Posts Tagged ‘Walking Dead’

“Yes, accident,” She said firmly. “Time to isolate the sick, no matter who they are. If someone fails to get up and you don’t get a vocal response, take precautions. That’s all we’re asking. The man involved in this incident had a snake bit. He didn’t tell anyone, and neither did his wife. He died and attacked his family.”

“You mean that could happen to any of us?” One of the Goodman women asked.

Will answered. “As terrible as that sounds, yes. It’s important to take care of each other, so come to the clinic, so illnesses and injured are treated.”

Liz realized why her bedroom door had been closed when anyone left and why they always knocked and waited for her to respond before entering. She covered her bulging middle. What would happen to her baby? Was she sick because she was pregnant and was it because of the virus? With a wave of dizziness, Liz slipped into a chair at the side of the room. After a couple deep breaths, she calmed and looked around the room. She realized she didn’t know most of the people. There were two distinct groups. Each crowd clustered together acting more than a little suspicious of the other. She recognized Pablo, Miguel and their extended family and gave the women a quick nod and smile of recognition. Elaina and her mother, Maria whispered at Pablo and Miguel. Both men turned toward Liz and smiled. They turned back to the assembly, their faces still looked.

The goat rancher, dressed in overalls, sat next to a graying woman with the two younger men, and women approximately that appeared to be the younger generation. Two teenagers sat on the other side of the gray-haired lady. Randy stood next to Liz’s father. Not far from him, sat John and Harry.

Will raised his hands to quiet the assembly then continued. “Now that we’ve settled that, let’s work on setting some priorities. I realize we still don’t have enough folks to do everything we need to get done yet, but for now, we’ll do the best we can. Safety and becoming self-sufficient is the two most important tasks at hand. Planting the new gardens need to be done by the end of the week to take advantage of the remaining growing season. At the same time, we need to finish fencing the goat pen back at the Goodman cabins.”

Mr. Goodman stood up. “Me and mine can work on it. I ‘magine two days and we’ll be finished. The wife and girls are milking twice a day. We’ll keep what we need and bring the rest up here. You can pass it along with who you want. I got a spot picked out to put in our own garden…”

Will interrupted. “Sam, this is a community effort, I think you seem to be missing that point, here. You and I obviously need to discuss individual efforts, but for now, let’s move on.” He turned to Randy and nodded.

Randy began. “We still have to try to gather livestock and supplies while we can. We’re not the only people trying to create a secure stronghold to live. As time goes along, more and more infected will leave the cities and make it more dangerous out there. As people get more desperate out there, some groups will be raiding others to survive.”

“What makes you think the government won’t get this under control. Early on, there were reports of the CDC working on a cure.” Glenn Goodman interrupted.

“Have you heard something I don’t know about? We’ve had a couple people monitoring communication channels and the Internet. Unless you know some other means of communications, we don’t.” Will asked.

“Well….” Glenn mumbled.

Liz descended the stairs to the great room to a cacophony of voices from the dining room. Some voices were raised and sounded angry. She made her way to the front desk to hear voices of a meeting taking place in the dining room. From the size of the gathering, she imagined all the adults in the canyon compound were present. Liz leaned against the check-in desk to catch her breath. She grimaced at her own weakness but refused to let it deter her. Liz made her way to the door and stopped.

Will Edmonds voice rose above the din. “Everyone has to contribute, and that’s the bottom line. Your herd of goats produces milk, and that means we all benefit from it. But that can’t be your only contribution. At some point, the goats will need to become part of the food supply chain in a more meaningful way.”

An unfamiliar voice countered. “When we agreed to come, we didn’t know it was going to mean moving into a socialist state. You can’t just take our livestock to feed a bunch of Mexicans.”

“Young man, you have been given a safe haven, homes for your family, your brother’s family, your parents, and younger siblings. Did you expect to show up and contribute nothing?”

“Our livestock is not community property.” The young man protested.

“Shut up, Glenn!” A gravelly voice interrupted. “Son, you’re making an ass outta yourself.” After a brief grumble, the older man continued. “What you have outlined sounds reasonable as long as the herd size maintains numbers for healthy breeding stock. We’re grateful for the offer of a safe place to raise our families. As for the suggestion concerning closing all bedroom doors at night, I can see the wisdom in such an action.”

