He wakes up. The car has been destroyed. Down the bank and into a tree. He’s lucky but he doesn’t believe in luck really. Whatever it is doesn’t matter. Some self searches are pointless.
Out the window and onto a branch. Some minor cuts but the major thing will be finding a ride. The road is black and meaningless. Not a moving thing anywhere but maybe an ant or beetle. At least, I have that, he thinks. Someday humans may be extinct is his next thought.
He pulls up his pant leg, simultaneously, and three bars come forward from his shins exposing different guns. All small pistols. They appear to have been implanted into his body somehow. Maybe by his own doing. After the war, things never were the same for John. He used to hold his own hand for comfort, and repeat I have my legs still, i do i do. Everyone knew he didn’t. So John isolated himself. Not because he hated people but because he had given too much of himself to other people. He felt he had to fix his own problems. So he did. He took his welding abilities and crafted prosthetic legs with gun holsters. Barbara, his wife, almost called the cops in fear he had lost it after the war. But he had explained to her, the guns were unloaded and just for show. She believed him because he had such a interesting sense of humor.
But now, these guns would become no joke. John finally would need them to stand on literally and in the moment. The accident didn’t destroy him but the more he walks the more he struggles. He finds a barn and sleeps in the loft, hoping he can figure out what has happened tomorrow. The accident is just a blur.
“SIR!SIR! ARE YOU OKAY?”
Some girl is talking to him he thinks.
Ok, definitely is.
“Um, Hi. I had an accident. Sorry. Your barn seemed like a good nap spot.” John says..
“Ok, well. I don’t know if you watched the news, but you probably should.” She says.
He pulls out his phone and feels chills run down his spine. His phone isn’t turning on.
“How is your TV working?” John asks.
“Excuse me? Why wouldn’t it be?” She asked back, concerned.
“Listen, I thought…I thought something happened,like an EMP.”
“Oh, well if it did, I would know from the radio or news. I EMP proofed everything.” She states with confidence.
Now he’s scared. For two reasons. One, she seems nutty. And two, he may not know if an EMP hit.
“Just hurry up” she insists.
“Oh, well if it did, I would know from the radio or news. I EMP proofed everything.” She states with confidence.
Now he’s scared. For two reasons. One, she seems nutty. And two, he may not know if an EMP hit.
“Just hurry up” she insists.
She has him sit by the radio in the house, awkwardly. He listens as the presidents words echo something like “those who can hear this need to help others. Those who were prepared for something like this, need to be supportive of their fellow neighbor.” His voice sounds weak now. As if he has been drinking or crying too much; but it is clear the country has been changed forever because of him.
“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change but the courage to take a stand and fight to make the difference.”
Then suddenly there was a roar. Not just any roar of a crowd. One of tragedy and one of triumph. It was a reaction which showcased the division within the country. There were cries; “the presidents been shot!”
“What a surprise!” John exclaims. “People have been so consumed with hatred not it has all hit the fan. The man wants to bring people together but they all want to rip the country apart. So be it then. Whoever is left will hopefully be good. Good will prevail in the end. I have a feeling this is going to bring about a war amongst our own people. It is sad, but inevitable. No one can go alone for a long period of time though. People will need one another at some point.”
He goes back to listening to the radio. The host starts describing the scene as chaotic, terrifying, people are being trampled, nothing seems to be under control; except for certain people of status. John is deep down sure they are already planning to get into their armored vehicles, and drive to their paid for bunkers. The bunkers they preplanned to have, after they planned to throw the rest of the world into chaos.
The host becomes even more frightened when his fellow host is attacked on camera. The camera then cuts out.
“We have lost connection! Oh my god I cannot believe this is happening folks! We’re going to see if the helicopter has any views he can describe for us. What’s going on Jack?!” The host asks.
“From what I can see everything is definitely chaotic! We have assaults happening, people have been trampled, traffic is at a standstill, and people are beginning to get out of their cars already and run. This is just terrible Steven.”
“I’m really sorry you have to see this right now Jack. Thanks for letting us know.”
Suddenly the station cut out and was interrupted by an urgent message from the United States government. In an automated robotic voice it said: This is a message from the United States Military Operations, there has been an unfortunate event. Your President is no longer with us, we ask for this nation to remain calm as we try to keep our communities safe. We ask you to help your fellow neighbor is possible. Supplies will be on the way to areas highly impacted by today’s event. Please cooperate with members of law enforcement and the military if asked. We appreciate your understanding and will continue to communicate updates to our fellow Americans. Thank you for your patience.
