Thursday, August 7, 2014

Part 29




"Oh goodie.  I like school," I told him in a lispy little girl voice.  Then snorted and stuck my tongue out at him.  It made him smile.  It was a small smile but at least it was real and the corners of his mouth turned up a little.

He asked, "OK, what did you notice when we got off the interstate?"

I looked at him and wondered just what he was asking about.  "You mean what did I see?"

"Start with that."

Start with that he says.  "Hmmm.  OK, the road was clear like you said it would be.  There's been a few wrecks along the road but they looked like they had been pushed to the side even if they happened in the middle."

"Good.  What else?"

"Those signs.  They looked ... I don't know ... they weren't just homemade and junk.  They looked like someone that knew how to make signs made them; like they were real signs and not something someone just used spray paint and cardboard to make."

"That's right.  What did the signs say?"

"Different things ... Stay away from x, y, and z.  Where evacuation points were.  Prepare to stop for inspection and if you don't stop expect to get shot."

Jace nodded.  "OK.  What about when we got off?"

"You mean that this exit ramp was harder to get off on compared to some of the other ones?  We had to push that car out of the way to get passed and under the overpass.  The highway looks kinda all tore up too."

Jace nodded again, this time with some approval that made me feel better even if I didn't really want to fall into that trap.  "Good eye.  So what do you think it means?"

"What do you mean what does it mean?  How am I supposed to know that?  It isn't like they've hung a sign explaining it all."

He flicked a piece of gravel at me.  "Don't act stupid Dee Dee.  Go back to how you survived in the city.  You'd see something and it would be a clue that told you something could be around the corner or what happened or whatever."

I didn't want to tell him in the city I was used to other people thinking about that stuff for me so I tried to put the two and two together that he had handed me.  "The military or someone like the military uses these roads ... or did for a while.  Up to six months ago anyway when you had to leave the radio at Springfield."

Jace nodded.  "Now those signs tell us that at least for a while someone was patrolling the roads too because they were stopping people like they had the authority to do it.  A couple of those wrecks might be where people didn't want to be stopped and whoever did what they said they were going to do which was shoot.  But I don't think they were total scumbags about it because there are plenty of warning signs."

I said, "They also give places to stay away from and it looks like some of the place names would get added to whatever the sign said when it was first put up.  Some of the evacuation points were X'd out so they didn't get people's hopes up or kept some information going current.  Some of the exit ramps were also destroyed with warning signs saying that it was dangerous to enter that area."

Jace flicked another piece of gravel at me but this time it was with approval.  I guess it was a guy thing.  "Good catch on how they are/were adding names to the list of dangerous places.  Which leads us to here.  The exit ramp ... it isn't clear but it doesn't look intentionally blocked does it?"

"Not on purpose, no."

"But the cars have been here a while.  The cars are covered with dust and debris and so are the scortch marks where that truck caught fire that we tried to move but couldn't.  Which kinda goes against the rest of the wrecks and ramps."

Beginning to see it I said, "You mean that whoever 'they' is for some reason isn't taking care of things anymore."

"Or at least not in this immediate area for a while.  You probably didn't hear much where you were but the military did a lot of what they called pulling back.  It is like they were ... uh ... consolidating their positions.  That's a term they used alot.  A formerly secure site would fall and they would pull back and reorganize, tighten up their defensive lines.  Sometimes that meant abandoning evacuation points, towns, and other strategic locations.  Sounded like a real mess when you were listening and there was a lot of armchair quarterbacking by people in my group.  The professors were always trying to out guess what the military and government would do next and complain and criticize it."

Thinking about it I told him, "This doesn't look like a mess, not like some of the messes that I've seen.  This just looks ... I don't know ... forgotten, like it is a place that doesn't matter enough anymore to bother with it."

Jace nodded slowly, "Good way of describing it."  He gave me a closed look and said, "I know I bitched - geez that look could scare an infected ... fine I won't swear.  Geez you're picky.  Anyway, I know I 'complained' about not making the state line earlier so this is going to sound pretty crazy.  I want to check out that town down the highway ... Rochelle or whatever its called.  I want to see what kind of condition it is in."

I gave it two seconds of thought before looking right at him and saying, "Why?"

He knew I was picking at him because of his earlier complaints about me asking too many questions.  He rolled his eyes but responded, "Because the shape it is in will give us some more clues.  Might also see if there are some tires for the truck.  Kill two birds with one stone."

"Fine."  After a moment I added, "Is that the last of preschool?  'Cause I gotta tell you I don't feel like I'm getting that educated."

He snorted.  "No, that's not all for tonight.  But I wanted to see how fast you got a concept."

"What concept?"

"It is called situational awareness.  It's something you need to have whether you are in immediate danger or not.  That means getting clues from what you see ... and sometimes what you don't see."

"You mean like missing pieces of a puzzle."

"Yep.  And since you seem to at least understand that I want you to make sure you practice it.  It's important Dee Dee.  You ask why so much.  Well, what if someone isn't there to answer your question?"

I nodded understanding what he meant.  "You mean if I just shut up and watch and listen and look for clues I might be able to answer the question before I have to ask it."

"Yeah, exactly.  It's not that ... that you shouldn't ask questions.  Its just that you ask so many ... and half of them you wouldn't have to if you'd just take a few moments to think for yourself."

My feelings wanted to get hurt but since Jace wasn't the first person to point that out to me ... Toddie used to say roughly the same thing ... I tried to just accept it.  Thinking about it I do realize that getting stuff from books like I used to was fine as far as it goes but there isn't exactly a manual on how to survive what the world has turned into ... or at least I haven't found one yet.  I'd been depending on other people.  I'd even kind of been looking forward to going back to my old life, until I finally accepted that my old life was gone forever and so were most of the people from it.  Then I accepted Jace's promise to teach me stuff so I could depend on myself for real.  But if I am going to do this, I need to do it right.

"Earth to Dee Dee."

I looked at Jace.  "I was thinking."

"Didn't look pleasant."

"Wasn't but that's life.  So ... what's next Teacher?"

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