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


The Burnout - Author's notes

Thanks for reading this little story about Patty and her friends. It's been fun creating this world and bringing it to life.

Between 2002 and 2008, my job had me traveling constantly. It was not unexpected for me to be on the road three days or more a week, usually several hundred miles from home. Around the time of Katrina, I read, in a business newsletter of all places, about a man trapped in New Orleans for the better part of a week in a hotel and how he survived. All of those things got me thinking and so I started the Burnout, in fact, I have a framework for the story somewhere on a hard drive from way back then.

At the same time, I started writing a story called The Traveler. Same idea, but instead of a woman, it was a guy from south Texas trying to get home from San Francisco after a nuclear war. Several of the key events in The Burnout came from The Traveler, notably, the derringer, the dangers of strange old weapons, redemption and getting shot by your own family when you come home because they didn't recognize you. All realistic possibilities in my opinion.

When the story started, I knew it was going to be about a woman and her name was Patty Valdez. I knew she would be in business and on a trip alone. I also knew that her sidekick would be a blowhard businessman who really means well, but just can't seem to ever adapt to the changed world. Everyone else, just came along as the story progressed, albeit with several modifications.

The "DHS as the bad guy" was part of the original story because if you recall, that organization was formed after the 2001 terrorist attacks and with all the airports I found myself in,  I kept having this vision of TSA agents continuing their job long after the end of the world. Only two things survive in the post-apocalypse, cock roaches and bureaucracy.

As circumstance would have it, little news stories float to the surface (mainstream news, not whacky conspiracy sites) from time to time about strange things the government is up to. Recently, DHS ordered something like two hundred million rounds of .223 ammo, the US Department of Education ordered a bunch of semi-auto shotguns, the national weather service bought several thousand rounds of .40 caliber ammo and some other faceless fed agency bought a bunch of .357 rounds. All of that worked it's way into the story during the recent edits and made it seem more realistic.

The story was sidetracked when I redid the middle to include more of a mythological element. Peri was actually going to be a man, the equivalent of a snake oil salesman/pharmaceutical rep who uses his sample bag to do evil. Instead, I wiped that out and made him a woman based upon Circe from The Odyssey. Some of the events found in that part of the story were influenced as well, such as the scene where Lamar and Patty go between the rock throwing thugs and the dog attack (Scylla and Charybdis) and later, the glass eyed rapist and the Deliverance inspired cannibal (Cyclops).

Like all good ideas, it seemed right, until it got on paper and diverted the story. Add to that, some personal changes in my life at the time and we had the "Big Gap" around June. My muse returned and we got back on track, with a vengance.

Someone asked about a sequel. Except for The Empire Strikes Back, sequels usually don't go well, at least not for me. The protagonist completed a journey and made it home, so now what? Have Patty kidnapped, dragged off to Oklahoma and have her do it all over again like Snake Plisskin? That works for some writers, (like some have done successfully in this genre, just not me), So, for now, Patty is home and will live happily ever and we probably won't hear from her again.

So what's next? I have some other story ideas which are in progress, one of which is about done, but I have to look at it for awhile and decide what it will do.  I really want to get back to America 2.0 for instance. The problem is my characters like to hide from me and I often have to coax them out so I can find out what will happen next. That's writing.

Thank you for reading, for your kind comments and for your patience.

PS - Gun notes. There's a big subset of my readers who laser in on guns and gun factoids in my stories. Often, they educate me on something I did not know as I'll be the first to admit, I am not a big time "gun nerd" and make obvious mistakes. That being said, here are some things nobody noticed or at least they did not tell me so!

- Chris, one of Peri's sidekicks, had a coach gun (that's a short barreled shotgun used by stagecoach drivers in the old west).  If you recall, Patty disarmed them, took all their guns but never mentioned that particular weapon or who ended up with it. I assume she tossed it in the bushes, but that  wouldn't make any sense would it? Chalk that up to a continuity problem courtesy of the author.

- The .243 rifle. After the attack on the Hallmark store, it disappeared and was not mentioned in the story again. (Actually, it was left behind during the escape). Antonio was right about that particular gun, nobody wanted it.

- The derringer. Patty only fired one of two rounds from it, leaving another for later, but the gun mysteriously disappeared from the story and was not used again, even when Patty was confronted by Peri on the bridge. I don't know what happened to that gun; maybe Merrick found it and took the long way home.

Thanks again,

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag


The Burnout Chapter Forty Nine

Patty was dreaming.

She was riding on the back of Mark's motorcycle along a tree lined highway on a perfect day. Her shorts were too short, her t-shirt too tight and her cheek was pressed against his well muscled back, eyes closed and savoring every minute. She was young, in love and her stomach churned as fast as the engine of the bike but the air around her was strangely stuffy and overly sweet.

The highway became a street, then an alley and strangely, the hallway of a nightclub. She stepped off the bike and found herself wearing a tight short skirt and sparkling gold top. Mark took her hand and they stepped through the door directly onto the dance floor to join the multitudes, but the air was still stagnant and sickly.

The music pounded and the floor shook, all bodies moving in syncopation to the deep bass and rhythmic beats. There were not vocals, just the pounding rhythm of the music. Patty danced, her arms over her head while Mark wrapped his around her waist and moved in perfect synch with her. Patty tried hard to enjoy it, but the smell of the air was suffocating and enveloping her.

Then the song, the voice of a child. Patty turned to the stage at the other end of the floor, despite Mark's insistence otherwise and saw Elena. She was along on stage, wearing a silver sequined dress, her hair crowned by a large white bow. She nervously held the microphone, but her voice grew more confident with each note.

Patty pulled away from Mark, but he pulled back harder,trying to drag her back to the dance and him. She resisted and as their hands parted, he turned gray, frozen in time, then black and finally, crumpled to the floor in a pile of dust and blew away with same stench as the air.

Patty walked toward the stage or was carried as is the case in dreams, but the dancers around her turned, twisted and reached for her arms, hand and legs with each step. She pushed them away and like Mark, they too turned to dust and left.

Finally, the stage began to pull away from Patty, Elena still singing, oblivious to her mother and her struggle. Patty broke loose and with one last effort reached for Elena, but her legs did not work, neither did her arms and finally, she fell to the floor. The stage rocketed away into the distance and Patty...

Sat up in bed. Her head was throbbing and the smell was still around her. She sat up, felt dizzy and turned to look over her right shoulder. There on the shelf were a half dozen candles, all in tall glass containers with images of saints embossed in cheap bright colors, the light spilling across the dark bedroom, the smoke sputtering blackly.

Patty's mother had her head down on the edge of the bed to Patty's right. She was clutching a rosary and snoring lightly. In the flickering light of the dark room, she saw her father, seated in an old chair, his cap still on, wearing an old work shirt, jeans and clutching an old rosary in his left hand.

Patty's mother looked up and saw Patty's eyes open.

"Madre de Dios! Santa Maria! Patricia!" she gasped.

She leaned across the bed, grabbed Patty's hands in hers and began to weep. Patty looked at her father, his black deep set eyes, rimmed with crows feet, open, tears streaming down the side of his face.

"Um mom?" said Patty.

"Oh my baby, oh my baby..." her mother moaned.

"Um mom, can you move those candles or blow some of them out. They stink pretty bad." said Patty.

"Oh si, oh si. Santa Maria, gracias, gracias.. " she exclaimed as she replaced the candles with two large white pillar candles from the other side of the room.

"What happened? The last thing I remember was the front yard and then something hit me in the head." said Patty as she gingerly put her hand on the left side of her head and felt a large bandage in place there.

"Arturo is so sorry about that. He did not know who you were and things happened so fast." said her mother.

"Arturo? What did that bonehead do? He's known me since he was a baby, I even changed his diapers!" said Patty referring to her teenage second cousin.

"We were all very scared when you came so fast, but it was only a .22 so it's okay, you're home and that's what matters." said her mother.

"It's not okay, Dad, will you say something?" Patty implored her still silent father.

"Who shot you?" he asked nodding to Patty's bandaged shoulder.

"That. It's a long story, but first, where is Elena?" asked Patty.

"Asleep. She just went down about an hour or so ago. She has been in here every day, reading to you, holding your hand. We have to pry her out of here just to go to bed?" said mother.

"Asleep? Every day? What time is it? How long have I been home?" asked Patty.

Patty's father took out an old pocket watch and consulted it.

"It's about nine o'clock. Say, do you like my new watch? I got it for five eggs. Pretty good deal, huh?" he replied.

"Sure dad, it's real nice, five eggs..?" said Patty confused before her mother cut her off.

"Eduardo! Quit going on about that silly watch. Baby, you've been home for three days and asleep most of it. Donna said you've been through a very rough time, if not for those antibiotics, she doesn't think you would have made it..."

"Donna, the PA from Dad's doctor's office? What about the antibiotics.." answered Patty.

"Yes, she came here as soon as we could get her. She treated your injuries and you were very sick. Fever, infection, so much. We found the medicine in your bag and have you on a .. regimen.. that's it, until it passes. Donna took two of the bottles, the rest are there." said her mother pointing at the dresser where six large bottles of antibiotics and two of pain killers sat, all courtesy of Peri.

"Oh.  How is Elena? Did she think I was, you know.. after the Burnout? Did she think I was not going to come home?" asked Patty quietly.

"No, she always knew. She prayed by the window every night before bed and every morning when she woke up. She said you were out there, but you were not alone and you would come home because you promised." said her mother.

"Mom, Dad? I have to tell you what happened. All of it, now, before Elena wakes up. Somebody has to know and if I don't I'll go crazy. It's not nice, but I need to tell you, please?" said Patty.

They both nodded and listened for the next few hours while Patty told them about Shreveport, Lamar, Peri, the kids, the journey, DHS, all of it. They sat silently, except for the few times her mother excused herself for a new kleenex or when Patty needed a drink of water. Her father said nothing, but the tears rolled from his crow feet lined eyes at different parts of the story, those times when his little girl was hurt or scared and he was not there to save his little girl

When she was done, Patty sat back, exhausted and said nothing.