“This just doesn’t seem right at all. Under control?! Apparently people are dying in the streets and they say that is control?! No. Honestly, I am terrified. I think my car might have flew off the embankment because it just suddenly died. Same with my phone. And I am not stupid. I think we are lucky to have even heard that message?! How did you know this might happen?!” John asks.
“I grew weary over society collapsing. Then it turned into an obsession. I spent hours a week, researching about possible attacks on our country. Always thoughts we were too preoccupied with other countries, we sort of forget to protect our own homeland. Our infrastructure was honestly scary to me as well, which led me to “EMP conspiracies.” She explained.
“Interesting to say the least. I feel it is very odd I ended up here out of all places. With someone who knows about what I thought no one else paid attention to. Enough about it already though. There are serious issues at hand now.”
“You’re right. We must stick together through this. I have walky talkies and we can always be in contact. No one goes out of range really, that much at least. And if we have to fight I have plenty of ammo but we must protect our supplies with our life. Too many people have turned their back on this country and no one can be trusted. If someone approaches us, we must pick we stays wisely. They will know everything and it will be painful to kill them if they become greedy. I’d rather let them go honestly at first sight. Size up those who will betray us before they betray us.” She says with a stern voice.
“Hold on tiger! Who said we are staying here? We can’t stay here! It is dangerous! They will find us. A group of people will and they will kill you and I.”
“I have spent my entire life building this fortress it seems and I am not going to just take some strangers advice and give up everything.” She persists.
“I know it is hard to do but people sometime have to admit their plans fail and create a new one. We need a new plan.” He tries to persuade.
“There is no way to implement a new plan right now. We must at least stay here and protect until we brainstorm something up that is worth going for. We need to find signals. Some kind of group trying to communicate. We need to find civilization then.”
“No we don’t. We need to hide. We need to build something no one will ever find or think of. Something no ones imagination can comprehend to hide in. We must become masters at survival as well. This test is going to kill us or keep us alive. Wake up, Famine and disease will happen. Do you want to go to it? Drink from it? Then stay away from it.”
“Fine, you’re right.”
“Thank you. Now can we start planning something.”
“But maybe John, we can both be right in a way. Why not plan for all things?! This is going to be a fight for survival.”
“True. Indeed it is.” He agrees.
She shows him all the ammunition. He is impressed but when she says how it took her years to save the money from the farm he feels kind of bad. He knows if there is a major conflict this ammo won’t last long. And it has been her life’s work. He loves how she said that so casually. As if her entire life this place is all she has known and hard work is all that keeps her going. He is finding a strange kind of respect for her, which he usually doesn’t feel for many people honestly.
They go about finding a way to dig further tunnels into the ground to hide supplies at least. Perhaps enough room to hide themselves and create air ducts. They are already a good team. Neither one of them wants to admit it. They go to bed lying a foot apart but both feeling lonely like they always have.
“John?” She Whispers frantically…
“I think someone is in the barn. I can hear them looking around. Stay still.” She whispers again.
There is the sound of a person scavenging. So desperate, so emotional, so hopeless, and becoming angry. She hopes the person will just move on. She hopes she will not have to hurt anyone but deep down hours have gone by and each hour she is feeling more and more protective. This is her childhood home, her life, her work, is all inside the barn. And now, because society has collapsed she has to deal with people stealing. It does not seem right. She has had enough and feels a burst of adrenaline.
“Hey there! She yells at the thief. Put that down right there and I won’t shoot. Do you want work? Do you feel lost? Well so do I. i do every day that I live in a hole. I worked to live in a hole!”
The guy is shaking. He thinks she is insane and going to kill him.
“I will leave! Please just let me go!” He exclaims. “I thought no one was here!”
By this time of course John emerges. “Who are you?! Get the hell out of here!”
“Wait John! Let him stay! Why am I asking you anyway? It is my place. You don’t even know my name!” She yells at him.
”Elizabeth! I saw it on your mail.”
“Darn you John! You little detective you! No wonder your wife hates you. You are nosey.”
“No, just protecting myself Elizabeth! Like you do!”
“Stop calling me that. You are overusing it on purpose. Geez. Well, both of you can stay. But you both answer to me! This is my place, not yours! Remember that!”
“Ok fine. You have a point. Sorry I stepped out of bounds. I felt the need to protect you.”
“I can hold my own, John. Always have. But thank you for the kind gesture.”
He doesn’t know if she is being nice or mean at this point. She is just too witty and too realistic sometimes.
“You’re welcome Miss.”
“Fine with me, Miss. I am sorry I came in here like this. I have been quite frantic. Without food, car crashed, and lost. Then I heard screams yards away and just started running. My name is..my name is…Thomas.”
“Okay, nice to meet you Thomas. It’s okay. Just don’t cross me again. You are lucky to be forgiven like this. Most people do not have the capacity.” She says firmly.
“There will be people from the city, looking for help, food, anything, and they will do anything to hurt us. We must trust wisely. Us three, will be the main framework of communication from this day forward. Nothing should be withheld from one another that is important to the survival of each one of us. Nothing will get through us, we will all converse and decide who lives. This is not going to be easy. I do not want to play god but I cannot be nice to everyone or we will die. There is not enough food, water, and shelter. I did not plan to that level. Unless you both think we are definitely going to have issues staying here. And we should try to find something new. So, do we stay or do we go?”
“Stay.” John says. ”There is nothing out there for us. I can imagine what is going on right now and we probably have a better chance here. If we go out there, we may not return.”
”I say go..” Thomas says. “How can we hold people off here? We don’t have any weapons, any bombs, nothing. Let’s go and find a tank or weapons or something to defend ourselves with from a military base nearby or ammo store. Something.”
“We have weapons already. The question is can you use it?”
He nods. He doesn’t want to admit he has used a gun before it seems. There is something wrong with his expression now. The life has drained completely from his flesh and he just stares at nothing…still in shock.
”Hey! No zoning out! There is no way you can defend when you are upset. We must shoot. Practice! We cannot afford to lose our lives and no defend those who need our help either! We have a chance to protect or lie down and be selfish. I say protect those who want to be protected and be part of our community.”
”We have been kinda rude to him Liz. The poor guy is in shock still. My name is John. And obviously you know Elizabeth.”
“Sure do. Nice to meet you both.” And he smiles but in a nervous way.
She cooks some steak and potatoes, which eases the tension. Then she insists they all practice. She equips silencers on all the guns. John shoots. Liz shoots. John Shoots. Thomas stands there. Then….
He fires. Immediately he is angry he missed the bulls eye by a millimeter.
“Holy crap! You know what you are doing. Were you a military boy?” John asks.
He nods but looks down, ashamed. ”I was released. I don’t want to talk about it right now. My buddy died carrying me back to safety.”
”Sorry. I didn’t mean to ask so much. There is a new struggle going on now, true. We must focus on the present, right? We must keep on our toes and look ahead for the enemy. Right?”
“Right.” And he shoots perfectly.
They drink and talk about their past lives together. They wonder where family members are, they wonder how the world will be in twenty years. They wonder if there is another planet out there. They just think if the world is over then they wouldn’t be here. They try to create a purpose out of what is left. Together they move forward but still sleep with one eye open.
The men awake to find they have woken on a pile of dust beneath them. Liz was intelligent enough to somehow find her way back to the underground shelter.
Thomas tries to get up but discover his legs are tied. John already knew this. He was trained for this moment. Two men are standing on opposite sides of the barn and know there is something hidden on the property. Some kind of food source. John and Thomas are quiet until one of them speaks.
“So i bet you are wondering what we want from you? You obviously have sustained yourselves somehow out here. You should agree to give away from supplies and we will cut the ties.”
John sees Liz peaking out from under the tractor. She appears to have a clean shot. He hopes she does because he is about to do something crazy. He signals to Thomas to talk. The men look at him. John signals to Liz he is taking the guy on the left. He jumps up like some kind of superhero, then clumsily but extraordinarily knocks the guy over, looking like a bowling pin towering over a shorter bowling pin. John’s height definitely helped him. As for Liz, she shot the man in the shoulder and he ran for his life.
“I didn’t want to hurt him but sometimes you have to. Some people just don’t get survival.”
‘I know Liz. You had to, and thank you for that.”
”Yes, of course. Thank you Liz” Thomas chimes in.
They are all a little shaken but realize this is going to become an every day occurrence if they do not fortify the land. People will just wander to them and they do not have enough to sustain everyone. This is not a world for takers anymore. This is a world that only communities survive in. People who hold onto selfish desires end up dead. There is no room for people who no longer contribute.
“I really hope you both don’t think I wanted to do that though.” Liz says with a guilty expression.
“I know you didn’t. Please don’t feel horrible. If it wasn’t for you, Thomas and I would not be here. And who knows what they would have done to you if they found you Liz. You did some quick thinking and that is what we needed in the moment.” John reassures.
“Agreed. Sorry I am not the one with the words, but you were quite the impressive, most sneaky lady I have ever seen.” Thomas says.
“Thanks again guys. I really don’t know what we are going to do though if this place keeps getting attacked every night. I do not have enough ammo for a big fight every night.”
“We don’t. That’s why we must set traps Liz. Secure the perimeter. Intimidate. Send a message to people who want to steal from us, attack us, and not be with us: that we are a force to be reckoned with.” John declares.
They dig pits around the perimeter. Instead of creating stakes in them, they leave water and a morsel of food. The truth is, they need fighters. People who have guts but maybe lack direction. This will help create a strong community they both agree.
John comes up with a string system around the perimeter attached to bells inside the barn. He has them all labeled with numbers corresponding to a map he created of the area. He will know where an attack is coming from before the enemy even knows he exists. John has studied every inch of the landscape today. He studies everywhere to hide, run, engage or disengage. And Liz is quite impressed.
“I think you know this land better than me in one day John.”
“I know. That is the goal, haha. I can’t have you telling me where to run, while I am being shot at my dear! We all have to act independently at times.”
“Indeed we do.”
The bell rings. The one all the way on the left. John double checks the map and points.
“He’s coming from over here. If the bell rings several times, there must be more than one.”
It doesn’t ring again.
“Liz, you stay here. Thomas come with me.”
“There is only one though, John. I can handle it. Stop treating me like a baby. Thomas I am in charge, you stay here.” She says sternly.
“Okay, Liz. Come with me.” John says, trying not to argue at a crucial moment.
She grabs her submachine gun.
John chuckles and they head in the direction of the potential enemy.
“It’s a woman, John!” Liz exclaims as they see her on the edge of the clearing. Her clothes look disheveled. She looks like she has been through something horrific.
“Stand back Liz! This could be a trap! Please stay back. Listen to me I do not have a good idea about this!”
She almost runs to her, but instead something inside of her told her to stay by John. He moves slowly towards the woman by himself. Instructs Liz to stay at least fifteen feet behind him. She follows his orders, secretly terrified inside, her heart racing more than it has ever before.
“Put your hands up slowly maim! I am just making sure this isn’t some kind of trap. If you are innocent you have nothing to worry about, my lady. And by some miracle you have found us.”
He sees three men emerge from the edge of the clearing as he moved closer to the woman.
“Please don’t kill me.” She says while in tears. “They hurt me already. Please don’t hurt me. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“Liz, get ready.” He mutters.
Her words are breaking John’s heart. He knows this could end in tragedy depending on his next move, but moves have to be made. He moves swiftly towards the woman, only a few feet away and pushes her aside to the ground. He falls to the ground himself, then starts shooting, each bullet hits each man in between the eyes. They fall like cartoon puppets, like something out of a movie he imagines because the past memories he has of war would easily make him lose his mind.
“I didn’t want to have to do that. But once again; I had to do something I didn’t want to do in life. Liz come over here and help this woman. I have a faceful of dirt right now and am tired.”
Liz is in shock. She feels she has just watched one of the best gunmen in the world protect two women from harm’s way. She grabs the woman’s arm calmly, looks her in the eyes and says:
“My dear, you cannot stay out here. We must be quiet for now. It’s going to be okay now. You found a sanctuary in the middle of chaos. It’s going to be okay.”
The women quiets her sobbing.
“Thank you. Thank you both. I don’t know what I would have done if you both hadn’t been there. They tried to use me as bait. I’ve seen so much already. I’ve seen so much already. You have no idea.”
“Shhh. It’s okay. We’ll get to the barn soon and can talk there. Just stay calm.” Liz reassures.
John doesn’t say much. He is still in shock he just killed three men and hasn’t had to do so much killing since the war. He honestly feels sort of unprepared emotionally, but knows if he were to express this to anyone, they would think of him as a weak character. So of course, he doesn’t. His heart is heavy for the unknown woman that just graced their presence as a piece of bait. He thinks: How cruel do you have to be to use someone else as bait? This is the kind of behavior which has ruined our society and caused such great conflict in the first place. He sees this as a symbolic situation; sort of beyond the situation. It makes him sad, deep down. He wants everyone to join forces together who stand for a good cause, but he also knows ultimately some people will give into fear.
“I’m so sorry to have burdened you all with this situation.” The damsel in distress says. “I don’t….”
“With all due respect, I know this might seem strange to you but it is not your fault. Those men used you as bait. Glad they can’t do it to another woman out there now.” Liz says with eyes that could kill. “Listen. If you want to live out here, you have to become just as ruthless as the ruthless sometimes. Sometimes there are no choices it feels like.”
“I..I..I..understand.” The women mutters. “I’m Sharon.”
“Liz. The women is in shock I think still. Let us let her get cleaned up, find her some new clothes around here, and then we can train her if she doesn’t have any rifle skills. Can’t jump from being pushed down into the ground so far your eating dirt? Right?” John asks Liz.
“I am not trying to come off insensitive if that’s what you are trying to say. I just think she obviously needs some survival skills if she ended up as bait in the first place. It concerns me there are more women out there being abused just because they never shot a gun.” Liz says. “But let’s get her settled in for now. You are right about that. I don’t mean to overwhelm you, my dear.”
“It’s..it’s…okay. I don’t think anyone could help me not feel overwhelmed. I’m sorry. I have..have shot a gun before though. Not..not completely helpless.” Sharon explains.
“Good to know. You should be easy to teach then.” Liz says in a reassuring tone. “Do yourself a favor though. Don’t care about what others think of you. Don’t care about what they are doing; know you have people’s best interests in mind. I can tell you are the sweet, oftentimes turned scapegoat or bait for other people’s interests. Don’t let that happen. Fight for yourself when there is nothing left around you.” Liz says with such passion it fills the room with an invisible kind of light. The words seemed to have an instant calming effect upon Sharon as well.
“Those were some of the most inspiring words I’ve ever heard. I don’t even know what I could say back to thank you. To all of you. You didn’t have to save me. You could have just let me die. I could tell you knew something was off. I don’t know how I cold ever thank you all for what you have done for me.”
“Just fight with us.” John says. “You are one of us now. Whether you are broken, tangled, or fixed. Each one of us has a story to tell of the horrors out here. I am sure though yours could be the worst. For now, we have your back until you can fight beside us. It is what a decent human being would do for another human being. No thanks is necessary.”
“I think I found the closest thing to home I could have in a world full of chaos.” Sharon admits wholeheartedly.
“I think we all found a place to defend when we found this place.” John says, longing for the past. “It’s like a hidden piece of the past. Thanks to Liz we are lucky enough to share it with you.”
“Well I enjoy the company. I’m sure I won’t like everyone that eventually shows up. But it’s worth it to help those who do appreciate it. Let’s all get some shut eye soon and figure out who’s going to be on night watch tonight. Those men could not return back home and more men of their kind could show up. John and Thomas…I need your help with the bodies. We’ll bury them in the stables so no one can see any freshly dug graves. Who knows who will come around asking questions now either?”
For hours they dig. Taking turns, drinking, recalling past memories when the world was less of an obstacle course. When there were more opportunities for life, love, and happiness.
“Hey Thomas, remember it was literally just the other day John almost shot you?”
“Of course how could I forget? Haha! I can’t blame him though. I might have honestly if I were in his shoes. Glad you had some mercy on my soul Liz.”
“I wouldn’t have shot you Thomas. It was honestly just a way for me to find out if you were alone or if you had some other people hiding behind the clearing. I am a very cautious investigative person Thomas. I try to ask questions then decide what I should do. Not literally jump the gun, haha.” John explains.
“No I understand completely. Glad I can be a part of this as well. Sorry I haven’t said much tonight. Just seeing that woman like that, reminded me of someone close to me I couldn’t save. You gave me hope John. We needed more men like you in this world. We need more men like you in this world more now than ever.”
“Thanks Thomas. Now let’s figure out the night watch schedule and take it easy.” John says with a long sigh afterwards.