Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dead Land Journal June 13th 2027

Damn, lost eleven days of entries here. Serves me right for not backing up more often. I think I am going to have to start printing out and backing up on a daily basis.

Dee (I still don't know if that is her given name or just a nickname) smashed my computer last night. It wasn't intentional, she was just playing in and pulled it off the counter onto the stone tile floor in the kitchen.

For my imaginary readers following my story, you have not really missed much. Mostly just me bitchin about having to learn to cook for someone other than myself. Most of my cooking since Lisa died involved a can opener and a microwave. Dee is a little more picky than that. And I think that a child needs better nutrition that what you can get out of a can anyway. I think I mentioned that she doesn't like dried milk, but loves the canned stuff. Would love to give her some fresh stuff but that is not going to happen. I have never milked a cow in my life and any self respecting cow would probably kick me in the head before allowing me to even try.

Dee and Emily get along just fine. I was worried at first. Emily is such a big dog and it would only take one snap of those powerful jaws and it would be all over for Dee.

All the downstairs windows are boarded up now. I know I mentioned this in one of my lost entries. I boarded up the window I shot out that same day, but the night after that I found those rubber ball prints all over the downstairs windows, so I made another trip out to Lowe's and using the measurements I took that morning cut several squares of 3/4 inch plywood to cover all the windows. They have a big generator out there that will power the whole store in case of power failure and I was able to use their bid saw to cut the sheets. Took me a little bit to figure out the saw. Thankfully they have an instruction manual right next to it with big clear photos and small words so that the high school drop outs that work there can figure it out. Dee was terrified of the saw though. She ran screaming the first time I cut it on and I had to coax her out of the big plastic Rubbermaid Fort on display. Once I found her that is. Or rather once Emily found her. She spent the time I was cutting the plywood in the employee's break room watching 'Finding Nemo' on a portable MP4 player with Emily. Emily did not like the saw any more than Dee and was happy to be away from it. Besides it only took me a couple of minutes watching them play together to realize that Emily would chew the arm off of anyone that messed with Dee or die trying.

Finding Dee has given me a lot to think about. I had assumed that I was the only person left alive on the planet. Sounds conceited I know, but all the evidence on hand suggested that. But as I look at Dee, curled up sleeping with Emily I have to admit that it is very likely that there are other people out there. I should try to find them or make contact with them for her sake. I mean what if something happens to me, who will take care of her?

She did survive on her own for almost two months. She has not been able to tell me how though. She has a somewhat limited vocabulary. Not to imply that she is stupid, she is very smart. But she is three and half (she insists on getting that half year in there) and I would think that her vocabulary should be larger that it is, but I have only heard her use about twenty five words. But I am not an expert in child development.

So I went to the library and found a book. Libraries are wonderful things. The Internet is gone, but the libraries are still standing. Anyway the book suggested that an emotional trauma could easily cause a child to revert to more simplistic speech patterns or lose the ability to speak altogether.

Even though she has only been with me for eleven days I have become attached to her. The thought of her wandering around alone in this empty city is ... I don't even want to think about that.

Tomorrow I am going to see if I can find an old ham radio. I remember watching an old post apocalyptic movie called 'The Day After' when I was a kid and this old man made contact with cities all over the world with his ham radio. Maybe if I set up a radio set here I can do the same. Don't really know the first thing about it. Sounds like another trip to the library is in order.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dead Land Journal June 2nd 2027

I am no longer alone.

I woke up this morning to the sounds of something scratching at the door. I have rigged up some flood lights around the house on a remote. I hit the button and grabbed my .357 before I opened the bedroom window. I was ready to blast whatever the fuck it was back to Hell, but I did not see anything. The back door and patio were invisible from this angle, so in order to check there I would have to go downstairs and look through the big glass door in the dining room. I ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. The lights came on in the dining room at my entrance, but that did not help visibility. Looking through a glass window at night with the lights on inside, all you get is a reflection of the room you are in. I hit the lights and looked through the window.

