The stories here are original and works in progress. Please leave a comment if you like them, hate them, or want more. Thanks


SHTF Fiction: Night Comes

My mother sat cross legged on the floor of the living room. Her hands methodically shoved brass cartridges into the magazines until they were full. She would place the full magazine by her right knee in neat stacks of three. On her left side were the empty magazines. In front, sat the green metal can of bullets.

Left, load, right, start another. Click, Click Click.

I stood in the doorway watching her and waiting. She had nothing more to say to my father and even less to me. It wasn't our fault.

My father entered the room carrying two shotguns. The longer of the two was the one he used to go dove hunting with in September. The other was the "home gun" my sister and I were not supposed to touch. He set the long gun on the good chair in the living room and then worked the slide on the home gun.

Shik-Shak. Shik-Shak.

He always did that before and after he went dove hunting. "Clear the gun, Kate" he'd tell me. "Always clear the gun.".

My father took a red shotgun shell from the open box on the dining room table and slid it into the gun. Then another, then another, then another. He did not slide the gun action again though. Not yet.

I left the room and went into the den off the kitchen. The news was still on and would be for hours if not days. I stared at the screen for a few minutes without seeing anything. I went into the kitchen. The light was out and it was late afternoon. Mom should be starting dinner but the stove was cold. She would not be cooking today.

I went back into the living room. My mother stood and the cartilage in her knees popped. She leaned down and picked up a stack of loaded magazines and started putting them into a dull green bag with dark stains on one side. I recognized it as one of my father's bags he used to carry dead birds when he went hunting.

"I'll take the Ford." said my father. My mother said nothing, she just kept putting magazines in the bag.

"Kate." my father said. He handed me a large manila envelope.

"Birth certificates, social security cards, insurance, house information. It's all in there." he said.

I felt the creases of the manila envelope and stared at the floor. My father set down a blue metal box on the coffee table,  took out a small key and opened the box. Inside was a stack of cash, credit cards and some loose papers.

"Go to your aunt's house after we leave, she's waiting for you. Take this stuff and don't forget your bag. I don't know when you will need the papers, but the cash will come in handy. Do what you have to." he said.

"Take this." he handed me a pistol.

"You remember how to use this." It wasn't a question, but a statement. I nodded. My father left the room.

My mother was standing in the living room looking at the mantle where my sister's picture stared back at us. Mother turned to me and her eyes returned to normal.

"Come here." she ordered, " Turn around."

She had a brush and began dragging it through my hair.

"Take care of your hair. Comb it out after you shower, never put it in a pony tail wet and dry it before you go to bed at night."

She was hurting me and I said so. She stopped brushing and pulled my hair into a pony tail, tying it with an elastic band. She turned me around and looked me in the eye. There was no sadness.

I wanted to hug her, but she would only push me away. Like a kitten too old to nurse or a bird that needed to fly, she was shoving me out of her life.

My mother picked up the game bag and put it over her shoulder. She casually picked up the rifle and thoughtfully checked a magazine before pushing it into the gun. Like a shopper considering a melon at the market before placing it in her cart.

"Ready?" my father said. My mother said nothing and went to the open front door. My father turned to me.

"Remember, go straight to your aunt's house. No dilly dallying, you hear?" he said.   I nodded.

The door closed and I heard both cars start out front. Seconds later, they pulled away, the transmission on my mother's Subaru whining as the gears shifted into their place.

I picked up my sister's framed school picture and went into the den. I unmuted the television and stared at the images on the screen. The elementary school was smouldering and firemen poked carefully around the edges. A woman knelt on the ground with her hands in her hair, he face screwed with misery.  Like sleep walkers, people stepped around and ignored her. The government declared an impotent state of emergency.

Their place, that place where those people gathered was around the corner from my sister's school. The place of constant wailing, dour faces and tented women. Places similar to it all over town and everywhere else that knew suffering, torment and unrelenting horror. That place.

An enemy without children is an enemy without a future, they said. My mother and father should be there about now. They won't be alone. This night will not end lightly nor soon. It will last for a very long time, black as ink, oily, dirty and sudden.  

