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Story Withdrawal
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Thread: Withdrawal

  1. #41

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Two part one

    Chapter 22

    A few days later the Hamilton group acted on the recommendation to check out their neighbors to the south of the Holski farm after extensive patrolling of the areas in between the two locations which was important to do anyway. The region was still primarily farmland mixed with some homes but it did have some scattered areas that could be used as a means to hide a few people. Each of these spots which were mostly patches of high growth and some scattered trees were checked carefully, it was determined that no one was currently using any of them so each was safe for the time being. However one of them showed signs that it had been used at some point in the recent past, possibly as recently as four days previous but no one was currently there. A suggestion, quickly agreed on, was made to check these same locations on a regular basis since they were close to both farms. It was a real wake up call for both farm groups to realize that someone had been that close and had gone undetected.

    The modest sized housing development south of both farms was an entirely different issue and so a change was made in how it was to be scouted. A decision was made to only use a two person reconnaissance element to watch the housing development in place of a larger group. The consensus was by using just two people to observe the settlement for an extended period to gather whatever information they could they stood less chance of being detected.

    This small patrol consisted of Daryl since he had the most experience and Katarina so that there was a person from each household present. This helped to reduce the manpower burden on both households during the prolonged absence which turned out to be slightly more than thirty hours. The job of the patrol was to try and gather enough information to determine if those living at the development were a threat and if so how serious. It also provided an excellent training opportunity to Daryl’s way of thinking. He didn’t say that aloud in so many words but facts were facts. It was a good refresher for him as well, there was a big difference between doing it here than during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton out in California which is where he had been stationed most of his time in the Marines apart from his tour in the Persian Gulf during the first Gulf war.

    Before the two left the Holski farm Daryl had a long talk with Katarina about what he felt they should and shouldn’t do. As they talked he was going through their gear double checking all their equipment to make sure what they had what they needed with them. Notebook, pens, food, water, matches, binoculars, blanket, medical kit, hygiene supplies, ammunition and…Daryl reviewed the overall plan for his partner as he worked. They would move slowly but steadily heading south away from the Holski farm to pass to the west of the housing development, cross the road and continue to circle the group of homes to wind up at a position east of the settlement. This way they could see all four sides of the settlement during the patrol. They would periodically stop to observe whatever activity they could, being careful to write down their observations. The information was potentially too important to be forgotten or details omitted.

    Daryl took a few extra minutes to review their communications plan as well. They would be taking one of the handheld radios with them along with a charged spare battery. They would be checking in every thirty minutes but not on the hour. If someone was out there listening on a scanner or using a frequency counter better to make them work for any information they wanted. The patrol would check in at twelve and forty two minutes after the hour while keeping the transmission as brief as possible.

    Daryl was careful to explain to Katarina that she needed to make sure to not make assumptions about anything she was seeing. She thought this was a curious statement so she asked him why not? The one time infantryman explained that it was easy to fall in the trap of forming opinions before hand and then to only see the information that supported that assumption in place of all the available data. Daryl used the time to quietly and carefully review what type of information the pair was seeking, number of people, were they armed and if so with what, layout of the buildings, what level of physical condition did the people appear to be in was some of what he told her. Daryl stressed the importance of writing down what they saw. Memory was too inconsistent to be relied on for facts and details later on.

    Once finished with the check of the equipment Daryl urged to Katarina to use the bathroom even if she didn’t have to go. Having to slink away to take care of bodily functions could be a hassle that could lead to problems. She nodded and went to the outhouse to do as he suggested Daryl did the same after she finished.

    Biological needs satisfied for the time being the pair put their packs on then took up their weapons. He had his customary AR-15 while Katarina was carrying a lever action ‘30-30 rifles borrowed from Miguel each of them also had a pistol. The patrol was about reconnaissance but it was important to be able to defend themselves since it was only the two of them. The information wouldn’t do anyone any good if they couldn’t bring it back safely.

    Fighting off the nervous energy brought on by anticipation he felt the familiar mix of emotions that always showed itself just prior to a mission. A sensation he hadn’t felt in years but he recognized it for what it was. No helicopter or other vehicle to take them to where they wanted to go this time, LPC’s again he mused using the military slang term, Leather Personnel Carriers for shoes. Finally it was time to go, handshakes and hugs all around then the two headed off. Petr and Anna Holski watched as their daughter left, possibly going in harm’s way. The two were silent but their body language said all that needed saying, his arm around the shoulders of his wife who had her hands clenched in prayer. Walking away from the house Daryl and Katarina moved toward the four strand barbed wire fence that separated the yard from the field south of the house. The pair slipped carefully over the pointy barrier and into the field which was overgrown with weeds and grass instead of the usual crop of corn. The grass and weeds came to nearly knee height so it did little to hide them while they walked but once they went to ground it should conceal them some Daryl reasoned as he continued to head south. He was in front with the Holski woman about ten paces behind him. The former Marine had been very explicit in this, Katie was to not be any closer than ten paces while they were moving so one group of shots couldn’t get them both.

    The Holski daughter had swallowed hard when Daryl explained his reasoning. A bright woman, it didn’t take much convincing to get her to comply. Staying alive was pretty good incentive. He had explained that unless he said different he would always be in front because of his experience. Katie asked if at some point if the situation allowed could she take the lead? Daryl’s reply was that they would have to see not totally satisfied with the answer but realizing it was the best she was going to get she accepted it. The two moved slowly continuing their way south. They would move for several minutes then stop, kneel down and wait and watch for several minutes to determine if any threat was present. From Daryl’s perspective the start-stop walking was very useful, he was in unfamiliar territory with someone with no training and it had been a loong time since he himself had done any of this type of work. So being careful was good as far as he was concerned. Having the responsibility for another person weighed on him, it wasn’t even close to the first time he’d another life to be responsible for but it was still a load to carry.

    During the next hour or so the pair slowly moved into a position to be able to begin their observations of the housing area which went on for several hours from their current location. The two traded off between watching and taking notes or resting. Daryl knew that the adrenaline would wear off and when it did that the physical affects would hit hard. At one point while Katarina, her friends called her Katie, was observing she saw something and woke Daryl who had been asleep for about ninety minutes. Daryl’s head popped up with a start at the nudge from his partner hand reaching for his rifle. A gentle hand laid on his calmed his initial reaction. Once he was fully awake she handed him the binoculars while pointing at what had caught her attention. Rolling into a better position Daryl blinked hard to clear his vision trying to see for himself what she was talking about. The view of the southern end of the housing development was a large stone wall about seven feet high. What had caught her attention was that the lone sentry they had observed earlier had been joined by three other people. A scan of the area that the two could see from their position revealed nothing amiss that could account for the sentry being joined by the others. This was the first time the sentry had been visited by anyone else since they had begun watching so having three people show up was unusual enough for her to have wakened him. She had wavered a bit before reaching over to shake him but was now glad she did.

    Daryl told her to double check their gear just in case they had to leave in a hurry which Katie did without question she was a little frightened, this was not something she had ever envisioned herself doing but here she was. Her life before hadn’t been an easy one, earning her Masters degree in Agriculture while helping with the day to day operations of the large farm had its own costs. Not enough sleep, lack of a substantial social life and still living at home at twenty eight! Of course having society collapse wasn’t something she had ever thought would happen either and yet here we are. Daryl continued to watch to try and determine the reason for the increase in people but saw nothing out of the ordinary; their body language didn’t seem to be agitated or anxious. The additional three adults stayed with the sentry for twelve minutes from the time he starting watching according to Daryl’s watch. He asked Katie to write down the time when the three left. She did so without hesitation.

    Once the three left the area near the front of the housing development Daryl suggested that they move further south to try and get an idea of what might have caused the others to join the sentry like they did. Granted the three didn’t seem upset but Daryl wanted to make sure that they wasn’t anything south of them that he couldn’t see from their current position. “How soon do you want to move?” Katie had their gear ready as he had asked. The response was a bit slow in coming as Daryl continued to scan the area with the binoculars.

    “Now is good a time as any.”

    So they carefully made their way south which was part of the plan anyways so this wasn’t a change in thinking. It took the pair over an hour to move approximately one hundred yards or so. This put them next to the ditch along side the east-west running road that passed in front of the housing development which was known as Silver Springs. Daryl told his companion that they would hold up there for at least an hour before trying to cross the road. He had previously explained that getting across the road, not only once but twice would likely be the most dangerous part of the patrol. Moving across the road would force them into the open even though it wouldn’t be long. There was no cover or concealment moving across the pavement to the opposite side.

    It was important to cross over to not only observe the development from that side but to also get a look at the area south of the road. There were some houses scattered about which might still be occupied. If they were going to patrol then it was important to make it worthwhile since no one from either farm had been in this area since everything had gone to hell. Night was falling fast which Daryl knew would help their cause. It was often difficult for the human eye to see well at twilight. Settling in near the ditch the pair checked the area carefully as they prepared to cross the road. While still at the Holski residence Daryl had carefully explained why it was important to take the risk of crossing the road. James had asked the question as Daryl was reviewing the plan for everyone. In order for the patrol to be as thorough as they could make it viewing the settlement from all sides was vital. Would there be risk? Yes but given the way the world was going right then what wasn’t dangerous? An observation that no one present chose to dispute.

    Daryl estimated it would take approximately ten seconds at a dead run to get through the ditch, across the two lane road and then through the small ditch on the other side to reach some measure of concealment. Katie asked if he thought it would be better to go together or one at a time. Mouth opened to speak Daryl paused then closed his mouth. He was going to say one at a time but considered the other option further. Not entirely sure what was going to work best he asked for her opinion.

    Katie was a little surprised by his question up until this point he had made all the decisions. Thinking about the choices for a moment she told him that maybe it would be best to have one person over at a time. Suddenly smiling Katie said, “Now might be a good time for me to lead. You can cover me.” Alluding to their earlier conversation about her being able to take the lead position she was working at switching roles with him. Daryl saw the ploy but had no reason to dispute the logic of her statement so told her she could go first. They watched till the sentry was looking away. Readying his rifle in case of trouble Daryl tensed up a bit, this could be ugly he told himself. Here we go, as soon as the sentry turned away Daryl hissed “Go!” Katie ran as fast as she could. Eyes fixed on her destination she looked neither left nor right as she ran. It felt like her heart was going to burst from chest because it was beating so hard. The dash across the open space only lasted for seconds but to her and Daryl it seemed like hours Katie would remark later that she had never felt so exposed or vulnerable in her entire life as at that point.

    As she reached the other side or the road Katie awkwardly slid down into the shallow ditch her backpack sliding high on her back. Once down she hurriedly looked across the road but couldn’t see Daryl. The absence of street lights or lights that would normally spill out from occupied houses added to the darkness. Daryl was carefully watching the sentry through his binoculars to see if they had seen Katie traverse the road. There was no indicator that she had been seen. Daryl felt the tension of his body release some realizing that the two of them were still for the moment, safe. Time for him to go.

    He continued to watch the sentry waiting for them to once again turn their back. Almost, almost, now! Daryl leapt to his feet and hit the ground running. He kept his head down, binoculars in one hand, rifle in the other. Nearly half away across the road Daryl stumbled but didn’t go down. The off balance man slid down into the shallow ditch nearly face first. Katie grabbed him to keep him from rolling over. Both of them were conscious of the noise the fall created, the fear in their minds amplified the amount of clamor to rock concert levels. Anxious eyes stared toward the spot where the sentry was likely to be. Ears were pitched to hear any sound of alarm but nothing was heard.

    “Let’s not do that again huh? C’mon, let’s get outta’ here.” Daryl urged. Katie completely agreed and the two moved out of the ditch and headed south to put some distance between them and the housing development. The remainder of the night was spent alternating between watching and sleeping. At one point Daryl let the tired woman sleep for three hours straight before rousing her. The adrenaline rush of earlier was gone and in its place, fatigue. Nothing of concern was noted during the night. The sentry was changed out several times during the course of the night which gave Daryl a feel for the length of shifts as well as some ideas on their manpower resources.

    About four a.m. Daryl told Katie that he wanted to cross back over the road and get set up on the east side of the subdivision. She understood immediately, no way to cross the road unseen during daylight hours. The trip took approximately fifty minutes as they moved some distance and went across the road together without incident. Daryl was careful not to stumble this time when crossing the roadway. The first glimmer of daylight was just showing in the eastern sky as the pair snuck into one of the houses that had not been completed. The entire row of five houses on the block had been unfinished and had suffered extensive fire damage some months earlier. The damaged structure offered a good hiding spot.

    While in the remains of the house it was difficult to move around much without running the very real risk of creating noise. This was the closest that the pair had been to the houses themselves so noise discipline was paramount. They took turns observing through the pair of small binoculars that Daryl habitually carried in his tactical vest. The optical device wasn’t of the highest quality but for the distance they were at they proved more than adequate. They continued their pattern of one person using the glasses while the other took notes as necessary and looked around to ensure their security. The pair checked in via radio with the Holski farm per the schedule. Having the sentry atop the tall silo made this easier. Since the radios had limited range being in an elevated location increased the reception and transmission ability. The radio call was relayed to the Hamilton farm from there so that both households knew that for the time being their people were alive and well.

    They stayed in the remains of what looked to have once been a modest three bedroom single story till just after it was fully dark. They had been able to watch the housing development from all four sides for over a full day at this point. Numerous pages of notes had been collected. Double checking the area to make sure they were leaving nothing behind the pair exited the burned shell of the house after full dark. They kept the bulk of the structure between them and the housing development as they moved east. Once they moved far enough away from the development that Daryl was comfortable the two slowly rose and staying in a partial crouch moved further away. They didn’t head straight back toward either of the two farms. Katarina was curious about this, asking Daryl why the detour. In a low voice he patiently explained that if they had been seen then it might mislead whoever was watching into thinking that they were from someplace else. The bright woman saw the logic in that immediately. They continued to slowly move away from the area. No alarm of any type was raised so both felt that had managed to get away without being detected something that to Daryl was good and bad.

    Good in that if those now living at the development were bad guys the pair got away without being seen. Bad in that if it was the original residents of the subdivision their security wasn’t that good. Both pieces of information needed to be factored into the decision regarding who the people were. Daryl was fairly comfortable with his analysis but he still wanted to get input from the others before making any kind of a definitive statement. Stopping near the blocked gate of the Holski farm Katie notified the duty sentry via radio that the two were crossing the fence and coming in. When they reached the house everyone was waiting for them. Hugs and handshakes all around as the pair was warmly welcomed back. Daryl was offered a ride home so he could clean up and rest but he politely refused opting to walk the distance. A full report on the patrol findings was slated for the following morning.


  2. #42

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Two part two

    After a quick shower, a meal and a night’s sleep Daryl almost felt better. The stress of the patrol was still slowly fading but that was typical the combat veteran knew the cycle well enough to be sure of that. The morning went by quickly then it was time for the meeting, or rather meetings since it would be necessary to hold two separate briefings. Daryl headed down the road to the Holski farm. Once everyone available was gathered he began the debriefing report by reviewing the overall objectives with every one; he started by telling them what information that they had been after. Once he was finished he motioned to his patrol partner who was had been waiting for her part. Katarina pulled out the notebook, flipping through the pages till she found the information she was seeking having taken the intervening time since returning to better organize it. She nodded at Daryl that she was ready. “May I direct your attention to the lady?” A theatrical wave of the hand shifted the group’s attention from him to her dutiful laughter followed. Katarina swallowed then started in with their notes. Daryl being a smart ass, what a surprise…

    “So okay, we uhh, saw a total of fifty-eight people, twenty-five men, twenty-three women and ten children. Oh, for the sake of the count we figured a kid being under fifteen years old or so but it was hard to accurately judge age at a distance so don’t take those numbers as absolutes.” Nods as the group digested the information. Petr wanted to ask a question but wasn’t sure how the group was to do that. Daryl saw the questioning look, “Excuse me, Petr did you have a question?” Heads turned to look at the man. “Do you think that was all of them?” A valid question for sure thought Daryl who was framing his answer.

    “It’s possible that we didn’t see everyone, sure. I’m reasonably confident,” Daryl did the two finger symbols for quotation marks as he said the last part of his statement. He did feel positive that the two of them had seen at least ninety five percent of the residents. “given the amount of time we watched them and seeing the place from all the sides like we did I do feel that the count is pretty close, likely say 90% of them that’s the best answer I can give ya’.” Petr nodded to signify his agreement with the analysis.

    The pair went on to explain in detail how the residents were very consistent with changing out the sentry near the front of the subdivision. The guard was changed out every two hours and they never saw the same person on sentry duty twice while they watched. James spoke up, “Why is that a big deal? I mean why bring that up?” To his surprise it was his sister and not Daryl who answered that. “It means that there are enough people living there that no one has to stand guard everyday.” James then admitted that he hadn’t thought of it that way. Daryl and Katie shared a quick look and a smile, she had asked him the same question while they were in the burned out house and he had explained it to her in depth going into how it meant that it was likely that the people on guard duty may not be well experienced at standing guard since they didn’t have to do it as often.

    Prior to the meeting Daryl had drawn out a map of the housing development which he now passed around so that the others could have a frame of reference regarding how the buildings and such were situated. The map was as detailed as they could make it given the limits of their observations. Daryl explained how at one point they had moved in among the remains of one of the houses that had burned down. It provided plenty of concealment while allowing them to move in closer to better watch the residents and helped with the details that the map provided. It placed them about one hundred and fifty feet or so from the house nearest to the burned out shell they were using as concealment. From that location they could observe much of the northern boundary of the development as well as a reasonable section of the eastern perimeter. Petr was impressed that they had been able to get that close and stay undetected.

    A few more questions regarding the residents were tossed around before Daryl reminded them that he and Katie still had to go down to the Hamilton’s to brief them. Petr thanked them both for undertaking the patrol and for the fine information. There was a distinct note of parental satisfaction in his voice as he spoke that his daughter was one of the patrol members gave him a very large sense of pride. Katie picked up on it but said nothing, her smile said it all. The others were still talking among themselves as the pair left to fill in the other group on their patrol.

    The briefing at the Hamilton farm went well, the ease of having done it once already took away much of the anxiety and fear associated with standing up in front of a group of people. Several different questions were brought up at this meeting one in particular really caught Daryl off guard forcing him to admit he had overlooked the importance of the information. The question, posed by Linda of all people was how were the people dressed? If they were trying to figure out if they were good or bad people wouldn’t it make sense that how they dressed was important? Katarina and Daryl shared a look. Why the hell didn’t we think of that, either while watching or at the other meeting? The former Marine combat veteran found that he was a bit chagrined at being taken to task on reconnaissance by a fifteen year old girl. Daryl tried to console himself with the notion that the world truly was upside down. It didn’t help much but hey…

    Her question lead to several others and the meeting went on for some time as Daryl and Katie both worked at scrounging up every memory they could of how people had dressed. For the most part it seemed that the clothing was representative of what those living there would have on as compared to what say members of a motorcycle gang or similar criminal faction would be wearing. Also the presence of so many children added to that. The women didn’t appear physically abused or in any way trapped there. In fact several of the people seen taking turns as sentry were women so it was likely that in light of all the information that they had managed to accumulate that those at the subdivision were in fact the residents.
    Jim then asked, “So if it’s them and I guess we feel it is…’ He looked around as cautious nods of agreement began, “what do we do next?” The consensus was that it was time to reach out, go and talk to them. A vote was taken and it was nearly unanimous to pay their neighbors a visit. Katie was asked to take the results of the vote back to her group and take a similar vote. Michelle added that she needed to tell them about the issues with the clothing and such. The Holski daughter assured her that she would. Results of their vote would be sent via radio.

    * * *

    The group headed south toward the housing development walking parallel to the road. After leaving the Holski farm they spaced themselves out along the edges of the pavement so that there were two on each side in an overwatch formation. They made sure to keep the proper distance between them; this had been part of Daryl’s training with the group explaining each of the types of movement and then having the group members practice it repeatedly.

    The quartet covered the distance in silence, eyes watched carefully in all directions as they moved just as their training had taught them. Weapons held at the ready just in case something threatening showed itself. Jim was nervous, less about the travel to the housing site but because it had been suggested that he should be one to do the talking for the two farm groups to which the others agreed but he was rethinking that decision. A little late now Jim told himself. On their way to the housing development the quartet again scouted the few locations that a person or small group could hide in among the fields and such. The high growth areas near the fences and scattered thickets of trees, each proved to be empty and devoid of any signs of recent occupancy. This was reported back via radio to the respective farms. Once the areas were inspected the four men continued on their way south.

    Stopping at the last fence prior to crossing into the open area that would expose them to the residents of the housing development Jim reviewed the plan once more with everyone. Brian would remain at the fence line hidden among the tall grass. His job was to provide cover fire if necessary using Daryl’s M1A1 semi-automatic rifle, the Israeli made Galil rifle Brian normally carried was traded out to Jim for this particular assignment who was given a quick lesson on the rifle. The three men that would be the ones making contact with their neighbors would be careful to stay out of Brian’s line of fire to prevent him from being able to support them should it prove necessary. All four were fervently hoping it would not prove necessary but there was little that went on in their world that didn’t it seemed.

    The patrol had guesstimated the distance from the fence to the houses to be around three hundred yards, not a difficult distance for the powerful rifle to handle at all especially with a telescopic scope now fitted to the weapon. Daryl normally didn’t keep the scope mounted but felt it useful to do so now. The open ground, mostly grass and a few scrub bushes wasn’t considered a serious obstacle to observation despite Brian being in a prone position. Daryl had stated that he should be the one on the rifle for the encounter but Jim didn’t want their strongest tactical asset away from the house in case something did go wrong. If their information was wrong and the ones occupying the houses were in fact trouble then having the guy with the most military experience away from home wasn’t too smart. Daryl agreed reluctantly, he saw the reasoning behind Jim’s point of view but didn’t like it at all.

    Once the review of the plan was finished their makeshift white flag was removed from the backpack that Randy had been tasked to wear. The off white pillowcase was taped to a short stick with duct tape. The three men would head west to near the road then walk south toward the housing development. They would move over into the open area between the fence line where Brian was hidden and the northern edge of the housing area. They would display their white flag the entire time. It was their intention to stop at least two hundred feet from the nearest house and wait. That way if something went wrong they would not have a great deal of ground to cover to return to the perceived safety of the fence line under the cover of rifle fire from Brian.

    A quick round of handshakes and good luck’s all around before the trio left Brian in his hiding spot. The men moved quickly toward the road which was west of their location. They kept low trying to keep the higher grass between them and the housing area. This way it was hoped they wouldn’t reveal that there was a sniper watching over them in case someone saw them. The trip to where they were going took nearly ten minutes despite the perceived urgency. Several times Jim had to remind himself to slow down, take his time. He knew that this meeting was important, potentially very important. A group of people this large this close to the two farms could be either a great asset or a serious threat, time to find out which it might be. The trio was careful to keep proper distance between them as them walked along. Randy had wedged the stick supporting the white flag into an opening in the backpack which contained some food, water and additional ammunition. The truce symbol was now several feet over his head allowing him to keep both hands on his rifle. Talking to the people was important but being safe was the highest priority.

    Finally reaching a spot in the open area where they wanted to be the three men stopped and spread out a little further. Josh told Randy to pull the white flag out and start waving it, slowly. No reason to get the folks worked up. The younger man did as directed the flag went back and forth slowly in the morning air. The waiting began.

    Inside the housing development the arrival of the three men went unnoticed for almost eight minutes. During the time since his companions had left him Brian nervously checked and rechecked the area. Why was this taking so long? Was it some kind of a trick, a trap for the men? If someone went unnoticed for this long at either of the farms being that close there would be serious hell to pay. He was careful not to move around much as not to attract attention but really wished that he had urinated prior to the others leaving. He didn’t want to do it now that the three were out in the open. Brian was carefully scanning the housing area through the powerful telescopic sight that had been attached to the top of the rifle. The field of view was somewhat limited especially compared to binoculars but slow, steady movement of the rifle revealed what he needed to see. He blinked several times to clear his vision to ensure that he was ready if needed.

