Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Part 90


Between the cold and everything else we were both exhausted but neither one of us really slept.  I'd doze for a moment and then jump awake but he'd pat my arm and I'd realize where I was and stop freaking.  Then he'd doze and jump awake and I could feel his whole body get like he was ready to spring.  I'd tell him, "If you're going out so am I."  Then I could feel the tension leave his body and he'd say, "Naw.  Still too dark.  I don't want to break my neck."

This happpened three or four times and I finally groaned.  "This is beyond stupid.  I'm so tired my brain is shrinking but I don't know if it is a good idea to go to sleep or not with it being so cold.  At least I'm up against the tree, you have to be worse because your back is to the snow."

"It's not bad," he mumbled.  "My pack is protecting my back."  We both listened and the wind was really howling again.  "Another storm.  We're going to be stuck here longer than I thought."

I heard the worry in his voice.  "Are you hungry?" I asked.

"The cans in my pack are probably frozen or I'd get something out for you."

"I've got some jerky in one of my pockets.  It's not a lot but ..."

"... it's better than nothing.  Yeah.  But I don't want to take anything if you are low on food."

"Kinda stupid to starve to death when there is food in my pocket."

He asked, "What about back at your cabin?  You told the Major that things weren't all that great."

"It's not that they aren't great.  I mean they aren't but things aren't horrible.  These back to back storms are going to make things rough for hunting though.  I wish I could catch a buffalo; they've got some around here somewhere.  I could probably eat it hoofs, horns, and all right now."

He snorted.  "You would.  I can just see you taking one of those things on.  You know I've seen what one can do when it gets PO'd.  Last week one destroyed a portable lab that the docs had going ... destroyed a bunch of infecteds too for that matter when they were too slow to get out of the way."

"Ew."

"Tell me about it.  I was on containment and clean up detail.  We were going to shoot one of those big males to have fresh meat for the camp but the docs went all wiggy and crap and those fools made the herd stampede so that we couldn't go on a hunt."

"I had wondered where they all went to.  Well at least we don't have to worry about getting trampled.  I still wouldn't mind catching one though.  There's enough meat on just one of those things to last me all year."  Finally digging out what I'd been searching through my pockets for I handed him a strip of venison jerky and said, "Here.  Not as good as my mother used to make but its not bad."

"Your mom did stuff like this?"

"Yep.  She gardened and canned too even though we had an itty bitty yard.  One of my first memories is walking behind her and holding onto her shirt tail while she picked beans at some farm out in the country."  Trying to keep the emotions at bay while still explaining I added, "My dad loved jerky and stuff like that but it was uber expensive.  She learned how to make it homemade one summer when we came to Singing Waters and Dad like it so well she stopped buying the store-bought kind.  Dad also loved to go hunting and fishing when he could get the time off.  But that wasn't exactly cheap either.  Mom thought it was like her mission in life or something to save money so that Dad didn't have to work so many hours.  He gave up a lot of free time so that Mom didn't have to work outside the house even after I started school.  She figured by doing all the stuff she did, Dad would worry less about the money and think more on keeping safe while he was on duty."

"My mom didn't ever really even cook, she was career woman all the way.  It didn't seem to bother my dad though.  He was always talking about how proud he was of her and stuff."

"But?"

He shrugged.  I had begun to think that was the only answer I was going to get when he said, "When I was younger and going through a rough spot I wondered why they'd adopted me if they were never home to see me.  They were always on business trips or having to stay late for some project or other.  I mean it was cool having parents that could pay the bills and all that but it was really my grandparents who raised me."

"All of my extended family was gone before I started school.  Dad and Mom were both the chidren of really older parents.  What was it like having grandparents?"

"Cool.  We lived with them in a house that's been in the family for a long time.  Some great so many times uncle was a carpet bagger that fell in love with the plantation owner's daughter.  My sisters tell the story real good with lots of romantic sighs and stuff.  Dad was the last male Cochran until they adopted me.  Gramps loved it and sometimes I wonder if they didn't adopt me just for him.  Then Gramps died all of a sudden when I was 15.  Something went haywire with his pacemaker and they didn't catch it in time.  My grandmother already ruled the roost ... you know queen of the house sort of thing.  Mom doesn't care about that sort of thing so it's never bothered her."

"Wait ... are you telling me your family ...?  I mean ..."

"That they're still alive?  Yeah, except for my oldest sister's husband, only we don't know for sure we just assume he's dead.  He was out of the country on business on Z-Day.  My grandparents sold the land around the house a long time ago to these developers and a gated community kind of thing was built around them.  When things went crazy, the security guards - who already live inside the community as part of their income - locked down everything and I know it sounds like a movie but its like a MAG compound now."

"MAG compound?"

