pick up Zane Morton." I wanted to add "And a pizza with everything on it for carryout" but I didn't. I was working on being smooth and diplomatic. Of course Thursday added "We're on a mission for a fair maiden."  I was beginning to think he had been dropped on his head one too many times at the Renaissance Festival.

Once again I noticed the shadow pass over her eyes. What the hell had Carol given birth to? A mutant?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 8

We stopped outside town, went down someones gravel driveway, and pulled up in front of a ruined farmhouse.  It had caught on fire or had been set on fire. I noticed one wall was pock marked with bullet holes. I was at the point where I saw stuff like this but didn't. It told a story but one I had read before.

What would have been interesting would have been an intact and functioning farm. I was pretty sure they were still out there. The melon guys were proof of that. More than likely the marginal ones were being let go if the owners were dead and no one stepped forward and put a claim in. Resources and labor were to much in demand to work played out soil. Especially when you didn't have access to all the chemical steroids that were used to pump up marginal land.

I climbed out of the cab and dropped the tailgate. Woof looked at me puzzled. I told him "Don't worry. I'll come back for you." He hopped down and headed into the woods without looking back. The rest of the pack followed him. A couple of them looked back at me but not Woof. I had been tempted to let the other dogs loose and keep him with me. I knew better. If you want to run a pack you had to run with them. Then again if any of those Rottweilers got serious about challenging him I figured I put them all down. He could get a new pack but I wasn't sure if I could find another Woof.

I climbed back in the truck and we took off. The town was not what I expected. Yeah, there were an abundance of American flags. There was also an equal amount of Freedom Party ones too. There were no large portraits of the Colonel as Supreme Leader anywhere I could see. People were out an about an moving with purpose. A handful of stores were open. We passed a clothing store, a gun store, and a small grocery and hardware store. Down the street I saw a sign for "Leather Goods" and a used book store. Nothing in them for sale looked new but I saw a van unloading boxes into the hardware store. One guy unloaded while a woman stood guard over the boxes.

I told Thursday "Not bad. Looks like they are getting it together."

He spit into the street, looked around and said "They're going to need walls."

I was expecting to get stopped. If we hadn't I would have been surprised. People were friendly when they passed us but I also noticed they gave us space. Everyone was armed, and most of them looked like they knew which end to point at us. They were just wary.  We had been walking for about fifteen minutes. Enough time to see almost everything. I was looking for a diner or restaurant when they rolled up on us on their bikes.

They came from behind. I knew it because I felt the change in the air. So did Thursday. We both looked at each other out of the corner of our eyes at the same time. We also kept going. I heard the sound of them getting off and the kickstands coming down. About two beats later I heard "Hey. You two." We stopped and turned to face them.  They looked like soldiers except they had black nylon duty belts with the usual assortment of crap hanging off of them. The major difference was the blue and white armband each wore that said "Police."  Both were in their early twenties, clean cut. One of them had a walkie talkie stuffed into his dutybelt. One was White. The other one was Black. "Ah" I thought "Racial diversity is a beautiful thing."

I grinned and said "Yes officers?" 

They split as they moved towards us with the White guy moving into the street a few feet so he had a better angle. They didn't smile back at me. I didn't expect them too. I thought I had a winning smile so it was a bit of a disappointment. 

"We just want to welcome you to town" was what the Black officer told us "And inquire to what brings you here." I thought "Above average vocabulary and delivery. Not a grunt, and if he was, it wasn't going to be for long.

"We are here to find a kid for a friend." I got corrected by Thursday who said "A maiden."

"Yeah. A maiden." I looked at Thursday and said "I'll tell the story. Okay?"

He shrugged and said "Sure." Then he looked back at the officer and said "She is a maiden."

"Right." Then he told me "Continue."

So I told him the kids name, and that we knew there was a home or school for kids here, and we was in it. I didn't like how his eyes changed as I talked. I also felt the flow change. His partner, the White guy, was wearing sunglasses. I did not like that either. I felt Thursday, rather than saw, shift his weight a little. Then I described him. When I mentioned the scar Black guy didn't react much. Just enough that I knew the kid was here.

The officer pretended to think for a few beats. Then he told us. "I don't know. If he is here he will have to recognize you or you need something he will know. The Party does not keep children from their rightful parents. The Junior Warfighter School is two blocks from here. Make a left at the next light. It used to be an elementary school."

I didn't see a functioning light but I knew what he meant. He continued "The town rules are; No weapons drawn; No bad language or spitting." He stared at Thursday. So that hadn't gone unnoticed. "No drinking, drugging, or bothering the women. If your here tomorrow the rules change."

I didn't ask him how they changed. I didn't care. I said "Thank you officer. Is there a place to eat in town?"

"Yeah. Halfway to the school. Look for the Liberty Cafe."

I wasn't done. "They serve pie?"

For the first time he grinned "Yep. It's good too."

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 7f

We got cleared to cross about thirty minutes later. Every single dog had taken a dump, much to the kids amusement.  Me and Thursday were getting into the truck when one of the officers yelled at us to "Clean up that dog shit!" I waved, smiled, and we kept going.

Thursday was grumpy. I wanted to kid him about it but I didn't know him well enough too. He hadn't eaten his melon so I asked him for it.

"No." Was his reply.

"No? Just like that?" I was disappointed.

"Yes. Just like that." Yep. He was grumpy.

We rode in silence for about five minutes and I figured we were getting close to the town.So I told him "Look Thursday. I appreciate the ride an all. Drop us off outside of town and I will walk in from there." I didn't think it would all that much of a walk. Hell, I would be surprised if the town center took up more than five blocks. I just wanted to leave the dogs somewhere an outside of town was the best bet. With a little luck they could scare up a deer on their own while I was gone. I doubted it.

He surprised me when he answered me with "No. I will stay with you. You and the boy will need a ride out of town.  Plus...I am a warrior. You might need me."

I guess I didn't look impressed by his claim. I told him "Sure." I was thinking he was right. We would need a ride back. Maybe even further. With or without him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 7e

The couple settled down. Well, as much as you can while scanning your perimeter and watching the kids simultaneously.

Their story wasn't all that interesting. They were vague about how they survived. Just like nobody ever admitted to being a mortgage broker -- no one ever mentioned eating the neighbors. They had been working somewhere in the Delmarva area. They didn't say where. "Probably a chicken plucking factory" I thought. It had been rough. They had made it across a bridge, probably to one of the beach towns before it was closed. The car from Texas? They had "found" it.  We're they lying to me? Sure.  I didn't care. They asked me questions and my replies just as vague or lied myself.

What was interesting was why they were here. They wanted to be disciples of the Colonel.  The male, Juan, was pretty straight forward about it. "You know it's like this. The world is fucked. It ain't coming back either. What he wants is us to be is good members of the community. Worship Jeebus." His woman added, somewhat bitterly I thought "And him." He got pissed "Yeah. So fucking what. As long as he feeds us and lets our kids grow up somewhere safe I am fine with that. Nowadays that's a good fucking deal."  She put her hand on his leg and started quieting him down "I know. I know. This just not the America I expected." He snorted and continued "And you know what?" Here his eyes bored into me "The man don't care what color you are as long as you follow the rules. You got any idea how rare that is right now?"

"What about Aztlan?" I asked him. I was genuinely curious.

They both laughed. "Aztlan." He laughed again "C'mon. We ain't going back to the barrio. I want toilets that flush inside my house brother."

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 7d

I reached back for the K-98 bayonet I carried and pulled it from its metal sheath. It made that sound, sort of a metallic whisper, that I loved as it pulled free. I smiled hearing the sound. I thought to myself. When I looked up at the couple they didn't seem so friendly. Actually they looked nervous.

"You want me to cut them?" I asked.

"Sure." The woman answered.

"You want to call the kids over?" I asked her.

Again the look between them. She yelled "Kids! Come here."

They came running and Woof watched them come. His tail gave a tentative couple of wags, really twitches, which didn't past unnoticed by the couple.  I sliced the melon into pieces and handed them to the Mom who handed them to the kids. They were well behaved. No pushing or elbows were thrown.  The last one I cut for us. The woman took the heart, the best slice, and pulled it apart and gave that to the kids. She and the man split the heel and I had a heel for myself.

The kids liked it. They liked the melon a lot. So did I. If Thursday wasn't going to eat his I planned on it. I did offer a small piece to Woof who sniffed it and decided to pass.  Instead of racing off they stood there and stared at me. I knew they were dying to ask me questions. I mentally bet on the oldest girl to go first. I was right.

"Is that a wolf?" She asked.

"No. It's a Woof." He looked over at me when he heard me say his name.

