A free look at Earth’s Survivors: Rising From The Ashes
Conner and Katie
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.”
“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 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 Lydia,” Conner said.
Katie nodded. “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 a while.” 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 and with the base over in Jersey so close by, even more, but I had never been in a gang or knew what one was really about until I was introduced to that life in Rochester 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 its pink-red light only to fade away without ever actually rising.
The air became warmer throughout the day, and what little snow 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 factory 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 factory.
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.
West of Mexico NY: Mike
Things had gone bad fast. There had been two significant earthquakes, the first time he had nearly wrecked the truck, and the second one came as he was pulled to the side of the road trying to ease the pain that had come back full tilt in his head. The truck leapt forward, and then darted sideways; Mike managed to get his hand out to stop his head from smashing into the dashboard, but only barely. The truck had finally stopped rocking and the world came back into focus. He pulled the truck back onto the roadway, careful of all the new cracks and devastation, and found his way to a small roadside strip mall a few miles farther down.
The lot was deserted. Half the store at the opposite end was collapsed. A small mini mart, a drug store and a pawn shop were still standing; untouched. He had made his way into the small store, found the drug aisle and was surprised to see it intact. The one back in Rochester had been emptied of drugs.
The leg was swollen against the pants material; the rags he had wrapped around it had stopped the blood flow, but had done nothing for infection. He peeled the rags away now, taking a good part of his skin with it, and looked the wound over.
Something had punched a deep hole into his leg. The area that had pulled away was oozing puss now, the skin around it red and swollen. He had helped himself to a bottle of peroxide, some antibiotic cream, iodine and some bandage. He scrounged up a fast meal while he worked up the nerve to work on the leg. He probably wouldn’t feel like eating afterwards.
He had no fever, and he counted that as a good thing. He finished some energy bars and three bottles of water before he limped off to find what he still needed. Two aisles over he found a small knitting needle. The point was sharp. It was wide enough to allow him to push it in to get to the abscess he was sure was there. He carried it back to the aisle then decided maybe something to help with the pain might help. He searched, but there was nothing stronger than beer in the now warm coolers, and that was covered with a gray moss he didn’t want to chance touching. The drug store nearby probably had some pain pills he could take, but he wouldn’t know how much would be safe. It probably wasn’t a good idea to be out of it in this world any longer. Maybe later, he decided. He would have to visit to get antibiotics anyway. Reluctantly he limped back to the aisle and sat with his back against the shelving as he arranged the items he needed around him.
The peroxide came first. He broke the seal and poured half the bottle over the wound. There was some pain, but the bubbling and foam that appeared told him what he had already guessed, the infection was bad.
He spun the top off the iodine, spilled a little into the dimple of the puncture wound and then inserted the knitting needle into the bottle and left it to soak in the iodine. He wasn’t positive if it could disinfect it, but he was reasonably sure it could. The pain was intense when the iodine hit the raw wound, but it abated after a few moments. He picked up the needle, but just touching the wound with it sent shock waves of pain up his leg.
He stopped, stretched backwards against the shelving, bracing himself firmly. His breathing was hard and fast, tears had squirted from his eyes and stained his dirty cheeks as they rolled away to his jaw line. Sweat had instantly broken out on his brow. He couldn’t stop at a mere touch. He had to shove the needle down far enough to be sure he punctured the abscess so it could drain. He steeled himself, took a deep breath, centered the needle over the dimple and drove it down into his leg before he could think anymore about it. The pain came fast, but his mind shut down just as quickly.
He had awakened hours later, the sunlight lower in the front windows. The leg was draining freely, fresh blood now, but he could see that the poison had also drained. His head felt better, his stomach more settled. He took his time and grimaced only slightly as he poured first the remaining peroxide into the wound, and then the balance of the iodine. Both hurt, but the pain was nothing like it had been. Antibiotic cream and some bandage and he was finished. He sat, staring down at his hands: Dirt, blood, who knew what else. He made his feet and limped off into the store looking for supplies for the road. A few moments later he was loading them into the passenger side of the truck. A quick search through the drug store turned up antibiotics, an ace bandage that might help, and some vitamins. He didn’t know if the vitamins could help, but he was sure they couldn’t hurt. A few minutes later he had bent the pawnshop’s steel mesh, protective door open and smashed out the front door glass with a jack handle from the truck. The exercise was making his leg hurt, but the skies were turning dark and he wanted to hurry before nightfall came.
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 and 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.
The leg of the jeans he had been wearing was a tattered wreck. Blood and gore streaked the leg to his boot top. The once white sock stained deep red and black in places. He needed clothes. His shirt stank, and was stuck to him with sweat. His boots, he hadn’t really noticed until he had just taken a hard look at them, 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.
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.
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