America The Dead episode six
EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE
Based on the series by W. G. Sweet
AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE
Copyright © 2013 by independAntwriters All Rights Reserved
Writers: W.W. Watson, Geo Dell, W.G. Sweet, G.D. Smitty
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the authors imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
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EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S – AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE
When the sun began to peek over the top of the ridge on the opposite shore of the river everyone filed out to the two remaining trucks. It had been decided that Conner and Jana would stay behind while the others went in search of the stolen truck. They switched on and tested two sets of F.M. Radios.
“The range is normally only about two miles or so, but it’s not like there’s anything to interfere with them anymore,” Jake said. “We’ll take three with us and you keep the other here to monitor us, or if they come back here,” Jake finished.
“Do you think that’s a possibility,” Jana Adams asked?
“I doubt it, Dear,” James told her with a reassuring smile. “It’s just to be safe.”
Conner walked over to Katie. Her eyes met his. He kissed her softly and her arms slipped around him.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered, “I’ll be careful… And I’ll make sure they’re careful too.” She kissed him and pulled back.
Conner stared at the face of the two way radio for a long second, and then watched her get into the Suburban. James got into the front seat with her. Her eyes met his once more and she smiled reassuringly, then started the Suburban and fell in behind Jake as he drove the big State truck out across the pavement.
Conner and Jana stood quietly as the two trucks drove away. Neither of them wanted to go back inside the gloom of the old factory. The sun was up and warming the old asphalt of the road where it passed in front of the building and what little snow remained was already beginning to melt.
“Left here,” The radio squawked. It sounded like Lana.
“Behind you,” came an answer that sounded like James.
Conner shifted the 30-30 Deer rifle he held in one hand and thumbed off the strap that held his Nine Millimeter in his web holster. Jana Adams grimaced and then thumbed the safety off the shotgun she was holding. A short clip protruded from the base of the shotgun, just forward of the trigger. She had two more clips in a small pouch on her side as well as a fully loaded Three Eighty in a tooled leather side holster she wore.
What must we look like, Conner thought. Aloud he said, “They’ll be fine.”
“Really,” Jana Adams asked? “I truly hope so. I truly do.”
The next twenty minutes went by slowly. Occasional squawks of directions came from the radio, and in the distance the sound of both trucks could still be heard. The silence broke all at once.
The radio squealed in Conner’s hand. One word jumped clearly from the static… “Jesus!”… Conner couldn’t tell from whom. A crashing sound accompanied it, and in the far distance gunfire erupted in the still, previously quiet morning air.
The squeal from the radio abruptly cut off and it fell back to low static. In the distance the sound of gunfire continued for what seemed like ten minutes, but was probably no more than thirty or forty seconds in reality. Conner keyed the radio, ”Katie,” he screamed. “Katie?”
Gunfire broke out again in the distance. The fast… POP, POP, POP of semi automatic gunfire, but the sharp Crack of a heavy rifle as well. No answer came back over the radio. Jana Adams made a small strangled sound in the back of her throat and a low sob slipped from her mouth. “No, God, no,” she whispered.
“It’s alright, Jana,” Conner told her. He didn’t believe it himself but it was what you said. It was how you lied to yourself when you were pretty sure that things were far from fine. Life didn’t work that way in his experience. The gunfire had stopped but the radio maintained its teasing static, as his mind continued to assure him that nothing at all was right, and nothing ever would be again. Just as he had the thought the radio in his hand squawked once again.
“You guys okay,” a panicked sounding James asked.
“We’re good… We’re good, base. We’re all good. Everything’s okay,” Jake answered.
Beside Conner, Jana broke into a sob. He reached over and pulled her close to him. “It’s okay,” he soothed. “They said they’re all okay,” Conner repeated dumbly like the words were some magic mantra.
“I need you to come over here,” James said over the radio in a tight, controlled voice. Fear quickly spiked in Conner’s heart.
“Yeah… Uh, you need… Uh, yeah… Okay… We’re coming… We’re on the way,” Jake replied.
Conner pressed his button down. “What is it,” he asked? He spoke with more calm than he felt. “What’s going on?”
“Conner… Conner, we got a little problem here… Give me a second and I’ll get right back to you,” Jake told him.
“Standing by.” Conner forced himself to say. Now Jana was hugging him and the fear gripped his heart hard, refusing to let go.
“I’ll kill you, I will,” The kid said. He held his gun sideways like some banger kid from a bad Hollywood movie. Blood trickled slowly from one nostril, as well as from several deep cuts up the left side of his face. His eyes were focused and hard.
