January 22, 2008

No one told us and no one saw it coming. When the asteroid hit it seemed too unreal, too much like a Hollywood movie. But the destruction and the dust cloud were all too real. In the aftermath people really showed their true colours. There was a lot of looting, killing and general mayhem. I think that humans did more damage than the damned rock did.
So now I find myself here, now. A city boy lost in the wilderness. And I’ll bet you are asking how the heck did I survive? Well in typical fashion. I hid, cowered in a corner of my basement until it was all over. I was starving but it is amazing how fear becomes the world’s greatest appetite suppressor. My little house on the hill was a refuge and a sanctuary. While all the big homes up the hill from me were pillaged and burnt, mine was left untouched. Not worth their while, I guess. So I hid in my basement. Drank the water that would dribble from my tap and waited. I would always ask myself how long I should wait. Then shooting would start again and fires would be lit and my question would be answered. Until all the violence stopped.
That was last week. I waited a few days just to make sure that they weren’t just resting. But it has been eerily quiet for a few days. Then yesterday the birds started singing. I guess if the birds think it is okay, then it must be.
My first priority was to get food. I was starving now that my fear had subsided. I ventured up the hill to see if I could raid someone’s pantry. But the damage was severe. Most of the homes were just shells. When I did manage to find food it was pre-cooked. That’s a joke, humour is important.
I had to start foraging further and further. That made me scared. I just didn’t want to see what was out there, what was left. So today I have to venture into town and I’m not looking forward to it.

You see I was born in the city. The land of plenty so to speak. If you want food, it’s in the pantry or the store a few blocks away. Restaurants would cook for you and snacks were a plenty. I’ve never fired a gun, shot an arrow let alone beat a man’s skull in with a stick. I say that because that is apparently what has happened to the fellow at my feet. I’ve been staring at him for a few minutes now. Its’ not like TV. There is a lot more blood. It has all dried around his body. He is kind of blue and fat. I wonder how long he’s been here and how soon it will be until I join him.
The town is pretty much wrecked. Not a window to be found. It is very weird. There are so few bodies. I thought it would be more like those death camps you see on TV where the bodies are everywhere. I actually had to look for this fella. He was down an alley. I head back to the main street to see if I can get something to eat. But the looters have taken it all. No blankets in Sears, no food in Safeway no cigarettes at Mac’s.
So my list of missing things is growing, people, food, optimism. I am no survivalist. In fact I’m a coward. But I think that may be the best thing for me. My urge for self preservation is overwhelming. Rampant paranoia is a major facet of my personality. It had kept me alive so far.
A brain storm, I get those sometimes. I’ll go to all the cars in the parking lot, the ones that haven’t been bunt to a crisp. I start looking for keys. I’m not going anywhere but some of these people must have been shopping. The second car I find with keys is a Grand Prix. I pop the trunk and ‘lo and behold, Campbell’s Chunky Soup, the soup that eats like a meal. Mmmm, creamy Turkey a la king. I get the old Swiss army knife out and pry it open. I eat it raw. It never tasted better… needs salt.

