Chapter 21: Mutual Disagreement
"Saved our lives..." Private Locket comes forward unhitching her pack with no fear. She closes in on Benjamin James in the cramped van bay. She shows no hesitation when rebuking Ben’s earlier statements. "You’re kidding right Mr. James? You were driving into an ambush and trailing every zombie in the state behind you.” She exaggerates the final part of her statement steadying herself as the van takes a corner at tad bit faster than it should have. "You had to slow to a crawl to navigate that bridge the zombies coming from the opposite end would have clogged your only escape route as the ones behind overtook your position." The much smaller young female soldier leans in closer to the husky carpenter. "I .... Me." She shouts "I cleared your path out of there by thinning out the dead advancing in on your van Sir. So please I think you have it confused I saved your lives Mr. James." She points her finger directly in Ben's face. Ben chuckles to himself "little lady I suggest you consider a few things before biting off more than you can chew. First this is my van and second if you'd like I can drop you and your people off back at bridge so you can get to your own vehicle." His words hang in the air as Locket has no response to counter his point. "That’s what I thought.” Ben says puffing his broad chest out he wanted no doubt as to who was in control of this group of survivors like it or leave it. "I tell you what I didn't catch is where's the rest of your people?" Ben watches the boy who'd first appeared to be a man because of his size behind the girl. Locket looks around condescendingly mocking the man first she checks over her right shoulder then her left. "Um they're right there Mr. James can't you see them?"
Ben sighs glancing back at his wife seeing her in pain softens his stance. "Look Locket I can see them clearly and I am sorry for my momentarily lapse in judgment. I'm just trying to protect my wife and kids here so let's agree that back there on that bridge we all needed each other." He holds his hands palms up attempting to defuse the situation. "What about the bulk of your people? Are they dug in somewhere? Someplace we can go and be protected until this chaos is sorted out?” Locket pauses "The bulk of our unit is back at St. George's Hospital." Ben's eyes lit up instantly "Really can we go there?" "Yes you can but you're not going to like it Mr. James. There all dead Sir we're all that's left and we barely made it out." She looks Ben in the eye. "When the sun went down everybody that had a bite or a scratch no matter how small fell down to the ground dead." Locket slumps back against the wall defeated "That was the loudest silence I have ever heard. We had the ironic misfortune of guarding the outdoor morgue of all places." Her eyes were cast to a far off place Ben however knew what came next he and Chip had lived it. "When it broke it came like a deluge from everywhere the dead leapt up and began to devour anyone living with in reach." She attempts to tactfully swallow a lump in her throat. "I'll tell you what Mr. James." She coughs sitting forward looking at Carson who drops his gaze to the floor. "There were over a thousand soldiers at St. George's Hospital plus medical staff that we had escorted in. In less than fifteen minuets of pure hell all of them… all but the three of us are dead. We ran I won't lie like cowards we didn't stop until we plowed head first into that damn pile up back there." The rear of the van was silent except for her voice. Carson produces what's left of the first aid kit from the APC dropping his backpack next to Medina. He duck walks it over to Anne James. "Sir if you don't mind." He holds the kit up eyeing Anne's injured foot. The woman places a hand gently on her husband’s beefy arm. Ben reads his wife's soft blue eyes and relents. "Oh ok honey." Gingerly Benjamin hands his wife's foot to the young soldier who sets about examining it before he treats her. Locket continues on undeterred. "Good God if what happened at St. George’s is happening in the rest of the world.” She peers past Ben staring at all the children. "Well then we're ......... well I won't say what we are because there are children present."
