Southbound

Originally Posted: 17 June 2013

It’s at this point that I think it’s important to add a caveat that these posts are not in chronological order as they would potentially appear in my new novel. ~BP

“Hey, spacecase!” Rebecca said as she slapped me on the shoulder.

“Huh? Oh sorry, I was just thinking about Ali and what happened in Chicago.  What did you say?”

“I said that it looks like what those people said about Virden being an open community may be true.  See that sign right there?” she said as she pointed to a hand painted wooden sign placed strategically along the road so anyone paying attention would be able to see it.

The sign stated, “VIRDEN, ILLINOIS IS DECLARED AN OPEN COMMUNITY, SAFE FOR ALL TRAVELERS ACCORDING TO THE MACOUPIN COUNTY MILITIA.  THREE MILES STRAIT AHEAD, TAKE THE DIVERNON EXIT OFF 55 SOUTH, FOLLOW SIGNS.”

We’d run into two types of communities so far: Open and closed…well, actually, there were two other types also: Abandoned and destroyed, but we really tried to avoid those.  Closed communities were places where the people who lived there before the nuclear detonations basically sealed themselves up behind walls of some type and didn’t allow any outsiders to come in, even if they were only passing through. Open communities were still secure, but they allowed people without homes to come inside their walls as long as they could be contributing members of the community.  No place wanted derelicts and vagrants living with them.  We’d heard stories about how communities dealt with bums who tried to move in and mooch off the population.  Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty and they made sure that other potential bums in the area knew that they weren’t allowed.

“Well, it certainly seems like they mean to appear like a wholesome community, even if they did use the wrong version of the word ‘straight’ on their sign,” I said in a slightly irritated tone.

Truth be told, I was actually embarrassed that I’d let myself get lost in those memories from a couple weeks ago.  That was stupid.  We hadn’t run into any trouble on our southward journey so far, but from what others along the way had told us, we’d been pretty lucky because everywhere was dangerous these days.  I really wasn’t brought up in some crazy macho family, but I feel like it’s my duty to be the protector and I’m the one who’s supposed to keep us together and out of trouble.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rebecca asked me as we continued our slow walk south along the highway.

“Ok, what I meant to say was that they want people to think they’re still a nice town, what if it’s some kind of set-up?  You know, lure us in and then harvest our organs or something.”

“Chuck, you have definitely seen too many movies.  I’ve listened to you so far, but I want to sleep in a bed, ok?  We’ve been on the road for over two weeks and sleeping in tents and sleeping bags out in the cold.  I want to go someplace nice with nice people.  And I have to believe those kinds of places still exist, otherwise, what the hell are we even wasting our time living for?”

Shit, she had a point.  “Fine.  We’ll go to Virden, but we need to keep an eye out for anything strange ok?  And we can’t stay long, the weather is already colder since the dust and ash has blocked most of the sunlight, we need to keep going south.”

“Alright, just a day or two.  Please Chuck, let’s go and meet some nice people, maybe we’ll meet some other travelers who will want to travel with us.  Besides, there’s safety in numbers.”  She’d added that last part because she knew I was worried about what I would do if we were attacked out here.  I wasn’t sure, but I knew I’d do whatever I could to protect us.

“Ok, ok.  You fight dirty!  You know I think we need a couple of traveling companions, and you’re right, we might find a couple decent people in an open community,” I conceded.  She practically squealed with delight and lifted her mask away to kiss me quickly on the cheek.

I was reminded of how beautiful my Rebecca is.  I hardly ever saw her without the mask anymore.  The air was full of all sorts of shit floating around and the masks made it a lot easier to breathe.  She was so covered up from head to toe that it was almost impossible to tell she was a woman from over a hundred yards away.  She had her mop of wavy red hair pulled back in a tight bun and a pale green rain slicker hood up over the top of that.  It hadn’t rained in a few days, but it only took one surprise acid rain storm our first night out of the city to encourage us to keep covered at all times.

I truly believe that we’re in for a massive extinction event in the next few months and everything we do to prepare ourselves ahead of time is important.  I’ve seen a couple of documentaries about nuclear winter and it’s not pretty.  The bulk of the population not directly affected by the explosions will survive the first few months after a nuclear war, unless they kill each other off.  But after a while, all the particles in the air from all the vaporized stuff at the blast sites will eventually make it impossible for the sun to warm the earth and we’ll be plunged into a nuclear winter.  Shit, I want to get as close to the equator as possible and living all the way up in Chicago wasn’t a good starting point.

Then again, if Ali hadn’t been murdered, Rebecca probably would have wanted to continue living in our apartment and we’d really be screwed when the winter hit.  As far as I was concerned, every foot farther south we traveled before the freezing temperatures set in was a foot closer to survival.


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