Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chrysler has betrayed U.S all

I just read a story on AOL autos that I find disturbing. Chrysler has announced that they have no intention of repaying the massive government bail-outs that were given to them at tax payers expense. Their reasoning. They never received those loans. Those loans were given to the "Old Chrysler" company which is in bankruptcy. But after Chrysler received these loans, they formed a "New Chrysler" company to continue operating under and that if America wants to collect on those debts then they will have to go after the "OldCar Co." While to some this may look like savvy business practice, to me this is more reminiscent of a snake shedding its skin.

In doing this Chrysler has voided all public trust. I would never buy from a company that is so morally and ethically bankrupt. I would not trust them to do business in an honorable manner or stand behind the products they sell.

I would urge every employee of the "New Chrysler Corporation" to demand that the management do the right thing. For them to continue on this path is shortsighted and stupid and will eventually lead to the downfall of the company which will mean more unemployed autoworkers.

On the flipside GM is announcing that it will not only repay the dept, but do it earlier than anticipated and will once again be able to sell stock to the public in 2010. They have an aggressive payment schedule and will be presenting the government a $1 billion dollar payment before the end of this year and repay the remaining 5 billion by the middle of next year.

So which company would you feel comfortable purchasing a car from. A company that is making a strong effort to repay its debts or one that is trying to hide behind some legal loopholes and screw the American taxpayers (you).

Keith

Link to the story on AOL.

http://autos.aol.com/article/chrysler-gm-bailout-repayment?icid=mainhtmlws-main-ndl5link4http%3A%2F%2Fautos.aol.com%2Farticle%2Fchrysler-gm-bailout-repayment#writewrite

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Story Update

For those following my story, I am working on it as fast I can.

Expect some big changes at the beginning of the year.

For starters I will no longer be posting on a daily basis, at least not until tax season is over. We have no baby sitter this year and I will be watching the kids at home. This means I will be severely curtailing business operations and may not have time to write as often as I would like.

There will most likely only be one story post a week and story posts will be up on Mondays. But the posts will be longer than previous posts and I may be able to post extra installments on occasion.

As for the story itself ... expect a lot of changes. Life, death and betrayal, and that is just the first chapter.

Christmas

I seriously meant to post some kind of Christmas greeting yesterday, but so busy. It was a much better Christmas than I expected. It has been a brutal year and a December has been doing its best to get in a few last minute digs before surrendering. We lost my mother in law in late November, my oldest friend lost his wife of twenty years, quite suddenly, just a few days before Christmas. My wife's cousin lost her husband on Christmas day. No warning at all, she tried to wake him up from a nap and he was gone. Just like that.

And the flu has made its rounds in my house this week. Persistent bug too. I rarely get sick and this one had me floored for a day.

And now here I am trying to wish my readers a Merry Christmas and I screw that up and miss posting it.

But despite everything, it was a good, Christmas. That day, when our family was together and we were able to set our troubles momentarily set aside and just enjoy one another's company. But I will be praying that 2010 is much better than its predecessor.

Keith

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Story update ... again

I have been working on the next book in this story. In reviewing the unposted material written so far, I determined it all to be complete and utter crap. I have scrapped it and am starting over. So far the new material is flowing much better and looks to coming along well.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Comments are now open to all.

I have changed the settings to allow anyone to leave comments. Unfortunately, as I have learned on another blog I run, this will necessitate me having to moderate the comments. I have had to intercept SPAM comments and SPAM porn and other undesirable content.

We Miss You Millie


The woman woke up in a garden. It was lush, almost tropical. Peaceful and comfortable. She turned her head to take in her surrounding, expecting even as she did so for the action to bring a wave of nausea and pain. But she did not know why she expected this. A dim memory of being in pain for such a long time rose up, but it was faint and elusive. She dismissed it as unimportant. The bed of clover she had awakened was cool and sweet smelling. She almost felt guilty for falling asleep on it. She reflexively used a nearby stone bench to pull herself up on, realizing as soon as she stood up that she needed no help. Even before she had gotten sick she would have needed help to stand ... sick? Had she been ill? Again she just could not remember. She gazed in wonder at her hands now. They looked so young. In fact she felt like a teenage girl again.

She decided to explore this marvelous place. A small path meandered through the shrubs and flowerbeds. A rose bush caught her eye and she stopped to smell them. She had always been allergic to roses, but knew these would be safe, they were so pretty and smelled wonderful.

A small dog trotted down the path towards her. He was a friendly little thing and she recognized him instantly, but he had been dead for ten years now. He stood at a bend in the path and barked once at her before trotting back up the path. She followed him and came to a small courtyard. The floor was brick and there was a wrought iron table in the center with matching wrought iron chairs. A young man and a small red haired girl were sitting at the table. The man was drinking from a tall glass of iced tea while the little girl ate cookies. The girl was giggling and her laughter was quite infectious.

The little girl suddenly turned and spoke to the newcomer, "Nammaw, you're here!" she dropped her cookie, which the little dog eagerly scooped up. The child ran to her and she scooped her up hugging her, for she knew instantly who the child was. Her first granddaughter. The one that had fought so hard, but passed so young.

"She's been waiting for you just forever. We all have." her brother told her smiling. She could see her other two brothers just coming down the path into the courtyard.

She suddenly knew where she was.

A voice powerful as thunder yet gentle as whisper spoke to her.

"Welcome home Millie."






My mother in law passed away around 2 am this morning.

She will be missed here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving

I would like to take some time to say a few things about the Thanksgiving. Too often it is easy to lose track of what the holiday is all about. There is all the cooking to be done, the preparations to be made, not to mention holiday parades, sporting events and other distractions. So many people have begun to think of Thanksgiving as just a signal to begin getting ready for Christmas. Too few of us actually take to the time to reflect on what the day is all about.


This year promises to be less than festive for my family. We are preparing to lose a beloved member of our family. My mother in law, a woman whom I have never heard utter an unkind word to or about anyone, who always made anyone in her house feel welcome and who I actually got along with better than my own mother, is enduring the final stages of pancreatic cancer. She is not expected to make it through the week. Every time I hear the phone ring I am afraid that it will be bringing the sad news of her passing.


But I am wanting to focus on the things I have to be thankful for this year.

I am thankful for having a roof over my head.

I am thankful for a wife that I love and who loves me in return and has stood by me for 20 years.

I am thankful for my two healthy children (even when trying to wrestle them into a bath)

I am thankful for every second I got to spend with our firstborn daughter and being able to hold her when she passed.

I am thankful that the doctor who told me I had a brain tumor was wrong.

I am thankful that after 10 years of using a cane, God saw fit to heal my knee and I no longer need that stupid cane.

I am thankful that it looks like there may soon be a cure for for Multiple Sclerosis.

I am thankful for my few loyal readers and the support they have offered.

There are really so many things I have to be thankful for that I do not believe I could ever list all of them. I am even thankful for the hardships in my life because they have helped to bring me to where I am now.

I would invite my readers to comment on what they are most thankful for this year.

In closing I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Story Update - again

I have been working on the next book in this story and I think that I will be ready to begin posting again January 1st. I have already scheduled the first two installments and should have at least a months worth of posts ready to go by the time the first one is posted.

Story Update

I would like to thank my few loyal readers and assure them that the story will continue. But I will be taking my time on the next story posts. I feel that quality was sacrificed too often in this first book in the interest of getting a new post up every day. I would like to take my time with future writing and get a little ahead so I don't feel as pressured. I am still enjoying writing this and do not want that to end. I am also working on a couple of parallel stories with a whole new set of characters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dead Land Journal April 19th 2028

Today marks the one year anniversary of the disappearance. It passed without fanfare or celebration. It was a day like any other Spring day.

Kyle flew me up to Beaver Island Monday morning. We landed in St. James Bay and tied off at a small private boat dock. Elliot Marshall met us there and I was surprised to find him in a wheel chair. He never mentioned it but really I suppose why should he? I don't introduce myself to total strangers by saying 'Hi, I have Multiple Sclerosis'. As first responder to the scene of a house fire it fell on him to rescue a girl from a second floor bedroom. Not exactly by the book, but what was he supposed to do, let her burn? The closest firetruck was still ten minutes out. She would be dead by then. As a reward for his efforts, he took a bullet in the back. He never did find out why the girl's father shot him since the house collapsed on the man seconds after he pulled the trigger. It does make his survival all the more impressive. Even before the disappearance it was not easy for a wheelchair bound person to get around. But he does not complain.

He led us back to his van, a very well equipped vehicle with a ramp, lift and handicap controls. He does not even have to get out of his chair to drive it. He just wheels up to the steering wheel and a pair of clamps engage on the chair to hold it in place. There was a woman in the van waiting for him. There was a rifle with scope leaning near her seat and I have no doubt that she had it trained on Kyle and I during our introduction. She introduced herself as Meridith and even after we shook hands I got the impression that we were still on probation in her eyes. I imagine that there was quite an argument between her and Elliot over whether or not she would accompany him down to the boat dock to meet us. She seems rather protective of him.

It was a short drive to the hotel they are staying in. It overlooks the bay on King's Hwy. They have power, water and food. We met several of the survivors and they all seemed friendly and in good health. But Elliot tells me their fuel is in short supply. Meridith looked somewhat disapproving at Elliot for revealing this to us. Beaver Island was never heavily developed or populated, so there just was not a lot of fuel on the island. And a lot of what there was on the island was lost to heaters being left on after the islands inhabitants were gone. They are in the midst of setting up a steam generator. The island is about twelve miles long six wide, mostly forested so wood is abundant.

I still have my doubts about how clean the island is of wraiths.

I did come away with a few ideas for trade. I think we could trade fuel for venison and other fresh meats from time to time. Of course I plan on restocking Door Island with deer. We just need to capture some live, make sure they're clean and release them on the island. We can also trade salvaged manufactured items since that is also something they do not have in great supply.
All in all, I think we made the right decision in founding our own community here rather than joining theirs.