"Do you need to see a priest?" asked her mother.

"Be quiet woman! She has said what she needed to and if there is more to say, we will be here for her. God has brought her home and here is where she and the baby will stay with her familia. We are all together now and it is good." and the matter was closed.

He stood and went to Patty and kissed her on the head, squeezed her hand and left the bedroom.

Patty's mother stood and straightened the covers and went to the door as well, but paused first.

"I will be right next door if you need anything. Patty, I am glad you are home, I did not think..." she said and then left hurriedly to cry in her room.


Patty stayed in bed the better part of the week, most of it with Elena next to her. She held the little girl, read stories to her and told her of her great adventure home. Fighting dragons, giants and monsters to get back to her little princess and how the world was going to live happily ever after and she would never leave her again.

Over the next few days as she recovered, her family told her of what happened when she came home and since the Burnout occurred.

Arturo, along with her brother, sister-in-law and a few other relatives, were living in or around her parent's house. The young man heard the shooting and came around the corner with a rifle he kept close at hand and not recognizing Patty, fired, thinking she was a looter or crazy person, both which were common in those days. Fortunately, his nerves and inexperience prevented Patty from suffering nothing worse than a graze, concussion and awful headache.

She paid Arturo back and made him and her brother go back to the bridge to retrieve the M4 which she had left behind and which surprisingly, was still there and suffering nothing more than a few scratches. Peri's body was there as well, but had begun the process of returning from whence it came. Patty rested easier knowing the sad young woman was not still alive and after her and Elena any longer.

Arturo remarked about Patty having a "machine gun" which made her immediately think of Antonio, Catelyn and even Brad. She hoped they too, would find the same peace she had finally found.

Her father told her what had happened since she left at home. The renters stayed in their homes and were allowed to remain rent free for the crisis as long as they a) helped with food production and kept their homes in good shape and b) helped in the common defense of the others. There had been some troubles with people coming from Fort Worth and other areas, but in the past few weeks, these things had died down.

The morning of the Burnout, Patty learned her father, driving that beater of truck, had gone to the bank to put money into Elena's college fund. When the lights went out and nothing functioned, he withdrew fifteen thousand dollars from his savings account (with a threat to the bank manager that he would move all of his business to Bank of America if his request was denied) and went shopping.

He went first to Costco, then the feed store, the hardware store and finally the gun store. He proudly told Patty how he filled Rosa the truck's bed with rice, beans, Colgate and Charmin and went home, where Patty's mother called him a fool for buying all that toilet paper. Rather than apologize later, she criticized him for not buying more cooking oil and then slapped him on the arm. Eduardo was right again as usual.

Patty's brother arrived a few days later, but her other brother and sister had not come yet, but they held out hope. The house was surrounded with gardens, chickens and in the empty lot, a stand of corn grew, hopefully to be harvested and made into Christmas tamales later in the year.

Things changed slowly, but for the better with the military back in control and the scourge of the DHS gone. Several of the Department's leaders were arrested, tried and imprisoned with most under investigation for crimes against humanity if one wanted to be so dramatic.

It was accepted that the power grid would be down for the foreseeable future and as Americans invariably do and much to the dismay of a control freak like Merrick, alternatives were coming into play. A number of small factories were cranking out simple, but effective solar panels which could be massed produced and which could produce enough electricity for lights and basic appliances. This was followed by battery producers and even the GM plant in Arlington was talking about coming online and building a basic car without any electronics. They would all adapt and evolve.

After a month of recuperation, Patty returned to work, not with ledgers and spreadsheets, but in the gardens, composting, cooking, tending to goats and chickens, but the entire time with Elena. They took books, paper and pencils and the little girl's elementary education resumed, but she did not complain, but relished having her mother to herself again.

A few months after Patty came home, her strength returned and hair grown back over her head wound, Arturo alerted everyone to a stranger coming up the road. Regardless of how things were, old habits died hard.

The man was tall, thin, wore a billowing shirt far too large for him, had a beard, carried a worn backpack and a long gun in his right hand. He walked slowly down the cracked asphalt road, now sporting sprouts of brown fall grass, looking carefully at the countryside until he crested the small hill and saw the mailbox to Patty's house.

He removed an worn ball cap to reveal a head of wavy red hair going gray and then slowly walked down the driveway where Patty's family crouched holding weapons behind the truck or on the porch. Patty went out, unarmed to greet him.

"Lamar?" she said.

"Patty." his voice no longer booming but sorrowful and quiet.

"You made it back, come over and have a seat, I want you to meet my family."

Introductions were made and Patty's mother  brought the man a glass of water, but left the two alone on the porch.

"So this is your parents, took me awhile to find it, but I knew I would. Patty, I wanted to say first, before anything else, I am sorry. I am sorry for leaving you and  the others. I am sorry for letting you down. Not a day went by that I did not regret my decision and I prayed that you would get home. Was your daughter alright?" he said.

"Yes, she is inside with my parents, you can meet her here real soon. Lamar, I understand and I forgave you long ago, don't think about it any more. Your wife?" Patty asked.

Lamar looked down and shook his head.

"She died. Found out when I made it home. Stupid really. She was trying to help a neighbor string a laundry line between two of the town homes, not two or three days after the Burnout, and she fell, hitting her head. She went into a coma, there was nothing they could do, no 911, hospitals or doctors. They buried her nearby and fortunately, when I got there, somebody was able to tell me what happened."

"Since then, I just tried to survive. Had to get out of the city and managed for a few weeks scavenging and keeping my head down. Thanks to you, and this" he said touching the barrel of the shotgun leaned against his chair, "I made it."

"Lamar, I am so sorry." said Patty and she touched his hand out of sympathy.

"How did you find my parent's house? I never told you the address and I can't remember if I told you they lived in Aledo." said Patty.

"You did, but that wasn't how I figured it out. You gave me your business card in Shreveport when we first met. Fortunately, I didn't put it in my wallet or I never would have gotten this far. Anyway, after Dallas, I made my way to Fort Worth and found your offices. They were a mess, but after poking around, I found your office and then your parents address and here I am." Lamar said with a small smile.

"Wait, you said something about your wallet. I don't understand." said Patty.

"My wallet was stolen and I'm willing to bet yours was too. Do you have it?" he asked.

Patty sat back and thought about it. No, she had not seen her wallet since Shreveport but why would she have. She carried her useless cash in her pants pocket, the same cash which was taken by the two TSA agents. And none of them knew who she was, only her name, so when they searched her pockets and fanny pack, they must not have found her identification.

"Peri took it!" exclaimed Patty.

"That's what I think too," said Lamar. "The night we first met her and she took the bullets out of your guns. Remember?"

Patty nodded, "And that's how she found me." She then told Lamar about that fateful night she made it home. He shuddered remembering how evil the redhead was all too well.

Lamar had lunch with Patty's family, but afterward, declined staying any longer. He was headed back to Fort Worth where the military was putting together work crews to move abandoned vehicles, salvage warehouses, cut firewood for winter and deliver food to aid stations around the city. He would be housed with other single men and fed three meals a day for payment. He looked forward to the honest work and made no secret, he eventually would move on to find his place in the world.

Patty hugged the big man goodbye and he walked back out the way he came, alone. Elena stood next to her mother, holding her hand and watched Lamar walk away. After he was out of sight, they went back into the house, where Patty would read stories to Elena, ten hundred times, until they were all done.

The End

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag


The Burnout Chapter Forty Eight

She was the Wicked Witch of the Apocalypse.

Her hair was matted, dirty and some appeared to have been pulled or maliciously cut from her scalp. Her face was scratched, lips swollen and her left eye was framed with a fading purple bruise. Her dress was torn, held up with an old piece of rope about her waist and soiled. Her legs and arms were covered with scratches, bruises and bug bites. Her shoes were ratty, water logged and one was missing a lace.

Peri had a worse trip home than Patty.

Peri stood stooped at the far end of the bridge, an ancient nickle plated revolver with a bone grip clutched in her hand. She leaned over the gun and scowled at Patty as if she was trying to stare all of the life out of the tired woman with her nasty gaze.

"I got you, I got you, I got you. Told you I would. Waited so long, went through so much, but in the end, justice is served, revenge is sweet." muttered Peri.

"Peri." said Patty coldly. "What happened to you?"

"What didn't? Your fault, all of it. Robbed, raped, lost all my stuff, left for dead, that's what. Lost everything but this," she said brandishing the small gun.

"Peri, I am sorry, but it's not my fault. You wanted to kill me, my friends and those kids. I had no choice." said Patty quietly.


"Okay, so you want to blame me. Fine. And killing me will bring about this 'rebirth and magic'?" replied Patty.

"Don't mock me. Killing you will bring me satisfaction." snarled Peri.

"Why? Why do this, Peri? If you kill me than what? Why aren't you with your friends on the lake? It's not far from here and you look terrible." said Patty taking a step toward the rail where she leaned the carbine.

"My friends? The lake? What the.. Stop. Oh no, I see what you're doing. See you got a new rifle, huh? Well, you're going to need a new one after today." said Peri darting toward the rail while keeping the pistol trained on Patty.

Peri snatched the M4 by it's barrel, lifted it as high as she could in her weakened state and tossed it off the bridge to the tracks below where it clattered on the rocks.

"The pack, take it off and throw it over too." she said pointing at the bag on Patty's back. "Slow now, this gun goes off quick."

Patty removed the strap from her left, then right shoulder and tossed the bag off the bridge.

"Okay, turn around real slow in a circle with your hands over your head. I want to make sure you aren't hiding anything back there." Peri ordered.

Patty did as she was told and turned to face Peri again. She looked Peri in the eye and spoke slowly.

"If you are going to do this, do it. But please, can I do one thing? Can I just say a prayer for my daughter? I won't see her again and I want her to know I love her."