My sister loved flowers, crayons and balloons. I once told her a certain flower had no smell, yet she still oohed after she sniffed it as though it was the scent of a rainbow. The end of her nose was yellow with pollen and she looked up at me and smiled. She believed. 

Now, I looked at the face of my eight year old little sister. She had a blue bow in her hair and her smile was crooked. I held her picture to my chest. All the flowers were brown and dying and taken all the color of the world away with them.

I was standing on the front porch. In my left hand was my sister's picture, in my right, the gun. I was close enough that I could walk to her school and then some more. It was getting dark. It would be getting darker, as night comes.

"-- stated authorities at the scene, where the multiple fatalities may be impossible to identify. Calls for dental records have been issued, but with many of the victims under the age of ten, authorities warn it might be weeks before identities are released. Federal officials are warning everyone not to jump to conclusions over today's attacks and the arrest of several persons from the refugee community. Area clergy and ministers are planning a candlelight vigil....".


Short Story: Requiem for a raider

You wouldn't understand. 

It's too hard for most you people to get your head around. I'm sitting here under a tree, well more like a half a burned out stump, watching my guts try to slide out my stomach. I'm holding them in pretty good with my old hoodie wrapped around my waist and cinched pretty tight. Don't matter much cause my leg's bled out a bunch and I'm getting woozy. 

They say when your dying, your life flashes before your eyes. I'm here to tell you, it's more like a TV show. It starts to flicker like them old sets did. Not the fancy flat screens they got today, but like them big console jobs when we were little. We had one like that in the front room when I was three or four.

Round that time, when I was little, Daddy up and left. I don't remember much about him 'cepting he was big and had hairy arms. I remember that much but that's all. Sometime after, Ray started coming around and was seeing Mama. Me and Colt, that's my little brother, he goes by Colton now 'cuz that's his real name. You probably remember him a few years ago, but that'll come later.

Anyhow, me and Colt used to sneak out of our room and watch Mama and Ray fool around on the couch. We didn't get it and thought he was gonna hurt her, but she looked over at us out of the corner of her eye and gave us the evil eye. So we beat it but snuck out another time to see what was going on.

There was usually a few bottles on the table, cigarettes burning. I can still smell them things and it makes me want one.

I stick my hand in my jacket pocket and it hurts, but I find my last crumpled packet. Merits. Yuck. Oh well, ain't like I'm gonna get up and go to a 7-11 and get a pack of Marlboros. Not like those are around anymore. I stick the bent thing in my mouth and light it with my Bic. Takes a few tries to get the flame up, but I do. I take a deep drag and cough half my lung out. Damn that hurts. Where was I? 

Oh yeah, so Ray moves in later and hangs out with Mama. We stay out of his way and he stays out of ours. One time he comes home drunk and Mama got mad. He laughed at her and calls me and Colt out. He tells us our Mama is a big fat cow. Colt starts crying and tried to hit Ray. Colt was only 2 or 3 and I told him to cut it out. Then I laugh along with Ray and start mooing. Ray got a kick out of that and didn't hit Colt on account of what I did.

Ray says, "You wanna see something funny?". He takes of his belt and starts whacking Mama on the butt. She starts crying and begging Ray to stop. Ray grabs this old slipper off the floor and shoves it in Mama's mouth and tells her to fetch it like a dog. Mama got on all fours and started going back and forth from the kitchen to the front room. Ray's howling and laughing and gets made 'cuz Colt is hiding his face. So I grabbed a piece of rope from the kitchen and hand it off to Ray.

"Make her a leash." I said and Ray forgot about Colt again. I started laughing at Mama and got Colt off to bed. I went out again and Ray was getting on Mama so I went back to me and Colt's room and told him to be quiet. I got ready in case we had to go out the window, but it never happened. Ray passed out and was snoring with his pants down. Mama was asleep next to him with the rope still around her neck.