    There, someone finally saw the three men with the waving flag. An alert or what the three men assumed was an alert took place. Brian would later tell Daryl that it resembled cockroaches scrambling around after you flip on the lights. No real organization or structure to the response. After nearly ten minutes some measure of order was observed, people were behind cover and mostly out of sight. During this time the men waited patiently observing what they could of the quasi-chaos within the confines of the rudimentary defenses. To those that had suffered through the trials of Daryl training seeing the response was a good reminder of why he had pushed them so hard. All three of them were suddenly very glad that he had. A number of observations about the situation they were watching passed back and forth among the trio as they waited.

    After another ten minutes of being watched there was some movement seen. A group of eleven slowly made their way toward the trio. Brian nervously licked his lips as he watched the scene through the rifle scope. The entire approaching group was armed to some extent. It was quite a mix of weaponry, a few guns, a baseball bat, even a long wooden pole sharpened at one end. Brian identified the ones with firearms as the most serious threat to his friends. He shifted position slightly so that he could better track them. ‘Shit’s gettin’ serious now boys’ he told himself. Those from the housing area stopped about twenty feet short of the waiting men. The need to urinate now forgotten as Brian tracked the people nearest his teammates through the telescopic sight. He had to tell himself to calm down some. His heart was pounding and his mouth was dry. Making sure the safety was in the Off position Brian laid his finger lightly along the trigger guard ready to slide his finger in at a moment’s notice Brian continued his watch.

    Jim studied the man at the head of the reception committee. Looks to be about fifty or so, clothes aren’t the cleanest I’ve ever seen but hey at least he has some on so that is something. The tension level was a bit elevated but not unmanageable. Here we go, “Good morning. Wanted to introduce myself, I’m Jim, this is Randy and Josh.” He swung his hand toward the others to indicate them in turn. The other two were spread out behind Jim with about ten feet between them as not to be bunched up. Weapons were at the ready but carefully not pointed at the housing development people. This fact was noticed by the man who was apparently the leader. Jim had been careful to not move too quickly and to talk in as calm a voice as he could despite the level of anxiety he was feeling. This was a big step, don’t screw this up...

    “Mornin’ watcha’ want?” The man who hadn’t yet identified himself asked as he looked the strangers over. Clean clothes, reasonably well fed, weapons appeared clean and each of them had a rifle, this was different than what they had been used to seeing, semi-auto’s at that. Most of those people that they had seen were the polar opposite, dirty, hungry and the ones that were armed the weapons were usually dirty, poorly maintained and not often semi-automatic but it certainly wasn’t rare. This could be interesting, be careful he told himself.

    “We live up the road, wanted to talk.” Jim indicated a direction with a partial toss of the head in the general direction that they had come from. Several more people drifted over to listen in on the conversation. Jim noticed the late arrivals but returned to his dissertation without pause. “Okay, so talk.” Jim half smiled, not much fooling around with this one. The beginning of something was often the most difficult time. This appeared to be heading that way as well. Okay so where to start? Josh was quiet as he watched the scene. The amount of people that had come out to hear what was being discussed was up to about two dozen or so. Why let that many people outside the perimeter? He was careful to keep his focus on what was happening that many people represented a threat and even with Brian watching their back if something happened the three men would be very hard pressed to protect themselves. He had already vowed to go down fighting if he was going to die. Josh was a bit less sure of himself now that he was there but it was too late to worry about it, much too late.

    The discussion on how much information to share with the development occupants as to who they were and where they were at had been lively. Some of the group had pointed out that if they wanted to find out if the Silver Springs residents were trustworthy then some personal information would need to be shared. The others agreed but felt that a bare minimum of information should be passed along. Daryl, Jim and Petr had spoken at length about this. Jim was of the mind to give them some information but to limit it to where they were and not give away total manpower numbers. Daryl was fine with that but wanted to get the input from Petr before anything was finalized. Since the Holski farm was physically closer to the subdivision Petr’s opinion carried a bit more weight. If something went wrong and their ‘neighbors’ turned out to be hostile it would be the Holski farm that could be in trouble first admittedly there had been no trouble whatsoever from the housing development residents but caution was still important. One suggestion made during the conversation between the three men was to have both farms on increased alert for forty eight hours following the visit to the Silver Springs development. They all agreed that would be a wise precaution despite the added manpower burden.

    “Wanted to pass along some information and maybe get some in return” The yet unnamed man from the housing development nodded but said nothing. Jim blew out a half breath as he contemplated the situation. This might prove harder than I thought. “Also talk some about doing some trading if you’ve a mind too.” Jim was struggling to get some kind of a read on the man he was talking to. The guy was probably a hell of a poker player his face and body language wasn’t given anything away about what he may or may not be thinking. The other man was silent for a few moments then slowly nodded.

    “Makes sense, what uhh, kind of information you talkin’ bout?” Pausing prior to answering the question the elder Hamilton was quickly thankful that the man was at least willing to talk. The risk of this encounter was high enough, if they didn’t want to talk then the alternative was having potential enemies next door.

    “For starters, there’s the risk of people attacking you and your folks. We’ve had, uhh some experience with that.” Jim resisted the urge to look over at Josh. The man nodded then asked “A while back, that was y’all?” Nodding once to acknowledge the question then a glance down at the ground while licking his lips to wet them again Jim pressed on. “Also we’ve been patrolling the area and found out some things. We’ve got some goods we’d be willing to trade if you’re interested.” He was deliberating bringing up the trade angle repeatedly throughout the conversation. Jim wanted to try to show that his group was not a group of raiders. It would also give them a little bit of information about what the Silver Springs group may be short on which could help provide additional information.

    “How big was the group that hit ya?” Jim didn’t see in harm in answering the question. He explained that had counted thirteen bodies following the attack and that the neighbors had gotten another of the attackers as well. Several of the housing area residents shared some looks, serious business killing that many, if they were telling the truth that is be easy to claim that many to make yourself look better. “Anybody in your group get hurt?” Josh answered that one before Jim could speak, “Yeah we lost someone.” He was able to convey the depth of the loss of Lorraine in those four words. Looking over at his friend Jim knew the cost of that statement. Turning his head he made eye contact with the spokesman to make sure that the message was received, yes they did know personally how bad it was in the world. The man got the message as did several of the others.

    Trying to get the conversation moving forward again Jim continued, “We, uhh also know the lay of the land for some distance around and be happy to share that info with y’all.” A question came from a man standing off to the left of the man who had been speaking so far. “What is that gonna cost us? Nobody gives away sumthing for nothin’ nowadays!”

    The spokesmen raised an eyebrow toward Jim; a valid question that needed both asked and answered. The guy that had asked the question was openly skeptical, even a bit angry. Josh spoke up, “Nothing, not a damn thing. We came to you; we’re trying to be good neighbors, take it or leave it, up to you.” Not the most diplomatic of answers but the directness of the response seemed to find some receptive ears.

    Standing silently for a moment longer the spokesman seemed to reach a decision. “We’ll take it. I’m Curtis, Curtis Largent, pleased to meet you.” He stepped over to the three men then reached out to shake Jim’s hand which was happily taken. Smiles all around as encounter moved into more of a meeting feel. From his vantage point near the fence line Brian relaxed a little as the handshakes were exchanged. At least no one was shooting, at least so far. He continued to watch as the conversation continued.

    The two groups talked at length regarding the overall situation and how they might be able to help each other at some point. Each man was careful not to give away too much information or appear to be blatantly fishing for it either. After nearly an hour and a half Josh reminded Jim of the time. This was something that the two men had worked out on their own on the way down to the housing area. It was meant to keep them on track in regards to not being gone all day as well as giving the impression to the housing residents that they other things to attend to. Jim looked at his friend and thanked him. “We do need to head back; our support team is likely a bit anxious with us being out here so long.” Curtis caught the meaning right away there was someone or more than one watching them, probably with a rifle or more than one pointed their way. Smart move, shit that hadn’t even occurred to me. That realization bumped up the respect for the newcomers a notch or so. They seemed to have their collection shit wired.

    Jim and Curtis shook hands once more with the promise of further contact in the next few days. The three men all waved as they walked back toward the road. For his part Brian was relieved. It had seemed as if things were going well but to have his people moving back toward a safer area. Curtis stood watching the three men walk off. The meeting had gone well. He really hadn’t considered that there might be a sniper watching them. Taking a half look to either side of him he realized how many of his people were standing out in the open, completely exposed. Okay that is today’s lesson. He got the others moving back toward the houses, the unseen crosshairs that were out there making his back itch.

  3. #43
    Blackguard Thanks for the time you give to us writing and posting it for us to read. I am really liking this story and check for more every chance I get.

  4. #44

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Three part one

    Chapter 23

    Since they had established some basic relations with the residents of the Silver Springs housing area early in the previous week some of the Hamilton group had been pushing for further exploration. Someone said it like that the genie was now out of the bottle so let’s ride it. That point of view led to several more discussions between the two farm groups. The next logical step to them was to see what had happened to the town. It had been home to thousands of people, it was time to determine what else was going on so detailed plans were made for a trip then two days later they set out.

    The journey coming into town had taken place without incident which was more than any of them could have hoped for. Driving in from the farm had taken some time because they felt it would be best to not take a direct route in case someone saw them. Just like what Daryl had taught them about foot patrols, never take the obvious route. Another reason for the irregular path was that it allowed them to get a better idea of what else might be going on around them. Hard information on virtually everything was very difficult to come by. Only the driver and a single passenger rode in the cab of the truck. The remainder four patrol members were in the back of the vehicle. One was writing down the notes as the other three, one apiece on each side and one watching their back, called out information to be written down. How many people they saw, if they noticed any gardens or crops being grown, if the people had weapons and if they did a guess on what they had, business locations that might be useful to visit at some point for salvage opportunities and more.

    As they had neared town the tension level rose considerably, the feeling of being watched seemed ever present. The first priority was to find a place to hide the truck; they all looked for a garage or similar building. It took them about ten minutes of driving around to find something that they felt would work. Once they did they established a watch on the area to see if their presence raised any type of response, after twenty minutes nothing was seen or heard that gave them concern so they went ahead with their plan.

    Hurriedly dismounting from the back the four took up defensive positions each of them facing a different direction. The passenger slid out of the cab to get the garage door open. Once the truck was backed in, they all wanted to be able to get out of there quickly, the door was closed and the guards called inside. Watch was taken up from the inside using the two windows, it wasn’t ideal but it was the best they could do. The group came together to share a short prayer and a few hugs. Opening the side door to the garage Daryl cautiously peeked out then risked a longer look. Satisfied that he may not get shot the moment he stepped outside he took a deep breath and went out the door. He dashed across the short distance to the partially burned house and crouched down with his back to the wall watching the rear fence.

    James was the next one out of the garage followed in quick order by Miguel and Ira. The four men spread out to the proper spacing that Daryl had specifically talked to them about before moving away from the house heading west. The remaining pair, Linda and Randy quietly closed the door and started an anxious watch. Daryl had gone over with them several times what they were supposed to do. Each of them knew their jobs but now that they were alone in the garage neither of them nearly as confident as before the others left. The two traded looks before turning to again look out their respective windows, each of them more nervous than they had ever been in their lives.

    The men moved as quietly as they could. The feeling of being in danger was so close it felt like a tangible thing, that you could reach out with your hand just a little bit to touch it. Four sets of eyes scanned constantly as they moved, each of them trying to take in every detail of what might be vital. Looking for useful supplies, information in whatever form but mostly they were seeking to avoid any kind of threat. What they feared the most was any type of two-legged predator, especially if there was more than one of them. Rifle muzzles moved as if they were an extension of the eyes. Where the head looked the business end of the weapon tracked. So far they had not come across anything useful or in good enough shape to take back but there would be plenty to talk about once they did get back home. Which for all of them couldn’t be too soon.

    For his part James was shocked at what he was seeing. The town looked like those he had seen on different programs on the History channel about war. It had the same fallen down, grimy, burnt over look that many of the cities in Germany had at the end of World War Two. He couldn’t believe that this was the city that he had lived in for years. Stores he had visited for as long as he could remember, gone. Numerous other buildings burned out or otherwise empty. Tears stung at his eyes but he fought to clear his eyes. It was vitally important to stay focused; the others were counting on him. The sights and smells of the experience would haunt him for many years.

    James found that he was asking himself why he had volunteered for this patrol; this was not something he should have done. He was a farmer and he was scared right down to his soul. This was not the adventure he thought it would be, not at all. Intellectually he had known before leaving the safety of the farm that this scouting mission wasn’t a joke or something to be taken lightly but he honestly hadn’t let himself believe that it would be this bad. And now he was paying the emotional toll for it. He picked up the pace a little to keep up with the others. Wind stirred a large dust cloud up from across the street obscuring the view for a moment. Keep moving, keep moving.

    Prior to leaving for town each of the two households compiled a list of what supplies and equipment the patrol should look for. The lists were then compared and collated by category- food, medical equipment, maps and supplies such as fuel, usable hardware, ammunition, communications equipment were the top choices. It was felt that their best chance to find much of what they wanted would be to park at a spot that was near as many of the places that would be likely choice to find the items as possible. Common sense dictated that they would be hard pressed to find anything of value but it had been decided that it was worth a look anyways. Careful study of a local map and input from the phone book on the location of the businesses and stores that carried the items they wanted to find narrowed the search for them. A search area was selected and agreed on. As a group they had to constantly fight to keep the goals of this first patrol reasonable. The results of this search would dictate much about what, if any, further patrols would try to accomplish.

    Selecting who would go out on the patrol was a difficult matter. Suggestions for the size of the patrol ranged from two people all the way up to ten. Daryl, Ira and Petr felt that ten was entirely too many people, it would leave both farms vulnerable since there was only a total of eighteen adults, nineteen counting Linda. Taking half their number wouldn’t be too smart. The patrol had to have enough people to be able to effectively scout and to be able to leave someone behind to stay with the vehicle. Josh had put out the notion that driving around in town would attract all manner of attention to them, best to hide the vehicle, guard it while the rest go in on foot. The others agreed; this would be a foot patrol. The condition was that they try to maintain radio contact with those guarding the truck on a regular basis.

    The quartet was continuing on their way, progress was difficult at times due to the amount of debris. Cars, downed trees, remnants of burnt homes and such limited the direction of travel at times. A few times it had been necessary to change the direction of travel they wanted to go due to conditions. None of them saw anyone still living, a few cats and dogs had been observed none of them appeared too healthy. Could be that the survivors were scattered or more likely too afraid to let themselves be seen.

    They approached one of the stores that they intended to check out, a hardware store but a quick glance was all that was needed to tell them it was a waste of time. The store was a burned out shell with no roof. Daryl pulled a list from one of the pockets on his tactical vest. Hardware, the first item on the list had three stores listed with the addresses, next came grocery stores and so on. He scanned the list of addresses to figure out what the closest location was to them. There it was, the Quick Clinic, Allyson had recommended a check of at least one clinic and some of the medical centers if feasible. It might be possible to find both pain medications and antibiotics. These items were high priority due to their limited availability in the months prior to the collapse. Allyson had given them a list of specific medications to be on the lookout for as well as a wish list of instruments and small equipment.

    Returning the list to his pocket he looked over at James and using hand signals only indicated the new direction of travel. Daryl checked his watch and quickly reported to the two with the truck via his radio. James nodded quickly, understanding the need to head to the next location. He then turned and signaled the information to Ira. Once Miguel was passed the same information the four left their hiding spots heading for the clinic.

    The process was repeated several times as the men made their way through town. A few of the wanted items were located. A couple of good maps were discovered by happenstance at a service station. Backpacks worn by James and Ira were used to carry the goods. They had now been in town for over three hours, the nerves of every man was stretched taut. Every time they heard a noise they feared the worst. At one point they did see several men, all of them armed in some manner lingering outside a house. James was up front and just able to warn the others about what he saw. A quick decision was made to detour well around the house to try and avoid being seen.

    Picking their way through a jumble of metal and other building debris Ira slipped and knocked down a section of piping, the clatter was enormous. “Shit!” Ira was really pissed off now; he knew that someone had to have heard that. Daryl was urging the others to move. “Go, go!” They had to get away from that area immediately in case someone was nearby. The unspoken unanimous decision was to return to their transport and get the hell out of the ruined city.

    The four men were continuing to make their way back toward where they had hidden the truck when without warning several incoming shots snapped off the nearby concrete wall. Sharp chips of the material spalled off and cut flesh where it found it. Three rifles barked out return fire in the general direction of where they thought the fire was coming from. A total of ten rounds were let loose to try and hit the person or persons shooting at them. Whoever was shooting at them stopped for several moments as they ducked to avoid being hit but the bullets didn’t come close to striking anything vital. More shots rang out as the patrol again came under fire. They knew that sound of the fight would draw even more trouble their way; they had to get out of there, now. Time to go Daryl was angry and scared. This is not what he wanted at all. It was Kuwait City all over again…boom, craack, boom as more shots rang out. He unconsciously ducked down even further as he moved, past time to get the **** outta’ here. The two groups continued to trade fire back and forth as the patrol tried to work their way back toward where their ride was hidden.

    Without warning Miguel stepped out around from behind the pile of building debris he had been using for cover. As he stood upright he fired off three rounds as quick as he could operate the lever action on his rifle screaming curses in Spanish at the top of his lungs. James yelled at him to get down, but before he could, the long time field hand grunted then fell landing heavily on his back. The movement caught the eye of Daryl, James and Ira who were all close by.

    Each of the men was horrified to see the long shaft of an arrow sticking out of Miguel’s abdomen. Miguel clutched at the slick plastic shaft of the arrow but wasn’t able to pull it out. The injured man was crying and whimpering in pain. Ira and Daryl quickly fired off numerous rounds in the general direction of where they thought those chasing them might be. At least twenty-five rounds went in the general direction of their pursuers. The noise was incredible; no way could anyone miss hearing that. Pieces of brick, dust and other debris seemed to create a cloud as the two dozen plus rounds hit. Neither man was aiming; this was an attempt to intimidate their pursuers with brutal force.

    Satisfied for the moment that their hunters would be slowed the men scrambled across the loose debris to where the injured man was. James and Daryl looked to one another then at Miguel. Daryl knew that if they wanted to get away then carrying him would be the only way, Daryl quickly reloaded his rifle. If he tried to walk on his own, which Daryl doubted was possible; it would slow them all down too much. Leaving him behind never entered the equation. Daryl told James to grab the legs but he didn’t move. “Hey! Wake up, grab his ****in’ legs!” James snapped out of the mental fog he was in and responded to the tone of command. He hurriedly slung his rifle and changed position to be able to lift Miguel’s legs. Daryl did the same taking the upper limbs, the carry position was awkward but it worked.

    “Ira! Cover us!” Daryl nodded to James to tell him to start off. They hoisted their load then headed off. Ira reloaded as he watched the two other men head off with their charge. Harris, playing tail end Charlie had finished reloading his rifle, quickly keyed up his radio while looking around for a good spot to wait in. “Home base, home base, come in home base!” C’mon kid, pick up…he didn’t have to wait long for their pursuers to show themselves. Four men, all armed to some extent, rounded the corner of a building about a hundred feet or so away, just where Ira had hoped they would. Ira couldn’t tell if they were the same men from the occupied house they had seen earlier. Didn’t matter if it was them or not. In the garage Randy and Linda heard the frantic radio call using their radio call sign. A scramble for the radio sitting nearby on the truck bumper then, “This is home base, go ahead”

    The urgency of the call was not lost as the men scrambled over loose bricks carrying their precious cargo. Ira was kneeling down with the barrel of his rifle propped on top of an empty metal drum to better steady his aim. Ira was tired and breathing hard, both things that could easily affect his ability to shoot straight. The AK – 47 wasn’t known for its long distance accuracy but this wasn’t long distance at all. This was spitting distance and at this range the rifle designed nearly six decades earlier was deadly in the right hands. There, right there…


  5. #45

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Three part two

    Stroking the trigger he fired off three rounds at least one of which caught a pursuer, knocking him down. The remaining men immediately went to ground to avoid being shot, Ira fired off several more shots, spacing them out as he hurriedly backed away from where he had been BOOM, BOOM. Because he wasn’t wearing any kind of hearing protection the blast from the muzzle of his rifle seemed incredibly loud, it wasn’t any worse than the numerous other times he had fired the weapon but this was the first time he had been involved in personal combat and the experience was almost surreal. Empty shell casing clattered for a moment in the broken concrete pieces on the ground, the stench of the cordite from the fired rounds strong in the air. Ira wasn’t trying to hit anything, so long as those currently on the ground heard rounds coming anywhere close Ira hoped they would stay down buying Daryl and James more time. Gotta go! Ira fired again as he continued to move. He tried to remember how many rounds he had fired out of this magazine, need to reload just in case. His backpack shifting and slamming into his back which each step as he ran.

    The youngest members of the patrol hadn’t missed hearing the volume of the shooting taking place what was likely only a few blocks away. Chances were anyone and everyone in a large radius heard the sounds. Upon hearing the shots Linda and Randy had begun tossing what few things they had unpacked from the truck into the back, they could sort it out later. The varying amounts of rifle fire seemed to be getting closer. Randy answered the call on the radio, “This is home base, go”.

    Ira had by now nearly caught up with the two heavily laden men, keyed his radio and told the waiting teens, “We’re two blocks north of ya, get up here and get us, man down, man down, over!” Randy looked over at Linda, the pair were scared but knew that they had to go.

    “Got it! Headed out now.”

    Randy told Linda to drive but she told him no. He looked at her and asked why the hell not? She quickly explained that she didn’t know how to drive, it wasn’t true but she was too scared to be responsible for driving to rescue the others right now. “Oh ****in’ great! Get the damned door then.” Linda rushed to the front of the garage and yanked the locking bar aside freeing the security device. He hurried to the cab and jumped in. She moved the curtains and took a quick look outside. Seeing nothing amiss she began moving the garage door up so they could leave. Randy now had the truck running; he impatiently gunned the engine waiting for her.

    “Let’s go!” he screamed at her as she moved the older style garage door open. This one swung out to open instead of rolling up over head. Once she got one side open she ran over to the opposite door yanking on it to get it opened up. Randy had the truck rolling forward as the second door section moved. He narrowly avoided hit Linda but she never noticed. Slowing the truck only long enough for her to hop in the back he slammed his foot on the gas pedal as soon as he heard her shout, “Go!”

    The truck tore down the short gravel drive way, the rear end fishtailed a bit as he made the turn onto the street heading toward the rest of the patrol. Randy fought the steering wheel but quickly regained control. The young man was hunched tight over the wheel as he drove. Eyes darted around looking for anything that could hurt them. With the windows down as they were it was easy to hear the sound of multiple gunshots which were getting louder. In the back Linda was holding on as best she could with one hand, the other one clutched her rifle to keep it close. She had the terrible feeling that she might need it, soon. Some of the supplies and equipment in back slid around some as Randy drove. She hardly noticed as she hung on for dear life.

    Coming around a corner Daryl saw what he had been hoping for, a waist high masonry block wall which should provide them at least some ballistic protection while they waited for their extraction. Later it would occur to him that he thought about it in that term. Not their ride, not the truck, their extraction, his military training and terminology coming back to him. He told the others to get behind the wall and to set Miguel down. James didn’t answer as he lowered the injured man down as gently as he could which due to the fatigue and excitement of the moment wasn’t too gentle at all. All of them were breathing heavy. James un-slung his rifle and looked around while trying to work up enough saliva to spit. Despite the exertion of carrying Miguel his mouth was desert dry. His hands were shaking from the effort of carrying the injured man. James did his best calm down but it didn’t have much of an affect. He glanced down at Miguel but was silent as he saw the extent of the bleeding.

    Grabbing his radio microphone Daryl hollered into it, “Rover, Rover!” The call sign for the truck. For his part Randy missed the call completely but Linda caught part of it. She lifted her head up to better hear. Still nothing, sliding forward in the truck bed she stuck her head through the opening in the sliding panels of the rear window. “Radio!”