The van rattles on in an awkward silence putting more distance between the center of the city and the survivors. A chime from the vans dashboard cuts through the silence. "Dad the low fuel light just came on." Chip calls back Ben mumbles under his breath. Coming to the front he surveys the open rural area on the fringes of their one time home. He knew the area recalling the next town is about sixty miles away. "Ok people let's do this now while it's quiet." Ben opens a small cabinet decorated with "flammable" warning decals. Inside next to a few battered white cylinders of propane and acetylene gas he’s found what he is looking for. There is a well worn stained plastic red gas can that Ben yanks free. He swishes the pungent fuel in the can noticing it's about half full. "Dammit." He quips angered at his procrastination. He wishes he’d filled the gas can after he’d used it. This was his rule and had he followed it there would be more gas to cover their exodus. "It's about half full maybe ten gallons which puts us near the edge of Clow Falls running on fumes." Locket motions over at the mounted generator behind Anne and the kids. "How much gas is in there?” She asks pointing at the gas tank. "Probably less than a gallon ...." Ben answers thinking back to how long he'd run the generator the day after this all began. "I powered it up when to use when we were fortifying our house." A light went on in Ben's mind. "Would you guys happen to know why certain electrical things work and other ones don’t?” Locket turns to Carson who hunches his broad shoulders then goes back to tending to Anne's foot.
"We were told that if an electrical device was running or plugged into an active power grid at the time of The Event. Then that device was fried and couldn't be repaired." Ben mulled over the girl's answer. "What was 'The Event' that you keep speaking about?" "The Event was a massive CME that bombarded the earth with unprecedented amounts of solar radiation and stellar debris." Locket tells everyone listening. "It caused a global catastrophe knocking out the power worldwide to anything that was operating at the time. Planes dropped from the sky, ships died in the middle of the ocean and you get the picture. The Event prompted a lot of folks to make the assertion that it was the end of days." Locket chuckles to herself. "After all is said and done looks like they were right huh?" Her question was clearly rhetorical. "What is a CME?” Bianca inquires from the corner. Before Locket could answer Carson fielded the question with his usual lack of maturity. "The Sun busted a galactic orgasm." He said briefly looking up painfully aware of what he'd just said in the presence of so many children. "Sorry ... sorry." Carson winces. Locket clears her throat "A CME is a Coronal Mass Ejection they told us what happened when they called us up for deployment. Two opposing magnetic fields come together on the surface of the sun and the resulting ejection of plasma matter erupts out into space. On average it takes about three days for one to reach Earth traveling on the solar jet stream. This particular CME blasted us in less than eighteen hours and that I know is still bathing us in solar radiation." Bianca stares around the van's cabin nervously. "I understood the radiation part which I know is bad. How is it affecting our health because bathing in radiation is not good?" Carson weighs back in with more tact "The Ozone layer of the atmosphere keeps us relatively safe but I wouldn't go to the beach to get a tan until it passes." Brandon shuffles over to his father the way little boys do and whispers in his ear without lowering his voice. "Daddy what's an or…ganas…um?" Ben glares up at Carson who drops his head down as if he hadn't heard the comment dutifully bandaging Anne's foot. He breathes in deeply in time enough to hear his wife snicker soon all the adults except Ben follow suit. While those about him are racked with laughter Ben looks pained. He really didn't want to explain the "Birds and the Bees" to his son at such an early age and he was now hoping it wouldn't be during the apocalypse either. The van's engine sputters then dies sending the van into a slow drift Chip guides them to the side of the road stopping completely then placing the van in park. "I hate to interrupt the fun but since we waited so long to tell me what to do the gas situation has become a little more urgent." Chip yells from the front end of the van. Panic washes over the faces of those huddled in the back of the cargo van any signs of laughter having long since vanished.
After some serious discussion cooler heads prevail. Our survivors have met up and come to terms with each others misgivings. Locket and Ben James have hashed out thier differences. The James Group had questions for the soldiers hoping to gain more knowledge about "The Event." They have gained some info about what happened the day the power went out. They also find out from Locket that the rest of the soldiers with Locket, Medina and Carson were all dead. Now after coming to terms with the apocalypse they have just run out of gas on a deserted strech of country road.
Comeback the week of January 27th for Chapter 22 of The Living Dark and find out what happens next.
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