America The Dead – W. G. Sweet


 

His shirt stank, stuck to him with sweat. His boots were melted in places. The leather looked sandblasted and ratty. He took two of the pills, washed it down with water. Next big town, he told himself, he would get clothes… #UNDEAD #Dystopian https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one/id1436765995?mt=11


“Grow up, John, as for those two?” He looked over at Madison and Cammy. “Don’t mess with them anymore… I understand your thoughts might have gotten messed up… It’s tough times like this that can do that, but they are their own, not your own.” #action https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-two/id1156649961?mt=11


He had gone up to the roof twice during the day and looked over the city.

It appeared to be dead. There was a precinct only two blocks away, deserted, doors hanging open. Looters were carrying away cheap computer systems and who knew what else… #Survive https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-three/id1156638728?mt=11


Kohlson turned to him. “Go on in, do CPR if you want. They don’t pay me enough to do it. I don’t know what that stuff is. Look at the way the Doc suits up. Clayton Hunter will be in rigor before anyone gets there, besides… It’s Airborn, dude…” #Horror https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-four/id1156637747?mt=11


We came across a dead man laying by the road. I could have sworn he moved, so I hurried to him, but I got closer and I could see he was long dead. We stood a moment and then left. Later when we came back he was gone, and I thought, was he dead? Was he? … https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-five/id1157353753?mt=11





 

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AMERICA THE DEAD: SURVIVOR STORIES ONE Episode Two

AMERICA THE DEAD: SURVIVOR STORIES ONE

America The Dead: Survivor Stories One is copyright © 2016 W. G. Sweet.

All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each r

ecipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell G. Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet, W. G. Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell G. Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.


Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

This serial presentation is copyright protected and is used with permission

This material has NOT been edited for content and is therefore rated on a cautionary basis as 18+


EPISODE TWO


Watertown Center New York

Shop and Save Convenience store:

Haley Mae

1:30 AM

“Last one,” Neil said.

Neil was a detective for the sheriffs’ department. It was closing in on 2:00 AM and he and his partner Don had just come back from six hours of sleep to get a jump on the day. Yesterday one of the checkout girls had disappeared between the Shop And Save, a small mini mart on the western outskirts of the city, and home. Earlier this morning she had turned up dead in a ditch just a quarter mile from the front door. The techs were still processing the scene, but it was looking personal. Stabbed to death, multiple wounds, no defense wounds, at least none that he or Don had been able to see, and fully clothed. Her purse had been found nearby, wallet and cash inside. No ID, but her store ID had still been clipped to her shirt. They would know more in a few days once the coroner did her magic. It all pointed to someone she knew, and they had no known boyfriend. The trailer park where she lived had turned up nothing, they had questioned some people at the convenience store, but some had been off shift, so here they were back at the store questioning the other employees.

They had commandeered the night manager’s office which was barely larger than a broom closet, but at least it was a place to sit with enough space left over to call in the workers and ask their questions. Free coffee via the same night manager, who had still not gone home, was taking a little of the six hours of sleep sting off, but to Neil free coffee in a convenience store was like a whore offering a free shot of penicillin to the first twenty five customers.

“Who’s next?” Don asked.

The last half hour they had been interviewing the people who worked the same shifts as Amber Kneeland.

“Haley Mae,” Neil said.

Don looked up and stopped writing in his little notebook.  “How do you,” spell her name, he had meant to ask Neil, but she was right in front of him.

“EM. A. E,” she said with a smile.

“Vietnamese?” Don asked. She was obviously mixed race, African American and Asian, he questioned himself.

“Japanese,” she told him.

“Nice name,” Neil said, “Haley.”

Beautiful girl, Don thought. “Did you know Amber Kneeland?  Sometimes works this shift?” he asked.

“Not really,” she answered. “I mean, I met her, but only in passing… I just started here myself.”

She really is beautiful, Don thought. “You wouldn’t know if she had a boyfriend… Other friends?” he asked.

Haley shook her head. “Sorry,” she said… “What has she done?”

“Nothing,” Neil supplied.

“She went missing last night,” Don said. “Turned up dead this morning.”

Haley shook her head. “Oh my God. That’s horrible. She was such a nice girl… Quiet.”

Neil nodded his head. “So maybe you did know her a little better than you thought?”

“I just started here a few weeks back, and like I said, I don’t really know her… But it might be a girlfriend not a boyfriend.”

Don looked at her. “You wouldn’t know who?”

“No. It’s just a rumor. Someone said it to me… I don’t even remember who… But I’ve never seen her with a guy, and I have seen her with other girls… Maybe also the way she looked at me a few times…”

“Go out with her?” Don asked.

“No… Never… I…”

“Don’t swing that way?” Don added.

Haley frowned slightly before she answered. “I work. I don’t swing any way. But if I did she wasn’t my type. She never asked me out, I never asked her out.”

“Didn’t mean to offend you,” Don said. He shrugged. “She’s dead.”

“She would probably do the same for you,” Neil said.

Haley nodded. “That really is all I know. I hope you find who did it though. She seemed like a nice girl,” Haley said.

“You don’t seem the type for this… Bagging groceries at 2:00 am,” Don said, changing the subject. “You aren’t local or I’d know you… This city really is small despite the base.”

Haley smiled. “Came here a year back with a boyfriend, Army. He left, forgot all about me, I guess. I had this idea of modeling… Tough to get a foot in a door though.”

“Wow, if he left you behind he must be a fucking idiot… Any good?” Neil asked.

Haley laughed.

“Excuse mister smooth there,” Don told her. Neil feigned a hurt look and Haley laughed again. “He meant, have you done anything? I know somebody… Might be interested.”

Haley arched her eyebrows. “I can model. I did a You Jeans ad back in Georgia a few years ago. I just need to prove it to the right person.”

“Escorting? Maybe dancing. It’s strictly escorting or dancing, no funny stuff. Dance clubs… Clothing modeling,” Neil said.

“Probably start out escorting… Dance a little… Then if he likes you he’ll put you into the modeling end of things. He owns a lot of shit… Several car dealerships across the state… Some of the biggest dance clubs, clothing outlets, those bargain places, but still, modeling is modeling, right? Not the big name stuff, but it is a foot in the door,” Don added.

“I can do that,” she said slowly.

Neil passed her a white business card with his own name scrawled across the back. “Tell him I sent you… That’s my name on the back.”

“Jimmy Vincioni,” Haley asked.

“Just V… Jimmy V, good guy,” Neil said.

Haley nodded and tucked the card into her front jean pocket. “I’ll call him… Thanks. Look…” Her voice dropped to a near whisper. “I’m pretty sure she had a girlfriend here… I just don’t know who,” Haley added quietly.

Don finished writing in his notebook, nodded once he met her eyes and then shook the hand she offered. She walked away.

“Beautiful,” Neil said.

“Absolutely,” Don agreed. “You ain’t getting none of that though.”

“Yeah? But if Jimmy V hires her? It’ll be the next best thing.”

Don shook his head, but smiled. His eyes rose and watched as Haley walked away. “Guess I’ll have to have a few drinks at the club if that happens.”

Neil chuckled low. “You and me both,” he agreed.

March 1st

Watertown New York

Off Factory Square: Joel Morrison

5:00 PM

Joel sat at the bar and watched football on one of the big screen TV’s Mort had put in. It was a slow game, he was tired, and his mind kept turning to other things. He couldn’t concentrate. Part of the allure of the Rusty Nail was the quiet. After a 12 hour shift at the mill with the constant noise from the huge machinery, the quiet had been nice. But that had all changed once the bar had become popular with the nearby base. He needed to go home. The crowd in the bar was starting to build and the noise was giving him the beginnings of a headache. He caught Mort’s eye and went back to his thoughts as he waited.

The Rusty Nail had always been a locals only bar up until a few years back when the economy had taken a nose dive. The nail was wedged up a side street off Factory square. Not exactly easy to find, and that had hurt business too as the old people left and the new people came in.

Mort, Mortimer to anybody that felt like being tossed out on their ass, had nearly lost the small bar and the building above it to the bank. The building above it had six small apartments that Mort had purposely left empty when he had bought the building fresh out of the service thirty years back. Who wanted to deal with tenants, he had said then. But times changed, and so he had sold his house, moved himself into one of the apartments, and then sold the bank on remortgaging the whole building as well as renovating the other five apartments. The bank had come up with a loan that took all of that into account and added a second income source from the apartments that could pay the monthly mortgage and put a good chunk of change into his pocket too.

He had signed on the x, taken their money, renovated the building, moved in the tenants and then taken a hard look at the Rusty Nail. He had decided to completely gut the bar and do it over. He had dumped far too much into the renovations though, including being closed for nearly a full month, and then opened it to find that the economy had taken an even deeper nose dive during those nearly thirty days. The third month into the new mortgage and he had found that he was maybe in a bad spot already.

Joel remembered now that he had sat right at the end of the bar when Mort had talked it over with some others, Moon Calloway, Johnny Barnes, Jim Tibbets, Joel had been welcome to include his two cents which he had declined to do.

“Well, what you do is put the word out to those cab drivers. Believe me, I’ve seen it. They will have them soldiers down here in no time, even if you are off the beaten path,” Jim had said. Jim was a school bus driver for the north side district and less than a year away from a fatal car accident on the interstate. Jeff Brown, who had been a local football star, was doing ten years up at Clinton Correctional for hitting Jim’s car head on drunk and killing him. But that night Jim had still been alive and had wanted to be a part of the New Rusty Nail that Mort had in mind. Something a little more modern. Modern bought the soldiers, but more importantly it also bought women.

“I’m not paying a cab driver to bring me G.I.’s,” Mort had said. “And I know your game. You’re just hoping to get laid out of it.”

They had all laughed at that, except Jim who had turned red. But after a few seconds he had laughed too, and the conversation had plodded forward the way bar conversations do.

“Well, you ain’t got to pay them exactly, give them a couple beers,” Moon threw in.

“Jesus Christ,” Mort exclaimed. “That’s why you boys ain’t in business. You think the beer is free.”

“I know it ain’t free, Mort,” Jim said. “But it don’t cost you that much. You get it wholesale.”

“Wholesale? I drive right out to that wholesale club and buy it by the case most of the time just like everybody else. Cheaper than them beer guys, except draft, of course. That ain’t free. You got to pay the yearly club fee. You got to pay them taxes to the feds. You got a lot you got to pay for. Some fuck crushes your can you’re fucked for that nickle. Jesus… wholesale my ass. It ain’t no bargain.”

“Yeah? … Let’s see,” Moon starting writing in the air with his finger. You get it for let’s say six bucks a case, I know that cause that’s what I pay out there too. So six bucks divided by 24 is,” he drew in the air for a few moments, erased it, and then started over. “How the fuck do you do that, Joey… The six goes into the twenty-four? Or times the twenty-four?” Moon asked.

“Uh, it’s a quarter a can,” I had supplied.

The argument had raged on from there. Once Moon found out he was paying a buck fifty for a can of beer that only cost a quarter he was pissed off.

In the end Mort had talked to a couple of cab drivers. Free draft beer one night a week if they bought soldiers by all week long and told as many others as possible about the place. Within two weeks Joel hadn’t recognized the place when he had come by after shift to have a couple of beers. The soldiers drank a lot of beer, the bank mortgage got paid, and life was fine. Except for the fights, Joel thought, but you can’t load young guys up on alcohol and not expect trouble. Especially when those young men were just waiting on the word to go and maybe die in another battle that remained undeclared as a war. High stress levels meant heavy duty unloading. The M.P.’s got to know the place as well as the soldiers did.

“Joel, you ready?” Mort asked now.

Joel smiled. “I was thinking back…” He had to shout to be heard. Tomorrow his voice would be hoarse. “This place was empty! … Yeah… One more then I gotta go,” Joel agreed.

Mort leaned closer. “Gov’ment tit. I know it, but screw it. It’s all the Gov’ment tit. Road and Bridge projects. Job centers. One way or the other it comes out the same. Even them subsidies so the paper mills can still run. It’s all the Gov’ment tit, ain’t it, Joel?”

“Its is,” Joel shouted. He nodded. It was. This town would have dried up years ago without it. Mort left and then came back a few moments later with a fresh beer.

“Vacation?” Mort yelled.

Joel nodded. “Two weeks of silence,” He shook his head at the irony and Mort’s laughing agreement was drowned out by the noise.

“If I don’t see you, have a good one,” Mort said leaning close.

Joel nodded. “I will.” He raised his glass and then tossed off half of it. A few moments later he was outside on the relatively quiet sidewalk punching numbers into his phone, calling for a cab. The night was cold, but the cold sobered him up. It seemed nearly capable of washing away the smoke and noise from inside the bar. He stood in the shadows beside the door waiting for the phone to ring on the other end. The door bumped open and Johnny Barnes stepped out.

“You ain’t calling for a cab, are you?” Johnny asked when he spotted him.

Joel laughed and ended the still ringing call. “Not if I can get a free ride from you.” Joel told him.

“Yeah, you were always a cheap prick,” Johnny agreed. “Hey, I heard you’re heading into the southern tier tomorrow?”

“Two weeks,” Joel agreed as he levered the door handle on Johnny’s truck and climbed inside. His breath came in clouds of steam. “Get some heat in here, Johnny.”

“Coming,” Johnny agreed. “Man, I wish I was you.”

“Me too,” Joel agreed.

Johnny laughed. “Asshole, but seriously, man. Have a good time. You gonna hunt?”

“Nothing in season… Maybe snare some rabbits. Not gonna be a lot this time of year.” Joel said.

“Maybe deer,” Johnny offered. He dropped the truck in drive just as the heat began to come from the vents.

“Probably, but they’ll be out of season. Rabbit, and I got freeze dried stuff. Trucks packed, which is why I didn’t drive it down here.”

The truck drove slowly through the darkening streets as the street lights began to pop on around the small city: The two men laughing and exchanging small talk.

Public Square

Pearl (Pearly) Bloodworth

6:20 PM

The streets were clogged with snow, but the sidewalks were impassable, so she had no choice but to walk in the street.

She made her way carefully, slipping and sliding as she went. It was just before 6:30 P.M. and she might make it to work on time if she could make the next two blocks without incident.

She had been working at the downtown mission for the last several months: The night shift for the last two months. The mission night shift was an easy shift. Everything was closed down. Those who had made the curfew were locked in for the night. Occasionally there would be a little trouble between residents, but that was rare. Watertown was small, as a consequence the homeless population was small. And trouble, when it came, was usually settled long before her shift. Her shift amounted to catching up on paperwork, dispensing an aspirin or two, and being there if there was an emergency of any kind. At 4:00 A.M. The kitchen staff would be there to start their day. Shortly after that the rest of the day-shift would be in. At 6:00 A.M. The mission doors would open and the homeless would take to the streets. She would have an hour of quiet at the end of her shift, sitting and listening to the bustle from the kitchen as they cleaned up after breakfast and began to prepare for lunch.

She heard the approaching vehicle as she was stepping around a mound of melting snow and ice. It was late and there had been no traffic on this side street when she had stepped into the street at the cross walk three blocks down. The alternative was the foot deep snow and ice thrown onto the sidewalk from the plows. She would never get through that and make it to the mission on time.

The Mission was on upper Franklin street, a short walk in a straight line, or even if you had to walk around the square and start up, as she usually did, but tonight the square was packed with traffic and so she had chosen the shortcut instead. Unfortunately it was not well lit: A four block wasteland of parking lots and alleyways.

She had almost turned completely around to make sure the car had seen her when the horn blared and startled her. A second later she finished the turn, hand clasped to her throat, and watched as the car skidded to a stop and three men piled out of the back seat slipping and sliding in the slush, laughing.