    Randy nearly killed her when he stomped on the brakes to bring the truck to a halt to grab at the radio that he had foolishly tossed on the seat next to him but was now nearly to the other door. The force of the stop twisted Linda at an awkward angle since she was still partially in the open rear window. She slammed into the wall of the truck bed with enough momentum that it knocked the air out of her lungs. For the few days her chest would be a mass of bruises and her breasts quite tender from the experience. Randy grabbed the radio to answer Daryl and the truck slowed to a near stop. She lay in the back gasping for air, recoiling from the force of the impact.

    Ira was watching intently for signs of their pursuers, his rifle propped atop the wall as was James’s so they could try to pick off anyone who was foolish enough to let themselves be seen. Daryl had his radio next to his ear to make sure he could hear the instant that the kids replied. “Where you at?” His eyes darting around to see if he could see them. He had already glanced at the nearby street signs just in case.
    “Near the corner of uhhh, shit, Laredo and 7 th, hurry the **** up!”

    Randy had spent much of the time waiting in the garage studying a local map so he knew they were one block south and east of the patrol. Stomping on the gas to the get big vehicle moving again which slid Linda and much of the equipment in the back toward the tail gate. Her rifle struck the tailgate with a harsh metallic clang. The teen was still struggling to get her breath back; she was hurting in a big way. The three healthy men of the patrol were glancing around anxiously, where was the truck, where were their pursuers…too many questions, too much going on. Focus, dammit, focus…rifle muzzles pointed in three different directions trying to cover as much area as possible. Heads were on a swivel, checking, checking…c’mon kid, come on.

    The big Chevy pickup was eating up the distance between the two groups at a rapid clip. For her part Linda didn’t notice because she was still curled up in the bed trying to regain her wind. The force of the blow had been painful. Randy never noticed as his eyes were glued ahead looking for the patrol. Run down houses flashed by on either side of the truck as it hurled up the street. Trash and abandoned cars littered the street forcing the youthful driver to slalom the truck around the obstacles.

    There! Randy saw them and cut the wheel over to bring the truck right next to where they were. The truck lurched to a stop in the brown grass of what had once been a yard after rolling up over the curb. Randy slapped the transmission into park as he yelled at the men, “Let’s go!” then jumped out from the driver’s seat to help. He left the truck running. The tailgate was unlatched and dropped without caution. Daryl then noticed Linda curled up in the bed.

    “What’s wrong, where are you hit?” The questions came out in a yell. Terrified that she too was wounded he began to climb in the back. Pissed off that the kids didn’t say anything about trouble he reached the girls side. Randy heard the question and looked into the back. What the…Daryl grabbed her by the arms to start checking her while Ira and James were trying to get Miguel up and into the truck. Ira yelled at Randy to help them. It took the youth a moment to realize what he has being told to do but once he did he hurried over and grabbed hold, lifting as he did. Linda was still gasping a bit but in short two and three word sentences explained she was all right, no wind, no wind was what she kept repeating which Daryl had a hard time deciphering but then he got it. He realized she would be alright.

    “Lift!” The command spurred energy reserves and the wounded man cleared the previously offending tailgate this time. His feet touched metal and the others half pushed, half tossed the rest of him in. The tailgate was slammed shut; Ira and James hopped in while Daryl ran forward to get into the passenger seat. Randy, now back in the cab, heard the tailgate slam and started the truck moving. Daryl had to run alongside the truck for about three steps as he leapt in the cab, “Go! Go!” he yanked the door shut and got the rifle muzzle pointed out the window. The rear wheels responded to the high engine output, grabbing the pavement with a screech sound as the rig moved quickly. Scattered shots could be heard passing close by the truck, their speed increased as Randy fed the engine more and more gas. They had to get some distance and they had to get it quickly. Ira and James were returning fire in the general direction they had left just to try to keep their assailants heads down.

    The truck bounced over a curb with a jolt then straightened out. Randy wasn’t worried about driving directly home, he just wanted to get the hell outta’ town. Speed was life and he was driving far too fast for conditions, he knew it, Daryl knew it but neither man said anything. Additional shots came close, even a rock someone had thrown flashed by without hitting the truck or any of its occupants. Buildings zipped by as they went. The breakneck speed Randy was driving at took them out of the city limits and into the area beyond fairly quickly.

    Once clear of town Randy slowed down some at Daryl’s urging. If they kept charging about they could blunder into an ambush. Besides, they needed to figure out where they were so they could get back home. In the back of the truck Ira tried again to find a pulse on Miguel and for the second time found nothing. He leaned over as best he could given his position, pried one eyelid open to check Miguel’s pupil reaction, the result was the same, nothing. Harris knew at this point it was too late, the man was gone. Nothing they could do, he gently closed the eye as he sat back up. James asked, “How is he?” Closing his own eyes for a second Ira said a quick prayer for the man and then opening his eyes looked over at the other man shaking his head in a slow, steady pace. It took James a moment to realize what the other man meant by the gesture.

    The terrible truth hit him all at once. James suddenly slid over to where Miguel’s body was and he too tried to find some sign of life but couldn’t. Ira watched the anguish fill the other man’s face. He turned his attention to what was going on outside the bed of the truck, gripping his weapon tighter grimly realizing that the ride home was going to be a long one.

  6. #46

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Four

    Chapter 24

    Gawd I hate funerals. Seems like that’s all we freakin’ do anymore. That thought sluiced through his mind as Daryl was standing silent along with the others to pay their respects to Miguel. The long time Holski farm hand had been laid to rest in a shady spot near one of the large trees behind the main house. Petr was speaking at the moment but Daryl would later realize to his embarrassment that he couldn’t remember any of what Petr had said. The realization shamed him badly so he kept it to himself but it burned his pride. Miguel deserved better, a whole lot better than that. As the leader of the patrol it had been his responsibility to make sure everyone got home and that hadn’t happened. Daryl was still working to come to some form of acceptance with that but so far no luck. Petr finished speaking, when he did the others filed by the open grave to toss in a handful of soil each. The last one to do it was Ernesto who was silently crying, he had talked Petr into hiring his cousin nearly eight years earlier. The two men had been good friends as well as relation since their childhood in Mexico. Petr had taken a chance on the younger of the two cousins but Ernesto had made sure that things went smoothly. Miguel had worked hard to earn his way and by the end of the first season had been asked to stay on full time. Petr Holski wasn’t the easiest man to work for but he recognized hard work and acknowledged it. Miguel had earned his respect and now he was gone.

    Once the funeral for Miguel was over the next order of business was to hold two meetings to share the results of the town patrol, one meeting at each farm. Neither Petr nor Jim felt it wise to have all the people gathered at either farm. So those that went on the patrol would go to both farms to tell their story. Telling the story twice wouldn’t make dealing with it easier but everyone needed to hear what happened and what had been seen. Prior to the funeral it had also been decided that Ira and Daryl would go to the housing development the following day to share the information with them as well. No harm in spreading the bad news. It was felt that it would be a show of good faith by giving them something without asking anything in return. Information was important; to get the Silver Springs people to work with them a level of trust had to build. One way to do that was sharing information especially since the farm groups weren’t asking for anything in return for the information.

    Petr suggested that sending too many people to the settlement could be unwise since it would take some away from the two farms. Jim didn’t necessarily agree but didn’t argue the point with his neighbor. Since all of those that had done the town patrol were already at the Holski’s for the funeral that group was the first to hear the full report. Most everyone had heard snippets of the sightings, reports and observations but now was the time for the complete report on what had occurred. Ira checked with the guard on duty to make sure the area was still secure. The report came back – clear, no problems. Harris nodded at Petr to acknowledge the report to the head of the household. Petr then turned to Daryl asking him to begin. The man was tired, he hadn’t gotten much sleep at all the night before and the action during the town patrol had left him emotionally sapped. Oh well, he reflected, life does go on, at least for some of us thinking of Miguel.

    He stood to make sure that everyone around him would be able to hear what was being said. Glancing down at his feet for a moment as he cleared his throat Daryl started his voice a bit shaky. “Town, what’s left of it is a mess. Whole areas are burned down, total loss kinda burned down. If you’ve ever seen those old sci-fi movies about end of the world or like that, that’s pretty much what it’s like.” His tone was tired, even a bit discouraged. It wasn’t hard for those listening to pick up on. It was an accurate reflection on the reality of the situation that they all were living in; many of the others were feeling that way as well. This was the first loss among those at the Holski farm and it was weighing heavy on them. Miguel had been a loyal, hard working member of the family for a number of years. His loss hadn’t fully hit them yet but it would.

    Having run through the opening highlight of the patrol Daryl then explained how it went from the beginning. He explained the route they took driving into town, touched on some of the sights they had seen. About how many people, what business or areas looked worth further investigation and more. That took nearly twenty minutes because Daryl was trying hard to be thorough. He went through the list that Linda had written as they drove. “Some of these places,’ waving the pad to indicate what he was talking about, ‘I think we should check out soon as we can. The hardware stores, gas stations and, uhhh the storage locker places for sure. Could be some good things in there.”

    Nods from a few in the group as they considered the suggestion, the lockers could be useful. People often stored the weirdest stuff in there. They might be able to find clothes, tools and who knows what else? James asked, “How soon should we go and do that, I mean if we are thinking about it means someone else is too or already has.” That took the group in another direction for a bit as they talked about it. A couple of different view points came up but the overall agreement was that was something should be done sooner rather than later and most definitely before winter so they could get heavier clothing. Daryl was forced to admit that he wasn’t crazy about the idea of being away from the farms any time soon but the possibilities of what they might find would likely be worth the risk and effort. Have to make sure I bring that up at the other meeting making a mental note. The conversation had returned a bit of his energy and enthusiasm.

    “Folks let get back to this please.” Daryl wanted to move things along. Getting back on track he glanced at the list of notes again to regain his place Daryl then explained, “We came into town over on the southwest side, just in case someone was watching and cuz it was closer to where a couple o’ the places we wanted to scope out were. We hid the truck in a garage, Randy and Linda’ He pointed at Randy to acknowledge the younger man, ‘stayed with the truck to guard it. The rest of us went out to check out the area.” The memory of the heart pounding dash through the residential area came back to him. He pushed it aside so he could concentrate on the task at hand.

    “We saw a large number of burned out buildings, probably from the fire we saw earlier this year.” A hand went up with a question. Daryl pointed at Katarina to let her know she could ask what she wanted. “Did you see many people?” Not quite ready for that question because he had intended to address it a bit further on he saw no reason not to answer it now. Squaring his shoulders a bit he launched into his answer, “We did in fact see several groups of people. I think and I want to emphasize the ‘I think’ part, that one of the groups we saw was the ones that followed us and attacked; the ones that killed Miguel.” To this point Ira had been quietly listening but now spoke up. “For what it’s worth I agree with that. We were close to a house that had a bunch of low life’s hanging out on the front porch and I tripped on some loose pipes and crap. When the stuff fell over it made a helluva racket. I think that is what they heard and came to check it out.” Daryl didn’t want to get too far ahead of telling the story but it seemed that they were there already so he picked up where his friend left off.

    “We tried to get out of there but before we could somebody starting shooting at us. Saying ‘screw this’ we were running and trading shots with whoever it was following us. Miguel got hit shortly after we stopped at some big piles of collapsed building bricks and shit. After that it got pretty hairy.” Ira, now standing took up the narrative. “Daryl and James grabbed Miguel and I stayed to give them some cover fire. I wanted to keep those bastards off our backs for a bit. I’m pretty sure I got at least one of them but doesn’t matter now.” He emphasized the comment by raising his hands in air to signify the ‘who cares’ gesture. “I think this was about when I hollered at the kids to bring the truck.” Randy didn’t object or even respond to the comment from his uncle about being referred to a kid. He got what the man meant as did the others. “They got to us pretty quick, thanks for that by the way. Meant to tell ya’ that earlier.” Daryl nodded his thanks as well. For his part Randy continued to sit there quiet, a bit unusual for the youth. He was normally outgoing and a bit loud, likely the affects of the funeral.

    “Uhh, anyways, they got to where we had managed to find a spot to hole up at. We loaded everyone up and drove away fast. Went too fast for awhile, could ‘ave gotten ambushed but we wanted gone in the worst way.” Ira sat back down having finished his portion.

    Listening to the others talk about the patrol James was confronted by the fact that he had not said much to anyone about the entire trip, least of all to his wife. His first exposure to combat and its aftermath had been a scarring event. The farmer knew that being a soldier wasn’t for him. He believed that he was willing to do what was needed to safeguard his family but seeing Miguel killed had been the most awful thing he had ever witnessed in his life. Listening to the others talk brought it all back, the fear, the cold sweat and even the smell, that ashy, burned out smell. It was like it was right there, in his nose right then. Pinching his nose with a wiping motion he tried to make it go away. Blinking hard he returned his attention to the conversation still ongoing, “…driving like hell wasn’t smart but it got us outta there!”

    Petr stood and as he did looked over the assembled group, his family, friends and new friends, quite the collection. All eyes were on him as he stood with a quiet dignity. “Thank you all for your words. It was not easy tale to tell but you did and we thank you.” Ira and Daryl both nodded in reply. Turning so he could be heard by everyone the farmer kept going with his oration. “Miguel was a good man, good worker. We grieve for him and for us. But keep going we must. Time is not our friend. We will keep going and live.” With that he sat down on the bench he was sharing with his wife who reached over to take one of his hands with hers. Daryl listened to the simple but heartfelt words of the Hungarian farmer who he knew had seen his own share of tragedy and loss. Petr was right, they had lost someone but they still had to keep going or what was the point? Give up, curl up in the corner and die? Naw, I don’t think so…With a flick of his head he motioned to Ira to let him know that it was time to go to the Hamilton farm to give them the report. Life continued on.

    * * *
    The days following the funeral were busy ones. The sweet corn crop needed to be picked soon and Petr was hesitant to use his large combine in order to save fuel which was a precious commodity. The older man wanted to keep as much of their on hand supply of diesel for the following spring planting when using a tractor would be essential. Petr had previously made an arrangement with Curtis; the two had agreed that in exchange for the manpower that the housing area would provide they would be given a portion of the overall harvest and that the residents would help with planting work the following spring.

    Those folks involved in the harvest were up and ready to go early. Security was in place, with so many out in open keeping everyone safe was a huge order. The process of stripping the corn husks was carried out in the field. The leafy husks were deliberately left on the ground so that it would decompose over the winter to enrich the soil for the following year’s crops. A very eclectic mixture of containers was used to hold the golden bounty as ear after ear of now dehusked corn was separated, wash tubs, plastic trash cans, buckets and more. Those ears that were untouched by disease or insects were put in one group while those that were blighted in some way were put in another. The ones deemed inedible for people would still serve a purpose including as feed for the chickens at the Hamilton farm. Curtis had asked Petr if the housing residents could have some of that part of the crop. He explained that they would be chopped up and spread out over the area that the following spring would be a massive garden area for the Silver Springs folks. Petr saw the logic and said that they could indeed have some of the bad ears. Curtis thanked the man for his kindness. They had also asked for and been given permission to keep some of the discarded husks for the same purpose.

    The housing area residents were trying hard to prove to the other households that they could be useful and equal partners. They wanted to be more self sufficient as well, better that than leeches. Curtis and his people worked tirelessly at gathering alongside all those from the Holski and Hamilton farms that could be spared from security duties. The communal nature of the harvesting helped to bring a small sense of bonding to the three groups, strangers working together toward a common goal, survival. Once the corn had been husked and separated the next step was to get as much of it canned as possible. Michelle and Anna Holski had already talked among themselves and agreed to provide a portion of their canning supplies to their neighbors. It had been quietly discussed among the two farm groups to do what they could to get the Silver Springs dwellers through the winter.

    Information regarding what the housing development residents had been doing to get by had been a little hard to come by but slowly much of it had been pieced together. In the short months since the collapse of society the Silver Springs folks had been forced to make some hard choices in order to survive.

    When society broke down the residents were caught off guard as were so many others around the nation. In very short order it became apparent that the situation wasn’t going to change and that realization rapidly created a need for neighbors to reach out and get better acquainted or in some cases make introductions. The residents for the most part had come together out of necessary, their leader Curtis had proposed and after long and often contentious discussion it was agreed that everyone would share what they had food wise to help each out. Security watches were arranged as well as foraging parties that checked nearby empty homes for needed goods. It wasn’t easy and meals were often light but at least they ate. Stray dogs were taken for food which provided protein as well as kept the feral population down somewhat. The collection of water had been an ongoing process since the municipal supply had run dry even before the electricity failed. There was a rural water district storage tower about a quarter mile down the road from Silver Springs and the residents had been hauling water on a regular basis from it to keep themselves going. Rainwater collection was a huge priority for them as well.

    The two farm women knew that come spring those in the development would need to do much more to earn their way but charity was the Christian thing to do and it had the added benefit of helping to secure their southern flank. The farms recognized that the subdivision residents were making serious efforts which was good but come spring their efforts would have to be even more intense since it was very possible there would be less to share. Charity is a fine thing but each group had to make their own way as much as possible.

    To get the golden bounty packaged a large makeshift canning kitchen was set up behind the Holski house. It wasn’t ideal but it got the job down. Several shifts of helpers readied the corn for canning. The ears were washed then most of them had the kernels cut from the cob. These were then transferred into waiting jars which had also been cleaned. The large amount of hot water needed for this was provided by a wood fired blaze set up beneath the grill racks from the Holski propane gas barbeque and another from one of the housing development residents. Two large pots of water were kept going over the constantly stoked coals. Getting the fire to the right temperature and keeping it there was no easy task but they managed best they could.

    Jars were filled with the corn and water mixture along with a little salt, sealed up and then placed in one of the two pressure cookers. This went on all day and into the night due to the volume of corn. That night all three groups enjoyed fresh corn on the cob for dinner. For the Silver Springs folks it was some of the first fresh food they had eaten in some time and it was eaten with gusto. The following morning the workers were right back at it continuing to can what corn they had containers for. When it was decided to stop the process due to lack of supplies Anna determined they had they canned almost three hundred quarts total. She had told those who were assisting in the canning to remind everyone to make sure and not damage the jars since they were reusable. Not all the jars used had been quart jars some were pints but they used what they had. That corn not canned or that hadn’t sealed properly was eaten; all three locations had corn for lunch and dinner for several days afterwards. Some of it was dried to make corn meal but no one was entirely sure how to do it so they experimented with it. The chickens at the Hamilton’s gobbled up the offered corn with abandon. The end result was that all of the groups had more food to help get them through the coming winter. No one was sure how much it would take but every bit helped.

    During the work a number of conversations were struck up between the various people working together and in that way more of the trust foundation was slowly begun. Many of the people involved had never done canning before so Anna served as combination guide and instructor. Curtis made sure that his people were doing as much as they could to contribute. He was among those who had helped harvest the corn as well as taking a shift working in the kitchen and pulling security. Several loads of husks were hauled back to the area that was going to be their garden. Once there it was chopped up and laboriously worked in the ground. Michelle donated a few packages of seeds to go with what they already had so carefully stored up and were preparing to grow in starter vessels like egg cartons so they would be stronger and further along before transplanting them into the garden.

    Petr was pleased with the effort that the group as a whole had put forth. He would run the tractor over the ground to work in the husks then park the fuel gobbling beast for the winter. His wife had asked him if he had planned on doing the same for the Silver Springs people but he had been undecided before this but watching them work felt it would be a good potential return on the used fuel. If they could raise a large garden the odds of them surviving would be much higher and that aided the overall security situation for both farms so yes he would do that. Seeing Curtis nearby he decided to walk over and let him know.

  7. #47
    Thanks Blackguard for taking the time to post your story for us. Great story.

  8. #48

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Five part one

    Chapter 25

    The days following the harvest went by quickly, true to his word Petr brought his tractor down to the development with the heavy disc implement attached. He had made several passes through the designated area tearing the ground open working the soil to allow for better plant growth. Curtis was grateful beyond words, the amount of manpower that it would have taken to do the same thing was staggering but now it was done. A small measure of hope sprang up in him that he was careful not to over think. Now if we can only catch a break with the weather and get some rain. He allowed himself to start to believe that they might, just might be able to make it after all. The struggle had been harsh so far but as a group the residents of the housing development had clung together and it was beginning to get just a bit easier.

    The sentry on duty along the front wall at the Silver Springs subdivision was thinking about dinner as she walked along the narrow but lengthy catwalk when she thought she noticed something moving on the road off to the west. It disturbed her previous mental track regarding dinner - did I really see..? Still some distance away but unable to determine whatever it was she reached for the binoculars hoping to get a better look at it. Focusing the powerful optic devices the sentry gasped as the image leapt out at her. What she saw scared her, Oh my God, what do I – alarm, sound the alarm! Nearly dropping the binoculars she turned and hollered, screamed really, out to the nearest person she saw. That started a chain of reaction of barely contained chaos which passed for an alert at the small community. Picture an anthill immediately after a kick from an eight year old and you get the idea. Within a very short time, Curtis Largent, the man elected by the others within the development to serve as their leader arrived at the wall somewhat out of breath.

    Hearing the alert he had run to the wall from his house which was near the far end of the subdivision in relation to the wall. He and several others were told by the sentry what she had seen, an emphatic finger point in the direction of the approaching group. Curtis was handed the binoculars without having to ask for them. Lifting them to his eyes he fiddled with the focus for a moment till he got it right still working to control his breathing. “Son of a mother****in’ bitch!”

    The sight of the approaching group really shook him, it was large, had to be over fifty, maybe even eighty people. They looked terrible, some appeared injured, and all of them looked dirty and malnourished. But the thing that concerned Curtis the most was that they were coming closer. No way they wouldn’t keep coming this way. There were no houses or buildings for that matter along that stretch of the road to interest the group, no other roads to interest them in taking a different path. Yeah, they would keep coming. He slowly lowered the binoculars which were taken up by another resident. Questions were being asked about what they were seeing. Many of the nearby people had heard Curtis’s strong epithet which elicited even more fear and concern.

    Several plans and ideas quickly ran through Curtis’s mind. He tore through the mental list before settling on one then he began giving orders to those around him. Full defensive alert, all children to the far end of the development. It wasn’t the greatest plan but it was what they had. Two of the others jumped down from the earthen ramp and began running toward the homes each yelling as they went. Reaction to the yelling was mixed since not everyone could hear what was being said. Confusion and fear were very evident in the faces of those Curtis could see. God help us… He headed down from the wall to check on how the response to his orders was going. The group continued to approach, the distance between them and the housing area being eaten up by steady pace of the walkers. Curtis was being fed reports of what was going on in the small subdivision by runners sent from the wall. Children were in the house farthest from the gate. Those that had firearms were in position. He could only wait and watch. Meanwhile the group continued to approach.

    Within a short time, all too short according to Curtis the group was at the wall. They were milling about on the road and in the ditches. His first impression of their condition he realized was one of underestimation. The people in the group were in a bad way, dirty and thin, there was almost feral air to them. Swallowing hard the middle age man who was now regretting his choice to accept the leadership role spoke up, “What do y’all want?” He tried to sound stern and confident but wasn’t sure that was how he came across. He didn’t have to wait long for an answer. The apparent leader of the group now standing a few feet forward of the mass spoke up in a clear and menacing voice. “Let me put it like this, we need something to eat, something to drink and shelter if possible but no matter what you will give us food and water. Looks like you have plenty enough.” A low but discernible growl from many of those gathered behind him left the nearest defenders unnerved and growing increasingly concerned. Nervous glances went back and forth among those at the wall. This was rapidly turning into a confrontation. Shit on a stick this is bad…

    Hearing the declaration the leader of the residents decided that things were about to get really ugly. Not sure if they could handle a group of the size facing them and certain that they couldn’t afford to feed them without significantly affecting their own well being Curtis knew that they needed assistance. Not taking the decision to signal for help lightly but concerned that it might already be too late he pulled out the flare pistol that was with him at all times. After the initial meetings with Jim and the other neighbors it had been decided that some type of signal would be needed in case of trouble. A search of the settlement resulted in the discovery of the flare pistol and four of the cartridges in the storage compartment of a fishing boat belonging to one of the residents. They didn’t test any of the cartridges since they only had the four. It wasn’t likely they would find any more of them any time soon either. It was on the list of goods that they wanted but for now those four signaling devices were it.

