Chapter 2

Shopping

Strange dreams tormented me during the night. Unanswered questions pierced me to the core. What had happened? Why was I spared? Who else was out there? A nightmare of fire came, I couldn’t get out, the doors were locked. Thick smoke filled my lungs. It burned. I awoke in my bed, the pillow was soaked in sweat.

Fortunately my neighborhood hadn’t burned down in the middle of the night. It was time to get to work.

I pulled my neighbor’s sweet Dodge Ram 3500 up to the front of the big blue store of happiness, and parked in front of the contractor’s entrance. I quickly filled up shopping carts with all kinds of tools, crowbars, chains, hammers, acetylene torches, saws, grinders, and bolt cutters.

I found the forklift and loaded up a flatbed trailer with a massive air compressor, a couple of generators, and a welder. I had no idea how long the power grid would stay up until it suffered rolling brownouts.

I made my way to the local gun store and giggled like a kid in a candy store. All the guns I had drooled over, but couldn’t afford, were now mine. This little unassuming gun store just a few blocks down the street from my house was unofficially Zombie apocalypse HQ. The owner had it stocked with thousands of guns and countless rounds of ammo. The apocalypse was here, but where were the zombies? I hefted a .50 caliber bolt action rifle and smiled. I had always wanted one of these. In minutes I had stolen probably $50,000 worth of guns and ammo.

After leaving the store I realized that I needed a better place to hole up. My little suburban house would be a deathtrap come winter. We were on gas heat, which couldn’t hold up without workers maintaining the lines. But where would I go?

I drove to the Mega Club store and filled four carts full of canned food. I grabbed some nice juicy steaks; it was going to be barbeque time tonight. I also picked up a couple of 50 lb bags of dog food. I was going to get a dog.

The shocks on the truck were all but maxed out with all the stuff I had piled up in the bed and on the trailer. Hey, if I was going to survive the end of the world I wasn’t about to go down without a fight! If I had survived, so had others, and not everyone would be friendly. Thinking about it, not everyone would be crazed killers either. I would eventually need human interaction or I would go insane.

I had no idea how I could find other humans just then, so I figured an animal would have to do for now. I drove to a friend’s house a few miles down the road and knocked on the door. Bah, it would take some getting used to. I twisted the handle and the door opened. I was now slinging a FAL carbine pinched from the gun store. Twenty rounds of .308 on tap would be good medicine in case I ran into trouble.

I whistled as I opened the front door. “Bandit. Bandit! Here boy.” He came running from the kitchen his furry black tail wagging. He was a mutt, but I had dog sat him a few times and knew he was an even tempered dog that didn’t bark unless something was wrong. He would be perfect for the new world.

He looked like a cross between a Black Lab and a German Shepherd and perhaps a few other breeds tossed in for good measure. His legs were a bit too short for his torso but he still had speed when needed. I handed him a dog bone and he nearly took off a finger. I grabbed his leash and his former master’s Recurve bow, a pile of arrows, and we were off again.

I drove to the local National Guard Armory and hopped out. This was going to be my new home. I went to the front door and found it unlocked. I wandered around until I found the commander’s office. Captain Roger Jones. I found a set of keys in his desk and pulled my truck and trailer into the massive garage out back and closed the tall overhead door behind me. This garage must have been for working on large Army trucks during inclement weather. Yes, this would do nicely.

I made my way to the gun cage and had to pick my jaw up off the floor. It was brimming with M16A4 rifles, M4 carbines, some M240’s, M249’s, a couple of M2 heavy machine guns, and an M19 automatic grenade launcher!

Bandit ran around the room sniffing at the new smells and sounds. He found a partially eaten hamburger and snatched it off the counter. That was fine by me; I didn’t want a day-and-a-half-old chewed on burger.

The armory backed up to the town airport. It was a small facility with the largest planes being light, twin engine planes. I remembered reading somewhere that the runway was just under a mile long. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to fly an airplane. Maybe I could learn?

Across from the armory was a company that made wooden pallets. I wouldn’t have any shortage of firewood, but soon I needed to find a wood stove and get it setup.

Bandit started barking, snapping me out of my daydream of planning. “What is it boy?” He growled and ran off down the hallway, back toward the offices. A pack of mangy dogs was trotting down the street. It looked like anywhere from 15 to 20 dogs. It took me a bit to figure it out but then I realized, the lead dog was in heat. Life goes on without us; did the pack even notice we were gone?

A few minutes later they vanished. I gave my dog another tasty bone. “Good boy, Bandit.” I scratched the back of his neck and returned to the garage. I began unloading the truck and making stacks of weapons, tools, and food. After an hour I was sweaty and tired. I began a list of all the things I had forgotten to pick up at the stores. Games, books, and movies would be essential to combat boredom.