Cassie added. “From what we’ve found on the Internet we know the virus has mutated since the initial attack and become an airborne pollutant that spread far beyond the initial attacks. There are now reports of people dying of natural causes and reanimating well away from the initial attacks. Considering that, if we each follow this simple rule, we can stop accidents like we had a few days ago.”

“Accident? You call that an accident?” Another voice protested. “Three people died.”

Brian, Billy, Leon, and Juan walked back into the fueling station gift shop. Margo and Paula had pushed racks and remnants of merchandises into a pile at the back of the store while sorting through the remains of useable supplies. Most of what remained was souvenirs for the traveler; hats, t-shirts, and plethora of knickknacks including a large velvet painting of Elvis that had been leaned against a wall on top of one of the piles as if in a place of honor.

Juan walked to the last standing rack with half a dozen ball caps still clinging to the hooks and pulled one from the stand. He pulled the dirty cap from his head and tossed it to the floor before retrieving a new one and settling it on his skull. He sniffed at his sweat-soaked armpit then moved to a pile of shirts and found a sand colored camouflage pattern T-shirt and headed toward the bathroom. “Gonna get cleaned up.”

Leon followed suit. He sifted through the pile and laid out three or four shirts and began checking sizes.

Margo looked up from a small stack of supplies she was sorting through. “Not a lot left in the larger sizes. Most of the food stores we found were in the office where the manager died.”

Paula appeared from the back office holding up a bottle of Jack Daniel and box of candy bars. “This is the last of it.”

“I’ll take that.” Juan appeared from the bathroom and reached out for the bottle.

Brian pulled Juan’s arm back. “Not so fast. Better keep it for medicinal purposes.”

“It would be. I haven’t had a drink since the bar back in San Antonio.” Juan answered.

“But we’re not wasting it.”

“Señor Brian, you are a hard man,” Juan answered as he walked back toward the front of the store.

Brian laughed. “Everyone, get cleaned up and let’s get something to eat before it’s too dark to see what we’re doing. Between the windows and this place sitting on a hill, the light will be visible for miles. So we will be sitting in the dark.”

After a meal of shortbread cookies, canned vegetables, and Raman noodles the group settled down for the evening. Juan stood at the front door watching the parking lot and black ribbon of asphalt beyond. The rest of the group spread out a few shirts and blankets to make beds. Leon lay on his side using an armful of T-shirts as a pillow. Brian had pulled the office chair from the back room. He leaned back in the chair with his feet propped up on the windowsill.

“It doesn’t seem as dark now,” Margo commented to no one in particular.

“Full moon.” Brain answered before taking a sip of the steaming coffee.

He smiled at the thought of the six bags of coffee they had found in a cabinet. Even if they had to throw a handful in a pot of water, they had coffee for the foreseeable future. He wished there was a way to get the big natural gas tank to his father-in-law’s place. Natural gas would be at a premium soon enough.

Brian folded his arms across his chest and let his chin fall to his chest and mumbled. “Wake me at midnight.” He felt himself drift away to the sound of Leon snoring and Margo sniffling.

“Sir? Sir?” Billy shook Brian’s shoulder. “You need to see this.”

Together they stepped into the shadows of the barn.  The silence was heavy and ominous after the roar of the ATV’s motor.  Della could hear Zack breathing.  As his breathing began to slow, she became aware of another sound.  She heard a shuffling sound and then a gentle brush against wood somewhere deeper in the barn.

Della held out her hand, and they both stopped.  “I hear something.”

Zack whispered. “It’s at the other end of the barn.  Let’s get in and out.”

Della gave a quick nod and flicked on a flashlight.  She fanned it across the dark recesses of the long passageway.

“Nothing.”  She answered as she swung it into the tack room. After a quick pass around the room, she stepped through the doorway.

Della pulled a list from her pocket.  She grabbed a burlap bag and walked to the wall on the left.  She pulled half a dozen bridles from the wall.  She walked to a work bench picked up a grooming box and dumped the contents into the bag.  She tied the end with a length of rope and picked up three saddle blankets.  She carried the items to the ATV and settled them on the back cargo rack.