We returned late afternoon yesterday. There was a large turnout for our return. Kyle put the plane down in the bay and we were met at the dock by Katherine. I was surprised when she had us submit to a scan with the ultrasound. Mike was even standing by with rifle ready to shoot us if we refused. It was very unnerving and I experienced a certain empathy for those we had subjected to this indignity. But I relented as I recognise the necessity. She pronounced us clean and Mike heaved sigh of relief.

We did mark the anniversary occasion by announcing that we were opening the town of Sturgeon Bay up for settlement. There has been a sudden exodus from the freighter as people have been gone out house hunting.

Many of the old conventional ideas of what make a good home are no longer valid. Instead looking at how many bedrooms, bathrooms and such, we find ourselves thinking in terms of 'how well can this place be defended? Is there anyplace where they can get in? And are there adequate escape routes in case they do get in?' So instead of considering the two story Colonial across the street, Beverly and I are looking at a former business location on 2nd and Nebraska. It has a large retail floor space and a huge garage. The building is of concrete block construction and only has two large windows, those have a heavy stainless steel mesh roll up gates that cover them. The three doors are all heavy steel and it would take a battering ram to get through them. There is plenty of room for us and Dee. I will be installing solar panels on the roof this spring to power the place and a wood burning stove for heat come winter. I will also have to lay in a supply of firewood. It is going to be a busy year.

It will feel strange to live in a separate house again. You get used to the sounds of other people snoring in neighboring rooms, getting up in the middle of the night and muttering on their way to the john (yes I mean you Jewels).

Of course due to events on back on the 9th we postponed our wedding. But we rescheduled it for the 22nd. That will be this Saturday. Beverly is frantically planning and has enlisted the aid of all the womenfolk.

I am beginning to think there is real hope for the future and I think now is as good a time as any to wrap up this journal. As I close the book on this year I realize that there are still so many unanswered questions, but that is life. I will continue to keep a journal but it will be continued in a separate volume. Right now I need to concentrate on my family.

By the way, one other thing I forgot to mention, Beverly is pregnant. She just told me this morning. Have not been able to wipe this silly grin off my face all day.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Sorry, No Story Post

I was not able to get a story post in this weekend. Too busy to sit down and write. Will get one up by this afternoon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dead Land Journal April 16th 2028

There are a few new faces around here this evening. We got a radio call this morning from a group of people wanting to join out little community. We readily accepted.

Katherine, Billy and I met them at the bridge. There were a few uncomfortable moments as we explained the conditions under which we would allow them onto the island. Our requirements were really quite simple. Everyone was required to submit to an abdominal ultrasound.

Absolutely no exceptions.

There was one man that flatly refused on religious grounds until he realized that he would be left on the other side of the bridge alone and would be shot on sight if he crossed without permission. But it was really his pregnant wife that convinced him. She just simply walked back across the dividing line on the bridge to stand with her husband. He looked down on her eight month belly and sighed. He decided that he would not risk his wife and unborn child's safety for his religious beliefs.

Katherine has recently found an old Vscan handheld ultrasound she was eager to try out. It's rather big for a handheld unit, about the size of one of the original flip style cell phones. But it is pretty rugged. She took each person into a large van parked on the island side of the bridge and spent a few minutes examining them. Each person came back looking somewhat relieved but the pregnant woman was smiling and crying at the same time, so I guess she got some good news or at the very least an absence of bad news.

The total count was three women and four men and thirteen year old boy. He is already checking out Stacy. I am going to have to keep an eye on that. The adults seem eager to join in the community and each one has asked what they can do to help. So I have set some to patrolling and set up a guard on the bridge. The others are out gathering canned goods. The houses and other buildings we have already checked are all marked with a "X" painted on the front doors. The doors are locked up and the keys are in the mailbox. Any houses with broken windows are left unmarked as they cannot be guaranteed safe. Those foraging are ordered not to go into any building that has not already been marked or has any broken windows.

Right now things are going well enough that I am planning to have Kyle fly me up to Beaver Island. It is just a little over a hundred miles so it won't take long. Looking forward to meeting Elliot and seeing how they are set up, maybe get a few ideas.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dead Land Journal April 14th 2028

We have have killed three of the wraiths by luring them into a trap baited with several dozen small, live animals in cages. We set up at Louisiana St and Co. Rd B. There are or were several restaurants in that area and with no one running them the rat population has flourished. I figured that they would be drawn to that area. They seem somewhat stupid and could not resist the easy prey. Billy and Mike were laying in wait nearby and shot them as they approached. The bodies were quickly carried away so as not to reveal the trap.

The three juvenile wraiths were immediately taken to Katherine for examination. But I suppose that terminology is no longer truly accurate. These are different from the first wraith Katherine dissected. These are the first full term wraiths she has had to examine. They eat a lot and grow very fast, but she says they will never achieve the full size of an adult wraith. She now says there are two classes of wraiths. The lesser wraiths and the Masters.

The lesser wraiths are sterile, stunted things. Their reproductive organs are virtually non-existent, their fore claws are much smaller making their hands much more useful at grasping and their venom is much less potent. Their brains are not as developed as the masters.
She is still trying to puzzle some things together. Not the least of which is Mr. Tyler. Katherine says that he most likely has a mutated wraith controlling him. If it has the ability it will look for another host and other than us there are no animals on the island that fit that bill.


I have given Billy the go ahead to blow the other two bridges and raise the Oregon Street Bridge. I will also have him take care of some small boats that are jammed up in the southeast end of the canal. I don't want them using those to cross over into our territory.

I strongly suspect that Mr. Tyler has left the island though. I really don't know what is going on with him, but if he has any intelligence whatsoever he will realize that we will shoot him on sight. I want him killed by whatever means necessary. I know Katherine will want to examine him but if it comes to a choice between completely incinerating him and letting him go I will sweep up the ashes and give them to Katherine myself.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dead Land Journal April 9th 2028

I am sitting her staring at the new typewriter Beverly found for me and wondering how to even begin. It seems a shame to start out a new machine with such a tragic entry, but this deserves a real machine, not some lifeless electronic thing. It's a nice typewriter too. A burgundy Olympia portable with a rather aerodynamic case reminiscent of the streamlined cars of the early 50s. I actually like it better than my old Smith Corona, may it rest in peace.

But I guess I had better get down to business.

I was right about Mr. Tyler in one respect. There was something horribly wrong with the whole situation. I was assuming that he was molesting those kids even though I saw no evidence of it. All I had were vague suspicions and a general sense of unease. Finally this morning I decided to do something about it. We had not seen him or the children outside the house they had take residence in for three days. I dragged Katherine out of the lab she is setting up in one of the smaller holds and took her with me. I figured that if the kids were really sick she would be needed.

The bus was parked in front of the corner house Mr. Tyler had taken residence in on County Road B and 6 th Ave. It was was the type of Victorian house that looked to be the inspiration for countless doll houses and fairy tales. But I doubt that was the reason for Mr. Tyler selecting it. The house was an old house, very solidly built and had large fireplace and coal pellet furnace. Very well suited to current conditions.

And it was just crawling with red and black wraith bugs.

They were all over the big covered front porch, exterior walls and the roof. Katherine took one look at the house and pulled out a small bottle of Windex and began to douse her cloths with it. I followed her example then took out a large hand pump sprayer I had filled with the stuff shortly after Katherine had demonstrated how effective it was. I dreaded going in there but really we had no choice.

I sprayed a path clear on the porch, being very careful to spray above us as well. The front door was locked. This should have been a bit of a surprise but it wasn't. No one answered when we called or knocked so I broke the window and sprayed the area around the door knob. Once inside we found that the house was actually somewhat clear of the bugs. They seem to be leaving en mass. There was a stench in the house of rotten meat. I already had a feeling what the source would be. This was confirmed in the master bedroom.

All six of the children were upstairs tied naked on the floor of the master bedroom. What was left of them anyway. The juvenile wraiths and the insect larvae had pretty much rendered them unrecognizable. As heartless as Katherine can seem sometimes, she has a soft spot for children. I heard a small sound escape her and looked over to see her sobbing. I caught her just in time. She almost dropped to her knees in her extremity of grief. But there were bugs all over the floor in the bedroom and despite the Windex they would have bitten her in self defence. She leaned on me as I guided her from the room. I felt like breaking down myself, but was not allowed that luxury. If I had just put the pieces together earlier maybe these innocent children would still be alive. At the very least I should have demanded that the children be examined earlier.

A crash from downstairs alerted us to the fact that we were not alone in the house. There were at least six wraiths on the loose and one of them was in the house with us. Katherine quickly pulled herself together and I was thankful that I had not brought Beverly with me. I love her dearly, but I don't know if she would have been able to pull herself together as quickly. I think Jewels and Pastor Tom are the only two members of our group that would have been able to recover as quickly as Katherine or I. I'm not saying that I am so much better than anyone else, in fact sometimes I think it is the opposite. I can at times be just a little too cold blooded. Since Lisa died I developed an extraordinary ability to shut off my feelings as easily as some people flip off a light switch. Unfortunately sometimes when you cut them off it can be a little hard to cut them back on. Which is why I am reluctant to do so unless I really need to. This was one of those times when I really, really needed to and I was able to clamp them off before they could render me useless.

Katherine pulled out her gun and we quickly made our way out of the house. There was garage out back with a couple of gasoline cans and a five gallon can of paint thinner. I decided that would do just fine. I was a beautiful old house. It would be a shame to see it go up in smoke, but we had to contain the beasts as much as possible. We split up, Katherine circling the house clockwise, while I circled counter clockwise. We liberally splashed the walls and both porches with gasoline and paint thinner. The bugs shied away from the caustic liquid but since they had no wings were not able readily escape. When we met at the back Katherine pulled out a book of matches. Still holding her gun in one hand she bent one match over to the sandpaper strip and popped it back up with her thumb. The match flared to life and she tossed it to the stairs she had just doused. My dad used to do that but I never could master it.

