Thursday, June 24, 2010

On the road.

"You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a good-bye

Teach your children well
Their father's hell
Will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick
The one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

Booger tapped the steering wheel, keeping time as he sang along with the old song that poured out of the battered Landrover's speakers. He checked the gps again and snorted when he got no reading. "Well I was hopin' , the least you could do is learn how to read a bloomin map" he said to the enormous maine coon cat lounging on the passenger seat.

The cat opened one copper colored eye and yawn then rolled onto it's back exposing a temptingly plush belly " Oh no.... I pet you then you bite me...I'm not falling for it this time, I have your number cat"

Booger eased the rover around a pair of wrecked cars then continued on at a slightly faster pace.
It had taken the better part of two days to cover the distance between Atlanta and Clarksville the roads were a nightmare of wrecks and downed bridges.

"That was Crosby Stills Nash and Young....and you're listening to the Voice of Reason coming to you live from ............well given the way things are that would be pretty damned stupid for me to say where I'm at." the dejay's smokey contralto was soft on the ear. " I've been getting in reports from all over. Seriously people.....shape up and pull together now isn't the time to turn asshole. If you do that you're not going to survive when things get rougher and they're going to get rougher. There are a lot of bodies out there that need burying or burning. lots of salvaging to be done. The only way for the human race to survive is to hunker down and start acting more human and less like animals." there was a pause as she took a long drag off a cigarette and exhaled. "you've got mother nature fighting against you and let me tell you .....she's gonna win unless you stop fighting one another and start behaving like you have some home training. If you can
hear me and aren't inclined to rape, loot, pillage, kill, preach or talk in the theatre then there are places out there for you. Fort Campbell is taking folks in and they seem to be good sorts... there are a couple of spots here in the mountains that are taking root but you have to be willing to work and you have to keep your minds and hearts open, Those of you who are traveling be careful. There are some bad sorts out there. some people are taking this a license to remake things to suit their point of view SO be careful when you approach roadblocks and cities. Gang activity is up and the police aren't coming. If you see vehicles with a white cross painted on them........hide and let them go on by. and just because it has a US army star on it doesn't necessarily make it a friendly face. enough talk for now... here's some more music."

Booger reached over and turned off the radio. " Well... that was depressing." he told the cat as he pulled over and took out the map again. "It looks like we're close to there old boy...what do you say to splitting some dinner?" venison sausage, cheese and little wasn't healthy but it was fast and filling. The cat ate his portion then purred for more.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Booger and Jens

Mick trudged slowly up the familiar driveway. Everything ached. From toes to shoulders she felt like she'd been beaten and her head gave a low throb with every slow deliberate step she took.
The trip from mid-town up the highway had been grueling. The highway had been clogged with wrecks and a straggle of survivors all headed out of Atlanta in search of loved ones or just fleeing the big city before the weather got warm enough to make the massive number of bodies start to smell in earnest.

It had been dismal and disheartening. There were a few times when Mick had been tempted to stop at one of the dealerships along the way and liberate a 4 wheel drive but she'd always been an honest person and even in the face of chaos couldn't bring herself to steal just yet.

She paused staring at the timberframe house in the dwindling light. No smoke from the chimneys, no lights even though the street lights had come on as dusk started....just like normal.

It looked deserted.


"and you're anthropomorphising a house while you could be heading inside for a sit down in a comfy chair" She chided herself out loud then trudged up the steps.

She paused and knocked solidly on the door. The usual signal...shave and a hair cut...pause.
there was no answering braying of "Twoooo bits" from Booger, the dogs didn't start up barking. Silence.
She leaned over and picked up a stone from the potted plant and removed the key from the compartment in it's bottom.
It took her three tries to get the door to unlock.

"Hello?!!! Booger?! DOC!!! Jen? ...............anybody?" her voice sounded unnaturally loud in the dark foyer.

There was a small tape player and a notepad sitting on the side table next to a plate with some little debbie nutty bars and a juice box
The plate was labeled "EAT/DRINK ME"
the tape player said " PLAY ME"

There was a pen laying near the pad - conveniently placed.

