Chapter Seventeen- Truths Blood

Posted: October 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
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CHAPTER   SEVENTEEN

 “It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person.

 Frederic Bastiat

A lazy curl of smoke was rising from the cabin’s metal chimney when Thomas stepped outside to take a seat on the front porch steps.  He was admiring white diamonds of dew glistening on the clover near the bottom of the steps and enjoying the aroma of his coffee mingled with the evergreen scented air.  A few feet away a grey squirrel chattered a warning from its fir tree perch when the deer returning from the nearby creek approached.  Though the moment was sweet, Thomas knew it couldn’t last and longed for the return of his old way of life.

Mary had settled down a bit after the two of them took stock of their provisions.  There was a small selection of canned goods in addition to the items Thomas had brought and the cabin was supplied with water from the creek, but half a tank of propane for cooking wasn’t going to last long.

They’d escaped the immediate danger, but it was clear they couldn’t stay for an extended period of time and Thomas didn’t know what else to do.  He was not a skilled outdoorsman and was reluctant to leave the perceived safety of the cabin.  Lost in thought, he was startled when Mary joined him on the steps, then he slipped his arm around her shoulders and offered to share his coffee.

“How are you this morning?” he asked.

“I’m fine.  I slept all right and feel better today.”  Her bleary eyed look told him otherwise.  “But I just can’t quit thinking of Davis and all that’s happened to us.  It happened so fast.”

Thomas had little to say.  There was nothing he could say.  They were entirely unprepared for the situation they found themselves in.  Then Mary saw the .22 rifle next to him.

“What are you doing with that?”  He followed her eyes and decided to lighten things up a bit.  In his best cowboy accent he replied, “Well, you see here mam, this here’s a .22 rifle and I was just a fixin’ to round us up a meal.  See that there squirrel in yonder tree, well it shore would make a right nice stew now, don’t you think?”

She couldn’t help but smile and gave him a hug, but her look told him that answer wouldn’t suffice.

Thomas clasped his hands and looked down for moment before speaking.  He didn’t want to alarm her.  Then picking up one of the boots he’d left on the steps the night before, he began digging rocks out of the sole with his pocket knife and turned to face her.

“Honey, I know you don’t like guns and I don’t care much for them myself, but Davis was comfortable shooting this thing.  It’s the only reason we have it.  He always kept it here at the cabin and last night I found it in the spare bedroom.  I don’t want you to be alarmed but it’s the only protection we’ve got.”

As much as she hated guns, Mary was forced to re-assess her position.  Living in the city was one thing, what was happening to them now was another entirely.   Deep inside, Mary was proud of her husband.  She knew he was completely out of his element, yet here he was, willing to do what he could to protect her.

“All right honey, but please be careful.”

The day passed quietly until mid afternoon when the sky darkened and peals of thunder rumbled down from the mountains to the east.  When a heavy rain began to fall Thomas dashed out back to bring in more fire wood stored under an old tarp.  Returning to the cabin with his arms full of wood he heard Mary scream.  Thomas dropped the firewood and rushed inside.

Perfectly outlined in the front doorway was a tall black man with a rifle in his hand.  Three or four more people stood behind him.  Each carried a weapon and wore wide brimmed hats atop raingear and leather boots.

Thomas pulled Mary behind him before stepping across the room and approaching the group.  “What is it you want?”

“Pardon us sir, for frightening your wife.   We’ve been hiking all day and have no place to take shelter from the rain.  If you’d be kind enough to let us stay until the storm passes we would be most grateful.”

Thomas turned to Mary and the fear in her eyes told him no.  He was about to say something when her expression changed and a new strength seemed to take hold of her.  Under the drooping, rain soaked brim of a dark hat, Mary had seen the face of a woman.  Thinking of all she had just been through, Mary knew she couldn’t leave her out in the storm.

“Thomas, please ask them to come in.”

Thomas turned back to the group and abruptly felt foolish for leaving them standing outside in the rain.  “Please come in.  There’s a place to hang your wet things on the wall here and more room over there beside the wood stove.”

