I'm fine just busy as all get out. Easy to type a response on the forum while I'm on hold. Not so easy to write the next installment of a story that is heating up. LOL!
The Unholy Roamin’ Empire
I know local kids tell stories about the old days to scare each other around the proverbial campfire. I know some of those stories are little more than tall tales that have grown around such stories as those about the Caulderman caches; but, since this memoir is to set the history of that time down accurately before it gets conveniently erased or “corrected” I’m unfortunately going to have to disappoint all of the treasure hunter wannabes out there. The caches were not a duplication of Ali Babba’s cave. We got all of them. So stop digging holes in other people’s property!
In reality all of the so-called Caulderman caches were fairly small; usually three or four ammo cans in size each so that they would be easy to hide and easy to carry off in an emergency. And what was in the caches wasn’t necessarily all ammo. Of course there was ammo but there was also reloading supplies, firing pins, magazines for various calibers and makes, cleaning supplies like gun oil, and miscellaneous repair parts. We did pick up a lot of stuff from the incident at the Caulderman uncle’s hunting hideaway but that was more because of what was brought in by the people that had taken it over than the cache itself. And that uncle wasn’t exactly a fine, upstanding citizen so who knows how much of it had been stored by him. We’ll never know for sure because none of the Caulderman family ever returned. If you look in the old public records of the time you’ll find one of the brother’s names on a list of prisoners who died during some kind of riot or other in a prison camp but there is no proof of what happened to the rest of the family. They all just disappeared.
So many people disappeared from the public records back then – the loss of life was too great to keep up with and so many record depositories were damaged if not outright destroyed. I know for a fact some people simply changed their name and gave themselves a new identity so that they could have a new start. They tried to completely disconnect from their past because it was too painful or too different from what they wanted in the future. But you can never completely disconnect from your past, you bring too many skills and experiences with you into your present life.
Take the three guys in our group as a good example. All three of them, like almost any boy who grew up in our neck of the woods, knew how to shoot. You didn’t have to be an Olympic grade marksman to know which was the business end of a gun, but suffice it to say that Jax, Reggie, and Aston could hit what they were aiming at most of the time, even if it was moving. And they might not have been gun smiths but they did know the basics and they were smart enough to know what books to use to help them repair the guns that needed repairing and keep the guns we had cleaned and maintained and ready for use. All three had grown up using their hands so it was no surprise to me when the three of them kind of hijacked the planning and implementing of our defense.
Most of their spare time for next week was spent converting the attic cupola into a guard tower of sorts. Dad and I had done most of the work over the years as we converted the attic into Mom’s temperature-controlled storage facility. We left the original stairs up to the attic but closed those stairs off from the rest of the house with an antique door that matched the other down stairs doors. We’d already run all new wiring and done all of the decorative stuff like repair the oculi – small round windows that are mostly decorative but do let light in as well – replaster the walls, add solar ventilation fans, added ridge and gable vents, and reframed and repaired the large cupola. We also built a wooden spiral staircase up into the cupola. When it was too dangerous for Will to go outside I used to help him go up into the cupola so that he could look all around since it gave a three hundred and sixty degree view of the homestead. There was a bench up there he could lie on. Dad said the cupola had been his hideout when he was growing up too and he had done his best to make it a retreat for Will. But we no longer needed a retreat and the cupola was repurposed.
When the cupola was finished with its makeover the guys turned their attention to the opposite end of the house and turned an area down in the basement into an armory. That meant moving a lot of supplies around but for once they didn’t complain about loaning their muscles for one of my projects since doing that freed up the space for one of theirs. Most of the guns we had at that time didn’t come from the Caulderman caches but were from Dad’s gun collection and from all the guns they salvaged the night of the shoot-out at the hunting hideaway. Most of those men had had at least two guns and most of them had more; two handguns, a rifle, and a shotgun was the usual inventory for each man. Calibres and models varied from the traditional and common to the relatively exotic.
We all realized that such an armory gave us an advantage but thinking of the reasons why it was advantageous was intellectually uncomfortable for some of us. Discomfort or not it didn’t stop any of us from going armed 24/7 from that point forward. I myself added a fashion statement in the form of a Ruger Mark III on my hip that used the same .22lr ammo as the rifle that had already been my constant companion for a number of years. I also had a Ruger LCP Centerfire in an ankle holster. The LCP was a .380 which meant carrying two different ammos but the tradeoff was worth it. And yeah I was a Ruger fan – still am – so sue me. They are dependable and pretty at the same time, what more could a girl want?
My natural acceptance of wearing a gun helped Ginger and Ashley over their reluctance to add the same fashion accessory to their wardrobe. But none of us took the acceptance of the new norm casually. Even if the situation hadn’t warranted some seriousness we respected the weapons for the tools they were and the danger they represented if not handled properly. Part of that handling meant thinking about the accessibility issue with Kelly around. Gun racks were installed in each bedroom, as well as the common areas, that were well out of her reach. Slowly but surely we had to child proof spaces as they became storage areas for items that could hurt her. It wasn’t just kitchen cabinets and drawers but the doors of appliances and closets, the stairs both up and down, and all exterior doors. She was very, shall we say, ingenious about finding a way into something she wasn’t supposed to.
The home improvement projects didn’t end there. The rods I had hung the blackout curtains on for years were reinforced because they were opened and closed a lot more often than Mom had originally envisioned and getting wobbly in the process. We looked at all the exterior accesses – including the shutters – using gaming scenarios as our guide and it gave us more improvements we could make. Although I have to admit not everyone appreciated that kind of strategizing at first.
“Zombies?! Are you two serious?!” Aston asked derisively.
