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Thread: Refuge

  1. #1

    6 Refuge

    Twilight Zone Short Story--Or first chapter in a Weird book--

    I'm Undecided.


    Tree had no idea where he was, nor how he’d gotten there. It was hard to be sure, in the absence of any hard data, but he felt an underlying dread that made him think that he was being actively sought—even if he wasn’t being actually stalked at this moment in time—and for all he knew, whoever or whatever could already be stalking him.

    It reminded him of Nightmares that he’d had as a child. Sometimes, although things hadn’t gone South yet, he knew that they would—and soon. He’d try desperately to wake up first.

    He’d stopped having Nightmares as a grown man. Whatever the situation, he always opted to stand and fight, and he always prevailed—in his dreams.

    This wasn’t a Dream though—it seemed too real. Tree examined his hands. The act of focusing his gaze on his hands would generally cause a dream to threaten to dissipate. He looked at his hands for several seconds—No, it wasn’t a dream.

    He began to categorize his sensory impressions. It was nighttime, and it was hot. It was close to a hundred degrees. The streetlights all had generous halos—partly from all the gnats and tiny moths flying around them, but also largely due to the heavy humidity. The artificial light made the blacktop road look a peculiar blue-gray.

    He was wearing jeans, tennis shoes and a White “T” Shirt. He hadn’t worn a White “T” Shirt since the US Army had turned him on to OD Brown. Then later he’d switched to Black. Come to think of it, he hadn’t worn Blue Jeans for many Years either. He inevitably bought Black jeans instead.

    The thick sweat made him feel slick and sweaty and nasty. The thin “T” Shirt clung to him tenaciously, like some article of Women’s Lingerie. The soppy wetness of the Jeans told him that he wasn’t wearing his customary long underwear—since they tended to wick the moisture away, and help him stay much dryer.

    He patted his pockets down for weapons. He’d carried at least one Buck Lock-Back in a front pocket since 4th grade, but there was no Buck there today. The air was full of Lightening Bugs. He’d always thought the sickly green light seemed rather sinister—and if he surveyed the sky, the bats were out in force as well.

    He remembered how he’d played hard and sweat hard as a child, and the sweat and grime had made a line around his neck. His mother had laughed and said that he was wearing a bead necklace. She thought that she was being funny. Tree didn’t find it the least bit funny. It was stupid. It was insulting. And it caused him to glare venomously at his mother. She was always springing Dumbass jokes like that on Tree—until he’d lose his temper and snapped at her. Then she’d leave him alone.

    There was a price though. The next time she saw his father, she’d be sure to tell him that Tree had been “a Bull”. Though he hadn’t spoken up, saying that he’d “Been a Bull” made Tree about twelve times as angry as if she would have said that he’d been “Like a Bull” like any normal human would have said…

    And Tree’s father never punished Tree. He’d just look at Tree as if having a surly son was the biggest cause of shame and regret in his life—and for someone of Tree’s sensitive nature, that look was far worse than any spanking would have been.

    Years later, Tree realized that the only way he could have kept his temper, in the face of his mother’s continual prodding was to accept her as a friend. No one could take that unrelenting assault from a hated enemy, without boiling over occasionally…

    And that she’d been trying—perhaps unconsciously, though probably not—to put him in a position where he had to change his whole attitude. He wouldn’t have been willing to do a wholesale attitude adjustment anyway—not back then—so the point was probably moot.

    He hadn’t noticed the “Bead Necklace” around his neck in many years. Perhaps only children got them—or perhaps he still unconsciously practiced wiping his neck with his shirt every few moments—the way he’d done quite consciously as a child. He realized that he hadn’t even thought about “Bead Necklaces” for many, many years, as he nervously wiped the front of his chest and neck with the sissy-ass White “T” Shirt.

    The crickets and the bullfrogs and the nighthawks, along with Tree’s ragged breathing and thumping heart, mad a surprisingly loud backdrop. The cadence seemed to be constantly speeding up, just like the suspense music on a scary TV Show. Tree knew that it was an illusion, nothing could continue to accelerate forever, and the beat had to be slowing down to get room to speed up. There was a name for that particular auditory illusion…

    Not the Doppler Effect—something else—Tree cleared the thought viciously from his mind.

    It didn’t matter. Here he was in a situation positively dripping with menace, and he was walking down the center of the street, and woolgathering about bead necklaces and auditory hallucinations.

    He moved over to the sidewalk. He resolved that whatever might attack him; he’d stand and fight. He would neither flee nor cower. He saw a small white stone—round and smooth. It was bigger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball. He made a deep swooping pick-up of the stone, like an outfielder snagging a low ground ball. Now he had at least one weapon.

