Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dead Land Journal October 13th 2027

On the road again. My arm is still in a sling, but doing better and Jewels is driving the Uni. I gave up trying to type while actually on the road. At first I thought 'hey great I can make my journal entries while Jewels is driving.'

Yeah, right.

Have you ever tried to type in a moving vehicle. I can see doing it on a train and in fact I remember seeing a few old movies where people did type on board a train. But in moving truck on highways that have not been seen any maintenance or traffic in six months? Debris accumulates and potholes form and no one is taking care of them. While the Unimog may be comfortable when stationary, it was built on a heavy duty truck platform and at times it feels like the axles are welded directly to the frame. So I take the opportunity to type some on my journal during rest stops and at night. Been having problems with insomnia lately so I often find myself typing at night. It doesn't seem to bother anybody. I have a heavy felt typing pad under the Smith Corona and that helps with the noise.

Micheal is up front driving a big four wheel drive tow truck. He is roaming about half a mile ahead and reporting driving conditions back to us. I had originally thought that the smaller roads would be better, but our experience has shown that the interstates are usually easier to navigate till you get into a major city.

All the vehicles have CB radios now and we all have handheld units tuned in to the same frequency. I have a scanner in the Uni, programmed to avoid the frequency we are using. So far it has picked up nothing. The scanner was actually Billy's idea.

After much debate we finally have a destination. Stockton, Missouri. Beverly had family there, says her brother told her of some good hunting around the lake and fishing always seemed to be good. She says the winter can be cold but there should be plenty of propane or LP available. With the current travelling conditions we really don't have a lot of time to find another place and lay in the fuel and supplies needed to last out the winter. A trip that would normally take a couple of days, now takes weeks. We never know when we are going to run into a seventeen car pileup and have to either spend the day clearing it or find an alternate route. Plus it can take a few hours to fill the tanks on these thirsty beasts we're driving.

And speaking of beasts, it is also hoped that the wraiths will head south for the winter. Other than that bristly mane they don't have a lot of hair to keep them warm. I am wondering if our little encounter with those two a few days ago was the first trickle of a southern migration.

It seems wasteful to be backtracking like this, but I would rather endure a cold winter if it means we won't have to deal with the wraiths.

We had to change a tire on the hospital bus yesterday. I happened to look out the rear window on the Uni and saw something flapping off the back wheel. I rushed forward to call Katherine on the radio and tell her to stop. Half the tread was peeling off the right rear outer tire. It's a good thing it had the dual wheels, a lot of newer trucks and buses don't. The bus was property of the Missouri Medical Services, otherwise known as MOMS. Some PR guy probably thought that would be cute. It was part of the government mandated Universal Coverage program that evolved from Obama's health care bills. The bus was already 12 years old when MOMS found the confiscated tour bus in the police impound yard and decided to convert it to a mobile hospital. Had MOMS been given a bigger budget the bus would have been newer and would have only had a single pair of tires on the rear. When the tire shed its tread it would have slewed to the right, Katherine being an inexperienced driver, would have most likely overcompensated and the tire would have blown. A blowout in one of these big buses can be messy. Twisted metal wreckage and dismembered corpse kind of messy. Of course I did not point this out to Katherine, she would have jabbed a finger in my bullet wound.

The bus did not have a spare so we had to find one. A truck had overturned down the highway a bit and it's wheels matched.

None of us menfolk are really operating at our peak performance right now. Jewels is the only man in the group without injuries, he's 77 with arthritis and a missing leg. Micheal is doing good to drive with his hands burned as they are, Billy can drive, but that is the most strenuous activity he can handle at the moment. My arm is in a sling and will be for some time.

Katherine and Beverly had to do most of the grunt work of getting the one good tire off the overturned truck. The air hose for the impact wrench on Micheal's tow truck barely reached. As a matter of fact the last lug nut had to be loosened manually because there just was not enough hose for it to stretch those last few millimeters. Both the girls are rather petite. I don't think they weigh 200 lbs combined. It took both of them on that breaker bar to get that last one. It finally just sheared off. Age and weather had cracked the wheel stud already. Katherine almost fell to the pavement below, but Beverly just barely caught her hand in time. I'd like to say that incident helped to cement a bond between the two, but I think that would be a bit optimistic. They did cooperate pretty well though. They had to lever the tire off with the breaker bar. Of course when it did come off the hub, we were not really ready for it. It hit the ground, bounced right over Billy's head and tried to make its escape. The tire rolled across the pavement, hit a rock, bounced over the decapitator cable along the side of the highway. Of course Emily had to give chase. And where Emily goes, Dee wants to follow. That being the only good tire that would fit Katherine's bus we could not let it get away. So down the hill went one tire followed by a barking Rottweiler, a laughing little girl and four adults trying not to end up rolling down the hill or skidding on their butts in the mud. Of course none of us made it down without falling at least once. The tire was heavy and very resistant to our efforts to retrieve it. By the time we got the tire and ourselves back up on the blacktop we were all quite thoroughly encrusted in mud and laughing like fools. Billy and Jewels were the only ones that remained on the road and both of them were laughing their asses off and clapping one another on the backs like old friends.

We lost a day to that and me and Mike had to have our bandages changed afterwards. But I think all of us needed that. I don't think any of us has laughed like that in a long time.

Playing in the mud is good for the soul.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dead Land Journal October 10th 2027

still typing one handed, but i guess the hole in my arm is not as big as it looked at first. but why did it have to be my right arm?

we are now standing watch in shifts, which is something we should have been doing all along.

billy was cut up pretty bad, but will make a full recovery. mike burned his hands trying to get his gun out of the fire. we are still in the wal-mart parking lot in morrilton. we are down two vehicles and three drivers for at least a couple of days. we don't really need the extra vehicles, except when we do. we often use them to pull or push dead cars off the road. sometimes they'll start on their own we can drive them off under their own power, but most times they won't. i could try with the uni, but it is more likely to try to drive over them than to push them with its high ground clearance and bumper. it's got the power though. might see if billy and i can get a push bar installed on it.

snowed a bit today, fat wet flakes that were half melted when they hit the ground. but it tells us we need to get where we're going soon. i think we have ruled out most of the coastal regions due to risk of hurricanes. beverly and her family relocated to arkansas when she was five after hurricane katrina destroyed there home. she refuses to go within 50 miles of the coast.

i am looking for a portable shortwave receiver or better a transceiver. i still want to see if there is anyone else out there. that could get us a destination.

i think something needs to be done about billy. he needs a babysitter. i completely misjudged him. he is certifiable genius within his area of expertise. but he is dangerously irresponsible. i have smelled an unmistakable odor coming from his van a couple of times today, at least when the wind isn't blowing the in from the smoldering heap that was micheal's truck.

hey, i've self medicated a few times i don't begrudge him that, but one careless flick of a roach and his van will go sky high, but not nearly so high as billy has been the last day and a half.

going to have micheal teach the girls some gun safety while we are camped here. i am 99% certain that katherine was the one that shot me. out of the twelve shots she fired, the one thing she actually hit was my arm.

why does that not surprise me?

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dead Land Journal October 8th 2027

it's 4:13 am.

billy is still getting stitched up over in kathy's motorhome.

jewels truck is shot full of holes.

as i look out my window i can see that micheal's truck has finally stopped burning.

i am typing this one handed as there is a hole in my right arm big enough to smuggle cantaloupes in. sorry about the lack of caps but using the shift key is difficult right now.

i really don't know who shot me.

i stepped out of the uni expecting to have to stop a brawl between jewels and billy. what i actually walked into was a god damned firefight. a wraith was bouncing to and fro around the circle of vehicles, its shadow magnified horribly in the firelight. jewels was trying to get a clear shot with his 12 gauge, micheal was directly across from jewels trying not to be shot by katherine, who seemed to be firing almost at random, yet somehow managing not to hit a damned thing. billy popped out of the divco across from katherine about the same time i was exiting the uni. he was carrying some kind of gun with a barrel large enough to stuff a grapefruit into. he pointed the gun at the creature which was by this time was on the hood of micheal's truck. the gun made a loud foomp! sound and something shot out of the barrel leaving a trail of luminescent smoke behind it. it hit the beast squarely in the chest. stuck there for a moment, then burrowed into the wraith's chest before exploding. blood and gore rained down on everyone.

everyone else was looking on stunned, while billy gleefully shouted "it worked, it worked!"

that was when a second wraith attacked him from behind. billy reflexively tightened his grip on his gun and fired a wild shot. this shot flew neatly into the half open window of mike's truck where it bounced off the ceiling and then burrowed into the back of the passenger seat before exploding. in his rush to get away from his rapidly burning truck, micheal tripped and fell over a folding chair and dropped his hunting rifle into the fire. the heat of the fire caused the round in the chamber to fire. the rifle soon emptied its 15 round clip into jewel's truck. kathy and beverly were firing at the wraith trying to get it to let go of billy. neither one of them giving any consideration to the van load of explosives behind him. for an insane moment i found myself jumping up and down between them and billy trying to get them to stop shooting before we all suffered the same fate as micheal's truck.

jewels at this point had got in his truck and was ramming mike's truck, pushing it out away from the other vehicles so they would not catch fire too.

billy who was, i beleive, more afraid of being shot by beverly or katherine took matters into his own hands and began knifing the wraith in the gut with a large hunting knife he kept on his belt. it finally let go and ran away.

as i said before i don't know who shot me or even when it happened. the painkillers are not really doing much except make me lightheaded. i think i might send some liquid reinforcements down to help them. i'm sure katherine would not approve.

was worried that the rukus would have waken dee, but she tends to sleep with her head wrapped up in blankets so thick she can't hear anything. she slept right through it.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dead Land Journal October 7th 2027

Katherine put a rush on all the blood tests she ran. She is efficient I'll give her that. She found no signs of bacterial or viral infection and she said my cancer counters were around 30, so she said that cancer was pretty much ruled out. She wants me to monitor my blood sugar too. Gave me a glucose meter and a bunch of test strips. Beverly walked in while I was trying to get up the nerve to stick myself with the lancet. She told me to toss the antique Katherine gave me and found a better one at a local drugstore. She said that the only way to extract a blood sample more painfully would be to pound it out with a rock. I don't know whether Katherine is this sadistic with all her patients or if I'm a special case.

