Life After Death Episode 6

reefer truck
Sean realized that before he could go about setting up a solar array for power, he would have to do something about his food situation. Since he had the tanker full of diesel fuel he figured he could find a reefer truck, fill it with food and keep it running in the yard. That would provide him with enough food to get through next winter at least, and give him time to decide how to go on from there. He thought that places in the Twin Cities area might still have electricity due to getting their power from the nuclear plant, which would probably run by itself for awhile until auto shut down procedures would kick in. He hoped. Having a nuclear melt down fifty miles away would not be good. So the next morning he filled the motorcycle with gas from the cans, tied Angus up so she wouldn’t follow him and while listening to her barks of protest he headed for the cities.

Knowing that the Super Value grocery chain had a huge warehouse in the cities, Sean headed for that. It was about a forty mile trip. The freeway was relatively uncluttered. There were a few cars here and there that he would have to deal with on the way back, providing he had his truck full of food. Finding the warehouse, he noted several refrigerator trucks outside. Sean hadn’t seen anyone on the way there and now with no one around the building he parked the bike and walked inside. He knew the electricity was on as soon as he got there because there were lights on the large loading doors that were still working. Inside he could feel the cool air. Walking through an office area with his hand on his pistol he grabbed a jacket from a hook and proceeded into the warehouse. Row upon row of boxed and palleted food lay before him. All he had to do was load as much of it into a large truck as he could and he would have food all winter. Learning how to drive a fork lift was the only thing standing in the way.

There were several fork trucks in the warehouse to choose from. Finding one with keys in it, he climbed aboard. Gas pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel and shift all seemed normal and he drove up and down the aisles searching out what food he wanted. They had everything. Frozen vegetables, meat and breads of all kinds. Pallets of powdered milk and juices would provide drinks and needed vitamins and all of it just waiting to be loaded up. Playing around with the lift controls, he figured out how to move pallets of food. An expert by no means, Sean slowly filled a reefer truck with pallets. He had checked for fuel and keys until he found the right one. Filling it almost full took a few hours. Sean had broken open a vending machine and drank warm water and ate snacks for a lunch. Finally getting the truck full he went out to get the bike. Driving it up the stairs and through the office area he then drove through the warehouse and parked the bike in the back of the truck. Strapping it down for the ride home, Sean climbed into the big diesel and pulled out of the parking area. Heading for the freeway and turning south he wished he had Angus with him. The big dog like riding in trucks.

Getting a load of food seemed to take some pressure off him. He didn’t need to worry how he would eat for the next year at least. With this done he could spend his time getting some power set up so he wouldn’t freeze to death next winter. The whole solar power thing really seemed like the best option. Gas and diesel fuel would break down over time so finding a large gas generator would only work for the first winter. He needed a more permanent solution. He also needed to get as much done using vehicles as he could for that same reason. Gas breaks down, it’s components separate and it becomes useless. So he would have cars and trucks available for about a year or so and then that would be it. After the hour ride back home Sean pulled the reefer truck under the shade of the trees along the driveway, close enough to the tanker truck so his hand crank fuel pump would work. Above all else, he needed to keep that truck running. His life depended on it.

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Life After Death Episode 5

window with rain
Sean walked out to the woods behind the house to get Quinn for supper. His boy had a fort in the trees that he played in some times. He usually just called for him, but this time he wanted to be out there. Knocking on the door, Sean called out, “Quinn, it’s time for supper, buddy.” There was no answer, so he opened the door. Quinn was sitting inside with his back to Sean. “Hey Eskimo,” Sean said, using his pet name from the Manfred Mann song, “Whatcha doin’?” Quinn turned around. His face was white. Reaching out to his dad he said, “Am I dead, dad? Why am I dead, dad? Sean watched in horror as Quinn’s face seemed to melt away leaving only a skull. His reaching hands became skeleton hands. “Why did you let me die, dad? WHY DID YOU LET ME DIE!!!