Reggie took umbrage at Aston’s tone but I had expected it and said, “Don’t think of the zombies like they’re real, think of them as the symbol of a worst case scenario. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”
In a falsely calm voice Aston said, “Oh yeah, of course, just consider them a worst case scenario.” Suddenly in a loud and aggressive voice he shouted, “Have you two lost your freaking minds?! Zombies aren’t real! The crazy people in town are real! And they will kick our butts if you two don’t stop playing!”
Ashley stared at him in shock. Aston had been acting a little off lately but even at his worst during football season he’d never blown up like he was on his way to doing. Me on the other hand, warned by Jax about Aston’s likely damage, decided that for once I’d try and act like a grown up first and that meant reasoning with him before losing my temper. Trying not to sound as impatient as I felt I told him, “You’re right. And for the record I’m not trying to make fun or belittle what you guys went through before you came out here.” Aston blinked at me like I’d poke him some place sore when he wasn’t expecting it. “But those people aren’t the only things real that we are facing. There’re the looters that Reg and Jax have run into … the fellow salvagers if you want to be PC about it. There’s the funky weather that’s so dry the fish pond is getting low and the water cisterns are half way further down than they should be. There’s the fact only by the grace of God and a little bit of salvaging that we have enough seed to plant this coming year and I still don’t know if it is going to be enough to feed the seven … soon to be eight … of us much less anyone else and still have enough to put away for next winter’s food and next year’s seed. There’s … look I don’t want a fight and thinking about every individual little piece of the puzzle gets over whelming. That’s where the zombies come in.”
Jax had been silent up to that point. He’d been working so hard and was so tired he was barely keeping up. He’d nearly dozed all through the first part of committee but he finally interjected a comment. “So zombie is just another word for Big Bad. So explain why.”
Reggie calmed down once he figured out at least someone was willing to listen. Ginger calmed down once Reggie calmed. Ashley was in waiting mode to see how Aston would react to my words. Aston had thrown up a wall. It was then I realized what had happened to him at the hands of those women went deeper than I had given it credit … and it was affecting my ability to reach him. Still, we had a good team and I believed the effort was worth it.
“I know it sounds a little bizarre, sounds like I’m turning things into a game or at the very least not taking them seriously enough. The truth is I am taking things seriously but I’m also trying to find a way to deal with it that doesn’t blow my circuits. I’m not the one that came up with the idea of using zombies. It has been around for a good while now. Remember when zombies were the latest fad? Zombie television shows, zombie fiction, zombie movies, zombie survival guide, zombie make up, zombie cupcakes, zombie candy, zombie energy drinks, you name it. Zombies are nothing more than a strategy based on a metaphor. If you can zombie-proof something is should pretty much be proof against anything. Take those women for instance.”
Every one tensed because I had dared to bring it up head on. Aston snarled, “What about them?” It was like he was daring me to actually say something.
The poison needed to be lanced so it could drain. “Those women are perfect examples of what I’m talking about. Ashley and Ginger were minding their own business. They’d even done the smart thing and buddied up. Then along came those hags. They were really going to hurt the girls … did hurt them … if you hadn’t come along and then Reggie who knows where it would have ended. People like that start but generally don’t know when to stop before everything is in the pooper scooper. Your body is a lot strong than Ashley’s … at a bare minimum your intervention probably saved the baby. If you think about it, your strength saved your child and maybe Ashley … Ashley and Ginger both. Reggie throwing in was part of it too.”
Aston mumbled, “I wasn’t strong enough though was I? They still … she’ll always …”
“Wrong,” I said surprising him and everyone else with how emphatic I was. “One battle does not make a war. You win a war one battle at a time. You won because you survived and lived to fight another day. Some battles may seem more important than others, may even be more important than others, but in reality it is the sum total of all the battles together that decide victory or defeat.”
Aston just looked at me then Jax drew his attention by asking, “Who has the best stats?”
“Huh?” I think we were all thinking it because it sounded like such an out of sync thing to ask.
Jax repeated, “Who has the best stats?” Then he clarified, “The guy who has one or two good games all season or the guy who isn’t exceptional but plays steady with only one or two off games?”
Aston sighed unable to deny the point he was making. “They guy who plays steady.”
“Exactly. And we both know that it takes a team to win, not just one player. Not even an exceptional player who does well in every game is going to win if he doesn’t have a team to play with.”
“Fine. Whatever. So what would you have done to those women?” Aston asked, going back to being belligerent.
Aston directed his question at Jax but I was the one that answered him. “Kill them if possible and if not, do as much damage as I could so they’d think twice about ever using that particular tactic again.”
They all stared at me in shock, even Jax. He started to say something but I shook my head. “No, don’t. I’m not in some game fantasy. Over the last couple of days it has just all finally hit me. I don’t know why it took so long but it did.” Feeling the weight of the words I’d been holding back I said, “We’re in a fight for our lives. I’ve lost my family, faced the consequences of terrorism head on. But it wasn’t enough. I watched my brother struggle with cancer, watched so many people put out roadblocks to his treatment, and still it wasn’t enough to wake me up to the thoughtless cruelty of others. I’ve had my two best friends in the world go completely Lando on me and it wasn’t enough. I heard and saw what everyone has had to deal with in town but I still didn’t get it.” Then I turned and looked deep into Jax’s eyes. “But realizing how close we came … I came … to losing you … and Reg … the other night to those creepoids … that was the last straw. Realizing I would have had to explain to Kelly …” I stopped and swallowed the lump in my throat. “There isn’t enough tape left in the world to fix the rose-colored glasses I was wearing. And even if there were I’d never put them back on.”
I got up and walked over to the kitchen sink and splashed some water on my face. Turning back around to them I said, “This isn’t a game. If we lose our lives there’s no points to buy new ones with. I don’t want a war, I’ll do whatever is reasonable to stay out of one, but if they bring it to us … if the zombies march down the road or out of the woods I want to be able to wreak some serious devastation on their butts. And if they come after us and we can beat them back, I don’t want the only option we have left is to sit around and wait for them to come after us again.”
