Destruction Aftermath, Book 2a
Copyright© 2012 by radio_guy
The next morning, we had a quick breakfast and set out with Amy to have a look at her horses. She actually had a small herd of ten with a stallion, mares, and colts. There were also two geldings in the herd. One of them came up to her nickering softly. She grinned at us and said, "This is Billy. I usually ride him or one of the mares." Billy was a fine looking horse and all of the horses in the herd were well-kept looking. Amy obviously knew how to care for horses.
Bennie said, "He's a good looking horse. Saddle him up and let's check out what we might need for you on the trip. What do you want in the way of personal possessions?"
Amy answered, "I don't have much any more after the Triple-A's burned the house. There are some things at the old house that I want to take. I'll need some clothes and some other gear. I have a rifle but really don't know much about how to operate it. I have a source of freeze dried food which we can take to give us some different meals."
After saddling up, she led us to her old house. We went in with her as she collected a few keepsake items. She looked at me and said, "I guess I need to go clothes shopping at the mall for some better duds. I've been needing new shoes for a week or so." I nodded and we left with her things in a backpack. I made a mental note to pick up saddlebags for her.
At our request, Amy took us to a "Wally World" for more supplies. It had been lightly looted but had most of what we needed including a small tent, a sleeping bag, and a pistol and two rifles with ammo. She and I both picked up some new jeans and a couple of pairs of boots for her along with new sneakers for Bennie and me. Bennie stayed outside as sentry even though we didn't expect trouble.
There was none and the clothes would be serviceable for the future. Bennie and I hated washing clothes on the road and would scrounge them when we could just abandon our old sets unless there was something we liked particularly. There were more clothes still left than would ever be worn before they were useless. I had some nice party things from Atlanta that I kept for those few occasions that gave me a chance to dress fancily. Those I washed and treated gently, while the rest were worn and washed until not worth having.
Preservation had talked about cloth making but no one had really gotten interested in working on the process. Now, nine years after the Day, there was still too much in the way of clothing available. Anyway, we came out of the store to a comfortable looking Bennie who looked like he was asleep and didn't know what was around him.
Amy was shocked and said, "A fine lookout you are!"
Without seeming to move, Bennie said, "To your right, one yards out is a red fox with his left foot raised. In front of the fox is a nest about nine and a half feet above the ground in a large crepe myrtle. Directly in front of us are two people on foot, one man and one woman. They are two hundred yards out. Don't move or look like you have seen them. Shake me like you're waking me up."
I did, standing so Bennie could watch the couple. He said, "They went to ground behind some bushes. We'll move slowly just to be sure they are by themselves."
Amy was wide eyed at all this. I said, "Bennie is masterful at this. Nothing can really sneak up on him." He rose slowly stretching like he had been asleep watching for the couple out of the corner of his eyes. I watched the side away from the fox. It would not have been there if people were there. I saw no movement.
Bennie said, "Let's mount up and ride off. I don't think they want any trouble."
As he said that, one person waved their hand at us in a friendly manner. We turned to all face them and waited. I waved back and they came forward slowly.
When they were fifty feet away, I called out, "Hello." The man was carrying a rifle slung over his arm. The female seemed to be unarmed until I noticed a pistol at her back from a shadow. Bennie and I had learned to be observant.
The woman said, "Hello," as they came closer. At about twenty feet, she stopped and said, "You're new here. Where are you from?"
"We're from Preservation, a new community just south of Atlanta. I'm Janice, that's my husband, Bennie, and she's our niece, Amy. We're exploring on behalf of our community looking for contacts with other survivors."
"How many are in Preservation?"
"Over three hundred. Who are you?" I asked her.
She hesitated, and then said, "My name's Irene and this is Mac. We from Richmond and also are exploring for our community. We have found almost no people in the Carolinas. We didn't expect many but there are none."
Bennie said, "Come over and sit down. We know something of the reason." They looked a little spooked but came over and joined us. Bennie said, "You might tell the rest of your party to join us or start a war as suits them."