Time went by and me and Colt went to school. Colt was two years younger, but he did good in school. Not me. I was bigger and got restless easy. Mama never came to the teacher meetings on account of work, getting drunk and Ray so the teachers quit sending home notes. I didn't care. When I was in third grade I swiped some of Mama's and Ray's smokes and started up. Haven't been without them since.

Ray kept beating Mama but she kind of deserved it. She got fat and lazy and Ray was trying to keep her in line. All she needed was a belt and a shoe in her mouth from time to time, but she still got fat and didn't do nothing around the house. Ray took off and didn't come back. It was Mama's fault.

There's some noises off in the woods. It's still full on dark and probably going to be like it for a few more hours. When they find me, I'll be as stiff as a board, I mean to tell you. When they started shooting, I took a couple and made it this far. The rest of the fellas, well, they probably ain't as lucky. Montezuma and Ulysses would be kicking our butts for this mess, but it ain't my fault. 'Sides, they deader than door nails too. 

Colt liked baseball but we didn't have no money for nothing like that. Still, I'd see him out with the other kids when he was 7 or so and he looked stupid with no glove. Just standing there slapping his fist into his other hand. The kids let him play 'cuz he could hit and run fast. But he didn't have no glove and it made me mad. The other kids know'd we ain't got no money and Mama was a drunk.

I walked home and had a smoke in the alley between some old houses when I see these kids come down the street. They went to the other elementary up the road that was across the big street and nicer than ours. These kids all got fancy backpacks and they got baseball gloves too. I toss my smoke and go on out in the sidewalk and block em off.

They were about to run and I tell'd them to stop right there and turn out their pockets or I was going to bust them up. See I was bigger then they was and they knew I was from the not so good part of town. I got a few bucks and some change from those punks. I also took two baseball gloves and chucked their books down the storm drain. Then I chased them away and laughed when they runned off.

I kept this one backpack for myself and another for Colt. I put both gloves in his pack 'cuz I don't play no ball sports. I put the bag on his bed when I got home and went to look at TV. He comes home and finds it and goes. "What's this, Ricky?". I says, "It's a present from Santy Clause cuz he missed our house last time."

Colt was all happy and says "We got two gloves. You wanna play catch?" And I say "No, that's a stupid game. Why don't you go play with your friends?" and he takes off. I poke around after he left and found some more smokes. I was having one when Mama comes home and she starts to yelling and trying to hit me with a hair brush or the broom. I took it away from her and told her I was going to put a shoe in her mouth. She starts bawling and goes and gets the big bottle of vodka from the kitchen. I went outside and stayed there until it was real dark.

I can hear dogs now and some shooting but it's far away. I figure somebody must have been playing possum and got up and runned the other way. Them fellas had us figured out and ambushed us when we come up on the house. More like a fort it was. Thirteen of us cut down, 'cepting for me cause I was in the back. We knew they had guns, gas, girls and grub and we needed all of it. I hate the woods 'cuz it's dark and there's noises everywhere. I liked cities and streets. 

We got to high school but I was held back one year. That put me one grade up on Colt and I wasn't going to be in the same grade so I got this kid to copy his homework sometimes. I didn't have many friends but I had a few that I runned around with. We boosted some stereos back then and did some little things for pocket money.

Colt did good in baseball and made the school team. The high school was bigger than our old school and had a lot of them kids from the nice part of town. Colt was pals with them on the team and would go over their house but didn't invite me. It wasn't Colt's fault but them stuck up kids. Colt told me about his friends and I'd ask questions like I was interested. Once he told me some kid and his family was going on a vacation. Me and my friends went over at night and got in the house.

We got some good stuff for hocking. We took their liquor and got drunk, pissed on the furniture and stuff. I found fifty bucks in a kid's room stuffed in a birthday card. Nobody sent me no birthday cards so I kept it. They had a teenage girl who lived in the house but was gone too so we messed up her stuff. Girls didn't talk much to me at school so that was fun.

