//Everything on this blog is UNEDITED, I don’t edit until I’m complete with the book, then I’ll go in and tie up all the loose ends…it allows me to step out of the scene and look at it objectively ////
“I didn’t know what to expect, so I hid it in the woods before I came in,” I replied.
“That’s smart Chuck,” Mark said. “Well, don’t worry. Besides me, the most dangerous thing in here is Monica’s cooking.”
“Shut up Mark,” a lady about the same age as Jasper, whom I assumed was Monica, said. “The only thing dangerous about you is your gas!”
That brought about a few chuckles from the others in the room and Mark waived his hand to dismiss her. “Anyways, we don’t mean anyone any harm,” he continued. “But mark my words: If you start any trouble, you’ll regret it.”
I stared at him for a moment and wondered what he meant. “Well, don’t worry Mark. I’m not one to cause problems. We’re just passing through and this looked like it might be a nice place to stop,” I replied.
“Who else do you have with you?” Jasper asked looking over my shoulder. Shit. That was the second time in as many minutes that the old man had either noticed something or caught a slip in my conversation. He was extremely observant. I’d have to keep an eye on him.
“I’ve got some traveling companions, also in the wood line with my backpack,” I said as an aside. “We didn’t know what to expect, so I came in to check it out.”
“Most expendable one in the group, huh?” Mark asked. I didn’t like him.
“No, I volunteered to come in and check things out,” I replied.
“Well Chuck. As you can see, we’re harmless,” Jasper said. “Most of us was here before the bombs and we were lucky enough to have a trucker staying overnight at the hotel during the attack.” Jasper leaned forward and placed a hand over his mouth and made it look like he was going to speak so only I could hear. But then he began talking louder than he’d done before and I could tell he got a kick out of teasing the soldier. “Mark was in the National Guard. He was a trucker for a food distribution company and had a full semi truck full of food. Crazy bastard had his uniform and that gun in his truck.”
“Good thing too Jasper. You’ve needed me,” Mark replied
“Yes. Yes, you’ve came in pretty handy,” Jasper said to Mark. “Anyways, even after what, five or six months? We’ve still got quite a bit of food because we ration it and usually make soup from snow and one or two cans of whatever comes off the truck next. It keeps us alive until the spring. There has to be a spring soon…” he trailed off and began rubbing his thumb along a rock. I recognized the old worry stone by the grove that his thumb had made over the years.
“I appreciate your offer to let us stay,” I said. “There are five of us, plus two children. We’d only need one room.”
“Bah, we’ve got an entire hotel. We can give you anywhere from one up to six rooms, but we only heat the lobby, so it may get cold in your room. That’s why most of us stay here instead of our rooms.”
“Homes, Jasper. Those are our homes now!” Monica chided him as she paused in her knitting.
“Our ‘homes’,” he corrected himself as he made air quotation marks with his fingers. “Anyways, we’re isolated out here. Too far north of Interstate 44 to get a lot of foot traffic and we’re starving for information. Most of our electronic things were fried by the EMPs from the nukes that detonated all around us so the radios don’t work and neither do any cars made after 1985.”
“Yeah, that happened where we lived before too,” I replied.
“Yes sir, so we’ve got no radios and not very many travelers, so anything you can give us about the state of affairs in America will be more than enough payment for a night or two.”
I weighed my options. We could continue traveling and hope to find a house or barn to shelter in for the night or we could stay here and get some much-needed rest. The people in the room seemed expectant, but I wasn’t sure if they were thirsty for knowledge or something else. I hated that I had to second guess these people’s motives, but that’s where we are now.
“Alright, I’ll go get my friends out of the cold,” I said. “We can tell you what we’ve seen during our trip from Illinois, but we haven’t really talked to many people. It’s more dangerous than you’d imagine out there.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I can imagine a lot,” Jasper said. “Every couple of days or so, we get these extremely dangerous people wandering up to our building. Damnedest things you ever saw. There’s no talking with them and they’re so violent that, unfortunately, the only thing we can do is to put ‘em down.”
“I know exactly what you’re talking about. They’re everywhere. More the closer you get to the cities that were nuked. My group doesn’t know where they came from, but it’s a death sentence for your people if you let one of them too near you.”
“Oh we know. One of them bastards tore poor Chris Hayden apart before we knew what to do with ‘em,” Monica called out from the couch.
“Well, if one of them bites you, you end up catching whatever they’ve got and turn crazy too,” I replied.
“See that? You’ve already earned yourself a night of rest,” Jasper said. “That is very important news.” He clapped me on the shoulder appreciatively. “Go get your family before it gets too dark and one of those things comes around. We see more of them at night than any other time, but if we stay quiet, they usually pass us by.”
“Yeah, we know. We’ve had quite a few run-ins with those things…” I said as I got lost in my memories for a moment.
//Like what you read? You’ll have to wait until late summer/early fall 2014 when UW releases! ///