Dee misses having Katherine in the Uni when we are on the road, but Katherine does not trust anyone else to drive the clinic bus. She insists it's necessary.

There is a big debate raging today about where we are going. Billy wants to go to to Mississippi, Jewels wants to go to Texas. People are starting to choose up sides and it is starting to get ugly. I am going to have to decide soon just to put a stop to it. I think a third option would be best so neither side thinks I am siding with the other.

The ones that have not yet encountered the wraiths want to settle in a city somewhere, and I can see the logic there. There will be enough canned food available to last for several years and with careful management of resources we could even have a house with full power. But I don't think it would be wise. Those things seem to infest cities. I don't know why.

Right now we are camped in a circle in a Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot. Wal-Marts are great for camping. We can restock on food and supplies and the parking lots are usually big enough for all of us. And if we park out a ways from the store where the parking lot is empty, we can normally see if anything approaches. Reminds me of those old westerns where the Conestoga wagons would be circled around a big campfire.

It's small Wal-Mart, but Morrilton, Arkansas is a small town, but a metropolis compared to London. We were going to camp there tonight, but London hosts Arkansas Nuclear One. Arkansas oldest and ,until about five years ago, only nuclear power plant. I read somewhere that most nuclear power plants are fully automated now and could run quite well with no human attendants until its fuel was depleted. Yeah. We stayed just long enough to gas up. Morrilton is about thirty miles southeast of London, a more comfortable distance from the fifty year old nuclear power plant.

It's cold tonight so we have a fire going. Jewels was giving Dee lessons on the fine art of roasting marshmallows a while ago, but Billy kept letting his catch on fire. Dee would clap and giggle when he did and I'll have to admit that I laughed a bit too when the burning marshmallow fell off the stick and into his lap.

At least Mike has stopped smoking those cigars. Katherine harped at him constantly about it, and Jewels told him it was a disgusting habit. But the person that got him to quit was Dee. She was up sitting in his lap a couple of nights ago but when he pulled out one of his cigars. She said "Those things make you stink!" and got down. He looked ashamed and put the cigar away. the next day he threw the remaining box into the fire. Thankfully this was after supper. A box of burning cigars produces a less than appetizing aroma. He does not seem to have been too terribly hooked on them, but I have caught him eyeing Billy's Camels a couple of times.

It's just started raining. I will go out and see if Jewels and Mike want to sleep in the Uni. When the weather is good Jewels often sleeps in his truck with the windows rolled down a bit. He likes the fresh air, but lately with the weather getting colder he has been sleeping more often in one of beds in the Uni.

I tucked Dee in just before settling down here to write this. I asked her if my typewriter bothered her and she said she likes the sound.

Looks like there's a fight starting up outside better go put a stop to it.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dead Land Journal October 6th 2027

As much of a bitch as Katherine can be at times, we are damn fortunate to have her. Beverly sliced open her arm yesterday on a broken display case while she was getting a fresh set of clothes at a K-Mart. Kathy stitched her up and gave her a tetanus shot. Billy Parsnips (that is what Jewels calls him behind is back, or to his face when he's angry enough) sprained his ankle and she bound it up. Not to mention all the little bumps, bruises and bellyaches we accumulate on the road.

We have visited about twelve hospitals in northern Arkansas since crossing the border and only one of them had what Kathy was looking for. It was a mobile medical imaging center. The big stationary ones inside hospitals would take forever to get going and could not be hooked up to a portable generator. This mobile unit is newer and considerably smaller than the stationary ones and all we had to do was get the big diesel generator going on it. Jewels is a whiz when it comes to diesels and it took him no time at all to get it running. I'd like to think I'm a decent mechanic but I feel like a novice when working with him.

I told Jewels about Kathy's suspicions and he has also agreed to keep this quiet. He and Katherine and I have been out looking for "supplies" the last few days.

The mobile clinic Katherine commandeered is built on a commercial bus chassis, but the mobile imaging center is a tractor trailer rig and its AC is fucking powerful. Jewels says its the same kind used for refrigerator trucks. I can believe it. I about froze my nuts off sitting on that narrow little table in my boxers waiting for Katherine to get ready. Jewels fetched a blanket for me and some earplugs. I think Katherine would have just let me sit there shivering. She has a terrible bedside manner. I guess that's why she's an ER doctor. She doesn't hold hands or coddle her patients.

Even with the earplugs it was loud, but not as bad as I expected. I'm glad Jewels thought of that. Lord knows Katerhine would not have. My head was throbbing by the time I was done. It took forty five minutes. Then it was another half hour before Katherine was ready to show me the pictures. The good news is that she didn't find any tumors. Just what she called optic neuritis. I could feel the weight lifted off me. I felt like celebrating. No Cancer! But of course Katerine could not let that be. She had to tell me that it was still a sign that something was wrong. Could be an infection of some kind or diabetes or possibly Multiple Sclerosis. She said she wanted to do some blood work and started off about some of the tests she wanted to run on me. When she mentioned "Spinal Tap" I put a stop to that. Ain't nobody stickin a damn needle in my spine. Just mentioning it makes me want to run away and hide under my bed. My dad had a spinal tap when I was eight. I can't even remember why. In my entire life I had never heard him cry, but he screamed when they stuck that needle in. Claimed he never could feel anything in his right foot again and his leg hurt like it was set on fire sometimes. The doctor just told him it was all in his head. I gave her permission to do the blood work and make sure that it wasn't diabetes or something contagious, but nothing else.

"But don't you want to know if it's MS or something serious?" she asked. But I tell you the last three days, thinking I had a brain tumor convinced me that if I I do have something life threatening that can't be fixed, I don't want to know about it. I just want to go about my life blissfully ignorant until I drop dead. Better than to spend the rest of your days drowning in despair. I tried to explain that to her, but I don't think she understands. I really don't think any doctor is capable of understanding until they go through the same thing themselves. She wanted to argue about all the advances that had been made in medical science and that multiple sclerosis could be treated much more effectively than it could be even twenty years ago. I remember shouting at her "Fuck medical science! Right now you and a bunch of expiring pills are all that are left of your precious medical science!"

But now I know what she thinks it may be. I don't even really know what Multiple Sclerosis is. Isn't that one of those telethon diseases Jerry Lewis used to go on about every labor day weekend. No, that was Muscular Dystrophy. Or maybe it was both. I don't know. I reflexively want to go to my computer and look it up on the internet. Damn I miss that. I guess I will have to go to a library and look it up. I know I said that I didn't want to know, but I'm entitled to change my mind aren't I? I should at least know what to expect, but I don't want to go crawling back to Katherine just yet.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dead Land Journal October 3rd 2027

Katherine finally got her way. Dilated my eyes and did a full exam. The mobile clinic she has taken up in is well equipped. Dee was with me as usual, but after a bit Katherine sent her out of the room. Alarm bells should have been going off at that point, but I was being a bit dense. She started ask me questions about family history. But it was not until she asked about Cancer that I began to get some idea where she was heading. At one point I just stopped her and asked her point blank "Are we talking about a brain tumor here?" She said that it could be, but she would need to do an MRI first. The mobile clinic does not have an MRI so we will have to wait. In the meantime I am scared shitless here. Back in elementary school one of my favorite teachers was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. I had to look that up just now. I could not remember the name, but I remember that it was very aggressive and they could not cut it out as fast as it could grow back. After five surgeries it popped up someplace that just couldn't be cut into. He died a year after being diagnosed.

Jewels went through cancer with his wife. If it is Cancer maybe he can give me a straight, no BS answer as to what I can expect. Funny how when we are talking about Cancer or writing about it, it is always cancer with a little "c" but when it is affecting us directly it gets capitalized. I have seen this phenomena elsewhere, but never thought to be looking at it from this side.

I have asked Katherine to keep this under her hat for now. I think I can trust her with that.

