Tuesday, November 16, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 1b - by nova

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."

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 at me 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 clumping 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 WWF champion belt and a 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.

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 Ram times two. I added them myself." He laughed. "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, tucked the gloves into it and the hammer was riding in a loop attached to 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 started the truck 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 scent, like what iron and blood smells likes. 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. Jesus."

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, and added "Christian when I can get it."
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 the exhaust smells like guilt and old wine. You want high octane...you got to go with the Amish. Too bad they lasted as long as the squirrels did."

We drove 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 who had caught the ricochet 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.

"Rode 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.

The roadblock was more than I expected it to be. I had pictured a couple of worn out police cruisers, maybe 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 waiting to get passed thru. 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 time and world that was gone. Almost being they were wearing sidearms, were skinny for Americans from 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 halfheartedly 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.

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 they 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 using the banner as the net when no one was around.

The officer who had waved us over met us as we shut the truck engine off. 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!" 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 continued talking to us.

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

He looked at us for acknowledgment 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. That's 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 as fast as we could." Thursday backed me up, telling him "Sure enough. Don't need no 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 at me blankly. I guess it didn't really matter.

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