    Knowledge of books of privy lore—evil books on witchcraft and sorcery, that he’d read long ago flooded into his consciousness. As an adult, he found Carlos Castaneda ridiculous, not to mention Sacrilegious; but he remembered the first two or three steps of the Warriors defensive posture.

    He dropped into an exaggerated “T” Stance. He pulled his weigh forward so that he could tap a rhythm with his back leg. Since he seemed to have fallen into a magical World, he couldn’t see any great harm in adopting a Magical Posture.

    Then a realization galvanized him. No time to stand playing Brujo under the streetlamp. This road was starting to look familiar. Yes, he hadn’t been here since he was a small child—and then only a half-dozen time. The house had been torn down shortly afterward. They’d even relocated the streets, and renamed them.

    He might be the only person still alive, who had been inside that house—and his well ordered memory had a real good idea of the layout inside. Even if one or two others remembered this place, there was no reason to search for him there—and besides, his memories would almost certainly be more detailed. That would give him a huge home field advantage.

    There was a chest high chain-link fence around the house—just as he remembered. As he stepped through the Gate, he felt with absolute certainty that he had suddenly become both much harder to find, and much more formidable.

    The feeling increased fourfold as he stepped up onto the screened-in front porch. He reached above the lamp, and located a key. Opening the storm door made him relax the slightest bit. As the key turned in the tumbler, and the front door opened…

    As Tree stepped into the small front room, he realized that nothing could attack him here. Nothing could even sense him while he was here. He was invisible. He was invincible. He was perfectly safe here. Tree shut the door and relocked it. He would have been no less protected, if he’d let the door swing wide open—but his inherent neatness caused him to close it.

    There was a small bedroom to the right. Tree quickly got himself a set of pajamas—though he wasn’t a Pajama wearer—a big terrycloth robe and a couple towels. He stopped long enough to put all of his sweaty clothes in the washer—even his White Converse tennis shoes. The washer and drier were on the west wall of the kitchen, just like he’d remembered them.

    The big claw footed porcelain bathtub, in the bathroom to the left, was also precisely as he remembered it—but there was a difference. There was also a stand-up shower in the leftmost corner of the bathroom. Tree filled the antique bathtub with water as warm as he could stand it.

    He soaked and scrubbed himself for a good long while in the tub. Then he got out of the tub and shaved, brushed his teeth and cut all of his hot water soften nails as short as he could trim them without making them bleed—and most of his toes, and a couple fingernails did bleed, showing that he’d trimmed them just enough.

    Then he stepped into the shower and rinsed all the soap off himself.

    There was Ham and Swiss Cheese in the ice box—also Lettuce, Cherry Tomatoes and Cottage Cheese—not to mention Black Bread. Best of all, there were sixteen ounce Double Colas in the old returnable bottles.

    Tree helped himself to a hearty repast—eating two very thick Ham and Cheese sandwiches, along with plenty Tomatoes and Cottage Cheese. He drank two of the Double Colas, and got into the cookie jar and grabbed a big handful each of Chocolate Chip and Fig Newtons. He threw his clothes into the drier and went to bed.

    The sun had been up for awhile when he woke. He made himself a lazy Breakfast of Ham, Chocolate Cake and Ice Cream and Coffee. He sat in the vibrating leather recliner, and watched the old Black and White TV Shows. When his attention wandered, the plots seemed to become more ridiculous and obscure. Finally, when he awoke after drifting of to sleep in front of the old Black and White set…

    And when he awoke, the set was displaying various Fractal Functions in full Technicolor—and the screen had grown to five foot on the diagonal.

    Tree realized then, that this place was real. And the renewed vigor he felt as he washed, ate, slept and bathed were also real. And he was both invisible and invincible here…

    But in some ways, he was bringing his own context with him to interpret something almost impossible to grasp in its raw abstract essence. He could stay here as long as he wished—but past a certain point, his metaphorical batteries would be just as charged as they could get. There wasn’t much part in staying past that point…

    Anyway, the way would always be open to come back here, and to create other Refuges. He wondered what he might create next time, when he’d have just a bit more control over the process—though he’d still be rather befuddled the next time he spun a Refuge out of…

    Well, out of whatever in hell he’d used to fabricate this Refuge.

    He hung around until dusk. He donned Thermal Underwear and Black Jeans. He put on Black Cowboy Boots, A Black “T” Shirt, Turtleneck Sweater and long Black Leather Coat. He had a Black Stetson with little Silver Conchos with small Turquoise centers.

    Tree had found a nice custom .45 Auto in his dresser drawer—it was nickeled, had ambidextrous safeties, stag grips and a pinned grip safety. It had four extra seven round magazines—And with everything fully loaded, Tree had three extra .45 Cartridges. He placed them carefully into his watch pocket.