"You want to pray? To what? Ha! Sure you can do that. My sainted daddy used to pray all the time, too! Holy mother of Jaysussss! He would prattle and blab all that mumbo jumbo all hours of the day. But when the sun went down, he got all heathen, going to the gin joints, moonshine and frolicking with the dark women of the bayou. All the sins and pleasures of the flesh, he rioted in it, wrapped up in his holier than thou false teachings!"

"And me? What did he do with the little girl who worshiped the ground he walked on? Left me at night with others, he didn't care who. Good, holy men of the congregation he called them. Good men who did dark things at night behind closed doors with little girls too scared to tell!" Peri hissed.

"And you want to pray to that same god? That false god of hate and lies? Go ahead, but be warned. When that little girl lies down to sleep tonight, I'll be the answer to your prayers. I told you I'd get that brat and that day is coming fast!" she shrieked.

Patty could not control herself with Peri's last words and she lurched toward the girl, her hands outstretched like eagle talons. Peri's mouth opened in a surprised 'o' shape and without aiming, fired the revolver, or it went off involuntarily in her hand. The small gun barked and the round tore away a piece of Patty's left arm, just below the shoulder.

Patty winced in pain and grabbed her arm, momentarily stopping her onslaught. Peri regained her footing and held up the gun in both hands, closed one eye and squeezed the trigger.

From the barrel, came a tiny fizz sound, then nothing.

Peri looked at the gun in horror and then at Patty. She raised the gun again and pointed it in Patty's direction.

"PERI! DON'T!" yelled Patty taking a step forward.

But it was too late. The cartridges, settled in their respective chambers, old, mossy green, milky white in color, expanding and contracting over decades of heat and cold, had meted justice with the cold calculation of physics and chemistry.

The primer on the next round cracked and the tiny pistol exploded in Peri's hands. Patty instinctively averted her eyes and felt something painfully strike her right earlobe. When she looked up, what she saw was horrific.

The barrel of the revolver was expanded and shredded into three pieces, the longest of which had peeled off, traveled in an upward arc and embedded itself in Peri's face, tearing out her left eye, exposing the bone of her skull and leaving a lightning shaped rip across her scalp. Peri's face was blackened with powder burn.

Peri's right hand, her gun hand, was a bleeding stump, two fingers missing, her thumb at an awkward angle and a third finger hanging by a gory thread.

Peri wheeled backward, the gun sliding from her blood slick hand and clattering to the deck of the bridge. She looked at Patty with her one remaining eye, wild and hate-filled as she fell forward. She waved both arms like windmills in an attempt to stay afoot and lurched toward the railing of the bridge.

She opened her mouth, blood filled and gaping from lost teeth and muttered with in a dirt raspy voice,

"Go****** yooouuuuuu... " and fell head first over the railing, her fall abruptly stopped by one of the ancient telegraph poles along the tracks. The back of her head was impaled on the splinted creosote soaked upright and her body flopped over the top, one arm catching on the cross bar where she hung, her body vibrating in the final contortions of death.

Patty grabbed the rail and looked down on Peri's final demise and let out a deep gasp. She then fell to her knees as twilight whispered it's final sigh of the day.


Some time after dark, Patty felt her way down the incline and retrieved her bag from the tracks. She could not see Peri's body, except for a dull outline sheathed in the fluttering fabric of her dress, but she could feel her presence. Patty grabbed the bag and climbed hand over hand up the rocky side to the flat surface above. Dragging herself away from the bridge, she opened the bag and by touch, found the small LED keychain light she had tossed inside while in Shreveport.

She depressed the button and in the green glow it produced found the first aid kit, depleted from the injuries to Brad, Candace and Antonio. She took a large alcohol wipe, tore the package open with her teeth and painfully applied it to her injured shoulder, yelping as it burned the open wound.

Catching her breath, she examined the wound in the dim light and wrapped a gauze bandage haphazardly around the injury. Tying it off as best as possible, she stood on shaky legs and started down the road toward home.


The final three miles were crossed staggering, limping and eventually, on hands and knees. Patty could not see more than a few feet in front of her face and worried constantly about snakes, coyotes and two legged predators. She mumbled to herself with cracked lips and in her delirium, kept seeing Peri staggering after her,   the barrel of the gun protruding from her head and waving a foot long butcher knife over her head.

Around dawn, Patty came to mailbox with Valdez written upon it in black paint, the letters neat and block like. She could not see the house from the road and slowly stood, using the mailbox for support. She staggered across the grass up the small incline and looked down upon her parents house, a few hundred yards from the road.

As a child, Patty would race up the dirt drive to the mailbox while her mother timed her with the clock on the stove. She would count down the final seconds from the kitchen window as Patty ran the last few yards. 4.. 3...2....1! Run, Patty, run!

Patty fell face forward into the grass and passed out.


Time passed and Patty slowly lifted her head. The sun had climbed above the horizon and the sounds of life came from nearby. Patty dragged her body through the grass until she could partially see the home. She could hear voices from inside, talking, laughing, living. Tears formed in her eyes and she witnessed but did not take part in these stranger's home lives.

The screen door opened partially, Patty could see the hem of an apron toss a handful of kitchen scraps into the dirt pan yard causing a handful of chickens to come scurrying to the door. The wearer of the apron stepped into the yard and her presence made Patty gasp. It looked like her mother, but she was easily twenty pounds lighter than the last time she saw her.

Patty whispered, "mama' in a little voice and lay lower in the grass to avoid detection. She waited patiently until her father stepped onto the porch, as thin as he was when she left, wearing his trademark ball cap, holding a steaming cup of coffee and staring at the yard. He turned, opened the screen door and the little girl exploded outside.

She was wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt, tennis shoes and had her hair in a single long pony tail halfway down her back. The pants were riding just a bit high on the ankle. "She has grown", thought Patty. "I will have to get to Target after work and pick up a couple of pairs before school starts again."

 Elena ran to the chicken coop, but turned halfway there and yelled at her grandfather.

"Abuelo! I say ten, don't forget! If I'm right, I win! Don't forget!"

"I won't, but you still have to get all ten to the house without dropping one or I win!" he yelled back.

Patty watched as the child went into the fenced chicken yard and stooped inside the coop. Each time she popped out, she had another egg clutched in her hand to be deposited into a small basket on the ground. She whooped when she took number ten out and held it up to her grandfather who laughed at the tiny victory.

Patty slumped down in the grass. She looked at her hands, her dirty nails, the palms of her hands lined with dirt, rough and calloused.

"No, I can't do it. No, I'm too far gone. Too much blood, too many bad things. She has a monster of a mother, I can't sleep under the same roof as her. No, I must crawl away and keep going. Someday, someday I'll come back when she is older and understands. She has too..." Patty muttered to herself.

She slid back into the grass and crawled back to the road trying to decide which way to go next. When she heard the child's voice one more time.

"Abuelo, I win! I win! What do I get?"

"What do you want, baby?"

"A story, read me a story for ten hundred years, all of them!"

"Of course, of course, let's go inside."

Patty turned. Her Elena. Her baby. She had to see her one more time. Once more.

Patty crested the grass covered rise and stared at the house. Elena was on the porch with her grandfather when Patty started toward her.

"baby... it's mama, baby.. i'm home.." she crowed in a scratchy, parched voice. Her face was dirty, swollen, blood encrusted from her wounded ear, hair lopped unevenly short, clothing shredded and torn, she staggered toward the house like a zombie. Tears poured down her face..

"elena! elena!" she heard in her head, but all that came out of her mouth was a horrible, gravely moaning.

A scream from inside the house.. Elena shoved in the door.. Patty croaking.. her arms waving in front of her.. another man much younger came around the side of the house.. a rifle.. Elena screaming in terror.. shouting.. a shot.. impact...

The world went black.

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag

The Burnout Chapter Forty Seven

She stared at the boot. It was the first thing she saw when woke up in the drainage ditch the next morning. Everyone knew the term "knocked out his boots", but it really didn't apply in this instance. There was something sticking out of the top of the boot which bore a passing resemblance to a state fair turkey leg, but way overcooked.

The explosion, or multiple explosions knocked Patty off her feet and across the other side of the ditch. She was pretty sure, without benefit of mirror, that her eyebrows and bangs had been singed, but that remained to be seen. Otherwise, other than some significant dirt, burn marks, an aching rear end to go along with the egg shaped  bruise on her right shin and several long scratches down her back, Patty was the picture of health.

The last thing she saw after getting both the air knocked out her and off her feet was the helicopters, three to be exact, illuminated as they passed low over the BNSF facility. The choppers were huge, with short dark wings laden with short dark clusters of Hellfire missiles. They fired on the presumed DHS agents in the parking lot and at several other targets of interest. (What Patty did not know and never would, was that the targeting was done with infrared and heat sensors; it was due to the fact she had fallen into the drainage ditch and left wet and mud covered that she did not rate as high on the "kill" scope as the unfortunate ones in the parking lot.)

Patty slowly got to her feet and surveyed the damage. The parking lot was still smoking in foot deep craters which pock marked the parking lot. There were at least three black bundles at different locations in the parking lot which Patty had no interest in investigating their contents, she knew well what they were.

Patty looked around and found the carbine intact off to her right. She only located one of the two magazines she had scavenged and called it a victory in her fight with the DHS. Best of all, she was still alive and not on some cargo plane for Maryland. At least not now.

In spite of her injuries, Patty had an urgent need to put as much room between her and the BNSF building as soon as possible. She first had to do something about the fact she had drank nothing since the night(?) before and eaten even less. She dug through her bag and found a plastic liter bottle which was half full of warm water. She took a few gulps and seeing the water in the bottom of the ditch, decided she could refill if need be with her water filter.

After another drink, she pulled the filter out and heard the tell tale sound of two pieces of plastic striking each other. The filter was broken into and even with the spare cartridge, was useless. Patty stared at the final few sips in her bottle and closed the top securely. Another option would have to be found closer to home.

Home. The word immediately sent a shiver down her spine. She had no idea what she would fine there, but she had no doubt that was where she was going, come hell or high water. Had last night gone any different, she would have never made it at all.