“No,” Katie said quietly. Her own forty five was held in both hands aimed at the kid’s chest. He looks like he’s only about thirteen… Fourteen, she corrected.
The kids lip curled at her. “You think I won’t do it, Bitch? I will… I will, Bitch… I’ll do it.”
“No,” Katie repeated quietly. “I drop it and you shoot anyway. No way, Kid. No way.” She watched as James shifted to his right, drawing farther away from Katie so the kid couldn’t keep both of them in sight.
“Stop Fuckin’ Movin’! Stop fuckin’ movin’!” the kid suddenly screamed. The gun barrel wavered a little, nervously jittering up and down. The kid’s finger lightly, compulsively caressing the trigger as Katie watched.
Jake and Lana worked their way up silently behind the kid, past the bodies that lay on the ground. One a young girl.
Behind Jake, Lana dropped the barrel of her gun and sighted on the kids back. Jake stared at her dumbly for a second and then followed suit.
The seconds played out as the blood continued to slowly leak from the kids face. His tongue darted out and tasted it where it ran from his nose. He tried to push it away from his lips where it ran and dripped down onto his chin.
“Last chance, Bitch,“ he said. He bought the barrel of his gun down towards her. At the same time James took another step sideways. The kid’s eyes darted to James. The gun dipped and swiveled towards him. “I told you…,” he began.
All four guns spoke at once and the kid seemed to do a quick tap dance before the gun fell from his hand without firing. He tried to suck in a breath but collapsed onto the dirty asphalt instead.
Before anyone could react the silence was split by a scream from across the river. A young boy stood silhouetted by the rising sun on the opposite side of the river facing them. Something shifted from his side. “I’ll kill you… I’ll kill you… You killed my brother,” the boy screamed in a high falsetto. His arms came up quickly.
“Hit the ground,” Katie yelled as the kid opened fire with the deer rifle he had in his hands.
Everyone hit the dirt except Lana whose face registered astonishment as she turned slowly to the river to face the kid.
Katie yelled again as she raised herself to both cut and bruised elbows and began to fire back across the river.
The kid managed three shots before Katie hit him. He slowly toppled over and splashed into the river. Lana stood. Her mouth open wide. Staring across the river to where the kid had been.
Katie raised her eyes to where Lana stood and they caught on the ragged, gaping hole blown through the back of her t-shirt. She continued to stand. Seeming to still be looking out over the river. Her mouth working.
“Lana,” Katie whispered.
Lana slowly turned, her mouth still working but silent. A small neat hole wept blood down the front of her shirt. Her chest hitched and her eyes fluttered.
Jake lunged to his feet, his eyes dazed, and ran to her catching her as she slumped forward. Her eyes flickered once more as he eased her to the ground.
A small tight smile came to her mouth… “Killed me,” she wheezed. Her eyes closed and her chest stopped its struggle for breath.
The silence seemed to go on forever as Conner and Jana waited. Sudden gunfire erupted in the distance again. Jana moaned and Conner pulled her closer to him. “Ssss alright,” Conner told her. ”Alright.” He didn’t believe it anymore than he had the last time he’d said it. The burst of gunfire came and went just that quickly and then silence fell hard on the still morning air.
Jana held herself rigidly. Conner could feel her tremble against him. He patted her head. A stupid, useless, meaningless thing to do, he told himself, but he continued nonetheless. Patting her head and stroking her hair. Useless, but if nothing else it seemed to help calm him.
He drew a deep breath and the radio squawked. “Conner,” James asked?
Conner took a deep breath and swallowed hard before he trusted his voice to answer. Jana let go of her breath in a deep whoosh and drew in a long, deep shuddering breath. Conner stroked her hair once more.
“Yeah,” Conner answered quietly.
“It’s bad,” James’s voice broke as he spoke. “It’s bad, Conner, It’s bad.”
In his head Conner was already hearing the words he didn’t want to hear. He had heard everyone’s voice except Katie’s. It only stood to reason… Still, he didn’t want to hear it.
“It’ll be okay,” Jana told him. She pulled him tight. Her own hands trying to pull his head against her breast. “Conner… It’ll be okay.”
“It’s Lana,” James said. His voice choked with emotion.
“Katie,” Conner asked? He hated himself for asking. He hated the weakness in his voice. How could it be Lana, he asked himself. I just heard her voice. How could it be?