    The first flare cartridge didn’t work despite several frantic tries. Cursing out a long string of oaths and curses Curtis fumbled with the release button to open the pistol. Snapping the unit open finally he pulled out the faulty flare tossing it aside without a thought. He replaced the faulty one with another of the precious cartridges. Lifting the pistol to a vertical position after closing it he pulled hard on the trigger fervently hoping it would work. This time a streak of reddish white fire flashed upward in a rewarding display. The flare shot skyward visible even in the clear sky of late afternoon. Several in the large crowd on the road saw the flare go up and pointed it out to the others. The leader looked up as well; he knew that it had to be a signal of some kind. Okay then, that’s how they want to do it. Without warning he drew a pistol from beneath his jacket, pointed at one of the defenders visible at the top of the wall and opened fire. The man was hit and fell out of view from those on the road. Shock on the face of the defenders as they realized the entire situation had just changed. No one else fired for a moment but that changed in an instant was several more shots rang out from both sides as the fight was joined.

    At the Holski farm the O.P. watch stander, it was currently Dorothy, saw the flare and for a brief moment just watched it. Then at once she realized what the significance of the signal was. Grabbing at her radio she held it up near her mouth as she continued to watch the flare which was now falling back toward the ground. The sound of gunshots could be heard, first it was only a few but the volume of firing picked up immediately. A variety of calibers from the sounds of it which indicated a number of shooters were involved. That much shooting this close to them was a serious problem. Oh God.

    “Alert! Alert! Trouble at – subdivision, trouble at the subdivision. They shot off a flare!”

    Looking toward the house she saw several of the others outside and shouted down at them to get their attention. About that same time James yanked open the front door of the house from the inside and burst through yelling for the others. The small group was confused, getting shouted at from two sides. James began looking up and he saw the falling red-white streak. Pointing at it he kept shouting at the others. They too could hear the gunshots. At the Hamilton farm people were running to their alert positions after hearing Dorothy’s radio broadcast which was echoed by everyone with a radio. The sounds of the gunshots could be heard there as well just not as clearly due to the increased distance from the source. The sounds, despite being diminished were clear enough for everyone to know exactly what they were and what it meant.

    Things at the housing development were not going well. The initial exchange of gunfire caught several of the defenders leaving one dead and two more wounded, one of them seriously. The return fire was indiscriminate catching several of the crowd felling them. In the confusion of the moment trying to pick out who in the large crowd was armed and who wasn’t proved to be impossible. Some of the crowd rushed forward covering the distance to the wall. The defenders were unable to fire on them without exposing themselves to the shooters still on the road. Curtis realized immediately what was happening, he began yelling at his people to retreat. One major defensive weakness those living at the Silver Springs had to deal with was the lack of firearms. They only had eleven firearms for nearly sixty people.

    Already one of the gun owners had been shot. Two others were with the children so it left only eight or so guns to try and hold off the mob. Jesus, I hope that others come like they promised they would. Two of the other residents grabbed the wounded man and began to try to help him toward the houses. Curtis had never been so scared in all his life. He pointed his pistol toward the wall and kept it aimed in that general direction as he yelled at the others to hurry. Please let us make it…

    At both farms groups were assembling to head down the road. The sound of gunfire was confusing; at times it was intensifying then slacking then rising again. Josh, Linda, Michelle and Daryl were running toward Jim’s truck so they could get down the road to help. At the Holski farm a similar action was taking place. All of them feared it was taking too long. At the housing development the sentiment was much the same. Where was the goddamned help? Curtis was firing in the direction of the makeshift gate they had built trying to hold off the large group attempting to force their way in. People were falling but for each attacker that fell it seemed as if two more were there to take their place. He kept moving back as fast as he could. Suddenly the gate gave way under the force of the mob a mass of humanity poured through the opening. It wasn’t surprising at all given that the high wooden barriers were more decorative than practical.

    As the gate came partially open and the people began to push through those residents that had found cover behind the makeshift dirt berm they had built between the houses opened fire with everything they could. Fortunately for a few moments the crush of the mob outside the wall was bottle necked at the gate so the defensive fire was markedly increased in effectiveness. As bullets found their mark bodies fell which clogged up the opening but the numbers on the other side of the wall were enough to force the passage. Some of the bullets passed completely through one person and into another. The gate suddenly burst wide open and the mass of people flooded through. The Holski response group had jumped aboard the farm truck and was heading for the road to meet up with those coming from the Hamiltons. Those riding did a weapons check and sought to calm their nerves which were understandably tightly wound. Ira was telling them to make sure that safeties were off and to stay together no matter what. Those still at the Holski farm were anxiously checking the area as they hurriedly settled into their defensive positions. At the Hamilton farm the scene was much the same. The response group was now onboard one of the vehicles heading south toward the battle while the rest were at their proper defensive positions.

    The Holski squad exited their vehicle and hopped the gate to wait near the road. They weren’t waiting long as the pickup truck carrying the others arrived. Bodies hurriedly scrambled around to create space for the new passengers. The last person was barely in when the truck started moving again. The vehicle was bristling with armed passengers but they were all wondering if they would be in time to help. Time seemed to crawl as they hurled down the road toward the sounds of battle.

    Once at the northern edge of the housing area those from the two farms hurriedly piled out the truck that had come to a screeching halt and began running toward the makeshift barrier that surrounded the development. The plan, hastily formulated in the truck while they were barreling up the road was to get to the barricade and assess the situation from there. There was safety and firepower in numbers. The farm group could see the large crowd and that some of the houses were under attack from the mob. Daryl was quick to admit that ‘this is gonna’ suck’. He barely hesitated before shouting “Fire!” Eight rifles spoke as one, it was hard to miss the massed targets and few rounds did. Bodies were torn by the many bullets coming their way. The volume of fire was pronounced as the newcomers tried to turn the tide. The result of the opening volley was horrific; nearly a dozen members of the mob were killed outright. Bodies were dropping everywhere, front yards, the street, driveways, it was hard to do but they had to keep shooting.

    The group kept firing, the initial rate of fire had slowed as they were more careful to pick specific targets. One problem was that most of the mob wasn’t armed so both the farm groups had to shoot unarmed people but it was the only way to save those in the Silver Springs community since they didn’t know who was armed. The numbers were still on the side of the invaders despite the casualties they had already taken. Sporadic gunfire from some of the mob could be heard. A spout of dirt erupted near Ira as a near miss struck the dirt berm. He hurriedly ducked out of reflex then continued firing. Bodies were piling up in places as the firing continued on all sides. Some of the mob rushed back toward the gate and perceived safety of the road. They were mostly ignored by those firing. Screams and shouts could be heard. The sounds of the battle could be heard at both of the farms as well.

    Sensing a change in the tide of the battle Daryl yelled at the Hamilton group to come with him, as he rose up from the barricade he shouted at the Holski group to cover them. The tempo of firing picked up again as they tried to do just that. The man who had fired the first shot while out on the road moved out from behind his hiding spot to try and get a better shot at those who had recently arrived to help the residents. When he did the movement caught the eye of at least two of the Holski shooters. Several bullets were sent his way, two of them finding flesh. The one time dentist fell heavily as his wounds took hold. His pistol slipping from his fingers, food, just wanted some food was his last thought as his life left him.

    Josh paused before heading around the corner of the first house he had come to. Taking in a deep breath he tightened his grip on the rifle in his hands. Blowing out most of the air he launched himself off the wall and around the corner, the muzzle of the rifle leading the way. He could hear the sounds of frantic activity inside the house, screaming and shouting then a double blast as two rounds were fired. Sweat was freely running but he didn’t notice, all his focus was on the front sight of the rifle and what it was pointed at.

    Without warning several people burst out of the front door Josh spun and without pause opened fire. He caught the group still bunched up, unable to do much beyond carrying the goods ransacked from the home. Josh never hesitated, rounds tore into the group. A steady pace of fire as round after round left the weapon finding flesh, often in more than one person as the high velocity bullets went all the way through one person then into another. The booming retort of the weapon was lost to Josh, he never heard it. He watched as his rounds blew the three men and one woman apart. After ten rounds his finger stopped. The remains of the four people were a bloody mess on the front portico. Josh paid them no notice as he moved on. Inside, the battered home owner lay on the floor of the kitchen still groggy from the beating that the four had inflicted on him. He had heard the gunshots but not until after the attack did he find the results of the firing. Josh quickly reloaded and went in search of other targets.

    Jim found Curtis after a search of several houses; he had been involved in what appeared to be a serious brawl inside one of homes. Two attackers were lying nearby; one of them was very dead. He had a large kitchen knife buried in his chest and other was apparently knocked out. Jim pointed at the two men and those with him moved to check them out. Curtis was a mess; blood smeared his face from a large cut along the hairline above the forehead which was slowly spilling crimson fluid. Several bruises and nasty looking contusions could be seen as well. His clothes were dirty and his shirt was torn in several places. Jim told him to relax, he had made it, that help was there, take it easy. Curtis had no problem with continuing to lie there for a bit longer. Crap he hurt.

    It took nearly an hour to finish up the fight and round up those from the mob that had survived. They were searched very carefully for weapons and put to work policing up the bodies and were made to dig a large communal grave for the dead and deposit the bodies in it. The process took almost four hours, all of this was done under the watchful eye of several of the heavily armed farm group members. After that they were released but warned that if they ever returned they would be killed outright.

    * * *

    The days following the attack were busy ones for those living at Silver Springs. Those residents lost in the fighting were laid to rest in a solemn ceremony. A row of graves were dug in some of the open ground to the east of the houses just beyond where the row of burned out houses were. Five makeshift crosses were placed during the funeral. Following the service a meeting was held for all the residents. Several of the people from the two farms who had come down to pull security to allow all those in the subdivision to attend the funeral stayed to allow them to talk. Earlier in the day Daryl had asked for permission to speak to the group as a whole. Curtis never hesitated when he said yes to the request. He spoke for about fifteen minutes discussing the need for training and much more involved defenses, answered the few questions that were asked thanked them for their time then left to let the residents have their discussion. The main topic of the meeting was what to do next, it lasted for well over two hours with a decision reached to create more permanent defensive works and take up Daryl’s offer of training.


  9. #49

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Five part two

    The specific recommendations that Daryl made for additional defensive measures were also considered and put to a vote. Recent events made an impact so it was no surprise that it was nearly unanimous in favor of the new defensive works which would be a wall of logs that would connect to each house and replace the dirt berm. Allyson was also busy; she spent many hours tending to the wounded residents and those from the farms that had been hurt. Only four people were seriously wounded the gunshot victim from the wall had died from his wound, most of the other resident’s injuries ranged from a broken arm to a scattering of bruises, cuts and abrasions. About what you’d expect following a large scale bar brawl. Tending to the numerous wounds used up a modest amount of the medical supplies Allyson had. She wasn’t stingy with what she used but she wasn’t generous either using only what she absolutely needed. What supplies she had, while more than a small quantity was it, the total supply for both farms. The Silver Springs residents had very little in the way of medical supplies and what they did have was nearly used up in treating the injured, yet another item on the long list of supplies that would need replaced.

    The construction of the defensive works for the housing area was so extensive that it involved every single person at all three locations in some manner. In order to get the proper people where they needed to be it was necessary for both of the farms to rewrite their O.P. schedules and keep additional people outside for security duty because each homestead had several residents off site for extended periods during each of the days while the work was underway. O.P. shifts were extended to better accommodate the manpower drain. Since so many people were involved in the tree felling and trimming process security for them was a critical issue as well. Curtis asked that since his people would be handling the timber part if the others could pull security. Jim remarked that seemed fair. Having a secure southern flank was important to both farms so the fuel, time, manpower and resources used up was seen as an investment by the farm groups.

    The road hadn’t seen that much activity since before the social collapse with the regular traffic between the housing development and the woods to the north. Felling the trees needed for the defenses was an ongoing process. Curtis and Daryl guessed it would take a minimum of one hundred and seventy or so of the logs if they were able to consistently get at least fifteen feet of usable length out of each one. Once the logs were trimmed of their branches they were moved to the road by whatever means available, be it muscle or horsepower in the form of the tractor.

    Once at the road several of the logs were loaded on a sixteen foot double axle trailer and then taken the nearly three miles to their destination and then unloaded by hand. It was heavy, hot and dangerous but it was all they had. Given the distance involved and the amount of open space along the road the vehicle pulling the trailer had two heavily armed guards in back to protect the driver. The back and forth process of moving the logs went on and on for hours. It was slow going but necessary. The group had decided to take down as many trees as possible near the road thast fit their specifications. In addition to reducing the distance to the trailer by thinning out the woods near the road it would potentially improve security by creating more visibility from the Hamilton observation post.

    Chain saws, axes and hand saws were all used to get the trees down and ready to be transported. Once the tractor arrived at the settlement it pulled the logs as close to where they were to be placed as possible. No consideration to lawns or sidewalks was given. They had to get the material as close to its final position as they could. This was due in part to not having heavy lifting equipment so the logs had to be placed using only muscle. Four holes were laboriously dug using post-hole diggers, shovels and hands. Two logs were then sawed off at approximately an eight foot length. Dropped into the holes each of these vertical log sections would be used to hold the horizontal lengths in place. The lowest of the five logs that constituted the wall was rolled into place against the rear two upright logs and held there before the front two uprights were dropped into their holes. The four vertical logs were just wide enough to be able to get the other logs in place. The holes for the vertical logs were filled in with some of the instant concrete that Jim had donated. Water was added and the process continued.

    Getting the bottom length in place was the easy part, it was then necessary to lift the remaining four sections up high enough to drop them into the cradle formed by the four vertical logs. Each of the wall segments was about fifteen or so feet long. It took about ten people to lift each of the heavy log sections up so it could be dropped into place. Work was slow but progress was steady. Once completed the wall averaged about five feet high and in most places at least one foot thick. It was hot, tiring and dangerous work but they all kept at it for nearly three days straight. Numerous aching and sore back along with a few mashed fingers and hands were among the injuries.

    The worst injury was a deep cut when a chain saw was mishandled. Allyson was hurriedly notified that a seriously wounded woman was on the way in from up north. The woman had been working at the wooded area helping to move the cut logs and through a series of missteps and poor tool handling got cut when the man near her failed to pay attention. He finished up a cut through a log and then lifted the chainsaw without checking the area around him. The woman was walking by when the saw impacted her side. The wound was bleeding steadily while she was quickly moved to the truck and lifted into the back. A bandana of questionable cleanliness was applied to the wound to try and stem the bleeding as the truck hurled down the road to the subdivision.

    Allyson was waiting when the injured woman arrived. The woman, a thirty eight year old mother of one was writhing in pain. She was lifted out of the back of the truck and carried into one of the houses and laid on the dining table. Allyson had washed her hands as well as she could and had already donned vinyl exam gloves. “Calm down sweetie, calm down. I’m gonna get you all fixed up, promise.” With gentle but firm pressure pulled the woman’s hands away from the wound so she could get a better look at what she was dealing with. Carefully removing the bandana she dropped in on the empty glove wrapper at her feet. No sense getting blood all over the floor. She took a set of vital signs from the woman, pulse, blood pressure and respiration's. Heartbeat is too fast but that is the anxiety and fear. BP wasn’t bad but have to watch it.

    The wound was a large gash, it was bleeding steadily but not in large quantities and it needed to cleaned up so she could see the full extent of the damage. Using several sterile 4 x 4 gauze dressings Allyson cleaned up the wound and surrounding area. The woman was still scared which was understandable but had calmed down a little bit. Having a doctor work on her has alleviated some of the fear. “It’s okay hon, hang in there, this doesn’t look to be too bad. I’ll get ya fixed up.” Allyson was reasonably sure as she checked the area that it wasn’t a deep wound.

    Gonna be an ugly, ugly scar for sure she thought as she continued to work. It took about two hours to get to the point that Allyson was comfortable with the work and the patient’s vital signs which had improved further. The Harris woman was tired, really tired but was confident barring massive infection that the woman should recover. She bound up the wound as best she could since she did not have access to major medical equipment. Allyson told the woman, her name was Sheri, she would check back on her later that day and tomorrow. Sheri’s daughter who was sixteen listened carefully as Allyson explained what to look for and what to keep her mother from doing so she didn’t aggravate the wound. Once she was done Allyson returned to the Hamilton farm and went to bed.

    Once the walls were in place Curtis did a count and determined that over one hundred and eighty logs were used to create the defenses. The amount of manpower used had been incredible. Following the completion of the walls Daryl spent nearly three full days at the settlement working with them on defensive drills and weapons training just as he had with the other two groups. He found the residents very attentive, many of them were still nursing injuries from the recent attack so there was little need for a “what if something happens” pep talk to get their interest.

    One factor that those from outside the housing development were made aware of was the lack of firearms in spite of confiscating what weapons the attackers had. After hearing about the problem from Daryl Jim gave the problem some thought. A check of the safe in the basement confirmed Jim’s memory that they did have some weapons that they could spare, those weapons collected from the dead after the attack on the farm some months earlier. Moving the weapons upstairs so that they could be shown to the group Jim called for an impromptu meeting.

    He discussed the matter with those living at his house. “We have these,’ he motioned to the five firearms. ‘that we are not using and in all honesty I don’t see us using. What would y’all think about giving them to the folks down the road?” Discussion regarding the proposal went back and forth. The main point of conversation revolved around whether it was smart to arm a group that lived that close. Josh pointed out to the others “How that can be a real problem? I mean, those?”

    He gestured at the firearms. It was a bolt action rifle, two shotguns and two pistols. The disdain in his voice was pretty clear. “If giving those people these’ again gesturing toward the table holding the weapons, ‘gives us that much risk then we are in serious trouble, a helluva lot more trouble than we are now. No reason we can’t handle em’ if they got stupid.” Jim and Daryl shared a look across the table, where was this attitude coming from? Stupid? Neither man said anything but the issue wasn’t over.

    “How much ammunition goes with these?” That question made everyone pause for a bit which helped to lighten the mood in the room somewhat. Josh’s remarks had come across as arrogant and even a little pretentious to some. The tone of his comments had been unexpected to all those present. Asking for the inventory sheets which took a few minutes to find the totals it was determined what the on hand quantities were. The figures for the respective calibers were read aloud so that everyone could have some input. Sharing ammunition wasn’t a new proposition for the Hamilton group, they had previously given some of precious material to the Holski’s, mostly .22.

    “Uhh, let’s see, for the .243 we have about a hundred and eighty rounds or so. That’s the only thing in that caliber so no reason not to give them all of those.” For the shotguns we have a large amount of that in different loads so how much and of what?” That conversation lasted for nearly twenty minutes before an agreement was reached. What to do about the pistols was next; the .22 pistol which had been the one that wounded Michelle was a nine shot revolver. Ammunition in that caliber was something the group had in very large quantity so parting with a few hundred rounds for it was easy. The remaining pistol, another revolver, this one a .38 Special used the same cartridges as the revolvers Daryl had brought with him. While they didn’t have nearly as much ammunition for those as what was on hand for the .22’s it was decided that giving up a few boxes wouldn’t break them. The ammunition was collected and along with the weapons moved out to Jim’s truck for transport down the road.

    Jim drove down to the housing area making sure to honk the horn a couple of times as he approached. He slowed down as the truck became clearly visible from the northern O.P. that the residents had insisted on adding. It overlooked the open area where Jim and the others had first met up with Curtis and the residents. After the delay in seeing the men when Jim and the others had come to meet them several of the residents felt strongly that having an additional sentry post was necessary. Daryl had been quick to compliment the residents on the idea when it was brought up during the discussion regarding the construction of the defenses a few days earlier. The O.P. itself was a small but sturdy blockhouse built of log sections stacked double thick to protect the occupant. When Jim was certain that the sentry could see him clearly he stopped the truck completely and waved.

    The sentry waved him forward; Jim nodded and pulled the truck off the road being cautious to not drive too fast. No need to take the chance of spooking the guard who Jim was certain had a weapon pointed at him. Nosing the Chevy down in the ditch he goosed the gas a bit to give him enough momentum to clear the shallow gully. He pulled up near the wall but made sure he didn’t block the field of view of the guard in the O.P. Turning off the truck and climbing out he waved at the guard who returned the gesture before returning his attention to the surrounding area.

    Curtis had been told that Jim was at the rear O.P. so he excused himself from the conversation on gardening he was involved in and started toward the northern end of the development. Wonder what Jim had going for him to come by? Reckon I’ll find out soon enough. Within short order he and Jim were shaking hands over the top of the wooden wall. “I come bearing gifts my friend.” Curtis was interested in seeing what the other man was talking about so hurried over to the small gate that had been built into the wall next to the O.P. having been donated from one of the residents who had been planning on using for a dog run that never materialized. He unlocked it with the key handed to him by the sentry and passed through.

    For his part Jim was startled for a moment; Curtis was there and then he wasn’t. He then heard the lock and chain rattling on the gate. Jim moved around to the passenger side of the cab opening the door once there. Curtis moved over to side of the truck and was presented with a rifle. Not understanding that it was for them he didn’t take the weapon. Jim had been holding it out with one hand with fishing for one of the pistols that had fallen to the floor of the cab. When Curtis didn’t take the rifle he looked over at him, “Here, this is for you guys.”

    Happily accepting the rifle he carefully checked to make sure it was unloaded before handling it. Not surprisingly it was not only empty but the bolt had been already pulled to the rear to ensure it was safe. Curtis was thrilled, another firearm, especially a rifle would be a nice addition to the defenses, wonder who to issue it to – that thought was stopped when he realized that Jim was holding out not one but two handguns as well. Eager to take them he quickly but carefully laid the rifle down in the rear of the pickup. Jim had swung each empty cylinder out one at a time before handing the revolvers over to his counterpart. Curtis took them both and began inspecting them with keen interest. He quickly noted that one was a .22 and the other was a .38. Nice, three more guns this is great we can really, what the hell? Jim had retrieved the two shotguns from the interior and was holding them up with a big grin splitting his face. Now Curtis was grinning as well. Five more guns would really be a big boost to his people. That these folks would offer them up without, what would they want for them? They had to want something; you just didn’t give guns away. Jim had opened the action on each of the shotguns and handed them over one at a time after Curtis had placed the pistols alongside the rifle.

    He took the double barrel side by side shotgun with a great smile. Turning away from the settlement and any people he checked the weapon to ensure it was empty then closed the breach sliding the weapon up to his shoulder to get a better feel for it. Jim just watched as the other man did exactly what he would have done if their places were reversed. Hard to beat the feeling of a solid firearm sliding into place in your shoulder. Jim propped the butt of the other shotgun on the seat so he wouldn’t have to support it and continued to watch. Curtis pulled the shotgun off his shoulder and with a quick flick of the thumb opened the breech to make sure it was completely safe. Jim held the Bennelli shotgun out for Curtis.

    No way, Curtis couldn’t believe it. There was no way they were giving them that! It was beautiful. A semi-automatic twelve gauge would be a big addition. He immediately started trying to figure out a way that he could keep that one for himself. Oh man what a great day this was turning out to be. Without shame or hesitation he took the weapon from Jim and began to look it over. “Don’t drool on it!” Laughter from both men as they enjoyed the moment.

    Curtis got quiet all at once; Jim noticed the change and asked what was wrong. The other man struggled to find a way to express his thanks; these weapons could help keep his people safe. Add to that the realization that Jim and his people were displaying a very strong sense of trust in the housing residents. In the current times a gun was a big deal; to hand over five of them was something that just wasn’t done. It was almost more than the man could keep in. Jim recognized what was happening; he too was the leader of his group and knew full well how heavy that burden could be. For someone else to make that job a bit easier was an occasion worth some emotional expression.

    Respecting the man’s feelings Jim tried to lighten the mood a bit. “So does this mean you don’t want the ammo too?” Curtis laughed once at the silliness of the question and he was a bit better. The addition of these five weapons to the ones they had confiscated from the attackers gave a large boost to the overall defensive capabilities. There had been thirteen guns taken from those among those that had attacked them which more than doubled the number of firearms, now Jim comes along and hands over five more! Curtis was still feeling somewhat overwhelmed, this was a huge show of faith and friendship. These would help to ensure that his people stayed safer which as recent events has shown them was a huge concern. In his mind he was already trying to remember who was next on the list for firearms but couldn’t, the excitement of the moment overwhelming him. This was another step, a big one toward he and his people being able to prove themselves worthy neighbors.

