March 14th

Rochester NY: Joel and Haley


He was still holding her when he awoke the next morning. Haley awoke a few minutes after he did. She kissed him softly, and said, “Thank you for not being like every other man I’ve met in my life. I could love you, Joel, you know that?”

Joel kissed her back, and then she left to help with breakfast. Glenn wandered over, his eyes bloodshot, a rifle slung across his shoulder.

“Did you see anything last night, Glenn,” Joel asked?

“Zip. I stayed up all night myself, whoever or whatever… They didn’t come back.”

“I thought you were going to switch off with Ed. You should have got me up,” Joel said.

“Was gonna switch off, but… I don’t know, Joel, there’s somethin’ strange with Ed. It seems like he’s walking around with his head stuck halfway up his ass. I ain’t so sure he’s gonna make it,” Glenn finished in a near whisper.

“It happens, some people can’t take it when things get flaky, Glenn. Still, you should have got me up.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter now,” Glenn said grinning. “Besides, it looked like Haley needed you. Looked like you needed her too,” he finished quietly.

“I think we all need each other,” Joel answered, “Ed will come around.”

Once everyone had eaten they packed up the Jeeps; unlocked the garage doors, and backed out into the already hot morning air.

Joel left the cab and motioned the others out of the Jeeps. The quiet of early morning descended.

“We don’t know anything at all about what’s next. If, after a night to sleep on it you have changed your mind, it’s no sin… No one will blame you if you want to go back… Or even somewhere else.” He waited, but no one spoke. No nervous clearing of throats, no uneasy laughter. Nothing. “Okay,” he scrubbed at his face and the beard that was growing across his chin. Marveling at how it could be there at all. “I’d say windows down… Rifles loaded and safeties off… Watch… Follow my lead. If I back up and try to get out of there you follow me. Don’t turn around, just keep it floored in reverse… Let’s just be smart. Maybe those guys were nothing but smoke.” The silence held.

“Smoke or not we can’t run away,” John said. He straightened and smoothed his shirt front.

Joel nodded, looked around once more and then climbed back into the jeep.

They pulled off the service stations paved area; rolled slowly through the intersection and headed into the city of Rochester.

Rochester NY: Joel

Late Morning

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.

The drive into the city in the early morning had seemed uneventful right up until the attack had come. Afterward he had berated himself, cursed himself for not taking the events of the night before more seriously, but he knew that the truth was that none of them had. None of them had, and now he was the only one left. The only one left, and he was alone because of that decision.

They had just passed a large mansion, or what had once been a large mansion on East avenue: Nearly into downtown when the attack had come. The last Jeep, Ed… Terry, Gina? He couldn’t remember for sure, but it didn’t matter, they were only the first to go. The Jeep had blown up behind them. One second it was morning silent; birds whistling from the tree lined street, and the next a roaring fireball had erupted from the Jeep. The Jeep had lifted into the air engulfed with flame, and had come back down a split second later a twisted, shattered wreck. The roof ripped open crudely as if a giant can opener had done the job: Glass gone, body twisted. Blackened shapes, still moving, clearly seen through the flames.

They had all panicked. Joel had hit the brakes, somehow convinced they had driven over something in the road. Landmines. The word leapt into his mind and kept repeating. The second Jeep had rammed into them, Scott, Lilly, Jan, and that had distracted him further. As he had lifted his eyes he had seen the men squatting beside the once elegant mansion. A rocket launcher on one man’s shoulder, and he had known the truth.

His foot had seemed to leap forward of its own accord and slam into the gas pedal, but it was too late. His eyes swiveled back and he saw the rocket leap from the launcher. A second later a black curtain had descended.

He had come to hours later. The vehicles’ nothing but twisted husks, still burning in the black night. He could feel the heat from the fires. He had lain for what seemed like a long time trying to orient himself, make sense of what he last remembered, and what he now saw. Time did nothing to sort it out. It still made no sense some time later when he had first tried to sit up. Pain had flared everywhere and the black curtain had descended once more.

The second time the fires had been out. Heat still came from the blackened shells, but the fires were dead. The moon was high in the sky, bloated, bright silver.

He had moved slower, and while it had been close he had managed to fight past the first pain when he had moved.

His left leg was bad. Not broken, but cut badly, maybe sprung, after all he had lain with it twisted to one side for what he assumed was a very long time. He used part of his shirt to wrap his leg as he let his head clear.