"Does he eat people?"

I thought to myself " to answer?" So I told her "Yep. He doesn't eat kids though but stay away from those other dogs...okay."

She said "Okay." She didn't have a problem with his eating people. I wasn't surprised by that. "Can he play with us?"  Her Mom sat up and her Dad opened his mouth. I cut them off. "Ask him. Not me."

Her Mom said "Maria..." She ignored her Mom. Instead she asked Woof "You wanna play?" Maria didn't wait for an answer. She took off running and the other two kids followed her. So did Woof. The man was getting to his feet. I told both of them "He's fine. They're safe with him."  They both looked at me. I added "Really."  We watched the kids charge him and watched as he danced away. I looked away. I had seen this movie before.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 7c

I walked over to where the Latino couple were sitting, occasionally talking, and keeping an eye on the kids. They both looked up when they saw me coming and I saw the male ease back and his hand drop to his side. The woman casually rested her hand inside the tote bag she had at her side. The male, I watched his eyes go from open to guarded, looked up at me. I stopped about three feet further away then I would normally and said "Hey. How y'all doing?"

The male replied "Okay." He paused, then added "Yourself?' 

"I'm good" I told him.  "I thought I would ask you if it was alright to let the kids have one of these melons."

The woman replied "To have?"

"Sure. To have." I told her.

She smiled. She had a nice smile. "Why yes. Thank you."

I told Woof "Stay" and to my private amazement he actually listened.  I backed up without turning around and once I was back at Woof I took a knee. I didn't want to tower over them. While she stared at the melon in her hands, rotating is slowly like a small green globe, I said "I'm hoping we can talk about what you have seen. I saw the Texas tags...while we split the other melon."

They looked over at each. I saw minimal change in their expressions, but he said "Sure. Have a seat." I knew then they had been on the road together for awhile.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 7b

Now it was time to sit and wait until they opened the border crossing. I told Thursday "You want to take the dogs and settle them down under a tree away from everyone."  He didn't look to pleased about me asking him to do it but that was tough shit as far as I was concerned. He shouldn't have demonstrated his command presence with them. It was petty but I walked away smiling.

I walked over to were the melon people were unloading and stood and watched. The officer who was inspecting looked up and said "Hey" and then told the White Guy standing next to him "Okay. You're good. Just leave our pile here for now" and walked away.  White Guy One watched him go, waited until he was almost out of earshot and muttered "Asshole."  The officer, with out turning around , raised his right arm, flipped him the bird, and kept walking. White Guy Two chuckled and said "Your going to get our asses shot one of these days bro."

White Guy One replied "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. I'm going to take a leak."

White Guy Two watched him go, then looked at me and said "How can I help you."

"How much for the melons?" I asked him.

"How are you paying?" was his reply.

"How about one .357 round for four melons?"

"Make it three and you got a deal."

"Okay." I pulled a round out its loop on my belt and handed it to him. He checked the primer, said "Done" and headed for the cab of the truck.  My guess was to  load it into a weapon or hide it. Hell, maybe he wanted to stare it in private. I started thumping melons, found three ripe ones, and headed over to where Thursday was stretched out under the tree with the dogs laid out around him.  I tossed him one of the melons and said "Here. I'm going to go talk to the Texans" and walked away.  I got about halfway to them when I looked over to see Woof had joined me.  That was good. Woof was the only one of the dogs I liked anyway. The rest were dumbasses. I said "Hey Woof." He wagged his tail twice. I asked him "You like melon as a chaser for body parts?"  He didn't say anything. He never did.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 7a

The police force, or whatever they were calling it, wasn't all that impressive. I knew them after five seconds. They were militia level with a good NCO who was probably a former cop. The road block was a couple 4X4's and a HUMVEE with a .50 up and pointed slightly away from us. There was a canvas top tent with mesh netting walls, something that you used to see in peoples backyards when they wanted to sit outside with out the bugs getting them.

One of the 4X4's had a generator on the back that was putting out power for a radio and a small refrigerator inside the mesh tent. They had a picnic table inside and were using it as a desk.  The side of the tent that faced us was sandbagged up to about three feet. They had been there awhile was my guess. Behind the tent was a path leading through the grass into the woods. Probably where they went to relieve themselves.  They had strung a banner between two poles stuck in tires with cement to hold them that said "Welcome to Gods Country!" The banner looked like it had seen better days. I wondered if they played volleyball with it as the net when no one was around.

The officer who had waved us over met us once we had pulled in. The first thing he said was "Shut them dogs up and keep them in the back of that truck." They were still barking and growling their fool heads off.  I inhaled, ready to yell "Shut up!" Instead Thursday growled "Stillhet!" They shut up right away. The officer nodded approvingly and I bit back the anger that I felt. "Those were my dogs!" was what I thought. That was followed quickly by "What the hell? That was weird, especially as I had heard someone else use the exact same word not too long ago." I didn't have time to pursue the thought as the officer was talking to us.

"Okay. Nobody is crossing the line until we get an okay. The Brethern are having problems with bandits back the way you came in and we are in lock down until we get more information. Meanwhile we can get the usual stuff out of the way."

He looked at us for some acknowledgement that we understood. Both of us nodded.

He hesitated. I guess we were supposed to ask about the bandits. We didn't. So he asked us. "You see anything back there?"  I replied "Yeah. A town on fire."

"Yeah. Thats the word we got." He narrowed his eyes. I loved it when people did that. I called it the "Penetrating stare." He asked "See anything?"

"Nope. Thursday here hit the gas and we moved past it fast."  Thursday backed me up, telling him "Sure enough. Don't need no more trouble."  That seemed to mollify him.

He continued "Okay. What is the purpose of your visit to Freedomville?"

I laughed. "When the hell did the name get changed?"

He actually looked a little embarrassed. He said "A week ago. All the towns and such are getting new names to reflect our pride in our American heritage."

I looked at Thursday who looked back blankly. I guess it didn't really matter.

The problem was I hadn't expected this question. I doubted if the truth would be a good idea.  I was drawing a blank for something that sounded reasonable when Thursday once again answered for me. He told him "We are on a quest for a lost child. Son of a maiden fair."

I saw the officers eyes widen. I thought "Okay. Take the .50 gunner first. Then this guy and hope the dogs wake up." Instead the officer said "Oh yeah. The kids camp. You will have to check in at the station in town if you plan staying more than 24 hours. That will be two silver dollars for the toll."

I didn't see Thursday reaching for his wallet. In fact he was looking away and pretending that he didn't understand the request. Well, he had driven me this far so I paid for us both.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 7

The roadblock was more than I expected it to be. I had pictured a couple of worn out police cruisers, a pickup or two sitting along side the road, and a couple of people wearing road crew glow in the dark vests over half assed uniforms, an a lot of attitude. The only thing I got right was the attitude and that wasn't even that bad.

There were two vehicles pulled over to the side. One was a truck with the bed full of boxes an a fair amount of watermelons. Little green ones.  The other was a passenger car that was beginning to rust out where a couple of bullet holes had punched through the drivers side passenger door sometime in the not so distant past. 

The truck was being unloaded by the owners who were white, skinny, and almost dressed like normal for a world that was gone. Almost being they were wearing sidearms, were skinny for Americans for that period, and they looked pissed.  The Polo shirt was one of the expensive ones and the pants were clean. I figured it was their go to the market clothes. They were stacking boxes from the bed on the road that a guard in uniform was poking half heartedly through. The watermelons were being stacked in two piles, one smaller than the other. My guess was they were going to be paying the toll with one of those stacks of melons.

The other vehicle belonged to a family, that term was used loosely these days, of Latinos. They were sitting on the grass to the side and looked very bored. My guess is this was nothing knew to them. They had three kids between the age of 9 to 11 running around chasing a gypsy mouth, yelling "Butterfly" and laughing like crazy. Their trunk was popped but it hadn't been emptied of the luggage, boxes, and a couple blanket rolls inside. Only Dad was armed that I could see. What was amazing to me was they had Texas tags on the car.

Thursday was signaled to pull in behind the two cars which he did. The dogs began barking and the officer waving us in didn't look particularly pleased to see them hanging over the bed drooling, growling, and barking at him. I reached back, banged on the cab back window with my knuckles, then leaned out my window and yelled "Shut Up!" All that did was turn the volume down a couple notches.

Thursday put it in park an asked me out of the corner of his mouth "Friends or foe?"

I opened the door. I was going to have to knock some dog heads together if they didn't shut up and told him "Don't know yet" as I dropped to the ground.

