Friday, July 31, 2015

Part 146

Quietly I muttered, "Carp."

Kevyn looked at me and sighed.  "Infecteds?"

I lifted my nose to the wind but didn't smell anything.  "No," I told him with absolute certainty.  "Better call your boys over.  I'm not sure what this is but it isn't infecteds.  Not a bear either."

What surprised me is that the boys had already picked up on something not being right.  They were all street smart in a way I never was when I was little.  I found out most of them had gone into Z-Day having some street smarts; it's how they survived those early days.

The watchers had waited too long.  If they had done the shock and awe thing they would probably have taken us but they let curiosity and caution put them behind the eight ball.

No sense in going through all of the details; I'm not sure I could explain it in the right order with the right words even if I tried now that time has passed and other things have taken place.  All I know is that I thought I was stone cold when it came to surviving and killing ... not like Mo but certainly pretty cold for a kid.  Found out that day that I still have a ways to go before I'm really as hard as I've measured myself out to be.  I still haven't decided how I feel about that.

Kevyn and those boys flat out blew the holy living snot out of the patrol of eight men that had tried to take us; Kevyn with his gun and Ralphelito using mine. Two of the men rushed in from the side and got closer than was comfortable; one of them grabbed me but then three of the boys jumped him and I don't know how many times he got stabbed before they were finished with him ... and him with this earth.  The other I got with my bat.  I continue to try and tell myself it is war and no different than putting an infected down but somehow it is and I know it is just all adding up like an unpaid bill that someone is going to present me with one of these days.  Only this isn't from overdue library books and what I'm going to have forfeit is going to cost a whole lot more than my allowance.

When it was over and we were sure there were no more hiding in the surrounding forest ... the animals had come back out of hiding ... the boys had those eight men stripped and burning in the pyre in less than a half hour.  Two of the boys had gotten hurt from ricochets and Kevyn busted his lip on his braces when one of the dead guys proved he wasn't so dead ... but he was soon thereafter.

Then it was over and only the clean up was left.  Getting irritated I snapped, "Sit still."

Miguel complained, "Aw, I don't need no girl being my mama."

I grabbed the boy's ear and yanked.

He yelled, "Ow!  What you do that for?!"

"To show you I'm not trying to be your mama ... I'm trying to clean this cut out so it doesn't get infected and make your arm fall off."

Instead of putting him in his place Miguel gave an unrepentant grin and rubbed his ear.  "Hah!  Mi madre could pull ten times as hard as that.  Lucky I still got an ear after all the times she grabbed it."

I rolled my eyes and muttered, "Geez.  Boys."

That set the rest of them laughing and something tells me when they get to be bigger boys they are going to be trouble big time.  When I was through Kevyn came over and said, "You mind if we make camp here?"

"Pick a tree, any tree."  When I saw he didn't get it I said, "Makes it harder for things bigger than you are to get you.  Have you got hammocks or something in your kits?"

Kevyn looked at the boys waiting excitedly and then nodded.  They were then off climbing trees like a bunch of monkeys let out of the zoo ... only quieter.  While they were picking the best spots out Kevyn sat beside me.  He told me, "Those men had good stuff in their packs.  I'll probably piece the guns and ammo out to my crew unless you want one."

"No.  I'm good so long as Ralph gives me back mine ... and he better because I signed for the doggone thing and am responsible for it."  Kevyn nodded and started putting the stuff from the packs in different piles.  I helped him once I saw he was trying to break it down so that everybody got something.  Turning to him I said, "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"How come your boys were squeamish about the puss brains but were willing to take on grown men with sticks and knives without ... you know ... freaking out?"

In mild disgust he explained, "Because I'm still breaking them of being superstitious.  Most of them come from families or gangs that ... well, they hang onto the old ways is what I call it.  I swear, in some places they got a story going around that the infecteds started when some people got bit by a rabid chupacabra."  He put all the food in a pile and asked me to see what could be done with it then he continued, "They act like they want to be modern but there isn't a lot of follow through ... like a bad habit kinda thing.  But men?  They know they're real and what they'll do to them if they get caught.  This group all came from the San Dimas Pen ... used to be a prison for LA ... and before that most of them were probably just fodder for local gangs.  Heck most of them were already being recruited from what some of them say."

"Then if they ... I don't know ... are so ... so ... whatever it is they are ... feral maybe ... If they are like that how did they get recruited for the militia? The militia and the regular military are all bears for rules and stuff from what I've seen. You'd figure you'd have more problems with boys like them than not."