"Mutual assistance group ... MAG ... where like minded people get together during a disaster."

"A commune."

"No, not really.  That one is more like a ... a representative democracry.  Every block has a captain.  That captain takes the concerns of the people on their block in front of the community board.  The community board is made up of equal numbers from the security force, the families that lived there before Z-Day, and the families they've taken in since then.  They've got written rules and everyone over the age of sixteen has to sign a contract with the community or they have to leave."

Curious I asked, "Why aren't you still there?"

"I wouldn't sign their stupid contract.  Dad didn't understand but Gramps would have.  Looking back I can see it wasn't such a bad thing but at the time I just ... I just didn't ... it's kind of hard to explain.  Basically everyone sixteen and older had to give so many days a month to the community to go out and salvage through houses and hunt infecteds.  It wasn't the salvaging that bothered me.  And I could have - and did - shoot infecteds that threatened the community.  I just didn't like how much some of those ol' boys enjoyed hunting the infecteds and what they did to them when they caught them.  I mean not everyone was like that, most weren't, but the community leaders turned a blind eye to the ones that were and back then I shot my mouth off before my brain could get in gear.  I got in trouble and basically I joined up with the national guard before I could get kicked out and cause problems for my family."

"How could you join the National Guard if you were only sixteen?" I asked suspiciously, wondering if he was yanking my chain.

"I was seventeen, almost eighteen, and after all that had happened they weren't exactly worrying about a few months of age.  I'd been in the Guard - which is the same thing as being active duty because we were all called up - for almost nine months when you strolled into the picture."

"As I recall I wasn't strolling.  I was beating the daylights out of some puss brains that were chewing on you."

I had said the wrong thing.  His shivering was barely noticeable at first but it quickly got real bad.  Then I was fighting to keep him from climbing out of our shelter.

Part 89


"Hey, now that we've got all the strange stuff out of the way, mind telling me where we are and how we got here?"

Cochran nearly cackled.  "You are so ... I don't know ... different."

"And that prevents you from answering my question why?"

He snickered and then said, "It doesn't.  I built a snow shelter to keep us from freezing to death.  It's not a great one because I had to do it so fast but it'll last us until daylight and then we'll head back to your cabin."

"My cabin?  Why my cabin?"

"Because that is where I told the Major that I'd rendezvous with him at."

"How did you tell him that?"

"Now who is being stupid?" he asked.  "By radio of course.  Just because I got one of my crazies on and took off doesn't mean I'm completely demented.  I carry a radio and spare batteries everywhere I go just in case.  The Major would have come after he found out you were missing but we had a bunch of guys go AWOL - most of them refugee camp recruits - and he was trying to round them up to keep them from freezing to death."

Trying not to give anything away I said, "Sounds bad."

"Yeah.  The docs started something again.  They were trying to get the men to ... if you were on the water it would be a mutiny ... to revolt against the Major and make them the bosses but it backfired.  The men really can't stand the docs - at least the egghead ones - and all the docs did was make the men think they couldn't trust the major and that they'd be better off trying to return home or go further north, maybe into Canada."

"Mega stupid.  Canada has helicopters patrolling their borders and the word is out that they shoot first and ask questions later."

"You know it.  I know it.  Most people with sense know it.  But a lot of those refugee recruits don't exactly have a lot of sense.  Those that had any have already been promoted into positions of responsibility back where they came from or in the local militias.  The ones that are left are the dregs.  You need to be careful.  Some of those that went AWOL aren't the best kind of people."

"I'll keep that in mind," I told him.

Things got quiet after that and I almost fell asleep again.  "I was coming to check on you."

"Huh?"

"I was coming to check on you.  For some reason I just couldn't get it out of my head.  And then you weren't at the cabin but I found skid marks ... or drag marks of some kind.  I guess you must have been looking for wood or something."

Rather than answer him I shrugged.  It bothered me to lie to Cochran and I wasn't sure why ... still not sure I've done the right thing.

"You came a little far to get wood though.  That wasn't exactly smart."

Then I don't know why but I told him.  "I wasn't hauling wood."  When I was done explaining he was very quiet.  I tried to move away but his arm went over me.

"Don't.  You'll just get cold and so will I."

I asked him, "Did you hear what I said?"

"Yeah.  Two jerks were going to rape you and worse.  You defended yourself.  End of discussion.  No one else has to know about it."

"But these guys weren't puss brains."

Cochran said, "No they weren't which is why this goes no further ... not even to the Major.  I know he's your friend and he'll risk everything to protect you but him knowing ... it'll put him in an awkward spot and it could be used against him.  And no one needs to ... look ... they are already having hissy fits when someone 'murders' an infected.  I imagine they'll do more than throw a fit if they find out about anything like this."

Angry at myself I said, "I shouldn't have told you."

"No, you shouldn't have.  But ... but I'm glad you did.  When daylight comes I'll look and see if the dogs left any ... uh ... evidence and we'll see what we have to work with in case we need to come up with a story."

Confused I said, "Well aren't you all calm, cool, and calculating."

"You want me to have hysterics like a girl or something?"

"I'm a girl and I'm not having hysterics."

"Then why should I?  If they are the guys I think they are ... they needed taking out.  They used to brag about doing some pretty sick crap.  The Major had them up on charges twice but the docs interferred by saying they needed the warm bodies to move the infecteds around.  They fell asleep on guard duty this time and the Major said that was the last straw.  He was going to call a tribunal or something like that and more than likely they would have been put down by a firing squad anyway."

"A ... a firing squad?!  Are you kidding me?!"

"Nope.  Major Watson doesn't fool around about stuff like that.  He's already had two up on charges of rape and they were hung.  That happened last month and you would have figured the men would have learned."

"OMG, that sounds so ... so ... archaic and junk."

"Yeah, but this is that kind of world now and those men don't deserve you to feel sorry for them.  Just be glad there are still men like Major Watson that care enough to put it on the line to try and protect people when he can."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Part 88




"Out of it?  Yeah, you could say that," I told him.

I could feel him starting to relax.  "You scared me."

I asked, "Why?"

"'Cause you did.  You are such a runt but you are always doing such big things.  I mean you aren't much more than a couple of mouthfuls for an infected yet ... I don't know ..."  He shuddered.  "You don't seem afraid of anything."

"Don't be so stupid.  I get scared of plenty.  Fear is the thing that has kept me alive.  I usually just don't let it ... you know ... run my life."

I felt him moving around trying to get comfortable.  "Are you OK?" I asked.

"Cold.  And you might be a runt but getting you out of that tree was like hauling a hundred squares of shingles in one load."

"Uh ... what's a square of shingles and should I be insulted?"

"Yeah, you probably should but dang girl for a little thing you're heavy."  I slapped my mitten covered hand in his general direction and he just chuckled.  "Seriously DeeDee what the hell were you doing up that tree?  I almost didn't see you."

"What were you doing out in the woods by yourself and ... well, just and all of it?"

He got still and I could tell he wasn't smiling anymore.  Quietly he told me, "I guess Major Watson explained things."

"If you mean that he told me that you survived on your own for a couple of weeks when my old town got overrun, yeah he did.  But that's not the same thing as explaining.  If you don't want to you don't have to.  I don't want to get in your business, I was just wondering why you were out by yourself."

He sighed.  "Sometimes things just get to me.  I can't stand being closed up.  I ... this past storm ... I got stuck bunking with ... look, just sometimes I gotta get out.  It's like I can't breathe or something."

I patted his arm.  "Like I don't like people getting too close."  He started to move backwards again and I said, "Not you Stupid.  People, people ... you know ... strangers."

That stopped him.  "So you don't think I'm a stranger?"

"Well, maybe I don't know you much but what I do know isn't too bad.  I've learned to see whether I can trust someone, or put up with them, really fast."  I gave him a few examples like Jace, Sunny, Sarge, and then Michelle.

"Hey, about that.  I'm ... I guess I'm sorry about Lee."

Confused I asked him, "Why?"

"Didn't he like ... I don't know ... break your heart?"

I snorted.  "First off I'm not too sure I have a heart to break ... at least not anymore, or not that kind anyway.  After you see so much, live so much ... look, I just don't know if I do.  Maybe I used to have a little girl kinda crush on Lee.  And that's only maybe.  But like I told Sarge, life took us in two different directions.  I still like Lee - or at least I think I do unless he has really changed - but it's as a friend ... for memories, that sort of thing.  I kinda just feel more sorry for him than anything now that I know what a mess he's in.  He did such a dumb guy thing - and I don't like that Michelle at all - and now they are both kinda stuck with a baby of their own making."

"They don't have to be."

"Huh?  You mean ... I mean ... an abortion?"

"No!" he said almost angrily.  "No, I just mean, my birth mom got knocked up with me when she was real young and my bio dad was supposedly a year younger than her.  She was like fourteen ... fifteen when she had me ... and she gave me up for adoption.  It wasn't a bad way for me to grow up.  My parents never hid that I was adopted or anything, just treated me normal like they did my sisters who were their bio-kids."

"Cool."

He nodded.  "Yeah.  Not bad.  I mean I guess you can tell I don't exactly look like a Cochran but they never treated me any different."  I shook my head and even though my hood didn't move I guess he must have felt it.  He asked, "Are you laughing at me?"

I wasn't and told him so.  "No.  I just don't know what a Cochran is supposed to look like.  It sounds ... I don't know ... strange when you say it like that."

Explaining he said, "I mean I'm not straight white."

"So?"

"I grew up in a family of curly blonde haired, blue eyed short people.  I had a mustache by the time I was twelve, was taller than my dad by the time I was fourteen, and I've never needed the sun to have a suntan."

"So?"

"So my bio dad was a tall white boy but my birth mom was half Indonesian and half Thai."

"So?"

"So ..."  He stopped and then said, "So, I guess nothing.  I was just explaining why I don't look like a guy named Cochran was supposed to look."

I shook my head again.  "You're definitely short a few bricks.  How am I supposed to know what a Cochran looks like when you are the only Cochran I've ever met?"

I felt him shrug.  "Don't know.  I guess I just thought I should explain."

"Uh ... ok.  You wanna know why I'm short?"

He surprised me by saying, "I know why you're short.  You were one of those preemie babies.  Lee told me."

Not sure I liked my business being known without my permission I asked, "Why the heck would Lee tell you something like that?"

"I guess I was kinda making fun of you being small and he went off on me.  And ... this is a really stupid conversation isn't it?"

"Pretty much but what else have we got to do?"

He snorted and said, "Don't even go there."

"Go where?"

He groaned and then snickered.  "Never mind.  I'm obviously not impressing you."  Then he got quiet again before saying, "No reason I should."

I knew immediately what he was thinking about.  "I think they call it PTSD or PSTD or something like that."

Irritated he asked, "You a doctor now?'

Matter of factly I told him, "No, but hero or no hero I'll kick you if you go off on me like you want to."

He was quiet for a long time then snickered.  "You know, no one has done that in a long time."

"Done what?"

"Not felt sorry for me.  I think I like it."

It was my turn to snicker.  "You have definitely gone strange Cochran."

"Yeah maybe, but I'm learning to live with it.  I just wish people would leave me alone about it."

"Then tell them."

"I do," he huffed.  "Just everyone seems to want to help.  I get so tired of people being helpful you wouldn't believe it."

"Oh yes I would," I told him in complete agreement.  "Everyone always thinks they know what is best for you.  The worst ones are the ones that mean well.  Geez, you'd think they'd get the message after a few times but nope ... it's like they can't help themselves or something."

"Exactly."

It was like being with someone that totally understood where I was coming from.  I'd never felt that before.  It kinda gave me the heebies.

Part 87




The first thing I really remember is the sensation of falling.  Startled I tried to  look for the tree trunk to grab.  I must have surprised him because he grabbed me and the limb he was hanging from.  When I realized it wasn't wood under me I tried to fight and found myself pinned against the tree's main trunk.

I couldn't feel most of me but I still tried to fight.  I couldn't see anything.  Then there was hands ... well, mittens ... on my face brushing the snow out of my eyes.  "Hey!  I can't get you down if you fight me.  You have to help, not knock us out of the tree."

I stopped at the sound of the voice.  The words weren't making much sense but I knew who they belonged to.  "What are you doing here?"

"No talking.  Just do your best to hold on."

So I did.  And then we were down but I couldn't stand up.  I wasn't even cold anymore, just nothing wanted to work.  Then the tarp was wrapped around me again and I thought, "He must think I'm dead.  Sitting in this snow I soon will be.  I tried to move a couple of times but nothing was doing what I told it to; I couldn't even summon the strength to talk which really would have told anyone that knew me that I was in trouble.  Then I was being dragged backwards and then into what I thought was a hole.  "Wha ... ?"

All I was doing was trying to push my hood back but he snapped, "Stop that.  You're already frozen stiff.  You want to let all your body heat out?"

So I stopped.  I kind of drifted for a while.  I felt myself being turned this way and that, then we were both still.  I had gotten used to the cold and had stopped shaking but as I lay in that tunnel my shaking started back up and it was uncontrollable.  It was so bad I was getting motion sickness.

"Argh ...." I moaned.

"Shhhh.  It's alright.  You're just warming back up.  The shaking and shivering is your body's way of getting everything moving and trying to get some heat going."

Again I asked, "What are you doing here?  The dogs are ... are ... well they're here somewhere."

He said, "No they aren't.  I shot the bastards dead.  How long did they have you treed?"

"I don't know.  What time is it?"

"Don't know and I'm not moving my arm to check.  It's sometime after midnight is all I know."

That's when I realized his arms were wrapped around me and I was closer to him than I'd ever been to another living soul except for my parents.  I would have fought but I was so tired and so cold and he wasn't doing anything.  "Wha ... ?"

"Easy, you're pretty out of it."

"Yeah.  Yeah I ... I think I am.  My head ..."  I moaned a little without meaning to.

"You're dehydrated I bet."

"Water ... inside my coat."

I felt one of his arms move and get a little personal while he searched for the water bottle.  "Sorry," he mumbled.  "Mind if I have a swig too?"

"Hey ... you're the hero."

As he held the canteen to my lips he grumbled, "Am not."

I swallowed and said "Are too."  I must have fallen unconscious after that for a bit.  At least he said I was like a dead weight and that he'd started to worry when I didn't move at all.

That's when he started doing what he did.  I woke up at some point when I felt warmth around my mouth and cheeks.  Then I moved and felt lips touch my skin.  My instincts from the city kicked in and I tried to fight and get away.  The more I fought the tighter he held me down.  Then he must have realized that I was awake.

"DeeDee ... DeeDee ... it's just me.  Take it easy."

"Get off me!"

"DeeDee ... it's ok.  No one is trying to hurt you."

"Why are you on top of me?  Why won't you let me go?!  Why are you kissing me?!!"

"Kissing you?!  If I was trying to kiss you you'd know it.  I was trying to warm you up.  That's all."

"That's what you call it?"

"Relax already.  Yeah, that's all I was doing.  I was breathing on your skin trying to keep you warm.  You were practically blue.  Your eyes didn't even move when I had the flashlight on your face.  I couldn't think what else to do.  Now hold still, you've knocked the tarp down."

My heart was trying to climb out of my chest.  I'd had men try to overpower me before, and they'd come close, but I'd never been in the position when one was actually laying on me ... or practically laying on me.  Between that and the closed in feeling of where ever we were I was having a hard time breathing.

Then he stopped and got real still.  "Hey, you're scared.  I ... I didn't mean to scare you.  Just hold tight.  Are you claustrophobic?  Is that why you dug your way out of the cabin and then left?  People think I'm crazy ... guess that makes two of us for needing to get out in the middle of a storm."

"Cochran?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm asking nice.  Can you please ... just ... just give me a little space.  You're ... you're all on top of me ... I ... I ..."

He was suddenly stiller even than he had been before and said, "Hey ... hey ... sure.  You really are scared.  Did ... I mean ... some guy ...?"

"No!"  I nearly shouted.  Then I stopped because I started shivering because he'd moved away like I'd asked.

He said, "Look, you tell me when I get too close but we need to share body heat ... give as little space for the cold to get between us as we can.  Can I ... can I move a little closer?"

I thought about it and said, "Yeah.  Yeah just don't pin my arms."

"Sure, I can do that.  How's this?"

"It's ... it's ok."  And it was.  My guy-dar usually picked up any hinky-ness from guys and Cochran wasn't even making my needle wiggle.  "What are you doing here?"

"You've asked that a couple of times.  I've explained it but I guess you weren't really listening or didn't hear me or something.  You were pretty out of it."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Part 86


Both Jace and Mr. Svenson have taught me that even if you are buck nekked in the middle of the ocean you still have options and you still have a weapon.  The weapon is your brain.  Your options are to fight or give up.

Well I wasn't buck nekked, I was fully clothed and with a fur-lined coat and hood on top of that ... fur that I had caught, prepped, and sewn myself.  I wasn't in the middle of the ocean, I was up a tree ... a good stout tree and not a wimpy pine tree.  And one of these days I'm gonna die just like everyone else but I'll be fighting when it happens; giving up has just never been part of who I am, not even when I was a preemie.  And after telling myself all that I also realized I had a lot of other stuff too.

First off I had the tarp.  I had rolled it up and tucked it into my belt while I was arranging the bodies and had forgotten about it on the climb.  I also had all the stuff that had come out of the men's pockets ... pocket knife, string, and a few other odds and ends.  I also had some jerky in my pocket in my emergency stash that I keep in the inside pocket of my jacket.  I also had a small canteen.

What I didn't have was a good light or water for the canteen.  The light I would just have to do without.  No way was I going to use my matches to light a fire up in a dried out tree.  I may be foolish on occasion but I hope I'm no fool.  The water I actually could do something about.

As carefully as I could before the sun went down completely I raked snow into the canteen, packed it as full and as tight as I could, and then stuck it inside my coat next to my body.  Doggone it was cold but Mr. Svenson said eating snow for water was a very bad idea.  Your body had to use up precious energy to melt the snow and the snow also dropped your core body temperature which was something you didn't want unless you were planning your funeral at the same time.

Then I took the tarp and pulled it around me to try and keep the wind out.  I would have liked more insulation but the tree didn't have any leaves to speak of and I wasn't going to risk trying to jump to one of the large spruce or larch trees that were evergreens.  The tarp crinkled and crackled driving the dogs crazy; they knew there was something yummy to eat in the tree above them but that they couldn't get to it.  When they finally settled back down with only the occasional whine, growl, or howl the forest became quiet as a tomb.  Everyone once in a while during that long, cold night I thought it was going to be my tomb.  And it almost was. You can fight all the time but that doesn't mean you'll win all the time.

I kept forcing myself to stay awake.  I knew if I went to sleep more than likely I would never wake up.  But I was beginning to lose the battle.  I caught myself more than once almost falling off my perch.  It was sometime in the wee morning hours that another storm started up.  The wind wasn't as bad as it had been with the other recent storms or I would have been blown out of the tree, but it was bad enough.  I stopped being able to feel my feet and hands.  I started saying my prayers and they must have been crazy ones too because I missed the ruckus below me.  Either that or I was a lot farther gone than I realized.

Part 85




I don't think I've ever climbed a tree that fast in my entire life, not even during the bear incident which shall remain deleted from history.  I felt the roll on the end of my pants catch and then give and a body hit the ground with a yelp.  I didn't even stop climbing until I was a good fifteen feet off the group and after I looked down I went up two more branches.

There were over two dozen feral dogs and what looked like dogs that were half and half with the wolf part being the bigger half ringing the tree I was in.  There were a couple of more really big dogs going at the bodies of the two men, then the other dogs couldn't seem to stand it anymore and joined them.

They were snapping and growling worse than a pack of puss brains but were definitely a whole lot more organized with a definite hierarchy.  They had alphas and then they had some pooches that looked like all they had to do is breathe to get snapped at and put in their place.  I tried not to watch what they were doing but there was no way to close my ears to it.

Just sitting there up in that tree I had noticed the wind had picked up even more and it was getting colder as the day headed towards evening.  I knew if I didn't get out of that tree soon it would be dark before I could reach the cabin and that wasn't good.  As soon as the sun disappears from the sky every bit of warmth gets sucked from the air.

I waited an hour for those stupid dogs to give it up and go away but they'd gotten their bellies semi-filled and were ready to bunk down for a bit.  "No, no, no you stupid dogs, go away!" I called down to them which only seemed to wind them back up for more food in the form of me.  Another fifteen minutes went by and they finally settled back down again.  Holy guacamole I was getting mad ... and more than a little concerned.  Even if I was able to fly down from the tree and get going it would certainly be dark before I could reach the cabin.

That's when I took a chance and took the gun out of my pocket.  I had a full clip minus two plus another full clip.  I am beginning to be concerned about how many bullets I have and don't use the gun except in emergencies.  Well, getting stuck in a tree overnight was an emergency.  To make sure my shots were good since the sun was setting I came down two branches and then had to wait for the dogs to stop running around in excitement again.  I can hit something that is moving up close or I can hit something that is still far away, but I can't hit a moving target that is too far away.

Jace told me the gun was a Heckler.  I still haven't figured out why they would call a gun a heckler except maybe it is a play on words 'cause a heckler kinda shoots words.  I mean I could be wrong but since Jace isn't around to ask and I haven't felt like looking stupid and asking anyone else my guess is as good as anything else.  All I do know is that the gun belonged to his dad and it shoots 9 mm bullets.  That's all I really need to know beyond the basics of cleaning it and keeping it in good working order.  Oh yeah, and which end to point.

I tried shooting the dogs but once I started shooting they started moving all over the place and going crazy.  After a few shots it was useless to keep going; all I was doing was shooting trees and dirt.  They didn't run off though.  And frankly all I wound up doing is feeding them as they went cannibal on their fallen comrades, the few that I had actually been able to hit.  Great.  I knew at that point they were never going to leave and I needed to prepare for the worst.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Part 84



If I was the me I could have been if the infection hadn't come and puss brains hadn't destroyed my entire life, I would look at the me I am now and be totally freaked.  Probably disgusted too.  I sat by the fire tonight, snug in my snow-covered cabin, and thought this all out.  I don't feel guilty about shooting those two guys, about killing them.  No, I really don't.  I regret that it came to that but I don't feel guilty about doing it.

They weren't puss brains ... in a way they were worse.  Puss brains are sick.  There's no hope for them.  Their brains are so far gone and so damaged that a full recovery is impossible.  I honestly haven't seen much evidence that a partial recovery is possible.  They show signs of being clever, but not of true intelligence.  They would die off if left alone and not supported. I would even leave them alone for them to go naturally so long as they don't threaten me directly.  Live and let live ... so long as their living didn't include me dying.  That was the rule in the city and it has stayed good enough to live by even now.

Those men on the other hand ... those men had the ability to make a choice and they chose to be animals even though they knew it was wrong.  They were going to come after me just to hurt Sarge, just to get some kind of gratification out of you know what.  But the you know what wasn't even their main goal, it was more of a power thing.  Sherry told me a long time ago that sex was about more about power than anything else.  I didn't understand what she meant then 'cause when she said it I didn't really have much more than a small idea of what sex was to begin with; knowing what you do when you do it is a lot different than knowing why you do it.  But almost every example I've seen of sex since Z-Day just proves more and more that Sherry was right.  Moses and Sherry ... Sherry was with Moses mostly because of Moses' power as leader, it was a way to get protection.  Sarge and Dr. Riccardo ... it seems that Dr. Riccardo was using Sarge a lot more than the other way around though I suppose I could be sort a wrong there.  Lee and that Michelle ... she used her body as a way to make Lee go in the direction she wanted him to go and I guess as a young guy he just wasn't inoculated against that kind of thing.  Doc and Jerry and all the others that wanted to "protect" me by controlling me.  Heck, even Jace and Sunny in a way with Sunny being the senior partner by getting what she wanted from Jace by giving him what he thought he had wanted.

I wonder if my parents were just weird or different or something.  I mean it is truly gross to think about my parents doing it but since Toddie and I are here I gotta figure they did some of the time.  But no matter how I think about it I don't think sex between them - bleach for my brain, ugh - was about power.  I don't know if they were just two strange people that found each other and fell in love or if the world has changed so much since Z Day that love is something that you can use as a reason for being with someone anymore.  Sometimes I think about this stuff and want to throw those books I found in the stove and burn them up 'til they are nothing but ash.  It's like they create impossible goals.  Romance and all that stuff ... I'm beginning to think it can't exist these days and I don't know if that is good or not or if it ever existed in the first place, at least not for most normal people.

There's a reason why I was thinking about this love and sex stuff but I'm not there yet.

After I got done tossing my cookies - my nose is really sensitive and one of the guys had messed himself when he was dying - I sat there trying to think what I needed to do next.  Killing uninfected people is just different than putting a puss brain down with mercy in mind.  I mean I know some people will say there is no difference - that killing is killing - but there is a difference for me.  Call it rationalizing or whatever, I've heard it before and probably will again.  I will admit that you can't always tell the difference when an infected and uninfected are lying side by side and dead.

First I needed to get rid of the bodies.  That part wasn't going to be hard as far as planning went ... just hard work to accomplish.  No need to bury them - it was too freezing cold anyway and the ground would have chewed up any kind of digging tool - just put them on a tarp and drag them into the woods and let the scavengers have them.  I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of giving wild animals more of a taste for humans as food than they already had but my options were limited.  I just needed to get them far enough away from the cabin that if they were found that it couldn't be connected back to me.  I also needed to make sure that I didn't inadvertently contaminate any local water sources.  That could be bad.  Doc taught me that human remains have lots of germs and gross stuff even when they aren't infected.  No amount of boiling is going to de-gross-ify a bucket of water if you have to strain teeth or tissue out of it.  Makes me want to hurl all over again at the very idea.  There is just something totally wiggy about even accidentally being a cannibal.

Secondly, it wasn't just the bodies that needed to be gotten rid of.  They'd bled all over in the clean, white snow.  It looked like a nasty bull’s-eye pointing in my direction.  And there'd been a lot of blood.  But it was cold so the warm blood melted the snow and it basically kind of went from oozing red stuff, to slushy red stuff, to a frozen block of red stuff that had spread across the top and down into the snow where the bodies were lying.  And the other fluids I'm just not going to go into.  The human body tends to let go and do disgusting things went it is dying.  I can't even imagine what working in a hospital or hospice center must be like.  I know I want to be respectful but that takes a strong dedication and a strong stomach.  I normally have the strong stomach - my nerves that day an exception due to the scare of nearly suffocating and then the threat of the attack - but the dedication to human decency is just something I don't think I have.  I'm no monster but I think something got beat out of me in the city.  I'm starting to look for it again but I don't know if it will ever be there like it could have been.  Losing contact with your emotions isn't the great thing some people might tell you it is.  I don't want to be a sociopath my whole life.

But to survive and do the things I have to do to survive I can't exactly be squeamish and go around crying about stuff all the time.  And I didn't have a lot of time left in the day to do what needed doing.

I rolled the men's bodies onto a tarp and then started going through their stuff.  I took their packs off and took them down into the cabin and emptied them out into a tub which I temporarily slipped under the bunk bed until I could go through everything.  Their packs were nothing special and I knew it would look suspicious if they were found without them so I took those back up and stuffed their undies back in there as no matter how desperate I am, I am not going to try and decide between boxers or briefs.  I'd rather go commando than wear some guy's used underwear.

Next came the not fun part of going through their coats and pockets.  Wasn't much.  They'd been outfitted to the bare minimum and most of it looked cheap, homemade, or salvaged ... or some combination of the three.  Both of the men had pocket knives but the tips were broken on all of the blades.  I shoved what was worth keeping in my coat pockets and then started pulling them away from the hole.  When they were completely out of the splatter zone I got a shovel and started scooping up the frozen bits and blobs of blood.  The one guy had really bled out and most of it on the ground so to get all of it I had to dig a couple of feet down in the snow and lever out red ice chunks.

It left the area all churned up but there was nothing I could do about it at the time.  Dragging the bodies with the bloody snow dumped on top of the load was no fun but I'm stronger than I look and I managed to pull them about three-quarter of a mile down an old forestry road that went in the opposite direction from the cabin.  There was enough debris on top of the snow in that area that the drag marks weren't obvious, and what was slowly got obliterated by the wind that had started to pick up.  I figured these guys would have stuck with the roads anyway as they didn't look like the cross-country hiker types.  Thinking about it now I'm not even sure what their overall plans were as they couldn't just stick their thumb out and catch a ride anyplace.  Or maybe they were planning to cross the border into Canada.  But Canada isn't any better off than this country is from what I've heard.  It is a mystery that won't ever get solved.

I debated on leaving them right in the road but instead decided to drag them into the trees a few feet.  I had just finished dumping and arranging the bodies at the base of a tree when I heard twigs snapping and low growling in the trees around me.

Part 83


I could hear the crunching of boots on hard packed snow.

"Dammit.  All this snow has everything turned upside down and I can't find any of the landmarks."

"Well, no one answered your whistle so we gotta be in the wrong spot.  I told you I thought it was the other way."

I didn't recognize either voice.

"Are you sure there's a girl living by herself around here?  Them fools could have been telling stories to cover up for why they really got in trouble."

The second man cleared his throat and spit.  "Don't think so.  Girl is supposed to be some long lost friend of the Major Watson's according to gossip.  I wouldn'ta risked it if there wasn't a chance of giving him back some of the pain he's dished out over the last six weeks.  And getting some fine young thang into the bargain makes for good huntin'."

The first one snickered a dirty laugh and I was so glad I'd hidden instead of answering their whistle.  I was planning on avoiding trouble if I could but then one of the Wonder Boys said, "Hey, does that look like a chimney?"

Oh great.  Why did it have to be the one guy that was smart enough to notice?  I slid down my tunnel like it was a chute and then through open cabin door.  I would take on a puss brain with a baseball bat but for uninfecteds the only way to survive was to fight like with like.  Those guys were carrying hand guns ... I hadn't been able to tell what kind because it was strapped to their belt ... which meant that I might have a little on them with surprise.

I had taken the gun out of my pocket when I went to bed and had stupidly not put it back in there during the panic of trying to get to fresh air.  I grabbed it and did all the steps that Jace and Jamie had drilled into my head to get ready to shoot and then crawled back up the snow tunnel in time to hear one of the men say, "I don't see any smoke coming from the chimney."

"Nope.  Wonder if she turned into a popsicle like Security Shack 3?  She coulda froze to death."

"Don't get your hopes up just yet.  We don't even know if this is the place."

"Might be worth finding out.  If it is we could ... you know ... mess with her and make it hard on the Major ... take any supplies ... you know ... stuff."

"You are a sick man," the other guy said.  But there was approval in the voice that hardened my resolve.  Putting puss brains out of their misery was one thing.  You did it mercifully and without malice.  But shooting someone that ought to know better but still chose to act like scuzz ... well, there was other stuff involved with that.  But since I didn't want to be "messed with" and I didn't think those guys would take no for an answer I was prepared to do what I had to.

"Hey lookie here ... someone had done dug themselves a hole out."

"Don't see any tracks leading away.  Means they must still be down in there."

"Then turn your voice down idiot.  We want this to be a surprise.  How we gonna have any fun otherwise?"

"What 'r we going to do with the girl when we're done with her?  I don't think I can just shoot her in cold blood no matter what the Major has done."

"Won't need to.  Don't let her have her clothes back and just drive her into the woods.  Cold will get her before she can tattle on us."

"But if the Major don't find her ..."

"We'll bust up the cabin ... make sure he can tell what happened."

With glee and a wicked laugh the other guy say, "Good idea."

Bad idea.  Nasty man #1 stuck his head down in the hole and I only gave him a moment to register surprise before I pulled the trigger.  He jerked back but it was the other guy who made all the noise.

"Whaaaat?"

I popped up and fired almost point blank range at the second guy who was just standing there staring at his partner who himself was staring sightlessly into the sky.  I was nervous so my shot was low and my bullet got him in the throat.  Blood gushed everywhere and even after everything I've seen in my life I was up on all fours heaving my guts up.

The guy died faster than I could finish puking but once I had I realized I had another mess to clean up.