Reggie grinned wickedly then said, “What exactly do you have in mind Valkyrie?”
I shook my head. “That was never my avatar and you know it. It was just a sim that Matt thought up and toggled with.”
He shrugged, still grinning. “Maybe not, but then again maybe Matt knew you better back then than you knew yourself. It sure sounds like what you are talking about.”
I shook my head denying it. “No. Back then I was just a kid playing a game. I always knew it was a game and that’s why I never got crazy about it like Matt and Marty and the others did. Gaming was part of my life but it was never a way of life for me. And I don’t want … didn’t choose … what we’re being forced to live now as a way of life. But since I’m not being given a choice I’m going to make of it what I can, just like after my family was murdered.” Looking away again I added, “I’ve lost one family. I’m not going to lose another. Those refugees … freaks … zombies … whatever they chose to become … they come looking to take, looking to destroy what we have, I want to have the tools to one, protect ourselves, and two, obliterate them.”
Aston snorted. “Obliterate them? C’mon.”
I let some of what I felt seep into my eyes for them all to see before saying, “Yeah … obliterate them. No second chances. As in I don’t want to have to worry about them more than once. Gone from this planet never to return in this life. No cosmic dust left to sweep up. Obliterate.” I turned to look at the backside of the blackout curtain and realized I might need to use a figurative blackout curtain on my emotions so that the others couldn’t see them. “It won’t be long now. They’ll be out of food soon if they aren’t already. The game is going to be thinned out around town … maybe they are resorting to the dogs, who knows. Either way there are too many grasshoppers in town and no time to learn to be ants. Hunger and thirst will push them out into the farming community. I’m surprised you haven’t run into them yet Jax.”
“Most of the places have already been stripped, probably by Houchins and his clan … maybe by other groups we don’t know about. We’re finding a few things here and there but it almost isn’t worth the fuel anymore. Isn’t worth the fuel anymore in my opinion. What about you Reg?”
“Nah man. Unless we are going for something specific like that run to the DOT that we made two nights ago I don’t see the need.”
Jax turned to Aston, “What about you?”
He still looked surly but Aston always looked surly even when he wasn’t. It was like his face was stuck that way. “We need stuff for the baby. You got stuff like that for Kelly but we don’t have nothing for our baby,” he said draping his arm possessively over the back of Ashley’s chair.
“True enough. We’ll make a list. Figure out the best place to get it all. Then shut the salvaging down except when we need something specific. From here on out we focus on our defensive and offensive lines.”
Ginger, Ashley and I looked at each other and did a mental eye roll. Somehow we’d gone from zombies to football … I preferred zombies but what the heck, so long as it got the job done.
Thanks Kathy. I like the Zombie allegory, I have used it here on the ranch to make the planning less specific to any one group or catastrophe, it makes it easier to talk not just to the 13 and 14 year olds -- but to the Dad who is an LEO --- he had to make a paradigm shift on what the Bad Guys could look like --- maybe they will look like a tornado, or a pack of coyotes.
This, as with all of your stories, make me think as well as provide enjoyment.
The problem is that people keep screaming:"The wolf is coming, the wolf is coming!" so often that we never notice the coyote that is running off with the chickens.
[NOTE: Fair warning, Momma Hen is providing the directions included in this section for informational purposes only. Don’t any moar zombie try this at home unless you want to get into some big honking trouble of one sort or another.]
Aston said that he would take night watch just as he had when Jax and Reggie had been making night runs. There was no run tonight but Aston decided he liked the schedule. Continuing the normal schedule, I would be up before the sun as was my normal routine and Aston would then hit the hay for a while. Everyone else had worked out their own place in the flow and so far it was working for our team.
I wasn’t going to complain about Jax staying home that night as I had missed spending time alone with him. Kelly was asleep in her little area behind the screen. I had plans to turn the walk-in closet into a little room for her but Jax said to hold off on it until we saw if the new living arrangements lasted to the point she needed a room of her own. Jax and I had crawled in bed and been cuddling when I realized his breathing had developed the rhythm of a sleeping man. I tried not to be frustrated but it took a while for me to relax and go to sleep myself.
I jumped awake sometime during the night thinking spiders were crawling on me. “Sorry,” he mumbled in my ear. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t scare me,” I grumbled a little irritably. “And what are you doing awake? I thought you were tired.”
Gruffly he said, “I got my second wind.”
Hurray for second winds; however, I could have choked him a little while later when he stopped us both. He was breathing like a freight train going uphill and in frustration I asked, “Are you trying to kill me on purpose? ‘Cause if you are your’re on your way to reaching you goal.”
He gulped air and said, “No. Matter of fact I’m closer to death than you are but if we are going to do this we are going to do it right.”
I could have thumped him I was that frustrated. When he got off the bed and started fumbling around in the dark I nearly threw the pillows at him. I whispered, “What are you doing?! You’re going to wake Kelly.”
“Shhh,” was my only reply.
I fell back on the bed, ready to expire right then and there. I presented my back to him when he crawled back into bed but he was having none of it and pulled me to him. I wasn’t being very cooperative but then he hit a spot he knew I was ticklish in and I lost control just long enough for him to flip me over. “Stop being so difficult. This is important. Now listen up, I have next to nothing in this world to call my own except my heart and my hands. Whatever I do have is yours Lydie … all of it. I love you like I never expected to love anyone. You deserve more and better and one of these days I hope I can give it to you. Until then … well … I knew you wouldn’t want any of those rings that I found at the pawn shop. None of them looked like something you would like and … I knew it bothers you still that I took them. So … so Reg and I … we snuck back into town …”
“You what?!” I yelped.
