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New Beginnings

New Beginnings

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Published by Brian W. Porter

Featured on Scribd. Larger font can be read on phones. A fanatical group in the Middle Eastern desert releases a biological agent that has a nearly one hundred percent death rate in the belief that Allah will protect those who truly believe. After almost all humans on the world die, a small group tries to build a community in a previously converted mill. Man and nature throw numerous obstacles in their way. Will they survive? Or is the human race doomed to a slow death?

Novels for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008WL291M

Featured on Scribd. Larger font can be read on phones. A fanatical group in the Middle Eastern desert releases a biological agent that has a nearly one hundred percent death rate in the belief that Allah will protect those who truly believe. After almost all humans on the world die, a small group tries to build a community in a previously converted mill. Man and nature throw numerous obstacles in their way. Will they survive? Or is the human race doomed to a slow death?

Novels for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008WL291M

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Published by: Brian W. Porter on Jul 17, 2010
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  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 6
  • Chapter 7
  • Chapter 8
  • Chapter 9
  • Chapter 10
  • Chapter 11
  • Chapter 12
  • Chapter 13
  • Chapter 14
  • Chapter 15
  • Chapter 16
  • Chapter 17
  • Chapter 18
  • Chapter 19
  • Chapter 20
  • Chapter 21

New Beginnings

Brian W. Porter

After a fanatical group in the Middle Eastern desert, who believe that Allah will protect those who truly follow him, releases a biological agent that has a nearly one hundred percent death rate, after almost all humanity on the planet dies, two people try to build a community in an old mill converted to housing for upper middle class. Others join their small community and struggle to survive despite the obstacles man and nature throw in their way.

Also by Brian W. Porter You Cannot Run From Yourself The Discovery of Tonylobons The Defense of Tonylobons The Caterpillar Campaign Growing a Colony The Regional Life The Traveler Books or previews available at http://www.scribd.com/Brian%20W %20Porter Novels for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008WL291M

Porter All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced. stored in or introduced into a retrieval or peer to peer system. characters. or locals is entirely coincidental. events. in any form or by any means. living or dead. Names.Copyright 2010 / 2013 by Brian W. and any resemblance to actual persons. or transmitted. This is a work of fiction. and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. places. . without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. business establishments.

and travels extensively throughout the northeast.Brian W. studied photography and a smattering of sciences. He has published many books and short documents electronically on Scribd.and whitecollar jobs during his sixty plus years. . He has worked on a farm. Porter lives in northern Delaware with his wife and cats. and held many blue.

and on this side. I could see what used to be New Jersey across the river. especially after the human race all but died. a teller of tales. and yellow. and the schools of Claymont. For entertainment proffered. with leaves of dampness' sheen. Enjoy. the springtime growth. I do. New arrows to protect me. that cover house and road. part of the old industrial area. all that I could take. New growth of trees and flowers. Rubble from when buildings fall. bring me ideas. Everything was burnt out. Blue and brown. the colors just awake Purple. not much of a poet. and the color green. but it rhymed mostly. grass and brush and weeds That fill the local clearings. red. From sharing others' stories in a village by a lake. I thought that maybe some scenery and reminders of what used to be would help me think. An hour I had walked along since my latest break. The people gave me food to use. or halfway to ruins. What could we do about the kids? We couldn't just let them go. who spoke with a strong rhythm. Samuel A hand of nights had passed me by since I had started out. as is my usual way. Stopping often to record what nature did to dwell In places where humans lived until that dreadful day. some residences. but I didn't have any other options that I could think of. Then we would be a haven for inbreeding. It was here that a wanderer found me.Prologue Bradley I had come here to my quiet place at the top of a hill to mull over a question that had been bothering me for a while. and it was on the fly as it were. pink. It reminded me of how small a force we humans are. Southwest I slowly wandered. l did not have a doubt. forest's fallen trees. new stories I could tell. . lavender.

I emerged from 'mong the quiet trees into an open space. To view the world. just sit and meditate. yet comfortable he sat . a place of sales that nature did corrode As she did to everything that is left outdoors. what I understood. his constant fight to live. Cuts and bruise. Nature does repair the hurt that man does to the land. Strong from years of true hard work. for man's building to erode. No cloth or finished skin he wore. A man sat cross-leg on the hill. Long brown scraggly hair he had with flowing streaks of gray Thin from years of cutting back. a gentle reprimand Still amazed the child in me. Salt and pepper beard surrounded a face that did look wizened. The burned out squares joined with others by rubble from a road. to sit and think. the pleasures of this date. Blocks of steeled concrete are left from the ancient roads. staring o'er tall weed Toward the land that showed stretched across to the horizon. whatever they portrayed. Brush that grew through rusting steel hid by moss and grass.Treacherous foot travel for those with no abode. All taken back by Mother Nature's overwhelming hand. A once great nation now was changed into a lush green wood. The main road dropped down a hill and found some former stores. Two housing areas dead by fire opened up a place. The pride of architects. Other times I saw the place large fires burned away The former wealth of humans. His body showed his hard fought life. their art. He had passed his fortieth summer from what little I could see. As nature slowly worked. from self imposed denial. And it looked his recent life had been a long slow trial. pain I found in the new growth grass. The power that she showed to all. from toil every day. Surrounded by bird song and color. Strip malls they were. the former pride of man.

It seems that even the . or trying to be the best acrobat on the jungle gym. or the malls. He ignored me as I neared him. Far off into the past he stared. from former existence Finally. Look out over the river valley. Even the river is devoid of movement. empty now and falling apart? I remember the red dust that would drift skyward from the roof vents as workers readied scrap for the furnace. not on a warm. mankind's former lair. No trains pass on the Chessie System across there just this side of the steel plant. gave many life of rat. or the Northeast Corridor there between the last road and the river. . I thought that he was watching what had been his life before. You can see the cracks and potholes that span the width of the pavement. who learned ancient ways Began to lead. to bring us back to life from this affront. Was all my stranger's eyes could see of places far and near What God took back from mankind's work. erosion that was slow. or adventures beyond. no teacher's whistles. I miss watching the cars pass. Green with growth including there the hills of rubble low. Kids should be playing around us. See the steel plant. The land across the green hillside. his former life. spring day. No traffic strains on the steep hill of Naamans Road here heading for homes. Interstate 95 that winds through over there between the school and us needs repair now more than ever. Memories from years gone by. For a time I stood nearby and looked toward where he stared And searched to see what he could see across land of contrasts.To think and meditate about the little life could give Since the virus destroyed all man. although now there seems to be more life under the water than ever. as I walked through tall grown grass. And fire and the flood that quickly made things disappear. Words of his past. into the bygone days Before most humans had to learn how to scrounge and hunt Before the few who had the skills. I hear no playful screams. he spoke to me his memories of yore. "That empty school yard over there is just not right. no shouts. sights he saw distant. arguing whose turn it is on the swing or slide. The twists and turns of the road you can see over there don't have cars and trucks speeding around them in steady streams anymore.

and several days of steady rain. I visit all the villages I find all along my way. travel tribe to tribe. if you want. Who are you?" "My name is Samuel. That’s all in the past. None of what used to be will happen again. more than seven miles away. You can hear . Never again will kids go to organized school. Now only charred ruins show where a once great technology reigned. Possibly the air is getting clearer since the fire smoke has blown away and the rain has settled the pollution.pollution has diminished. "I am a wandering scribe. He said. I've not seen you around these parts before. We’ll make you welcome for a night or two. Do you wish to listen. probably caused by a lightning strike that first year. like a miniature just across the room. Unfold he did and stood upright in the tall green grass. Or it's just a good day with little humidity. It’s about time for the yellow buses to arrive and all the children in the school to run noisily from their classes. I would. devastated the refineries of Marcus Hook that stood just a touch up river. "Look at this. And pass that learning on to others in vocal communique. Good day. better than even a year ago. It looks close. All the people are family. "Yes. although more likely it's that the cause of that pollution has disappeared. And there are times that I have tried to be a poet here. Only a creek. His hand held out in greeting remembered from the recent past. that’s up to you. An information source to those who have the will to hear." I said then. I wander so around the land. It’s time for us to head towards my home. at least for many generations. prevented the fire from spreading beyond the buildings into the country. I’m doing it again. "Look at the position of the sun over there. and so would the others I am sure. learning the new skills. "You can see Chester clearly way up there. It seems that I can see the town. We have food and a place for you to sleep. And partake the lifestyle they live there. stranger. That spark grew into a fire that spread through the whole town and then some. though. or you may want to stay a year or more. "One untended spark. making myself depressed. learn? Do you have the will?" He answered.

The tale he told as we began our hike back to his land. If you want. Any question or a wish they would strive to comply.our stories. One person's say. Made me a part of their family. Of how folk lived after the poison killed most human beings. And let them live there or away without any parole. a different minuet. a portion of the whole. when all others had died. . Tell tales of who survives. Respect to all and gave good care to any who they found. Call it only the big death." I know that you the reader ask who is this story man. Family they were to all the land. this one I'd met. Even a total stranger. A traveler is all I say. ten years the maintenance man. What accomplishments some have and what is done and gone. in what was once rich homes. the best of folk around. This one tale I will write as told when we talked 'til dawn For one summer and a winter I enjoyed their love. Began the community he did. and how they cope each day. and such a one am I. than others I have met. They live much differently than most. what I normally say. Knew the place from times before. Have their ways and thinks they did. How the others live throughout their lives. Familiar with the area. all fitting as a glove. a chronicler of lives. Near the banks of a small river. after he did roam. Opened all the doors and rooms in their community. this one who just met me. With the help of three more folk who were themselves bereft. A small community had formed with what it was man left. Think they're strange I think you will. too. This is how I earn my keep. The story of his life is what I heard as if I priest.

I have got to finish that book. All while that we walked he told this tale of life. It bothered me. but I can't place it. I read the remainder of the book. A quick shower and a second cup of coffee brought my alertness level up to par. I thought to myself. I thought. ready for the day. Something's missing. In silence. stores. yet I'm the only car. Several neighbors' cars remained parked along the street. An uneasy feeling began to grow. Those people are usually at work by now. stumbled out to the kitchen. and inevitable strife Bradley Thursday. Filled with love of others. I had neared the climax the night before and only had few pages to go as my eyes closed by themselves and the book fell open against my chest. Where are all the people? I'm the only one moving. In the distance. I packed the same lunch I always did and walked out the door. April 27. My trepidation grew. I could hear birds singing. 2017 (I remember that day well) I woke. yet my subconscious realized I'd never heard those noises before. built in the time before. but no cops roamed the area making reports. You like that word? I'm thinking. my cooler and briefcase in one hand and the mandatory cup of coffee in the other. Next to gurgling water and a placid pond unrushed. Traffic should be so heavy that I can't move. pain. An animal rustled in the bushes across the street. most off on the grass or wrecked somehow. I guess I was still half asleep or not paying attention or something. What's happening? A hundred or so trucks and a few cars lined the side of Interstate 95. This isn't right. I quickly scrambled some eggs and microwaved a potato patty. I should have been running slowly because of the idiots who couldn't figure out how to drive without jamming everyone else up. Under trees with large green crowns. Now what . Something's different. and offices that were livable no more. I quickly drove to the condominiums along empty roads. roads that should have been packed with traffic. and poured a cup of coffee. past bushes and thick brush. Past houses.Chapter 1 Samuel Walked along a roadway we did. On a conscious level I didn't notice anything different. Out of habit.

can't be anything else. a motion detector inside a unit. No one's around. except the last one that I ran. The place stank. Fred's got to be dead. When no one answered. I opened the door. but I'd seen none of them as I'd come down the hill. Fred. Again. and looked in as I slid my key into the lock. Now what? They only do that when there's a major problem such as a fire. As I passed.happened there? I wonder if they're OK. Again. I got no answer when I dialed. As I pulled into the complex. One of his cats ran in. someone had broken into one of the liquor stores setting off its audible alarm. It's too much like 'The Outer Limits' or 'The Twilight Zone'. calling my name and job title. no cops were around. Usually several people left at this time. Something's going on. Fred lay slumped on the counter. I parked in the employee area. I would have to check it before long to see if a wire was loose or it needed replacement. It didn't look like he breathed. Scary. I noted that the crowds in the city had not developed. so it‘s probably all right. or stood at the gate. I selected the proper key from the lock box. walked to the detector at the end of the . One of the alarms began to sound. On Route 202. I figured no one was home. the left center of four in a gray stained building of the new section. I have to call the cops. All these differences finally began to build up in my mind. This was a normal occurrence since he let them roam every night. This is weird. That had happened to another motion detector. The local train I saw every morning did not appear on the tracks leading to the station. I cursed every red light I came to as I stopped. or at least an ambulance. This is not good. or if a spider built a web inside. hurried to the gatehouse. a standoffish calico. but I don't have time to find out what it is. Maybe doing a normal chore would bring the world back to normal. and then used the key to enter. a bluish tinge to his lips. I checked my mirror for flashing lights. Still. This is turning into one hell of a morning. again. but it doesn't look like murder. On the board in front of me was a note that it had malfunctioned early in the evening. I held my breath as I opened the windows. I rang the doorbell twice. Nothing's right. I noticed that the guard at the gate was missing and the gates were open. I'm running late. What's happening? A call to nine-one-one produced a ringing sound and nothing more. I removed my shoes and left them on the ceramic tile of the foyer – I told you I was conscientious – climbed the hardwood stairs to the third floor. I knew the guard. and went to the unit. his face pasty white. would need help. even if it was only someone covering the gate while he was away. and then stepped away from the almost palpable odor. I'm thinking. There was a note on the front counter of the gatehouse to call one of the residents and wake them. left the gates raised. This is definitely not right.

What the hell is happening to the world? The electricity died. No one answered. My guys must be on the way. The local ambulance service would not answer either. too. while the small incandescent lamp on the desk slowly died. an easy fix. Then the florescent lights began to do strange dances. removed the cover. No one could answer. I gently pushed open the door to find the owner. I crumpled to the floor and cried. Totally and completely alone. I screamed. I was alone. There were other items of greater importance. heard a dial tone – almost the first normal happening of the morning – and dialed nine-one-one. a problem I could solve with a touch of solder. It rang for three minutes straight without an answer. I swept the computer and all its paraphernalia off the desk. What's happening? Once inside I booted the computer and brought up the tenet files. I felt fragile. It's like the end of the world or something. This is weird. I made my way to the maintenance office through the strangely quiet complex. Later. half off the bed lying in his waste. OK. John's slated for gate duty. I did not answer myself. I thought. I cried. I decided to see if the owner was asleep and climbed another set of hardwood stairs. The vibration of the heat pump would break the circuit. Nineteen doctors owned condos in the complex. I hurled curses at everything I saw. I wonder why he's not here. There's no one left. Totally weird. whatever that meant. It finally hit me that something major had changed in my life. A call to the other security and maintenance personnel had the same result. and found one of the wires broken. The lights dimmed. . The bedroom door opened a crack only to assault me with a foul odor. but it was just enough to illuminate obstacles as you left. I sat in the near dark. afraid of the dark for the first time since I was two. I screamed. First the computer went down as the voltage dropped to its low limit.hall. As I came out of shock several minutes later. setting off the alarm. I'm alone. "What's wrong?" I did not know. this is big. not enough for work. It's like. That scared me even more than finding Fred. but gradually over a matter of minutes. broken. yet none of them answered their phone. The emergency light kicked in. and the only response that I got from the hospital was a hysterical woman screaming at me that they were all dead. a young executive who seemed to be getting promotions quickly. it's like – it's like nothing that's ever happened before. Now what? It's not as if I'm waiting here for something to happen. No way had traffic delayed them. I don't need this. I lifted the phone. The crunch of the landings heightened my fright. Shadows seemed to come alive. but they should be here by now. I cried. not in a split second as if a wire had broken.

thirty-one feet of three-quarter-inch . I guess my mind's defenses kicked in. and took them outside into the light. too. That's a start. With daylight filtering through the small area. What else? More food! Let's see. These should work. mountain skills. My first act of burglary. It's time to go traveling. The pumps aren't working without electricity. Survival guides. I packed it all into the motor home. All the staples I could find found a place on board. Hmm. like information. Using the small residential roads that trucks could not use. That would do for now. and then went back to the first condo I opened. see what. The owner. Several other visits supplied me with weapons and ammo. Even the cops don't answer. Those lights dimmed as if the generators at the power plant died. if only I could see. That should do. A quick search of the records confirmed who had weapons. scavenge. sort of. I need fuel. Hmm. Good quality clothes. Now what? There are more things I need. No traffic coming in. but I'll have to pick up more later. I walked out with two fuel pumps. to run. fish. I'll need to hunt. is around. Think. Then I went scavenging. the former owner had a complete set of camping equipment. They told me to flee. too. I broke in. I made my way to the mall. It looks as I'm on my own. and then began searching for part numbers. I should be able to find what I needed. and I used my memory to work out who would have other items I would need. it's not just a wire breaking. or who. Soon there'll be no food. I know that much. all top of the line. this will do the trick. but the fuel tank was less than a quarter full. Even with the computer down. But why? What's happening? More to the point. At least I got my wheels. what are you going to do now? I was scared to death and I did not know what to do or where to turn. netted me the keys to a motor home. books. Ah. I opened the lock on the tenant file cabinet. and plenty of it. I'll need clothes. The batteries were charged and the motor home started with no problem. I organized. too. Now fuel. no people except dead people. A few minutes later. dude.That blackout. I felt my way to the door of the basement office to prop it open. throwing items in a shopping cart and returning to the camper when it filled. Sporting goods. Down the street was a gas station that also sold bulk propane and diesel. An auto parts store occupied a building just down the street from the fuel pumps. These will work. For several hours I shopped. no longer enforceable. checked a catalog. I know where to get that. I checked the vitals of the converted bus. The oil and coolant were topped off. I opened other units. OK. I had access to hard files. Six cases of propane for the lantern should do me for a while. no. pulled all the owner's files. a listed item according to the complex's bylaws. plain living. I want everything nonperishable. I need protection.

No radio. It took almost an hour for the system to fuel both tanks of the camper. a foul odor hung in the air. That's good. either. The ten-foot piece I attached to the output of the second pump. No skip. electricity supplied by the camper battery. That afternoon I drove the motor home back to my house. and two hundred feet of heavy wire. the pumps won't work. I can listen to the short wave in the camper. Even the garage where the freezer stood held the odor for a few days. I have to get out of here. The system should give me enough pressure to push the fuel up a small rise and into the motor home. but I was in no hurry. It smelled like the time one of the resident's freezer went down without their knowledge. my imagination forming pictures as I read the news stories and caught up on recent happenings. no matter how carefully I searched the bands. Ah.fuel hose. I heard nothing. I checked and found it spoiled with no power. No cars. No wonder it stinks. another rare occurrence. No sewage treatment. A gurgling sound greeted me. Of course! The water's pumped by electric pumps. at fifty pounds per square inch. All afternoon I listened to the radio. Nothing. They lost two hundred pounds of meat that day and it took a week to fumigate the thing. jumper cables. A switch in line with the wires connected to the motor home's battery controlled the flow. What had happened? What had destroyed the world? The answer lay in the newspapers I brought home. Even the lovely young ladies I like to look at have disappeared. I thought. The twenty-foot section slid into the underground gas storage tank at the gas station and connected to the inlet of the first fuel pump. the papers illuminated by the lantern. Everybody's is this way. It's the food in the fridge. and it'll be quiet enough to hear them. Maybe the only good to come out of this mess. Of course the power was off here also. No trains. Everything's gone. I put a pot under the faucet and turned on the water. The world is dead. Nothing. As I walked outside the odor did not dissipate as I expected. I took the lantern and propane stove inside the house to cook dinner. hell. *** When I woke up the next morning. Without electricity. I read into the night. There was more to the smell as I found out shortly. As the sun set. Now I could pull fuel from under the ground and shoot it where I wished. What now? I checked the house across . cut off ten feet of hose. I walked back to the gas station. At least that's what I hoped. then a one-foot length. clamps. Just noise. Therefore no water. Somebody in the world will be broadcasting. which meant no computer or tube. The short piece I used to connect the two pumps in series. Even the bitch that's making my life miserable won't bother me again. I did not sleep well.

Three weeks after I started my journey. slowly making my way to Route 13 and toward rural slower Delaware. . most of the vehicles that had run off the road and wrecked seemed to be big rigs. I filled my propane tank at the local gas stop and slowly headed south again. I took just long enough to stockpile bottled water before I left. but looters and scavengers had visited most already. I began my adventure. Bows and arrows worked for years. A rabbit roamed around the field I had camped next to. The odor pushed me back as I opened the door. That'll work. One bullet gone.the street. The few people I saw ran from me. well. I collected several bows and ten cases of arrows at the club. close to the border of Maryland and about seventy-five miles south of where I started. nibbling on some grass and then hopping a few feet. I hadn't practiced much since I didn't want to waste ammunition. but I knew the basics. The only store intact was the bookstore. and the craft of arrow and bow making. and collected them to read later. which was probably just as well. dodging the few cars in the way. squeezed the trigger. Looters had destroyed most of the food and supply stores. Fresh meat would be good. only on a much larger scale. I considered the implications of the ransacking of all the stores. I sighted my twenty-two. Thoughts of what someone would do to obtain transportation caused me to place a loaded handgun on the engine cover. Millions of people had died at once. Gone. and watched the rabbit bolt away from the puff of dust near its feet. At least I knew there were others about. The next morning I searched through a local phone book and found the address of the local sporting goods store. then disappeared. and even better. For three weeks I explored the small towns of central and southern Delaware. Boy. especially roasted over a fire as the Indians used to cook it. Delaware. I wondered if I could hit it with the rifle. The papers I scanned that night confirmed that opinion. an indication that the catastrophe had happened late at night. do I need practice. I discovered that as I headed south. The emanations of their decomposition dissipated and combined to form a pungency never experienced before. found three weeks of out of town newspapers in the back. I stopped at several of the shopping centers as I traveled past the airport. I began to understand the massiveness of destruction to the human race. I can't make any more. Oh. I broke in for a road atlas and more books about roughing it. I also found books on beginning and advanced archery. the archery club. The supermarket just down the street had a problem similar to my refrigerator's. I spent one night in Selbyville. half sick from the offensive reek.

"See down there? That broken and patched building and the small field behind it? That's the first farm. Worked our way we carefully did along a path through trash. . Bradley said. a barn in need of stain. What might have been a housing group that burned into the ground. And then changed into several homes. A group of large buildings. stood beyond that barn." said Bradley. and occasionally I crashed O'er broken asphalt pieces that lay upon the ground. we did. A factory next to the stream it looked like it had been. well kept. The trees were small and growing. You'll hear more when we get there.I passed through Pocomoke city a few days later. Reached a rise and saw. then many more were formed. Samuel "Watch that rock. Beyond that down there is the village. but I'll let everyone tell their own story.

'Bout twenty-three years old she was. A life untouched by care she'd had. evidence of kids. she asked. She bent quickly over the fire. or actually he found me. ." Bradley smiled at me. She wore her skin as if it was the only way to dress. you know. The feelings that arose in me I felt were very wrong But natural. Called to us a friendly greeting. wood door in feet thick walls. a well lit hide from roams. But not an easy live by far. Inside a pleasant living space. I think. "I walked out to overview. here. Not gorgeous like a statue or a copper panel pressed But still a pleasant sight to see. To an entry doorway. Without looking around. by the ancient clock. a strong desire society forbids. her work was hard and long. And considered me a long lost friend I was she welcomed back. And when she stood I saw her shape. Brown hair tied in ponytail held by leather thong Flowed over top one well-used breast. I looked at a large cooking hearth. I've been telling him about what's happened over the past ten years. a woman through and through. muscular and strong." "So? You brought him back?" She turned to face us and I saw she'd led an easier life. tended by a gal. "Where did you go? Rich and George were looking for you.Chapter 2 Samuel We walked into a factory converted into homes. one without much strife. that place where I think. You can fix those leaks up at the barn. Soft she looked in skin and face. They found more shingles in good shape. looks she did not lack. and some wood. Found Samuel. stirring in a crock. while she cooked the food.

hay scratched my hands as I moved bales around in search for eggs. I smeared sweat off my brow and out of my eyes with the back of my hand. it had been so long since I had seen people. there's so much dust. and then repeated the act with the second egg. "Yep. the road! Someone's on the road! People! But who? Everyone I know is dead. I drilled a hole in one end of an egg and sucked out the contents. Charlie. I threw the bird to the side and seized my banquet. I'd only found broken and empty shells left by earlier marauders. it was late afternoon and I searched the hayloft for eggs in the dust-filtered light. I absently stroked him while I waited for something to move. butted me for attention.Bradley answered. to find a hen standing over a fresh egg. So far. The bottom rung creaked. You want to continue?" Helen That first day I saw Brad. but held. but captured it instead with the hope that my luck was changing. He purred for a bit then moved off on another cat errand. almost starving and alone. It's. He has news of others not that far away. Yes. desperate to find at least one egg before the rats ate my next meal. I almost stepped on another egg." Turned a spit and stirred a pot before she looked out window. As I cradled the egg lovingly in my hand. I used to see that. Ghosts? Maybe they're after me! I climbed down the ladder holding on with one hand. but saw nothing. I could see what had moved now. "Can't see them. a flash from between the boards of the barn wall caught my attention. I was in that poor shape. A commotion behind a bale about fifteen feet away from me drew my attention. I thought. raising clouds of dust and pollen. Kneeling on the ground. Anyway. my favorite of the farm cats. Where are the kids?" "Out playing. Give a yell. Light comes through the cracks in the side of the barn wall and it looks like you're walking through fog. the other hand cradling my prized egg. I'm at the place where I found you. it's. You ever been in a hayloft? It's dustier than any place you can imagine. Panting. a motor home camper on the main road . will you? What have you been telling him?" "Well. I began to throw the bales around. I peered around the edge of the shed. I sprang to the noise. I ran outside and cut to the right behind the utility shed to see what was on the road. It took me a bit to remember what that was.

right. Dad said the cows had plenty of water and refused to clean the weeds out. His stomach was larger than his chest. a place from which I could see him clearly. well. It went past the road my driveway was on. To me it looked like that was what he was going to do. he found a large container and began to walk toward the pasture. at least not right away. There's this stream that passes through the pasture near the house. in a softly muscular sort of way. then placed a propane lantern on the table. I didn't think it would rain. I could see a large man. the beginning of a dreary evening that worked to my advantage. He climbed the three string barbed wire fence very cautiously to my mind and continued walking. but I hadn't seen anything move on that road in weeks. from the clothes and short hair I thought it was a he. He filled the container. He had a full head of hair. Charlie curled up in my lap and napped as he sometimes did. what I'd heard called a potbelly. a person climbed out and walked toward the back. If this had been before everything changed that would have caused an accident. to see what he would do. Yeah. almost as old . I waited about 100 feet from where the man sat. opening several flaps along the way. Is it worth the risk to get food? I have eggs and stuff here. built a small dock so we could jump in the water on hot days. Is he OK? Can I trust him? He has food. He looked to be fairly old. Now this stranger came to visit our pond. staying hidden. I hoped. I followed him. As I watched. and a mustache down his chin that looked as if it was ready to grow into a beard. What the heck does he think he's doing? I asked myself. As the light faded. My dad dug out a large round area with his backhoe right in the middle of that stream. then waited for the pond to fill. yet the light from the lantern wouldn't reach me. I crawled along the grass filled drainage ditches toward where the motor home had stopped. weeks. took out a chair and table from a storage compartment. light brown in color and slightly scraggly. then set them up on the road under a shelter. He dug out a pot and a rectangular object that opened into a propane stove. The past couple of years grass and weeds began to fill in the area opposite the dock. He. dropped them into the water and secured the top. though. He woke as clouds blocked the setting sun. A few hours passed. then counted ten tablets from a bottle he had in his pocket.going slowly. I slid between the top two wires and watched from some tall weeds. After he headed back to the camper. but it would be dark earlier than normal and easier to reach the road without being seen. I took time for a drink and thought. then stopped dead in the middle of Route 13. Who is he? He's the first person I've seen in days. After a few minutes. I could use the drainage ditch to sneak up to the camper if he stayed where he was.

As he filled the plate again. Traffic was light – ha! It was nonexistent – so I slowed to a crawl and . I told her. While I ate. near a farm building on my right. I listened to him drone on about the reason all the people died. Helen had become the love of my life shortly after we met when she proved her worth as I had to protect her. I caught a glimpse of movement. took away my anxiety." *** I was doing that trip I told you about. yet he seemed to know where I sat. if for nothing else than just company and safety if I got hurt. and that's an understatement. For three weeks. When he placed a plate of lumpy brown good smelling goop on a rock away from the lantern. I had explored my home state. "You better take care of that and let me continue. Then he offered me some food. I thought I had hidden well. I thought that he could see me and almost ran. and even though it came out of a can. I noticed animals running loose nearby and guessed that at least one person still lived in the area. a pot bubbled close to the rim. I could use a companion. When he asked me if I wanted more. I thought that I could feel my backbone through my bellybutton. he told me I seemed to be using head. The sound of a human voice somehow soothed me. twenty plus miles of road over and sometimes under the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. possibly human. Times have changed. Now I felt the time had arrived to find a permanent home. but I could smell the food and hunger won. I knew he understood. No way would I try that one with no one around to repair leaks. stopping frequently to explore and scavenge. are you cooking?" I asked Helen. "Why do you say that?" Bradley "Hey. I drove at a leisurely pace southbound along route 13. but neither is the truth. I slid the plate back to him. When he spoke to me. From Salisbury. but there was no way to reach the food without being seen. Nothing else mattered. did it ever taste good. I picked up the filled plate and asked. My stomach growled loudly. but I hadn't considered where yet. at least thirty. Many in the society we had before the big death would say I robbed the cradle or even call me a pedophile. the Bay Bridge-Tunnel lay ahead of me. The food steamed. Just then. Over the fire. About a hundred miles to the south.as my parents. Totally alone like I was is not a good idea in any situation if it can be helped.

but a young girl would be OK since kids were resilient. would drive a kid batty. Society back then repressed good feelings so much the conflict of which is right. I needed a safe traveling companion who wouldn't try to kill me and steal what I had. I considered the possibilities. I checked my water supply and found it was getting low. so I guessed she was hungry and dirty. Hell. In between those times there are other possibilities. The stove set up easily. When I felt the vibration of the two-hundred-amp generator. ran from the barn. And now? I had yet to meet a somewhat sane person in my travels. Maybe she'll stay and take care of me in my old age. I moved around to the storage compartment in the back. No matter how old she was the change would affect her. It had been three weeks since everything changed. Someone who would cuddle close at night would be a plus. I'm not a pedophile or anything. glanced at the line of clouds in the distance and rolled out the awning. the big death you know. That situation could change with some thought and work. and her clothes looked like she hadn't changed in a month or more. I couldn't see because of the distance. Possibly she would come with me to be a traveling companion. Shortly I descended the steps. or hidden better. Light traffic like I said. Looking around. I'd enjoyed watching the youngsters at the club. More than that. I never touched any kid. She needs someone to take care of her. nonexistent traffic. but not as much if she were a kid as it would an adult. Best way would be comfort and food. and I did have more than one place to sleep in the motor home. Now don't get me wrong. This will be worth a day or two. I added a chair to the table. A creature that looked like a girl in her teens. and checked the breakers. when the time comes. opened the generator compartment on the side to let it breathe. . I've got to make this look interesting. I shut down the engine of the fifty-three foot long converted bus. like I said before. then pulled a lantern and stove from the back storage. I could see a pond close by. I almost stepped out of the motor home before I remembered I had to dress. On the panel to the left I clicked the ‘Start Generator' toggle. early teens possibly. or even made a suggestion. She had long straggly hair and a thin face. to feel good or to wait like everyone said. Now that I had created an atmosphere like an outside deck. I didn't know how old she was. Besides.looked through the binoculars I'd brought with me. opened it. I pulled past the side road and stopped on the crown of the southbound side of the road. possibly until she's older. and a quick glance showed me the spy had gone. and then pulled a table out of the packed storage area on the far side of the camper.

Got to do this right. and looked for holes. I dropped in ten of the chlorine tablets I'd picked up when I began my adventure and then returned to the camper. UN inspectors went in. I located the folding five-gallon water container. I hope I made myself interesting enough. Let me tell you what I know. or at least all that they found. It looked intact. "I'm willing to bet that you have no idea what happened. and walked to the pond." I began to eat. deposited some on a separate plate. I sat back in my chair and said. even if they are hiding. While the meal warmed on the small propane stove. As it began to boil at the edges. Let me have a seat. so I cooked extra. added a fork. I thought. Well. Swinging it at my side.probably on the property owned by the spy's parents. and with a bottle of chlorine tablets in my pocket. After I'd finished my meal. I added a book to keep myself occupied while I waited. or come into the light. carefully climbed a barbed wire fence into a pasture. but to be sure no strange bacteria or germs would make me sick. then you can get to it without being seen. as I pulled out a rifle and revolver for defense. constantly stirring the brew. "I cooked plenty for both of us. and what they thought to be the manufacturing plant. I surreptitiously watched the farm and ditch beside me. even with the threat of nuclear retaliation. unfolded it. As dusk grew a few chapters later. I'll just leave this out here at the edge of the dark for you if you want it. but you might have heard that Syria or some country in that area had chemical weapons many years back. A group of terrorists or fanatics or something tried to . I lit the propane lantern and pulled out two large cans of stew. I imagine the pickings around here have been rather slim lately. Don't eat that too fast or you'll get sick. and I'll bet you haven't had them in a while. Let's see how interested she is. "I don't know if you follow the news. pointedly ignoring the place where I'd left the food. too. For once. I trekked across a partially planted field. I filled up the container. It looked good. and then studied the contents. It has meat and vegetables in it that you need. and gathered and destroyed all the chemicals. I made a show of opening both and pouring the contents in a pot. You don't even have to say anything. didn't have any star patters or white spots. The water looked clean enough with no suspended mud or algae haze. I could hear a rustling in the ditch at the edge of the road." I said as I dished some out for myself. they were right. it's been awhile since I could speak to someone other than myself. A couple of years ago the CIA said it felt they were again making chemical weapons of an unknown type. "I hope you're hungry.

"Well. let alone grow into a workable civilization. so I started thinking about what to do to continue living. Four or five billion people. "They're eating with Simone tonight." I refilled the plate when it reappeared and placed it back on the rock. Her name I learned was Helen. yeah. Somehow. "Now where was I? Oh. I'm willing to bet that you haven't heard another voice in awhile. "Tell you what." From the darkness. and personally. and she'd learned to cook o'er fire. When all the people died. and placed it on the table. It took weeks for the virus to spread over the planet. My name's Brad. I'm probably boring her to death. you're only eating what I eat so I can't drug you. Also. What's yours?" Samuel Dished something from the pot she did. I don't know if we can. Let me tell it now. That's good. or be useless. I'll tell you what happened to me. Shows me you're thinking. "Where's Rich and Sally?" asked Bradley as we pulled out chairs." I paused for a moment. there's plenty more. I don't know if they can survive like that. but of course it was too late by then. and satellite photos showed dead people in the streets. The survivors are the ones who have to save humanity from extinction. so you stay hidden. lived in the world until last month. Everything shut down. That's good too. "Eat all you want.take over the plant. All I need is for you to do is answer yes. slide your plate onto that rock and I'll refill it. I heard a soft affirmative. The first anyone knew about it was when Iran and Afghanistan and other countries over there died completely. Now there are maybe a few million on the whole planet. Most of those I've met so far have been in a state of shock or worse. You have no idea if I'm safe or not." . possibly more." she said. The smart people in the government spy networks figured something had happened." She filled up two more plates just then and set them on the table. they released a bacteria or virus into the air. I knew that anything even remotely technical was going to break down. you aren't showing yourself. They'll be back later. "Here's dinner. "When you're ready. If you want.

almost to the edge of the lantern light. figured whoever was alive would be hungry.Helen I sat in the dark among the weeds. Guess I won't sneak up on animals either. I'm full. I just don't know. Yeah. though. Still. did I?" What does he mean crazy? At least he doesn't think I'm that way. If you were. I have means of defending myself. a real brat. This Brad is the only one around. I'm scared. Of course. unless you decided you liked me. Bradley had asked me my name. I eased closer through the weeds. Helen? There's plenty left. Now I . Why did you stop?" "Stop? You mean stop here." "Think for a moment how you've been living and you'll answer your question. Leaves tickled my back and thighs. I shifted slightly to a more comfortable position as I thought about the past few weeks. The one time I had tried had been a disaster. Mom said never to talk to strangers. It's been so long since I saw anybody. I answered. Brad. He seems OK. and hoped they'd be sane. except for him. I felt better than I had in weeks. that is if I could learn how to butcher one. No one is around anymore. that was my source of meat back then. Why did you park here?" "I saw movement from the farm over there. so I won't be able to eat. I asked. "Not now. Still. but I couldn't afford to. Telling him my name can't hurt. he said. Should I tell him? What if he's strange? He seems decent. then I could offer to take you with me until we find other people. and living like this is not cool. if I could catch one." I still had an empty place in my middle. no human. "Why do you think I would go with you? I don't know you. He wants me to go with him? I can't sneak well. I wondered. yet here I am talking to one." My legs began to feel numb from sitting on my heels so long." "Would you like some more. nor did I really have a hankering to live off eggs and an occasional rat. if you were a crazy. but I didn't want to look like a pig. I knew a Brad in school. as you did. I told myself. If you came over. She's not around anymore. I never could fool the chickens or rats. I had important decisions to make. though. I really felt like crying when I thought of that. Grass was not a good vegetable. but I didn't need them. or stop talking?" "Stop here. I could judge whether you were OK or not. Wouldn't you know he saw me? I was trying to hide. "Helen. I had figured out my problem. I don't know yet.

She'd say ‘We're not here for you dear. "OK I get the point. how to do it. Even though the air had cooled when the sun went down. ‘Work hard. pointed outward with a flare. Number two. I remembered a game Mom had taught me. and life will treat you right. I really am. He even made sense." "Then you can think about it until breakfast. Curved. OK. There are more if you want them. but watch them. I have to trust him. and nothing at all that you need if you are going to live off nature. I said. Samuel "Let me tell this and you eat. the two a strong contrast." I leaned back into the weeds.' I still miss Mom. even on top of the scratchy hay. I can leave when we find others. Dad would say. The world had definitely turned weird. you can have a good meal. But no matter what. carved legs of hardwood. but I have to watch him. I didn't know him. Finally I thought. Charlie had curled into my stomach to nap some more. You have no skills to speak of. He had a soothing voice. and many minor worries." *** I lay on the straw in the barn that night. but there's nothing we could do.had to decide how to deal with it. and summer was still weeks away. "Number one. Number three. you will die. The finely crafted table a relic from the past. the loft still felt warm from the day's heat. yet easily heard. "I'm still not sure. I'm sorry. no tools you can use. You can tell me what you want to do then. With my mind cleared of my main worry. too. Tears trickled around my ears into my hair. then I already would have done it. We'd had a very warm day. That's four reasons if you count. This would be a big decision for a sixth grader. that's what I'll do. if I was going to do anything bad. I know what to do. Still. I've been honest with you. Why don't you give me three reasons why I should trust you. Mom would say. I fell asleep and slept better than I had in weeks. I wish Mom and Dad were here. Trust who you must. Always do your best. While wooden chairs were rougher built. what would Mom say? I cried some more as I remembered the good things my mother would do.' Dad's right. kiddo. . They could tell me what to do. calm and quiet." said Bradley from his chair. More tears fell as I thought of my father. If I have to." Let's see what he says now. If you stay on your own. You'll have to do the best you can. and I can teach you.

A minute later. and placed three eggs on the table in front of me. "That's all? ." I climbed the steps into the camper. approached. You found them. She'll be decent looking when she matures. I answered. Helen carefully negotiated the ditch. Have some cereal while I whip these up." she told me. dug into the roll of clothing she carried under one arm. Once we settle it can hunt for itself. "I don't want any. I told her. I have a cat. She is young. A person approached across the field. That would be criminal. Possibly that would be the first time she had smiled in weeks. and then called out the window. I carried a bowl of cereal out." Fresh eggs. We'll see. If I looked. Although she seems to be adjusting just fine. Yet she'll be company. She must be willing to trust me a little since she's out in the open. I'm sure I would see a smile on her face. "Sure. I savored my second cup of coffee. gazing at the steam rising from the cup in the cool air. I don't know how I'll start the day without it.Bradley The next morning. "Thanks." That I could understand. We can pick up some cat food. I noticed she carried something in her hand. Helen said. After breakfast. I don't know a thing about girls." She unrolled a pair of jeans and a couple flannel shirts. "That's OK. Wow. I can't get in the house because of the smell." I saw a small smile. I brought what clothes I saved. Is there anything you need to pick up at the house?" "No. "That's all I could find. Well. I'm going to have to build up my supply of this. so it's your choice. "The rats must have gotten the rest. I carried the eggs into the motor home. I saw movement in the distance. and it'll help her through the adjustment. "Sorry I don't have any milk. but this stuff is OK without it. Hell. but he's out roaming somewhere. "I see you washed your hair. more. "I guess so. we'll pack up and head out. I sure can't leave her here. I said. and everything else is ruined. It looks nice. Glancing up. let's see what you've got. and maybe in a few years. I thought. she's decent looking now if you clean her up. That must be Helen. Haven't had those in a while. I hope she'll be more. That's all I've been living on since everything stopped. Do you want one or two?" She chuckled. Is it? I wondered. Can I put him in a carrier?" A cat? Won't be that bad. A girl no less. Are you still willing to take me along?" A kid to take care of.

the diesel pump was next to the building on the right side in front of several above ground tanks. . It's up the road about half a mile. You may still be growing. I heard glass break as I climbed on top of the diesel storage and ran the pickup hose into the fill hole. I'll have to teach her about the comforts of naturalism. While that filled. made sure the fuel flowed properly. I've found it relaxing. At the general store. and finally where I hid the weapons. where I put the tools and cooking utensils. too. She looked through a rack of jeans and shirts. It didn't appear too happy. I showed her where I stored the food. Helen ran toward the store. In fact." We traveled a few miles and found a pond right for swimming. I stopped the pump and moved it to the second tank. and followed Helen into the store. "Watch what you grab. "I guess Simpson's General Store. I started the pump. I think you'll like swimming in the nude." "Then I guess that's where we'll go. Done? Good. Food. We'll find a spot later where we can swim and you can change then.Well. and don't change yet. I'll pack this stuff. Get some things a size or two larger. Oh. We can get you more along the way. We both need to get clean. you go find your cat. "Don't worry about these guns right now. Right now it's time to get going. no matter. Twenty minutes later. I found some empty boxes and began filling them with cans and nonperishable food. He sold gas and had a diesel pump on the side. Where is the nearest gas station that sells diesel?" It took her a moment to answer. I'll teach you about them later tonight." She returned about fifteen minutes later with a gray tiger stripped feline in a large cat carrier. where to put her clothes. and clothes. opened the forward right storage compartment and started to unpack the fuel pump." And I enjoy looking. or more. I'm sure of it. I gave Helen a tour of the motor home. I backed up so both fills on the camper were near the diesel storage tank. I told her.

an invitation to a swimming hole. no. so no soap.Chapter 3 Helen I had Charlie in the cat box that sat on the raised console so he could look out. It would just get in the way. I don't want to pollute a standing water supply. Do your back and stuff. We drove along one of the smaller roads near the house." He said. Fish swam in the shallows. I saw that part of the fence that bordered a pasture had fallen or been trampled. and the water was clear enough I could see a good ways. Nowhere did weeds or algae grow. I can help. potatoes. and some of the smell. And don't forget your hair. Bradley told me that the pond looked like a good place to get some of the dirt off. but I don't see much flow in this pond. The pond covered over an acre of land. maybe part of our stream. I decided after watching how he had searched for what we needed and fueled the camper." I told him. Bradley coasted to a stop next to the gate. Dad didn't like us swimming except in the pond. Someone took care of this. maybe two. He told me to take a pair of jeans and a top and whatever else I needed. The bottom sloped out as far as I could see. A line of trees in the distance marked a stream that gradually grew closer. Bradley looked calm. I thought. "We need soap. Fields on either side had soy. and tobacco in different stages of growth. If you want me to. "Yeah. I wish I knew about it before. confident behind the wheel. He seems to know what he's doing. He stopped yelling once he figured out we were going for a ride. or kill the fish. and not to the vet." Now you have to remember we had just met. that would help. not the big four-lane highway that led past town. Just go in naked and rub yourself all over. A path led from a gate just ahead of us to the line of bushes. You'll get most of the dirt off that way. Bushes surrounded one end like the privacy fence one of my friends at school had around their pool. I still had the old mindset." "So it's just a swim? I don't have a swimming suit. I wanted him to see where we went. . The air smelled clean as we walked through the field to the edge of the water. A large pond came into sight off to the right as we rounded a corner. "I know. that he had a new home. but Mom and Dad probably wouldn't have let me go.

too. but not in front of him." "Go ahead then. It's up to you. I was twelve at the time. I mean. Let him see me? Let him touch me? Gross. I struggled to pull the jeans over my wet legs and buttoned the front of the shirt before I returned to the camper. Carefully I started into the water. I watched as Bradley walked back along the path and through the gate. I thought. *** "I'm going to clean this stuff up. I felt like I'd had enough. the next city would be normal. Finally. As far as I knew. "No. Take your time. He looked disappointed. He's pushy! No way will I get undressed in front of him. I hadn't realized how easy it was to get new clothes. If I'd known it would feel so good. That's what Mom kept telling me not to do. sort of. I'd rather do it myself. forget it. we have plenty of it. I taught Helen how to use a small pistol." To tell you the truth. Bradley went to the pond after that. I said. just starting puberty. Don't you go saying anything bad about me. like my friends did when they were told they couldn't do what they wanted. I'll wait for you to finish. I climbed up to a grassy area with the bushes between me and the camper. But it feels so good! Fifteen minute later. I wouldn't have waited those three weeks. "Down in the camper. No way. Now how can I do this? Put on clothes while I'm wet? Dry off? How? Walk down to the camper for a towel? Let him see me? If he was Johnny. and waited until he started up the steps into the motor home." Bradley Later that day. what else should I expect. I pulled off my old jeans and flannel shirt that I'd been wearing for what seemed like forever. Spring and early morning. sure. It sounds like fun. This is cold. the one that society crammed down your throat. and learned that her father had already taught her a . I'll tell you right now that felt good. and I still didn't know a thing about what changes had come about in the world. Bradley. unless you want to swim together. or how much I would come to depend on Brad. but him? No way. "Where will you wait?" If it's too close. which is rough for a girl even in the best of times. Less than an hour later we were traveling again. even with no one around I felt embarrassed." I thought. I'll get dressed. during an afternoon break from driving. He told me.

I know the library is around here somewhere. necessary practice if she was going to protect herself. let's go rooting through the cans. Keep it with you all the time. the partially decomposed bodies. I told Helen. and how your body works?" Helen gave me one of those raised eyebrows looks. Now I have a companion. However." She answered. Well. *** The next evening we pulled into Newark. I enjoyed the newgrowth green color of the old oak tree's leaves as we entered the university area. No longer could I sit on a bench and watch the pretty girls walk past. then it may be wrong. there's nothing I can do about it. ask. No more groups would sit under the trees smoking pot and talking. Come on Bradley. and sex. the empty sidewalks and alleys. I thought about the situation. I'll be OK. "She told me some things. Even then. I hope not.bit about how to use a rifle. I allowed her to spend an entire box of ammunition as she learned to shoot cans off a stump. but I can't abandon her. What's for dinner?" Now that's a typical teenager question. if you want to check them out tomorrow. be careful. Too bad she doesn't realize it and dress to bring it out. I answered. I told Helen. She's my responsibility now. and I picked up other things. Did your Mom tell you anything about life? You know. Do not trust anyone until you know them. "You're OK with that pistol. and there might be others around who can be trusted. Delaware. "I used to hang out here. I think. "Tell me something. "Oh. Now I knew she'd be OK. Now that she's clean. if they haven't been driven crazy by this. The buildings looked the same as they did a month ago. Most people." That was painless. so if you have any questions. a female at that. No more young girls would roam the streets in giggling packs. she's kind of pretty in a growing up kid kind of way. men. After hesitating a moment she said. That night at dinner. focus. however. If so. Both should have books we need. How can I teach her what she needs to know? What does she need to know? I don't know the first thing about girls growing up. and up that direction at the other end of town is the city library." "If you picked up on information like you said. there's only one thing to do and only one way to do it. I don't think I scared her too much. Maybe she was just avoiding the issue. and the everpresent smell shouted that this was not the college town I remembered. "OK. I wonder how she'll taste when she's older. You can trust me. are in a state of shock." We had a simple meal .

and soap making onto a nearby table. we found the library entrance. I told Helen. a small category since the university did not have an affiliation to a hospital. if I remember correctly. I still found several books on obstetrics and general medical knowledge I felt we needed. "Here's a directory." I pointed to an arrow on the map behind the glass. we walked through an alley from the dorm's parking lot we used into a block long open area shaded by huge oak trees that marched in a double line from one end of the grassy park to the other. We walked under one line of huge trees to a large glass enclosed sign at one end. now dark forever. I know nothing about this. A greenhouse area showed college oriented stores with neon signs. I searched out the medical books. "What have you got here? Hey. "Here we are. She had piled books about cooking. "This used to be called the mall. The pile continued to grow until I came over. "I don't know. I figured she'd jump at the chance to . In the morning. I asked. We'll need to know this stuff when the supplies run out. Here's how to make soap. with soap. I've been hearing noises. armed with her pistol and one of my rifles." "I don't think it is. You don't want to get cut. and the library's over there." I thought about some of the problems we could face in the years ahead. keep only the best. trying to recognize the area without all the kids. Let's walk. Speaking of which. want to take a break and really get clean? There's a stream nearby we can wash in. I easily broke the glass in the doors with my hammer. herb lore." We found the building a block away. tanning. "Be careful of this stuff." I told Helen." That was not the answer I expected. We can take a few days and go through them." She thought for a moment. They're better than the others I found.and slept in the camper. I didn't know books could be so heavy. The area was walled on both sides by large brick buildings. On one end. but it sure left a mess. "That doesn't look that far. We have all the time we want here. me in the main bed and she in the folded down table bed. Helen found thirty or forty books on country and mountain ways. and I'm the only one around if Helen gets pregnant. I carried the pile of books back to the door and set them down." She studied the map for a moment. Take your time and gather anything you think we'll need. classrooms that used to hold hundreds of young adults willing to learn. thinking. these are good.