She hurried back to meet Zack carrying two saddles toward her.  “Only two in the tack room.  Got to be a lot more around here.”

“I think I saw at least a couple hanging over the side of the stalls in the barn,”  Della answered as she helped him stack the saddles on the rack.

“Great.”  Zack lamented.

“I have the bridles and three blankets,”  Della answered.

“Let’s get this over with.  I can carry two saddles if you can carry one and the blankets.” Zack answered.

“Sounds good,” Della whispered as she pointed the small LED beam down into the dark.  “There.”

She focused the beam on the closest stall.  Hung over the top board was a saddle with a saddle blanket next to it.  “One.”  She whispered as they walked deeper into the barn.  She examined the next stall and saw nothing.  She quickly moved the beam to the next stall, she hesitated, then added.  “Two.”

“Gotta find one more,” Zack commented.

Della hurriedly fanned the beam to the opposite side of the barn.  “There!  At the end, on the right.”  She let out a long sigh.  “I’ll get that one.  You picked up the other two and let’s get the hell outta here.”

Zack held out a dark hand.  “Be careful.”

“You too,”  Della answered as she quickened her steps.

Della hurried down the corridor of the barn.  She glanced over her should see Zack had gotten to the second saddle.  With a powerful arm, he pulled the saddle and blanket from the top board of the stall.  Suddenly, Della realized the scratching was louder and closer.

She stopped and fanned the beam of light from left to right.  She stumbled when she was clouded eyes staring back at her from the stall holding the saddle.  She kept the beam on the face and stared.  The gate was open, but the infected reached through the slats of the stall.

“Shit.”  She whispered.

Della fought for control of her breathing and her racing heart.  She raised the machete in her hand to hit at the infected then dropped her arm to her side.  The board where the saddle rested was too high to get to the infected person.

She thought about stepping into the stall with the monster but hesitated.  She could pull the saddle down and take a chance of the monster coming through the door after her or do something about the problem.

The stall door opened outward.  If she closed the door, she could trap the monster, pull off the saddle and run. She glanced at Zack as he grabbed for the second saddle.  A slam against the double doors a few feet beyond the stall made her jump.

“Shit!”  Della cursed.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen…no need to be so jumpy.  I assume you’re Lieutenant Monroe, so you’re the man I am here to see.”  The man stepped closer to Matt and reached out with his right hand.  “I’m Reverend Jacob Billings.”

“Well, Reverend Billings, you have just barged into my home.”  Matt ignored the outstretched hand and Billings let his hand drop to his side. “You three can turn around and get the hell out of here.”  He bellowed.

Billings looked startled then reached out as if he could appease Matt’s ire.  “Sir, I mean no disrespect….”

“You damned well did disrespect me by barging into our home.  Now get out!”  Matt nodded at Jake.

Jake walked over to the trio and with Larry coming up behind him, escorted the men outside.  He pulled the door closed behind them and flipped the lock.

Matt slumped into the recliner just as Amanda walked into the room carrying Claire and with Amy at her side. She chuckled.  “Well, that was interesting.  You know that isn’t the end of it.”

Matt looked up.  “No, but it gives me a night to sleep on it.”

Amanda’s face tightened, and she handed Claire to Amy.  She turned to Jake.  “Now I think you can go see if the doctor Matt brought back is all he claims to be.”

Jake’s mouth turned down in worry.  “Oh, Lord, have mercy.  It’s time?”  He raced to the door, flung it open and raced outside.

“I’m going to the bedroom upstairs.  Please have the doctor come up when he gets here. The kids can stay in the downstairs bedroom.”  She suddenly gasped and folded against herself as she clutched at the doorway.

Matt stepped up and draped his left arm around Amanda and swept his right under her legs.  He pulled her off her feet, turned and headed up the back stairs.

“I got this.  Larry, look after the girls.”

Matt carried Amanda up the stairs and through the door at the top of the stairs.  He looked around then crossed the room to the double bed.  He sat her gently down on the sagging mattress.  “What can I do?”