“Thank you.  Thank you so much sir.  My name’s Roger.”  Roger’s calloused hand engulfed Thomas supple palm and the two men shook hands.  “This is my wife Joan and my son Jeff.  And these are two neighbors, Marty and Susan.”

“We can’t thank you enough,”  Marty said.

“Yes.  We’re so very thankful,”  Susan added with emphasis.

“Where are you coming from?”  Thomas asked.

“Salem.  It’s a nightmare and we were fortunate to escape.  The roads are jammed and there’s fighting everywhere.  Much of the city’s on fire and armed gangs control the streets.  We had no time for gas and drove until our car died last night.  We’ve been walking ever since.”

“We left yesterday too.”  Thomas stoked the fire in an effort to help their rain drenched company shake off the chill and shared their own horrific story of escaping town.

Mary and Joan immediately took to one another and moved to the kitchen to prepare a meal of canned beans and peaches.  At the dinner table each of them shared what news and information they could and the strangers grew more comfortable with one another.

“You’re welcome to stay with us,”  Thomas offered.

“I appreciate your offer, but I’m afraid we’ve got to be moving along at first light,”  Roger replied.  “And you’d be wise to do the same.”

It was the very issue Thomas had been struggling with.  It seemed safe here and they had nowhere else to go.  “Why keep moving?  Where would you go?”

Roger looked up after finishing dinner with a large spoonful of peaches, white teeth gleaming against his dark skin.

“Folks, it’s like this.  The city’s a waste land.  There’s nothing to go back to and we’re on the leading edge of a vast wave of people attempting to flee over the mountains.  If we stay here we’ll eventually be caught up in a fight against a group larger and better armed than we are.  Even if we don’t, there aren’t enough supplies to last through the summer, let alone the winter.  Our only real chance lies in the rural country east of the mountains.”

The room fell silent after Rogers’s declaration and Thomas didn’t know what to say.  When the silence grew uncomfortable, Roger spoke again.

“You folks are welcome to join us if you like, but you’ll need to bring your own food and supplies.  We leave at day break and we don’t wait for anyone.”

“I just don’t know, Roger.  It seems safe enough here and what about the road block in the mountain pass?”  Thomas asked.

“I’ve hiked these woods all my life and know trails that will keep us away from most people, including the Chinese, if necessary.  Thomas, I’m not going to try to convince you.  This isn’t going to be an easy trip and you need to do what you think is best for you and your wife.  Tough decisions are being forced on all of us.  We’ve made ours and it’s up to you to make yours.  We appreciate the food and shelter you’ve provided tonight and thank you again for not turning us away.”

Roger got up from the table and walked to the front door, dropping his tableware in the garbage on the way.

Thomas followed him.  “Let Mary and I talk it over and I’ll let you know.”

“Certainly.”

Later on, after a long discussion that lasted well into the evening, it was decided they would join with Roger’s group and leave in the morning.  Mary wanted to stay, but Thomas had begun to see leaving as their only hope.  They didn’t have the supplies required for an extended stay at the cabin and Roger knew his way over the mountains.  It was an opportunity they couldn’t turn down.  Mary clung to the hope things would get better and after a short stay at the cabin they’d be able to return home.  Thomas reminded her if things got better they could return home no matter which side of the mountains they were on.  He knew she felt like she was leaving Davis behind.

They spent the evening packing a small travel bag and one old backpack they found in the closet where Davis kept a few things.  Thomas also chose to bring their .22 rifle.


Like a slow moving cold front a weighty gloom settled over the Lang household.  Despair over the loss of Zach and the widow Smith served up a sour bowl of reality.  Cliffson felt the seeds of anger awakening inside him when he rose early the next morning to help Monk remove Rose’s body from the fence.

The scene at the fence was grisly and the two men struggled with their emotions while cutting Rose loose.  After gently wrapping her in a sheet, the men carried the body to Monk’s house.  The frail little woman weighed hardly a thing and both men found themselves in tears over what had been done to her.