I lowered my voice back down to a whisper but demanded, “Are … you … crazy?! I thought we agreed that town was off limits!”
“Ow … ow … ow … turn loose of the chest hair Lydie. I had a good reason.”
“You’re lucky I don’t rip the whole flaming carpet off your chest Ajax Beauregard Remington! What on earth possessed you to do something crazy like that?” I hissed.
That’s when he grabbed my left hand in the dark and I felt him slipping something onto my ring finger. “This belonged to my grandmother. I never even thought about asking to use it for Darlene … but for you … yeah. It’s the right kind of thing to do.” It’s like I’d forgotten how to breathe. He continued talking and I tried to listen over the buzzing in my ears. “I can’t give you a white dress, a preacher, or anything else … at least not right now. And later it might be too late or not mean anything to you but if it does I’ll try and get it. I can’t even give you much besides this ring except myself and my daughter … except I hope she’ll be our daughter from here on out. I just want you to know upfront … before we … uh ... before that … that sex or this house or your cooking or anything else is not why I’m sticking around. I’m sticking because I didn’t just fall in lust with you … I fell in love with you … the forever kind of love.”
I felt the ring with the fingers on my other hand. It was a wide, flat band and had some kind of setting on the top that I couldn’t see. I wanted to turn on the light and look at it but I wouldn’t risk disturbing the moment.
I heard his throat click when he swallowed. “Well? Are … are you going to say anything?”
I threw myself on him and he was the one that nearly expired at that point … from lack of oxygen. He finally drew back and coughed to put some air in his lungs. “Was that a yes?”
“That was a lot more than yes. That was a kiss declaring you’ve-done-lost-your-last-chance-to-back-out-now. You even try and get away from me Jax Remington and you just watch and see what kind of meanness I can get up to.”
I could feel his chest shake with suppressed laughter. “Don’t worry. I don’t plan on going anywhere now that I’m caught.”
“Oh you’re caught all right.” I ran my fingers through the hair on his chest but this time he wasn’t complaining. Not at all. Didn’t hear any complaints later either … he was actually kind of purring the way that silly cat of Ginger’s did when it was getting scratched in all the right places. For me the whole intimacy thing would take a little getting used to but right then I was content to see him get such joy from it.
The next morning came too soon and to be honest I would have given a valuable body part for a soak in a hot tub of water but instead had to make do with a quick jump in the shower before heading out to start my day. First stop I made was the kitchen to start the breakfast casserole that I’d set in the frig the preceding night. Then I put a pot of coffee on using some of the coffee we’d gotten from the Mennonite store. It wasn’t as good as roasting the beans and then grinding them myself but when you have a caffeine craving, any port in the storm will do.
Aston came into the kitchen looking uncomfortable but I put it down to the discussion at the committee meeting until he said, “Uh … Lydie … I … uh … you really should fix the headboard on your … uh … bed … it’s probably loose or something … anyway … uh … you should probably like … uh … fix it or … uh … and close the vent too … um …”
I lifted my head and looked at him with horror. “Oh … oh … no … “
He saw my face and then put his hand out like a traffic cop. “Wait … don’t freak out on me here. OK? Uh … Ashley said it was … uh … cute … that … you know … you two … uh … waited and stuff … but … but uh … um …” He scrunched his eyes closed then in a rush blathered, “Ash refused to say anything because she said it would be rude because no one has said anything about us making noise and stuff and I swear neither one of us is ever going to talk about this again but if you don’t fix those things before you two do it again I swear I think I’m gonna go live in the barn because I’d rather have to spend the rest of eternity listening to Mr. Wilde teach algebra than pretend not to hear some of the noises you two were making even if it did sound like you were having fun OK?”
By the time he was finished my hands were clinched in fists and I was seriously contemplating re-damaging him to a large extent. Instead of what I had meant to come out of my mouth all I could do was whisper in near catatonic embarrassment, “OK. Just so long as you promise not to say anything about it again.”
“Never,” he groaned. “I swear.” Then he shuddered. “It was like the time my sister and her husband came to live with us and they stayed in her old room next to mine. Every freaking night. Over and over and over again. I swear it …”
“Don’t want to hear any more,” I rushed to interrupt him. “TMI … just … just TMI.”
“Fine,” he huffed. “Just … you know … fix it.”
That was not exactly how I had meant to start my day out. I nearly died ten times over before Jax came out to the barn to find me contemplating the idea of digging a hole and pulling it in after me. When he finally got me to tell him what was going on all the big doofus could do was laugh. He was practically rolling on the floor by the time I stomped off but not long after that I saw him heading back into the house with what he would need to fix the loose headboard.
After lunch, a meal that I ate as fast as I could so I could escape back outside, Ginger and Reggie found me digging through some of Dad’s junk boxes.
“Hey!” they called.
I turned from where I stood on the ladder and then groaned at the look on their faces. “I swear I’m going to kill Aston so dead,” I muttered darkly. “He promised not to say anything else about it.”
Ginger laughed and said, “So you think that Aston and Ash are the only two with ears?”
I got down off the ladder before I fell and moaned dejectedly. “I’m moving to Siberia.”
Ginger came over and hugged me and said, “Naw. We’re just messing because we’re happy for you. It’s nice to see something good come out of all the trash going on.” I sighed just wanting to get past the shock of having everyone know my business. I was a private person then and even more so these days. It was almost painful to have people know such intimate details of my life.
Reggie snorted a laugh at my discomfort though he was a little red in the face himself. Then he got down to the business he’d sought me out about. “Hey, got a question for you Valkyrie.”
Giving him a look that was designed to let him know exactly how much I disliked his new nickname for me I said, “Will you stop calling me that? It gets that blasted music by Richard Wagner stuck in my head and it is totally annoying.” (http://www.last.fm/music/Richard+Wag...+the+Valkyries )
He and Ginger both grinned, then laughed. “OK, fine. But I still want to pick your brain.” At my curious but cautious nod he said, “You seemed pretty serious about obliteration last night.”