    There was also a full-sized 4inch stainless .38 Special—a Smith and Wesson with a rounded butt. Why a .38 and not a .357? Tree wondered. He only had nine rounds for the .38; six in the cylinder, and three in his front left pocket.

    He wore two big Buck Lock-backs in a leather sheaths, one on each hip, and carried a smaller buck in his right front pocket. He also had a Colt .25 in one boot. He still had his round white stone—in the pocket of his leather duster.

    That was a lot of firepower—but then again, the Guns weren’t really Guns—they were metaphorical—he was confident.

    As Tree stepped outside his refuge, he noticed that it was now Winter. The air was frosty cold—probably at least a bit below freezing—and there was a thick coating of Frost on everything. He was far more comfortable than he’d been in the Summer heat.

    He walked until he started falling asleep. Finally he couldn’t fight the urge anymore. He lay down right on the sidewalk, and went to sleep.

    As he snoozed, oblivious to the cold, he dreamed.

    He dreamed about Plagues and Famines. He dreamt of Nuclear strikes to try to sterilize the pestilent populations—“Cauterization” was the official term for the strikes. He dreamed about Droughts and swarms of Locusts and Flocks of Starlings so thick that they Blackened the Sky.

    He dreamed of a return to superstition and terror, and cruel small-minded Paranoid suspicion of both Outsiders and Insiders.

    In Tree’s dream, there was a man named Tree, just like him. But the man in the dream wasn’t Brave and Courageous like Tree. He was often timid and fearful and He relied more on stealth than skill at arms. He was often petty and cruel and deceitful—a back-shooter, back-stabber and cheat.

    He did have a few things going for him though. He was bigger and stronger than most—and he generally managed to wrangle enough grub to maintain his edge. He was reasonably skilled with arms, and more importantly, he could stay icy calm in the middle of a shooting or a knife fight.

    The Tree in the Dream had two more advantages. He had a Hound that could warn him of danger, lead him to food, and warn him away from tainted or poisoned Grub. And he had two friends. They stuck together no matter what—all for one, and one for all—though the dream Tree thought of them more as the Three Stooges, rather than as the Three Musketeers.

    The dream Tree was also missing his Right eye, and he kept the open socket covered with a bandanna eye patch.

    The Three Stooges and the Bloodhound had deteriorated to skeletal ragamuffins of late. Their clothes were in Rags. They hadn’t eaten in three days, and they’d been on short rations long before that. They weren’t far from death.

    The one called “Nod”—a Black Man—six foot-seven, and built like a Professional Defensive End—when he wasn’t starved down to a frazzlin of his former self. Tie was part American Indian and part Korean. He was five-foot six, one hundred twenty five pounds, and both incredibly fast, and very strong for his size. He’d been training in a bewildering array of Martial arts since Childhood. He was weighing less than a hundred pounds of late. There wasn’t enough meat left on the hound to make it worth eating—besides, Tree would kill anyone who suggested such a course. He’d killed men more than once, because they’d mentioned the desire to eat Tree’s Dog.

    And somehow, through some unclean Alchemy, the dream became disgusting reality. Tree woke up in the same damp, chilly deserted bunker, with the same two loyal henchmen and the same crabby Dog. He was very disappointed to find that he was Tree The Royal Shit-Ass, and not Tree the clean and fearless—like in the vision, or whatever.

    Things had changed however. He didn’t remember ever losing an eye, and after pulling off his bandage, he discovered to his considerable pleasure that he had a perfectly good right eye. He was still clean. He was still wearing his new clothes, and he was still well filled out, as if he very rarely skipped a meal.

    He’d stuck the .45 in his dream, inside his right side waistband. He still had the Gun, but now it was in a strong-side high ride holster. The .38 was tucked into a left-handed inside the waist Summer Special. He’d even seemed to have aquired a large Bowie in a shoulder rig.

    His weapons had been a Scoped Springfield Sniper Rifle in .30-06; a .22 Rifle that he carried on a macramé Strap and a Stag handled Ruger Mark II .22 Auto Pistol. He still had them, but they all seemed to have undergone an Arsenal Rebuild.

    There were 100 rounds of .30-06 in his pack, and a 550 round brick of .22 LR.
    There also seemed to be plenty grub. He took out an LED Lantern that he hadn’t had before, and fell to examining his booty more closely.

    There was a really big Shoulder Ham wrapped in cheesecloth. Tree unwrapped it, and threw it to the Hound. The loud thud awakened Tie. He shined the electric lantern on Tree.

    “You have your eye back. I knew that you were a Dream Walker” Tie said.

    “Then you knew more than I did” Tree said.

    “Did you bring anything for me?” Tie Said.