Patty readjusted her bag, picked up the carbine and started limping south towards the Loop. She was going to walk around the north side of town, head south to 30 and then west to her parent's place. Her route would take her close to the municipal airport of Fort Worth and the Joint Reserve Base on the edge of Fort Worth. Forget about motorcycle gangs, roving cannibals and rioting mobs, Patty had Uncle Sam to worry about.

The further and longer she walked, the more she felt like someone had run a bulldozer over her. She plodded on with her eyes focused on the west and Elena, a holy grail burning just beyond the next bend. Woe be tide the man, woman or beast who stood in her path, the carbine was no longer hanging benignly on her shoulder but instead our front in gripped hands.

It was not an easy journey. She had to plod south on 35 to reach the Loop and that took her through some neighborhoods which in good times were dicey, now, they were wastelands. All of the cars along the interstate had been stripped, looted, vandalized and many were burned. Houses and buildings closest to the road had also been victims of random violence and destruction.

At the intersection of the Loop and 35, it appeared that the police, DHS and other interested parties had gone toe to toe as it was littered with multiple burned out police cars, black Hummers and impromptu roadblocks. A single body, now long decomposed hung from a lamp post with a rotting placard around it's neck: TRAITOR. Patty turned west.

She passed near enough to Meacham Field to see a similar scene of destruction as the BNSF building with multiple fires burning and no signs of activity. Similar to Addison Airport and adjoining downtown Fort Worth, Patty was sure the field would be a hub of DHS activity. Rather, it was devoid of people and sound.

It was more than seven miles along the loop to the north side of the sprawling Joint Reserve Base formerly known as Carswell Air Force Base. Early in the afternoon, as she limped down the road, out of water and running out of steam, she nearly jumped out of her skin as two gray fighter aircraft screamed over the road in a north to south trajectory.

She was still getting used to the sound of jet aircraft when she heard the familiar sound of heavy equipment rumbling nearby. She slowly turned and saw a small convoy of sand colored military vehicles approaching her along the Loop. She panicked and ran off the road into a small copse of trees and tall grass and tried to take cover.

She heard the sound of a vehicle braking, metal on metal contacting and rolling to a protested halt. The other vehicles rumbled past and continued on when she heard a voice yell from the road.

"Hey, you in the bushes. I need you to come out and show yourself, please."

She waited.

"Hey, come on, I gotta get back to work and I don't have all day. Can you just come out and let us know you're alright and not one of the bad guys? Then you can go on hiding in the grass for all I care."

Patty sat still.

"Don't make me send one of the guys in there, okay? We're tired and we don't want to get a bunch of chigger bites dragging you out of there."

"No, go away and leave me alone." Patty finally said.

"Good, so you can talk. Look, we don't want to hurt you, we just want to know if you're okay. Can you just stand up?"

"No, you'll shoot me or something. Just go away and leave me alone, I want to go home." she replied.

"Hey lady, me too. I'm not going to shoot you. Whatever, if you want to hide in the grass be my guest."

"Hey. Are you with the DHS or what?" Patty yelled.

"No, I'm Army. Geez, you don't have to insult a guy." he replied.

"For real?"

"Sure, take a peek. Look, I have an Army helmet, Army BDU's, a drive an Army truck and I even have Army underwear on. And Rodriquez here has ugly Army glasses on. I think they look good on him and so do the ladies."

Patty lifter her head and sure enough, there were two soldiers standing next to a Humvee on the side of the road. She slowly stood up.

"Please don't point that rifle at us ma'am. We have orders to shoot people who do that and I really don't want to radio my sergeant and make him come down here. He's been a real bear lately."

Patty lowered the rifle and started walking toward the road.

"You shoot me," she yelled, "And I'll get real nasty real quick on you. My feet are killing me and I haven't had a bath in weeks."

"No problem." said the young soldier as she walked closer, "Thanks for warning us though."

Patty walked up to the men and looked at them carefully.

"Got any water?" she asked.

"Yeah, only in my canteen though. We haven't resupplied yet so if you don't mind drinking after me.." he said holding out the container.

Patty took it and had a long draw.

"Where you going, lady?" asked the other soldier, Rodriquez.

"Home. Got anything to eat?" she asked.

"Can't help you there. We will after we get back to the base, but here, you can have this." and he handed her a pack of chewing gum with strange writing on it.

"Kuwait" he said looking at her expression. "Grabbed a whole bunch of stuff on the way out the door when we moved out. That was from some little place near the docks."

Patty nodded and put a slice of gum in her mouth. Spearmint. It was delicious.

"You had any problems with DHS?" asked Patty as she took a second slice.

"No, but they did with us. Bunch of mailmen with an attitude." said the first soldier, Dickinson, at least that was written on his jersey. "That one of theirs?" he said pointing at the rifle Patty was holding.

"It was, it's mine now. And don't give me any of that U.S. Property business or interest of public safety talk either." she said.

Both soldiers laughed. "That's for the brass to sort out. As long as it's not pointed at us or used for no good, we don't have orders to disarm anyone."

"So what's the deal? You guys doing something about this DHS problem or you just puttering around?" Patty asked.

"Lady, we've been out at the airport all night rounding up the last holdouts. We still have a few nests around, but now we have air cover, they're running like cockroaches." said Rodriquez.

"Air cover? Like helicopters? Was that you?" said Patty.

"Apaches? If that's what you saw, yeah, that's us. Took awhile to get what we had up and running and longer for the rest to arrive from Europe and the Middle East. Ever seen an Apache try to land on an aircraft carrier? Now that's funny, we were coming into the Gulf..." Dickinson was saying when Patty interrupted.

"What about the rest? Who's in charge?" she asked.

"Rutledge is. General Rutledge, he's heading up the recovery right now. As soon as we get things settled down, that'll change probably. Communications are the.." he said.

"What happened? We heard it was a solar storm." Patty said excitedly.

"Solar something or another. Worldwide, but we can recover, it'll just take time. Like I was saying, communications are the most the important thing we can do. We got a bunch of factories like in Ohio, Arizona and others cranking out these portable radios with old fashioned glass tubes in them. They're really cool. Once people know what's going on, maybe they'll stop shooting each other. " said Rodriquez.

"Hey lady, if you're okay, we gotta get going. We gotta get some chow and rack time before we head out west. You need anything else?" said Dickinson.

"How about a ride. I'll be real quiet and won't ask any more questions. Promise." she said.

They could only take her about five more miles down the road, but it was a relief to Patty's feet. The two young men told her how they were in Iraq when the solar storm happened. Most of their gear was hardened and the next few weeks were spent packing up and moving out before the region went nuts. They hooked up with units from Afghanistan and other countries in the area before joining an armada of Navy and private freighters which brought them back to the States.

They said the rest of the world was dealing with the crisis in different ways, some countries were managing while others descended further into anarchy. The military was returning to the U.S. from around the world and starting relief efforts as they could, but knew it would take years for the nation to stabilize.

Dickinson and Rodriguez offered to take her on base for a check up and maybe something to eat, but Patty declined and once they arrive at JRB, she thanked them and started back on her long walk home.

She went west to Interstate 30 and as the shadows grew long behind her, she came to the merge of 20 and 30 and shortly afterward, the turn off for town. Her parents lived south of the town proper, actually, outside of town in a small cluster of homes, four of the six they owned and rented, situated near a farm to market road.

She passed through the familiar country side and in time, came to the final stretch of road, a farm to market road five miles from her parents front door. She was overcome with nostalgia when she arrived at the small metal bridge which ran over a set of old railroad tracks long ago abandoned.

As a child, Patty and her brothers would play there, where the old cross shaped wooden poles ran parallel to the tracks some still strung with rusty pieces of telegraph wire and where it was not uncommon to find one of the old green glass conductor bulbs among the grass.

She looked down on the tracks and the wooden poles, some leaning, missing and other still upright and looking like a line of grave markers testament to a time past and whose time may come again. One day, she would take Elena there. She would take Elena many places and spend every waking hour with the child trying to recapture the time which was stolen from them. The sun was setting and it was almost time for dinner, she had to be going.

But Patty turned and found her path blocked. One last time.

"Got you, b**ch. Now you die."

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag


The Burnout Chapter Forty Six

As soon as the door slammed shut, Patty looked at the zip ties and shifted her hands around so the wrists were parallel. She bent her left leg slightly, raised up her joined hands and brought them down hard on her outstretched knee. It took two more attempts before the zip tie snapped apart.

"Hey, that's pretty neat!" said a man across the room who's hands were also tied in a similar manner.

Patty ignored him and scanned the room. No doors other than the main one and no windows. She looked up at the ceiling, climbed on the table and reached for the ceiling panel closest to the wall. The first one popped up easily and revealed a nest of wires and a thin fire sprinkler pipe. The next one she popped up was not blocked and opened up to a rectangular window of inky blackness.

Patty reached up and grabbed the edge of the hole along the back wall. Raising herself to an upright chin up using the edge of the wall, she pulled herself up and adjusted her eyes to the dark. Just ahead, slightly to the right, she could see the faint glow coming from another office. Maybe one with an unlocked door.

She carefully drew her knee up on the edge of the wall and strained to see the area around her. Using her fingers, she traced the top of the wall to the right and found where it ended and turned left. She could have killed for a lighter, a flashlight, anything.

Suddenly, the area brightened slightly. Two more tiles were pulled out behind her and the emergency lights from the conference room transferred their glow inside the ceiling pocket. She turned to see two other figures following her lead; a man and a woman.

"You're leading sweetheart, just let us know what to do." the man said.

"We need to get over to that office just ahead. The door may be open and we can escape. Be careful." replied Patty.

Gingerly feeling her way along, she climbed to a squat and slowly inched forward. At one point, a tile to her left caved in and partly broke loose into darkness, but she ignored it. A few more feet and she was over a dimly lit tile blocked only partially by ethernet and electrical wires.

She barely moved the tile to once side and found herself looking down on the top of a shelf in what appeared to be an office supply closet. There were stacks of copy paper and ink cartridges lined up on the shelves and there was nobody evident in the small space.