When I was a junior I was 18 and they told me I'd have to repeat and I said "No way". I dropped out and nobody could stop me. But they felt bad and helped me get the GED. I called it a Deadbeat Diploma to the councilor but she didn't laugh. I got picked up by the cops around then 'cuz someone said I busted out their car window, but I didn't do it. The judge told me to get a job, go to school or join the Army. I joined the Army.

I think it's getting light now or I'm getting near done. No sounds now 'cepting some far off talking in the trees. They probably going through the fellas stuff, taking their guns and things. When it gets light, they'll find my blood I think and come find me. I gotta hurry 'cuz I ain't got much time. 

The Army didn't know what to do with me so they taught me how to work on tanks and the guns they got. I was an armorer they said. I didn't care 'cuz I got a check every month, a room and three meals a day. I put on some weight in basic and got cut. I was feeling pretty good. They sent me to armorer school and what do you know? They sent me to Germany. I'd never been out of town until basic.

In Germany, I lived in a place called a dorm with this other feller from Utah. He was alright. He had a job in supply doing this and that. I worked on guns like the machine guns on the tank and the side arms we had. M16, M60 and later M249. All kinds of stuff. I liked shooting them and made all kinds of excuses to blow stuff up. They let me do it too.

They had this big ol' store on the base called an exchange you could get everything at. I bought three cartons of cigarettes my first pay day. I tried to get some booze but they said you needed a coupon and you could only use two coupons a month. I asked somebody and got my coupons. I liked to drink but it added up so I stuck with beer at the local slop shoot.

I met some German girl named Astrid at some place and she was real cute. I never had a girl friend but she showed me the way and I took to it like a fish in water. She took good care of me but had a stubborn streak so I had to use the belt a few times. Never had to put a shoe in her mouth so that was all good. She had a friend, a guy, named Aki. I didn't like her having guy friends but he was kind of gay and it didn't bother me.

Aki wanted to know if I could get some stuff from the base to sell. Stuff like liquor or cigarettes. I thought on it awhile and figured out a good angle. I went to my room mate and he was Mormon and didn't touch no booze or smokes. He wouldn't buy me nothing, but he gave me his coupons. He wouldn't give me no more though.

I come in the room one time and he stuck this thing under the bed. I asked "What was that?" and he wouldn't tell me. I went to get it and had to slap him around some to get it. It was a magazine with naked men in it! I started laughing at that poor kid. I told him I was gonna tell everyone and he starts begging me not to. So I tells him to give me his coupons and start getting coupons from all his Mormon friends. He done it too.

I started selling good booze like Johnny Walker and Jack Daniels to Aki and making some money. All in all, I was collecting a thousand bucks or more some months. It gets better. Aki gets me some pot and other stuff that I turn around and sold to some of the guys on base. Everyone was cool with it and I collected more dust. I stashed most of my money around Astrid's apartment and gave her a couple of hundred a month to make her happy. I felt like a pimp or something.

Things went good till I got nabbed. They court martialed me and drummed me out of the Army. They even took my last check for my flight home. I went to Astrid's to get my money but she and Aki took it all. I slapped her around and beat her with my belt but she said Aki got all the money. I flew home with fifty bucks hidden in my shoe and the clothes on my back.

They got me back to home and dumped me at the airport. I had to hitch to Mama's house. She was there and looking as sorry as ever. She probably weighed three hundred pounds, was diabetic and taking all sorts of pills. She was on the disability and didn't work no more.

I talked all sweet to her and told her I was home on leave. Colt got a scholarship to some college in El Paso playing baseball. I told her I wanted to go see him. I went in me and Colt's old room and took some of his clothes and stuffed them in one of those backpacks I took a long time ago.

I told Mama I wanted a shower and turned on the water. She was sleeping in her recliner so I went in her room and poked around till I found her stash. There was a couple of hundred dollars in the back of her dresser and I took it. Then I went through the medicine cabinet and found some Prozac, Oxycontin and codeine. I took it all.

I left the water running and went out the bedroom window. I stopped by McDonalds and had a couple of hamburger sandwiches, fries and a big Coke. Then I bought some smokes and a Greyhound ticket to El Paso.