“I’m here, Babe,” Katie said through the crackle of static. Behind her voice they could hear what sounded like sobbing. The sobbing came across clearly as she stopped talking. “We’re on our way back… We’re coming back… It’s over,” Katie said. She held on to the button for a split second longer. The smooth silence spitting quietly, then the radio in Mikes hand went back to solid static once more.
“Be careful, Honey. Be careful.” Mikes voice came through the radio in her hand. She nodded, and then keyed the mic. button, “I will. We’re coming back.” She looked around her.
Jake sat cradling Lana in his arms. Bright, thick blood covered the ground under her chest and the side of Jake’s pants leg. The three other bodies lay close by. James stood, ashen faced, his gun still held tightly in one hand.
The pickup truck idled noisily about a hundred yards away from where Katie stood. The doors hung open. The Suburban and the State truck rumbled from behind her. Maybe, she thought, five minutes had passed since they had spotted the truck and stopped behind them. The kids had come out shooting. Just like in the movies, Katie thought. Exactly that. Hell! They had acted like it was a movie. Five minutes and four people dead. She shook her head slowly.
Jake looked up from the ground and met Katie’ eyes.
“Let’s get her in the truck, okay, Jake,” She said softly.
Jake’s head slowly nodded.
“What… What about these… These others,” James asked?
“Fuck them,” Jake rasped. “Fuck them! They can rot right there. They’re not going in the truck!” He looked at Katie defiantly.
“Okay,” Katie agreed. “Okay… James?” She waited until James’s eyes left Lana’s body. “Help Jake with Lana?”
James nodded and started towards Jake
“No,” Jake said quietly. “Don’t need help.” He swiped a blood covered hand across his eyes, leaving a bright smear of scarlet across his forehead as he did. “I’ll do it. I’ll take care of her.” His voice shook at the last, but he got to his feet carefully holding Lana in his arms and headed for the pickup truck.
“James,” Katie said, motioning to the bodies.
James looked at her questioningly.
“In the river… We can’t just leave them here.”
James nodded and together they bent to pick up the first body.
A few minutes later Katie let the last body slip from her hands and plunge over the cliffs and into the river far below. She turned her palms upright and stared at them for a second.
“Katie,” James said. She nodded and followed James back to the truck.
Jake sat behind the wheel; Lana slumped on the passenger seat, her head resting against Toms shoulder. “You okay to drive,” she asked?
Jake nodded. His eyes met her own. They were red and tears perched on the bottom lids waiting to spill down his cheeks. He cleared his throat, started to speak, and then cleared his throat once more. “I’m going to drive out of the city… There’s a small little place out by the west side of the lake… My parents grew up there… There’s a cemetery there…” He trailed off and Katie saw the tears that had been perched on his lower lid begin to course their way down his cheeks. He started to speak again, shook his head and gave up momentarily. Katie turned her eyes up to the clear blue morning sky and waited. Jake’s voice came to her quietly a few minutes later as she watched the empty sky.
“There’s a shed… In the Cemetery… I thought.” His voice choked up again.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Katie said softly. “You go… We’ll stop and get Jana and Conner… They’ll want to be there.”
Jake nodded. His hand fell to the shift lever on the steering column. His eyes tear filled and overflowing swept up to her once more.
“You’ll be okay to get there,” Katie asked?
Jake nodded, not trusting his voice to speak. He turned his eyes back to the road.
Katie nodded. “We’ll meet you there.” She stepped away from the truck and watched as Jake pulled slowly away.
Conner March 15th
It’s been a very long day in more ways than one. We are five now. Lana is gone. It’s crazy but true. Jake is in bad shape. Sitting by the fire. Reading Lana’s diary.
We buried her today, a little place outside of the city. There’s a cemetery there right by the lake. Jake’s parents are buried there. Now Lana is also. It took a lot of work; the ground is still frozen a few feet down. It could’ve been worse. If everything wasn’t melting we would’ve had a much harder time digging the hole. Jake couldn’t bring himself to do it. James and I did it.
To make the explanation short, we were ambushed. I shouldn’t say we. I wasn’t even there. Neither was Jana. We were left behind to watch the factory building.
It started in the night; these kids came and stole one of our trucks. We didn’t know they were kids of course. It turned into mess. Three kids are dead too. Young kids, what a waste. We don’t even know why they did it. Why they chose to shoot at the others. None of it.
Everyone is messed up, me included. Jana too. Because we weren’t there. But it’s over. This part’s over, but really it’s not over at all. I don’t know what’s next. None of us do. The day has already lasted fifteen hours so far. The sun doesn’t seem to be moving at all. We don’t know what to make of it. Everyone just wants to get past this day. For it to be over.