"Here goes," she said and lowered herself into the room and onto the shelving unit. It held and she climbed down to the floor, pausing to look up as the other woman decended followed by the unknown man. Once they were all down, she went to the door and put her ear against it. She could clearly hear gunfire and small explosions coming from outside but could not hear anything else.

Patty carefully opened the door a crack and looked in the hallway. It was dark, but there was light coming from both an office across the hallway and from windows further down the hallway. Patty held up her hand to the two behind her and checked down the hallway in the other direction. It too was clear. Either there were fewer personnel than she assumed in this facility or they were tied up with whoever was shooting at them. Their loss, her gain.

Patty stepped into the hallway and orienteered herself to the building and all the places she had been. She was about to go to the right, when she heard gunshots coming from down the hallway. Not hesistating for a moment, she dodged across the hall into the office with the light one and stepped quickly inside. Again, it was deserted but was piled with various items.

Looking around for anything useful, she saw the office was nothing more than a storeroom for furntiture, lamps, boxes of files and a something piled in the corner. Waving in the couple behind her, she closed the door most of the way shut and hissed to the man and woman,

"See if you can find anything we can use. A weapon, anything."

Patty went to the corner to see what was piled and saw it was a mixture of bags, suitcases and clothing. Lifting the top suitcase up in order to see what was inside, she immediately saw a familiar colored backpack buried underneath two other suitcases. Ripping it out, she was overjoyed to see it was hers. She pawed through the remainder looking for her fanny pack, but could not find it.

"Anything?" asked the man.

"Yeah, my bag they took from me out on the road. Feels the same weight it was when I had it last, so maybe they didn't take anything or ran out of time. Whatever, I'm taking it." she replied.

Patty was about to pull the bag on her shoulders when a thought dawned on her, something filed away in the back of her mind. She opened the bag and dug through the dirty clothes and odd food packages until she reached the bottom. She found it, cold, heavy and metallic - the derringer. She held it in her hand and checked the loads once more, just like on the highway.

"You better let me handle that." said the man reaching for it.

"Back off. I can manage fine and it's not like the two of you were doing anything to get out of there." said Patty.

They went to the door, peeked out again and stepped into the hallway. Patty motioned to her left now and the couple followed her with a shrug. No sooner had they gone around the corner when they heard the loud sound of gunshots no more than a few feet in front of them. Patty pushed back the couple, dropped to the floor and peeked around the corner in the hallway.

Standing by a broken out window was a beefy man firing an M4 at  some unknown target below. He stopped and turned so quickly, Patty did not have time to dart back to cover.

"Hey! What are you doing out here?" he shouted as he fumbled to remove the magazine from his rifle.

Patty pushed backward and told the couple to run. She started to turn herself when the man yelled from only a few feet behind her,

"Stop! Hold on there!"

Patty turned and saw the man was still trying to reload the rifle. Patty drew the derringer and turned the tables.

"No, you drop the rifle or I'll shoot!" said Patty.

"Huh? You got to be kidding me. Put that thing down..!" he replied coming toward her.

Patty held the gun with both hands and squeezed the trigger. A twelve inch tongue of fire exploded from the barrel along with a tremendous boom. The round struck the man squarely in the chest and sent him to the floor where he let out an audible oomph as he hit the floor.

Patty carefully walked toward the man on the floor and found him moaning, but no blood as far as she could see. She assumed his protective armor was enough to stop the round, but not he velocity. He probably had a broken rib or worse. Patty grabbed his dropped rifle off the floor and pulled two magazines from his vest before hurriedly jumping up and running down the hallway after the couple

"Come on!" yelled the man from further down the hall.

Patty ran after the pair as they went through a stairway door at the end of the hall. They went two flights of stairs noting the floors marked on the doors as they went. They came to the door marked 1 - Ground Floor and paused. Patty put her ear to the door once more, but heard nothing, not even the gunfire.

She pushed it open and saw they were in a parking garage lit with flickering white lights along the walls. There were no cars in any of the ranks and they could clearly see outside of the garage through slits along the walls. They ran across the lot to the upward sloping ramp, pausing only when they reached the top which fed into a ground parking lot. There was nobody around and the gunfire was now only coming sporadic from the other side of the building.

Patty sprinted to the edge of the lot which was bordered by a seven foot high chain link fence with rolls of concertina wire along the top. She stared at at dejectedly at the fence and did not see any sort of entrance in either direction.

"Here, let's try this," said the man. He squatted on the ground and tried pulling and pushing the base of the fence. It rose about six inches off the ground in either direction.

"I think we can shimmy under this if we take turns." said the man. "Flo, we'll hold it up and you give it a go."

Patty and the man pulled up on the fence and 'Flo' squeezed underneath and to the other side.

"I'm skinny, but you're gonna have a problem, Paul." she said.

"To get out of here, I'll make it work. You girls pull it up high." he replied.

Patty pulled while Flo pushed and after several sweaty minutes, Paul grunted under the fence and to join Flo.

"Come on and hurry," said Paul.

Patty pushed her backpack through and started to slide under the fence having her shoulders and upper body on the other side when Flo hissed,

"Look! Here comes someone!".

The couple dropped dropped the fence they were holding and it scraped painfully across Patty ripping her shirt and making three jagged cuts down her back. Patty gasped out a shriek in the pain as she heard foot steps coming toward her. Flo and Paul were no where to be seen.

"Ungrateful jerks." thought Patty.

Patty squirmed her backside under the fence and ended up ripping the fabric on her cargo pants in several places as she squeezed under. The last thing she did was pull the M4 under a barely three inch gap in the fence and hurriedly got to her feet as several footsteps and voices came her way in the darkness.

Patty ran full on away from the fence into the darkness and promptly tripped over something concrete which sent her sprawling down an incline and into something wet and slimy. Her arms and face were torn by branches and limbs as she slipped into a creek or open storm drain badly barking her shin on a rock. Picking herself up, she managed to limp out of the ankle deep water and onto the muddy bank.

She climbed halfway up and started down the bank in complete blackness paralleling the BNSF facility and staying out of sight, or so she hoped. She heard voices nearby, less than twenty yards away or less but kept moving, the rifle tight in her hand.

"Something moving down there...!" a voice yelled.

Patty froze and brought the rifle around, trying to control her breath in deep pants which would give away her location.

"We know you're down there! Come out with your hands up or we'll shoot!" came the voice again, this time much closer than before.

Patty froze and considered her options. She could move back into the ditch behind her or she could continue parallel along the short bank. Or she could open fire and hope for the best. She slowed her breathing and thought about Elena, so close and yet so far away. She could feel the burning tears forming in the corners of her eyes at the magnitude level of frustration and pain caused by so many others.

And then the helicopter came. She could hear the chopping sounds vibrating the air around her as it came in low and close. Of course, they had called in a chopper to locate her and the others who might have escaped. Patty could outrun someone on foot, but should could not outrun a helicopter, not one this close.

Patty checked the safety on the rifle with her finger, brought it to her shoulder and whispered,

"Elena, baby. Mama loves you, mama loves you, baby..."

As she fired the first round, the parking lot exploded.

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag


The Burnout Chapter Forty Five

Patty was taken down the hallway to another set of elevators during which she passed a window and saw it was night, but judging by the smattering of lights below, they were on the third or fourth floor of the building she was held in.

The guard pushed the top button once inside the car and the elevator rose to the top. "Must be the boss." thought Patty making the connection that the top dog always ends up the highest.

When the car stopped and they exited, Patty saw the walls were dark mahagony and there immediately across the elevator was the logo and name Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway. Patty knew the railway had their headquarters in north Fort Worth

Patty was led through the dark hallways of the upper floors of the building. While the building had power and the air conditioning still pumped out cool air, many of the office light fixtures were either non-functioning or removed as most of the offices they passed were dark and empty. Perhaps the boss did not trust his own employees so close to him.

At the end of the wide hallway, the guard stopped, pulled a white key card from his pocket and swiped it on a keypad slot next to the door. A green light was illuminated on the keypad and the door lock clicked to the open position. The guard pushed open the door and Patty was shoved forward through the open entry way.

Inside was a large board room lit only by two computer screens on a table, an overhead projector screen showing a map of the area and the LED lights from a control panel mounted on the far wall. A tall man in dark clothing stood in front of the window with his back to Patty and his hands clasped behind his back.

"Sir?" said the first guard.

"Company is here, wonderful. Put in her in the chair, Simmons, bind her wrists and then you can go." the man said without turning around.

After Patty was seated and secured, the guard left wordlessly and closed the door behind them.

"So, Ms. Valdez. is it? Quite an interesting little adventure we have been having, huh?" the tall man said as he turned to face her.

He was about fifty and his dark hair was streaked with gray. He wore the same uniform as the others had; black long sleeve shirt with epaulets, black pants tucked into black military boots. On his collar was a single silver star. Other than that, his uniform had no other distinguishing markings or insignia.

He stared at her for a second with a smile on his face before walking across the room and took a seat on the edge of the table.

"Can I get you anything? Water, coffee, soda or maybe you prefer tea?" he said.

"Water, water would be great." said Patty, her dry throat betraying her.

"Water it is then." the man said. He went to a credenza, picked up a white stryrofoam cup, filled it with ice from a covered bucket, added water from a metal pitcher and placed a white straw in the cup.

"Sorry for touching the straw, but you are not in a position to open it yourself." he said crossing the room.

"Here," he said as he held the straw to Patty's lips. She drank deeply.

"More?" he said holding the cup.

"No, that was fine, thank you." said Patty.

"Great, let's get started then. My name is Merrick, deputy director, Department of Homeland Security, North Texas Sector." he said.

"Why am I here?" asked Patty.

"Well, Ms Valdez, you had a number of items which belonged the DHS in your possession when we detained you west of Fort Worth. As I am sure you can guess, that caused some concern with our department and we just want to get to the bottom of the whole matter." said Merrick with a big smile on his face.

Merrick turned and went back to his perch on the boardroom table.