Friday, May 21, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 6f

We drove along in silence for about five minutes. I looked back to check on the dogs a couple times. I was worried they might decide to do something stupid like leap out or piss on the tailgate. They seemed to be enjoying themselves though. All of them but the mutt had their heads hanging over the side and were vacuuming up road scent with their noses and grinning.  The mutt was curled up in the middle of the bed and taking a nap. Life was good for them it looked like.

Thursday noticed me checking on them but didn't say anything. Instead he turned on his radio and lowered the volume quickly. He had it on stun and I was glad he had turned it down. I didn't recognize the song or the language. Hell, I was surprised he was picking anything up at all since he had what looked like the original radio that had come with the truck.

I asked him "What station is that?"

"Oh...Radio Norse." He replied like it was no big deal. It probably wasn't. Where I came from we had, at least before things went so wrong,  radio stations that played music from Asia, India, and south of the border.

"Yeah? I know someone who would probably understand that." I told him casually. I was being crafty. I knew he would ask "Who's that?" Then I would tell him and gauge his reaction to her name.  That would tell me more about him. I was right. He asked "Who's that?"

"Her name is Freya."

He didn't even blink. Instead he said "Hmmm....that's nice."

I was rather disappointed by his reaction. We were going to have to start doing more advertising if one our goals was to become known as a blood thirsty Horde. I was going to pursue my questioning a bit more with him. See what I could find out about the locals and the Colonel. How he felt about it, and where he stood, when he changed the subject on me.

"Why you going into town?" He asked me.

I decided to tell him. If he didn't like it I could always shoot him when we stopped I figured."

I could tell by how he furrowed his brow, he was thinking about it. "Okay. I like it. A warrior and a quest for a lost child as a favor to a beautiful woman." He started slowing down. I looked over at him and said "What are you doing?"  I felt pretty calm. I wasn't sensing anything strange and the dogs were still grinning in back.

"A couple reasons. We're going to be hitting a road block in about ten minutes. We get through that then we are in town." He pulled off the side off the road and backed into what had been, or was someones driveway. Once done with that he continued "Not that I am adverse to just going into a town and kicking ass and hammering heads. I know you aren't." He grinned at me. I just stared back at him. I was half a mind to just get out and walk as it was.  He looked at me. Held up his hands and said "You're right. Lets just play it by ear." He pulled back on to the road and started grinning. I was still a little bit irritated. I wasn't sure why and I didn't remember asking him to come along.  So I asked him "What the hell is so funny?'

"Nothing." He looked over at me and saw the expression on my face. He added "I feel good. Been a while since I've done this."

"Done what?" I was still pissed but the joy I saw in his face was hard to deny.

"Road with warriors to battle."

I was beginning to think Thursday has slipped a gear during the long winter. Nothing wrong with that. A lot of people had. I told him "Ah...Thursday, I am the only warrior here."

He looked at me. No laugh or grin this time. Instead I heard "We shall see...yes we will." For a second I saw another Thursday staring out of his eyes. Probably a much younger one. I didn't get a chance for a retort. The roadblock was coming up.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 6e

I thought about that for a few beats, decided even if he was kidding I liked his sense of humor, and replied "So what kind of mileage are you getting with Christian blood?" He didn't even have to stop and think about it before he replied. "It depends. I cut it with ten percent mead because I am a Green kind of guy in my own way. The only problem is that finding mead is only slightly harder than finding a real Christian around here.

I found myself agreeing with that. It made perfect sense to me. So I told him "I am surprised that you have found any."

He chuckled "You mean Christians or mead?"

I thought about that. He had a point. "I would go with Christians."

He grinned, and slowed down to weave in between a couple of old cars that had narrowed the lane to one, then said "Nah. I've had it worse.  Try running Catholics. Nothing but backfires and guilt. You want high got to go with the Amish. Too bad they lasted as long as the squirrels did."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 6d

One of the reasons his truck had caught my eye was the two silver rams heads on the hood. He caught me looking at them and said "Yeah, this is a Dodge times two. I added them myself." and he laughed. He went on to say  "I like to think of them as goats though. All right now.  Let me pull out. You can load them dogs up in back and hop in." As he walked around the front of the truck I noticed he had put on his WWF belt and the hammer was riding inside a loop in it. I thought about that as he got in and shut the truck door.  "Don't let him get to close" was my conclusion. Armor or no armor. Helmet or no helmet. Getting smacked with a sledge hammer was going to hurt.

He tossed his gloves in and started it up. I recognized that sound. The chitter of a diesel engine running.  Then he hit the gas. That didn't sound like Chiefs diesels. I stepped back to let the smoke it was blowing out the exhaust dissipate. I was used to weird smells coming out of diesels because Chief ran ours on whatever he could find. This had a darker, almost like what iron smells likes scent.  I liked this smell better. Sometimes Chiefs diesels exhaust made me hungry. Especially when he was using peanut oil.

I dropped the tailgate and told Woof "Hop in Woof." I was surprised. He leaped in like he had been doing it all his life.  The rest of the pack, except for one followed him right in. The exception was the one who had been scratched by the ricochet. He hesitated, then looked up at me with a sad look. I yelled "Get in the fucking truck!" He jumped in. I closed the gate, and walked around to the passenger side thinking "That numb nut actually thought I would help him up."  I climbed in, sat back and looked around. Everything had been redone in leather including the dashboard except for the floorboards. They had untanned deer skin on them.

"Nice ride" I told him.

He grinned "Yep. Can't beat a '89 W 250 Cummins Turbo Diesel. Got a  Powerstroke intercooler, S300G turbo, with pryo and boost, and a 727 tranny."

"No shit" I replied.  Mentally I sighed and thought "A gear head. Jeebus."

He nodded solemnly and replied "Yep. No shit."

"So what are using for fuel?" I asked him.

"Blood." he replied, then put the truck into gear, looked over at me, winked, an added "Christian when I can get it."

Thanks to LA Confederate for the diesel help.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 6c

I looked at him and he looked at me. We both knew what was being decided. He didn't look too worried. In fact he grinned and said "Make up your mind youngster. Time is a wasting." The last part of what he said decided it for me. I didn't have time to mess around and I knew my mechanical knowledge was next to nil. So I asked him "Think you can give me a lift to Piketon?"

He laughed and said "Might as well. Ain't going to be shit left around here once the breeze starts up. Let me gather up some things and we can get going."  He got up, went through the screen door and I heard him clumping around inside. I was sitting on the porch railing and I looked down at Woof and the dogs and said "Feeling like riding for a change Woof?"  He thumped his tail a couple times so I guess he was down with it. I heard Old Guy come clumbing back towards the door and I eased off the porch rail. No sense in being stupid. An old guy can kill you just as dead as a young one.

I was surprised at we had decided to bring. Some old belt that looked like the original model for the belts worn by the WWF and pair of gloves that were a mix of metal scales and some kind of leather.  They looked even older than the belt. I asked him "You a welder?'

"Naw. I've done some blacksmith work once upon a time. Looks like my skills are going to be needed again."

I nodded. It made sense to me. I asked him "You got a name?"

"Yep. Thursday."

That puzzled me. At first I thought he meant he was getting his name on Thursday. Them it dawned on me. I said questioningly "Thursday?"

He replied "Yeah. Mom was real big into that Hippie stuff." He shrugged his shoulders.

That I understood. He looked to old to have a Hippie Mom but shit, weirder things had happened and I had heard stranger names.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 6b

He watched me approach. He was old. At least 50. Maybe older. I knew that because he had Old Guy ears and nose. I never saw it much before the crash but nowadays all the Old Guys had it. Some of them had so much fur growing out their ears that they reminded me of elves. Others had hair growing out of the tips of their noses. Sometimes it was long enough to look like nose antennas. He had both. I didn't find it endearing.For4 being so old he looked like he was in good shape. He had some broad shoulders under that shirt. When I got closer I was going to see if he was wearing pads under there. The only weapon I could see was a short handled sledge hammer standing head down next to his rocking chair. It looked well used an as old as he was.

The dogs moved reluctantly out of my way. I didn't see any reason why they had howled briefly before. They sure were quiet now. I climbed up the stairs and said "Hey." I was tired now. The blind desire to kill had retreated into where ever it spent most of its time. Probably hanging out in front of my minds equivalent of a 7-11.

He replied "Hey. Them your dogs?"


He nodded his head, thought about it for a couple beats, and said "They gonna eat me too?"

"I doubt it. They're pretty full and you don't look like you got a lot of meat on your bones."

He laughed. "Yep. This is true." He leaned forward a bit, stopping the rocking motion, and said "Well I think you kilt about everyone and you got a good start on burning the town down. Whatcha going to do next?"