There was a flurry of activity from inside as they tried to find a safe way out. A crash from above alerted us to one of them trying to escape to the roof of the house directly north. It made it only to be shot dead by Katherine. It would appear that her shooting lessons have paid off.

That was when we heard a man screaming behind us, demanding to know what the Hell we were doing. It was Mr. Tyler of course. But Mr. Tyler was not looking too good by this time. He looked pale and thin. His eyes were sunken and dark. Dark splotches covered his exposed skin. He had several wraith bugs attached to him. One dangled from his ear like a grotesque earring. I reacted without thinking and shot him several times, but he just got up and ran away. Katherine hit him with a flying tackle that would have made a pro football player proud. Then she started screaming and rolled off of him. A thin black appendage was stabbing into her chest from the man's torso. It disengaged and I saw a sharply pointed stinger waving at the end of it. He bounced to his feet faster than someone in his apparent state of decay had any right to. I wanted to run after him but I could not leave Katherine alone in her condition. I called the others on my walkie talkie and told the others what had happened and to be on the lookout for Mr. Tyler. I gave the order that he was to be shot on sight.

I dragged Katherine out to the Volvo. I was not able to manhandle her into the truck. The floor is almost three feet off the ground and I was not at my best. So I just propped her up against the front wheel and waited for her to wake up or someone to come help.

As I waited I watched to make sure there were no other escapees from the burning house. As I waited I contemplated the new situation. We now had an unknown number of juvenile wraiths running about the island. As much as I would like to believe that they have all been killed in the fire I know that Murphy would not allow us off the hook that easily. We only knew for sure that one was dead. There were at least six to start with. From what we have seen in the large animals, usually only two or three survive. The stronger wraiths start killing the weaker individuals before they even emerge from the host. The surviving wraiths then feed off the corpse of the host. They don't attack each other once they are out of the host. At the very most there can be twelve, but that would be a very generous estimate. The oldest child was perhaps ten.

Trying real hard not to think about that too much right now.

I think we can safely assume that there are five of these things running about the island now.

They will need food.

I think I have an idea.

Katherine has recovered completely from the sting? Mr. Tyler gave her. The effects of the venom seem to be rather mild and short-lived. We gathered up the body of the wraith Katherine shot and she is examining it now.

We still need to deal with Mr. Tyler.
 
© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dead Land Journal April 5th 2028

Talked to Mr. Tyler today, tried to urge him into coming to stay on the boat with us until we are finished surveying the island, but he is adamant about providing the children with as normal a life as possible. He says huddling on a freighter is not his idea of normal. He also says the kids have come down with a case of the flu and he does not want to expose Dee and Jeanette's girl to it. It sounds just feasible enough but I still don't like it. Something is very wrong there.

We still have not checked the island out so we don't know how safe it is. All of the men, as well as Beverly and Stacy are out patrolling, looking for signs of the wraiths. Kyle is doing aerial surveys while those of us on the ground check out anything suspicious he finds. So far we have not seen anything to worry about, but it will be a week or two before we finish.

We now have all of the amenities on the freighter. While none of us know a thing about boats or life at sea, an engine is an engine and we got the big diesel generators fired up to run the on board systems. So we have power and running water. The ship is a freighter, but it does have some passenger rooms as well as crew quarters.

The ship has weathered well with only some minor cleanup needed, although there is a broken window on the bridge. I have been spending some time on the ship's rather sophisticated radio equipment. I would like to get communications with others set up and I think I could with this equipment.

Katherine has been working alone quite a bit lately. It makes me nervous when she isolates herself like that, but this morning she came to me with a bottle of something that will repel the wraith bugs. It smells like Windex, when I commented on that she said that was exactly what it was. Windex is apparently toxic to the bugs and they will not come near anything that smells like it. Avoiding the bugs will not give complete immunity from implantation, but increases the chances that the wraith embryos will not be able to survive in a human host.

We gathered up all the empty clothes and bundled them up. Tom said a prayer over them and we placed them in a metal box and dumped them overboard. It is easy sometimes to become desensitized to it. All those empty clothes are not just so much unwashed laundry. Each little pile is another life cut short by whatever caused this disaster.


© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dead Land Journal April 1st 2028

We finally crossed the Oregon Street drawbridge over to Door Island yesterday. There are two other bridges onto the island, all three are drawbridges, but the Oregon Street bridge is the newest and the only one that completely separates the two sides when raised. The 42 highway and Michigan Street Bridge both feature a section that raises and lowers as needed. The gap is still spanned by the bridge and can be climbed. But the Oregon Street Bridge raises in two halves. If the island looks secure we are going to blow the other two bridges and raise the bridge. Billy is pretty sure he can take down the bridges easily enough. I just hope he can do it without blowing up the whole island.

There is a freighter docked at the Sturgeon Bay port. We just spent a few hours checking it out and it is clear. We will take up temporary residence there while we check out the island.

Mr. Tyler balked at the idea of sharing lodging with us. Says he could not impose. But the ship has plenty of room and an ample supply of canned and dry foods. Even after explaining that to him, he still wants to find a place for him and the kids. I am not alone in my misgivings towards him, the others are getting the feeling that something is not quite right with Mr. Tyler. But he has been very careful not to give any of us a chance to talk privately with the kids. The only thing we know about them is the names he gave us. The kids all look healthy, well fed and none of them have any obvious bruises. All we can do at this point is just keep an eye on him.

We don't have the manpower to check out every basement and every inch hiding place on the island, but over time we have learned what to look for. In large cities the wraiths feed on rats and other small animals in plentiful supply. In rural areas they look for large game for breeding purposes. There does not appear to be any large game here and despite being a port town we have not seen an over abundance of rats. Also the wraiths tend to pick a spot close to their nest to do their business and the odor from these droppings can be rather strong when the weather is warm. So all we really have to do is follow our noses.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dead Land Journal March 24th 2028

Been on good old Route 66 since about middle of Illinois. Pulled into Chicago this morning. Jewels insisted that we make a slight detour so he could see Wrigley Field, probably for the last time in his life he said. On the occasions when he would visit his favorite uncle when he was a boy, they would both go to a Cubs game if they were in town. I saw no harm in it. Kyle had to set down anyway to refuel. There is a park with baseball diamonds east of the stadium. We decided to camp there. I've never been to Chicago so I played tourist while Jewels told us about the city his Momma and uncle had grown up in. The stadium long overdue for some renovations before, was now a sad sight to see. But looking at it through Jewels' eyes it was beautiful. He made a point of telling us about the scoreboard. It was pretty much exactly as it was back when it was built in 1937. No giant TV or LED displays. Just hand painted numbered cards changed by hand. The stadium lights were something of a controversy when they were installed in 1988. Traditionalists didn't like them but it did allow for the first night time game was started on August 8, 1988, but due to rain had to be finished the following night.

We let Dee and Emily run loose in the now overgrown outfield while Jewels partially fulfilled a life time dream of running the bases. He wasn't able to run them, but he, well hell, all of us walked the bases with him, as he recounted those glorious summer days he spent here with his uncle. They would eat popcorn, and he would drink pop while his uncle downed a few beers. They would cheer He would sometimes sneak a sip while his uncle was distracted. They would cheer on Dick Ellsworth, Ernie Banks and George Altman or hurl insults at the Mets if they happened to be playing. In my mind I could see the game being played out as Jewels wove a verbal tapestry. The hot summer sun, the smell of popcorn and beer and the crack of the bat. I was never much of a baseball fan, but right then I realized I would give my right arm just to sit in the nosebleed section of any packed stadium in the country and watch a ballgame.

On the way out of the stadium we made a point stopping by the souvenir stands and getting a ball cap for each of us. Yes even Katherine was wearing a cubs cap when we left. Kyle a die hard Yankee fan skipped getting a cap but did pick up some baseball cards.

Stacy was the first to notice the new bus parked next to Katherine's RV. It was an old yellow and black school bus just like the thousands of others we have seen sitting on the sides of roads or in parking lots. But this one had not been there when we parked here.

A man and six kids stepped out of the bus as we approached.
So we have almost doubled the size of our party now. The man's introduced himself as Mark Tyler. He seems quite eager to join our group.


The kids seem ok, but there is something I do not like about Mr. Tyler. Spidey sense is tingling. No wait that is just my butt falling asleep in this chair. Seriously though the guy just seems a little off to me.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dead Land Journal March 23rd 2028

I have been using a laptop computer that Beverly found for me in one of the motel rooms. I lost both my computer and my trusty Smith Corona Sterling. As tough as it was, the Sterling proved not to be bullet proof. Not against a 50 caliber round at any rate. I really don't know why the computer was dead, maybe a power surge?

We still have not figured out why someone would bother trying to rob us. Anything anyone could possibly want is just lying around waiting to be picked up. Unless they are the type to just enjoy screwing with people. Lends credence to Katherine's theory that us leftovers are all mentally imbalanced or were drugged at the time.

We are in St. Louis. Even after all this time it is still eerie to pull into a major city and be greeted by complete silence. Like KC there are significant portions of the city that have burned. But we have not encountered any wraiths so far.

Billy quickly found a replacement van for himself. It's an old International Metro delivery van parked in front of drugstore back in St. James. The sides are painted with the drugstore name and logo and it was probably used more as advertisement than actual delivery. But the old International flathead six was replaced with a more modern 350 Chevy V8. The engine started on the first try once we replaced the battery.

I'm still looking for something. I guess maybe I'm being too picky. But I need something that can house Beverly, Dee and myself and still take a certain amount of punishment. The Uni was just about ideal, but I don't think I am going to find another one like it anytime soon.