It sounds like a Harley or Honda. I hope. too. Helen lifted the gun. She picked up on that. Missed seeing her again. patience. I think they're motorcycles. I don't know how other people took this change. I'll be too busy watching for others who want to do us harm. A sadistic person likes to hurt . or they may be crazies looking for their kind of fun. well. and if they have a gang. Is that why you're worried?" Hmm. It's still early in the year. I told her. They may just be a group looking to survive. "Yeah. "It's not too heavy. OK?" Or you can watch me if you want. the sadistic kind. Possibly that was what she was hearing." she warned me. not me." "That's what I thought. Still. That will change as she learns to trust me." We walked to the stream.get clean again. I could use a break. It's my turn. I've been hearing them. and listened to the faint sounds we could hear." "Good. No way am I taking longer than I have to. but not because they're big. a sound I'd been hearing for a while without realizing it. I could use one. and sighted through the scope. A big bike. Oh. "I figured that. then. Sure. and then followed it into a wooded section. "I'm done. "Think you can handle this rifle?" I asked as Helen climbed the bank. Smart kid. placed the butt against her shoulder. I sort of wish I had an Uzi or AK47. We'll have to keep that in mind. Watch the woods. We'll just walk back a ways out of sight." "You won't watch me?" There she goes being modest again." Came from the edge of the stream." And this will be quick. Then a sound intruded on my consciousness. The way it echoes says it's distant. Patience. the sound of large motorcycles in the distance. Helen bathed first while I stayed nearby. they may come here. It's like my dad's hunting rifle. Maybe I should load the big rifle. watched for intruders. Helen stepped from behind the bushes. she asked." "OK. "No. "The water's cold. Brad. I handed her the weapon. "Those sound like big motorcycles." "Sadistic?" "The kind that causes pain or death. too. but for now we have to be careful. the one I learned on. In a few years we may be able to relax. That is a bike. As I pulled off my shirt. "I know. then the crazies will egg each other on.

others. "When are we going to read all these?" I grinned at the thought. Right now. OK." "I saw you when you were washing. "Sure. even from someone her age. We'll be hidden and left alone there. It turned into an interesting conversation. "Four trips. How did she stand it? This is going to be fast. We'll have to clean it up a bit. any female. Do you want to find a place to settle. but it should be OK." God. and any more would be heaven. it should be easier. You can ask any question you want. actually a small river. After we had tossed the cans and rinsed the dishes. or would you rather roam some more?" "I don't think I'd worry as much if I was in a house or something. After a short bath in the cold water. or a lot. How about a place next to a stream. and returned to the motor home. and to learn about becoming a woman. Let her lead. with a wood stove for heat. even though I talked with many at the nudist camp." With two of us watching. I dressed. I can't push at all. we had an early dinner of canned spaghetti heated on the stove. but I can't guarantee an answer. just a touch would give me a thrill. That's not good. after several trips to the library to fetch books then locating plywood to block the door. you mean about strangers? A house would be easier to defend. we look it up. Now that's gross. I'll keep my eyes open. and high walls most of the way around it. Helen looked at the books piled along one wall. or I could turn her off sex forever. this could be anything." "Oh. "That sounds good. What is that part of your body." We can always fill the gaps that are left if it's necessary. For the next few hours we talked about the difference between men and women. with me looking up information I didn't know in the medical books. I can't do anything except answer her questions. "Sure. I thought. When we need information. Can I ask you a question?" Uh-oh. but it's good reference." "Oh. You can always ask. Yow! That is cold. Those bodies will have begun to decompose. the thing between your legs?" It had been a long time since I had any sexual dealings with a female. too. Helen and I returned to the library. the work we'll have to do. That sounds good. I guess you know of a place?" "It's where I used to work. *** That night. She answered. gathered as many books as we could carry. . I know. I don't think we are. None had been willing to go farther than talk. It's a good place for you to grow up safely.

No. At least she's beginning to trust me. but I'll do the best I can. and her . "I don't know. "Sounds like one of those motorcycles we heard before." "This is serious. There may be crazies there.Chapter 4 Bradley In the morning we headed out. "It will come. but you're not Mom or Dad. and I miss them. I could see her wide eyes. "I'm going to pull around that bend up ahead and set up an ambush. get the rifle I had when we went swimming and the pistol that's with it and bring them up here. "I'm going to go the long way around." As we crested a hill. For a while I was scared and real lonely." I saw her eyes begin to water." She watched the houses go by a couple of minutes before she answered. I glanced back at Helen. Hold up a minute. "Do you hear something?" She came over and leaned on my shoulder. but I prefer living. "I don't like the thought of going near the city. just in case. I don't know about you. I hope that they'll fly past and we won't need it. However. That's something she'll have to work out. Trust me. Thought so. or with people in their right minds. the longer we'll survive. Warm air. too. so I'm not so lonely. The longer we spend by ourselves. forced its way in. the forecaster of one of the first really hot days of the year. isn't there more than one? Do you think these are bad people?" "I don't know. They seemed to be chasing the lone rider." I opened the window. I looked in the left mirror and saw a lone rider start into the small valley we'd just left. isn't it?" She sounded worried. I told her. I want you to get your pistol and wait for me to tell you what to do. but this worries me. Now I have you for a friend. I don't want to give them an idea of where we're going. I asked. her frown. Two more bikes came into view. Those motorcycles have me on edge." "You have a plan?" How could I have a plan? No matter. "I know I will never replace your parents." I told Helen. and lots of times bored. That's why I've heard her crying at night.

sitting here next to me." The lone motorcycle leaned dangerously as it rounded the bend at a high speed. Now take the rifle and sit back there where someone outside the door won't see you. If they start in. and I can take care of the rest." "Good. That's not a threat. Take the rifle and aim at the far jam. out of sight of my left mirror to reappear in my right convex and slide to a stop within my sight out the door. strong by the look of him. you better . too. When I nod. well. They threw on the brakes. set the kickstand and climbed off the Honda. The man. "I don't have anything you want. and stepped back a bit. next to me. you know what to do. and closed the curtains back there. I said. and this may be the only way at the moment. asshole. and with hair falling onto his shoulders. I knew how she felt. Within seconds two more motorcycles appeared around the bend. just accelerated as his engine faded in the distance. and I was shaking from adrenaline. possibly a barroom fighter. over six feet tall. "If we're lucky they'll just fly by and we can go back the way we came. You get me and my lady'll get you. though. just a deterrent. black Honda and a smaller Yamaha wiggle as they skidded into the open area we occupied. too. I'm stopping just up here." Helen's voice shook. woman. you shoot. Use your scared to stay alert and ready to act. asshole. "Don't reach for that fuckin' gun. Now. I'll talk to them with the pistol showing. Both wore dust covered black leather outfits. who was built like a linebacker. a full beard covering his face. I'm busy. Really scared. and then returned forward. We should get one of them by surprise. or just outside the jam if you can see it. "I know. rustled around a bit. Here they come. "Shut up. The man growled. A hard looking woman." "I'm scared. took longer to get off the Yamaha. I saw a large. I'll nod. someone who would roll through a crowd with ease." Helen went to the back room of the motor home. He held a sawed off shotgun pointed at me. Brad. this is serious. What you got I want?" I could see the woman held another sawed off shotgun. If not. This was the first real emergency we'd met. She sounded ready to cry. "Yep. But I want to live." I swung right into a large dirt area and brought the motor home to a stop well off the road.wrinkled brow. A big man. pulled it open. walked to the door." "What about that thief?" the woman asked. I'm scared. "I got them. thin and dirty. Leave the pistol here. I replied in what I hoped was a cool manner. The rider didn't slow. That's good thinking.

and . I nodded. A scream from inside the motor home intruded on my senses. You were scared to death and you still did exactly right. A quick glance showed the woman motionless on the ground. or worse. I'll scare her away as vulnerable as she is. It would have been very painful. I shot someone! I've never." she answered. but it's over." The man took a step to the door." I pulled her head back to my chest and held her protectively. and my woman'll get you. "You leave that alone!" the man yelled as he took two quick steps toward the door. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. Quietly I asked. never. I sat next to her and gently pulled her head onto my chest. done that before. "It's OK. and it's in easy reach. They would have killed us. That was necessary. except the alternatives are worse. retrieved both shotguns. still sounding a little shaky." I stroked her hair and shoulders until she stopped shaking and her crying had subsided to sobs. I kissed her lightly on the forehead. This feels so good. I should have realized what her reaction would be. I raced inside and found Helen huddled in a ball holding her ears and crying uncontrollably. This was an extreme example. a comforting gesture. A roar came from the back of the motor home. Never. never done that. a dark red trickle crossing the ground from her head. There are times you have to do things you don't like and don't want to do. I can't go too far yet. Go ahead and cry. Now let me in. I lost my balance and fell out the door. I hoped. searched for and found the extra ammunition. "It's over. Gently I raised her head until I could see her eyes. It's over. Damn lucky for us." I stepped over the male's body and pulled it away from the door. It's OK. and shot the woman. is it?" "I shot someone. Damn. "Then I'm going to get us out of here. The head of the barroom brawler disappeared as I lunged for the pistol. so right. "Worse? What could be worse?" "They would have beaten and raped you before they killed you. but a soft stomach cushioned my fall. "Will you be OK?" "I guess so." She lifted her head." "You really think you could kill me? It'd only take one shot from that to kill you. "That's nothing like in the movies. I soothed. quickly reached over the headless body falling to the ground." I waited for her body to stop shaking." "Yeah. It's all over." I stated as I reached for the pistol.let me in and show me what I want to see or you'll be dead in three seconds. Never. You ain't got a chance in hell.

It's one of the dangers . What are we in for now? I looked at this guy. What does he want. I couldn't begin to guess what he was thinking for the full. then turned it off. 'cause when I went in they shot at me and started chasing me. I glanced at both door jambs as I stepped back inside." Glad I've had training. but don't shoot if he doesn't have a gun. started the engine. You had no way of knowing. When I heard the guns. set the kickstand." I thought. watch me. "I mean no harm. he stood straddling the motorcycle as if he had muscles. "Now turn around and stand still with your arms raised. I found this store that still had food. I wondered. and eased off the motorcycle. Now tell me what you're doing." the rider called as he sat on his idling machine. I just wanted to eat." "Nothing! That is. If I get in trouble. and I'm sure she's still jittery. nothing to you. "He's clean. Believe me when I tell you I was careful. Not as big as the first motorcycle maniac. "Just stand where I can see you and make no sudden moves." He held his arms outstretched. and used them. I'll be OK. What I saw amazed me. I told Helen. I could picture him in a biker bar. In front of us. It's OK. Can Helen handle another emergency so soon? She almost flipped after the last one. I waited. If you hadn't we might be dead." I called. Dark hair hung straight down his back. I didn't mean any harm. "Relax. untrimmed beard that hid his face. I came back to see what happened. I guess the stupid fucks thought they owned it or something. "Helen. "I say peace. There's a person inside covering me. slowly." I waited until the stranger moved several steps into the open. When I saw those two assholes stop. You missed the door completely. "That was a good shot. I slid behind the wheel. Is he going to try to take her away from me? No way will I let him do that." "Why?" "Oh. I called to Helen." "Sounds about right. the lone rider had pulled to a stop." I approached the rider and frisked him. No way. "Get off the bike. "In the camper. brawling. I guess. He stretched out his hands again and called. until they thought they could rob you. Move away from the bike. Now what? I asked myself.returned to the motor home. I said." I told the man. shoot." "Why were those two chasing you?" "The fuckers wanted to kill me." I picked up the pistol I'd returned to the engine cowling and moved to the door. The lone rider killed the engine. He looked like he might be a problem.

"Here you go. It's sheltered and safe. man." He had stated the obvious. So is Peach Bottom. let alone one who can think. You are one hell of a gutsy lady. wrap it up." I called into the motor home. That lasted three days. "I just want to get away from all the nuclear plants and the criminals. I hope. "I haven't decided yet. "But she's just a kid! She actually fired when and where she had to?" He bowed slightly toward Helen. how'd you get both at once?" "Oh. I forgot about the nuclear plants. I'll do whatever I can. Hungry?" "You bet!" "Then sit there. "And now what are your plans?" I asked. He actually seems sane. Have you seen any?" "Not that I know of. but with all the prisons around here. thanks. what would you do if you were a guard and everyone died?" Helen brought out a sandwich." I thought. Hey. thanks. and Limerick. Helen. "I worked in a body shop. and the original buildings won't fall for quite a while." Tony's mouth fell open. and something that would surprise many people. "You said criminals. anyway?" "Hey. I really appreciate this. man. whatever you can. I breathed a silent sigh of relief when I saw she wore a loose flannel shirt. man. but now money's no good. Salem's close. whether he's to be trusted or not? I don't want to grill him." Is that flattery so I'll lower my guard? How can I find out about this man. "What did you do before. "What are you guys going to do now?" I guess I don't have to worry about him too much. . painting cars. Probably do like you. my dear. What's your name. and toss it out. try to stay as safe as possible. "Thanks. Somewhere down south." "Hey. If I am ever around when you need help. "You. have my undying respect. I think. The condos are surrounded by hills. What have you seen?" "A couple weeks ago I saw a lot of smoke or steam from the direction of the Salem Nuclear Plant.we face. Tony's my name. That's why I want to leave." I turned back to the stranger. After all this going on. who must still be visible and listening. she got the guy as he came in the door and gave me a chance to get the woman before she got me. It paid decent. it's a relief to find a sane man. Put the weapons away please. but a few questions won't hurt. before all this?" He said. who knows? I mean. "Make a sandwich.

Real good. as she calmed down. but I'd prefer not to take a chance. either. but that was the first few days. and roared back toward town. Can we do that again?" . I soothed. I think there's a pond that way. A bit of close companionship. unsure of what the future would bring." "Yeah." "You've seen more than I have. I'm going to go around Baltimore and DC and the rest of the major cities. and stepped back inside. I said. but I'm going around the congested areas. Brad. "Let's get cleaned up. I think that's where the worst people will gather." "OK. Helen kept watch as I took a quick swim. I don't ever want to do that again!" She's still a kid. I'll consider you safe. Well. I saw several people shot for food and water. I know. and will show her I can be trusted. I don't want to do that again. and we had that heavy rain the other night. you did good. And to tell the truth. give a warning. I saw the pond I remembered. you could go back and stock up on food now that those two are out of the picture. I haven't seen any gangs or anything like that.The wind's been from the west mostly. Come here." Tony climbed on his bike. I guess I've been lucky. As she slipped into a clean T-shirt and jeans behind some brush." Fifteen minutes down the road. If not. she said. If we meet again. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the crazies join together. Helen. *** I watched as Tony accelerated around the bend. It's what she needs. I think I know a place to settle. I stroked her back as it heaved with sobs. away from town. but I can't predict what will happen." She hesitantly stepped over to me. what I need. I'll see ya around. I gently pulled her into my lap and held her close while she sobbed away her emotions. Is that OK?" "Yeah. This is a good way for her to get her emotions out. Her lower lip trembled. Thanks. Finally." she answered in a desultory manner. like I said before. and then had her turn. good luck to you. where we can take a swim. Then. but this life will force her to grow up fast. "I know. "Bradley. Helen said. Let's see. checked that we were clear to leave. As I sat in the driver's seat. "I felt good when you held me earlier. You know. and she stared out of wide-open eyes. as you should consider us. kicked the engine over. "Ready?" "I guess. Like Tony said. maybe. I plan to. let's go.

If not. Keep alert until we know." I said. I can hold you sometimes in the evening. What if we meet at the university library back in town when the moon is about where it is now. or when. after we have a problem. I can't scavenge forever." Helen observed as we ran back to the motor home.Now what does she want? How does she see me? Am I her father. "What's that? I asked myself aloud" "Another motorcycle?" "That's what it sounds like. We could see the machine racing toward us. I'm not sure about that. We'd better get back. I hadn't thought that far ahead." "Not necessarily. and woods down in the valley. too. sure. If not. The rider came to a stop just behind the camper. "I'm sure it's him. "I don't think we have time. I saw the rider was Tony and relaxed. I thought I'd see what you thought of me exploring then joining up with you later. If you agree that the people I've picked are good people. the ." Carefully I led the way to the camper. If they were in the pasture they would be OK. though. or a growing friend. As we approached. We'll have to be careful. "I'm not sure. and some of the neighbors had horses. "I guess so. "It could be. It's better to be wary and live. I've gotten the feeling you know a place to go. "I think that's Tony." We had just been attacked." I held my weapon a little tighter. It's the same clothes and motorcycle and beard. and we'd come out with only the one pistol. "Do you know anything about farming?" "No. Should I explore a bit and round them up?" There is safety in numbers. It has to be him. Yeah. or both? What do I do now? I answered. but I'm not sure yet. but I've met people who do. and I'll meet more. You have my word on that. "How do I know I can trust you?" "Talking to you. removed his helmet. but then I thought I'd be on my own." Helen said as we slowed. There were open fields. "I thought you were going south?" "I was. I like it. You'll need help pulling in crops and stuff so we can eat this winter. no. Don't worry. you can be on your own. It could be someone who killed him and stole them. I chided myself silently for my stupidity." A muted sound began to insinuate itself into my awareness. but I can read people fairly well. I agreed. and then waved. if everyone works together. then we can go to where you choose. I called. we knew the dangers." Winter? This guy was no dummy.

"Yeah. When the moon looks something like it does tonight. there about. do you? A what?" Tony asked. They wouldn't trust me anymore. I'll meet you at the university library about midday about a month from now. but you have to respect others. If you're not there. Let's see if we can start a responsible anarchy or something. and who are open to new ways. A group could work together and live a lot easier. but I couldn't gauge what she was thinking. We'd left the houses behind and slowly drove past dirt farms and dairies. it will be hard to live alone. "OK." "You pose an interesting question. We were traveling along this country road. it's the only thing any of us really own. The dishes are clean. to figure out." "You don't ask much. . See you in about a month. I told Tony. Where are we?" "Tony just headed south. You know the kind. try to get people open to radically changing their lifestyle. I'm back. I won't screw you. Yeah. called you a gutsy lady. It's getting cold outside. I'm off. You do what you want. OK. He got that wrong. "Not yet. You might want to add a log or two to the fire. opened the door. and you are totally responsible for what you do. too. that's really good. I'll be right out. I remember that time.only thing I truly own and control now." Helen I came up from the canoe dock. I was scared to death. I thought back on what I'd said. Something where respect. and called. I don't want to be starting just another society like we had a month ago. Hey. with people who can think. and I had so much to learn." I thought for a moment and glanced at Helen. consideration." "Yeah. and helpfulness are the only priorities. especially in front of others. especially if they were easy going. Hell. one lane each way divided by a double yellow line." *** OK. It would help if they considered the old morality ridiculous. "A responsible anarchy. It's what I want. "You're right. Rich and Sally back yet?" Brad answered." "That sounds good. I read about it in a book. You want to continue?" Now what is he saying about me? I clattered the dishes into their cabinet. we'll wait a few days before we set up our own place. Agreed.

I also know a little about pigs and chickens. Get it. You're going to have to get used to it. You grew up on a farm. This is the first time I've done this. . "We'll see how crazy I am when you smell it cooking. At the edge of the field on the other side of the road he picked up a dead rabbit. We'll eat what we hunt and grow. but we both have to learn the proper way. "Got it! Fresh meat!" He jumped out of the driver's seat and slammed out the door." "We didn't have that many cows. You should know that. "The poor thing. "If you think I'm going to eat that. Blood dripped from a hole in its fur." I thought. That's herd instinct." Bradley stomped up the camper steps. In the middle box of books is one on butchering. and I ate a pig Dad killed and butchered each Thanksgiving and Christmas. this is all we'll have. What's he yelling at me for? I didn't do anything. meat and vegetables. He told me. I think. will you? I'll find the knife. I didn't think of food. and the rest follow. I have no idea what I'm doing. I yelled back. He shot the rabbit. He slowly raised the rifle and carefully aimed out the open window. I could see his anger grow. It's been awhile since they've seen people. I could see a small movement in the tall grass next to the stream. A tiny stream ran through a pipe under the road just ahead of us. "They're scared of the camper. Bradley had connected the cute bunny to the evening meal for the first time."Look at those cows. We need fresh food. I hurried to the back where we stored the books just to keep away from him. What did he do? Why did he do that? I asked myself." I called as we eased down a hill and around a small bend in the road. then jumped at the report. When the canned food supply runs out. I called out through the window." "Hold still!" Bradley whispered." "This will help us to live ours." He softened his tone." Bradley eased the camper to a stop next to the field. We had eaten lunch just a bit before. Trust me. so I wasn't hungry. All I saw was this cruel person killing a poor defenseless animal. just as I will. but I'd never watched.. I never want to see another egg. I didn't connect killing the pig and eating it. Dad. "They're running in a group. amplified by being inside I think. "Look. and I didn't know why. How could you do that? She was just trying to live her life. you're crazy!" I guess I saw what's called fire in his eyes. One animal runs. I wondered what he was doing. He seemed mad. Mom. that's a shock. I've never seen that. Now get the book. I'm not real happy about killing it. either.

'Make an incision from the remaining rear paw through the anal area to the hock on the other rear leg. Once the hide is removed. "Here it is. Just read the book. the right way. Sorry I grouched like that. Let's see. It has to be done. But in order for us to be able to live we must eat. not so much now. "Well. That's the way I thought at the time. 'Tube skinning. it's gross. I said. We are alone. I wasn't hungry yet. but in the future that will be true. Like you said. etc. but calmer when he said." "OK. it does say something about draining the blood. Be careful not to pierce the viscera with your knife or you may soil the meat with digestive juices. That's too gross. cut around the leg on the remaining paw and pull the skin down like a straw wrapper.' You're actually doing this? Yuk!" I could not believe Bradley could be so mean. gross. Now come outside and find in that book where it tells about rabbits. "OK. OK. and stay just in front of what I do. Doesn't mean I like it. From there. Are you really going to do that?" "I have to. Exasperated. "Jeez. I'm not especially fond of this either. Use the remaining rear paw as a leverage point from which to hang the rabbit from a skinning hook or even a nail stuck in a tree. OK. Keep reading." Bradley kept talking about eating. but we can't depend on that. I leafed through the book until I found the proper section. In order to eat we must hunt and kill and butcher. "And you're right. It just means we have to do this to survive. We have to depend on each other. both of us. and we're both going to have to learn new ideas and ways. "I have to learn how to do this properly if we're going to eat." he told me has he sawed through the vertebrae. I'm hoping Tony will bring back some good people. He sounded disgusted. working occasionally with your knife to free the hide from the underlying tissue. and I'm as scared of this as you are." "You're sure that's the beginning?" What does he want? I'm doing the best I can. Still.' I can't go on." New ways and ideas? Right. have to learn how to do this.' Oh. I really did have a lot to learn. but that would be so messy. and done right. Why is he harping on this so much? It's not like were going to starve or something. and other things. We'll have to depend on each other a lot.Bradley rooted around in the kitchen drawer and turned toward me holding a large knife. carefully gut the carcass. please. How does it say to drain the blood?" . but we are in a totally new situation. it may be true. We. this is gross. and necessary." "And necessary. Decapitate the rabbit. 'Decapitate the rabbit and cut off both forepaws and one rear paw at the hocks.

" "Go ahead. I'll take a walk. As I walked. I only have Brad to look to for advice and help. was to go naked if it was warm enough. "It's getting hot. but I'm still on my own." Take the pistol? Well. and be careful. blue. and I agree with him. he won't be close enough to protect me so that's a good idea. at least he's not mad at me any more. or just take off your clothes. Yuck. I said. I have to get alone. I had a hard enough time reading the instructions. He didn't need me to read the book any more." "OK. Brad said that things were different. I can still do that. How? I know. I walked down the road until I came to the end of the fence. Talk about messy. They'd help me. Or do I? Mom always said to trust my instincts and feelings. I have to think. Dad said to wait until he approved of a boy before going on a date. As I came back out. Mom used to tell me to stay away from strangers. I feel like I'm . but if I didn't go with Brad.I continued to read. How can I go on a date now? What Mom and Dad said is no longer true. I selected a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt. He's right. and somehow he drained the blood and took the skin off. I went to the back of the motor home and rooted through my clothes. It feels nice when he holds me. I wondered if they would be good for flavoring. Yellow. He'd gone far enough now so he could cook it. No clothes? I don't think so. and red flowers looked at me as I passed. Not in front of him. but can I? I have to do what he says. I considered my position. then thought of the oil and exhaust from passing cars. I followed two dirt paths spaced far enough apart for a pickup truck tires into a field. to get close to nature. All those eggs." Well. Take the pistol just in case. it's not their fault. Do what you want. heading for a stand of trees in the distance. One of my employees believed the best way to live. that's it. really miss them. I really. but they're not here anymore. I think I would have been sick. I said. How could it be? I miss them. I'm going to change into something cooler. purple. I didn't dare look. Let me grab the herb book and get out of here. It's sort of like a cocoon I can hide in. *** After I told him how to skin the poor rabbit and cut it open. Why? To find herbs. I can't blame them. His clothes had so much blood on them he would have to throw them away. I have to trust him. I'm botching this well enough on my own. I decided I couldn't take any more. I'd be dead. We need flavor for the rabbit. "I think I'll go find some herbs or something. How could they leave me like that? No. and men.

though. though. and the rabbit in the pot. Bodies clean much easier than clothes. I can. First time and all. *** Anyway. Wait. though. she's coming back. she held a large handful of leaves. what did Tony say? He called me a gutsy lady. Bradley That's what you worked out. Damn. OK. Now I know. I carried the pot into the camper. but if he makes one wrong move. Hey. I feel good. Her pants fit her very well. Just like I remember that's when I really became interested in you as more than a kid. Maybe I'll wait until he's asleep or something and try it. I'm back. Someone she can trust. If she runs. that's it. That'll work. She can't get scared of me. So far. An uncle maybe. Where's the pot? Clean water. so how can he want to protect me? Is that what love is? Does he love me? No. I have to tell him that. Time to clean up. That's OK. I thought. "Cool. I'll learn everything he can teach me. When he holds me. He might be right. just like all the other grownups. Cool. Where is she? Good. on my clothes. I have to. I knew you'd decided something then. and I can't let that happen. and I was sure she'd rather not watch. I found some good stuff. that's all. Maybe Bradley feels that way.loved and protected. A close. Well. not a kid. I watched as Helen walked along the fence. she'll die. It's been that long? I looked at the mess on the road. I wonder if she realizes that? She's still a kid. We can still eat it. that's for sure. I guess that's OK. but I wasn't sure what made you relax. I'd have to remember to butcher naked next time. Now I have to soak it in cold water. He's not my father. I have to be more of a father to her right now until she lets me get closer. he's too old. I screwed that up. not really a father. I guess so. More of a teacher. so I have to trust him. you found stuff. I'm not taking off any clothes in front of him. I'd just washed my arms and changed my clothes when Helen returned. more like a woman. look at this. It does feel good when I'm swimming." "Hey. older friend. It says dandelion leaves can make a salad." . Or can I? What was that about no clothes? What does he want? Still. To him I'm still a kid." I observed. I'll have to be careful to keep her trust. When she walked up the camper's steps. it is true that there's no one else around.

or maybe I should say our dinner. The book says they make a good salad." . She said. It also says you can make wine from the flowers. "Well. She looked happier. "These are dandelion leaves. I have the rabbit soaking.Her face lit up at the praise. She told me. I didn't find anything else to use for flavoring. how long before we get to this place you were talking about?" "Probably tomorrow. These are good." I sat at the small table as she moved to the sink. but I want to have a day to check it out and clean it up some." "That's OK. There will be a lot of them in the future. something green. It should be ready to cook in a couple hours. Hey. We could get there tonight. I'm going to wash these for a salad. more ready to deal with life.

and hit the one-minute button twice. I poured a cup of coffee. a hobby I'd picked up to combat boredom of gate duty. I thought I'd be able to relax at home for two days and work on my writing. placed it in the microwave." Helen suggested. Richard sat on the floor near the fire. That's what I remember when I woke up that morning. tell us how others are surviving. yet the sounds weren't right. my last shift in the gatehouse for two days. a small brick ranch in an older development. "Who's the new face?" I said. and I looked forward to the break. I'd won the lottery the year before. The rest I invested. a sound like snow falling that's soft enough to muffle other sounds. I just fell into bed." the other male of our family called as he walked in the door. so I opened a few windows to let out the stuffiness. Quiet. almost big time. yet not loud enough to be heard consciously. Minor additions to my funds from the security work allowed me to live comfortably. "It's getting chilly outside.Chapter 5 Bradley "Hey. He can give us news. I studied the difference and found that they sounded clearer than usual. This is Sally. a little later than usual. I could take it easy and live frugally on the dividends. we're back. Samuel. I could hear the birds in the trees and at the neighbor's bird feeder." "Why don't you tell him about what you did when the two of you started. I couldn't hear the drone of the interstate a mile away. I didn't wake until the sun had climbed more than halfway through morning. this is Samuel." He glanced in the main room and asked." "That sounds good. After I retrieved my cup of coffee from the microwave. and with some of the proceeds I'd bought a home. The day looked warm enough already." Richard Fred had relieved me at midnight. "You really want to know? OK. which paid off surprisingly well. or sounds of . There were no yells or curses from the factory behind me. I offered to let him stay as long as he wants. "Richard. When I reached home after work that night. He said. He's traveling around writing down the stories people tell him.

forklifts loading trucks. I could not hear kid's screams as they played, although sometimes that was normal. There was an abnormal amount of quiet, too much quiet for that time of the morning. Then I heard it. A scream sounded outside, not right outside, but not far away. Several more screams followed, and not of kids as they played. To me, it sounded like a woman. My first reaction as a security guard was to investigate. I ran out the door, coffee in hand, to find the source of the excitement. All the cars in the neighborhood were still where I'd seen them late last night. No one had gone to work. No little kids, too young for school, played outside, but I didn't consider what that meant right then. I heard the scream again, more of a continuous scream and crying mix, from a block or so up the street, and that kept my attention. To my surprise, none of the mothers on the block had shown, so I walked rapidly toward the noise. You know you can't function when you're out of breath, so I didn't run. Besides, I would have spilled my coffee. One of the neighborhood teens stood screaming in front her house. I had seen her around, hanging with the other girls her age. I didn't think she was the best looking girl in the area, although she wasn't ugly. She had a bit of a ditsy personality, too, as if her brain wasn't quite connected to the world. Yet if you needed help she jumped in, and she treated everybody as if they were a friend. I considered her the best of the neighborhood kids. "What's wrong?" I shouted as I spun her to face me. "You're alive! You're alive! You're alive! You're alive!" She kept screaming those words as she grasped me in a bear hug, her voice slowly losing amplification. I eased her arms from around me, not an easy task since believe you me she was a strong little bugger, or maybe not so little. When I could breathe again, and she had calmed down a bit, I asked, "What's wrong?" "They're all dead! Mom's dead! Dad's dead! Steve's dead! Mary's dead! Allen's dead! June's dead! Damn it, they all died on me!" She had to be imagining things or hysterical or something. I tried to remember if she took drugs. "Whoa, Sally. Hold on a minute. They couldn't all be dead. No way. Not all of them at once." "They are! They are! They left me alone! Go look for yourself." "Wait right here," I told her, trying to sound concerned yet still not fully convinced. OK, I know she smokes pot and drinks some, but I don't think she does acid or anything like that. What would make her hallucinate that everyone's dead? Other things didn't match up, though. I was the only one who had come out to investigate and comfort her. No one had left for work.

There was no sound from the highway. I hadn't heard a train, either. The day had started strangely, and now the strangeness grew. As I walked up the sidewalk to her house, I tried to look in the windows. Blinds covered them, covers to hide private lives. For Sally's family that was normal. They were private people, and always respected the privacy of others. I found out later that they knew others would not behave the same way they did, so they kept the blinds drawn. At that time, I didn't know anything about her life. I opened the door of her house and called out. The house stank and I wondered how she could live this way. I called out again but no one answered. No one sat in the living room. The kitchen was empty. I checked her parent's room. Both her mom and her dad were still in bed, apparently asleep. When I went to shake them, their skin was cold. I found her brother in his bed in the other bedroom that apparently the two kids shared, also cold. When I stepped outside, Sally hadn't moved. "Just wait," I ordered unwilling to trust my sight. Her hallucination had carried over to my vision. I visited her neighbor across the street and found the afternoon newspaper in the yard. I opened it to read the headline, ‘Death Cloud Approaches'. All right, I should pay attention to the news, but I get so involved in my stories I forget the real world. I walked back to the middle of the street where Sally stood, tears streaming from her eyes, looking scared and sad and lonely and angry all at the same time. I couldn't help but gather her into my arms. "You're right," I told Sally as I hugged her. "I don't know what happened. I have no idea what's been going on. I'm sorry. Go wash your face and come on down to my place." No, she wouldn't want to go back in. "On second thought, you can wash your face at my place. Come on." We walked slowly down the street, Sally doing her best to hide in my arms. As we walked the block and a half to my house, she said, "There are no trains. I haven't heard one yet today." "If what I read in the headline did happen, then there won't be. Or cars for that matter. It may be that you and I are the last two people alive." She looked at me in shock. "I hope not! I mean I hope it's you. I mean, I don't know what I mean." She started crying. She was in shock and confused. "I know what you mean," I told her gently as I held her close to my body and petted her head. She felt good pressed against me like that, her firm breasts against my diaphragm. I thought that even though she was just a kid, she still needed comforting. Maybe she needed more comforting and protection than an adult simply because she was a kid. I guess I was right; she hugged back.

We walked up the deck steps and into my house. She went to the bathroom to wash her face as I stood outside and looked around. No humans were visible, moving or still. I didn't see any dogs, or cats, either. No, I could see a cat in the window across the street. I should let it out. Sally called, "There's no water." "Sure there is," I called back as I walked in the front door, and then noticed the electric digital clocks both in the VCR and on the table had died. They were working when I had woken. I had just microwaved my coffee, so the electricity should work. I tried to turn on the television, but it remained blank. The light didn't work either. Slowly I worked things out. There are no people around, so there's no one to run the electric plants or distribution system. That system had died while I was outside. That means no electricity, and therefore the pumps at the water plant won't work. No pumps, no water. Simple. I said, "You're right. The electricity's died and the main water pumps aren't working. I'll bet the sewage isn't pumping, either. This place is going to be smelly soon. Let me put chlorine in the pool and you can use that to get clean." "I need a bath," she agreed. "That's probably the closest to a bath you'll get for awhile. No water, no electricity or gas to heat it. You'll just have to make do." "Then if I'm going swimming, I'll need a buddy. You're the only one available. Anyway, this is too weird. I don't want to be alone for even a minute." I couldn't blame her for not wanting to be alone. I felt a bit spooked by all this myself. My mind refused to accept what evidence showed to be true, that almost the entire human race was dead, if not the entire race except for the two of us. An unknown agent, at least one I didn't understand, had destroyed all the humans. I could use a friend to focus on, someone to help me keep sane, work this out and start a new life. If I needed a friend to get my mind straight, what did Sally need? I said, "OK, get your suit." She backed away from me, eyes wide. "No, I'm not going back there. I'm not going back to that house. I don't care who sees me. I'm not going back! If you want, you can get my clothes, but I'm not going in there!" I would have to be careful. I had a touchy young female here, at an age where her hormones were at high levels anyway. She could get hysterical again instantly. I had to get her thinking about here. "Then what will you wear to swim?" I asked. I could not accept that the

world had changed so drastically that she could skinny-dip in the open during the day. She hugged me hard again. "Nothing. My dad, my brother, Bob, and Don have all seen me naked, as I've seen them. I don't care if you do too. You may be the last man around and I'm not giving up my fun for anything. I've played fun games with them all, and have pictures to prove it. Now you're all I have left, and I'm not going to give you up." Bradley, my boss at the condominiums, that person over there, taught me the pleasures of nudism, or naturalism as he called it. Yeah, you did. At first, the sight of all the women, women of every age, naked all around me, that really turned me on, but by the end of a few visits to the camp, it didn't bother me. Letting my body breath freely felt good, and no one pried into my private life. I found I enjoyed myself while I was there, and I did like looking at all the different types and ages of women. What Sally had just told me didn't sound like that, though. It sounded more like incest, what the law called statutory rape, although I doubted any violence was involved. I had to know more. "Fun?" I asked. "You know. Playing. Naked in bed and touching and stuff. I used to play with Mom and Dad and my brother all the time. And now they're gone!" She grabbed me again and refused to let go. If I understood her, her family used to play sexual games together. I knew something was different with that family, but I never imagined it was that. I pride myself on being open minded, but an idea like that? I'd have to think about it. Now was not the time. I looked down at her, her dark blond hair bobbing against my chest as she cried yet again. At least there were two of us. So many had died. How few lived? I wished I could cry, too. Her sobs slowly subsided. Finally, she began to relax. I decided I could get her clothes later, after we'd both calmed down a bit. I worked out of her hug, grabbed the kit from the shelf in the shed, and tested the chlorine level in the water. "Don't think bad about my family," she said. "When I was three I climbed in bed with Mom and Dad and made them show me what they were doing. A few nights later I joined them again and helped, and haven't stopped since. Until today." She sobbed quietly while I added extra chemicals to the pool water and stirred it since there was no electricity. Sounds like she was the instigator of those games, so it really shouldn't affect her other than having knowledge that most kids don't have. Fifteen minutes later I told her, "It's safe, Sally. Go on in." I watched as she took off her clothes. She had interesting breasts, firm looking and not too

large. I thought of what I had just promised. Her flat stomach and firm buttocks told me she exercised rather than sat around all day. or she used to be. She was only fifteen or sixteen. I would wait until she was ready." Sally said. I hadn't had even a girlfriend in a couple of months. I must admit. and to myself." That would get her to let go. not of age yet. The rules are what we make them now. that's not what she said. She had her age against her. besides the sexual games. too. a couple quite open and willing to try new things. which I liked. yet if I do without her consent then I will destroy a budding friendship. What would happen if we found other people? Would she want to stay with me. As much as I wanted her. and have a companion. too." I told her. and I could tell she noticed. a friend was more important to my welfare. yet firm. I've been with several ladies. While I gave her a back rub. Still. I reacted as you would expect. possibly for the rest of my life. are you coming in or not?" she asked me. I would be a companion. "Don't be. A quick look showed she had sparse pubic hair. as long as I just go along with what she suggests. I rubbed her back just under the shoulder blades when she suddenly spun around with a mischievous grin. than almost anything else was. However. Spin around and let me clean your back. Just old enough to mean jail time for me. She climbed the ladder over the edge of the above ground pool. and hers. and she is not a virgin. Right now. I began to get interested. Sally swam over to me and hugged me again. please? Promise?" "That's easy enough to do. though." She began scrubbing . Now my hands lay comfortably on her breasts. Now turn around. both to her. "I don't want to be alone either. "My turn. "I'm sorry. I peeled off my shirt and dropped my pants. I must admit I lied. let alone a lover. This might be fun for me. Sally shocked me. It feels good. I wondered if her family had been nudists. or would she go off with people she liked better? Were there other people? That would be the first question we had to answer. "Don't leave me alone. easily thrown aside. Her muscled shoulders hinted at the strength she showed when she had hugged me. They felt good. A freshman in high school. Anything else would sort itself out later. Rich. or underage. By the time I joined her in the pool she had swum to the other end. and yet to her clothes were just something to look at. sex may make things easier for her now. No. or any woman. No more jail. besides giving her comfort." I told her. I like it. Or did it? "Well. I could take her right now. I said. soft.

"I'll use my car. That way I'll only have to make one trip. I dry heaved out the window. forced myself to enter. I told her. I again exchanged the air in my lungs. We both had some in our respective houses. For now. Clothes would be the best choice. "You better wear your pants. let's go. or would you rather do other things?" Her hand rested between my legs. "I can see it from Bob's roof. following the old conventions would be best. Good. "OK. I'll grab our clothes while you go up the street to look. "If something goes wrong while it's running. What would be the first thing we would have to do? She obviously didn't mind nudity. Should I look now. and hurried out . Could we stand the memories here? I didn't think so. We had to get our clothes. We could see the nuclear plant on clear winter days when no leaves blocked the view." She replied eagerly. we have to move before something goes wrong and we get radiation poisoning or some such. Do you think it's a problem?" I turned around to face her. and solve another problem we faced. "I don't know. and threw open some windows." She climbed out of the pool. grabbed two dresser drawers. One problem easily solved. We needed a place to live. If Salem's running." "Why?" "So you don't scratch your legs when you climb to the roof. but from her? Inhibitions don't disappear in an instant. and started out front. a feeling I enjoyed. I'll go ahead and gather what I need." "OK. grabbed her shirt. In the bathroom. and fought my way to her bedroom. either. I needed a way to get out of this situation without hurting her.my back without soap. loaded the car with all the clothes I owned. I took a deep breath. There are no doctors around." Her hands slowly dropped from my chest. "Sally. If it's running. I enjoyed naturalism. took another breath. and I don't know that much about medicine." I threw on my pants and shirt after I dried off. yes. I don't know how to shut it down. yet neither of us knew who we'd meet in the near future. "You better look. I wondered if anyone had shut it down. A strong odor assailed me as I opened the door." That would get me out of this situation. And be careful. do you know if Salem got shut down?" She thought a moment. we may have a problem. and then drove the block and a half to Sally's house. keep her busy and not thinking about family. then meet you at your house when you get back.

I do not want her to freak out on me though." She glanced into the car." She unzipped my fly. and cops. "That's good. "I didn't eat breakfast this morning. "I have you. When I staggered out the fourth time. We have to move. The top four drawers of your dresser and what's in your closet. I say it's OK. The transformers or something shorted when the power went out." "Bob had some. now. "Now?" "Right now. We can pick them up on our way out. I need it." What does she mean by that? She sounds like a scared kid. Sound good?" "Let's go. We need protection." She knew more about the neighborhood than I did. Isn't this wrong?" "If it is. ran back into her house. "I think that's everything. After I cleared my lungs for the third time. Wait a sec. "You can count on me. Everything will have to air out. "That's enough. She didn't want to stay here either. Trying to sound sincere. though. including old morals." Like many other things no longer matter." . "Good. We'll load it up at the store with cans and stuff. don't I? Can I? Please say I can have you. I have some snacks that'll keep us going. First we'd better find some guns. It's down in a valley. Who knows when the nuclear reactor will let go? I know a place we can go that will be somewhat sheltered. You're taking this well. Can you drive?" "I've done it once. almost too quickly. If we say it's OK then it's OK. I told her." "Then let's seal it." she answered quickly. I need you bad. "We need to go back to my house to pick up some food. found the keys to her mother's car." I held my breath. I made another assault on her room. Sally waited. My stomach growled. and ran back out. but we want to find food before it's all gone. I told her. we're the only two people around. "Wait." she answered." She grabbed me again and looked into my eyes. let's go back to my house. Let me have you. and it looks like the marsh nearby is on fire. She is a scared kid. right?" "I don't think a license matters. I'm OK if I have you.to the car. I realized." "I don't have a license. all this stuff going on." "That's it. First. Why go back to your house? You have all your clothes. I need you. I told her. I saw steam coming from the big towers. I'm hungry. "You can drive this. money." Does she mean what I think she means? She must.

brick paved corridors. in the open. lawyers. plumbing. Fred lay slumped on the front counter in the gatehouse. A guard had been on duty twenty-four hours a day. They would send me to jail. and finally connected them to the death cloud that hit us last night. A wooden gatehouse controlled the main entrance. Now I didn't know what I would find. Bradley Monig. As did most extremist groups. filled in when one of the guards needed a day off. She knew what to do. I guess practice does help. I drove very slowly so Sally could follow. People would get upset. and doctors had bought into the complex.to two-foot thick walls of stone that supported slate roofs. It was those extremists that pretended to be Muslim. She was too young. It started as a cotton mill back in the late seventeen hundreds. and new insides. It lay fallow for more than thirty years until one of the local land developers had an idea. We were right out on the street. The thick stone wall of one of the old factory buildings . The outside walls of the buildings were pointed. CEOs. I nodded and enjoyed feeling her firm breasts. The four main buildings had one. Business owners. the deck continued and joined open. The Maintenance Engineer. and I had tried to convince myself numerous times that the world had changed. When I had left the night before. While we traveled. the same as some extremists in this country pretended to be Christian. alarm systems. The railroad trestle became a deck that reached halfway across the river. Around nineteen-seventy the company that owned the factory went bankrupt and abandoned the place. When I finally came down the hill and around the sales office curve. and then changed over to a paper mill. A railroad siding followed a trestle across the river to the second level of the warehouse. New electric. her tight stomach as I leaned against the car.Although evidence showed. Inside the complex. *** The place I worked. too. used to be a factory situated next to the Brandywine River. seven days a week. everything had worked fine. turned the factory into twenty-four well-secured and high priced condominiums in a rural valley. this place. I had shared that job with four others. they showed themselves to be fools. Sally followed me past the gates and stopped on the main drive just behind me. all three gates were up and I could see that the front door to one of the units at the bottom of the drive stood open. long standing inhibitions fought the expectation of pleasure. and connected with matching stone walls up to twelve feet high. What people? Unused hormones took over. I considered that news report and what I had heard weeks before.

glanced at the employee parking area and saw Brad's car there. There's one unit over by the river. That part should be easy. and said.blocked the view to the right side. Only the view to the front and rear were unobstructed. "Sorry it took so long. I turned off my car. I relaxed a bit. Sally shivered on the front seat of her mother's car. I could search all the units later. I pondered the reasons his car might be here. but I don't know where. I held my breath. or if they're still here. Several units later. someone had opened the file cabinet with a key and gone through the tenant files. The reek felt like a solid force. No one would stick around without cleaning out the smell first. It appeared that whoever raided the files had left already." I looked around at the trees and buildings as I slowly walked toward the basement steps. I worked my way toward the center of the complex. Probably one of the residents lived through the disaster and decided to do some traveling. Follow me." She grabbed my hand and placed it on her bra-less breast. A doctor lived . after they aired out for a day or two. I have no idea who or when. We also have to hide these cars. lightly closed the car door. Lay down on the car seat. The wooded hill to the fire pond blocked the view to the left. I slipped out of my seat. Stay out of sight. I moved stealthily up the stairs to the grass near the gatehouse. I would need to be careful. I unlocked the door and pushed it back. walked back to her. Still. the floor. In the main security room. One of the three motor homes was missing. I said. Let me get some keys and check the place out. or better yet. I felt bad about leaving her alone. I opened all the windows I could in the complex. Files lay scattered on the desk. I eased quietly down the two short flights to the security office and pushed open the door. and opened Sally's door. We'll have to move the bodies. Hugging the building walls. I hoped that was what had happened. walked back. I apologized. but then put it that concern way for later. While I went back to Sally. and began opening windows. I inspected the courtyard to the first unit. pocketed the keys. and only the assigned cars stood in the spaces under the promenade. "Someone's been here already. pushing me back away from the dark entry. "That will do for now. carefully scanned the area. The stained wood door under the first floor next to the garage would not budge. I decided that searching the complex would be the only thing to do. A glance into the courtyard showed that the area was clear. climbed the oak stair. These places are going to have to air out." We drove into the center courtyard and under the first building I'd searched. "You did well. Several keys were missing from the key box. The Amish garage stood empty. As I gently rubbed. but I felt safer letting her hide.

