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Link Posted: 12/29/2008 12:41:04 AM EDT
[Last Edit: Swindle1984] [#1]
Took a break to watch some Firefly with the folks; here's the new chapter I promised ya.

Chapter 10

––––––––––––––––––––-

We've been back on the road for two days now. It's getting colder as we head north, and the unseasonably warm weather we've had for the last few weeks has abandoned us. No snow so far, but we'll be seeing it within a week.

We're coming up on a ghost town, according to the map. Reports from the towns people say the town is intact, but was abandoned because of fallout from a city getting nuked four hundred miles away. Nice winds there. After fifteen years, the radiation should be tolerable; Chernobyl was mostly safe to visit twenty years after the accident there, and that was a heck of a lot more radiation. This place should be safe by now. Still, I'm bringing the dosimeters and geiger counter. Reality has a way of biting theory in the ass.

Supposedly, almost nobody goes there because they have no idea whether or not it's safe since geiger counters don't exactly grow on trees and almost nobody knows how to calibrate them anyway. Still, I'm sure its been looted by now.

We'll see how it goes.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Nick finished securing the camouflaged netting over the truck while Sam positioned some bushes some bushes he'd cut down with a machete around it. Once done, they stepped back to examine the hidden truck.

"Won't stop someone from seeing it up close, but at a distance it should keep the curious from stumbling across it."

With that, Nick and Sam each secured a small cylinder in a pocket of their chest rigs. Sam picked up the geiger counter and looked at the needle, shook it, then smacked the side of it. Apparently satisfied it was still working, he stuck the carry handle into a loop on his belt; it kept his hands free and let him glance at the display.

Hope thought it looked funny. Both men were completely clad in camouflage, and one had a bright yellow box marked CD on his hip. She guessed if they really had to hide, the geiger counter would be ditched or stuffed into a backpack. Both of them were wearing very large backpacks which were completely empty.

Empty, she reflected grumpily, because she was carrying everything. Nick had made her change into a camouflage jacket and pants, which he informed her were East German rain camo, whatever that meant, and made her carry two days worth of food and water in a backpack. Eli had another backpack with first aid gear and rope in it. Everyone was equipped with flashlights and at least one glowstick. Nick and Sam both had flares, but hadn't given any to the others.

Equipped, they set off toward the town, the two dogs roaming ahead.

––––––––––––––-

The town appeared truly dead. Nick and Sam  had insisted on surveying it with binoculars for half an hour before finally approaching it.

Hope had never been someplace this eery before; she'd been in empty, looted towns since setting out on her trip, but those places were different. The buildings were hollow, no windows, no doors, most of them gutted for wiring, plumbing, or firewood. Streetlights were similarly ravaged.

Here, most of the windows still had glass. The doors were all shut and locked. Power lines still hung between poles, though some were now hanging down to the ground. Cars were still parked in the street, with flat, rotten tires. There were signs of some looting, but it was limited and all of it done long ago.

"I don't think this place has been looted in years."

Nick nodded and absentmindedly replied, "Yup. Probably the folks evacuating the town took the time to strip the grocery stores bare. All right, we got our map, so here's what we do: we hit these two gun stores, the police station, this auto garage, aaaand... this mom and pop store. They may been overlooked and might still have canned goods."

He looked up as he stuffed the map back into his pocket, then frowned at Hope and Eli.

"You two stay behind us at all times. Do NOT wander off on your own. Do NOT enter a building until we check it out first. Could be pockets of radiation in there the rain hasn't washed out, could be dangerous animals, could be the floor's rotten and will collapse as soon as you set foot on it. You don't do a thing until we decide it's safe first. And if you see anyone or anything moving, you let us know. Quietly. We don't want to attract attention. Got it?"

They both nodded.

"Then let's go."

––––––––––––––––––-

Sam glanced at the geiger counter at it clicked quietly, then looked at Nick. He nodded and motioned them on.

"Like we thought. Radiation's safe enough. Higher than normal background, or what passes for normal after a global thermonuclear war, but not an issue. We've been in hotter areas before. Ok, first gun shop should be just ahead."

The door and windows were barred, but the door was standing open. Broken glass remained strewed on the sidewalk. Sam waved the geiger counter inside the open door before nodding. Then Nick urged the dogs inside. A few seconds later and both dogs returned, panting happily. It was safe inside.