I wanted to say "Go to Disneyland." Instead I looked around, some of the houses weren't burning like they should. Others were roaring. There wasn't much of a breeze other than what the fire was creating on its own.

I told him "You know if that truck runs?"

"Yep." He hesitated, then said "I should. It's my truck."


American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 6a

I began burning down the houses. They burned easier than I thought. About halfway through it occurred to me I might have wanted to wait until I found out if that truck I had seen worked. After all, the smoke was a signal to anyone nearby that bad things were happening here. I mentally shrugged and said "Fuck it. Let 'em come." I hadn't found anyone else. In fact I skipped a couple houses that weren't part of the main cluster that made up the village. They were at least a quarter to half a mile away. It was getting boring anyway. I was never a firebug except when I was young.

I was working in a rough circle with the goal of coming back to the truck. I would see if it ran. If it did, then I would load up the dogs, burn the main house down, and head down the road of life. The dogs were getting bored plus they didn't like the fire either. I had stopped to look at the one Rottweiler who had been nicked by the ricochet. He was fine but that didn't stop him from whimpering as I looked at it. Just a big baby was all he was. By the time I had begun working my way back they had all gone ahead of me and were sitting in the shade of a tree watching me or catching up on their sleep. Nothing like a full tummy to make you want to take a nap.

Inside on of the houses I found a half full box of posters. Dispatches from the Colonel. Propaganda for the people.



That there is only one God! That those who have undermined the belief in our God also work to destroy our world! We will not let them succeed!

The abolition of incomes unearned by work. The breaking of interest slavery and the BANKERS grip on our throats!

In view of the enormous personal sacrifices of life and property demanded of a nation in these troubled times, personal enrichment from loans and other financial skulduggery must be regarded as a crime against the people. We therefore demand the ruthless confiscation of all banker profits.

We demand the nationalization of all businesses which have been formed into corporations (trusts).

We demand economic reform suitable to the needs of the times and the people;
The prohibition of unions and the right to work!

The passing of a law instituting profit-sharing in large industrial enterprises.

The creation of a livable wage.

The restructuring of social security and welfare to exclude those who have stolen the peoples wealth.

The immediate enforcement of all laws deemed necessary to protect and defend the people!

Contact your local party representative for more information.

Next to the banner was a nice photo of the Colonel in uniform. He looked good. I doubted if he had missed many meals during PowerDown.  Hell, he probably had desert when ever he wanted. They made good fire starters. 

I was down to about three houses when the dogs started howling then shut up.  I looked out a window and saw them gathered around the porch of an old house.  An old man was sitting out on it in a rocking chair looking at them and rocking slowly back and forth. He seemed calm and in no danger of being eaten before I got there so I finished lighting off the house and walked over to see what was up.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 6

A light bulb went off in my head as I ran. It said "Hey dumbass. You know thing on your back we call a rifle? Might be a good time to use it."

"No shit" I thought. Holstering the Ruger, making a sharp zig because it seemed like the house was a mile away still and I could see movement at the window, and trying to pull the 30-30 was difficult. I managed it and was shot at and missed again. This one hit, ricocheted, and I heard a dog yelp. I pushed the safety in and fired from my hip and took out the window next to who ever it was.

Cursing and getting seriously pissed I didn't stop for the front door. I got lucky, it wasn't steel framed or locked even. I kept going through it, leaped a coffee table, and bounced off the wall hard. The stairs were to my left. I levered a new round in and started shooting through drywall and whatever the hell else they used to make houses around here. It looked new so it was probably cardboard pulp and virgin nylon carpeting reinforced by pine boards.

The dogs went racing up the stairs. One of the Rottweilers was limping a bit. As he passed by he gave me a reproachful look. I wanted to yell "Not my fault!"but I was distracted by the sound of a door slamming shut. "Shit!" I thought "Lucky sonofabitch so far." I reloaded the 30-30 and listened to large dogs scratch at the door. I was going to have to go up there and finish this before one of them got hurt. I didn't bother to call them off. I doubted if they would listen and I couldn't think of a command that equaled "Get away from the door and get out of the way you dumb ass, rot breathed, stupid fuckers."

I fired another round where I thought I heard movement and rushed the stairs. I was about halfway up when I heard "I give up! I surrender!" I kept going, yelling at the dogs who were gathered around hallway at the top of the stairs trying to get in the bedroom door. I was surprised they hadn't. Those doors were usually as well built as the rest of the house. I kneed one of the dogs to get it to move and yelled "Come out now!" Then moved so they wouldn't place me by voice.

"Call off the dogs!"

Jeebus. This was getting tiresome. I had a town to burn and miles to go. I booted one of them and yelled "Move! Out! Now!" Woof looked at me like I was insane, snarled at the one who scratching at the door which looked like one more big dog jump against it would do it, and got them moving down the stairs. Well, Woof stopped halfway.

I yelled "All right! Come out!"

The door open cautiously and a skinny white guy who looked like he once weighed a great deal more came out slowly with his hands raised. "Okay. I surrender! Be cool buddy."

I shot him in the head. The 30-30 round was pretty close to a .357 round in what it did to his head. I levered another round in, stepped into the room and made sure he was alone, then looked down at the body and said "Fuck you. Fuck you and your town" and kicked him in the balls. I picked up my brass and left him to the dogs who pushed up hard against me as I went down the stairs.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 5e

I was walking down the main street. I didn't care if anyone saw me. I hoped they did. I didn't have to worry about the watch on the roof this time. I had just thrown him off it a minute ago.

Beyond me the dogs, led by Woof, came up fast at a trot. One of them, the biggest Rottweiler, had the arm, well one of the Escorts arms, I couldn't tell if was the one I had removed, locked in his mouth. He looked rather pleased with himself too.

I stopped for a couple beats to let them catch up while I listened to their claws scratch the asphalt and their breath being expelled from their lungs in deep rhythmic pants. I told Woof when he caught up "Damn. People call me a fast eater. What did you do? Woof it down." He wagged his tail, and I laughed. I was really starting to like Woof.

The house down from the main house had a garage. The doors were open and the hood of a truck stuck out maybe a half a foot. It looked like it was a pretty decent size one. Hopefully it ran. I had 30 miles to go and I didn't want to walk it unless I had too. I was about halfway to it when someone took a shot at me from the open window of the house next to it. They missed.

I had the 30-30 in a sling but I didn't even think of it. I was beginning to wonder why I carried it. I filled my hand with Ruger at the same I burst into a run and snapped off two quick shots. I ran straight at the house. As I did a couple of the dogs barked. In joy or because of the noise I didn't know. I did know they were loud. I was just as loud as I yelled "Freya!" and tried to do a 360 scan as I ran.

Monday, May 17, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 5d

"It's all right Woof" I said. Woof looked at me quizzically but shut up. Once he did the others did too. Reluctantly. The Escort looked me, tried to smile, and said "Thanks. I guess I should find something for them to eat." I looked at him and said "Yeah. That might be a good idea." I had unhooked my camelbak and had filled it up during this. I hefted it, and left the water running for the dogs to drink out of. Not the most sanitary thing to do, wasteful too, but I didn't really care. It wasn't like I planned on living here. My escort didn't like it but he didn't say anything.

To kill time as each dog, Woof first, took their turns, I asked him "So what are you going to do for fun around here?" He laughed bitterly and replied "Yeah. Not a whole lot to do since them devil worshipers ran off with the women. I tell you buddy, they had some hot ones here. We used to run down here when we were in the area. They had this one...shit what was her name...Sheryl I think..yeah, that was it. She'd suck your knob off if you said you would get a note to her boy." He laughed. I knew that laugh. It was the good old boy join in and say something witty like "Ya don't say" or "Damn. That sounds hot! Wish I'd got me some." Instead I dropped down and began messing with my left boot lace. I didn't think he needed to see my face yet. Hoping I sounded casual I said "No shit. What happened to the kid?"

"Last I heard he was about thirty miles east of here at Kid Camp. probably been there being one of the Colonels an all." I looked over. There was still one dog waiting to drink. Well, I decided to give him a choice of beverages." I reached over my left shoulder, found the hilt of the sword, pulled it, came up pivoting like I was hitting a fastball, whispered "Freya" and cut threw his right arm at the bicep and buried the blade in his ribcage after slicing through the side panel of his body armor. I think that must have hurt by his expression.

The arm dropped to the floor with a meaty thunk. He asked me "Why?" Disbelief in his eyes and blood jetting from the severed limb. I stepped back. I didn't want to get hosed by stumpy. "Why?" I replied "Because your a piece of shit. That's why." Not one of my snappier lines I will admit but it was true. Behind and around me the Harley was warming up again. I looked over at Woof and said "Lunch time" and stepped away. I sheathed the blade wet, something I didn't like to do, but I didn't plan on letting the blood dry on it. I didn't worry about him screaming. Woof always went for the throat.