My leg is hurting but it stopped bleeding. I stuffed a bunch of leaves in the hole and tied it off with my right shoe lace. My leg went numb and will probably have to be cut off if they find me. I don't think they will in time, 'sides, my gut's all hurting and trying to pop out on the grass. I take out my last Merit and put my head against the rotted old tree. 

I got to El Paso the next day after I left home. I sold those pills to some pill heads outside the bus station and that helped with my bus ticket. I had about two hundred bucks left and put half in my left boot and the other half in a slit in my belt. I had six dollars in ones and change in my front pocket in case I get rolled.

I had to ask four or five people how to get to the college and ended up walking. I got to the school and it wasn't like high school. There were a bunch of buildings and nobody knew Colt. So I bummed around until some feller told me where most of the sports guys live and I went over. Some guy at the front found Colt's name and made me wait. I drank two Cokes from a machine and sat outside smoking until Colt come up the steps.

He was all unsure how to act and I told him we was brothers and I was home from the Army for a few days. How was he going to treat me? He said okay and took me to his room. He had a dorm room like I did in the Army and I told him so.

Someone come in his room and said Mama had called looking for him. I told him I'd call Mama 'cuz she was worried about me getting here. 'Sides, I told him to save his quarters on the pay phone and I'd pay for it 'cuz I was in the Army. He said OK.

Colt was going to a house party that night and I asked if I could go. He said OK but I knew he didn't want to be embarrassed so I borrowed some of his college clothes so I could fit in. We got to the party and I told everyone I was in the Army fighting ragheads and they got a kick out of that so they let me be.

I didn't get along or have much to say to his friends but there was some pretty college girls there. I drank a lot of free beer and figured Colt had a good thing going in college what with playing ball, drinking beer and chasing girls. Nobody gave me the time of day so I looked around the place.

I found a bedroom everyone was tossing their coats and purses and stuff. I went inside, took a bunch of those purses, went in the closet and started going through them. I found some cash, about sixty bucks or so, a credit card and some other odds and ends. College kids ain't got much I learned.

I went back into the bedroom real quiet to put the stuff back when I see this girl passed out on the bed on top of all them coats and stuff. I asked her "what's up?" but she was passed out cold. I figured what the heck? I locked the bedroom door and got on top of her. I was pulling down her pants when she wakes up. She was going to scream or something so I told her I was going to kill her if she talked. She shut up and I had my way. Then I got my pants on, told her to close her eyes and if she left the room in the next fifteen minutes, I would kill her.

I left the room and the party house. I didn't know which way Colt's dorm was so I walked to a nearby street and went to an iHop for some pancakes and stuff. Later, after I got straight, I remembered where to go and I went back to his dorm and he wasn't there yet so I went to sleep.

The next day, Colt come back and asked where I'd been. I lied and said I left at ten or so cause I was tired from my long flight. Colt said some girl was raped and I shook my head. "That's real sad. Probably some drunk frat boy." and Colt nodded.

Colt didn't have class that day but he had to study. "Where'd you get those books?" I asked. 

"The book store." he said. 

"They must be a lot of money. Who give you all that money?" I asked. 

"The school. They pay for everything," he said. 

"What do you do with them books after you're done reading them?" I asked. 

"You sell them back to the bookstore."

"What about food?" I said 'cuz I was hungry.

"The food court. You can get whatever you want" he says. 

"I ain't got much American money 'cuz I just came from Germany. You got any?" I asked.

"Here," he says. "This is my meal card. Charge what you want on it, but bring it back when you're done. I have to study and then go to practice." he says.

I took this credit card thing and went to where the food court was. I got two hamburger sandwiches, fries, two Cokes, apple pie and some pudding. They took the card, swiped it and sent me on my way. That was alright. I ate all my food when I see this dorky kid walk up with a tray of food. Only he ain't got a food card, only cash.

His tray of stuff was seven bucks, but he only had four. I had an idea. I went over and paid for his food with Colt's card and took his four bucks. Wheels started spinning then.