"You see Ms. Valdez, we have had our hands full lately and our resources are spread pretty thin for the time being. Taking the time to talk one on one like this comes at a great inconvenience for me and the department, but I have a feeling it will be time well spent."

"Why is that," asked Patty.

"Well, I found it amazing that someone would have their hands on anything which belongs to our people, but even more so, when I found out it was a woman. I mean, I'm not that outdated, but don't you find it hard to believe also?" asked Merrick with the same smile, but held his hands out palms up.

 "I don't know what kind of women you think run around these days, but the world out there is not for the faint of heart. I'd love to hear what your wife, if you have one, would have to say about your attitude." remarked Patty.

"Alas, my wife died on The Day. She was traveling by airplane from Seattle and perished. Regardless, don't bring her up again, Ms. Valdez." said Merrick, his face changing.

"I am sorry, I had no idea." said Patty.

Merrick waved his hand and his disposition returned,

"No matter, you had no idea. Let me ask you something, Ms. Valdez. What did you do before the Day? I mean what was your occupation?" asked Merrick.

"I was an accountant." said Patty.

"Worked for a private firm, you know private sector?" he asked.

"Sure, a small company, based here in Fort Worth." replied Patty.

"Great, and were you in Fort Worth when the Day occurred?" probed Merrick.

"No, I was in Shreveport on a business trip." said Patty.

"And how was that the first couple of days?" said Merrick, now leaning forward on the table.

"Difficult, confusing. We did not know that this was a worldwide phenomena yet, didn't know how we would get home, food and water were an issue. Then it got scary pretty fast." she replied.

"You want to hear something interesting?" asked Merrick, who continued without waiting for Patty to answer,

"Three hours after the lights went out, I was being picked up in front of my home by a DHS vehicle. Six hours later, I had completed a debriefing and was en route, by air, to Pueblo, Colorado. Twenty four hours later, our forward contingent of one hundred and fifty agents had arrived and secured the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport."

"Within forty eight hours, while you were stuck in the dark and watching the situation deteriorate by the hour, we had power restored at the airport and were in the process of taking charge of the three other area airports of significance, had obtained necessary fuel supplies and were making assessments of other critical infrastructure."

He paused for a moment, then slapped the table with his open hand.

"Is that efficiency or what!" he exclaimed with a big grin.

"Yes, that is impressive." replied Patty, more than slightly startled.

"Miraculous is what I would say. And how is the private sector fairing? Or at the local level? Same results. Failure, confusion, and finally, complete breakdown." said Merrick shaking his head.

"So you see Ms. Valdez, we, the DHS and our fellow federal agencies, are the only hope to get this great country back on it's feet and pointed in the right direction again. So it hurts me deeply when one of the citizens we strive to serve, does something which makes me wonder if I am really doing the right thing." he finished, a look of pity on his face.

"Where did you get the rifle and radio, Ms. Valdez?"  Merrick asked quietly.

"We were traveling west on a state highway..." said Patty.

"We?" interrupted Merrick.

"A group of people I was traveling with. I didn't know them very well, we were all traveling in the same direction and figured it would be best if we stuck together." she replied.

"We'll get back to that after I hear the rest, go on." said Merrick.

"Okay, um, oh yeah, we were somewhere outside of Terrell, I think. We came to wide spot in the road and found the bodies of several people. There were also bullet casings on the ground and it looked like there had been a fight or something, you know."

"There was stuff scattered all over, you know, clothing, gear, junk, things people dropped or left behind, I don't know. And there, on the side of the road, was the rifle and little further down, the radio. We poked around and found a few magazines for the rifle as well."

"We knew if we left the rifle, somebody might get it and use it against us, so we took it. We had not seen a working radio, so we took it too, but we couldn't understand anything the people were saying." she finished.

"So you took the rifle and the radio. Take anything else?" said Merrick with his eyebrows raised.

"Some of the others might have grabbed something. I think someone found one of those military food pouch things, I don't remember. After that, things went downhill." said Patty looking down.

"Tell me about the other people you were with. Who were they and what happened to them?" he asked.

"We were ambushed when we arrived in Dallas, just over the city line. There were five of us, a middle aged guy, two college kids, myself and another woman. One of the kids was shot, but was only wounded. The woman was shot.. but she.. didn't make it."

"The middle aged guy, Larry, he took off for cover but went the wrong way than the rest of us. I don't know what happened to him. I went with the two kids until we had to separate. They wanted to go on to Denton and I was headed west to Fort Worth." said Patty quietly.

"And you kept the rifle and radio? Why didn't one of the others take it?" asked Merrick.

"First, I didn't trust any of them. They could have used it, the rifle, on me. The radio, well none of them wanted to carry it, so I guess I got stuck with it." said Patty.

"Ms. Valdez, I really want to believe you, but that rifle and radio were issued to two DHS employees who were in the east Texas area, around the area you say you came from. They are both missing and right now, you are our only suspect. I am sure you understand that I can't simply take your word and let you go, right?" said Merrick standing and walking around to the other side of the desk.

"Mr. Merrick, I did not kill or hurt anyone, you have to believe me. I am only trying to get back home like a lot of other people." said Patty.

Patty thought to herself, "They aren't going to let me out of this place. I've got to turn things around."

"Mr. Merrick, you and the DHS seem to have a handle on things. Is there a nationwide effort like this going on? What's the plan for the country?" asked Patty as nicely as possible.

Merrick turned and his eyes lit up,

"I'm glad you asked. I don't have to hide it, I am quite proud of what we have accomplished and what we plan to do, Ms. Valdez."

"For years, this country has labored under some sort of delusion," said Merrick, putting an emphasis on the word, "this concept that the rugged individual is some sort of master of his own fate in life. This selfishness has permeated every level of our country and up until the advent of this disaster, was destroying the very fabric of our nation."

"Look at all the great monuments to accomplishment in this country. The Hoover Dam, Mount Rushmore, the Interstate Highway system and many more. All done with the collective, yes that is the key word, collective will and effort of the citizenry. By marshaling the people, our resources and the national treasure, we were able to do great things as a great people. Our infrastructure was once the envy of the world, but now look at what's become." said Merrick sadly.

"We have split ourselves into selfish little islands of self interest and self absorption. There is no common purpose, no organization, nothing driving the masses towards big goals and common ideas."

"But that is about to change. Permanently." said Merrick turning to Patty with fire in his eyes.

"We have a country in utter chaos. Now is the time for those of us with the foresight to prepare for this catastrophe to take charge and put things right. To put people and resources where they are needed. A time for hard work and shared sacrifice." he said firmly.

"So the president, the government, is this part of their plan or something. I'm confused." said Patty.

"The president? Government? Hardly. Those small minded politicians, one minute expanding our good work, the next gutting it. Can you imagine what would have happened after the next election? Thousands of hard working public servants put out on the street after years of service and for what? To save a few dollars? So some fat cat CEO can live high on the hog while using the things we built? No, thankfully we are done with those people and good riddance." said Merrick with distaste in his voice.

"You mean the president, the congress... what happened to them?" asked Patty.

"Oh, that's right, news gets around slowly these days, doesn't it? Let's just say, they won't be worried about running for reelection any longer. We made sure of it." said Merrick.

"No Ms. Valdez, things are different now and for the better, you'll see. There's plenty to do, no doubt, but fortunately, we have plenty of bodies available. First, we need to continue our efforts of securing the nation's infrastructure, you know, the airports, key highways, rail lines and so on."

"Next, the agricultural sector needs to get in line. That's part of our Rural Initiative, I don't know if you saw any of that during your journey. Getting farm towns on their feet, removing the misinformed and violent and putting people back in the fields to feed a hungry nation."

"Ultimately, a new order for this nation, directed by those who know best for all. People will be put back to work cleaning up the mess from the lawlessness and confusion, then all will be directed to projects of rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and finally, we will devise new projects to keep the masses busy and directed, free from distraction."

"How nice," said Patty. "But will people do this for free? I mean, I want to get back to work just like the next person, but how is that going to work?"

"Paid? Of course, with food and a place to live. The cities have been neglected for far too long. All will be relocated and housed in the major and midsize cities for the protection and utility. Manufactured goods will be sent to the farmers who will repay with food. The food will be paid to the masses for rebuilding. All will benefit and our nation will return to greatness."

"What about people with children? What about schools?" asked Patty, growing more and more uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation.

"Well, naturally, we can't have the little ones underfoot, so we have a number of plans in mind. Relocation to central facilities for children only. There, they will be cared for, fed, educated and brought up to be more useful to the nation. That's just one of the ideas we have, the Department of Education is spearheading that discussion, mine is more focused on security and infrastructure." he said with a broad smile.

"Do you have any children, Ms. Valdez?"

"Oh no, too busy at work all these years. Someday, maybe, but now is not a good time." said Patty with a big nervous smile.

"Good thinking. Do you see now what we are doing? Do you see the grand vision we have for this nation? Do you see the damage caused by the greedy, the selfish and the useless whose only contribution was pushing paper around and ignoring the real needs of the masses?  I know it seems hopeless out there, but out of hopelessness and chaos comes order. And with order, we will have discipline for the good of all." he said and then smiled.

"Now what to do with you? You know, there is a need for someone who is good with numbers. We have so many people to count and so many places to put them. No, that does it. I am going to overlook this transgression with the rifle and file it away and find somewhere useful for you."

"Simmons? Come up and collect Ms. Valdez, please." said Merrick to a speaker on his desk.

"Mr. Merrick? What about the military? You haven't mentioned them." asked Patty.

"No reason to. They are as disorganized as the civilian population. No working communication, most of their vehicles are out. We have more aircraft than they do!" said Merrick giggling at the thought.

"Well I saw a big train load of military equipment heading north just outside of Dallas. A train miles long loaded down with trucks, jeeps, armored vehicles.." said Patty.

"Impossible! You must have been mistaken. Those lunk heads are trying to find their backsides with two hands and a map right now. Simmons!" replied Merrick.

The guard entered the room from the same door as before. He cut the ties from Patty's hands and brought them around her front and retied them with a fresh zip tie.