“What’s up, bitch,” one asked as he found his feet and stood staring her down. The laughter died away.

“Nice ass,” another said as he moved toward her.

She turned to the second man, the one who had just spoken, as she shrugged her purse from her shoulder, caught the bottom of it in one hand, and slipped her other hand inside. The third man, really just a boy, looked frightened as his eyes slipped from his two companions and then flitted to her. The driver leaned out the window,

“What the fuck! Get the bitch!” He was looking over the roof-line, sitting on the windowsill of the driver’s door, a smirk on his too-white face.

“Yeah… How about a ride, baby,” the nearest one said. The other had finally found his feet, stopped slipping, and was skidding his feet across the slush heading in her direction. She pulled her hand from her pocket and aimed the mace canister at them. They both skidded to a stop.

The closer one, the one that had made the remark about her ass, cocked his head sideways, shrugged his shoulders and then pulled a gun from his waist band. “Yeah… Kind of changes the whole situation, don’t it?” He asked.

“Roux! Don’t shoot the bitch. She’s no good to us dead!” This from the man-boy leaning out the window of the car.

The boy, Roux, turned to the driver and nodded. He looked back at Pearl. His gun was aimed at the ground, close to her feet. She had only a split second to decide. He was less than five feet away, the gun rising from the ground, when she pushed the trigger and watched the stream leap at him. His face went from a sarcastic smirk to alarm just before the stream of mace hit his nose and splattered across his face and into his eyes. A second later he was screaming. She had just turned to aim at the second guy when the world turned upside down.

She found herself tumbling sideways. Somewhere, close by, a roar began and rose in pitch as the ground below her feet began to jump and shake. She found her knees after she fell and skidded across the roadway as she tried to hold herself, but the shaking was just too hard. She collapsed back to the roadway and the relative softness of the slush and snow, her body jumping and shaking as she seemed almost to bounce across the short expanse and into the snowbank on the opposite side of the road.

The roar went on for what seemed like minutes as she tried to catch her breath and steady herself at the same time. Both seemed impossible to do, but almost as soon as she had the thought the trembling of the earth became less and a split second after that the roaring stopped. There was no silence. The sound of breaking glass, tumbling brick, blaring horns and screams in the dark night replaced the roar. Sounds that had probably been there, she decided, she had just been unable to hear them.

Pearl made her feet and stared back down the street where the car had been. The car was still there, the nose tilted upward, the back seemingly buried in the street itself. She blinked, but nothing changed. She noted the broken asphalt and churned up dirt, and realized the car had broken through the street. There was no sign of the men, including the driver that had been hanging halfway out of the window.

She drew a breath, another, and suddenly the noise and smells of the world rushed back in completely. The screams became louder. Horns blared. The ground trembled under her feet as if restless. She could smell sewage on the air. Broken lines below the pavement her mind reasoned. She swayed on her feet as the earth trembled once more, lurching as it did. She waited, but the tremble was not repeated. She sucked in another deep breath and then began to walk, slipping on the broken pavement and slush as she did.

Franklin street appeared untouched as she lurched from the side street, slipping over the broken pavement, and retching from the overpowering smell of sewer gas. She collapsed to the icy pavement, skidding on her knees and was surprise to hear herself crying as she struggled to get back on her feet.

She nearly made it to her feet before the next tremor hit, this one much harder than the last one. She bounced sideways, knees slamming into the ground, crying out as they did, but unaware of her own cries. Just as the trembling stopped she made her feet again and stood, hand clasped to her knees to steady herself, breathing hard, holding herself rigidly, wondering what was coming next. When the shaking stopped and silence flooded in she was shocked.

She finally opened her eyes, she had no idea when she had closed them, straightened from the bent posture she had found herself in, quieted her sobbing and looked around.

Forty feet away, the gray stone of the mission that had rose just past the sidewalk was no more: Churned earth had replaced it. The sidewalk was still intact, as though some weird sort of urban renewal had occurred in a matter of seconds. Her eyes swept the street and now they took in the sections where the sidewalk was missing. The entire side of the street was gone for blocks. What was in evidence was an old house several hundred feet away, perched on the edge of a ravine. Beyond that, houses and streets continued. She was on the opposite side of complete destruction, and there appeared no way to reach that side.

She turned and looked back at the side street she had come from. Churned earth, tilted pavement, the car was now gone. Farther down the short hillside that had appeared the public square seemed completely destroyed. Water had formed in the middle of the square and ran away to the north, probably toward the Black river, Pearl thought. To the west everything appeared to be intact, to the east, Franklin street stretched away untouched toward the park in the distance. Close by someone began to scream, calling for help. She took a few more calming breaths and then began to walk toward the screams: The west, angling toward the opposite end of the square.

The screams cut off all at once, and a second after that the sound of a motor straining came to her. Cycling up and then dropping. She paused in the middle of the road, listening, wondering where the sound came from. As she stood something ran into her eye, stinging,  clouding her vision, she reached one hand up and swiped at it and the back of her hand came back stained with a smear of blood.

She stared at it for a second. The ground seemed to lurch, shift suddenly, and she reached her hands to her knees to brace herself once more, expecting the shaking to start again, but her hands slipped past her knees and she found herself falling, her legs buckling under her. The ground seemed to rise to meet her and she found herself staring down the length of the roadway, her face flush with the asphalt. The coldness of the ice and slush felt good against her skin: As if she were overheated; ice wrapped inside of a dishrag at the base of her neck on a hot day. She blinked, blinked again, and then her world went dark.

She floated, or seemed to, thinking of London. A hot day. She was a child again: Standing in the second floor window and looking down at the street far below. The dishrag dripped, but it felt so good against her skin. The memory seemed to float away. She was rushing headlong through a never ending stream of memories. All suddenly real again. Urgent, flying by so fast, but sharp in every detail.

Pearl had grown up on a council estate in London: When her mother had died she had come to the United States only to find herself in the Maywood projects on the north side of Watertown. From one pit to another. Just different names, she liked to tell herself. Up until a few weeks ago she had still made the trip back and forth every day, but she had found a place, a small walk-up, not far from the mission on the other side of the public square. It seemed extravagant to have her own space, but living in the downtown area suited her.

She seemed to be in both places at once. Back in her childhood, staring at the street below the window, yet hovering over her body, looking down at herself where she lay sprawled on the winter street. She wondered briefly which was real, but nearly as soon as she had the thought she found herself struggling to rise to her knees from the cold roadway, her eyes slitted, head throbbing.

In front of her a shadowed figure had appeared staggering through the ice and snow, angling toward her. She blinked, blinked again and her eyes found their focus. The man from the car, suddenly back from wherever he had been. One hand clutched his side where a bright red flood of blood seeped sluggishly over his clasping fingers. Her eyes swept down to his other hand which was rising to meet her. A gun was clasped there. Probably, her mind told her, the same gun he had been going to shoot her with before. The gun swept upward as if by magic. She blinked, and realized then that the sound of the motor straining was louder. Closer. Almost roaring in its intensity. The gun was rising, but her eyes swiveled away and watched as a truck from the nearby base skidded to a stop blocking the road from side to side no more than ten feet from her. She blinked, and the doors were opening, men yelling, rushing toward her.

Bright light flashed before her eyes, and a deafening roar accompanied it. An explosion, loud, everything in the world. A second explosion came, then a third, and she realized the explosions were gunshots. She felt herself falling even as she made the discovery. The pavement once again rising to meet her. Her eyes closed, she never felt the ground as she collapsed onto it, falling back into the dark.

She was back standing in the window, looking out over the street. The heat was oppressive, but the ice wrapped in the rag was mothers’ wonderful cure. She tried to raise it to her neck once more, to feel the coldness of it, but her arm would not come. She tried harder and the window suddenly slipped away. A man was bent toward her face. A helmet strap buckled under his chin. Her hands were somehow held at her side. The motor screamed loudly as this world once more leapt into her head. She was on the floor of the truck, vibrations pulsing through her body as the truck sped along… In the back of the truck, her mind corrected as her eyes focused momentarily. Other men squatted nearby, including one who was partially over her holding her arms as the other man was tapping the bubbles from a syringe with one gloved finger. The mans face angled down toward her own and he aimed something in a silver canister into her face from his other hand. The hand opened and the canister fell to the ground.

“Itzawight,” his voice said in a far away drone. “Awightzzz.” She felt the prick of the needle, the light dimmed, his voice spat static: The light dimmed a little further, and then she found herself falling back into the darkness.



Get the entire series at Amazon:


Collected books (Double books)

Collection One (Contains the first two books of the series)

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/America-Dead-Survivors-Stories-Survivor-ebook/dp/B01H5PM49W

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/America-Dead-Survivor-Stories-Survivors/dp/1534737065

Collection Two (Contains books three and four of the series)

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5Q9S36

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/America-Dead-Survivors-Stories-Two/dp/1534737782

Collection Three (Contains books five and six in the series)

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5Q9W0A

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/America-Dead-Survivor-Stories-Three/dp/1534738282


Individual books in the series…

Book one: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Begins-ebook/dp/B01DAIPT54

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1549704559


Book two: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Angeles-ebook/dp/B01DCFSPHO

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1549704419


Book three: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Manhattan-ebook/dp/B01DCF3WI6

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1549704303


Book four: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-home-ebook/dp/B01DCPQ1IO

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/154970415X


Book five: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-home-ebook/dp/B01DCF3KHE

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1549697315


Book six: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-home-ebook/dp/B01DCF3KHE

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1549697129


Book seven: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Plagues-ebook/dp/B01DCFSNMG

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1549696831


Series Writers…

Author Dell Sweet’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Wendell-Sweet/e/B00B6QPHNM

Author Geo Dell’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/George-Dell/e/B00T94K198

Author W W Watson’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/W.W.-Watson/e/B00BIDAEUE



 

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America The Dead: Survivor Stories One: The pawn shop was a nightmare inside. Even so he found a gun cabinet, managed to pry it open, and left with two semi-automatic nine mm pistols and a dozen boxes of ammunition… https://books.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one/id1436765995


America the Dead Survivor Stories Two

John watched as Bear helped the girls move their sleeping bags and packs over to a clear space on the factory floor, she wouldn’t get a second chance with him…

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America the Dead Survivor Stories Three: Billy paced the hallway, trying to think, telling himself they had to leave soon. There were fires over past the park; you could hear gunfire from all over the city all night long…

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Classified for the next hundred years, and he wondered: Would it ever be released? He doubted it. The shit they were doing here was stuff you didn’t ever want the American public to know about…

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America the Dead Survivor Stories Five

We walked out State Street. There’s a store there, and we found tracks in the snow. One person. A man I would guess from the boot tread. It was good to see evidence of other people…

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America the Dead: Survivors Stories One-Free episode 1

America the Dead: Survivors Stories One

 Copyright © 2018 W. G. Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.


No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


ONE

March 1st

Watertown New York

Off Factory Square: Joel Morrison

5:00 PM

Joel sat at the bar and watched football on one of the big screen TV’s Mort had put in. It was a slow game, he was tired, and his mind kept turning to other things. He couldn’t concentrate. Part of the allure of the Rusty Nail was the quiet. After a 12 hour shift at the mill with the constant noise from the huge machinery, the quiet had been nice. But that had all changed once the bar had become popular with the nearby base. He needed to go home. The crowd in the bar was starting to build and the noise was giving him the beginnings of a headache. He caught Mort’s eye and went back to his thoughts as he waited.

The Rusty Nail had always been a locals only bar up until a few years back when the economy had taken a nose dive. The nail was wedged up a side street off Factory square. Not exactly easy to find, and that had hurt business too as the old people left and the new people came in.

Mort, Mortimer to anybody that felt like being tossed out on their ass, had nearly lost the small bar and the building above it to the bank. The building above it had six small apartments that Mort had purposely left empty when he had bought the building fresh out of the service thirty years back. Who wanted to deal with tenants, he had said then. But times changed, and so he had sold his house, moved himself into one of the apartments, and then sold the bank on remortgaging the whole building as well as renovating the other five apartments. The bank had come up with a loan that took all of that into account and added a second income source from the apartments that could pay the monthly mortgage and put a good chunk of change into his pocket too.

He had signed on the x, taken their money, renovated the building, moved in the tenants and then taken a hard look at the Rusty Nail. He had decided to completely gut the bar and do it over. He had dumped far too much into the renovations though, including being closed for nearly a full month, and then opened it to find that the economy had taken an even deeper nose dive during those nearly thirty days. The third month into the new mortgage and he had found that he was maybe in a bad spot already.

Joel remembered now that he had sat right at the end of the bar when Mort had talked it over with some others, Moon Calloway, Johnny Barnes, Jim Tibbets, Joel had been welcome to include his two cents which he had declined to do.

“Well, what you do is put the word out to those cab drivers. Believe me, I’ve seen it. They will have them soldiers down here in no time, even if you are off the beaten path,” Jim had said. Jim was a school bus driver for the north side district and less than a year away from a fatal car accident on the interstate. Jeff Brown, who had been a local football star, was doing ten years up at Clinton Correctional for hitting Jim’s car head on drunk and killing him. But that night Jim had still been alive and had wanted to be a part of the New Rusty Nail that Mort had in mind. Something a little more modern. Modern bought the soldiers, but more importantly it also bought women.

“I’m not paying a cab driver to bring me G.I.’s,” Mort had said. “And I know your game. You’re just hoping to get laid out of it.”

They had all laughed at that, except Jim who had turned red. But after a few seconds he had laughed too, and the conversation had plodded forward the way bar conversations do.

“Well, you ain’t got to pay them exactly, give them a couple beers,” Moon threw in.

“Jesus Christ,” Mort exclaimed. “That’s why you boys ain’t in business. You think the beer is free.”

“I know it ain’t free, Mort,” Jim said. “But it don’t cost you that much. You get it wholesale.”

“Wholesale? I drive right out to that wholesale club and buy it by the case most of the time just like everybody else. Cheaper than them beer guys, except draft, of course. That ain’t free. You got to pay the yearly club fee. You got to pay them taxes to the feds. You got a lot you got to pay for. Some fuck crushes your can you’re fucked for that nickle. Jesus… wholesale my ass. It ain’t no bargain.”

“Yeah? … Let’s see,” Moon starting writing in the air with his finger. You get it for let’s say six bucks a case, I know that cause that’s what I pay out there too. So six bucks divided by 24 is,” he drew in the air for a few moments, erased it, and then started over. “How the fuck do you do that, Joey… The six goes into the twenty-four? Or times the twenty-four?” Moon asked.

“Uh, it’s a quarter a can,” I had supplied.

The argument had raged on from there. Once Moon found out he was paying a buck fifty for a can of beer that only cost a quarter he was pissed off.

In the end Mort had talked to a couple of cab drivers. Free draft beer one night a week if they bought soldiers by all week long and told as many others as possible about the place. Within two weeks Joel hadn’t recognized the place when he had come by after shift to have a couple of beers. The soldiers drank a lot of beer, the bank mortgage got paid, and life was fine. Except for the fights, Joel thought, but you can’t load young guys up on alcohol and not expect trouble. Especially when those young men were just waiting on the word to go and maybe die in another battle that remained undeclared as a war. High stress levels meant heavy duty unloading. The M.P.’s got to know the place as well as the soldiers did.

“Joel, you ready?” Mort asked now.

Joel smiled. “I was thinking back…” He had to shout to be heard. Tomorrow his voice would be hoarse. “This place was empty! … Yeah… One more then I gotta go,” Joel agreed.

