Archive for March, 2018

“It’s bad, I won’t lie. But those bodies are decaying. Eventually, there won’t be the herds of infected. The world will have to learn to deal with the dead and dying in a new way, but I think we can survive. Maybe, even thrive.”

“How can that be? More people are infected every day. We see new turns every time we stopped.”

“Like I said. People will hunker down and survive while the bodies of the infected decay. Once they’re gone, communities will learn to trade and co-operate.”

“Or not,” Zack added.

“Good people will step up and work together. It will be different than it was before, but life will go on.” Steve yawned. “Come on big guy, get some rest. We stay close to the girls. I’ll wake you around two.”


At first light, Zack retied his shoes and yawned as he got to his feet. He walked past Steve as he added several sticks into the Dakota pit.

“I’m gonna check the snares I put out. Maybe we can have something besides oatmeal.” He checked the skinning knife at his belt as he walked away.

“I’ll put on the water for oatmeal,” Steve called after him.

Zack raised his hand with his middle finger extended.

Steve chuckled as he picked up his prosthetics. When both were in place, he made his way to the stream where h found a large rock at the edge and settled on top. Steve retrieved a bar of soap then pulled off his t-shirt and used it as a makeshift washcloth. When Steve was satisfied he was as clean as he could get, he splashed the shirt around a few more times before fumbling to his feet with the wet shirt in hand.

He made his way back to the camp where he took a long stick and draped his shirt over the end and propped it over the fire to dry. Just as he finished adjusting the angle of his shirt, he heard a branch snap nearby and stepped back against the thick trunk of the Pin Oak tree. He took a calming breath the eased around to look toward the sound with his handgun drawn. A heartbeat later he stepped out just in time to intercept Zack. “Well?”

Zack held up two squirrels that had been skinned and gutted. “Breakfast of champions.” He whispered softly. “You think Della can make some fresh biscuits?”

“I wouldn’t plan on it.” Steve laughed. “I’ll break the backs and lay them out on the grate. While I do that, can you get the girls up then get the horses watered. We’ll let them graze a bit more before we saddle up and head out. Penny can come help me.”

Zack sighed dejectedly, “I was hoping for three.”

“You did just fine. We’ll make due,” Steve answered as he pulled his shirt off the stick and pulled it over his head. It smelled of smoke and was still damp but at this point, felt cleaner than it had been.

After a quick breakfast, the tarp was taken down, the horses were saddled, and the duffle bags loaded. When everyone was mounted, and Penny sat in front of her mother, she kicked her heels then called out. “Gitty up.”

Steve obliged by touching his stirrups to the horse. The day got hotter and hotter as they shadowed the highway. His t-shirt clung to his back while dark rings of sweat circled his armpits. Trees grew fewer and farther between. As he rode, he hoped the place he was leading the other to was not this arid and unforgiving. For the first time, he began to question his destination. The horses plodded along without complaint but the riders not so much. Hours became long and grueling.

“Steve we have to stop. Everyone is exhausted.” Della called out.

The light faded as the party of five sat watching the sun settle behind distant hills is a display of gold, oranges, and shades a red. Finally, Steve spoke. “We should get to the outskirts of Van Horn in two days.” The Dakota Fire still smoldered below ground.

“How big of a place is it?”

Steve shrugged. “Maybe two thousand people so I’m hoping to find some supplies. We could use clothes, food, and footwear.”

Darlene brushed Penny’s damp hair from her face. “It’s hot now, but winter this far north can be brutal.”

“I don’t want to show up at Randy’s with nothing to offer,” Steve commented.

Della turned to Steve. “What do you mean? Do you think they would turn us away?”

“No. Not at all,” Steve answered.

“Then why do you seem worried?” Della asked.

“I just want to have more to offer than a gimp and three women,” He laughed.

“You’re baiting me,” Della smiled.

Steve nodded. “We have five horses, but I don’t plan on handing them over to anyone if I don’t have to. They’re our trading future down the road.”

“What do you mean?” Darlene asked.

Steve took a deep breath. “We’re joining a community. As such, we either live off their charity, or we become a critical component. We have five horses two males, and three mares and two of those are pregnant. That gives us leverage.”

Zack cocked his head to the side. “You’re thinking long term?”

“Yes. But this only works if the camp doesn’t have many horses. That’s why, if we get a chance, we need to gather supplies or items that are light, easy to transport and will be in high demand. Drugs or seeds are at the top of the list. A good alternative would be ammo. But ammo is heavy, and that would limit the amount we could carry.”

“What about fishing gear?” Zack asked. “Line, hooks, that kinda thing.”

Steve laughed. “Anything that will help a community survive would be good. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open.”