“Help me into this gown,”  Amanda answered around a groan of pain.  She pulled the loose t-shirt she was wearing over her head while Matt reached for the cloth.  She loosened her bra and tossed it and the shirt to a nearby chair.

“It’s going to be hard enough having this baby without drugs.  I’ll be damned if I’m wearing this thing.”

Matt held up the gown while turning away from Amanda’s full breasts and her swollen belly.  She stuck her arms into the armholes and let the thin material fall down around her.  “Okay, I’m decent.  Let me hold your arm” Matt, reached out and Amanda stepped out of her sandals and shed her shorts and underwear.  She reached back to lay a sheet and quilt aside and then looked up.   “You can let me go now.”

He did, and she eased into the bed and pulled the sheet over her just as another contraction gripped her midsection. She curled onto her side and moaned.

“What can I do?”  Matt whispered.  “I don’t know what I can do to help.”

Amanda forced a laugh.  “Can you have this baby for me?”  At Matt’s shocked expression she groaned.  “You can rub my back.”  She rolled to her right.

Matt felt the panic rise.  After a brief hesitation, he reached out with his fingers and lightly stroked her back between her shoulder blades.

“Not there,”  Doc called out from the doorway.  “Use your thumbs and make circles right above the dimples of her bottom. “

Doc walked into the room with Helen at his side.  “Well, I guess we got her in plenty of time after all.

Matt watched as Doc removed his jacket and set a bag and box of supplies on the chair.  He walked around the bed to sit down in front of Amanda.  “Now, Helen will get some things set up then when we get all settled I’d like to do an examination and see how far along we are. If that’s alright with you?”

He continued without giving Amanda a chance to answer.  “I’ve been retired for a while, but having babies is as easy as riding a bike.  I don’t have much to do, but make sure you’re doing what you need to do.  Actually, Helen will be doing more.  She brought a few things but do you have towels and baby stuff?”  He looked around and noticed the stack of newborn supplies on the dresser.  “Well, I guess that answers that.  You’re pretty well prepared, looks like.”  With a nod from Helen, Doc got to his feet. “Well sounds like we’re ready. Let’s see how we’re doing.”  He turned to Matt.  “You can wait outside until we’re done.”

Matt’s heavy footsteps could be heard escaping down the stairs.  A minute later, Doc opened the door to see Jake sitting on the top step.

Juan threw the van in reverse and back away from the gathering of destroyed bodies while Billy leaned out doorway waving his arm.

“Gotta go boss!”  He called out.

Juan made a tight U-turn and headed around the circular drive toward the residence.  He clipped two infected sending them away from the front fender of the driver’s side.

Brian glanced at the door one last time then crossed the drive just ahead of the van skidding to a stop in front of him.  He jumped in the vehicle and grabbed at the door, and then changed his mind.  He pulled his handgun and yelled at Juan.

“Push the gate opener on the dash and get us outta here!”

Brian watched the infected stumble toward the van.  One reached out as the van passed by but fell when the prey slipped from its grasp.

“We got a problem!” Shouted Leon.  “The gate is not opening.  The freaks have stuck their arms through the fence and now it’s isn’t moving.”

“Don’t we ever get a break?”  Billy whined.

Juan slowed the van at the entrance, Brian led Billy out of the van calling over his shoulder.  “Leon, cover our six.  Rest of you stay in the van! Juan, be ready to roll when the gate opens.”

“Let’s try to do this quiet, Billy.” Brian ran to the fence pulling the machete from its scabbard on his belt.  He raised his arm and slammed the blade through the fence into the head of the first infected.  He kicked out at the same time and body fell back only to be replaced by another.

Billy copied Brian’s actions and dispatched one of the infected himself.  Again the monster was replaced by another infected.  This first had been a woman with most of her face gone, but the second was a child of ten or twelve.  His arm fell to his side. “Ah, man. I can’t do this.”

Brian glanced at Billy “Damn it! Billy, the kid is dead. Do it!”