Mort leaned closer. “Gov’ment tit. I know it, but screw it. It’s all the Gov’ment tit. Road and Bridge projects. Job centers. One way or the other it comes out the same. Even them subsidies so the paper mills can still run. It’s all the Gov’ment tit, ain’t it, Joel?”

“Its is,” Joel shouted. He nodded. It was. This town would have dried up years ago without it. Mort left and then came back a few moments later with a fresh beer.

“Vacation?” Mort yelled.

Joel nodded. “Two weeks of silence,” He shook his head at the irony and Mort’s laughing agreement was drowned out by the noise.

“If I don’t see you, have a good one,” Mort said leaning close.

Joel nodded. “I will.” He raised his glass and then tossed off half of it. A few moments later he was outside on the relatively quiet sidewalk punching numbers into his phone, calling for a cab. The night was cold, but the cold sobered him up. It seemed nearly capable of washing away the smoke and noise from inside the bar. He stood in the shadows beside the door waiting for the phone to ring on the other end. The door bumped open and Johnny Barnes stepped out.

“You ain’t calling for a cab, are you?” Johnny asked when he spotted him.

Joel laughed and ended the still ringing call. “Not if I can get a free ride from you.” Joel told him.

“Yeah, you were always a cheap prick,” Johnny agreed. “Hey, I heard you’re heading into the southern tier tomorrow?”

“Two weeks,” Joel agreed as he levered the door handle on Johnny’s truck and climbed inside. His breath came in clouds of steam. “Get some heat in here, Johnny.”

“Coming,” Johnny agreed. “Man, I wish I was you.”

“Me too,” Joel agreed.

Johnny laughed. “Asshole, but seriously, man. Have a good time. You gonna hunt?”

“Nothing in season… Maybe snare some rabbits. Not gonna be a lot this time of year.” Joel said.

“Maybe deer,” Johnny offered. He dropped the truck in drive just as the heat began to come from the vents.

“Probably, but they’ll be out of season. Rabbit, and I got freeze dried stuff. Trucks packed, which is why I didn’t drive it down here.”

The truck drove slowly through the darkening streets as the street lights began to pop on around the small city: The two men laughing and exchanging small talk.


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AMERICA THE DEAD: SURVIVOR STORIES ONE Serial presentation 1

AMERICA THE DEAD: SURVIVOR STORIES ONE

America The Dead: Survivor Stories One is copyright © 2016 W. G. Sweet.

All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each r

ecipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell G. Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet, W. G. Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell G. Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.



This serial presentation is copyright protected and is used with permission

This material has NOT been edited for content and is therefore rated on a cautionary basis as 18+


EPISODE ONE


PROLOGUE

Route 81 rest-stop

Watertown New York

April 20th

1:00 am

A black truck pulled into the rest stop and two men climbed out; walking toward the rest rooms that sat in from the road. Concrete bunker looking buildings that had been built back in the early seventies. They had been closed for several years now. In fact the Open soon sign was bolted to the front of the building; rust streaked the sign surface. It seemed like some sort of joke to Mike Bliss who used the rest stop as a place to do light duty drug deals. Nothing big, but still that depended on your idea of big. Certainly nothing over a few thousand dollars. That was his break off point. Any higher than that, he often joked, you would have to talk to someone in Columbia… Or maybe Mexico, he told himself now as he sat waiting in his Lexus, but it seemed that since Rich Dean had got himself dead the deals just seemed to be getting larger and larger. And who knew how much longer that might last. He watched the two men make a bee line for the old rest rooms.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself. He pushed the button, waited for the window to come down, leaned out the window and yelled. “What are you, stupid? They’re closed.” He motioned with one hand. “You can’t read the fuckin’ sign or what?”

Both men stopped and looked from him to the sign.

“Yeah, closed. You can read right? Closed. That’s what it says. Been closed for years. Go on into Watertown; buy a fuckin’ burger or something. Only way you’re getting a bathroom at this time of the morning.” He had lowered his voice for the last as he pulled his head back into the car, and turned the heater up a notch. The electric motor whined as the window climbed in its track. He looked down at his wrist for the time, 1:02 A.M., where the fuck was this dude. He was late, granted a few minutes, but late was late.

A sharp rap on the glass startled him. He had been about to dig out his own supply, a little pick-me-up. He looked up to see the guys from the truck standing outside his window. “Oh… Fucking lovely,” he muttered. He pushed the button and the window lowered into the door, the motor whining loudly, the cold air blew in.

“And what can I do for you two gentlemen,” He asked in his best smart ass voice.

The one in back stepped forward into the light. Military type, Mike told himself. Older, maybe a noncom. A little gray at the edges of his buzz cut. With the military base so close there were soldiers everywhere, after all Watertown was a military town. It was why he was in the business he was in. It was also why he succeeded at it.

“Did you call me stupid,” The man asked in a polite tone.

“Who, me? No. I didn’t call you stupid, I asked, what are you, stupid? Different thing. The fuckin’ place is closed… Just doing my good deed for the day… Helping you, really, so you don’t waste no time,” Mike told him.

“Really?” The man asked.

Mike chuckled. “Yeah really, tough guy. Really. Now, I did my good deed, why don’t you get the fuck out of here ’cause you wore out your welcome.” He opened his coat slightly so they could see the chrome 9 mm that sat in its holster.

“Really,” the first guy repeated.

“Okay, who are you guys, frick and frack? A couple of fucking wannabees? Well I am the real deal, don’t make me stick this gun in your fuckin’ face,” Mike told them. He didn’t like being a dick, but sometimes you had to be.

“You know what my mother always said about guns?” The second guy asked.

“Well, since I don’t know your mama it’s hard to say,” Mike told him. He didn’t like the way these two were acting. They weren’t cops, he knew all the locals. If it had been someone he had to worry about he would have handled this completely differently. These guys were nobodies. At least nobodies to him, and that made them nobodies to Watertown. If he had to put a bullet in… His thoughts broke off abruptly as the barrel of what looked like a .45 was jammed into his nose. It came from nowhere. He sucked in a deep breath. He could taste blood in his mouth where the gun had smashed his upper lip against his teeth.

“She said don’t threaten to pull a gun, never. Just pull it.”

“Mama had a point,” Mike allowed. His voice was nasally due to the gun that was jammed hallway up to his brain. “Smart lady.”

“Very,” the man allowed. “Kind of a hard ass to grow up with, but she taught me well.” He looked down at Mike. “So listen, this is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna drive out of here right the fuck now. And that’s going to stop me from pulling this trigger. Lucky day for you, I think. Like getting a Get Out Of Jail Free card, right.”

“This is my business spot… You don’t understand,” Mike told them. “I… I’m waiting for someone.”

“Not tonight, Michael.”

“Yeah, but you don’t.” He stopped. “How do you know my name?” he asked. There was more than a nasal quality to his voice, now there was real fear. Maybe they were Feds. Maybe.

“Yeah, we know you. And we know you use this spot as a place to do your business. And I’m saying we couldn’t care less, but right now you gotta go, and I’m not going to tell you the deal again. You can leave or stay, but you ain’t gonna like staying,” The guy told him.

Listen… This is my town… If you guys are Feds you can’t do shit like this… This is my town. You guys are just…

The guy pulled the trigger and Mike jumped. He fell to the right, across the front seat. Both men stepped away from the car, eyes scanning the lonely rest stop from end to end, but there was no one anywhere. The silence returned with a ringing in their ears from the blast as it had echoed back out of the closed car interior. The shooter worked his jaw for a moment, swallowing until his ears popped. He lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Guess you saw that,” he said quietly.

“Got a cleaner crew on the way up. You’ll pass them in the elevators. The boss is waiting on you guys.“ The voice came through the implant in his inner ear. No one heard what was said except him.

He nodded for the cameras that were picking him up. “In case you didn’t hear it, someone is supposed to meet him here so your cleaner crew could have company.”

“Got that too… We’ll handle it.” He nodded once more, and then walked off toward the rest rooms as the other man followed.

Once in back of the unit they used a key in the old rusted handset. It only looked old and rusty, it was actually an interface for a state of the art digital system that would read his body chemistry, heat, and more. The key had dozens of micro pulse sensor implants that made sure the user was human, transmitted heartbeat, body chemistry, it could even tell male from female and match chemical profiles to known examples in its database. Above and to the sides of them several scanners mapped their bodies to those same known profiles. Bone composition, old fractures, density and more. All unique in every man or women. The shooter removed the key and slipped it into his pocket. A few seconds later a deep whining of machinery reached their ears, the door shuddered in its frame, and then slipped down into a pocket below the doorway.

A second later they stepped into the gutted restroom. Stainless steel doors took up most of the room; the elevator to the base below. They waited for the cleaner crew to come up, then took the elevator back down into the depths.

~

The Bluechip facility stretched for more than five miles underground. Most of that was not finished space, most of that was connector tunnels, and storage space bored from the rock. The facility itself was about three thousand feet under the city of Watertown in a section of old caves that had been enlarged, concrete lined and reinforced. The rest area was one of several entrances that led into the complex. An old farm on the other side of Watertown, an abandoned factory in the industrial park west of the city and a few other places, including direct connections from secure buildings on the nearby base.

John Pauls and Sammy Black had Alpha clearance. Both were ex-military, but most likely military clearance was no longer a real matter of concern this late in the game, Sammy thought as they made their way down the wide hallway. The word coming down from those in the know was that in the next twenty-four hours the human race would come very close to ceasing to exist at all. No confirmation from anyone official, but regular programming was off air, the news stations were tracking a meteor that may or may not hit the Earth. The best opinions said it didn’t matter if it hit or not, it would be a close enough pass that there would be massive damage. Maybe the human race would be facing extinction. The government was strangely silent on the subject. And that had made him worry even more. The pass was estimated to be right over the tip of south America. So maybe formalities like Alpha clearance weren’t all that important any longer. If only Mike Bliss had given that some thought before he had pissed him off.

The halls were silent, nearly empty. Gloss white panels eight feet high framed it. It had always reminded Black of a maze with its twists and turns. Here and there doors hung open. Empty now. Always closed any other time he had been down here. So it had come this far too, Black thought. He stopped at a door that looked like any other door and a split second later the door rose into the ceiling and Major Weston waved them in.

Alice, he had never learned her last name, sat at her desk, her eyes on them as they walked past her. One hand rested on the butt of a matte black .45 caliber pistol in a webbed shoulder holster that was far from Army issue, and Sammy had no doubt she would shoot them both before they could even react. Alice was etched into one of those name pins that the Army seemed to like so well, but oddly, just Alice, no last name, rank or anything else. She wore no uniform, just a black coverall. The kind with the elastic ankle and wrist cuffs. No insignia there either. He had noticed that months before. Her eyes remained flat and expressionless as they passed her desk.

“Alice,” Sammy said politely. She said nothing at all, but she never did.

“Sit down, boys,” Major Weston told them. He spoke around the cigar in his mouth: Dead, but they always were, and there was never the smell of tobacco in the office. They took the two chairs that fronted the desk.

The Major was looking over a large monitor on the opposite wall that showed the north American continent. This map showed small areas of red, including the northern section where they were. The rest of the map was covered with green. “Where we are, and where we need to be,“ he said as he pushed a button on his desk. The monitor went blank. He turned to face the two.

“So here is where we are. You know, as does most of the world, that we are expecting a near miss from DX2379R later on tonight.” He held their eyes.

John shrugged. “I’ve been doing a little job, must have missed that. It’s not gonna take us out is it?”

“Saw that on the news a few days back. Guess we dodged a bad one,” Sammy said.

“Right… Right,” Weston said quietly. “But that cover was nothing but bullshit.”

“It’s going to hit us?” John asked.

“Maybe… The fact is that we don’t know. One group says this, another group says that, but it doesn’t matter because it will probably kill us off anyway. Direct hit, near miss, it is going to tip over an already bad situation with the Yellowstone Caldera.” He raised his eyes, “Familiar with that?”

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy said.

John nodded in agreement.

Weston laughed. “Put simply, yes. Yellowstone has always been an anomaly to us. Back in 1930 the Army did an exploratory survey of that area. What we came up with was that there was a section of the Rocky Mountains missing. Looked at from the top of Mount Washburn it was easy for the team to see that the largest crater of an extinct volcano known to exist lay before them.”

“I guess that’s about what I thought,” Sammy agreed.

“Yeah. We all think that. Except it is not true at all because the Yellowstone caldera is not extinct, it is active. Active and about to pop. There have been several warnings, but we took the recording stations off line quite some time ago, so there has been no mention of it in the news. Budget cuts,” he shrugged. “So everyone is focused on this meteor that may or may not hit us and instead this volcanic event is going to blow up and when that happens the rest won’t matter at all.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor came to life. “All the red areas are spots where the surface pressure has increased. There was, at one time, many active volcanoes on the north American continent.” He clicked a button and the map changed to a view of the European continent with many of the same red shaded areas.

“All over the Earth… Higher pressures. Up until a few days ago the brainiacs were still arguing over whether this could even happen.” He laughed. “It is happening and they are arguing over whether it can happen. Well, we had our little debates and then we realized that history shows clearly that this has happened before. Several times. Call it the Earth’s way of cleansing itself.”

“But it’s not an absolute, right?”Sammy asked.

“Don’t start sounding like the scientists.” He reached below his desk and came up with six small silver cartridges. Each had a red button mounted on the top with a protective cap over the button itself. He clicked a button on his desk, and a picture of destruction appeared on the screens. It was obviously an aerial shot, looking down at a chain of islands. Smoke hung over the chain, reaching as high as the plane itself. As the plane dropped lower, rivers of red appeared. “That picture is an hour old. That is… Was, the Hawaiian chain.”

Sammy twisted further to the side, staring at the monitor. “How can that be… I mean everyone would know about it.” He turned back to Weston.

Weston nodded. “And that would be true except the satellites are out because of the asteroid. Shut down to avoid damage. That is the official word.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor went dead once more. “I started this out saying that none of it matters and that is true. The Yellowstone caldera is going to erupt sometime in the next few days. Not a maybe, not an educated guess: If the satellites were up you would know that the park is closed. It has already started. We have had a few small quakes, but the big stuff is on the way. He rolled the cartridges across the desktop; Sammy and John caught them.

“Super volcanoes… Earthquakes that modern civilization has never seen… The last super eruption was responsible for killing off the human population some seventy-four thousand years ago. Reduced it to a few thousand. And that is not the biggest one we have evidence of.” He lifted his palms and spread them open, sighing as he did. “So it is a double whammy. If we survive the meteor the volcanoes get us, or the earthquakes because of them, or we’ll die from injuries. And I think those of us who die outright will be lucky. The rest of us will have a hard time of it… Staying alive with nothing… We will probably all starve to death.” He paused in the silence.

“Those cartridges are a compound developed right here in this complex for the armed forces. Project Super Soldier. SS for short. That kept people from looking too deep, they assumed it was something to do with the Nazi youth movement here and abroad. We let that misconception hold.” He waited a second for his words to sink in. “SS is designed to prolong life past the normal point of termination. It allows a soldier to survive longer without food and more importantly without water. Does something to the cells of the host, I don’t pretend to know what. What I do know is that the people above me made the decision to release this…” He picked up a mug of coffee from the desk and sipped deeply. His eyes were red road maps, Sammy noticed now. Like he hadn’t slept in a few days.

“So this is it for us. I guess you realize that you probably won’t get paid for this. No money is going to show up in your account. I will run it through before I pull the plug, but I truly believe the machinery will be dead by the time payday rolls around. So this is something I’m asking you to do.” He pointed to the cartridges that both men were looking over. Sammy held his as though it might bite him.