I started printing off reams of useful information from the Internet, there was no telling how long my access would last. It would only be a matter of time before the net died due to power failures.

I found some radio equipment that the operator had left on. Static was all that greeted my ears. I had no idea how to use it, but I kept it on. Who knew, maybe someone would try and reach this armory.

I curled up with Bandit on the couch in the Captain’s office. I laid the FAL carbine on the desk within easy reach. I wasn’t sure what I was afraid of, but the demons in my head were orchestrating a vicious cycle of fear, paranoia, and giddiness. Bandit really was man’s best friend. I could turn to him when I was afraid. He would listen to me when I tried to figure out what was going on in this strange and isolated world.

The next morning I headed out in a Deuce. I had always wanted to buy a surplus one, to have as a big toy, but I didn’t have anywhere to park it. It took a little bit of getting used to but it was a kick in the pants to drive.

With Bandit riding shotgun I drove through the streets again. Small passenger cars could easily be rammed out of the way. Thankfully, in many areas the vehicles had run off the roads and over mailboxes and greenery. By now nearly all of them had idled out of gas.

My first stop on Event Day plus 2, or ED+2, was my old home. I had some unfinished business. I grabbed the family photo albums and scrapbooks. It pained me to look at the pictures of my family. I tried telling myself that they were on vacation at Yellowstone with the in-laws, but I couldn’t even believe my own lies.

I gathered up my bed and blankets, and all of my camping gear: the Camp Chef stove, lanterns, sleeping bags, fishing poles, hatchets, tents, and backpacks. I gathered up the neighborhood’s propane bottles; I lost count after twenty-seven.

I hit the local Super Buy store and loaded up carts with stacks of DVD’s and Blu-Ray discs. I picked out a nice 50 inch LCD television and a fancy projector. The back wall of the garage would make a nice little movie theater, if I ever felt so inclined.

I hit the chain bookstore and grabbed a bunch of SCI-FI and Fantasy books. Then I looked for the how-to manuals. I found books on gardening, metalwork, masonry, welding, carpentry, electronics, ham radio, gunsmithing, and flight, although teaching myself how to fly an airplane, just by reading a book, scared the piss out of me. Countless music CD’s were dumped into the cart, every genre except for rap. I could live the rest of my life without hearing rap again. I returned to the base and started to unload the truck.

What I really wished I had was my wife and children. All the toys, movies, games, and books couldn’t fill the hole they left behind. I was incomplete. Where were they? Were they dead? Kidnapped? Food for the body snatchers? Not knowing is what I feared the most.

I shuddered and continued unloading the Deuce. Working was the only thing that kept the demons at bay.

“Bandit, fetch!” I tossed a tennis ball out across the airstrip; he tore off after it, retrieved the ball and brought it back, except he never really liked to give the ball back. Sure, he would come close to where I was standing but would then lay down and start chewing on the ball. That dog could go through a pack of tennis balls a day if I wasn’t careful. Oh well it wasn’t like the stores didn’t have hundreds more.

“Hey, drop it, Bandit!” I struggled to get the ball out of his mouth and got a blob of dog slobber on my hand.

“Eww sick.” I couldn’t stand dog spit. I never understood people who kissed their dogs.

“Gogettit!” I yelled and swung my arm but kept the ball. Bandit tore off but stopped confused looking for the ball. He turned back and looked at me, turning his head sideways. I held up the ball and threw it this time. Playing fetch with my last friend was a good way to relieve stress for a few minutes here and there.

“You know what, Bandit?” I asked him when he came back. I let him have the tennis ball. “I think after we do our work tomorrow we need to kick back and do something fun.” He ignored me as he busily munched on the ball.

ED+3

We drove a hummer down to the local car dealer and walked into the showroom. “Hello, my good man. My associate and I would like to purchase a new shiny Corvette.”

Right in the middle of the show room was a cherry red amalgamation of steel and fiberglass. It was beautiful.

“You don’t say? You need me to take this one off your hands? I would be happy to help you out. Ooh it’s a supercharged ZR1 model!” I found the keys in one of the dealer’s desks. I grabbed a couple of cold sodas from their fridge and hopped into the muscle car.

I cranked the ignition and the throaty V8 engine roared to life. “Yeah baby, this is more like it!”

Bandit hopped into the passenger’s seat and we carefully drove out the double doors. Crashing through the glass might have been cool, but I didn’t want to scratch up the car yet.

As soon as we hit pavement I did a burnout, leaving a smoking patch of rubber on the road. “Who’s the big man in town now? I’ll tell you! It’s Marty the lowly IT guy, that’s who!”

We returned to the armory and pulled around back. It was time to see what this baby could do on the runway! I slipped a CD into the player and hit play. “Bad to the Bone” blared through the speakers.