This is not going to be one of those stories of a description of a ravaged land. I’m far too queasy and ego centric for that. This is a story of what happen to me. What happen to all the people? Well as near as I can figure it out, they were all gathered up, beaten and then shot. I found them all at the soccer field an hour ago. I just followed the smell. I threw-up my can of soup, it was that gross. Why the hell would someone kill all these people? It reminds me of the breakup of Yugoslavia. I guess that leaves more resources for whoever did this, and a really good reason for me to get the hell out of here.
I took the back way out of town along the old dump and through the stand of trees the city council liked to call their forest. Twenty trees, some forest. I have no idea where I am going but it has to be better than where I was. No food, and death lurking everywhere. Where am I going? Good freaking question, answer it for me if you can.
As I cut my way back towards the main road I smell it again before I saw it, gasoline and burnt rubber. On this side of town there is a large river canyon. One bridge, creating a bottleneck. Good place for an ambush. Someone else had the same idea. Halfway across the bridge is a wrecked shell of a car. I can’t even tell what it was. Behind it is a convoy of wrecks. Again TV news images are burnt into my brain. The flight of the Iraqi army from Kuwait comes to mind. I have to cross the bridge to get out of here.
I can’t remember anything after I passed the first body. The next thing I do remember is dry heaving in a ditch. I look back and I have crossed the bridge. I must have run because I am out of breath. It must have been pretty bad. I like to think I have a strong stomach but this is totally unreal. That’s why I love my brain. It blocks out all this stuff so I don’t become paralyzed by it.
I am trying to think. Do I stay on the road? Its’ easier to walk on, but what if I meet someone. Or do I walk in the brush. I don’t know. I compromise. I walk in the ditch at the side of the road. Its’ easy to walk in and I can duck down and hide if I see someone.
Well if there is one thing I have discovered today its’ that I am out of shape. My knees are all rubbery and I feel lightheaded. Maybe it’s’ the lack of food? Good guess Einstein. But I am having bad luck with food. Every time I eat I come across a new horror. But never discount miracles. An apple tree. A bloody apple tree at the side of the road. How the heck did it get here? The apples are small and not quite ripe, but who cares.
I wake up an hour later. My gut still hurts. I ate way too many and they were way too tart. I crawl into the brush a bit more and find fairly large tree. I curl up in its roots. I’ve always been able to sleep in the worst of circumstances. See you in the morning.

It’s amazing how good you can feel after a good night’s sleep. I am cold and sore but alive. I need to get moving so I head back to the ditch to get going. Now you may wonder why I am skipping along so fast. I could have described to you in great detail the endless nights cowering in my basement and listed in gory detail the many ways in which people died. But these things are not important. I am trying to get to the good part of the story but you will need some background as to when and how I came to be on a certain place on a certain day.
About an hour into my walk I come upon a dilemma. I first saw it as a black mark on the highway. I stopped and stared. I tried to make out what it was and looked for movement, nothing. I crept closer. I had no idea what it was. I hadn’t seen a car or person along the road. And here was something. What the heck was it? A glint of sun reflected off of it. So it was a machine or a person with a shiny belt buckle. I am scared. I sit for a bit thinking. Then I decide to use the landscape to my advantage. I head into the brush and cut along until I feel I am parallel to the thing on the road. I creep along towards the road now. I am listening to every sound and every time a twig crunches under my foot I think I am going to die on the spot.
I can see it better now. I creep closer. Now I stand up. And laugh to myself. It’s a motorcycle. I walk up to it. It’s been dropped pretty hard and most of the gas has leaked from the tank onto the ground leaving a dark stain on the road. I can see where the pegs and handle bar has scarped along the pavement. All I can think is how much it must have hurt when it went down. But where is the rider? I walk around the bike and see some blood on the back fender. The fear is back. What happened to the rider? He obviously came to a grizzly end. I hop into the ditch on the other side of the road. I see another dark mass. I creep toward it, expecting it to be the rider. It is. He is all crumpled up in a ball. It looks like he rolled for a while. As I walk around him I see what made him fall off his bike. He has a huge wound in his back. Like Mad Max. Someone buried an axe into his back while he was riding.
It makes no sense to me though. The bike he was riding looks fast. How could anyone do that? Couldn’t have been a passenger. That would be suicide. So someone in a really fast vehicle caught him and finished him. But why? Doesn’t matter now. He is dead and I have a ride. It may not be the smartest thing to ride a noisy machine around but I’m lazy and tired of walking.

I don’t think I could have found a better vehicle. A car would never get past the road blockages I know I’m going to find. But this bike is like a dream. It’s a big Honda dual purpose bike, a 400 no less. Lotsa torque…whatever that is. I hop on and turn the key, nothing. Ah, I look for a starter button. No starter button. What kind of bike is this? Then I feel a piece of metal poking me in the leg. A kick start?
Sweaty but victorious I head down the road.

It’s my third day on the bike. It’s been kinda fun but very spooky as well. I haven’t seen or heard another person in a long time. I may go crazy. The bike gets good mileage and I am going slowly to conserve gas. I’m in no hurry. The gas stations oddly enough are still working. There is power to most places and I just pump away. I feel guilty about not paying but whom would I pay? Who would care? And is money all that important anymore?