“Those babies are really all we have to hope with. Most people will die outright. They will never make it past the quakes, eruptions, and the resulting ash clouds and gases. Up here we should be okay as far as gases go, eruptions, but there are fault lines that crisscross this area. This whole facility is bored from limestone caverns. Probably won’t make it through the quakes, although it is a good eighty miles from the closest line,” he shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. My point is there should be a good chance for survivors here.”

“So we do what with these? Can they harm us?” John asked.

“Harm you, kill you? No, but you will be infected the minute you push that button. It will protect you the same as anyone else. There is enough in a single cartridge to infect about five hundred million people,” Weston said quietly.

“Whoa,” Sammy whistled. “Why infect… Why not inoculate? And why six cartridges… Three Billion people?”

“Minimum, three billion. That is before those infected pass it along themselves: After a while it won’t matter. As to the question of infected, this is a designer virus. You catch it just like the flu. We infected whole platoons by releasing it in the air over them. Eighty-Nine point seven percent infection rate, but that doesn’t really matter because it infects people close to you and those people will infect you… Sneezing, waste, sex, water, food, it gets into and on everything. And once it is in you, either orally or via bloodstream you will be infected. The human body has nothing to fight it, no reason to be alarmed or believe it’s anything more than a virus. And that same response will help to carry it to every area of the body as your own defenses manufacture white blood cells to fight it. So you may as well say a one hundred percent infection rate.” He paused and rubbed at his temples.

“Be glad they decided on this. They have some others that will kill everybody in the world in a matter of days.” Weston nodded at the raised eyebrows that greeted his remarks. “I don’t doubt that the merits of which way to go were hotly debated,” he finished gravely.

“The virus is designed to live within the host, but it can live outside of the host. It can stay alive in a dead body for days, even if the body is frozen. In fact that just freezes the virus too, once the body is thawed it will infect any living person that comes along. So those,” he pointed to the silver cartridges, “are overkill. Same stuff is being released across the globe. Great Briton… Germany… Australia… West coast just a few hours ago. Manhattan has already been done, all the East Coast in fact. I want the two of you to head out from here. One vial here, then one of you head west, the other south. Go for the bigger cities… Water supplies… Reservoirs… Release it in the air or water, it doesn’t matter. There are men heading out from the south, the west coast. The Air Force will be dispersing the same stuff via cargo planes tomorrow or the next day… As long as they can fly, if we can even make it that long, and that isn’t looking really good right now…” He rose from the desk. “I’ll see you out.” He turned to Alice. “Alice… Pack us up.” Alice nodded as Sammy and John got to their feet, but her hand remained on the butt of the pistol. Rubber grips, Sammy noticed as he passed her.

“Alice,” he said.

“Um hmm,” Alice murmured.

Sammy nearly stopped in his tracks, but managed to hide his surprise as he passed by into the hallway. The Major fished two sets of keys from his pocket. “Parked in the back lot. A couple of plain Jane Dodge four-bys. Drive ’em like you stole ’em. Leave ’em where you finish up. Hell, keep ’em if you want ’em. Nobody is going to care.”

The three stood in the hallway for a few seconds longer. Sammy’s eyes locked with the Major’s own, and he nodded. The major walked back into his office, and the door rose from its pocket behind him. Quiet, except the slight buzzing from the fluorescent lights.

John shrugged as his eyes met Sammy’s, waiting.

Sammy sighed. “You heard the man… West or south?”

“Flip for it?” John asked. His mouth seemed overly dry and he licked his lips nervously.

Sammy pulled a quarter from his pocket and flipped it into the air. “Call it, Johnny.”

“Tails,” John said just before the quarter hit the carpet.

Sammy bent forward. “Tails it is. You got it, Johnny.”

John looked down at the carpet. “West, I guess.” John said.

Sammy nodded, looked down once more at the quarter and then both men turned and walked away toward the elevator that would take them back to the surface.



Get the entire series at Amazon:

Collection One (Contains the first two books of the series)

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/America-Dead-Survivors-Stories-Survivor-ebook/dp/B01H5PM49W

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/America-Dead-Survivor-Stories-Survivors/dp/1534737065


Individual books in the series…

Book one: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Begins-ebook/dp/B01DAIPT54

Book two: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Angeles-ebook/dp/B01DCFSPHO

Book three: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Manhattan-ebook/dp/B01DCF3WI6

Book four: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-home-ebook/dp/B01DCPQ1IO

Book five: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-home-ebook/dp/B01DCF3KHE

Book six: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-home-ebook/dp/B01DCF3KHE

Book seven: https://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-America-Dead-Plagues-ebook/dp/B01DCFSNMG


Series Writers…

Author Dell Sweet’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Wendell-Sweet/e/B00B6QPHNM

Author Geo Dell’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/George-Dell/e/B00T94K198

Author W W Watson’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/W.W.-Watson/e/B00BIDAEUE



 

NOOK books


Alabama Island by W.G. Sweet

Vomiting had pulled the pain back full force and he had found himself exiting into the black curtain once again. It was dawn when he had found his way back and a sense of urgency to be moving had set in…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alabama-island-wg-sweet/1129599569?ean=2940155194422


America the Dead: Survivor Stories One by W.G. Sweet

A light rain had begun as he pulled the truck back out on to the roadway, heading for Mexico as the rain bounced up from the pavement and covered the surface with a gray mist.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one-w-g-sweet/1124661961?ean=2940155816812

 

America the Dead: Survivor Stories Two

John leaned close. “So how do you build a population if the women are only with the women?”

Bear shook his head. “You know what I said to Maddy a few moments ago? I said, ‘What a dick… And you are… You are.”

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-two-w-g-sweet/1124661962?ean=2940153740393

 

America the Dead: Survivor Stories Three

The police? Gone. Fire department? Ditto. Army? Well, wasn’t the National Guard supposed to show up when the shit hit the fan? But so far the army had not raised a finger to do anything for them at all…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-three-w-g-sweet/1123948008?ean=2940153740409

 

America the Dead: Survivor Stories Four

Classified: Top secret for the next hundred years or so. He wondered, Would it even be released then? He doubted it. The shit they were doing here was bad; shit you never wanted the American public to know about.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-four-w-g-sweet/1123948129?ean=2940153740416

 

America the Dead: Survivor Stories Five

Today we decided to see if the city was any better on the other side of the river. It isn’t. We crossed on a trestle, and went up State Street. There’s a supermarket there, and we found tracks in the snow. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-five-w-g-sweet/1123947035?ean=2940153740423


INDIVIDUAL BOOKS

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: Begins the End

The virus bonds itself to our cells; regenerating them at an advanced rate, if you die you rise again. Soldiers called the phenomenon Overclocking; being able to live forever…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123456002?ean=2940046165708

 

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: Los Angeles

In the dead a virus designed to save the human race has mutated, continued to work, and the dead are beginning to rise. In the bigger cities the dead are growing quickly in numbers, changing as they mutate… https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123456185?ean=2940046165760

 

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: Manhattan

Something was going on out in the world, and the news was covering it up. And now the local news had been canceled. There had been no strange weather today, but time was off. Really off. The days were longer… https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123456057?ean=2940152866766

 

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: War at Home 1

The air purifiers turned on with a high-pitched whine, they could feel the air as it dragged past them. The volume would be completely replaced before anyone would step foot into the room with the corpse. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123455891?ean=2940152866797

 

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: War at Home 2

It was an hour past sunset when Mike took over one of the perimeter guard posts from Susan. It was simply the far corner of the garage complex that overlooked a field and the highway beyond it… https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123478570?ean=2940152885187

 

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: Zombie Fall

We are sending people out into a world that is no better. It’s worse in some ways. We didn’t have to deal with the dead. The radio tells us they have taken over the bigger cities. I just can’t imagine it… https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123579698?ean=2940152936452

 

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: The Zombie Plagues

Wrecked and burned out buses blocked the entrance to Central Park; the roads and pathways: Sheet steel welded over the windows. Holes burned with Acetylene torches for gun ports. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-dell-sweet/1123579702?ean=2940152936476


THE ZOMBIE PLAGUE COLLECTIONS

Earth’s Survivors Zombie Plagues: Collection One

Collection One Contains the complete text of Books One and Two of the Zombie Plagues books. A great change was coming to the Earth. It made some wish for death, but death was no longer a guarantee…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-zombie-plagues-geo-dell-dell-sweet/1123406795?ean=2940152379631

 

Earth’s Survivors Zombie Plagues: Collection Two

A supply trip with Mike, Ronnie and a few others turns into The Nations first real clash with the dead, resulting in death for some of The Nations own…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-zombie-plagues-geo-dell-dell-sweet/1123406828?ean=2940152379679


 

EARTH’S SURVIVORS: LIFE STORIES

 

Earth’s Survivors Life Stories: Billy

“I do know you got to get it out… Hey,” he waited until the kid looked up. “You know who I work for, right? You muck this up you’ll wind up out at the county landfill… Gulls pecking out your eyes.” …

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-life-stories-dell-sweet/1126537237?ean=2940154406359

 

Earth’s Survivors Life Stories: Candace and Mike

Follow this epic tale as Candace and Mike make their way through a devastated. Death, destruction, gangs, the dead and the lack of any government help, teach them that they must depend on only each other… https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-life-stories-dell-sweet/1128179895?ean=2940155172345

 

Earth’s Survivors Life Stories: Bear

This book starts at the beginning of the apocalypse and works through the first months as Bear makes his way from Manhattan to Pennsylvania, and finally Kentucky where he becomes a member of the fledgling Nation

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-life-stories-dell-sweet/1126791011?ean=2940154458471

 

Earth’s Survivors Life Stories: Beth

Before the apocalypse Beth is beginning to pull herself back up from the gutter of life, learning to live again, trust and believe. The apocalypse almost crushes that hope she had begun to grow…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-life-stories-dell-sweet/1126790993?ean=2940154458488


TRUE: True Stories from a small town

 

TRUE: True Stories from a Small Town #1

These stories lare like snapshots at points in my life. They are part of a much larger work I intend to eventually publish… https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/true-wendell-sweet/1114304830?ean=2940044259454

 

TRUE: True Stories from a Small Town #2

This is a book about the man who made a difference in my life. I don’t mean the minimal difference that some people make. I mean a man who was actually good. Inside where it counts.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/true-wendell-sweet/1114374008?ean=2940044271807

 

True: True Stories from a Small Town #3: Life in A minor

In AA they say that addictions will take you to hospitals, Mental Institutions and Prisons. It’s true. They will. I have been in all of those places because of my addictions…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/true-dell-sweet/1121209419?ean=2940046573169


The End of Summer by Dell Sweet: A Glennville story

The summer of 1969 was winding down. The warm air held a smell 13 year old Bobby Weston couldn’t quite identify but nevertheless acquainted with going back to school. An end of summer smell, he decided. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-end-of-summer-dell-sweet/1117076285?ean=2940045315302

 

The Great Go Cart Race by Dell Sweet: A Glennville story

The summer of 1969 in Glennville New York had settled in. The July morning was cool and peaceful. Bobby Weston and Moon Calloway worked furiously on the go-cart they planned to race down park hill. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-great-go-cart-race-dell-sweet/1117236386?ean=2940045338257


Rapid City: Cowboys and Zombies

I am Robert Evans, a gunfighter. I wear stitched leather gloves with no fingers. There is a man in Alabama City that makes them special for me and a few others that be in the life of gun fighting.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rapid-city-wendell-sweet/1114304786?ean=2940044263109


HAY VIDA

Rocket by Dell Sweet: Hay Vida Book 1

Michael Watson is the captain of an inner galaxy cruiser: He Purchased Star Dancer and has spent the last twenty years running people and supplies to the established bases on the Moon, Mars and Saturn’s moons… https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rocket-dell-sweet/1127803268?ean=2940154403600

 

Base One by Dell Sweet: Hay Vida Book 2

For the last two days Michael had found himself thinking in an new direction. All the old stuff we depended on is gone and that’s okay. He didn’t care at all if he never saw space again.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/base-one-dell-sweet/1128078920?ean=2940155154440


CONNECTED

Connected: Short Hauls by W. W. Watson

A collection of twelve crime stories; including Harrows…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/connected-w-w-watson/1128785385?ean=2940155266105

 

Connected: Sanger Road by W. W. Watson

Connected, a series from W. W. Watson. Sanger Road: Book one…

Pulled from his mundane life, Billy finds a world where anything is possible if you are willing to risk everything…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/connected-w-w-watson/1124698774?ean=2940153749938



 

Books from W. G. Sweet on iTunes

Author W. G. Sweet and his books on iTunes…


America The Dead

Description

The pawn shop was a nightmare inside. Every single cabinet was locked. Even so he found a gun cabinet, managed to pry it open, and left with two semi-automatic nine mm pistols and a dozen boxes of ammunition. He got to the truck, debated on the ammunition, and went back to see if he could find more. The problem was he didn’t know where to look. He found nothing, but he did liberate a shotgun and a whole case of slugs for it. He made his way back to the truck tired out, sweating; his leg aching deep inside. The bandage was soaked through with blood so he changed it as he sat in the truck and gathered his strength.

Book One: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one/id1436765995?mt=11


Description

John watched as Bear helped the girls move their sleeping bags and back packs over to a clear space on the factory floor. He didn’t see what Madison saw in Cammy, but it was her choice, and she wouldn’t get a second chance with him. He came close to slamming his fist into the cement floor.
Not frustrated at all, he told himself. Not even a little.

Book Two: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-two/id1156649961?mt=11


Description

Billy paced the hallway, trying to think it out, telling himself they had to leave soon. Telling himself it was the right thing to do. The problem was that he was not used to doing the right thing. So unused to it, in fact, that he wasn’t sure he wanted to try… should try.
The world had been turned upside down for the last few days. There was no official word that anything was wrong at all, but someone had f****d up. Of that he had no doubt at all.

Book Three: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-three/id1156638728?mt=11


Description

Gabe Kohlson moved away from the monitors. “Heart rate is dropping, don’t you think…” He stopped as the monitor began to chime softly. Before he could get fully turned around the chiming turned into a strident alarm that rose and fell. “Dammit,” Kohlson said as he finished his turn.
“What is it,” David Johns wheeled his chair across the short space of the control room. His outstretched hands caught him at the counter top and slowed him at Kohlson’s monitor.
“Flat lined,” Kohlson said as he pushed a button on the wall to confirm what the doctors one level up already knew. Clayton Hunter was dead.

Book Four: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-four/id1156637747?mt=11


Description

The only bad thing today, we came across a dead man laying crumpled by the side of the road. I could have sworn he moved, so I hurried to him. But as I got closer, I could see that he was dead. Long dead. We stood for a moment and then walked on. Later when we came back he was gone, and I thought, was he dead? Was he? But I know that he was. I suppose that wild dogs or something got him. We didn’t talk about it, but it bothered all of us.

Book Five: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-five/id1157353753?mt=11



Description

Alabama Island is a new society that rises from the ashes of the old… These are the people who build it…

Joel came awake with sunlight streaming in through the windshield of the small car. He looked around at the road. Stalled cars for as far as he could see in any direction He was somewhere outside of Rochester, but where, he wondered. He thought back to Rochester.

Alabama Island: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/alabama-island/id1366776806?mt=11




Description

I walked through the park. There were hundreds there already. In the coming days those same people began to make the park home. But that day they wandered aimlessly. In shock. The subway was shut down, most of it flooded. The buses parked. You could not find a cab. The same with the cops. Everything that was the same about the city. The things you could depend on to be the same day after day, were gone. A few short days and they were gone. No more. And it had a feeling of permanence to it. A feeling of doom.