Could we? I didn't want to face that chore. I think that's the only problem. Now they housed dead people that stank. The entertainment electronics and lamps wouldn't work. but the lowest windows are about fifteen feet off the ground. Sound good?" Sally climbed out of the car and left the keys in the ignition. chairs.there and I don't think she was home. but I think that one will be least smelly for a while. The latch did not budge. If we . the hardwood stair was visible on the left. Once unlocked. When I had left after opening the windows and checking it out. "Yeah. Will it matter now? No. Let's get to work. And the bodies" "Can we throw it in the stream?" she asked. and past an elevator that no longer worked. that fact alone will help raise humanity's level of intellect. as long as it doesn't smell too bad. Why. so it should be defensible. Through the ceramic tiled entryway. of course. I almost said something. Possibly. You can see the stream. We traveled straight ahead onto a brick section." *** I led Sally under the arched brick entrance and out to the courtyard. the one I had mentioned to Sally. I can't tell you. a large freestanding fireplace. "That's what we'll do. but we had to do something. "That would be polluting." "Well. Sally and I would have to clean out every house quickly. I spoke to myself. The refrigerator is off. we're going to have the smell for a long time. Each unit had access from two or more directions above the ground." I told her. The spare keys hung where they should. Who's going to steal it? She answered. The human race will no longer watch sitcoms and dramas on the television at night. led to a living area complete with angled connected couches. I thought. I left Sally standing by the door and quickly returned to the key box. polished to perfection. I had locked the door. We crossed the entry drive and walked up the wooden ramp that led to the promenade deck. and huge windows that continued up to the second level. a hardwood floor. the door easily swung open. Former homes of humans lined both sides of this wide alley-like corridor. Ahead of us. The promenade connected to wooden walkways and open interconnected brick paved corridors. I tried the door of the third unit on the left. one level above the ground. through two brick arches. and her food's beginning to spoil. Good. then thought. the stink's not too bad. or the smell would drive us out of the area. I just can't figure where to put the old food. of course. An antique table and a grand piano stood near the windows. though. or sit around doing drugs and listening to music.

All the trash. and spoiled meat we threw into the river to slowly float downstream. People with useful skills should like the area. we walked out of the complex entrance hand in hand. I carried in the foodstuffs and clothes while Sally packed the empty refrigerator and freezer. No one would stay in a house that smelled of death. I was surprised that a coating of ice didn't form on our skin. I had to cook pasta over the fire that warmed the living room. She kicked off her shoes and walked into the house. we hoped. I checked the rail fence that wound through the trees that grew in the pasture as we approached. *** For two days. protected. then left. After a few hours. and climbed the steep hill to the optician's small horse farm. and then washed them out with ammonia and sprayed them again. We followed the road. a dirty job that we performed naked. I knew there were horses close by. That night Sally and I slept together for the first time. and I wanted more company than just Sally. more as if the forest had been fenced in than excess rocks and brush and trees had been removed. After a breakfast of cold cereal without milk. Several oil paintings hung on the white walls. we had cleaned out the standalone stainless steel refrigerator and freezer. a new experience for me. the stones in the fireplace began to warm and shed heat into the living area to chase the evening chill. a smaller fireplace waited to warm us and supply heat to cook our food. Each evening we swam in the cold water of the river to clean up. Sally went upstairs to put the clothes away while I gathered wood from one of the common area stacks and started a fire in the main fireplace.can learn to play the piano we'll have music. turning right. We used the space to store what we had brought. Most of the clothes we burned. Just behind the stair. "Well?" I asked Sally. from marauding rodents. and I wasn't sure about what other animals the neighbors had. "How do you like it?" "Let's get rid of the stink. possibly to live. We sprayed both liberally with disinfectant we found in one of the closets. The windows we left open to air the units since I hoped that others would show up eventually. I wondered why they had the . River water. Two hours later. we decided to go exploring." Sally replied. boiled on a camp stove to disinfect it. On Sunday. water that felt as if it was nearly frozen. It appeared to be intact. we cleaned out the decomposing bodies and spoiled food from the other units. garbage. and maybe they would like us. rinsed the ammonia smell out.

then refilled the buckets and made it past the horses. I filled the buckets and started up the hill. The former owners liked the shade provided. and we could leave the barn open for shelter. this is their food. only to be met by the horses. harness. "There's no water. And two buckets. two buckets in hand. my arms and legs felt as if they would fall off. and medicine in this closet. I opened the stall doors to let them into the enclosure. and that it would free us up for other chores. Less than a quarter the size of a normal farm barn." I walked down the hill along a path outside the fence to the stream. Sally volunteered to pour the water into the drinking troughs. until we had two wires strung . While I rested. I wrapped one end of the barbed wire around the first tree. more an oversized shed painted the same bright red with white trim as the grown up model. I told her about enclosing the pasture. I could dig it out a few inches to a foot deeper and bring water inland a short ways. Even after working the past two days. "There's no food or water here. up the hill to the barn. She agreed we could do it. tools. now dry. I conjectured." "Let me get some water for these guys. "No wonder they're ready to run. Sally hammered a staple to hold the wire taut and we moved on. It would be easy to enclose the grass area with barbed wire. They bounded out and ran around the area dodging the trees as if that was a normal occurrence. straw. eager to be free. it nested among tall oak and birch trees. And hay here by the straw. staples. That way they can water themselves. section by section. I let each of them slop out a bucket as I held it. hammered a staple over the wrapped wire. I found an inlet between two trees." Sally said from inside one of the stalls. We locked the horses in their stalls with food and water. I hoped the grass would be enough so the horses could feed and water themselves. Runoff would fill the small ditch. I'd just string it from tree to tree. "There's saddles. Got some sacks over here. two horses paced and stomped in their stalls. barbed wire. Inside the barn.pasture in the woods until I saw the location of the pint sized barn. See if you find a bucket or two. See anything else?" I opened a cabinet." Sally said. and then we can use the barbed wire to build a fence through the trees to the river. and then stretched it to the next tree." "I'll have to go down and get some. labeled. Near the grassy area that the State Park sometimes used for parking. yeah. grain." "This place is bigger than it looks on the outside. They're hungry and can probably smell the water in the stream. That way I could include the deepened inlet. and then spent the rest of the day stringing wire.

. and then removed the rails from one section of the wooden fence. I dug out the run so water for drinking would enter it. they found their way to the water. The horses seemed to appreciate our efforts to expand their range.where I wanted them. for as soon as we let them out.

highlighting each leaf in gold. but I knew we would." I walked out of the house. but I had to remind her that most people couldn't accept the sudden change. I'll be back after a while. rifle in hand. I suggested. this place has a tractor. We'll grab veggies and corn and stuff and start a garden. then she sat up and her eyebrows fell. I didn't want to scare her." "What can I do while you're gone?" I knew what she wanted. see if I can get some gas on the way back. Wash the dishes. "The canned and packaged food won't last forever. In the complex maintenance garage. You never know who's around. Find some dandelions or some other herbs growing nearby. Come to think of it. Sears up at the mall probably has a plow attachment. a beauty I didn't expect after what had just happened a few days before. During a breakfast of dry cereal and water. "Keep yourself busy. sans clothes. eventually. "OK. We can get plenty of dishes from other units. "You're right. We'll give the stream a few weeks. "I'm off. We know dandelions are good to eat. It was like the world was saying. As much as I wanted to cuddle. don't wash the dishes. to clean it out. I dreaded the thought of meeting them. we discussed ways to survive for the next few years. Check the other units. but appreciated. Oh. What can we do?" "Some of the stores on the Pike should carry seeds. The truck has two large tanks. the tan Ford Superduty pickup . The water's probably still polluted. Some people would flip out and do crazy things. Come to think of it. I'll take a run up there in the truck. and we can start a garden. and keep a pistol nearby. she had to learn to fend for herself when I worked in the fields or did other chores. a good rain or two. Now everything's fine. Read something. so I'll figure out a way to get enough gas to last a bit. She thought something would happen to me and she'd be alone again. I'm done cleaning out the human race.Chapter 6 Richard Morning sun shone on the trees across the river. Clean the house." Another sight I liked was Sally sitting across from me at the table. Find out what books are available." I told Sally. Sally sat a moment. Maybe you can find out how to make dandelion wine.

As I reached the truck. the keys in the ignition. but that he would use the knife to kill me. but he might have one hidden. Maybe he was both. I saw a person running across the parking lot waving his arms. and held it aimed in his general direction. I don't see a weapon on him. also covered with dirt or blood. but I doubted it at that time. "Stop or I'll have to protect myself. sighting along the barrel. and the large knife in his hand. Either he used to be the store manager. I reached into the cab and eased the rifle from behind the seat then onto the edge of the truck bed as I watched him hurriedly meander closer. past the dead radios and televisions. I found a pallet jack and cleared a path as I carefully maneuvered the plow through the store. and he fell face down ten feet away from me. He yelled something unintelligible as he stumbled and caught himself. and knew that he not only would not stop. I raised the rifle to my shoulder. Call the cops? What cops? This guy is not in touch with reality and is more than likely dangerous. Just as I remembered. past the home furnishings and appliances. The gun kicked. I heard his horse cry. but I had to be sure. I replaced the rifle inside the cab. his car was in the lot. "Hey! Stop! That's my stuff! It's all mine!" This person looked like a loony. He wore torn clothes covered with blotches of dirt or blood. or if someone was living there and would protect what he considered his property. I thought. His face. or he was just crazy. past the useless computers. Finally. so I didn't know what had been taken. a careful look around revealed the contents of shelves and cabinets broken and strewn around. He continued to run toward me shouting "Everything's mine! It's all mine!" When I saw the crazed look in his eye. "That's mine! That's my store. "Hold it! Let's discuss this. We already had the wagon parked next to it since Brad did most of his shopping for the complex here." I called.waited." I called back. His hair looked as if he had not combed it in days. showed the beginnings of a beard. The man screamed. After a scan of the floor. to the home and garden display. a plow to fit the complex's tractor stood on a cloth covered wooden pallet behind the display tractor. All of it is mine! You're stealing! You can't have any of it! I'll call the cops!" He continued running toward me. I walked carefully through the clothing racks. I fired. and . Did? Had done? Was he still alive? Sure. The glass doors stood broken and open. I drove to the mall two miles away and parked in front of the Sears store entrance. made sure the crazy didn't move.

I moved the red clamp to the positive terminal. A pair of jumper cables on display rack completed my list. I had responsibilities now. I had filled both tanks. The other end I placed in one of the tanks of the pickup. and eager. humans were happier when life made us work. I only lost a little on the ground. After cautiously easing back to the battery. or something that would move the gas. Finally. In the parts room I found clear plastic fuel line and a fuel pump. I connected the red squeeze clamp to the battery. I could have used help. but my potential helper lay on the ground a few feet away. I drove to the gas station. a liquid. "Hi. When nothing showed. The pump started to hum and I waited impatiently for the liquid to climb the hose." Sally called as she walked down the stair. and then clamped the black one to the side of the engine. pulling gasoline to the pump. a person to care for and a home and life to maintain. She looked comfortable without clothes on. but I had had no choice. Sparks flew. I cut the hose into two uneven pieces. and then dropped one end of the long hose into the appropriate large fuel storage tank. another human who could have reproduced. more welcoming since I was coming home instead of to work. I felt more alive than I had since I'd won the lottery. A small fire burned in the fireplace. three or four feet above the ground. two tanks. I carefully drove back to the complex and parked at the maintenance garage. connected one end of both hoses to the fuel pump with screw clamps. I pulled the hose out of the truck tank and sucked on it. up from under the ground into a tank. I needed a vacuum pump. and there was stuff built for moving gas I could find easily. no easy task let me tell you. that even though the normal person fantasized about the easy life. Now how would I do this? I need to bring the gasoline. sexy. but don't cook anything major. an hour later." I called as I walked in the door. Gas came shooting up the hose toward my mouth and I turned it away from my face and shoved it into the tank. "I figured I'd cook lunch. and then started to connect the black. I hated to see him in that position. Possibly struggling to live is what a person was supposed to do.worked the plow onto the back of the truck. "I'm back." "Sound's good. I checked the cap coding to discover which tank held the unleaded fuel. I want to start on the . Sweaty for the first time that year. who could have helped start a new society. and the cables to the electrical wires. *** The complex looked different when I came down the hill. He would have killed me.

" She's right. It makes me feel protected somehow." "Us?" Sally gave me a hug. Why don't you work naked like I'm doing? It's not like there are a bunch of people around. I plowed another four rows. there aren't any cops. Or is it? We have to protect ourselves. We can make our own rules. She looked up from the middle of a row. I'd decided to work naked and couldn't fathom why she'd worn clothes after she had suggested I go naked. We just hoped it would work. a good amount considering I worked only a couple of hours. "I worked. however. then. I did pretty well. As I wiped sweat out of my eyes. Smart girl. they meandered quite a bit. Cool. I watched Sally drop seeds where I'd plowed about half an hour before. a perimeter alarm or something." she called back as she continued to throw seeds. I don't want to lose my place.garden this afternoon. so I thought I'd done OK. I hoped. I returned to turning over dirt and concentrated on . I glanced over to the entrance of the field. I had turned an open area of tall grass and weeds into dirt ready for planting. It looked as if I had plowed drunk they twisted so much. I'll take a quick swim for now. "Looks like I'll need gas again. after I finish this row. considering that I'd never farmed before. Sally leaned against the pull of the wagon as she turned in. "You stink!" she said screwing up her face as she backed away. As I began the next row. "Naked would be cooler. "I'll use the wagon this time. I quickly learned how to keep the rows straight. She dropped the handle and stretched her shoulders. Normally I like the way you smell. The first rows I had plowed brought a smile to my face. I thought. Hell. Get used to it." I called over to Sally. and eating too much will bog us down. I said. All right. This is just overpowering. The clumps of dirt the plow turned over looked like others I'd seen in farmer's fields. I could see her breasts jiggle and her shoulder and upper arm muscles flex. I'll clean off later. I watched as she worked her way toward the fivegallon gas can. and kind of horny. Rich. and then realized she had finally removed her shirt. I had plowed over half the small field above the complex. She kicked dirt over the seeds as she passed. What are you going to cook?" *** The sun slowly worked its way toward the trees behind me as I looked at what I'd accomplished. There's no one around to call the cops for indecent exposure." "I don't know. I put that worry aside for later. We knew this was not the scientific method of farming. I have smelly sweat. I thought.

possibly for life. When I finished this row. asshole. disheveled. I looked into the notch and lined the front sight even with his ear. His filthy arms wrapped around Sally's perfect. and brought it up to my shoulder. He was dead. If I let this bastard harm her. He smiled and started to drag Sally back toward the road. I was afraid to move my head. located the rifle by feel. If this nut hurt her. disengaged the safety. "Don't do it!" he yelled over Sally's screams. who was angry with him. I could react. I had agreed naked was OK. someone who did not like the crazy. his attention focused on this new danger. I did not consider the crazies. I aimed carefully. Maybe they would help us. There was that voice. No. as if she would shoot him on the spot. asshole!" a voice called from the woods. I quickly searched the area across the road with my eyes. "I'll hurt her!" He squeezed Sally's breast hard. No one was in sight. He held Sally too closely. Sally screamed. As I watched helplessly. he nuzzled her neck. clean body. The man swung Sally around to face the woods. He molested my only friend. He whispered something into her ear. Scraggly hair fell onto Sally's clean. A dirty. I wasn't . "Hey. I heard a scream from the direction of the road. and I would follow. She screamed from pain instead of fright. I had to wait. through Sally if necessary. but I could not shoot. An opportunity to save Sally would show. I could not think about that. He challenged me with an intensely fervent light in his eyes. maybe. a high register voice. I could not allow either of those possibilities to happen. I'd never forgive myself. but would he hurt Sally first? Not if I could help it. I would gas up. My lover. If he killed her. Sally would make any heterosexual male horny dressed like that. A man held Sally from the back. and hid well. that I could not stop. If he tried to run Sally would slow him down. This animal squeezed my sexy little girl. I stopped and held still. I slowly reached behind the seat. I'd be without my partner. At some point I would have a chance to kill him. afraid he would do something I would not see. I had to wait. "Let go the girl. No one could help. An angry woman. Someone hid. He did not look at me. She sounded pissed. or you're dead!" A woman's voice. Everyone was crazy. I had been the one to suggest working the field was safe. I reached to the side for the rifle. Only Sally and I were sane. white shoulders. I slammed on the brakes and turned in the seat to look behind me. unkempt monster of a man. The beginnings of a beard rubbed her perfect skin.the job at hand. Would they help him? Would they keep me here? Would they both? I could not complete the thought. One hand fondled a pure white breast.

I'm coming out. She wore dirty clothes. his head aimed for the macadam of the road. a different direction each time. I hoped that would be enough. so I could back down a bit. A whole lot of leeway. "I've been following that bastard since he raped and killed my girlfriend this morning. He laughed. If I could draw his attention. at the mall. understandable in these times. I quickly directed my anger in that direction. He dragged Sally back three more steps. The woman recognized my gesture of defensive peace. but not large enough. I emptied the spent shell from the chamber." She walked over to us and caressed Sally's hair. "Christ that was scary. His body angled toward the ground. She had just protected Sally. but I saw plenty at Sears this morning. I'll visit later. If I hid. I could use something to eat. Girlfriend? "Thank you. "You! Hold it!" came from the woods. protectively. If the woman tried anything. and saw a man with a gun. I relaxed a bit." A tall black woman stepped from the trees. A protruding root tripped him." "Good." She thought for a moment. Wait. and lay still on the ground. She said. Do surnames really matter anymore? We don't have clothes to fit. I had help from the woods. "Let her go!" He swung back to face me. I would do the same. Sally threw her body to the side away from the hidden voice. His grin turned evil. When she reached the wall. My name's Amber." "I'm Richard. What are you doing?" I looked at the plowed field. Then I lowered my rifle to show this action was in defense. I would be ready. "Sears? Oh. she put her face to my shoulder and breathed deeply. which loaded a new shell." Then she called to the woman. The other person wouldn't know to trust me. It slid over her lovely flat stomach to caress her crotch. so I could grant her some leeway. she stood and raced for me. then thought. "I'm fine." I said lamely "Can we offer you food or anything?" "Yeah. Thanks. "Are you OK. She called. Her hair hung in what I had heard called cornrows.good enough. He let go of Sally to break his fall. Sally screamed again. I called. He saw me with the rifle aimed at him. When I finally held her shaking in my arms. Sally quietly said. She'd just saved Sally. We're together. then maybe one of us could help Sally. This is Sally. Two shots rang out almost as one. a pathetic patch of turned earth. I could use some. He took a large step backwards. His hand rubbed Sally's perfect breast. The man jumped twice. "We figure . and he's OK. Amber Braddock. girl?" Sally quickly crab walked away from the crazy.

Sauce simmered in a pot hung from the damper. sprawled naked on the couch. but I think I'll find a real farmer. I felt pleased we had met. Watching Sally from the easy chair. He hoped to be near other people. You don't want this thing lying around here. I hope. She looked good." *** The last of the evening light filtered through the tall windows." She didn't mean to be insulting. I wish you luck.we won't be able to scavenge food forever. There are people around. Why lie when the answer is so obvious? Those first rows meandered so badly." . She smiled. so we're going to grow some of our own. She learned new ways quickly. I hoped that's all it was. "Fair enough." She had helped. We did that with the others we found in the houses down there. She asked. I answered. but I had Sally. Pasta boiled over a small fire. "A bed sounds good. Then that crazy asshole killed my girlfriend. I could almost fit three more rows between them. a disarming look. like most other people. "Are you a farmer?" "No. "Then you don't know what you're doing. A smile grew on her face. and Amber liked women. "Oh. her still-wet hair falling to the floor behind her. Some of them are decent and troubled. Hell. I had a friend at the time or maybe I would have tried staying with him. We can feed you and give you a bed to sleep in tonight. do you? Let me give you a hand getting rid of it. A pair of small round breasts and a full black triangle where her legs joined her torso accented her long lithe dark body. She wasn't bad looking under the dirt. I could tell she agreed it was pathetic. you know. just respectful of my honesty. Let me help. We owed her at least that. I turned to Amber. we'll throw him in the river and let him float downstream. Now I don't know. Honesty to those who helped was the only reward I could think of. some are just crazy. I can clean up after. Where can it go?" I looked at the tractor and wagon. and shed old ways that did not work anymore." I answered." "A stream? Good idea. but stay a bit. but she had the decency to refrain from laughing. I met this one guy who was going to roam until he found a farm he felt would be safe." Amber surveyed our progress. I asked. especially where I'd begun. anyway. she saved Sally's life. "What have you been doing the past several days?" "Trying to survive.

as you can guess. you know that's true. and we've kind of helped each other heal. Sally and I knew each other as neighbors before this. I'm just making a point. questioning. you've lost someone. then passed one to me. friends. "Amber. and brought each other back to sanity when necessary. They'll help each other. to help it grow. not mores. She had dealings with people. I believe you would do that. "Well. normal. Sally. I figure it's none of my business what two or more do when they're alone. If you join with a community then you would be expected to carry your load. you kept hearing about all these people who had to go to shrinks because of abuse. Back to the sex. "Well." "Yeah. "You really think that if a man is playing with his daughter it's OK? I mean. unless you were alone." "What do you mean?" Amber looked confused. Female same sex was OK to many guys in pornography. but not male." "Sally? She lived up the street. Yeah. You started me preaching. a sexual partner. and if you loved someone of the same sex you were sick at best. except those who lived that lifestyle. Now look. as an example. but it wasn't directed toward us. I don't know. that our former society would frown on. with her family. nor does it matter. Who you live with or what you do other than that is no one's concern except to those involved. a society that's built on respect. Possibly this new world will be freer. you've shown you can handle yourself. Was she just a friend. It's the alone that gets you. I wondered about you two. If it was male on male? Forget it. "Thanks. and as far as I can tell. and we have a chance to change society. The people who will survive intact are the ones who pick up a companion. Very few in our former world. I explained. Jane and I did help each other. thought it was natural. probably everyone you knew. or a lover? You know how people thought." Amber said around a mouthful of food. I don't usually do that. Other than that. I can see how that could happen. even with a female vice president and Secretary of State. That can't . a hermit. and relax. That's all that can be expected for now. Now? Things have changed. As for people feeling troubled. She's so young. I respect you as a person." Sally handed Amber a plate of spaghetti. Relatives.I could still hear anger at the creep in her voice. we do have room here. You've mentioned a girlfriend. It's the type of society I'd like to see in the future. women didn't count. handle your share. one where it does not matter what a person or more than one person does. close family." "No bother. take you." I continued. at least in this small community. gave each other comfort. you're sane. They were a subspecies to most men. nor should I pry. but other societies condone. I said.

" "So if someone kept a slave that would be OK?" "Only if the slave agreed. I can't see anything wrong if a kid wants to play doctor and you let the kid lead." "It's fun. I would have felt strange a couple months ago. as long as it was done lovingly and not forced as you said. but this seems natural. and everyone around you agrees with what you're doing. I don't think anyone really wants to be abused. too." I hadn't made myself clear again. I've studied the civil war. "So what you're saying is that as long as you are not causing harm. though. Look at Sally. also. as long as you all agree. and does a good job. I think. What her family did or did not do in the past has not done any harm as far as I can tell. Hiding it was the only bad part." I swallowed. too. then answered. The laws were for the adults who manipulated kids. It's called institutionalization. as you can see from her fireplace cooking. it's OK? Like us sitting here naked. and does that well. Our former society sure thought it was wrong. She learned to cook on the fire quickly. Can you imagine that?" I smiled. True?" I could have said more to make my point. I'd grow into the it's a bad thing. They can't really think for themselves." She paused for a moment. What I'm saying is that whatever you and those closest to you do. How could I explain my beliefs so someone else would understand them? I needed to work it out for the next person or more we meet. They did it for a year. I think that's what caused most of the problems. Her family practiced incest." Sally put in. therefore it's none of my concern. "Unless you don't want to do it. There were so many laws against underage sex and incest and stuff that you took your life in your hands if you wanted that. Then it's bad. I don't think it's bad unless others say it's bad. or him. Maybe if I was older. what I didn't like. they need a structured life where others tell them what to do. I can understand why we had so many laws for some of it. My whole family did. "I enjoyed myself. "I knew a person who would agree to that. those who are involved with what you are doing.be good. To me she seems like a person able to handle herself. Many Confederates had their slaves along because the slaves volunteered to go. but I think that would be pressure more from the government and society and stuff rather than from my head. new things. it's nobody else's business. "No. but I still didn't know how far I could trust this stranger. She does other things. "I don't know if it's bad or not. or hiding the past would get to me. it's more personal than that." "Then if a person has a slave and is not abusing her. Amber thought while she finished her plate. We just didn't let it leave the house. it's no . It's the same sort of mindset some prisoners get into.

is it? Again. tired from walk and talk. but I learned a few things. Bradley. I wonder if that one's in tune. Tomorrow night we'll talk some more. We all will. We listened to Amber pick her way through some old songs. and then returned to our planting. For tonight. I would never have a slave." Amber looked over at the major piece of furniture in the room. Whether or not Sally spent more time with her after I went to bed I don't know. I don't agree it's the thing to do. You say I shouldn't have? Caught hell. but it was more music than we had had in nearly a week. Is that the right word?" "If it's not. Sally. she turned back to me." "Maybe you'll find a farmer. I like that thinking. In the morning. or of yours. Course. Amber said goodbye. can I come back?" I put my empty plate aside. I'm not much for building. I listened for a time and then went to bed. "Sure. but I would have no say in the matter. after a cold breakfast of dry cereal and bread. Amber wasn't that great. I will learn what has happened. If I find another partner." "There's only one way to find out." Amber leaned her head on the back of the couch. I get your meaning. "I like that." Sally said. I used to catch hell from all sorts of people because I liked women better than men. I am tired and will make notes over morning coffee. I am enjoying. I can be an addition. if there was abuse.business of mine. "I also play the piano." "Exactly. Then I'd have to intervene if I could." . After a couple of minutes. Sally and I watched her climb the road heading toward the mall. I don't have those skills. the slave was mistreated. This talk. It's your life. nor will I try to find out. or we won't survive. her rhythm was off and some notes were wrong. great open mouth. then that would be a different story. it's time to end. What do you do?" "I ran a cash register. What you do with it is no concern of mine except where we fraternize. Amber. I beg you to excuse me. you'll learn what you need to. Helen. that is. *** Samuel Yawned I did. "Richard. as long as the slave is treated decently.

"That works for me." .Richard answered. There's an unused room upstairs to the right. Until tomorrow.

Chapter 7 Samuel When the sun rose. dear?" it?" "You know. For life still healthy. While breakfast ate. Opened bedroom door I had. Like when you stroke him. a whole room just for me. I began to eat the meal. children bent on play. never raised her head. OK?" "OK!" She dug into her breakfast grinning. fled. as angular as knife. middle of the clan. She shoveled food into her mouth. so did I. But this? How much this would they share? How much that I could tell? . I had to know what I could tell when story I did tell. I knew they lived some different style since two groups shared all things. life as an honest man. When two bodies pounced on me. can I watch Daddy shoot?" she asked." "Who? Oh!" She looked at me. to scrambled eggs and cheese. They dragged me to the table. Later today after he comes home you can ask Daddy if you can help. as I do on most days. and when finished. Sally asked. one more girl joined. "Mom. Prior to her puberty. Her face became beet red. She hurried to finish breakfast meal. grateful for this life. The whole family involved in sex was not a style I'd seen. Sally winked at me and said. "Shoot what. Can I watch? Can I make him do "Since you asked. it's OK with me. "But first you might say hello to Samuel here. life still whole.

Even worse. yeah. did my best to show I would not shirk. then she wouldn't see. "Where were we? Oh. and then drifted away turning darker. Amber. what I'd worried about that first day."You sex have with your children?" I asked. "What? No. I had climbed the hill to our garden to see if anything had started to grow and saw a strange color through the trees at the top of the hill. If Heather hadn't asked for that directly. it wasn't strange so much as unusual. *** Richard Only a couple days had passed when I noticed Salem's problem. left." After notes. though. I cleaned courtyard. That evening. at least. "Looks like today would be a good day to stay down here. Not like that. we had no way of knowing if we were exposed. "Wind's from the west. Humans planted seeds. Pulled a plow to furrow dirt. I don't know how the radiation pattern will spread." I told Sally as I walked into the house." "Shouldn't it follow the wind? Which direction is it?" I hugged her close. I told her. the high winds seemed to be from the west. I hurried down the hill. She looked up from sweeping the floor when I said that. "Why?" "Looks like Salem's going up. Well. Luckily. As close as we were to Salem. Richard continued to tell me the full tale. I helped around. doing all good deeds. at supper. It should follow ." he said. We answer all their questions the best way possible. Cleaned the stalls. I imagined water vapor dissipating to show smoke originating from close to where the Salem Nuclear Generator ought to be. carrying the smoke and steam away from us. She needs to learn. we could easily receive a massive dose. maybe a bit northwest. I walked up the road to the top of the hill and looked over the golf course. bedded down while the animals worked. taking comfort from the companionship. and waited for answer. White steam billowed into the sky. She's a smart and curious kid.

They should be OK. "I hear it. harvest the grain. We'd had warm and cool days. We have enough cans so that all I have to do is drive up and siphon fifty gallons at a time. Sally gave me a mischievous grin." I hoped. "Shush. and then mow and collect the stalks. and see what we get. a car or pickup or something. I'd chopped down a dead tree and split the wood for our morning fires." "What about the horses?" "We can check on them. almost as hard as a summer storm. Sally and I felt comfortable together. but will it? We'd be better staying inside. "Depends on the wind? Which way it blows. just on the edge of hearing. The tone changed as it grew. let it dry. and closed up. worked its way into my conscious." She slid out of my arms and down my naked body. sun and clouds. sure. aired out." Sally placed the pitchfork in the closet. Yes.the wind. Listen. that's all. The Pike has plenty of gas stations. I felt as if we could live our lives here in peace. I checked the load in my rifle. then cut it. too. and. We could let the grass grow. Something like that." "Plenty up the hill. *** "This straw will not last a year at this rate. a constant companion since the day we had met Amber. too. I could let the golf course grow until it seeds. I guess it had been almost three. that big box bookstore. Come to think of it. naked as usual to avoid dirtying our clothes. A hum. The library's up there." I told Sally many days later as we finished bedding down the horses. one branch. Our garden began to grow in small dots of green. Generally. A couple days after I saw the steam it rained hard. You'll need a lot of gas. I said. "It's the stalks from wheat and barley and stuff. and down the hill toward the complex. We had expanded the horse's pasture to include even more grass." "I think that would be more like hay. what they eat. if I remember correctly." Sally said. The . maybe. I could find some books on farming. We'd have to grow the stuff. I'd also taught Sally to shoot." We walked outside. maybe four weeks since the change. I guess? I could blow. we'll need that. all with multi thousand gallon tanks. "I think you're right. "What's straw made from?" she asked." We listened some more. "That's a motor." "That's a good idea. I think it's getting closer. almost as if a truck climbed and descended hills. All the units were cleaned. she had practiced.

Whoever drove took care on the down slope. I could stand on an old transformer and see who approached. I began to feel hope as I shifted to low gear. Bradley "Let me interrupt occasionally with my views. "It looks neat from up here. "OK. This would be my second choice if the condos were uninhabitable. All looked green. The engine held a high RPM while the sound moved slowly down the long hill. The country club that lined both sides looked deserted. We reached the bend at the top of the hill and I slowed to prepare for the hill down to the valley. believe me. Listen to what goes on. Deer ate in the open. a sight I hadn't seen before." Sally hurried to the position I indicated. eaten breakfast. go ahead. I heard the vehicle begin to continue slowly down the hill. started on the last leg of our journey." Helen peered out the windshield. *** We had stayed the night near a stream that ran through a pubic golf course. I'm going to take my time. I listened for a door. "Where we're going is at the bottom of this hill." Richard agreed. I listened carefully. Once behind the wall. Is the river clean?" "Probably not. The houses and out buildings I could see still stood. already unafraid. Halfway down it stopped. and smaller animals abounded. I won't be in your line of fire.engine grew closer. If I get into trouble you can help from the landing there. I ran to the high wall next to the entrance. Someone had noticed our garden. down by the river. cleaned up. OK?" Bradley asked. "Go sit behind that wall. and as the sun topped the hill to the east. The two golf courses could be turned into farmland. Yet it could be a good shelter if necessary. and explained that one of the rich prominent families in the area kept its not too sane family members here long ago. There are factories upstream that were known to be . It sounded as if it had reached the top of the hill. I could see the park and the pastures that covered the rolling hills in the distance. or anything to indicate that the person took more of an interest than I felt they should. No fires had ravaged the area. I made a left onto a narrower country road. I drove past the glass-topped walls of the Children's Hospital near mid-morning. At the intersection.

Samuel Bradley bowed to Richard." "They should be OK. I see plants starting to grow. but I can't tell what they are yet. I'll stay in sight. They probably didn't. I wonder how well the plants will grow with that shade. and they'd plant them at different times. Keep your pistol ready. The community of four now. and keep me covered until I tell you it's OK. Richard looked up in thought. "The power went out before this person could lower the gates I guess.polluters. I drifted the camper down the remaining hill in low gear. though? How much longer will we have to wait until the water's really clean? Will it ever be really clean? Hey." I opened the door of the motor home wondering how crazy and protective this person was." "You're right. look at that. This would be a city or suburban person trying to learn. Some of that may have cleared out. I answered. I'll bet you probably know more about farming than this person. As I stopped at the flat area between the gates. Well." I made sure I placed the shotgun in easy reach. "Hey. Wait in here. It even looked like someone had attempted to weed the large garden surrounded by trees. what used to be a small area of grass. As I rounded the bend and saw the main entrance come into view behind the old stone building. "This growing place. let's see who they are. I don't think this person knows what they're doing. Small plants grew in an orderly manner. Then continued to tell how they fared living in the small vale. then through puckered lips blew. really. and around here you have mostly dairy or horses. It went out on me. I wondered. Look how crooked that side of the field is. I remember neighbors used to grow different things." How much. Who plowed the garden? What else did they do? Where are they? I told Helen. that over the next month grew. I wonder if they read anything about it?" "I wouldn't have. It's new. ." Sure it did. This wasn't here before. "I'm going to look around. Most dirt farms were run by conglomerates. look at this." "That stands to reason." "What?" I'd seen the dirt area to my left. I doubt there are many farmers left. We want to be friends if possible. I noticed the gates were still raised. Someone just did this. but don't show it. a passing of the tale.

He had not only been my employer – no. however. Sally waited behind a different wall. It looked familiar. it was just some person looking for a place to settle. but could not see inside too well because of the tinted windows. still naked. "Hey Brad!" I shouted. A very good friend. so I felt for a better grip on the rifle. I had told Sally not to shoot unless it was necessary." He gave me a strange look. You'll never know how good!" "I'll say. "God. and had several tourist stickers next to the door that I thought I recognized. I was ready for anything. The one person I never expected to see again. yet who could fit into our family like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle fits into the last space. it's cool. it's good to see you. That's when I remembered I didn't have clothes on. I sighted on the door as it opened. Then Bradley Monig stepped out. If this person. or persons. Someone eased out of the driver's seat and stepped out of sight. and tried to set us up so no matter where this person went we would be able to watch them. His mouth dropped open. supervisor – but also a good friend. had just descended to the driveway. This is a friend. "Helen. You would not believe the wave of relief that flowed through my body when I saw him. but I imagined she felt as I did. He had taught me so many things since we'd met years before. I watched a girl about twelve or fourteen step out of the motor home and look around. "Rich? You're the one who's started this? You planted up there?" I couldn't believe Bradley stood in front of me. I had no idea what she thought. I saw movement." Bradley turned toward the camper. She had brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders and down her back. I watched as it glided to a halt in front of the gatehouse.Richard I waited. She wore a white T-shirt that covered a developing chest and . I greeted him as enthusiastically as I felt. Most likely. but it could just be similar to the camper that had lived here. He's the employee I told you about. I stood up so he could see me. but I wanted to be the first to see whoever it was. shaking with unused adrenaline. My sweaty hands felt slippery on the oiled metal. I had no idea who this might be. out of sight while the vehicle continued down the hill. It felt as if the tension flowed out through my feet into the ground. Come on out. wanted trouble. A bus style motor home eased around the corner to the open gates. I felt ready for it.

so I need to wash off a bit. there. "Hey!" she called. She looked slightly scared. It doesn't seem to have affected her much. "Curried? What's curried? I didn't know they needed to be curried. She's been more mature than I expected. Bradley watched them climb the hill. isn't she?" he asked. "You have horses? Have you fed them? Changed their bedding? Curried and brushed them?" Sally looked perplexed. two." "I'll bet. She's kind of young to be so open. a smile brightening her face. We know nothing. "We were taking care of the horses. Everything's different now. We have to depend on each other. I've met a few strange people over the past few weeks. She walked over. unconcerned about her lack of clothing." Bradley pointed out with a chuckle. something I'd never known. just listen.dungarees that fit." She started up the hill toward the barn." "Horses?" the girl asked her eyes widening. Leave your clothes here so you won't get them filthy. Come on. more leery of new people. So have we. "That's good. "Then wait to undress." "But what about them?" the girl asked in a whisper. We're going to have to learn to live with things the way they are now." "You mean undressed. We have to help each other. She's worked hard the past few weeks doing what was necessary. but don't rush it. She's even had good ideas. but come. I'm." Bradley turned back to me. What is that? Tell you what. That's why we were dressed as we were. I decided to let Sally bring this young girl to our way of thinking. We just cleaned the horse barn and did a few other chores. You and I may be the last kids alive. "She's one of the old neighborhood kids. though I don't think so. what." . I think finding someone familiar for companionship helped us both. "I guess since just you two are here it's OK. both clean. no. "When I found her she said her family had had sex together for years." Sally smiled. with more than fondness for his friend I thought. three. Sally climbed from her hiding place. "Look. "I don't want them to see me naked. and then nonchalantly suggested. I could hear her say. willing and able to take the role of a wife and helper." I explained. or imagined. "Nice looking girl. maybe four years older than you?" Their voices faded as they climbed toward the barn. For now. Why don't you come see and tell me what we missed.

" "We all are. she enjoys it and she's looking forward to warmer weather. and the sooner she realized the world had changed forever. "Let me tell it. something that would shake her up a bit. I think." "That's not normal for a kid. Come along and tell me what you've been doing. She's a naturalist like us. OK?" Again. Leaves grew above our heads. a bit younger than me judging by her body. I'm glad I found her. Grab your wheels and come on in. I stopped." Samuel "This is where we talked at the barn. I'm going for a quick swim to clean up. Sally We walked up the hill toward the horse barn. it's good to see you. What about yours?" "Helen? I found her on a farm down south. I'll meet you down by the train bridge. that she wasn't on some strange vacation. This really shook her up. Brad. They even had sex together." "What's normal? She told me her family hardly ever wore clothes at home."Different times. unless they've been brought up that way. I figured it was time she heard some sisterly advice. It's easier than cleaning clothes. She doesn't mind. in fact only a few of her neighbors knew for all those years. leery and unsure of herself around people as if she'd lived all her life in the boondocks with over protective parents. She's lucky to be sane. right Helen?" Sally asked. she had that guy to fall back on. the better. In fact. Little yellow and purple flowers grew near the path. friend Helen nodded. I saw this kid. Richard and I had cleared most of the sticks from the path. She knows more of life than you'd think. I didn't know. She was a normal kid with normal values. The younger woman nodded. I . God. After all. which says something for her discretion. or no close neighbors. She realized I was no longer next to her and turned back. offering good shade in the weeks to come. so I could study this new person rather than concentrate on where I put my feet.

I can see you like Bradley. we used to go to a nudist campground. I love it and I'm naked whenever I get a chance. That's what Mom and Dad told me. "OK. we can be friends." I continued. cleaning the gutters. too. I didn't go out of my way to meet people. as maybe Bradley has told you. I remembered how Mom explained things as we played. "My Mom and Dad both felt that what the family did was no one else's business. as long as we were in the house. I'm." Otherwise I would have been in his bed. I am. "Yeah. surer of her feelings. It's just that we had ." "So relax. Her pants showed the beginning of a woman's shape. "Anyway. "Well. so we have to become friends ourselves. Rich and Bradley are friends. Her T-shirt suggested breasts barely budded. and looked forward to getting to know Helen better.studied her for a moment. Rich has said good things about him even though he thought he'd never see him again. sort of like an uncle or something. and enjoy yourself. Good friends. about us. Here stood a girl. I guess I am. Richard? They're friends. My brother and I explored. We'll take care of things. a few years older than you? I understand where you are. taken care of you. too. "Yeah. too. just from how they greeted each other. and it is comfortable to be naked. played doctor and such. worried about strangers. how to act. so we don't know each other. How did you know that? Brad and. and like him a lot." Helen agreed. I'm not all that sure about God. now." We turned the corner of the road. Let me tell you a bit about me so you'll understand where I'm coming from. so I'm sure he's a good person. too. I did it first. That's just the way I am and always have been. a girl in the midst of puberty. I had fun. right? Unsure of where you fit in and what you can do. Actually. a kid to me. asked what they were doing. I can see that. open and forward when it comes to my curiosity. Mom and Dad. all while being naked and comfortable. mowing the lawn. you know. a place to meet people. We have different ways. then we asked our folks about sex. Does that shock you? Don't be shocked. relax. she said. We don't want to get in the way of their friendship. Just God needed to know. OK? It won't be hard. I'd seen him around. or put off. After a moment. and learned that what most people think is bad really isn't. yeah. what you feel. so unless the whole family was friendly with a person. I grew up a couple blocks from Richard. I had fun. I tried to start off gently as I joined her again. They let us join them. Dad also encouraged all of us to be totally open in everything we did. what. I mean. right? You're scared. I guess he's done some good things. you and me. I mean good friends. and relaxing. Helen joined me and thought for a few steps. Sex is fun. but never met him." I began walking again. And that's the thing. when I was three. not everyone else.

It's better to be naked at times. Like. good at that time. here. that it's just you and me. If we want to do something. That is what you're saying. just girls. He says he thinks it helped me adjust to a situation where I had to grow up quickly. I'd grown up in a situation vastly different from most people. I hoped I didn't scare her. like. I realize what you're saying. hooray. and he says he thinks what we did is OK. I didn't really like that much either . I just never thought about it before. I had to communicate. and this is our home. "I can see why you say to be naked for dirty work. right? They'll last longer if they stay clean. including you. There is only us. what makes you comfortable. and I'm glad. There is no more school. like in the locker room at school. and they need to be cleaned. and nobody's going to tell you you're bad unless you do something that really will cause a problem. I told Helen. or not. There's no one to tell us we're wrong. I could understand that. Brad and I grabbed clothes when he first picked me up. maybe even necessary. It doesn't feel right. There is no more church. "Let me clue you in on something I've learned. Now Richard knows. She'd told me that most people learn that sex is dirty when they're still in diapers." Helen grinned." Helen was quiet as we neared the top of the hill. It's a lot easier to clean skin than clothes. they just get in the way. It's. I don't know. like. like now. although there are still books and we can learn what we need and want. you know. right? So we don't wear clothes while we work. just the four of us. or government. we can. so that anything seems bad and needs to be hidden. But that's just me. but how? I realized I hadn't had much practice. though. or Dad in lecture mode. "I don't want them looking at me. and I'm easy. Not a good thing. Just do what you want. I've learned that what I feel is right may not be what others. "You're living by old values. what you were taught when you were just starting to grow up. I'd suggest you take off your clothes so they don't get dirty. What you learned at home and at school was. Or maybe that's what she needed right then Finally she told me. I had sounded as bad as a teacher. We can make up our own rules. as we all need to be now. but it's no longer true." She didn't want others to look at her. Unless you need to keep warm. I'd learned about inhibitions from my mom. You can do what you want. Relax and enjoy your new home. feel is right. however you feel. when we want. maybe. I hope. but they won't last that long. or touching me. Now it's OK to be naked. It's not like you have to hide anymore. Clothes are a bother.to hide what we did because of what others thought. all I know is now I don't need to hide my urges and desires. act how you want. hooray. and I won't think any different of you.

But with you I guess it would be OK." Helen said as she peeled off her pants. I stroked the brush down the horse as Helen had told me. I decided not to push it. how am I to get married now? I know you mean well. "Here we go. So did my lust." She had a practical side. would probably be the best way to convince her to open up. I just don't want the guys looking at me. Watch. I'm just not sure I'll ever be comfortable around others unless I'm dressed. "Yep. We should find what we need now. and to my surprise they walked over to us. I wondered. Helen looked around the dim interior and found a cabinet against a wall. Bradley. Mom. The only thing is. make our own ." I decided to drop the subject for a while. How can I use Helen's practicality to convince her nudity and sex was OK? Should I? Both men together would be fun. As she called the horses into their stalls. I'd enjoy teaching her. it seemed taller than I was. Helen was young." Now that Helen worked with what she knew. and me. Rich. My hopes rose for her. sort of pets. You'll learn. She'd come around. They need a good brushing. The preacher and all always taught that sex was bad unless you were married. I said. and to suggest the guys let her relax into our ways. You are right about not getting our clothes dirty. She made a noise. but for now I could let her teach me. Just like I'm learning about horses. I entered the stall next to her after the horse came in. just passing puberty. "Riders. I remembered Mom as I watched her remove her blouse. I found some dirt and scraped it off the horse's side. Aren't they beautiful? Rich says we can use them to pull the plow next year since the gas won't be any good. I decided. It took a step closer. she looked more relaxed. "One of our neighbors had horses and let me help sometimes. They enjoy it. It's not right. "We went to church every Sunday. Sally. "Here are the horses. but nothing else happened. too. I guess brushing did feel good. like.'cause some of the other girls were mean. The animal was still a bit intimidating. Just letting Helen see how we reacted to each other. Dad. This brush is used to brush the animal after that. and much smaller than me. "This one's yours." She held a tool that looked like four concentric circles of notched steel connected to a wooden handle by a bent rod." She pulled open the door." Helen stood at the fence looking at the animals. True freedom takes some getting used to. This is a curry comb. It makes their coat look and feel good. she explained. and me. but now we can. Where's the cabinet?" she asked as she walked inside the small barn. Mom and Dad said the same. You use it to scrape the dirt off the animal. "That's OK. I don't know how they'd handle a harness. The muscles under the skin shivered.

This does feel like starting over again. Yet here she stands naked in front of me. We are truly free to live how we wish. I would definitely want to be dressed. You've fed and watered them well. isn't it? The water I mean. Helen is more open and trusting than I give her credit for. isn't it?" "Better. She moved toward its hindquarters and considered aloud. but it wasn't as easy as it looked." I told her." I corrected my strokes and thought about Helen." "Not as bad as a few weeks ago. We have a ways to go. Don't worry. That's why I said naked was better. Thoughtfully Helen asked. I don't know. "I know what happened is nowhere near what we were taught would happen in Sunday School. That's good for swimming. It feels good. There. No. They said evil people would rule.rules. The feeling of the water sliding over your body is. You don't want to make her skin sensitive so it will chafe under the saddle. I wonder what else they were wrong about? Everything? Is there a God? Why would he let this happen? Oh. There's another place to swim I'll show you. It wakes up your senses. but he was watching for danger so it was all right. I tried to copy her moves. "I did that with Brad a couple times. don't we?" "Not really. sort of like I've moved entirely out of the country. then carefully up-stroked several really dirty areas. like. "A bit. "Do you know much about horses?" I asked. Out of the world maybe. though. It's sort of like a big bath. The neighbors had several that I helped care for. "You should know that." She ran the comb down a leg several times. "We have to swim in the stream to get clean. We'll just have to finish up and then get the dirt off us. She gently ran the brush over the entire area alternating strokes with her hand. Maybe you're right. The only thing is we have to skinny dip. Down at the bottom of the hill is a dam that forms a pond. I decided to bring her out some more. They won't see. then down three times with the brush. makes your nerves tingle nicely. You'll enjoy it. How would I feel if I was suddenly shoved into this situation? I'd be scared. They told us there would be a big war. Be careful as you do the barrel." I could see Helen think it over." "What's that?" "Swim naked. Very sensual I guess you'd say. don't we?" "Yep. We can even rub down each other's back and get really clean. How's that?" . really wild. first up with the comb. The guys are busy doing other things. It's cold. unprotected if I figure her right. Clothing would feel like protection." Helen was quiet for a while as she worked at what she called the horse's flank.

she's just a kid." "Well. and across up the hill some. didn't I? I'm sorry. I. Sparks meandered up the chimney . Richard. love. boy. The four of us sat in our living room looking out at the trees and the river as it flowed by. "It leaves a lot to be desired. Richard Inside the complex. The furniture is in good shape. On this side I can see up the road over there." *** Oh. she knew a lot more about animals than I did. It'll do. or anything else that comes in sight. I'll be able to monitor the water flow and the movement of the horses. He told me. What did you think? I'm lucky I didn't scare you off. she was just a kid at the time. I don't know. then. but I'm not pushing anything. I really lectured. Neither should you. Bradley picked one of the third level units that looked over the park and stream above the small dam. How's the garden? Did you get any books?" *** After dinner. though. I'm glad you've kept the stalls clean. Brad and Helen came to visit. Can we get down to the stream without being seen?" "Sure. How's your supply of food and straw?" Her praise made me feel good for some reason. She's learned to trust me." I asked the question most on my mind. She needs a big sister. She has problems. Sally? Yeah. "You'll have to ask Rich that. "How about Helen? What's she like? Is she OK? Sane and all?" "She's OK. her. and you'll learn. let's go get clean. An extra log on the fire combated the cool and rainy evening. I answered. as my father used to say. and I like the wall decorations. "I can see the falls and the park. and up the river a ways. grow up.Helen studied my horse. but we all do. Helen and I can be happy here. mean. What's more important is food. I think. or your girl. I'll show you. This way. Let Helen see how we act and react and she'll come around. Still." "Any sex yet?" "Come on. sure. There's the fireplace insert for heat. This is a good place. a lot quicker than before. someone who knows more about female stuff than I do. I just hope she makes friends with your girl. She'll grow up soon.

not really. one that's freer than what we had. See? I told you things are different. It's the same sort of small society. Most girls really liked my brother. I would have frozen. did you?" Sally thought for a moment. He never had a problem finding a date. Brad says you handled yourself extremely well when you met those bikers. "More of a true communism?" "Sort of. The same way their wars were more showing up the other side than killing. Dear. We were taught that no meant don't do it. "Most people don't want to leave the old ways behind. We practiced a lot. "What if Tony brings a bunch of people when we meet him? Will they have a say?" "They will probably try to institute the old morals and laws into our new society. I remember." . But with that much rain. That's what I'd like to see." "What'd you do?" Sally asked. and without technology that's just not going to happen." I pointed out. and he made them feel very good. If I didn't want to do something. Most of their laws stemmed from respect and the lack of it. any fallout would not travel far. "Helen. you didn't have any problems with your family and sex.riding the currents of hot air. "Jeez. and on sharing. That's cool. We have to change. a society built on respect for others. They want things as they are. "We have a chance of starting a whole new society. You see. Take Sally. Rain like this will help. for instance. or touching the enemy without hurting him or yourself. Sally sat back and looked at Helen with wide eyes." Brad speculated. "No." "That reminds me. "Yeah. That's why we have to decide what laws we want to have. Bradley told how they had killed the two bikers in self-defense." I said." Bradley thought for a moment. especially when he came home from a date with a really good looking girl who wouldn't let him do more than kiss. You took the law into your own hands and no one gave you grief." "I know. "I think Salem went out of control. I said no. I thought more like what the Native Americans had. "There is no law now. Much harder like it was that time and it could cause damage. Keeping a cool head under fire like that is very hard to do. That showed bravery. I told Bradley. girl. Remember the night it rained hard?" Bradley settled back in his chair. That guy Tony we met on the motorcycle said he thought it went also. If I remember right it was a few weeks ago. I wanted to congratulate you." "What law?" Bradley asked. We all did. You gained more respect from counting coup." Helen asked. how we want to be treated. he stopped whenever anyone said to.