I acquired a leather jacket at one of the roadside cafes. A good one too. Oh, and a pair of gloves. It gets cold and my hands were starting to crack. Food isn’t a problem. I stocked up with Twinkies at one of the stations. They’ll keep forever. I have no real idea where I am going. I just keep heading east hoping to meet a friendly somebody.

Another night and day has passed. I stop for gas at an Esso. I go inside to hit the gas button behind the counter and then it all goes dark.

I don’t know if it is night or day. It is dark and damp. I assume I’m in a basement. It smells like a butcher’s shop in here. Serves me right for letting my guard down. I found some water in a bucket and cleaned my wound. I wouldn’t trust drinking the stuff though. My jacket and gloves are gone. So are my Twinkies.

I am awakened tonight by screaming. It ended after about 5 minutes. Now I’m too scared to sleep. My hunger is gone; my guts are all churned up with fear. I spend my time crawling around my dungeon trying to find a way out. But there is nothing, not even a window, and the door is a heavy metal fire door. My guess is it’s the basement of the station in a storeroom. All I can do is wait.

I was startled by the door swinging open and then blinded by the light in the space beyond. I go to cover my eyes but my arms are intercepted when two sets or arms grab them. I am hit in the face and things start to fade again. Add a glass jaw to my weaknesses. I am being dragged up stairs then down a hall then tossed into a chair. Now cold water on my face, great, now I’m drowning. A hand grabs my hair and pulls my face forward. The water runs out of my mouth so I can breathe. I taste blood but that may be the least of my worries.

“Who are you?” Finally, a human voice. There is no sense resisting.
“Tim who?”
“Timothy Reginald Ellis.” No sense waiting for him to ask my full name is there?
“Where are you from and are there more.” Hmm, a statement, not a question. I wonder if he really wants to know, or if he just wants to see how well I lie. No sense lying, like I said, I’ve nothing to hide. I just want everything to be back to normal.
Welkton, Alberta. Everyone was gone when I went into town.”
“Where’d they go?” A genuine question this time. Seems I’ve passed his test.
I say through broken lips, slurring, “It looks like those who didn’t run were killed and piled in the fields.”
My questioner just nods. I look at him for the first time. He is tall and heavy. Not overweight, but not in great shape. He is dirty and unshaven. If my nose weren’t full of blood he’d probably smell bad too.
“Where are you going?” he asks leaning back on his heels with his arms folded across his chest. I sense he wants a confrontation.
I tell the truth,” Anywhere there are people who don’t want to kill me.”
He laughs hard and loud, slaps me on the shoulder and turns to leave. One of the two sets of arms that are behind me asks, “What do we do with him.”
“Put him in the fields with the others, if he can’t cut it, kill him. We can’t have any deadwood here.”
Another blow to the head and it goes real fuzzy again.

Another splash of water, this is getting tedious, not to mention it’s wrecking my boyish good looks. I look blearily around. I shovel is handed to me. I take it. An arm attached to a burly man points to the ground. A half dug hole. I don’t need to ask what it is. Six feet long and three feet deep, another three feet and we’ll have a grave.
I ask, “Whose is it?” I fear the answer but curiosity gets the best of me.
“Your predecessor.”
“Oh.” Is my only reply.