When I went though the door of the main house it was like deja vu all over again. Three guys at the table, Brother in the big chair. The only difference was this Brother asked "Where's Al?" I grinned, and said "Oh. He's feeding the dogs." Then I killed them. I suppose I could have asked some questions. Maybe sat down and had something to eat with them. Maybe even be diplomatic and learn important secret stuff.

Or I could have kept Brother alive and tortured him. I wouldn't have minded torturing him. I had never done it before, well, maybe once or twice, but I didn't give a shit. I was going to go house to house and kill everybody in this fucking town and then burn it to the ground. Nobody here was going to be living when I was done. Nothing was going to be standing to be remembered or used again when I left.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 5c

We walked and chatted for a minute or two and then he told one of his escorts to show me where I could get get some water for myself and the dogs. He told me "You go ahead and get cleaned up and take care of them animals. I will have someone check and see what we can spare to feed them. Then, come find me and we can talk." He walked away and I and my new escort went off to find us some water.

As we walked I asked him "So whats new around here? Y'all had any problems?"

"Naw. Had some people show up the other day and kill just about everybody in town. Other than that -- it's been pretty quiet."

"Yeah" I told him "I know what you mean. We were on patrol. Tracking a group moving west when we got ambushed three days ago. They killed off my team. Me an another guy got away but he died the other day. Some kind of weird ass cult they were."

"Yeah. I think I know who you mean. Some kind kind of Burner goddess worshiping group. They got some girl claiming to have super powers or some such shit. Supposed to be pretty hot looking too."

"No shit?" I replied.

"Yep. Brother Roger, he says the Prophet is going to kick their ass too."

"Yeah. I heard about you guys. Say, you got a radio here? Something I can reach the Colonel on?"

"Sort of. Brother Roger does. We just got it not long ago. It ain't worth a damn." He lowered his voice, "It's a Prick-127. My Dad probably used it."

Here's the water." We had stopped around back of a house that was about a half a block from where we had split off from the Brother. He pointed to a rain barrel then slapped the side. "Yeah, it's about half full. It should be good. I drank from it the other day." He looked at the dogs and said "Damn, them are some big ass dogs you got. Probably feed everyone here for a weekend off of them." Woof, who like the others, had been following me and pissing on everything that they ran across, started growling. As soon as he did the others came on point and joined in. It sounded like a Harley idling.

"Woah now. Just kidding. Hey buddy tell them I was only kidding."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 5b

I began walking in. I didn't bother to hide myself. Once again they had a watch on the roof. He didn't see me until I had covered half the distance. "Kind of shoddy watch keeping" I thought. I had wondered what I was going to do with the dogs. Somehow telling them to "Sit!" and "Stay!" seemed a little ludicrous. I almost decided to give it a try, just to see the expressions on their faces, but decided it wasn't worth it. "Never give orders that you are not sure will be obeyed" was another of the Maxims we learned. I had never thought about it before, but I was far more reluctant to shoot a dog than a person. Then again, these were good dogs while it was rare for me to run across good people.

I could see that in the clowns gathering to greet me. First impressions are important and they didn't weren't making good ones. It was probably my visceral dislike for men who ran around looking they they were an extra in "Friar Tucks Great Adventure" movie. The two guys flanking him looked competent. This time a couple others hung back and watched. All in all a better response than last time. Even dumbasses learned.

"Hold it right there stranger." This was from the good Brother.

I came to a stop, stood easy, and grinned at them. "Howdy Brothers" I told them. The dogs had fanned out around me and were smiling at them also. I was proud of them. We looked so darn happy and friendly. It didn't seem to reassure Brothers escorts. They were not thrilled about the dogs or disarmed by their happy smiles. Maybe it was the fact that a couple of them were drooling and licking their chops.

Brother said "I got one question for you. Answer it right and we can talk." He didn't tell me what happened if I answered it wrong. My guess it was something bad.

He sprung it on me. "Are you washed in the blood of the lamb? Have you accepted Jeebus Christ as your savior?" He didn't just say this. He had to roll it out like he was announcing a WWF match. "He needed more reverb." I thought.

"Yeah." I told them. "All that and more. I'm from the Colonel and I'm hungry and thirsty."

They liked that. At least the first part. The second part, the invoking of the name of the most holy Colonel, got them moving. I had guessed right. That asshole had some serious weight nowaday.

Brother grinned, and said "C'mon in. I thought someone might be by. You are just here much quicker than was expected." He was looking around behind me. "Probably looking for a vehicle an other people." I guessed.

"Great. I hope you got something to feed my dogs." As we walked towards the main building I added "They'll eat anything you know." I looked Brother in the eyes as I said this and smiled.

Friday, May 14, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 5a

Me and the dogs had made camp a couple hours later. I found a place by a stream so they would have water and unrolled my bag under a tree. I didn't bother to eat. I had nothing for the dogs and it didn't feel right to eat in front of them. Feeding them was going to be interesting. Even if Freya could drop us some bunnies from the sky it would still take about 10 of them to feed these pups and they would consider that a snack probably.

The next morning after we been walking for a little bit a rain began to fall. A cold one at that. The summer had not been as warm as it usually was. Wearing a vest and carrying a bunch of crap made me very okay with that. I stopped, stripped above the waist, and let the rain wash away some of the stink. I would have gone completely nude but the occasional thorn bush, nettles, and ticks that made up the sylvan meadow I was crossing made that impractical.

That was one of the many things I found after I became homeless. The woods are not Disneyland. Nor are they park like. You had to watch out for poison ivy. I remember one girl who wiped her ass with a handful. That was pretty funny. You had ticks. You had bushes that scratched you up. It was cold or hot. Never just right. Water that you could drink was a constant struggle to find. It took me all of two days to figure out why the relatively sane homeless always carried gallon water jugs. Living full time in the woods was a bitch. I had seen two people just break down and start crying because they couldn't deal with it. This was before things got really bad too.

A lot of times like this. When I was walking but hadn't gotten into a rhythm, I rehashed old times and places in my head. At first I thought "Hey. No distractions!I can do some seriously deep thinking." Nope. Never happened. Right now I was trying to figure out how to do this. Go get my bike and go into town or just go into town then get my bike. Big decisions like this occupied a lot of time when I had it. Or should I camp and go in the next morning? I decided the hell with it. I would just go in. I had at least four hours of daylight left. Maybe I could get invited to dinner. Maybe they would have dessert. Something good. I was still thinking about apple pies I had known and loved when I began getting close enough that I was going to have begin looking for an observation post. I skipped the ones we had already used. "Never use the same places and never use the same route twice" was what Max had taught us.

As I had walked the dogs had spread out around me in a diamond formation with an extra furry facet bringing up the rear. They moved right along with me considering that they seemed to pee on every other bush and tree. I made a bit of a jag out the way at one point so they could drink from a stream. They seemed to appreciate that.

I found a rise and crawled around to the side of it and looked through a bush. The town was occupied again. My timing for once was good. The team that had done the sweep after we left was leaving. It looked like a handful of people and yet another guy in a robe were staying behind. I bet he was someone else who appreciated a cool summer like this. The last guys robe looked like it was made out of wool.

Everybody stood around the trucks while he said what had to be a prayer. Then they were gone. Woof was sitting next to me helping me watch. This was the first time he had sat this close to me. He needed a toothbrush. I told him "Woof. You're breath stinks. I''m going to have to make some bones for you to chew on." Then I scratched his ear and waited, giving them time too settle down and the others to put some miles under their axles.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 5

I sat there for a bit. Well, at least I knew how long I was going to be gone. At the rate the Horde was moving I would need to set aside two weeks just to catch up with them once I found the kid. I pulled out the t-shirt Carol had given me. It was a Transformers t-shirt. "Nice" I thought. It was Bumblebee. Too bad it wasn't my size. I would have worn it. I smiled to myself and thought of another kid with an Optimus Prime toy. "Shit always runs in cycles" I told myself. I was sitting there, reluctant to move, knowing I had too, but unable to get off my ass when I heard them coming.

They were quiet. They just needed not to breathe so hard. Nothing was there one second, the next I was looking at five big dogs. They stayed back about ten feet while Woof walked up, sniffed, looked me over, and then sat down about three feet from me. He was smiling. I like that in a dog.