Sean woke with a yell and sat up quickly on the couch. As tears streamed down his face he put his feet on the floor. With his head in his hands, he cried. “Quinn. Oh buddy,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry. Clair, Alex. Oh, my beautiful girls. I…I’m so sorry. Grace, oh Grace. Why? Why me? Why was I left behind?” Angus trotted up to him and he threw his arms around her neck, burying his face in her fur. She licked at him and whimpered. “You miss them too, don’t you, you big softy?” Scratching behind her ears he said, “Yeah, ya do.” Sitting back and wiping his eyes on his sleeves, he looked out the window. It was wet with rain. He and Grace loved living in the country. The window revealed their large front yard and the lake. They had always marveled at the changing seasons, watching it all together. He felt so alone. It was an empty, heavy feeling like a ton of bricks on his chest, making it hard to breathe. Angus jumped up on the couch and encouraged him to pet her more. He wasn’t quite alone after all. He had Angus. At that moment, he really felt very thankful for that.

Scratching Angus behind the ears, he shook off the remnants of the dream. Seeing Quinn’s face like that, so vivid and real really scared him. Getting up from the couch, he went to the fridge and downed about half of the water jug. Looking at the bottle reminded him that he was drinking rain water, which definitely had a different taste than his well water. And that reminded him that he would have to do something about the power issue. He was in a dire situation and had no intention of living like a cave man. He wanted electricity and the comforts he was used to, like a shower. Lifting his right arm he smelled his tee shirt. Pretty ripe, he thought. Shaking his head and arms, he cleared his mind. Some kind of solar power would be the best option, but how was he going to make that happen? Then he remembered that a friend had told him about a solar power company in the Minneapolis area. What had he said about it? The company sold solar power systems for home owners. This sounded good, but how was he going to find the place? Without his beloved Google search engine it would be like the proverbial, needle in a haystack thing.

The rain storm subsided and he and Angus went outside. Once again, the rain barrel was full so he dipped out a pail full of water for boiling later. Then he filled the gas tank on the generator and busied himself with other tasks like checking the new garden plants he had put in cold frames. They were looking good. The sun came out and warmed the air. Taking a break, he lit a cigar and sat enjoying the warmth as Angus romped around the yard. Suddenly it came to him. Blaine! His friend said the solar company was in Blaine. He was very happy that that memory had surfaced. It would make it a lot easier to find the company and hopefully figure out how to set up a solar power system. If this place sold power systems for home owners, they should have some kind of instructions on how things hooked up. Unless they did the set up for you and you just enjoyed the power. He was going to have to go to the library and see what information he could find. Going into town and entering buildings was a risky thing to do. Especially the library with all the shelves and places that could conceal a person. He was going to have to go armed. He didn’t like it, but he was going to have to do it.

Life After Death Episode 4

tire iron
Just before he reached the turnoff, Sean saw a man standing in the middle of the highway. The guy was waving his arms over his head, obviously hoping the truck would stop. He slowed down and just gaped at the guy. After not seeing a real live human being for a couple weeks it took him by surprise. He stopped the truck and saw that the man was yelling about something before he got the window rolled down. As he lowered the window the man said, “Aw man, it’s so good to see somebody, man. I ain’t seen nobody in a long time. You got any food man? I’m so hungry man, and thirsty. You got any water?” It didn’t look like the guy had any weapons on him and Sean had a couple of cereal bars in his pocket so he set the brake and stepped out and down.

As his feet touched the ground the guy jumped him. With a screaming groan the guy grabbed him around the throat and started to squeeze. Banging Sean’s head against the open door, the guy screamed “You’re not real! You’re not real!” Sean reached both hands up between the crazy guy’s arms and went for his eyes, a trick he’d learned from a friend. Shoving his right thumb into the guy’s left eye, the man screamed in pain and let go. With his hands over his face the guy screamed and thrashed around and just as Sean went to climb back in the truck the guy grabbed him and dragged him back down. As he was falling back, Sean grabbed for a tire iron that was laying on the floor next to the drivers seat. As his feet hit the ground he jabbed backward with the iron, connecting with the guys stomach. Crazy man let out an “oof” as air escaped his lungs. As the guy wound up to to punch him, Sean ducked under his arm and swung the tire iron as he spun around, cracking into his shoulder. Letting out a wail of pain, Crazy man charged. Without thinking about it, Sean swung the iron like a baseball bat. Crazy man’s skull gave a sickening crunch as the iron took him right above his ear. Like the popping of a balloon, his body simply collapsed to the ground.