On top of everything else, I might have Cancer. FUCK!

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dead Land Journal October 1st 2027

I just finished typing up Jewel's journal entry. I couldn't believe it when he handed me that notebook with twelve neatly printed pages. He was worried that his handwriting would be illegible. But it was readable all the way to the end. It did get a little sloppy the last couple of pages, but I think the arthritis in his hands was getting the better of him. As reluctant as he was I was expecting a couple of pages at most.

A lot has changed since mid-September. There are seven of us now. Eight if you count Emily, which Dee insists on. We picked up a couple of people in Lebanon Missouri. There has been some friction already though.

Billy Parsons is about the dumbest redneck I've ever met. Before the disappearance he was, let me see how he put it, a Water Pollution Control Officer. In other words he's a sewer worker. He's driving an antique Divco van full of guns, ammunition and explosives. Says blowing stuff up helps him unwind. That and chain smoking Camels. He and Jewels do NOT get along. There were sniping at each other twenty minutes after they met. Might have something to do with the Confederate flag Billy has painted on his van. I don't know if Billy is a racist or it's all just part of his redneck image, but I hope this does not get too serious. As few as we are I would hate to have to kick someone out of our little troop.

Beverly Bledsoe is a 27 year old accountant. Katherine, being the fine diplomat she is asked her quite bluntly what she could contribute to the party. Beverly responded that she's an accountant, she doesn't have any real world skills. So of course they don't get along either. Despite her claims that she's as useful as tits on a boar she's smart. She reads a lot and claims that she doesn't forget anything she's read. Ever. To prove this she quoted verbatim a couple of Barack Obama's speeches she had read back in high school. This didn't earn her a lot of points with Billy though.

But for some reason they all look to me to be the fearless leader. I don't know whether this means they all look up to me or no one else is foolish enough to want to take responsibility. I don't know what the hell makes them think I want it or am qualified for it. If they could have seen the way I was running my own life around late April, they would probably change their minds. I just pray that I don't fuck up.

We have quite a convoy now. Katherine found a mobile clinic and has moved into that. I still have the Uni, Jewels has his truck and, Micheal has his and Billy brings up the rear in his Divco suicide special. If he drops a butt into the back of that van and blows himself to hell, I would rather not be driving into the fireball. Beverly eagerly accepted my offer to ride in the Uni.

The general consensus is that we're going to head south before Winter. Already starting to get cold at night. Down south food and game should be more plentiful and we'll need less fuel to keep warm. Beyond that, we have no plans. I will probably set up another radio broadcast and try to contact more people. Maybe actually get the beginnings of a community going again. At least that's my goal. Maybe get enough people together and I can hand off leadership and all the headaches it causes to someone else.

Speaking of headaches, Katherine is insisting that I take the time off to let her look at my eyes tomorrow. Figure I will if it will just get her to shut up about it.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 18th 2027

Hudson asked me to put down on paper my story. I don't think he likes me to call him by his middle name, but if can call me "Jewels" by damn I can call him Hudson.

I was born in Kansas City 1950. I was half of a set of twins, but my sister didn't make it. She died an hour after birth. We were born in the seat of my daddy's Studebaker in the parking lot of City Hospital No. 2, the city's only black hospital. By the time he got her there she was already well into her labors. He could have tried to take her to one of the white hospitals but he didn't want me born in a basement or a filthy segregated ward. It was easier to just tend my momma right there than to take her in.

Tuberculosis was spreading like fire amongst the blacks at the time so it was probably just as well, my momma didn't make it into the hospital. Even so, she died a few weeks later. My daddy never did know what killed her, probably an infection though. He was fired from his job at Tension Envelope for missing too many days. His boss didn't care what the reason was. At that point there was nothin left for him in KC. He loaded me and his few meager possessions up in his Studebaker and headed down south. His daddy had a farm just outside of Kingsville and was always needin a hand. There weren't that many colored folk in Kingsville at that time, still ain't really, and white folks didn't like takin orders from a black man. My aunt had a baby girl she was still nursing so it would all work out.

My daddy and grandaddy did not get along too well. It was a good thing my aunt was there to keep the peace otherwise those two would've killed one another. When I was 16 I lied about my age and joined the army. That was in 66. They needed warm bodies in Vietnam and I did not get the impression that the recruiter cared whether or not this skinny colored boy got his ass blowed off and no one actually checked to see if I was old enough to sign up. I was out 18 months later on emergency medical discharge. I stepped on a makeshift landmine and it took my leg off just below the knee. Better than bein sent home in a box I guess.

I adapted to the wooden leg easily enough. Amazing what you can get used to when you got no choice. My Grandaddy passed away while I was gone so things was quieter when I got home. I had a hard time gettin my benefits and never really got the full compensation I should have. My daddy didn't want me to have to work the farm with a bad leg so he called in a favor from a man in town. Tom Martin owned Martin Trucking and my father had pulled his ass out of his first truck when it overturned just down the road from our farm. Insurance paid for the truck but if it weren't for my daddy. Tom wouldn't have lived to collect. It took me a while to figure out how to drive with the wooden leg, but it can be done. Lucky for me it was my right leg that was gone. Can't work the brake and the clutch with a wooden foot. But with practice I was able to work the gas just fine. And later as I proved to be reliable Tom had a hand operated accelerator installed on the steering wheel that his boy designed. So I drove his trucks delivering produce to the surrounding towns for the next few years. But Martin Trucking got bought out in 73 and the new owners hired their own drivers.
I went back to work on the farm. The newest piece of equipment my daddy owned was a 47 Farmall A model tractor. A strange looking beast, the engine was offset 9 inches to the left and the seat 9 inches to the right. It had been sitting for months when I decided to get her up and running. I found I had a talent for fixing up these old beasts and before I knew it people from all over the county were either bringing the busted tractors to me or driving me out to fix them.

I guess that is something me an Hudson have in common. But I never really worked much on cars, especially not these newer pieces of crap comin out of Korea and China. Of course I don't think much of anything is comin out of those places these days.

One day I was working on a Ford 641 Workmaster diesel tractor. Replacing the water pump. The owner was standing there handing me tools as I worked. I had a tendency to develop a case of tunnel vision while working. I will focus to hard on what I'm doin that I just loose track of everything around me. Of a sudden I noticed that the hand passing me the wrench I needed was not the calloused hand of the farmer I was fixin the tractor for. It was a smooth and delicate hand with skin the color of fine milk chocolate. My eyes followed up the arm, to her shoulder and finally her face. Her eyes were so dark they were almost black and they glittered with mischief. I was really too stunned with her beauty to talk. I was never a smooth talker with the ladies anyway. Wordlessly I took the wrench. I was always sure and confident when I was working. But that afternoon I must have busted my knuckles half a dozen times. Each time she just helped me pick up my dropped tools, smiling. She didn't tease or laugh. I eventually got the tractor running but it took a lot longer than is should have. I kept expecting Mr. Beckett to come out and cuss me for takin so long, but the only time I saw him was when I finally fired up the diesel. He came out to see it running. He paid me in cash without complaint. He glanced sharply at his daughter once just as she headed into the house. As he watched me go the expression on his face reminded me of when my Grandaddy had to sell his favor hunting dog. It took me a long time to figure out what it meant. And by that time I was walking my own little girl down the aisle to meet her groom.

That Ford tractor for some reason developed chronic problems over that summer. I was out to the Beckett place sometimes twice a week. Each time Nancy was there to help me. It was weeks though before I worked up the nerve to ask her out. We were married exactly one year after she tapped her daddy's shoulder and sent him into the house. That was 1977. We had four children. Our first boy Matthew died in a car accident in 94 by a damned drunk driver. He was just 16. My second boy Mark was killed in Iraq. My youngest son Luke works with computers. I don't even pretend to understand when he tells me what he does all day. My daughter Mary is a single mother. Her husband left her two days after she told him she was expectin. But she toughed it out up there in KC on her own. She worked full time while going to nursing school. She never took welfare or WIC or any state aid. The church she attended regular sometimes helped her out with food, diapers and cloths for a fast growing boy, and they helped her with daycare. But she gave back to the church whenever she could and when she got her RN certificate she was always helpin someone at that church. Some of it may have exceeded what she had legal ability to do, but nobody was ever hurt from it and it was the right thing to do, law be damned. Some of those people hadn't seen a doctor in years.

Nancy died two years and three months ago. She started forgetting things and she joked about it, saying she was just gettin senile. Then one day she couldn't remember her own name. An MRI showed several tumors in her brain. She had good days and bad days, but soon the bad days outnumbered the good days. And one day while I was sitting there beside her she just looked at me with those glittering black eyes and smiled. And it was her last day.

Back in April, I was sittin at the counter of a local diner having lunch, passin the time with some old friends in town when it happened. My arthritis pills were making me a bit fuzzy. I don't like takin them for that reason, but my hands was hurtin so bad that morning. I was lookin down at my soup, trying to figure out why my chicken noodle soup didn't seem to have any chicken in it, when it sounded like everyone threw down their spoons at once. The clattering spoons and dishes was accompanied by a sudden silence. A car whizzed by outside and plowed into a phone pole. A car that had been pulling out of the diner's gravel parking lot slowly idled across the street into a parked car. All the seats and booths were not occupied by little piles of laundry. I felt real uncomfortable looking at those clothes. Felt like I was invadin their privacy.