The shop had been thoroughly looted. No longarms remained on the racks. The glass display case full of handguns, optics, and knives was smashed and empty. Some animal had made a nest out of a pile of rotting leather and nylon belts and holsters. A clothing rack stood conspicuously empty of anything that wasn't blaze orange.

"Sam, check the ammo. Hope, look around on the shelves. Look for anything that might be useful. Anything. Eli, you and the dogs stand in the door and keep an eye out. I'll check the back."

Five minutes of careful searching turned up five boxes of .303 British and two boxes of .264 Win Mag ammunition still on the shelf and a box of .357 Sig that had fallen under the counter. Nick had found nothing useful, and the paper targets and fiberoptic front sight posts Hope had found were left behind. They would only return to retrieve them if nothing better was discovered in town.

––––––––––––––––––––-

The second gun store was larger and fancier, and appeared intact. As they approached however, the geiger counter began chattering and Nick and Sam backpedaled rapidly. Nick glanced at the needle.

"Shit. It's still hot. Someone could take that kind of radiation safely for a few minutes, but after that trip through Colorado a couple years ago I'm not taking another dose like that."

"If it's safe for a few minutes, why not go in and grab what we can?"

"Radiation poisoning is cumulative. You build up so much over your life time and you get sick. Get enough and you die. Comprende? That's why we wear these dosimeters when we go looting; so we know exactly how much we absorb and keep track of it."

Hope thought for a moment.

"Well, as far as I know I've never absorbed any radiation. I could go inside and-"

"No. By the time you even figured out how to get inside, you'd already reach your dose. You wouldn't know what to grab anyway."

He lifted his binoculars and looked through the grimy window.

"They got a skylight, makes it easy to see. Dang. They're still fully stocked. I see a couple AR-15's, and... looks like a Barrett M82A1 sitting out on the counter. Dang. Let's see if it's safer at the back door; might be the inside is clean and it's just out front that's contaminated."

The back was just as radioactive as the front. Nick grunted, unsurprised, and they moved on to the police station, startling a deer along the way. They saw nothing else moving.

––––––––––––––––-

The police station was a mess. Old, yellowed paper was everywhere. There were several bullet holes in the wall above some seats in the lobby and a very old, brown stain on the upholstery and carpet. Apparently there had been some excitement here before the evacuation was complete.

The dogs didn't alert to any danger and the geiger counter simply clucked to itself like a contented hen, indicating only basic background radiation. They continued inside.

Eli sat on a chair that wasn't covered in ancient gore or cobwebs and patted the doberman.

"What are we looking for, Nick?"

"Useful things. Body armor, guns, ammo, handcuffs, whatever. Stay in that chair. If the dogs growl at anything, go in that office and hide. Hope, you follow us."

They explored the police station quickly, using flashlights in most of the rooms due to the lack of windows. Sam checked all the desk drawers and was rewarded with half a box of .38 Special ammunition.

The cell block was locked, as were all the cells within. The keys were nowhere to be found. On the door leading to the cell block was a sticky note. It crumbled when Nick pulled it off, but was still mostly legible.

"Child killer. No release, *missing text* forgiveness."

In the cell furthest from the door was a dark, shapeless mass under the bunk. The room had a musty, rotten odor of something long decayed. No one turned their flashlights that way.

Finally, they found the armory. The door was locked, which Nick announced as a good sign. He slipped a pair of padded earphones, designed to protect hearing from loud noises, over his ears and waited for the other two to cover their ears before drawing the sawed-off double-barrel shotgun he'd taken from the truck. Ensuring Sam and Hope were safely out of the way, he held the shotgun's muzzle a few inches from where the lock met the door frame and turned his head away.

Even with her hands over her them, Hope's ears were ringing from the gunshot in the enclosed space. Nick reloaded the spent shell, then surveyed his work. The shotgun slug had utterly obliterated the lock. He stuck the shotgun back in its scabbard on his back and kicked the door in.

The next several minutes were spent with Nick and Sam repeatedly high-fiving each other. Even Hope was ecstatic at such a haul.

Inside the room, on racks and not locked in a safe, were five 870 shotguns, and three MP5 submachine guns. Several hundred rounds of ammunition for both were sitting in a pair of large cardboard boxes on a table beside the rack. There was also a skeleton in a badly decomposed uniform seated at the desk on the opposite side of the room. Half the skull was missing. Nick carefully removed the handcuffs and handcuff keys from its belt and the Glock 21 from in front of it on the desk while Sam stuffed guns into his backpack. Then he turned around and loaded the ammunition and the cop's possessions into his pack.