Isn't that right?" Sally nodded. it would be disrespectful." Bradley thought for a minute. Sally and Helen can take care of the horses and houses. Therefore. "Therefore. You learned to plow fairly well. In Sally's house. us and some others." "I will. and his enjoyment of nudity. He sounded offended. I answered. many of them. "You both are." "All I'm saying is that in a small group. I do agree. "Think about it. "We'll just have to plant more. Not everyone agreed. even if Tony doesn't come back. Throw the tractor on the trailer and take it on over there. We don't have any seed. and the small truck is enough to move the tractor." "Speaking of others. or only to close friends. they showed respect. down by the ten foot bridge that flooded every rain. came from a lack of respect of others and not greed or perversion as was the popular thought. "You say otherwise. so we should be OK." . though. which pretty much matched hers. They also agreed not to take it beyond the house. your parents agreed not to do that. I couldn't imagine why that would offend him. and you're pretty smart. "I remember an animal feed store near my house. There's plenty of open space at the park. what you planted won't be enough for two. sex could be fun and a way of getting closer in the family. I think they sold large orders of seed. they didn't have emotional problems. or were. And there's more up at the country club. Because her family showed respect for each other. I answered." "That sounds good. Heck. if you respect each other and pitch in to keep the community alive. I knew of his interest in young women. With four of us here. We can plow that starting tomorrow. I can carry more that way. that's all. Why don't I use the small truck and see what I can pick up. he'd shown me how good nudity could be. Are you going to force your beliefs on the others who show? That wouldn't be right. Will others agree? More people are bound to show up eventually. but I probably should take the large truck. That just shows that society's ills. In fact. and said." I wondered about the change of subject." "That's your opinion. Who's right?" Sally gave me room to spout my opinions. you can believe and act how you want. More than most people because of the power of 'no'. I have books on planting. I don't think. living will be easier."Mom said that if Dad touched me it was bad. within their closed society. I'll bet you'll agree." Helen said. in your house family sex would have been bad. Helen. in my opinion." Bradley stated.

Charlie should realize this is home. scraped some coals to the edge. Think I can let him out of the carrier today?" He said. "Ready yet?" He asked after his mouth closed. Maybe I can have coffee ready for him when he wakes up. or to come back and find me dead. which began to burn." "You think it will? Get warm. Brad has the right idea." He was going to leave me. What if something happened.Chapter 8 Helen I woke with the dawn. Then I poured four mug's worth into the camping percolator and added coffee to the basket. We need to learn to live with nature again. yeah. "I'll just have some cold cereal. Yes. I barefooted down the polished wood steps into the lushly carpeted living room. Yeah. yet. like those bikers. I think today will be warm. something I had done every day for the last month or so. I'd have Sally and Richard. It depends on what I find. It just seemed better not to use up the candles." "The sky's clear and it's kind of humid. Bradley was behind me. And. his hair bed mussed. I think I'll go down and stir up the coals. and he was away? I'd be alone. a deer drank from the stream. Outside the window. It's too early to be truly hot yet. I haven't even started breakfast. I was willing to follow him around like a puppy. It's time for a new life and new ways. . but the time is coming. How pretty that is. I placed three small splits on the coals. or fed Charlie. I didn't know why. I quickly dressed against the cool morning. and placed the percolator on them. He yawned. but for some reason neither felt like they were as much protection as Bradley. but I wanted him near me all the time. When I turned around. While they charred to cooking coals. Make sure the screens are mounted and in good condition. "Just started. I didn't want him to die. Once the sun comes up you'll want to open the windows. I want to get started so I can be done before it gets warm. but all that has changed. We need to learn to live with each other. I returned to the fire. Those with money used to have it better than we did. We'd gone to sleep early since we didn't have lights. I drew a pot of spring water from the five-gallon container in the kitchen. I mean. I'm not sure when I'll be back. Well. since the death. I said. He needs to explore. As dawn began to light my window. though not too bad.

"Sure." Their voices faded out as they made their way to the maintenance shed. "I saw a deer this morning. We don't know what you'll find while you're – . learn to live with it. "No. you here?" I called. I'll take a cup. Anyway. Better than mine. and there's nobody here but us four. I walked across the tile onto the hardwood living room floor."You sure you don't want me to go along to watch?" I asked. Coffee OK?" "Tastes great. It feels great. while I leaned on the rail and watched from the promenade that surrounded the inside courtyard. But just because you liked bare skin? She replied. Brad said it ought to be warm today. Yeah. Believe me. The door stood open. it feels good. I'd just have to get used to it. How about we clean up breakfast. "Wow. I told her. Want some coffee?" "Yeah. among other things. that's cool. softer." She said. Bradley walked down the stair to talk to Richard." sounded from the back of the unit. She said. I could see that not wearing clothes while we cleaned the horses was better. "Sally. I think I'll be OK." He didn't understand. Carpet's better for bare feet. Sally sat by the sliding doors looking at the stream. He'd have to go off on errands and doing stuff to keep us alive. You ought to try it." "Yeah? Then I'm not wearing clothes." "What?" How could she not wear clothes? She'd get sunburn and insect bites and all sorts of things. "I love this place. and you'll get them used to seeing you for the summer when it's really hot and you don't want to wear clothes at all. I cleaned up and walked to where Richard and Sally lived. But maybe that was best. "That's one thing he would not do." Richard called from the middle of the complex after we ate the cereal I poured into bowls. "I've been thinking. What would Rich think? What would Brad think? I don't want to get him mad at me. It's so peaceful. *** "Hey Brad. Not as bitter." I sat in a chair near her." "I don't know. I heard Richard say. A slight breeze rustled the trees across the stream. "Back here. then do the horses a bit later?" "Sounds good. guys like to look. and it just wasn't right. We really didn't have a way to clean clothes except by hand in the stream." Sally explained. What do you do?" .

If I hadn't had her as a friend. and thinking in old world ways. I'll be down in a minute. I might not have lived. looking up at me. I would change my views." "Are you sure?" No one wearing clothes? I couldn't imagine that. See him up there on the tractor? . "I don't know. I'm going to leave these shoes in the barn when we're done. We walked up the path to the barn kicking branches and twigs out of the way." I was still embarrassed by my body's changes. Think we should rake it?" Rake it?" I said. I said. "Rake what? Oh. I don't know what would have happened. I'll meet you in a bit and we'll go up to the barn. to see me naked."You might make it too strong. You'll see. the path. Sally called me from the lower level." There she was. I'm going to clean the house. This should be enough or we'd have to rake it all the time since stuff falls out of trees. my big sister. I'd just have to take it off. "Richard went to a different camp or we would have been friendlier already. How did you find out about this?" "From nudist camps. Nobody wore clothes there. It's not like we have air conditioning anymore. something she'd do over and over again. "You're wearing clothes?" Sally asked. Dumb." Sally commented. you're right." I thought for a moment. "Soon our feet will have hardened. and I didn't mean about the coffee. *** Mid-morning. In a couple days none of us will wear clothes unless it's cold." I noticed that Sally wore only old shoes. but not for a few days yet. I might not have been able to live with others. This does feel good. "but till then I don't feel like stepping on sharp branches." I hurried down the stairs less than a minute later dressed in the same fashion as Sally. Well. that too. He agrees with me about nudity. then put it on when I was wet. Try a bit less each time until you get to where you and Brad like it. "I'll be right there. The package always tells you to use too much. I didn't want anyone to look at me. I like the feeling of the breeze on my body. the paved driveway that formed a triangle inside the buildings. well. and take a swim. And. The guys were off doing their thing. That way I'll be clean. I called. and it would only be us girls. "They'll get dirty and smelly. She had taught me something I didn't know. If I wore something. I came to the upper deck and called down. "I think you're right. but a loose smock or something like that would be cool. Without Brad. you know.

I had to make two trips. I'll bet this afternoon he won't even wear pants. If you're worried about the guys looking. It was an old wooden building painted gray. At least that one fenced in field on the right. I have to get that seed put away before it gets ruined. Rich better plow the whole park land. and maybe that one on the back of the hill by the parking area. well. and one just ripe and raring to go. I sighed. That was the first time I realized that stairs could be a problem. maybe with some help from the girls. the two girls eased their way into the water. Inside I found lots of pet food and food for other animals. The seeds could wait where they were. It's no use getting clothes all sweaty and dirty when cleaning a body is easier. one beginning to blossom and losing whatever cares and inhibitions the old world gave to her. Should we chance it? I'll have to see what Rich thinks. Finally. When the last fifty-pound bag of cat food was in the back bedroom. and they don't really look that much anymore. They were two young ladies. enjoying the way the water glistened on their skin and the way the drops followed the curves of their bodies. I know what I brought back. well. It'll be hotter in the summer. A quick flip through the small magazine took me to the planting dates. I had the energy to pull the Old Farmer's Almanac from its storage box and flop onto my back. Spring wheat is almost two months behind. situated next to a lumberyard and backed by railroad tracks. Oh. Both wore nothing except dirt. Which stall do you want?" Bradley I raided the feed store. Let's see what supposed to get planted. It was almost all I could do to carry the three bags of cat food up the two flights of stairs to my door. Shit. tied everything down well. We're late on almost everything. I watched them. they will. three huge bags of cat food. . I looked at the white couch in the living room. but after a couple times it gets normal. I glanced out the window. I guess Rich and Sally are right. including horses. I can go behind. I loaded eight bags of the horse feed. and then carefully drove the overloaded truck home. Bradley went to the same camp as Rich did. what have we here? In the pond above the small dam. Beautiful. and I should have made three. and a bag or two of each of the seeds I found. and get the seed in. I pulled into the complex and parked under my house.He's not wearing a shirt. Hey. They also had seeds for the farmers in the area.

I'll wear one. "Just a T-shirt?" "That's enough. I walked into the house to grab something to eat. "Good. and sat in the shallow pond to wash off. "If he's hungry he will be. or maybe women of a . "I didn't know you were back. There was enough depth to swim." "Right. Probably be a good idea to leave the steep alone. She guessed the true reason. Maybe we could just use that for hay or something." Brad said. Doing this work will keep me looking good for Sally. She'd be a good teacher." I chuckled as I trotted off to my home. not yet reaching the steepest part of the hill." I ran out of the house and down the stair to Sally's level. a big sister. As I opened the door. He was at the table. or whether the soil would just erode into gullies and cover what we planted if I took away the grass." And I'm not ready to show off like you do yet. Rather than drive the tractor back." "Is Rich going to be there?" How would I know that? Because Sally may have told me. but she understood mine and didn't push me to be like her. Do what you want. They look as if they're sisters squatting there." I told Sally as we walked up to the condos. I quickly ran up the stairs. It's not that warm yet. pulled on the white shirt I took off before going to the barn. I'll see you in a bit. took off my pants. and walked back down to the living room. barely. too. When. That way we'll be in uniform. I said. Bradley called that he was in the study. I walked past the small woods to the stream." Sally answered. reading. I thought as I climbed out on the bank. Join us in a bit. Less stairs for the guys. I didn't know whether I could plow there and have seeds grow.Helen "I'm going to grab a T-shirt. I learned some things. I saw Sally and Helen stirring a pot on the coals wearing matching white Tshirts. "Or you're still embarrassed. The sun was high and the day had started to get hot when I decided to call it quits for a time. No problem." "Sounds good to me. Richard I had plowed all morning across the river in one of the open fields at the park. but it was just as easy to rub the sweat away with my hands. following the contours of the land. Sally may have different views. I said. "I'll bring our lunch and we can all eat at your place. after my swim. someone I could count on to tell me the truth. I'm going to Sally's to make lunch.

backwoods tribe, or maybe campers. Whatever they were, they look good. "Hey, you two. What's for lunch?" I called. "Your hair is soaked!" Sally called back when she looked. Well, what did she expect? I wasn't going to come home all sweaty, not to her. "I cleaned up in the stream before I came in," I explained. She called back, "We have canned spaghetti for lunch. That should hold you." I wondered if I should put more than pants on, cover my bit of a potbelly. If I did, I'd only have to take whatever I put on off again after lunch, and it wasn't as if they hadn't seen me this way before. I complained, "Again? Oh, well, it's better than nothing. Is Brad coming down? I saw the truck's back." I heard his voice. "Right behind you. I've been doing a bit of research this morning. We're late." Late? I turned around. Brad was dressed like me, wearing only jeans. Looking a bit more fit, but that was because he was younger. I felt better, but he had said something that worried me. "Late? Late for what?" "Very late for planting. I found sixteen items listed in the farmer's almanac that should be growing by now. I thought you were a fool when you planted everything, but you were right. We have to get things into the ground." I accepted a plate of spaghetti from Sally. "What sort of things?" "Oh, sweet corn, and peas, and beans of all kinds, including soy I think. Cucumbers, eggplants, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash. I picked up seeds for all of it. Spring wheat should have been planted two months ago. Barley. I think it's too late for that." I had no idea what he was talking about but it sounded as if he did, or at least had an idea of what to do. "Possibly. Did you put the stuff away yet?" "No." Of course he hadn't. I had seen the truck loaded as I came in for lunch. "As I remember, the garages on the road side can be made rodent proof easily by sealing the doors. Let's work on that after dark. We can use the lantern. Then we'll have a place to store the seeds and stuff. I'm still plowing across the river. Bring some of the spring wheat and get it started where I first plowed, oh about a third to a half of it. We'll figure out what else to plant later. The rest we'll store for next year in case it is too late. What are you girls going to do?" "Clean the house, I think," Sally answered. "Wash the dishes. Women

things. Unless you want some help." I think that comment about women's things was a joke. She continued, "My hair feels dirty and tangled, though. It needs a good brushing. And I want to look through those herb books you brought. Helen was telling me about them." "I can do that, brush you hair," Helen said. Sally smiled over the pot, "Good. Stick around after the guys leave." I said, "Then if you girls can keep busy, Brad, let's take a look at the garages. We'll figure out the best way of sealing them, then go on across the river. Oh, and depending on what we need to do to plant, you two may have to help." "About the rodent proof, I'm thinking cut a groove in the concrete and use sheet metal to lock into the first groove of the door. Would the outside or inside be better, though?" "I don't know. There's an expansion groove already there as I remember. Let's see where it is, first." We left to explore the possibilities. Sally "You want to brush my hair?" I asked Helen after the men left. "Why not? I used to do Mom's back before – ." She paused and I noticed her eyes had watered. "But you have to do mine after." "It's a deal." I remembered when my mom and I brushed each others' hair. It was a time to talk, to discuss things and fix problems. This might be a good time for a girl talk, a way to help her relax into the family way. The plates were still on the table, dirty. "Let's clean off these plates before the sauce hardens, then we can start." We carried the plates down to the stream. Under the old railroad bridge, now part of the promenade over the river, was a small dock for entering canoes. Not only was it was easy access to the water, but there was shade against the heat of the sun. I washed the four plates and the forks, handing each back to Helen to stack. "It's getting hot," Helen commented. She still sat in the sun. "I'll say." I stripped off my T-shirt, enjoyed the cooler air as it caressed my naked body for a moment, and told her, "I'm going to cool off," as I slid down the dock into the water. "Whoa. This is so cold it feels good. Come on in. I'm going to get cool." I ducked under the water, not even waist deep where we were, but deep enough if you worked at it. Helen quickly joined me as naked as I was. A few minutes later, we carried the clean plates and our clothes into my

house. Water dripped from our hair and bodies onto the floor. "Let's stay in the kitchen until we dry," Helen suggested. "We can't hurt this floor with water." "OK. I'm going to grab a comb and brush real quick. Be right back." I ran up the stairs to the second bedroom where I'd seen a plain translucent brown brush on the dresser. I ran back to the kitchen still dripping. "No clothes?" "No, it's too hot." I remember how I was for a bit when I just started growing tits. I didn't want anyone to see them, not even Dad or Steve. She needs to gain confidence, not be so embarrassed, and I think I can help with that. I said, "Hey, it's just us, right? Same as at the barn. Even with the guys, it's just family. Don't be afraid of nudity. It won't hurt you. There's nothing wrong with it." Anyway, you're so sexy it hurts, but I can't tell you that. I didn't know I could think that about another girl. "You want to do me first?" "I guess. Sit down so I can reach you." Helen picked up the comb as I grabbed one of the kitchen chairs and sat. "You have nice hair. I wish my hair curled like yours." "It can be a pain." I remembered previous years and explained, "When it's really humid in the summer it gets all super curly and I can't do anything with it. You'll see. You know we're not going to get anymore haircuts, don't you?" "Unless we do it ourselves," Helen answered as she struggled with the tangles. "What would we use, knives? That would look terrible." I chuckled at the thought. "I'm willing to let it grow, as long as you'll keep brushing it." "I will, as long as you will. It seems to me we've become friends very quickly. I mean, it took weeks at school to find somewhere I would fit, and even then I couldn't really trust anyone." "As Brad and Rich say, times have changed. We have no choice but to be friends, so it happened. Could you see us fighting all the time?" "The only two women? Not hardly. That'd be stupid." I thought, At least she's waking up to the fact we have a new reality. Now she's thinking along the right path. "Right. We've been forced to become close. Personally, I think that's a good thing." "You know, everything you've told me is true." Wow. She's loosening up. She realizes that things are different, that we only have each other to depend on. Is this the time to open her up? How can I use this new awakening?

I told her seriously, "I can't afford to lie to you, just like you can't afford to lie to me, or any of the others. That's why I told Rich about our family. If I hadn't, he would've thought I was crazy and left me. As it is, he knows that I know about sex, and like it, and that I have for a long time. You will too, once you're ready for it." She stayed quiet for a moment, just stroked my hair with the brush, then asked, "What's it like to have sex?" What a question. How do I answer? "Oh, jeez, I don't know. I do know, but not how to describe it. Have you ever had anything so good happen that your insides tingled?" My back was to her, and naturally I didn't see if she nodded. I gave her a moment to remember good times, then continued, "Well, it's better than that. It's like an explosion of good feelings. It drives away headaches and most pains it's so good. Gets you relaxed. It's one of the things you have to try to find out. It's my turn." I stood and motioned Helen into the chair. "Yeah, but what does it feel like?" Helen asked as she sat down. What a question. How do I answer this? "Have you ever kissed a boy?" I asked. "Twice. Johnny and Dan. Dan was better." "Why?" "I don't know. Just something." Just something. Yep. I smiled over her still damp head. Her longer hair was easier to brush because it was straight. "Just something. That's the same way it is with sex. I don't know, it's just good, the best, and if you're showing that you care for someone, that they're more than just friends, it's even better." "Yeah, but how?" What does she want? Does she know what she wants? She's curious. I can see that. Does she want me, or just a safe way to know about sex? Safe in her eyes, at least. I think she's a bit afraid of Bradley. I guess I would be, too, if all I'd done was kiss a couple guys. Well, I played with Mom some. That wasn't so bad. Not as fun as Dad and Steve, especially together. I wonder if something like that would work? I could talk Rich into it easily. Maybe a sort of weekly bonding instead of church. But what does Helen want now? "Let me ask you a question." "You were awfully quiet just now," Helen commented. "Thinking. You said you haven't touched Brad except a hug or two. Have you ever seen him? You know. What used to be called private parts." "Once when we were swimming." "That's what got you thinking? Well, you do realize we need more people in the world. A lot more people. And it's just us, so far. Maybe there are more,

She sounded undecided." "I think that's what he wants. um. but I think you're too young for babies yet so you might as well wait to learn more. "Sure." "I don't know." "What would I have to do?" I saw Helen begin to tense in the chair. special place where everyone helps and nothing is hidden. I can explain more later. thanking Brad for taking you in. "OK. That's the old way. I think that would be better than the old ways. and you'd enjoy it too. Anyway. as long as you and Rich said OK." I continued to work the kinks out of Helen's shoulders and between the shoulder blades. I think. I wouldn't have to worry about being alone. my question. and I wanted her happy. don't think of it that way." "Together? We watch you. and then tell him why you're doing it while you take care of his needs. except you know what I tell you is the truth. So me having sex with Brad in itself wouldn't be bad. for saving your life.but who knows? It's just that I'm going to have as many babies as I can. She thought about what I'd said for a while. this scared her. but it would help him. Anyway." "How would you teach me?" "I could show you." Helen replied after a bit. of course. sort of like a lesson in school. and you us? That's gross. too. "That doesn't sound so bad. and to do that we have sex. or would you rather I teach you how? Not anything that would hurt. unless you have stronger feelings. too." "Or I could tell you how to do something and let you fumble until you learned. A sort of. I began to rub her shoulders. It would just be like keeping it in the family. Richard puts what you saw in my vagina and things go from there. but there are other games that will show you care. No matter what she said. If I went to him in private and offered to help. oh. starting as soon as possible. This was not a good time to push. It'd be easier to watch the first time though. Bradley needs sex. You do see what Rich is trying?" "I think so. Tonight?" . You'd show me? What to do to show Brad I care?" I had her. feeling her relax as I explained what she could do. and then said. I felt like she was my younger sister. At least I think that's what Rich is thinking. not the feeling I wanted. "What would you want to do? I don't think you want to start by doing everything. I think it would spoil what Rich is trying to do. Think of it as. It's when it's hidden that it's bad. do you want me to take care of Brad for you. We'd be a truly loving community soon.

"Where'd you find the ham?" "It's one of the things we picked up in the first few days. oh. Now I want to go back and smooth out the rows with my feet. and what kind. What else do we have to plant?" "Oh. and some others. though I may go back and get corn for feed so we have something for the horses. I'm beat already." "Yeah. and how long it takes to grow the stuff and. lots of stuff. but not by much. "I don't know. they need to help with some things. "How'd you do it?" "Broadcast. That should be enough. We'll have to see how I feel." "Sounds good. then bring the seeds and the girls in the wagon tomorrow. I think the girls could help with that. all we want to put down of the wheat. I didn't know how far apart the plants were supposed to be." "I'm about done plowing this section." Richard Plowing is not easy work. even with the tractor. Any more slope and we'd wind up with gullies instead of food. Other things will take more work. I circled the field for a few more hours until the grade was steeper than I thought the rows could handle. I don't know what else. I grabbed sweet and white for humans. and if we need fertilizer. I'll give you a ride. and oats.Helen considered that question for a minute. Corn. Or do they take only hay? We'll have to find out. and peas. and green beans. *** "That was a good dinner Sal." I couldn't see where he'd dug any holes or turned dirt. placing seeds in the right places. I walked back to Bradley. How 'bout we take the tractor back and find out what we need to plant. and said. or at a certain level on a hill. so I just threw the seed out as evenly as possible. and if I need to plow more we can figure out where then. It's going to take a bit to get back into doing actual labor. With the first ." The tractor was faster than walking." Bradley said as he gathered the plates. and tomatoes. We have soy. He wiped sweat off his brow. It takes concentration to keep the rows straight. and barley I think. placed the nearly empty bag on the ground. "Then come on. "That's number three. Have to look through the reference manuals and see what distance to plant them.

His eyes had been exploring Helen's small breasts during dinner. neither of us guys were supposed to ask questions. Helen's parents raised her with society's morals. and they had spent at least some of the afternoon together. it's not quite dark. I wonder how Sally will handle it? "Just wait. But how much? Who would override whose morals. and was glad I would get to explore more of her later." The two girls had thought of something." Helen said and removed hers. or lack of same? I could not see how Helen would agree to an orgy. "Where'd that come from?" "You know what I mean. She just needs this as a normal interaction. Let's all go down to the stream and get the dishes washed. That is not what Helen needs right now. and the shape of a woman just forming. Now they wandered over her small. "These wet pants feel clammy. a first for Helen. "I thought you didn't want me to see you naked." She took them off in the kitchen. Helen did exist. and discuss it later. I could see the hint of a smile behind his bland expression. I asked Sally. If Helen did not exist. I followed and noted how gracefully Sally walked. Sally could have talked to Helen then. "It's warm enough tonight not to." she told me sounding exasperated. Sally said. I thought. however. The girls were topless on this warm night. "Just what do you have going through that head of yours? Better yet. Helen would also act as a damper for Sally for a while. "Let‘s retire to the family room. She probably did. although I didn't see how they did it. a position I enjoyed. Sally motioned Bradley to the couch that faced the large window. Sally walked through the arch followed by Helen. We trooped down to the stream where Helen and Sally rinsed the food off." I gathered the dishes in front of me. I sat in the overstuffed chair closer to the dying fire." he said. Sally might have thought of a way to have sex with Brad and keep it in the open.day of real planting over and all. I was sure the two girls talked while cleaning the stalls. The girls managed to soak each other. especially for a teenager." Sally told him. Apparently. I could tell. I decided to go along with whatever they had planned and see what transpired. Sally plopped onto my lap. . We returned to the house and put the dishes away. while Brad and I washed out faces and hands." "Retire?" I asked. I found everything about her interesting. I glanced at Bradley. I figured Sally was working on Helen to be more open. sparse triangle where her legs met. yet Sally had a glint in her eye when she looked at Brad. I just felt tonight should be special. I'm not going to wear them anymore.

That's how I learned. "So what you're saying is we make love in front of Brad and Helen. it starts with a very deep kiss where you exchange tongues and saliva. That includes kids." Helen giggled from the couch. because I'm going to show Helen one way to take care of the pressure that builds up and makes you guys like girls so much. Families have to share information." "That's obvious. . Now hush. She shot me a look that said shut up and continued. We have to have kids or humans will die out." I thought for a second. She had her hand on Bradley's upper thigh. I watched Mom and Dad and practiced with them." "I only learned today some of what to do. Sally continued. "Since we're dependent on each other." I told her. I think you will agree that the easiest way for her to learn about sex would be to watch. Don‘t you think that would be unkind to Brad?" "No. Helen. and Steve and I practiced with each other. and Helen knows nothing about it. we're like a family. "You know that we have to work together in all things. "Well.Sally said. there's only one way to make kids.

"Oh. Why don't you get him some morning tea?" "OK. this is Samuel. Helen. Gave a hollow sound inside. it found my eyes and gently I awoke. a loose dress kept he warm. She who grew so much so quick into a person mild Into her children love of life and self she did install. who looked 'bout seven years. The evening talk had been the tale that told of their new life.Chapter 9 Samuel Some days had passed at Rockyford with Bradley and his wife. Samuel. A girl. Can I make babies?" "No." the girl answered. I'd led my life in step with theirs. A limp hide dress she wore 'gainst the chill. I thought I recognized Helen's voice in that welcoming call. The morning light. The door. Dandelion. The same values showed in her ways. a large and paneled steel that looked a lot like oak. I crossed the walk from the guest house into the family sphere. as Helen displayed before. An openness. you're not ready yet. doing what I knew. He arrived while you were sleeping over and is going to be visiting for a while. I knew that true love grew. and footsteps I could hear. "Who is it?" a woman far inside called to the little child. come on in. But after life within this clan." the girl said as she ran back inside. dear. opened the oak door. near the fire they had. Richie says he can help make babies now. appeared in the hall. hospitality first on her mind. She called from inside. "Hey mom. a trust of those she knew and those who also loved her. protection more than cover. "I don't know." .

" Helen said. Why don't you go ask her after you get tea for Sam? She'll want to come over and check he's OK. Two spoons began to shovel the mess into their tiny mouths. Leaving the family and all. . "What can we do? We can't let her have babies by any of the boys here. could be a sense of worth." She ran out the door and slammed it closed. disappeared as kids will do. Paraded into the dining room and wiggled into their chairs. "I don't know what you should do. "OK. a natural thing. Helen placed small steaming bowls in front of children who sat. "What eat?" the smallest asked. Something new. "Sue's here. they're all too close in relationship. I'm going out to play with Dedra. strung beads her only costume. This is hot."Aw. then less stress they will feel. a time of great appeal. but if girls know from birth That this will happen. She's in charge of keeping our bodies well. I'm on my way. a time of growth." The little ones who had woken me from my sleep before. She said she'd talk to me about babies later." "You'll have to ask Sue. that they will leave." The girl brought me a homemade mug filled with hot liquid. Bye!" Dandelion announced as she burst into the room. ducked her head under the outstretched arms Of a woman older than Helen." she told them as she served. Brad and Rich seem to think we should trade the girls with another community. "Now be careful. When will I be ready? I want to make babies like you and Mom. then answered it best that I could. A part of life. I think the stress would be too high. but I don't know. "Kids. She bounced back out." Mulled the question a bit I did.

The door, it slammed as Dandelion left, pulled hard with child's charms. "Children," the new one said to us, "you have to love them." She sent a smile after the child. "Merry meet, Helen, dear. How's Timmy?" "He's down helping Tony again. I swear he's going to be a blacksmith." "That would be good for him. Not that much walking." She turned her attention to me. "You must be Samuel, our story teller. You must have a good memory to be able to pass along news. I've already performed a spell of protection for you, same as I've done for all our visitors, and everyone here. That will last while you are here. I brought along some nettle tea. I would like you to drink at least one cup a day, preferably about half an hour after breakfast. It will help your kidneys clean out your system after spending so much time in the woods. How is your memory?" "Memory is whatever it is. I exercise and it stays strong." "Well, if you want I have things that will help. Oh, could you drink a tea made from this every night?" "Is what?" I asked, a bit put off. Tea and protection, All this from breezy lady, this spacey one with gifts. These medicines, I want no help, yet her conviction Says that I need it. Now I wonder. Do I really need this? "Oh, just some Saw Palmetto and Damiana." "Sue?" my hostess called. "What do you have in mind?" "Oh, I'll be over tonight, and I'm sure others will be willing to help at other times." Helen laughed with a true joy, a quiet and pretty sound. "Sam, forgive her. What she wants you to drink is supposed to be an aphrodisiac. I would have asked you later, but I will right now. Will you help us enlarge the gene pool by fathering a few children? Don't worry, you don't have to stick around, but that is a major concern of ours. I guess I really ought

to let the guys talk to you about it, but since we've started." Helen, she paused to gather her thoughts. "We've been trying to find a way to keep from having genetic faults enter our community. We don't have enough people to do that, so we have to be creative. I think the general consensus is to send our girls on to another community, and to let their girls come here. We can't decide on the age they go, or who, or how." "And I can't see them going off not knowing why," a female voice said. The other woman of the house, Sally is her name, She entered and sat on the couch to join our conversation. "I say we need to teach them about sex and give them a rough idea about genetics, but. . . ." "But exactly," Helen interrupted. "We don't know how." "I said a holiday," Sue added. I thought a moment, what options exist, when and where and why. "When is easy I think you'll find. If sex is what you teach, And leave the kids without adult, then sex is what they'll try. Then babies follow, and problems too, beyond your medical reach. Instruction must be on the day before they know they have to move. I agree for just this time the move is what you need. Maybe later when men are back we try then to improve, The plans you make, what must be done. You must all agree. Sue, this afternoon you come across to where I stay. For you, my dear, I do not need any more than us. For now I write of what I saw and heard the past few days. Tonight when all are gathered here we have much to discuss."

Helen I'd learned a lot that night watching Richard and Sally. It was fun to do that, make Bradley feel good, and I learned to let him do the same to me and

how good it felt. It also helped me sleep through the night without waking up from bad dreams, a plus I hadn't expected. "Can we do that again?" I asked Sally a few mornings later after breakfast. Bradley and Rich had returned to the fields for the fourth day of plowing and planting, and we would join them later to help put seeds in the ground like we did the day before. Rich thought we'd be done today, but I wasn't sure. Sally had rinsed and dried the dishes, and put them away. Now we shared a cup of coffee before starting the rest of our day. Sally must have been puzzled. After all, I did ask that question out of the blue. She asked, "Do what?" "You know. Like we did the other night. He tasted strange, like skin, but different somehow. It's still good. It's actually fun, and I like doing it. He told me how to be better once he found out I wanted to learn." "You're opening up quickly, girl. Last week you wouldn't even have thought of it." "Actually, before we got here, I did think of it, or stuff like it, and thought it was dirty. You and Rich have shown me that things have changed and the old rules don't apply any more. I mean like nudity. It's great. I like it a lot just like you said I would. I wouldn't have done that a week ago, but there's really nothing wrong with it." "What was wrong was people. Too many people means too many controls. As long as we have a small group we can behave like this, or any way we want. You could have Rich and I take Brad. Or we take each other. Who's to say it's not right? The way I see it, the only thing not right would be not having babies." I said, "Hurting each other is wrong." "Hurting anything is wrong. You're right about that. That's what Brad was saying the first night. It's like we're a family, a larger than normal family. You have to love and respect the others. That's what we have to do. Everything else follows. We'll work together, and help each other, and share totally. We're a family." I stood up. "It feels that way to me, too. I have to make the bed and stuff before we do the horses and cross the river. I wonder how to wash the sheets? They're getting smelly." "Open the window. That's the smell of sex, and it's only bad when it's stale." "OK. See you in a bit to do the horses." ***

After I opened the windows and cleaned the house a bit, I walked back down the stairs to the main promenade. The air had warmed, so I had left my clothes behind to enjoy the feeling of the slight breeze across my skin, the lack of constraint, my new-found freedom. We were on the third floor of the place, and next to the stair an elevator had been installed, but of course it didn't work now. I wouldn't want to use it today anyway. The polished wood of the stairs looked too nice, and the weather outside was too inviting to ignore. As I started down the wooden stair to the second level, the area with a brick floor, I heard a noise from around the brick corner of the inside storage area, the direction I would go to meet Sally. Brad and Rich had gone to the fields, and Sally was waiting at her house I assumed. No one else lived here, or had announced themselves as a visitor. There should not be anybody here or anywhere in the complex. That worried me, so I stopped and listened carefully. What's that? Some animal? I wonder if it's dangerous? I don't have the gun, my protection. Do I have time to get it? I did not have time. I didn't even have time to start for the steps. Two grubby looking men, the kind I would have shied away from even before I met Bradley if I'd had a chance, rounded the corner around the brick store room and stopped dead. Both wore dirty t-shirts and torn jeans with filth so caked on their clothes it seemed part of the cloth. Their hair looked as if it had been weeks since they'd used a comb, or had a swim. Scraggly beards grew on faces that had not seen a razor since the change. One had a pistol in his hand and several knives in his belt. The other held a rifle. I don't know what happened, or how, but everything became crystal clear. I could see every detail about them and the surrounding area. I could see that I had nowhere to go, no way to escape; they were too close, almost within arm's length. I could smell them. Both were larger and stronger than I am. One lunge and they would capture me. "Oho," said the man with the rifle, "what have we here?" I didn't like the sound of his voice. It sounded like the sneer on his face, as mean as he looked. Somehow, I knew he had bad breath. "A young cutie ripe for the picking," his partner said with an evil grin and a light in his eyes that said he was about to have fun. I was going to be that fun. I wondered what they would do. No clothes, so they couldn't have fun cutting them off. They could cut me. They could slice off my hair. They could do things I didn't want to think about. "Betchya she's never been poked," Partner said. They could poke. Sally had explained how two people made love. This sounded like the same thing without the love. It would probably hurt. It would

He stunk. none of that." He stared at me hungrily as if I was his next meal. especially young ones. I wondered if I could kick him or hit him. "I like popping cherries. something evil that showed through. we'll let you live. tut. bitch. What he did hurt. These guys mean nothing but trouble. I'd at least get one. What I'm going to do to you will feel good. This is not good at all." He handed the rifle to Partner. sweetie. They're too far away to do anything before we kill them. These guys look mean. Look at those tits. Of course. I guess this was what people called rape. It hurts. Rifle said.make me feel bad. I voiced what I knew in my head. "Ow! Let go!" I cried. Way too young. I was Brad's. Then you and Bert there are going to have some fun. and I didn't know what to do. She's too young to have done anything yet." the first man. A fucking virgin. stupid. like bullies." Even though they looked like I probably did when Brad first found me. It hurt not only my hair. I wasn't that strong. And he was mean. "Tut. but I didn't. They're dirty. something subconscious. He's too big. Where was Brad? In the field." He walked toward me. terrified. "What's wrong. but my neck. She's a virgin. Especially not these creeps. "Just those two we saw across the stream. "No. sweetie. Sally? I didn't know. If you're good enough. You and me are going to have some fun. Backwards was blocked. No other. It might hurt him a bit. If I had brought my pistol. Rifle said." He grabbed my hair and pulled my head back hard. It forced its way between my . it wouldn't open since there was no electricity. This is not good. That wouldn't work. Menacingly he continued. "Be afraid of this. No way! I began to back away until I reached the stainless steel elevator door. "That hurts!" He was nothing like Bradley. He said. Rifle. Both left and right had brick walls in the way. It's what you bitches were made for. while you learn how to take care of a real man." I've got to get out of here. I don't want them touching me. too far away. What can I do? Kick? Hit? Won't matter. What can I do? "Are there any men around?" Partner asked as he looked over his shoulder. His dirty hand slid between my thighs and up. "Now hold still. I was scared. It would definitely make him mad. "You're right. There was something extra. They're barely ripe. He sneered again. I couldn't go any farther. Then we'll have this cute little baby all to ourselves. He was the one who should poke me. "Are you afraid of me? Don't be afraid of me." He raised his rifle. said. I wanted nothing to do with them. Forward was protected by scum." Rifle answered.

A fourth shot. I finally reacted. I sobbed. a loud high-pitched wail that taxed my vocal chords and did not stop." Slowly he forced me backwards and to the side so I would lay on the brick walkway. I gave voice to my fear. A third shot sounded. Brad hadn't hurt. Both men lay on the walkway. Sally felt good. comforting arms wrapped around me and held me protectively to a familiar breast. "What happened?" Bradley demanded as he reached the bricks of the promenade. He was my protector. . The arms and breast rocked me as if I sat on a boat. Slowly he lowered himself next to Sally and me and gently turned my face toward him. He drove again. The way he poked and prodded hurt. we'll change that right now. He started to spin toward the sound. Bare. Sally and I sat on the bricks. I had to act. You are a virgin. Tears flowed down my cheeks to drop between our bodies. I didn't know what to do. hugging. Arms engulfed me. Love forced its way into my psyche. "You OK?" she asked me quietly as she gently stroked my hair. Close. I thought you'd shown up a bit late. Rifle said. Neither breathed. "This is your lucky day. their blood a trickle toward the storm drains. no. My head hit the bricks. I screamed. He's going to do it! I don't want him to do it! I want Brad! Where's Brad? A shot echoed between the buildings. aren't you? Well. but she just wasn't Brad and I wanted him. He grabbed his shoulder as he fell.clamped thighs. He called. It hurt. A loud bang. What had happened. A quiet murmur soothed its way into my awareness. She pointed her gun at Partner. I rolled across the bricks as fast as I could. I began to hug Sally back. "Tighter than hell. I cried. Neither did Rifle. I guess he wanted to see if I was all right. He didn't move. When he'd had his hand between my legs. It searched until his finger found its mark. After what seemed like hours but was probably just a few seconds. Brad. I couldn't do anything else. his fingers felt good." He unfastened his pants with his free hand and let them fall to his ankles. His ankles caught in his pants. I closed my eyes and screamed. Another shot echoed. Sally had one of Rich's rifles. Rifle jumped. She stood at the arch where the corridor in front of her building met the wooden walk in front of the units near the road. No other. Sally whispered that my protector had arrived. This might be the only chance to get away. "They're here by elevator two!" He looked at the two men prone on the brick. The sudden noise startled me. And again. I needed him. Something tore. Sally leaned me back to look into my eyes as feet pounded up the stair. The finger drove up into me. Through my tears I saw Bradley round the bend of the wooden stair under our house. The man dropped me.

When I finally felt I could let go of his mouth I said. scared. Rich should be here in a minute. I lunged at him and wrapped him tightly in my arms before we hit the bricks. I could see Helen sat on Brad's lap as he leaned against the elevator doors. I love you. and I had just a few more rows to plow. He said. what happened? No. his hand caressing her breast. I looked toward where Bradley was sowing. Sally sat alone in the middle of the bricked area looking toward them. OK. You're safe. "I think so. I heard Bradley's call as I ran up the stairs. I heard another shot. and then we would celebrate.my savior. "I love you. I'll do anything for you. that's all. You're OK. "Whoa! Hold on a sec. worried. He said he'd found them. caring. It'll be easier. faster than the tractor would go. sit on my lap. turned the key to off. Now let me tell it as I remember. I didn't want him to leave again. "I'm scared to death! What do you think! Don't ever go away again!" I buried my face in his neck. Round. but he didn't call for help or tell me to hurry. but I couldn't tell with the noise of the tractor. He had saved me from certain death eating raw eggs scavenged from a dusty barn. That's it. What happened? Are you OK?" I shouted. I tried to swallow his tonsils. possibly before the girls could show. "Helen." Richard OK. We would finish early. and loving. I love you. Don't you ever leave me!" You should have seen his eyes. Truthfully. He held her tightly. I held on tighter. "Bruises." Sally answered. I'm sure he jumped the wall by the gate." I could hear the concern. Bradley and the girls had planted the first and he was finished more than half of this one by now. all at the same time. the worry. I was on my way to meet . I walked the second half of the stair out of breath. I left the tractor in gear. the ten foot one. He had dropped his bag of seeds and was sprinting toward the bridge. *** Bradley and I were working the second field we had opened. We'll talk about that later. When I reached the top. I love you. I love you. "Sally. Bradley said. and followed him on foot. Two bodies dressed in dirty clothes lay on the brick. Tell it once. I heard him ask. let's move over here by the elevator door. I heard what sounded like a shot. too. "You all OK?" I asked. because that's what I did and he beat me to the girls.

He looked into her eyes. "OK. I saw two men with their backs to me. Then I shot them both again to make sure they were dead. and gently brushed stray hairs from her face. I waited until his pants were around his ankles. You did good. Then do the horses. "You protected the family. He handed his gun to this one. It's different when you are the victim. and tomorrow will be a good day. slowly stood and then inched her way toward the stair. I shot him. Bradley and she had both said so. don't you? And you'll have your pistol. I could see the shock there.Helen when I heard voices. "I have to go back to work in the fields or we won't eat this winter. her eyes on Brad as if he would disappear if she . one who just learned that the world is a dangerous place the hardest way imaginable. She looked as if she was still scared to death. but that information could not come from me." I watched as this scared little girl. She just did. Make sure you both have weapons. Bradley said. You'll be fine. They both had guns that one a rifle and this one a pistol. He couldn't even turn around. No one could do better. Then take a nice long swim and wash all this off you. "No!" Helen cried and held Bradley tighter. we'll have this cleaned up and be back at the field. We all protect each other. I don't ever want you away from that. She can do a good job. OK?" "I guess. and that she would heal. I aimed at this one and saw the first one would drop his pants. You did exactly right. Now why don't you and Helen go take care of the horses. Bradley told her. looked into her eyes. ever!" I couldn't blame her. That one held Helen and talked hateful things. I love you. Now go. but we had to get on with living. I told her. That's a fact of life we'll have to get used to." Sally answered reluctantly." I walked over to Sally and lifted her to a standing position. By the time you get back. Bradley struggled to loosen Helen's arms. She had been gutsy before when she was not in immediate danger. when you are the one who is attacked. OK? And you'll protect Sally like you did me when we met Tony. or whatever. Go on up and get it. and I couldn't blame her. and we'll have tonight to cuddle. Now it was time for her to be gutsy again. and ran to the corner. You'll have Sally protecting you. I ran back to the house trying not to make any noise. "I don't want Brad to leave me. I could see love there that had not been there this morning. They wanted to rape. They deserved death. The one who had Helen couldn't get to his gun. OK?" Reluctantly Helen agreed. then shot the second man. grabbed the rifle. OK? You can join us if you want and help us finish planting. You see that.

I tried to peer around the corner they had originated from. "We decided to clean the dining room floor. *** Rain began to fall as we rinsed off in the stream that evening. Dry heat engulfed us as we entered. "Don't drip on the floor." A towel flew through the air. I would have smiled. I figured Helen was still upset. "It's started raining. the place of maximum warmth. our usual meeting place for dinner. We toweled down and moved toward the living room. Dinner either cooked. We can't dry off outside. we were back in the field." Helen explained as she moved to hug Bradley. Now we had to wait for the plants to grow. or stayed warm near a roaring fire. We don't want it to get cold. I opened the door. so I didn't say anything about the excess wood. closely followed by a second. a good omen for the future if there were such a thing. sit." Sally called from another room. and led her up the steps. She told him. too. he'd had days of practice I had missed. . Rich and I had discussed what we could do to make the place safer before we went back to the field. We had skipped lunch and gone back to finish what should have been finished earlier. though. When we had rinsed the sweat and dust from our bodies. "Come on. Helen seemed especially affectionate. you may join us. It would be a cool and damp evening. It felt as if it would rain shortly. "We cleaned it this afternoon. By the time the girls had cleaned the barn and brushed the horses. "When you've dried off. We kept our promise.looked away. It took me an hour to finish plowing early in the afternoon. and decided there were not many options. We cleaned up in the stream. Sally picked up the rifle." "What do you expect us to do?" I called back. made eye contact. but not too much. They had moved the dining room table into the living room. "I've been cold all day. took her hand. we finished planting with my unskilled help. It took half an hour to dump the bodies off the railroad bridge and scrub the blood away with buckets of water and push brooms. and then I went to help Bradley. too. and therefore felt chilly." Bradley said smiling. Dinner's ready. hugging and touching Brad almost constantly. we carried our pants to my house. and that the summer would not be too warm. and hope we had enough rain. While clouds rolled in." "It seems you don't want anything to get cold." Sally said." Sally said. the rifles we now carried nearby on the shore and our eyes watching the hills for someone approaching. "It's drying.

we need to be sure to carry weapons at all times." Sally replied. "Oh." She began to rock in his lap. The room felt almost too warm even sitting naked at the table. Stay near with me. oblivious to their surroundings. Far away. I don't ever want that to happen again." She climbed into his lap facing him and looked straight at his eyes. We still had to perform general maintenance. Now as I was saying. Helen turned her head toward us. Blush climbed from her waist until her face turned red. this is what I've been preaching. Bradley opened his eyes. "I don't ever want to leave you. We had to watch the weeds. "Thank you for taking care of me." I reminded them as we neared the end of the meal. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come. Their lips met. Chores would fill our days." . Complete openness and love within the family." I said to open a conversation. I looked at Sally. especially after today. I love you. I smiled and said." She dragged him to the table. We waited silently to see what would happen. When he realized where they were. Helen gasped.This is the first time I've felt comfortable. "We'll have to make sure we have our weapons with us. their eyes closed and their lips locked. He looked straight out. "Hey. I mean that. and then forcefully covered his mouth with hers. She said quietly. her eyes red and her cheeks tear stained." We discussed what we needed to do over the next few days. "This rain is well timed. "We finished plowing and planting today. I love you. no one else. We need it. not so much for heat as for cooking. We needed wood. She looked back and smiled. Helen continued to rock on Bradley's lap. I'm sorry guys." Bradley shifted slightly. Helen laid her head on Bradley's shoulder and heaved slightly. but she did not move from her position in Bradley's lap. Neither one of us moved. I thought I would see jealousy or anger since she was the one who had shot the potential rapists. "We don't want to be caught by surprise again. I don't want you to ever go away." "Don't be. We have nothing else." Helen looked at Bradley. make sure they did not overrun what we planted. I think she was crying. shit. He said. I decided Helen was still in shock from this morning. We quietly watched as the couple gained intensity to their climax. but she appeared as surprised and interested as I did. I looked at Sally. We only have each other. Her rocking gained energy. I hoped it was from relief and love rather than pain. Now come sit and eat your dinner. however large that family. then toward us. then put her finger to her lips. a sheepish grin grew on his face.