Since, well shit, I don't even know what to call it happened, I have gone up to KC to check on My daughter and grandson. I found an empty apartment. From there I checked the church daycare center where Jacob would have been. I found several sets of children's clothes from infants and toddlers up to elementary school age. None of them had names in the waistband. Back when I was a child, it was common for parents to mark clothes with the kid's name. I did find a KC Royals ballcap like the one I had bought for him at a game last year. I didn't want to believe though. At the hospital where Leanne worked I searched for hours before finding a pile of cloths with her ID badge. A tiny little picture on the badge smiled up at me. A smile I fear I will never see again. I still have the ballcap and the badge.

I'm afraid I broke down a bit at the hospital. One by one everyone I've ever cared for has been taken from me. Despite everything, I never cursed God before. But I did that night. And I fear that he heard me. Something was sniffing around the hospital that night. I though it was just my mind playin tricks on me. But I felt uneasy in the hospital so I left. Spent the night at a hotel nearby. I forgot the name. It was well away from the fires.

It was not till my third night in the city that I encountered one of things Hudson calls Wraiths. I jokingly called them bodachs, but that does not really fit them. These are very real, and very solid creatures. I came across it that night while coming back from my gathering supplies. The lights had gone out by this time so I was carrying a flashlight. But no weapons. It was hunched over the body of a dog. It used a long claw to open its belly, then its mouth closed over the incision and it just seemed to suck the insides out of the animal. I just stood there afraid to even move, till it looked at me. I just happened to be standing next to a delivery van and climbed into it as fast as I could. I don't move too fast these days. I slammed the sliding door shut behind me just as it hit the van. The thing sure had some bulk to it, that's for sure. The door was dented in about 6 inches and the van was rocked as if it had been hit by a damned cannonball. The van was all aluminum really little more than a pop can with wheels. It would not take much for that beast to hammer its way through. The keys was still danglin from the ignition so I started it up and took off. I didn't know doors was open in back till the thing was almost in the front seat with me. I fastened my seatbelt and aimed the van for building. I got jerked around pretty good but the seatbelt held. The bodach or wraith or whatever you want to call it did not fare so well. A large cable reel had come loose in back and crushed it against the door frame between the cab and the box. But it was still trying to claw at me. It was weaker than a new kitten at that point, but not as innocent. I got out and limped away as fast as I could. There was hootin and hollerin all round now, but I did not see anything. I got in the first car I could find that still had keys and didn't stop driving till I got back to Kingsville. I seen some strange tracks that Hudson confirmed was theirs, but ain't seen any more up close and personal. Don't want to neither.

I guess I gone on long enough. My hands is gettin to hurt from all this writing. Never really learned to type so Hudson is going to have to type this up if he wants people be able to read it.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 17th 2027

Totalled out the Ford today. What is that, five vehicles destroyed since April? The Jeep, Grumman stepvan, the little Smart, Travelall, and now the Ford. Wait, I almost forgot the Kawasaki. So I guess that's six. Of course that is not counting the numerous cars I have had to shove off the sides of the road to get a clear path. I few of those were rolled down embankments and were mangled. I admit that sometime I go out of my way to intentionally wreck them. It can be very therapuedic to roll an Escalade down a hill into a bridge abutment. It's good thing I don't have to pay for insurance.

But at least this time it was the other guy's fault.

I was coming to the intersection of 58 Hiway and SW AA Hiway. AA has a stop and 58 does not. I glanced both ways on AA (actually I think its AA on one side and something else on the other.) I saw the truck but was just too surprised to put on the brakes. When the dust cleared the two of us just stared across the expanse of warped sheet metal between us. I think we were trying to decide which one of us was a figment of the other's imagination. More so in his case, because I hae already met other people. He was an older black man, maybe in his seventies bald on top with crown of white hair on the back and sides. At first he looked angry and my eyes glanced over his shoulder at the shotgun occupying the gun rack behind him. But then he grinned and bust out laughing. He told me that his first thought was that he hadn't paid his insurance in months. I told him it was ok, I was driving on expired tags and I wouldn't tell if he wouldn't.

He introduced himself as Martin J. Fisher. I asked him what the J stood for. He somewaht reluctantly tole me it stood for Jewels. I mean Jules.

"Godammit, Now I don't want no dumb white boy calling me Jewels!" he told me. When I introduced myself he laughed and said that Jewels was better than the name that was hung on me.

On investigation, it was determined that neither of our trucks was driveable. So we walked back to his place. On the way I asked him if he'd encountered any of the wraiths. His responce was to hold up his shotgun and ask "What the Hell do you think this is for?" But he called them "Bodachs" after some demonic creatures in a series of books by Dean Koontz.

Back at his place he pulled a Gator out of his garage. Not the toothy kind that will eat you given half a chance, but a six wheeled John Deere. We took it back to the scene of the accident and hauled our gear and fuel cans out of both trucks and hauled it back.

Jewels has decided to come with me to Osceola. He seems to be a very intelligent and well educated man, but he downplays his intelligence at times. I am going to see if he will write a journal entry for me. I think it would be a good idea to have more that one point of veiw here.

I wish I had some way of communicating with Katherine. Cell phones died months ago, I think service went dead long before I knew there was anybody to talk to. My walky talky range is about five miles as long as there are no hills intervening. Probably wouldn't be a problem in Kansas, but we are talking about Missouri here.

In the morning we will be going down the road to one of his neighbor's houses to "borrow" their truck. In the meantime Jewels has prepared an excellent meal out on his grill. Even has a cooler with some cold beer.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 16th 2027


I'm lost again. I have been afraid of entering major cities for fear of encountering the wraiths the highways and interstates for the and the traffic snarls. I decided to take the back roads. BIG MISTAKE. I started out taking the South Outer Belt Road. This intersects Renick just down a bit from the house I stayed in for couple of nights. I took a wrong turn, back tracked a couple of times and wandered around for most of yesterday. Some of the roads I thought would lead me back to the highway actually turned out to be private drives. I must have backtracked on that road at least half a dozen times. I eventually ended up in a tiny little town called Kingsville. I spent a great deal of the day beating my head on the steering wheel of the Ford calling myself names. I hate being lost. I got lost a couple of times when I was a kid. I was too embarrassed to even ask for directions. I ended up wandering around crying. But that is not really an option for a grown man. Would probably hurt less than the steering wheel though.

I was relying too much on the Google Earth program on the computer. The jarring in the International did the hard drive no good and I have not been able to get it to load at all. I stopped in a filling station and found some actual folded paper maps.

State Route 58 will take me to highway 50 and I can find my way from there. But just in case I will keep a couple of extra maps on me.

I am staying the night in the Kingsville Baptist Church. It's about the most secure looking small building I could find. It's a small brick building. The windows are all covered in steel mesh and has steel gates that can be drawn over the glass doors. Feels like a good time to be in a church too. Looks more like a VFW post than a church from the outside.

I have found that I really like the sound of the typewriter as I write. It drives away the silence and stimulates my thought processes. At first I made a lot of typos (which will be corrected as I re-type them into the computer). But as I practice my accuracy improves. The sound echoes in the empty church though.

Going to have supper from some pop top cans before I turn in. I have about fifty candles going so every little nook and cranny is lit. Jumpy as hell since I came into town. Shot a raccoon about half an hour ago because it was snooping around the Ford. My aim is improving and the kick is no longer a problem for me. Getting used to it.

I think the feedlot rattled me. I saw it as I was coming into town on the east side. Kingsville Livestock Auction painted on the side of the largest building and "Court ordered foreclosure Auction Arpil 23rd" and yes that is exactly how the sign read "Arpil". Would have been the same day I stood on top of the Hyatt back in KC. The decayed remains of dozens of cows littered the property. The stench was still bad even after months. Not all of them starved to death though. Looks like a number of them were killed by predators. I can't say for certain what though. I did not stop and look for prints.

I'm worried about Dee, and Katherine too I guess. I also miss Emily. I will be praying for their safety.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 14th 2027

Slept till two in the afternoon yesterday. I was undisturbed by wraiths in both reality and dreams. I think I have eluded them. It is raining today and with all the glass out of the passenger side and the hole in the roof, I am not looking forward to the trip back in the International. There is a Ford F-350 crew cab parked out by the garage. If I can find the keys and get it started I might just load the ATV in the back and take it back to Osceola.

Same Day

I have no choice but to take the Ford. The fuel line between the two tanks was split. I'm out of gas. The old rubber fuel line was in bad shape and being clobbered by the smart probably did it in. Never really been a Ford fan, but beggars can't be choosers. Took me a while to find the keys. They were in the pocket of a pair of jeans in the steel barn out back. I gathered the clothes up and buried them like I have done before. I had to charge the battery, clean the injectors and purge the fuel system before I was able to start it. There were a pair a ramps in the barn which made loading the ATV easier. Going to have to fuel it up, but most farms usually have a diesel tank around for fueling up farm equipment.