For the time being we are riding with Mike in the tow truck. This is a new one to replace the one that was smashed up by the buffalo back in Stockton. It's a big GMC with a four door cab.
Katherine has me pumped full of steroids right now. For my knee and my optic neuritis. The stress and injuries caused a flare up and my eyes both feel like they are about to pop out of my skull at any moment. I have not been able to sleep and I feel edgy. I snapped at Dee a couple of hours ago and she ran off crying. Beverly gave me a reproachful look before going after Dee to smooth things over. I feel like crap about it now. Yes, Dee was being noisy and slightly obnoxious, but that is all part of being a kid. She did not deserve for me to yell at her like that. Katherine warned me that I would be irritable, but this goes beyond that. I am afraid that I will fly into a rage and hurt Dee or Beverly. So I am going to quit taking the steroids. I can live with a bad knee, and would rather go blind than hurt either one of them.

Looking for a safe place to spend the night because we really don't have accommodations for everyone right now. Katherine's RV is huge especially when the sides are popped out and fully extended. But the medical equipment eats up a lot floor space and it can take half an hour to get the extensions out and properly set up, then another half hour to get them back in. Experience has taught us that we may sometimes need to move in a hurry and might not have time to fold it up before we leave.

Passed something on I-44 that looked like a couple of big wire cages. Don't really know that the heck those are but we didn't stop to look. Will have to go back and look later. Looks like
There are quite a few motels in the St. Louis area so we should be able to find a place to stay.
I just saw something that might meet my needs. Will have Mike or Jewels take me back this way later.

Gotta close this up, we are pulling into a Drury Inn parking lot. Will probably pick this up later tonight.


11:13 pm

We just spent most of the day cleaning up a mess left by some sick bastard.

Jewels drove me back to look at vehicle I was interested in, a Volvo C303 painted fire engine red. It had a Mercedes six cylinder diesel in it Jewels was familiar with. We were able to get it running easily enough. It looked to be in pristine condition. but needed a new radiator hose. Fortunately this being a rather uncommon vehicle here in the States, the previous owner kept a box of spare parts in the back. Belts, hoses, brake pads, that kind of thing. I know reading back through my journal it may seem that I have had amazing luck with finding running cars, but I usually don't write about the dozens of cars I look at before finding the right one and this time was no exception. I have looked at a lot trucks, vans and RVs the last couple of days that I thought would be perfect but turned out to be duds. I was not getting my hopes up. But once we replaced the hose and coolant we were able to get it started. It is not as big as the Uni but but I think it will do. I don't intend for us to actually live in it. It just needs to last till we get to Door Island.

I know I have strayed off subject again. I guess I am not eager to recall it.

The big cages I saw back on I-44 were part of Carr Lane Manufacturing. The factory itself was flattened by a large plane, but the cages were left intact. I still don't know what purpose they served, but lately someone has been using them to suspend bodies from. They were not dead when they were hung though. They were tortured and raped, men and women alike. There were five of them. They were not all killed at the same time, but a few weeks apart. The most recent was only a few days ago. And it all looked a little too familiar.

Katherine examined the bodies and says at least one of the killers was also involved in killing Christina Tudor. I was hoping those twisted fucks had been down in Springfield, but no such luck.


© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dead Land Journal March 22nd 2028

Every time it looks like things are going smooth something throws a wrench into the works. Or a damn road block. Yesterday morning as we cruised into St. James on I-44 a friggin tank rolled out onto the highway from under the Jefferson Street overpass. The turret pivoted around to point that big cannon directly at the lead vehicle with just happened to be me at the time. Mike was out back and catching up after ramming a Lexus off the road.

It was a World War II Sherman tank. An antique by any standard. I very nice restoration or preservation, but an antique nonetheless. But since none of us were driving tanks or any kind of armoured vehicles for that matter, it was more than a match for us.

A voice came over a large PA speaker mounted on the front ordering us to cut the motors and exit the vehicles. A warning shot knocked one of the air conditioners off the Uni. I hit the floor. Dee was screaming and crying and I ordered her into the back. Emily ducked under the table in back.

Not seeing much of a choice otherwise I cut the motor. Sitting there under the overpass, I did not even have the option of turning around and he could easily fire another shot from that cannon before I could get turned around. Dee poked her head out of the bathroom and I gestured her back in. She whistled for Emily and she quickly squeezed through the narrow bathroom door.

Shaking, I opened the door and stepped outside. I immediately wished I had taken the time to pull a jacket on. It was a cold damp morning. My cane felt somewhat comforting in my hand.
I looked back and could see the others stepping out of their vehicles. A hatch popped open on the tank and a man climbed out in military camouflage. He was carrying an M-16 at the ready. As he approached our convoy I headed out to meet him with the intent to negotiate passage. Instead the man screamed at me to get down. I hesitated but that only infuriated him more. When he was close enough he rammed the butt of the gun into my belly and kicked me in my bad leg. I went down hard. He kicked me a couple of more times. I could only lay there for a few moments catching my breath.


He closed the distance to the Uni and ordered the others away from the vehicles and down on the ground. He fired off a few more warning shots to get them to comply.

When they were down he opened the door to the Uni to check it out. A gunshot rang out and he staggered back. I pulled myself to my feet using my cane. He was shot but not down. He turned and ran towards me. Right into the steel head of my cane. I've never bothered to weigh it, but its a 2 5/16 steel quick change U-Haul tow ball grafted onto the handle of a sledgehammer. I think I mentioned it before. I was able to get just enough of a swing on it. The ball landed with a satisfying crunch dead on the bastard's nose. He went down like a sack of potatoes.

That was when I heard screaming behind me. I guess I had just assumed there was only one person in the tank. The cannon apparently took two people to man it or maybe it just took too long to load. But the fifty caliber machine gun on top was well within his ability to operate. And he did. I'm afraid the Uni took the brunt of it. I was so scared that Dee was going to get hit.

Suddenly a small object shot past me heading for the tank. It was a radio control car. A little 4x4 really. It was moving fast and was too small for him to aim at. It lodged under the tank. The hatch popped open again and out flew another cammo wearing son of a bitch. He was able to run off a short distance before the explosive Billy had packed the little RC 4x4 with blew. It was not a big fireball, but it was enough to pop the hatches and blow the motor. The tank was dead. But that still left the second man to deal with. I had already hit the ground when I saw the RC heading under the tank. I rolled over to try to get the first man's M-16 but needn't have bothered. By this time Emily was out and after him. She caught him quickly. Dee was heading after her and I scooped her up so she would not see Emily "playing" with the bad man.

I was so happy to see her alive I was almost crying.

It shortly became apparent that there were no other threats to deal with and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Of course that was when the explosion rocked our little convoy. We all kissed the pavement and were looking around for more tanks. But of course there weren't any. It was just the one thing I had feared since Billy joined our group. That old Divco van loaded with explosives. The rolling Russian roulette game finally spun up to the loaded chamber. Fortunately as a matter of policy it was at the tail end of our convoy.

Mike arrived at that time and barely avoided driving into the fireball and by this time Kyle was circling overhead in a panic. On one low pass I waved him an all clear sign and jumped back into the Uni to radio him. But of course radio equipment was shot up. The windshield was gone too. I cussed for a good five minutes. Dammit I liked the Uni! Of all the vehicles I have had since the disappearance, it was my favorite. But it is not drivable. As well as the windshield being shot up, the radiator has three fist size holes in it, the ECM is shot and the water pump is cracked. It could be fixed if we wanted to spend a couple of days working on it, but in fairness to the others I will have to abandon it.

One of the others radioed Kyle and let him know that everyone, including his wife and daughter, was ok.

Kyle set down in a little man made lake about four miles back and Mike fetched him.

We are not without injuries. I have a cracked rib (again), cuts and bruises and my knee is fucked up. Katherine is not optimistic about it healing right, so now I will probably be using this cane for quite a while longer than I thought. Billy has a few second degree burns from the explosion of his van and Dee has a cut on her cheek and a black eye from the kickback from firing my .357 without really knowing what she was doing.

Pastor Tom and Jewels took the remains of Emily's chew toy, and the surviving attacker away. they came back alone. Jewels looked somber and Tom spent an hour or two alone in prayer.

This has not been a good day.
 
© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dead Land Journal March 20th 2028

We are once again on the road.

Katherine seems to be making a full recovery. She refuses to talk about what lead her to take such a stupid risk.

We cleaned out the RV and we are keeping a close eye on her. While Katherine was still in the church recovering I took the liberty of installing a few pinhole cameras in the lab section of the RV. Took another trip out to Lebanon to get them. They transmit on an encrypted channel to a receiver I have plugged into the USB port of my computer. For this and other reasons I am keeping my journal locked up and my computer password protected. I think Katherine would kill me if she ever discovered I was spying on her. The cameras are indeed tiny. The lens is literally a pinhole and the whole thing is about the size of a pencil eraser. The little button cell battery is supposed to be good for two years but we will see. I have a small box of 50 of them so I can always install more if one dies.

Weather has been good and we have been making good time. We are camping in Lebanon tonight. We have been to Lebanon enough times to know it is fairly safe. Well as safe as any place.

Kyle has been flying ahead as planned and keeping us informed of the road conditions ahead. This has saved us a lot of time. And when the road is blocked by an obstacle too big to get around or be moved, he has found alternate routes. At this rate it should only take us a couple of days to get there. There is a small air field in Lebanon so Kyle was able to set down there. It was borderline, but the only other alternative was a small man made lake, really just a pond alongside I-44 on the north west side. Looks to be just under a thousand feet. Kyles says he could have made it but it looks awful short to me.

It has been a long day and I am going to turn in.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dead Land Journal March 12th 2028

I think Katherine is going to pull through fine. Her fever has been coming down and there are no signs of post operative infection.

We have to relocate. We can't stay here. There are too many of them and too few of us. We don't have the manpower to patrol our territory.

I have been in radio contact with the Beaver Island community. Elliot Marshal, a former cop seems to be in charge there. He tells me they pretty much have the island clean of the wraiths. He calls them demons. He says we are welcome to join their community but says that there are other islands in the Great Lakes area that would be suitable for colonization. An island would be ideal. Elliot confirms that the wraiths can't swim. They've caught a few live ones and thrown them into the bay. They sank like bricks. Once we get the island clean then we can keep it clean.