Della picked up her bedroll on the patch of grass near where she had been sitting. “I’m going to turn in, folks. I’m exhausted.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Steve agreed.

Darlene chuckled. “Penny has been out for the last ten minutes. Della, will you spread out that extra blanket for her?”

“Sure.” Della laid the blanket out for Penny near Darlene’s bedroll under the tarp.

After a few minutes, both women had settled down under the tarp. Zack and Steve still sat by the dim glow of the fire.

Zack swatted at a dark spec on his arm. “Damned bugs.”

“Yeah. Nothing compared to the mosquitos around South Houston.” Steve laughed. “Half a dozen of those suckers are big enough to suck you dry in twenty minutes.”

“Never been there,” Zack answered. “Fact is, I was never outta San Antonio before now much less the state.” His voice trailed off.

“You doing alright?” Steve asked.

“I guess. I don’t know. I keep thinking I’ll never see my mom again.” His voice was soft with emotion.

“There’s a good chance none of us will know what happened to our families. My dad still lives in Galveston. I don’t imagine it was spared since Houston was overrun.”

“The world is pretty screwed,” Zack whispered.

“We don’t have infected with us. We got some people that could use some doctoring. There’s only about forty of us left after we ran into trouble about a hundred miles south of here.”

“Sorry to hear that. Give me a few minutes to talk it over with folks over here, and we’ll see what we can do to help you.”

He turned to Randy. “Do you know someone from Eagle Pass?”

Randy shrugged. “Not me. Pablo had family from a native tribe south of the border. Maybe they knew folks from Eagle Pass.”

“That’s a stretch.” Will scowled.

“Well, what are we going to do with this bunch?” Randy said. “We could use the help.”

“They say they’re all clean with no bites, but I’m not willing to let that many people in the compound without knowing a lot more about them.”

Will approached to the gulch and called out. “The person that might vouch for Y’all is not here right now, and I’m not willing to let you over here without getting to know you a little better. If you’re agreeable, you can camp in that grove of trees to the east. We’ll come with medical supplies and fresh water. Everyone has to be examined for bites. No discussion on that point.”

Ben gave a thumbs up then struggled to raise his injured arm and cupped his hands together in front of his mouth. He placed his lips against his thumbs and blew. The pitch of the whistle changed with the rise of his fingers.

After some noticeable hustle and bustle, the vehicles headed for the designated camp site. Ben called out. “We’ll be settled in an hour. Come by then, and we’ll have a drink.”

Will waved. “I’ll bring our doctor and a couple folks to clear your people for bites.” After a brief consultation with Randy, Will turned and climbed back into his truck. Two more trucks fired up leaving only four guards at the drawbridge.

When Will got to the lodge, Liz and Cassie waited at the door.

“Well?” Liz asked as she replaced the binoculars on the small table near the window. “Who are they? Do they have kids? Soldiers?”

“I talked to an Indian by the name of Ben Nascha. At least some of them are from Eagle Pass. Kids, I have no idea. Soldiers, don’t think so but only saw Ben close enough to tell.”

“Why did you leave the bridge up? When are they coming inside?”

“They’ll be staying outside until I know who they are. You and Cassie get some medical supplies together. Put enough of that cured venison for about forty people. Add some flour and canned good. Whatever you think they can use for a meal or two.” Will spoke to Randy. “Fill half a dozen five-gallon plastic water bottles. Seal ‘em up, so they stay clean.”

“I’m going with Cassie,” Liz announced.

Will started to protest but thought better of it. “Fine. Randy, when you go, take an extra man with you and pick up two of the guards for backup when you go into the camp.”

Thirty minutes later, Randy loaded up his pickup with the designated supplies, Cassie, Liz, and Harry.

“Well, Lizzy, you’re looking a lot better lately,” Harry commented.

“It’s a miracle what a few nights of sleep without listening to you and John snoring will do for a person.” Liz laughed. “How are the kids doing?”

“Doing good. The kids have settled in at the cabin pretty well. We got everything we need since we got that last bunch of clothes.” He laughed. “Little Mexican girl gave her a couple of those hair clips thingies. She doesn’t look like an orphan anymore. Cody is still quiet. I don’t think he’s ever going to be the life of the party.”

“Losing their parents has to be hard on both of them. I’ll stop by tomorrow. Maybe Trace would like to work with me in the garden for a change.”

“Sounds good.” Harry

When they got to the bridge, one of the guards turned the large wheel and lowered the cattle guard.

Randy rolled down the window and motioned two of the men into the truck bed. “Raise the bridge after we’re over it. Unless I ask about your daughter feeling better, don’t lower the bridge.” The man nodded.

“What was that all about?” Cassie asked.

“Insurance.” He answered.