  10. #50

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Six part one

    Chapter 26

    Time slowly rolled by as the inhabitants of the three areas continued on with life as best they could following the attack on the subdivision, patrols, training and much more kept everyone occupied. The after affects of the recent events were slowly fading and people were trying to move forward. There was still a great deal of work to accomplish, fall was almost two weeks old and after that winter would arrive, it would be the first winter since the social collapse so there was a great deal of uncertainty regarding what that would mean. There were numerous ongoing discussions at each of the three locations as well as among them regarding winter preparations, how severe the weather might get, and how it might impact food stores, education for the children and on and on.

    As part of those discussions and group survival as a whole Petr had sent word to the other two household heads asking them to come over to his house for a meeting. Once both men arrived he greeted them warmly and headed around to the back of the house so they could talk. He wasn’t trying to hide anything or be secretive in any way, Petr simply wanted to be outside while they talked. Moving out to where a long bench was seats were quickly taken with Petr electing to remain standing. Jim was curious as to what the purpose of the meeting was but he had seen no reason to refuse the request to come down to the Holski farm. For his part Curtis felt much the same, he was actually excited when a messenger from the neighbors had shown up at the housing area and let him know that Petr had requested that he come down that afternoon to talk. Curtis quickly told the runner, it was Dorothy; that he would in fact be there and thanked her for making the trip. His being asked to come down to meet with both of the other men was an indicator of the growing status of the Silver Springs people or so he hoped.

    So each of the two guests were curious as to what their older neighbor had to say. Petr didn’t make them wait long. He had been given this idea a great deal of thought the last few days and while he hadn’t discussed it with Jim felt strongly that it was a good idea and something they needed to do. “Are you well, feeling alright?” He asked both men, Jim and Curtis both answered that they were fine; Curtis’s head wound from the attack was nearly healed up, it still itched like the dickens at times. The small talk had a purpose which was what Petr was leading up to. “Good, that is good. How is the health of your folk?” Jim replied that everyone at the Hamilton farm was fine, nothing to be concerned about from a health stand point. When he finished speaking he turned to look at Curtis who had been framing his answer. “Well, we’ve still got a few people recovering from their injuries from the attack but they should be fine.” He was wondering why the health questions. Jim was also curious as to the line of questioning but chose to wait to see where it was going.

    Petr, who had been slightly pacing a bit as the men answered stopped and then looking at both men directly, “There is something we are not doing and we very much need to.” Jim and Curtis stayed silent but Curtis slid forward on the bench a little as if to intuit what was coming. “We have a doctor, a veterinarian but still a doctor. We have many people, almost one hundred so we, the three of us have responsibility to make sure they are well.” Continuing on without allowing the others to comments he explained that his idea was to have Allyson conduct medical examinations of everyone at all three settlements. The other leaders immediately saw the wisdom in what the older man was saying.

    He went on to explain, “We know we have much work to survive, to better live we need be as healthy as possible.” Jim always got a mental kick out of how Petr talked, his English syntax was always a little off but he had no trouble making himself understood. And what he was saying did make sense, if someone had a disease it could spread through a group and decimate it. But the only doctor they had as Petr had pointed out was a vet. How well could she handle this? Did they have a real choice? Petr let them stew on the thought for a few moments. Jim quickly saw the need for what was being proposed. Curtis had taken even less time to realize that the older man was right. Having recently survived a serious attack and dealing with the affects resulting injuries including his own Largent got the point as soon as Petr had uttered the thought. For his part Jim was on board but was already putting together a checklist of potential problems and solutions. First and clearly most important was to discuss the idea with Allyson and get her input since she was the doctor. Vet be damned, Petr was right this was something they needed to do and sooner rather than later. The three men began tossing around ideas and suggestions to better formalize the plan to take it to Allyson. After they finished the trio headed down the road to speak with her about the need.

    When she was approached about the idea Harris woman was almost speechless, were they kidding? It was a crazy idea; absolutely mad ass bonkers, she was a veterinarian for God’s sake! “Is this a joke?” Curtis looked at her then to Jim, this wasn’t going well. Anticipating her reluctance was one thing but dealing with was another ball of wax entirely. Petr spoke first, “No, this is no joke. We are needing your help, all of us.” Allyson was truly feeling the twist of anxiety and fear, this was an insane plan. Sure she had helped the soldier and those at Silver Springs when she had to but this was somehow different to her - to be the doctor for everyone, no way. She treated dogs, cats, cattle not people. The three men had agreed it was important to not make her feel pressured into taking on the role however the more the trio of leaders had talked the more apparent the need for what Petr had suggested was. They had to convince her using logic.

    Allowing her a few moments to regain some measure of mental footing before continuing the men waited quietly. Allyson was still trying to cope with the ramifications of the request. Be the primary physician for almost a hundred people, with limited supplies, very limited equipment no proper facilities and oh yeah she was a veterinarian! Jim said, “I know this isn’t an easy thing to come to grips with, I mean do you think we really wanted to ask, it is a big, big job and no small burden but this is how the world is now. Or at least the part of it that we’re all living in. We believe in you and what you can do. You’ve already help save several people.” She wasn’t sure she agreed with that assessment. Her reluctance wasn’t about ego, she was afraid; having the medical responsibility for all those people scared the spit out of her.

    Jim and the other two men talked with her for another ten minutes or so. Then they thanked her for her time and left her alone to consider the request. All three of them were hopeful that she would agree. They had no plans to try and force her to do it, if she refused then what were the choices? Force her and Ira to leave which would likely mean that Brian and Dorothy would go as well. It would fracture the organization that both farms and the subdivision had been trying to frame up. No, this had to be something that she would take on freely.

    After the three men had departed Allyson went to find some space to be alone and think. Way too many thoughts and feelings were swirling around in her head for her to be able to think coherently. She ended up out near the fence in the south east corner of the property. She could still see the house which was about a hundred and fifty yards away. The land slowly angled down from the house near the fence line as it flattened out some which formed the lowest elevation of the eight acres that the Hamilton’s owned.

    She went back and forth regarding the request to be the primary physician. Finally she did a mental Pro and Con list starting with the Con. First and most important she was a Vet not an M.D. that would be a big one to overcome. She had no facilities to examine, treat or God forbid, operate on someone. They had limited medical supplies and little more than basic medical equipment. The time needed to examine everyone and at some point train some help would not be a small allotment. Those were major concerns and she wasn’t sure that all of them could be handled or overcome. Taking on the positives for a bit she mused that despite being a Vet she was the closest thing to being a physician that the three groups had, while the amount of medical supplies wasn’t infinite there was actually more than a decent amount, she could help train some assistants and get Daryl to pitch in also since he had some medical training from the military and then a thought that took her a bit by surprise, she had in fact already been doing what the three men had been asking of her. No one was asking her to be a brain surgeon or act like she was from the Mayo Clinic for God’s sake…they just wanted her to keep doing what she had been doing but in a more official capacity.

    As she was leaning against the heavy corner post supporting that section of fence she was forced to ask herself, ‘Was that really all that bad?’ She was still nervous and suspected that wouldn’t change but if this truly was how the world was now and apparently it was, who was she to turn her back on those that needed her? She was a doctor and people needed her. Oh boy, this is getting serious, are you really sure? Not comfortable with an unconditional yes to the question Allyson was reasonably sure that she would have to step up as the others had asked. It was the right thing to do and what was she often telling her own son? You can do what is right or you can do what is easy… a weak smile as she thought to herself, so much for avoiding the double standard.

    She lingered near the fence for some time not consciously aware of the passage of the amount of time she was standing there. Ira went looking for his wife and was told she was out near the fence. He was aware of the request and wasn’t sure how Allyson would take it. Not sure if she wanted or needed some company he stood watching her. She was leaning against the fence post and seemed to be in deep thought. A shrug of the shoulders as the male half of the Harris household tried to figure out what to do, stay here or go to her? Screw it; he headed down toward where she was. If she wants more time alone she’ll tell me. Once there the two talked for some time, Ira was careful not to interject his own opinion on his wife. He thought it was a good idea but didn’t want her to feel pressured. Allyson used her husband as a sounding board, reviewing the pluses and minuses of the situation and finally said she wanted to sleep on it. For his part Ira hoped she would do it but agreed to wait to the morning.

    The next day she informed Jim and Petr of her decision to accept their request. Allyson was still nervous and made sure that she explained that to both men. Once she had spoken with both men she set about getting organized as she could before standing her shift on OP duty. Not having any copies of her usual paperwork with her Allyson had to improvise to create rudimentary patient sheets. This way she could track the health of all the residents. It wasn’t the greatest system in the world but it was far better than nothing at all. After completing her O.P. shift she found a pad of paper and went off by herself to work on the basics for the form. The afternoon was more than a bit cloudy so there might be some rain soon which made her want to stay inside. She went into the front room and sat down at the desk to begin working on the paperwork she would need to properly notate patient information.

    Letting her mind wander for a moment she tried to figure out what information would be truly necessary, what information was nice to have and…the bright woman absently talked to herself as she worked out some of the specifics. Notes began to flow, patient name – yes gotta have that, age, gender, what else? Oh, vital signs – yeah, uhhhm, kinda important. Medical history she debated on but decided that it would be good to have something whatever they wrote up would be about all the medical records the person had. She continued to work on the list. Notes were scribbled all over the page, front and back. Ideas were written into the margin, along the top and still the writing continued.

    Knowing it would take some time to get everyone checked out due to the number of people Allyson talked it over with some of the others regarding the best way to conduct the exams. The discussions lasted for nearly two hours as various ideas were suggested, examined and tweaked.

    What they settled on for now was to start with those at the Hamilton farm then take care of the Holski group before moving on to the Silver Springs residents. In several regards this was about being practical; the subdivision had more than double the total number of residents of both farms combined so it would take quite a bit of time to complete all their examinations. Starting with the Hamilton’s Allyson would also be able to better sort out her paperwork, procedures and such. This was going to be a work in progress for sure. Over the next few days she was heavily involved in the work and as time went by she became increasingly comfortable with her new role.

    * * *

    Linda was sitting outside; her back leaned up against the barn. She wanted to get out of the house for awhile so she could do some writing in her journal the weather was starting to get noticeably cooler so she wanted to spend as much time outside as she could before it was too cold to spend long periods out of doors. Although she had plenty to write about the pretty teen hadn’t had the mental energy to make herself sit down and write for awhile. She absently glanced at the side of the book in her lap and realized that it was nearly full. Fortunately for her she had bought several blank composition books toward the end of the school year earlier that year. This fortuitous purchase would allow her to have something to write in for at least a few months she thought but as busy as life had been the previous months she hadn’t written much, not as much as she wanted to. Linda was trying to correct that.

    Lifting her head to check the area and seeing nothing she returned to her written musing, ‘…so then he says that it how it was. Didn’t make much sense to me but hey what do I know? LOL. Had a pretty serious problem down at Silver Springs a few weeks ago. A big group of people attacked them trying to take their food and water. A bunch of us from here and another group from the Holski’s went to help them. It was dad, Josh, Daryl and me. And I was ****ing (!!!) scared, big time! I get now why Bobby was so upset about those bastards that attacked the house having to shoot some of them. I had to shoot some people and it sucked. I didn’t want to but’ She paused as she tried to collect her feelings.

    On one level Linda understood that she had to do what she and the others had done, shoot what turned out to be mostly unarmed people. It was the only way to save the people living at the housing development but for **** sakes shooting people who can’t shoot back? Goddamn this whole friggin’ mess! Linda didn’t fully comprehend that the incident would change her, change her in ways she couldn’t identify or understand yet. Bobby had undergone a similar but not identical process after the attack on the farm. Taking a life, even for the right reason can be a life changing event and for the two of them having to do it at their ages was even more difficult.


  11. #51

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Six part two

    Leaning her head back to rest it on the wall of the barn Linda stared sightlessly off into the distance. The world around her was lost as she traveled in her mind. The memories of this year and all that she, her family and the others had been forced to endure rolled through her mind’s eye like a bad movie she couldn’t turn off, change or make go away. The images of attack on the farm, Lorraine being killed, cleaning up the bodies of the attackers, building up the defenses, the death of the soldier, the town patrol and the loss of Miguel kept coming. More work on the farm, patrols, training, more patrols, the Silver Springs attack and having to kill people. Without realizing it tears had began to run down her cheeks as her emotions got away from her. Once the crying started there was no holding it back any further. Surrendering to her emotions was long overdue. The stress of the year had been taking a toll on her that she hadn’t even been aware of on a conscious level. Sobs racked her body as she cried even harder. The journal lay forgotten for the moment as the release of the pent up fear, anger and guilt poured out. Unable to stop the sobbing and tears Linda buried her face in her hands as the eye water rushed out. Her body was shaking with the outlet of the energy she sat crying for over an hour. What Linda didn’t know and would never find out is that Bobby had long crying bouts as well following the farm attack months earlier.

    Linda would realize later that she didn’t know how long she was crying for. It seemed like quite awhile but after a time she slowly felt a measure of control return and latched on to it for all she was worth. It scared the pretty teen to feel the way she was feeling, she hadn’t cried for at least several months, not like this, ever. Blinking her red and watery eyes several times she took in some deep breaths to try and calm herself. Feeling somewhat empty emotionally Linda was still sorting out what she was dealing with and finding far fewer answers than she wanted. A few minutes of effort brought the tears to a halt. She wiped at her eyes and cheeks to try and remove the water. Physically Linda felt tired; like she had done a whole days work. Her body sagged a bit as she sat working to compose herself.

    Remaining quiet and with little thought she leaned over far enough to retrieve her journal and pen which had fallen out of her lap at some point. Once she had it again and was ready she just stared at the open book absently working to reconnect with where she had been earlier. The thoughts were a bit hazy and a little disconcerting. Linda didn’t understand it herself but wanted to, at least a little, get back to writing. Closing her eyes and rolling her head back for a moment she refocused what creative energy that could be mustered up and then started in again. Scanning to see where she was when stopped a brief pause to find the previous thought. ‘now I know a little better about why Bobby was so hard to talk to for so long. It’s a pretty F’ed up thing but now I get it. Killing someone totally bites.’

    She continued writing for another forty minutes or so with little pause as she rambled on about how the weather was, what had been talked about at meals, the menu choices and on a more positive note about spending time with the toddler. ‘The baby is great to watch because she figures stuff out all the time. She constantly is looking around. Dad likes to play with her, especially Peek-a-boo. She loves that.’

    It was weird she commented to have a younger sibling when it had been only she and her brother for so long. Linda liked the little girl, she and the others took turns caring for the infant. That reminded her of something that had happened a few days earlier. She had been trying to feed Hope and the baby wasn’t cooperating at all. Linda was a little frustrated and more so when Hope spit out some of the mouthful she had in at the time. It hit Linda in the face to the raucous laughs of the others in the room. The teen had not been happy but eventually started laughing with the others.

    Having been able to move past the deeply negative Linda was able to delve back into the more negative for a bit but didn’t have to wade all the way down so was able to maintain her composure. She started in about the work they had helped the Silver Springs people with regarding the defenses. ‘The amount of work by that many people was kinda like kicking an ant hill or something. People were working at the housing area, down at the woods and even guarding the tractor moving the logs. I did that for two straight days. Was in the back of one of the trucks going back and forth, back and forth. I was sick and tired of being in that damned truck! LOL. ‘Bout the only time I got out was to pee!’ Without realizing it she smiled a bit at the small humor. She thought about that particular stretch of days.

    Telling herself, ‘I don’t want to do that again for like, ever!’ Sheesh, how many hours was she in the back of the truck a rifle in her hands pretty much the whole time. For fun she had tried to keep track of how many trips they could back and forth from the woods to the housing area but after twenty two trips the fun of counting was lost. Lunch was a quick bite handed to her as the truck drove by the farm on the way back to the woods, a peanut butter sandwich and a canteen of water. They didn’t have any problems that threatened the workers but it was way friggin’ boring when they were waiting for the logs to be hooked up to the chains on the tractor. Security on that end was pretty good because there were several members from the two farms walking around and they were well armed. About the only rest she got those days was when she at the wooded area and at night. She did have to stand more than one O.P. watch during those hectic days and she was really tired but so was everyone else so she didn’t complain, too much anyways.

    The construction of the walls was something to watch although she didn’t get to see much of it due to the back and forth nature of her assignment. She partnered with different people for several hours at a time. On the second day she did get to drive the truck for several trips toward the end of the day. Linda had no formal driver’s education training but her dad had been letting her drive his truck around the farm for some time so he no issues with her doing out on the road. Wasn’t like the Police were going to pull her over for no license! At least when she was driving she could listen to music, unfortunately for her all she had to listen to were Jim’s CD’s since hers were up in her room. Her musical tastes and those of her father differed somewhat. No way was she listening to Merle Haggard but Allison Krauss and her band Union Station she could handle. It made the drive a little easier to handle, not easy but easier.

    ‘Those people at Silver Springs were totally busting their asses. Every time I went back with more logs the walls were higher or they had started another one. I’ll bet those walls will work pretty good. Pretty thick too.’

    She wrote for another while as the mid day sun passed overhead. More about what the housing folks had done and how much she was sure that got to enjoy Daryl’s training. ‘It’s like he mellowed out a bit after the butt chewing that Ellen gave him earlier this summer. They didn’t get the full Daryl Effect like we did. Too bad – hahahahahaha.’ Linda had to stop several times to rest her hand from all the writing fatigue. She hadn’t written this much at one time ever and being out of practice with writing because they had been so busy working even the basic schooling that Michelle had tried to set up for her and Bobby had gotten pushed aside. There was simply too much to do and the kids had been smart enough not to bring it up. School work? No way did they want to do any of that. Her dad had mentioned it once or twice but it always seemed as if something was in the way, patrols or training or gardening or…

    Getting the blood flowing in her hand again she pressed on, ‘The garden did pretty decent according to mom. We lost some to the evil moles and gophers and mom swears up and down the rabbits got to some of the veggies but no one else thinks so. We were able to do a bunch of canning. It took us all week, just finished up yesterday. Put up a total of…’ She had to pause to think about the sum of what they had been able to store for long term. Oh yeah, ‘one hundred and seven quarts of all kinds of veggies which was pretty decent. Mom has already said that next year the garden will need to be at least twice as big as this year’s because we don’t know what’s going to be happening. Somebody asked her what if things were back to normal, she said she didn’t care. The garden was going to be big! Oh great, something to look forward to.’ She added in the doodle of an unhappy smiling face to accent her feelings on the subject.

    She paused and let her thoughts ramble; this was part of her process. There were always things she could remember to write about and others that she had to let float in. Oh yeah, “I’ve been helping Allyson with the medical stuff. Learning how to take vital signs and stuff but mostly being like her nurse kinda. I write down the information she tells me too. I think it’s cool !”

    She had accompanied Allyson several times down to Silver Springs to help out with putting together the basic examination results and do whatever she needed help with. Allyson had privately commented to Michelle that Linda seemed to have a knack for picking up the information and procedures; it might be worth the effort to get Linda as much medical training as the group could. Michelle told her friend that she would discuss with it her husband before any type of decision was reached and it would have to be something that Linda wanted to do. Allyson quickly agreed but was hopeful that the teen did want to.

    Looking over at her watch Linda realized it was past lunch and she had O.P. duty later that afternoon so she had better go get something to eat. Linda realized she wasn’t all that hungry but if she waited till after dinner she would be! Working to stand up she had to work through being a big stiff from sitting for so long in the same basic position. Oh God, getting old I guess she mused as she stood. Collecting the shotgun from where it had been leaning against the barn wall she headed for the house and something to eat.

  12. #52
    Thanks for more of your great story.

  13. #53

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Seven part one

    Chapter 27

    The movement was deliberate, the timing, perfect. The assault, long planned and carefully thought out came from an unexpected quarter catching the defender off guard. Surprise as a rule of war once again proved its worth. Without warning the guard was down and the prize in sight. The stunned man was unable to cope with the attack. Confusion and fear flooded through him. Frantic responses flooded his mind, what to do? He quickly tried to adjust, checked his options, the flanks were sealed off – no escape there, what to do but no solution presented itself.

    “Checkmate” The response was immediate and not at all unexpected. “What? How can that…no way, no, not again! Wait, this isn’t…now hang on.” His face was screwed into a mask of confusion as he tried to comprehend how it happened to him…again.

    Silent smiles filled the faces of the room’s occupants as the familiar scene was repeated. It was the fifth straight game that Josh had been beaten and he didn’t seem to be getting any better at either playing or understanding how it was that he was losing over and over. Bobby just sat there and wasn’t even grinning which made it all the harder for Josh to take. Not that he was a poor loser, he just couldn’t figure out how it was he kept losing. He knew he wasn’t the greatest chess player in the world but this was ridiculous. Five in a row? I must be better than this kid…well I think I’m better than this kid. The tally of the recent matches seemed to belie that thought entirely. He leaned back into the sofa and blew out a loud breath. God, losing sucks. Bobby started resetting the board for another game.

    The weak winter sun of late afternoon peeked in through the open curtains not adding much light to the room at all. The plastic sheeting they had stapled over the windows back in November to help insulate the house further reduced what light there was coming in. It was Christmas Day and the weather was a little atypical for this time of year, cold, dreary with the occasional light rain thrown in to really make life in these times a pain. The weather conditions made standing O.P. duty harder but security was important despite the circumstances. The improvements they had made in the elevated position earlier in the year had helped a great deal but it still got very cold in there at times. In recognition of the foul weather and its effects on people the shifts in the O.P. were cut down to three hours. That made it a bit more bearable, it was still cold and uncomfortable but you were cold and uncomfortable for less time. It also meant people had guard duty a bit more often but the shared experience of everyone being cold and miserable at some point had its communal benefits as well. The fact that no one escaped from not only this duty but laundry and meal preparation merely reinforced the understanding that they were all in this together.

    The smells wafting in from the kitchen were enticing. Earlier in the week Michelle had decided that in light of the coming holiday it was finally time to use several prized food items. Specifically the two large hams that had been bought earlier in the year and carefully hoarded until now. One of them was already finished baking, it was still covered in aluminum foil resting on the counter while the second cooked; their size meant only one would fit in the oven at a time. She knew it would take both the honey basted hams to provide everyone at least two good size portions apiece. One common comment raised during the year was that the meals while healthy and as diverse as possible often left the diner a bit unsatisfied as to the quantity, she understood the point and even agreed with it. With as many people eating as there was it was difficult to prepare enough food to ensure that everyone was completely full and there was the amount of what they had on hand to consider as well. If they all ate as much as it took to fill them up it would cut into what they had stored.

    Michelle was determined to ensure that this meal, Christmas dinner, would not be one of those kinds of meals. Owing to the fact that it was the first Christmas since everything had gone haywire a great deal of thought and planning had gone into making sure at this meal was going to be both special and filling. Ham, home canned green beans, fresh bread, mashed potatoes and gravy with some pie for dessert to complete the menu. A proper meal if you will. She continued to work away in the kitchen with a quick wipe across the brow with the back of her hand to remove some of the gathered sweat did little to slow her down. Without saying it out loud Michelle really did want the meal to be perfect, okay, as perfect as was possible.

    The hardships the group had endured that year were many and some of them, the loss of Lorraine, the Holski farmhand and the soldier had been tough to bear. Michelle really, really wanted to make sure that the traditional holiday meal was as pleasant and as “normal” as possible. To be able to have everyone just enjoy the food, the people around them and to be able to forget even for a moment the troubled times then the effort she was putting in would be worth it. She had been offered help all day and took it as needed then shoo’ed off the workers as the need for them waned. Having planned this dinner for some time she had gotten with Daryl on the O. P. schedule and set it up with him for her to have that entire day off by working an extras shift earlier in the week. Michelle knew that it would take the whole day to get everything done and that she would need as much time as possible. She didn’t mind the work, it gave her a sense of normalcy and routine that had become lost in the work of adjusting to their new lives.