Dropping the tire iron, Sean stood with his hands on his knees, catching his breath and watching Crazy man. After a moment, He nudged the guy with his foot. No movement. Reaching down and holding the guy’s wrist, he could feel no pulse. Moving to his neck and not feeling a pulse there either, Sean turned away from the dead guy and threw up in the middle of the road. Staggering back to the truck, he rinsed out his mouth several times with his water bottle, trying rinse away more than the bad taste. He had never harmed another person in his life and now he’d killed a man. Even though he was saving his own life, it still felt bad. Really bad. Sean sat in the truck for several minutes, not trusting his legs to hold him up. When the man died he had fallen under the truck and would have to be moved for Sean to pull out. Dragging 200 pounds of dead guy was no easy feat, but he managed to get him to the edge and with his foot, Sean rolled him down the embankment. Taking in gulps of air, he almost threw up again. He needed a smoke. And a drink. A smoke and a drink, he thought. Maybe two drinks. Or beer. Yeah, he thought, lots of beer.

Sean reached into the cooler for another beer but it was empty. He looked down to see four bottles on the ground near his feet. No wonder his head was swimming. He hardly ever drank, but considering the day he’d had, four beers didn’t seem like enough. What had happened helped him to realize something he should of thought of before. In a very short time, his world had changed completely. Not only had he lost his family, and for all he knew, everyone he had ever known, but everything else was gone as well. No health care, no police, no society. If he got hurt, there would be no doctor to go to. No police protection against bad guys. As far as he could tell, he was completely on his own. He would have to be very careful about the things he did. Even riding a motorcycle or driving a car would be a dangerous thing to do. Not like it wasn’t before, but he could die of infection from a simple cut if he wasn’t very careful. So four beers was probably enough.

After parking the tanker along side the driveway he had dragged a lawn chair and the beer up the hill to sit by the graves of his family. Angus joined him there and he had smoked and drank for a couple hours. Dark clouds began to move in and the first sprinkles of rain started to fall. Heading back to the house, the wind picked up and the first real Spring storm started in earnest. Thunder rolled across the country side and flashes of lightening appeared in the clouds. Safe in the house he laid on the couch and listened to the rain. He always liked rainy days and storms and never really knew why. He fell asleep to the rhythm of the rain on the window.

Life After Death Episode 3

huskie

He slept late the next morning. Angus nudged his hand, which was hanging over the edge of the bed. Opening one eye he looked at her. “What do you want?” he asked. She gave a small woof and looked toward the bedroom door. He got up slowly and walked through the house. It stunk like an ashtray. Now he knew why he shouldn’t smoke in there. As he walked past the bathroom, he saw his face in the mirror. Staring for a moment he said aloud, “Sean.” He didn’t look the same, hadn’t shaved or bothered with his hair. “I’m Sean.” he said to his reflection, reminding himself of his name. He stared a little longer and then letting Angus out the door, he looked at the list of things he needed to do. There was a lot of work ahead. He actually felt a little better. Having something to concentrate on was going to help. Cold water from the fridge and leftover chicken for breakfast got him motivated. The first thing he would do was to get out an old hand pump he had and fit it with a long hose. No electricity was going to make it hard to get gas for the vehicles. If he had a long enough hose he could hand pump it from the underground tanks at gas stations. He had never harmed another person in his life but felt like he might have to protect himself if he ran into others. So he strapped on his 22 pistol and loaded the 12 gauge for the ride into town.

In the truck, Angus rode on the passenger side with her head out the window. They drove slowly, checking out the county side and houses for signs of life. He tried to prepare himself for seeing dead bodies but then realized that most people who died probably did so in their houses. The virus was so awful that you couldn’t stand up or move much for the last week. Arriving in town he drove to the nearest hardware store. Pulling right up to the front doors he stepped out and looked around. Nothing. Not a sound except for birds chirping. A large window in the front of the store had been broken out and he stepped through it into the darkness inside. He left Angus in the truck because of the broken glass. Grabbing a shopping cart Sean filled it with flashlights, batteries, plastic hose, and a large side cutter to snap locks and all the plastic gas cans in the store. The store had a gun section so after busting open a cabinet he grabbed 12 gauge shells and 22 long rifle bullets. On the way out he swept up the entire display of disposable lighters.

Driving to the gas station he fixed the hose with clamps to the hand pump he had brought, snapped the lock off the underground tank cap and lowered the hose into the gasoline. Standing on the pump legs he began to pump. The pump was built like a bicycle pedal set up. You grabbed each handle and turned the crank like peddling your bike with your hands. The gas came right up the hose and poured on the ground. Putting the other end in the gas tank of the truck, he filled it up. After filling up all the gas cans he pulled up the hose and packed everything back into the truck. From there they drove to the local truck stop out on the interstate, and checked out the tanker trucks. He found a diesel tanker and climbed up the ladder in the middle of the tank to opened the hatch. He watched the sun reflect off a full tank of diesel fuel. Nice. Climbing down, he found a small motorcycle and loaded it into the back of his truck and headed for home. Doing everything yourself takes a lot of planning ahead.

