The Barn At Hell’s Gate
Stories from "In the After"
Episode 2: Encounter at the Old Barn
Shelia realized her plan to take route 8 north to 20 east then on to Albany wasn’t going to work. She heard that the Insane had set up road blocks and were exacting tolls from anyone who couldn’t prove they were Insane. She turned left out of her drive and went to the house that had irritated her for the last 4 years with its ratty I-heart-the-waste-of-DNA flag flapping on the mailbox.
She had daydreams of soaking that damn flag in lemon juice so it would bleach out. Or cutting tiny holes in it so the wind would shred it. Turned out she didn’t need to assist the destruction of these stupid flags. The fabric and inks were of such poor quality they destroyed themselves. These particular Insane people had replaced their ratty flag 6 times already. Always the same one, the stars and stripes with the waste-of-DNA’s face in the middle.
Shelia slowed to a crawl, reached out and plucked the flag out of its mailbox holder. She spit on it as she threw it into the well of the passenger seat. Kenny, her dog started chewing on the pole. The sight of Kenny chomping on the disrespectful flag filled Shelia with joy.
Shelia had a plan to follow the back roads. There were generally very few cars on these roads, so the Insane would not find them profitable. The first check point/toll booth was just across the bridge on 80. She wrestled the flag away from Kenny. He whimpered in disappointment. Shelia waved it out the window with her left arm trying to hide her face. The Insane waved her forward. Shelia felt Immense relief, this plan was going to work.
Thirty minutes down the road unobstructed,
“So far so good” thought Shelia.
As Shelia crested a hill just before the turn on to 28N she saw a long line of cars and trucks stopped by a massive Hellgate. Hellgate is the name Shelia had come up with for these roadblock toll booths. She had a habit of renaming things. People took offense sometimes. It seemed to be just how her mind worked. The woman at work who answered the phone “Hello, Library” became, well, Library woman. The woman who always ordered spinach salad, Spinach Salad Lady. The people who followed The-Waste-of-DNA were the Insane. Three of her brothers were Insane. Shelia just couldn’t figure out why the-Waste-of-DNA had such power over them.
She pulled over to assess the situation at the Hellgate. Using the binoculars left by the previous owners of her farm, she saw the Insane were armed and going through every car. So much for her plan. She was at a spot where she could make an illegal lefthand turn onto one of the countless no name roads in the area.
Huffing she says to Kenny “What’s legal got to do with?”
Kenny was whining and complaining with growing intensity. Poor dog must need to go something fierce. Shelia pulled into a driveway of a long gone farm house. The peonies and rhododendron had survived and marked the four corners of the house that was no longer there. She grabbed Kenny’s leash hooked him up and had him jump out her side of the car.
Kenny nearly leaped for joy from his relief! Looking around Shelia saw that the old barn had survived. Some Insane had even put a huge I-heart-the-waste-of-DNA flag on it. She cautiously led Kenny toward the barn. There were fresh tire tracks in the tall grass going right to the barn door and under it.
Shelia looked around carefully and didn’t see anyone. She circled back to the car and grabbed her gun just in case. She walked in the track of the car tires not wanting to leave a visible foot print. The west side of the barn had sections of siding that had blown off or broken.
“The wind is fierce here from the West, just like my place.” Shelia thought out loud.
Shelia felt tears welling up as she saw in her mind the flames lapping the roof and racing through the fields at her farm. Even though she’d set the fire herself, it still hurt to see all that labor of love being consumed by fire.
There was still day light streaming into the barn through the broken sidewalls. Particles of hay from the loft drifted down like snow. One large piece of straw was swirling in a beautiful vortex as it floated toward the ground. It landed on a piece of black tubing. On second look Shelia realized it was an AK 47 laying there. She blinked several times to adjust her eyes to the scattered light. Guns and ammunition were tucked in every where. Stacked in the old cow stall were long rifles. Where harness and tackle are usually hung were belts of ammunition and gun holsters. There was something large and cylindrical covered with a tarp toward the back of the barn.
A cold shiver ran down Shelia’s spine. Kenny started pulling on the leash. He wanted to go, he was bored sniffing this spot. Shelia let him lead the way around the back of the barn. There they encountered rows and rows of gas cans lined up like soldiers. She picked one up, it was full.
She could see a trailer up the hill from the back of the barn. It wasn’t visible from the street. The lights in the trailer had just flicked on. She quickly checked the eves of the barn and surrounding trees to see if there were motion detecters or cameras anywhere. Seemed clear. She could hear a women yelling,
“You gonna end up in jail for this shit Henry. Why’d you let them dump all that crap here?”
Henry yelled back at the woman,
“Babe you don’t get it, we took the Capitol, we the people, we did that. We killed cops. Stabbed them with the damn flag and guess what? There ain’t no jail anymore!”
The woman screamed back at Henry,
“There is in New York. You didn’t take squat in New York”
Shelia heard a door slam. She looked at the can of gas in her hand, looked at the barn.
“Kenny, car!” Shelia said in a loud whisper.
Kenny dutifully trotted over to the car and jumped in the open window. Sat in his seat ready to go. He was done with this place.
Shelia squeezed into the barn through one of the broken side walls. She pulled the tarp up to see what it was hiding. It was a stack of portable rocket launchers that appeared to be loaded. She put the tarp back down and drenched it in gasoline. She trailed the gas over to the pile of hay by the ammunition, tossed some gas soaked hay into the old cow stall full of ak-47s, then backed her way our leaving a path of hay and gasoline as she went. She picked up another can of gasoline and walked backwards around the barn towards her car. She put it in neutral, told Kenny to stay as she pushed it back down the drive.
“Kenny, close your ears this is gong to be loud!”
She stuffed the ratty I-heart-the-waste-of-DNA flag in the gas can and lite it like a fuse. Shelia tossed the Molotov gas can on her trail of gasoline and hay. She got into the car and pushed it with her left leg even further down the drive way.
Shelia heard the whoosh of flames and saw the gas can melting, then her fire wick caught and slowly at first the fire inched it’s way toward the barn.
“Kenny we’d better get out of here," she whispered. Kenny whimpered in agreement.
She started the car just as another loud whoosh of flame roared into life and covered the noise of the engine turning over. She drove to the top of the next hill and tucked her car in behind some tall raspberry bushes. She popped a few perfectly ripe raspberries in her mouth and heard the man screaming from below,
“SHIT, Shit, Shit, call 911 call 911”
The woman screamed back,
“Are you insane? There ain’t no fucking 911, you and your insane buddies made sure of that now didn’t you.”
Then the rockets exploded and sent pieces of the barn high into the sky. That tarp turned out to be one of the banners they had used on the day before the After. The day they destroyed the Capitol in DC. Sheila stood there and started to sing, as she watched the waste-of-DNA’s face burning inside old glory,
“And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag is still there…Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave….ave…”
“Yes, Kenny, it does. Yes, It does!” said Shelia with pride and relief in her teary voice.
Shelia was just a little more hopeful that the Sane would be able to win this war, after all she by herself had fought and won this battle.
Cars were pouring in from all over now. People got out of their cars and started beating on each other. The Insane were turning on their own.
Shelia rubbed Kenny’s head,
“Let’s get to Albany.” Kenny gave a hardy bark of agreement!
Episode 1 of In the After
The Day the After Began