Monk knew a local pastor and both men went to meet with him.  It took a while to make the arrangements, but with the aid of Monk’s pastor they finally secured use of the Catholic Church a few blocks away, with proper compensation of course.  The widow Smith was not a Catholic and Monk said she’d never let him off the hook for doing such a thing, but the church was close by and would have to do.

The bigger question of where to bury her was resolved by the Wests.  Without local authorities to interfere, the West’s offer of a final resting place on their twenty acres was the perfect answer.

Monk fell quiet during their walk back from the church.  Cliffson knew he was chewing on a weighty matter and allowed the silence to prevail for awhile longer before asking,  “What’s going on Monk, you know you can shoot straight with me.”

Monk glanced at Cliffson before returning his gaze to the ground.  “How is it I can kill someone and feel less remorse than I do right now?”  The words tumbled out and Cliffson let him go on.  “Does it make me a bad person Cliffson?  In my own way I loved Rose.  Now she’s gone—happens to everyone I get close to.”

“Monk I have a feeling this gets into that part of your past you’ve been unwilling to share.”

Monk heaved a heavy sigh.  “Yes my friend, you’d be right about that, but now’s not the time.”

“Well then don’t be so hard on yourself.  None of us are perfect.  Kinda what makes God’s grace so special isn’t it?”  Cliffson rest his hand on Monk’s shoulder.

“Of course you’re right, but I feel like a piece of me’s been taken away with Rose.”

“I miss her too, Monk, but I know your relationship with her was special.  Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

The two walked on in silence until they turned the corner and saw the house.  A flatbed truck was parked out front and Dustin was assisting two other men in removing the bodies.

“What’s going on, Dust?”  Cliffson asked.

“A mass grave is being prepared in a field north of here.  These men are collecting the bodies.”

“Thanks for helping Dustin, but you don’t need to deal with this.  Head on inside if you like.”  After helping them load the last few bodies, Monk and Cliffson thanked the men and went inside to wash up.

Later in the afternoon the Wests came by and the group’s discussion from the previous day resumed.   Gary surprised Jean with some fresh hamburger.

“Where in the world did you come up with that?”

“The neighbors are still running a generator to power their freezer.  We did a little trading.”  Gary smiled.

Jean prepared the patties and then stepped outside to barbeque the hamburgers. She was having a hard time thinking about anything other than her son and the barbeque allowed her to get away from everyone for awhile.

“Jean, I know how you’re feeling.”  Monk had slipped away from the group to visit with her outside.  “I can’t say don’t worry, because I know you will anyway, but no one’s forgotten about Zach.”

“I know Monk.  It’s just that I’m having trouble even getting through the day.  What will they do with him?”

“I think he’ll be all right for a while.”

Jean’s puzzled look asked him to continue.

“I believe he’ll be used for labor, along with the other young men they’ve rounded up.  It’s our job to stay alive long enough to find a way to rescue him.”  Monk put a hand on her shoulder.  “Cliffson hasn’t said much because he doesn’t want to get your hopes up, but we’ve talked.  Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, we’ll get our chance to bring him home.”

Jean reached for his hand and turned from the barbeque to face him.  “Thank you Monk.  I hope you know how much we appreciate you.”

“Ah missy, ‘tis I that is thankful for you and Cliffson.”  Monk winked and squeezed her hand.

Back in the kitchen the group’s discussion shifted from immediate needs to the requirements for long term survival and it was clear Dustin and Kate were a little slower to see the big picture.  The young couple still clung to the hope things would return to normal, despite the fact the power had gone off and remained off.  Cell communication was out, as was the internet, and it was beginning to look as if it would be permanent.  As Monk put it, “nerds” no longer ruled.

“You really don’t think things are gonna stay this way do you?”  Kate asked.

“I’m afraid they will Kate, this is”…

“But my parents need to know I’m all right,”  Kate interrupted Cliffson.   “I was hoping to find a car and drive down to see them.”