"Simmons, see that she is on the next flight to Silver Spring for retraining." Merrick said.

"Yes, sir." said Simmons.

"Silver Spring? As in Maryland?" asked Patty.

"The very same. Good bye, Ms. Valdez. Oh, and welcome to the fight. Some day, we'll all be heroes." said Merrick returning to his desk.

Patty felt like she swallowed a rock. Silver Spring was across the country and here she was, only miles from Elena, but about to be taken away.

"Oh, and Ms. Valdez, remember, great things don't just happen, great people make them happen." Merrick stated.

 Patty nodded and walked out with Simmons. He led Patty out the door and down the hallway presumably back to her cell where she would await her flight.

"What time does the plane leave?" she asked Simmons.

"Usually around two in the morning. We have a cargo plane which drops off supplies and personnel. We can send it back with prisoners if we have them." he replied.

"I see. Is there a chance I can get something to eat and use the restroom before I go. It's been awhile since I've had a good meal and bathrooms, well they are even harder to find the days." Patty said in a flirty voice.

"We'll see. The mess hall is off limits to civilians, but I can figure something out, as long as you play nice." Simmons added.

"Oh, you'll find I can be sweet when I want to be. Simmons." said Patty.

At that moment, there was a muffled thump followed by the signature rattling of small arms fire. There were no windows in the hallway, but it was clear the noise came from outside.

"Code 8." blared a voice from Simmons radio.

"Oh, cr*p. I gotta get you to holding and get to my post. Come on!" yelled Simmons dragging Patty by her zip tied hands.

Simmons dragged Patty down a flight of stairs, through a stairwell door and down a long hallway lit by only one emergency light. Outside, the sound of gunfire and small explosions were getting louder. Simmons stopped and opened a set of double doors with a key rather than with his card.

Inside was a board room dominated by a large table and illuminated by two emergency lights. There were no chairs and standing against the wall or sitting on the floor were about two dozen people looking as disheveled as Patty. Civilian and dirty.

"Wait here and no funny business. And that goes for all of you!" Simmons barked at the group in the room. Then he slammed the door and locked it behind him.

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag


The Burnout Chapter Forty Four

The two men in the front seat were arguing over which music to play. One wanted Dean Martin, the other Johnny Cash. Patty didn't want to hear either, but they did not give her a vote. Other than that, the ride lasted about an hour as near as Patty could estimate. Patty hated being blindfolded, and made worse was the fact she was in a moving car. To control her panic, she tried to use her other senses as best as possible to figure out her destination and ultimate fate.

Twice they made brief stops, but neither of the men in the front seat got out of the vehicle; they simply stopped for a few minutes then moved on. They had to be riding in a Hummer, thought Patty. She was in the back seat which was nothing more than a single bench and they failed to put a seat belt on her. A few times she rolled around like a loose package as they went around corners too fast. She felt car sick.

During the ride, she went through the possibilities in her mind. They were going to "detain" her in some sort of camp. They were going to shoot her. They were going to drive her all the way back to east Texas or Lousiana. The last option bothered her the most and if it happened, she would beg them to put a bullet in her head rather than make her start her journey all over again.

In the end, none of the above would be the correct answer.

Patty had no idea what time it was. She had fallen asleep earlier that day in the back of the minivan around noon and probably slept for a few hours by her reckoning. The sun appeared to be in the west she seemed to recall before they put the hood over her head. That meant it could be late afternoon, but probably early evening.

Regardless, they were taking her somewhere and if they did not kill her on  the road, they probably had longer term plans for her. She could not rationalize any use they would have for her other than accusations over how she came into possession of the carbine and the radio.

Shortly afterward, the truck slowed and came to a halt as the driver rolled down his window and said something to somebody outside. Maybe a gate guard or a check point. A few seconds later, they started forward again, made a few quick turns, rolled down a ramp in the road and came to a halt.

Patty was taken from the vehicle and escorted by both men across a concrete surface. She smelled old exhaust and could hear the sounds of other vehicles nearby. In the distance, she could her the chopping sound of a helicopter. The temperature was cooler than it had been earlier which she took to mean that it was later in the day rather than the morning and the place she was inside of was out of the direct sun. Maybe even underground.

A door opened and she was directed roughly through. The blast of cold air hit her first. Air conditioning. She had not felt it in weeks and she might as well have landed in Anarctica as goose bumps immediately formed on her sweat soaked skin.

"It get's 'em every time." she heard the voice on the right way. The other voice laughed gruffly to her left.

They led her down a hallway, she could hear it in their steps and could almost feel the walls on either side. The turned twice before entering an elevator. As the doors closed, Patty's stomach sank and she stifled the urge to scream.

The elevator went up, not down and stopped seconds later. "I am in a building, more than two stories tall with an attached parking garage" she thought. "They are not going to kill me yet or they would have done so back on the highway. They want to question me, probably about the rifle. I must come up with a plausible story and stall them as long as possible. Most likely, they will want to hold me for some time, but unless I escape, they are probably going to kill me in the near future. I must be ready for any sort of escape available."

They stepped out of the elevator, went left ("must remember the way we took, in case I can get away"), then into another door.

"All yours." said the voice on the right.

"Sign here." said a harsh female voice.

"Thank you,"

"Uh-huh, see ya later."

The door opened behind her and closed again. The hood was pulled off of Patty's head and once her eyes adjusted, she was shocked. She was at the airport in the security line.

That was the first thought that popped in her head. Standing in front of her were two people, a woman, big shouldered with short hair and a thin man with slicked back hair and bags under his eyes. They were both wearing TSA uniforms, blue shirts, black pants and complete with latex gloves exactly like the security people wore at the airline terminal. Only both of these guards had gunbelts with large semi-auto handguns. "Forties, I bet. Isn't that what Feds carry these days?" thought Patty to herself automatically.

They were standing in what appeared to be an examining room complete with a privacy screen against one wall and a metal table holding a stack of plastic bins and a metal detector wand.

"We are going pat you down and I need to know if you have any special injuries or areas sensitive to physical contact, ma'am." said the woman.

Patty started to laugh at the absurdity of the question, but quickly turned it into a cough and cleared her throat.

"Sorry, not used to the air conditioner. Um, no, I don't have any injuries or anything." she said.

The man stepped forward and removed the zip tie from Patty's hands, raised both of her arms over her head and held them in place. The woman stepped forward and started patting Patty down while the man stood behind her.

"I have one tube of lip balm, front pocket."

"Sum of cash, U.S. currency, in front pocket. Assorted loose coins, also U.S. currency."

"Two standard door keys in front pocket."

"I have two hair ties, elastic, front pocket."

Everything was put into a plastic bin the man held out for the woman as it was taken from Patty. The woman then carefully went over Patty patting her down from head to toe. While she was not certain, it felt like the woman took her time around Patty's chest and rear, but it might have been her imagination.

"Recuffing the subject" said the man out loud as he brought down Patty's arms and put on a new zip tie. For a moment, Patty thought he was going to call her a passenger and ask for her boarding pass. Everything was entirely surreal.

"Come with us, please." said the woman and Patty was led through another door in the rear of the examining room.

They went further into the office past empty cubicles and silent desks. On the other side of the room, they went through a pair of double doors into a hallway with chairs lined along the wall. There were guards dressed in the same black uniform as the contractors and the men who captured her earlier in the day.

She was put into one of the chairs and the two TSA guards stood nearby silently. A few moments later, another woman walked in wearing a white uniform similar to a naval officer. She too had the ubiquitous gunbelt and .40 caliber handgun like everyone else in the facility.

She went to the two TSA guard and without looking up from her clipboard spoke to the two.

"Do you have the subject, Patricia Valdez?" she asked.

"Affirmative. She is here." said the female guard.

"Very good, escort her to room 14, please." the woman in white replied.

Once again, Patty was stood and taken, a hand on each arm, down the hallway to another room.

She was seated, hands still cuffed, while the woman in white took a seat in a chair with rollers on the legs. She put on a pair of reading glasses, sat upright and consulted her clipboard.

"This will be much easier when we get our tablets working again." she said to nobody in particular.

"I am Ms. Suarez with the U.S. Surgeon General's Office. Please answer the following questions.

"Are you Patricia Valdez?"

"Um, yes. Say, what's all this about.."

"Just answer the questions.. Have you or any one you have been in contact with been exposed to tuberculosis?"


"Do you have acquired immune deficiency sickness?"


"Have you recently traveled to any of the following cities: St.Louis,Missouri, Rockford, Illinois, Oakland, California, or Schenectady, New York?"


"Have you had any cold like symptoms recently which failed to lessen their intensity in spite of over the counter or prescription remedies?"

"No, and this is stupid."

"Please answer the .."

"No, I won't. I haven't done anything wrong nor have I been told why I am here, wherever here is or why I am being held. I was taken by force from a public road by agents of the United States Government which I paid for with my taxes.."

"Shut it!" barked the big female.

She crossed the room, leaned down and put her face inches from Patty's.

"You will answer the questions given to you and you will not interrupt, get smart, sarcastic or protest! Do I make myself clear!"

"If you are asking me if I hear you, yes. It's not hard considering the proximity of your big ugly -"


Patty's head went to the side like a rag doll. Smack. And now, in the other direction.

"Next time, we get serious. Are we clear?"


The woman stood upright and resumed her position by the door. Suarez adjusted her glasses and looked back down at her clipboard.

"Now, where were we. Ah yes, do you have any allergies or allergic reactions to the following medications.... "

And so it went for the next half hour. Questions about drugs, medical history, sexual activity, visits to physicians, dentists, history of mental illness and so on. Patty gave up on protest and answered all questions as perfunctory as possible and kept her opinions to herself.

At the end of the questioning, Suarez stood up and placed a pair of latex gloves on her hands. She went over to Patty and examined her scalp for a few moments and then pulled off the gloves with a loud pop.

"She's clear. Go ahead and return her or take in her for processing." said Suarez.

The two TSA people each took one of Patty's arms and pulled her to her feet, this time more forcibly than before.