"You know Hope, you mentioned you wanted to do something to earn your keep on your trip. I'd say you're doing a pretty good job here. We'll cut you in twenty-five percent of our haul and you sell, trade, or keep it as you see fit; what do you say?"

Hope squeeled in excitement, avoiding looking at the skeleton, which Nick took as a yes. Sam just shrugged noncommitally when he glanced his way. It was a deal.

Heading back to the lobby, they discovered that Eli and the dogs had gone. Hope immediately felt her heart pounding and the tightness in her chest return as she fought panic. She felt relief seconds later when Nick stuck his head into an office and the dogs came out, followed by Eli.

"I heard shooting. I thought..."

"It's fine, kid. Just had to blow a lock off. Got a good haul too. Darn good haul. All right, next place."

––––––––––––-

The garage had some vehicle fluids Nick eagerly stuffed into Sam's backpack, along with a handful of tools. He glanced wistfully at the tires hanging on racks above the service bay, but left them where they were. Too awkward to carry back to the truck, and not valuable enough to drive the truck in to get them.

The rest of the town was too hot to explore, so they called a halt to the looting and returned to the truck as the sun was beginning to go down.

"All right! Well! Today was a pretty good day! Didn't get anything in the way of consumables, but heck! We got some pretty frickin' awesome hardware at that police station. We can trade those for a LOT of food. Speakin' of food, let's get something to eat, huh?"

The four of them munched on sandwiches Sam assembled as Nick drove. The dogs got bits of bread and meat of their own. Eli giggled and fed the doberman part of his sandwich when it glanced at him with hopeful eyes. Nick and Sam ate every crumb of their sandwiches, giving none to the german shepherd sharing the front seat with them. Hope got the idea that they didn't part with anything they could eat themselves without a good reason. They'd probably gone hungry at least a couple times, out in the wilderness.

She settled back in her seat and wrapped her thin wool blanket around her. It was getting chillier. Night would be even colder, and according to Nick they were staying in the truck instead of pitching a tent.

The road went on.
Link Posted: 12/29/2008 11:02:14 AM EDT
[#2]
Bump in case folks missed it.
Link Posted: 12/29/2008 12:15:08 PM EDT
[#3]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Bump in case folks missed it.


MOAR!
Link Posted: 12/29/2008 7:14:17 PM EDT
[#4]
Originally Posted By Storm6436:
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Bump in case folks missed it.


MOAR!


Link Posted: 12/29/2008 10:21:07 PM EDT
[#5]
Can't get enough.
Link Posted: 12/30/2008 12:28:49 AM EDT
[#6]
Thanks for another chapter. Can't wait for the next one.
Link Posted: 12/30/2008 1:40:35 AM EDT
[#7]
another winner!
Link Posted: 12/30/2008 6:32:01 PM EDT
[#8]
How long do you expect this story to be? As a former resident of Maryland, I NEED to know why they're going there!
Link Posted: 12/31/2008 11:46:53 AM EDT
[#9]
Originally Posted By AndrewDwight:
How long do you expect this story to be? As a former resident of Maryland, I NEED to know why they're going there!


They heard about the stash of PMags you left in the cubby hole in the basement.
Link Posted: 12/31/2008 1:04:57 PM EDT
[#10]
Originally Posted By AndrewDwight:
How long do you expect this story to be? As a former resident of Maryland, I NEED to know why they're going there!


Probably as long as The Survivor, but I'm hoping to crank out all the chapters in a more timely manner.
Link Posted: 12/31/2008 9:54:24 PM EDT
[#11]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By AndrewDwight:
How long do you expect this story to be? As a former resident of Maryland, I NEED to know why they're going there!


Probably as long as The Survivor, but I'm hoping to crank out all the chapters in a more timely manner.


Please do.

Link Posted: 1/1/2009 6:32:35 PM EDT
[#12]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By AndrewDwight:
How long do you expect this story to be? As a former resident of Maryland, I NEED to know why they're going there!


Probably as long as The Survivor, but I'm hoping to crank out all the chapters in a more timely manner.


Also, you won't find out why for quite some time.
Link Posted: 1/1/2009 9:45:03 PM EDT
[#13]
Another excellent read! Thank you Swindle.
Link Posted: 1/3/2009 1:03:14 PM EDT
[#14]
Surprise!