It's too late to start out today. Will be dark soon. I've made the house as secure as I can for tonight, which is not very. When I stopped here last night I was just too tired to care, but tonight I am looking at the place and seeing all the holes in security. Too many windows is the main problem. I used to love sleeping with the windows open.

Found a solution to my computer problem. I am dumping my laptop computer for a portable typewriter. It's a Smith Corona Sterling. I found it in the closet when I was looking for some clean clothes. The ribbon was dried out, but there was an extra in a sealed pack. It's old too and the print is a little faint but I think it will do until I can get a fresh one. A typewriter really seems like the perfect solution. I can set it one fire, run over it with truck and it won't lose 4 months worth of work. It does not need to be plugged in and as long as there is paper it will work as intended. The manual is included. It's only about twenty pages and that is fully illustrated. The manual for my last laptop was over two hundred pages. I may transcribe this into a desktop computer later for editing and correction, but I will do the initial journal entries on the Smith Corona from now on.

Getting too dark to type, even with candlelight. That is one advantage the computer does have over a typewriter.

Sleeping with my .357 under my pillow tonight.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 13th 2027

I was on the road all day yesterday. I remember taking road trips with my family when I was a kid. It was not unusual for us to cover four hundred miles in a day. According to the odometer on the International I had not even travelled ninety miles. I took MO-13 north out of Osceola. Somewhere MO-52 merged with 13 and then the whole deal turns into 7 highway in Clinton before turning west. At the intersection of Franklin and 7 Highway in Clinton there was a massive pile-up with over a dozen cars and three tractor trailer rigs. One of them was carrying flammable liquid and there had been a fire. I had to get off the highway and take side streets through the town. Just south of Harrisonville I had to take 71 highway.

I hate 71. Every time I have driven 71 I get lost. And this time was no different. I missed my exit and had to turn around. The highway was clotted with cars once it entered Harrisonville and going was slow. But then I was able to get on 291 Highway and I could breath easier. I know 291 very well. So I was able to take that straight on to Lees Summit Road. I did not stop till I got to I-70. I turned east to hit the Quik Trip next to Wal-Mart. I have always bought gas at Quik Trip. Just a habit. There have been times I barely coasted into a Quik Trip on fumes, passing four or five gas stations on the way.

I topped off the tanks using my portable pump. Before I had even started pumping I had opened the valve between the fifty gallon and the nineteen gallon so it could fill while I was setting the pump up, It automatically closed when the smaller tank was full. I had a dozen five gallon cans but I had plans for those. By the time I had put the nozzle in the fill tube of the big tank I was feeling watched. I don't know if it was paranoia or true sixth sense, but the sun was already going down. I had taken longer than I planned. I should have stopped a couple hours earlier and camped in one of the smaller towns I had passed through. By the time the tank was full I was so completely freaked out that I just left the pump sitting there and took off.

Driving with one hand on the wheel and one hand on my gun I made my way to the house on Coachman. The house was still standing, that was a good sign. I made my way to the garage where the radio was set up. I heard a motor start up and froze before I realized that it was just the generator kicking in. I checked my watch. It was 7:30 just like scheduled. Once inside I checked the tanks. It was nearly empty, as I suspected it would be. I filled the tank with the cans I had brought. I flicked a switch in the booth an the lights came on. I closed the door to the booth behind me and turned the monitor on. It showed thirty two saved messages. I had set the save parameters a bit stricter so it was only saving messages thirty seconds or longer. I copied them onto a memory card and then leaned in close to the microphone. I found myself actually whispering my new message.

"Warning Kansas City and the surrounding metropolitan areas are infested by hostile creatures. These are to be considered extremely dangerous. Enter at your own risk."

I broadcast the message and set it up to repeat hourly until there was no more fuel in the generator's tank. On the way out of he booth I saw a wet print in the concrete floor of the garage. I had closed the booth's door but not the side door of the garage.

I turned just in time. Three gunshots obliterated the thing's head. But the .357 only holds six rounds in the cylinder. A revolver does not jam, but its capacity is limited and unless you have speed clips it has to be reloaded manually. I peered out the garage door and I could see that there were more out there. One was standing on the hood of the International. Two of them came bounding towards the garage obviously drawn by the sound of gunfire. I shot two of them dead and the third stopped in confusion or fear I don't know. I wasted no time getting out of there.

I had been down Coachman numerous times, but always in the daylight. At night, when your scared, everything is different. I was quickly lost. I was exposed, the beasts were out, I had no transportation and I was down to one bullet. I had a fully loaded shotgun in the International and a few boxes of ammo. Fat lot of good they were doing me now. I managed to elude them most of the night, but they were never far behind me. No sooner would I get a chance to stop and think than I would see one of them. Often just a shadow, they were the definition of stealth. But it was like I had a sixth sense with them. I would look out just in time and see a shadow move or hear one of their heavily padded paws scuff in some sand and I would run. I eventually found myself on Noland Road. Almost two miles from the house on Coachman. There was something that could save my ass on Noland if I could just make it there.

It was too far on foot I would never make it. It was a miracle I had made it as far as I did. I lucked onto a bicycle that still had air in the tires. Pedalling like the hounds of Hell were on my tile I took off. Actually I felt that was a pretty fair analogy.

I turned into the Landmark Dodge parking lot, already fumbling for my keys before the bike even hit the ground. I had never gotten around to throwing out the key. Behind me I could hear one of wraiths. There was just enough of a moon to see by. The little Smart was sitting right where I had left it. The door was even still open. I got in it closed the door and realized that the door had been left open. My heart sank. The wraith was coming fast. Knowing it was futile, I jammed the key into the ignition anyway and turned it. The engine cranked over reluctantly but caught. I forgot that the interior light had a timer and would shut off automatically after a certain time. I hit the headlights and the wraith was bathed in light from the HID lights. I used to hate those things, but I really appreciated them right then. The wraith howled in surprise and broke off from its charge. Feeling a little more confident now that I was once again encased in sheet metal I headed back.

By the time I got back to Coachman I still really had no clear idea what I was going to do. I could see the Travelall and trailer as soon as I turned off 39th. There were five of them clustered by the truck on the passenger side. I suddenly remembered a video I saw on You-Tube when I was a teen. I had been fascinated with crash test videos for a while and I saw one where a Smart was set up with a remote control and rammed into concrete barriers at 70 mph. It did better than the testers expected. There was virtually no distortion of the passenger cabin. Of course live occupants would have most likely been killed anyway. A 70 mph collision with a solid object is a potentially fatal event no matter how well engineered the car is. There is just too much energy to absorb, something has to give. But I did not think I would be going anywhere near that fast. I buckled up and gunned the motor.

I hit the cluster of them at about 35 mph. The airbags deployed and I was blinded by that for a moment. I had knocked a couple of them out of the way and pinned one between the International and the Smart. I knew that neither of the passenger side doors would open again on the International and all the glass on that side was gone. But that was ok. The remaining wraiths scattered. I think they were more spooked by the lights than anything. I jumped out of the car, the wraith pinned between the vehicles swatted feebly at me as I dashed around to the driver's side door. I had not locked the doors and they had not yet figured out how to open them.

I am terrible at backing up with a trailer and I hung up briefly on a parked car while trying to get out of there. But I managed to get going without losing the trailer or the ATV. Just as I was turning back onto 39th something heavy landed on the roof. Using my last bullet I shot through the roof and the wraith fell off.

I am currently typing this entry in a ranch style house on Renick Road. I just drove straight out 39th street. Thirty-ninth turns into Pink Hill Road and then Renick. I did not know that till now. I was just driving on pure adrenaline. I have never really gone this far on Pink Hill. I know how to get back on track, but I am just too friggin exhausted to go on. I hope I am not taking too big a risk staying here tonight. Hell I think I will need a day to rest up. There is plenty of canned food here, even some bottled water. Sun is coming up, will try to get some sleep.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 11th 2027 Patriot Day / My Birthday

I was born in 1994. Today is my thirty-third birthday. I remember my seventh birthday party pretty much consisted of me sitting between my father and mother on the couch watching the coverage of the attacks on TV. My mother did not really want me to watch, but my father thought it was something I needed to see. I remember watching the first tower fall, thinking about all the people still inside while my birthday cake sit on the kitchen counter forgotten. I never did open my presents.

I am leaving Osceola tomorrow morning in an old International Travelall. It's got four wheel drive and what appears to be a freshly rebuilt 350 Chevy V8 under the hood. Behind that I'm pulling a trailer with a couple of ATVs. The ATVs were Micheal's idea. Be good for getting around some of the pileups I may encounter on the way back to Independence. Or for use as a quick getaway vehicle if needed. Katherine thinks I am insane for going back there. But I have to shut down that radio or change the message. I can't bear the thought of someone cruising into town thinking it's safe and getting killed because of me. Katherine and Dee are staying here. I think Micheal can be trusted to watch over them. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and his earlier encounters have made him cautious. The International has a fifty gallon tank in the back in addition to the nineteen gallon mounted underneath the driver's side. The previous owner probably took it on hunting trips and did not want to have to stop for gas. I think that should get me to Independence. I will fuel up outside the city with a portable pump I have found at a local tractor supply store. I don't want to get caught on an empty tank in town. With Micheal's help I have installed a heavy steel mesh over all the windows.