I looked him and the rest of the pack over. All of them were males and none weighed less than 90 lbs. I recognized the usual breeds, Rottweilers, Woof the German Shepherd, and one I didn't recognize. Somebody's mutt. Looking them over made me glad I wasn't going to be cleaning up after them.

"Woof. You've put on some weight. Looking good Dog."

He was too. He still had the scar and a couple more had been added. All of them were scarred. One of the Rottweilers had what looked a lot like a bullet wound scar on his flank.

Woof didn't say the same about me. It didn't bother me. I understood. He wasn't the talkative type. I tossed him the t-shirt. "Sniff that up. That's who we're looking for." Each dog came up, sniffed, and went back to his place after Woof took a couple sniffs.

"Okay. Lets go to work then." I told them. I grabbed my pack and started headed back towards the town I had found Carol and her friends in. I needed my bike. A truck would be better. I also needed to talk to a member of the Brethern. I needed more information. The clock was ticking. I didn't think we had left anyone alive who had seen me. If someone had, that was fine with me. I could use the exercise.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 4f

She dropped her day pack and met me halfway. I caught as she leaped and wrapped her legs around me. A few minutes or years or whatever she broke lip contact to look over my shoulder. I didn't have to ask or turn around to know who had come into view.She unclamped,then dropped off me like I was a horse and she had reached her destination. I turned around and saw that she had already covered half the distance to Carol and wasn't slowing down either.

Carol to her credit didn't cower or even look nervous. She stood there and waited. She didn't have to wait long. Night was in her face in a couple blinks of the eye. I tensed up and got ready to move. I wasn't going to let Night cut her down. Give her hell, yes. Cut her throat? No. I had noticed she was carrying her fillet knife.Not a good sign. Night stood there for a couple beats. Then she said quietly and in a steel core monotone "Hello Carol."

"Total ice was Carols reply "Hello Night. Long time no see."

If this had been me and someone else going to head to head I would have been stripping the body by now. I was never going to understand women. This I knew without a doubt.

Night broke off the staring contest by telling Carol slowly, like she was addressing a retard or a child, "Gardener will go look for your child. You will come with us. If he isn't back in a month I will kill you. If he comes back within a month -- with or without your child -- You will live but not amongst the people of Freya. Do you understand an accept?

Carol swallowed, the first sign that Night had gotten to her, and said quietly "Yes."

Night didn't say another word. She turned, and marched up to me, stopping only long enough to hook her arm around my waist, and say "Let's go." We stopped so she could pick up her day pack and then kept going. I had an idea, actually a rapidly growing hope, that I knew what was coming next. I was right.

About two hours later we caught up with the team working drag security for the Horde. Ninja was with them. He greeted Night who walked past him smiling. When she had covered enough distance he waved the rest of the team on to escort her in while he waited.

He looked at me, shook her his head, and said "Damn Bro. She's smiling. All is well?"

"I suppose."

He continued "I asked Max if I could go with you. He said it was your call."

I thought "Thanks Max." I looked at him, and thought "Jeebus we had come a long way together." I almost said yes, Then I changed my mind and said "It wouldn't be right Ninj. They need you. Me and you go -- that's two thirds of the real warriors missing." I saw the disappointment in his eyes "Plus I need you to keep Night alive for me" and grinned.

"Yeah... Be careful Bro." Then he was gone. I watched him move at a trot until I lost him and then I went and found a log to sit down on. I was suddenly tired and I felt more than a little empty, maybe even stupid, and very alone.

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 4e

We moved on. Freya hit me with a quick update at one point. I was glad she did. I wasn't focusing like I needed to be. I kept going back and forth between the idea of going back to the land of the Colonel and how the hell I was going to pull that one off. The other was Carol herself. The only way I could see that working was to return with her son, then take them both and split off from the Horde. I knew that was bullshit. I saw the look in her eyes. I had also felt the rush of Nights love when she was online. I finally did what I did best with problems like this. I made my mind go still, led the Carol image into a room, and shut the door on it. I had a lot of rooms like that. Some I hadn't visited in years.

I wasn't going all the way in. I figured we would bump into the Horde screening element and I would turn it over to Loco and head to West Virginia. Perhaps a detour into Brethern country to see if I could pick up a trail. There had to be some kind of network or formalized way of trading surplus kids for whatever the Colonel was paying that week.

I picked up the screening team about an hour later. Actually the bird had picked them up early and I had made a guess of where they would be based on rate of travel. I saw them before they saw me which gave me the advantage. I wasn't going in for a kill but I didn't mind patting myself on the back sometimes either. Especially when it came to sneaking around in the woods skill. I stopped about 50 feet out from where they were laid out and said "Okay. Y'all can come out now." About 15 feet from where I stood Ninja stood up. I stopped patting myself on the back.

"Ninja!" I was happy to see him. It felt like it had been forever. We embraced and I held up my fist and flashed the hold in place sign which I belatedly realized no one would understand. Then Ninja and I stepped under the canopy of the oak trees that were growing along the edge of the stream bed I had been following. No sense in standing out in the open. Someone must have understood it behind me as no one pushed forward.

"Hey G! Damn. How's life? I missed the connection the other day." He grinned "I was busy."

"Busy? Oh yeah. How are you and her doing?" Damn if I could remember the name of the girl he had picked up at the bridge coming into Ohio. "Oh. Not her. I moved on." He grinned again. I laughed, shook my head, and thought "Ninj has discovered sex...finally."

"Yeah. We got some catching up to do. So them people you bringing in, they behind you?"

"I hope so" I told him.

He lowered his voice and said "I hear Carol is with them." It wasn't a question. He knew and was fishing for my reaction while watching my eyes as he did. "Yeah. She is. How's Night?"

He laughed, tried to choke it down, and didn't succeed. "Oh brother. She is trying so hard to be an iron ass about it." I interrupted him "What? Does the entire world know?" He almost stopped laughing and held his hand in a placating gesture "No. Just the people that were linked and me." He added "Night told me. Shelli has no clue unless Max told her which I doubt because she asked me what was her problem." He laughed again "My sister thinks she is being so calm and cool. If she had a half a brain she would realize that everyone knows she is really pissed about something and they are staying as far away from her as possible."

I shook my head and told him " is just too fucking complicated sometimes."

He was still grinning "Yeah. Let me help you out on that." He whistled, and Night stepped from behind the tree that had hid her. I looked at him and said "You're an asshole" but I was grinning and moving towards her at the same time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 4d

Moving everyone was about what I expected. The women were used to hardship but they knew where they were going was better than where they had been so their spirits were good. They were better at moving in the woods then most people were prior to PowerDown but they had no idea how to move as soldiers. They didn't have their eyes where they needed to be. They were wary rather than watchful.

When we stopped to take a break and Carol sought me out. Everyone knew something was going on between us. That was obvious from the way their eyes tracked the both of us. That was probably the biggest problem I had with living in close quarters with people. Everything became amplified. Emotions echoed and ricocheted. It was annoying.

She sat down next to me and said "I'm sorry."

I told her "Not a problem." and smiled. She looked at me, searching for clues I suppose on how to play it. Then with the directness I always admired in her she dug into her bag of belongings, well mostly other peoples belonging she had looted on our way out. She dug out a small t-shirt and handed it to me. This is Zane's. Then she began reciting her facts:

"He is 4"5' and he is skinny. He has blondish brown hair and he always looks tan."

"No kidding" I thought.

She continued "He has a four inch scar on his right arm from when we were crossing all those fields. Damn farmers love barbwire. I was lucky. We still had some neosporin left. Plus he was healthier then. I am pretty sure he is in West Virginia now. Some Army Colonel has his own private kingdom out there. He has tie ins to the Brethern and a few other groups including what is left of the government. He supposedly isn't a slaver or a racist. He just wants young men like my son to raise. I heard talk that he wants to build a new Sparta whatever the hell that means."

She stopped. I thought she was done so I got up. As I did she grabbed my arm and then let go of it just as quickly. "It was daytime and she could see my eyes now" I thought. Then the anger went away when I saw the need in hers. "Find my boy G. Please."

I bit back what I wanted to say and instead gave her what I hoped was a reassuring grin and said "Sure." Then I told everyone else "Lets move."

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 4c

We did the usual predawn stand up with everyone awake. Carol wasn't meeting my eyes I noticed. "Fine" I thought. "I don't really need the distraction right now." I got Loco aside and told him the new plan. "You're going to be leading the ladies back to the Horde. They're about 32 miles east of us and headed our way. You will probably meet them in less than 10 miles. Max will tell you what's up after that."

He raised an eyebrow and said "What about you?"

"I'm going with you until we are about 5 miles out from them. Then I'm splitting off on a secret mission."

He grinned "Going to look for Carol's kid huh?"