Book One: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-origins/id829336927?mt=11


Description

The Zombie Killers are the men and women who keep the new settlements safe for the other Earth’s Survivors. Those in the Nation and those in the Fold, and the many independent colonies that would not be able to exist without their help and intervention. They are the ones who search out supplies, fight the Zombie Plagues and live in the constant danger of the real world so that the others can live in the safety of their settlements.

Book Two: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-mission-zero/id830815503?mt=11


Description

The Graveyard:
The moon rode high in the sky. Moonlight gleamed from bits of gravel in the dirt road that lead into the barn. Silence held, and then a scraping came from the ground, muffled, deep.
At the edge of the woods, eyes flashed dully in the over-bright moonlight. Shapes shifted among the trees and then emerged from the shadows onto the gravel roadway. One dragged a leg as he walked, clothes already rotted and hanging in tatters. A second seemed almost untouched, a young woman, maybe a little too pale in the wash of moonlight. She walked as easily as any woman, stepping lightly as she went. The third and fourth moved slower, purposefully, as they made their way to the freshly turned soil. They stopped beside the grave, and silence once again took the night, no sounds of breathing, no puffs of steam on the cold night air.

Book Three: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-outbreak/id1359462763?mt=11


Description

Zombie: The Final Mission
Watertown N.Y.: Pearl made her way out of Watertown after escaping from project Bluechip where she had been held captive. She made her way to the Nation early on, becoming one of the builders of that society. She joined forces with Billy, Adam and Beth making the Zombie Killers a reality. Together they run supply missions for the Nation and fight the growing number of dead. But Pearl has a secret that time alone can reveal, and when she does reveal it it changes the course of the Nation’s future, as well as the course of the Zombie Killers.
In this book Pearl’s story is more fully told and many deleted scenes are added back to more fully tell the story of the Zombie Killers as a group.

Book Four: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-the-final-mission/id1080831130?mt=11



Author W. G. Sweet: https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/w-g-sweet/id1123917275?mt=11



 

America The Dead on Amazon for the Kindle

Collections (At this time)

America The Dead Survivor Stories Five #Kindle The city is a refuge… Until they try to leave it. The trucks stopped a half mile away, and for several minutes there was absolute silence, then the first shots came… #Apocalypse #Preppers  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3D9Z2S

America The Dead Survivor Stories Four #Kindle There were thousands of the living camped out in the park. She could smell them. They believed they were safe in their numbers and for a time that had been true, but no more… #Zombie #Horror https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5QNOKY

America The Dead Survivor Stories Three #Kindle The outside. This place overwhelmed me, that and having to kill a man, but it was worse for those who stayed behind. If they had not stayed the rest of us would have died… #Horror #Survival https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5Q9W0A

America The Dead Survivor Stories Two #Kindle Parts of the projects are burning. Jersey is burning. The sky is red-orange, everything across the river is on fire. No one has come… #ApocalypticFiction #Horror  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5Q9S36

America The Dead Survivors Stories one #Kindle #Apocalypse: Those that survive pick up the pieces, those that have died lay in their death sleep, but in their bodies a virus is mutating, setting the stage for a second catastrophe far worse than the first.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H5PM49W


Individual books (At this present time, more are coming)

America The Dead: Begins The End #Kindle There had been two significant earthquakes, The first time he had nearly wrecked the truck. The truck had stopped rocking and he had pulled back onto the road careful of all the new devastation… #Apocalypse #SciFi https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3G5JLR

America The Dead: Los Angeles #Kindle They had finally been stopped by the wreckage of three cars that had collided on the Quachita river bridge on 270. Together they had pushed the cars off the bridge and into the river. #Apocalypse #Kindle  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3G437B

America The Dead: Manhattan #Kindle The doorman, an elderly white haired man, had been dead, lying in the doorway preventing the door from closing and locking. The dead had killed him but not turned him. Or at least he had not turned yet.  #Zombies #Horror https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D3QYB91



 

America The Dead episode six

America The Dead episode six


EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE
Based on the series by W. G. Sweet
Episode 6
PUBLISHED BY
independAntwriters Publishing
AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE

Copyright © 2013 by independAntwriters All Rights Reserved
Writers: W.W. Watson, Geo Dell, W.G. Sweet, G.D. Smitty
This book, in this blog format, is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share this book with another person, please point them to this blog entry. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the authors imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2013 independAntwriters. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission.
Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print..


EARTH’S SURVIVOR’S – AMERICA the DEAD: BOOK ONE


CHAPTER FIVE
When the sun began to peek over the top of the ridge on the opposite shore of the river everyone filed out to the two remaining trucks. It had been decided that Conner and Jana would stay behind while the others went in search of the stolen truck. They switched on and tested two sets of F.M. Radios.
“The range is normally only about two miles or so, but it’s not like there’s anything to interfere with them anymore,” Jake said. “We’ll take three with us and you keep the other here to monitor us, or if they come back here,” Jake finished.
“Do you think that’s a possibility,” Jana Adams asked?
“I doubt it, Dear,” James told her with a reassuring smile. “It’s just to be safe.”
Conner walked over to Katie. Her eyes met his. He kissed her softly and her arms slipped around him.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered, “I’ll be careful… And I’ll make sure they’re careful too.” She kissed him and pulled back.
Conner stared at the face of the two way radio for a long second, and then watched her get into the Suburban. James got into the front seat with her. Her eyes met his once more and she smiled reassuringly, then started the Suburban and fell in behind Jake as he drove the big State truck out across the pavement.
Conner and Jana stood quietly as the two trucks drove away. Neither of them wanted to go back inside the gloom of the old factory. The sun was up and warming the old asphalt of the road where it passed in front of the building and what little snow remained was already beginning to melt.
“Left here,” The radio squawked. It sounded like Lana.
“Behind you,” came an answer that sounded like James.
Conner shifted the 30-30 Deer rifle he held in one hand and thumbed off the strap that held his Nine Millimeter in his web holster. Jana Adams grimaced and then thumbed the safety off the shotgun she was holding. A short clip protruded from the base of the shotgun, just forward of the trigger. She had two more clips in a small pouch on her side as well as a fully loaded Three Eighty in a tooled leather side holster she wore.
What must we look like, Conner thought. Aloud he said, “They’ll be fine.”
“Really,” Jana Adams asked? “I truly hope so. I truly do.”

~

The next twenty minutes went by slowly. Occasional squawks of directions came from the radio, and in the distance the sound of both trucks could still be heard. The silence broke all at once.
The radio squealed in Conner’s hand. One word jumped clearly from the static… “Jesus!”… Conner couldn’t tell from whom. A crashing sound accompanied it, and in the far distance gunfire erupted in the still, previously quiet morning air.
The squeal from the radio abruptly cut off and it fell back to low static. In the distance the sound of gunfire continued for what seemed like ten minutes, but was probably no more than thirty or forty seconds in reality. Conner keyed the radio, ”Katie,” he screamed. “Katie?”
Gunfire broke out again in the distance. The fast… POP, POP, POP of semi automatic gunfire, but the sharp Crack of a heavy rifle as well. No answer came back over the radio. Jana Adams made a small strangled sound in the back of her throat and a low sob slipped from her mouth. “No, God, no,” she whispered.
“It’s alright, Jana,” Conner told her. He didn’t believe it himself but it was what you said. It was how you lied to yourself when you were pretty sure that things were far from fine. Life didn’t work that way in his experience. The gunfire had stopped but the radio maintained its teasing static, as his mind continued to assure him that nothing at all was right, and nothing ever would be again. Just as he had the thought the radio in his hand squawked once again.
“You guys okay,” a panicked sounding James asked.
“We’re good… We’re good, base. We’re all good. Everything’s okay,” Jake answered.
Beside Conner, Jana broke into a sob. He reached over and pulled her close to him. “It’s okay,” he soothed. “They said they’re all okay,” Conner repeated dumbly like the words were some magic mantra.
“I need you to come over here,” James said over the radio in a tight, controlled voice. Fear quickly spiked in Conner’s heart.
“Yeah… Uh, you need… Uh, yeah… Okay… We’re coming… We’re on the way,” Jake replied.
Conner pressed his button down. “What is it,” he asked? He spoke with more calm than he felt. “What’s going on?”
“Conner… Conner, we got a little problem here… Give me a second and I’ll get right back to you,” Jake told him.
“Standing by.” Conner forced himself to say. Now Jana was hugging him and the fear gripped his heart hard, refusing to let go.

~

“I’ll kill you, I will,” The kid said. He held his gun sideways like some banger kid from a bad Hollywood movie. Blood trickled slowly from one nostril, as well as from several deep cuts up the left side of his face. His eyes were focused and hard.
“No,” Katie said quietly. Her own forty five was held in both hands aimed at the kid’s chest. He looks like he’s only about thirteen… Fourteen, she corrected.
The kids lip curled at her. “You think I won’t do it, Bitch? I will… I will, Bitch… I’ll do it.”
“No,” Katie repeated quietly. “I drop it and you shoot anyway. No way, Kid. No way.” She watched as James shifted to his right, drawing farther away from Katie so the kid couldn’t keep both of them in sight.
“Stop Fuckin’ Movin’! Stop fuckin’ movin’!” the kid suddenly screamed. The gun barrel wavered a little, nervously jittering up and down. The kid’s finger lightly, compulsively caressing the trigger as Katie watched.
Jake and Lana worked their way up silently behind the kid, past the bodies that lay on the ground. One a young girl.
Behind Jake, Lana dropped the barrel of her gun and sighted on the kids back. Jake stared at her dumbly for a second and then followed suit.
The seconds played out as the blood continued to slowly leak from the kids face. His tongue darted out and tasted it where it ran from his nose. He tried to push it away from his lips where it ran and dripped down onto his chin.
“Last chance, Bitch,“ he said. He bought the barrel of his gun down towards her. At the same time James took another step sideways. The kid’s eyes darted to James. The gun dipped and swiveled towards him. “I told you…,” he began.
All four guns spoke at once and the kid seemed to do a quick tap dance before the gun fell from his hand without firing. He tried to suck in a breath but collapsed onto the dirty asphalt instead.
Before anyone could react the silence was split by a scream from across the river. A young boy stood silhouetted by the rising sun on the opposite side of the river facing them. Something shifted from his side. “I’ll kill you… I’ll kill you… You killed my brother,” the boy screamed in a high falsetto. His arms came up quickly.
“Hit the ground,” Katie yelled as the kid opened fire with the deer rifle he had in his hands.
Everyone hit the dirt except Lana whose face registered astonishment as she turned slowly to the river to face the kid.
Katie yelled again as she raised herself to both cut and bruised elbows and began to fire back across the river.
The kid managed three shots before Katie hit him. He slowly toppled over and splashed into the river. Lana stood. Her mouth open wide. Staring across the river to where the kid had been.
Katie raised her eyes to where Lana stood and they caught on the ragged, gaping hole blown through the back of her t-shirt. She continued to stand. Seeming to still be looking out over the river. Her mouth working.
“Lana,” Katie whispered.
Lana slowly turned, her mouth still working but silent. A small neat hole wept blood down the front of her shirt. Her chest hitched and her eyes fluttered.
Jake lunged to his feet, his eyes dazed, and ran to her catching her as she slumped forward. Her eyes flickered once more as he eased her to the ground.
A small tight smile came to her mouth… “Killed me,” she wheezed. Her eyes closed and her chest stopped its struggle for breath.

~

The silence seemed to go on forever as Conner and Jana waited. Sudden gunfire erupted in the distance again. Jana moaned and Conner pulled her closer to him. “Ssss alright,” Conner told her. ”Alright.” He didn’t believe it anymore than he had the last time he’d said it. The burst of gunfire came and went just that quickly and then silence fell hard on the still morning air.
Jana held herself rigidly. Conner could feel her tremble against him. He patted her head. A stupid, useless, meaningless thing to do, he told himself, but he continued nonetheless. Patting her head and stroking her hair. Useless, but if nothing else it seemed to help calm him.
He drew a deep breath and the radio squawked. “Conner,” James asked?
Conner took a deep breath and swallowed hard before he trusted his voice to answer. Jana let go of her breath in a deep whoosh and drew in a long, deep shuddering breath. Conner stroked her hair once more.
“Yeah,” Conner answered quietly.
“It’s bad,” James’s voice broke as he spoke. “It’s bad, Conner, It’s bad.”
In his head Conner was already hearing the words he didn’t want to hear. He had heard everyone’s voice except Katie’s. It only stood to reason… Still, he didn’t want to hear it.
“It’ll be okay,” Jana told him. She pulled him tight. Her own hands trying to pull his head against her breast. “Conner… It’ll be okay.”
“It’s Lana,” James said. His voice choked with emotion.
“Katie,” Conner asked? He hated himself for asking. He hated the weakness in his voice. How could it be Lana, he asked himself. I just heard her voice. How could it be?
“I’m here, Babe,” Katie said through the crackle of static. Behind her voice they could hear what sounded like sobbing. The sobbing came across clearly as she stopped talking. “We’re on our way back… We’re coming back… It’s over,” Katie said. She held on to the button for a split second longer. The smooth silence spitting quietly, then the radio in Mikes hand went back to solid static once more.

