The next ten days passed by in a blur, it was now October 8th. Everyday I got up and ripped off the previous day’s desk calendar page and read the next quote of the day.
Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
I smirked as I read the quote, “I guess that’s one good thing about the new world, no taxes.” I put on my belt and looked at my Springfield XD. “Death on the other hand…” I let the sentence hang in the air as I holstered my weapon.
I continued scavenging to increase my food stores, gather additional tools and equipment, and prepare for the unknown. I blocked the front door of the armory with concrete blocks. The pallet company across the street supplied the forklift. I blocked the areas where someone might try and breach the perimeter with additional concrete blocks, stolen down the street from a construction zone.
I managed to get a wood burning stove installed in the garage. It was large enough to heat the garage and send some heat down the hallway. I also installed a second, much smaller one in the captain’s office. Cutting holes in the roof was a new experience for me. I had worked a few construction jobs when I was younger, mainly framing and roofing, but it was usually on new construction.
I gathered up stacks of pallets from across the street and, with a chop saw, chopped up the unused 4×4’s into 16 inch lengths. After cutting roughly two chords I figured I would have enough wood to last the winter. I was on my last 4×4 when the saw quit. It took me a minute to realize that the power grid must have gone down.
I spent the next several hours getting the generators hooked up to run the freezer, fridge, lighting, and blower on the wood stove.
After hooking up the big screen television I realized what a bonehead I was. I had swiped a new 17 inch laptop with a Blu-Ray player in it. It would suck a lot less power than a massive television and speaker system. How many people was I showing the movie to anyway?
I went to the local RV store and procured a bunch of deep cycle batteries which I wired up in parallel with a trickle charger from the RV Company. With a massive bank of solar panels I could keep this power pack going for a long time. It took quite awhile for me to get them all hooked up, but after pouring over a book on RV power systems I finally figured it out. With winter approaching the solar cells wouldn’t work very well, but I would just use the generators.
I managed to get a couple of 5,000 gallon, above ground tanks and filled them with diesel. I could always go down the road, if needed, to the fuel distribution center, but I would rather have a large supply on hand here. Gasoline would go bad relatively quickly but diesel, being less refined, could last for quite a few years.
After a long day working on the power situation I started a fire in the stove and popped in an animated movie- I needed something light hearted and goofy. The demons had been working overtime on me lately, drilling at every chink in my mental armor. Some days they almost had me, whispering in my ear, “Stay in bed Marty, just give up and die.”
Work and entertainment helped keep them at bay, but it had only been two weeks since the… event. I worried about the madness that could enslave me if I let it. What would happen in two months? Or two years?
The nightmares grew worse. My undead family appeared nightly, ripping and clawing at my flesh. Friends and coworkers visited as well, blaming me for their demise. Strangely, people I had never met would occasionally arrive and torment me. During the day I occasionally felt as though I had eyes boring a hole in the back of my head. I would spin around, but no one would be there.
Shadows played tricks on my mind; driving through town I would catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Kids playing, people walking, shoppers pushing carts, soldiers in camouflage uniforms, but the phantoms never showed themselves. They always kept to the shadows. Packs of dogs continued to roam the streets. I had shot and killed thirty or forty by now, but their numbers never seemed to dwindle.
I used the armory’s bulldozer to create a few berms to use as back stops for my own private shooting range. Sure the armory had an indoor range, but I wanted something a bit bigger. I needed to destroy something I hated, an object of such loathing that it no longer deserved to live: It was the first car I had owned as a teenager. Unfortunately, my actual car had long since been turned into a metal hay bale. After a little searching I found one parked in the driveway of a dumpy old house- a baby blue Mercury Topaz.
I coaxed it into starting and parked it in front of the berm. I started out small, using handguns and rifles, but when I got bored with that I pulled out Ma Deuce the good old .50 caliber machine gun that had served our troops so well since before World War II and let the little crappy car have it. After breaking out the heavy artillery, the compact car quickly turned into a carbeque. As oily black smoke floated heavenward I thought it was too bad there weren’t any hippies there to see it. It probably would have made their blood boil.
As I watched the smoke rise into the air I caught a glimpse of something far off in the distance. Something metallic, with a slight flash of sunlight, then it was gone. I hurried inside and grabbed a spotting scope I had pinched from the sporting goods store. I scanned the area where I had seen the object, but a couple of clouds had rolled in and I couldn’t find it.
What the hell was it? The paranoid corner of my brain started working overtime. “Whatever it is, it’s going to come and get you.”
“Shut up, Noid!” I told the back of my brain. When did it get a name?
“Shut up? How rude. I’ve been the one keeping us alive remember?”
I took a deep breath. “Noid, I am not going to talk to you anymore, just go to sleep. I don’t need you back there stirring up demons!”
Noid was silent for a while. It seemed as though I had suppressed him. Him? It was then that I realized I had been talking out loud.
The clouds parted and I caught a glimpse of the shiny metal again. Had it moved?
Noid jumped back to the front of my brain, “Hey stupid get the scope on that thing! We have to see what is going to come kill us!”
“Noid, will you shut up if I take a look?”
I grabbed the spotting scope as I tried to avoid the Noid. It took awhile until I got a fix on the metallic object under 20x magnification. All that I could see was a shimmery blur. I started increasing the power and held my breath.
“Oooh, I can’t bear to look!”
“Well then don’t!”
“But if you look that means I have to look! We share the same eyes remember?”
My right eye began to twitch. I had to blink a few times until it stopped. As I maxed out the scope to 60x magnification, a cloud briefly blocked out the sun and I couldn’t make it out. I sighed in anxious frustration and waited for the cloud to pass. When it finally did I looked through the scope again, and recognized what I was looking at.
“Damn it, Noid! It’s just a stinking cell phone tower!”
“Ha! I knew it all along! It wasn’t a black helicopter or spaceship!”
“Oh really now, you were the one that…” I caught myself talking out loud again. I am not going crazy.
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!” He taunted.
“That’s it! I am going to get rid of you!”
“Oh, so how are you gonna do that Mr. Smarty-pants!” Noid replied.
I ignored him as I grabbed an M4 carbine, my dog, and hopped into the Dodge pickup. It was time to hit the pharmacy.
The Sure-Rx drug stores had popped up on what seemed like every street corner in the last few years. They were a strange amalgamation of convenience store, photo center, and a pharmacy tacked on in the very back, forcing the customer to walk through row upon row of overpriced junk.
I parked in front of the store and got out, Bandit right behind me. With the power off I had to force the automatic door open. The interior was dark and foreboding. The overcast light coming in through the windows was just enough to cast deep shadows in the aisles. I flipped on the high intensity weapon light on the former National Guard carbine and stepped into the store.
Bandit followed me inside and began sniffing at everything, as dogs love to do. So far so good, he wasn’t barking.
“Hey, you aren’t really going to medicate me away are you?” Noid broke into my concentration.
I ground my teeth and tried to bury him deep down in some gray matter. “Bandit, smell anything buddy?” He continued forward passing the refrigerated section.
The smell of curdled milk was overpowering, the overpriced stuff had gone green. Its putrid stench attacked my nose. As I shined my light on the refrigerator I noticed some of the containers had been ripped open and a few half-gallon jugs were lying on the floor. Something had been in here. Something hungry.
“Get outta here Marty! Run! The zombies will get you!”
I covered my mouth with my off hand and coughed, “Zombies aren’t real, Noid!”
Bandit started growling and pulling at the leash. “What is it boy?” He barked toward the back of the store and I shifted my light to illuminate the way. Something scurried away into the next aisle. Whatever it was my dog wanted to tear it apart. He yanked at the leash and tore it out of my hand. His claws clattered noisily on the smooth floor, he rounded a corner and disappeared behind a display of brightly colored foam footballs.
I quickly walked after him, the last thing I needed was to slip and crack my head open on the floor. The barking intensified into a crescendo, loud crashing noises came from the next aisle over as magazines and candy bars were dumped into the aisle. I rounded the corner and saw the hissing creature Bandit was chasing. A raccoon! I tried to get a shot on it but was afraid of hitting my dog. They ran around the store knocking over the assorted junk that Sure-Rx made truckloads of cash on.
After a couple of laps the raccoon climbed up on top of the cosmetics shelf. It hissed down at Bandit, and stayed still for a couple of seconds. “Big mistake little buddy.” I covered him with the red dot and squeezed the trigger. The masked thief collapsed and rolled off and into the waiting jaws of my faithful companion.
The mayhem was over, but not until the dying raccoon had managed to bite bandit on the side of his muzzle. His whining echoed through the drugstore.
“Good boy.” I said as I looked at his wound with an LED headlamp. “You’ll be okay just as long as your former owners kept you current on your rabies shots.” I paused, “Let’s hope they did, or we will have to find a vet that’s open on apocalypse days.”
I jumped over the counter and unlocked the door that kept the unwashed masses out of the dispensing area. A shopping cart with a purse, pregnancy test, condoms, and prescription birth control pills was within easy reach. “Whoa, whoever was pushing this cart was just a little worried about getting pregnant.” I laughed. Bandit turned his head to the side and looked at me like I was nuts.
“That’s because you are nuts!” Noid said.
I growled, “I am not going crazy!”
“Yes you are! You’re talking to yourself again!”
It was true, and it had been less than a month. How long would it be until I ended up killing myself? I tried to push the thought out of my mind. I needed to find other survivors soon.
I started looking through the shelves of medications. Who knew there would be so many stinking meds? What did doctors prescribe for…
“Insanity?” Noid interrupted.