I was considering moving to one of the Sac River islands but they are too small and life would be very primitive for a while. The only comforts would be those we brought with us. And there is a great risk of flooding come spring.


We could fly up there, but I think it would be better if we drive up there. I'm sure Katherine is not going to be willing to give up the RV and the others are going to be just as reluctant to give up everything they could not bring in the small bag that Kyle told me they could take on the plane. Plus that Cessna would not be able to get all of us in one trip. It would just be too risky splitting us up like that.

If we do make the trip, and I will do my best to persuade them to make the move, we will have Kyle fly ahead and plan out our route.

We just have to decide where we are going. There are three main choices. Manitoulin Island, Door Island or Beaver Island. The first two have the advantage of access. Both have bridge access so we can just drive up. Beaver island we would either have to fly across or see if we could get ferry boat up and running. According to Elliot the only ferry that have running could not accommodate a large motorhome.

Once we get settled we will be able to fly or boat across to visit and trade with the people of Beaver Island. The winters will be a little harsher, but that will be a bonus as the colder winters will keep the wraiths away longer. We can build a permanent settlement and maybe get more people to join.

I am leaning more towards Door Island. It's closer and a more easily defended. There are only two bridges and the Manitoulin is a very irregular shaped island with a complex shoreline and a lot of little coves, meaning more places to hide. It would be more difficult to secure and in some places is just too close to other islands. Door is really a simple peninsula that has been separated from the mainland by a single straight canal. Without swimming a great distance that canal or the two bridges are the only access to the island. I think we can easily secure that.

I honestly think Elliot may be a little overconfident in his assessment that they have their island clean. Unless they really had a very light infestation it would be nearly impossible for 50 people to search the entire island in one winter, even working around the clock. Although the island was sparsely populated and the wraiths are attracted to large cities, it is also heavily wooded and has a good size deer population. A good environment for the wraiths I think. Door Island on the other hand was a heavily developed farm community, sparse population and according to Elliot no large game to speak of. With the cold weather, no suitable hosts and isolation it should be relatively clean.

I will present it to the group tomorrow. It should not be too hard to convince them. We are now down to two cows, a bull and one calf.

I think we all knew that Stockton would be temporary anyway.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dead Land Journal March 10th 2028

I think Katherine is dying.

We found her this morning on the floor of the motorhome. She was unconscious and running a fever of 103. She had been locked in there for few days and was refusing to see anyone unless it was a life or death emergency. When she didn't answer this morning I had Billy open up the RV.
The place was a mess. The normally pristine clinic was littered with food wrappers and other trash. Medicine bottles were everywhere. There was a horrible rotten meat smell coming from the back section of the RV. Katherine had closed that off some time ago when she had dissected that first wraith. Back there we found several dead animals in cages and five living juvenile wraiths in cages and one dead one. Stacy shot two of them and Billy shot the other three.


It only took us a few minutes to determine what was wrong with Katherine. A tell tale puncture wound and severe abdominal distension indicated that she had infected herself with at least one wraith embryo. Aside from Katherine the only one of us that has had any medical training at all is Pastor Tom. I assisted Katherine while she removed the buggers from Dee back in August but really neither of us is qualified to perform surgery. We hauled her up onto the exam table and Tom operated the ultrasound. What we found was a bit a surprise. There were several wraith embryos all right, but they were all dead. There were eight of them, each one was about 4 centimeters long and looked shriveled up.

What the Hell was she thinking?! How did she plan to get them out by herself?

Tom said that due to the placement of them no vital organs were in danger, so they could be removed. It was really risky, but between the two of us we were able to remove them. I was only there because I had watched her remove them from Dee and was able to tell him what to expect. It was that or she would die from the infection. We carefully preserved each one as we removed it. As much as we disapproved of what she did we both knew it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to learn something from this if Katherine survives.

She is still running a high fever and has not yet regained consciousness. We found some instructions typed out on Katherine's Underwood. She was very specific on the dosage of the antibiotics and post operative care. We think she passed out sooner than she anticipated, she planning on calling us over with the walkie talkie but it was just out of her reach when we found her.

I had a bit of a talk with Billy a few minutes ago. He has been closer to Katherine than anyone these last couple of weeks. He says he knew something was wrong with what she was doing, but Katherine was so persuasive. Billy will do just about anything for her too and she took advantage of that. I have instructed him not to bring anything to her from now on without clearing it with me or Tom first. If she lives that is.

Damn her!

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dead Land Journal March 4th 2028

Exhausted.

We have been fighting an uphill battle here this last week. We have been shooting two or three juvenile wraiths a day, and double that at night. The bodies have to be disposed of. We have to constantly patrol the perimeter. We have lost three cows. Nerves are on edge. Everyday we have to check the livestock for those damn bugs, check each other and keep the windows and doors closed at all times.

But we now know something very important about the things. The bugs and the wraiths have more than just a slight symbiotic relationship. Neither one can exist without the other. The venom secreted by the bugs suppresses the immune system, allowing the wraith embryos to implant successfully. The waste products secreted by the embryos begin to break down proteins in the host that can be absorbed by the bug's simple digestive system. There are also hormones released by the embryos that allow the bugs to lay their eggs. The eggs are left on the dead carcass of the host after the wraith embryos mature.

Katherine has sequestered herself in her motorhome for most of the last week trying in order to give us this information. Twice she has sent Billy out to the hospitals in Lebanon for equipment and supplies. And of course Billy is all too happy to comply. I am not sure I like Katherine spending so much time alone in her motorhome. She is becoming more and more reclusive.

Stacy is out patrolling now on one of the ATVs. Jeanette protested sending a child out on patrol, but Stacy has a good head on her shoulders and we are dangerously shorthanded here.

We cannot maintain this. There are too few of us.

As soon as Stacy gets back it will be my turn.

Kyle, Jewels and I were having a bit of a theological discussion yesterday during a rare quite period. Kyle stated that he would sell his soul for a single boscaiola from the Co. Restaurant on 9th. He pronounced it "company" but said the name on the sign read simply Co. nothing else. The boscaiola is a pizza smothered with mushrooms, tomatoes, sausage and spicy peppers. Aside from the mushrooms it sounded good to me, but Kyle assured me that even if they forgot and left the mushrooms on you could pick them off and he would be happy to eat them of course if Jeanette was in the room she would make him fight for the them.

Jewels told him it sounded good, but then if he sold his soul he probably would not be able to enjoy the pizza too much. So we got to discussing what it would take to get us to sell our souls to the Devil. What would tempt us so far that we would turn our backs on everything we held near and dear. This went on for a few minutes and Jewels was becoming a bit uncomfortable with the line of conversation. I asked him his opinion and he quite simply stated nothing could make him do that.


"What the fuck would make me do a damn fool thing like that for? I mean you two white boys arguing back and forth over this like you were discussing fantasy football teams. You don't realize what the hell you're talking about. You sell you soul you got nothin, ya hear me, Nothin! They don't call Satan the Prince of Lies cause its got a nice ring to it. Shit Kyle, as a lawyer you should know anything can be hidden the fine print. You think if your woman or child was in danger you'd be helpin them by sellin your soul? Shit no. First the Devil don't keep his word. And second even if he did save them from whatever you was feared of so what. Now you sold your soul to the Devil, you are his, you're essentially gone. Bye Bye, no return service. That leaves this souless thing walkin around with your face. You have become Satan's Sock Puppet. He done rammed his hand up your ass and workin your head like a ventriloquist's dummy. And that is all you are. Now you may have saved you loved ones from death only to have them die anyway, only this time they die cussin your name. Is that what you want?"

Well, needless to say this sobered us up some.

People casually offer up their souls in exchange for the most mundane items. They are rarely serious but still it makes one wonder.

I hear Stacy pulling up on her ATV. So I guess it's my turn to go out.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

20th Wedding Anniversary. No Story Post Today

I would like to apologize to my handful of loyal readers for the absence of a story post today.

Today marks the 20 years of marriage to a woman that has made my life joyful and complete. Twenty-one years ago I found myself homeless. She offered me a couch to sleep on and a roof over my head till I got back on my feet. I left Kansas City carrying everything I owned in an old airmail bag. I walked from downtown KC to Independence with that bag slung over my shoulder because it was a Sunday and the buses were not running out to Independence. I somehow got the address wrong so I got lost and ended up walking all over town trying to find her address. By the time I finally arrived at her doorstep, my feet were blistered and the cord from the airmail bag had dug furrows in my shoulders. I was filthy from being repeatedly splashed by cars passing me on the street. Inside I found a hot bath waiting for me followed by a hot meal. I think that was the moment I realized I was in love with her.

She took me in when I needed shelter and has continued to be my refuge from the trials of life as well as a source of happiness beyond measure. I know that I do not deserve a woman as wonderful as her.

Today we will be renewing our wedding vows. A lot has changed since the first time we stood before a minister and said our vows. Friends have come and gone, family members have passed on. Five presidential elections, terrorist attacks and a war that is still keeping American soldiers away from their homes even after 8 years. We've buried 3 dogs and 4 cats, have had seven changes of address, twenty cars, ten job changes and even a new set of wedding bands in 1999. We have been through sickness and health, car fires, flooded apartments, financial security and poverty. Rolling pennies for gas and eating nothing but rice for a month. We have experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage, the loss of our first daughter Jordan and the joy of the births of our twins, Bailey and Noah. Today we will again exchange wedding bands. The new rings are titanium to represent strength and durability, because amidst all the change around us, one thing has not changed, our love for one another.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 26th 2028

Woke up out in the pasture by the tractor repair shop. I came to just standing by the rear wall where the fence meets the corner of the wall. One of our cows was standing nearby chewing its cud and staring at me with those stupid watery brown eyes. My hand was on the power switch for the electric fence we have put up around the pasture. This is not the standard electric fence farmers and ranchers use. This is prison grade. The goal is to fry any wraith that tries to get to the cows.

