Destruction Aftermath, Book 2a
Copyright© 2012 by radio_guy
Our next planned stop was Washington.
When Jim had been there after the Day, he found almost no people there. We tried not to have any expectations as we entered the nation's capital. We found no people though some signs of visits over the years. We set up camp in the Mall area, which was overgrown. We picked a small building and broke in to establish a base while we toured the sights of Washington.
It was fun. It was sad. It was not an area that would lend itself to people living here without power and transportation. We toured the Capitol and the White House. We were able to go through all the areas without limitation. However, it was the Smithsonian that held our attention. We spent three days in its buildings and could have stayed longer. We had to use torches but were careful not harm anything and to close up each building trying to leave it in as good or better shape as when we entered. We had spent most of a week here and not seen a soul. We left heading for Annapolis and then Baltimore.
We toured Annapolis, which had some storm damage from the years since the Day and then went through Baltimore. This had been a heavily populated area but did not lend itself to farming. The animals were not skittish, which suggested that there weren't people around here.
We planned to head to Philadelphia and then New York City. Jim gave us his maps that he had used to retrace his route years ago. We decided to follow it and have a look at the Statue of Liberty before trying the city. We were surprised at what we found.
We had had a couple of harsh winters a few years ago but apparently the northeast had really suffered. The statue had lost its upraised arm! We could see serious cracks from the shore. Bennie decided we would not go out there. It didn't look safe and we were really not experienced boating people.
We cut back west and north to one of the bridges crossing into Manhattan. This bridge had seen better days but looked passable. It looked like it had been blocked at one time though it wasn't now.
We crossed cautiously being watchful for a trap or for people. It was quiet. We moved quietly and slowly walking our horses and letting the feeling of this big city soak in. We didn't see any signs of recent people but did see some animal tracks, mainly dogs. Bennie pointed to them as a warning. We had seen what could happen to man's best friend when dogs start running in packs and get hungry. It wasn't pretty and being in the middle of an attack was not fun.
We stayed out in the middle of the street to prevent surprises from our sides. There was a risk in this because we could then be seen more easily. Bennie and I felt that, in this situation, it was better to see. Animals could hear and smell us anyway. It was really only people who made this a challenge. We had ridden for many blocks and not seen people or animals. There weren't even many birds. We wandered through the city eventually coming upon Central Park. There we saw signs that people had lived here after the Day. There were some shacks and a feeble attempt had been made to farm. Those all looked old and had suffered from weather. After talking about it for a moment, we decided to leave the city. If there were still dog packs, we didn't want to meet them at night.
We continued north. According to the map, it would allow us to travel along the coast, more or less. We were looking for a good place to stop for the night. We finally found a warehouse with high skylight windows, some broken. We broke up crates and pallets to give us firewood and closed the horses and ourselves up for the night. Because of our location, we were not able to contact Preservation. Antennas don't work well through metal roofs!
Our travel was through heavily populated areas before the Day. There were parks but not much farming. We found and followed I-95. This was good and bad. Good because it followed the coast but bad because no one would be farming this close to the ocean if they didn't have to do so. We were on watch for signs of people including smoke inland from our track.
We went through Providence, Rhode Island, to Boston. It took nine days to reach the outskirts of Boston. It was a long way and the roads had suffered from weather and no maintenance. We debated about our road choice but decided that what was done was done. We hadn't seen any signs of people or that there had been anyone around these areas in years. The animals were not skittish about people.
As we went into Boston, we saw a number of golf courses but stopped at a park named for Pope John Paul II. It was still pretty and we claimed the park building for lodging after we broke in. We had to hobble the horses but our examination of the area suggested it was pretty safe. Unless we found some place better, this would be our base while in Boston.
We spent the rest of the day getting set for our stay. Not only would we search the Boston area from this point, but would also take a rest from the traveling that we had been doing since leaving Washington. The weather was clear and comfortable. We decided that tomorrow would find us sightseeing. We had found some brochures for the Boston area and wanted to get an overview.
We left in the morning heading north into Boston proper seeing no people and no recent signs of people. We came to the Old North Church and found a message board though the newest message was almost two years old. Bennie made up one and we put it on telling anyone that we had been here on this date touring from Preservation in Georgia. He put that good people were welcome to join or affiliate with us. We never heard anything from that message nor any other we put up after Washington as we went along the coast.
