Predator and Pray
I wasn’t supposed to be the one left alive, at least when the arrests happened, yet here I am in the prison yard – sorry, I mean the Detainee Internment Camp, Kentucky. That’s right, I’m in the DICK. Yes, that’s what we call it, and yes, everyone who works here, is one. It’s a supreme irony that this is a women-only camp. Perhaps the “powers that be” have a sense of humor putting women in the DICK. It could be worse though. One of the guards here used to work at the PRIC (I kid you not) – Puerto Rico Internment Camp. Unspeakable stuff happens there. That’s where they send the most incorrigible men and women who need the most “convincing” concerning how the world is now. Word around the yard is that the PRIC makes the former base at Guantanamo Bay look like a Miami beach vacation, at least before the Cubans laid claim to South Florida. Who knew the world could go to hell so fast? All I know is, my entire family is dead. Husband, son, daughter, and my mom and dad – all gone.
The Frozen Garden
The day after the bronze bull was blown up with a pressure cooker, Jon, Jack, and Pam returned to the old, formerly abandoned farm. Pam wanted to collect the rest of their hidden gear and supplies before it got any colder and Jon still wanted to bury his wife, Sam.
“We’ve got a problem,” said Jack. “Come with me.” Jon Stevens had just finished the last of the sweet stuff in the house: a slice of chocolate cake. There wasn’t much left to eat now after the electromagnetic pulse had killed the power grid a week ago. The smoldering remains of the airbus crash that had killed Cody were finally cool enough for people to pick through the wreckage, and the girls had gone to mourn over where their sons had died. Jack gave Pam his 20-gauge shotgun just in case they ran into trouble. Samantha carried a med kit and hiking pole. Jon was a little leery about letting their wives go to the crash site but relented when he saw there was a larger group of mothers going together.
The Puppet Master's Barn
Samantha Stevens woke up bound with rope cutting into her wrists and ankles, and with a disgusting feeling of nausea in her mouth. Something was creaking, like a swing gently going back and forth in the breeze. With her hands secured behind her and the hazy sunshine coming through cracks in the old barn, Sam tried to remember what happened. Where am I? Rolling over and pushing herself up against the hay bales, she could see the big sliding doors from the loft. More importantly, she could see the giant crossbeam going from one end of the barn to the other – and the source of the creaking hanging from a noose.
Where Grief Meets Fury
Jon Stevens wished he could "unsee" what was ahead of him: Six people making a meal of another human being. He hadn’t seen a living person in weeks, and he preferred it that way since just about every one of those “things” had tried to kill him and make him into dinner. Not that he often carried food because it was hard to come by after the world supply chains collapsed. Human beings were now food for each other.
Hide and Seek
Stop. Breathing. So. Hard. JoAnn breathed each word slowly, trying not to make a sound. She had slid into the secret hole dug out at the base of a massive tree with some exposed roots. She knew if she drew attention to herself, she would be discovered. And that would be worse than bad. Jo thought things were getting dicey when the power grid got hacked last month, but at thirteen years old she had no idea how bad it was going to get. Daddy had told her to find a hiding spot in the woods “just in case.” She now understood as she listened for her pursuers and squinted through the roots.
Cody Stevens had on his favorite dinosaur backpack as he waited for the bus on the first day of kindergarten, but he would never see his family again. Despite barely sleeping the night before the red-headed lad was bubbling with excitement as he raced in circles around his mother and the other parents at the school bus stop. His best friends Thad and Danny were also buzzing around like little bees with nowhere to land. They were identical twins and more than a handful for the entire neighborhood.
I once heard it said that happiness, or the lack thereof, is a state of contentment influenced by outside stimuli. Conversely, I have also heard it said that joy is a state of inner contentment or delight that resists outside influences. For example, I found that when I was outside working in my garden, I experienced happiness. When I discovered that the backyard groundhog (nicknamed “ground cow”) breached my fence and ravished my snap peas, I was unhappy. Obviously, this beast was not related to the well-behaved Punxsutawney Phil on the television. Truthfully, I was angry when my plants were invaded – but my joy for gardening remained. That inner joy was a sign of the creative life inside me. I have learned to enjoy that creative aspect manifested as the intersection of a woman and her dirt.
Time and Tide Do Not Wait
Jon Stevens hadn’t seen a living person in weeks, and he preferred it that way since just about every one of those so-called human beings had tried to kill him for either his meager belongings or for food. Not that he often carried food because it was hard to come by even when he was looking for it – but rather these two-footed beasts considered him to be a convenient source of nourishment. Small animals had become nearly non-existent, at least where people were trying to survive. Big game like deer and bear had moved deeper into wooded areas that were much harder for the hungry few to navigate. Human beings were now food for each other. No one in Jon’s neighborhood saw this coming – the power outage eleven months ago that everyone thought would last a few hours and turned out to be permanent. Now people were eating each other. “How the hell does this happen?” Jon mused to himself walking carefully among the trees along what used to be Interstate 79 North.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Marcus took another long drag on his cigarette, letting the smoke fill his lungs and holding it briefly as the nicotine shot into his bloodstream, and then exhaled slowly as if letting the smoke go was speeding him closer toward his meeting with death. He wasn’t a smoker. Or a drinker for that matter. But when Henry came on shift and offered Marcus the already lit cigarette, something inside just said “Oh, what the hell.”