    Somehow, Tree knew even before he looked, that there was a package for Tie, in the form of a deep Blue-Gray Knapsack that had been randomly splotched with Black ink. Inside was a six-inch; seven round .357 magnum—a Smith and Wesson. There were two BDU uniforms in the same Black-Splotched blue-gray. There was food, and there was a Ruger Mini-14 and several loaded twenty round magazines, to take the place of the SKS with the Broken Butt Stock that Tie had been relying on. He only had about a dozen rounds left for the SKS, in any case.

    Nod was awake by now. Tree had a bag of goodies too. He’d been using an H&R Single-Shot .30-30. There was a Marlin .30-30 Lever action attached to his bag—which was Black-Splotched Brown instead of Black Splotched Blue Gray. There was a five-inch; six shot Smith .357 in his knapsack—an N-frame, Model 27; and two sets of BDUs—Brown Splotched in Black, like Nod’s Napsack.

    As they dug into their Knapsacks, Tree found a big fruitcake. Tie found a Bottle of Scotch and Nod found a big batch of cookies.

    “Where did all this stuff come from?” Nod demanded.

    “I’ve been telling you that Tree is a Dream Stalker. Besides, it might have something to do with the day” Tie said.

    “Day? What about the Day?” Tree demanded.

    “Have you lost track of days?” Tie asked mischievously. “Its Christmas!”

    Tree thought for a long minute.

    “Lets make this stuff last people. God knows when, if ever, that I’ll be able to get more.

    “Second thing—I kinda feel changed—more than a little bit—can we all resolve to be the good guys, from now on?”

    And on that, they came to an agreement.


  2. #2

    6 Chapter Two

    Chapter Two

    Tree pulled on his boots and prepared to take Linda on her morning walk, but first he’d check out his garden. The Bloodhound wanted to come with him to the back yard, so he let her.

    Once there had been a functioning Doggy Door and Linda had came and went into the fenced-in backyard whenever she pleased. Times had changed—people were raiding gardens and garages and whatnot. There had been a number of cases where Dogs were poisoned or shot with suppressed .22s to silence them and enable sneak-thievery. He no longer let Linda out, unless he was with her.

    There were deep cracks in the ground. Tree took an old piece of coat hanger and inserted it into a crack experimentally. The wire went down four or five inches. The crack didn’t really stop there, but it ran very crookedly, and the hanger wasn’t flexible enough to go any deeper.

    Tree had seen a Summer this dry once before—but this Summer the drought was almost nation wide. Towns along the Mighty Ohio River suffered less than most and it still made good economic sense to water his garden. For the first time ever, he’d adopted a number of water conserving methods in his garden.

    He was glad that he’d put in an extra large garden this year. Food prices continued to climb—partly from the drought, and partly from the price of gasoline hovering over seven dollars an gallon. Folks might have resented his garden, or tried to raid it—but Tree’s back yard was surrounded by his neighbor’s six foot wooden privacy fences on the back and sides. The house and the ivy chocked chain link blocked most of the view from the front. Few folks would know about his garden.

    Tree picked a few tomatoes, and went into the house to drop them off and pick up Linda’s leash—time for a long walk in the cool of the morning. It was good exercise for both of them, and it gave Linda’s Bloodhound nose a workout, smelling all the myriad smells along the way.

    *********************************** ********************************************

    They hadn’t gone far, when they ran into Tai. Tai was Tree’s backyard neighbor—meaning that if he peered over his back fence, he’d be looking into Tai’s back yard—since there was no dividing alley.

    Tai was a bit peculiar. He was a small, jockey-sized man. His father had been a full-blooded Lakota Sioux who’d married a Korean woman that he met while in the service. Tai was into a half-dozen Martial Arts—though for some reason, none of them were Korean.

    He studied Tai Chi—hence his nickname, and Savate and Capoeira, Brazilian Jujitsu, Boxing and Kendo. He was always chattering about some Theoretical “Way” to open up the “Hidden Potential” of the human mind.

    Tai made his living as a head chef in one of the area’s higher priced restaurants—and he liked to have big Bar-Be-Que cookouts almost every weekend, in his large back yard. This year though, he’d cut way back; the price of meat—and victuals in general—making the cost of such festivities prohibitive.

    As Tree stopped, Tai squatted and began petting Linda. Then he stood and shook Tree’s hand and greeted him in a way that followed the forms, but mocked the etiquette of greeting.

    “I’m having a big cookout this weekend. I’d be honored if you and Linda would come by. I’ve got a couple new swords that I want to show you,” Tai told Tree.

    “Sure, I’ll look forward to it,” Tree said.