I will travel for as long as I have light and sleep in the locked truck at night. The back seat is wide enough for the to stretch out on. I don't plan on getting out of the thing anymore than absolutely necessary. Just to relieve myself, gas up and only once in Independence to change the outgoing message.

We finally convinced him of the reality of the situation by showing him one of the preserved embryos that Katherine has been studying. He visibly paled when we told him that we had to cut it out of Dee's belly. Dee kept wanting the look at the little monster, she does not seem frightened by it at all. I don't think she really understands what it is or how close it came to killing her. I hope she never does.

I am more nervous than I am letting on about this. At least I hope that I am not that transparent. I am scared of leaving Dee alone. I know she will have Katherine and Micheal, but she has already lost so much.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Driving Tips - First Installment

Today I am going to talk about something different. It seems there is a dangerous lack of common sense in drivers today. So I thought I would provide a few common sense bits of advice for beginner drivers as well as the seasoned veteran that may just need a refresher course. My first bit of advice is to GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS!

Tip #1: Turn Signals

Ok, I want everybody to go out to their cars and look at the steering column. There will be this stick thingy coming out from the left side (or right side for you European drivers). I will wait...



That stick thingy is your turn signal lever. You push it down to signal a left turn and up to signal a right turn. A little light on your dash will blink pointing in the way you want to turn if used correctly. Ok, ok. Yes, you can go check that out. I will wait. Again.

Cool ain't it.


When others use it it means they will be turning or changing lanes. When used to signal lane changes this is intended as a warning and courtesy. It means they need to get over into the corresponding lane. They may not see you so if you are close, you should either honk your horn or drop back a bit. It does NOT mean, speed up and get past me or block me. It is not an invitation to race.

I think it would be irresponsible of me to mention turn signals without mentioning another crucial piece of automotive safety equipment. The Mirrors. Those mirrors on the sides and hanging down from the center of the windshield were not meant for grooming or checking to see if that hickey shows from your makeout session you were engaged in while flying down the highway. These really come in handy for checking to make sure your way is clear BEFORE making a turn or lane change. Neat idea huh?

Tip #2: Turns

Now that we have covered turn signals and mirrors, we will cover the actual turn itself. You know those lines you see on the road. Those actually have a purpose. They divide the road into lanes. When you come to an intersection and need to make a left hand turn, please make sure you are in the left hand lane. Don't make a left turn from the right hand lane. Really this is not a good thing.

U turns should only be made when absolutely necessary and they should never be made from the far right lane of a busy 4 lane highway creeping along at 15 mph. Even if making U-turn on a small residential street totally devoid of traffic one should always check your mirrors for cops hiding behind bushes on ATVs. It appears that even I am not immune to occasional bouts of excessive inter cranial air pockets.

Tip #3: Phone Usage

It seems obvious to most but still there are people that need to be told. That thing with four wheels in your driveway is NOT a friggin phone booth! Hang up and Drive!!! I have seen people walking down the street jabbering away at their phone and trip over a fireplug. You want to bet that this joker thinks he can talk and drive just fine and doesn't need some idiot telling him what he can and can't do in his own car.

I have heard some people say, I can handle it, I'm a multi-tasker. BULLSHIT! ERs across the nation are full of multi-taskers that rammed their car into other solid objects. I even heard a cop say I can handle it because I have special training. BULLSHIT! Studies have shown that the police are just as likely to have an accident while talking on a phone as you or I.

If you have to talk on the phone, pull over. Very few conversations are worth putting yourself or others at risk. Don't make or take calls while driving.

There are a few other things that should never be done while driving.

  • Eating. Yes, there are some finger foods that are ok to eat, but if it requires a knife and fork, eat it at home at your dinner table.

  • Typing your resume. Especially if you are using a desktop typewriter.

  • Sex. Having sex in a car is awkward enough. But add to that trying to work around the steering wheel, brake and gearshift at 5o mph. Do you really need me to point out just how much of a bad idea this is? And you are aware that most cop cars have cameras now right?

  • Changing cloths or grooming. I once carpooled with a girl that routinely changed her clothes while driving.

  • Clipping coupons. I actually saw this one. Coupon section spread out across the steering wheel, one hand holding the paper, the other very neatly cutting out the coupons. Imagine hitting a bump and losing a finger. Makes that 50 cent coupon seem a little less of a bargain huh? And just where do you think those scissors are going to be after the airbag deploys? Kinda reminds me of Final Destination.

I am sure there will be other drivng tips coming. There does not seem to be a shortage of stupidity.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Garage Sale Tips - Second Installment

Been out garage sailing today and you guessed it a number of people just pissed me off.

Tip #4: Parking

If you are having a yard sale you are responsible in some part for parking. If you live on a busy street where street side parking is not an option, then people will be parking in your drive. Don't cuss at them and give them dirty looks. Also, don't have a garage sale and then rope off all the available parking in front of your house. If you don't want people parking in front of your house then don't have a garage sale dammit. It's not fair to make people walk three blocks to get to your sale if they don't have to. Also don't give people dirty looks for walking on your grass when you're having a yard sale. If they can't get to your merchandise they won't be buying from you.

Tip #5: Handling and Placement of Merchandise

Some items were not meant to be placed in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can actually destroy some things.

  • CD's, tapes, records.
  • Calculators, pocket TVs, handheld games. Anything with an LCD display. LCD displays especially older units will be baked if left sitting in the sun for even a couple of hours.
  • Batteries. This includes batteries inside electronic devices.
  • Candles (if you need this explained you're beyond hope, give up and have yourself committed)
  • Photographic equipment and photographic developing equipment
  • Computers and discs

Also don't leave things out in the rain and expect it to sell. I asked one old fart if he had left his stuff out in the rain the night before. He said no. I picked up a car stereo and poured out half a cup of water at his feet.
This dovetails nicely into my next tip.

Tip #6: Honesty

Don't lie to me. If I get the feeling I am being lied to, Deal is OFF. I don't care how good a bargain the transaction appears to be, lie to me and I'm gone and so is my money. If I catch you in a lie, it casts a shadow on your whole sale. For all I know, you're a thief selling off the real owner's stuff while he is tied up in a closet.

Tip #7: Porn

I really don't want to pull up to a yard sale and find a bunch of used porn and or sex toys on display. I can't think of anything that is a bigger turn off than used porn or toys. And if you look like Rodney Dangerfield or Rodney Dangerfield in drag then the last thing I want on my mind when looking at you is sex. I don't think there is enough mental floss in the world to get that kind of mental imagery removed.

If it is not something you would sell to your pastor, mother in law or friends, don't put it out for the whole world to see. And I really don't want to have to answer those kind of questions from my kids just yet.

These are just of few of the issues I ran into today. Will probably think of more on my next expedition.

Dead Land Journal September 6th 2027 Labor Day

Today is Labor Day. In Independence the Santa-Cali-Gon festival starts Friday night and lasted until Sunday night. My dad used to take me to the Square the Saturday before Labor Day. You couldn't park within five blocks of the square so we would walk. There were shuttle buses, but my dad was one of those people that just knew EVERYBODY in town. He would stop and talk to people we met along the way. Walking up Liberty we would pass Saint Mary's Catholic school and he would talk to a friend of his that he had worked with years ago. This would sometimes take an hour or more. Once we got there we would look at all the booths. I would get some Dr. J's Root Beer and everything we ate that day would be either deep fried or on a stick, sometimes both. I would hit all the rides at the carnival, sometimes even convincing dad to ride with me. In later years I would go with my friends and we would hang out till the last rides closed at the carnival and all the booths were boarded up. Another tradition I had hoped to continue with my own son.

Our mystery man showed up yesterday. He just walked up and knocked on the glass door of the lobby. Emily announced his presence before he even got close to the door. He rode up on an ATV so we all heard him coming. He was dressed almost exactly as I pictured him. A bit skinny though. He seemed nervous and looked almost ready to bolt, but smiled when he saw Dee. He introduced himself as Micheal Eastland. He is seventeen and was My first impression was that we are not the first people that he has encountered since the disappearance. He seemed eager to talk and I took the liberty of recording his story. He agreed readily.

Below is a transcription of his story.

"Last April I was in the middle of Football practice, I'm not really much of a jock, but it meant a lot to my Dad that I be on the team. I was blocking, coach thought that was a big joke, a beanpole like me blocking. There's a big guy on the team that likes to get opposite me, just so he can knock me down. I wasn't at my best anyways. My allergy medicine was fuckin' me up... sorry messin me up, I forgot about her being here. Course he bulldozed right over me, wrenched my knee and stomped my hand. He's laughing while he did it too. I was seeing red. I grabbed his leg and that pulled him off balance and he fell on me. Asshole weighs probably two-forty, two-sixty easy. He landed hard. And then he just wasn't there anymore. His uniform, pads and helmet was, but he wasn't in 'em. I tossed his gear aside and looked round the field. All I saw was empty uniforms all cross the field. The bleachers were empty."