There was a wraith on the other side of the fence. It was just watching me. I stood there for what seemed like hours staring into those eyes. I felt sure that the sun would be coming up any moment and I would be seen here holding the switch about to let this abomination in. I could feel that something inside wanted me to, but my arm seemed locked into position. The ground was cold and wet on my bare feet, my sweat pants were soaked all the way up to my knees from walking in the sodden grass. I looked over at the cow again. It was showing no fear of the nearby wraith. My leg was feeling weak and stiff and I was afraid that at any moment I would pitch forward into the electric fence. My bad leg was hurting from my heel all the way to my scrotum which felt like it had the time I had been hit in the crotch by a baseball in high school.

There were several of those red and black bugs on the cow. Each one attached as that one had been on the deer. But the cow did not seem to notice, just as it did not seem to notice the wraith either.


I could feel my finger pushed on the switch. At any moment I knew that the spring inside the switch would reach that tipping over point and the toggle would pop down triggering the solenoid that would break the circuit. The wraith would be through the electric fence in an instant and I would quickly resemble an extra from a sci-fi horror flick.

Suddenly bright light blinded me and I thought merciful angels had swooped in and taken me to save me from the horror even then being done to my corporeal body. Then the lights turned away and a phosphorescent streak shot across parking lot and hit the wraith. In the sudden headlight glare I could see shadows of several more wraiths. the first one exploded in a shower of blood and gore that seems to be Billy's trademark method of dealing with the vile beasts. At this point my leg had the good sense to finally give up and I fell, thankfully backwards away from the high voltage electric fence. Several more missiles streaked across the parking lot, each one hitting a wraith.

A sharp pain stabbed into my low back. I reached back thinking that Billy had accidentally hit me too. My hand came away covered in blood and clutching a red and black bug. A long silvery proboscis tried to stab into my hand, but I crushed the bug in my fist before it could.

Beverly was already running across the field towards us as Billy helped me back towards the church.

Billy gathered up several of the bugs off the cow for Katherine to examine. She thinks there may be some indirect symbiotic relationship between the bugs and the wraiths, but admits that it could be years before she fully understands it.

In the meantime my leg still feels like there is a white hot steel rod piercing the entire length of it, terminating in my groin as a result of the bug's bite.

The scariest thing is that I was not in control there. I was fighting, sure, but I was losing that fight till Billy showed up.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, November 2, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 24th 2028

Just heard back from Billy on the radio. He thinks Springfield is empty. He circled around and came up from the south. He breezed into town unmolested, no shots were fired or alarms raised. But there are fires burning all over town. He says it looks like a damn war zone. There are dead animals all over the place. He said it looks like they were shooting anything that moved. The Marine Corps Reserve training base was abandoned and in flames. He found one dead body, gutted like Scratch had been and a few patches of blood. Billy says Springfield is unnaturally quiet so he will be headed out tonight. He will not even stay the night in town.

We were right about them stockpiling weapons and food. The had enough food and ammo to supply an army for a prolonged siege. Personally I am not interested in the weaponry, but in the absence of large game animals we might need those food supplies.

In light of Billy's report I am eagerly resuming my radio broadcasts tonight. I have been recording some radio chatter with a community to the north. Someplace called Beaver Island. Google Earth shows it's an island on the far north end of Lake Michigan. From what I have been able to gather from the radio chatter, there are about fifty people on the island. They had a rough winter but that far up north they are used to it and the houses are built for it. Plus being on an island they are probably more self sufficient.

After what happened last time I am reluctant to even consider sending Kyle out again. He has already found a replacement plane to his liking though. Of course it is another Cessna. I think he said it was a TU206 made in 1977 with turbos removed. He said the turbochargers made very little difference on this model. The only thing they really did was just make it noisier when the turbo's were engaged. Kyle will talk your ears off about planes it you will let him. The important thing in my opinion is that it's an amphibious plane capable of water landings. This is important because no one is taking care of these airstrips now so the ability to land on a lake or river could make the difference between Kyle making a safe landing or circling around till he runs out of gas and crashing.

It was floating out on the lake. Don't know why or how it got there. There was an empty set of clothes in the pilot's seat and judging from the fuel on board it had recently landed when the pilot disappeared. He and Billy hauled it ashore shortly before Billy went to Springfield. Kyle has it almost ready for a test flight.

Beverly has been helping me so much lately. Just been so damned exhausted. I've been waking up tired in the morning by afternoon I am just dragging ass. This morning, if it had not been for Beverly I probably would not even have gotten out of bed. She laid out my clothes and got me breakfast and coffee. She even went out and found me some energy drinks at a local convenience store a few days ago. Those seem to help a little. They taste horrible though, way too sweet.

Going to go take a nap then talk to Kyle.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Sorry, I am running late on my story post

I am running late on my story posts. Started out this weekend with the best of intentions, but was not able to complete a story post for this morning. I will try to have one up by this afternoon if not sooner.

Keith

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 21st 2028

That damn fool Billy took it one himself to head down to Springfield to check things out. He left early this morning. The sound of the Divco's ancient motor starting up woke Beverly and I. We had spent the night in the Uni again. I ran out to see what was going on. I don't run too fast anymore so Billy was already pulling out of the church parking lot by the time I got out there. He yelled back something about a note on the church bulletin board. I just want to be on record as saying I think this is a bad idea. Billy is a genius at fixing and building things, but a bit of an idiot in the real world. I would have felt much better if someone was going with him.

I stood there for a moment while snow melted through my socks cussing at Billy under my breath.

Beverly called me in and after we finished getting dressed we both headed into the church. The rest of us had a little meeting that morning and discussed this new problem over coffee and breakfast. Thank God we still have coffee.

Jewels and I had discussed this before and had already decided that someone was going to have to go down there and actually take a look. I think Billy is convinced that these men are responsible for killing the Tudor girl. Admittedly, this is a statistic probability, but I think that Billy's judgement may be clouded in this matter.

After breakfast we once again resumed our hunting. We have not seen as many infected creatures as before. Perhaps it will prove to be a seasonal thing.

I saw something while we were out hunting today. It was some kind of insect attached to one of the deer we killed. But it was not like anything I have ever seen before. It was about two inches long, black with red spots and only had four legs. It was attached to the deer like a parasite. It has a heavy seamless carapace and no wings. I managed to brush it off into a Pringles can Mike had left in the back seat of the truck. Mike was a little irritated because there was still half a can of chips in there. I'll make it up to him sometime. I gave it to Katherine as soon as I got back. She agreed that it, like the wraiths is not of terrestrial origin. She does not know if the came from the same place as the wraiths but what are the odds that they came from someplace different. I wonder what kind of new nightmare those will be.

The weather is starting to warm up and Dee is wanting to go outside and play, but I can't let her unless she is supervised. Stacy is down with the flu right now and Jeanette is too busy with the baby right now. Dee is being so good about this, but I know that eventually her patience will wear out. There has to be a solution.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In God We Trust, unless you work at Home Depot

I just read a story about a former employer of Home Depot. Was he fired for stealing, harassing customers, refusing to help customers or maybe even running around the Home Depot parking lot with nothing on but an orange apron and crocs?

No, Trevor Keezer was fired on October 23rd for wearing a pin with the words "One Nation Under God."

Apparently this is against Home Depot dress code. They are so afraid that one of their customers might possibly be offended by this pin that they had to fire him. In my opinion any person offended by this pin must spend their days looking for things to be offended by. I am damn tired of everyone trying to avoid offending the thin skinned, self righteous and willfully ignorant people in this world. I think that as a society it is our duty to offend these people as much as humanly possible. Maybe this will toughen them up some. Or at least drive them so far into seclusion so that they don't reproduce.

The picture of Trever Keezer shown in the story I read showed a clean cut man with no visible tattoos or facial jewelery. He looks like he could have fallen out of an episode of Leave it to Beaver. I cannot picture this man doing anything to intentionally offend anyone. I am frankly more offended by the careless attitude, incompetence and poor hygiene of some of the other employees I have encountered at Home Depot.

Too many people think that the Constitution guarantees freedom FROM religion, but in fact it guarantees freedom OF religion. This means that we can worship as we see fit. This does not mean that we can prevent others from worshipping in ways we disagree with or even worshipping at all. In fact it means the opposite. We cannot legally interfere with another's legitimate mode of worship. But in all things a little common sense must be applied. If your form of worship involves ritualistic human sacrifice then maybe you should refrain from practicing it at work (unless the chosen sacrifice is perhaps that goon two cubicles down that is always stealing other peoples lunch from the fridge and picks his nose in full view of the entire staff). But I see no harm in a little pin that says "One Nation Under God," I mean really, this is in our Pledge of Allegiance and if I remember correctly the phrase "In God We Trust" is printed on all our money. I wonder if this offends the powers that be at Home Depot too? Well I better not risk it. I will just take my money to Lowe's instead.

Dead Land Journal February 16th 2028

Yesterday was a repeat of Valentine's Day. Billy, Mike Jewels and I headed out early and in the truck hunting deer and anything else large enough to host a wraith. We ignored anything that ran away from us. The host creatures become aggressive towards anything that could be viewed as competition. Had a scary moment when a friggin' buffalo attacked us. Some of the ranchers in southern Missouri keep buffalo and hybrid buffalo/cattle. This monster was 2400 pounds of mean. It hit the truck hard on the left front fender. Bits of fiberglass and plastic showered the ground in front of the truck. But that was not enough for it. It kept ramming the truck. Each time it was like being hit by a small car. We were trying to lean out the windows and shoot it. But only Jewels and Mike were able to get clear shots at it from the drivers side windows. On the fourth impact Mike dropped his gun out the window. Jewels kept shooting, but that just seemed to piss the buffalo off even more. Billy got fed up with our inability to kill the thing and jumped out with his missile gun. He only uses it for special occasions. The projectiles take a while to build and he has to go into Lebanon to get what he needs to make more. But I guess this warranted him pulling out the big guns. Once I understood what was happening I told the others to keep the buffalo's attention.