Lana’s Diary March 15th
Lana is gone. They took her. I can’t believe it, it’s like a nightmare. I can’t deal with it. I won’t forget it. Jake.
The Cold Lake Shore
The moon rode high in the sky. Frost gleamed from the freshly turned dirt that lay scattered across the gravel of the road that lead into the cemetery. Silence held and then a scraping came from the ground. Muffled. Deep.
At the edge of the woods eyes flashed dully in the over-bright moonlight. Shapes shifted among the trees and then emerged from the shadows onto the gravel roadway. One dragged a leg as he walked. Clothes already rotted and hanging in tatters. A second seemed almost untouched; a young woman maybe a little too pale in the wash of moonlight. She walked as easily as any woman. Stepping lightly as she went. The third and fourth moved slower, purposefully as they made their way to the freshly turned soil. They stopped beside the grave and silence once again took the night. No sounds of breathing. No puffs of steam on the cold night air.
“Do you think…?” The young woman asked in a whisper.
“Shut up,” the one with the dragging leg rasped. His words were almost unintelligible. His vocal cords rotted and stringy. The noises came once again from the earth and the four fell silent…Waiting…
Her hand broke through into the moonlight, a few minutes later her head pushed up and then she levered her arms upward and began to strain to pull herself up and out of the hole. She noticed the four and stopped. Her pale skin nearly translucent, her blond hair tangled and matted against her face and neck. Her lips parted. A question seeming to ride on them.
“It’s okay,” the young woman whispered, “it’s okay.” She and one of the older ones moved forward, fell to their knees and began to scoop the dirt away from her with their hands.
“It’ll be okay,” Lana mumbled through her too cold lips.
“It will. It will,” the young woman repeated.
Conner sat quietly on a small pile of brick outside of the factory entrance and watched the sun come up. Forty three hours from sunrise to sunrise. It made no sense at all, at least not to him.
The air was warm, not warming, but warm. And a heavy haze hung on the horizon where the sun was beginning to rise. Northwest still, but it didn’t seem as far to the west as it had been just a few days before.
We need something to track that, he thought. And then, maybe not. After all, what good would it do to know if it was a little more to the East or the West or whatever?
His thoughts were broken by a soft step beside him. He turned as Katie came up beside him carrying two mugs of hot coffee. She handed him one of the mugs and then settled beside him.
“Thank you,” Conner said. She smiled back and then blew lightly at the hot coffee in her mug. Steam lifted off the rim of the cup as she did. “How long,” She asked finally, and then took a small sip.
“Forty three… Give or take a few minutes.” He kissed her lightly on one cheek.
“What was that for,” She asked with a smile.
“Because I wanted to,” Conner told her. He blew on his own coffee and then took a small sip.
“You okay,” she asked in a more serious tone. Her eyes met his.
“Yeah. It… I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.” She nodded.
“It’s like,” he continued, “when my parents were killed. I knew it. I accepted it as well as I could, but there was really no time to process it… Or maybe I refused to process it…. Anyway, it was years later before I ever really dealt with it. That’s what this reminds me of. Someday, once this all settles down, we’ll process it. Until then I think we’re just on cruise control.”
“What was it,” She asked softly.
“Car accident. It was fast. For them anyway.” He seemed sad thinking about it.
“My mother died a few years ago. My dad right after her. They were older when they had me. Hard life… Bad genes. Heart attacks for both of them,” she finished quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Conner said. “It must have been hard.”
Katie nodded. “So I know about the taking the time to process it later thing. I don’t think I’ve dealt with all of it yet. And this,” She lifted her eyes and swept them across the sky, the river, the rocks, the road that ran past the factory building and the cliffs that rose on the other side of the river. Her eyes settled on the sunrise. “This isn’t over by a long shot. Who knows how or when it will end? I guess we’ll deal with what we can and keep the rest moving… You know?”
“Yeah… They were just kids though… Even Lana,” Conner
Katie nodded. “But they weren’t sweet little innocent kids. I’ve seen gang bangers all of my life. I grew up with that. It’s really a way of life. Sometimes, for some kids, it’s the only way of life there is. I ran myself for awhile…” She frowned.
“All I’m saying is they weren’t sweet little innocent kids. And believe me nothing you could’ve said, had you been there, would’ve changed anything. Believe me. I tried to talk to one of them. No good. And the other one I shot didn’t even bother to try talking.”