He paused a moment here and pulled out a cigar. Kathy gave him a disapproving look and he put it away.

"I wandered about the whole town for a while before I ended up here. My sis worked the kennels here, cleanin up a twice a day and walkin the dogs. She's got Downs Syndrome. She can't get a job anywhere else, but they treat her good here and she loves the animals. By that time I had already figured out that everyone was gone. I released the animals so they wouldn't starve to death. I put a horse down cause it was sick and suffering. It would have died slow on it's own."

"Three days later a big van drove into town. A FedEx van, you know one of those Freightliners. I was eager to meet someone else so I flagged em down. There were three men inside. One of them got out of the van and and, he grabbed me... They beat me up and did...other things to me."

I had a feeling I knew what those other things were, and I could see that Kathy did too. He shook his head and continued.

"After a while one of them decided he wanted to kill me but the others disagreed, there was a fight and the two others killed him I think. I didn't hang around to be sure. While they were distracted I managed get away. They took off."

"I have been trying to keep a low profile since. You're the first ones I've seen since they left. Been watching you since you came into town. She's the only reason I approached" at this point he nodded to Dee, who by this time was playing with her doll house. "I would not have approached if I had not seen her."

That made sense to me, a couple of adults alone would have been very intimidating to him after what he had been through. But a couple with a child would have seemed safe. Despite what he has been through he seems to be an open and trusting boy. I think he has a crush on Katherine. Despite her attitude sometimes, she is an attractive woman. Dee likes him and Emily kept trying to climb in his lap.

He did not mention the wraiths or anything unusual and did not seem entirely believing of us when we described our encounters. He seems to think we are a couple of city folk that have mistaken a bear or a coyote for something supernatural.

He stuck around for a couple of hours but left for the night. I don't think he is entirely ready to give up his independence yet.

The fact that we have two, possibly three, psychopaths tooling about the countryside in a FedEx van worries me.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 5th 2027

Katherine has been studying those things for days now. Everyday she comes out with a new revelation that usually goes right over my head.

The few things I do understand are that its taxonomy does not suggest relationship to any known terrestrial species. She does not know if they are extra terrestrial in origins or just a previously unknown species. Personally I don't think they came from earth, or outer space, but an entirely different realm. Their cranial structure and complex central nervous system suggests potential for intelligence equal to our own if not greater. This really comes as no surprise to me after what I have seen. They have no lungs but instead have an incredibly dense network of blood vessel under their skin and appear to be able to absorb oxygen directly from their skin, esophageal passages and stomach lining. They also appear to be a true hermaphroditic creature possessing both male and female reproductive organs and it only takes one of them to reproduce. The most disturbing thing she has told me about them is that they have excellent regenerative ability.

I have printed off all my journal entries. There was a printer in one of the offices. I just plugged my computer into it and printed it all off. Got it all in a binder now tucked away safe. Once I print this entry out it will join the others. This computer is getting flakier all the time. It takes forever to boot up and randomly crashes. I save frequently but still worry about losing my journals. Kathy has often asked why I bother. I really don't know other than it feels important to me to put this down on paper.

I've got another damn headache. My left eye feels like it is about to pop right out of my skull. Kathy thinks it's possible I have glaucoma. Pressure builds up in the eye causing pain and loss of peripheral vision. I have noticed some spots at the edge of my vision lately. She wants to do an eye exam. Check my vision, check the ocular pressure, dilate my eyes, make me wear old fart sunglasses all day. I hate those things.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dead Land Journal September 1st 2027

Been here a few days. Dee is recovering well. She is young and resilient. Katherine has been doing daily ultrasounds on her to make sure she did not miss anything. The building is large and half of it is vacant. It looks like there was another veterinarian practicing here and moved out leaving vacant offices and exam rooms. For now we are sleeping on air mattresses on the floor. They are about the heaviest pieces of furniture I can handle right now. If we do stay here much longer though and I will bring some furniture in.

There was an old Suzuki Sidekick around back. I filled the tank, cleaned the throttle body out, charged the battery and managed to get it started. I have been tooling about Osceola in it for a couple of days now looking for signs of life.

Kathy has also admitted to seeing signs of habitation since we came here. She saw a trail of dust yesterday morning as if a vehicle were driving down one of the dirt roads. And yesterday morning when she was checking the convenience store across the street for some Excedrin for her headache (she gets frequent headaches and there are no mild painkillers here in the vet's office appropriate for humans) she found several candy wrappers and a few empty beer bottles by the cash register, which had been cleared out.

There have been a few times I felt like I was being watched, but sensed no malevolence. I found a cabin where I think he has been staying but there was no answer when I knocked. There was an ashtray on the porch with some recent cigar butts in it. Several gold Comacho bands littered the floor around the ashtray stand. My father in law used to smoke Comacho Liberty cigars on special occasions. They were three hundred and fifty bucks for a box of twenty. But they still smelled like crap. The only time I ever smoked a cigar was when my best friend's little girl was born. At the first puff I started coughing so hard I thought I was going to rupture something. A veteran smoker will tell you that you get accustomed to it, but Damn. I am sure that if the first thing I did every morning was to reach for a hammer and hit myself in the face with it eventually I would get used to it. But for the love of God, Why?!

But I can understand this to a degree. Living in a vacant world, does it really matter. Even if your are not the suicidal type, why hang on?

The lack of exterior lighting and shutters on the windows indicates that this is either not a full time residence or he has not encountered the wraiths. Around back I found what appears to be an outdoor slaughterhouse. Bones littered the ground and a bloody butcher block dominated the back yard. Hides were being stretched out for tanning. This reinforced my opinion that this was not a full time residence. He probably did some hunting and trapping, brought his kills here to skin and butcher so that the carnage would not be drawing scavengers to his home. The back door was latched but not locked. I was hesitant to intrude, but I wanted to get to know a bit about the guy before I introduced myself. The cabin was sparsely furnished and no effort had been made to decorate. There was a futon near the wood stove, piled near the this I found a pile of old Playboy magazines and at the foot a small pile of wadded up paper towels. Nice. There was a coffee table at the head with a handheld Sony PlayStation resting on top of a file of game cards. They were all newer games, none of the old classics. What I was finding inside really altered the mental image that had been forming. Outside I was picturing a middle aged man, wearing overalls work boots and a John Deere hat. Now I was picturing a 16 to 18 year old boy, jeans, cammo jacket, ball cap on backwards so as not to interfere with the rifle scope, sunglasses and workboots. Probably involved in either Boy Scouts or 4H or both. Boy Scouts would almost be unavoidable. Osceola hosted the largest Scout camp in the Midwest.

I did not want to be caught intruding so I backed out, leaving everything exactly as I found it. I did not want to encounter him on his home turf, that could put him on the defensive. He's obviously well armed and knows how to use a gun, so that could be deadly.

Thinking about installing a PA system on the Uni so we can announce our entrance when we come into a city. Might help us find people. Then again it might also draw the wraiths to us, so maybe not such a great idea.

The battery on my laptop has gone bad and the thing keeps giving me errors when I boot up. Thing is, I don't think the summer heat has been too kind to these expensive batteries so I may not be able to find a good replacement. I have been keeping my journals backed up on memory cards, but I am thinking of printing it out on a daily basis and keeping it in a binder or something. I will need to get a printer though. Might just get a desktop computer to keep in the Uni.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dead Land Journal August 27th 2027

It's more than just a cold. She has a fever of 103, shes been vomiting and dry heaving all day. There is a hard, painful knot in her stomach. Kathy thinks its her appendix. We are still in Osceola. I am writing this while I am waiting for Katherine to give me the go ahead to move out. She wants to make sure that Dee is secured.

Same Day

My laptop has a Google Earth on it and Katherine tried to find a nearby hospital on it. It kept wanting to update and then crashing when it could not get a connection. Finally Kathy just gave up and told me to head for the highway and we would drive till we saw a sign for a hospital. But we never made it to the highway. Just as I was about to turn onto highway 82 from Route WW she told me to stop, shouted for me to really. I hit the brakes too hard and Dee cried out from the back. She pointed to a sign for an animal hospital and said "That'll do, I hope." I don't really think the intended for me to hear that last part though. It's a fairly new building. I pulled into the parking lot in front, three feet out from the door. The high roof of the Uni taking out the awning in the process. Part of me dreaded going in there, knowing what we would find inside. But they would have medical equipment inside. And Kathy said that I would have an easier time hooking up a generator here than I would at a regular hospital.