I went through the line and found some other folks in the same predicament or some who just wanted more food but didn't want to spend so much money. In a few hours I made over a hundred bucks. I hoped the school wouldn't tell Colt until I was long and gone. I went back in line and got a half dozen sandwiches, chips and some Cokes and stuck them in my bag for later.

I was about to leave when I see this bunch of dorks sitting at a big table talking and playing a card game. I pretended to watch and when they weren't looking, I snagged this big old school book off the table and went on my way. I asked someone where the bookstore was. I was going to see how hard it was to hock a school book and when I got there, it was easy. They asked for my school ID but I said I lost it, but I had my meal card. They said "OK" and gave me twenty three bucks for that stupid book.

I took a walk around the school that day and scooped up some more books from kids that weren't looking. I sold them and made another hundred and fifty bucks. Then I went back to the dorm. Colt was gone so I had me a look around.

I took a couple of Colt's nice college shirts along with two gold chains he had in a box. I figured some rich friend gave him those things and he wouldn't miss them. I was about to pack up when I found a birthday card in his dresser. There was a twenty dollar bill inside and Happy Birthday from Mama written down. Mama never sent me nothing. I wanted to go back home and beat her with my belt and put two shoes in her mouth. I chucked everything across the room and left.

I went to the Greyhound station and took the very next bus leaving. It was going to Houston and so was I. I never talked to my brother again.

The sun is creeping up. I feel sick to my stomach and I know why. My leg is all swollen 'cuz I left the shoe lace on too long. I can't feel my left side no more and I know the end is coming soon. I feel all fuzzy and don't want no more smokes. Don't have any no how. 

In Houston, it's easy to hook up with the right folks. I got a job washing dishes and met a bus boy selling pot. I met his dealer and then met some other folks. They hooked me up with another guy who introduced me to this guy name Valdez. He needed someone who knew guns. I told him about my job in the Army and he put me to work. I spent most my day cleaning and fixing guns. Some were old Army guns, others were strange commie guns like AK47s. Others were guns like you get at the sporting goods store.

Along the way, I got picked up and put in the Harris County lockup for possession. That was for three weeks. Another time I got picked up for a concealed handgun with no markings. That sent me to Huntsville for nine months. Each time I got out, Valdez had work for me. I don't tell too much about my jail time 'cuz of what happened to me in there. You wouldn't either.

I did meet this feller in Huntsville who led me to meeting Montezuma and his gang. That was later. Another time, we was watching TV and there's a baseball game on. Colt was wearing a uniform and playing the game right then and there on TV. Some fella asked me if I knew that kid on TV 'cuz we had the same last name. I said "Shut up. If I knew someone playing ball would I be in here?". What do you know?

Valdez had his stuff together when I got out of Huntsville. I went to this warehouse with a janitorial company in the front. I wore a coverall and was working for Valdez on a work release program. In the back was this plain old door that said Electrical Room. In there was really a big warehouse room full of hardware. I went back to work on guns.

Most of the guns were going south to this gang down in Mexico. The guns came from all over. Some even came from China and El Salvador. I didn't care. Valdez paid me cash money and gave me a girl from time to time. It was alright. I had an apartment and nobody bothered me. I didn't even have to see my parole officer no more.

Mama died around then. Nobody told me, I just happened to run into this guy I knew in high school at a Denny's. He said Mama died six months ago and that he saw my brother Colt in town then. I said nothing and left my breakfast on the table.

'Round that time, things got hairy in the world. You remember, 'cuz if you're reading this, you lived too. The ragheads and the commies got together and started chucking nuclear bombs at America. I knew all about this stuff from the Army. I got out of my apartment before Houston got dusted and made it to the sticks. Well, out north to the suburbs around Conroe. I hooked up with Montezuma's gang not long after 'cuz they were turning the nice homes in the area upside down after Houston went up. I seen this feller I knew in Huntsville and they took me in.