Chapter 11

________________

Hope woke up shivering. It was dark; the only light was the glow of the dashboard and the dim keychain flashlight Nick was using to read the map while Sam drove. She coughed and tried to draw in air. No use; her asthma was bothering her again. She sat up straight and massaged her chest, trying to relax the tensing muscles. It felt like iron bands were tightening around her, squeezing the air out. Inhaling took effort, and she could barely manage to exhale any of the air she forced into her lungs. She would have to use her inhaler.

She dug through one of the pouches on her belt for her inhaler, waited until a series of bumps where the road had washed out made the truck rattle and squeek, then quickly took a puff off the inhaler. She hoped the noise would cover the hiss of the inhaler working. No one in the front seat seemed to notice, and Eli was asleep. Not that it mattered since he knew she had asthma and used an inhaler.

Still shivering, she drew her blanket tighter around her and waited with relief as the tension in her chest slowly faded and she could breathe normally again. The view through the windshield was somewhat depressing; they were driving around a part of the highway that was full of abandoned cars. They'd been sitting there since they ran out of gas during the traffic jams that occurred during the mass exodus from the cities. She watched them all moving past as the truck rolled along the side of the road. Once, a coyote or something similar ran in front of them, stopping to stare for a moment. She thought the light reflected in its eyes made it look ghoulish.

"Why did they do it?"

"Huh?"

"Why did they do it," she repeated, "The war, I mean. Everything used to be so much better. Nobody starved, nobody got sick, the cities were full of people, the wilderness was alive. Now everything is dead, dying, or abandoned. What was it all for?"

Nick seemed to be thinking. She noticed an odd wheezing sound, as if he or Sam was also suffering from an asthma attack. It wasn't until he spoke that his distorted voice told her he was wearing a gas mask or respirator of some kind.

"Well... We didn't start it. The others did. Russia wanted territory and glory again, so they attacked our allies. China wanted Taiwan and other places, so they attacked our allies. North Korea and South Korea hated each other, so they went at it too. Pakistan and India hated each other. The muslim countries and Israel hated each other. Cuba and Venezuela hated the US. Mexico did too, in a way. Communists, muslims, and assholes. You can't really coexist with people like that, even if you try. If you concede to them, try to keep them happy, they just see it as weakness they can exploit. Same deal as the bandits and slavers we've got today. There's no way to peacefully coexist with them; the most you can get is a temporary truce, and that goes away as soon as they think they have the advantage over you.

So... We fought them. Tried to stop them all. It was working too. The bad guys were losing the conventional war. So they had infiltrators, terrorists, illegal aliens, attack us from within. Hurt our logistics by bombing power plants, mortaring military bases, assassinating officials. Tried to break the will of civilians, make them call an end to the war, by going on shooting sprees and blowing up schools. It didn't work. So they nuked us. Blew up a lot of cities and military bases. Used cobalt bombs to poison the land and the water so we couldn't feed ourselves. I think a lot of our food was imported anyway. Used chemical weapons to attack public gathering places. Tried to kill the survivors with germs; even used chemicals and diseases to try to kill our crops.

Sure, they killed us. At least, as a country. Took out enough infrastructure that we collapsed into anarchy. But we got them just as bad. Maybe worse. Haven't heard a peep out of China or Russia on the radio like I did before the war. Maybe we wiped them out. Maybe they just lost their ability to transmit. Maybe radio waves don't go as far because of radiation and we just can't hear them. Or maybe they're just laying low so we think they're all gone. Who knows."

He lapsed into silence and checked the map again, then looked at the faded, rusted road signs in the headlights and put the map away.

"Um... Are you wearing a gas mask?"

"Yeah. Keeps my face warm. And we're coming up on contaminated land. Not much radiation, but chems were used. They should be long gone by now, but people keep getting sick when they drink the water or eat crops grown here, so there's something still hanging around. And it's definitely poisoning, not a bug."

A rustling sound came from the front seat, then something blocked out the light from the dashboard.

"Here. Israeli M15 mask for you and Eli. I'll show you how to put 'em on in the morning. You'll be fine until then; the truck has filters, and the stuff isn't airborne. It's just a precaution. And like I said, it keeps the face warm. Keeps dust out when you're in the desert too."

She took the two rubbery objects and placed them on the seat next to her.

"Where are we now?"

"We'll be coming up on the Mormon Territories in a day or two. Depending on which community you go through, they're either really friendly or outright assholes. And the asshole bit only applies if you're not a Mormon. Most of 'em are all right though, and even the asshole communities won't shoot at you without a good reason."