Conner nodded, took an experimental sip from his mug, then a longer satisfying drink. “I see it,” he said. “This city has a lot of drug trade what with the base so close by. I’ve never been in a gang or knew what one was really about until I was introduced to that life in L.A. as a kid. When I came back here I saw more and more of it. Now it’s everywhere you look.” He seemed startled for a moment. “Was… Was everywhere you looked,” he added thoughtfully.
“There is still good in the world… This didn’t just take the good people and leave the bad,” Katie said. She took another long sip from her coffee. Her eyes met Conner’s own; he leaned over and kissed her lips softly. She smiled and took the coffee mug from his hands, set it down, took his hands and pulled him to his feet.
“Come on,” she said and kissed him once more. Conner kissed her back and pulled her body closer to him. His hands encircled her waist and rested on her hips. Her tongue probed gently as her own hands found the back of his head. She drew back, giggled and then pulled him toward the river and the screening growth of trees and bushes farther down the road.
March sixteenth, Conner thought, would always be remembered as the day that didn’t quite happen. The sun never really rose. A half light lit the sky for the next forty two hours, but the sun itself never made an appearance through the thick, black clouds that blocked off the sky from horizon to horizon. Dark and moving swiftly across the skies.
The sun seemed to creep around the perimeter of the horizon, from the West where it first appeared, to the East where it finally sank, setting the sky on fire with it’s pink-red light only to fade away without ever actually rising.
The air became warmer throughout the day and what little snow that remained melted away. Everyone noticed a queasy feeling in their stomachs and a few commented on feeling something similar a few weeks back right after the first earthquakes had hit.
As the day wore on a fine gray ash began to fall from the skies. The skies grew even darker as the ash fell down faster like dirty snow.
After several hours the landscape around the building looked as though everything was covered with a thick coat of dust. Everyone fashioned cloths around their mouths to avoid breathing in the thick haze of ash.
The ash was followed by a slow dirty rain that turned the piles of ash into a slushy, runny kind of mud. And just before the sun finally fell in the East the rain began to fall harder, the air turned cold, then colder still, and lightening began to stab at the gray and sullen skies above the old building.
Everyone huddled around the fire on the factory floor, talking very little. They shared a meal of canned beef stew and crackers. The stew was hot and drove away the cold that had returned, but it did nothing to lift their spirits.
James offered to take the first watch, Conner volunteered for the next and Jake offered to take it from there if the sun wasn’t up.
Conner held Katie in his arms and drifted off to sleep thinking about what the day might mean and what the morning down by the river with her had been like.
Jake March 16th
I’ve never kept anything like this in my entire life. I don’t know why I am, really, because when the rest go I’ll be staying.
I can’t even give a good reason for staying, except that there’s shelter here, and I know there are other people here also.
I know that all the others are going. They’ll follow Conner. What can I say or do about that?
I feel so responsible about what happened to Lana. She was just a kid. A kid, Jesus. I can’t really think rationally about it. I can’t deal with it. I can’t believe how fast and how deep my feelings went. I’ve heard about things like that, but I had never experienced something like that before Lana. I’ve heard that can happen in relationships that are formed in situations like this. Crisis… What else could be like this? Nothing. Anyway, I didn’t believe it could work like that, but it did.
I thought she would be here with me. They could go, she would be here. I could deal with that. This has almost made me cave in and say yes to going. But I can’t do it. Something inside of me won’t let me do it. It’s not that I don’t respect Conner, or like him. I was a little jealous, maybe still am, a little. I had a thing for Katie and I still do. That’s another reason I can’t go. I would end up hating him. Her as well. But it’s not really any of that. I have to run my own railroad. That’s all. Very lame. Probably very dangerous in this new world too.
Maybe I can change. I’m open to that. What I’m really hopeful for is other people. When the other four leave I don’t want to be alone. I spent the first few days of this alone, I didn’t like that. I don’t want to go back to that.
How do you develop such deep feelings for someone so fast? Right now I’m trying to get past that. I guess what I need to do is freeze everything else out for now.
I don’t know what to say about how I felt about Katie, or how I still feel. And I can’t explain how I could feel that way about her and still feel the way I did about Lana. Am I kidding myself? Was Katie just temptation and Lana the real thing? No. That’s hard to say but true. I would have walked away from Lana for Katie in a heartbeat. That makes me feel even worse about things. Even so, I loved her… Love her.
As far as this journal goes, I can’t share it. I don’t think I can write deep, personal things about myself and then share them with anyone… I never could… I won’t begin now. But I can write them here. I can see where this can help me to work through things. Help me deal with this. This can bring me through this, just writing it out. So I’ll do it for that reason and no other…