I should have known. Nothing stays secret. "Yeah. Until then we're going to loop around the town and stay off the roads. I am going to get a view hopefully in the next few minutes of what is between us. I want to avoid trouble. If we have to sit down and shut up for awhile -- that's what we'll do. I'll take point. I want you on drag. Put who ever you think has a clue behind me. We go in ten minutes."

I was headed away. I wanted to take a leak and hook up with the goddess cam away from everyone when Loco said "Hey G."


"Two might be better than one..."

I was surprised, maybe even touched. I walked back to him, put out my hand so I could shake his, and said "Thanks. If I was going to take anyone -- it would be you." We did the embrace back patting thing and I went to go find my spot. I finished, zipped up, and put in the call. She was there within a second.

"Hey Freya."

"Hey Gardener. Guess what?"


She said excitedly "We found some chocolate!"


"Yeah! And I ate almost all of it!" Then she laughed delightedly.

"Thanks for sharing that with me." I replied, I thought dryly.

"No problem." she replied. She laughed again then said "You want a bird?"

"Yeah. From where I am back to you in sweeps. Y'all made a contact lately?"

"Nothing major. A few images of a fire blackened truck followed by "Someone tried to push past the point." She didn't add anything else. "Okay. I'm going to have to use a couple birds. I'll send you your area now and see what I can do as you move." Then she was gone.

Monday, May 10, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 4b

I watched, rather I attempted to watch, but my focus was gone. I relieved the moment over and over. I thought of different things to say. I sure thought about different things to do. Yet, behind them all was the look I had seen in her eyes. Then I got to thinking about Night. I realized that perhaps my going off to find Carol's kid might not go over really well.

Then I just began to get angry. Angry at myself. Angry at how complicated everything had to be. Angry at Carol. "Why the relief in her eyes? Was I that unappealing? Was something hanging out of my nose?" The night went fast. Far too fast. I was feeling as reluctant to face the dawn as I once did when I was coming off a night spent getting wasted. "Oh well" I told myself "Shit happens."

I reached out mentally for Freya, half hoping I wouldn't get her. Of course I did. Nice and clear too. They had rolled since the last time we had talked. As usual she appeared in a window inside my head, my webcam goddess. She was in a good mood too. As usual we dispensed with formalities.

"Hey Freya."

"My! My! I liked the artwork. Couldn't you have cut off some heads?" She flashed me an image of what the main Horde had done earlier to a village. Heads on poles and burning houses.

"Yeah, well, I was in a bit of a hurry." I sent her my images.

"Too clean G. I understand the rush but you need to find the time to leave our trademark."

"I got it Freya. Heads on poles and Freya written in blood."

"Yes. I like the blood part especially. So what's up? You want to talk to Max and Night?" I could hear the amusement in her voice "Or just Night?"

I realized that I had better lock away the images of last nights unveiling. This was going to be complicated enough as it was. "No. I need all three of you on. Can you do that right now?"

"Sure! Hang on." Damn she was chipper. I guess getting your name written in blood was a good thing when you were a goddess. I was going to have to check her teeth next time. Maybe she had vampire in her. My musing was interrupted as Night and Max came on line, The blast of affection, hell love, from Night was so focused that it literally rocked me back a step.


"Hi Night. Hey Max."

Night knew right away "What's wrong?"

"Well this was going to fun for Max too" I thought. I saw his eyes narrow, Damn, he must have caught that. Then I started sending images. As soon as Carol flashed by I felt Night mentally stiffen and become more guarded. Max, that asshole, didn't act like it was a big deal. All he added was "Nice work." Night knew something. I have no clue how she did as I didn't send the part where Carol had asked me to find her kid. I wanted to do that "Live" so to speak.

So I explained what Carol had asked of me and how I had agreed to look for her son. Then I waited for storm. It didn't come like I expected. Freya was unreadable which she could do. An unfair advantage I always thought. Max was amused. Underneath that was anger. He was doing a good job of masking it, but I still felt and heard it. Night wasn't angry. She was livid. "That worthless, cheating, no good bitch. I am going to cut her fucking throat and pull her tongue out through the slit. She fucking played you but she sure as hell isn't going to play me." All this was as cold as steel and as empty of anything but the desire to do exactly what she said she was going to do. Then she switched to Chinese. I really wished I had a mute button then.

Then she flipped back to English and I could feel her eyes bore into me. "Did you fuck her?"

I opened up. I hoped I was doing it just for her. It wasn't where I had wanted to go but I realized if I didn't I would lose her. It stopped her dead. I heard her whisper "Oh G..." I waited. I knew there was going to be more. "Keep her out of my sight Max!" Then she was gone. Everyone was silent for a couple beats. Then I said "Well, that went over nicely." Only Max laughed and that wasn't for very long or very loud. Freya stayed silent. After about 40 beats she said "Fine. This can work to our benefit. I see possibilities forming already." I felt her attention focus on me. I mean really focus.

She said "Do you two realize yet what I expect of you?" I'm glad it was a rhetorical question and she kept going because I was getting ready to say "Good personal hygiene?"

"Max. You will be a General and you will lead the Horde in battle. Such a battle it will be too. One that will be spoken of for a thousand years. You Gardener. You will never lead an army. Yet you too will be known." She paused, then said "As my Champion." You are Fire and Steel." She paused, then said "I would expect nothing less of you Gardener. You would no longer be you if you had answered her in any other way."

Her words rang in the space between us. My first thought was to say "Thanks Coach." Instead I said "Send me the dogs Freya. I want Woof."

Her reply was what I wanted to hear "It will be done."

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 4a

Loco was surprised to see me as I was early. I guess he saw the look on my face because he didn't argue. He just went. I wasn't thrilled with our location either. It was too damn close to town. I would have pushed us on through the night but despite what Carol and her friends had seen and done I didn't think night marches were one of them. My night version was outstanding compared to someone pre-PowerDown. Now we were finding it was damn near miraculous. Vitamin deficiency had taken it's toll on most peoples night vision since.

I took up my position, relaxed, and let myself drift out into the fields surrounding us. I was looking for anomalies, strange feelings, I am not sure how to describe it really. I was good at it, almost as good as Max, who had taught me how to do it. He was still far better at moving in the woods though. Part of that ability could be taught, part of it was mental, and another part was just a gift that you had or didn't have. I didn't have it and I had accepted that I didn't. I wasn't mentally wired for it I think. I liked to roll out and go to much.

Carol was quiet, but no where near the level she would have to be to run with us now. I heard her hesitate about 20 feet from me then whisper "Gardener..." I fought bought the flash of anger I felt. This was really stupid of her on so many different levels. I slipped over to where she was and said "What?" just before she called my name again. I startled the hell out of her which I have to admit I enjoyed.

"Jesus" I cut her off by holding my finger up to my lips. Then I said "Try a little quieter Carol." She nodded her head, and I said "What?" She looked at loss for words. Something I had never seen before. She looked good in the moonlight. I doubt if she could see me as well as I could her. This was good. I could stare at her breasts more openly. Especially as she had her blouse open a couple extra buttons which was strange. I thought "Maybe the buttons fell off or she doesn't realize it." While I was hoping that she would drop something she said "I have one of his t-shirts. He would recognize that. Plus I can give you a good description. He has a scar on his left arm that is very noticeable."

"Okay fine." I thought. She could have told me this later. I was getting ready to wave her back and whisper "Later" when she hit me with the high beams. She opened her blouse, cupped the twin delights, and said "Can you see these G? They're yours to have." She hesitated, then added "And much more." They were beautiful. She was beautiful. Not all that long ago I would have been a happy man who would have been moving rapidly towards ecstatic. Not now. Instead all I felt was sadness. Well, mostly sadness. I sighed and said "No Carol. Not like this. I'll find the boy Please go." What made it worse was the relief I saw in her eyes. If she had pushed it I probably would have gone for it. The expression of relief I saw was a knife in my heart. I turned and slipped back to where I had been and listened to her snap sticks all the way back to where the rest were.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Heartland Chapter 4

Everyone but me held their breath. I just looked at her. She whispered "Please..."

I didn't think it through. I didn't worry about the ramifications. I just said "Sure." Her grin and the hug that followed were nice. Almost nice enough to silence the voice in my head that told me I was an idiot. She pulled back, looked at me, and said "I wasn't sure if you would." I shrugged, and said "Hell Carol. It's what I do." The chorus was making a big deal of it and they were all grinning from ear to ear. I thought about how badly dental hygiene had slipped since PowerDown. I was glad when they turned it down a notch or two.

"So Carol. Where is he?" I asked. I don't know why but I figured he was in the next town over.