He paused for a moment, then continued, "I think I liked the Amish communities back east more. As long as you were courteous and didn't steal, rape, or murder, pretty much anyone was welcome. The Mormons were better prepared for this mess than most folks, but the Amish really have their shit wired. We might run into some when we get across the Mississippi."

"How long will that be?"

"Can't say. Before the war, you could practically cross the entire country in just three or four days. Less, for north-south traffic. Now, I don't know anybody else who has made it from one coast to the other. Far as I know, Sam and I are the only ones who ever bothered to try. Travel's dangerous, and the further you go the more dangerous it is. Go to sleep; sun won't be up for another couple hours."

Hope laid back in her seat, taking deep, almost luxurious breaths of the cold air, and eventually dozed off again.
Link Posted: 1/3/2009 1:13:54 PM EDT
[#15]
sweet, me likey
Link Posted: 1/3/2009 1:43:43 PM EDT
[#16]
Good story.

Ron
Link Posted: 1/3/2009 10:14:31 PM EDT
[#17]
got my fix
Link Posted: 1/4/2009 11:14:39 PM EDT
[#18]
Enjoying it .
Thanks , look forward to more.
Link Posted: 1/5/2009 2:03:45 PM EDT
[#19]
Cool there IS a SANTA  CLAUS
SWEEEEEEEEET!!!!

Sorry bout your kitty though.
Link Posted: 1/6/2009 11:40:44 PM EDT
[#20]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By AndrewDwight:
How long do you expect this story to be? As a former resident of Maryland, I NEED to know why they're going there!


Probably as long as The Survivor, but I'm hoping to crank out all the chapters in a more timely manner.


Also, you won't find out why for quite some time.


Ahh, weak.



Link Posted: 1/14/2009 10:35:05 AM EDT
[#21]
Do they have K Io pills?

Why didn't they don a anti-rad suit and respirator and go in?
Link Posted: 1/14/2009 6:07:05 PM EDT
[#22]
Originally Posted By g3shooter:
Do they have K Io pills?

Why didn't they don a anti-rad suit and respirator and go in?


Radiation pills only prevents your thyroid from absorbing irradiated iodine and giving your thyroid cancer. They do diddly-squat to prevent radiation poisoning.

And do YOU know where to get an anti-rad suit and respirator? 'cause I sure don't. And I imagine they'll be even harder to find fifteen years after a global nuclear war.
Link Posted: 1/16/2009 11:50:17 AM EDT
[#23]
Very Good!

Please keep it coming.
Link Posted: 1/16/2009 12:34:56 PM EDT
[#24]
Most gas masks out there will shield from NBC stuff.
Link Posted: 1/16/2009 5:23:49 PM EDT
[#25]
Originally Posted By g3shooter:
Most gas masks out there will shield from NBC stuff.


Right. They'll keep you from inhaling fallout particles.

Won't do diddly-squat to keep you from being exposed to radiation.
Link Posted: 1/16/2009 8:45:56 PM EDT
[#26]
dang it false alarm . I was hoping for 12
Link Posted: 1/17/2009 12:44:20 PM EDT
[#27]
Originally Posted By Hawk_308:
dang it false alarm . I was hoping for 12


Any time there's a new chapter, I edit the title to reflect that.
Link Posted: 1/21/2009 6:14:54 PM EDT
[#28]
Chapter 12

––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hope reached up to touch her face, but Nick slapped her hand away and continued tightening straps.

"Does that pinch?"

"No."

"How about now?"

"No."

"Ok, good. Exhale all the way, then take a deep breath."

He placed his hand over the can on the front of the gas mask as she exhaled. Then she inhaled- There wasn't any air. The mask was shrinking against her face as she tried to pull in air, but none came.

"Any air?"

She shook her head and he removed his hand, giving her a rush of rubber-scented air. Then he had her cough as hard as she could to see if it pushed the mask away from her face and broke the seal. It didn't. Finally, he pulled out a tiny glass vial, pulled a plastic stopper out, and waved it in front of her face and all around the edges of the mask.

"Smell anything?"

"Just rubber. What is that?"

"Banana oil. If there was a leak, you'd smell it."

"I don't know what a banana smells like. I haven't had one since I was three."

"Trust me, you'd know if you smelled it. Ok Eli, let's get you done so we can hop back in the truck."