"You'd think ... and that's what the adults used to think too.  And on some things that's right.  But out here?  Man, you want a bunch of little savages like this.  My LT says they see things real black and white.  There's the enemy and the not-the-enemy.  Once they've got it in their heads who or what the enemy is they pretty much stay that way.  And they don't jack around about it.  Besides, they like eating."

"Excuse me?"

"The West Coast is running out of food and water ... and it ain't real plentiful in any of the western states from what I've seen.  As many people as has died since Z-Day there's still too many for what is easy to get.  And it is too dangerous to try and have a garden of any size 'cause the infecteds can sniff 'em out for miles.  It's been worse since those government idiots tried to take the pressure off the East by repatriating ... whatever the hell they call it ... the infecteds into areas that didn't have them before.  Groups like I run are a way for boys ... and some girls if they prove they can hack it ... to get out of the cities and get fed at least two squares a day, sometimes three.  You work your butt off but you do eat.  The food might not be great but it’s better than the one meal they're getting in the pens ... and that meal they have to fight off others from taking away."

I think I've finally learned to keep my mouth shut when there isn't anything good to be said ... or most of the time and that was one of those times.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Part 145


Boys are pigs.  Seriously they are.  I had forgotten how bad they could be when you got more than a couple in one spot.  They were arguing about who got the bigger portion and how someone was smaller so they didn't need as much ... or at least that is what I thought they said, it was kinda hard to understand them even when they were speaking in English.

I had to keep telling them to slow down or they were going to make themselves sick.  Kevyn who is the oldest of them and is fifteen, finally reached over and dope slapped a couple of them in the back of the head and told them to knock it off.  The one they call Miguel is the youngest at ten.  Miguel isn't the smallest though.  Ralphelito is even though he is thirteen; he was born here in the US but his family was from Guatemala and they are something called Chapa and not even the other boys can understand him very much when he is speaking what he calls Spanish and what the other boys says isn't.  When they started bickering about that on top of everything else Kevyn told them to shut up about something that means nothing and eat or he'd cut off the chow line.

After the bottom of the pot of arrowhead tubers, wild onion, chickweek, and duck eggs omelet had been scraped clean Kevyn looked at them and said, "Grab everything up and get it cleaned up ... not just your gear.  When you are done with that gather up some more wood and keep that pyre going.  Before we leave here I want that pile to have nothing but a few bits of charcoaled bones.  Move it!"

And the boys did it.  I gotta tell you I was surprised and told him so.

"Yeah I know, but these ones aren't half bad.  They get on my nerves with that spanglish crap but they're a good patrol.  The one I led before this one I swear I was ready to fed 'em to the infecteds.  They thought it was a democracy or some kinda crap like that.  Most of those ones from that group got dumped back in the pens because they wouldn't listen."

"The pens?"

"Yeah ... I take it you aren't from west of the Rockies."

"No."

"Well it sucks back there.  I'm from San Diego and I ain't ever going back."

Long story short in the first year the puss brains were around the military and other adults basically gathered up all the kids and put them in prisons to try and protect them.  Anyone under sixteen that is; after sixteen you are on your own since you can sign up to be a civilian contractor.  That's what Kevyn is waiting on.  But between ten and sixteen boys can join militias.

"I thought militias stayed in the state they are formed in."

"Supposed to but after those crazies attacked us from the south all bets are off."

"What crazies?"

He shrugged.  "According to our officers who explained it they are some kind of coalition deal of people that just want to take other people's crap for their own because they think they're too good to have to work for it like the rest of us.  They just don't care about nothing it seems, they're like warlords or something.  Sometimes they fight with each other and sometimes they fight against each other.  Either way it has been a lot of trouble."

"Sounds like it is just a good way to make more puss brains."

He nodded while he cleaned his gun.  "That too.  We're out here trying to kill off as many infecteds as we can so the enemy can't use them against us."

Rolling my eyes I said, "I know I'm going to be sorry I asked but ... use the puss brains against us?"

He sighed and he reminded me of someone that had seen too much and none of it good.  "It is kinda accidentally on purpose.  Sometimes they do it on accident.  Sometimes they do it on purpose.  They throw people to the infecteds too.  I've seen 'em so I ain't just blowing smoke.  They put uninfected people in with some infecteds and you know what happens from there.  Then when they have enough captured infecteds they'll haul them and dump them in an area to soften people us and make them use up a lot of energy and ammo.  Next they sweep in behind them, play hero by killing or capturing the infecteds and then take over."

Well that was a new one on me and pretty sick ... and not in a good way.  We discussed it a little more and he said, "If your patrol is out right now they probably got called up to proceed to prepare for a battle if they didn't actually run into one."