His head was worse. Pain inside every time he tried to move too fast. It felt like liquid sloshing around inside his head, his brain shifting with it, slamming into the bone cage of his skull, and he wondered if it were true, or just something his mind provided in explanation of the pain. As he sat the pain eased enough for him to stand. Standing helped to ease it even more and he began to search.

What was left was hard to understand at first. Pieces. An arm here, a leg there, bones blackened in the wreckage. A pool of blood where his head had lain. No other blood anywhere, and more than enough pieces and bones to make him sick.

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.

His head was better, but his leg seemed worse. He had set out limping, staggering, but had managed a fairly reasonable walk after a few hundred feet. A shattered convenience store a few blocks down provided bottled sports drinks he rounded up from the aisles. He drank two straight down and his head began to clear. He watched the sun began to rise, the street lights wink out, and then taking more bottles with him he began to walk back out of the city. Keeping to the back yards and alleyways of homes and businesses. He had no idea how long he had walked. He had no idea where he was right now.

He looked down at the cars interior. Key’s hung from the switch. He didn’t have a lot of hope, but he twisted the key and the starter began to turn over: Slow, barely there, but then it picked up speed in a rush and the car stuttered to life, coughed, nearly quit, and then smoothed out and began to warm up.

The muffler was loud, one side of the windshield was a stared mess, but the gas gauge stood at three quarters of a tank. Joel shifted the car into first and pulled from the side of the road bumping over the cracked and tilted pavement as he went.

The driving was slow going, but an hour later he reached the outskirts of the city of Oswego. Had he really walked so far in the last days and nights? How much time had slipped by him, he wondered, but he had no answers. For the last twenty minutes he had been following deep tire tracks that cut around the stalled traffic, and the closer he had gotten to the city the more he had found himself having to slow down and cut around the stalled traffic, following the muddy tracks.

He had no idea who had made the tracks, and it made him more than a little concerned. He wound slowly through the stalled traffic, going around where he had to, and he was almost into the downtown section when the car became hopelessly mired as he tried to get around several vehicles blocking the road. It had been close before, but the front wheel drive had pulled the small car through despite the churned up ground. This time it was buried up to the undercarriage, and there was no hope of getting the little car out.

Joel shut it off, and leaving the keys in the switch where he had found them, walked off into the downtown district.

When he came to the first bridge, he scrambled over the cars, and walked to the second bridge. He saw the same scene that he had seen a few days before: The bridge collapsed into the river. A large steel service walk that had run beside the bridge, however, was still intact, and he carefully walked across it to the other side.

He walked slowly down the crowded roadway, and eventually out of the downtown section. It had been eerie to say the least.

When he reached the other side of the city, he stopped at a used car lot by the side of the road. An older Chevy pickup sat among the line of cars and trucks that fronted the road, and Joel walked over to examine it.

The four wheel drive truck looked to have been used fairly well. It was dented and rusty, but Joel liked the look of it. He walked around it and looked it over. The tires appeared to be in good shape, wider than most, as well as being tall and aggressively tread. He looked in the corner of the windshield, noted the stock number, and headed in the direction of a small trailer at the back of the gravel lot. The trailer served as an office, and he knew that if the keys were to be found, that was where he would find them.

 He hoped the keys would be there and that the truck would start. If not, he supposed, he could cross the street to a new car lot that he had noticed. He would prefer the old Chevy, but if there was no choice he would cross the street and take one of the shiny new pickups that sat on the lot.

He supposed he would even be better off taking one of the newer vehicles, but he didn’t want to. Even the old Chevy was newer than any truck he had ever owned, and all the newer trucks he had seen, seemed more like cars than real trucks. Even the Jeeps had been more luxury vehicle than an actual off road vehicle. The old Chevy looked like it had already seen its share of rough roads and would have no problem with them.

He had marveled while walking through the downtown district at how many things had changed in just a few days. The grass was growing. The temperatures were higher, vegetation seemed to be making a fast grab at every inch of real estate. Like it had only been waiting all these years to take back its own.

He found the keys on a small board in the cluttered office, and headed back to the old Chevy. He had to pump it several times before it would start, but it had eventually caught and started, with a large cloud of black smoke pouring out of the rusty tail-pipe when it did. Almost flooded it, he thought. The smoke cleared as the truck warmed up, and he sat and waited for the idle to fall off before he pulled out onto the roadway once more and headed north out of the city of Oswego.

America the Dead Survivor Stories One. The public had known that there was a meteor on a near collision course with the Earth. The spin doctors had assured the public it would miss by several thousands of miles.