"I got under your skin, didn't I?" thought Patty as the went down the hall looking over at the female TSA agent. "Something I said really pissed you off?"

"Keep moving, please." said the man this time, but Patty could feel the big woman's fingers tighter on her arm since they left. Patty shelved it away for later, but something was coming together in her mind.

Patty was taken down another hall and deposited into a small room the size of which was somewhere between a closet and a phone booth. She was seated on the cold floor against the wall and her feet ziptied together. The agents shut the door, but before they did, the lights were turned off.

Patty took the time off her feet to consider her situation. Clearly, they were not going to execute her anytime soon, that is unless they had a penchant for wasting incredible amounts of time for bureacracy before the act was done and considering it was the government, it was not too far fetched of an idea.

She had no idea why they asked about those four specific cites in the interrogation, but assumed there was some sort of illness which was spread from or originated there. She also noted the extremes in behavior from Suarez's obliviousness to the situation of the outside world to the TSA agents short tempers.

Patty replayed in her mind all the exchanges she had with the DHS, FEMA and other agencies over the past week looking for a common thread DHS handing out supplies in exchange for guns and local leaders. Security contractors. Government issued weapons. The man in the light blue shirt on the roof of the card store. There were three initials on the back of his shirt, but only one, the letter E was visible. TSA. Surgeon General's Office.

At the same time, their activies seemed uncoordinated or even amateur what with the conversation between the dispatcher at the Addison Airport and his underlings. As if they had bitten off more than they could chew. Further, the reports of looting and outright theft of local resources by DHS agents.

Multiple federal agencies working together, similarly armed, mysterious circumstances. Something was sticking in her mind from a few months ago. Something in the news about strange purchases by federal agencies which came to light around the same time as that GSA scandal. Some federal agency purchasing mind boggling quantities of ammunitition. A story about an armed EPA agent visiting a power plant. She could not remember the details as when the stories appeared, she had more important things to consider, like her job, Elena, and so forth.

Her head was spinning. Patty closed her eyes for a few moments and tried to relax, but it was useless. She pushed her back against the wall and leveraged herself off the wall into a standing position. She stood there, balanced on her feet, drawn together and tied at the ankles. If only she could get her hands around in front, she might be able to get free. She did not hear them lock the door afterall.

There was nothing in the room which might have a sharp surface or edge that she could use for a tool to cut the ties. Frustrated, she slid back down the wall and put her legs out in front of her as straight as possible to increase circulation. At that moment, she heard footsteps coming down the hall and seconds later, the door knob turned and light flooded the dark space.

"C'mon," said a man wearing black, DHS clearly stenciled across his chest rig. "You're going to see Merrick."

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag


The Burnout Chapter Forty Three

Technically, Patty reasoned she would head back to the Loop and walk west until the road connected with the Bush Tollway or possibly further on past the airport. With some thought, she realized the airport was probably another antpile of DHS/FEMA chicanery, so she decided to stick with the Bush option.

Emotionally, it was a different matter altogether. In the past twenty four hours she had shot numerous, unamed people. She had witnessed the death of a young woman whose life had just begun and for which she felt responsible. She had helped three people get home only to discover their families were either dead or missing which futher raised her anxiety about her own home and Elena.

Most of all, for the first time since the Burnout, Patty was alone.

The scene was rather apt. The sun was setting in the west as she walked quietly around the innumerable still cars, vast piles of debris and vacant buildings the windows of which stared at her with dead eyes. There were few sounds other than the occasional bird, breeze or noises of unknown sources floating from the distance. She saw no living person. It was if everyone checked out and went home, wherever that was.

She had no plans to stop walking tonight although she admitted to herself she was tired. She needed this long walk as a penance for her sins. Her proverbial trial in the desert for forty days and nights and this was the first step. She ignored the potential for ambush and accident and focused only on the next foot step, one after another.

The sun eventually set and the sky went from light to purple and eventual darkness. She strained her eyes on the next visible mile and continued on sure there was not a bottomless pit waiting in the middle of the road to suck her down into the netherworld. Time passed.

She played games with her mind. She tried naming everyone she met in the past few weeks, but failed miserably as they all blended together in a blur of faces, clothing and expressions. She attempted remembering the towns, villages and wide spots in the road she had passed and again, they faded into a collage of buildings, faded signs and ruin.

The violence however, she remembered all too clearly. She could see the faces of every person she had gunned down as if it had happened moments earlier. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine something pleasant from the past before the Burnout, but all of her old memories had been excorcized from her conscience and replaced with things dark and sinister. Only when she ran painfully into the bumper of a silent Lexus did she snap out of her thoughts.

Then, to the west, the sun began to rise. The impossibility amused her and she moved forward with slightly more urgency at the idea of witnessing something unique. As the distance passed, the sky grew orange but flickered and waned with as much intensity as it had grown. As the understanding came to her, she negated her previous curiosity but enjoyed the practicality of the illumination.

At the interchange of Interstate 35 and 635, a massive oil storage tank, maybe two, had caught fire, the flames shot high into the sky illuminating the road and surrounding landscape. Somewhere underneath, a gas line feeding into the tanks or inadvertently placed nearby had ruptured and was feeding the blaze with impunity.

She stood and stared at the conflagration until the horns of Jericho sounded behind her. A single blat rising in volume as it grew closer. She saw coming toward her location, on the tracks below the bridge, running south to north, a single headlamp followed by a speeding juggernaut.

As it passed below the overpass she stood upon, she observed four massive pushers pulling multiple flatcars each loaded with sand colored military equipment. Armored carriers, trucks, and humvees, most intact but surprisingly, some damaged, yet in transit all the same. With the fire and thundering of the locomotives, she imagined she was in a Dantean inspired ring of hell witnessing the wages of industrialized sin.

She turned to watch the train pass under the bridge and saw them standing behind her in the shadow of an abandoned Staples Office truck. The boy was blond, roughly five years of age and wore shorts, sneakers and a dirty t-shirt. The girl was younger, probably no more than four, and wore a purple dress, cowboy boots and had a wild head of dark hair. She held a tiny purse in one hand and a faded stuffed bunny under the other arm. She and the boy were holding hands and staring at her.

Next to them, an old man, seventy if a day, wearing a straw cowboy hat and an old brown suit jacket. In one hand, a plastic grocery bag and the other held a cane which he leaned upon. There was no way the trio was related in any way by their appearance. Like her, maybe they were drawn to the fire's light, but thrown together by circumstance.

Patty took two steps toward them and the boy and girl darted behind the man and hid their faces against his pant legs. She squatted down, unzipped her fanny back and took something secret from within. It was her stash of protein bars which she had purchased in Shreveport and with the possible exception of Lamar, told nobody about them nor shared with any. They were her retort for the final miles home and to be used in an emergency only.

She took two out and held them out at arm's length to the children. They both looked up at the old man for approval. He nodded and they cautiously stepped forward, took the bars from Patty and went back to the man. Patty looked up at the elderly man, removed her pack and took her last MRE from inside and handed it to him. He looked at it for a moment before placing it in his shopping bag.

The man dug into his pocket, removed a small coin shaped object and handed it wordlessly to Patty. She examined it in the flickering light and saw it was a Saint Christopher medal. She slipped it into her pocket, nodded at the man and started walking west again. She did not look back.

The fire lit her path for several more miles across the flat landscape as she traveled. She lost herself again in her thoughts and pondered upon the train bearing military hardware. How did it get here? How was the train running? Where was it going? Was the United States at war? Had it been invaded? She had no answers.

The hours past and sometime before the real dawn, she took 161 south and began her trek past the airport toward the 183 interchange and then on to Fort Worth. At some point, as the sky lightened, she paused on the side of the road and snacked on some of her dwindling food supplies. She observed the situation with detached emotion. When the food ran out she would starve or be home. Pick one.

After she took a long drink of water, she felt something poking her from the fanny pack. Unzipping it, she saw the derringer had rearranged itself with the additional room provided by the missing protein bars. She hefted the tiny gun in her hand and broke it open. Two unfired .357 rounds sat in their respective chambers. This weapon would only be useful in a honkeytonk fight at ten feet or less she reckoned.

Not wanting it to go off accidentally so close to her core, she put it in the bottom of her backpack and promptly forgot about it. Standing, she put on the pack, picked up her carbine and started west by southwest on her journey.

Around noon, she felt lightheaded and dizzy and knew she had to rest at some point. Not wanting to sit in the grass off the road and there being very little cover, she took advantge of an abandonded minivan sitting in the far right lane. It was an older model which still had window cranks, so she lowered the back windows, hung some clothing over the glass and made herself comfortable lying on the floor between the seats.

"I'll rest for a few minutes and then start off again." she said to herself as she drifted off.


She woke with a start, her mouth dry and the sound of the rumbling engine. Engine? That made no sense, the van was long dead. She shook her head and figured the noise was thunder.She sat up, pulled down the shirt she had hung over the window and found herself looking at something black. Her eyes were still blurry and unfocused so she opened the door. It opened few inches, then stopped and someone let out a muffled sound.

The van door was yanked open and she was pulled from the vehicle by a pair of strong hands, the sunlight blinding her. She opened her mouth to say something but when the rifle butt struck her midsection, the air went out of her lungs and she fell to her knees. She reached for the Glock but felt it ripped from her finger tips before she had a firm grasp on it.

She looked up and saw a man in black with a load bearing vest hold up her backpack in one hand like a freshly caught fish. He then excitedly reached forward into the van and took out her carbine. Dropping the bag to the ground, he carefully examined the gun while Patty knelt on the ground holding her stomach.

The man turned to Patty, scowled at her and motioned to his co-workers. The world went black as a black bag was pulled over Patty's head and she was lifted to her feet. She felt her hands zip tied behind her and was dragged to what she presumed was a vehicle of some sort. She was put inside and moments later, the vehicle began to move with Patty, a prisoner inside.

Please support this website by visiting my other websites!

Junk Silver  Tips To Survive the End of the World  One Year Food Supply  72 Hour Bag