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.
The Belly of the Beast
Samantha Stevens was dead, hanging from the crossbeam in the old barn – a trap set by the crazy bald guy that had kidnapped her. A trap that Jon Stevens – her normally observant husband - had walked right into.
“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.