    It was like the man to invite Tree’s Dog as well as Tree—that was one big reason that Tree liked the little man. He tried to keep in mind that Tai was an extremely lethal person—and maybe, just maybe—some of the butter had slid off the man’s waffles. But it was hard. Tai was soft-spoken and courteous to the point of seeming sycophantic…

    But occasionally he’d get a Feral gleam in his eye, and let something slip, that made one wonder.

    ************************* ******************************************

    Tai really wasn’t into vegetables at his cookouts. There were baked potatoes, if you wanted them and there was plenty of sliced tomatoes and lettuce—but beyond that, a rabbit would have starved to death.

    Tree helped himself to a big grilled steak, a Bar-Be-Qued pork steak and a large grilled chicken breast. He filled a bowl with cottage cheese and cherry tomatoes, and he got three of the large dill pickles.

    Tai was wearing a Chef’s hat that made him look ridiculous. He called Linda over and gave her a round steak that was as big as a dinner plate, and she crawled up under a picnic table to work on it in peace.

    Tree wasn’t terribly surprised to meet Nod there. Tree wouldn’t have been overly surprised to meet anyone at one of Tai’s parties. He knew Nod from the gym. His memory for names and faces wasn’t the best. He knew that the man’s odd name was an anagram of his initials, but he didn’t remember what they stood for.

    Nod was a black man. He was six foot seven and weighed close to three hundred pounds. He’d wanted to play pro football twenty years earlier. He just never quite caught on, but he’d kept in shape at the gym. Every year there for a while, he’d gotten activated for at least one week from the waiver list, to fill in for someone who’d been injured.

    The man could make more money working one week, riding the bench on a pro football team, as many hard working folks made in a year. Often he’d worked two or three weeks—once he’d gotten in five.

    Most sports bored Tree to tears. He liked to watch Baseball but preferred Women’s pro softball. He liked Boxing and Sumo and Mixed Martial Arts—and he liked to watch an Arena Football game very occasionally.

    The game was tailor-made to be fast paced, and when the leagues were new, the players were exuberant and vibrant—like they truly enjoyed playing.

    Nod had gotten an invitation to try out for one of the Arena Football teams. Tree couldn’t remember now if it was Chicago or Detroit. In the beginning, some of the teams had a bit of trouble getting enough big strong men to at least fill out a uniform and not look too lost on the field. Nod had invited Tree along, to try out and share motel expenses.

    Tree was all set to go. Even getting a try-out would give him story material to spin true-life yarns for years. How many folks ever try out for a pro sports team?

    Tree was six foot tall and he kept his weight hovering around three hundred and fifteen back then. He wasn’t the strongest Power Lifter in the gym—but he could do more of the killing twenty rep squats with more weight than anyone else. He was only fair on the bench and dead lift—but he played tag with a few other very strong gym members, setting gym records in several variations of the overhead press for reps.

    And carrying all that weight—though he didn’t look anywhere near that heavy to the untrained eye—one of his other favorite pastimes was running long slow distances. Tree had no more been a champion Road Racer than he’d been a champion Power Lifter—but he’d worked out with some fairly good Road Racers. He’d matched them stride for stride for five or six miles at a time—though when he broke off to go home, many of them were only halfway through their workouts.

    Then Nod had gotten called up to the Atlanta Falcons. Tree hadn’t been invited to try out for the Arena Football Team. He didn’t have Nod’s “in” and he couldn’t very well afford the trip on his own. But he remembered the time that he’d almost tried out for a pro sport team with Nostalgia.

    “What’s up man?” Nod greeted him.

    “Not much, “ Tree told him.

    “Hang around Friends,” Tai had told them. “I have something that I want to talk to you about after everyone leaves.”

    ************************* ************************************************** *

    “Friends, things are going to hell in a hand basket,” Tai began. “Business at the restaurant is way down. I’ve had to cut way back on everything. I couldn’t really afford this get together.”

    “Why did you have it then,” Tree asked.

    “Summer is almost over. My friends needed something to encourage them to hang on through the Winter. I needed it,” Tai said.

    “Well thank you,” Tree said.

    When Tree had been a boy, they’d told him that “Please” and “Thank You” were magic words. He’d resisted a lot of Etiquette—downright refused to go along with some of it. But tacking on “Please” and “Thank You” to his everyday vocabulary had been painless, and often wielded big dividends. As an adult, he’d found voicing his thanks—when he truly felt it—was a tiny investment that kept on giving.

    “But I wanted to talk to you both about something. Have either of you done anything to prepare for…

    “Well, shall we say ‘Events’?” Tai asked.

    Both of them indicated that they had not.

    “I have a few acres down in Tennessee,” Tai Said. “Just some ground. I’d like you two to help me build a house—and stock it. If things get as bad as I think that they’re going to get—well, one fellow can’t properly defend it.”