I hop in and start to dig. At six feet I stop and get out. I feel like heck. I’m sore, out of shape and my head feels like it’s going to explode. I sit down; actually I fall down and then sit up. I know they will kill me if I don’t cut it but the fact is I can’t cut it. I just want to curl up and go to sleep.
A large shadow falls over me. I cringe expected the ever common blow to the head. But there is no blow. I feel some heat near my head. I lift my head. It’s an aluminum plate with some food on it. I don’t ask questions. I just grab it and start eating. After I have licked the plate clean, literally, I look up. It’s the big burly guard. He looks worried. I look around. Almost everybody looks worried.
“What’s up?” I ask.
The big guard looks down, “You know what happened to your town?” I nod. “Well, they’re coming.”
I feel myself go pale. “I thought you guys did that?”
“No, we’ve been hiding here trying to build up a defense to keep them out.” He pauses. “You done?”
“Unless there’s more?” He shakes his head and takes my plate. Then motions for me to follow him. He shows me to a building and tells me to enter. Its dark inside but I can see from the light coming through the door that it’s the sleeping quarters. He points to the back wall and says, “There’s water in that bucket, get cleaned up and get some sleep.”
“Did I pass your test?” I ask.
“Test?” he asks back.
“Y’know, are you going to kill me?” He laughs and smiles.
“No, we just wanted to make sure that you weren’t one of them. A fellow that joined us in the beginning recognized you from the town he lived in. He said you were okay.”
“Who is he, the guy that recognized me, I mean?”
“Says his name is Bert Legere. Know him?”
“Sure do, he’s the guy at the hardware store. Helps me out all the time. My house is in rough shape.”He laughs out loud, “Actually he says you couldn’t fix breakfast and he ended up doing all the work.”I just smile. Bert is one heck of a guy. When no one else in that hick-town would help me he always lent me a hand. He knew the guy who sold me my place took me to the cleaners. I had no money to get it fixed so I had to do it myself. Bert helped me every step of the way.
“Better get some shut-eye. We’ve work to do tomorrow.”
Good advice, and easily followed.

I wake in the morning with the sun in my eyes. I roll over, I’m beat…. literally. But the sun is beating on me and I am hot. I roll on my stomach and sit up. The barracks is deserted but it was well used last night. All the beds are messy. I was so tired I didn’t even hear them come in or leave. I go to the bucket and splash water on my face. Ouch, ouch, OUCH! Man does that sting! I look around for a towel to wipe my face, I use my sheet instead. Looks like my wounds are getting infected. I can only really see out of one eye and a headache is encroaching around my skull. Add to that the fact that I am starving, again, still.

I walk outside. There is a lot of activity. People are putting up fences, some are sharpening sticks and poles, others still are digging holes. I look around for anyone who could point me to food. I glance back at the building I was in. It used to be a small stable. The roof is gone and in its place is a bunch of tarps nailed down. There is a big rip in one and that is where the sun was coming in. Speaking of the sun, it seems to be a long way to the west. I guess I must have slept through the morning. I lady passes me I step towards her and ask what time it is. Hers eyes grow wide and her face freezes. She stops, turns around and walks the other way. Now I know that I am bad with the ladies but this is silly. Maybe my face is worse than I thought. Just then I spy Bert working on a fence across the compound.

I walk up to him and touch him on the shoulder. He turns around and a big grin spreads across his face. I stick my hand out to shake his hand. He face grows dark. I feel a frown come across his face. It was then that I looked for his hand and realize that he has no right arm. I quickly put my hand away.
“Hi Bert, thanks for recognizing me.” I say.
“No problem. I wasn’t sure it was you underneath all that blood at first but then Mike told me what your name was and I knew it was you.”

I wanted to pass more pleasantries but my stomach was screaming for some attention. “Is there someplace I can get something to eat?” I ask.
“Sure is but I would suggest we get your face looked at, looks like someone ran over it with a truck, a Ford I think”
I smile at his graveyard humor, bad idea. My lips splits and I can taste blood.
“Yup,” Bert says, “I really think you should get that taken care of. Lunch can wait, besides with what you are about to go through your lunch wouldn’t stay down very long.”

We walk over to a rough building, it looks like it was knocked down and then put back together with some pieces missing. As we enter I wonder if living with my pain might be a better idea. The building is rife with the smell of death. Hygiene is obviously not a priority here. Bert points to a bench and motions for me to sit. He walks away to get someone.
“Here is our local Sawbones; he used to be a vet. He says that people and cows are all just animals.”
With that Bert leaves me to the devices of a rather sinister man with a blood soaked smock and a crocked smile. Why oh why did I ever leaves my nice dark safe basement. The grumble in my stomach reminds me. I now understand why most wars are fought over resources, i.e. food.

…(I wrote this story 10 years ago. I lost parts two and three when my hard drive crashed. I managed to recover part one from an email I sent to my friend who edited it for me. I will try to recreate parts two and three over the next few months as time permits. Please keep in mind that the storeys and writings in here are fiction, there may be some parts of my life in there, but for the most part they are not true. I’m just writing.)

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