“I am,” I told him.
“Serious enough to show all your cards?” Wondering what he meant I simply asked him. He answered, “I know you aren’t an angel so don’t try to play at being one. That paper you wrote on terrorism for American History nearly got you suspended for being a little too knowledgeable about how easy it is to build bombs and stuff out of ordinary household items. That old bat Mrs. Hockshuster shredded your paper so fast it was like she was afraid of anyone else reading it and getting ideas. You only got off because they thought what happened to your parents had turned your brain a little.”
Ginger swatted Reggie and gave him a killer look that told him he was treading thin ice. It made me smile for some reason and relax. Then I thought about it. “Are you asking what was in the paper or are you asking whether what you think I wrote about in the paper was the truth?”
“Both,” he said without hesitation.
“You know my opinion about terrorists regardless of whether they are foreign or domestic and I didn’t pull any punches with that paper. And that ignorant cultural sensitivity training class they forced me to take was a joke and didn’t change my mind that’s for sure. If you are asking if I know …”
I stopped because Jax suddenly appeared out of nowhere. “What’s up?” he asked a little too cheerful.
“My blood pressure if someone makes a joke about ear plugs.”
He just grinned and asked, “Seriously what’s up.”
Reggie laughed making me angry again and caused me to wonder how much damage I could inflict in how short a period of time. Ginger seeing how really upset I was getting broke in on the guys and said, “Reg wanted to know if Lydie knows anything about making bombs.”
Jax stopped in mid-laugh. And looked from Reggie to me … and then did a double take. He asked in disbelief, “You really know how to make a bomb?”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh for Pete’s sake. Yeah … yeah I know how to make bombs. When my parents were killed I …” I got uncomfortable and shrugged. “I wanted to know why and since I figured out pretty quick that was not going to be a very satisfying answer I decided to change my question to how. The how was a lot simpler than people want to believe.”
“Is this something your dad taught you?” Jax asked.
“No. I mean he knew I could make small stuff … it isn’t rocket science and I made some stump removers for him so he didn’t have to buy them. After he got over … uh … how well they worked all he said was that we shouldn’t do it again if Mom was around because she might not … er … appreciate the fact that I knew how to do things like that. It’s no big deal … just basic chemistry with some scope and imagination thrown in. I didn’t get into understanding the really big ones until after …”
As I stuttered to a close and went to the place I sometimes would go when those memories would surface Jax came over and put his arms around me. The feeling anchored me and I returned to what was then the present. I said, “We shouldn’t need anything big enough to take down a building but I’ll still write down the directions just in case.”
Ginger said weakly, “Just in case. Right. Isn’t it bad enough that they salvaged that stuff from the granite quarry when they were out that way?”
Reggie ignored her and said, “I’ve got a few … ideas let’s call ‘em but I want to hear what you’ve got too. Feel free to jump in Jax if you’ve got some ideas too. If we can make a list of what we can do and make then we can sit down and map out placements and things like that.”
I nodded remembering that Reggie had liked to play games that had strategy in them rather than just role playing and said, “Fine, I was already starting to pull things together anyway. Look here … you see these old plastic containers?” Everyone looked at the tub of containers that ranged in size from old pill bottles to empty tubs of frosting. “Let me give you one example. Take this pill bottle. Start with some black power and pour a little in then on top of that you put some scrap metal pieces then in goes another layer of black powder and another layer of metal bits. Each layer should be about an inch thick. Make sure you have at least a thin layer of black powder on top. Then you take the bottle’s lid and drill a hole with an 1/8th inch drill bit. Break off some sparkler to use as a fuse put it through the hold and make sure that you tighten the lid down on the bottle. Once you light that puppy you need to get thee behind something thick and sturdy because the percussion from the bang and the flying shrapnel will put a serious hurt on the unprotected.”
Reggie nodded but Jax was looking at me with a new respect and being a little more than silly about it. “Girl, remind me to never made you mad.” I elbowed him and he straightened up his face enough to ask, “What else?”
I sighed. “Homemade napalm. Take gas and put it in a glass container. Then you add Styrofoam to it until the gas won’t melt anymore and you’ve got a big snotty wad of white goo. I … uh … have a drum of packing peanuts in the barn.” ( http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to-ma...ng-goo-272244/ )
Reggie laughed and said, “Yeah, ‘cause you never know when you’re going to need a drum full of packing peanuts.”
Ignoring his verbal clowning around I continued. “You can use it two ways. Either you can slather this around on something … or make a trail of it … and once you light it it won’t go out and will subsequently catch whatever it is on on fire. Or you can do the same sort of thing in a kind of liquid grenade. That’s trickier but you can fix a few, light it, then throw the glass container which will break on impact splattering the napalm everywhere … call it a modified Molotov cocktail. The lit fuse will quickly catch the splatter on fire and it burns hot and long on whatever it touches … including human skin which makes the stuff pretty dangerous and not something I want to have around too much given how dry everything is right now.”
Eagerly Reggie asked, “More?”
“Hey … what are you bringing to the table?”
He grinned but admitted, “Not necessarily anything like that but I can make bodacious smoke bombs in a lot of different colors. I’ve collected all the materials for it while we were out salvaging. They might come in handy.” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlKcw...eature=related )
Jax nodded, “Maybe. How does it work?”
“Pretty simple really. Saw you had potassium nitrate out in the gardening shed.”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “That’s salt peter. It is used for a quick nitrogen fix for plants that are showing signs they aren’t getting enough. I’ve got another stash of it in with the ingredients for curing meat.”