I'd lost track of time. It was time to meet Tony. the four of us together.Chapter 10 Bradley Is there more coffee on the fire. a surprise to all of us. How do you think they'll react?" Richard chuckled. that's what we planned. That's why I rejoiced. I thought back and counted the days. cleaned. living as we wished. hon? Samuel. and split four trees and now had enough wood for the summer. We didn't know you guys were alive. when Helen reminded me what we had to do the next day. "You're right. Brad. I explained. the crops we planted had begun to grow." "You still do. I chuckled. "It's just occupied by more people than you originally thought. "When Tony and I discussed it. four people and one cat who trusted each other explicitly. We had felled. We felt secure. safe place for a small community. I told her. by nudists. along with weeds that we tried to keep down to a minimum. I wonder who and how many he'll have with him?" "Are you bringing them here?" Richard asked. Just the memory still pisses me off. either tomorrow or the next day. She was right." I pictured some ultraconservatives meeting us for the first time. We needed more people. I guess that's what you'd call us. as Sally had with me. *** Just over two weeks had passed since those two pieces of scum tried to rape Helen. but our kids would have been problems." Sally said from where she dished herself seconds. "Yea. silently of course. So much had happened. " That's a good question. then hadn't. Anyway. and hiking. It has been a month. Depraved immoral . having the four of us as a family alone in the wilderness worked for a while. We had also instituted family day. Helen had expressed her love for Richard in the obvious manner. and even sex. one day during the week where we took a break from most work and did things together. swimming. Major problems. What could be better? "Don't we go meet Tony tomorrow?" Helen asked me at dinner. As far as I knew I had an unused.

When are you . and that's OK." "But we can't just shove strangers into the mix. Remember." I let the thought hang. "Then Helen and I should definitely go. It. like in a family. "We've all taught each other. You've shown me that. "Old fogy? You?" Helen asked.perverts? How would you react? Or you. he can ease them away. That's the problem. Sally. I'd be rather shocked. "They haven't been through what we have." Helen leaned back in her chair." Richard pointed out. "I know. I can talk to Tony and tell him what goes on." Richard thought for a moment." Helen explained. How about if we both meet him and explain to everyone what goes on here. "No." "So now I'm a priestess? No thanks. "I'd say more of a teacher. A total disruption. Anyone with him will see our love." Sally sat in her chair slightly away from the table and stroked Charlie. I concluded. "Love. We're comfortable with each others' beliefs. Not with us. "which is part of why we're closer than just friends. how much we care for each other. We both must go and show how we love each other. Tony knows us both. "Brad and I both know Tony. let alone an old fogy like me." Richard said. it would be like Aunt Agatha coming to visit. and sharing. both sight and feel. Yet here we are." I reached over and held her hand." Helen protested. and nudists. "That makes sense. her empty plate in front of her. She asked. especially when we mention that the four of us are a family." Helen thought for a moment. "What goes on Helen? You tell us. If our being together is too much of a shock. in the old times you would be way too young to be with anyone. "It's still a lot of new ideas all at once. We're happy. Anyone with him can make their own decision. you've only changed your outlook. since you're the newest to this idea. Richard frowned. Charlie decided it was time to get down. Helen? I know if I found myself in the same position." Sally laughed. for the better in my opinion. it. Those that are shocked at her age will decide to go somewhere else. well. minds. and bodies. There's just some extra. How do we teach outsiders? Can we teach outsiders? What would you have thought four weeks ago? What would it take to teach you to live like we do if you felt as you did back then?" "Four weeks ago? I would have thought you all were perverts and run! Jeez I was stupid. If he thinks any of his people are too closed minded to learn our ways. into our family.

Rich. we're going to suffer this summer. If we later find others we want to allow into our family." "That we can play that by ear. If it warms up enough. That's all we have to do. I gather she was her lover." Helen quickly swallowed. Show them how it is. If they do." Sally said. and trust Tony. and show. when the moon is in the same phase as it was then. Maybe more later. Somewhere around noon. I trust you all. then we can decide then.supposed to meet him?" "We didn't set a time. If they don't want to come. That's what Brad and Helen should say. Helen and I will show the people what we have. And if you take the camper you can stay a night or two if that's what it takes. They may already be there. It's OK to do what we do inside the family. "I don't know if that's a good idea. But if we don't get public nudity started. "You didn't say a word when she talked about her girlfriend. but we'll have to wait and see who we get." I said." Sally was right and I let her know. I pulled the motor home into the University Library parking area and shut down the engine. Trust us Rich. we'll be stronger. Public nudity? We can ease them into that. I mean I know you. Someone else? It's still too new" "Isn't that what you're doing. That should be tonight. We'd started before dawn and brought the vehicle Tony would remember in case he didn't . we're a family. more or less. I think we'll be OK. I think that made an impression on her and she'll be back. "Where are you hiding that brain? You're exactly right. "She's right. "The most important thing to do is to convince people that this is an open community. eventually. What we need now is a community that's willing to live together and help each other." *** As the morning mist dissipated. You invited her back. Make impressions. That should help point out undesirables. how it can be. fine. Rich?" Sally asked. What we do in the family is no business of anybody else. you two can take off your tops. "Why don't you go in the morning. I'd be uncomfortable outside the family." Rich suggested. the four of us. a responsible anarchy. That anyone can do as they please as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else. If you meet him early enough you three can talk more privately during lunch." Richard stared at Sally for a moment." "Like that lady when we first got here. "Trying to build a very close community? We're together. hopefully good impressions.

the boards are still intact. "It's Tony." We stepped onto the grass lawn that had yet to see a lawn mower and walked around to the front of the building. I'll bet. They pulled into the parking lot and formed a circle. . except for today. It seems so long ago. It was a sound we had not heard in quite a while. That you've grown and adapted so quickly shows that there are people in the world who will make it. dismounted. one a yellow school bus. "Sounds like motors. Several hours of exploring later a noise filtered through the walls." Once we were inside. "It's good to see you. let me tell you." I said." I pulled the keys from the ignition and picked up the rifle. Let's go meet him. it's humid. looking for instruction on her new favorite pastime. much like wagons going west many years ago. all four of us. I listened. Tony stood there. Let's hope Tony found some like that. I hope the books are still in good shape. then stared at the brick building with stained wood trim reminiscent of contemporary architecture. Helen had the pistol and a crow bar. his dark hair slightly longer. "I hope nobody else went in and just left it open. a grin spread across his face. dude!" he said as he walked over. "Today's going to be a hot one. and three of them tractor-trailers. It almost felt as if I had to swim to the building." "You are different. I'd pick out different books. I also found a book about how to make wine and other spirits. I guessed. The rider shut the engine down. and pulled off his helmet. his beard shaggier. "Whew. "What's that?" Helen asked. Helen immediately found the erotica section. that I'm so different. I searched for more books on farming and primitive living. "Hey." "Who is it?" she asked.show for a few days. A motorcycle led a convoy of eight vehicles. It felt as if a force field separated the already warm and hazy outside air from the conditioned air that was inside the motor home. I asked. As if I would know. Hand me the crowbar. We all are." I opened the door and walked to the parking lot. I enjoyed looking through the books." I opened the door to the camper. The motorcycle pulled to a halt in the parking space closest to us. "Yep. and probably everyone else who's still alive. "Remember this place?" Helen took a long look around. I also figured a bit of reminiscing would not hurt my relationship with Helen. Ready to go out and explore?" "You bet.

I quickly decided she would not worry about some nudity." A woman who looked like she was in her early twenties stood. I'd camped for the night. We shook hands. Tony set a griddle on a rack placed over a freshly lit fire in the middle of the circle. They're not too bright. "Hey everybody. "God. When I got to Frederick. but he still seemed a bit stocky. but they know how to care for animals. but close by. North Carolina. "How'd it Tony hugged Helen. and open. I picked up some people. They let me know they were friendly when they neared my fire. and wondered how free from inhibitions she really was. Bradley saw that the man was losing hair. Not many." People began to gather. dude. and some singles. Maryland though. but not much else. both of you. almost see through.” I smiled. You're looking good.go?" "Same here. To me he said. They found a couple farms where the animals were free and brought them along. "I found a dairy farmer and a pig farmer. let's get some fires going and cook us a lunch. but most of them avoided me. that's a long story. You two must have found a life that agreed with you. He raised his voice slightly. They're the two I told you about. They said they needed to be near a community." Tony explained. They'd moved north to get away from the constant humidity and hurricanes. Bradley wondered. I saw small groups of people here and there. "After we split. or bleached. so we decided to go elsewhere. Now why are they wearing coats? He accepted a plate of pancakes from Tony. Come on. It turned out to be George and Marty. and she seemed blond. "Let me tell you what we've been doing while we have lunch. I headed south and west. I guess I looked kind of shaky myself. . They said a group had taken over Linville and turned them back at a roadblock." Tony led us to the back of one of the trucks." A couple in their forties said hello. "The first time I really met anybody was down near Linville. Real good. but also needed room. I glanced into the slit sides of a trailer as I walked past and saw cows standing inside." Tony pulled out three camp chairs and offered seats to Helen and me. it looked like someone had torched the whole town. He was wearing clothes that were too large for him. I pulled him into a hug. no. They don't have that much schooling. She wore light clothing. Most places had been looted. here. and this couple approached me. so they won't settle with us. I can't say that. but they're sane and intelligent. Tony continued. A couple of days later we met Sue. "We brought livestock with us. this is Brad and Helen. "George and Marty are from Florida.

" "I can imagine. so we rounded up some livestock and here we are. and two of our people drove trucks. "It's not over."Merry meet. I guess I ought to let him tell his tale. She lived. She smiled as she folded back into a lotus. They went down there with assurances we were OK." the woman said with a small curtsy. no. we met the farmers. Allen acted as the leader. They'd been attacked by a bunch of stupid fucks who were roaming the area. Two couples felt the old ways were better. They told us they liked what we had and they were kicking us out. and killed her ‘old man' as she says. They heard a group down at Conowingo has the power plant at the dam working. One of our people said something like the hell you are. Allen and I went looking for some. and the man the gang held had been beaten and shot. He almost shot us before we convinced him we were OK. and they shot him. Two of them supported a third." A young man in T-shirt and jeans softly began." Tony continued. We had joined together. that hung from a chain. It appeared they'd met the same assholes as Allen's clan. I remembered how you filled your thing up with gas and used the idea. Just as we were about to leave. Turns out they raped her too. "Anyway. "While Sue worked on the girl we saw three other people coming. "We're all intelligent people. said she and the other woman had been beaten and raped. fixed her up a bit thank God. Her name's Barbara. They killed her companion. "I tried to be a good leader. and the girl he was with. Sue took care of her when we found Tony. more of a pendant. We didn't want to stay around too long after that. and all are willing to live and let live. One of the women. It lay between her breasts against the earth tone of her blouse. so we took her with us." I looked at Helen." Bradley said. Seven people had sneaked in during the night. and looked scared to death. Since most of us did not have transportation. I can see you both have very good spirits. a few of us wandering in over time." Tony continued. A friendly. pagan greeting to people of good spirits. "A greeting. She wore a large necklace. We made a home in a lakeside park where there were cabins and we could fish and gather and possibly farm." Tony looked around at the group. "The four of us found several of the others in a group. We found a school bus yard and broke in. We woke one morning to the sound of gunfire. We decided to move on as soon as we could. and have all had to learn new ways. Simone. a girl came running for us. but I didn't think anyone would be that mean. She said she escaped. Her look told me to go on and explain what had . again from that same group. "Merry meet?" I asked.

" Simone said in a very southern voice. So if you're willing to live and let live. as did several others. then we should get along." "And you're not afraid of nudity. Like this lunch. Allen looked at Helen. Helen looked around. We live in two units.changed. It's more like we're a family. "Any disease would be bad. so swapping and sharing may be best." I said. Allen as I remember. "What do you mean by open?" "Well. though. let us know now. We have crops planted. apparently decided it was OK. To tell you the truth. and pulled her shirt over her head. "In other words you swap partners occasionally. We've met some bad folk. but I just ain't ready for that yet. since we went separate ways. There must be something to it. we find that it's easier to do dirty jobs naked than to clean clothes." Tony glanced around at the group. but share as one family. "If any of you have a venereal disease. and a couple horses. And these people are suggesting what I've said for the past week. but none have been ready to settle. yet. I guess you'd say two husbands and two wives bonded together through circumstance and experience. that you've all melded and helped each other. but none have left alive. Thanks." "Miss Sue. my friend. I believe there are places for your animals close by. yeah. "That sounds good. sharing everything. but it's become more than that. an open society. Several things have changed in our lives. and we four live together. That's what I meant. which I think you are. then removed hers. "I know you mean well. and that's one disease that we can't afford. I met an old employee where we settled." "Well. The four of us live in a very open sort of way." Sue looked at Simone. and have found that way of life to be good for us. It can't be carried or passed by a white." No one said a word. We won't abandon you. Sue agrees with me. said. I had suggestions along that line. We've met some good folk. Naked is also more comfortable in the heat. He has a girlfriend. There never was a true cure. "Are you interested in sharing now? You have . I said. I followed suit and took off mine. "I've said it before. and Simone needed privacy for a while. It's genetic. you just won't have a partner. Sue and Simone removed their tops." One of the others. Barbara seemed to hold a debate with herself. This Sue would be good. a white lover would help prevent sickle cell. We don't want too small of a gene pool." Tony said as he removed his shirt. "It's getting warm.

can you? There's so many trees. Besides. Carl." We could hear birds in the woods. There's no view." I said. If they try to run one by force. "Why don't I tell you what we've done." Sue agreed. and the golf course. They walked down the tree lined gravel drive and out of sight around a bend." "That's not necessarily true. *** We stopped at the top of the hill that overlooked our valley. those they move in on and control will rebel eventually. Tony. I think this year we have to be wary. leaning toward me and turning red. I told the livestock farmers about the barn down the lane to the right. along with the scrunch of shoes on the gravel drive. As it is. "Back down a bit. like those that you encountered." I said. is not productive. "Yeah." "You're not family yet. unless they found someplace where they could set up a small kingdom. She observed. It really is private." Helen answered. Yep. That's the way most scavengers would come. out for a stroll. We'll be more hidden from gangs and other thieves this way. Or maybe the second in command will do away with the leader so he can lead. Tony's group took a vote and got busy packing. It goes with the territory." "That may not be a bad thing. then if you want you can pack up and I'll lead you down home?" Everyone agreed. living off others by force. Al. farmers. that lifestyle. Helen and I gathered our books and secured the library once again. Allen. After the first winter I think things like that will settle down. so much woods." Tony replied. Marty stood next to us and searched the direction we were heading. The two men returned looking like what they were. They'll run out of communities to rob. "This here is good. real good. his partner. "We came off the main highway. "They'd want to hide. They would probably follow the river through the woods. "You can't really see much from up here. drawled. You'll bring bad spirits. Peter walked back toward us smiling." "Why do you say that?" Tony asked. until the gang destroys itself." "Tell you what." Simone suggested. Needs a bit .wonderful breasts. They won't last. "Wait until we know them better. Everyone got out and looked at the green you could see above the trees. "I think they would still be afraid of capture. Negative feelings. complete with bib overalls. Half an hour of explanations later.

That morning." ." "We have to put on some clothes. I began to work my way toward the dock to join her. "We're down at the bottom of the hill. Sally had said she wanted the place to look nice for whoever showed up. I'm taking the cattle back first. We'll be down ‘round supper time to let you know how it goes. *** I watched Sally as she picked up trash downstream. among other things." "Sounds like Tony found others. "We can't just show up naked. Carl." "OK. It's enough to run the pumps for the well. I think. This is a steep hill." "Glad to hear it. "What is it?" I called. She waved for me to be quiet. Sally looked up toward the road. Maybe more. just after Bradley and Helen left. She had already pulled several large branches off the lawn between the new buildings." I reminded her. I quickly opened windows to air out the unused houses." I smiled. Come on. And we need weapons in case it's not them. "Someone's coming down the hill. We pulled weeds and swept the walkways. Sally thought collecting trash would be the biggest help. pulled another branch away from the railroad bridge. and maybe charge a battery or two. and watched it float downstream. "Sounds like Brad found Tony. You all go on down and settle in." Richard Let me tell you what I saw when your group arrived. Got everything in hand. Have to build some more fence. Now she bent over to collect twigs. keep geared down. Drivers. I admired her youthful flexibility. The house has them there solar panels for electricity. A heavy rain a few nights before had washed debris down the small river. and the buildings are in good shape. She ran to the river and threw in the trash she held." Bradley said." "More than one?" I asked. "At least three. and then ran toward me. "Will you need help?" "Nope." Tony said. You'll see us on the left as you pass the pond. "I heard engines.of work it does. then. let's meet them. I climbed onto the dock to meet her. but there's a house we can use. I cleaned behind the complex next to the river. but we'll be good." she said as she extended her hand.

Sally protested. I'll get there. A man stood next to Bradley speaking earnestly. barley. "Brad and Helen should have told them how we live. he has food like you would not believe. Let's go. He's a farmer. he looked dangerous. He climbed down without shutting off the motor and walked up the drive to meet Bradley. Rich." I stood back as Bradley drove by. The driver laughed and shouted that he'd made it all the way. A woman looked out the window next to Helen." "He can turn around and go back out. I don't know how he'll get in." . His eyes smiled. We don't want to shock them. "A shift would work. With his long. "You must be Richard. like we did with the seeds. black beard. When the van reached the final down slope. I've seen other truckers do it. Believe me. I forgot to tell you to wait on the road. We can put it in the garages under here. Something easy to get off if necessary." "Great. Allen is driving the bus. The driver told Bradley. who led the way toward the courtyard as they talked. not flabby like many larger people I'd seen. A big tractor trailer snaked its way through the gates. "All I need to know is where to go. The driver of the semi had pulled it between the two rows of new buildings and set the brakes with a loud noise of compressed air. Bradley and Helen waved from the motor home leading the parade. with a solid abdomen. the engine died. Let me park this thing and we'll talk. and I'm sure they did. He held out his hand as he straddled the bike. dark hair stringing past his shoulders. "Tony's on the bike. He'll just pull down a bit toward the river and back through the fire gates. I've heard about you. followed quickly by his mouth. They're getting their animals situated." Sally thought for a moment. and his full. The driver was tall and well-muscled. plus a lot of other stuff. and then wrestled the van into a parking place. Go on in and get out of the way. switching his sight between both mirrors and what was ahead of him." He eased down the driveway. The motorcycle followed the bus into the entrance and the driver stopped next to us. Telling about something and seeing it are two different things. An old. We can just throw on a long T-shirt or something. We can talk later." "True. I met them at the entrance. Tony. Brad pulled up to where we stood. OK. We left a couple guys at the farm above us. all good." "I don't think you'll get here. Charlie here says we need soybean." We reached the entrance just as the caravan began to swing in. the driver concentrating on his job. though. well-used school bus half filled with people followed it in. A minivan followed him in.

he backs a bit up the fire road across the street. don't we? We don't have a use for it any more. Everyone else had begun to explore. Pull down a bit. I watched as he backed professionally into the complex. Oh." He looked at me for a second. I ran out of gas right at the top of the hill." They continued on their way. We want to close that permanently. I'm Rich. but that way no one else could drive through there either. Stanley had already opened the right trailer barn-door and pulled on the latches for the left door. Rich. Sydney helped me lift each door. "Pretty good. "None of us is rich anymore. Rich?" he asked as he passed. By that time." I groaned. He talked to Tony. ." I called as I entered the building's common carport." "I like that. You can swing on out then. found the keys. Tony. there. "OK. you don't have to go to hell. Then you stopped. Rich is it? I'm not good with names. "Yeah. He can't go too far back because we built the pasture through there. looking for a unit to live in. Remember. Tell him where to go and open the gate. I made it up here averaging 6." I smiled." "Not there. I'll have the gate open and you can back in straight between the building and the Amish garage. That's pretty damn good let me tell you. Sydney waited on the road. shed my T-shirt. I couldn't find it. No. sliding between the buildings with only one pull-up. I quickly returned to our house. How about when we're done unloading him. and I knew I was using fumes. I get it. I noticed many of the people I saw were topless. when Brad said we only had to go to the bottom of the hill I breathed a sigh of relief. I was too far down the hill to get a gravity run through those gates."I don't know where the key is. "Hey. "Thanks. It was luck that allowed us to make it." "I wouldn't know. Sydney chuckled as he strolled toward his truck. who carried a pack as they walked. and several had no clothes on. but I didn't worry. This is Sydney." "I have it. The driver of the van approached carrying an arm full of clothes. That puzzled me for a moment. These new engines are a wonder." I told him as I reached the end of the trailer.7 miles to the gallon. "I'll tell you. It sputtered as we went down. I locked the gate as he climbed out of the cab. too. We would have access to the truck if we needed it. I opened each unit and unlatched the garage doors from the inside. what you have to do. and then back up the side drive." Sydney quickly put in." "Yeah. and ran to open the gate. I decided to ignore the comment. you were noisy. I kept cursing at you to get going.

That's what we have to establish now. let's see. Let's get this thing empty. almost an extended family. "I don't know if I can be comfortable without clothes like you others. I already found one." Sydney asked. Sid. This is as it should be for the moment. don't worry. and I gave Sal the venison. Sally really started that. "Pasta. and sort through later." "Good. That's all past. This community is compact enough to be a family. "That was good. There are some down back that look over the river. "What do you have up there. Start passing stuff out." "Yes. "What stuff. "I'll take these over to where Brad's building a fire. Do whatever makes you comfortable. meat. need basic rules to live by. "Many thanks to Sally and Helen. That should be more than enough if you have a pot to cook it in. total openness must exist. It's safe." He climbed into the trailer. surrounded by stones. We have some venison still from yesterday." Tony called as he jogged over. and now Helen's and Brad's and mine. I think." Tony and Sydney exchanged places. stuff that's easy and will feed all of us. some of us don't. some of us know each other. Sydney?" "Oh. is that inside a family. We'll find the pots. We'll put it anywhere for now. sauce. *** That evening." Sally said from behind me. "You go find a place. Now for meat." "That's not a problem. and families. We decided that respect for each other covered everything. Tony has it." Bradley said standing. At least that's what we hope will happen. so I'll throw the stuff out. We want a community dinner tonight. or any close unit. Come on. I felt as if I were camping out with new found friends. Now it's a new life." "We need stuff for dinner. Her idea. wait. Here's a case of twists. That's what Brad said. Garden Variety. I can say that the four of us started out simply. We're a small community. It should be beef. Ragu. What we must decide is if that will be enough for this group. I hope we'll begin to feel that way over the coming years. we sat around the cooking fire. I'll ask Tony to get the venison. Sydney. but. after we ate a community dinner. Folks." I agreed. A few of us know each other intimately. "Not many people did. so we can agree on what we're doing. and Brad to get the sauce. before bad feelings exist. "All communities. That would do. that is what we should do." "No.He said. here." Sally picked up the case of twists. or what's involved in carrying goods. Will a .

However. What sort of laws will we have?" "May I answer that first. I can tell. One man to make decisions and judge what's best. I trust Tony's instincts when it comes to people. George?" Bradley asked. I think Bradley will do best. Small. Why don't you give Bradley a chance. no offense meant. "I can see you're used to it. "You all know me. He's the leader. and you." Margaret stood. this place where we don't need to worry about what the wind brings. "In my opinion. Bradley." George said." George said from his seat. or the roads since we can defend it. we pick a leader.larger group need more rules. that's true. then . people. If I remember correctly. Does anyone else have something to say?" Sydney stood and spit at the fire. I'll farm. First. forget Tony. Laws in my opinion are ways to say someone did wrong. I'll opt for Bradley as leader of this community. I've also told all of you about Brad. or whatever. but still a community. If you have enough. you and I. I know what you're saying. though. "What makes you so high and mighty that you can tell us all what to do? Or Bradley for that matter. too. or will simply respecting the rights and needs and wants of others suffice?" "I don't know if that's what needs to be decided first. You know what's where. "With a small family. except what I feel. you used to run the maintenance operation here. How do I know I'll be happy with his decisions? Who says I'll agree with what he says?" George sighed. He'd be good in the human resources department. It would be good to hear others. I am one no longer. It was his idea to come here. and it's because of him we're together. he knows this place and the surrounding countryside. That's just my opinion. It was his idea to bring us together. That's what we must do first. Bradley. That's fine by me. the better off we'll be. I was a vice president of a major company before this started. George. That's enough experience for me. the fewer so called laws we have. a firmer leadership is needed." Several people shouted agreements and a few suggested Tony should lead. For now. or the rain. Bradley. "Hold it. He did it. or even a larger one like you seemed to have here before we arrived. He suggested it. We have here a community. though. not me. Also. Like I said. He knew of this place. We've discussed this before. see what he does. I don't know what more to tell you. this castle. and how high the water will climb. and I like what he said. "Sid. Tony trusts you. with a community. this walled village. As a manager or leader though. We can all give him a chance. We also have each other. "I have a question for Bradley. If we don't like what he's saying or doing. a general consensus is adequate. George nodded assent. then we make a change." Tony said as he stood.

you know." He waited a moment. Allen. More of a manager than a president." "Do unto others?" "That's the one. Personally. Brad stood. you didn't vote. I do want to hear what's said. let's hear yours. we're small. we mean that any bad deeds or spells will . We're just sort of visiting for now. "Explain. More of a manager and judge type thing. and if you don't think it's right." "What would we steal?" "Good point. not really with you. and to settle the occasional dispute. but people I felt could be secure enough to work as a tight community without petty beefs." George said. Carl. What rules do we need?" "We don't.you need enforcement of some kind. "We say. I've had my say. a vote. Margaret. Live and let live. No one has beefed about the lack of clothes." George sat. We're almost a family. please. we'll be fine." "Then it's OK with me for Bradley to be leader of you all." "Then it's unanimous. Does anyone else have something to add? Or ask. right? You see. I don't think that in a community this size any of them are necessary. You're a part of the community. or brought you here. I really believe we have a good group. All in favor of Bradley. Let's get on with this. or whatever. very small. "I agree with Bradley on this. thanks for the vote of confidence. "Carl. When we all get to know each other better." Sue explained. we're up above. Brad. It don't feel right for us to vote. Everyone seems willing to jump in and help when needed. Honest people who treat each other and their property with respect don't need laws. and we found it practical at times ourselves. I think I succeeded with everyone here.' By that. "All right." "When I went looking for people. in the way George said. 'Do no harm." "That's OK. raise your hands. "Anyone else?" No hands raised. Me and Pete. Why?" "Whelp." Tony replied with a smile." Almost everybody raised their hand. Just the golden rule as my mom taught me should work. then. don't do it. I don't think any of us will commit murder. We have Bradley as a leader. which is the way I think we should treat each other." "It's like the creed Wiccans and Witches try to live by. it's like this. and jails. I not only searched for sane people. It's your show now. We are all honest people or Tony would not have picked you. or robbery. "Well. just not down here. We're too small to need much more than someone to direct us so we work together efficiently. and lawyers.

There's no way I could have done drugs. If we need more details. Across the river we did spring wheat and some other grain. when I was young and just started driving." "Good point. I've seen looks you and Pete exchange. and he'll let you know what's been done. I was subject to random drug tests. I took a good look at him as he stood. "Ya know. how they're comfortable. Oh. Just let others be. so I had this part time job in a department store on the weekends. Carl." "OK. yep. and wearing bib overalls like Carl. If someone is doing something that you don't feel is right. no problem. and if you fail those extra strict tests you lose your license.bring negative energy or bad karma down on you. You'll be living together on the hill?" Carl began to turn almost as red as his hair. Now being a truck driver. There's nothing wrong with a same sex relationship. Sweet corn and cucumbers are up there. that's what they want to do. and I think turnips. "Good." Bradley thought for a moment. You can go from . It said they had the opinion I was on drugs 'cause I had longish hair and a beard. yet there it was on my record. Um. but isn't harming anyone. potatoes. "One other thing needs to be included. He was almost as big as Sydney. no. As an example. Is that agreed?" Several people murmured ascent. Anyone else?" Charlie cleared his throat. I'm sure each of you will have your own quirks. radishes. and watermelons. "We can look around. "Um. This seems to be a good time to start. some soy. "Uh. what I'm saying is. One other thing. He looked as if he'd shaved that afternoon. His blond hair was so close-cropped it could almost be called a crew cut. is already included in that. Anyone have something to say?" Sydney stood. tomatoes. It's not against any laws. squash. but needs to be specified. the kind where they hand you the bottle and say go pee. and peas. We may ask you to contribute things later. doing local work. nor will it hurt the community. or against nature. "Look at Tony. Brad. Just as there's nothing wrong with Richard and I exchanging lovers occasionally. let them be. We need to get together once a week to exchange ideas and whatever." Bradley agreed. spinach. Why?" "Only those peas up top? Are there any orchards around? How ‘bout grapes and strawberries?" "You obviously know more than I do. sweet potatoes. pumpkins. I didn't make much money." Bradley said. Some believe it returns three fold. or you and Rich can. what crops have you planted?" "Let's see. peppers. What else? Oh. along with lettuce. Folks. we'll address it at that time. but that's all. don't jump to conclusions about people just because of how they look. Well one day I got a chance to see my personnel file.

That's what Sally's doing. After that they were free to do what they wanted until they became pregnant. then we'll try another way. like make steel and plastic and medicines. "What. as you say?" he asked. she played mostly with her brother. I mean. We need more people. Brad. "I'm seventeen and old enough. But kiddy sex? Come on. as I see it. where the fathers took the daughters' virginity when they passed puberty and became a woman. you two girls are awfully young to be living with men. OK?" Charlie sat down again looking satisfied. That's just the way things were done. Now who is to say that's wrong? Society? . "Now when Rich and I discussed starting this community we decided to forget the old ways. even those who planned to be childless." "What is old enough?" Henry asked. when Tony said he found good people planning to start an open community. or played as she says. The kids didn't have problems because nobody thought it was wrong. Henry. especially when it's warm. there are a lot less people than there used to be." Bradley tensed. Another tribe had fathers give their daughters their first baby. She probably learned more good information than her friends did that way. From what she says. is kiddy sex. "Sally's family had sex together. only private. Neither of these tribes saw any problem. I believe it's their choice." George said. although she did play with her mother and father occasionally. I didn't think he meant kiddy sex. We're starting a new society with new rules. Isn't that right. I like looking at the ladies. Besides. We wanted to learn as we go. I think I can enlighten Henry." "But they're still awfully young. or maybe South America. "That's the real question. "I remember reading about a tribe in Africa. we have to decide how we're going to act. We can't do the things we used to. either." Henry said.there. "Anything else?" "Yeah. Then they married the father." He waited until Sally nodded for him to go ahead. If something doesn't work. Brad?" "That's right. in the jungles somewhere. I think. Sue spoke from a quarter of the way round the fire. I can see that. I got something. "You know. Sally's family – . remove some of his negativity. part of the problem is that. for whatever reason. need to have babies. We all. I'm sure Helen has her own reasons. she had sex. We've found that the four of us are compatible enough that we can live as a family. Now. I think. She's not crazy or mixed up. the only one of the newcomers completely naked. There's only one way to make more people." Sally protested. She didn't think that was wrong." "I'm not. exactly. "Hold on a moment. don't you think? Nudity is one thing. I'm going to have one as soon as I can. He stood at his place across the fire from Bradley.

then looked up and said. was a place for people to live with freedom. If you want to stay dressed. or possibly we should wait a year or two for the body to relax into its new role before we have babies. "I guess. There are on record several instances of preteens having healthy babies. If there's a problem. maybe not. fought off by the campfire. fine. Tony said. said. In other words. and no one says a word." Henry protested. fine. as if the person were talking to herself. For right now we can let it rest. or you used to be. And what you said is true. Guess we could call you our medicine woman or something." The sun had set. see how it works. which does make sense. from what I understand.What society? I feel we should just let each other live in peace. That means every person and each family has the freedom to behave as they wish as long as it's not detrimental to the community. as long as the work gets done. "I understand. From a medical standpoint. OK?" He sounded as perturbed as I felt." Bradley paused for a moment. That's all I have to say." "Then according to that reasoning everyone here is old enough. and are the closest thing to a doctor we have. Henry?" Henry looked at the floor and shuffled his feet. or something like it. though. what do you think?" Sue lowered her head." Bradley looked around at the faces glowing in the firelight. I'm just not sure I agree. "Um." "We still need to decide what's too young. Maturity and curiosity would be bigger factors. a few years after puberty. "We could have electricity. My opinion of age is any time after the pelvis has finished growing. what I had in mind when I decided to start this. Maybe I'll move on. Many say that the pelvis has not grown enough for a baby to pass through the birth canal. you do as you please within limits. That's rare. "What was . We as a group wouldn't have that problem. that's fine too. We need babies. If everybody wants to live together in a continuous orgy. there have been problems with births in young teens. I've even heard of seven and eight year olds who have had kids. A quiet voice. and have one wife. That doesn't mean anarchy. That's what I had in mind. but as you say. Dark grew in influence. we can work it out in one of these meetings. Is that OK with you. I'm not really happy about it. "Henry. you're a nurse. Lots of babies. "Sue. But for sex without a baby I cannot say. I'll live with it for a bit. that's the way it has to be. what our society said was the norm. but some feel that's a matter of negative energy or stress caused by going against the norm. Henry still sounded belligerent as he said. If Sue wants to stay with Simone.

"Will the dam be high enough." Henry volunteered. maybe once a week. or automatic." Allen asked." Bradley pointed out. only to be shot by a lady who is not here. "Looking at the dam.that? Where'd that come from? Who said that?" "I did. I'm not saying it would be easy. This seems good. we had to kill people to defend ourselves. but what about the dam?" I asked. Sid. Is there anything else?" "Yeah. "It's been a long time. We'd need controls. I volunteered." "That may be true now. We could fill that broken area with small rock and use the concrete to seal it. We might even have to rebuild the dam a bit." I remembered what happened several weeks before. I think we should take each case as it comes and decide on the circumstances at that time. She handled all the electrical problems along with Research and Development. a man came in and attacked Sally. like killing someone else." . What happens if someone here commits a crime. but the level fluctuates. let's meet in the morning to see what we can do about a generator." Marty said from her place near George. We'll have to cross that road when we come to it. Marty. but I studied hydraulic engineering in the army." Bradley smiled." Bradley told me. "And with that. I noticed you had a guitar. "You use a special hardener to get it to set up properly. "Marty and I worked for the same company back in Florida. a chance to hash out our differences. Relax. "Oh. and the water flowing over it. "I remember reading about underwater concrete. Now. Allen. "Sounds like a bunch of work for not much." "I could answer that question. We can fill in the rest of the cracks. We can discuss it later. Henry. maybe. "When Helen and I were on the road. we have enough power there for a small generator. or if strangers show up that have?" "That's a good question. Henry. Not much." "Yeah. Allen." Bradley said. I think we should call an end to this meeting. Still. She said he'd killed her lover. "When Sally and I first got here. I know where one is not too far away." Tony said. "That sounds good." George explained. but enough for lights and refrigeration. I'll bet it could be done. though? Can we get enough water pressure?" "We'll just have to see. and we'd need to cut back upon occasion. too.

"Laid it on a bit thick. and no one needs to know who's sleeping with whom on a particular night. Let them see how we live. Or you could move down with us. so anyone who wanted to could leave." "Sleeping?" "Well. After I do this. I growled. and grow." Bradley joined me under the bed sheets. to ease them into our ways more. I told him. though I didn't like it." Her head lowered toward my middle. We'll see how it works out in the morning. There's plenty of room in both places. Besides." That made sense. "Possibly.Sally Boy. though. . "Rich and I are thinking of moving up here. but how you acted. Brad. I think. I wanted them to know first off. so there was no changing it. I can't stay mad at Brad. and it was done. after everyone had returned to their chosen homes. for more than a few minutes. I remember. you know. or Rich. That meeting made me mad. Not so much the meeting itself. didn't you. Remember how I lit into you? *** That night. Brad? It would have been better.

"Want a cup of coffee while we wait for Henry?" "He's down by the bridge watching the water flow." "It would be if it rained. it's high from the rain last night. who knows? Come on. We might have to do that anyway. but the . I heard a knock on the door. we turned downhill toward the stream. living downstairs would be the better option. but I would go along if the others wanted it. Any more and we'd have to raise the level of the dam. and with my knowledge of the place and the surrounding area it looked like that would happen. and a couple of the office buildings have backups. but there's a radio station a couple miles away. "Not offhand. I haven't seen it fill the courtyard yet. I've seen it as high as about the beginning of the arch there. one that could supply some lights and refrigeration. "I think there's enough to run a small generator. I did not see the need for electricity." I said as I opened the door for them." Marty leaned over the edge of the bridge and watched the water flow by. "Looks like it rained a bit. "This is more than normal. isn't it?" Henry asked. "It seems higher than yesterday as I remember. I haven't worked with the numbers yet." Sidney answered. Let's go down and meet him.Chapter 11 Bradley Shortly after breakfast. especially if we were going to build a power plant. Besides. After a moment's consideration she said." We followed the brick promenade to the wooden ramp that led to the parking lot and driveway. How many others would do that? If I was going to be one of the leaders. Henry stood on the bridge looking upstream. I think. the view of the dam did not compensate for all those stairs. but with the changes. We joined him. Sidney and Marty had climbed all the stairs and stood on the damp brick walk of the third level. Say four or five thousand watts or so. "Water?" I asked. Usually it's about a foot below the roots over there." "Has it ever totally dried up?" "Not that I know of. where that small shelf is. Do you know what size generators are available?" I answered. and the hospital. The water level does rise as the runoff comes downstream. When we reached the road. "Yeah.

that would be about seventy-four. We never measured it. then turned to Henry and said. even out here. right?" "That about covers it. how many inches flow over the dam? On an average. I think. nor is the wire. "Pipe. I know the hospital has two and they're large as I remember." "That's true. I'd say. fifty. I watched him until he reached the end of the bridge. I'm guessing. "Maybe an inch or two at the least. a generator. "I imagine silt's built up over time. There are several supply places around. One foot's easy. but we'll explore some. but it was one of the first in the state." Sidney coughed. Just a guess will do for this. Let's see. and wire to connect it to our system. no. though. plus the state storage facility south a bit." Henry asked. We're talking ten kilowatts? Let's see. it wouldn't need full torque. I believe one of the requirements for radio stations is a separate source of power in case the main power dies. It had both AM and FM there. Still." "Half a foot or more. maybe half a foot normally. let me know. We do have to repair that end over there. You say the stream can run drier. What's the minimum water flow?" "I have no idea." He walked off toward the fields. When you need the truck. "So we'd need the cement." Marty said. some twelve inch pipe. Marty. reliable." I suggested. Pilings under bridges. the dam's sixty-three feet long. I'm going to go help Charlie. but if I remember correctly." "That's going to be a big generator. The generator is no problem." Waterproof cement. and not many thought about backup.supply was good. Pouring waterproof cement on top should take care of the matter. but we might have to raise the dam a bit. I doubt we'll find anything else. That's about 4500 gallons per minute at a nominal flow rate. I'll have to ." Marty replied. More than enough. A twelve-inch pipe would give us about seventy to seventy-five gallons per minute. "They probably have some at the twin bridge. "This is over my head. one hundred thousand watts or something. We could get that. What would that be used for? Underwater repairs. "How deep. We can take measurements later. call it seventyfive horsepower. which means we have over two thousand when we cut it in half. "How big was this radio station?" "I didn't listen to it. if we didn't put it under a full load." I answered. Would that have anything to do with it?" "It shouldn't. The FCC licensed them for a good bit of power as I remember.

We had visitors." I answered." "That works for me. When I reached the bedroom. Two women stood at the near end. shorter. You said someone is asking for me.look for the cement. I heard a call echo up from the road and looked out the open window toward the bridge." I hurried back to the house. "There are two people. "Someone's asking for you!" "What?" Sally called from upstairs. I quickly . Less fuel. and dressed all in black. That's our main problem I believe?" Marty and Henry nodded." I looked at her nakedness. and I hadn't thought about clothes first. "Oh. and there are two people. We can meet tomorrow morning and continue from there. either of them. and thin. "Don't worry. "Hey!" I called down. large packs next to the wall in the shadow of the mid-afternoon sun." She came to the head of the stairs and called down. down the stairs. and thought of mine. I've never seen her before. "There's someone on the bridge asking if you or Rich live here. Who would have expected visitors? And asking for Sally by name? I burst through Sally's open door and cried. it'd be better to have Tony give me a lift on his bike. matured much faster than I would have before everything happened. "Wait a minute. The other was white with dark hair. I'd especially grown used to no clothes for myself and others. I'd grown used to a lot of things over the past weeks. with hair in really tight braids. no! I leaned out without thinking!" Sally laughed. One was tall. "Wait a minute. And those of the malls. Marty agreed." I called back. No. "Who are you?" "Is there a Sally or Richard here?" the young black woman called after staring a moment. I'll stop at the hospital and the radio station and get the statistics of their generators. and maybe others if I can think of where they'd be. I ran out the bedroom." Henry said. and the black lady is asking for you. too. Which is it?" "Both. out the door. Just throw on a shirt when you get back. We walked back to the complex." "Let me put on a shirt and I'll be right over. "I'll take a ride out to the bridge this afternoon. and across the promenade to Sally's house. and I'll be right over. black. Helen As I swept dirt from the bedroom.

I better let him explain tonight. I'm sure we all can convince them to leave if we want. "Oh. anyway. How do I get to the . They raise livestock. "Yep. Wait. She and her husband worked a couple hundred acres in Maryland. turn in and pass the guardhouse. Did you find your farmer?" She gave her friend a bear hug. We have a special relationship." "OK. Rich will be glad to see you. You'll learn. "Hold on a minute. let me look. He'll be back. and follow the drive into the courtyard. "It's great to see you safe. Rich is out helping in the fields this afternoon. Sally asked me quietly. I'll take your stuff in. We're in the same place. I think. I don't know them. From my position behind her. OK." Sally told me as she eased toward the window." Amber looked at her friend as if to say she hadn't expected all this. I could almost see her face change expression from puzzled to excited. This is great!" Sally pulled her head back in the window and explained. "Now what is going on?" "These two asked for you or Richard. Rich will be surprised!" She ran out the door and down the stairs toward the top of the ramp. so it won't be too bad. Amber seemed surprised at first. Sally had stopped at the top of the ramp by the walk over the river. Come on in. "I'll see you in a bit. She called." Amber laughed. You'll see a ramp coming up. "Is it OK if we come closer?" the black woman asked. There's so much to tell you! Don't worry about the people. Sally joined me as the two women walked to a position under the window. I heard the front door open. Go take a dip. I did my best to follow. You've already met Helen. "Amber saved my life before you came. This here's Joan. She says she's willing to give it a go up here. "Sure." I replied. Sally looked out the window. Take a look and you can decide what to do. finally. We all do that when we finish working. You look beat. "Amber? Is that you? Wow! Great! How are you doing? Wait! Go up the hill. She asked.pulled on a T-shirt then looked out the window. I watched from the end of the deck closest to them. "All? How many people are here?" Sally said. "Amber. How about a quick dip? The water's warming up. It's through there. I'll meet you down there. Rich and his boss convinced them that a totally free society is the only way to live. I moved aside. but quickly returned the hug. number four." I called down. about eighteen. you came back!" Sally called as the two travelers approached the promenade." "Well. Same as before." "That's great. just cool enough to refresh. The two women sat next to their packs. including the two up on the hill.

stream?" "Oh. You see the path there next to the bridge? It circles around to a small canoe dock. up at the garden. I'd do anything for her. Hadn't thought of that. Yeah. . Amber wore a white T-shirt. "A few days after you left. The tone of the voices didn't seem that intense. They still seemed a bit insecure. her friend wore black." "What's her friend's name again?" "Jay? No. or maybe a turkey?" "Not turkey. but maybe I did come on a bit too strong. or a little more. They sat close together on the couch holding hands as if gaining strength from each other. Rich's boss showed up with his girlfriend." "Then get ham. I have to remember that. Right now. I could hear snippets of conversation from the entry. "Did I? I'm just glad to see her. She's been through more than a lifetime of adventure and learning since the death." I thought for a moment. so I didn't say anything. Sally Helen and I brewed tea in the main room after Amber and Joan cleaned up and changed clothes. Ham will have to do. Joan. She saved me from a fate worse than death. so I waited until Amber led her friend into the living room. See you soon!" "Laid it on a bit thick. She was so excited. "You and Brad and Amber and her friend and Rich and me. That should work. It puts you to sleep. Grab some sweet potatoes. I was a possible rival. Try for a chicken or something." "Oh. Hurry!" I had to laugh. Helen crouched by the fire and dipped tea into cups while I explained. No refrigeration. Helen grew up on a farm a hundred miles south of here. What would be appropriate for returning friends? "How about I find another ham. I'll tell you later. I have them here. And beans." I had to chuckle at Sally's excitement. give me a hand. but I was so happy to see Amber. and both wore black jeans. You can swim there. Maybe I had been a bit intense like Helen said. Damn. I said. go back down the ramp. too. Joan. Six?" I asked. No. or reaffirming their love and unwillingness to stray. Sally's face changed from overjoyed to worried. I just let them be. didn't you?" I asked as Sally helped carry the packs into her house. Cool. We have to have a good dinner for the six of us. "I don't think there's chicken. She saved me from getting raped before you came. comfort and a feeling of protection.

Amber?" "None other. or did. Her name is Amber. There's plenty of room for as many as want to settle. . an emissary of sorts. I followed it up through Chadds Ford and on up past West Chester. I kept going north until I reached Coatesville. Rich called. Rich'll be here in a short. you all can hear." "Good. I saw one man out with a team of horses in a field." The front door closed. He said he'd find and talk to the other two. Again. He's cleaning up. I told them about you. The other one I talked to only lost one daughter. When I left you two. pastures and stuff. I'll tell you that. There are a few people around there.There's so much to tell you! I'll wait for Rich and Brad. She found Joan a week ago and came back to live here. They may send a visitor. following the stream. I headed north. "Hey. sort of. Not me." Helen had distributed the cups and stood behind Amber. "Come into the living room." "Horses?" Bradley interrupted. I saw lots of open land. but figured it was the Lord's will that he carry on. Charlie says we don't have any specific killers and don't want to contaminate the food anyway. We need more people who know how to keep us alive. I traveled for a few days along Route 30. "I decided to head west. but they wanted to stay in an area they knew. the land is open. all told. but I don't know. Hello. Amber squeezed Joan's hand. The first one I talked to had lost his whole family." Helen called. as I found out all are from separate communities. so here's my story. "Oh. Anyway. yeah. Oh. is that you. Brad. Joan's a farmer. Bradley sat in an overstuffed chair across the large living room. Hey. "I'm home! I just saw Carl. He said the weeds are atrocious. You saw one?" "I saw three. That place was a mess. Several blocks burned. All the stores were looted. he'll start to supply eggs. This is great! How have you been? What did you do?" Helen and I moved to the fire and began to cook the evening meal. though. as they call it. She told Brad. anybody here? No one was upstairs. I talked to the second two. "OK. "This is a good friend of Sally and Rich. possibly from arson. The Amish live up there." "OK. but they're thinking about moving south to the farmland. He said God would supply him with a new wife. and he said they found chickens and a rooster and after they get some chicks." "We're here." "You did come back. the door opened. the said." Just then. There are people here to meet. Rich sat on the piano bench.