The feller told Montezuma what I knew about guns and he made me the armorer for the gang. I couldn't ride a bike so I drove this old pickup that still ran and used it for carrying tools, supplies, guns and more ammo. These guys went through ammo faster than the army, but that's not my business. They kept me fed and in smokes. We rolled plenty of nice homes, farms and ranches in those days.

A lot of folks didn't get how it went down. We'd come along and find a neighborhood with some fine houses, wood smoke burning from fireplaces, folks trying to set up guard and putting out barricades with cars and such. What a joke. We'd blow through them things easy. Take what we want, rape the women, burn the houses, smash stuff, it didn't matter. We'd be gone before they could find their butt with both hands. 

Then there'd be some kind of homestead or other nonsense. Two or three families bundled together in the sticks, growing a garden, got chickens and sitting watch in a tree or on a hill. All you gotta do is watch for a day or so, figure out their comings and goings and hit 'em when they're sleeping or changing guards. 

'Member, we didn't try and grow food, or store stuff or fetch water. All we did was hit folks, take what we wanted and mess up the rest. Once we got inside a house or compound, we'd start raping and killin'. We didn't haul everyone together and make faces. Nah, we'd get busy right away. We'd shoot all the men, most of the little kids, start raping the girls and women and eat and bust stuff while we did it. We didn't care what we messed up or try to go through every little thing or bit and sorting stuff out. We'd take what was out in the open and burn the rest. 

Eventually, we had to hook up with Ulysses' gang as we needed the numbers. He as a big old psycho who'd just as soon rip off your head than look at you. He didn't care what I did, but he left me alone and me him. He packed a pair of .45, two sawed off shotguns and an M4 across his back. I kept his guns working and loaded and he didn't kill me.

Here's something funny. Once we come up on this old house. There's a fat old guy living there with his sick wife, some grand kids and a couple of other old folks. This guy's gotta nice bunch of guns, ammo, a mess of these Army meals called Meals ready to Eat and other stuff. He's puffing and huffing around trying to hold us off but sooner or later he gets tired. We're hiding behind trees and stuff catcalling him and whistling and he's turning this way and that shooting at shadows. We got in and took all his nice guns. Then we stripped him nekked and put him in a circle and made him run this way and that while we poke at him with knives. After a while, Ulysses got tired, shot him in the gut and we got busy on the rest. Bunch of guns and ammo that guy had and it didn't do him a bit of good 'cuz he was a fat old cuss. 

Things got worse. There was sickness and food was hard to get. The military cracked down in some places and we had to watch where and how we hit folks. Militias sprung up and towns turned into forts. Finding an easy target wasn't so easy anymore. We had nearly one hundred in the combined gangs when Houston went up. Now there was only twenty or so. I was a spare mouth and had to earn my keep. I slit my share of throats I tell you, but I was only doing what I had to to live. Ulysses would have had me killed and eaten if I didn't.

We ran low on gas and food. All that ammo we shot up was costing us. Even smokes were hard to get. We had finally got word of this remote farm/commune in the hill country. That's where we were two days ago. Word was there was only five able bodied men and twice that number of women inside. They had long term vittles, ammo, gas and even tobacco. We staked it out and made our move last night.

It was a trap. A honey pot they called it. Another gang set it up to get what we had. They got ripped off as we didn't have much of anything. Montezuma went down first. Ulysses made it all the way to the front gate, his guns dry, cursing his head off. It took a dozen shots to take him down. I was hit in the gut first. When I got up to get away, they got my leg.

I staggered into the brush all evening. I lost track of where the truck and bikes were so I kept walking till I found this stump in the clearing. And hear I am .

That old TV in my head is flickering and and fading. It's not my fault, I only did what I had to do to live. I can see Mama now on her hands and knees, Ray laughing, those kids with the backpacks, Astrid, Aki, that scared college girl in the room, Huntsville. In fact, that's all I can see. I can't see my brother Colt or anything else. 

It's cold. 

There's a light and I can see Ray standing there with a piece of rope in his hand. He's a laughing but I don't feel like laughing no more. I'm scared and empty inside. I want to go home. I want this to go away. I can't feel nothing no more. 

You wouldn't understand.