    The Richland’s had moved out of the trailer and into the house early on in the season. It was simply too chilly to try and sleep in the camper without being able to run the propane heater which no one wanted to do in order to preserve the precious fuel. Josh had given up his room upstairs stating that he would sleep in the basement. The Richland’s tried to protest but Josh wouldn’t hear of it. He was single, they were a couple and so should have some privacy. If someone should be a bit put out better that it was him. Daryl and Ellen thanked him several times for his consideration.

    Several of the men had moved the older sofa with its fold out bed from the front room downstairs to the basement. To make the hide-a-bed more comfortable they had brought in the mattress from the bed in the trailer and laid it atop the thin one of the sofa. It wasn’t ideal but it sure beat trying to sleep on just the skinny sofa mattress. Since the O.P. was directly over the front room trying to put someone in there to sleep wouldn’t work too well. Josh had taken over one of the cots that had been used by Ira and his family. The sofa bed had been given over to Ira and Allyson, their son used one of the other cots. The situation wasn’t great but it was a great deal better than a sizable amount of the nations remaining population had and they knew it. No one publicly complained so that was something. Privately was another story but what complaints that were raised that way were kept mostly quiet.

    Thanks to the use of the wood stove in the basement much of the ground floor of the house was at a comfortable temperature. At night it was necessary to sleep under an extra blanket or two to stay warm enough in the upstairs bedrooms. Those sleeping the basement found it almost too warm for anything more than a single heavy blanket. This winter was a bit colder than the last few or so it seemed to everyone. But no longer having heat at the turn of a thermostat did tend to alter ones opinion of things. One way of adjusting was to wear more clothing, the layers providing greater warmth.

    Bobby started to ask Josh if he wanted to play again but he weakly begged off, “I’m, uhh, gonna go help your mom with dinner.” With that he hurriedly stood up from the couch and headed off to the kitchen where he hoped he would be needed in order to escape the living room and having to face Bobby. Man, that kid is good. Silent smiles followed Josh from the room at the terribly transparent reason for not accepting another game. These same smiles faded quickly as Bobby began looking around the room for someone else to play. No one wanted to be the next one whipped on. Attention was quickly and noticeably returned to books or card games. Bobby went without an opponent for the time being.

    When it was time for the meal everyone except for Ira who was currently on O.P. duty was gathered in the kitchen. Michelle had asked Allyson to put together a plate for him first; she wanted to make sure the O.P. watch stander got a plate of hot food. Allyson thanked her for her kindness and unashamedly put together a large, almost heaping plate for her husband then took it to him. Ira was surprised at the amount of food on the plate and nearly said something about others having to do without. His wife saw the look then informed him of the size of the meal that had been prepared that the rest of them were about to share and not to worry about it. Ira was excited; this was a meal he would really enjoy. A quick kiss of thanks and his wife headed back into the house and down the stairs. He started eating right away to enjoy the food while it was still hot, careful not to be distracted from his duty glancing out through the slots often. Damn, this shit is good he thought as he enjoyed another large mouthful.

    To actually be able to sit and eat dinner folks would spread out to both the kitchen and living room but for the moment everyone was present in the kitchen after Allyson returned. Jim looked around at the crowded room, so many changes, so much to deal with this year, oh well; the world was a different place now. At least at this moment they were all right and for this moment, that was just fine with him.

    “Friends, before we begin I’d like to say that despite the trials we have endured this year, the loss of some of those close to us,’ he glanced at Josh who was bravely holding his expression tight, ‘as well as adding some new friends.” Allyson smiled and with one arm hugged her son closer to her as they stood. Jim continued, “We don’t know what the new year will bring but we’ll face it together and with open eyes. Let us pray please, Lord we thank you for the bounty that thou has provided for us, we thank you for our family, our friends, new and old, we pray oh Lord that these days in which we find ourselves end soon and that the pain and hardship many are enduring ends. This we ask on this special day, the anniversary of your loving son’s birth. We ask a blessing on those here, the Holski’s and for all those in need of your blessing. In thy name we pray, ah-men” A chorus of amen’s followed from around the room.

    Allyson looked around and in a low, somewhat embarrassed tone asked if she could say something before they ate. Michelle was quick to tell her she could say whatever she liked. Allyson thanked her then said, “I‘d like to share something, a tradition we did at our house every year and I was hoping to continue it this year.” She explained that what they did was each of them told the others one thing that they were grateful for. Jim remarked that he thought that was a terrific idea asking if Allyson would start off. She was a bit surprised but quickly recovered.

    She looked around the room then told the others that the thing that she was most grateful for was that her family was together and healthy. Not an unreasonable thing to be grateful for at all was what several of those gathered in the room thought to themselves. Gabriel went next; he told the others that he was happy to be warm and to have new friends. Each person in turn voiced something that they were grateful for. Much of it was the same, gratitude for health and friends but all of the sentiments expressed were genuine. Once the last person was done Michelle announced that it was time to eat. Her proclamation was happily received and the kitchen was a bit chaotic as folks tried to get themselves sorted out. It had already been decided that the best way to serve that many people was buffet style. A line of pans and serving bowls was quickly set up along with a large platter of sliced ham that Jim was refilling as fast as he could carve. Once the serving arrangements were worked out plates were filled and seats secured. The smells of the food and the clatter of cutlery filled the air. A portable CD player was turned on adding Christmas carols to the atmosphere.

    The mood was relaxed; music and laughter was heard in both rooms as people chatted while they ate. Michelle was tired but quite thrilled, to hear people talking appreciatively about the food was gratifying but it was the laughter she was hearing that was the best reward. That in spite of the times and all they had endured that at least for now they could laugh was a major milestone. Jim caught her eye and mouthed, “Love you” to her. Yes, today was a good day.

    * * *

    Jim bent down slightly to peer out through the firing slot built into the railroad tie barrier again checking the area around the front of the house. Seeing nothing to concern him he leaned back to return to his chair. A quick glance at his watch revealed the time, 4:38, a little more than half way through his shift. Months earlier when the weather turned cold those at the farm had elected to shorten the duty shift to three hours. It meant that everyone had to pull duty a little more often but it reduced the amount of time each person had to spend in the O.P. making the duty a little easier to bear. It also helped to pass the time, it was already February and it was cold, dreary and a little boring. He subconsciously tugged his coat a little tighter around his throat.

    Satisfied for the moment that the house was safe Jim returned to his mental list of chores and projects that would be addressed in the coming days with winter now winding down. He had been adding and deleting to his list for the last day or so. It was close to being finished and that was the goal he had set for himself when coming on shift. Get the list done so he could get it written down, review it with everyone, pass out assignments and begin the work. He allowed his mind to drift back to some of what had been accomplished during the winter. His eyes caught sight of the new entrance to the observation post. A hole had been cut in the side of the house to allow access to the fortified position without having to climb the ladder which had served as the primary access for some time. The hole was right at the top of the stairs so it wasn’t the ideal location but it worked. Two blankets were stapled over the opening, one on each side to cut down on light and wind flow. It did allow for rapid, secure access to the O.P. and that is what mattered. Getting Michelle to approve of knocking a hole in the side of the house hadn’t been easy but it was proving worth it.

    Patrols remained a constant part of life for both of the farm households. By exploring the surrounding vicinity it was possible to better understand what was going on around them. The areas that were being investigated expanded on a nearly daily basis. Information was collected and updated as often as possible. It could be important to know what happened in an area three days previous. Every time a patrol went out, foot or vehicle they carried a list of goods and supplies to be on watch for. The wants and needs were constantly evolving but several items or specifically groups of related items stayed fixed on the list. In particular what they were trying to locate was food, any type of power generating and communications equipment.

    The overwhelming majority of patrols were done on foot as they worked to conserve their precious gasoline supply as much as possible. Those patrols done using one of the vehicles; it was always one of the pickup trucks were for specific purpose such as the search of the various storage locker locations the group had done. Using the truck gave the patrol members the greatest amount of tactical flexibility matched with cargo capacity. Traveling by vehicle wasn’t the easiest thing at times due to the large number of abandoned cars that littered some of the roads. Closer to the city it was worse which made sense, the highway was avoided because it was a nightmare of burned cars, skeletons and was still being used by traveling packs of people. Some of these were refugees but others weren’t.

    Occasionally other people were seen and depending upon the tactical situation talked to. If the number of those observed was equal to or less than the size of the patrol and the terrain favored the patrol contact was initiated. The main reason for this was to try and gather information, what news they could get from the areas those folks were in as well as see there were any reports of trouble. If the numbers were larger than the patrol then whatever steps they could take to avoid being seen were taken. It didn’t always work out that way, twice when larger groups noticed them the patrol had to run to shake off those pursuing them. One of those times it was necessary to conduct a hasty ambush on those in the front of the group chasing them after being fired on. Ellen, who was the patrol leader that time, told the others that she felt that they killed at least two of the pursuers before the others stopped chasing them. Fortunately none of their own group suffered any injuries but it did raise concerns. They elected to avoid that area for at least a few days. Their only other option was to return to the area in force and seek out those that had attacked them. This created a number of problems any one of which could prove costly. The area could be well patrolled by the attackers, the group from the farm was not familiar with the area and they didn’t have a clear identification on who the attackers were so had Daryl wisely suggested they leave well enough alone.

    After that incident it was decided to increase the amount of ammunition that each patrol member carried and to do the same when one of the trucks was used for a patrol. Normally the motorized patrols carried extra ammunition as well as other supplies such as food and water already but given the situation it was felt that having more on hand could only be a benefit. The number of violent incidents that they had been through since the social collapse was plenty of incentive.

    Over the course of the winter Daryl had worked with the groups at the Holski farm and the Silver Springs housing area quite a bit providing instruction in patrolling techniques. For the Holski residents the training was more of a review and to fine tune their skills. Since many of the patrols undertaken were a joint effort between the two farms both groups had numerous opportunities to put into practical use the training they had undergone. For the housing area residents virtually all of the training Daryl provided was new to them. Along with input from Curtis and a few others at the housing area Daryl put together a fairly comprehensive training plan and spent at least ten hours a week, every week for almost three months with the residents drilling them on a wide variety of tactics. The training included alert response, basics of marksmanship, the fundamentals of emergency medical care which was done in conjunction with Allyson, and patrol techniques.


  14. #54

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Seven part two

    Working with the Silver Springs residents had been difficult for a variety of reasons, the number of residents needing trained, a lack of equipment and firearms as well as the difficult tactical situation due to the layout of the subdivision even with all the defensive upgrades that had been made. From Daryl’s perspective providing the training was an outlet of sorts, he was in a comfortable element, training. It got him out of the house but several times during the winter that hadn’t been the best place to be due to the weather. Still the work had to be done, cold and/or nasty weather aside since there were no guarantees that trouble would only come during nice weather. Some of the residents hadn’t been the most enthusiastic students he’d ever had especially now that time had passed since the attack but they did work at learning and that was something.

    One of the major patrol / scavenging efforts conducted at the beginning of the winter season had been at several of the area storage locker facilities. The first two storage businesses they had gone to were checked out by those from the two farms exclusively. Both locations had been partially ransacked already but a decent number of the lockers had not been broken into. To access the still unopened lockers the cutting torch that Jim had in the barn was brought along to burn through the locks. It wasn’t the easiest way to do it but bolt cutters were not sufficient in many cases to cut through the high strength steel locks. Since they knew it would take quite some time to thoroughly search the lockers they had increased the size of the patrol accordingly. Instead of the usual number of patrol members, four; these expeditions were of six and seven people respectively. The group was able to open up nearly fifty lockers between the two trips. It took manpower to be able to go through all the boxes, tubs and bags they found. The guards were rotated on a fairly regular basis so that those going through the locker contents stayed fresh which sped up the search process. The level of anxiety during the hours of searching wore on those involved but it had to be done.

    Much of what they found was useless such as the large collection of porcelain dolls found in one of the units, a battered Fat Albert lunchbox, loads of furniture and even three large boxes of baseball cards but other items proved to be quite the opposite. The searchers found large amounts of clothing, numerous pairs of shoes, and a small amount of food. The clothing that would fit any of the group members was bagged up and tossed into the trucks, same for the shoes. Having replacement footwear for the group members was a high priority. Two decent heavy jackets were found and added to the collection of goods going back to the farm. A major score was when a stock of motor oil and other automotive fluids was located; the plastic containers were stacked on a shelving unit toward the back of one of the ten by ten foot lockers. Jim grinned when he saw that, a cardboard box was quickly dumped out to hold the precious containers of fluid. The ability to add to their overall supply of that type of material was priceless. Other finds included some hand tools, several tires which matched up size with one of the cars back at the farm so they were added to the haul and a selection of fishing poles and tackle. Several of the lockers contained assorted camping equipment; sleeping bags, a decent camp stove and a large six person tent were brought back to the farm and stored in the barn after being cleaned. This added to the stock of existing gear giving the group more options including for barter if necessary.

    After relating to Curtis the success of their finds the Silver Springs headman asked if it would be possible to work out an arrangement for a large group of his people to go to the lockers as well. Jim thought about it and told him that he was sure something could be arranged but other than providing one pickup truck and driver it would to be handled by all Silver Springs residents. Jim and Petr were still of the opinion that the numerous Silver Springs residents could be a big plus they still had a long way to go to prove that they could be equal partners to those at the farms.

    Curtis happily agreed and started making arrangements. The first expedition was planned and carried out two days later. Curtis went with the first group with Josh as the driver of the pickup. Two other vehicles, another pickup truck and a sedan were taken as well with at least three of the Silver Springs residents in each of them for security and manpower. The residents had been carefully hoarding what gasoline they had on hand when things went bad. It was felt that there would come a time when it would necessary to drive and at last that time had arrived.

    Once at the storage facility a security perimeter was quickly established with Josh placing the guards. He had been on both of the previous scavenging excursions so Curtis asked him to oversee that arrangement. Josh had been surprised at first, since these were not his group but he shook it off and did what was needed. The work of exploring the locker contents wasn’t fun or glamorous but it needed doing. For many of the residents this was the first time they had been away from the subdivision since the trouble had began.

    At first the searchers wanted to keep just about everything they came across mostly out of excitement. Curtis had to step in several times and firmly tell them no. They had a limited amount of cargo capacity and it would be better served hauling back material that they could actually use. Eventually they managed to scavenge through a large number of the lockers including those that the farm group had checked. Since the locks were off no harm in double checking the contents. Clothing was most of what was brought back. Since the housing development had so many residents it was felt that paying attention to the size wasn’t worth the time. Whatever was found was bound to fit someone so if the clothing appeared to be in anything resembling wearable condition it was tossed in the Keep pile.

    Both pickup trucks and the auto were fairly brimming with bags and other containers by the time the group elected to return home. The mood among the searchers was one of accomplishment and pride. They had located a large amount of goods that it was hoped would improve things somewhat at home. In addition to the clothes some of the other items were books, a few tools and some household items such as blankets. With the loss of power reading books had become a way of passing the time. Over the previous months books often made their way around to numerous households. Having some new books to read was a large mental lift, just getting out was a boost for many of those who had made the trip. The previous months had been difficult, hunger, sacrifice and almost constant danger from outsiders. Something, anything to improve their standard of living was a welcome addition.

    Another check of the surrounding area revealed no problems so Jim returned to his mental list once more. His procedure for list was relatively simple; as he added an item to the list Jim would try to come up with at least two ways to address the concern. Not wanting to bring a long list of necessary chores to the group empty handed he worked hard at trying to answer as many of the concerns as he could. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to answer all the concerns but he was trying.

    Despite the gains of the winter Jim knew that there was going to be a great deal to do this spring. With the social collapse being almost a year along now the coming warm weather would bring a series of challenges that had to be met if they were to survive another winter. A great deal more food would need to be planted once the garden ground was readied to replace what was eaten getting through to this point was one of the largest priorities. Another one was more patrols covering a larger area than they had up to this point. Several patrols had to be cancelled during the winter due to weather conditions, it had been too cold. They simply didn’t have heavy enough clothing to be exposed to those conditions for prolonged periods. It wasn’t worth risking the lives of four people over. But finding a way to address that problem was on the list as well.

    Time passed slowly as Jim’s duty shift ebbed till his relief slid through the opening from the house which almost startled him. His focus was outward. Daryl lightly punched in his friend in shoulder as Jim filled him on the details of his shift, no sightings, and no problems. Report over. The new sentry looked out through all the firing slots for himself before taking a seat. Daryl asked, “Get the list done?” He and Jim had discussed it the night before.

    The elder Hamilton told him that yes; he had in fact finished the list and thank you very much for asking. Both men laughed at the exchange. “I’m going to go downstairs right now, get it all written out so we can take a look. If you want I can bring it back up so you can see it.” Daryl said that would be fine, Jim knew where to find him.

    Both men laughed at the weak humor, as a parting shot before heading through the dual blanket barrier separating the O.P. from the house Jim reminded his friend that no one loved a smart ass. “Get outta here ya bum, some of us are on duty!” Dutiful laughter once again as Jim headed into the house and then downstairs. Daryl checked the area carefully after Jim left. Hell of a thing, get snuck up on while they were cutting up. Nope, nothing to see. He settled in, stretching a bit to wake up a little more.

    Once downstairs Jim shed the heavy coat he had been wearing, tossing it on the couch then headed into the kitchen to start up some water. The heat in the house felt good especially after several hours in the O.P. He kept his flannel shirt on over his thermal underwear. Warm but not that warm in house. Couldn’t decide if he wanted tea or coffee, then he remembered that they had hot chocolate mix which suddenly sounded like a pretty good idea. Lifting the tea kettle he found that it was well over half full so with a grin put it back on the burner and cranked the correct knob up to the desired temperature. Thank God they had filled up on the propane before everything went to hell. He knew it wouldn’t last forever but for now…

    Looking around he realized that there wasn’t a pad of paper in the kitchen so figuring that the office was a likely spot to find one he headed for the front room. It was in the second drawer he looked in before finding what he was after. A legal size pad with about half the pad present, more than enough paper for what he needed. Satisfied with his discovery he left the front room and was nearly all the way to the kitchen table before realizing that he had forgotten a pen. Jim stopped in stride, rolled his eyes toward the ceiling while shaking his head, “Dumbass.” He tossed the pad toward the table to walk back to the front room to retrieve a pen. Now satisfied that he had what he needed Jim got himself reasonably comfortable at the kitchen table then began writing the list out;

    A. Garden – spread compost, till, plant, weed, harvest, can the harvest
    B. Wood – split remainder of wood, stack, restock all wood piles, get more wood
    C. Chickens – completely clean out coop add to compost, grind more feed and store
    D. Vehicles – start and run all of them, double check all fluids, inventory gas
    E. Patrolling – expand patrol areas, increase training, more scavenging - use vehicles
    F. Weapons – double check ammunition inventory, detail clean all firearms, have everyone shoot all the weapons again, check reloading supplies
    G. Neighbors – more training, include on patrols (?), work with on food production
    H. Clothing – get inventory of all clothing, make repairs, make new (?)
    I. Educa

    Just as he was writing out the item for ‘I’ the kettle started whistling which actually startled him. Smiling, he stood to retrieve a cup. About the time he finished preparing his hot chocolate Linda came into the kitchen, she was rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She smelled the hot cocoa and then helped herself to the cup she knew was her fathers. Long versed in winning her dad over she shot him an impish smile as Jim saw her take the cup. He merely smiled in resignation to the situation and reached for another cup. Linda kissed her father on the cheek as she took her cup in hand. “Mornin’ dad”

    Jim and his daughter exchanged some small talk as he prepared another cup of the hot chocolate. Once done he went to the table to continue his list. With both Hamilton’s now seated and supplied with warm beverages Linda asked her father, “Watcha working on?” Jim explained about the list he was writing out and why. Asking if she could see it her father slid the writing pad across the table to her. Linda picked the pad up and started to read. Her eyes tracked across the items. Jim sipped at his drink while watching Linda skim through the list. It didn’t take long, Linda was a quick reader. It was something she had done virtually all her life. The joke in the family was to borrow a book for her to read because she read so fast there was no point in buying it.

    “What else needs ta’ go on here?” She asked while handing the tablet back. For his part Jim had to glance at the list again to figure out where he had left off. Ahhh, Education. After writing the remainder of what he wanted for that category he moved on to the next one, Medical. Leaning back in his chair for a moment Jim patted at his pockets to try and find – ahhh, there it is. He had spoken with Allyson a few days earlier and asked her to write up a list of what medical equipment they should concentrate on looking for. She said that she would be happy to do that. Two days after that she handed Jim a basic list, written on the back of a used sheet of legal pad paper to help conserve paper. The list was only what she felt was essential. Microscope, operating instruments and more was written on the list which she had thoughtfully broken down into categories of Must Have, Should Have and Like to Have.

    Locating the desired sheet he pulled it out of the proper pocket in his jeans so he could look it over again and transfer the information to his official list as he liked to refer to it. Jim asked his daughter to read him the list and looked over the information. The two went through the medical equipment and then on to the other areas. Linda was very interested in the process and got heavily involved in helping her dad with the information. Work continued on the list for another hour as they two traded ideas back and forth. During that time several others in the house drifted in and out of the kitchen to gather something to eat and drink as the day began. By nine in the morning the list was at a point of completion that Jim was comfortable with. He thanked Linda for her help and went to discuss it with Daryl. Once he finished reading the list Daryl had only minor suggestions. He told his friend that list was well done. Jim made sure to let him know how much Linda had contributed as well.

    Later that day Jim went to visit with Petr and review the list with his friend after he and Daryl had gone over it. Once at the Holski farm Jim was greeted warmly and made the rounds to speak with everyone and say hello. Josh who had accompanied Jim for security reasons took his leave to allow the two men to speak. Once the pleasantries were finished Petr invited Jim into the house so they could talk. Stepping inside Jim received a hug from Anna, Petr’s wife, the two men sat at the dining room table so they were more comfortable. Jim pulled out the list he had been working on passing it over to his friend.

    Petr took the offered paper and began to look over the information. He had a similar list started and realized he had forgotten it. “Mother,’ his favorite term for his wife, ‘could you bring to me that list we were working on?” Anna had already figured out what her husband needed, she walked in the dining room just a moment or so after Petr had asked for the list. She held out the list which he took from her hand as she continued on her back toward the kitchen without breaking stride. Both men smiled at the situation.

    “Thank you.” Petr then slid the two pieces of paper so that they were side by side. He looked back and forth between the two. He pulled out a pen from the side pocket of his overalls then began to add to his list from Jim’s.

    For his part Jim had no issues at all with Petr taking from his list. The more the two groups did that were similar the better. These two groups were the center of the world as far as Jim was concerned. Yes there were the residents down at Silver Springs but so far they had yet to be able to demonstrate that they could be equal partners in joint operations and tasks such as food production. The one factor that they did bring to the table was manpower which wasn’t unimportant but not the strongest asset. But until such time as the housing area could properly feed itself they would be listed on the balance sheet as a debit versus a credit. For now the two farms were the strength of the area.

    Petr wrote quickly but with great determination. Over the course of the winter he, Daryl, Curtis and Jim had a number of long conversations regarding the coming year. What the expectations were, several discussions regarding how best to utilize what resources they had, training and much more. The ideas generated by these discussions is what started Jim thinking about putting together a list in the first place. The situation as it existed in the world right now wasn’t a good one and no one they knew of had seen any tangible signs to indicate that the situation was headed back toward what they used to refer to as normal. Indicators such as an established and recognized governmental authority, civil services including law enforcement, food distribution and power generation to name a few.

    Once he was done Petr handed his list over to Jim to allow him to compare. Taking the list he scanned it and noted only a few differences and those were related to the farming plan. Petr had decided to only plant two dozen acres of corn this year. It was a big risk but too much of last year’s crop went to waste despite all the canning and everyone at all three locations eating corn for days on end. Another reason for not using up all the remaining seed that Petr had on hand was that they didn’t know how long the overall situation would last. Better to bank some for next year as well just in case.