Oh jollies I thought at the time.  But at the same time I thought if that was the case at least I didn't just get forgotten about.  On the other hand, I knew I needed to watch out for myself since I had no one else to do it for me anymore.

"You said something about resupply.  Are you supposed to be meeting up with someone?"

He casually glanced over at the younger boys and then said, "Keep your voice down please.  They just about panicked on me yesterday.  We were supposed to be resupplied three days ago but no one ever came to the drop point."

"Are you sure you had the right place?"

"Yeah even though GPS isn't working.  I used the map they gave us and plotted the point just to be sure.  We were in the right place.  We even saw a couple of copters though they were medical relief crews.  Probably carrying people back from the battle or something.  It's the only thing I can think."

We're just sitting there absorbing things and watching the boys work when I noticed that it is getting too quiet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Part 144

In the middle of the night I awoke to the sound of the snares going off ... and when I say "the snares" I actually mean all of the man-snares going off.  What was freaky was that there was no noise afterwards.  The normal night sounds didn't come back except for the occasional frog.  Even an animal will thrash around and get scared or hacked off at the snare even if they aren't caught in it.

I couldn't get back to sleep.  It was the silence and the smell.  I suppose I could have shined the flashlight around but that would have given my position away and I was already worried that someone or something had set the snares off and was now creeping up the tree to get me.  And it figures this would happen on a night without a moon.  I sat there with only the wind whistling through the trees for company.  I could have just about wet myself and nearly did a couple of times when the fear would really bite.  Then the sky started to lighten up.

Oh carp.

I looked down and all my man snares had gone off all right ... and each one held a puss brain bobbing around like a piƱata.  I was trying to figure out what to do when out of the shrubbery up the path towards the road comes a patrol.  I thought for a moment it was my patrol until I noticed they were a little on the short side to be the women.  As a matter of fact they were a lot more close to my size than they were to the Amazons'.

They were confused and scared, jumping at nothing and everything.  Then I heard their voices and got even more confused.  They were boys ... but I mean boys, not guys or men.  Most of them sounded like their voice hadn't even changed yet though a couple of them had the squeaks.  What's more they were speaking Spanish.  What the heck?  Then a bigger boy stepped into my line of sight and says, "Knock that off.  You know the rules.  Speak English so I can understand you."

"What do we do with them?"

"Sanitize 'em."

"All of 'em?"

"Are you being stupid on purpose?  Yeah Gomez ... all of 'em.  You want to eat, you do the job.  And if we don't get it done before the others get here you know what happens.  Get sticks or something so we can sharpen them, I don't have enough ammo to take all of these out."

They'd waited too long, the puss brains had noticed them and were starting to struggle.  The boys couldn't get close enough to the now swinging and twisting infecteds.  The older boy was getting angry and frustrated.  I needed to go to the bathroom.  Something needed to be done.

I changed trees and then came down a few feet from the older boy.

"Sppppsssss."

He was fast, I'd give him that.  "You shoot me and you are going to be in some serious hot water.  My unit is all female and won't be happy ... not happy at all to lose their cook."

"Who are you?!  Where are you?!"

"I'm in the bushes dope.  And until you turn that gun some other direction I'm not coming out.  I swear what is it about boys and guns?  And tell that lot of yours to stop acting like this is T-ball.  If they don't put some oomph in it they'll never get the job done."

Finally we came to an agreement and introduced ourselves the younger boys came over and were staring at me like they'd never seen a girl before.

"Knock it off already."  I turned back to the "leader" whose name was Kevyn Cormack and asked, "You got any rope?"

"Some," he said cautiously.

"Well get two of your guys on each end and then secure the puss brain by pulling it back so that it can't swing.  I'll put the first couple down so that you can see how hard you need to swing and then y’all can do the rest."

It took some convincing, and one of the boys puked on his boots, but the job got done.  And I only had to squawk once when they started cutting my snares to get the puss brains down to dispose of them.

Kevyn came over to me while the other six boys took care of the rest of it.  "You really a civilian contract cook?"

"Yeah.  My patrol is in the field.  I'm holding their position."  OK, I wasn't for sure that I was lying or not but it sounded good and Kevyn bought it which was all I wanted at the time.  Kevyn looked like he wanted to say something and I finally got tired of waiting.  "Let me guess, you all need to get fed."

"Yeah.  Resupply is late."

"Alright, I'll feed you on two conditions."

Suspiciously he asked, "What?"

"No being a weenie about what I feed you and two, you're going to tell me how you are out here leading a lot of little boys fighting puss brains but talk like you are in the military."

"We can't talk about anything top secret."

"You can't just make up anything either."

"Deal."

I stuck my hand out and though he was surprised we shook on it.