Billy raised his arm and swung the blade.  The child fell.  A bear of a man in a white shirt stepped on the small tattered body and reached through the bars for Billy.  He stumbled back, tripping over his own feet.  Brian swung out and amputated two of the arms holding the gate closed. The gate began to move turning the body aside as Brian grabbed for the back of Billy’s vest.

“Get up!”  Gotta move, kid.  The gate is opening, they’ll be stumbling in here faster than we can kill em.”

Billy stumbled to his feet.  “Sorry sir.” He raised the blade and charged for the first infected tripping into compound.

One by one, Brian and Billy dispatched seven more undead bodies.  Finally, the gate opened enough to allow the van through.  Brian grabbed the first body and drug in to the side.

“Help me.  We can’t leave the old man with the dead stumbling around here if we can help it.”

Billy grabbed a body and pulled it out of the way.

Juan slipped the van in gear and accelerated toward the gate.  With the last body moved and out of the way he slowed enough for Billy and Brian to jump in the side door then accelerated again.

“Close the gate.”  Brian ordered.

With a press of the button the gate began its slow roll back to the closed position.  Brian glanced out the back window one last time.

“Good luck, old man.”

“Which way Señor Brian?”  Juan asked.

Cassie looked up.  “That makes sense. When people got sick they went to the hospitals and clinics. Those places got overrun pretty quickly. That’s actually a pretty good idea. They use the same equipment more or less.”

“Maybe GPS’s will still work a while longer. I think data comes from satellites.  When the orbits begin to decay though, they’ll become less reliable.”

“We need maps of the area, Texas, New Mexico, maybe even Oklahoma.”  Cassie announced.

“We’ll need other ways to communicate with our people and the outside world.” Daniel commented.

“What about radios and CB and shortwave radio?” Cassie answered.

“I’ll start looking around for options.”

Adding to Daniel’s computer skills was his curiosity about the alternate forms of communications and shortwave radio. He downloaded directions for using CB and shortwave radios and all the list of jargon and codes. He turned to Cassie.

“When the Internet fails, and it will, we’ll need a way to communicate with the outside world.”

Cassie shrugged.  “You think there will be anyone left to talk to?

“Of course.  There will be people like us all over the country.  This will pass…if you believe in God, you know this will pass. The world will rebuild.” Wilma answered from the door. “All things in His time.  Now, come to dinner.”  She led them to the dinning room.

Two days after the attacks, Israel and the US announced Iran was behind the attack and bombed the country into oblivion. It didn’t save anyone but it showed the world what would happen if harm was done if the US was ever truly pissed off.  Israel fell to the dead despite closing their borders. The virus had mutated and became airborne after forty-eight hours, so ultimately, everyone was infected.

A week later social media was blasted with accounts of the infection crossing quarantine lines and into Mexico. It proved Will was right when he told them early on that quarantining the infection would be impossible. Social media became the front row seat to the end of the world as they knew it.

By the end of the second week, all forty-nine states and Canada had cases and the infection was spreading fast. South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East were overrun with reported cases.

At the lodge, Will and Randy agreed they would need a way to communicate with the outside world and other survivors when the Internet was no longer viable. Until then, Daniel would work on the shortwave radio when the computer was tied up downloading files or he had spare time.

While Cassie and Daniel watched the world dissolve into chaos, Will setup one of the men enlarging the garden using a small tractor while three others worked at enlarging a corral for the livestock they anticipated finding.

The women discussed options and in the end, decided what to plant and how much to plant. While Elaina and Wilma concentrated on meals, Maria supervised the work in the garden and breathing new life into the vegetables already growing. They would be planting the Heirloom seeds Will had carefully accumulated.  He had planted only Heirloom seeds since any hybrids and GMO modified seeds would be useless for replanting from harvested seeds.

Maria turned out to be an avid gardener and made suggestions how to utilize the garden space as much as possible and avoid unwanted cross pollination. They planted, corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, greens, lettuce and half a dozen other plants to can and preserve.

All of the adults worried no matter how much they planted, they would not have enough food for so many people.  In addition to saving food, they would also need to save seeds for the next year’s planting. Despite all the fruit trees Will had planted when he bought the property, food would be a problem without livestock.