    Another difference between the two lists was increased power generation. Petr had realized that for his family to improve their situation that they needed to be able to produce a much larger amount of electricity. In fact it was the number two item on the Holski list ranked only under food production. Petr had listed out several different options, solar, batteries, generator and a windmill. Jim nodded as he read over the different alternatives, fairly comprehensive choices. This would give the patrols a much larger list of goods and equipment to be searching for. Oh well, had to be done. Jim continued to read and he saw nothing that would be a huge problem, lots of little and moderate issues but, yeah this is doable. The two men sat for awhile talking through some of the points trying to agree on what the best way to implement some of the listed items would be. They went back and forth on the priority of some of the choices as well; recognizing some of them should and would be done concurrently.

    Once they reached a consensus the pair stood so Jim could go down the road to have the discussion all over again, this time with Curtis in order to help that group. Petr and Jim had decided previously that it would be best if they had their plan agreed on before meeting with the Silver Springs leader so they presented a united front. Expectations for the housing area residents were high, maybe too high but they had the furthest to go in order to reach some level of minimal self sufficiency. The other households would help but the onus was on them to get themselves to that point. Jim shook hands with his friend and then headed down the road with Josh going with him for security he started down the road and whatever the next meeting would bring.

  15. #55

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Eight

    Chapter 28

    Patrols were a constant part of life for both of the farm households. The need to know what was going on around them was essential especially now that the cold weather of winter had been slowly giving way to the warmer temperatures of early spring. A few mornings were still quite chilly but the days were warming up. By exploring the surrounding vicinity it was possible to gather some of the information needed to answer those questions. The areas that were being investigated expanded on a nearly daily basis with patrols ranging out several miles now in all directions with the exception of into town. That was still considered too dangerous and avoided as much as possible.

    Information was collected and updated as often as possible. Over the course of the winter when it was necessary to stay in due to the temperatures some of that time was put to use studying maps, reviewing radio procedures and attending classes Daryl conducted on tactics. As a result of this the group members were now much more proficient at many of the aspects of patrolling, movement, tracking, map reading, communications and much more. The constant practice and the need to do it properly or risk being killed was highly sufficient incentive.

    Those patrols done using one of the vehicles; it was always one of the pickup trucks were for specific purpose such as the search of the various storage locker locations. Traveling by vehicle wasn’t the easiest thing at times due to the large number of abandoned cars that littered some of the roads. Closer to the city it was worse which made sense, the highway was avoided because it was a nightmare of burned cars, skeletons and was still being used by traveling packs of people. Some of these were refugees but others were scavenging what they could.

    There had been two patrols into town over the winter. Both of these patrols had been very well planned and intended to gather further information on what was taking place in the area as well as search for additional resources. Daryl had led both patrols as he had during the first one months earlier. The personnel on the patrol were mixed so that nearly everyone had an opportunity to get experience patrolling in an urban environment. The results of the two patrols were mixed. Very little useful material and supplies were found. One theory was that the fire that leveled many areas of the city had destroyed much of what they had expected to find and that the survivors in town had gleaned what was left for their own use. The second scouting patrol was little different mainly to the length of the patrol, they were gone for several days. The group decided to check on the housing area that Daryl and Ellen had lived in.

    Once the patrol reached the area it was obvious that something serious had occurred. Many of the houses were burned down including Daryl and Ellen’s. Those homes still standing appeared unoccupied and ransacked. It had been a sobering and emotional time for the Richland’s.

    One thing that the patrols did run across several times were heavily polluted areas, these were usually co-located with oil and natural gas well sites which the group tried to find so they could check to see if the solar panels were still present. Many natural gas well sites had small solar panels in place to power some of the electronics used to monitor flow rates and such. If the panels were still there they were removed and brought back to be added to the solar system at the Holski farm. The system was cobbled together but it did provide some measure of power.

    Without people to maintain the sites, dispose of the waste water that was a part of the extraction process, this waste material overfilled their storage containers or leaked out. The ground around the wells was heavily saturated with toxic materials. If this had happened prior to the social collapse a remediation company would have been brought in and the area thoroughly cleaned up, the contaminated soil removed for proper disposal. In these times that wasn’t an option.

    In two locations some type of fire or explosion had occurred which was easy to recognize given the extent of the damage. The smell from the waste material was strong in places, each time a site was found in such condition it was immediately marked down and that information put into a special file that the group had started titled “Hazards”. It included all the areas that they had run into problems no matter the type, gangs, and hazardous material, whatever.

    A sunny, clear Tuesday morning rolled around and Michelle couldn’t stand it anymore, she wanted to get started on the spring cleaning. The weather looked promising, warmer with no clouds. Waiting till everyone was more or less assembled at breakfast she spoke up, “Guys if it’s alright I’d like to get started on the cleaning list today.” Silent nods as eyes made contact around the room. Why not, there wasn’t much on the daily plan anyway. This opened up a conversation on what jobs to do first, how it would impact the duty schedule and more. Suggestions and ideas flew around the room for almost thirty minutes before a consensus was reached on what jobs could be started.

    Breakfast was hurriedly finished by those who had been talking in place of eating. Several of the jobs would involve the kitchen area so it was important that room be made available as quickly as possible. Arrangements were made for both Kaitlyn and Hope during the cleaning process so that they would have someone watching over them and they would be out of the way. Ellen suggested that she take her daughter along with her to help gather the various throw rugs throughout the farm house. It would help keep the child occupied and give her, Ellen a little more help. For the baby it was decided to bring her into the kitchen since that is where so many of the tasks would center around. Work began almost immediately as people were excited about the change in routine. Not that cleaning was the most glamorous activity but it needed doing and it was a change in their usual day so something different wasn’t always seen as a bad thing.

    The group began to set about their chores with gusto. Some of them went to carefully remove the plastic sheeting from the frames of the windows which had helped insulate the house during the winter. It was important not to tear the precious material so that it might be reused at some point; the plan was to remove it and carefully rolled it up for storage. Several methods of removal were attempted before they settled on using a screwdriver to gently lift the staple from the wooden frame then plucking it out with a set of needle nose pliers. All the metal staples no matter their condition were saved. No reason to waste metal. Jim wasn’t exactly sure what the staples could be used for but just throwing them away didn’t seem a smart idea. So he and the others working with him laboriously removed all the staples one at a time. As each window was uncovered it was then possible to open the window which seemed to have an immediate effect on the interior of the house. The stuffiness that had built up over the winter was reduced with each window being opened. A gentle breeze from the south-west was a welcome visitor.

    Having endured the months of marginal weather typical of winter in north Texas those at the Hamilton house were eager, almost anxious to get started on some of the spring projects that had been discussed of late. The list of chores and other work that Jim had written out had been expanded slightly and tasks assigned during a recent household meeting. Discussion on the various chores had been spirited but in a surprisingly upbeat manner. There was almost a competitive air among the group as they vied for the various chores. Michelle had used the dry erase board the family usually kept in the kitchen for messages to write up the first part of the jobs as well as who was doing what. The board was then returned to its usual place so that everyone could see. One reason for the excitement about the upcoming assignments was the feeling of being cooped up and the chance to shake that off a bit. Having this many people in the house for the winter had frayed nerves somewhat due to the close proximity. With warm weather just around the corner spring cleaning and other jobs normally loathed actually had a high level of appeal. The realization that the overall situation in the world wasn’t likely to change any time soon had sunk home so people were as upbeat as they could be about doing what they could to try and improve things in their immediate surroundings.

    The usual assortment of spring cleaning jobs was going to be undertaken, sweeping, mopping, throw carpets taken outside and beaten to lift the dust and dirt, all the linen washed and hung out, the entire kitchen scrubbed clean, as well as taking everyone’s clothes, all of them, washed and hung out. There would be a great deal to do but with the amount of manpower it was anticipated that the work wouldn’t be overwhelming. For her part Michelle was glad of the help, she actually enjoyed cleaning and having this amount to do was daunting but she was sure that it would be handled easily. It was another foible of hers that Jim couldn’t ever really get a handle on. She hated shopping but liked to clean…oh well. Thank God I got her and not a woman who had it the other way around! A small mental chuckle which felt good.

    Ellen and Kaitlyn were gathering up all the various throw rugs around the house. Those upstairs were tossed over the railing to pile up at the base of the stairs. Kaitlyn thought this was loads of fun getting to throw things and with mommy’s permission! The pair made quick work of the upstairs and moved on to other parts of the house. Ellen smiled as she watched her daughter struggle a bit with one larger rug but managed to get all by herself. She had previously determined that she would use a section of the iron fencing along the back of the house to hang and beat the rugs. It would keep the dust away from the open windows.

    In the kitchen Bobby, Michelle and Daryl were moving all the items on the counters along one side of the kitchen to the other side of the kitchen so that the counter tops could be scrubbed and disinfected. A large bucket of hot water with some bleach in it had been readied. They all knew that the kitchen was cleaned on a regular basis; Michelle insisted on that but given that if by chance some food got tainted it could lay them all low. If that occurred then security would be greatly affected and that was a risk that they couldn’t take. Bobby grabbed a brush from the depths of the bucket and began scrubbing one end of the counter. His mother reminded him, “Make sure to get the back splash piece too.” He nodded in silent acceptance since he was, at that very moment scrubbing the back splash feature. Daryl smiled but wisely said nothing as he worked on another section of counter. Quickly checking on the baby Michelle saw that Hope was fine. Breathing in deeply she took in the aroma of the bleach water. It smelled fresh and antiseptic which was fine with her. She had a fondness for the smell of bleach which she knew was a bit weird but oh well…

    Linda had started in a pile of sheets and clothes getting them sorted for washing. It was one of her usual jobs going back to well, before the whole world had been turned upside down. In the O.P. Josh was paying particular attention to the area surrounding the farm. Jim had come up and informed him of the plan while he delivered a plate of food right after breakfast. The two men had talked for a bit regarding security concerns during the day but since there was nothing specific they had concerns about Jim had stated that so long as Josh was vigilant there shouldn’t be any issues with so much going on. For his part Josh merely nodded as he quickly ate taking periodic looks through the various slots to check the area.

    The work lasted nearly the entire day, lunch was a bit hurried and scattered since the work in the kitchen wasn’t even close to being done. To simplify things Michelle had made up a pot of soup using the propane camp stove someone brought up from the basement for her. It was set up outside and in short order was lit off. The soup was nothing special, some water, a can of corn, a can of peas, two double handfuls of rice along with a couple of bouillon cubes and some seasoning. It wasn’t intended to be a gourmet meal just something to keep everyone going. Michelle made sure to let Ellen know about the soup so that she could keep Kaitlyn away from it so that the child didn’t get burned. The large soup pot was hot and little hands had a way of wandering. Ellen saw the stove, thanked her friend and told Kaitlyn to stay with her. The little girl wasn’t keen on all the dust that mommy was making by hitting the rugs, this part wasn’t much fun. Not nearly as much fun as throwing things in the house like earlier!

    By late afternoon a large amount of cleaning had been accomplished. The throw rugs had all been beaten and were being aired out. The iron fence at the back of the house had a gypsy encampment look to it with all the different size and colors of rugs hanging from it. Ellen had told Michelle that the longer they hung out the better. The two friends agreed to leave them out overnight since it didn’t look like they would get any rain.

    Of all the areas that were worked on it was the kitchen that had been the big winner in the day’s efforts. All of the counters had been scrubbed and disinfected; the men had moved the refrigerator so that the floor beneath it could be cleaned. Michelle had decided that scrubbing the kitchen floor needed done so she and her helpers had done that as well. They did it just before lunch to give the floor a chance to dry. Everyone ate outside which wasn’t hard since lunch was just soup.

    Not only were all the counters scrubbed down but each of the shelves in the large pantry had been emptied one at a time and cleaned. The goods from each shelf were stacked on the kitchen table and were checked for proper rotation. Several times they found older cans of various items shoved toward the back with newer ones much closer to the front. Michelle had been worried something like that would happen over the course of the winter but with so many people pitching in with kitchen work during the season it was inevitable. The older items were returned to their proper rotation once the shelves were cleaned and the goods replaced.
    The cabinet fronts were also scrubbed down and disinfected. Once the pantry was cleaned up and reorganized the three started in on the interior of the cabinets.

    Cleaning as well as putting things back to where they really should be not where they were ending up. Not all of the cabinets were done by the time to make dinner rolled around but much of the work was done and Michelle was thrilled despite being tired. After lunch more of the cleaning including the bathrooms was tackled by those that had been removing the window plastic earlier in the day. The tubs and commodes were given an extra good going over. Shelves were dusted all over the house. Having the windows opened greatly helped to remove the musty, closed in sensation that had been building up over the long, cold winter. Someone even opened up the outside door to the basement which was rarely used. This helped to air out the basement which was still used as a sleeping area by several of the residents. The basement was thoroughly swept out during the afternoon. Out of pure chance Michelle had picked a day with nice weather, the steady breeze throughout the day kept the air in the house moving which did wonders for the smell and spirits.

    Dinner that night was a lazy affair; they reheated the remainder of the soup from lunch which went with a toss together casserole. Everyone was tired from the days efforts Linda had been battling with the laundry all day long and had managed to put a significant dent in the overall pile but knew it would take most of the next day to finish up what she had to do. Without his knowing it she had done Josh’s clothes already since it was just him and he didn’t have many dirty clothes. She had tried to get Ellen to hand over she and Daryl’s clothes but was firmly rebuffed. Ellen told her that it wasn’t her job to have to do their clothes, besides with Kaitlyn the three of them had almost as much to do as the four Hamilton’s. She thanked Linda for her diligence but she would take care of their laundry.

    Per the schedule O.P. watch was changed out twice during the day which meant some of the work crews had to be reshuffled but it got handled. After dinner Michelle sat her fork down and stood up before addressing the room, “Could I get everyone’s attention for a moment please?” Some of the others hadn’t finished eating but they looked over. She was a bit dirty and seemed a little out of breath almost but she launched right in with her speech, “We got a tremendous amount done today, the house really is alot cleaner. I just wanted to say thank you for all the hard work and effort. I hope you think it was worth it, I sure do, anyways – thank you everyone.”

    The others spoke up each touching on what had gotten done, “…the rugs are sooo much nicer now.” Daryl and Bobby were talking about which cabinets still needed cleaned. Conversation lasted well after the food was gone. The group was content to sit and talk knowing that today had been a pretty good day, plenty got done and it was apparent that it had been sorely needed.

    After ten minutes or so conversation turned to the garden, “Weather seems to be better so we should really think about getting out and getting the garden ready.” To better ready the garden for the coming planting the group had carefully collected all the food scraps from the winter meals. These scraps had been put in a large empty butter tub with a lid kept near the sink. Each time it was filled someone took it out to the garden and spread the contents on the ground. As the material decomposed it added additional nutrients to the soil. Someone suggested asking Petr to bring his tractor down to handle the initial tilling of the garden area.

    Conversation went back and forth on the subject; on the up side it would save a tremendous amount of labor. Tilling that large an area by hand would be very time consuming. The Hamilton’s did own a roto-tiller but even using that it would still be a major undertaking. If they could get Petr to bring the tractor down the work would be done fairly quick. Two complete passes through the area using the tiller would turn the soil nicely working the compost material and what weeds there were under helping to improve the ground. Jim said that he would go down to the neighbors the next day and make the request.

    For his part Petr happily agreed to have the tractor brought down. He told Jim that James would be down to their place around two that afternoon. Thanking his friend profusely Jim told him about the work that had gone one at the Hamilton house the day before. Petr smiled broadly, the same thing had happened at the Holski household two days ago. Seemed like everyone had the same idea.

    Some of the more delicate seeds had already been started in frames in the house to protect them from the weather then they would be transplanted. Michelle had talked at length with Petr and Anna Holski over the winter regarding plans for the garden and so felt she was ready or at least hoped she was. The Holski’s suggestion was not to plant everything at once, stagger the planting so that as each group of crops was ready to harvest then the food supply would be stretched out further. They also encouraged her to diversify her planting, don’t plant all the corn at one time or all the tomatoes, etc. One week put in a selection; the following do the same and repeat until the entire garden was planted. Petr mentioned that he was planning to do the same with the corn, what corn he was going to plant this year.

    Michelle knew that whatever they were able to raise in the garden this year would be much of what was going to be eaten that fall and winter. The canned goods and other foodstuff supply they had on hand was enough for almost another year but they couldn’t bank on that. Growing food was a huge priority and an incredible responsibility which she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted all of but it was her house so she was responsible for what happened there.

    The group turned out after breakfast to tackle the planting. Some of the large dirt clods were broken up and weeds that the implement had loosened were plucked from the soil so they would not be able to grow back or worse spread their seeds. Michelle had reminded everyone of how important the garden would be this year. The previous summer she had vowed that this year the garden would be much larger than previous years and she had every intention of keeping that promise. Some of the fledgling plants were brought from the house while some continued to work at removing whatever grass or weeds were present in the loose soil. The group finished up around eleven pleased with their efforts. Now they would have to wait and see what their efforts would bring in the coming months.

  16. #56
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    nw mountains
    Thank you, love the story.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  17. #57
    Blackguard Great story looking forward to more of it.

  18. #58

    Withdrawal Chapter Twenty Nine

    Chapter 29

    As the first of the morning sun slowly crept higher in the sky the watch stander in O.P. noticed something unusual. ‘What the **** is that?’ was the first thought that came to mind. How did that happen followed in quick succession to the first thought. Grabbing the binoculars the sentry trained them on the ditch about a hundred yards or so south of the house. The optical devices brought the scene into clear relief. Realizing what they were looking at was serious an alarm was hurriedly sounded using the radio. If one could get that close might be a bunch more. Rapid, almost frantic scans of the area with the binoculars revealed nothing of concern. A quick glance over to the rifle leaned against the interior of the barrier. Please, don’t make me need that. The household members responded to the alarm without pause. By now those residing at the Hamilton household had reacted to a large number of alerts in the long months since the social collapse so despite this being early in the morning it was simply another alert. It didn’t mean that people enjoyed having to roll out of bed early but an alert wasn’t called for just any reason.

    Each of the people hurried to their respective places as the sentry continued to watch the cause of the disturbance. Information was relayed via radio to those on the ground. A check of the surrounding area revealed nothing of concern. After having everyone in their proper place for nearly ten minutes without incident Daryl come over the radio issuing orders based on the sentry’s observations. Those told to cross the fence line did so cautiously under the watchful eye of their fellows. It took several minutes for information to flow back via the radio of what was found. The discovery wasn’t like anything that they had found before, at least like this. They would need some help with this one. Only one person to call for something such as this and she wasn’t where she usually was which created its own problems.

    Raising the Holski farm via radio Allyson was sent for. It took about twenty minutes for her to arrive; no one had to be woken up since the Holski farm too was on alert. When one farm went on alert so did the other just in case. She had been setting up a major treatment room using one of the tack rooms in the Holski barn the day before and had spent the night with them. The time waiting for her was spent checking the area. Nothing unusual was found, the mood was somber; an air of fear was easily felt. Once Allyson arrived with her security escort she was shown the problem. The corpse of a Caucasian male somewhere in his mid thirties was lying in the ditch on its back. The skin that was visible was splotchy in color and numerous lesions were present. Despite being a veterinarian she immediately knew that they were facing a serious problem. She turned to the others quickly asking “Did anyone touch him?” They others could hear the anxious, almost panicked tone to the question.

    When Josh stated that he had turned the man over, Allyson’s concern grew. The risk for exposure had jumped; direct contact was a sure way to pass along many diseases. She wasn’t sure what the man had but looking at the body it wasn’t good, that much she was sure of. “Did you actually touch the body?” The question was quick as was the look that accompanied it. The others looked to Josh as he answered the query. “No, I used that stick right there.” Josh pointed at a broken shovel handle laying near the body. Aloud Allyson thanked God for that. “So you only touch one end of the stick, right?” A hurried nod of assent caused a small measure of concern to leave the doctor. She then asked if anyone else had been close to the body. In turn they each assured her than they had not been any closer than about ten feet. Medical knowledge spilling through her mind Allyson realized that there was only one way to safely dispose of the body. Feeling very inadequate to the task she came to what a decision as to what was hopefully the best course of action.

    “Get some gasoline, a couple o’ gallons at least.” She looked at body once again then to the others none of whom had moved yet. “Now!” Her doctor voice taking over, direct and leaving no room for discussion. Daryl looked at Bobby who headed for the barn to retrieve the fuel. The others were nervously glancing back and forth between the corpse and Allyson as they all unconsciously backed further away from the body. She told Josh to wait, since he had been the closest to the body it would be best if he was the one to douse the body and light it. “Light it?” Josh asked and by the look on his face the reason for the statement was apparent as soon as he spoke. He glanced at Allyson then turned to look at the body. The man was dirty, his clothes torn and travel stained. One shoe had duct tape on the bottom of it holding what remained of the sole in place. The man appeared to be under nourished as well. Josh felt his insides churning at the thought of what he was going to have to do.

    Waving the others away from Josh she asked again if anyone had been close to the body. A series of head shakes to confirm their earlier statements. “Good! I want everyone but Josh to back up at least another twenty feet.” The group that had crossed the road did as they were told. They were all afraid, this was not something anyone wanted to see in normal times and the appearance of it now was likely going to be even worse. Waiting for Bobby to return Allyson looked the around the ditch near the body. A small, cheap looking nylon backpack was partially beneath one of the arms. She pulled out her notebook and began to write down what her observations were. She didn’t feel comfortable doing an up close examination. It would have to be done at distance.

    Knowing that she was the only medical professional for both locations gave her the justification for not doing even a cursory hands on exam. No, this would have to be done this way. She took as many notes as she could, coloring of the skin, approximate size and locations of the lesions, what the man was wearing, condition of his clothes, etc. Allyson moved around so she could see the body from as many angles as possible being careful not to get any closer than six feet. At each location she wrote down more notes. This was going to be the only examination possible, have to get this right. The more she saw the more frightened she became. Not entirely sure what they were dealing with better to err on the side of caution.

    Bobby returned lugging a five gallon plastic gas can huffing with the effort of carrying the heavy container. At Allyson’s direction he placed it down on the road and backed off. Once Bobby was clear Josh stepped over and picked the can up to do what was needed. Josh poured some of the fuel directly on the body as Allyson had directed him. He also made sure to get some on the backpack in addition to the ground immediately around the corpse as well. The entire contents of the can, nearly five gallons of gasoline were used. Josh smartly used the last bit of the highly flammable liquid to form a trail leading away from the body so that it could be ignited safely from a little ways off. Once finished with that he was going to set the can aside but Allyson told him to throw it near the body. He had touched it, better to burn it then risk trying to decontaminate it. Josh wasn’t thrilled about burning up the gas can but did as he was told. Waving the others even further back for their own safety wishing he could do the same Josh pulled out the matches that Bobby had thoughtfully grabbed when he had gotten the gasoline. ‘Here goes nuttin’’ The he struck one of the matches and dropped it in the small end of the fuel trail he had created. The match died before hitting the ground. It lay smoking in the grass.

    Cursing lightly Josh pulled two more of the Strike-on-Box matches out and tried again. One of them died out on the way down but the other worked. A rolling sheet of fire followed the gasoline trail till it reached the body which was well saturated with the fuel. The blast of heat hurriedly forced Josh back even further than he had been as the area around the corpse erupted with a whoosh sound. Black smoke rose from the improvised pyre. The smell of gasoline mixed with burning flesh caused several of the group to gag and cover their noses as they too backed even further away from the fire. Several of the group would forgo the evening meal due to their exposure to the reek. The sickly sweet stench of burning human flesh will have that affect. Petr would later tell Jim that the smell carried down to their farm as well. The elder Holski knew the odor well; it brought back painful memories of a time long ago. Once you have smelt that you never forget it.

    Allyson reasoned that the fire would be hot enough to burn up the flesh, clothes and the backpack. It would also kill off any of whatever the hell this is that might have been present on the ground around the body. Whoever this had been she was sorry he was dead but right now her biggest concerns were what the hell was wrong with him and where had he come from? Have to check with the night sentries to find out if they had seen anything at all. This man didn’t fly in here from nowhere. Better talk to the Silver Springs people too. Crap - this day was off to a hell of a start. The bones would have to be buried right where they were, maybe use the Holski tractor for that. That was a job for later but had to be done today.