I don't see a problem as long as you follow the simple rules. The water seems OK. Helen. You'll find most folk nude while working in hot weather. For reasons I'll let her explain if she wants. Tony picked them for openness and willingness to try new ways. "We think so. and having friends was important. It's part of what used to be a golf course. Anyway. "Anyway. Amber said. Thanks. what used to be the state park. you do as you please. And do no harm. Two men working animals up on the hill are living together." "You don't think there'd be a problem with we two living together?" "I wouldn't think so. We thought of staying there. Tony met Brad and Helen." Sally said as she began to fill plates. No. she left with me and here we are. but what will you do for water?" "It has a working spring house. Richard told Amber. We got the field on the hill planted. Bradley put down his fork and stared at the ceiling for a moment. With a group of people." "Dinner's served.He said people needed help at times. They'd met a guy named Tony in an adventure of their own. The four of us are going to live here starting tomorrow. have you picked a place out yet?" Bradley waited expectantly for Amber to answer." Rich placed his plate on the side table. or I guess she'd be called a medicine woman now. that sort of thing. A couple days later Bradley and Helen showed up. yesterday? Yesterday. So there you are. Or maybe Healer. He also said he'd send one of his sons down next year to show us how to farm without using the ‘devil's ways' as he said. She's our nurse I think. We talked this morning about maybe supplying electricity. I found Joan. as Sue says. after you left. "Tell me. "Generally be a part of the community and respect others for who they are. "We've had our own adventures." "Then that would work." "What are those?" Amber asked. What's this adventure you had where you met this Tony person?" . not how they live. "There's an old house just past the railroad up the road." Bradley agreed. we planted the fields just across the river. Eases the laundry problem. She and her husband and another couple had run a farm together before the death. I think. "That's a good idea. the day after talking to him. and she'd found another farmer to live with. Other than that. but it sounds like a lot of work.

a large Harley touring bike. we need more than that. "Not much we can use here. The only difference the last two months had made was a lack of traffic. Fifteen minutes later. The bike should be safe enough. "Just slide forward over the seat right up behind me. Take a look and see if it can be used on wood and stone. a lack of security that was due to having their private police force always there. the towers majestic with the large cables on each side that dropped to the bridge deck in a gentle curve. two multi lane spans that arched over the water. less than two thousand watts. "I don't know." I said as I pointed to a driveway that dipped below the bridge. the maintenance storehouse I hoped. and we both carried pistols just in case. and thinking what we'll use for all the refrigerators and freezers and lights. "then hold on to my waist and sit straight with the bike.Bradley "OK. afraid that I was going to slide off the back or that we would fall over. or if it's just for metals. and a generator set up the same way. I wondered if I needed goggles or a helmet. Paint maybe. angle iron of different sizes. wood. I doubt it's over a few hundred amps. He sat on the front of his motorcycle. Cement and hardener. half a pallet of bags filled with concrete with the hardener stacked next to it in five gallon buckets. "Let's walk. but there were no lights or traffic and we did not have to stop. many different types of scaffolding including four planks that the suspension cables would support." Tony said. I'm going to take a look at this generator. Next time I explored I'd take the pickup. "The sheds are down there. and then we rolled out of the complex and up the hill. wires and conduits. but I think it's too small. what do I do?" I asked Tony." he said. We had packed a hacksaw and bolt cutters to cut through fences and locks. The bolt cutters easily cut the padlocks on the sheds. We both wore t-shirts and jeans to protect us from insects and dirt. but none was available." I really didn't want to get on it again. held upright by the strength of his legs. we rolled to a stop at the administration building for the double suspension bridge. He kicked the motor over." "More?" . an air compressor on wheels with a trailer hitch. Fifteen minutes? How fast had he gone? Two metal sheds and a small building were located under the bridges." I did as suggested. It might be what we need. Inside the sheds were lights large and small. I held on. I conjectured. several pallets and twenty fifty-five gallon drums of green paint. warmed it a bit. although we did not expect to meet anyone.

and the lights for all thirty-two units. Below me the stream flowed by. An inch below where the arch of the bridge starts. but this is about normal. No." I wasn't sure if we could have electricity. I remembered when we had a heavy spring rain on top of four inches of snow. "Oh. right there at that ledge. a cup of strong coffee steaming next to me on the rail. "It varies. nearly impossible to move without a crane. We still had a couple more places to check. I decided to join whoever it was. amps. It was easy with direct current. and how the level rose. Electricity was beginning to look like a luxury we could not afford. *** I woke the next morning and stood on the balcony at the back of Richard's place where all four of us now lived. looking upstream. small bits of debris from upstream riding the surface like boats. I looked upstream toward the stone bridge and saw a lone figure standing on the road. and what about heat? The complex had geothermal. At the base of the dam white water splashed noisily against rocks."About five thousand watts would be a good amount according to Margret. I considered the storms we'd had. I knew where several construction companies were. "Water level's down. He observed. but this was alternating and that was persnickety as one lineman had explained. Tony ran us around to the hospital and the three radio stations I knew. five hundred. That would be four. watching the water roll over the dam. I'll have to check with Henry to be sure of my numbers. And I thought they had underestimated the need by a whole bunch." I answered watching the reflections of morning clouds move as the flow ripples changed. How do you connect them in parallel and have the wavelength aligned." "What's the highest you've seen?" While Marty joined us. A lot more. Henry stood at the middle of the bridge with a cup of coffee in his hand. The size of coolers and freezers these people had would use more than five hundred watts each. up the trees about a foot and a half. probably at the dam. The five hundred year . or whatever the power company did. and many would have this type of generator. I would talk to Henry and Marty about it tomorrow. Is this more an average flow?" "Yeah. see what was on the newcomer's mind. we'll need more than that. All had huge generators powered by big diesel engines. as you understand. That was a couple more pumps that would need more juice. if I remember the formula correctly.

or maybe two or three in line. The one hundred year is three inches below that. and cover that with concrete to keep it from eroding. too. Henry. "We figured we'd be doing that anyway. though. What did you find yesterday. and a turbine. It would be nice. Brad?" "Let's see. Twentyfour bags and the hardener to go with it. The position of the turbine and generator should not matter to their efficiency. "It depends on how much concrete each bag will make.flood line is about a foot above the level of the courtyard. so I couldn't do any collecting. we could use the bit of civilization to help us adjust." I had been thinking of refrigerators and lights." Marty said. I found several smaller generators on wheels." Marty said. but I doubt you know. Tony gave me a ride around on his bike. We need to worry more about water pressure and the size of the motor. but will it work? Will it be worth the effort?" "It will work. or offset. The supply dump I checked has the pipe we need. They have plenty of heavy duty wire. more than a thousand gallons of it in fifty five gallon drums and five gallon pails." "So we fly by the seat of our pants. They only had half a pallet of underwater cement. including two forty-five degree angles. That's 440 volts and two thousand amps. "You're right." "That's good. "We could use the turbine to turn a smaller generator like what Brad found. Their generator is 880 volts and thirty-five thousand amps. I checked the hospital. all for outdoor protection. "I thought so." Henry said. but the largest was one twenty volts and a few hundred amps. They have two of them. and I think it can be used on wood. That part of it won't be a problem. but how long would it last? Still. too. over there." "That's too big. Down at the bridge they have paint galore. "We can also rewire a motor to act as a generator. Henry. It can be done. and top of the line from what I could tell. I don't believe that would be enough. What about the dam?" "That's a good question." Henry said. Can you and Marty work something up to give everyone . "Yes. Do you need more?" "I could use a lot more." I asked. "That can be on a platform above the flood level directly above the turbine. We don't have the equipment or the time to get the answers either. but we could lay the pipe on the broken side." Marty agreed. I don't think we can coat the whole dam. surround it with rock and sand. "Then where would we put the generator?" Henry said. Whether we should put forth the effort will be something for the community to decide I would think." I asked. I checked the radio station.

" "Good.an idea of what's involved?" "No problem. We'll let it rest until then." .

I'd never go against Brad. Bradley set aside his plate. he was family. *** Everyone had enjoyed the community dinner prepared by several of the women and eaten on a grassy area near the river that Saturday evening. OK." Henry. that we had missed an obvious problem. see what happens. To fix the dam we'll have to transport rocks and sand and special cement. We can fix the dam. yet he was troubled by something. though. I think it was Thursday. the covers on her side of the bed neat as if she hadn't moved all night. I had a premonition that something was wrong. but close enough to take a part of our decisions. I'll bring it up on Saturday. stood. A perfect shot. I don't have a rifle. but clouds moved in during the gathering. They're staying north of us. though. Still. Peter. Brad acted excited also. thanks. and as I reached the bed. We lived in the same house now. And something in my subconscious kept telling me they were wrong. I believe Henry can tell us what's going on. my eyes closed. That .Chapter 12 Richard I could not sleep on Thursday night. Moonlight shone in the window. We could have fresh meat. I think. he thought he had missed something. We can tie the generator into the complex electrical system. I must have dozed for I woke wide-eyed. There are problems. Now I felt relaxed. glad you could join us. figuring that we held the weekly meetings on Saturday as I thought. can we start?" He waited for quiet. Now the main topic for tonight is the source of power proposed last week. "People. We can build a generator. Brad. "Carl. Henry and Marty pushed for the generator as if it were life and death. and I could not place what it was. or thought of something and was hiding it for now. "Um. Most of you have met Amber and Joan. naked as everyone else on the warm night. A deer stood by the stream drinking. I slid out of the tangled mess on my side of the bed to look out the window. Sally lay next to me. My brain slowed. Where would I get bullets? Where will we get new bullets when the folk who are hunting run out? What about other things? What other things will run out? I wonder if anyone's thought of it.

and we'd have to find things we need. but it's a good point. Bradley said. At that time. Rich. laying pipe we've located to channel water to the turbine. Bradley took a sip of tea. stood. that's an interesting thought. barely missing his neighbors. Henry." Marty answered." I stood to get everyone's attention. but what do you do with the electricity when you get it? Lights? Where do you get the bulbs? Sure we can scavenge some. Bradley smiled at the young man just out of his teens. and we can perform all the tasks involved." He bowed slightly and sat. and said. but closer to the fire. please. Still. which would be close to ten thousand watts. Does anyone know how to fix them?" No one said a word. "I know I'm new. I've been . and a waterproof environment for it. Joan moved up to where she now sat and snuggled close. "Thank you. I estimate it will take several weeks to a month for a crew of four to get that far. it can be done. Bradley waited a moment to see if anyone else would speak. Any discussion? For a start. I worked some numbers knowing the equipment in the complex. ten or so from its manufacture. maybe longer. and it appears we'll need possibly seven thousand amps. and I think that's really what we need to decide tonight. maybe even a year's worth or more. Amber. Come on out where we all can see you. "I don't think they use that product any more. Amber. We can get everything necessary. Brad?" I asked from my seat. but it can be done. Henry.will require fuel and manpower. Marty. Anyone else?" "I know I'm new. "Brad. "It's not easy. "That's a good question. wouldn't they. We'll have to build the generator. and requires more time and work." "The coolers would be hard to replace once they wore out. Allen." "Wouldn't the Freon leak out?" Allen asked spreading his arms wide. We'll also have to do the work. We thought of light and refrigeration. I didn't think it would take more than a week to solve that problem. and you've probably already discussed this." Amber stood and looked at the circle of people. "Stand up. "They're all over the place. "Anyone know how to make a light bulb?" "I do. but what then?" She sat on the log. "Why would refrigerators or freezers be hard to replace?" Sidney asked. it's likely no cooling device of that kind will be any good after several years. Now the project is larger. Sidney. just so you know." a dark body said from the shadows.

"We hunt. that's it." Barbara answered. "I'd like to see it. this here meat problem ain't. and since we located and corralled that bull. "We'll be all right for a year or two. There's more. if things get bad. How many bullets? How long will gunpowder last? Can we make more? I don't think so. Two livestock farmers." "Using what?" I asked turning toward her.thinking. We also have plenty of pigs. no. So you see. though. They're things that cannot be replaced." Peter said. then. and a weapons maker. Meat we'll have soon. Even with refrigeration. and kill some birds starting in the fall." "That there is just not true. I can relieve pain and help infection so far. I just have to find the right plants. we get them calved and producing milk in a few months." "Really?" Sidney answered. Unless we hunt." "So we have a healer. I found out about." Carl said from across the circle. "Animal husbandry men. "Rifles. too. We found chickens. one or two of the older cows can be sacrificed from the breeding schedule and butchered. at least a simple bow. Once they're gone." "I've been looking through the books Brad and Helen brought for more herbs to use as medicines. before winter. "Oh." I nodded in what I hoped was a non-condescending manner." Sue told Sidney. "I saw some that tell you how to make bows using combinations of wood and bone that are supposed to be better than just wood. and when we tire of those meats?" I asked." Sidney answered. that we don't have the knowledge or the material or the technology to replace. we won't have fresh meat. Good. I thought about meat a few days ago. After that well need help with that from someone who knows how to work . How would we hunt without rifles?" "Bows and arrows. We have a hunter or two. There are many things we can't make. we'll have to hunt. "We have more cattle up top than we need right now. What do we do now. We can supply eggs to you all in a week or two. The small crowd chuckled." "That's good. "I can make both. This is what I had thought about and wanted to bring up. of course. This winter. There are a lot of things we cannot replace. What we're talking about here are nonrenewable goods. Sue?" Bradley asked. "We use rifles. "It's not hard to do." "Animal husbandry. Can you two make your own tools?" Carl paused a moment before saying. please." "How many medicines have you found around here.

After a moment Brad said. I've been listening here and there. It says it's the voice of America and represents the Government. "I used to do body work on cars and stuff before the death. "Massa Bradley. We have our future tinsmith. I . Don't you all worry about batteries. I'll guess. I could try to keep some honey bees and after a year or two we'd have a source of wax for light. or blacksmith." "Scavenged candles won't last forever. "Well. They said to watch what you scavenge and drink because of diseases. "This here isn't quite to the subject." Bradley told him." Bradley smiled. and there are other communities like ours. or maybe Australia. It sounds like they're speaking from England by their accent. I'm just not sure what I need to know right now. I found one station that speaks English. What else do we need?" Carl stood. though. "Good. what are y'all doing for light. they sound like they're in the same predicament us. I wrote some of them things down. though it also gives information on how to survive. Another station I hear keeps sending words of encouragement. Them there people. but how about news?" "How do we get that?" "I set up my short-wave radio up top and strung an antenna through the trees up on the hill." "No description of the scouts?" "They did say the scouts will have radios with them for communication. I know some things. now? Using candles like me. I had a neighbor that kept bees and I learned a bit from him." Tony said. "Simone. The solar panels we use to power the well pump also charge the battery. that's what they called them. and preaching the Gospel." "You can work on it this winter. Sue. or whatever. as if she wasn't used to being treated as an equal. why don't you tell us?" She appeared embarrassed. "Thanks Tony. you're healer so this is for you. That's all I heard so far. Anyway." Simone asked from across the campfire. She said.metals. Are you saving the spent wax? What can we do about it in the future?" No one said a word. Can you remember what they've said?" "Oh. They ask we feed and house any scout for a week. My grandmother used to make candles from the bees wax. Mostly it calls for calm. and I can learn more. if you have an answer or suggestion. There's another station that's a lot stronger. Simone. That's good. I don't know which. Them there Government boys said they're sending scouts out to explore. They said there are rumors of roving bands of thugs.

didn't hear nothing else. no. or there about. lithe body sparked mine. "So you think we should live like the original people who came to these lands thousands of years ago?" a female voice asked belligerently. "Now everyone is equal." I told her with a smile. "Sally. But now with problem you deal. We have several jobs assigned. You four as family. humanity. We need as many kids as possible. the less chance someone will want what we have. Much I have to write of past. Her dark hair and high cheekbones betrayed her heritage. Tony. Her dark. one of Allen's party." Samuel "Stop! Enough! I remember no more. back then they had a lousy birth rate. "We're all back in the stone age. Those hassles will decrease. yet. you might understand." Bradley said." I peered across the fire. as I'm sure it had others in our group. that's taken care of. ." The negative votes won by a landslide. The smaller and lower tech we are. besides what's been mentioned. "They don't even know who's out here. say yes or no. Sue you're going to have fun with that. She's met some interesting people. "We just got started being equal." "That's a good point. no." "Well." I grinned at the others for peace. mortality rate. that's good. visitors here. Bradley stood and waited for quiet." Sue groaned. Helen. you never thought that problem large there is As a community. Kids now in bed. Helen. I thank you both for this delicious meal. sat alone wearing only a disgusted look." Charlie said. Let's take a break from serious discussions and listen to Amber's story. stories you have. That's another reason not to have the electricity. In fact." "I don't think they'll have the means to collect them for quite a few years. Natalie. "Let's take a vote. Do we want to build an electrical plant." Bradley sounded relieved. "OK. We also have new people. Sue. please. however. Natalie. "As long as they don't try to tax us. Anyone. or is it too much work for too little return? As I point to you. Someone's trying to organize. solution is now at hand. keep a tally.

except for you fine folk. In some cultures it ended in a mass orgy." "Like what?" Rich asked. "Oh." Sally interjected. The festival not only celebrated the seed going into the ground. those before Christianity. Some of them had fertility rights involved. Remember Thanksgiving? Harvest festivals celebrated the bounty of the earth. it can be with the right people.Only have to start a human trading biz. had planting festivals. relieved that nothing had broken. "That's fun. Only what I have previously said. "Most of the early religions. Sally asked." Tony leaned back in his chair to relax. no sense of touch. no one can think. "I think the girls must move to a different village as Sam said. Richard and all in the know. without arms or legs. Of suggestions. malformed bodies. Tell us. Some later communities did the same. you will start to grow.none I have that will protect from brothers. before they become sexually active. I would think we need to make sure that . that. No one has brain. they must move 'fore babies are made with brothers or fathers or such." "We've done that. but general fertility. "What do we want to do?" Sue said. Sam. that's what they do." Sue bowed her head for a moment of thought. Babies with problems. Then there were harvest festivals." "Nothing at all. The girls. "What problem do I have? And what do you mean human trading?" "You alone no. Slow in brain. you've seen what others do. We could incorporate some of each into our own holidays." Tony looked at me quizzically. "I have a problem?" he said. Is that why we're here? OK. They do not think." Sue smiled. these others. "Yes. always sick. You as group. and that was not a joke.

and that they're looking forward to leaving. Should learn the truth of how it's done." "There you go." Tony said. "We're not the ones who are . so what in teach is strife? Those who will be adults. so obvious. "But how do they enter adulthood. yet none of them saw truth." "Or a half day if we must. and then the girls will move. and living with others. and so I said. That's all they'd need. "I jumped in your lap. I'll do some research. Helen giggled. We also need to teach them about becoming women. What.the girls who reach puberty feel special. "Do we ignore them? I don't think that would be a good idea. since this is what it's for? I mean." "What about the boys?" Bradley asked. a couple days? Kids recover quickly. because I'm sure no one else is as free and easy as we are. the truth and a bit of how to. We make a day out of it with a special ceremony after the little ones are put to bed. "In few days here I see. "Sex education. where we all share with each other. including the new adults. We have a fire night. new members of your house. a special one that happens only once a year." I had to speak." "And how did you enter adulthood in your estimation?" Bradley asked. You do not hide your life. Richard spoke first. Helen asked." I sat back in my chair to wait and hear what they espoused. to joining a new community. the quick course. The answer there. I had to learn quickly." "Wish someone had done that for me. in less than perfect circumstances. and then sometimes agree." Richard added. and you discuss. so that they don't start babies with anyone here. You show what is. do you know of any contraceptives we could give to the girls for just that short time?" "I have books. That you speak truth to children all. You show all love there is in life. Sue.

Tony. could you throw some more timber on the fire? It's getting a bit chilly. and bring us an answer the next time through. Now they've had those two and a half days. it does. sense." I agreed with a chuckle. The special celebration that night will be for them." "Damn it. "Noon." "Top light?" I asked. though. . "Well." Sue answered. I've told you not to call me that. her face tingeing red. Why don't we move there? Then you can tell us what is so obvious. Makes. isn't it?" Helen asked. Tony came back into the room and said. We don't need more than from top light to end of night. Who's here that you don't know intimately? Now how 'bout it? What's so obvious?" "We wait for Carris and Keith. What we need to do is figure out how to trade kids. Bradley chuckled." "That is kind of obvious. "Your problem." "Around strangers. enough to learn about their bodies and others'. but top light is when the sun is at the zenith. the kids are. a chance to bond with others before they move or start their adult life. Sam. and to discover there's more beyond that. Susie." Tony wandered into the next room. They'll take our message with them as they make their rounds. "That's obvious. right?" "In a way. we've agreed that sex education of some form would be useful. Give them two and a half days of schooling.celebrating. you said. and a celebration." "And why not? Noon won't mean a thing to them. "It's warmer in the main room. what do you think?" Bradley said. Richard thinks we should have a more descriptive language for our descendants.

and another." Helen answered. "That sounds like something we can figure out later." "Important things. "We could offer to send an extra couple with them to help that one trip. and a three day. like sleep for the night." Sally said to herself. That's what Carris told me. One down. and two back." "OK. I'm off to find my bed. "I'll light a silver and an orange candle when the time comes. All wished good night as I donned coat. The important things. Sue said. It's those two we have to count. and an extra canoe to hold the extra goods. and Helen came for love. but how long are they out?" Bradley asked. and back the same." "They would have to come back at the end." Tony ignored the comment." "And the kids? They'll have to be on foot and use a cart.Sally strode to the window and looked out to the back where the moonlit river flowed through. two back." I stood and pulled on gloves. then went back head to head." "Yeah." "OK. she did. "One day down by water. "So we ask Carris and Keith to relay our suggestion and get an answer. and then suggested to all. Tomorrow I will see you again. Then a two-day walk. I walked outside while others talked. then when the time comes they baby sit the girls from village to village? You really think they'd do it?" "We can only ask. with a day in each village. who teaches what. Two days for both. "Let's see. four days so far. They'd probably need help anyway if we do it just after harvest." "And who would do that?" Rich asked. Then a week's rest and off again. "For now. ." Tony observed. let's work on finding people to exchange with. and what kind of ceremony we're going to have. so count them all.

That question scared me most at that time. or the rabbits. Figure it this way. Noises came from the open door to the right." "Tell me. "It could. First room on the right at the top of the stair. and sometimes I get sick in the morning." She smiled. Sue picked up another cut plant and hung it. or anyone of the group. I feel sick. "Hi. The signs seem to indicate that. a never-ending job. still feeling a bit queasy. "Will the baby survive?" I asked. I would guess you're pregnant. Several more hung from that string and others strung between the walls. she said. Both of you survived. It was hot already. you mean the sickness?" While she hung the rest of the cut flowers. "Merry meet! What's up?" "I'm not sure. but without the appointment or the expense. "Well. I'd forced myself to wash the dishes. We don't have the equipment. Does that mean what I think it does?" Sue climbed down the ladder and walked over to me. the struggle of first year." I said hesitantly. but I can't run any tests to be sure. That's why I came to see you. Their story from the night before. and then turned me gently in a circle. "Up here.Chapter 13 Samuel Shared breakfast the next morning with the four who were first here. I don't see why not. to tell you the truth. and had taken a dip in the stream hoping it would cool me and I'd feel better. I'm late for my period. She smiled. I saw Sue tying a plant to a string stretched near the ceiling." I struggled up the U-shaped stair. "What? Oh. and I'd been sick the past few mornings for some reason. which is what I think. "I'm hanging some plants to dry. too. therefore you have . what's the problem?" Just like a doctor. Sally "Sue? Are you in. She stared intently into my eyes. "If you and Rich are the parents. Sue?" I called as I walked through the front door. but it always goes away before lunch. When I peeked in." came the answer from the stairwell. very easily.

but in your breast milk. so I'll gather plenty. A miracle of nature. Wild Red Raspberry and Wild Clover. but without the technology. And yeah. I couldn't wait to join her. and I understand the process. Here we go. though. We don't have the equipment we used to. Sis. "As will something in here. It's the first. the dark ages as your honey puts it. "That's great! You're the first of all of us. "It's not that great. I've even helped. that we would survive. we're still back in the dark ages of medicine. All we have is the knowledge we've learned over the years. She looked at me from under her eyebrows. That doesn't count out other complications. Wow. "Whew! You make this sound dangerous. And thanks." "It is. and so will your baby. You'll be OK. I was ecstatic. A new life. Maybe earlier. Now let's see if there's a herb that will help you through this first troublesome time. Tell you what. a baby." she chuckled. We have to do something special for this. You'll probably pass those immunities on to your baby." Helen "You're what?" I yelled when Sally told me what Sue had said. It was absolutely fantabulous. "Good." The first child. Any babies born where both parents survived the death should be immune." Sally protested. but don't worry about them. A tiny blob that would form into a tiny human who could grow into a new member of our society. A visible sign that the community was growing. I laughed with her. I followed Sue down the polished hardwood stairs into the room to the side that Sue used as an office. "It's only a baby. Wow! I'll take the field anytime you want." Sue chose a book from the loaded shelves behind her desk. "That's a help. I've seen both." I grinned and hugged her. "It is. not only from genetics and your blood supply. At least we know better than to bleed people. The first! Relax. I'll gather some on my explorations this afternoon and bring them over tonight. I have the books.immunities built up in your system. I was excited. I'll see you tonight. It's real special. We're back to the eighteen hundreds as far as technology goes. Nausea. see if they can pick up something special. then eased back to the floor. I'm going to tell Barbara or Sid." . I continued." I said as we descended the stair." She tied the last plant to the string stretched across the ceiling. I'll be back. I guess I'll need more. That's a lot. I hope.

just before I got outside. I could hear her say. Barbara?" I asked. Barb. "Oh." "What wouldn't be fair. You know that. They'd found a few. I think I'll talk to him." "That's a good idea. I can help. it's kind of scary. I don't know. You know. "Well." "That‘s great. Carl up on the hill may be willing to butcher a chicken for you." That I could understand. Helen. but only rodent tracks. This is special. such as deer. I wonder if." Barbara answered. no. suddenly secretive. following the river into the city looking for animal trails. too. Sally's going to have a baby. nothing." Barbara's eyes lit up. I can't wait until it's my turn. *** I found Barbara and Sidney in the community hall as they prepared to explore the woods to the north. Thanks. Who knew what would happen. if you can do it. but I thought it would hurt our relationship. I'd have to talk to Sue. no promises." . and I was wondering if you could find something special for tonight's dinner. Now. "What's that?" Barbara asked. It should be mid-afternoon or so. but we'll see what we can do. Barbara. Sidney shouldered his pack. "Helen. They had traveled south the day before. but it appeared the occupants were not all sane. and deserves a bit extra. All the more reason for something really special. It might die. "Hey. that wouldn't be fair. They had located another community. Today they hoped to find sign of larger wildlife. Get some seasonings. Sydney looked up from sorting through arrows and bullets. We'll see. see what's around." I answered. I don't know if we'll really see anything today. "She's pregnant? That's great! Did she talk to Sue?" "Sue told her. so they bypassed the area." "Yeah. You might want to make alternative plans just in case. our plans have been to scout right now. even before it was born. Her face blossomed with a smile. Sidney. We'll stop by when we get back. what's up dear heart? What can we do you for?" "I need a favor. or possibly small mammals like raccoons. "In fact. There was the possibility that it would not inherit an immunity to the Death. He said."It's not that big of a deal!" Sally called as I ran toward the door. if you want a kid. I called out to them.

"Oh. Let's go talk to Pete up at the house. I'm not the one to ask. Isn't that great. hon. We crossed the yard to a yellow house set back in the trees." Carl spoke from behind me. Our community grows. In the main barn I found Carl cleaning stalls." "We have company." he answered." He put down the pitchfork and walked down the aisle to meet me." I called as I entered the dim interior. I have a favor to ask. As Carl opened the kitchen door. a gravel drive bore off to the left. Around the bend at the top of the hill. they are his chickens. he called." "Oh! That's great! That's good to hear. but I didn't ask her what Sue said. "Hey Carl. boy! What did you have in mind?" Peter asked. I heard that . I can bring one down in the afternoon when I bring the eggs. Did she talk to Sue?" "Yes. y'all tell her not to worry. noticing the cattle in the pasture on the right. She has some good news and a favor to ask. "What's the news?" "Sally's pregnant. He wore bib overalls and no shirt." "Howdy. Looking over the valley. I saw that nothing of the community showed through the trees except some cultivated fields across the river. "Who that? Helen?" "Yeah. "Helen. in the office. Carl answered. "Hey Pete. what used to be a golf course before barbed wire was strung. I thought a chicken or two would be good." Peter said as he stood. I walked along the drive. That could be a good thing. "Hey back. red hair his only adornment. that's good to hear. Helen. if idiotic assholes like I'd met before came looking. Pete sat at a desk in the middle of the room strewn with papers. "What is it?" Sally's pregnant and I want to make a special dinner for her. "Well." I followed Carl through the barn and out a small double hung door in the back. Fresh chicken will be good for her. Do you think you could butcher a chicken or two for us?" "Well glory be. This is exciting.*** I rested after the steep climb up the road." "I couldn't agree more. After all." "Really? Who?" I followed Carl into a small room to the side of the living room. and I wanted to give her something special for dinner. y'all around? Y'all decent?" "Back here. hon? Oh.

man. wondering if the human race would continue past our lifetimes. It proves what you and I have said." Bradley chuckled. That's important. a never-ending job since we didn't have any weed killers." "This looks good. "How'd you get it?" "Carl brought it down this afternoon. "You're what? That's great! Brad. me. I cried. this is great. and swung her in circles. The news made me so happy I wanted to shout it to the world. maybe. hair dripping from my evening swim. he had as much chance as I did to be the father. "So now everyone knows. struggling to survive." . come on." Bradley said as Helen carried the baked chicken to the table. it would have been Sue. the human race grew. Now I stood in the foyer. then the babies should be OK. planted my lips on hers. Here we were. I lifted her." "Rich. and he called this miracle a problem? Anyway. "Well." I had to hurry and reassure Sally. I went to see her this morning.some babies are dying. our community. I said. "Yeah. not a statement!" Sally stood hands on hips staring at me. It's the first baby in the community." Just born babies had lived? "That's good to hear. "Aw. They already had several births like that and they lived from what they say. and that didn't matter. She has growing inside her the first of the next generation. more problems. just how you love. it's a baby. "Well come inside and park it at the table." Sally said. Thanks. Sally's going to be a mom. just what we need!" I was ecstatic." I could not believe his attitude. what will allow this community to continue through the future. so things should be OK. Bradley complained. Do you know how important this is? Look at it this way. but them there experts say that if both parents lived through the death. Not to me. I'll see you later. No wonder you thought we'd have company. and Sally had just told me about her condition. that it doesn't matter how you live. I have a feeling we have company coming tonight. And thanks for the chicken. "Dinner's just about ready. Helen and Sally. I had to give her a hug. if he didn't tell. A new life. Our family. and it belongs to this family! Ours! You. And part of it was me." Helen called from the fireplace. Richard I'd been in the fields all day hoeing weeds.

I know what to do. but this was not the openness I was trying to build. I thought you could help. Simone. though." She was losing the southern deference. Helen can help." Bradley volunteered." "Rich and I can clean the dishes tonight. The chicken is fresh. probing kiss. a pretty lady in a mother earth sort of way. too. but tonight she didn't need to know. if you ask in a normal manner."Why?" I asked." Sally answered. "He can. Helen. too. I just meant I want a kid. "Anyway. Simone ran over and gave me a huge hug. That's why it tastes so good. "Well that." Bradley suggested. . "I'll take a rain check. that goes for you. "I'm sick in the morning. followed by a deep. "If y'all get frustrated later. I went to visit Sue and she said she'd be over later with something to help settle my stomach. which we didn't need." I answered loudly enough for the girls to hear. Sue smiled at me from her seat on the couch. It surprised me so much I just returned what I got. just his love. It fit her personality. *** By the time we returned from the stream with clean dishes. I'm not trying to hog him. I hope it works. too. "You know me in the morning. I know. Sue and Simone had arrived and were sitting in the main room. this is delicious. Sue." "You could stop eating in the morning. or haven't you noticed?" I hadn't." Sally agreed reluctantly." "You don't think the barbecue flavoring helps any?" Helen smiled. Where'd you get this stuff?" "I searched the storerooms for most of it." "Yeah. I didn't argue. I was too happy. Tony and I are working on one. How am I going to notice anything? I'm asleep until I go down and dunk. "If I get frustrated later. I. "I." Sue called. She whispered in my ear. "I'll ask Sue. I thought about what other women I knew did when they were pregnant. Why don't you spend the night? We could make it a real celebration. I hoped my expression or voice did not express all the displeasure I felt. Simone stuttered. "Don't you need vitamins or something?" "I don't know. We need all the kids we can get." Sally called from the kitchen where the girls were putting the dishes away. That would only start a fight.

That was not good. that it's a way to grow closer to those you care about. Stress is a killer for conceiving. Soon there'd be small puddles where the weathered boards had curled. I know she's a private person. so I hurried. If you want to join in our games sometime. "I know you've gone through hell. thanking whomever that it didn't happen as I always do. "I'm just trying to find when you're fertile. "Really? You really feel that? You're not just saying that?" Helen sat next to Simone. If that doesn't work. That's normal." Sally said quietly. Sue had left her door open. Sue. and not just from one person. with someone else. which explains some of why she talked quietly. I'd have to say try about two weeks after your period. "Sue?" I called as I entered. I had no idea what happened. Sally "Sally! Sally! We need help now!" I heard Sue call as she hurried past the window. but she sounded desperate. I think I should tell you. We all have. A trail of blood led into the main room. tonight. Careful of my footing." Simone asked. as are you. Stick around. What we could do about that I didn't know. Sue soothed." "Simone. A soft rain that made the bricks slick had just started. When I heard the call. I hurried over and looked out the window. This allowed me to stay home. your friends. Come join in our love. and everyone else. "Come in and put a bit of that boiled water to warm. try too hard. We need love. and relax. From everyone. and along the wood promenade to Sue's house.when was your last period?" "Don't y'all think that's kind of personal?" Simone answered disgustedly." This could be an interesting evening. Don't think it's an obligation to the community to have a kid. My anger dropped several notches. you're welcome. I hurried past the place where Helen had almost been raped. Rather believe as we do. do a bit of easy cleaning. It's a way we all can become family. We used to go by temperature changes." she instructed . unless you worry. She was in the dinning alcove. what she called an office. Sue disappeared around the corner at a run. but we can't do that anymore. "since you asked Rich. Helen had taken my turn pulling weeds and cleaning the horse barn. then every day for a couple months should do it.

and handed it to Sue. I have to clean it out to make sure no major damage has been done. Margret continued. placed it on the ground. I grabbed a small pot and half filled it with some water that Sue had already boiled. Charlie says we should plant more barley and a few other things. and then added cold boiled-water until it felt just warm to my fingers. "I do know they add some dangerous things. That Amber's been plowing up by her place. clean cloth into the liquid. also." I poured the liquid into a bowl. That should be steeped by now. "I really don't know what he's talking about. and then continued. This just happened to be the first. I called into the next room. add some of this ground onion here." she told me and continued to clean the dirt from the wound. Make sure it's cool enough it won't scald. Do you?" "Brad thinks the gas will go bad or something. though. "When it's hot. "Charlie said something about needing horses." I answered. will you?" "Will do. The next time we would have a routine worked out. Margaret must be in pain.immediately." These types of accidents were going to happen. Let it steep for a few minutes. "Jesus! That hurts!" Margaret cried." "Probably some of the additives will go bad. the farm across from the big field. "Can you be a bit more gentle?" ." I answered and proceeded to follow her instructions." The small pot started to steam. and some of this buttercup. Margaret sliced her foot with a hoe. about ten. let me know. I lifted it off the hook. too. or something. I don't know what she's going to plant. picked out what I could of the plants. "Margaret." Margret drew a quick breath. and began to bathe Margret’s foot. but I don't know why. It's hard to keep up with the weeds. dipped a soft. "Rich has been plowing more across the road. and added the leaves that Sue had mentioned. Then mix it with cold water to make it skin temperature." Sue speculated. Hang a pot to boil. "When that bigger pot begins to boil. I lay it carefully on the fire so it would warm quickly. She carefully accepted the bowl from my hands. At least the ground is damp. "I'll need some boiling water for tea and poultices. how far have they gotten down there?" "Most of the plants are sprouting. waiting for the water over the fire to boil. We've been getting plenty of rain. How can I help? Distract her. I don't see how the farmers used to do it years ago. please. at least that's what I learned while nursing.

Caucasians. I can see it now. perturbed that Richard would go outside the . Simone's a good person and all. We'll have you taken care of in a bit. I even invited her." "I understand that. Then she lifted the bandage from the plate and placed it carefully on the cut. "Were you jealous?" "I don't think so." I could hear tears in her voice as she fought for control. Occidentals. What is it?" I sipped at the tea. no one else gets it. Leave it on the fire for a minute more. She poured boiling water over the bandage. nowhere near the bone." Sue said. soaking the plants." "Sickle Cell Anemia. It was cool and tasted strong. please." "The pot's boiling. "I don't know." Sue took a sip. She was right." I told Sue." We walked to the kitchen several rooms away. I've cleaned it out the best I can." A look of understanding came to her eyes. Just lay there. Come join me in the kitchen. "Good. Now I'm going to make a poultice to help it begin to heal." she said and hung the pot over the fire again. and are. It's a devastating disease that for some reason has latched onto the Negroid race. At least I don't feel like she is." Sue answered as calmly as possible. bring the water over here. Sue poured some tea that had been steeping. You seem to be bothered. She continued to wipe out the cut." "So you were. I mean – I don't know what I mean. "This will probably be cooler and stronger than usual. It's not as deep as I thought. Sally. Almost done here. "Good. Now tell me something. please. "I don't know. and then quietly asked. It's just that when Rich and Simone were together – you know. Marge. Therefore. we're safe from that." I watched as she selected several plants and lay them on a cloth bandage resting on a plate. It seems to be recessive. as long as two Blacks don't have kids."I'm doing the best I can. but I can guess. Yet I began to feel calmer. "Just stay there for a while. Do you know why I say Blacks shouldn't be parents together?" "It's because of that sickle thing. Marge. "It's the antiseptic that stings. which means you have to have two genes to contract the disease. Marge?" "There's not quite as much pain. girl. killing the germs. That should feel better in a few minutes. "Good. You feel any better. "That should do. but she's not family. You're lucky. Sally.

OK?" "That would help." Sue said as she held the door for us. I know the four of you sleep together. Bradley "That was the first medical emergency we had. "and after I finish cleaning my house." We talked some more. We carefully stepped into the drizzle. Sue went in and removed the poultice from Margret's foot." I said. Too bad Sue doesn't visit us more often. After dinner. he didn't really. can you help her home? I don't want her to use that foot if it can be helped." I answered. so no one cares what you do. What is it?" "Chamomile I lifted from one of the stores up on the main road. eaten in small groups because of the rain. So does this tea. "We'll tell you about others later. You'll have to come back tomorrow morning about this time. I like her. He picked those with a live and let live attitude. Margaret hopping and using me to balance. then wrapped the injured foot in a clean bandage. but the hot tub was moldy and stunk. No one says anything because Tony did a good job. It's relaxing. "OK. That weekend. Helen and Sally worked hard to clean the community room across from us. as long as all involved agree. and then told Margaret. Tell him how you feel. I mean we all were there. They didn't have any bodies to contend with. Marge. try to stay off this as much as possible. everyone slowly gathered in the large room. the only place we could all fit comfortably. though." "That would be good. If I remember correctly he suggested that anything was OK." "You're right. Most of the community does.family for sex?" "Well. I'll talk to him tonight. Carl . except Simone last night." "Sure. I had several questions answered. we had our first really successful community meeting." *** We decided to have the meeting inside since it had rained all day. sipping the tea." "I'll talk to Simone and suggest she visit more before getting further involved. I think you need to talk to Richard. and the rest rooms were none too clean either. Sally. Rich and I moved furniture around for them. I'll come back down and see if you need anything. Did I shock you?" "Don't worry. After half an hour.

I suggest we wait. Everyone can bring their comments about living in a herb garden with honeybees to me during the week. Bullets and gunpowder are among those items. I sat to give Sue the floor. I stood in the center. That's why we've only been exploring. We had a small fire in a portable grill since the room had no fireplace. "I think I found a hive. For now." "All right. but sparingly. I would like to plant several of the more useful varieties around this area." I said as I stood again. and probably more insects. "OK." "Those plants would help my honey bees. I know Barbara and I appreciate the eggs. and Sidney said he'd watch for more hives. and I agree. Even Amber and Joan joined us. That means we will have wild looking growth instead of the grass we have now. As we discussed last week. I can move them close this winter while the bees hibernate. "Most of us know how the farming is going. burned in several places. but not as many as I'd like. and signs of larger animals. that seed for the future is more important now. That's all I have to say. I agree we should depend on the staples we . We do have other sources of food for a while. just in case." Simone said." Sue said. "We've traveled mostly north and west. "We're doing well. many items cannot be replaced. However. If we depended on them for food. we will use them. and a close supply would be helpful. "We are learning. how are the hunters doing?" Sidney stood near the back entrance. some plants must be fresh. He suggests. Sidney. Still. I suggest we continue to use them through the winter if possible. some wild. Anything else along these lines?" No one said anything. or scavenged if you prefer. "I've been reading about herbs used for health and as medicine. Any objections?" "I have a suggestion. then asked for quiet. the two of us. then.and Peter came down from their hill. Charlie says that this year will not yield enough for the community and seed both. slowly turned 360 degrees. the supply would quickly be depleted." He smiled. I've seen some small animals. I'll announce a verdict next meeting. I've wandered the area and found quite a bit growing. Carl and Peter can supply the occasional fresh meat for now. and incense that Sue gathered. I began the meeting with the news most already knew. Charlie and I can scout out some more seed in the near future and store it for next year. you mean in our jobs. Oh. some planted before the plague. Low murmurs of conversation overrode the background of rain falling on the glass roof. I could have used a ready supply like that when Marge cut her foot the other day. "That's something to think about. or scrounged.

"Good job. that was a better report than I expected from Sid. "I used to ride a bit back on the farm. Being the highly educated and literate people we are. P. If you have a problem." . at the university. Our tractor won't last the winter. Several houses. Their library still has an amazing amount of books." "The Amish use horses. Also. sometimes entire blocks or developments. The destruction appears old. Over the next several weeks. We'll need to come up with a substitute. and by winter. so we want to be wary and careful. like the plows. One of the neighbors had some horses he let me ride occasionally. What do we use that's non replaceable?" "Toilet paper. have burned. Tony's responsible for the care and feeding of those items. I don't see many signs of looting. One of the books describes a way to make a bow almost as strong as a compound. see him. and will make more. "Gasoline. After the T. is gone." I smiled. I believe that was in the beginning. "Any paper products would be in that category. With these. We'll need to get the horses first. animals that used to be pets." Amber advised. a fire could be devastating. of course. especially dogs. "Now for what we've found. as if no one else can learn. Barbara and I gathered several books on colonial and native methods of hunting." Helen surprised me yet again. "Now a few other things we've noted. It also tells how to make glue from animal fat. will have to be handled with care. "There are plants with broad leaves that could be used in place of that. I think the fire danger is low now. Sid. Barbara already made a passable arrow. Treat them as such. have become almost wild." I must say. a trait I admired. Sid. OK?" I suggested. No fuel. except for the stores you said you visited. we can put the guns and bullets away until we really need them. The scavenging may still be good. the small animal population should have risen enough we can supplement the scrounged diet occasionally.scrounge up." "In the meantime we try to conserve. though. That's all I have to say. we traveled to where we first met Brad. Still. Brad. What else?" Rich called." "Only you. Metal items. I'll try my hand at bow manufacturing. "Remember I said that one father said he'd send one of his sons down? He should be able to help us get set up. You just grab a leaf as you go. You've mentioned something that's highly important. They add chemicals to the gas that form a varnish over time. no tractor. Any fuel." Sue said. Oh. a better description than yours. He took his responsibility seriously. Sue. "I'll plant some along the path we use.

You can start tomorrow. After first snow is what I was told. I imagine it'll take a week or two. or those calling themselves the government. or somebody's. If she could ride around the near countryside." "That sounds good. The government. "We might as well keep up with the rest of the world. "Uh. that two parents who are immune to the disease should pass those immunities on to their kids." Yeah." "Then you get to learn to ride a horse. how is this Amish kid going to find us?" "I'll have to go get him. I've been listening to that there foreign station I told you about. Rich?" "Nope. "You think you can ride around and find some others?" Helen thought for a moment. but I'm not sure where. I think I know where some animals may be. our primitive way of life. "This past week we kept our rooster busy with half the hens. We should start to get chicks in a week or three. we will have young. It seems the wind has mixed between the hemispheres. no medicine except for the plants Sue found. or maybe people who lived nearby. "Whelp." "Then that can wait. but how to ride them? This was something she hadn't mentioned before. No real doctors. and we're damn lucky it didn't wipe us all out." "Then I'd have to come with you. people who would need Sue's help. but I'd probably get lost. that there should make you happy. has said they've had several births. Ever ridden. and old. I remember talking to the people who brought the papers in the morning. She might find another community. Sally. so they're suffering almost the same consequences we have. By winter. The chances of this here new life surviving the plague is iffy. though. however." I replied. .She not only knew how to care for horses. I've heard some news if you're interested. Should they wait until the kids were five to name them as some cultures did? I put those worries away for later and listened to what Carl said. They're somewhere in Australia. Anything that powerful is scary. farther than the hunters could walk. Be a good idea anyway in case we met hostiles. she might find other animals that still lived. and would help us occasionally in return. very iffy." "First let me say something some of you all already know. or Rich. but would the baby survive? I thought. I guess. or that's what they say. There were more problems than just the plague. They say. Amber. All this went against the survival of children. I asked. What else at this time?" Carl cleared his throat and slowly stood. "Sure. I can learn. That means we should be safe.

How about you come on up to the field and watch what we do during the day tomorrow. maybe help out a bit. That there is all for me. but first I must make notes. although it did relieve some of my worries. to watch and learn." I told Samuel. and we'll continue our tale at dinner?" "That sounds good." . after all is written. even after a week there's a lot more to tell. and I'm beat." *** "The rest of the meeting was inconsequential.hens when we need them. I will join and learn. Later on. "To tell you the truth.

He's in the field. and.Chapter 14 Richard Three weeks had passed. I was taking an early swim before preparing the bonfire for the night. I've been watching. near enough. but both observations led one to believe they were up to no good. They may not be like what Carl thinks. only that they hid well. so I came down to warn ya. thanks. which did not mean they were not there. I don't know what to do. "Then why the prisoner? Why wait?" I considered that for a moment. after dark." He asked. More than that." I hurried upstairs to where the ladies were. "There's six of them there strangers up on the hill. I had no idea what he wanted. either. If we seem unarmed and unsuspecting." he said. the unfriendly kind. "I saw them. "You heard?" he quietly asked me. after a short day in the fields. "Hmm. they won't be as careful as they should. One lady looks to be tied to a leash or something." "OK. We can keep the guns hidden until we . We'll be OK. I figured they's up to no good. I have to set up the fire. Helen and Sally hid guns around where people sit out of sight. Carl thinks they'll try to attack tonight. wouldn't they just come straight down the hill in daylight? Why have a person on a leash? Was that person a willing slave. and prepared the meeting site. so I swam over and climbed onto the wooden dock. someone who wanted to be led around and told what to do? I didn't think so. Grab some rifles and pistols and whatever else you can think of and hide them around the seats at the meet. Both good points. I don't know what Carl told Brad. but he showed up about the time dinner would be cooking. "We may be having visitors." I replied. not with the leash. "Do me a favor and tell Brad to warn the folk. I said. I didn't see any spies. Carl stepped down to the canoe dock and called to me softly. I surreptitiously watched the hills above the community. but I haven't see anything. I would prefer to give them the benefit of doubt." The entire time I laid the wood for the cooking fires and bonfire. back of the country club there. Why would they wait for dark other than to surprise us? If they wanted to meet in a friendly manner. They don't look none too friendly. "Yeah.

rifles. they're up there on the hill. therefore we won't appear unfriendly if they're not what we think. Carl. and then his demeanor changed back to friendly. the one in the lead. "We saw the smoke from your fires this morning and decided to visit." One of the others snickered. I had learned to ride. no special reason.need them." . "Whelp. and last. We held our usual discussion of recent happenings and problems. Carl slipped into the gathering. "Oh. and their clothes looked ragged. Simone said she thought she was pregnant. as did Barbara. I reckon." *** We gathered after dinner around the freshly lit fire. there. You're welcome to join us for now. her tangled hair hiding her face. Her clothes looked as if they would fall off at any time. yet readily useful if the need suddenly arose. "Nice little place you have here." We talked some more. They may just be as unsure of us as we are of them. Her head hung low. They're looking the place over. We would start searching for horses the next week. Let's go eat. "Six of them have weapons. One of them. except Carl. However." "Thank you. waved a friendly hand. so for now you can talk to me. They all had shaggy hair and beards. What are your names?" The leader gave him an appraising look. And showing off. I'm Manus. Congratulations went around. I'm done here. "No matter. "Why would you want to know?" he asked suspiciously. Is this everyone?" "Now why would you want to know that?" Brad asked. The seventh. I would not like to meet them by myself. I'm the leader. Six of them held rifles at ease. Everyone had come to the meeting after taking a dip to cool off on the hot summer day. Several had looks in their eyes I'd almost call insane. was led by a rope leash tied to a leather collar. as you say. seven people walked down along the backside of the pond. their single file spreading out into a line so no one was in anyone else's line of fire. The seven approached us." he called as they walked closer. Peter said he'd hung back to keep an eye on the strangers. After sunset. "Hello. "You're not dealing. Good-looking women." he drawled. too. The leader glared in his direction. with anyone. "Remember folk." the leader said grinning behind his beard." Brad said." Bradley quickly answered. at least as far as Helen was concerned. we keep our guns out of sight until we need them. we might ask you to move on after we get to know you a bit better. "It's just we like to know who we're dealing with.