At first I did not see anything. It was a warm June night. Hot and humid, the air had been dead all day. No breeze to cool you off. But it had cooled off considerably as night had fallen. A breeze had even picked up. Were I not so damn terrified of the night recently I would have sat out of the patio and enjoyed the weather. Me and Lisa used to do that all the time when we first got married. A lightning bug flashed back by the pool and then another. Then I saw something dark moving out by the big gas grill. I reacted instinctively and fired. The center of the big glass window exploded outward and the rest collapsed in a shower of glass pebbles. If you have never fired a really big gun before you would not believe how loud they can be, especially in an enclosed space. The sheer force of the sound would have been enough to blow the window out. I was not fully prepared for the kick of the gun. My shot went wild and the big ornamental thermometer hanging from one of the awning posts shattered violently. The thing started screaming and I pointed the gun at it again, better braced this time. I was not going to miss.

I took a step forward to get a better angle and that was when I saw the hand. It was a child's hand sticking out from under the blanket. I stepped out through the broken glass and snatched the blanket away.

The girl cannot be more than four. She is thin and filthy and scratched all up. She tried to bolt but I already had firm hold of her wrist. She screamed and kicked some more. I managed to get her in a bear hug but almost dropped her when she kicked me in the groin. I stood there unable to breath for a few moments but eventually the pain subsided. By that time her kicking had stopped and her screams had turned to sobs. I held her for a while and before I knew it she was asleep. I managed to get her onto the couch without waking her and wrapped her in a blanket.

Not sure what the Hell I am going to do now. I have never raised a kid. The thought of raising one by myself is intimidating enough, but in this situation it is downright terrifying. Judging by her condition she has no one else though. I just hope I can earn her trust enough to keep her from running off.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dead Land Journal May 30th 2027 - again

I just got back from the church. I thought that since it was a Monday when everyone disappeared that the church would have been empty. But I forgot about their food pantry. The food pantry operated on a slightly irregular schedule. Most times it was on Wednesday or Saturday. But sometimes they would get deliveries on other days. As I said it's a small church and they don't have a lot of room to store things and no freezers at all. So if they get a big delivery or a lot of frozen goods they call up everybody on their lists to distribute the food as quickly as possible. The parking was was full. the warm and damp weather had done a job on the frozen food and dry goods left outside. I did not go in the pantry. The church doors were unlocked as I expected. I hesitated to go inside, knowing what I would find.

Empty clothes littered the floor. The chairs were still arranged in neat rows as the pastor liked them. I recognized the pastor's jacket on the floor next to another pile of clothes in the back. It looked like they were in the middle of prayer when it came. It was the way he would have wanted to go.

I checked out the bulletin board. There was a note stating that the monthly Pancake Dinner on the 29th was canceled because the pastor and his wife would be out of town. Maybe he knew something.

I looked over the prayer list and was shocked to see my name on it. I guess I thought the Pastor had given up on me. He called every Saturday for a year after Lisa and Chris died. He even came by the house a couple of times before it was foreclosed own. He had gradually tapered off to once a month. It had been at least three months since his last call.

From there I stopped at a liquor store. I have every intention of finishing off this bottle of Crown Royal tonight.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Dead Land Journal May 30th 2027

Today is a Sunday. Lisa and I would to go to church every Sunday. Not that I am a particularly religious man. My mother was raised Catholic but she hated the church, so my sister and I went to a Baptist Sunday school when we were little. At the age of eight I was thrown out of the Sunday school and my mother was told that I was not welcome back. Apparently Sunday school teachers don't really mean it when they ask if you have any questions.

But Lisa loved going to church. Her own parents never really went to church. Her father thought it was just a big waste of time and her mother learned well before Lisa was born not to question his decisions. Lisa had never owned a Bible until my grandmother gave her one. From then on she always had a bible with her. I sometimes envied the comfort and peace it seemed to give her. Soon afterward she started asking why I didn't go to church. Eventually she convinced me that we should start looking into it. She found a small non-denominational church nearby.

The congregation was small but enthusiastic. Lisa made a lot of friends there and even though I sometimes disagreed with the pastor I respected him a lot. He was the first one there after Lisa died and he was there for me when Christopher died.

Christopher's funeral was the last time I set foot in church.

I think I will go to church today.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dead Land Journal May 23rd 2027

May 23rd 2027

Something was in the house last night.

I sleep in what I presume to be a guest room. The Meiers had children, but photographic evidence indicates that they had moved out on their own. As comfortable as their bed looks I cannot bring myself to sleep there. The single bed in the guest room is fine for me.