~

“Be careful, Honey. Be careful.” Mikes voice came through the radio in her hand. She nodded, and then keyed the mic. button, “I will. We’re coming back.” She looked around her.
Jake sat cradling Lana in his arms. Bright, thick blood covered the ground under her chest and the side of Jake’s pants leg. The three other bodies lay close by. James stood, ashen faced, his gun still held tightly in one hand.
The pickup truck idled noisily about a hundred yards away from where Katie stood. The doors hung open. The Suburban and the State truck rumbled from behind her. Maybe, she thought, five minutes had passed since they had spotted the truck and stopped behind them. The kids had come out shooting. Just like in the movies, Katie thought. Exactly that. Hell! They had acted like it was a movie. Five minutes and four people dead. She shook her head slowly.
Jake looked up from the ground and met Katie’ eyes.
“Let’s get her in the truck, okay, Jake,” She said softly.
Jake’s head slowly nodded.
“What… What about these… These others,” James asked?
“Fuck them,” Jake rasped. “Fuck them! They can rot right there. They’re not going in the truck!” He looked at Katie defiantly.
“Okay,” Katie agreed. “Okay… James?” She waited until James’s eyes left Lana’s body. “Help Jake with Lana?”
James nodded and started towards Jake
“No,” Jake said quietly. “Don’t need help.” He swiped a blood covered hand across his eyes, leaving a bright smear of scarlet across his forehead as he did. “I’ll do it. I’ll take care of her.” His voice shook at the last, but he got to his feet carefully holding Lana in his arms and headed for the pickup truck.
“James,” Katie said, motioning to the bodies.
James looked at her questioningly.
“In the river… We can’t just leave them here.”
James nodded and together they bent to pick up the first body.
A few minutes later Katie let the last body slip from her hands and plunge over the cliffs and into the river far below. She turned her palms upright and stared at them for a second.
“Katie,” James said. She nodded and followed James back to the truck.
Jake sat behind the wheel; Lana slumped on the passenger seat, her head resting against Toms shoulder. “You okay to drive,” she asked?
Jake nodded. His eyes met her own. They were red and tears perched on the bottom lids waiting to spill down his cheeks. He cleared his throat, started to speak, and then cleared his throat once more. “I’m going to drive out of the city… There’s a small little place out by the west side of the lake… My parents grew up there… There’s a cemetery there…” He trailed off and Katie saw the tears that had been perched on his lower lid begin to course their way down his cheeks. He started to speak again, shook his head and gave up momentarily. Katie turned her eyes up to the clear blue morning sky and waited. Jake’s voice came to her quietly a few minutes later as she watched the empty sky.
“There’s a shed… In the Cemetery… I thought.” His voice choked up again.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Katie said softly. “You go… We’ll stop and get Jana and Conner… They’ll want to be there.”
Jake nodded. His hand fell to the shift lever on the steering column. His eyes tear filled and overflowing swept up to her once more.
“You’ll be okay to get there,” Katie asked?
Jake nodded, not trusting his voice to speak. He turned his eyes back to the road.
Katie nodded. “We’ll meet you there.” She stepped away from the truck and watched as Jake pulled slowly away.
Conner March 15th
It’s been a very long day in more ways than one. We are five now. Lana is gone. It’s crazy but true. Jake is in bad shape. Sitting by the fire. Reading Lana’s diary.
We buried her today, a little place outside of the city. There’s a cemetery there right by the lake. Jake’s parents are buried there. Now Lana is also. It took a lot of work; the ground is still frozen a few feet down. It could’ve been worse. If everything wasn’t melting we would’ve had a much harder time digging the hole. Jake couldn’t bring himself to do it. James and I did it.
To make the explanation short, we were ambushed. I shouldn’t say we. I wasn’t even there. Neither was Jana. We were left behind to watch the factory building.
It started in the night; these kids came and stole one of our trucks. We didn’t know they were kids of course. It turned into mess. Three kids are dead too. Young kids, what a waste. We don’t even know why they did it. Why they chose to shoot at the others. None of it.
Everyone is messed up, me included. Jana too. Because we weren’t there. But it’s over. This part’s over, but really it’s not over at all. I don’t know what’s next. None of us do. The day has already lasted fifteen hours so far. The sun doesn’t seem to be moving at all. We don’t know what to make of it. Everyone just wants to get past this day. For it to be over.
Lana’s Diary March 15th
Lana is gone. They took her. I can’t believe it, it’s like a nightmare. I can’t deal with it. I won’t forget it. Jake.
The Cold Lake Shore
The moon rode high in the sky. Frost gleamed from the freshly turned dirt that lay scattered across the gravel of the road that lead into the cemetery. Silence held and then a scraping came from the ground. Muffled. Deep.
At the edge of the woods eyes flashed dully in the over-bright moonlight. Shapes shifted among the trees and then emerged from the shadows onto the gravel roadway. One dragged a leg as he walked. Clothes already rotted and hanging in tatters. A second seemed almost untouched; a young woman maybe a little too pale in the wash of moonlight. She walked as easily as any woman. Stepping lightly as she went. The third and fourth moved slower, purposefully as they made their way to the freshly turned soil. They stopped beside the grave and silence once again took the night. No sounds of breathing. No puffs of steam on the cold night air.
“Do you think…?” The young woman asked in a whisper.
“Shut up,” the one with the dragging leg rasped. His words were almost unintelligible. His vocal cords rotted and stringy. The noises came once again from the earth and the four fell silent…Waiting…
Her hand broke through into the moonlight, a few minutes later her head pushed up and then she levered her arms upward and began to strain to pull herself up and out of the hole. She noticed the four and stopped. Her pale skin nearly translucent, her blond hair tangled and matted against her face and neck. Her lips parted. A question seeming to ride on them.
“It’s okay,” the young woman whispered, “it’s okay.” She and one of the older ones moved forward, fell to their knees and began to scoop the dirt away from her with their hands.
“It’ll be okay,” Lana mumbled through her too cold lips.
“It will. It will,” the young woman repeated.
March 16th
Conner sat quietly on a small pile of brick outside of the factory entrance and watched the sun come up. Forty three hours from sunrise to sunrise. It made no sense at all, at least not to him.
The air was warm, not warming, but warm. And a heavy haze hung on the horizon where the sun was beginning to rise. Northwest still, but it didn’t seem as far to the west as it had been just a few days before.
We need something to track that, he thought. And then, maybe not. After all, what good would it do to know if it was a little more to the East or the West or whatever?
His thoughts were broken by a soft step beside him. He turned as Katie came up beside him carrying two mugs of hot coffee. She handed him one of the mugs and then settled beside him.
“Thank you,” Conner said. She smiled back and then blew lightly at the hot coffee in her mug. Steam lifted off the rim of the cup as she did. “How long,” She asked finally, and then took a small sip.
“Forty three… Give or take a few minutes.” He kissed her lightly on one cheek.
“What was that for,” She asked with a smile.
“Because I wanted to,” Conner told her. He blew on his own coffee and then took a small sip.
“You okay,” she asked in a more serious tone. Her eyes met his.
“Yeah. It… I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.” She nodded.
“It’s like,” he continued, “when my parents were killed. I knew it. I accepted it as well as I could, but there was really no time to process it… Or maybe I refused to process it…. Anyway, it was years later before I ever really dealt with it. That’s what this reminds me of. Someday, once this all settles down, we’ll process it. Until then I think we’re just on cruise control.”
“What was it,” She asked softly.
“Car accident. It was fast. For them anyway.” He seemed sad thinking about it.
“My mother died a few years ago. My dad right after her. They were older when they had me. Hard life… Bad genes. Heart attacks for both of them,” she finished quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Conner said. “It must have been hard.”
Katie nodded. “So I know about the taking the time to process it later thing. I don’t think I’ve dealt with all of it yet. And this,” She lifted her eyes and swept them across the sky, the river, the rocks, the road that ran past the factory building and the cliffs that rose on the other side of the river. Her eyes settled on the sunrise. “This isn’t over by a long shot. Who knows how or when it will end? I guess we’ll deal with what we can and keep the rest moving… You know?”
“Yeah… They were just kids though… Even Lana,” Conner
said.
Katie nodded. “But they weren’t sweet little innocent kids. I’ve seen gang bangers all of my life. I grew up with that. It’s really a way of life. Sometimes, for some kids, it’s the only way of life there is. I ran myself for awhile…” She frowned.
“All I’m saying is they weren’t sweet little innocent kids. And believe me nothing you could’ve said, had you been there, would’ve changed anything. Believe me. I tried to talk to one of them. No good. And the other one I shot didn’t even bother to try talking.”
Conner nodded, took an experimental sip from his mug, then a longer satisfying drink. “I see it,” he said. “This city has a lot of drug trade what with the base so close by. I’ve never been in a gang or knew what one was really about until I was introduced to that life in L.A. as a kid. When I came back here I saw more and more of it. Now it’s everywhere you look.” He seemed startled for a moment. “Was… Was everywhere you looked,” he added thoughtfully.
“There is still good in the world… This didn’t just take the good people and leave the bad,” Katie said. She took another long sip from her coffee. Her eyes met Conner’s own; he leaned over and kissed her lips softly. She smiled and took the coffee mug from his hands, set it down, took his hands and pulled him to his feet.
“Come on,” she said and kissed him once more. Conner kissed her back and pulled her body closer to him. His hands encircled her waist and rested on her hips. Her tongue probed gently as her own hands found the back of his head. She drew back, giggled and then pulled him toward the river and the screening growth of trees and bushes farther down the road.

~

March sixteenth, Conner thought, would always be remembered as the day that didn’t quite happen. The sun never really rose. A half light lit the sky for the next forty two hours, but the sun itself never made an appearance through the thick, black clouds that blocked off the sky from horizon to horizon. Dark and moving swiftly across the skies.
The sun seemed to creep around the perimeter of the horizon, from the West where it first appeared, to the East where it finally sank, setting the sky on fire with it’s pink-red light only to fade away without ever actually rising.
The air became warmer throughout the day and what little snow that remained melted away. Everyone noticed a queasy feeling in their stomachs and a few commented on feeling something similar a few weeks back right after the first earthquakes had hit.
As the day wore on a fine gray ash began to fall from the skies. The skies grew even darker as the ash fell down faster like dirty snow.
After several hours the landscape around the building looked as though everything was covered with a thick coat of dust. Everyone fashioned cloths around their mouths to avoid breathing in the thick haze of ash.
The ash was followed by a slow dirty rain that turned the piles of ash into a slushy, runny kind of mud. And just before the sun finally fell in the East the rain began to fall harder, the air turned cold, then colder still, and lightening began to stab at the gray and sullen skies above the old building.

~

Everyone huddled around the fire on the factory floor, talking very little. They shared a meal of canned beef stew and crackers. The stew was hot and drove away the cold that had returned, but it did nothing to lift their spirits.

James offered to take the first watch, Conner volunteered for the next and Jake offered to take it from there if the sun wasn’t up.
Conner held Katie in his arms and drifted off to sleep thinking about what the day might mean and what the morning down by the river with her had been like.
Jake March 16th
I’ve never kept anything like this in my entire life. I don’t know why I am, really, because when the rest go I’ll be staying.
I can’t even give a good reason for staying, except that there’s shelter here, and I know there are other people here also.
I know that all the others are going. They’ll follow Conner. What can I say or do about that?
I feel so responsible about what happened to Lana. She was just a kid. A kid, Jesus. I can’t really think rationally about it. I can’t deal with it. I can’t believe how fast and how deep my feelings went. I’ve heard about things like that, but I had never experienced something like that before Lana. I’ve heard that can happen in relationships that are formed in situations like this. Crisis… What else could be like this? Nothing. Anyway, I didn’t believe it could work like that, but it did.
I thought she would be here with me. They could go, she would be here. I could deal with that. This has almost made me cave in and say yes to going. But I can’t do it. Something inside of me won’t let me do it. It’s not that I don’t respect Conner, or like him. I was a little jealous, maybe still am, a little. I had a thing for Katie and I still do. That’s another reason I can’t go. I would end up hating him. Her as well. But it’s not really any of that. I have to run my own railroad. That’s all. Very lame. Probably very dangerous in this new world too.
Maybe I can change. I’m open to that. What I’m really hopeful for is other people. When the other four leave I don’t want to be alone. I spent the first few days of this alone, I didn’t like that. I don’t want to go back to that.
How do you develop such deep feelings for someone so fast? Right now I’m trying to get past that. I guess what I need to do is freeze everything else out for now.
I don’t know what to say about how I felt about Katie, or how I still feel. And I can’t explain how I could feel that way about her and still feel the way I did about Lana. Am I kidding myself? Was Katie just temptation and Lana the real thing? No. That’s hard to say but true. I would have walked away from Lana for Katie in a heartbeat. That makes me feel even worse about things. Even so, I loved her… Love her.
As far as this journal goes, I can’t share it. I don’t think I can write deep, personal things about myself and then share them with anyone… I never could… I won’t begin now. But I can write them here. I can see where this can help me to work through things. Help me deal with this. This can bring me through this, just writing it out. So I’ll do it for that reason and no other…


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America The Dead: Begins The End

America The Dead: Begins The End

…There had been two significant earthquakes, The first time he had nearly wrecked the truck. The truck had stopped rocking and he had pulled back onto the road careful of all the new devastation…

AMERICA THE DEAD: BEGINS THE END

America The Dead: Begins The End is copyright © 2010 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

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Route 81 rest-stop

Watertown New York

April 20th

1:00 am

A black truck pulled into the rest stop and two men climbed out; walking toward the rest rooms that sat in from the road. Concrete bunker looking buildings that had been built back in the early seventies. They had been closed for several years now. In fact the Open soon sign was bolted to the front of the building; rust streaked the sign surface. It seemed like some sort of joke to Mike Bliss who used the rest stop as a place to do light duty drug deals. Nothing big, but still that depended on your idea of big. Certainly nothing over a few thousand dollars. That was his break off point. Any higher than that, he often joked, you would have to talk to someone in Columbia… Or maybe Mexico, he told himself now as he sat waiting in his Lexus, but it seemed that since Rich Dean had got himself dead the deals just seemed to be getting larger and larger. And who knew how much longer that might last. He watched the two men make a bee line for the old rest rooms.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself. He pushed the button, waited for the window to come down, leaned out the window and yelled. “What are you, stupid? They’re closed.” He motioned with one hand. “You can’t read the fuckin’ sign or what?”

Both men stopped and looked from him to the sign.

“Yeah, closed. You can read right? Closed. That’s what it says. Been closed for years. Go on into Watertown; buy a fuckin’ burger or something. Only way you’re getting a bathroom at this time of the morning.” He had lowered his voice for the last as he pulled his head back into the car, and turned the heater up a notch. The electric motor whined as the window climbed in its track. He looked down at his wrist for the time, 1:02 A.M., where the fuck was this dude. He was late, granted a few minutes, but late was late.

A sharp rap on the glass startled him. He had been about to dig out his own supply, a little pick-me-up. He looked up to see the guys from the truck standing outside his window. “Oh… Fucking lovely,” he muttered. He pushed the button and the window lowered into the door, the motor whining loudly, the cold air blew in.

“And what can I do for you two gentlemen,” He asked in his best smart ass voice.

The one in back stepped forward into the light. Military type, Mike told himself. Older, maybe a noncom. A little gray at the edges of his buzz cut. With the military base so close there were soldiers everywhere, after all Watertown was a military town. It was why he was in the business he was in. It was also why he succeeded at it.

“Did you call me stupid,” The man asked in a polite tone.

“Who, me? No. I didn’t call you stupid, I asked, what are you, stupid? Different thing. The fuckin’ place is closed… Just doing my good deed for the day… Helping you, really, so you don’t waste no time,” Mike told him.

“Really?” The man asked.

Mike chuckled. “Yeah really, tough guy. Really. Now, I did my good deed, why don’t you get the fuck out of here ’cause you wore out your welcome.” He opened his coat slightly so they could see the chrome 9 mm that sat in its holster.

“Really,” the first guy repeated.

“Okay, who are you guys, frick and frack? A couple of fucking wannabees? Well I am the real deal, don’t make me stick this gun in your fuckin’ face,” Mike told them. He didn’t like being a dick, but sometimes you had to be.

“You know what my mother always said about guns?” The second guy asked.

“Well, since I don’t know your mama it’s hard to say,” Mike told him. He didn’t like the way these two were acting. They weren’t cops, he knew all the locals. If it had been someone he had to worry about he would have handled this completely differently. These guys were nobodies. At least nobodies to him, and that made them nobodies to Watertown. If he had to put a bullet in… His thoughts broke off abruptly as the barrel of what looked like a .45 was jammed into his nose. It came from nowhere. He sucked in a deep breath. He could taste blood in his mouth where the gun had smashed his upper lip against his teeth.

“She said don’t threaten to pull a gun, never. Just pull it.”

“Mama had a point,” Mike allowed. His voice was nasally due to the gun that was jammed hallway up to his brain. “Smart lady.”

“Very,” the man allowed. “Kind of a hard ass to grow up with, but she taught me well.” He looked down at Mike. “So listen, this is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna drive out of here right the fuck now. And that’s going to stop me from pulling this trigger. Lucky day for you, I think. Like getting a Get Out Of Jail Free card, right.”

“This is my business spot… You don’t understand,” Mike told them. “I… I’m waiting for someone.”

“Not tonight, Michael.”

“Yeah, but you don’t.” He stopped. “How do you know my name?” he asked. There was more than a nasal quality to his voice, now there was real fear. Maybe they were Feds. Maybe.

“Yeah, we know you. And we know you use this spot as a place to do your business. And I’m saying we couldn’t care less, but right now you gotta go, and I’m not going to tell you the deal again. You can leave or stay, but you ain’t gonna like staying,” The guy told him.

Listen… This is my town… If you guys are Feds you can’t do shit like this… This is my town. You guys are just…

The guy pulled the trigger and Mike jumped. He fell to the right, across the front seat. Both men stepped away from the car, eyes scanning the lonely rest stop from end to end, but there was no one anywhere. The silence returned with a ringing in their ears from the blast as it had echoed back out of the closed car interior. The shooter worked his jaw for a moment, swallowing until his ears popped. He lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Guess you saw that,” he said quietly.