Everyone nodded their understanding but I did note that Jax had pulled out his handy dandy notepad and was scribbling away. Then Reggie picked the narrative back up. “The other three ingredients you need are sugar – I’m using the staff we found in a house that was covered in bugs which I’ll just strain the bug parts out – baking soda and powdered dye. The dye I picked up at … uh …”
Jax shrugged. “She knows.”
Ginger asked, “Knows what?”
I told her, “The two lunatics standing before you went back into town without telling us.”
Slowing Ginger turned to look at Reggie and the murder in her eye told me he was going to be hearing about it at some point in the near future.
Reggie cleared his throat and tried not to look worried and said, “Anway … you mix the potassium and sugar – 60 grams to 40 grams ratio – and then put it on low heat and stir until the sugar starts to get all melty and brown.”
I said, “It’s called carmelizing.”
Reggie rolled his eyes and said, “Whatever. It gets melty and brown. You want it to wind up looking like creamy peanut butter. Then you add a spoon of baking soda which slows the combustion down. After you have that stirred in you had three heaping tablespoons of dye. I’ve found that orange and blue work best but you can do a green or yellow but they aren’t as bright. Then you take the paste and stuff it in a toilet paper tube and then shove a old writing pen or dowel down into the mess. This is the form and you have to let it sit for an hour, maybe a little longer if the air is humid or damp. After the mess has set up, take the pen or dowel out carefully and insert a firework fuse and secure it in place with a wad of cotton or dryer lint. Cover the cardboard tube with duct tape and then cover the top and bottom of the tube as well but leave a hole for the fuse to come out of and for the smoke to escape from.”
I started laughing. Jax and Ginger asked, “What?”
“I was wondering who the AV Club had gotten to make their special effects for their remake of the Night of the Living Dead. It was you big boy, admit it.”
Reggie took a bow and in a really bad Elvis impersonation he said, “Thank you … thank you very much.” Back in his normal voice he added, “The deal was they let me … er … borrow a piece of equipment without logging it and I’d come up with the special effects and that neither of us would rat the other one out.”
Ginger rolled her eyes and said, “I don’t even want to know what the equipment was and why you needed it but I guess you did more than smoke bombs if I remember that geeky movie.”
He nodded. “I can also make flash bangs out of magnesium and gunpowder. I just don’t know where to get the magnesium from.”
I grinned and tried to look innocent. Then looked over at Jax who laughed guiltily. “We … uh … got some of that from the mill.”
Reggie asked, “Why would the paper mill have magnesium?”
“It was used to adjust the pH of the leftover sludge and make it more … er … treatable for waste treatment.”
“Do we have enough?” Reggie wanted to know.
“Let’s just there is a reason we stored it well away from the home site. I took all of the chemicals from the plant because you never know what is going to turn out useful”
Reggie’s open mouth slowly closed and a rather wicked grin split his face. “So … we have enough magnesium. What else can we come up with? Trebuchets, petards, nuclear war heads? ”
Ginger sighed, “Another guy story that I don’t want to hear about I’m sure. Lydie, you got a sec to come to the house? Ashley and I are trying to understand your directions on making homemade pizza crust and Ash is craving it bad.” She turned to Reggie and said in a casually smart aleck tone, “And when you stop fooling around ask me how to make a flame thrower with a fire extinguisher. It will throw flame over forty feet.” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNu0sR89_BM )
We left Reggie and Jax standing there with their mouths hanging open and started laughing half way to the porch where we met Aston as he was going out to meet with them. I started feeling more optimistic again and had a feeling that between the six of us we could come up with some serious tools of obliteration … we just needed to make sure we didn’t hurt ourselves in the process.
Last edited by Kathy in FL; 05-04-2012 at 09:27 AM.
Reason: adding links
“Will you knock it off!” I snapped at Aston who was in the middle of what I thought of as an unwarranted gleeful spazz out.
“Man!” he chortled. “Jax was right! The whole span just collapsed!” If there had been a football around he would have spiked it he was so happy.
“Geez,” I grumbled with a side order of snark. “If I had known this would have made you happy enough to do the Snoopy dance I would have taken you to blow things up before now.”
Mr. Houchins’ voice was as dry as Herman’s Creek when he said, “Don’t know which one of ‘em is worse, him or m’ grandson.” He shook his head and looking like an old Bassett hound added, “Shame to have to do it. Waste o’ good tax dollars but I just ain’t puttin’ up with no more of them beggars and theves. How’s everyone up your way doing after what happened?”
Watching Aston and Junior continue to caper around like drunk monkeys I answered, “Better than we have any right to be blessed with. Jax and Reggie could have come today but I was worried about them coming out in this cold drizzle.”
Mr. Houchins nodded sagely. “Yup, we got a few at home like that. ‘Sides, until we bring down the road that spans Kellar’s Pass there’s no sense in leaving yourself vulnerable on that side.” He hemmed and hawed a bit then said, “Mother wants to know if you youngins got enough to see you through to early greens and spring planting.”
Knowing what it probably cost him to ask I told him, “I appreciate her concern but please tell her I wasn’t fibbing to you when I said we were OK. Come spring Jax and I might be over for some advice on getting the grain to come up thicker but for now I’m mostly working out how to make sure everything we have gets used to best advantage so it will go the furthest with no waste. Everyone else is willing to help, they’ve just never been responsible for all the planning themselves so there’s a big learning curve. And it’s different taking care of so many when it used to be just me.”
He smiled in fond memory. “’Twas the same for Mother when we first married. She picked it up quickly though and turned it into an art … mostly ‘cause she had to because back then the church mice looked rich compared to us. You youngins will fare well for the same reason … ‘cause you have to; lots of incentive in that. And that bunch you’ve hitched yourself to has the right attitude I’ll give ‘em that.” Looking at me from the corner of his eye he said, “Speaking of hitching up, see you’re wearing a might pretty ring on your finger.”