    A few hours later after speaking with those that had stood watch at both places and then to Curtis and his people the report was that no one could say where the man had come from. Each of the sentries swore up and down that the man had not come by them on the road. Daryl decided to check the fields near the ditch. Could be that the guy walked cross country which is why no one saw him. Allyson cautioned him to be careful, if he saw anything at all that looked suspicious not to touch it or for that matter not to get near it. For his part Daryl intended to follow that advice to the letter. Seeing the body that morning had taken care of any thoughts of being curious. For security reasons they decided to make the check of the fields a full on patrol so a combined patrol team was rapidly organized. Two people from each farm would go. Curtis told them that he would have a thorough check done of the area around the subdivision and then left to go carry out his part of the search. The combined patrol was made up of Linda, Daryl, Ernesto and James.

    Taking a guess that the man had come from the direction of town they started their search on the west side of the road. Not being entirely sure what they were looking for combined with the concerns about what had happened to the man slowed the search down. The patrol compromised their usual methods. Two were on security while the other two searched for whatever they might find. The going was slow and each of them felt more than a little nervous. Whatever this was it was something new and scary as hell. Throughout history it had been noted that following a major disaster or some type of breakdown in the existing social order that disease would often follow. It seems as if that trend was continuing. Often the ensuing disease killed many more than whatever the disaster had caused.

    The patrol trekked west across the fields for nearly an hour before Ernesto suddenly froze in place. The others noticed and moved toward him. As they arrived the devout Catholic was making the sign of the cross and clutching at the crucifix on his necklace. The three others saw what had caused him to stop. A little ways off was another body, this one was a woman. She appeared to have also been afflicted by whatever the man had. The same lesions and blotchy skin color were evident even from a distance. The body was curled into a fetal position laying on her left side. She too had a small backpack but unlike the other body this one was still on the body. None of them wanted to get too close.

    Allyson had been very specific about not touching whatever they might find and to protect themselves as much as possible from exposure. She had provided the patrol members with latex gloves just in case. Keeping their distance from the body a check of the immediate area revealed no surprises. Linda took a small notebook out of the back pocket of her jeans then began to write. Gender, approximate age (maybe late twenties or early thirties?), size and location of lesions and even what the woman was wearing which appeared to be the remains of a summer weight dress. Once she was done she told Daryl who asked her to take over on guard duty. She nodded grimly and turned so she could watch his back while he worked. Pulling off his own backpack he sat it on the ground and worked the heavy zipper to get at the contents.

    Not relishing what he was about to do Daryl pulled a two liter soda bottle out of his backpack. The container was filled with gasoline. No way to carrying a full gas can with him so this would have to suffice. “Stay back!” He swallowed hard then began to pour the flammable liquid all over the body. Allyson was worried if they tried to either bury another victim or worse simply left it exposed then coyotes would get at it and then they could spread whatever this sickness was. Burning the body would at least hopefully kill off whatever this was.

    Daryl started at the feet and poured the fuel all over the woman’s body. He was trying to be careful and not get too close but that wasn’t all that easy given the container he was using especially since he was holding the plastic bottle at arm’s length. Finally the plastic jug was empty and he tossed it next to the corpse. Taking a moment to offer a prayer for the soul of the woman he also silently asked her forgiveness for what he was about to do. Daryl knew he had to do it but he was mildly sick at the prospect. Stepping back he knelt and dug in the backpack a second time. He found the desired object in short order. It wasn’t hard, with the soda bottle out the pack was much easier to rummage in.

    Standing up he had the backpack in one hand and the road flare in the other. Without looking away from the body he took several steps backwards to distance himself further. Satisfied that he was far enough away he tried to light the flare. Taken from his truck the flare had been the one in the worse shape of the bundle of them he kept in the truck at all times, best to use up the oldest one first he had reckoned. At first the signaling device wouldn’t cooperate and ignite. After the third try he tossed away the backpack which he had been trying to hold while attempting to work the igniter cap on the flare. Holding the cap in one hand and the flare in the other he tried again and it lit right up. Daryl was careful to keep the wickedly hot short red flame pointed away from him. He tossed the cap toward the body and then with a soft underhand throw the flare followed. It landed near the hip and immediately caught the fuel afire. Much like the body in the ditch the fire roared to life with a whoosh sound. The horrible stench was immediate. That was twice in one day for some of them. Dark, thick smoke rushed skyward which made Daryl apprehensive.

    Speaking quickly to the others, “Let’s go, let’s get outta here in case someone sees the smoke!” It took little prompting to get the others to start moving. The smell alone was good enough reason to get the four people on their way. He grabbed the now much lighter backpack and hustled it on while moving quickly away.

    Very little was said on the way back, each of the four were alone with their own thoughts. Ernesto was sad, two more dead people in one day, both of them very sick. The man was scared, he had no idea what had killed those people but he prayed for their souls as they walked. Daryl too was deep in thought; sickness of some kind, great, ain’t like we don’t have plenty to ****in’ worry about already. James was leading the way with Linda at the back of the diamond shaped group. Behind them the smoke rose energetically as the fire consumed more of the corpse.

    As they moved through the brush separating one unplanted field to one in similar condition owned by the Holski’s the radio crackled. Daryl heard it and hurriedly signaled to the others who took a bit longer than they should to get down and situated. The former Marine wasn’t happy and given his mood already it didn’t take much too really piss him off. He plucked the radio microphone, “Go!” The response was a breach of the radio protocol he himself had worked so hard to establish. The sentry calling them on the radio was so surprised at the lack of proper discipline he snatched at the binoculars again to double check the area. He hadn’t seen anyone but maybe he had missed something, why was the patrol not following procedure?

    Daryl wasn’t happy and getting more so by the moment. His first radio call went unanswered and then so did his second. Exhaling sharply Daryl glanced once at the heavens before keying the Push To Talk button once more. With a hard, purposeful set to the jaw Daryl said, “Zero Two One, go ahead.” He drew out each word to its full length. This time he was immediately rewarded with a response. The sentry atop the silo informed them that they were in sight and no signs of pursuit were visible. “Zero Two One, we copy.” Some of the anger was bleeding off as he slowly and with great deliberation returned the radio microphone to its former position. Please God get this day over with. “Okay people lets go home.” Once they got to the road the two pairs split up and without conversation parted with each duo heading to their respective homes. Daryl gave James and Ernesto a slight wave as he and Linda turned to go their own way. All four of them consciously avoided looking at the large burned area in the ditch; the smell from the burned corpse was still very present despite the body having been buried. Linda gagged a little bit but fought it back.

    When Linda and Daryl got to the farm those outside saw them and noted the body language. Both were quiet and seemed to lack energy as they walked. That observation wasn’t far off the mark; both the returning patrol members were drained. More so emotionally than physically but the experience of the morning did extract a toll. The two slowly climbed over the fence and once inside the yard just stood there leaning against the wooden barrier. Each of them needed a moment or two to collect themselves. Now that they were physically inside the perimeter the mental aspect of being home settled in and allowed them to start to wind down. Jim was watching from a few yards away, with Daryl gone he had taken over the center redoubt. He was worried about the pair, his daughter and his best friend. Jim had seen the body of the man in the ditch and it had terrified him. He had no idea what type of sickness had claimed the man’s life but was certain that it had been a horrible way to die. By looking at the two Jim inferred that they had found what they had gone searching for. A small part of him was glad that he hadn’t gone along and he hated himself for that.

  19. #59

    Withdrawal Chapter Thirty

    Chapter 30

    Randy was out back of the Holski house, he wasn’t on sentry duty and no one needed him for anything right then so he was spending some quiet time by himself. Wanting to get out of the just-a-little-too-much warmth of the sun the younger man walked over to the bench beneath one of the larger trees which covered the wooden construct in deep shade, the perfect place to stay cool and think. Randy had quite a bit on his mind lately and there just hadn’t been time or opportunity to allow him to sort out the shit in his head, and there was a serious amount of shit to deal with. The amount of responsibility that doing the full time security work that he and the others were doing at the Holski’s was huge, on one level he understand that but on another it be nice if the work eased up a bit at least once in a damned while especially right now. Lately Randy had something new on his mind and wasn’t sure how to handle it at all. That was part of the reason he was outside, trying to clear his head a bit.

    Randy took a cursory look around before sitting down. Nothing out of the ordinary to see, making sure the safety on the shotgun he had with him was engaged Randy leaned it against the far edge of the bench seat. It was close enough to grab but not right in his face. When the whole social collapse thing happened he’d thought it was pretty cool to be able to walk around with a gun all the time, it felt really macho, made him feel more grown up. His uncle was always reminding him about safety, “Keep the muzzle pointed up or at the ground, make sure the safety is on, finger off the trigger” shit like that. It got old real fast having to listen to him always blabbing on about it. As the days and weeks passed and things got worse carrying a weapon became less cool and more of a need to do thing. As the reality of what was going on in the world sank in Randy found himself doing more without being told. When the others were combing through Miller Metalworks to find whatever they could it was Randy who had been up on the roof watching over them. He had been so nervous while the others were in the factory that he needed to pee several times. The others had been counting on him in a major way. It had been Ira that had given Randy the job of providing security for the group. It was no small thing watching out for everyone and Ira had praised him in front of the others later that day once they got back to the Harris home which had made Randy feel pretty good about himself. It had been a rite of passage with the other men and it was a feeling he had hung on to as long as he could.

    Since before arriving at the farm the younger man had been working hard at trying to prove that he could be useful and reliable. It helped him to feel better about himself and had the added advantage of keeping his aunt off his ass. That was always a big plus as far as Randy was concerned. He knew that she loved and cared about him, but at times she could be a real bitch to have to deal with. It hadn’t been easy on him the last few years, ever since that worthless prick of a father of his had split to who knew where leaving him alone. He bitterly recalled the slaps, punches and foul alcohol breath that seemed to go hand in hand. His aunt and her husband had taken Randy in when he was fifteen and it had been an uphill struggle for them all over the next few years, the three of them trying to balance out rules and responsibilities. This was in addition to them already having a young son at home but Randy was kin and Allyson was determined that he would have a home. It was especially important to her since after having lost his mother at an early age and then his father leaving. Allyson rarely spoke about her brother and when she did it wasn’t polite and quite unladylike.

    The youth was maturing rapidly due to the circumstances that they all found themselves in but also in no small measure because he was working at. Taking on additional chores around the farm and trying hard to show that he was could be trusted with things. The others noticed the changes, especially his aunt. Allyson had been watching him as closely as she could since she was living at the Hamilton farm but she had quietly spoken to Brian and asked him to watch Randy. She had emphasized that she wasn’t asking Brian to spy on him but just make sure that her nephew was doing what he needed to. Brian told her he would but so far there had been little to no problems with the youth and the ones that had arisen were minor. Having worked with Randy for nearly a year prior to the social collapse Brian was familiar with him and honestly had been surprised at the development of the younger man. If anything he was trying a little too hard at times to help out but wasn’t a bad thing. Brian took on something akin to an older brother role providing guidance and someone to talk to. He was glad to see the change and spent time talking with him as he could.

    As he sat in the shade enjoying the breeze Randy was grappling with some emotions that he wasn’t too familiar or comfortable with. This was all being brought on by Linda Hamilton as far as Randy was concerned she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life. The long brunette hair, the great smile and she had a nice body too…yeah she was a couple of years younger than he was but damn she was beautiful. The way he felt when she was around, when he thought about her, which was all the damned time it seemed like – crap! This is what he was trying to come to grips with and had been for some time; he had a major, huge crush on her. He’d had girlfriends before and was no stranger to sex but this felt different that, not that he didn’t want to be with her physically he did but not like that or at least not just for that. Geezus he felt all ****ed up inside. Randy slumped somewhat as he sat, oblivious for the moment to his surroundings as he sat attempting to understand the emotions he was feeling.

    He sat for a time just letting his mind wander. During the town patrol when it was just the two of them in garage guarding the truck the pair had talked at length about all kinds of things. In part it was nerves, both of them had been scared and being to have a “normal” conversation had helped. Randy had been impressed with how mature she was for her age and it had occurred to him while they were in there that she looked damned sexy toting her rifle. It hadn’t been the first time he had seen her armed but right then, at that moment in the garage being part of the town patrol it had really jumped up and smacked him just how pretty she was. Maybe it was the circumstances of being in potential danger while in town but his thoughts and feelings regarding Linda had crystallized in that one moment as he saw her turn to look out the side window of the garage they were holed up in holding her rifle close to her. A part of him knew what the issue was already and was ready to announce it to the rest of him but that part of him was being quieted by the remainder…the conflict going on inside kept him worked up. His heart was also willing to weigh in on the issue but hadn’t been asked yet.

    For her part Linda had a different way of trying to figure things out. She had written about it in her journal a few days earlier. Randy keeps making excuses to talk to me, some of them are sooo lame but it’s kinda cute he keeps doing it. It makes me feel weird inside cuz I keep thinking about him. I know he’s a little older than me but with things the way they are who friggin cares? I really like him and I think he really likes me too. She rambled on for a bit longer about how it made her feel that someone got her emotions all worked up. Then another thought struck her, Ohh that dumbbutt brother of mine has been busting on me about this big time! Bobby had picked up on a bit of the two going back and forth and he had quietly teased his sister about it at times. It drove the girl crazy but she was still trying to figure out how she felt and it wasn’t easy. She’d only had one quasi serious boyfriend and that had been different or at least to her it had felt different than this. This, whatever this was wasn’t the same thing. She thought that Randy was good looking, Linda reasoned that she wasn’t ugly so maybe it was something, she just didn’t know. The pen was poised above the page but its journey across the page was at least temporarily halted as the girl continued to think about how she was feeling.

    Much like Randy, Linda had been trying to get a handle on her emotions with limited success so far. The day before she had penned her thoughts about Randy she had cornered Bobby and dragged him to their usual talking spot out away from the house. Linda needed to talk to someone about this and wasn’t quite ready to have this conversation with her mother. For his part Bobby was pretty certain he knew what his sister wanted to talk about. The two siblings had always been close; the ongoing turns in their life had only increased their bond. Arriving at ‘their’ spot Bobby settled in on the old metal tractor seat he usually used. Linda was still standing, pacing a bit actually as she worked around in her head what she was trying to say. It was important and despite the closeness between the two of them she was still uncertain about talking to Bobby about this.

    Bobby watched his sister bit her lip as she was thinking. She said nothing for several minutes and then as his patience was beginning to wear a bit he said, “C’mon, give. You dragged me out here so what…?” Absently swatting at a fly buzzing near his head he squirmed a bit in the seat to get more comfortable. The fly returned and it irked Bobby, he hated flying bugs and he here was, outside, waiting on Linda to say something and having to deal with frickin’ flies! God I hate flies…

    “Are you gonna” – the teen was still waiting for his sister to say something. “Yes! Hang on, geezus. You don’t to be such an asshole ya know.” The tone of the statement caught Bobby off guard. It was hard, direct and not what he was expecting. Rocking his head back he held up both hands to head level signifying ‘okay, okay’. She shot him a hard look which softened as she realized she wasn’t really mad at him. It was frustration on her part but it still wasn’t easy.

    “When you, I mean before you and Karen started going out how did you, uhhh, shit! Can’t figure out how to say this!” Linda was irritated by the situation, she thought she had it figured out what to say and it wasn’t working at all. Bobby didn’t say anything but was listening, waiting to get some kind of firm clue regarding what his sister was blabbering on about. The fact that she had cursed out loud not once but twice in the same conversation told him plenty, foul language was something the Hamilton teens were not supposed to use, it had long been a house rule and applied to their parents as well. So for her to cuss like that she was worked up a bit.

    “Nice language, how did we what?” She shot him a hard look at his language comment but said nothing. Linda had to remind herself that he was trying to be helpful in his own way. They didn’t get much free time so having her ramble on was using up quite a bit of what was supposed to be some of his time off. Bobby took a slow look around the area while he waited for his sister to say something else. Nothing out of the ordinary so he returned his gaze toward his sibling, c’mon, c’mon, any day now… The expression on her face spoke volumes, her jaw was set tightly and the lines of her mouth were hard set as she was thinking. He elected to give her a little time so he sat quietly as she tried to find some measure of mental footing that would allow her to continue. A few moments passed before she spoke.

    “Before you asked her out, the first time I mean, how did you know that Karen was the one you wanted to go out with?” Linda looked directly at her brother as she asked the question. Once the question had been sufficiently formed in her mind and she was able to articulate it she was more focused. Being able to get that one question out in a form basically resembling the way she meant it to allowed her mental processes to coalesce a bit. Thoughts and emotions that had been scattered and disjointed were now slowly coming together.

    Hearing the question Bobby was silent as he tried to figure out how to answer it. Interestingly the answer he was now searching for wasn’t just for Linda, part of his conscious mind seemed to sit up and say, ‘Hey that’s a good question and the answer is…?’ So the tables had been turned somewhat, now it was him that wasn’t able to properly speak. There were all the usual answers that she was pretty hot looking, smart and being Linda’s friend he would have more access to information about her. But as those rationalizations surfaced in his mind he found that they weren’t really all that concrete. He told his sister that the biggest reason was that he was comfortable with her. Karen wasn’t demanding, she was confident and she talked to him as an equal. The two often had long, serious conversations about world events, politics and religion. Their friends often teased the duo about the discussions which would sometimes last for hours often at the expense of anyone and anything else. More than once Bobby and Karen had finished up a discussion to find themselves sitting alone since the others had gone elsewhere.

    “So how do you feel about him, Randy I mean?” Bobby wanted to move the conversation off of him and Karen as much as possible. The tactic worked as Linda answered right away, “I like him a lot.” The response seemed to surprise her a little. Bobby heard the conviction of what his sister was saying and the strength of her words confirmed what he had suspected. He was reasonably sure what she was feeling was stronger than merely the ‘like’ stage.

    “Why do you feel that way?”

    Linda looked down for a moment, embarrassed to answer her brother’s question. Bobby did something unusually mature for someone his age; he waited quietly for her to speak. It would have been easy to prod her for a response which months earlier he would have done but both of the teens had been aged by the experience of living in the world as it existed today. The additional responsibilities each of them had been forced bear including bearing arms and having to kill other human beings had brought a measure of maturity that in their “other” life wouldn’t have come for many years possibly ever.

    A quick glance at Bobby seemed to reassure Linda that he wasn’t going to bust her butt for answering with the truth. “He’s cute and he treats me nice.” Since the two siblings were so close Bobby was naturally more than a bit concerned about any guy that was interested in his sister but he had seen the two interact on a variety of occasions. Randy had never said or done anything to Linda that worried Bobby but he was still her brother and so all guys were evil as far as that went.

    “What’s he do that so nice?” Bobby had never noticed anything being passed to his sister so he was genuinely curious. Linda’s gaze seemed to go to the far horizon and beyond as she worked to provide him an example. She related how he was always polite to her, how he seemed to speak to her and not at or about her. Randy often paid her sincere compliments like that her hair looked nice and such. Linda enjoyed hearing those things and never got the feeling from Randy that he was just saying it to say it. He really seemed to mean what he told her. It made Linda feel all twisted inside sometimes but in a good way. Three days earlier when the two had met up to exchange radio batteries for the Holski farm Randy had taken Linda’s hand holding the battery and held it for a few moments while they were talking. It was as intimate as the two had been but it had really made an impression on Linda. Unknown to her it had an equally profound effect on Randy as well.

    Bobby was to an extent surprised at how taken Linda was with Randy. The way she talked about him, the faraway look in her eyes and even her body language certainly seemed to support her “I like him a lot” statement of moments earlier. Now he was left to wonder how serious Randy was about this. This might be something. He wasn’t sure what to do next but had an idea or three. Not the least of which was to speak to Randy. After all Linda was his sister and personal honor was a big train among the Hamilton men. Jim had spoken often to his son about how important it was to be responsible as well as taking care of one’s family. Yup, talking to Randy was now on the list of important shit to do.

    Bobby checked his watch to see what time it was. He was scheduled to part of a patrol leaving around two p.m. and wanted to make sure he had enough time to check his equipment. Linda asked him what time it was, he told her, “About one or so.” Both of the Hamilton children were just as familiar with the Duty Schedule as any of adults living there. Checking it had become as regular as any of once familiar tasks that their former lives held. Knowing that her brother had a patrol to get ready for Linda gathered herself a bit then stood. Watching her rise he too had stood, she closed the short gap between them and hugged Bobby. He returned the embrace thinking that this was a little unusual. The two didn’t shy away from displays of affection but it had been some time since Linda had hugged him.

    Taking care to keep her facial expression hidden from him Linda told him that she loved him, “Thanks for listening.” Not sure how to properly respond Bobby hugged her tighter and lifted her a little ways off the ground. “Sure squirt!” A nickname he hadn’t used on her in years. “Ooh you snot you!” Mildly indignant at the childhood pet name resurfacing once again Linda broke out his embrace and playfully swatted his arm with the back of her hand, a smile splitting her face. “Get outta here you butthead!” She laughed as she evicted him from their spot. Bobby was glad to see the smile, he loved his sister very much and always tried to be there for her. He gave her a half wave of goodbye then turned to head for the house.

    Squirt, huh? Linda was thinking on what had just happened and how it made her feel. Bobby hadn’t called her that in several years at least. Oddly she found that she didn’t mind hearing it again for some reason. She glanced over to sure she was where she thought she was before she sat down. Another thirty or so minutes passed before she rose from her seat. Feeling a little stiff Linda stretched her arms over her head to help pull some of the tightness from her back. Satisfied with the answers she had gotten from Bobby and now having a much firmer grasp on her own feelings Linda walked toward the house. Maybe it was time to have that discussion regarding Randy with her mom.

  20. #60
    Join Date
    May 2001
    British Columbia, Canada
    Hope all is fine with you - it has been a week after all and some of us need fixing LOL......
    True North Strong and Free

  21. #61
    need moar!!!!!

    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  22. #62
    Been a little over a month, WE NEED MOAR

  23. #63
    Been a few months. Same as last time the story was posted. PLEASE continue.......

  24. #64
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Just caught up on your story. Thanks for the effort, very interesting dynamics involving all of the characters and their interactions in a very trying setting. RLTW

  25. #65
    Thankyou for this story. I really enjoy reading it, and hope it continues

  26. #66
    Blackguard I just got to the last published chapter, Wow!! this is a great story and I hope that in the future you will be able to finish it. I thank you for all of your time and for sharing with us. I pray that this post find you and yours well.

  27. #67
    Need MOAR!!!!! This is too good to die. I hope it gets finished.

    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  28. #68
    Thanksgiving is around the corner and I think we'd all be thankful for more of this story.


  29. #69
    Quote Originally Posted by lross45 View Post
    Thanksgiving is around the corner and I think we'd all be thankful for more of this story.

    I agree more would be geat

  30. #70
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Well good read, very good writing, when are you going to do some more of this story.

    Hope every thing is ok with you and yours, you Haven't wrote on this story in a while.

    THANKS for it.
    Never Pick A Fight With An Old Man He Will Just Shoot You He Can't Afford To Get Hurt

  31. #71
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Quote Originally Posted by dogmanan View Post
    Well good read, very good writing, when are you going to do some more of this story.

    Hope every thing is ok with you and yours, you Haven't wrote on this story in a while.

    THANKS for it.

    Well I just reread your un finished story, man you cant leave us hanging like this for so many years.

    I had for got it was a unfinished story or I would not have read it again.
    Never Pick A Fight With An Old Man He Will Just Shoot You He Can't Afford To Get Hurt

  32. #72
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Last post was 8/29/2018. I don't believe there will be anymore to this tale.
    Alea iacta est! We have crossed the Rubicon.
    Proud member of the Nowski Brigade!

  33. #73
    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbopithecus View Post
    Last post was 8/29/2018. I don't believe there will be anymore to this tale.
    lol! we WISH that was the last post date!
    Happily being a "Troll" for bible truths about Jehovah and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.


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