Will, Randy, Miguel, and Pablo decided they needed to scout the area and collect any domesticated animals they found. Miguel and his family shared information about towns, farms and ranches along the way north. Will pulled out a state map and began making note. He was hoping to eventually make contact and establish trade with the other folks, but for now searching for supplies was priority.

“There’s a good chance we can gather a few horses and tack needed to ride them. Add cattle and well, it would improve our chances of survival.” Randy commented. “Sure wish we would have had another year.”

Will turned to him over morning coffee. “I’ve been thinking if we find livestock, we can’t drive them across cattle guard as it is. I’m gonna put a couple men to cutting some expanded metal on a welded hinge to lay over the cattle guard when we need to cross with animals. We can leave the guard down during the day for coming and going, as long as we have a guard on duty. We need to build a guard hut, too. It’s gonna get pretty hot come summer and shade’ll make it a little more bearable.”

“Wilma and Cassie gave me a list of supplies to scavenge.” Randy complained. “I don’t know how we can get everything they think we need even taking two trucks.”

“You probably won’t find most of it. We’ll have to make do.” Will answered. “People and livestock are critical. Medical supplies if you can find them. Everything else we’ll look for after that.” Both Wilma and Cassie opened their mouths to protest, but fell silent when Will raised his hand and continued. “We get what we can, but there will be a point when it gets too dangerous to be out there. If we find strangers we get to know them a little bit before we make an offer of a place to stay. Our families will be coming, but we still have picked up enough folks to build a community to survive.”

Randy stood. “I’m taking Miguel, Pablo and his son, Hugo out, today. We’re taking my truck and Pablo’s because both have trailer hitches so if we find a trailer, we can fill ‘em up.”

“When are you leaving?” Cassie asked.

“Now.” Randy answered then got up from the table and gathered his plate and cutlery to stack in a plastic pan on a cart at the side of the dining room. Three Hispanic men followed suite.

“Be safe.” Wilma called out.

“Vaya con Dios mi amor.” Elaina whispered.

Miguel slammed a hat on his head. “No te preocupes, mujer.”

Randy threw a careless wave at the room and stepped out into the morning sunshine. Ten minutes later motors roared to life and two vehicles headed for the cattle guard half a mile away.

Wilma , Cassie and Elaina stood and gathered her own dishes. Will and the remaining men deposited their plates and left the dining room. The four women spoke briefly with Elaina then followed the men out of the room.

“How is your mother?” Cassie asked Elaina. “I noticed she didn’t come for breakfast.”

Elaina shrugged. “Not good. She has pain, from the cancer.”

Cassie’s jaw clinched. “Do you want me to come and check on her?”

“Sí.” Elaina whispered. “It would be a kindness if you could help.”

Della, Millie and Darlene, with Penny in her lap settled in the back seat while Steve watched the gate close behind the truck. Zack accelerated.

“We need to get away from here as quickly as we can. I don’t want to be in the area if that bunch decides they don’t want deserters.” Steve advised.

“They looked military.” Darlene commented. “Since when does martial law include taking over a town and killing civilians?”

“It’s not supposed to.” Steve answered.

Steve pulled out a map and folded it in fourths. He found Utopia on the map and traced his finger across the paper. “Thirty miles back we can catch a farm to market road, ten-fifty to twenty-seven forty-eight and head north toward Leakey.”

The truck passed several small side roads before Zack eased off the accelerator and began to break. “Don’t think we’re goin’ that way.”

Ahead on the road an eighteen wheeler had tried to pass a pickup and gone off a narrow bridge. The truck driver had misjudged the clearance and the rig had ended up on its side blocking the entire bridge.

“Back up.” Steve ordered. “Careful, man.”

Zack slipped the gear shift into reverse and swung his arm over the seat to look through the back window. He eased off the break and accelerated. The truck strayed from side to side as Zack backed down the road. “I’m not good at this.”

“Doing fine. Ease up on the accelerator and you’ll stop overcorrecting.” Steve advised.

“Got it.” Zack slowed.

“Look!” Della shouted. “In the distance at the top of that hill.”

A string of motorcycles crested the distant rise and raced down the blacktop toward them.  Steve pulled a pair of binoculars to his face and studied the riders.