Mac jerked as if shot, but said, "How did you know?"
"Just because I look like a bump on a log doesn't mean I don't have my senses. I have counted at least four more spread over behind the fox about two hundred fifty yards out. Now, I don't want to sound violent but let's either be friends or enemies. If it's enemies, I can kill you both and we'll take refuge in the WalMart before your folks out there can do anything. Alternatively, we can be friends and honest getting to know one another in peace."
Mac made a sign to the others and sat down. He said, "We are all from Richmond but are running from trouble. A gang came down from the Pennsylvania area and took over. They kill any who oppose them. If you don't and they take you in, you become a slave. We were and won't go that route again. Death would be better."
The others had come up by then and introduced themselves. None looked like fighters but more like business people and city dwellers trying to become farmers. I don't think any of them wanted to mess with Bennie who was leaner and more muscled than they. He made a small motion to me and I buttoned my holster. That made some more eyes widen as they had missed that. Amy was by my other side and was starting to calm down. She hadn't realized how ready Bennie and I had been for trouble.
Like Irene and Mac, the other four were all about the same age being in their early to mid thirties. The years since the Day had toughened them but hadn't erased their prior years of easy living. Bennie and I had worked hard from our mid teens to develop our bodies and our skills.
Bennie said, "Tell us more about the conditions you left in Richmond. Be detailed."
George, one of the new guys, started, "On the day all this started with the explosion in Florida, I was working in DC as a congressional aide."
I said, "We call it the Day. It's an easy way to note it since everything now dates from then."
George said, "That makes sense. We heard the news like everyone else. The Senator knew that more had happened and was running scenarios with Homeland Security. It didn't matter. The virus traveled quickly and people were dying faster than plans could be made. One man in Homeland Security estimated a three percent survival rate. I met him before too many people were sick and asked him how he derived that number and he told me that there had been no survivors of the virus in testing but that three percent was the lowest number that his superiors would allow to be published. He said that his opinion was that some would survive but that no one had any idea what the survival rate might be.
"Anyway, people around me in the office became sick and soon there was no body coming in but me. My Senator and his family all caught it and began to die, as did many others. I never had been sick a day in my life and it didn't bother me now. The girl I had been dating caught it and she and her roommates died. I had been talking to my parents in Little Rock until one day, about a week and a half after the Day, their phones didn't answer any more except for the answering machines until I filled them up. I still don't know what happened to them. I waited too long to leave Washington and ran into some gangs of sick people who captured me until they died off. I was traded around as they combined and killed off one another. In the end, it didn't matter for them as they all died from the virus.
"I was going to head for Little Rock after I got free. I was going to be killed but the last one went into a seizure as he was going to shoot me and collapsed first. I took his gun and used it to shoot the chains to get where I could find keys to release me. It was no fun. At least, I wasn't a woman. They fared much worse.
"I finally went back to my apartment, found my car, and loaded up some basic things. I had been with the gang and had seen the raids on stores. I left and managed to fill up the tank. I went south to Richmond and met Tom at a store. We decided to stick together as neither of us had seen anyone in a while.
"I didn't think that my parents were alive so there was no rush to get to Little Rock. Tom and I shared his old house in Richmond and kept our heads down. It was late fall and we were still living off the stores. We knew there were some other people around but hadn't seen anyone while out scavenging. We weathered the winter without any serious issues. We had stocked up and even had a diesel generator and plenty of diesel in case the power went out. We had each picked up a pistol after a run-in with dogs. I had a stick and whipping at them with it managed to chase them away. We read up on how to care for our pistols and followed the books. We even practiced some. Tom is a better shot than I. He can hit the broad side of a barn. I can't." Everyone chuckled. He looked over at Tom.
Tom said, "I was living in Richmond on the Day and did until we left recently. I had graduated from college here and liked the city and the people. There were jobs available here and my parents had told me there wasn't much going in Jackson, in Mississippi. Like George, I lost contact with them but I knew there was a problem. My mother was talking to me when I heard gunshots and then some more. She dropped the phone and I heard her sigh.