After putting all the supplies in the house he chained Angus up to keep her from running after him and rode the motorcycle back to town. This time he only carried the 22 on his belt and a back pack filled with a water bottle and heavy rubber bungee cords he’d had in the garage. Riding up to the diesel tanker he shut the bike down and set it on the kickstand. Pulling open the driver side door to look for the keys he stepped up and the smell of death hit him square in the face. Stepping backward, his foot hit open air and he fell to the pavement, landing on his butt. The driver had died slumped over in the passenger seat of the truck. Walking into the station, he took several deep breaths of air through his nose to clear away the smell and focus his mind. He had never had to deal with death like this before. Funerals were one thing. This was completely different. Inside he found foam earplugs, rubber gloves and four cans of spray air freshener. Back at the truck he shoved the earplugs into his nose, put on the gloves and opened the door. Climbing up he grabbed the driver by the arm and pulled him out to the ground.

Even with the plugs in his nose, the smell was awful. He searched the pockets in the drivers clothes but couldn’t find keys. Standing up and glancing into the truck he saw them on the floor. He went around and opened the drivers door again and used the air freshener to hose out the cab. After letting it air out a few minutes he used more air freshener and did it all over again. Then he lifted up the motorcycle and strapped the front wheel to the grill bars on the front of the truck. Lifting it up by the back wheel he strapped that to the bars and shutting the passenger door, he climbed into the cab. The 22 pistol chafed his leg when he sat down so he laid it on the seat beside him. Keeping the plugs in his nose he started the truck. Years ago he went on a cross country trip with a friend of his, the two of them switching off driving his buddy’s semi. It was the one and only time he ever drove a big rig. This one was an older model with a manual clutch which was lucky. The smell was still bad but tolerable as he pulled out of the truck stop. Killing the rig a couple of times until he got used to shifting and clutching he headed down the road toward home.

Life After Death Episode 2

grave with stones

He spent a long time that day, sitting by the graves. He just didn’t know what else to do. Angus, who was a female Husky, stayed with him. He had always liked the name Angus, and when they got her as a puppy, his wife thought a girl’s name would be better, but he had won her over. The dog wouldn’t care, he said. She would answer to what ever they called her, so Angus it was. She was a good, loyal dog who had loved them all and protected the kids. The kids. My kids, he thought, and cried again. Some time later, it started to rain. A light sprinkle, the kind his wife had loved so much. They stayed for a little while longer and then slowly walked down to the house. Just as they went in, the electricity went out. He went to the basement to check the breaker box and found that nothing was wrong. Upstairs, he looked out the window at the house across the county road. The people there always left their porch light on. Now it was off. Well that’s it he thought. The electric is gone. He and his wife grew a pretty good size garden and liked to can fruit and vegetables so their pantry was pretty well stocked. It was almost April which meant that the garden would need to be started up soon. They always planned ahead and had all the seed ready for planting. Cold frames had already been started and now it would mean more than ever. It would mean he might not starve.

Later in the evening when lights from the lake houses should have been on, it was pitch black. His house was about a thousand feet away from the nearest house on the lake and he could always see them down the road. But there were no lights anywhere. None across the lake either. It proved he was right. The coal plant where their electricity came from must have shut down. Nobody left to run it he supposed. He had a small generator and a couple cans of gas so running a cord into the house gave he and Angus a lamp, and a hot plate they used to make candles with afforded him a hot supper. Angus had dog food. He would have to come up with something better than this or times would get tough. Their water pump in the basement was wired right into the breaker box so he had no running water. They had a rain barrel though so boiling a potful on the hot plate gave them something to drink. He also had plugged the refrigerator into the generator so for the time being they had that. With the deaths of his family so fresh, it was hard to think of much else. But he knew he’d have to get busy figuring out how the hell he was going to live in a world without people pretty soon.