“Back up to the next side road and get the truck off the road, Zack. They’ll have to get past the overturned trailer and when they do we need to be long gone.”

“What did you see?” Asked Della.

“Looks like a rough bunch of bikers with a military vehicle leading the way. After what we saw in Utopia, we can’t take a chance on them catching up with us.”

Darlene clutched at her daughter behind Zack. “Please hurry.”

Zack waved his hand, “Working on it, Ms. Darlene.” He accelerated a bit as he got better at guiding the vehicle in reverse.

“There. To the left.” Steve pointed to a side road.

The truck sped past the intersection and Zack slammed on the breaks. The truck skidded on loose gravel at the side of the blacktop. Amid yelps of surprise, the truck swayed to a stop. Zack slammed the gearshift into drive and whipped the vehicle around to the gravel road. He accelerated and followed the curve of the road out of sight.

“Stop!” Steve ordered.

Zack complied. The only sound was the ticking of the cooling engine. A few minutes later they heard the sound of the approaching motorcycles from behind the stand of trees at the edge of the road.

“Did they see us?” Della asked.

“I guess we’ll know soon enough.” Steve answered. “Stop here.” Steve looked back, hesitated then gave a quick nod. “Real slow, pull off to the left under that tree and behind the brush.”

Zack did as he was told but Della interrupted. “Why are we stopping?”

“We need to know where they go.” Steve announced. He started to exit the truck, but Della caught his arm.

“You can’t do that. Your legs are not healed. You’ll be crawling before you get a hundred feet.”

Steve opened his mouth to protest, but Della rested her hand on his shoulder. “If we have to know, I can go back, but you can’t. You have to take it easy if you’re going to be any good to us.” She took a breath then continued. “Besides, what difference does it make? If they head into Utopia, we can do nothing about it. If they saw us, we need to be gone.”

Steve hesitated then answered. “You’re right.” He eased the door closed and slid back in the passenger seat of the truck. “Let’s move, Zack. Slow and easy. Try to make as little dust as possible.”

Zack guided the truck down a narrow dirt road. When the road veered to the south Steve directed them to a fire road heading north.

“Are you sure?” Della protested. “This doesn’t look like much of a road.”

“It’s a fire road. It goes through the canyons and will take us past some really sparsely populated areas. We have enough supplies for now.”

Darlene leaned toward the front seat. “Do we have enough gas?”

“We picked up two five gallon cans and they’re stowed in back.” Steve answered. “During our time in Utopia, Zack and I picked up a few extra supplies. Since, we’re going to head northwest I think we can avoid populated areas at least for a while.”

Della nodded. “Sounds good.”

Darlene reached out to cover Millie’s wrinkled hand. “I think it’s a good idea. It seems the best of humanity is not the only survivors. “

Zack chimed in. “You got that right, between the military and now those bikers.”

Steve agreed. “Legitimate military wouldn’t have taken control by killing people. I think the residents of Utopia are in for a rough time.”

Time passed slowly as they followed the isolated fire roads though the rough bare rock strewn canyons and wooded valleys. Penny pointed at deer grazing along the road. She laughed at Zack when he started singing nursery rhymes and soon they were all singing together. When she grew tired, she settled in Darlene’s arms and napped.

It was those quiet times Millie started talking quietly about life without modern conveniences. “Being share-croppers, my people were poor. I didn’t use an indoor toilet until I was near thirty years old.” She chuckled. “When I was a child my folks killed and cleaned squirrels, rabbits, possum, and raccoon. You name it and my mamma could make it for dinner.”

They stopped from twice to rest and eat. After a quick trip to the bushes they would pile back in the truck. Any time, they stopped they listened for motorcycles in the distance and looking over their shoulder.

Late that afternoon and several hours after passing Garner State Park, Zack tried to flex his wide shoulders and asked. “It’s getting late. Are we going to stop tonight?”

Steve answered. “I know we’re all tired. If I read this map right, we should be coming to a farm to market road in the next couple miles. Turn left and we’ll be going west again. In that area we should see a few small camp grounds and maybe a hunting cabin or two. First place we come to, we’ll check it out.”