"I don't know."

"Oh. Okay. You have a rough idea?"

"Sort of. I think he is east of here." She waited a beat. "About a hundred miles." She was starting to look a little anxious.

"Okay. You got a picture?" I asked her. She looked down, her hair fell forward, I wanted to brush it back, she said "No. I lost all my pictures."

I thought "Well, this is going to be a little more difficult than I thought. I was also getting a little bit irritated. I fought to keep it out of my voice and said calmly "Can you describe him? Does he have any distinguishing marks? Scars?" She must have heard the irritation in my voice because she said defensively "I will recognize him!" I thought about that for a couple of beats, then I said quietly "You're not going. If I do this. I do it alone. Think about it. He has to have a scar or something. Do you have anything of his he would recognize?"

She stared at me. Her eyes welling up. I thought "Jeebus" That was followed by a sick feeling and the thought that maybe she was right. Maybe she had lost it. I stood up and said "I have to relieve Loco. Think about it. Give me something to work with." Then I turned away and went to find Loco.

Carol's Song - Verse Three

"Bobby died right after my youngest. I almost lost it G." She laughed. Well she might have thought it was a laugh. I thought it sounded like a harsh croaking. Actually she wouldn't have to work real hard at talking to the crows if she could make that sound when ever she wanted. "Maybe I did. It was a hard time." She looked at me "You know how it was. Anybody who is still alive knows how it was." The women behind her grunted and amened their chorus behind her. "Yeah Carol. I know." What else was I going to say? It was tough beating Freya to all the cinnamon deserts?

Me and Zane did it. Nobody ate my kid! We were lucky for awhile. We hooked up with a road crew that had some good people in it. Yeah, we did things, but we survived. If there is a God I know they will understand." She didn't sound real positive about that though. I wanted to tell her she needed a new god but like everything else I could say this wasn't the time and the place.

"Then things went to hell again. We jacked the wrong convoy and finally the Army showed up. I guess we were getting too good at it. It was Army police, except they sure weren't armed or acted like police. They chewed through us like a buzzsaw. Wasn't any arrests being made either." She shook her head. "So what was left of us, which wasn't much ran for it. We ran right into the arms of the Brethren.

"The Brethern. May they rot in the Hell they so love to talk about." She paused and once again her chorus seated behind her sung their affirmations of her righteousness. "You know anything about them G?" I shook my head and said "I could make some guesses." She cawed again. "I doubt it. They are special. You know my Bobby was Black right?"

"Yeah" I replied. "More like tan, Who cared these days" I thought "Other than...oh yeah."

"Yeah. Some people care. The Brethren especially. I mean not all of them. Enough to matter. They also believe woman, especially unbaptized and unsealed ones are second class citizens." Yeah, the chorus agreed with that. "I could live with that. Hell, I did. What I can't live with is they took my boy from me." She reached out, grabbed my arm in a grip of steel tendons and ceramic bone, focused those eyes directly on me, and said "You got to get my boy back. Please!"

Friday, May 7, 2010

Carol's Song - Second Verse

"Bobby,he fought like a lion." She paused, looked at me, and said "You would have been proud of him. I know I was. It wasn't enough. We lived at the top on the west side of the mountain. It's woods until you come down on that side and then it's farmers fields all the way to Front Royal just about. We didn't think we would have to run for it. We kept expecting the Army to come. I guess we were out of their god damn zone." One of the women behind her laughed mirthlessly and mumbled "Fucking Zones."

Carol continued "They didn't come. We saw them overhead a few times. You know. Helicopters. Once I saw a little plane. Bobby said it was probably a Cessna. I don't know. I just know they never came. We had radios. You know, AM and FM. Dakota on the next street had a short wave that he ran off a car battery. We heard that the government had the situation contained and relief was being dispatched. I don't know where the hell they sent it but it wasn't where we lived."

"So we were running, no, make that we had run out of food. It was getting cold and it was getting real obvious we were not going to be able hold the line. I think if it had been just Bobby he would have stayed until they killed him. It wasn't just him but he was still bothered about going. He called it "Bugging out." He did it anyway. He was worried about me and the boys. We were hearing some ugly things. Sometimes they would scream at us "We're going to eat you!" I thought they were kidding. The funny thing is they were not as bad off as some of the people we ran across later."

"So we bailed. Bobby said if we planned on eating we were going to have to go while we still had some ammunition to shoot. Our plan was to head for Front Royal. We had friends there plus the radio said the government had a processing center and a camp there. We didn't want to go into one but my kids were hungry." She looked at me and said "You know I had two boys right?"

"Yeah." I searched my mind. I had seen the drawings in her office and the photographs. Names, crap, what were their names? Then an image of stick figures of a family and a dog in magic markers. The name at the bottom was Kyle. I blurted "Kyle!" Then I thought "Oh Jeebus, please don't let be the dogs name."

She smiled. That was nice to see. "Kyle. He was my youngest. He was six." The smile disappeared. "He didn't make it...His brother, Zane, he's eight." I hadn't seen any kids with her. I had a feeling that I wasn't going to either. No sign of Bobby either. Her voice which was almost animated, well, at least it sounded alive, changed to a flat monotone." She looked around and seemed startled for a second. Then she said "I'm sorry G. Please bear with me. I will try and speed it up." I held up my hand "Talk as long as you want Carol. I'm not going anywhere." Loco didn't know it but he might be on watch longer than he planned.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Carol's Song - First Verse

She took a deep breath. I watched her breasts rise and fall. "Need to focus" went through my head. Even underweight she was still beautiful.

"You guys left and I went home. I talked to Bobby and we decided to start getting it together. You know, just in case." I nodded my head and so did the the women seated behind her. "Anyways...we didn't have a lot of money. Bobby had been out of work for awhile. We had been making ends meet with venison he was killing and selling. Plus, the kids...ah shit..." One of the women reached out and patted her back. "I think I am going to skip some parts here and there G." She looked up at me and I saw her eyes were shining.

"You don't have to say anything Carol." I told her. I was curious but not curious enough to have her open up the doors to rooms best sealed off. I had seen enough and heard enough to know how bad this story could be.

"No. I am going to tell you this story and you're going to listen!"

I held up my hands, smiled, and said "Okay talk to me."

The flare up passed as fast as it had come. She continued "When the power went down I didn't think it was a big deal. Nobody did. It happened all the time." She shrugged. "We did what we always did at the shelter. We made do. It wasn't until, I think it was the fourth or fifth day without power that things started getting weird. You know how it is. Nobody knows anything but that doesn't stop them from spreading stories. You know, it was world wide. It was national. It was terrorists. It was space aliens. What ever it was -- it wasn't getting fixed and even worse, it didn't look like it would anytime soon."

"Then the hoarding started. The people with money and connections, they did okay at first. The rest of us. Well, it was getting tight. Real tight. The Army was driving around with them Humvees with loudspeakers telling everyone not to panic. They said "Food was on the way." It never came. At least in our area." The last was delivered with bitter venom. "The Army came and told me they were closing the shelter. Said everyone was going to be moved to Camp Victory, you know, the one out by Ft. Belvoir." I nodded and said "Yeah, I heard that one really sucked."

"G." She said exasperated "They all sucked."

I laughed and replied "Yeah. Some sucked more than others Carol."

She ignored me. I remembered her ability to do that and mentally sighed.

"So I told the girls if they had somewhere to go then they better go. Sometimes I think I could have done better by them. Sometimes, you know, I could have brought the ones with babies home with me...but I was worried. Worried about my family. So I told myself they would be okay and I left them."

She had stopped talking and was crying for real now. Jeebus I hated the sound of that. One of the women was glaring at me like it was my fault or I was supposed to be doing something. Hell, I never knew this stuff. I reached out and put my arm around her. I felt her move towards me, then stiffen, and pull back just a little. I awkwardly let my arm drop. She had her fist jammed into her mouth so hard that when she pulled it out I saw teeth marks on it. "Sorry G. I don't like to be touched anymore."

"So me and Bobby, we lived up on the mountain, we organized our neighbors, we got as ready as we could. Bobby taught our two boys to shoot. Well, as much as could be done with the time we had and the ammo shortage. I thought we would be all right G. I really did. Then the people came. We tried warning them off. At first I thought they would flow around us. There was just so many of them and they got to be such assholes as time went by. We had nothing to give them but they didn't believe us. We had the people and the mountain on our side at first. We wore down G. They didn't beat us. They just wore us down. It was like for some of them...they didn't care if we had nothing. It was what they wanted to do. Like it was a game. Over running us wasn't about food or anything. They just wanted to hurt us at the end I think."