    ***************************** ***************************************

    Things had tightened up even more that Winter. The three friends had located two trailers in pretty good shape—one fairly large, with one of those retractable rooms on the port side. The other was medium sized and was shiny Aluminum with all the corners and edges rounded like a well-used bar of soap.

    Both of the trailers had two doors on their Starboard side. They parked one pointing more or less east and the other pointing west. They’d staggered them a bit and built small twenty-by-twenty foot concrete block building tying the two trailers together.

    Both of the trailer’s back doors opened into the Building, but each of the trailers front doors were clear of the structure, and opened to outside. The block building had a deep basement for a fall-out shelter, and a second story. They ran a double course of bricks around the outside of the block building, for more strength, and Radiation shielding.

    In Tree’s experience, trailer bathrooms could be problematic. They put two full-sized bathrooms in the Building, and a big kitchen. They pulled both the bathrooms and kitchens from the trailers and converted the areas to more living space.

    There was a library and a good-sized living room on the first floor of the building. Most of the second floor was given over to Tree’s quarters. There was a small bath with a stand-up shower and a stairway up to the flat—but slightly crowned—roof. There was a loft over the larger trailer—with over-thick planks for flooring. Half of it was a second room for Tree, and the other half was a common screened-in porch.

    Tai and his twelve-year-old daughter took the silver trailer and Nod, his wife and two toddlers took the big Trailer.

    By this time the friends were on a roll laying brick. They built an eight by five foot brick antechamber around each of the Outside trailer doors—for better insulation.

    Then they added antechambers to the two doors that the building had, to the outside. They laid a double course of bricks up to the bottom of the windows, along the exposed portions of each trailer—and they put a roof over the smaller trailer.

    Both the Trailers had small wood heaters—as did Tree’s quarters, and there was a big wood stove and a fireplace in the big common room.

    It looked kinda ramshackle from the outside—which pleased the friends no end. It was less likely to appeal to looter.

    ****************************** *************************************************

    They drew up an official document, naming the three of them equal partners in “Survival Enterprises”—that way no one would have any reservations about investing in the retreat, lest there should be a parting of the ways, and someone feel they’d been shafted out of his investment.

    Tai had contributed the property, and he could get many food items, and food processing tools and equipment wholesale through the Restaurant—and he had the most money to invest. Nod wasn’t exactly poor. His strength came in handy in the do-it-yourself building—and he’d worked as a bricklayer long enough as a teenager to be pretty good at it.

    Tree was drawing disability. He had a grab bag of ailments—none of which would probably make him unemployable in and of themselves—but taken together…

    One big thing was that Tree’s bubbling soliloquies and odd mannerisms seriously irritated almost everyone who happened to be around him. Tree wasn’t one of those white people who wanted to be black—he didn’t talk or dress like a typical black person…

    But he’d found over the years that black people seemed to be able to put up with his Eccentricities much better than most white people. Then when his early sexual experiences had thoroughly imprinted him on black women, he’d added another peculiarity to his list.

    He also seemed to get along well with Indians, Mexicans and some Hillbilly types…

    And there were definitely some Hillbillies and a few Indians around the retreat. Tree was an ideal liaison.

    Tree had been stubbornly collecting books on diver’s subjects for decades. He donated them to Survival Enterprises. He had no job, so he was free to move on-site and watch the place. Tai bought him four new Bloodhound puppies to train as watchdogs.

    He had very little extra money, but on his good days, when Nod was laying bricks, he could help a good deal by carrying bricks to Nod, and mixing and carrying mortar. On his down days, Tree just felt like he was trapped in slow motion.

    He wasn’t a very fast or determined worker then, and his endless monologues fell silent—but hey—every brick he carried, and every batch of mortar he mixed, was that much that Nod or Tai didn’t have to do—sparing them to lay a few more bricks per hour.

    He was also a very good Amateur Gunsmith, and he had a deep and abiding Friendship with Firearms—weapons in general, so far as that went.

    ************************** **********************************************

    That Spring, an F-5 Tornado tore straight through the heart of Dallas. Casualties were over sixty thousand. Much of the city was in ruins.

    Once again, FEMA came in, declared Martial Law in the area, and started confiscating Guns—only the Texans wouldn’t stand for it. For a while there, there were multiple last-stand shootouts between Federal Laws and the Locals. Local Laws were divided—but it seemed like a noticeable majority weighed in on the side of the locals.

    The stock market tumbled. The American Economy would be feeling the effects of this disaster for many years.

    As if that wasn’t enough, that November, Hurricane Joel pounded Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and then went north and west and devastated Orlando. They had done an excellent job of evacuating the people this time around, but the Hurricane destroyed half again as much property as Katrina, just in the Greater Miami area. Over a quarter million people were left homeless.

