Tag Archives: post-apocalypse

New Sample Snippet: This Plague of Days isn’t all grim

PlagueAnna turned up the radio, concentrating on the thin signal. 

Cat McCloud, the lone DJ, was a fellow with a booming voice that slipped into gravel when he was being serious. He wasn’t serious often. “You want a weather report, look out the window and there’s your goddamn weather report,” he said. “Excuse my Balinese but the FCC don’t run me no more. The Powers That Be always were killjoys, censoring us and suckin’ the good outta you like a bad night’s sleep.”

Cat reported where he’d been — all over the eastern United States. He said he’d ridden out Sutr X’s first wave in a campground in Delaware. “The lights are on in Delaware and there’s still plenty of food and gas around if you bother to look — at least there was three weeks ago. I guess what I got isn’t news ’cause it’s so old, but we all needed to slow down anyways, didn’t we? In honor of what was, let’s spin some more vinyl — that’s right, I said vinyl! Coming up, more Rush ’cause I love ’em and they play long songs so ol’ Cat can step out my door and take a tinkle without worrying about the cops spoiling the joy of peeing out my front door no more!” 

“Later on you can lick your chops over some Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad and a Pink Floyd marathon. Far as I know, I got the last radio station in these former United States of Dystopia so I’ll play what I like, long as I’m kickin’ and poppin’ garlic pills and smokin’ the magical herb of happiness! Commercial-free, brothers and sisters! Back atcha after side one of Rush’s album Caress of Steel from a good year, 1975, back when we still thought the apocalypse was coming in the form of nuclear annihilation. Right on!”

Anna looked stricken. “The only radio station we’ve heard in weeks and the DJ’s the last hippie on earth. And he’s armed with a time machine.”

And there are fun pop culture references to make grim situations a little lighter:

The Spencers were joined by more cars on the highway, usually travelling in the same direction. Past the juggernaut of Montreal, they had noticed a trickle of fellow travellers in vehicles. Farther east, the trickles became streams. Traffic moved well and, wary of accidents for which no help would come, no drivers were reckless and, perhaps to conserve fuel, none sped, either. Most drivers made no eye contact so no contact could be invited nor implied. 

“This is somewhat more civil than The Road Warrior led me to expect,” Anna said. 

The cars and trucks were always packed full. Once they spotted a tiny car with a piano strapped to its roof. Back windows were often filled with bedding, perhaps to block anyone’s view of how many people might be travelling in the car.  

They followed a farm truck with a group of young women huddled against the wind in the open back. 

“Saviors or slavers?” Anna asked.

Jack shrugged. “I’m uncomfortable with that question. But it makes me think we have to somehow get hold of guns.”

“Papa Spence has a deer rifle and shotguns for pheasant season on the farm,” Theo said.

“Let’s hope we won’t need a gun before we get to Maine.” Anna watched the women in the truck, searching for some sign of a plea in their forlorn faces. Before long, the truck turned onto a dirt road and dust clouded their last look. 

Anna gritted her teeth. “If this is going to turn into a misogynist Game of Thrones world, then I’ll have to personally go all Katniss and turn it into a Hunger Games planet.”

 


The Sutr Virus: What happened?

From this morning’s revisions of This Plague of Days.

Grant Ave. in Chinatown, San Francisco.

Grant Ave. in Chinatown, San Francisco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed it was already too late for most cities. However, many small towns that had survived the plague by brutally defending their borders, shooting trespassers and discouraging strangers. Successful survivors rooted out contagion and walled it off quickly, staying apart from the infected and shooting anyone who would compromise their security. That’s why the hospitals were dead. They took people in. The VA hospital on his own base had become a death house before word of the plague had spread through the forts’s hometown of Helena.

Similarly but on a grander scale of destruction, Carron knew San Francisco had been forced to billet soldiers returning from the Middle East when all the troops were recalled. San Francisco had fallen first and fastest than any American city for that reason. Citizens had welcomed the veterans (some of whom already had Sutr before they deployed from the ships) and so everyone died of compassion. San Francisco had been too kind to survive the New World.

From the safety of a military bunker in Montana, Lieutenant Carron had read the reports, watched the world fall, and passed the incoming intelligence reports to his superiors until his superiors fell sick, too. Some lived through Sutr’s fevers. Most died. Lieutenant Francis Carron didn’t so much as catch a cold and he would not give a sliver of compassion the chance to infect him.


NSFW: Quotes from today’s revisions of This Plague of Days

Jaimie and his family try to cross a bridge to Canada as they flee the cities and disease runs rampant. However, they find evidence of a massacre on the Mackinac

English: Mackinac Bridge between Mackinaw City...