Since our plan was to continue up the coast, we turned inland moving west looking for people or signs of people. It was mid-afternoon when we saw the farm. There were people here! We approached openly though cautiously. We went around to the main entrance and walked our horses slowly down the drive to the main house.
When we were one hundred feet away, a voice said, "Stop there!" We stopped and waited. The voice, male and young, said, "State your business."
Bennie slowly dismounted and motioned for me to follow, which I did. He said, "My name is Bennie and this is my wife, Janice. We're from the community of Preservation in Georgia. We have been sent to tour the northeast looking for survivors. We would like to be friends. We don't harm people except in self-defense."
"What if I don't believe you?"
"Then, you should shoot knowing if you don't get us both, the one left will get you and everyone connected with you. The other option is that we'll leave and mark this area as unfriendly on our maps. If you come to Preservation and admit you're from here, you will be sent away regardless of your need or situation. That's our law. We return friendliness with friendliness and unkindness with unkindness. So, are you going to shoot or do we leave?"
I started to say something, but Bennie continued, "You're right there," pointing, "behind that tree." We waited a long moment. "We'll leave. Mount up, Janice."
"Wait! I, we, want."
"We're out of here. If you wanted to be friends, you shouldn't have waited so long." We had mounted, turned the horses and trotted away.
"That's pretty rough, Bennie."
"It was a kid trying to be big. He went beyond what he knew was right in threatening us. Let's see if someone there has sense or if we should mark it as bad."
We were going to work our way south and then east to return to the park. We had gone a couple of miles when Bennie had us get off the road and into hiding. "Five horses, moving fast," was all he said. We were hidden when five went by us at a slow gallop. There were two men, one woman, a young male teenager, and a female teenager in my opinion. They went beyond us and Bennie shouted, "Hey!"
They stopped and turned to see us both standing with rifles at ready. They came within one hundred yards and Bennie said, "That's close enough. As your watchman said, 'State your business.'"
One of the older men waved the others back and dismounted walked a bit closer leaving his horse behind. "We want to talk."
Bennie said, "That's fine. Talk."
The man grinned and said, "I guess Tommy irritated you."
"He didn't. He made us not trust you and now a group comes galloping after us. We are prepared to defend ourselves. Tommy got our story. He didn't believe us and we are now, by your actions, enemies. If you want to change that, it will take some doing. First impressions mean a lot to Janice and me."
He looked startled. Bennie could be tough when he wanted to be. I wasn't sure why he was taking this tack but I would back him. He would tell me what he was thinking later.
The man said, "Well, Tommy is young yet and sometimes takes the wrong attitude. We're a small group and we don't want people mad at us. Do you mind if I come closer and sit down with you?"
"No, come on over. Keep your hands clear."
He walked over to us not getting in the way of our sight of his people. Bennie's rifle followed his every step. He sat down and said, "My name is David James. We're about all that's left around here. Most didn't survive the virus and a lot of those who did left the area. If you didn't know farming up here, it was very difficult. A few people tried but didn't know what to do. They left rather than learn how. We're just the five you see here and another eleven back at the farm. I worry about our ability to last if we run into problems. Three of those back at the farm are old and two others are pregnant. We really need medical help even for everyday issues. We lost the mother and child from our last pregnancy. We would like to be your friends and, frankly, get some help from you. I think your community is much larger than we are. We sure couldn't send a couple to check out even our area much less the whole northeast." He looked at us hopefully.
Bennie nodded at me and lowered his rifle. "I had hoped that you weren't going to be a problem for us though we have learned to handle problems. Let's see what we can do. We can offer some help to you. We have electricity in Preservation and use ham radios for communications and can talk from there to here fairly easily."
I said, "Why don't you have Tommy come with us along with someone else and we'll go over to the park where we have our stuff and get radios and antenna making items as well as generators. We should be able to find some things to use around the farm to get you on the air quickly and then more stuff will get you on permanently. Our doctors can help via the radio."
He nodded and motioned for the others to come forward. "Tommy, you and Sheila go with Bennie and Janice. Follow their instructions. We'll all meet back at the house."