" "You think too much. and give you a chance to steal what we have? I don't think so. OK. None remained alive. George and .Bradley smiled. I think. Possibly. The girl on the end of the rope began to scream. My ears rang too loudly. Manus jerked several times in the next instant as I heard four shots. "Manus. He said. boy. He jerked backwards as his nose disintegrated. and they will. I fired in his general direction. boy. or that violent. "Why? I only told the truth. but not that soon. The river's clean. She looked like that was what she was doing. I silently fired again. almost condescendingly." Bradley looked innocently hurt." Manus raised his rifle." Manus said. I doubt they'll want to join with you until you clean up. "You'll do well to watch what you say. I figured something would happen. "Yep they can talk. as far as we can tell. A loud report issued from his rifle. eh. boys?" Several of the others snickered. You're stupid if you think I'd do that. but the blood had already stopped oozing. each one quieter than the last. "Now why would you think we'd want anything you have? Maybe you're thinking of stealing from us. the sound no louder than a cap gun. His eyes stared into space. A swim would do you and your whole group good. A hole appeared in his chest. I felt I had time to see all that happened. but I could not hear her. I saw one of the others slowly raise his rifle to his shoulder. you'll find in this community that we decide things for ourselves. He stopped his motion. Manus had bled slightly from four holes in his chest. Helen and Sue ran to Bradley." "Yeah. but then it seemed like someone had put the world into ultra-slow motion. I checked on the one I had aimed for. Sally and Simone ran toward the girl. I saw the others of our group check whether their targets lived." Bradley's innocent look grew. they'll make their own decisions and let you know. yet I reacted normally. I did not know he was such a skilled actor. a surprised look easing onto his face. They'll tell your women what to do. Time seemed come up to speed and resume normal operations. pointing it in Bradley's general direction. It took me a moment to react. and then carefully stepped toward Manus. I'd suggest you apologize. so I thought. Bradley grabbed his arm as he spun to the ground. I reached for the rifle hidden at my feet." Bradley said seriously. None of your friends there can speak for themselves?" "Oh. I could track everything. though. this time carefully aiming for his head. I noticed that all the strangers with guns had slumped to the ground as they raised their rifles. they can. If our people want to join you or your friends. I could not detect breathing. it was just natural ability. "That doesn't sound too flexible.

I heard him quietly ask. I think they need you two outside. "Well. I couldn't hear him. "What's your name?" The girl cringed away from Tony. "She needs help. but they'd taint the crops. do you need anything?" "Not now. "Shelly. Sue continued at a shout. Here we go. Tony moved over next to the outsider woman. Good. you don't have to worry about anyone here. We joined the others near the campfire. "Probably should have ground them up for fertilizer." I'd never heard such hate in . I don't know about Tony." Sue instructed as she pressed hard on Bradley's upper arm." Sally added loudly. Sue. too." Tony and I carried Bradley as smoothly as possible up the ramp and around to Sue's house. That type of person is beyond my comprehension. "Tony. but I was in shock. Sally and Simone had already arrived and deposited the visiting woman in a chair near the kitchen." Charlie answered. The ringing in my ears eased. "Yes." Sue called. Tony and I carefully placed Bradley in a chair. sort of. I guess that's what she was. Sue. What can we do?" "Help dump bodies. Now grab Rich's. "Can we carry him to my place?" "This girl's OK. you two. "He should be OK. Lay your right arm in your lap. Carefully. "Then you two help her to my place. How could anyone be like those people? They even kept a slave. I answered. Shelly. I looked at her to see her yelling. She tried to get Helen to help. you've got it. Now. Several folk asked about Bradley. your other hand. muted sounds from outside as the others cleaned up. Grab your wrist from the top. I couldn't begin to understand them or how they think." Simone called. Tony complaining about the stupidity of some humans." I glanced at Tony. Helen and Sue followed. but Bradley's lover refused to leave his side. I'll just let you sit here quietly." Tony leaned back slightly. Helen and Simone can help. Sue began to issue instructions to Sally and Simone. I could barely hear her above the highpitched tone in my ears. We eased out the door and silently walked along the promenade. Rich. can you and Rich make a chair and carry Brad?" "A chair?" Tony asked. That will do for now. "Brad needs help.Tony checked the other strangers again and pronounced them all dead. Now Bradley can sit on the chair and balance himself with his good arm. Good. but answered. I could hear more sounds. but I understood what he wanted to know. yes. Simone had water warming on the fire.

They tend to gather others not so strong around them. Brad would have asked them to move on. How can people be like that? It doesn't make sense. have a charisma to them. I looked at Tony. who nodded toward the last body lying on the ground. and I needed to clean the filth off me. backed by all of us. He turned back around. I sat. I had a headache and felt sick to my stomach. Stupid fucks. "Wouldn't it be easier if I turned around?" Tony asked." I nodded. "There were all sorts before the plague." I answered. "Probably. and all I'd have to do is turn around at the stream to throw this thing into the river. Just sit there a bit. I just wonder what would have happened at the next place they visited." Tony considered the question. I don't know. It stands to reason some of the assholes and stupid people lived. almost evil you could say. nor would they have taken us over. They wouldn't have stayed. Those things – I guess that's what we should call them. "We could both walk forward then. Since they're already a bit off. feeling slightly woozy at the time. That was horrible.his voice before." "I wonder what would have happened if that one hadn't shot Brad?" "Oh. just lousy. and we let the body go. "I feel. It will pass." Tony answered. We gathered up the deceased invader and carried him toward the river. Others carried loads toward the river. "You OK?" Tony asked. The truly bad people. the change probably sent them further along the path of evil. counted three swings." My ears still rang. They certainly aren't human to my thinking – will continue until enough people defend themselves." . "I think I know what you mean. I shakily followed him down to the river. Tony holding the feet and me the arms. "It's a reaction to what we had to do. if you will.

Hail pounded against the window and on the deck outside. Any of those strokes could start a fire. The inside glass fogged from the humidity and the sudden temperature drop outside. Remember a couple nights later. It was worse than even the heavy storms that come along with squall lines. For a while. I knew. Slowly the lightning and wind eased off and left a steady downpour. I watched as the lightning closed in. Branches swung to the east side of the trees. I could smell ozone in the air. I watched as the river began to rise. I watched a bunch of strokes spear toward the ground. but the bullet had lodged near the bone. possibly creating a flood. She had . a dull ache added to by the humidity. just below it. maybe. Not your usual summer storm. and we had no way of checking on the weather now. Then a roar grew over the sound of the thunder and wind. a strobe light outside the window. so I woke easily. however.Chapter 15 Bradley "That's not the only danger we faced. a storm passed. If a squall line had passed. you mean when we both woke up during the storm?" *** Early in the morning. I got out of bed and watched out the window. a steady crash that never ended. My shoulder. That scared me. a couple hours before dawn. still hurt from when that idiot shot me. Thunder sounded incessantly. I watched as shadows danced on the walls. This storm would not be dangerous by itself. the storms to the north would add to the flow. However. Blankets of water blurred the trees only seventy yards away. I heard a pop as the room lit. Rich?" "Oh. Each stroke sounded its thunder quicker. either. I still hurt from my wound. Wind bent the old trees across the river. Lightning seemed to flash continuously. Sue had done what she could. Eventually. surprised that others slept through it. More than half. by no means. Some of the lightning stayed in the clouds it seemed. I think. of those few I could see with our limited view of the area. One sapling seemed about to touch the ground.

I could take a nap later. Another explosion shook the building. afraid she'd botch the operation and leave me with a useless arm. It's the only place big enough. The water in the river had reached the tree roots. Which way is the wind blowing? I heard a noise downstairs. That was big. and see what I can see. "How about fire?" "I didn't see anything from my window. Those tanks are probably full. Helen rolled over in the bed but didn't wake." *** The sky lightened to the east before the rain stopped." "All right. Over the drone of the steady rain. or out to the fields for a while. not only do they have the four refineries. maybe something else. a movement. I could keep an eye on things. No smoke showed on the horizon. For now. "Marcus Hook?" he asked. or close to it. Richard stood just inside the door looking along the edge of the building. I quietly descended the stair in the dark hoping that the storm had woken one of the others. when the others were awake. yet. The wind's in the wrong direction for that one to spread our way." "How is your arm?" "Hurts like hell right now.not cut it out. There's only one place an explosion like that could come from. but Allied Chemical is just south of there. but that may be partly the humidity. I won't be going back to sleep. I heard the rumble of a distant explosion. I figured a squall line had passed. The windows rattled loudly. Remember. The lightning moved off to the northeast. Go on back to sleep. I hope it stays that direction. It'll take a while for all that to burn. I'm going to be awake. and the rain would have drowned anything started in the woods or in grass." "What do you think the big one was?" "Possibly gasoline. We'll have to keep an eye on the wind for a few days though. Whatever blew sent large compression waves that made a huge bass-register reverberation. or down to the ridge over Carpenter Road. compression waves traveling through the ground added to the waves in the air. not a good omen. but that was at an almost forty-five . Tomorrow I'll take a walk out to the hill over Foulk Road. I'll keep an eye on the water level. "I would think so. but at that moment I was still healing and wouldn't be able to work for the fifth day in a row. I can't do much else for a while." He asked. I don't know what they made. I'll see you in the morning. I would ache the rest of my life.

I'd hate to see our hard work ruined." I told him." A knock sounded on the door. though. so we should be OK. Sally and Richard came down the stair as I went to answer it. The wind's blowing that way. "I saw the water. but I'll be OK. "Good." Just then." Sue volunteered. "Come on in. according to Charlie. I didn't expect to see anything until it was almost too late." "You didn't sleep?" "Oh. "Explosions in one of the tank farms at Marcus Hook. I figured I'd take a walk later and see what happened and if we're in danger. "What's exploding?" he asked as he entered. We'll have some crops to harvest soon. Brad. How's your arm?" "It hurts. Brad." Sally said. "Do you have any idea what's going on?" she asked. We had a storm. I'll take a walk out that direction and take a look later. "I need to learn more of the area so I can scout for plants. I'll make sure you don't hurt yourself. I think. There are four refineries and a chemical plant out there by the river. "What was that?" she yelled. how are you two ladies doing?" *** . "We think it's one or more of the oil refineries in Marcus Hook." "Where's that?" "Marcus Hook is about fifteen miles east northeast. Helen eased down the stairway. It's not like I do anything other than hurt right now. "I woke up a few hours ago." Another knock sounded. Her forehead crinkled and her mouth frowned. One of the lightning bolts started a fire about fifteen to twenty miles northeast. I believe the storage tanks are exploding. "An explosion. How 'bout I join you?" "That'll be good. Tony stood outside. You really shouldn't go alone. "What are you doing up?" she asked. "So." "I can go. I opened the door to find Sue.degree angle." Tony grinned. unless I went out to explore. I told her what I thought. "You need to take care of that arm." I handed her a mug of tea. something else exploded in the distance. I think. Richard handed Tony a cup of tea. Helen jumped. too. We need you around for a while yet. I got enough.

Tony." The sun made a bright yellow disk in the gray sky of lifting fog as we walked through open country. The motel on the corner smoldered half burned. I pointed toward the southeast. the haze had burned off. all dried up and stuff. I pointed out farms and pastures to Sue. We continued on. To the east. Sweat beaded on my forehead by the time we reached the top of the first hill. Tony asked. Already warm and humid. and the side we could descend steeper and a good seventy-five or one hundred feet lower. his second for the day. They always had one of those trucks with furniture for sale. Tony reminisced. but Tony had a morbid curiosity. "the only bad thing about where you chose for a community is the only way out is up. the day promised to be a killer. I didn't need to look inside. isn't it?" I thought for a moment. sort of." I couldn't smile because of my arm. Trees blocked our view of the large river that marked the boundary of the state and the source of the wide expanse of dark smoke we could see. is another matter. the side we walked up gentle and only rising about ten feet. Tony complained about the climb. we're safe. "See way out in the distance? That faint . "Brad. The drivers stayed there overnight. Limerick is behind a ridge or two and is a good distance away. When he returned to report all clear. So is Peach Bottom. and lots of day-cabs. "I think so. Smoke hung in the air in the distance. They look a few years old." We continued down the road past a sub shop to the top of the first ridge. and I was sure the others would not want to climb back up. we noticed a darker area rising into the sky through the haze. possible locations for her plants. I surely didn't. Fire. rising from a wide area to drift away from us. Tony ran up the hill toward Carl's to see if any of the outlying areas showed smoke. but we know we won't be exposed to the radiation from any of the nuclear plants nearby. "That used to be a busy place. A gentle slope lay in front of us with another rise a mile beyond that. we walked along the path next to the river through what used to be a local park until we reached the next road." Several cars and trucks still rested where they'd lain for months. "Salem's the one we have to worry about. however." "True. We finally stood at the top of a ridge." he said with a smile. and that one is even farther away. thirty or forty miles I think.The sun took awhile to burn through the haze that morning when the low clouds finally cleared. We could see what we needed. It gets to be a pain after a while. Those three are the closest that I know about. "Mummies. From that. By the time we reached the six lane main road.

"I see what you mean. and BP just a bit north of that. Sue explored the general area. though. "Big time. the entire area from the chemical plant to the northern most refinery burned. Those are what I'm talking about. but it burned out. OK. heck. Beyond them. I considered the heat of the flames. you can see a faint outline of two wasp-waisted towers. black smoke. "I think I can see the cooling towers of Salem near there. Tony said. You had three in a cluster there. "See that big bridge.smoke looks to be marsh fires across the river in Jersey. kerosene." Tony exclaimed as a ball of fire rose into the sky. Several small streams stood between the fire and our position on the hill. Tony explained. Look at the refineries. They had all three grades of gasoline. the one that looks doubled?" "No. And it's clear. Looks like something happened there." I answered. Would it be a good idea to start a fire on the far side of one of the streams while the wind was blowing away from our community? I could not make that . "Whoa! Look at that. and more to the north. Isn't that City Steel to the east?" "Across the road where it goes down to thirteen. They'd all be explosive in those quantities. diesel." Tony answered. Allied Chemical is north about half a mile." "Yeah. Closer to us. "Where are you looking?" Sue asked. Brad. also. You're right. I do see them. the 'twin span' as it used to be called. At least it's not as bad as farther north. I guess the storage tanks are exploding?" "That's my guess. all the fuels stored there. That helps. the sound of another explosion caused my ears to pop. and worried that the fire would jump the streams if the wind shifted." "Well." I said. There's still smoke. The fire was much closer than I thought. I see it. rose into the sky as if through an invisible chimney. Less than twenty seconds later." "What worries me is up north. I searched the area in front of us by eye. Maybe lightning hit the transformers and started that?" "Could be. and other chemicals derived from petroleum. a column of thick. possibly a half mile wide or more. it's actually two parallel bridges. How big is that? Let's see. possibly houses to the north. You have good eyes. Huge flames." From what I could see. I sat with Tony and watched the show." Tony peered in the direction I pointed." "I also know where to look. Wait. erupted from a wide area. Looks like they're all burning. barely discernible through the smoke.

I'm pleased to say you are no longer an invalid. Yes. it appeared the fire had contained itself. Look at the very edge." "Sort of burning back on itself. Nothing strenuous for a while. How's your arm?" "My arm? I forgot it. but not much in my opinion." Just my luck. That should contain it to the liquids at the refinery. I saw the fire had contained itself. "Hey. but I peered through what seemed to be evening gloom. maybe weeks. The sun should have topped the hills by the time we could see. rumors passing from person to person. "What are you two smiling about?" Sue asked as she rejoined us. When we looked. "I agree with Brad. You'll never be back at your full strength. *** The following morning an unwanted black umbrella protected us from the sun. right? That's what I thought. I explained. now." I told the group when they quieted. Let's go home." "Then tomorrow you can do some work. "Yesterday three of us walked to where we could see this fire. Cool. We don't have to worry about it spreading." "That's good. If the wind changed there would be problems. the community gathered in the darkened main courtyard. I believe we are safe. I began to see a burned out edge along the column of smoke. Truthfully. I looked forward to doing something. it is huge." "But can you be sure?" Marty asked. Yes. either. he said. . understandable considering what she'd been through. By unspoken consensus. Finally. Tony said." The relief lessened the ache in my arm. however. "The fire's burned all it can of the town. smoke from the chemical fire had shifted to the south. It looks like it's used up the fuel of the town. it will go on for days. "I don't know. Sometime later. my friend. Tony. There is a chance it could spread further than it has.decision myself. It almost looks like the fire's burned that area and decided to stop. "I've heard fifteen different stories. so don't expect it. Muted conversations roamed the group." Shelly appeared to pull into herself. That will be a major firebreak. too many problems for too many people. I clapped my hands. the near edge. Finally. and winced. I joked to myself. Yes. It doesn't hurt that much. What do you see?" Tony gazed where I pointed. I believe we'll be safe from this one. I think. it will cause pollution.

I heard several comments that agreed with his sentiments. it should not spread. more seriously. darkness covered where I wanted to see. I finally reached the road. I needed to get a closer look. "Is there any way we can be sure?" "Light candles?" I answered quickly with a smile. I needed to get closer. a place of comparative brightness and safety. put her arm protectively around Shelly. after I returned. I could see that the oil in the refineries still burned in small levee surrounded pools. I saw where the fire had burned. That first hill seemed steeper when I drove down it than it did walking. However. we held the community gathering. a gloomier and more disturbing journey than yesterday." I answered. Buildings stood in ruin. though I couldn't see it other than a bright area outside the shadow of the smoke. . Then. I walked another couple of miles to the next ridge where I could see. Should I just wait here for a few hours. From the little I saw of Marcus Hook there would be no danger. I'd have to walk all the way to the town. That evening. I moved closer. Before I reached the main line of the Conrail tracks. I walked through the woods. A bar I had once visited with a friend no longer existed.Simone. and then return to report all is OK? I wondered. Worried smiles told me I'd said the right thing. "Not without looking. Lack of a companion made the journey even more ominous. so dim I couldn't see details. to everyone's relief." "Then why don't you go take another look?" Charlie asked. I'm worried myself. the thick smoke didn't let much light through so I couldn't see too well. Late that night the wind shifted again. Smoke still caused an evening dimness. The fires across the river seemed to be out. Heat from the burned out area convinced me to go no farther. but unless the pools overflowed. The fire would burn for a long time. The deep gloom made tree branches seem evil and alive. the main route into town. Besides. I walked down the hill to the Chessie System tracks and followed them to the next road north. Some of the small animals that came out at night scuttled through the brush. I told what I saw and believed. "I guess that's what I have to do then. who had been watching out for her. Still. Again. Simone asked quietly. No. how can I expect others to be honest if I'm not? I climbed the hill and hiked the five or so miles to the ridge we had visited yesterday. To the south the sun shone.

White smoke drifted out from two small holes in the top. "I put bark and twigs and shavings from whittling arrows in the bottom. "We couldn't mine even if we had something to dig up around here. Then I covered everything with the clay from upstream and dirt from over there. We're not all the way back to the stone age yet. In front of us. He continued. I can reshape car rims to make wheels for carts without the rubber we can't get. whatever. There's lots of metal just lying around that we can't use any more. I put pine needles to spread the fire around the whole area. I lit the brush on the bottom." I nodded slowly. He informed me. when it's done we can have a cookout. whatever I scrounge up. "Rich. That'd work. Probably that the wood's too wet. and the others' skills. find around here." "The fire's too hot maybe? Or maybe the wood's wet. On top of that layer." "So we'll be able to turn the earth. With a bellows I can get enough heat to work and shape metals. Now I have to watch that it doesn't go out." "What metals?" I asked. I guess. According to the book. I have no idea what it means when it's white. or green. with Bradley's organization. knives. and learning from those books. "Charcoal used to be used by blacksmiths. and when it was burning well I closed all but these holes you see here. Do you see how the smoke dissipates quickly? It's more like water vapor.Chapter 16 Richard "All I did was stand trees I cut on their ends with the tops together and the bottoms separated." "Oh. That's something." Tony smiled. or burn too quickly." Tony looked proudly at his accomplishment. "Yeah." Tony and I stood near the woods on the opposite side of the pasture. Oh well. I can make good tips for arrows." . I'd say we're doing pretty good. Coins. when the smoke changes from black to clear the charcoal is done and I can close the holes. a mound of dirt and clay stood. I'll find something to use to make plow blades. things like that.

if you have a pet." I said as I took another bite. Well." "This is all great. We'd gathered at the fire for our regular community talk. When I had everyone's attention. especially Sue and Barbara. you have a new item to show off I believe?" Sidney stood up to a round of applause. "Ladies. I used hot animal fat to attach the . "I know it's a community project of you ladies especially for tonight." I told Helen. Amber. thank you. didn't she?" "Sid killed the deer last week. and the middle. The wood parts are these two ends. I really don't deserve it. This is a start to a new way of life. The other day I saw it running through the woods. Next year we'll have the necessary work force to plow the fields and all. This meal is excellent. "Thank you. the meat tasted like it had never tasted before. "I've learned of several new things. maybe not important. I agree. This is the result. and slow cooked it all day. you better keep your dog under control before someone thinks it's wild. "Barbara killed this one." "It's delicious. but what did you do?" "Nothing special. but we exchanged a lot of information.Bradley That Saturday was an important meeting as I remember. Now he looked toned and healthy. Everyone. He grinned sheepishly as he said. and deer antler. I'm glad to see we will be able to eat what we grow and gather on our own. just about falling off the bone. and anyone else who decides to keep a pet. There are other things just as important. but thanks anyway." I stood. I noticed he'd lost his flab over the past months. at least for us. That gave Sue the idea of looking up the baste. You're damn lucky I saw the collar before I shot it. I have in my hand this half-moon device. I'm not complaining. I said. but we have a lot to discuss tonight. for what I want to show you. too. keep it safe. "Now. *** "This venison is good. still chewing. Just marinated it with a concoction Sue made. "First I'd like to address a comment to Amber. I think we better get started. The fresh veggies help. a good change. You did a fantastic job. not the least of which are the horses that Helen and Rich brought in. deer sinew. It's made from wood. I asked. Succulent and juicy. Sid. or don't complain if it gets killed accidentally." "The first of Rich's garden up top. Pretty good?" "I'll say. It's a bow. I just want you to realize things are not the same as they were.

"I'm still experimenting with this. The arrow sailed in an almost flat arc to a tree seventy feet away. there's a factory there. He exclaimed. raccoons. I wrapped the entire bow with wet leather so it would shrink to fit. along with most of the factories and more north of there. I predict that in a year or two there will be enough deer." Sydney smiled. Very good. It's burned out. "How is hunting going?" "Good. coated everything with hot fat. They're glued to the wood pieces. pulled the string to his ear with an obvious effort.antler on the back and the sinew on the front. Together they create a high tension and make a stronger bow than any made entirely of wood. Give it a year or two and we can hunt them. like this. Henry walked over to take a look at the arrow. yesterday." "Wild cattle?" I asked. The hot fat glue and tightly wound leather will hold the bow together when I bend it back. but for defense. He placed it on the string. That town is gone. are moving among the houses more. This way the arrow will fly farther and more accurately. "Now the arrow Barbara's fashioned has the feathers just offset from a straight line. I went east. Right now we're mostly practicing our stalking skills. "That reminds me. including the larger varieties. I believe that when I'm done we'll have an adequate weapon not only for hunting." Several people voiced their approval loudly. It burned up to where the houses break for a large bridge. then after it dried. "I've seen a stray herd. too. That's not including what Carl supplies. I asked. rabbits. That opens up a huge feeding ground. Think you could check on that place sometime in the near future?" . and the pollution the residents complained about when this was a money making concern. like this. It looked like oil spilled into the river. This causes the arrow to spin. When I string it. Do you have anything else to tell us?" "Well. Let me show you. The sinew on the face of the bow will stretch. no." I remembered the small manufacturing plant upstream. "Sounds good. the day before. or the wild cattle. Barbara and I have seen signs that animals. They had a lot of chemicals there. Chester I think a sign said." I nodded. If you follow the river up to Queonemysing. so I checked on the fire. and such so we can eat meat every day. I would not want to eat any fish for a while. "This thing is buried! That bow has a good bit of force to it. and then let fly. the antler on the back of the bow will become bent and compressed." Sidney held an arrow between his second and third fingers. Maybe I should say feral.

By now I'm sure most of you have met Terrence and Cicily. Since most of you don't know what I'm talking about. Terry's a wood worker and stonemason. they ground gunpowder. When they finished. Both had blond hair. all of us. Nothing major. you two. and we may find new concoctions and mixtures we like." "I don't know if we have all the ingredients around here. All we need to do is find a source of yeast and we'll have bread and cakes and stuff. "I've been working with Sue and Sid to learn how to tan the hides that are brought in. do you have any news?" "Just the usual bull. Both conformed to the group's lack of shirts." I said. It's time to have fun. picked veggies. had devised harnesses for a couple of the horses. We used them on the grains. yet we had fun. We chopped wheat and barley." "That sounds good. Other than that we picked." Sue said. Stand up. but his had more waves. I don't know. The horses pulled a farm cart Tony converted from trailer hitch to animal hitch for pulling. or they may refuse to grind our grains. He's getting the demonstration mill down at Hagley to work. Helen drove. dug up potatoes. from where. No problem. One of the old gunpowder grinding mills had been refurbished to show what they looked like. plucked. and we now had reliable transportation. though." Tony paused. and pulled all day. Our grain. "That's right. Tony stood." "Good. Both stood taller than Amber. "I will search. and thinner than Allen. We're going to want to watch what we throw in the river. He wore jeans faded from hand washing. We all worked hard. It seemed the rest of the summer and part of the fall was all fieldwork. Charlie had found scythes. Charlie made . "Carl. too." "Then enough discussion. I can't wait. this place was a sort of museum telling about the beginnings of the DuPont Company. That there government is still getting organized and scouting their area. The rest of the world is about like us. They are warm and just what we'll need in winter. We'll have flour this winter. "They've taken up residence just downstream from us." For the next fifteen minutes or so Helen and Richard told about their search for the horses. Sure. but when Terry's done. as you can see from the pants I'm wearing tonight. it will grind grain."Sure. Carl and Tony." *** The first real harvests came after that as I remember. and she wore a maxi skirt. on the job training as it were. But that's not what I wanted to report on. with Helen's help. They almost looked like brother and sister." Two people stood. This has been going well.

us separate everything into sections. too. Some we stored to eat. but the best he kept for seed. .

I think." I remembered the ham sample Margaret passed out last fire." I said as I walked to the closet and pulled on a shirt. I guess I woke her getting out of bed. better than I imagined it ever could be. after most everything was in. I'm going to start the tea. It's a bit chilly today. Grab some tea. you starved person." Bradley said as he descended the stair. I glanced over my shoulder." "Did you ever find out what she did to it? That stuff is good." "Let's see. hickory I think. You'll want to put something on. What do we have for breakfast?" "Relax a bit. A light. tender. Water's hot. "We have eggs Pete brought down yesterday. Looks like today's going to be one for inside work. She used a baste of spices suggested by Sue. There's a dampness to the air." Helen admonished. The rain coated the colored leaves that flew through the air and gave them shiny highlights. keeping time hypnotically. a typical autumn rainy day. juicy. gusty wind made the smaller drops fall at an angle. Light rain interspersed by heavier drops soaked the world. Yellow. dropped to the ground or floated downstream. "She used wood found by Barbara. and fresh so I thought it . I could hear rain beating against the deck and. Helen came down and started cooking. orange. It was tasty. "Cold weather's definitely on the way. I grabbed a bit of that bacon Margaret smoked. "Yep. and smoked it for forty-eight hours. Colored branches swayed. gold. we sat next to a back window looking out at the river and trees. *** That morning I woke up just as the windows began to lighten. since I wasn't all together yet. carefully padded over to the riverside windows." "Good. "You awake?" Sally asked as she stirred. it was closer to late fall." Helen said as she settled herself with a steaming cup." A short time later. and dull red leaves. That one I remember. "Miserable day. It's chilly.Chapter 17 Richard Was it mid-fall when we had that big rain? No. shiny from the rain. Colored leaves stuck to any flat surface. "Yep. We lost almost everything.

one of us will go up in the morning and pull a bit down for you. We can at least get the feed stacked so it's easy to handle. don't you think?" "Won't the fields be washed away?" Helen asked. We had eaten the evening meal some time before. What else?" Helen answered.was the best I had ever tasted." Sally looked out the window again. "It's doing a decent job of putting it down. "It would be soaked by the time we moved it." Helen answered. The stores need reorganizing." I protested. It's about half way from the roots to the top of the . "Where is our breakfast?" "You men. I know." I stood at the window as the daylight faded." Bradley agreed. "It's above the roots. I watched as ripples and wavelets showed where rocks and roots broke the surface. anyone know?" Bradley nodded out the window. so they should hold it. Charlie can handle that with help. anyway. We'll call that one by ear. "I don't want to work outside. that's for sure. "He's the expert on that. Brad answered." "It isn't outside weather. I asked." "Not in this weather." Sally seemed satisfied." "Then that's what we'll do today. "What's on the agenda for today. Sally's growing as you know. "We need to be able to reach the feed and straw easier. "We left the roots in the ground. Maybe we can bring more straw down from Carl's. We don't want to lift that much if we can help it. that's for sure. "I wouldn't. but I know where there are tarps. and now relaxed in the living room. We ought to see what we can do in the horse barn. Bacon from that batch would be heavenly. You do understand spontaneous combustion?" "True. Think Sid will go out today?" I said. He said we don't plow again until we're ready to plant so there's less erosion. If the straw's upstairs in the loft. It'll work out. "Well. when you can't anymore. can you ladies climb up and fork some down?" "I can for a while." *** "Water's up. We need more room for straw. and I'm not that skinny any more. That's what Charlie said. "How much?" Bradley asked.

You're thinking about the food?" "That. "We'll need something we can use in the years to come." "That's because it's still raining. let them both dream up a solution." "You're right." "That's why we don't put anything down there." "That will stop the rats and stuff." "If it works. "We can leave both men alone. "Brad can take care of both of us. but how about water? I don't think it's waterproof there. see what I dream up." Bradley asked. What can we do about it?" "I don't know off hand." Helen said. We just slid it into the joints next to the walls and by the door. I could see the doubt in his eyes.bank and still rising. Thanks." Bradley said. Everything we have stored in there. I know. "Our kids will run into the same problem. I don't want to lose that seed either. "Why not?" "We didn't caulk when we put down the flashing. If this keeps up." Bradley suggested. but that was before I worked here. though. and then said. Anyway." I instructed. I sniffed the steam and relaxed a bit. Why?" "Did any go into the garages?" I asked." "Literally?" "I've done it before. "Unless we take care of each other. "Thanks dear. "Not that I remember. "I don't want ideas already in my subconscious. but that was it. The water came about an inch deep into the courtyard." "We've had this much rain before. Sally. and it . That's our food for the rest of our lives. We do have all that grain to lose. Let me think about it. I can feel it. it will inundate the lower level." "Don't suggest anything now. remember?" Sally handed me a cup of chamomile tea. "If it works. He took a sip of tea. That's what worries me. "I think you're right. and the seed. I've gone to bed thinking about a problem either in life or with a story and woken up with a solution. I have to be undisturbed. A couple years ago it rained three inches in one day. The water had risen another quarter inch." "I know. Don't you remember?" Bradley silently looked out the window for a couple minutes. we have the flashing around the garages." Sally said. If I start fresh it works better." I agreed. I remember. We had puddles." "What kind of solution?" Sally asked.

Just then." "Nope." Henry thought for a moment." I hadn't dreamed up any magic answers either. Why?" "The water's still rising. I think it will reach the courtyard. A small storm wouldn't last this long. unless they move up the hill a little. Helen poured a cup of tea for him from the pot warming by the fire. The trees along the bank seemed to be growing in the flowing water. stretched. Do you have any ideas?" Nothing we can do that our kids can do too. If it's been close to as heavy as here. "I hate to say it." "Over the banks and still climbing. I watched a branch float quickly past. though. Looking out the window he asked. "You have any thoughts?" I looked out the window. "Morning. though. and it's already over the banks." Bradley informed me from his chair by the window. a knock sounded on the front door. "And the storage. One of those plastic ones with the metal sides. They'll run into the same problem. Bradley answered. ." "How did the Indians store their food?" Sally asked." I told Helen as she handed me some strong morning tea." Bradley answered. That's why I came over. you have a lot of water. "Just a pool." "How so?" "This obviously has been a widespread rain. but we may have problems. The current was the swiftest I'd seen this year. rising out of the rapid flow near the edge of the river. Add the rain all the way up the basin to the source. That doesn't meet your criteria. "Good morning to you. I heard muted conversation as Sally showed Henry in. do you think?" "I have no idea. you know. It rained hard all night. *** In the morning. He accepted it with a nod of thanks." "You're right. and joined the others downstairs. Our kids wouldn't be able to use that. Eddies circled on the downstream side of the trucks. All that water has to go somewhere. "How much higher. They'll have to store the food somehow. Have you looked out the window?" "No.was still pouring. I was afraid of that. I woke alone in a dim world. Use the liner from one of them.

" "No. "We can dry. Nothing we'll be able to do in years to come. Helen. It's been described before as daggers. "We might come up with an idea that way. Bradley explained." "No she hasn't. but the food might. I'd say the glare seemed more like a laser. there is that. She's just interested in the herbs. but here it would form a lake that could spread into the courtyard." Maybe we should go down and look at what we have." I saw the look Sally sent Bradley." Henry suggested. I don't think leather bags are the answer." "Thought of anything?" "Not yet." Bradley reminded George. Thanks. Hi. like a tarp. you know. hi. if it stuck to the train bridge. Are we going to float away?" Brad answered. Henry glanced in her direction." "And I just wander in. He looked around when he heard us on the boards behind him. *** We found George above the canoe dock on the old train bridge as he watched the water flow past. Use that to line the garages so the water won't enter?" "That's an idea." "And get soaked. Sue's been studying them. "No. nothing practical. Tony's making her small bags from the skins Sid brings in. "Greetings." "That could raise the water level higher. Rich. "Just have some tea ready for us when we get back." Sally protested. Sally. I'm watching the debris and wondering what will get stuck when." "Can't move it up hill?" "It would get wet in the rain." "How about plastic." "We have problems?" George asked. you mean the Native Americans." Margaret walked in without knocking. "Oh. I forgot to say you were coming. Brad. Well. "That won't work." Bradley admonished. "Hmm. but Rich already thought of it. How about plastic? Hold it down with sandbags or ."Who? Oh." Bradley said thoughtfully. "It's possible the water could get to the storage and ruin the grains and foods we have there." Henry said. "Road bridge wouldn't be a problem except water might wash away the road some. Sort of a mini dam. Henry.

"We'll need more storage room. water would come down and force its way into the courtyard. Unfortunately a levy won't work. Water still comes up it to the storm drain. Uh. We'll have to come up with different ideas for living. "We want something that we can use after the plastic and stuff disintegrates. anyway. I said. now. Henry." No one had thought of that. When they built this place. Rich" Sid said." Brad started to explain about the storm drains. "We're trying to come up with ways to protect the grains." Bradley thought about it for a moment. though. A levy would help. there's a small problem." I considered the size of the crop Charlie planned for next year." "Then basement waterproofing is out. "That's good. "What are the chances of the water coming up this high?" "Good. That would direct the water around us. they left the old pipe in when they built the fix. we could always pile dirt around the upstream portion of the building." "We don't have any of that." "And they'll fall down sooner or later. no matter what. George. He stood under the promenade on the parking level of the courtyard on the path to the canoe dock. George. though. Every time it rained. it's just redirected through the larger pipe that goes downstream. "At least we put some in Carl's barn. they ran one of the drains upstream for some god-awful reason I don't understand." Bradley answered." "Ouch. I mean around the bottom of the garages to seal the . too. I'll bet you don't have that much." "That's an idea. sort of like a levy. Brad. You'd only have one or two rooms to use." "Like lining the garages with plastic? That wouldn't work. or bags?" "Shit. but they're not built for storage." "How about dirt? Well. George. If the level of the river exceeds the level of the storm drain. however. "No. Needless to say. You're right." Bradley walked toward the courtyard. We followed. but we need something our kids can use. the courtyard will flood. and the doors are meant for people." Henry considered for a moment and said. actually mud. not bulk goods.something." "Why not?" "We'd need to caulk the seams. Where would they get sand. However. "Hey. of course. "I'd say some of the houses around. just like these will. if it keeps up like this." George turned to look at the garages where we had stored some of the grain.

Within minutes. if we knew where some was. "She'd love it if we all trooped in right now. as is caulk or any other type of technology. Brad." "Upstream and down. We could bail the bit that seeped through. I suggested. "I found you." Bradley said. A layer of clay spread and dried would work. it would be worth it. "Sue might know." "Mud would work if you could waterproof it. We could cover the mud with clay. though. it grows hot." Henry suggested. What have you all come up with. That would leak. "Who's hurt?" Sue asked immediately upon seeing our group. We need to keep it all out. which may or may not be bad for the seed. None of us had heard him approach. "That would work. and any moisture is bad. but if we could save the grain." "We're trying to decide how to protect the storage areas from the water if it floods." I reminded Rich." . though. several. but it will rot." Charlie said. "No one. I stopped at the house to tell Sally and Helen where we were and grab some towels. "So would Helen. and we can fit. if you only wanted to keep the major portion of the water out. Some work would be involved. Let me reiterate what we've already decided. and Sue won't have to clean up the mud or water. and mud." We all trooped up to Sue's and knocked on the door. can you join us?" We all moved to the common room. I had hopes. we all had dried off a bit and were sipping mugs of steaming tea. Sue. The best suggestion we've had so far has been mud piled up around the doors." he answered. "How about the common room? It's almost across from you." "He's right. As it rots. No. but also our kids can do in the years to come. Grain silos have been lost because of undetected seepage. so far?" "We've thrown out plastic. "Not only will the grain grow mold. We want something that not only we can do. mainly because we need something we can use in twenty or thirty years. The she looked thoughtful." Bradley answered." Sue immediately told us." "Sally should have tea made.doors. "It's under water right now. if you didn't have water running by to erode it. and caulk. Plastic is out. "We have a question. "You think it will get that high?" "If it keeps raining it will." Henry answered. Any wetness would ruin the grain." "That's good." "Where do we get the clay?" George asked. Tony walked in.

Just nail it together." Bradley reprised what we already discussed. "No dining room? How much did these places run. You don't even need to finish it." Tony stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. They were the ones that planned the insides. Simone. "Grain can get heavy." he answered. George and Marty. We'd need something strong. "You mean I'm going to have all those boxes in my living room?" Allen protested as he walked toward the windows. "From what? Remember the requirements." Helen said." . and be careful with that. we'll all have to put up with it for a bit. "Coat it in clay. Brad. "Use the kitchen or dining room. yeah. They had a chimney fire once from overloading the stove with fuel. Sue asked. even if it is temporary. Just a dining area. Allen. That's why you have a wood stove."We have to get the grain above the level of the water." Sid asked. myself. He stood in the door." "Then we can mark the level of water and build platforms above that level. It has to be something we can pass on to our kids. though? Clay's not that strong. "How would we hold it together. but for now Tony's platforms seem to be the best idea. "There's plenty around." Bradley pointed out. She began to refill everyone's mug. "The insides were custom built for the original owners. "Pallets make good platforms if you're careful where you step. Sue." Allen answered. "It doesn't have to be in your living room." Bradley said looking up to the glass roof. "If this keeps up. "How?" Brad asked. "The wood would rot after a year or two." Charlie said." "I read the aborigines around here used large clay pots to store their grain. What do we use to build them?" "Old pallets?" Allen said." Tony said. returning with a large pitcher. Brad?" "Not relevant. Sue. you think this will be the worst we get?" "It's still coming down pretty good." "How will we get nails?" Henry asked. I'll collect clay and see what I can do. I'd say this would be the worst. Allen." "I don't have a dining room. "Wood. I asked. "Move it up." Allen suggested." "But what can we use to build the platform?" I asked." "That's good. Helen returned to the house for more tea.

"Maybe. then the inside door to his unit and the stairs." Henry said as he climbed from the garage. "Not if we put a layer of gravel or something on top." Bradley reminded her. "Let me up. Everyone looked. and then hurried. What did they use in the past. "We have plenty of them. until we had finished Allen's garage. but not right now. I placed the boxes on the carpet of an unused bedroom and hurried back down. Allen threw the garage door open for easy access. It's still raining. Henry joined us. Tony." Sally suggested. and they're strong enough. Then we joined those who worked next door. We carried stacks of supplies to the higher floors." I told him. I can't think." Bradley praised. Allen hurried up the stairs and turned toward the kitchen." "Second door on the right is where I put my load. He cried." Bradley praised." Henry pointed out. then coated it with clay. and we need to move the supplies. "We can do that. some of the pasta we still had." "Good idea."Use tires to build up the platforms. I think. with concrete floors. It's light. and the water's still rising. I must have rocks in my head. his jaw more than an inch lower than usual." I said pointing at the drain. Charlie?" "The ground. *** I followed Allen as he ran to his house. "I'm blocked." I looked down at the courtyard. "Why up there?" "I had pasta. Tony shoveled grain onto a tarp. but where do we get them? We don't have any here." Sue suggested. and climbed the three flights to the topmost floor." "Well we can't use concrete. "Now that's good. "If we used cinder blocks. Henry and I carried it up the steps as . passing each other carefully on the stairs." I said. I grabbed a stack of boxes. "Right now. "Rocks in your head? Rocks in your head? Let's use them for the platform. they'd last long enough we wouldn't have to worry about rebuilding." Tony looked at me. One of the storm drains had water lying at the level of the grate." "That's true. Save the kitchen for the sauce and jars and heavy stuff. Henry sipped some tea. but grain would fall between the rocks." "That's good." "But they won't be around in years to come. He saw me descending from the upper floor.

You guys OK up there?" He nodded. A muddy lake entered each garage. We got most of the stuff moved in time. "Not much more they can do. We can have some tea and relax. We'll get Sue to tell us where that source of clay is." I answered. "What's going on?" Carl asked from just above us. I grinned. Helen and I cleaned the stalls on the hill as the rain finally tapered off. After we'd bedded the stalls and combed the animals. Flood waters inundated the lower area of our pasture. "Look where the water is!" Allen yelled. One box." All the garage doors stood open. . and now we had to clean a worse than usual mess." "Yeah. Tony again shoveled grain onto a tarp. The cases of canned vegetables and other goods moved into the main room of the unused unit. We had less than an inch of free space on our row." "What about rocks?" Allen asked. and then Allen and I carried it into the kitchen." I told Henry and Allen. we threw light boxes up the stairs and into the unused living room. Finally." Most of us began to carry boxes into the unused unit. We had locked the horses inside the barn to keep them safe. stood in the last garage. Why do you think this used to be Rockland?" Sally That storm was a mess. Muddy river water and uprooted trees had torn the fence from the supporting trees near the river. "Come on and join us in the common room." Henry agreed in a calmer voice." I answered. "Too close if you ask me." I noted as we let the raindrops rinse off the dirt.Allen spread another tarp for Tony. "They're all over the place. "Looks like you all have a problem. "That was close!" Allen exclaimed. that garage was empty. the cardboard soaked black. the courtyard already claimed as its territory. "I wonder how they're doing over there. "but not as much as it could have been. "We have to get this last garage finished. figure out who's going to get it. The next morning. A puddle began to form in the garage as I carried my last box upstairs. a dangerous situation for our only power source. Helen and I stood outside. While we dumped the small seeds onto the final tarp in the kitchen. "It's easing up a bit. an easier task than up to the second or third floor. and then carried the heavier boxes up. "Come on. I saw that muddy water lapped at the edges of the other row of garages.

I was there. Yesterday afternoon we just had a heavy drizzle. That's why Rich wants us to wait. but about the others. The problem is. A quick look out the window confirmed the water had receded farther. We'd come out dirtier than when we went in. see if she knows anything. Brad said it's never been this high. It's backed up to the top of the arch.There was no way we were going into that river. Eddies from where the current flowed past trees dug dirt from the hill. Look at the river. I saw where loose dirt from under a tree that used to be thirty or more yards from the river had disappeared. We could even have problems with our babies." She would think that was a good idea. she's right. I woke early. I eased away from Sally so she wouldn't lose the covers. and strolled across the carpeted floor." "I know. They not only care about themselves and our family. "That tree over there looks like it's ready to fall. We can put them back up when the water recedes. I suggested. almost to the bottom of the trees along the banks." "Two strands of barbed wire? They'll be OK unless something tears them. it won't reach the river when the water drops. That's why I love my husbands and wife." Bradley The morning of our community meeting. I don't think Sue will have an answer. Rich thinks this flood will wash the pollutants out of that factory upstream. either. Maybe this is the end?" "I hope so. We could breathe easily again. See how the roots are washed out? Even as tall as it is. I walked downstairs to throw a couple logs on the fire. I said. decided that it wasn't quite cold enough for clothes. north of Downingtown on the east branch and somewhere in farmland to the west. That's what worries me. but it makes me wonder how the fence made out. and neither do the others. There are two sources that are miles north. Warmth would . "Let's go talk to Sue. He's going to suggest we don't use the river water for a week or two. set my bare feet on the floor. Flood waters reached farther into the woods forming a lake populated by trees. Any of us could get poisoned and we'd never know. too. "It's done that before." "What's upstream besides that one factory?" "I don't know. and I think it's lighter. remember?" I looked at the opposite side of the river." "Not this early. I think it's a good idea. if we weren't swept away.

" "Let me wake up a bit and the three of us can take a look. "What was that?" I heard a male voice upstairs call. too. later." Richard suggested. "Hey. I found Sidney standing there." Richard called from the back. "Might be the rain caused one to collapse. the company housing for the original paper mill. "Look how it's eroded here. Shortly Sidney. The noise had come from the area of old houses across the river. Possibly the roof had collapsed. as I remembered. You'll want to see this. come around here. Richard carefully climbed over the pile. We'd thought about using them for storage. Ideas about what?" "What that noise was. "Come on in. and I made our way out of the complex and across the bridge. Five minutes later I was sitting in the dining room watching the water flow past when a rumble from across the river made me pause." I pointed to the right. A gap showed in the middle of it. He pointed at one corner of the property. "That one had a bad roof. but had decided people doors made loading and unloading too hard." I reminded him. "We'll have to check it out. Rich. Sidney and I walked around the intact house uphill from the pile. "I don't see why the whole thing fell. Richard." Sidney noted. "And it fell in? That could be. We would see soon enough. and Helen wandered down the stairs just as a knock sounded at the door. ." Sidney suggested. I threw some leaves into the steeping pot and added some hot water we'd left over the coals. "Unless the roof carried the rest of it down." "I'm glad we decided not to use these as storage. We walked up the road that paralleled the river for a short way. guys." I called back. "It sounded like it came from across the river by the old houses. along with a steaming cup of tea. "Any ideas?" he asked. One had a bad roof. and there." he said pointing at areas where mud slid. and over there. Sally. "More than a roof." I told the assembled group. lined the road." I took another stimulating sip of tea." I protested. A line of old duplexes. "Those two houses there are going to go soon." I led the way to the living room where sleepy greetings were exchanged." Sidney said. We stared at the pile of rubble. "Got no idea. We joined Richard around the back.help on this cool morning.

I'll start in one and we'll meet in the middle. can you talk to Carl and have him check his buildings for the same thing? Also Amber.Thinking about how we had bypassed a major problem made me chuckle. Also. I do have one question." "Who do you want?" Richard asked me. "I'll agree with that." Sidney told us. "Why don't you start at the far end and check each unit for leaks. We'll have to warn everybody tonight. first. "Sure. look for erosion like we have here. Sid. Right now. no problem. though. and check our buildings carefully today. "What happens when the buildings we live in now start to fall apart?" . both from the roof and from the outside walls. We might have been out a season's worth of food." I asked what he needed to know.

" "Agreed. Don't bathe. As is lead and so many other things. Let's keep that in mind for the next couple of weeks." "Free range are always good. We had gathered in the common room due to the chill outside. you saw several did you not?" "At least. Simone. or on the ground waiting to wash into the river. "We also found we have a problem. We know they dealt with dangerous chemicals. The chickens were as good as they always are. Pete. either. things important enough that we need to be more formal than usual." Sue stood wearing the shirt she'd worn the first time I saw her and several strings of beads from I don't know where. as most of you know. may I add a bit?" "Sure. just what I find around. I don't know what's here. listen up. Sue" "When I worked the emergency room. "First of all. "Um. Amber." "They are. They were in our area. We have several items up for discussion tonight." I continued. consider the river unsafe. Don't drink. Sidney and Barbara walked upstream yesterday to see what had happened. We don't have many medicines at all.Chapter 18 Bradley "OK people. They're still poisons. but it's better than getting sick. Those chemicals are now in the water." "I thought Copper and Zinc were good for you. we worried most about Arsenic. I addressed the group. Copper." I called that autumn evening after the storm. We just don't know what. in very small quantities. thanks go to Carl and Pete for the meal tonight. and Zinc. that's putting it mildly. Lead. I know. At least for the next couple of weeks. After the noise of general conversation died down. We don't have any of the medicines we need to combat those poisons. also." I told about the . "So we have bad things in the water like I said. Use the smaller stream on the other side of the bridge instead." "There you have it. way back in my old life. You all know it rained last week. I know it's a pain. Mercury. There are places farther north we don't know about. The factory a few miles up is now rubble. For now. Some looked pretty crummy. though.