“I think you know that’s not safe Kate.  I’m sorry, but the best we can do is hope for the phones to come back on line.”  It hurt Cliffson to say it because he could see the pool of tears forming in her eyes.

Dustin held her close and glanced over Kate’s shoulder to Cliffson while recalling the discussion they’d had assessing the odds of Kate’s parents being alive.  Based on Monk’s “ham” reports, Los Angeles, where Kate’s parents lived, would be unrecognizable.  Not wanting to upset Kate, Dustin had kept it to himself.

The nation’s young people had never known a world void of electronic gadgetry and found themselves entirely out of their element.  Unable to plug into the web’s social network, no TV, no phone and no music in their earplugs, they were lost.  Untested in a world beginning to resemble the forties and fifties, the same world their parents had grown up in, many wondered how their parents had made it.

Still, Cliffson gave Dustin and Kate credit for not being afraid to get their hands dirty and was proud of them for embracing the changes the best they could.   An afternoon spent with the West’s making cheese had opened the door to a world unknown to them and the two thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Cliffson got a kick out of the story Gary told him about them not being quite as enthusiastic when asked if they wanted to shovel manure from the stalls.

The group’s discussion continued.  Stores of food were in place and the city was still supplying water a few hours each day, though they knew that was only going to last as long as the fuel for its generators.

The greater problem was the end of deliveries of food and fuel.  Truck drivers feared being mobbed or hi-jacked and weren’t willing to risk their lives to be paid in a worthless currency.  It wouldn’t be long before the unprepared began to starve.  Then the Zombies would finally wake up to the fact meat doesn’t grow in the meat department and the grocery store shelves don’t just poop out a fresh loaf of bread each morning.

“Time for a break guys.” Jean and Monk returned with the burgers and the group sat down to eat.

Cliffson took a bite and regarded Monk for a long moment.  “With the power out, I’m thinking we should dig some root cellars.  What do you think Monk?”

“I think it would be wise.  The Chinese seem to be settling in to stay for awhile.  Power could be out a long time.”

“The ‘Greenies’ should be happy,” Gary said.  “No more threat of global warming, but wait until they see the impact of folks living off the land.”

Dustin gave him a dirty look.  “I still don’t get turning off the power and locking people into the cities.”

Monk looked to Cliffson whose mouth was full and nodded his head for Monk to continue.  “Outside of the vital infrastructure needed for their own purposes, the Chinese aren’t going to provide services to anyone.  You see Dustin, the Chinese knew that by shutting off the power the cities would self-destruct.  There’d be no need to support the people or send in troops to occupy America’s cities, thus saving them untold expenses, supplies and the potential loss of soldiers.  The few people who survive will be at the mercy of dog packs, disease and the whims of nature. Not to mention one another.”

Dustin was shaking his head.  “Seems kinda harsh,” he mumbled.

“Don’t forget son, our nation defaulted on its loans,”  Cliffson said.  “In some ways it could actually be worse.”

“Your Dad’s right Dustin.”  Monk picked up where he’d left off.  “All of this has been very well coordinated.  Before the cities burned, the Chinese moved in and took away the young men.  Any resistance was met with fierce reprisal.  In Vietnam, the Viet Cong used to round up the first five men they found in a village and shoot them.  It always ensured complete cooperation.  Fear controls people better than any army can, and I think you understand that very well after what you witnessed upon returning to Redmond.”

Cliffson picked up the conversation when Monk bit into his burger.  “The other half of their plan’s pretty straightforward.  The U.S. is going to be used as one gigantic mine.  We believe the Chinese will extract food and resources until they’ve recouped an amount equal in value to that which the U.S. defaulted on, plus an additional amount to cover their costs.”

“You really believe that?  They could be here for years.”  Dustin’s burger had come with a side dish of reality.

Monk rejoined the conversation.  “The “hams” have confirmed Chinese activity in and around all major resource locations across the nation.  It’s no surprise really.”

“Tell him the rest,”  Cliffson said.