It's not like a standard gun you just point and shoot. Billy could not help but show off his invention to me one day while he was toasted. First you have to boot it up. Yes like a computer. It even runs on a modified version of Windows XP. Billy refuses to use anything later than that. There is a helmet that he has rigged up with an HUD display operating off a camera on the muzzle of the gun. It can be used without it with the little built in screen. After the computer boots up and automatically loads the targeting program you have to select the target. This is done by lightly squeezing the trigger. It will focus on the object and highlight it. If that is the correct target you squeeze the trigger again and it loads the image onto the projectile before sending it on its way. Even if you already have the thing booted up it can take up to ten seconds to be actually acquire the target and fire the missile. And the missile itself is relatively slow too. So during this time the weapon operator is somewhat vulnerable.

Billy walked out about a hundred yards from the tow truck and took careful aim. He fired a single well placed shot to the abdomen. The buffalo of course took note of this. It whirled around with more grace than any creature that size has any right to and began to charge. Billy stood his ground supremely confident in his invention. By the time it had covered 75 yards it became obvious that something was wrong. The creature was still charging. Billy realized that he was now in serious trouble. He tried to fire another shot, but it was coming too fast. The thundering hooves were enough to make a bull fighter lose nerve. The second shot buried itself harmlessly in a snow bank where it melted about 4 cubic yards of snow. That was when Billy broke and ran.

The buffalo was close on his heels, and Billy screaming for Jesus to come take home. We thought Billy was a goner when he tripped and fell. But at that moment the buffalo staggered. It shook its huge horned head in confusion and belched. And then with a mighty fart, it fell over, dead. Right on top of poor Billy. It took all of us and the tow truck to get the evil thing off him.


And you know what? It was not infected. It was just naturally mean. But at least we have a few hundred pounds of buffalo meat.


Katherine thinks that this infected migration is a way for the creatures to spread their population without risk to themselves. This means it is very important for us to hunt them down whenever we can. Come Spring we are going to be up to our assholes in these things. Can't wait. whoohoo.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 14th 2028

It's Valentine's Day.

We have killed 50 head of deer today and 12 cows. The bonfire is still burning. And probably will be for a couple of days.

Two days ago we were out hunting. Our first kill popped open like something from the Alien movies. But instead of one little beast, seven little monsters came out. They attacked Billy, but Mike was able to beat them off. I shot the little beasts as fast as Mike could get them off of Billy. They were each about the size of a possum. What they lacked in size they made up for in claws. Billy got away with only a few cuts thanks to Mike.

Really we should have known something was wrong when Mike brought it down. Its belly was huge. The skin stretched grotesquely over the belly, so bad the hair was no longer able to protect the skin from elements. Red patches of frostbite and scrapes riddled the doe's sides. Since then we have made it point to take down any deer that just looks a little too pregnant. We then burn the bodies before the fuckers can escape. They usually seem to take about half an hour to wake up after the host is dead so we have time to get them taken care of. Wandering cattle are given the same treatment.

But this presents a problem. Deer and cattle are our primary source of meat now. Of the 62 animals we have killed only two were not infected. Katherine assures us that eating the meat will not transfer that "infection" to us as long as the meat is cooked. But by the time the beasts are ready to come out, the meat is ruined. We tried eating some of it and it was foul. Not even Emily would touch it.

Mike has noticed some aberrant behavior that will clue us in to an infected animal. Cattle become solitary, shunning the company of the herd, while the herd also shuns the infected cow. It will stop allowing calves to suckle and in fact its milk dries up. Deer become aggressive and attack any other animal that comes near it, even killing its own offspring.

Without large game we will have to rely on smaller animals. Katherine says she does not think that any creature smaller than a large dog can carry one of these to "term" as if we were talking about a pregnant animal and not a parasite. She thinks she can devise a vaccine for the animals so at least we can protect out local cattle. Not really a vaccine, but a drug like vets use for preventing worms in dogs and cats. She tried to explain the chemical processes but it just went over my head.

This was not how I wanted to spend the day. I had plans for the evening with Beverly, but right now, all I want is a shower and to go bed. I don't even want to eat. The thought of eating, especially meat, makes me feel somewhat ill.

Back from my shower.

I just wanted to check the radio. The CB transmissions from Springfield have stopped. I don't know what that means. Have not heard a peep from them since about a week after we got back from rescuing Kyle.

I feel much better since my shower, and I think I see Beverly coming out from the church.


Maybe we can salvage Valentine's Day after all.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 5th 2028

Been busy this last month. Have not even had a chance to sit down at my typewriter. I just finished typing up some entries from handwritten notes. My handwriting sucks so it takes a while sometimes. Mike just gave me the notes I wrote while I was down in that hole a couple of days ago. He assured me that no one had told Beverly the purpose of my trip. I am relieved and little embarrassed. That entry was a little self pitying. Despite the temptation to edit I typed it in just as I wrote it.

Been very busy as I said, but not much to write about. Just basic chores, hunting, gathering and the mundane necessities of survival. There are three events of note.

First Beverly and I are engaged. I asked her a week ago and she said yes.

I enlisted the aid of Jewels and Billy to get the small Italian restaurant ready. I even got Katherine to help. Turns out she can whip up a fantastic lasagna. Billy and I cleaned up the restaurant while Jewels made sure a generator was hooked up so we had some lights and power so Katherine could cook. Between her and Jeanette they made the lasagna, bread, some sauteed peppers and onions. Ice cream and canned strawberries for dessert. Mike even put on a waiter's uniform and served our meal. Although we had power I chose to eat by candle light. Jewels even found an excellent bottle of Champagne. Might have even been Dom Perignon. I'm not a wine snob, in fact I really know nothing about wine, but Jewels always uses the right tool for the job. He won't use a pair of pliers when he should be using a 5/16 open end wrench. When he found out what I was wanting he spent the afternoon out scouring the city to find just the right thing. Stockton is a small town. I think there are maybe four or five bars in town if you count the VFW hall and maybe two liquor stores, and these are not exactly upscale establishments. I think he finally found what he was looking for in a private residence.

After the meal was finished I got down on one knee, being careful to set my cane nearby, and pulled out the ring box. Beverly was already tearing up and nodding yes before I even managed to get the question out.

We set the date for April 10th. That was her maternal grandparents anniversary.

Kyle and Jeanette are now officially married. This was at Jeanette's insistence and happened shortly after we got back from rescuing Kyle. Pastor Tom was overjoyed to be able to officiate. I think that part of him as felt like he has been presiding over a an unending funeral service for the human race. I stood as best man, Dee was of course a flower girl and Beverly was a bride's maid.

And finally Jeanette had her baby yesterday. A healthy baby girl, 21 inches and 8 pounds 9 ounces. Mother and child are doing fine. Father has a broken nose. A contraction caught Jeanette by surprise and her hand came down on a tray by the bed, just a little too close to the bed rail. The tray popped up and caught Kyle in the face. But that is not what broke his nose. He was bending down to pick up the tray and rammed his forehead right into the bed rail. He stood up and became entangled in the curtain around the tiny delivery room of the mobile clinic. Not being able to see he smacked his head into one of the stainless steel wall cabinets behind him. He then pitched forward, once again hitting his face on the bed rail, this time breaking his nose. And he still has not fully recovered from his plane crash. He looks like he was catapulted face first into a brick wall. But despite this he is still wearing that goofy grin that Jewels says all new fathers exhibit.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dead Land Journal January 9th thru 10th 2028

Transcribed from handwritten notes.

January 9th 9:13 am

Got an early start this morning. Still snowing when we headed out. Before we left I handed Pastor Tom a gun and asked him if he would have a problem using it. He told me that the wraiths were not of God and anything not of God's creation was fair game. Then he pulled the slide back, checked the barrel and the magazine before holstering the .45. He obviously knows a thing or two about handguns. As for coming up against any human opposition he said that he could shoot in defense only, but would try to broaden his definition of self defense as the circumstances demanded.

Before I could object Emily hopped in the open back door of the tow truck. The floor of the truck is just over three feet so it was actually a pretty impressive leap. I was afraid that Dee would object, but she told Emily to take care of Daddy. Emily has made herself quite comfortable in the back seat.

The wipers are having a hard time keeping up with the snow. Its a damn blizzard. The heater in the towtruck is doing a good job of keeping up so far. Tom is a good driver but we are having to take it slow. Of course the road has not been plowed and is almost invisible under the snow. We catch brief glimpses of the blacktop where the wind has scoured the snow off the road, but unless the road is lined by trees, most often our only indication that we are even on the road at all is a road sign here and there, some mile markers and cars piled up along the side of the road.
We are taking MO-32 east and then north on MO-OO or "MOO" as the voice directions my computer pronounced it when I was printing out the map. Moo will take us to 64 and that will put us within 3 miles of where Billy lost Radar contact with Kyle.


Even with the grey skies I am wearing my sunglasses. Everything is white and my eyes are having a hard time. In anticipation of the headache I know I will get otherwise I have already taken three Excedrin. Washed down with the coffee from the big stainless steel thermos Beverly handed me this morning.

We spent the night in the Uni last night. It was far more private than the church and what we were doing out there, really should not be done in a church. I slept pretty good after that with Beverly there beside me.

Right now the Beatles are playing on the CD player. I am a little surprised by Tom's taste in music. I expected gospel or maybe some old symphony. Tom just looked at me when he slid the CD in and said "Hey I'm human." He even confessed to liking the Rolling Stones and ZZtop.
The towtruck has a plow mounted on the front and Billy explained the operation to both me and Tom. He also gave us a pack of some other gear that might come in handy. A pair of night vision goggles, a flare gun and a few other goodies I hope we won't need.
Wonderful, looks like we got a tree across the road.