“Got a cleaner crew on the way up. You’ll pass them in the elevators. The boss is waiting on you guys.“ The voice came through the implant in his inner ear. No one heard what was said except him.

He nodded for the cameras that were picking him up. “In case you didn’t hear it, someone is supposed to meet him here so your cleaner crew could have company.”

“Got that too… We’ll handle it.” He nodded once more, and then walked off toward the rest rooms as the other man followed.

Once in back of the unit they used a key in the old rusted handset. It only looked old and rusty, it was actually an interface for a state of the art digital system that would read his body chemistry, heat, and more. The key had dozens of micro pulse sensor implants that made sure the user was human, transmitted heartbeat, body chemistry, it could even tell male from female and match chemical profiles to known examples in its database. Above and to the sides of them several scanners mapped their bodies to those same known profiles. Bone composition, old fractures, density and more. All unique in every man or women. The shooter removed the key and slipped it into his pocket. A few seconds later a deep whining of machinery reached their ears, the door shuddered in its frame, and then slipped down into a pocket below the doorway.

A second later they stepped into the gutted restroom. Stainless steel doors took up most of the room; the elevator to the base below. They waited for the cleaner crew to come up, then took the elevator back down into the depths.

~

The Bluechip facility stretched for more than five miles underground. Most of that was not finished space, most of that was connector tunnels, and storage space bored from the rock. The facility itself was about three thousand feet under the city of Watertown in a section of old caves that had been enlarged, concrete lined and reinforced. The rest area was one of several entrances that led into the complex. An old farm on the other side of Watertown, an abandoned factory in the industrial park west of the city and a few other places, including direct connections from secure buildings on the nearby base.

John Pauls and Sammy Black had Alpha clearance. Both were ex-military, but most likely military clearance was no longer a real matter of concern this late in the game, Sammy thought as they made their way down the wide hallway. The word coming down from those in the know was that in the next twenty-four hours the human race would come very close to ceasing to exist at all. No confirmation from anyone official, but regular programming was off air, the news stations were tracking a meteor that may or may not hit the Earth. The best opinions said it didn’t matter if it hit or not, it would be a close enough pass that there would be massive damage. Maybe the human race would be facing extinction. The government was strangely silent on the subject. And that had made him worry even more. The pass was estimated to be right over the tip of south America. So maybe formalities like Alpha clearance weren’t all that important any longer. If only Mike Bliss had given that some thought before he had pissed him off.

The halls were silent, nearly empty. Gloss white panels eight feet high framed it. It had always reminded Black of a maze with its twists and turns. Here and there doors hung open. Empty now. Always closed any other time he had been down here. So it had come this far too, Black thought. He stopped at a door that looked like any other door and a split second later the door rose into the ceiling and Major Weston waved them in.

Alice, he had never learned her last name, sat at her desk, her eyes on them as they walked past her. One hand rested on the butt of a matte black .45 caliber pistol in a webbed shoulder holster that was far from Army issue, and Sammy had no doubt she would shoot them both before they could even react. Alice was etched into one of those name pins that the Army seemed to like so well, but oddly, just Alice, no last name, rank or anything else. She wore no uniform, just a black coverall. The kind with the elastic ankle and wrist cuffs. No insignia there either. He had noticed that months before. Her eyes remained flat and expressionless as they passed her desk.

“Alice,” Sammy said politely. She said nothing at all, but she never did.

“Sit down, boys,” Major Weston told them. He spoke around the cigar in his mouth: Dead, but they always were, and there was never the smell of tobacco in the office. They took the two chairs that fronted the desk.

The Major was looking over a large monitor on the opposite wall that showed the north American continent. This map showed small areas of red, including the northern section where they were. The rest of the map was covered with green. “Where we are, and where we need to be,“ he said as he pushed a button on his desk. The monitor went blank. He turned to face the two.

“So here is where we are. You know, as does most of the world, that we are expecting a near miss from DX2379R later on tonight.” He held their eyes.

John shrugged. “I’ve been doing a little job, must have missed that. It’s not gonna take us out is it?”

“Saw that on the news a few days back. Guess we dodged a bad one,” Sammy said.

“Right… Right,” Weston said quietly. “But that cover was nothing but bullshit.”

“It’s going to hit us?” John asked.

“Maybe… The fact is that we don’t know. One group says this, another group says that, but it doesn’t matter because it will probably kill us off anyway. Direct hit, near miss, it is going to tip over an already bad situation with the Yellowstone Caldera.” He raised his eyes, “Familiar with that?”

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy said.

John nodded in agreement.

Weston laughed. “Put simply, yes. Yellowstone has always been an anomaly to us. Back in 1930 the Army did an exploratory survey of that area. What we came up with was that there was a section of the Rocky Mountains missing. Looked at from the top of Mount Washburn it was easy for the team to see that the largest crater of an extinct volcano known to exist lay before them.”

“I guess that’s about what I thought,” Sammy agreed.

“Yeah. We all think that. Except it is not true at all because the Yellowstone caldera is not extinct, it is active. Active and about to pop. There have been several warnings, but we took the recording stations off line quite some time ago, so there has been no mention of it in the news. Budget cuts,” he shrugged. “So everyone is focused on this meteor that may or may not hit us and instead this volcanic event is going to blow up and when that happens the rest won’t matter at all.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor came to life. “All the red areas are spots where the surface pressure has increased. There was, at one time, many active volcanoes on the north American continent.” He clicked a button and the map changed to a view of the European continent with many of the same red shaded areas.

“All over the Earth… Higher pressures. Up until a few days ago the brainiacs were still arguing over whether this could even happen.” He laughed. “It is happening and they are arguing over whether it can happen. Well, we had our little debates and then we realized that history shows clearly that this has happened before. Several times. Call it the Earth’s way of cleansing itself.”

“But it’s not an absolute, right?”Sammy asked.

“Don’t start sounding like the scientists.” He reached below his desk and came up with six small silver cartridges. Each had a red button mounted on the top with a protective cap over the button itself. He clicked a button on his desk, and a picture of destruction appeared on the screens. It was obviously an aerial shot, looking down at a chain of islands. Smoke hung over the chain, reaching as high as the plane itself. As the plane dropped lower, rivers of red appeared. “That picture is an hour old. That is… Was, the Hawaiian chain.”

Sammy twisted further to the side, staring at the monitor. “How can that be… I mean everyone would know about it.” He turned back to Weston.

Weston nodded. “And that would be true except the satellites are out because of the asteroid. Shut down to avoid damage. That is the official word.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor went dead once more. “I started this out saying that none of it matters and that is true. The Yellowstone caldera is going to erupt sometime in the next few days. Not a maybe, not an educated guess: If the satellites were up you would know that the park is closed. It has already started. We have had a few small quakes, but the big stuff is on the way. He rolled the cartridges across the desktop; Sammy and John caught them.

“Super volcanoes… Earthquakes that modern civilization has never seen… The last super eruption was responsible for killing off the human population some seventy-four thousand years ago. Reduced it to a few thousand. And that is not the biggest one we have evidence of.” He lifted his palms and spread them open, sighing as he did. “So it is a double whammy. If we survive the meteor the volcanoes get us, or the earthquakes because of them, or we’ll die from injuries. And I think those of us who die outright will be lucky. The rest of us will have a hard time of it… Staying alive with nothing… We will probably all starve to death.” He paused in the silence.

“Those cartridges are a compound developed right here in this complex for the armed forces. Project Super Soldier. SS for short. That kept people from looking too deep, they assumed it was something to do with the Nazi youth movement here and abroad. We let that misconception hold.” He waited a second for his words to sink in. “SS is designed to prolong life past the normal point of termination. It allows a soldier to survive longer without food and more importantly without water. Does something to the cells of the host, I don’t pretend to know what. What I do know is that the people above me made the decision to release this…” He picked up a mug of coffee from the desk and sipped deeply. His eyes were red road maps, Sammy noticed now. Like he hadn’t slept in a few days.

“So this is it for us. I guess you realize that you probably won’t get paid for this. No money is going to show up in your account. I will run it through before I pull the plug, but I truly believe the machinery will be dead by the time payday rolls around. So this is something I’m asking you to do.” He pointed to the cartridges that both men were looking over. Sammy held his as though it might bite him.

“Those babies are really all we have to hope with. Most people will die outright. They will never make it past the quakes, eruptions, and the resulting ash clouds and gases. Up here we should be okay as far as gases go, eruptions, but there are fault lines that crisscross this area. This whole facility is bored from limestone caverns. Probably won’t make it through the quakes, although it is a good eighty miles from the closest line,” he shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. My point is there should be a good chance for survivors here.”

“So we do what with these? Can they harm us?” John asked.

“Harm you, kill you? No, but you will be infected the minute you push that button. It will protect you the same as anyone else. There is enough in a single cartridge to infect about five hundred million people,” Weston said quietly.

“Whoa,” Sammy whistled. “Why infect… Why not inoculate? And why six cartridges… Three Billion people?”

“Minimum, three billion. That is before those infected pass it along themselves: After a while it won’t matter. As to the question of infected, this is a designer virus. You catch it just like the flu. We infected whole platoons by releasing it in the air over them. Eighty-Nine point seven percent infection rate, but that doesn’t really matter because it infects people close to you and those people will infect you… Sneezing, waste, sex, water, food, it gets into and on everything. And once it is in you, either orally or via bloodstream you will be infected. The human body has nothing to fight it, no reason to be alarmed or believe it’s anything more than a virus. And that same response will help to carry it to every area of the body as your own defenses manufacture white blood cells to fight it. So you may as well say a one hundred percent infection rate.” He paused and rubbed at his temples.

“Be glad they decided on this. They have some others that will kill everybody in the world in a matter of days.” Weston nodded at the raised eyebrows that greeted his remarks. “I don’t doubt that the merits of which way to go were hotly debated,” he finished gravely.

“The virus is designed to live within the host, but it can live outside of the host. It can stay alive in a dead body for days, even if the body is frozen. In fact that just freezes the virus too, once the body is thawed it will infect any living person that comes along. So those,” he pointed to the silver cartridges, “are overkill. Same stuff is being released across the globe. Great Briton… Germany… Australia… West coast just a few hours ago. Manhattan has already been done, all the East Coast in fact. I want the two of you to head out from here. One vial here, then one of you head west, the other south. Go for the bigger cities… Water supplies… Reservoirs… Release it in the air or water, it doesn’t matter. There are men heading out from the south, the west coast. The Air Force will be dispersing the same stuff via cargo planes tomorrow or the next day… As long as they can fly, if we can even make it that long, and that isn’t looking really good right now…” He rose from the desk. “I’ll see you out.” He turned to Alice. “Alice… Pack us up.” Alice nodded as Sammy and John got to their feet, but her hand remained on the butt of the pistol. Rubber grips, Sammy noticed as he passed her.

“Alice,” he said.

“Um hmm,” Alice murmured.

Sammy nearly stopped in his tracks, but managed to hide his surprise as he passed by into the hallway. The Major fished two sets of keys from his pocket. “Parked in the back lot. A couple of plain Jane Dodge four-bys. Drive ’em like you stole ’em. Leave ’em where you finish up. Hell, keep ’em if you want ’em. Nobody is going to care.”

The three stood in the hallway for a few seconds longer. Sammy’s eyes locked with the Major’s own, and he nodded. The major walked back into his office, and the door rose from its pocket behind him. Quiet, except the slight buzzing from the fluorescent lights.

John shrugged as his eyes met Sammy’s, waiting.

Sammy sighed. “You heard the man… West or south?”

“Flip for it?” John asked. His mouth seemed overly dry and he licked his lips nervously.

Sammy pulled a quarter from his pocket and flipped it into the air. “Call it, Johnny.”

“Tails,” John said just before the quarter hit the carpet.

Sammy bent forward. “Tails it is. You got it, Johnny.”

John looked down at the carpet. “West, I guess.” John said.

Sammy nodded, looked down once more at the quarter and then both men turned and walked away toward the elevator that would take them back to the surface.

Watertown Center New York

Shop and Save Convenience store:

Haley Mae

1:30 AM

“Last one,” Neil said.

Neil was a detective for the sheriffs’ department. It was closing in on 2:00 AM and he and his partner Don had just come back from six hours of sleep to get a jump on the day. Yesterday one of the checkout girls had disappeared between the Shop And Save, a small mini mart on the western outskirts of the city, and home. Earlier this morning she had turned up dead in a ditch just a quarter mile from the front door. The techs were still processing the scene, but it was looking personal. Stabbed to death, multiple wounds, no defense wounds, at least none that he or Don had been able to see, and fully clothed. Her purse had been found nearby, wallet and cash inside. No ID, but her store ID had still been clipped to her shirt. They would know more in a few days once the coroner did her magic. It all pointed to someone she knew, and they had no known boyfriend. The trailer park where she lived had turned up nothing, they had questioned some people at the convenience store, but some had been off shift, so here they were back at the store questioning the other employees.

They had commandeered the night manager’s office which was barely larger than a broom closet, but at least it was a place to sit with enough space left over to call in the workers and ask their questions. Free coffee via the same night manager, who had still not gone home, was taking a little of the six hours of sleep sting off, but to Neil free coffee in a convenience store was like a whore offering a free shot of penicillin to the first twenty five customers.

“Who’s next?” Don asked.

The last half hour they had been interviewing the people who worked the same shifts as Amber Kneeland.

“Haley Mae,” Neil said.

Don looked up and stopped writing in his little notebook.  “How do you,” spell her name, he had meant to ask Neil, but she was right in front of him.

“EM. A. E,” she said with a smile.

“Vietnamese?” Don asked. She was obviously mixed race, African American and Asian, he questioned himself.

“Japanese,” she told him.

“Nice name,” Neil said, “Haley.”

Beautiful girl, Don thought. “Did you know Amber Kneeland?  Sometimes works this shift?” he asked.

“Not really,” she answered. “I mean, I met her, but only in passing… I just started here myself.”

She really is beautiful, Don thought. “You wouldn’t know if she had a boyfriend… Other friends?” he asked.

Haley shook her head. “Sorry,” she said… “What has she done?”

“Nothing,” Neil supplied.

“She went missing last night,” Don said. “Turned up dead this morning.”

Haley shook her head. “Oh my God. That’s horrible. She was such a nice girl… Quiet.”

Neil nodded his head. “So maybe you did know her a little better than you thought?”

“I just started here a few weeks back, and like I said, I don’t really know her… But it might be a girlfriend not a boyfriend.”

Don looked at her. “You wouldn’t know who?”

“No. It’s just a rumor. Someone said it to me… I don’t even remember who… But I’ve never seen her with a guy, and I have seen her with other girls… Maybe also the way she looked at me a few times…”

“Go out with her?” Don asked.

“No… Never… I…”

“Don’t swing that way?” Don added.

Haley frowned slightly before she answered. “I work. I don’t swing any way. But if I did she wasn’t my type. She never asked me out, I never asked her out.”

“Didn’t mean to offend you,” Don said. He shrugged. “She’s dead.”

“She would probably do the same for you,” Neil said.

Haley nodded. “That really is all I know. I hope you find who did it though. She seemed like a nice girl,” Haley said.

“You don’t seem the type for this… Bagging groceries at 2:00 am,” Don said, changing the subject. “You aren’t local or I’d know you… This city really is small despite the base.”

Haley smiled. “Came here a year back with a boyfriend, Army. He left, forgot all about me, I guess. I had this idea of modeling… Tough to get a foot in a door though.”

“Wow, if he left you behind he must be a fucking idiot… Any good?” Neil asked.

Haley laughed.