For a moment Mick stared dumbly at the display then she began to smile the smile turned to a sob. " Oh god...they're alive..."
She slipped the pack off of her shoulders and let it thud to the floor as she sank down onto the bench by the door.
She fumbled for the tape player and pushed play.

"Greetings and salutations..." Booger's calm rich baritone sounded bone and soul weary.
"If I don't know you...what the fuck are you doing in my gorram house? don't you have any home training?"
there was a chuckle and the click/flick of a zippo lighter followed by a long slow drag and exhalation " Don't worry, all are welcome....especially now..I'm just funning with ya. It's been a long damned unpleasant few days. I've buried two damned good dogs, and my friends. The world has gone to hell and didn't have the grace to take me with it. " Mick closed her eyes. Jen was gone.... the two big labs Ike and Ellie too. She swallowed the rising grief hard. "If you're a stranger, I'm Carlton St.James. Some folks call me Doc, family usually calls me Booger.... help yourself to what's here. Only take what you need, leave the rest for others who might come after you do....and don't be an ass and trash the place. It's a home, not coming back here...but it still deserves respect. If you decide to squat ....welcome. Please take care of anyone who comes in and asks for help. They probably need it.
If you're family...Psycho Cat and I are on our way to Fort Campbell. According to the word on the ham they're trying to establish a sliver of civilization there....I reckon they could use a doc. Can't call ahead, cells aren't working and the phonelines are out. Went to the CDC yesterday. It was bad. They said that the flu that took Jen was almost 90% fatal for women. It's like Herberts "White Plague" and Children of men all rolled into one nasty package...then there's the natural disasters...... quakes out west, fires and volcanoes, you felt the quakes and saw the twisters if you were in clue what the bread basket is like but the east coast got pounded by a tidal wave.....and naturally not satisfied with things going to hell just naturally the rednecks, gang bangers and holy rollers have gotten on the crazy train. Got a group calling themselves the "Christian Soldiers" 'doing God's work' by killing anyone who disagrees with their way of looking at things up in South Carolina around the Greenville area. Got another group called Martin's Millitia conscripting 'warriors' and taking any healthy women they find....for their own safety....of course" Boog's  bitter sarcasm leaked out of the tiny speakers "aren't they just the bees knees?"
 He took another drag then exhaled again.
"I can't stay here, there's too many ghosts. You know where things are. Make yourself at home. Follow the same guidelines I gave the strangers and if you eat the Debbies and drink the juice replace them from the pantry...can't have people coming into my house without showing courtesy......Jen would have my balls....oh and if the batteries are low..replace em. there's more in the drawer"

Mick listened to the tape twice, then leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

curiouser and curiouser

The man on the horse drew back on the reins as he got even with Mick's spot of cover.

"I don't suppose you've seen a couple of guys on bikes?"

Mick shook her head slightly "nope, don't suppose I have" she kept her voice pitched low.
"Well....damn." The rider flicked the reins lightly and the horse began to move again " Be careful, there's a lot of mischief out there. If you're heading for Knoxville, it's all but burned to the ground. Hear tell there's some folks holed up at Fort Campbell though."

"Thanks" Mick called after him then added " Hey...I have one question."


"Aren't you cold?"

"Yup" the rider didn't look back or offer any more words in explanation. He just picked up a bit of speed and headed on across the park.

Mick knelt where she was for a long moment, the cold from the paving stones sinking into her knees and shins. She shook her head and stood up, gathering her pack and reslinging it .  "coyotes.......rednecks.......and....bares....oh my. And me without my ruby slippers."  The strangeness of the encounter stayed with her as she headed back towards 85.

The 5th horseman

(Late Morning January 5th 2013- Centennial Park)

Mick stood staring down into the abyss for a long time, trying hard to see the bottom of it. She picked up a stone and held it over the edge then thought better of dropping it.

Shane's voice echoed in her ear " never, ever drop a rock down a big dark hole. It might hit something nasty in the head and piss it off. Learn from LOTR"

She pocketed the smooth stone instead. "Don't won't to end up like that halfling in Samurai Cat." It suddenly occurred to her that the oddly smooth sided hole had just opened up and swallowed most of a city block and she was standing on the edge of it. Who knew when the earth would be hungry again. She backed up slowly and carefully until she was back on the paving stones of the park. The ground felt solid enough but why take any chances?

The park had an otherworldly quality to it. The water on the ground around the fountains had frozen into a thick sheet. Aside from the splashing and the sound of her breath the city was still.

no.... there was another sound now...coming closer. It took a moment for her to identify the distinctive ringing of shod hooves on pavement. Unable to determine the distance of the sound she found some decent cover and shrugged the big pack off of her shoulders before she crouched down behind it.

The rider came into view slowly. He kept the big bay down to a slow casual walk as he took in his surroundings. Mick blinked and took another look not sure that her eyes were working right."what the hell?" A horse and rider in downtown Atlanta was an odd enough sight, this one went a step beyond. The man on the bay was almost completely naked. His only concessions to the cold were an Atlanta Braves stocking cap and scarf and a pair of tube socks.

He gave Mick  a slight nod as soon as he noticed her crouching down behind the stone bench where she'd taken refuge.

"Mornin" he said politely as he ambled on by

Mick closed her mouth and tried not to stare.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


(Early Morning January 5th 2013- the road out of town)

Mick leaned back against the overturned cab and tried hard to remember how to breath deeply.The pack was like an anchor.
"damn...oh damn.... " the oxygen was sweet but icy. Mick drank in gulps of it and savored the burn as it filled lungs not used to running with so much weight to carry. "rule number zombies yet...but...rule number one definitely applies whoo.......where the hell did coyotes come from in downtown Atlanta...the zoo? oh hell........the zoo.....lions and tigers and bears....oh fuck"  Laughter bubbled up and threatened to overwhelm sanity.

She'd been prepared for motorcycle gangs, street thugs and maybe an angry mob but the two half starved looking coyotes scavenging on I-20 had come as a shock. Fortunately she'd managed to discourage them but the shots had brought out some two legged predators and she'd had to make a mad dash for an off ramp and better cover.

"I mean ...cut me a break it's only been long has it been a week and a half...two weeks? Go clean up some dead bodies, chew up those damned rednecks, make Atlanta more beautiful ya mangy little bastards. and what's up with attacking travelers? the whole damned city is wide open for discount shopping and you have to come after me for my backpack...too damned lazy to go raid a Wallyworld or is that just not fun for you?"she reloaded the ruger target pistol and wished for something with a bit more stopping power. She was babbling, it was a stress response and she realized that well enough to tighten her lips over the flow of words.

She slowly raised up to the point where she could see over the edge of the cab and  took a look around cautiously. Evidently the Deliverance road-crew rejects had given up after the first two or three blocks worth of running and dodging. 

The air no longer burned as it went in, her heartbeat slowed to a regular thud rather than a hard hammering.
"got to keep moving"
so far she hadn't seen a sign of civilization in the hour and a half she'd been on the road. There'd been precious few people....most of them had run or ducked as soon as they saw her. That was a disheartening indication of the way things were going in town. "when things go to hell....they really go to hell" most of the tall buildings loomed , unchanged aside from a few broken windows. If you kept your eyes focused upward things looked almost normal aside from the lack of contrails. It reminded her a bit of the first week or so after 9-11 when the skies had been empty.....damned eerie.

 No traffic noises people birds.

She crept through the maze of buildings more than a bit spooked by the silence. Finally her ears picked up the sound of splashing water. she turned towards the sound and followed it to Centennial park. The fountains rained water down steadily..unchanged. The park was an oasis in the midst of the wreckage perfect aside from a message tagged on a wall " THE FUCKING END IS HERE" in a rusty brown substance that Mick refused to think about the probable origin of.

There was something wrong with the skyline, it took a moment but when she came to the edge of the park and the world dropped off into a vast smooth sided nothingness that seemed to have no end it finally clicked. The CNN center was gone and in it's place was the perfectly smooth hole not quite as big as the grand canyon but startling in it's depth. No hint on the complex was within hint that it had ever been there aside from the signs for parking.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Atlanta (West End Downtown): Jan.4, 2013

Mick wandered the rooms of the house like ghost.  There were memories in every corner.  The silence was deafening. Shane’s body lay on their bed. Clean now, all the horrible wet redness scrubbed away. 

Peaceful now….




Mick ran a hand over the banister they’d spent hours restoring, sweet memories crowded in salting already  too raw wounds.

The Christmas decorations mocked and taunted.
Presents unopened beneath the tree.
Stockings still full.
The fire crackling merrily.

Everything looked so beautiful in here in the candlelight, so blessedly normal.

“Happy holidays baby” the words came out in a near croak.

Outside crows flew over the ruined city.

Every now and then there was a shot…a scream….the sound of an engine in the distance

It was a hell than Dante would have envied.

They’d seen it first hand when they ventured out  to see if there were any other survivors. 

There had been.
God help them, there had been.
Mick had heard a noise…an animal crying from inside a half pillaged bodega  and had gone inside to look for it while Shane stood watch at the door.  They’d spent enough time gaming to know that you always kept a watch.

Its funny how they had expected any other survivors to be like them, just normal frightened folks looking for traces of hope and answers.

The gang had shot Shane after only a few roughly spoken words. Shot him because of  the color of his skin, shot him because he was a nerdy looking white guy with glasses.
It had taken every ounce of control that Mick had not to scream and charge into the middle of them.

They’d left him laying in the doorway bleeding.

There was noone to call.. No police, no 911, no ER.

He’d died there in the doorway with Mick trying to stop the blood pouring out of him.

His last words had been “it’s kind of ironic when you think about it” It’d taken Mick a moment to realize that he was wearing his favorite Watchmen Tshirt over his thermals. The bullet had hit right  below the fake bullet hole on the bright yellow smiley face. 


Getting his body home had been an ordeal but leaving him hadn’t been an option that Mick could even consider.
Now he was laying peacefully in their bed.  Mick fought the urge to crawl in beside him and just stay there.

“I can’t…I can’t stay here baby…I’ll go crazy. I’m sorry”

Mick closed the door to the bedroom and went to sit by the fire and plan.

They had their gear together from the last game so packing wasn’t a huge  problem.
It was just a matter of spending the time sorting through what couldn’t be parted with.

The streets were clogged with cars or torn up by the tremors so the jeep wasn’t an option here. Bicycle made the most sense going through town. It had the benefit of being quiet. walking was a notion too. It was slow but it made it easier to hide.

Getting ready took longer than expected.

Sleep had been fitful, the face in the mirror this morning was unfamiliar, haggard all traces of softness gone.

“I’m going to head north…towards the farm. I have to get out of the city before the gangs come for me. I can’t stay here baby and I‘m sorry I can‘t bury you but the grounds too frozen” Mick talked to Shane while dressing. “ I can’t live here with you like this and I can’t just put you outside to get picked at by the gorram birds”

Well worn hiking boots, thermals sturdy cargo pants a silk turtleneck topped by a wool one, then one of Shane’s irish cable knits over that. They’d been close to the same size. His scent lingered of the thick knit a comfort and a stab in the same breath.

“I need to check and see if mom and dad are still there. See if there’s anything left. The city’s gonna start to stink as soon as the weather turns warm.”

Mick pulled Shane’s aussie duster on over the layers of warm clothing then did a quick check around the room before putting on a wide brimmed flat crowned hat.

“Christ….I look like Harry Dresden. Shame there’s not going to be a Dragon Con this year…this would make one helluva hall costume”

Mick shouldered the camping pack and settled the straps then picked up the staff by the door.

The sun was beginning to come up…all the bangers would be crawling back into their holes to sleep off the nights fun.

“Time for me to go, baby. ”

Mick paused at the door for one last look around then tipped a candle over into the trail of turpentine that started next to the couch and wound throughout the house then closed the dooras the curtains and couch began to burn. The street was silent in the weak winter morning light. Mick resettled the back pack and with a lift of the chin turned and determinedly strode down the street headed north towards I-85 and what had once been home.