After he ate he did something he had never done before. He lit up a cigar in the house. He liked to smoke them but never in the house, subjecting his wife and kids to second hand smoke. No one around now to tell him any different. Doing something normal like having a smoke, cleared his head. so he stayed up late making plans. Unless he was going to live like a cave man he would need a permanent source of power. Solar power seemed like the way to go but he knew nothing about it or how it worked. A visit to the library was in order. There were a lot of things he was going to have to learn and learn in a hurry. He had Spring, Summer and Autumn ahead of him but the time would go by quickly and Winter would kill him if he wasn’t prepared. He thought he could pick up and move South where he wouldn’t have to worry about cold but that got him thinking about other people. There must be others who survived this thing like he did. Where were they? What would they be doing?

He thought about movies he had seen and books about end times like Stephen King’s, “The Stand.” He wondered what others might do. There could be people who would take charge and become dictator types. There could be religious nuts. There could be people who went crazy from grief and would kill anyone they found. Others might have the same idea of moving South and he decided the best option would be to stay right where he was and prepare for what was to come. so he got out a pen and paper, lit another cigar and went to work.

Life After Death Episode 1

I didn’t like the way I was writing this story so I am rewriting it from a third person perspective. Here is Episode 1 in the rewritten form. Hope you like it.

empty streets

As he placed the last stone, he knelt in the grass and thought about all that had happened. When their youngest daughter first got sick, he and Grace took her to the doctor like any parents would. They arrived to find many parents with children that had the same symptoms; green mucus and a rasping, rattling, painful cough. They had seen the news reports of people coming down with these symptoms starting in Texas and moving North. He remembered now that there had been a South wind for several days after hearing the initial reports.

They had been told at the doctor’s office that it was a virus and modern medicine couldn’t do much for viruses. Take her home, keep her warm and fed, they were told. They had tried essential oils, which seemed to help at first, but she just kept getting worse. Then, their next oldest came down with it. The youngest died two days later. When they called 911 to report the death they were informed that hundreds were now dying and nothing could really be done. “It’s illegal,” the police captain, who they had been transferred to had said, “But you might as well bury your child at home. At least she’ll get buried.” When their second child died, their oldest, a boy, ran off for the woods. He had a fort out there where he liked to play. When his father went to find him the boy said he didn’t want to come home. He didn’t want the virus too. And then he coughed. And coughed again. A week later he was dead as well, but Sean had to bury him by himself because Grace was too sick to help.

He had held her close as she took her last breath, crying tears that rarely came to him. And now his tears wet the field stones that he had placed on her grave. Stones that she had collected from her grandparents corn field to line her flower beds in the front yard. She would have liked this, he thought. The four graves were placed on top of the hill overlooking their property. A nice view of the surrounding countryside and the lake. An eagle flew overhead, her favorite bird. A loon called from the lake. A mournful tune she had often tried to imitate.

They had watched the television news together when a report finally came about a fire and brimstone fundamentalist preacher in Texas taking credit for the virus. A member of his church worked for a military lab in Dallas and had smuggled out the virus in sealed tubes. The whole congregation had stood on a hill top and while singing praises to their God, released the virus to the winds. The T.V. showed him screaming into a microphone about how God had commanded him to bring about the end of times. God’s judgement would soon cover the earth but the true believers, meaning his congregation, would be spared and would see God in heaven. And just as he was reaching his crescendo he coughed. And coughed again, this time so hard that mucus flew into the hand he had covered his mouth with. Green mucus. He stared hard at his hand. The T.V. camera catching it all. He looked into the camera, dropped the microphone and left the stage, the crowd suddenly in an uproar. A member of the preacher’s congregation picked up the mic and said the preacher needed a break for a minute but would be back. The camera panned the audience. Fearful, questioning looks everywhere. Yeah, he’d be back alright.

A month later the entire structure of society had broken down. People everywhere were getting sick. Stores closed, T.V. and radio stations started dropping off the air. Still, reports were coming in on the ones that were left saying that the entire world was infected. Cameras showed empty streets because in the last week of the illness people were so sick, they couldn’t get off their beds. But homes were filled with bodies, the reporter said. And then she coughed. And coughed again. On the last radio station he could pick up the announcer said he was all alone. And finally, he started coughing on the air and soon he was gone. The shortwave radio Sean had, picked up Deutche Welle in Germany. The same story there. Everyone was dying. That radio went dead two days later.

And now, here he was, beside his family’s graves feeling healthy but grieving. Why wasn’t he sick? Why wasn’t he dead? His dog, Angus, lay beside him with her head between her paws. “What the hell, Angus?” he said. “What the hell just happened?”