“Anxiety, not insanity,” I insisted. Prozac? The pharmacist’s reference guide on the desk called it Fluoxetine. After some searching I found a massive bottle of it. It was about half empty.
“Don’t you mean half full?”
I ignored him and looked up the warning information on the drug. “Nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, anxiety, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, weakness, tiredness, sweating, or yawning may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor promptly. Yawning?”
“I am already having all of those issues! I don’t want to make them worse!” I continued reading. “Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects. Tell your doctor blah blah blah. Unusual or severe mood changes such as agitation, unusual high energy excitement, thoughts of suicide. Shit!”
Why did doctors dole this stuff out like candy? I skipped ahead. “Decreased interest in sex, changes in sexual ability. Well it’s not like I can test those symptoms out.”
I sat down in the pharmacist’s chair. The potential side effects seemed worse than the cure.
“See, you aren’t going to be rid of me that easy!”
I whistled to Bandit. He came over and I scratched him behind the ears. “What should I do buddy? There are hundreds of medications here and I don’t have the foggiest idea what I am doing.” But I had to quiet down my paranoia. I popped a couple of Prozac pills and kept the bottle.
I piled bottles of over the counter meds and several prescriptions as well. I hated to “self medicate” but what choice did I really have? Doctors seem to take apocalypses off, just like bank holidays.
We drove back to the armory and I began cleaning weapons for the evening. While I scrubbed the heavy machine gun I realized everything was quiet. I grabbed my wind up radio and switched it on. There was nothing but static on the FM and AM stations. I switched over to Short Wave and scrolled through it with the coarse wheel. I was about to give up when I scrolled over the top of a transmission. I went back searching for the signal amid the sea of static. I abandoned the coarse wheel and slowly adjusted the fine wheel. For a moment I thought I’d lost the signal, but I eventually found it. It was weak, but I could just barely make it out.
“…ort wave radio. End of Message.” A tinny recorded female voice said. “Message repeats. I am transmitting this message to anyone who might still be out there. I am at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT. If you are hearing this message then I have to assume you survived the phenomenon. If you have a satellite phone please call me at…” I scrambled to find a piece of paper and something to write with. In my haste I bumped into the radio and lost the signal!
“Damn it, clumsy fool!” I said as I scrambled to get the signal back. A few moments later I found it again.
“…age then I have to assume you survived the phenomenon.” Success! It’s working! I waited with baited breath for the number. I quickly jotted it down and ran to the radio room. I located the satellite phone and hastily punched in the numbers.
It seemed like an eternity as I waited for the woman on the other end to answer. Bandit came in the room, his tail wagging. He could probably smell the excitement. I let the phone ring ten times, and started to despair. Perhaps I had punched in the wrong number? I glanced at my watch, 10:33 p.m. I was such an idiot; it was after midnight in Massachusetts.
A tired female voice answered, “Umm hello?”
I sat there stunned for a moment. There was someone there on the other end, thank God!
“Hello? Anyone there?” she said slightly annoyed.
I cleared my throat, “Hi, sorry I uhhh.” Smooth move, Marty, way to make a first impression with the last woman on the planet.
“I can’t believe it!” she sounded a bit more awake. “Are you real? What’s your name?”
I tried to calm down but it was hard. All the things I’d been longing to talk about were like water spilling over the top of a dam. “Yes, I’m real! I can’t believe someone else survived! Name’s Martin, and yours?”
“I’m Katrina.” She sounded nice. “You obviously picked up my shortwave transmission so you know where I am, where are you?”
“Don’t tell her where we are! She might be one of THEM!” Noid screamed at me.
“Unfortunately, I’m really far away. Idaho,” I replied.
The phone was silent for a moment. She sighed, “Wow, that really is far away.”
“Hey, has anyone else called you? Are there other people out there? How long have you been transmitting?” I asked.
She coughed, “No, you’re the first. I got the shortwave working a week ago. I was starting to lose hope today and was about to shut it down but…”
“But you didn’t that’s what’s important. It is so great to talk to another person again!”
“Martin, if you don’t mind my asking, how did you… you know, survive?”
I took a deep breath and said, “I was working in the server room when the event happened.”
“Is there anything special about your server room?” she asked.
“Marty! Don’t tell her! Are you nuts?” I couldn’t wait for the Prozac to start working.
“Umm yeah, it’s in a Faraday cage.”
The phone was silent for a bit. “I KNEW it! That helps prove my theory!”
“What’s your theory?” I asked.
“Umm well call me back tomorrow so I can explain it better, I am really…” she yawned.
“Tired?” I finished her sentence for her.
We exchanged a little more information, I gave her my satellite phone number and we setup a time for me to call her back tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. my time. I could hardly wait.
I swallowed hard, “One last thing before you go. Goodnight, Katrina.”
“Aww thanks Martin, Goodnight.” The phone clicked and a dial tone filled the ear piece.
I sat in stunned silence a while.