Refusing to be embarrassed I boldly told him, “Yes sir. Jax put it there. It belonged to his grandmother Nannie Dru.”
With somewhat of a relieved grin he replied, “Did he now; well that’s news worth sharing. He’s come a long way from the wild boy he was a couple of years ago. Mother will be happy to hear it. Believe I heard her say one o’ her brother’s wives was kin to Drusilla’s first husband.”
I couldn’t help it. I gave a small laugh. “Dad always used to wonder why everyone in the county didn’t have six toes on each foot and a horn coming out of their forehead the way everyone is related.”
The old man chuffed a laughed and said, “I do recall him saying that very thing myself.” A little regretfully his smile dimmed and he said, “Best be getting back or Mother will worry. You sure you’re gonna be alright?”
“Yes sir,” I assured him. “We’ve already dug out where to lay the charges to cause the slide. That was gonna be the hardest part. If we go now we’ll still be home in plenty of time to get the evening chores done before it gets dark.”
After that it was simply a matter of parting company and heading out. Aston was content to literally ride shotgun … with the shotgun in question loaded with slugs. Still in a more talkative mood than usual Aston said, “Who would have thought Jax knew how to blow things up? Guess it works out pretty well since you seem to know how to make bombs.”
If I hadn’t been concentrating on my driving I would have given him some grief over continually picking at that fact. Instead I simply said, “Knowing where to position explosives to create the desired effect is more important than creating the explosive. Anyone can mix chemicals that will go boom. It takes brains and experience to put them where it takes the least amount of boom to create the biggest effect. Had I had to blow that bridge up without his advice I would have had to use twice as much explosive and might have only partially brought it down.”
From the corner of my eye I saw him shrug. “Mebbe. Either way I’m just glad to cut off the most direct routes from town. If they have to walk twice as far maybe they’ll think twice about doing it. How’s your shoulder? Need me to drive?”
“Stiff but I’m fine. Let’s just get this done and get home.”
“I hear that,” he agreed, nodding. We barely talked the rest of the way which left me thinking about why we were doing what we were doing.
We’d had a run of several good days and I should have realized that there was a store full of shoes just waiting to drop on us like a load of bricks. Jax and Aston had gone hunting the day before it came to a head and they both had brought in a buck – Aston’s was a real beauty with an 8-point rack. Jax’s buck was a younger male and somewhat smaller but he felt he made up for the difference by also bagging a feral boar as well as one of his harem sows. We butchered the hogs that same day and the two bucks were hanging in the processing shed waiting for me to formulate a plan of attack; I’d never butchered that much venison without Dad to help and guide me.
There was also no doubt that I would need to cull at least some of the chickens and rabbits; the question was how many. I’d already culled one hen after I caught it eating the eggs of its fellow biddies and I put another out of its misery when a fox got into the yard and snatched it before I could figure out why the geese were having a coronary. There was no question a few of the hens were getting past their prime egg laying years. A couple of the rabbit does were also getting a little long in the tooth.
I was mentally tagging animals in my head when the little hand held walkie talkie that we each carried on our belts excitedly squawked with Reggie yelling, “The Houchins farm is under attack!”
Everyone ran for the house from wherever they were and then into the den where Reggie had been manning the radio. We all heard Mr. Houchins’ voice warning everyone in range what was happening and to be prepared.
Consideringly I said, “Well that tells me that they either think or know there are other groups in the area. If it was just us they’d have phrased it differently.”
Ashley croaked hoarsely, “How can you be so calm?! People are shooting each other over there!”
“Because we knew this day would come. We just thought that they’d hit us first because of how much manpower the Houchins clan has.”
That was when Jax took charge and got us going. “Time to move. You know the drill. Reggie?”
Reggie sighed and said, “I’ve got communications and the watch tower. Just keep me in the loop so the girls don’t drive me crazy.”
Reggie would stay at the home place while Jax and Aston left to go see if they could lend aid to the Houchins. I cringed inwardly but didn’t let it show. We’d been over it a million times and who went where was based on where we were in our chore cycle. Jax and Aston were gearing up as Ashley and Ginger started locking the shutters top to bottom of the house. Reggie was grabbing his own gear but he headed upstairs. I told him, “Might oughta take a jacket with you. It was cold in the cupola this morning.”
He nodded and grabbed his off the coat rack before going to the attic to turn on the radio up there and take his look out position. I pulled a couple of canteens and a back pack of emergency supplies to carry to the truck as Aston said a quick good bye to an obviously nervous Ashley.
At the truck Jax said, “I hadn’t expected you to have to guard the road first time something happened.”
“Don’t think about that. You just pay attention to staying safe and coming home in one piece.”
There wasn’t time for anything else; I had to do my own gearing up and get into position. Ginger had followed me out and helped me to lock the barn where the vehicles stayed then I left chasing the birds into the animal barn to get them locked away. Ashley had already taken Kelly and was down in the storm cellar beneath the kitchen and Ginger would join them there putting our three weakest links as far out of harm’s way as we could get them. A speaker would let them stay apprised of what was going on around the home place.
I was jogging through the woods, bypassing the booby traps we had set, when my radio crackled again. “Odd Man to Henny Penny, do you copy?”
I stopped and took a calming breath before answering, “Henny Penny to Odd Man, I copy.”
“Straight Man and Spiker en route. It sounds like Bonanza is taking a beating but they’re still ticking. Straight Man says everyone is to notify Home Base when they are in position.”
“Roger that. Henny Penny out.”
The code names were stupid but we felt safer using them rather than using our real names. I reached the blind we had built at the end of our road, let Reggie “Odd Man” know, and then after putting the homemade spike strips in place across the road settled in to watch while doing some serious praying. Should have remembered to be careful what I prayed for because God has a tendency in my experience to answer in the affirmative when you least expect it. What was my prayer? “Dear Lord, please watch over everyone and bring Jax and Aston home safely to us and if there is any way for me to make this possible, let me be Your instrument.” Uh huh.