I woke around midnight to Emily growling beside my bed. The room was dark. I cannot remember if there was a moon last night, but if there was it was I could not tell. Emily was looking towards the open doorway into the hall. Her growls were not the ferocious growls of a predator warning off a rival, these were the whining growls of a cornered animal. Fear rose up from my gut like bile. My hands reached for my gun, but I knew I would not get to it in time. I felt somewhat detached, as if my soul was already making ready to flee my dead body. 'What happened to the lights?' I thought to myself. Miraculously my hand did reach the gun and managed to bring it up before a clawed and scaly hand could close on my wrist. I pointed the gun to the doorway, but I could see nothing there. It was too dark. I started to scold Emily, but then I saw it. It was just a dark formless shadow in the already dark hallway. I make out no details and not even a general shape. In a more rational time I would have just thought it a trick of the light. It was low to the ground, no more than two feet tall, but big. I should have shot at it but for some reason I had completely forgotten about the gun. It was not moving. Two glittering obsidian points stared at me. Though my heart was pounding like a nine pound sledgehammer in my chest, I felt like all my blood had just stopped flowing. I suddenly remembered the gun in my hands and pointed it at the creature, but it was no longer there. In the time that it had taken me to glance down at the polished barrel of the .357 clutched in my trembling hands and back at the doorway it had gone.

Not really wanting to find it, I looked anyway. I keep a flashlight in the nightstand and used it to search the house. Emily stayed right by my side, but to be honest I don't know if she was protecting me or I was protecting her. When I found nothing upstairs I when downstairs. There was nothing. I was just about to give it all up as a bad dream when I came to the back door. The dog door was broken off its hinges and mud was smeared on the door and floor. There were little marks all over the floor that looked like they were made by clusters of large rubber balls.
Before proceeding any further in my search I investigated the house electrical control box and breakers in the laundry room.

I needn't have bothered with the generator and such earlier this month. During the day the solar panels on the roof feed the massive batteries stacks in the basement and charge the hydrogen fuel cells in the garage. I guess I don't use near as much juice as the Meiers did. The only light I leave on all the time is the bedroom light. The others cut off a few minutes after I leave the room. I can handle that. But I cannot bring myself to cut off the bedroom light. I removed the sensor from the fixture so it stays on all night. At night when the AC cuts off and the lights dim, the batteries and fuel cells are producing more current than needed. The control box is designed to shunt excess electricity back into the grid, sometimes this causes problems and the main breaker pops. Whenever this happens I give thanks to the brilliant individual that decided not the put the breakers in the basement. The thought of going into that basement with just a flashlight scared the shit out of me. I opened the control box which is on its own battery backup and reset the system and canceled the command to send power back through the meter. I have not yet been able to permanently disable this. A password is required and apparently the Meier's kept it in their heads. I flipped the main breaker and was relieved when lights came back on.

I stood, listening, at the head of the basement stairs for a bit before proceeding. But there was nothing in the basement that should not be there. I still did not sleep at all the rest of the night.

Now, with the sun up, it is almost easy to convince myself that it was just a big racoon or possibly a dog. But then I remember those marks on the floor. Emily would not even go into the kitchen till after I mopped the floor. I boarded up the hole left by the dog door. I am going to spend the rest of the day securing the house.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Literal Interpretation

I am learning, or relearning anyway, to watch what I say around kids. My wife is always getting on me about watching the profanity, and I try. But when you bend down to pick up a toy and catch the arm of the chair with your forehead, there is some verbal "leakage". But that is not what I am talking about here tonight. I am talking about context, about them picking up every thing I say and applying the most literal translation their limited experience can provide. They are only two and a half, and are a little pre-verbal, but they understand a lot more than you think.

Earlier tonight I was getting the twins ready for bed. I changed Bailey into her PJ's and set her down. Noah is always a little reluctant to get changed for bed and will vigorously shake his head NO when I ask him to come over to get changed. I usually set Bailey down and tell her to go play while I get her brother ready. But this time I told her to to "grab her brother and drag him over here". I turned to get a fresh pair of PJ's and next thing I know Noah is screaming as Bailey is tugging him down off his chair by his shirt collar. She looked so proud as she dragged him out of the chair. Poor Bud looked so offended. But not at her, at me.