Hope wandered over to the truck, running her hands over the mask. The lenses fogged slightly at the bottom every time she exhaled, but she could see all right. And while tight, the mask wasn't uncomfortable. She just wondered how she'd get it off so she could eat without taking her entire face with it.

Eli's mask was fitted and he ran over to join her. He was having fun making hissing noises through the filter and playing with his voice. Nick made a comment about a Darth Vader, but neither of them understood it. Probably just another of the countless monsters and legends roaming the wastelands.

With everyone masked except the dogs, they quickly mounted up into the truck and hit the road again.

––––––––––––––––––-

Hours down the road, and still they hadn't taken the masks off. Eli was complaining that he was hungry, and Hope was beginning to agree.

Suddenly, she spotted something on the road in front of them. An overturned shopping cart, with a random assortment of junk spilled from it. A woman lay beside it, her white shirt stained red. There was a dark puddle on the weathered asphalt beside her.

"Oh my gosh! Look at that!"

"Yup. Sam, keep driving."

"What?! Nick, what's wrong with you?! She's hurt! Maybe dying!"

"Or just plain dead. Or, far more likely since the body hasn't been touched by animals and all of her stuff is still there, she's just bait for a trap. Some dumb samaritan stops to help and he gets bushwhacked. We're not stopping."

Hope was about to argue, then paused to think. What had her father always said whenever he talked about negotiating trade with outside settlements? 'Don't appeal to a man's "better nature"; he may not have one. Instead, invoke his self-interest."

"Well, if she's hurt, then I'm sure she'd be grateful and repay you for helping her. And if she's dead, then couldn't you just take all of her stuff for yourself?"

Nick turned to stare at her for a moment. Even Sam turned his head slightly.

"Well, well, well. Clever girl. But old age and treachery, and all that jazz. We're not stopping."

Defeated, Hope fumed. The truck rolled past the woman and her overturned cart without slowing. Hope watched the still figure in the side mirror, feeling frustrated and disappointed in the utter lack of sympathy these two had.

Then the woman in the mirror sat up, transitioned the pistol to her other hand and held up her middle finger as two men came out of the woods to join her and stare after the receding truck.

Nick had been watching too. He turned back to look at Hope, the question whether she'd seen it in his eyes. She held his gaze steady for a moment, then turned away. He turned back in his seat and marked the spot on his map.

"Bandits with a samaritan ambush. Be good information to pass along, don't you think?"

No one said anything. Nick hadn't expected anyone to.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The truck thumped and rattled its way over potholes, places where the road had washed out, and a fallen tree. Hope was nearly hypnotized by the rhythm of sound and motion, but hunger kept her awake. Eli was making snoring sounds through his mask.

"Are we ever going to eat? We skipped lunch and dinner."

Sam stirred at the sound of her voice, but remained asleep in the corner. Nick glanced over his shoulder, trying to keep his eyes on the road.

"We ate breakfast. You can go until morning without eating. Sam and I have both gone more a week without eating. Darn near died that time, but that was from dehydration, not hunger. You'll be fine."

"Are we going to stop for the night?"

"Yeah, there should be an old pole barn twenty miles down the road. We'll pull in there so it hides the truck from the road. I don't like driving at night through this country. I did it a couple times, and I hate it every time."

"Why's th-"

Hope's voice died and her heart jackhammered. Something crossed the road in front of them. Judging by the height of the ruined car it strode past, it was very tall, maybe seven or eight feet tall. It was hunched over, and still that tall. It was shaped something like a man, but just appeared to be a shadow walking across the road. And it was looking right at them, red eyes reflecting in the headlights. It cross the road in three huge strides and vanished into the darkness outside of the headlights. In seconds, the truck rolled past where it had been and left it behind.

Nick seemed to take a moment to find his own voice.

"That's why."

"What the heck was that?"

"Darned if I know, but it scares the shit out of me every time I see it."

Hope shivered, and not from the cold this time. Half an hour later, they found the old pole barn a hundred yards off the side of the road and pulled into it, sheltered on three sides. Nick lowered the armored shutters over all the windows, then turned the truck off and wrapped himself in a wool blanket.

"Nick? What was that thing?"

"I didn't know when I saw it, why the heck would I know now?"

"You said it scares you every time you see it!"

"That doesn't mean I know what the fucking thing is! Bigfoot, wendigo, skinwalker, or Johnny Appleseed out planting trees, I don't know the frigging thing is!"