Anyone ever read about how some animals will let the big predators do all the work and then while they’re busy, scavengers will come in around the edges to get a piece of the kill and run off? Well apparently the large group in town was supposed to take different roads to prevent an ambush of their convoy, then meet up to take on the Houchins clan en mass. Only not all of the drones were willing to mindlessly follow orders.
A small group of them were led by one of our former classmates who had defected to the Dark Side. Guy’s name was Derrick Diggory; we all called him Double D. I never would have pegged him for a sellout. He was a nice average guy that never got into any kind of trouble with nice average parents who you could describe the same way. I don’t know what turned him; all I know is that he did. The thing was his father worked for the postal service and knew where we lived. Derrick must have remembered his father telling him something because somehow or other he convinced the others with him to take a detour. Most of my hypothesis is conjecture of course but it is based on an argument between Derrick and a guy in the other truck that I overheard from my hidden spot.
I turned the radio down and gave three clicks letting Reggie know not to call me and then four clicks to let him know the enemy was about to engage. I heard the two faint clicks in response that let me know he understood. I didn’t have much time and needed to focus. I checked the bulky vest I was wearing to make sure I could get at what I needed in a hurry. I also double checked Dad’s Bushmaster ACR that Jax had insisted I used in that position. I took a breath and prayed for forgiveness for what I intended to do.
Sure enough the creepoids backed up and then turned into our drive. I guess their intention had been to rush us and paralyze us with shock and awe or something. Bad choice on their part. The first truck hit the spike strips hard enough to blow both front tires and one of the rear ones before skidding to a stop on their rims. The rear truck had followed just as fast but too closely and had hit the truck in the side panel causing the air bags in both extended cab trucks to deploy.
I’d already lit the fuses of two of the homemade claymores and tossed them. The first one missed its target and rolled under the second truck. The second claymore went exactly where I meant it to which was inside the cab of the lead truck. They both exploded at approximately the same time. The one under the second truck took out all four tires on that truck and the legs of the two men who had just climbed out of it to rush to the first truck to find out what had happened. As they were falling screaming the second claymore went off inside the cab of the first truck with devastating effect. Shrapnel blew out shredding every surface it came in contact with. The percussion added to the damage by blowing out all the windows, even taking out part of the windshield. The shrapnel damage was from about the chest height down; the window glass and percussion primarily appeared to affect their shoulders up. One man fell out of the first truck but he didn’t move again once he was supine on the ground.
There had been six guys in the second truck, two of them incapacitated by the claymore under the truck. That left four to deal with. I had lit another claymore as soon as I saw the effect of the first two. I lobbed it, this time hitting the target of the interior of the second cab. Two men rolled out of the truck as soon as they saw it coming and stayed on the ground while their two friends that didn’t move fast enough got turned into hamburger.
A fourth claymore wasn’t happening because they had located my position and started shooting at me in fear and anger. If they had known I was female and alone they might have rushed me which would have been bad. Instead their nerves made them less effective which I later gave thanks for.
I pulled back and changed position but it wasn’t easy. If the ditch from the road’s former path hadn’t let me get lower than the bullet trajectories I might not have pulled it off. As it was I battled the effect of too much adrenaline being dumped into my system by my fight or flight instinct kicking into overdrive.
I got out of their line of fire and before I could think about it too much I returned fire from a new angle that allowed me to throw my own barrage, killing both men with several hits to their upper chests. I cautiously worked my way closer to the trucks, prepared to duck in case any of the men were playing possum.
Looking into the first truck was a nauseating experience. All five in the cab and the one on the ground were dead, or so close as it made no difference. Blood loss, shock, or deep puncture wounds; I couldn’t tell which had killed each man. Deciding it didn’t matter I used that truck as cover to check the men of the second one before moving forward. And a good thing too.
I slung the rifle on my shoulder and pulled the LCP from my ankle holster. I know it might have been better to have a bigger gun but I preferred a tool I knew over one I was still learning to handle. I was moving around one of the open doors when one of the men started cursing me and tried to shoot me but wide of the mark when his strength failed him and the gun wavered. My fear dumped another load of elixir in my veins and I had shot him three times before I even realized I had aimed. One of the other men had been crawling away and I took two steps and shot him in the back of the head. Then I turned and shot three other men from that truck at point blank range just to be sure. I was twisting and turning trying to watch my back as I fumbled to insert a new magazine in the LCP and it took a moment for me to realize they were all down and never getting up again.
It was at that moment that my guts loosened and I vomited violently right where I stood.
Thank you so much for sharing with us. Our sky is lowering and getting ready to let loose with another storm so I am copying some stuff to read when the satellite dish will not allow us onto the Internet. So I am looking for ward to reading what you have written for us. Thanks again!
NOTICE: Timebomb2000 is an Internet forum for discussion of world events and personal disaster preparation. Membership is by request only. The opinions posted do not necessarily represent those of TB2K Incorporated (the owner of this website), the staff or site host. Responsibility for the content of all posts rests solely with the Member making them. Neither TB2K Inc, the Staff nor the site host shall be liable for any content.
All original member content posted on this forum becomes the property of TB2K Inc. for archival and display purposes on the Timebomb2000 website venue. Said content may be removed or edited at staff discretion. The original authors retain all rights to their material outside of the Timebomb2000.com website venue. Publication of any original material from Timebomb2000.com on other websites or venues without permission from TB2K Inc. or the original author is expressly forbidden.
"Timebomb2000", "TB2K" and "Watching the World Tick Away" are Service Mark℠ TB2K, Inc. All Rights Reserved.