2:30 pm

Managed to get the tree pulled out of the way with no problem. I took over driving for a while. had to drive barefoot because my socks and boots were soaked through. Got the boots set up in the back with one of the rear heater vents blowing into them. Tom's boots were set up on the other side the same way. Emily quite thoroughly investigated both sets of boots. I warned her that her life would depend on how she treated my boots. She huffed and left them alone. Fortunately I brought a couple changes of clothes. You never know what may happen and it's too friggin cold out there to be parading about wet clothes.

We stopped at a Sinclair station in Boliver and syphoned some diesel out of a van sitting at the pumps. Just topping of the tank really. We have only covered a little over 30 miles. Emily took care of her business while we were setting up the syphon pump. We had lunch in the cab of the truck with the motor running while the wind whistled around the truck. Every now and then a gust of wind will rock the truck.

Going to have to find some dog food for Emily. I did not plan on her when I was provisioning the truck.

8:45 pm

We have managed to cover another 30 miles since lunch. As much as I hate to, we have had to stop for the night. The weather is still bad and if we try to drive any further we would wind up missing a turn and wrapping the towtruck around a tree or something.

We are at the crossroad of 32 and Moo. There is a a Conoco on the northwest corner and a farmhouse on the northeast corner. The farmhouse has a fireplace and stacks of wood out back. So we will be warm tonight. Emily checked out the house for us, sniffing all around the house before finally going to the front door and scratching for us to hurry up and open the damn door, cause its cold out here.

I sure hope that Kyle has found shelter. I shudder to think of anyone forced to endure this with only the thinly insulated fuselage of the plane between him and the unforgiving elements.
I have found out a lot about Tom in this time. He served in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2005 as a field medic. He tried med school after he got and found that was not for him. During that time he got involved in a local church, got married. To the wrong woman as it turns out. Two years later she cleaned out his bank account. He'd had over 32 thousand saved up, mostly from his unspent military pay. She took their daughter to California and refused to allow visits or communication. The girl OD'd on his ex-wife's pain medication. His wife was hooked on Oxy and was careless about where she left them. His daughter Olivia was Dee's age when she found the "candy" her mother usually kept in her purse, just sitting on the coffee table. She was cold by the time her mother woke up and called 911.


Tom confessed that as much as he preaches forgiveness, he has a hard time with that himself and is still angry at his ex-wife. But he did find himself more immersed in the church than ever and that eventually led him to where he is now.

We found plenty of food in the pantry and we will be having a hot meal as soon as Tom finishes cooking it in the fireplace. Nobody really seems impressed by my attempts at the culinary arts. There was even big plastic bin with Kibbles & Bits for Emily.

9:30 am - the 10th Monday I think

The day broke bright and clear this morning. I am confident that we will be able to reach the area where Kyle went down by this afternoon no problem.

We moved a pair of couches close to the fire. Before turning in Tom said prayer asking God to watch over Kyle and guide us to him, as well as watch over our loved ones back in Stockton. He is so down to earth at times it is easy to forget that he is a Pastor.

We were up and 4:30 this morning. Emily saw to that. She was barking and whining to be let out. Tom fixed breakfast while I searched the bedrooms for some warmer socks. Both pairs of socks I had were getting a bit smelly and they itch. I also grabbed some warm clothes for Kyle when we find him. It was only supposed to be a few hours at most so I don't think he brought any spares along with him.

My leg was really bothering my this morning so Tom is driving.

6:37 pm

We spotted the plane wreck around 2 pm. It was not as bad as I expected. He landed with the gear up. I don't know whether that indicates he lost power completely before landing or if he decided trying to land in the snow with the gear down would cause the plane to flip. Kyle is an experienced pilot so I imagine that may be the case. There were what appeared to be bullet holes all along the right side of the small plane.

The plane came down on the south side of 64 moving southwest. It narrowly missed some winter bare trees and skidded through an empty field. He could not land on 64 itself as there is an overturned tractor trailer rig across the road. It slid about 500 feet coming to a stop less than twenty feet from a line of trees. One of its wings were clipped off by a tractor but the rest of the little Cessna was intact. We found tracks leading east. We trudged through the snow on foot. The snow and wind had done a pretty good job of filling them but they were still faintly visible. Emily bounded ahead of us and raced back seeming to urge us on. There was a big house just past some trees. The tracks lead there. Why he headed for this house, over one hundred yards away when there was a trailer park half that distance away. But I guess a trailer park is not as inviting.

About 50 yards away Emily suddenly stopped. Her bladder cut loose and she hunched over like she had been smacked. There is only one thing I have ever seen her react so strongly too. But Kyle's tracks clearly lead to the house. My heart sank. If they found him already injured then he did not stand a chance.

But we had come this far we had to at least check it out. I signaled Tom to stand back with his gun ready while I checked it out. I crept up as quietly as I could. The snow muffled the sound of my cane quiet well. Normally it thumps loudly enough that I can be heard walking all across the church. Tom kept watch with the rifle held ready and the .45 visible in his holster. I crept around to the front of the house. One of the two garage doors was open. I paused there a moment peering into the darkness. I could see little past the big SUV parked there with its driver side door open. Tom signaled me that he would keep an eye on it while I checked the front door. I did not want to get caught in that garage with little room to maneuver if I encountered a wraith. There was a big bay window to get around to the front door which recessed giving the porch a sheltered area. There were a pair of tall windows on either side of the door. I could see signs that someone had been inside recently, but could not see Kyle. I had to go all the way around to the back before I saw Kyle, apparently sleeping on a couch in the family room. A fire was burning low in the fireplace. But there were no signs of the wraiths.

That was when I remembered the CB transmissions I intercepted from Springfield about them sleeping in basements. The first basement window I found was covered by a thick mucous like substance. At the second I found I could barely see in at all. I almost jumped out of my skin when Tom tapped my shoulder to hand me a flashlight. I again peered into the basement, but now I could see them huddled one on top of the other. In the darkness it was impossible to tell where one black mass ended and another began. But I would say that there had to be at least thirty of them.

Now, how to get Kyle out without waking the wraiths. The house was starting to warm up. The snow was already beginning to melt off the roof. When it got warm enough the wraiths would smell prey and find him. Already some of them were beginning to stir. I peeked into all the rest of the windows to get a better feel for the layout of the house. Then I sent Tom back for the pack Billy sent with us. I already had a plan.

I fully expected Emily to go back to the truck with Tom, but she stayed with me. You just can't get that kind of loyalty from most people.

Tom arrived with the truck quicker than I thought. Without a word he tossed me Billy's pack and started dropping the sandbags from the back of the truck into the basement window wells. He had obviously already caught onto my plan. We would have to get more sandbags for traction later.

I took one of the little explosives packs Billy had given us and removed the explosive. I just needed the little thermal detonator he told me about. The little explosive could not be guaranteed to get them all and the goal was to get Kyle out not blow him up with the house. But the stairs were wooden and accessible through the kitchen which had a door into the garage. There were two five gallon gas cans in the garage. I left my cane outside the garage and limped across the kitchen floor with the gas cans. I crept as far down the basement stairs as my trembling legs would allow and began emptying the gas cans on the stairs. Simply blowing them up might have allowed the beasts to leap up and out of the basement. I wanted them to stay where they were. Tom, during this time was entering through the front to retrieve Kyle. Tom is 55 but still very fit. He could get an adult man in a fireman's carry and get out of the house with him, but I could not. As soon as I was up the stairs I took the detonator and set it for thirty seconds. I intended to set it on the top of the stairs, but my hands were trembling a bit and the blasted thing rolled down the stairs. You would not think such a little thing would make so much noise. It came to a stop in a puddle at the foot of the stairs right under the snout of a fully awake wraith. The abomination sniffed at the puddle of gas , looked up and howled up at me. I could hear each second tick on the wind up timer. It would be on me well before the time wound down. I started backing out of the kitchen as it was coming up the stairs. I heard Tom shout from outside "Clear!" At least I knew two of us would be getting out.

At the top of the stairs the thing paused as there was an audible click from behind it. I turned and ran. I actually dove across the tiled kitchen floor. Before I had slid halfway across flames were erupting from the basement stairwell. The wraith tried to leap clear but was engulfed in flame. I hit the screen door between the kitchen and the garage knocking it off its hinges, thanking God for cheap, crappy, Chinese timers as the wraith howled in pain behind me.
Running out of the garage in an almost blind panic I was tackled by Tom. He quickly got off me and flipped me over on my back. I heard a sizzling hiss as the fire on my backside was put out. I will be wearing a hat for the rest of the winter or till my hair grows back.


He handed me my rifle and ran around to the backside of the house. Together we both stood watch, shooting any wraiths that tried to escape the burning house. Only when we were both sure that their were no survivors could we afford to turn our attention to Kyle. He was awake, sitting on the drive near the truck.

He's in pretty good shape with just a few cuts and bruises. He might possibly have a cracked rib but that's it. We did not waste any time getting out of there.

The Springfield community is more like a small gang of thugs according to Kyle. The are gathering food and supplies, but even from the air it is easy to tell there is not a lot of true cooperation. The only thing they have in common is that they appear to be unwilling to share anything with anybody. They started shooting at him as soon as he was spotted. He confessed that he did not maintain radio silence entirely by choice. The radio was the first thing hit when they shot at him. When it became obvious that his fuel system was compromised he tried to make it as far as possible and burn off as much fuel as he could before setting down.

I needn't have worried about the clothes as he keeps an emergency pack in the back of the plane with a first aid kit and cold weather gear. A pilot buddy of his had to set down in Alaska once because of engine problems. It was two cold days before he was found shivering in a light denim jacket and jeans.

He had no idea he was sitting on top of a nest of the beasts.

My hands are cramping from all this writing so I will put this away for now.

Will be home soon.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride