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."


"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."


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.

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