“Invading armies have always enslaved the citizens of conquered nations and taken their resources.  The Romans did it, the Indians did it, Hitler did it and Asians have always done it.  The young men from local communities are being used as a labor force to produce crops, harvest timber and work the mines and oil fields.  These are the only U.S. citizens that will be provided for.  It’s really nothing new.  So long as their extraction process is not interfered with, the locals can all go to hell as far as the Chinese are concerned.  America is about to be mined, gutted and thrown on history’s trash heap.  Just like its currency.”

Monk stood and headed back to the kitchen.  “And with that, I’ll step down from my soap box, but I have to admit, their plan has worked brilliantly.”

The looks on Kate and Dustin’s faces were palpable.  Privately Monk and Cliffson had agreed to let the youngsters slowly figure things out on their own, but the day’s meeting had fairly well dumped the entire load on them.

When Kate realized what had likely happened to her parents, she excused herself left the room in tears.  Dustin let her go long enough to ask another question.  “So Zach will be fed and kept alive?”

“Yes Dustin, that seems likely, but it also means you could be taken at any time.”  Cliffson felt bad for him.  The news wasn’t getting any better.  “You’ll need to keep your head down for a while son.”

Gary spoke up after Dustin left the room.  “So you think there’s a chance our kids were also taken by the Chinese?”

“Most definitely,”  Monk said, returning from the kitchen.  “I know it’s tough for you and Barb not knowing, but I would say the odds favor them being in Chinese labor camps.”

After being quiet for much of the day Barb seemed to come to life a bit.  “At least there’s still hope.”

“We can’t ever give up hope, Barb.  Not for your kids, for Zach, or for ourselves.”  Cliffson’s look was distant, but his words were sincere.

“Monk, what do you suppose happened to the president?”  Gary asked.  “He hasn’t been seen or heard from since the appearance he made at the beginning of the occupation.”

“Executed possibly, but I’m willing to bet he cut some kind of a deal.”

Cliffson leaned in to rejoin the conversation.  “What kind of deal?”

“I’m thinking he turned over military secrets in exchange for his safe exile to another country,” Monk stated.

“Siberia maybe?”  Gary hoped. “That sucker!”

“I hear ya Gary.  Who can respect the people in charge of leading you down a road of destruction?”  Monk said.

“Real leadership died with the birth of political correctness guys,”  Cliffson added in disgust.

“How do you figure?”  Barb asked.

“By definition a leader exhibits strong individualism.  It’s how they’re distinguished from the crowd.  Strong individuals are the direct opposite of political correctness because political correctness attempts to make everyone the same.  It doesn’t allow a person to stand out.  A strong leader violates these principles and is soon rejected for being hateful, bigoted, homophobe and anything else you can make up. You know the list.”

“I agree,”  Monk interjected.  “Political correctness and leadership are mutually exclusive concepts, yet people wonder where all the leaders have gone.  They don’t realize they’ve rejected the real leaders.”

“Unfortunately dictators fit the political correct model perfectly,”  Cliffson groaned.

“Sorry to interrupt, but we need to get back on task everyone.”  Jean had taken a seat in the living room with pen and paper.  “Our immediate concern is what happens when the Chinese remove their blockades in the mountain passes.”

Monk agreed.  “I expect a wave of people to come crashing over us like a giant tsunami.  They’ll be hungry and desperate, and not afraid to kill if that’s what they think is necessary.”

“Even the Zombies will begin waking up then,”  Cliffson added.

“You’re right Cliffson, things are going to get ugly long before a new day comes dressed in a pretty spring dress.”  Monk searched each face with a solitary eye knowing that coupled with his screwed up face he could always bring a chuckle.

His look had the desired effect and everyone lightened up a bit.  On that note the group decided to call it a night and headed outside to see off the Wests.

There are times when the night sky is beyond words.  Radiant stars gleam against a dark velvet background, making the sky feel close enough to touch and impossibly distant in the same instant.  This was the sky that greeted Cliffson and the rest of the group, as each of them headed home for the evening.

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