Getting the generator going was the first order of business. I quickly investigated the building and found a propane fired generator in the south end of the building. It gave me no problem getting started. On the way there I had to go through the kennels. I was surprised to find that all the cages and stalls were empty and the doors standing open. There had been someone here after the disappearance, and they had been more on the ball than I had been. Back in the lobby I found the thermostat and set the AC down as far as it would go. It took only a few minutes for cool air to start blowing through the vents. Kathy insisted that we not take time to cool things down before taking Dee inside. She's the doctor so I heeded her advice. The AC was powerful so it did not take long for the temperature inside to drop from 98 to 79. I asked Kathy on the walkie talkie I picked up after losing Dee if that was cool enough. She reluctantly agreed so I carried her gently inside, very careful not to jostle her.

She would not let me set her down until she had sterilized the exam table and lay out fresh tissue. This was a rural community so they were equipped for larger animals. Dee looked so small on that large steel table. There was a laptop computer on a little roll about stand with what appeared to be a large clumsy mouse attached to it. Prior to Lisa's pregnancy I would not have recognized it as an ultra-sound machine. She had me strip off Dee's shirt while she got the machine ready. She squeezed a generous glob of KY jelly on Dee's belly and started running the ultra-sound over her. After a few moments she let out a gasp and I looked up at the screen.

Not being a doctor, I really had no idea what to expect. But I did not expect that. It was a high resolution machine and where her intestines, appendix and kidneys were supposed to be were six spherical objects, inside these spheres could be seen what looked like embryos. Embryos with teeth and long claws. As we stared one of them squirmed and we both jumped. We both knew instantly that they would be emerging soon, and we both also knew what that would mean for Dee.

Kathy wasted no time prepping her for surgery. She had me scrub up too. She had me assist as best as I could. Really just handing her instruments and providing suction as needed. It was much the same as when I used to help my dad work on his old Rambler when I was a kid. But instead of grease and gasoline, it was blood that was staining my hands and clothes.

The eggs were a milky blue color and were easy to spot as not belonging there. Purple veins radiated out from the eggs, taking root in her abdomen. The largest of these Kathy cauterized with a surgical laser to prevent bleeding. One by one she pulled them out. I collected each one in separate specimen containers, as per her instructions. The fifth one split open as she pulled it out. The occupant, a tiny grey pink fetus squirmed about slowly and then suddenly started slashing about with its claws. At this point in it's development they were only about 4 millimeters long, but still sharp enough to do some damage had it landed inside Dee. But it had fallen on the table. I jumped back when it started thrashing about. I did not realize that the paper cover had caught on my belt and my jumping back pulled it off the table and the little monster fell to the floor. I followed my gut instinct and stomped the little bastard. Katherine did not protest, but she did give me a dirty look.

The surgery appears to have been a success, but we are going to be staying here for a few days till Dee recovers. Kathy wants to be sure that we have everything we need in case Dee gets a post operative infection. I really think Dee will be ok. Her fever broke thirty minutes after Kathy closed her up.

Kathy has been criticizing her "sloppy surgical technique" ever since. She is also mad at herself for missing the tiny puncture on Dee's back that she says was probably where the eggs were implanted. I told her to shut up dammit. If it weren't for her Dee would probably be dead in a couple of days. But I think she's afraid that's still a possibility. We weren't exactly operating under the best of circumstances.

I've been looking around here and I think we could stay for a while. The building is sturdy and easily secured. There is only one glass door and there is a steel gate that can be pulled down from the inside. Like most veterinary hospitals and clinics there is a lot of dog and cat food on hand so Emily will not starve. I have seen evidence of abundant game in this area. Plus in rural areas like this people tend to stockpile food for when times are tough.

There is someone else living here. I don't want to leave till I get a chance to introduce myself.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, September 7, 2009

All Is Forgiven

I recently posted that my wife had been hiding her donut making skills from me. Well this morning she made me donuts. I have lost track of how many of those little pastries I have eaten. I keep telling myself I don't need anymore, even as I am reaching for another one now.

Dead Land Journal August 24th 2027

According to the birth certificate I found today is Dee's birthday. Despite Kathy's protests, I think I feel well enough to go through with my plans. Kathy did volunteer to make the cake though. Dee is about the only person she gets along with. She really wants to help make this birthday special for her, so I guess that earns some points with me.

I'm a little worried about Emily. She whimpers whenever anyone but me comes close to her, especially Dee. Dee can play a little rough with her but Emily is so tolerant of her but I think she is afraid that Dee is going to get too rough with her.

I am leaving Dee in the RV while I go find her Birthday present. Once I am done with breakfast I will be heading out. I saw a Toys R Us when we pulled into town. Dee has been wanting a doll house and I am going to get her the best one I can find with all the accessories. Money is no object.

August 24th 2027 again.

Found the perfect dollhouse. It has all kinds of cool little things, cabinets, drawers, doors furniture and electric system. It even talks and has sound effects. One of the best things about it is that it folds up so we won't be tripping over it all the time. I picked up half a shopping cart full of furniture and dolls for it. I even found a "big screen" TV and entertainment system for it. The screen is about 7 inches wide, which I think translates to 6 feet judging by the scale of the doll house. It even comes with a remote control and a multimedia memory card slot. There was no way I could carry it in my current condition so I just walked out pushing the cart through the lot.
On the way back to the Uni I saw a plume of smoke in the distance. It was to the north but too distant to check out now, but I will drive that way tomorrow and check it out. Besides I want to get home for Dee's birthday.

Dee had a blast today. Katherine was surprised to find that she has a talent for cake decorating. It doesn't hurt that she found a professional cake decorating kit. Dee loved the cake, and she played with the dollhouse all afternoon. We took her to a McDonald's after supper so she could play in the tubes at the indoor playgound. Katherine went through first gathering all the empty clothes from the tubes. I was about to, but Katherine not allow it. She was right of course. I probably would have made it about halfway through, if that far before reopening the wound and then Katherine would have had to drag me out.

Dee played for a while, but I think she would have had more fun with other children. She is a very social child.

The only fly in the ointment was that Dee seems to be coming down with something. She got real cranky at McDs and we had to call it a day. She felt feverish when I was strapping her into the car seat so I had Kathy check her out. She thinks it's just a cold, but she looks worried.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, September 4, 2009

You Never Really Know People

I just found out my wife can make donuts. She just mentioned that she was in the mood to make donuts. I was astounded, My Wife Can Make Donuts! So I was just staring at her. She said "What, you're looking at me like I've never made donuts for you before.

In 20 years of marriage she has never made me donuts. Never even indicated that it was even an option. TWENTY YEARS. No Donuts.

We had been married 16 years before either of us knew the other liked Cheese-Whiz. Disgusting stuff really. But I admit that I love the stuff.

I have to wonder what else she is keeping from me.

Right now she is laughing at me and insisting that she is not hiding things from me.

But all I know is that for 16 years I walked by the Cheese-Whiz in the grocery store, assuming that she hated the stuff and trying to be considerate. And if I wanted donuts that involved a trip to the bakery. Maybe I will just forget how to grill steak for the next 20 years.

Oh hell, who am I kidding. I'll grill up a steak for her anytime she is willing to make donuts for me.

Rainy Days and Car Fires

I should be outside working on the van, or mowing the lawn. But it's raining outside. It always rains when I plan to mow. It's so reliable I should advertise my services as a Rainmaker. I cannot announce plans to get the mower out and mow. Does not matter if we have been in longest drought in 15 years, if I say the words "mow the lawn" clouds will gather and a torrential downpour will ensue. I remember once I made the announcement that I was going to mow the lawn and out of a clear blue sky thunder rumbled. I stayed away from the garage all day and it never rained. But I knew that before I even got the garage door up, hail would have been falling from the sky. So I have to keep my plans to myself and sneak up on it. Even then it sometimes does not work and it will start raining before I am done.

Right now my van is broke down (again, insert heavy sigh here). I will probably go out and work on it. I can replace the spark plugs without getting wet. Will have to extract the spark plug socket from the engine first. Stupid thing wouldn't let it go yesterday. I had to stop at that point, or I would have put a wrench through the windshield. If the van were insured I would have probably set it on fire. Actually probably not. Car fires stink. I have lost a vehicle to fire, not once, but twice. The first time it was a 1977 Ford Truck in real nice shape. I went into the hardware store to get a sliding bolt for the back door at home. When I came out I saw a pillar of smoke in the parking lot. My eyes followed the smoke down to the source and you guessed it, my truck.

A few years later I was cleaning out our van, a 1990 Chevy Lumina APV. I went inside to answer the phone. Of course it was a phone solicitor. When I got back there was smoke coming out of the van. I ran inside to get the fire extinguisher in the basement. Tripped and fell down the stairs on the way. Ran back upstairs, not as fast as I came down though, and out to the van. I aimed the fire extinguisher at the flames that were by that time pouring out the open sliding door. Pulled the trigger and nothing happened. Of course I called 911, but by the time they got there it was too late. They asked me if I was alright and to tell them what happened. Of course I had to complain about the stupid fire extinguisher. And to complete the comedic effect of the whole scene the fire extinguisher worked perfectly when I was demonstrating it. All over the fireman's boots. Some of them were still laughing as their truck left. The neighborhood smelled like smoke for about a week after the insurance company finally came out and inspected the van.