“Excuse mister smooth there,” Don told her. Neil feigned a hurt look and Haley laughed again. “He meant, have you done anything? I know somebody… Might be interested.”

Haley arched her eyebrows. “I can model. I did a You Jeans ad back in Georgia a few years ago. I just need to prove it to the right person.”

“Escorting? Maybe dancing. It’s strictly escorting or dancing, no funny stuff. Dance clubs… Clothing modeling,” Neil said.

“Probably start out escorting… Dance a little… Then if he likes you he’ll put you into the modeling end of things. He owns a lot of shit… Several car dealerships across the state… Some of the biggest dance clubs, clothing outlets, those bargain places, but still, modeling is modeling, right? Not the big name stuff, but it is a foot in the door,” Don added.

“I can do that,” she said slowly.

Neil passed her a white business card with his own name scrawled across the back. “Tell him I sent you… That’s my name on the back.”

“Jimmy Vincioni,” Haley asked.

“Just V… Jimmy V, good guy,” Neil said.

Haley nodded and tucked the card into her front jean pocket. “I’ll call him… Thanks. Look…” Her voice dropped to a near whisper. “I’m pretty sure she had a girlfriend here… I just don’t know who,” Haley added quietly.

Don finished writing in his notebook, nodded once he met her eyes and then shook the hand she offered. She walked away.

“Beautiful,” Neil said.

“Absolutely,” Don agreed. “You ain’t getting none of that though.”

“Yeah? But if Jimmy V hires her? It’ll be the next best thing.”

Don shook his head, but smiled. His eyes rose and watched as Haley walked away. “Guess I’ll have to have a few drinks at the club if that happens.”

Neil chuckled low. “You and me both,” he agreed.


ONE

March 1st

Watertown New York

Off Factory Square: Joel Morrison

5:00 PM

Joel sat at the bar and watched football on one of the big screen TV’s Mort had put in. It was a slow game, he was tired, and his mind kept turning to other things. He couldn’t concentrate. Part of the allure of the Rusty Nail was the quiet. After a 12 hour shift at the mill with the constant noise from the huge machinery, the quiet had been nice. But that had all changed once the bar had become popular with the nearby base. He needed to go home. The crowd in the bar was starting to build and the noise was giving him the beginnings of a headache. He caught Mort’s eye and went back to his thoughts as he waited.

The Rusty Nail had always been a locals only bar up until a few years back when the economy had taken a nose dive. The nail was wedged up a side street off Factory square. Not exactly easy to find, and that had hurt business too as the old people left and the new people came in.

Mort, Mortimer to anybody that felt like being tossed out on their ass, had nearly lost the small bar and the building above it to the bank. The building above it had six small apartments that Mort had purposely left empty when he had bought the building fresh out of the service thirty years back. Who wanted to deal with tenants, he had said then. But times changed, and so he had sold his house, moved himself into one of the apartments, and then sold the bank on remortgaging the whole building as well as renovating the other five apartments. The bank had come up with a loan that took all of that into account and added a second income source from the apartments that could pay the monthly mortgage and put a good chunk of change into his pocket too.

He had signed on the x, taken their money, renovated the building, moved in the tenants and then taken a hard look at the Rusty Nail. He had decided to completely gut the bar and do it over. He had dumped far too much into the renovations though, including being closed for nearly a full month, and then opened it to find that the economy had taken an even deeper nose dive during those nearly thirty days. The third month into the new mortgage and he had found that he was maybe in a bad spot already.

Joel remembered now that he had sat right at the end of the bar when Mort had talked it over with some others, Moon Calloway, Johnny Barnes, Jim Tibbets, Joel had been welcome to include his two cents which he had declined to do.

“Well, what you do is put the word out to those cab drivers. Believe me, I’ve seen it. They will have them soldiers down here in no time, even if you are off the beaten path,” Jim had said. Jim was a school bus driver for the north side district and less than a year away from a fatal car accident on the interstate. Jeff Brown, who had been a local football star, was doing ten years up at Clinton Correctional for hitting Jim’s car head on drunk and killing him. But that night Jim had still been alive and had wanted to be a part of the New Rusty Nail that Mort had in mind. Something a little more modern. Modern bought the soldiers, but more importantly it also bought women.

“I’m not paying a cab driver to bring me G.I.’s,” Mort had said. “And I know your game. You’re just hoping to get laid out of it.”

They had all laughed at that, except Jim who had turned red. But after a few seconds he had laughed too, and the conversation had plodded forward the way bar conversations do.

“Well, you ain’t got to pay them exactly, give them a couple beers,” Moon threw in.

“Jesus Christ,” Mort exclaimed. “That’s why you boys ain’t in business. You think the beer is free.”

“I know it ain’t free, Mort,” Jim said. “But it don’t cost you that much. You get it wholesale.”

“Wholesale? I drive right out to that wholesale club and buy it by the case most of the time just like everybody else. Cheaper than them beer guys, except draft, of course. That ain’t free. You got to pay the yearly club fee. You got to pay them taxes to the feds. You got a lot you got to pay for. Some fuck crushes your can you’re fucked for that nickle. Jesus… wholesale my ass. It ain’t no bargain.”

“Yeah? … Let’s see,” Moon starting writing in the air with his finger. You get it for let’s say six bucks a case, I know that cause that’s what I pay out there too. So six bucks divided by 24 is,” he drew in the air for a few moments, erased it, and then started over. “How the fuck do you do that, Joey… The six goes into the twenty-four? Or times the twenty-four?” Moon asked.

“Uh, it’s a quarter a can,” I had supplied.

The argument had raged on from there. Once Moon found out he was paying a buck fifty for a can of beer that only cost a quarter he was pissed off.

In the end Mort had talked to a couple of cab drivers. Free draft beer one night a week if they bought soldiers by all week long and told as many others as possible about the place. Within two weeks Joel hadn’t recognized the place when he had come by after shift to have a couple of beers. The soldiers drank a lot of beer, the bank mortgage got paid, and life was fine. Except for the fights, Joel thought, but you can’t load young guys up on alcohol and not expect trouble. Especially when those young men were just waiting on the word to go and maybe die in another battle that remained undeclared as a war. High stress levels meant heavy duty unloading. The M.P.’s got to know the place as well as the soldiers did.

“Joel, you ready?” Mort asked now.

Joel smiled. “I was thinking back…” He had to shout to be heard. Tomorrow his voice would be hoarse. “This place was empty! … Yeah… One more then I gotta go,” Joel agreed.

Mort leaned closer. “Gov’ment tit. I know it, but screw it. It’s all the Gov’ment tit. Road and Bridge projects. Job centers. One way or the other it comes out the same. Even them subsidies so the paper mills can still run. It’s all the Gov’ment tit, ain’t it, Joel?”

“Its is,” Joel shouted. He nodded. It was. This town would have dried up years ago without it. Mort left and then came back a few moments later with a fresh beer.

“Vacation?” Mort yelled.

Joel nodded. “Two weeks of silence,” He shook his head at the irony and Mort’s laughing agreement was drowned out by the noise.

“If I don’t see you, have a good one,” Mort said leaning close.

Joel nodded. “I will.” He raised his glass and then tossed off half of it. A few moments later he was outside on the relatively quiet sidewalk punching numbers into his phone, calling for a cab. The night was cold, but the cold sobered him up. It seemed nearly capable of washing away the smoke and noise from inside the bar. He stood in the shadows beside the door waiting for the phone to ring on the other end. The door bumped open and Johnny Barnes stepped out.

“You ain’t calling for a cab, are you?” Johnny asked when he spotted him.

Joel laughed and ended the still ringing call. “Not if I can get a free ride from you.” Joel told him.

“Yeah, you were always a cheap prick,” Johnny agreed. “Hey, I heard you’re heading into the southern tier tomorrow?”

“Two weeks,” Joel agreed as he levered the door handle on Johnny’s truck and climbed inside. His breath came in clouds of steam. “Get some heat in here, Johnny.”

“Coming,” Johnny agreed. “Man, I wish I was you.”

“Me too,” Joel agreed.

Johnny laughed. “Asshole, but seriously, man. Have a good time. You gonna hunt?”

“Nothing in season… Maybe snare some rabbits. Not gonna be a lot this time of year.” Joel said.

“Maybe deer,” Johnny offered. He dropped the truck in drive just as the heat began to come from the vents.

“Probably, but they’ll be out of season. Rabbit, and I got freeze dried stuff. Trucks packed, which is why I didn’t drive it down here.”

The truck drove slowly through the darkening streets as the street lights began to pop on around the small city: The two men laughing and exchanging small talk.

Public Square

Pearl (Pearly) Bloodworth

6:20 PM

The streets were clogged with snow, but the sidewalks were impassable, so she had no choice but to walk in the street.

She made her way carefully, slipping and sliding as she went. It was just before 6:30 P.M. and she might make it to work on time if she could make the next two blocks without incident.

She had been working at the downtown mission for the last several months: The night shift for the last two months. The mission night shift was an easy shift. Everything was closed down. Those who had made the curfew were locked in for the night. Occasionally there would be a little trouble between residents, but that was rare. Watertown was small, as a consequence the homeless population was small. And trouble, when it came, was usually settled long before her shift. Her shift amounted to catching up on paperwork, dispensing an aspirin or two, and being there if there was an emergency of any kind. At 4:00 A.M. The kitchen staff would be there to start their day. Shortly after that the rest of the day-shift would be in. At 6:00 A.M. The mission doors would open and the homeless would take to the streets. She would have an hour of quiet at the end of her shift, sitting and listening to the bustle from the kitchen as they cleaned up after breakfast and began to prepare for lunch.

She heard the approaching vehicle as she was stepping around a mound of melting snow and ice. It was late and there had been no traffic on this side street when she had stepped into the street at the cross walk three blocks down. The alternative was the foot deep snow and ice thrown onto the sidewalk from the plows. She would never get through that and make it to the mission on time.

The Mission was on upper Franklin street, a short walk in a straight line, or even if you had to walk around the square and start up, as she usually did, but tonight the square was packed with traffic and so she had chosen the shortcut instead. Unfortunately it was not well lit: A four block wasteland of parking lots and alleyways.

She had almost turned completely around to make sure the car had seen her when the horn blared and startled her. A second later she finished the turn, hand clasped to her throat, and watched as the car skidded to a stop and three men piled out of the back seat slipping and sliding in the slush, laughing.

“What’s up, bitch,” one asked as he found his feet and stood staring her down. The laughter died away.

“Nice ass,” another said as he moved toward her.

She turned to the second man, the one who had just spoken, as she shrugged her purse from her shoulder, caught the bottom of it in one hand, and slipped her other hand inside. The third man, really just a boy, looked frightened as his eyes slipped from his two companions and then flitted to her. The driver leaned out the window,

“What the fuck! Get the bitch!” He was looking over the roof-line, sitting on the windowsill of the driver’s door, a smirk on his too-white face.

“Yeah… How about a ride, baby,” the nearest one said. The other had finally found his feet, stopped slipping, and was skidding his feet across the slush heading in her direction. She pulled her hand from her pocket and aimed the mace canister at them. They both skidded to a stop.

The closer one, the one that had made the remark about her ass, cocked his head sideways, shrugged his shoulders and then pulled a gun from his waist band. “Yeah… Kind of changes the whole situation, don’t it?” He asked.

“Roux! Don’t shoot the bitch. She’s no good to us dead!” This from the man-boy leaning out the window of the car.

The boy, Roux, turned to the driver and nodded. He looked back at Pearl. His gun was aimed at the ground, close to her feet. She had only a split second to decide. He was less than five feet away, the gun rising from the ground, when she pushed the trigger and watched the stream leap at him. His face went from a sarcastic smirk to alarm just before the stream of mace hit his nose and splattered across his face and into his eyes. A second later he was screaming. She had just turned to aim at the second guy when the world turned upside down.

She found herself tumbling sideways. Somewhere, close by, a roar began and rose in pitch as the ground below her feet began to jump and shake. She found her knees after she fell and skidded across the roadway as she tried to hold herself, but the shaking was just too hard. She collapsed back to the roadway and the relative softness of the slush and snow, her body jumping and shaking as she seemed almost to bounce across the short expanse and into the snowbank on the opposite side of the road.

The roar went on for what seemed like minutes as she tried to catch her breath and steady herself at the same time. Both seemed impossible to do, but almost as soon as she had the thought the trembling of the earth became less and a split second after that the roaring stopped. There was no silence. The sound of breaking glass, tumbling brick, blaring horns and screams in the dark night replaced the roar. Sounds that had probably been there, she decided, she had just been unable to hear them.

Pearl made her feet and stared back down the street where the car had been. The car was still there, the nose tilted upward, the back seemingly buried in the street itself. She blinked, but nothing changed. She noted the broken asphalt and churned up dirt, and realized the car had broken through the street. There was no sign of the men, including the driver that had been hanging halfway out of the window.

She drew a breath, another, and suddenly the noise and smells of the world rushed back in completely. The screams became louder. Horns blared. The ground trembled under her feet as if restless. She could smell sewage on the air. Broken lines below the pavement her mind reasoned. She swayed on her feet as the earth trembled once more, lurching as it did. She waited, but the tremble was not repeated. She sucked in another deep breath and then began to walk, slipping on the broken pavement and slush as she did.

Franklin street appeared untouched as she lurched from the side street, slipping over the broken pavement, and retching from the overpowering smell of sewer gas. She collapsed to the icy pavement, skidding on her knees and was surprise to hear herself crying as she struggled to get back on her feet.

She nearly made it to her feet before the next tremor hit, this one much harder than the last one. She bounced sideways, knees slamming into the ground, crying out as they did, but unaware of her own cries. Just as the trembling stopped she made her feet again and stood, hand clasped to her knees to steady herself, breathing hard, holding herself rigidly, wondering what was coming next. When the shaking stopped and silence flooded in she was shocked.

She finally opened her eyes, she had no idea when she had closed them, straightened from the bent posture she had found herself in, quieted her sobbing and looked around.

Forty feet away, the gray stone of the mission that had rose just past the sidewalk was no more: Churned earth had replaced it. The sidewalk was still intact, as though some weird sort of urban renewal had occurred in a matter of seconds. Her eyes swept the street and now they took in the sections where the sidewalk was missing. The entire side of the street was gone for blocks. What was in evidence was an old house several hundred feet away, perched on the edge of a ravine. Beyond that, houses and streets continued. She was on the opposite side of complete destruction, and there appeared no way to reach that side.

She turned and looked back at the side street she had come from. Churned earth, tilted pavement, the car was now gone. Farther down the short hillside that had appeared the public square seemed completely destroyed. Water had formed in the middle of the square and ran away to the north, probably toward the Black river, Pearl thought. To the west everything appeared to be intact, to the east, Franklin street stretched away untouched toward the park in the distance. Close by someone began to scream, calling for help. She took a few more calming breaths and then began to walk toward the screams: The west, angling toward the opposite end of the square.

The screams cut off all at once, and a second after that the sound of a motor straining came to her. Cycling up and then dropping. She paused in the middle of the road, listening, wondering where the sound came from. As she stood something ran into her eye, stinging,  clouding her vision, she reached one hand up and swiped at it and the back of her hand came back stained with a smear of blood.

She stared at it for a second. The ground seemed to lurch, shift suddenly, and she reached her hands to her knees to brace herself once more, expecting the shaking to start again, but her hands slipped past her knees and she found herself falling, her legs buckling under her. The ground seemed to rise to meet her and she found herself staring down the length of the roadway, her face flush with the asphalt. The coldness of the ice and slush felt good against her skin: As if she were overheated; ice wrapped inside of a dishrag at the base of her neck on a hot day. She blinked, blinked again, and then her world went dark…


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