Hope tried not to shiver again. She was thoroughly creeped out.

"So... you've seen it before? Is it dangerous?"

"I dunno. I've seen it three or four times driving along this road. Last time was a couple years ago. I generally don't come this way. It's never bothered me, and while I've talked to other people who've seen it, nobody knows what it is and nobody knows if it's dangerous or not. If it's attacking people, then it's not leaving any survivors to talk about it."

There was a comforting thought.

"Now get to sleep. We're safe in here."

He turned on his side and let his head droop to his chest. His mask had the filter on the side instead of the front; it was easier to do that. Hope snuggled up against Eli, telling herself it was just for warmth and not because she had the heebie-geebies. She didn't notice herself falling asleep.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hope jerked awake, listening for something. Then she caught herself- what was she listening for? She hadn't been awakened by a noise. Had she?

The soft click of the safety on Sam's M-16 and the louder clack of the safety on Nick's AK definitely jarred her to clarity. Both dogs sat up, staring at the doors intently. She found that even though the inside of the truck was almost pitch black, she could still tell where everything was.

Nick's voice hissed through his gas mask.

"Son of a bitch. Something's in the back of the truck."
Link Posted: 1/21/2009 6:43:59 PM EDT
[#29]
It's never long enough! More!
Link Posted: 1/21/2009 8:13:41 PM EDT
[#30]
Don't leave us hanging for long!
Link Posted: 1/21/2009 9:01:02 PM EDT
[#31]
I *Knew* I should have waited to start reading this after the first few lines....now I'm here with the rest of crackheads, waiting for a fix.
Link Posted: 1/21/2009 11:19:27 PM EDT
[#32]
Originally Posted By Matt45:
I *Knew* I should have waited to start reading this after the first few lines....now I'm here with the rest of crackheads, waiting for a fix.


Indeed.

Link Posted: 1/22/2009 8:33:51 AM EDT
[#33]
Oh man .......

Thanks Swindle.
Link Posted: 1/22/2009 6:21:26 PM EDT
[#34]
Originally Posted By broke_again:
Don't leave us hanging for long!


Updates will be extremely sporadic (more so than usual) since I'm in Ohio training in the federal LEO/National Park Service program to become a park ranger.

Just letting you guys know.
Link Posted: 1/22/2009 8:09:54 PM EDT
[#35]
Are they about to ventilate a Skinwalker?
Link Posted: 1/22/2009 8:50:38 PM EDT
[#36]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By broke_again:
Don't leave us hanging for long!


Updates will be extremely sporadic (more so than usual) since I'm in Ohio training in the federal LEO/National Park Service program to become a park ranger.

Just letting you guys know.



How much are they paying you for that job?  You can come to Nevada and sit at the Hoover Dam and not do a DAM thing!
Link Posted: 1/22/2009 9:15:23 PM EDT
[#37]
T
A
G
Link Posted: 1/23/2009 2:16:26 PM EDT
[#38]
awesome!
Link Posted: 1/23/2009 7:37:16 PM EDT
[#39]
Originally Posted By broke_again:
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By broke_again:
Don't leave us hanging for long!


Updates will be extremely sporadic (more so than usual) since I'm in Ohio training in the federal LEO/National Park Service program to become a park ranger.

Just letting you guys know.



How much are they paying you for that job?  You can come to Nevada and sit at the Hoover Dam and not do a DAM thing!


I'd rather stay in Texas. Good people and I don't have to worry about changes in the gun laws.

It seems like the perfect job to me. I get to carry a gun, I'm outdoors all the time, most of the people I deal with on a daily basis are pleasant and won't give me shit (especially with the badge), and if someone does give me shit I've got the training and equipment to deal with it.

When the zombies rise, the city-dwellers will all be devoured as they jam the highways attempting to flee, resulting in a tasty flesh buffet for the undead. I'll three hundred miles from the nearest settlement with a handful of campers and a handful of other people with guns.

By definition, ranger outposts are largely self-sufficient in terms of electricity and water. Lots of gasoline and food stored on-site too since you're typically in a very remote area, many of which have only dirt roads and if there's bad weather like snow then you could be stranded out there for days at a time.

I think I found the perfect career for a survivalist.

Issue weapons:

Sidearm: Sig-Sauer pistol (any model in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45ACP; you choose the model and caliber.); an option for parks with dangerous animals like brown bears is any American-made .44 Magnum revolver.

Longarm: Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun, AR-15, M-16 (A1 or A2, it varies), Springfield M1A (and the odd M-14 that was just lying around gathering dust in an armory.). As an option, you can also have a bolt-action in .308 or .30-06 in parks with dangerous animals.
Link Posted: 1/24/2009 7:56:17 AM EDT
[#40]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By broke_again:
Don't leave us hanging for long!


Updates will be extremely sporadic (more so than usual) since I'm in Ohio training in the federal LEO/National Park Service program to become a park ranger.

Just letting you guys know.


Good luck with the training and keep writing.

Link Posted: 2/1/2009 10:39:50 PM EDT
[#41]
Ok, so I survived three days in Ohio with ridiculous amounts of snow and ice, no power, heat, or running water, and food poisoning from what the cafeteria fed me after the power went out.

Having been thus... motivated, I'm hoping to get another chapter out some time this week. I'm not making any promises; I'm in class from 8 to 5 every day and get up at 5 in the morning for PT. I'm very tired by the end of the day. But hopefully, at least by the weekend, I can get chapter thirteen out.

Wish me luck.
Link Posted: 2/1/2009 11:37:11 PM EDT
[#42]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Ok, so I survived three days in Ohio with ridiculous amounts of snow and ice, no power, heat, or running water, and food poisoning from what the cafeteria fed me after the power went out.

Having been thus... motivated, I'm hoping to get another chapter out some time this week. I'm not making any promises; I'm in class from 8 to 5 every day and get up at 5 in the morning for PT. I'm very tired by the end of the day. But hopefully, at least by the weekend, I can get chapter thirteen out.

Wish me luck.


Better knock out two...don't want to leave us hanging on "Lucky" 13, do ya?
Link Posted: 2/2/2009 11:08:36 PM EDT
[#43]
Originally Posted By Matt45:
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Ok, so I survived three days in Ohio with ridiculous amounts of snow and ice, no power, heat, or running water, and food poisoning from what the cafeteria fed me after the power went out.

Having been thus... motivated, I'm hoping to get another chapter out some time this week. I'm not making any promises; I'm in class from 8 to 5 every day and get up at 5 in the morning for PT. I'm very tired by the end of the day. But hopefully, at least by the weekend, I can get chapter thirteen out.

Wish me luck.


Better knock out two...don't want to leave us hanging on "Lucky" 13, do ya?


I'm not gonna push it. I'll write exactly as many chapters as I've got time for.
Link Posted: 2/3/2009 6:15:57 AM EDT
[#44]
I believe you based the Wendigo character on me in retaliation for my "contributions." Thank you.
Link Posted: 2/3/2009 5:51:43 PM EDT
[#45]
Originally Posted By Markypie:
I believe you based the Wendigo character on me in retaliation for my "contributions." Thank you.


Actually, I based it on "I already have psuedo-zombies, what else can I throw in?"

Believe me, I actually am considering putting in a parody of you. If and when it happens, you'll know it.
Link Posted: 2/4/2009 3:37:55 AM EDT
[#46]
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By Markypie:
I believe you based the Wendigo character on me in retaliation for my "contributions." Thank you.


Actually, I based it on "I already have psuedo-zombies, what else can I throw in?"

Believe me, I actually am considering putting in a parody of you. If and when it happens, you'll know it.



I am now a subscriber for life.
Link Posted: 2/5/2009 7:45:09 PM EDT
[#47]
Originally Posted By Markypie:
Originally Posted By Swindle1984:
Originally Posted By Markypie:
I believe you based the Wendigo character on me in retaliation for my "contributions." Thank you.


Actually, I based it on "I already have psuedo-zombies, what else can I throw in?"

Believe me, I actually am considering putting in a parody of you. If and when it happens, you'll know it.



I am now a subscriber for life.


You mean you weren't already?
Link Posted: 2/6/2009 1:21:25 AM EDT
[#48]


Finish the fookin' story before you do that park ranger crap.

Link Posted: 2/6/2009 7:28:32 AM EDT
[#49]
Originally Posted By vanilla_gorilla:
Finish the fookin' story before you do that park ranger crap.



You mean the park ranger crap I started four weeks ago? And finish in another fourteen weeks? That park ranger crap?
Link Posted: 2/6/2009 12:19:32 PM EDT
[#50]
Good luck with the job training Swindle. I know how hard it is to find time to write. I used to get up at 4:00 am sometimes to get a little in before work. Now I'm laid off and editing. I HATE editing!
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