    This time, having learned from almost starting an insurrection in Dallas, there were few attempts at Gun grabbing.

    The Summer after the Tornado and Hurricane Joel, it was only a mediocre growing season, and then some sort of new plant Virus heavily impacted the wheat crop. It didn’t kill all the wheat—or even the majority of the wheat, but it destroyed a healthy minor portion, nor was America anywhere nearly as dependent on wheat as Ireland had been on its potatoes during the blight. But food prices climbed faster than ever.

    The price of building materials had went up dramatically due to the demand in the south, as folks struggled to rebuild. There were communities of Expat refugees from Texas and Florida in many of the larger cities.

    That Fall Islamic Terrorists blew up a Railroad Bridge with an Amtrak passenger train on it. The death toll was almost two hundred. Then some militant offshoot of La Raza derailed a half-dozen freight trains in Texas and California—though they used far less dramatic means to achieve their results than the Moslem Terrorists in Massachusetts—Plastique being hard to come by, but loosening a Rail, while leaving the circuit intact to fool the controller was not that difficult.

    They set armed guards to patrolling the Railroad tracks, and redoubled their domestic spying—but there were side effects—not the least of which was transportation costs soared, and there were more legal challenges to people’s privacy.

    The three friends were occupying their retreat full-time, and trying to raise a very large garden, even before the Derailments started. It was time to batten the hatches, and try to keep a low profile.


  3. #3
    what a nice surprise! I did not know you were going to make more! thank you!

  4. #4


    That winter an ARkStorm hit the West Coast. It rained for forty-five days and forty-five nights. Thirteen feet of rain fell in a little over a month. It was almost Biblical in its scope and persistence. Perhaps a third of the state of California was at least knee deep in water.

    The talking heads on the news said that there was over five hundred and fifty billion dollars worth of property damage. Homeless refugees were legion. California promptly went bankrupt—along with Oregon, Washington and Nevada. Some folks—the ones who weren’t drown or already evacuated, began to leave the West Coast in droves. Others hunkered down in their misery, and waited for someone to help them. Some of them were a very long time waiting.

    Many of those who were amongst the first to leave the West Coast were some of the more predatory. Gang Bangers and Outlaw Bikers—along with dozens of Crack-Brained Cultist—from Cults both old and new, since several new ones sprang up and flourished in the wake of the Flood. Outlaw Bikers and Militia Members were also among the more mobile.

    Oddly enough, many of the folks living in places like Texas and Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Arkansas and Missouri—and other places—were superstitious. They thought that letting other folks intimidate and rob them was bad luck. They also felt that it was very bad luck to be unarmed.

    Montana and Tennessee along with several other states, had defied the Federal Government by authorizing local Arms manufacture without Federal approval—so long as the weapons were intended for sale or use only in that state. Montana and Tennessee however, were the only states that had several fairly large arms companies spring up.

    Plants that made Rifles, Pistols and Shotguns could just as easily turn out Machine Guns, Mortars, and Submachine Guns. Ammunition manufacturers could just as easily turn out Grenades, RPGs, LAW Rockets, Claymore Mines and Plastique.

    Both of the states had no trouble recruiting, training and arming rather large State Militias. Since the Federal Government had more pressing concerns, the Arms Manufacturers started to discreetly—and later, not so discretely—arming the Militias and citizens of near-by states.

    Any existing Militias large and well organized enough to be a force, were seamlessly absorbed into the larger State Militias. Those too small and/or unorganized were still called upon as local and auxiliary forces. About the only groups excluded were the Hard Corp racists and separatists groups—and even many of their saner members were welcome to climb on the State Militia bandwagon, as individuals.

    Many of the Gang Bangers simply continued moving East. Some eventually came to reside in New York, Florida, and the Dixie States. Some of them however, decided that they were committed to the West for the long haul. They hardened up and became pretty much full-time Brigands.

    One might have thought that the Outlaw Bikers would have been strong allies of the forces of Chaos—and some were. Some of the Western towns and metropolitan areas absorbed whole Biker Clubs as a sort of quick response mercenary SWAT.

    The Bikers were supplied with plenty of Gasoline; no one cared anymore, if they wanted to grow a patch of Marijuana here and there. The local Pharmacies kept them in plenty of medicinal Codeine, Benzedrine and LSD-25. They paid each certified member a generous monthly stipend, and they more or less tolerated some rowdiness from them, on the Biker’s home turf.

    The Bikers were expected, for their part, to calm down a bit. To qualify for the Monthly check, they had to go through several rounds of training, and there was a certain commonality of equipment. Often a mischievous member would land a member in the Brig for a few weeks, or months…

    The precise details varied from place to place—But it was much the same idea as the French and Spanish Foreign Legions—and so far as the Mercenaries robbing the paymaster, that wasn’t going to happen. The citizens weren’t weak—they were simply making use of an abundant natural resource.