English: Mackinac Bridge between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, Michigan, photographed on August 1, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bridge. Here’s an excerpt:

Mrs. Bendam gasped and cried at the sight unfolding before them. She reached out to touch Anna’s shoulder and grasped hard until the girl relented and offered her hand. The old woman gripped too tight all the way across the bridge. She closed her eyes to the carnage, but Anna stared out the window. 

Jack ordered her daughter to close her eyes, too.

“No, Mom.”

“Anna! I don’t want you to wake up screaming with nightmares forever.”

“No,” Anna said. “I’ll look. Years from now, I’ll tell my son or daughter what I saw here.” She gazed at tangled horrors as the van bumped along over a sprawl of bodies. The uncaring Sutr Virus had not done this. People had done this to people.

Many of those murdered had no eyes now, but their gaping jaws suggested anger, fear, pain and surprise. She saw torn flesh. White bones rose. Skeletons emerged from their hiding places. 

“If I don’t look…” Anna said, “it’s not right. Someone has to bear witness. If I don’t look, it’s like saying this doesn’t matter or it means I won’t be around later to pass it on. Someday soon, the animals will be finished eating and what will be left but me and my memory? Not looking is like…”

“Giving up,” Theo said. “Yes. Look, Anna. It’s a heavy load, but someone who can tell the story should carry the memory.” 

Jaimie reached out and surprised his sister by grasping and squeezing her free hand.

Jaimie and his father held hands, too. “There really are no dictionary words for such atrocities, are there, son?” Theo whispered. “It would be obscene if there was such a word. There shouldn’t be just one word for this.”

The only bridge denizens left were rats and gulls and blackbirds. Their teeth and beaks tore and ripped and their heads shook as they winnowed the dead.


To prepare for the end, start with a new beginning

English: Schematic of a deadfall or cage trap....

English: Schematic of a deadfall or cage trap. The schematic was based on a schematic found in the book “SAS Survival Handbook” by John Wiseman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last episode of this season of The Walking Dead captured the problem perfectly: If you’re going to survive, you have to depend on other people and bring them together. The notion of the lone survivor is a dangerous and common fantasy. Preparedness has greater value than toughness. Community will save you and being a loner will kill you.

Sure there are mountain men out there who do survive alone…sort of. The problem with the lone survivor model is first you have to eliminate the psychotics and schizophrenics who are running around in the woods, but not really out of a rational choice they made. Next cut out the people who don’t slip in and out of civilization for supplies and rely on technology (bullets, radios, canned food, MREs, etc.,…). Those animal traps last forever, but unless you’re fashioning a wooden trap, somebody smelted the steel somewhere and at some point you might want to use a little WD40 instead of beaver skin grease.

Who does that leave? That family in Russia who spent generations out in the cold eating bark and didn’t know about World War II. Not optimum for most people. Still think you’re a tough guy? Who’s going to do the hunting and gathering when you twist an ankle or come down with a fever?

I think I’ve established how we need people, but what does emergency preparedness really mean?

Start with yourself: How’s your cardio? Can you change a tire without getting winded? Do you know how to do something useful other people don’t know how to do? One of my favorite post-apocalyptic novels is World Made By Hand. The hero is a musician (so he can provide entertainment) and but he’s most valued as a carpenter. The novel chronicles the conflicts that rise when a community is forced to go it alone, pool resources, trade and adapt to changing times in a world without an oil supply. (Check it out. Lots of interesting ideas in there, including the benefits of an outdoor kitchen when summer heat waves come.)

One of the lessons my family of survivors in This Plague of Days learns too late is that they’re better off working together, not just among themselves but with whoever else is left. Instead of defending just your home, you’ll do better and live longer working collaboratively to defend a neighborhood. The SAS Security Handbook has it right: the young and the very old are good for watching for strangers and dangers. Everyone else is on patrol duty. Instead of spending thousands of dollars fortifying your home to make it safe for a short time, get to know your neighbours, establish a sense of community, get some exercise and develop skills. Become a person of value to your community. When your wood stove burns your house down, you’ll have somewhere to go.

In building a network of friends and allies, you’ll be healthier. One of the predictors of a long and happy life is to be embedded in a caring, compassionate community. When one of those lone survivors shows up looking for supplies and trouble, he’ll be met with a group. And instead of shooting him, maybe he can show why he should be taken in. You don’t build a future out of endless violence. That’s civilization falling, not getting back up.

~ I’ve written eight books. My post-apocalyptic/plague/coming-of-age/Aspergers thriller, This Plague of Days, will be published soon.


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