I stomped on the gas feeling that the beastly supercharged American V8 engine was eager to please. “Bad to the Bone!” I sang along as I popped the clutch and burned rubber! A thin layer of rubber melted and the car fishtailed a bit as the madly spinning rear wheels struggled to grip the pavement. We rocketed down the runway, the engine roaring, and the wind snapping loudly at our metal and fiberglass cocoon. If the car had wings we would have gone airborne. I rapidly shifted through the gears. The speedometer needle pushed 100 miles per hour, and we still had loads of runway left. One ten, one twenty, one twenty five, one thirty. At 130 I started to lose my nerve and let off the gas, even though I could tell it had more to give.

We rolled to a stop with plenty of room left. Wow, how fast could this beast go? At 130 I had still been in fifth gear, with one more gear to go- this monster had loads more headroom. I cruised back to the base at a more leisurely 110 miles per hour. “Bad to the bone? Yes, yes, it is. Eat your heart out rice burners.”

I pulled up to the back of the armory to unlock and open the gate. When I opened the car door Bandit scrambled out, his claws scratching the leather seats. I started to grimace then shrugged. What did I care? I could always pick up another ride.

After pulling the car through the gate I closed and locked it with the heavy chain and padlock. I turned off the ignition and got out. The eerie silence attacked me once again. No cars driving down the street, no lumbering airliners, no F-15 fighters on training maneuvers. The deafening silence always tried to remind me that I was alone.

“Here boy!” I called to my dog. Where had he run off to? “Bandit? Where are you boy?” Moments later I heard a cacophony of barking coming from the other side of the building. I grabbed my FAL carbine and ran around the corner. Another pack of mangy dogs was running around, this time they were snarling and biting behind the chain link fence.

I put in a set of fancy earplugs and shouldered my rifle. I dropped three of the dogs before they managed to scramble away down the street. The heavy .308 caliber slugs dropped the mutts instantly. Sure it was overkill, but next time it might not be just dogs.

There was still enough light to get some more work done. I had screwed around enough already racing the Corvette. I set out to find a wood stove to heat the armory. In a few more days the coal power plants would run out of fuel with no one there to fill the hoppers. Even though most of the electricity in this state was generated via Hydro electric dams, Idaho still bought power on the market. The Grid would soon suffer a massive failure, causing rolling brownouts and blackouts. The armory had its own generators, and with the ones I snagged from the hardware store I should be able to generate power for quite a long time.

Water was a bit of a worry though. For the short term I figured a few plastic 55 gallon drums, stuffed in the back of the garage, would last me and Bandit quite a while. Thankfully, there was a distributor of plastic buckets and drums in town. I broke in and filled the back end of the Deuce with food grade drums.

Back at the armory I filled up 20 drums, which should tide me over on the water situation for at least a couple of years. Looking through a few of the survival books I’d pinched from the bookstore, they recommended 1/8th of a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water. After a bit of math I figured seven teaspoons per barrel should work. That would hopefully keep most of the bacteria down.

I still needed to find a wood stove or two, but it was getting too late to make another expedition before nightfall. So we curled up on my bed in the recruiter’s office. After busting the desk apart with a sledgehammer and tossing it, the office had plenty of room for the bed and couch.

I spent the next several hours devouring every survival and instruction manual I had stolen. If I was going to make it in this new empty world I would need to figure out how to do a thousand things that your average suburbanite simply took for granted.

I turned out the light and closed my eyes.

“Marty?” A strange voice called out from the darkness.

“Who’s there?” I replied.

A figure cloaked in shadow appeared in the doorway. “You don’t recognize me?” It was Helen!

I sat up and fumbled for a flashlight. The dark figure took a step forward.

“Marty, why weren’t you with us?” She began sobbing. “Your work was always more important to you than us!”

Two smaller shapes appeared behind her. No, they’re gone. How could this be happening? “No, Helen, I love you and the children.”

“We’re dead because of you! Because you weren’t home to save us!”

I clicked on the light and lit up my wife. Her throat had been slit; blood was running down her neck soaking her shirt. The children were pale. Zachary had a noose around his neck and sweet little Sarah’s skull had been crushed.

“No!” I cried. “There was nothing I could have done! I’m sorry! Helen! Kids!”

They pounced on me, their fingers tearing at my throat. I awoke screaming.

One Response to Chapter 2

  1. Rachel says:

    Ooooh, creepy dream cliffhanger….

    Well, I should be doing something else but I wanted to read another chapter. 🙂 Great job, Matt!

    I really liked this phrase, “I wasn’t sure what I was afraid of, but the demons in my head were orchestrating a vicious cycle of fear, paranoia, and giddiness.” Great description!

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