    Apparently, folks in New Mexico started referring to the Bikers as “Rangers”—but the fad spread rapidly. The bikers started wearing Nickel Plated Ranger Stars. There were some heated Rivalries between some of the groups, and adventurous young men, and sometimes even their parents, began to see spending two or three years in a Ranger Company a reasonable course of action.

    Meanwhile, Much of Florida was still in a state of disarray from Hurricane Joel, and Hurricane Bob a couple years later. Bob wasn’t half as destructive as Joel, but he wasn’t good. Some of the Latino Gangs took root in the semi-tropical State that reminded them of their California home.

    The men folk in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana were no less brave than their Western Counterparts—but they’d already been softened up by the influx of Florida refugees—along with ever increasing numbers of Jamaicans, Haitians, Moslems and Hindus.

    While the Western States managed to keep the Feds at arm’s length, the ex Confederate States seemed to constantly be hounded By the US Government.

    Kentucky and The lower third of Indiana announced that they were succeeding from the Union, and christened themselves “The Free State of Kentckiana”. The Federal Government threatened and pleaded alternately, but they had other pressing concerns.

    Tennessee closed their Southern border, and denied entrance to many refugees, while some Tennesseans agitated to join Kentuckiana.

    Many Liberal minded people and Ecological activists from the West Coast Diaspora settled in Colorado. Many of the old stock families vociferously disagreed, but they were outnumbered at the poles.

    Eventually an undeclared border war erupted between Colorado and Wyoming. Local sympathy was with Wyoming, but no one wanted to be involved. The other States had problems enough of their own. Eco-Terrorists started striking strategic or symbolic targets in Wyoming. After awhile, Wyoming gave their Rangers “Shoot to Kill” orders, and sent a team of assassins to sanction several outspoken Eco—Extremists.

    The activists retaliated by doing some Manson Style Murders of isolated Wyoming Families. Some of the folks from Wyoming decided to pay it all back, and then some.

    Somewhere along the way, Colorado bombed Cheyenne with a small tactical nuke. Within hours, Wyoming hit Denver with two tactical atomic bonds.

    Before either State could move to the second round of bombing, the neighboring States, what was left of the US Government, and the UN politely asked the two states to stop throwing Atomic Bombs at each other.

    Colorado started a draft, to raise an Army to invade Wyoming. Many of the city folk had been killed in the bombing though. The rural folks had just about had enough. The large conscript Army mutinied before it could even be mobilized to attack Wyoming.

    Colorado came to be ruled by a very ad hoc junta of Hispanics, Mormons, Hindus and some of the old time ranching families.

    Meanwhile, as though the two small nuclear blasts had given everyone permission, Terrorists set off a small nuclear device in Chicago, when the temperature was hanging below zero, in the dead of Winter.

    The terrorists had packed an extraordinary amount of radioactive material around the bomb. Even so, there were many more fatalities cased by the panic, the evacuation and exposure. The terrorists seem to have been caught in there own blast, and it was never decided precisely who was behind the Bombing.

    When India and Pakistan decided to exchange a couple of dozen Hydrogen Bombs, it almost didn’t matter in America. People from the Middle East had been starving, and immigrating to Europe and America, not to mention Australia for over a decade beforehand.

    *********************************** ********************************

    In the last few years since they’d built their retreat, the friends had done everything they could to prepare. By the time Colorado and Wyoming were bombing each other, it would have been very late to begin preparing—but it was not too late to store a bit more—never too late for that, when the opportunity presents itself.

    Tai’s daughter was eighteen now, and she had a husband and a baby. Nod’s two children were big enough to help in the garden, and he and his wife had added another child. A couple of other families had moved into the compound—more or less—and one of the family had an inordinate number of children, several of them old enough to wield a Rifle, should it come to that.

    Tree was a fanatic about building up their soil. Their gardens produced very abundantly, and there were yet two acres that he’d been preparing for several years, that he now felt were ready to start bearing crops.

    The Summer after the nuclear exchange was one of the richest growing season in anyone’s memory. They literally had trouble harvesting it all. Tree remembered the story of the Pharaoh, and the seven fat years, and seven lean years.
    He drove everyone to the point of exhaustion, harvesting and canning. They even started to can rabbits and chickens, and cold packing beef and smoking large quantities of pork and sausages.

    The next year things grew even better, and they harvested even more. It was a very good thing that they did. Times were about to get extremely hard.

    Last edited by RVM45; 12-06-2011 at 02:30 PM.

  5. #5
    Times were about to get extremely hard.


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