Now that the harvest is over you should have plenty of time on your hands." George said. I read that book. about a fifty mile radius I think is how they put it. They have electricity from a dam and hydraulic plant there. Farther than that. "I been listening to the short wave like what I always do. George. That there is what they called it. offer protection to those near enough. There's a place near here. just a bit southwest. They say that since they have the highest technology in the area. Now you all listen close. "The usual bull is still being put out. I'm sure most of us feel the same. this and that will help and all. Remember how they treated their slaves?" "I'm not that old. All of you had a live and let live attitude. I like the idea that we're an independent community living how we want. which is further. Barbarians. "When I was looking for people. "I've been monopolizing this discussion so far. they had maps. "I. I suggested. I watched for those who thought independently." Sue said. Remember the questions I asked? All of you were nudists. I heard something new yesterday. as they say. They sound worse. too. "We will have to gather the rocks and stones to build the tables. Conowingo is only thirty or thirty-five miles away. you'll need to gather some clay for sealer." Carl stood where he was and announced. for one.flood and our decision to build platforms. This here new thing scares me. "I'm not sure anyone knows how they treated their slaves. We'll assign jobs to all who volunteer." "Sounds like 'Big Brother' is showing his muscle." Sid joked. Think of Israel ." I had been talking so much I was beginning to get horse. I don't know but what these people may turn into a problem." Tony stood. All of you thought the government had too much control. These people Carl just mentioned aren't like that. They say they can offer electricity to anyone within twenty miles. so you'll be happy to hear that's all I have for now. They named several towns close to Baltimore. subject to their laws and whims and taxes. in case you hadn't figured that out. as already part of their protectorate. they are the rulers. Them there leaders. Sue. "Now in the house we live in. I don't think Big Brother is the word. Those protected must pay. Carl's told me he has disturbing news. They say they have a plane they're using to scout out communities. That's all I have to say. don't want a government like that. "We wouldn't be slaves anyway. "But ya know. Down to the southwest." he drawled. they can recharge batteries. called Conowingo. We'd be the conquered and controlled village. I'm sure it'll scare you. more like the ancient Romans or one of those conquering tribes. They're the 'I'm the top dog and you do what I say' type.

"What are we going to do about this?" "We won't know what to do until something happens. Sue had disappeared into the woods to gather plants. He hoped to teach stalking skills. I'm glad we did. you know." Sally threw herself on Allen. a necessary chore now that the weather was cooler. *** I had just finished cleaning the horse barn. I heard a faint sound. an easy task since the horses stayed mostly outside. and looked up . I certainly don't want anything to change that." Richard said. "I." "Hear. too. It sort of droned in a low register at the edge of hearing. "It does feel that way. and Charlie gathered the last of the late harvest. and agree we should not change. I ignored it and asked. She heard it. The noise seemed to echo between the hills so much that I couldn't place the direction. She covered his mouth with hers. Remember what happened a couple days later? Let me tell it. Brad. we all just let ourselves go. archery across the bridge using a target painted on weathered wood that she had found. no. I went down the hill into the open. but I couldn't remember where I'd heard it. right Rich? I think it was the first time we as a community really bonded. Calmly he said. but I couldn't place it. hear. I don't want an outsider telling me what I can and cannot do. Sally That was a night to remember.and Gaza. I looked across to Simone who was pulling weeds in one of the herb beds. buzzing on and on like a nearby insect without that harshness to the sound. I want to be my own person and live in peace with my friends. also feel as if we're all one family." It seemed everyone agreed. Helen cleaned clothes at a sandy area downstream from the village. Rich. Sid had gone hunting with several of the others." Sally shouted. vaguely familiar. I believe we all agree. Allen looked thoughtful. like we're a big family. Barbara taught bow and arrow. I've grown to love you all. knocking him down. "I'm happy with this family. Me. I knew what it was. and showed it physically in Sally's style. I received kisses and invitations from several of the ladies. As I closed the barn door. Finally." Simone said. for one. never stopping.

"We'll be a noisy community soon. Thunder during fall? This could be bad. *** That fire day. and maybe me. Is that all? It seems like ages have passed. It seemed like I'd gained years of experience. She should be showing soon. Not thunder. It circled the area a few times. Soon the dot evolved into the shape of a small plane. She's really grown up in the past few months. "It's starting to get really big.and behind me. Yeah. Without you exploring and picking up strays." He shifted position to reach me easier. pointed. and it had only been nine or ten months. Bradley I think. Hell. We won't have trouble tonight. He stopped kneading one of my favorite areas and sat upright. high overhead. Across the field. and then headed south over the hills. no it droned. "What is it?" I asked. Rub my breasts some more. we ain't got that much here. You were the biggest factor of forming us. Those are plainly cultivated fields. we wouldn't have gotten together. Tony and I lay on the grass by the old fire pond just above the community." That thought made me smile back. That's that scout Carl told us about." And it had. like Brad said. All sorts of noisiness. Gently. "Lots of babies screaming and kids playing. Sue's showing." He grinned and chuckled." "About the same as you and Sue. but I know the topic of tonight's fire. possibly making a map. "You're right. You and Rich must be proud." Tony said forcefully. Wow. and the pilot can see the complex. Now where were we?" . He rubbed my belly and said. "Scouting the area. I can't wait. that feels good. I thought. We can't do anything about hiding." We found the dot in the sky and watched as the plane seemed to follow the road. and the guys. Don't know why it would. one of the men. "Hush. it being one of the last warm days. three quarters maybe. They're good people. and Helen." "It was the least I could do for Brad and Helen. That drone again. I looked back at the field. Two men walked toward the first. The dot began to grow. Just a little so far. "Wonder what that was about?" I thought aloud. you know. I looked where he pointed and saw a dot in the sky. "I think it's that plane coming back. too. We'll just have to wait and see what happens." "Has it only been that long? It's a little over half a year. and Simone. but I can tell.

Every day we'd all be exhausted when the sun went down. a marker of our well-being. Tomatoes will be later. "Be a good crop. "Remember the problems we had with that first harvest? No one really knew what we were getting into. on the days it snowed. that stuff can be planted early. and the winter wheat properly planted. Bradley must have felt the same way. Bradley. "Better than I'd hoped. Without the food we grew we wouldn't live. The crops were essential we decided. we had traveled backward in time. He said. but by summer she should have some. Now I felt we could rise above our problems and live again." Charlie told us. Richard Patches of snow hid from the sun. I take it?" Charlie answered. Then Joan and Amber left to go to that Amish farmer they met. just after first planting. Helen will want to know when we can expect tomato sandwiches. We'll have a good bit for Terry to mill. "That'll be good then. bright white surrounded by shades of brown even after weeks on the ground. turnips. Some of our early veggies can go in next month. We'll be planting and . We'll have flour for bread and cakes again. We'll be planting soon. Charlie. Yes. During that winter. life had descended to that level." Richard answered. We didn't hear from them for more than a month. and stored. Daylight stayed a bit longer each day as we finished the first winter. Strawberries. we would gather at someone's house and discuss how we would make out through the coming years. the sky clear and the sun spreading a bit of warmth as the day progressed." I felt good hearing that. "Yep. before the snow and real cold came thanks to Charlie. Should ripen early to mid-June. and I stood looking at the field of winter wheat on a beautiful winter's day.Chapter 19 Samuel Bradley sat back in his favorite chair. spring wheat. "But we got it done.

We'll get by. or more if there are more in that carriage. "The Indians made out. Joan and Amber must be two of them. The group slowly worked their way toward us. "Well." I watched them turn into Amber's drive. somehow. The horses and wagon needed the extra room to make the turn. The lead team of horses almost passed the drive before they made the left. but if we plant and it freezes. And there's the Amish. "Yes. Kinda makes things more interestin'. A team of four horses pulled a farm wagon along the road across the stream. Just a bit outside. It's not like we can go out to the local store and get some more." Maybe Bradley could feel good. We got a lot to learn. Think that will cause problems?" Bradley watched the wagons for a time." I looked where Charlie pointed. so many variables were involved that . Charlie?" "Won't be for a month or so. Might want to offer them the spare house. but we'll have food. too cold. and the black carriage. that's all." "Kind of like Carl and Peter?" "Maybe. We can plow a bit early and still avoid most of the erosion. Bradley commented. "Should we go meet them?" Bradley thought a minute." Bradley said. I thought. but they only hold themselves to their beliefs. they are strict. too hot." I said. Charlie? What have you got to say on the matter?" Charlie looked at the convoy for a moment. I'd say it's probably Joan and Amber with the Amish. but I think they'll be more aloof. They're like us. Too much or too little rain. and then said.harvesting the rest of the year. I thought only one was coming. "I won't argue with more people in our community. They'll fit in. I said. with two newcomers. simply because they've been living like this for years. They might need help unhitching. the Amish are strict in their ways. Possibly husband and wife. but what Charlie said worried me. someone's coming. Hey. we're too small as it is. "Four people it looks like. "No. What others do or how they behave is none of their concern. How about it. we have no crop. Coming from that direction. "No riders. As I remember though. let them come when they're ready. So did the colonists. They'll probably want to rest a bit. he'll know about plowin' with horses. He'll know a lot that I don't. When should we start plowing and planting. followed by a team of two horses that pulled a carriage." We watched the group approach the house on the far hill. I asked." "That would make sense. followed by two more teams of two horses each that pulled some kind of farm equipment.

I guess it's alright. This is Amos and his wife. it allowed her to scratch it between the ears. "Hey. If we plow. Helen's tiger striped cat rose from in front of the fire. Clouds coming in make me think it'll snow. "It is cold. Can you think of a way for us to irrigate if we have to? Might help if it gets too dry. I think. Brad. but unless they brought a spreader." "Why is that?" Bradley asked. Good grief. Joan came into the room. Joan. How are we set on fertilizer?" I told him. Rich. Charlie. It'll blow or wash away. Come on back. The woman wore a black dress trimmed in faded purple and wore what could only be a bonnet. Joan said. Let's go in. That last thing looks like it might be a spreader." "Spying?" I asked." "No one's using it. and wandered to Joan to receive some attention. "Some even say to do it after harvest to let the nitrogen soak into the soil. We can't stay. We just put them up in the extra house as Charlie suggested. Now would be a good time to spread it.we couldn't control." Charlie said. A scraggly beard ." Bradley turned back to the field. Is that right. "Fire's going good. "That heat feels good. Amber. either before or after. I'll think on it a bit. followed by Amber and two new faces. but I'm not too sure of that one. Charlie said." I said as I shook hands with Amos." Bradley observed. That's work." I agreed with Charlie." "Don't know off the top of my head. Bradley answered it. stretched. Getting cold. I did not see how Charlie could be such an optimist. we'll have hard work doing it. "Sally's been saving the horse manure. "You know." I heard from the foyer. Ester. "They'll have to unhitch all that and put it away. "Leave them alone. Charlie?" "Whelp. it might not be such a good idea to plow early. someone knocked on the door. After sniffing her finger to recognize a friend. Have to put it in the wagon. so Amber and I want to get back home. We can spread it after we plant. The man wore a black suit and held a black hat in front of him. as we finished cleaning up from dinner. "Dust. "That won't do us any good." *** Just about dark. "Come on in." "They've reached the house. won't be nothing to hold the soil. It feels like snow." I called to them." Bradley said. and then shovel it out. The black broadbrimmed hat usually sat on brown hair cut around a bowl. I could only foresee hard work for all.

"A sin that is!" Calmly I said. "We began this community with the idea that too many laws lead to trouble. Young eyes smiled at me. if you want to call them that. Ester said. My father. "To you. Helen looked at Ester and said. Your Carl is a pleasant man. yes. Take your time. It's not a problem. "Why don't we women retire to the kitchen and leave the men-folk to their talk. Carl and Peter take care of each other." Men-folk? I hadn't heard that one before. and to respect others for who they are." "Yeah. belying his serious expression. We only have two rules. or she remembered how her parents treated guests. Carl and Peter. not how they live. have their own lives to lead. Uh. consider it yours until you find a farm that suits you. well. The spare house is OK?" "Call it the wee house. She had grown up in the country after all. though. come on in and take your coat off. the same thing says. yet no wife he has. Joan?" "Out. You say Amber and Joan are going to show you the area?" Amos nodded. "Right you are." "Make sure they introduce you to Terry and Cicily." "Looking with Joan and Amber tomorrow is what we planned. you live as you please. He nodded and turned to Brad. They live down the river a ways and operate the old display mill at the museum. is it?" Amos appeared thoughtful for a moment. It's not what I want to do either. Yes. That is why you do know?" "Oh. I mean it doesn't use electric or gas for power." Bradley said. I looked at his wife. They are to generally be a part of the community." "As God wills. and Joan and Amber. who appeared to be hiding. that used to be a gunpowder mill. "They are." I told him. Other than that. Wait we may have to if the snow falls. We'll see you tomorrow.looked as if it had been growing just over a month. The grinding wheels used water . and what they do in private is not our concern. "Good that would be. partake in the decisions and the work. "Amos. where may stay the visitor." I said. "Welcome to Rockyford. Hundreds of years ago. Sit. and if you did that I would be shocked." Amos' eyebrows raised and his eyes widened. Direction you are going. or the traveler." "Operates it does without power?" "No. Helen had guessed right.

Tony." I asked." "No. thank you. I couldn't let Amos leave without warning him about one or two major differences in our culture and the one he grew up in. you will. He made charcoal already and reformed some car wheels to work on a cart." "A house I see you share. Teach you many things I would have to my father said. We know nothing of farming or things like that. and we can't refine oil even if we could find any crude. at least not without using gasoline or some other type of power. Think you this Tony would help out?" "When the time comes. most people here go naked when they can. "Hey. "One person. there are a few things you need to know.as power. The engine can be used to power other stationary machines. Steam. and Carl and Peter. which is one of the reasons my Father sent me. With many ways of others' thinking I disagree. Wow. . I had in mind. though not beyond visiting distance. as it should be. We will trade for other things as well. That's very good. but fix them he does not know how to. We'll trade some food and other things for his grinding services. well we could with a lot of work. Handles of shaped wood we need. Amos." "That is good. The wee house should be warm by now I believe." "What are they?" "Well." Amos said. Steam. and other things. For practical reasons that would be like did my brothers and I sometimes I thought. Some couples are threesomes or foursomes." Bradley stared at Amos. "That too. we four are an operating family." "Oh. "That is good. we'll ask. you'll meet him. Then there's Joan and Amber. How do you figure we have power? Horses?" Amos grinned as if he had better ideas than Bradley. Two others my father's family has. "We do? We can't make electricity. Iron plows and harrows we need." Amos cracked a hint of a smile. "Steam? How?" "A steam powered thresher I brought. These things you have thought of perhaps?" Bradley smiled. That's good. for starters. Terry has one water wheel working and it turns a stone mill wheel to grind grain. as you earlier reminded me." "Others' life is none of my concern. is learning to be a blacksmith. such as us." Bradley almost did a dance in his chair. Find a farm out of sight I will. "Power we have though. you will. Amos. Hoped I better than. but for telling me.

" He nodded once slowly. and then said. that is true. The house inside I have not yet been. I take it?" "Yes. "Yes. "OK. and have need of help.Tomorrow we will see you. He looked tired. English I guess it was. I think. Some boards missing are. The barn cleaning and repair needs. "My brain is whirling from deciphering that." he called back. and head on out. He wanted to talk about religion. a bit after sunrise. The roof a hole has. though heavy accumulations have we seen this year. From what I remember reading on the Internet they usually go to bed early and rise early. And they do phrase things differently. We'll discuss the tools we need." This was going to be messy. then raised his arms to the sky." *** "Sure I can do that. "Help is one thing we have in abundance." I called to Amos as he approached from the courtyard. What do you need?" "To clean and straighten the most is. "Hey. people and animals died. "The snow light today is. Richard. "Greetings. The barn. This I find good. "I don't think so." *** Several days later." Amos collected his wife and walked out the door. and share both problems and joy. The house has been closed for year or more. Found a place I have. Tomorrow. Sound good?" "This community is like our church community in many ways I can see. You do not follow the teachings of Jesus. No." I shook his hand when he reached me." I told Bradley. I'll see who I can round up. "There are many reasons I won't get into now." I thought back to when we had first arrived at the condos. I think he's usually in bed by now. especially this time of year. Let's just organize a work party for tomorrow morning and get you situated. yet you help each other. German phrasing. I hope I didn't scare him away. Why you do not follow the ways of Jesus?" Religion. that would be good. Something like that. bones mostly it holds. "Um. I wondered if we should raise it some to allow more water to reach the horses. you and your wife meet us down in the courtyard. as I stood on the bridge over the river and watched the water flow over the dam." Tony told me when I suggested charcoal for the . This was not the time or place for that. I think he appreciated you telling him about something he might find offensive.

It's a way to relax after a hard week's work. Everyone in your community helps each other it sounds like. Richard. "Fire Night? That is what?" "That will be tomorrow. "Good. or maybe argue. We'll have most of the community out to help Amos and Ester. dance. What's that?" "Looks like Sidney's got himself a deer. Morning sunlight squeezed through the bare tree limbs. One night in seven we all get together and talk about any problems we have and figure out ways of doing things better. Bradley made the introductions. You know. "Good. or other frivolous behavior we don't. The more the merrier." Bradley smiled.steam engine. "Do you and Ester like venison?" "Venison good is. Couple of weeks yet before the real work gets started. Hey Charlie." . "It'll be no problem to make up extra." "I think they might. lead the way. Sue figures they'll know about different medicines and remedies since they're from a distance away." I said. This should be an interesting day for the ladies. It might be built for straight wood. "I talked to her last night." "What?" George asked. and then asked. wait." Tony said. Let's start. The discussion good sounds. She wants to meet Ester. Frost sparkled on the grass and walls. I followed his gaze. Everyone here? Good." "Well you can always leave when the singing starts." "Singing. Hey Marty. and have fun. We have two very good hunters who supply us with Fire Night meals and some of our meat. that is if the steam engine will take that. Allen and Shelly be along soon. Then we sing." Amos looked at me quizzically. I'll ask Amos sometime today. You ask. Sid and Barbara said they'd go out early this morning and get a buck or two. "I can't see any. We're easy. why?" "Our dinner approaches. so this will keep me busy today." George said peering along the path into the sun. George. "Sid and Barb said they'd have a deer or two for our dinner when we get back. They'll have much to talk about. what with Sue learning witchcraft and Ester into Jesus. They should have it butchered and cooked by the time we're back. My Father's community that like is. I'm glad they're confident enough in their abilities to say that. or dancing. Carl and Peter supply the rest with their livestock. Amos. you going to help?" "Sure." Amos greeted us as he joined the group." Tony observed. Is Sue coming do you know?" "She's supposed to. "Bradley.

The air in this place should have exchanged with the outside air in a couple hours. and then pulled it out. "This looks good. with your permission. "Yup. how Bradley and I opened the houses and Tony found the rest of the community." Sue said as she backed away from the open window coughing and choking. "Look at this here. we can explore the barn and other out buildings. talking as we walked." Tony said. Then two or three of us can go from window to window. In the meantime. Charlie. A large stone house stood next to the road that separated the two golf courses." "Did anyone remember gas masks?" I joked." Sue slid her hand in the partially opened window. "Got it!" The window opened as she worked the crank. Trees in the side yard leaned over a rock wall to shade the road. Clean it needs. "Let's take a look and see if we can get inside. and open the front door. If you can – give me that screw driver. "These windows are old type. They swing out. "I think I can squeeze my arm in there." Charlie stepped back. "How about water?" Bradley asked.We crossed the river and turned left up the hill toward Montchanin. Where are you . "Amos. "OK. "Hold it. but not entered. Tony. "You have got to give that place time to air out. After repeating the process a few times he said." Charlie accepted a long flathead screwdriver and worked it between the two halves of window. run through. Her elbow caught." Amos answered. once we clean it. Slowly she forced her arm in the narrow opening. Ester quietly told Marty that Amos said he had looked in." Charlie said as he removed the screen. About half an hour later. I saw only one broken window." "Been inside yet?" Marty asked. "We looked." He began working the screwdriver around the bottom outside corner. Good in a day or two it should be." Tony suggested. Let's see if we can open it without ruining the mechanism. Slowly the window began to open. He moved it down a bit. "I don't see how we can dig a well. which did include a horse drawn spreader. We told him the history of our village. Amos ignored her." Sue said excitedly. and then she said. but the spring still runs. it's unlocked." I said. Try it. "Not for a couple hours at least. An old spring house Amber around back found. Amos told us about equipment he brought. "Amos should be first in. we arrived at the side of the Wilmington Country Club. since I'm thinner I'll slip in.

" She looked down at her swollen belly. Amos." Ester curtsied slightly. That's smart. You'll learn all that I'm sure." I heard a voice behind me proclaim. Amber and Joan brought some fresh veggies they had grown in a greenhouse behind their barn. Of course. Sally and I suggested ways they could add to our population. Amos pointedly ignored Sally and glared at me. We had enjoyed a warm day. Most of us wore light jackets or flannels and enjoyed the late afternoon warmth." I nodded. "The same on that side there is. Amos?" He turned and looked across the road at the golf course. "Send you to Hell for those words God will. Amos. but stayed in the background. Anytime you choose. that area behind the barn's fenced in already?" "Yes. "Yeah." she told our friend. riding in the closed carriage pulled by one horse. Hey. "Out there look. "I'm not so sure about that. Welcome to Fire Night. You're family and we love you both. I answered. and Sally used her experience to suggest who to choose for the male. so you need to get there earlier. We . I looked at Amber's clear skin and the firm breasts that showed under the flannel shirt she wore. now. "Adultery that would be. "It's possible God would change his feelings in these times. Use the golf course. "Both of you. warm enough to melt most of the snow. Hay and straw in the loft there is a little. She released Amber and carefully hugged Joan." "That's good. He hitched to an old fire hydrant. "It's not like I'm available for much. and volunteered. suppressing the quick anger I felt." "Sinfulness. Bring the horses up I can tomorrow." Bradley said. That'll start a couple hours before sundown. During summer the sun sets later. Sally slapped my shoulder. then carefully hugged and kissed Amber. Let's go around front and meet Richard as he comes out your door. "Of course you're welcome in our bed. I thought.going to farm. "Just make sure you get back in time for Fire Night meal." Sally smiled at Amos and Ester. There are two large fields ready for plowing. one of those days when you know winter is ending and spring is close. in God's eyes." He turned and pointed on both sides of the house. *** Amos and Ester showed early for Fire Night. Amber and Joan melted out of sight." I slithered through the window. I was biased." We're going to have to teach him to keep his opinions to himself.

I could do what I wanted. You must not become fat. I'm glad things worked out for you. say what I wanted. We showed our love among ourselves in a physical manner. not that I think it's a problem. Let's have fun. go with Sally." "You are right. You're welcome to that opinion." "You're right. that's your opinion. why don't you take Ester?" Possibly. Besides. We follow what Brother Micah teaches. He watched as we talked. she appeared shocked. I controlled most of my life. "How I have lived my life it is. I don't know if I should talk to you. "Incest you mean?" When I nodded. "That would be good. thank you." "Good. But tonight is not the time to argue philosophy. Glass panes I found in the barn this morning." "How do you mean?" "I loved my family. and Helen may understand. Sally. then whispered. and I'm sure he would monitor her all night. That's why I never really went along with the rest of the world. I would have slapped him silly." "As Rich told Amos. More tolerant you should be. where I came from. and unless you ask forgiveness from God nothing you do can change that. If Richard had tried to do that. "An abomination that is! To Hell you will go. Amos would relax a bit. Our way it is. Sally "How can you stand being controlled like that?" I asked as soon as we were out of earshot of Amos. The fireplaces add enough heat so we can live God's way." Ester glanced around furtively. I will find you before we eat. The window broken is new. without his wife along. as they loved me. Here there are so many differences. How's the house?" "Well. in as diversified a gene pool as possible. but it's not how I grew up. yes. I've not had to deal with such differences before. as Rich teaches. Our community. all believe in God's ways." I watched as they moved off to another group of people. Ester said quietly. Helen understands. Let me introduce you around to the others you don't know. Found we the seasoned wood yesterday that will last this year. but don't scold me for mine. Mom encouraged me to learn and form my own opinions. there were news reports before the death how some Amish communities had problems with incest. Wife.need all the kids we can get. yet you all get . How my mother and her mother lived it is. and stick with them.

you use clothes from before the other time. How can that be?" "That's just the way we are. medicines. too. No." "He has to give you permission?" I was incredulous." "It is true. unless you do. but I've done it a couple times." Ester held her head up proudly. good they are. Husband Amos has given me permission to do this. I thought you'd think it evil. I will try to remember that others have different ideas." "The lady who knows medicine? Yes. so we were sent here. One reason Micah sent us was our disagreement about discipline. and ways of preparation. good that would be. "He gives you permission to talk? That's not right. too. There is no set way to view the world. I like some of her spells." "Some spells. let's find Sue and talk to her. like spells to drive away evil. We exchange spells and so learn." . She knows where a lot of things are. We have much to learn from each other. What do you need? No." "Hey! That's great. We want to discuss plants. There are as many ways as there are people. I didn't know you would like witchcraft. I'm sorry.along. Why do you not make your own?" "No one knows how. Amos says to beat a child is bad. Tell me. You have different ways. I am not good at weaving. "I can spin and sew. and not what Jesus taught.

"Brad! Helen!" I called at the top of the stair. I heard Helen's half-asleep voice answer. "How far apart are the contractions? Sue said to get her when they got to a count of two hundred." "Rich?" George called from the adjoining house. I heard feet hit the floor as I raced out the door. The moon shone through the window and formed a bright rectangle on the floor and bed. a couple gallons at least. I've been feeling them for hours. Well. "That's about where they are." Knowledge." Sally repeated. "It's time!" I called to them. "It's time! Sally's having the baby!" "OK. Helen's getting some sheets. "I'll get Sue. so I started already. I was sleeping when a soft voice invaded my dreams. "Huh?" I asked. Sally's voice said. "I know we'll need hot water. "Quiet down. I ran along the brick walk and rounded the corner by where Helen was almost raped. A window opened above my head." in my dream. I flew through the brick arch and pounded down the wooden walk to Sue's house. The first baby. "Start some water to boiling. thanks to Sue's knowledge and the help of everyone." . He said. Our baby. I'm sorry. Instantly I became alert." her sleepy voice answered.Chapter 20 Richard We were sleeping." I threw on pants and a coat. "I'll be 'round in a minute. The pregnancy was easy. "Sue!" I screamed as I pounded on the door. The baby. What time was it? "And I didn't know. I'll go get Sue." Sally grimaced. Sue's voice said. The sky was just starting to lighten over the hill as I ran back to find that Bradley had added some wood to the coals and stoked the fire back to life. I needed information." Hours. "I think it's time. What is it?" I answered. I woke halfway. "I think it's time. "Sally's having the baby!" I yelled." Margaret called from the house on the other side. I'll be there in a few minutes.

George clapped me on the back." I bounded up the stairs. gazing. She pulled back a bit of a blanket and I could see red flesh. Into the plow lean when the horse starts. We cried together from relief. just circled the drive repeatedly as I waited for Bradley to give me the news. I collapsed in my favorite chair. I had a daughter. Look. amazed at the new life. Go on down and get some more water. I knelt on the floor next to Sally and hugged her. Bradley and George kept assigning me chores. As nervous as you are you'd better keep busy. "Shit. The bottle of wine passed around. the miracle that was before me. "Do that now you. My daughter. Carl brought down some of the first wine he had made and ushered me inside. a bundle held to her breast. No more would die at the terrorist's hands. Your fingers use to control the horse. Our community had another member." Bradley looked at me. in our bed. removed the few twigs that had fallen the last storm. come on up and see your daughter. he turned the horse around. "It's a girl. My daughter. I did keep busy. It seemed as if everyone had gathered in the main room. How was Sally? "Richard." someone called from upstairs. I must have walked miles around the courtyard. Our daughter. and give a flick like this. Margret looked over the rail and called down. Not long after that loud screams sounded from upstairs. George and I cleaned the horse barn once it got light. In our room. "Behind the plow you stand. Dandelion."Sue said we'll need a couple gallons. Now I stood behind two horses at the edge of a field. He wore a huge grin also. was nearly two weeks old when Amos and Charlie declared the ground ready to plow. make the women nervous. It'll be all right. You'll just be in the way here. Our daughter. a tiny head attached to Sally's nipple." I watched as Amos plowed a furrow. I looked at Bradley. "Richard. We would live. *** Our daughter. He was grinning larger than I'd seen before. so many that the crowd spilled outside. The plague would not get them." The place erupted in cheers." . and then a small cry. The human race would live." Amos grabbed the reigns from my hands. A healthy girl. I policed the complex. relax. Sally smiled at me. Your hands use to push down. "No! Your thumbs up turn. exhausted from the worry." "We have that. Now we knew that babies would live. like this. Rich. I just stood there. At the end. my exhaustion dissipating.

and barely grabbed the plow before the horse started to move. The air was cool. "Bad that looks. I glanced around. and then corrected that mistake. When I started." I sighed and worked at turning the horse. I held the reigns as he had. black pants. Sweat poured from me. I noticed the furrow needed to be deeper. No way could I let that happen. Seen I have worse from boys who knew horses. and black hat go well with his occupation of slave driver. Of course. lowered the right reign. The furrow meandered as if a stream had created it. Do it again. but still warmer than a week before. down to it. One more do then rest. We began to drift to the left. This time when I reached the end and turned around it looked better. I had to volunteer to be the first student. "There. Amos said. Tomorrow Charlie I get." A slave driver. "See? You learn. I reached the end of the row. I looked back at what I had accomplished. Only bare trees were visible. but nothing major. I leaned harder on the plow. Finally. Do again. and straightened our line. flicked them. I corrected. Now this kid was showing me up. I had a gentle bend to the right. so I set my mind to do my best. Amos confirmed my judgment. You will learn. The black coat. I lowered the left reign. Well. We drifted farther. I forgot about the furrow next to me and concentrated on going straight. I dropped my arms in disgust. We drifted right. Fill the space between I can. The spaces I will fill then. I only hope he is half as good. that's what he is. no people. You see? Well you do. I was only a foot or so off." . I reached the end of the furrow. even though spring had yet to arrive.The idea had been for Amos to teach each of us how to plow with a horse. I corrected myself.

"We're getting visitors. Scouting is usually followed by an attack or something." "That goes for you. "What's up? I asked. Several others were close and joined in our discussions. "I have pants on." That plane had scouted. Tony said. After that plane last fall. Sue would be giving birth soon. I waited. They might want to dress if they go outside. or as close to it as we could reckon. I counted the days and realized it had been almost a year since the death. as I expected him to. and we talked about how to raise them now that things were different. Amos declined to join the festivities. Barbara and Simone had their children. and they decided to hold a celebration on the anniversary." Tony told me. You don't know what strangers will think. tell them what I think and suggest they wait inside for now. Then I heard an engine. Since we'd been occasional lovers. I thought that strange. He'd done more than his share and could do what he wanted. I said. too. I gave him a hug. too. I don't like this. Helen sat on a blanket and watched flames cook a stuffed pig while she kept an eye on the children. I mentioned the fact to Richard." he said quietly. and I constantly had to reassure Tony all would be OK. I think we have trouble." I called as I slid to a stop. so the guys said and I agreed. "If you see any of the ladies." I said as I stood. They're watching the pig roast. "Tony heard an engine . but felt him stiffen. "Someone's coming. who talked to Brad." I let gravity pull me at a run down the hill toward the fire area between the new and old buildings. listening to nothing. we plowed and planted. just the birds and insects that were a constant background. I agreed we had a problem. That's enough. *** The next day I sat with Tony on the hill next to the old fire pond watching the carp swim. Tell everyone we have visitors and need to follow the old conventions for now." "I'll tell Helen and Sue first. "Listen.Chapter 21 Sally Over the next couple of months. "I'll go down and get Brad and Rich if I can find them.

I didn't think they'd be here this soon either." "How about the others?" Bradley asked me. I don't think we have to worry. Joan." "I don't think they will be. slipped into this." "True. so it's coming this way. Anyway. and then we can find something to wear. believe me." "Rich there yet?" "Not when I left." "OK. "I think this will be a friendly visit more to size us up. and Bradley as I topped the far field hill. be friendly. I told Helen. leave that to Tony. I think. but don't give anything away you don't have to. Bradley asked." "Put something on first!" she called as I ran toward the courtyard." "You look great." My best friend smiled at me. I figured they'd show." Charlie frowned. It's getting louder. Isn't that the car?" . Brad. "He might be right. "They did move quickly. them being the visitors." I panted." We began to walk quickly back toward the complex. This is the first time we've had to. "We'd better get back. If they're armed we'll be in trouble. offer us a chance to join them. "We'll be over early.of some kind. It's too late to hide weapons." Bradley said. Charlie said." Joan said. "I better go tell Amber. and if they are we can always ask them to leave the weapons behind. thanks. She'll be back in a moment. Sue went upstairs to throw on a dress. Charlie. or at least they'll claim defense. too. but several times he talked ruffians out of taking over our group before we came here. but I didn't expect it so soon. either." Bradley agreed. Lock up." "I think he is. He's good. after we lock up." I said. Thinks it's connected to the plane. "Company coming. He didn't tell you." "That's what I figured on doing. them from Conowingo. Tony's staying at the entrance as greeter. "Sue and Helen are telling them if they're home. Seem open. Do you know where Brad and Rich are?" "Out in the field with Charlie and Joan planning for this year and next." Bradley told me. He didn't comment on the T-shirt and pants. No telling what's going to happen. "I'll be up in a short. *** I met Charlie. and came to tell you. "What's up?" as I wheezed to a stop. I have to tell them. "Tony heard car or something. "I know.

I said. They were polite. Give Tony a chance to size things up. Carl and Peter followed moments later. this is Bradley. We'll be OK. Sue?" . Kerry." Sue nodded. and I think we're in for trouble. I always screw up when I hurry. this is Kerry." We walked up the road to the entrance. OK. Dandelion and the other babies slept on a blanket next to her. If you're out of breath you won't think clearly. "Bradley. greetings. Tony and two visitors stood near the gates talking. Don't hurry." "Why?" Helen asked. You'll be OK. "Sue's cooking tonight. Brad. They represent Conowingo and have an offer to give us. if we can eat. one of Bradley's wives. "Kerry. I suggested later when we meet after the evening meal. "Brad wants you to make up the guest house. Sally." I told Helen." Charlie noted. Need help?" "Not really. slowly descended the hill. Helen said. and his friend Caleb." Bradley held out his hand. I wondered why Bradley offered a tour as I walked over to the fire. but we didn't know you were coming. I think that would be good. but I can see you need company. Tony pointed at us. and Sally. and stopped at the gate. Tony nodded to us as we reached the group. The driver turned the motor off. With him are Charlie. Brad and Tony can handle them." "First we have to find out what's going on. "Did you see them?" Sue asked as soon as I arrived. I heard Bradley tell them to park the car in the lot near the storehouse." Bradley took several deep breaths. He seemed almost evil. can you get Helen or someone to make up the spare house for our guests? Would you two care for a minor tour?" "Yes. our chief farmer. He's as close to a leader as we have. We'd have a place prepared for you. coasted up the slight rise. Charlie. Just a feeling. Caleb. both dressed and each carrying a package. what little I saw. Yet that Kerry had something about him.We watched as a silver Volkswagen Beetle. a look to his eyes that I didn't like. "Got more supper coming down the hill. As I left to find Helen. several years old. "I guess like Brad and I had when those two bikers tried to attack us. let's go. The car crept around the stone office building and turned into the entrance. I could see the driver get out as Tony approached him. Come on. "You're right. though why he did I did not know. We'll eat good." Kerry answered. "Yep. and then waited. "I don't know. I wondered about the strangers.

" I led them up the small path we used to go from the canoe dock to the living level. Nothing to do right now but wait. We didn't suffer any damage. I find it peaceful to sit on the bank and watch the water flow past. Make sure everyone knows to be dressed tonight. It would be easy for them to wander later if they wanted. "How many people are here?" His actions. Mostly that was just an aggravation. "You won't need those. Kerry backed the small car around and slid the keys into a pocket as he exited. We expect to have more deer next year." Bradley Tony introduced the two visitors." Kerry said as he tossed the weapons back in the car and locked the door. You have my word on that. if I have your word for it. I'm beginning to feel safer about the fish. It has been a long drive. although our healer thinks we should wait a few years yet. I'll be fine. about what I couldn't guess." I saw Helen on the promenade above us. "You won't need them. that it was part of how he operated. We're just a small community. I'd have to talk . showed he was used to dishonesty. He reached into the back seat and pulled out two gun belts with pistols in the holsters. "Oh. I insisted. Do you want to go?" "That would be good. we're situated near forest land that's good for hunting. though. We did have a problem with PCBs before the plague. too." I said." "Well. "Your guest house should be ready now. not too many. Bears will prove interesting. I suggested they park their car in the lot near the entrance. Kerry seemed as if he held back anger or hate. I decided not to be specific. where the sales office used to be. "Have you ever been flooded out?" "No. Let me show you around a bit. Kerry looked at me and continued to pull them out. We reached the guesthouse. As you can see. weapons. the first door on the right. I shook hands with them as I was introduced. A while ago we had heavy rains and the water came into the courtyard. locking the car. No one has used a weapon here except for hunting."Babies are sleeping. and possibly bears or wolves within ten. when I don't have other things to do." "How high does the water come when it rains?" Caleb asked. You should meet them all tonight. I noticed Kerry studied everything. No one here would steal the car. almost as if he planned a night excursion after we slept. The animals are coming back. on guard since his actions did not raise a lot of trust in my mind. Down here is the river.

I motioned to him to join us in our house. Again. "This is more than I expected. Brad. Tony. about a year or so before the death. and I said goodbye and walked out the door." she told the visitors. I'd have to give him something to consider. and a fire grew in the living room fireplace. You'll meet them all tonight. we have no leaders. "Come on in. we don't have a leader. "We're touring the area and meeting all the leaders of the communities around here. Most have been suspicious or hostile. I'm sure you'd like to rest now. who nodded. That was not what I expected to hear. tell us what you think." "You're not the leader?" "No. Tony slid in just before I closed the door. "OK. that does sound like a good idea. "Oh. "Everything you need should be here. not their size." We found seats in the main room looking out at the stream and trees. "I have a bad feeling. others go to the rescue. Sally. and tell us. the kind of thing where if someone needs help. oh. no specifics. I think there are more than them." "Yes. Just a large community sort of thing. Kerry. aliens. Nothing like a government or like that. We just want to get a coalition formed. This is not good. He seemed calmer than before. not one who controls us." "Report?" I asked. He almost whispered." "That could be. More hiding. Helen opened the door. "Yeah. "I can tell you we appreciate this." The concern I saw on his face matched his tone." Richard said. "I checked out their car real quick. and so far our report will be favorable. If it looked OK. about fifteen or twenty." Kerry told me. There was this group of invaders. You'll have to tell us about it at the fire tonight. and they sent two down to size up the defenses.to Rich about that. that's what I think. They got extra shoes. then they signaled for the troops. Tony." "And you think Kerry and Caleb might just be scouts?" I asked. The windows had been opened wide. and clothes." Kerry agreed. people usually ask Rich or me." . "It's a tactic I read about. Other than that. If a decision has to be made. Richard met us as we stepped outside. Tony said. "How many did you say there were here?" Kerry asked." I prompted." His denial of controls before they were suggested aroused my suspicions even more. "That sounds interesting. Kerry looked at Caleb. Helen.

He joined Sue and moved her to the other side of the fire." *** Sue had baked an excellent pig that night. I saw most had joined the group . Brad?" "For some reason I didn't think a specific number was a good idea. "Four more are hiding above the pond." Tony agreed. As the sun sank behind the hills just west of us. Sal. and then said. Our two guests seemed to enjoy themselves mingling. "but one question. I told Richard. "You're right. He sat for a moment." "What is an ace in the hole?" Helen asked me. The chickens Carl had brought down earlier had smoked perfectly." Tony said thoughtfully.I pictured Kerry climbing the steps from the canoe dock. one of those sayings that fits. in my opinion. "It's possible they were thinking of that. "Good. "I don't know. I started to keep an eye on Kerry. Tony lit the fire. I thought they were going to do more extensive searching while we slept. that's all. rested his hand on my shoulder. Tony. "They did seem to be scouting the area. "You told them they'd meet everyone at the fire tonight. Tony walked past and glanced at the path beside the pond." Tony said. Sometimes I have a big mouth." I said. I saw Richard watching Caleb to see if he signaled." "When?" "When we're together. My folks used to use it way back when. I'm going to find Sid and Barb. It's something to do with poker. and whispered." "Not an exact figure. How many did you say were here. "I think we need to keep our eyes open tonight." "That may be." Sally reminded me. She'd spiced it just right. and let it bake just long enough for the juices to flow." He moved off to join Carl. What do you think. Tony. They can stay out of sight in case trouble starts." I had done that. Rich?" Richard said. "That's good. If these two start trouble tonight Sidney and Barbara can be our ace in the hole. I told them fifteen or twenty. Peter walked behind me. Rich. Everyone would enjoy hearing news from whatever source. or they could have friends they'll signal later. Slowly the community worked its way to the light and warmth.

He wanted a responsible anarchy." The conversations became louder. We offer help in times of need. those with babies. I can still think corporate. we would supply batteries and an inverter. and this has me curious." Several whispered conversations started. "How would we pay for this protection? I'm sorry. let's get started. . "OK. reasonable in a small group. that you can't make on your own. I used to be a VP in one of the major companies in Florida. how do you propose to get the funds of whatever nature you use?" "That hasn't been decided yet." I waited until the whispering ended. "You've all met Kelly and Caleb. Does it still operate?" Caleb answered. we'd make what you needed and ship it on up. one where you watched out for your neighbors. but otherwise left them alone. I had a job to do. people. For steel or other high power operations. If there was a band of thieves or an invasion. George stood." Amber asked. I heard a branch break by the side of the pond away from the road. such as floods or fires. Tony stood. Conowingo had a large hydraulic power plant. I could tell that no one wanted this. We. including Sally near the outskirts. we would come together to stop it. "What do you mean by group?" "Let me tell you what we came to propose. the city of Conowingo. We can supply steel tools. However. I'm George. However. are forming a group of communities like yours. Usually I looked forward to the exchange of ideas and love. In your case. If you meet a disaster – and let me point out a fire would do you in – your neighbors and friends from the Conowingo Federation would jump in to help. Before the plague. He told Caleb. such as plows. but for some reason I didn't want this meeting to start. "I decided to join Bradley when he told me he wanted a totally free community. We would supply food and manpower until you got back on your feet. but I'm sure it will be close to a bartering process. I did not think anyone else noticed it. They come from a place called Conowingo. One of the services we offer to those willing to join our group is a source of power. "We have two generators running. how will you pay them? In turn.and were finding seats. In trade you could send us blankets and food and other things you made. If you are going to send people out to find and punish a band of thieves or whatever. and another ready to go online soon. I know you all are as curious as me about what they have to say. Let me first ask a question. what you propose could not be that. Several voices sounded as if they held anger in check.

I'm here because of that. Kerry told us. No. Kerry stood. and not ours.It's too large. You can have it either way. though. the feathers on the other. that's all. we will kill your leaders. sucker. You will set the value of food and other items. George. you'll rule yourselves. Tony. since he seems to be the leader of this group. and as many more as we need to. He slumped to the ground. Tony." One of the newcomers pointed his rifle in my direction." Tony said belligerently. the arrowhead on one side. heavily armed. no denying. We would start with Bradley. don't protest there's no leader. whoever you are! Wherever you are!" . asshole. Nothing has been decided on that subject. I'm sure knowledge can be spread around just as other trade goods. I don't want to see anything even closely resembling that now. I've seen how it works. you will be a dictatorship. "We don't want no type of ruler over us. "Then you will control trade. "That's a good question. It will be what they learn that we pass on. there would be bloodshed. "If you join willingly. That is what many have chosen. "We had it in this state. "What's that? He's dead! You'll pay for that. What sort of taxes would you assess?" "Taxes are not in the picture now. We're all trying to learn how to live again. Kerry screamed. If we have to take you over. and I didn't like it then. didn't like the taxes and want to stay away from them." "You pass on?" George asked." "That sounds like hidden taxation. isn't it? We." "Who rules?" Charlie asked. I don't think it's been discussed." "What about medicines?" Sue asked. She spoke loudly and I'm sure her voice carried. You're the leader. but just then four men appeared out of the darkness. or what Sally had said. I heard a soft noise from my left and an arrow grew in his neck. That's why we propose this type of federation. here. In fact." "How do you think you'll force us to join you?" Sally asked from the back of the group. too. we agree that someone who does not live here and does not know the situation should not make decisions. You would have to tax the outlying communities. It's more of a trade group with mutual protection thrown in. If these two could not and did not use tact. ruled by us. Some are doing better than others. I don't know if it was because of a signal from Caleb. "If we have to. I could feel the anger growing. I'm sure a form of trade will be worked out." Murmurs of agreement circled the fire.

The preacher from the Southern Baptist church there. Our Eldest." Two dirty men. from the dark near the top of the pond. "By the fire. "We live near the big river. our beliefs. and the help of Christ Jesus. "You don't know what we have. Well. With God's help. but we came too late. Caleb. The voice said. The man with the longer hair said. we will build a new world. Now we're a peaceful folk following the teachings of the Scripture and just want to be left alone. "Now be quiet. the two who were with you by the fire. Stand next to your subordinates. and we told him so. come here. who led us. Then he commanded. he carefully removed the weapons from the three stranger's clothes and hands. You God damn Jesus freaks will learn to toe the line or I'll teach you myself!" "Settle down. their clothes in shreds." Richard prompted. They had their arms raised over their heads. "We own you and your kin. We told them that. We followed them to warn who they spoke to next. We come in peace."I would suggest standing still. and they shot several of our men folk. one of love for all mankind." "Who are you?" Richard called back." Richard said quietly. "I will do no such thing. hair and beards unkempt. half buried in the ground. you. You said you would offer us protection. We are unarmed. "Stay there. and burned our houses. do you?" Richard asked quietly with a slight smile." The shaggy man continued. as I imagine you do. You don't even have weapons!" An arrow appeared at his feet. came to our village preaching a large community and trade. we don't need it. a male voice called. These two. gathered the sheep of the Lord to the River when the heretics tried to destroy the world. "Kerry." Just then." Richard said. Now we must decide what to do with you. You have threatened us with death and the destruction of our chosen way of life. from a different direction than the first. as you can see. Standing directly in front of them. you!" one of the warriors shouted. . His talk of guns and killing went against our ways. Brother Michael. "We are from a village that these men attacked yesterday." "Show yourselves slowly. He stood and slowly moved toward the armed men. "We are a peaceful folk trying to follow the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ in these trying times. They would have done the same to you." the shouter replied. we would have to fight. He said. "You can't stop us. near what used to be called Delaware City. He said that if we were asked." "Shut up. slowly walked into the light. Tell us what happened.

lost friends and property. After he agreed they burned a house and barn. however. we would survive. "Those two. he told them we were a peaceful folk and just wanted to be left alone. The shaggy man answered. he told Brother Michael to shut up. We don't have the right to decide. and the arrogant bastard smirked. That one. They killed one of the women who was close to child. said. It was all I could do to hold back. However." I couldn't believe what I'd heard. then killed Elder Cyrus. in my rage. "You've heard what he said. I wanted to tear Caleb's arms off." Richard said. Just watch. he knew they'd done us no wrong. Then he almost laughed when he said. gathered us in. is that right?" "Yes. It's been hard. Elder Bob. Even the Mafia wasn't that bad. They killed Elder Bob." "A tribute? Bull shit! That's taxes!" Tony shouted. "True enough." Richard had made the proper decision. We'll do the same to you. These were just petty crooks using fear as power." He pointed to the two at the edge of the firelight. then his head. and let another point that out. and with God's help. What do you say?" Charley rose. "Let me get this straight. we've stayed alive. He stood there. that one named Caleb." Rich backed off and turned to those around the fire. under guard. "Is what he said true?" Caleb smirked.Brother Michael. They killed two men. Elder Jacob told Jed and me to follow and try to warn the next group they met. and if we worshiped Jesus in the Baptist way. Brother Michael told him that those who lived by greed. a woman and the baby she carried. I. Elder Cyrus agreed to what they wanted to save the rest of the congregation. he was the preacher and our leader. They killed Brother Michael for that. I glared at Caleb. "They really haven't done anything to us other than threaten. and pay a tribute of a quarter of the food we grow. empty luckily. "The Lord said to forgive and turn the other . would have ordered them killed on the spot. It's up to them to decide. that is what they did. So here we are. but by the sweat of our brow. yet. Then these two came and told us we have to join this community of theirs. although you couldn't see where the guards were. We'd have to let the visitors from the other village decide. I must admit I had trouble holding myself back. He told us this was the will of God. "That's what Brother Michael. and not by honest and hard work. by shear brute force. too. would spend eternity in Hell.

cheek. I believe they should be forgiven and sent on their way with instructions to come no farther north than the canal or the Big Elk River." "Amen," Amos quietly said. Out of the darkness a woman's voice called, "I don't agree with Charlie, or the visitor, and I'm sure Sid won't either." Barbara moved into the light, her bow trained on Caleb. "Sid's out of earshot, but he can see, and kill. Rich, if we let these killers go, they'll only do it again, and bring more force here. We need to teach them a lesson, one they won't forget. One that will tell them and their friends not to mess with those to the north." Richard looked at her for a moment, her determined stance, her lowered eyebrows, the way she held her bow pointed steadily at Caleb. He smiled slightly. "I don't know. One of them has been killed from a distance with a weapon that's supposedly out of date. Wait for a moment. Give me one of their guns." Richard whispered something to Sue, who handed him a small bag. He accepted the weapon Margaret handed him, threw it in a pot of water, added some of the contents of the bag, and placed it on the fire. I reminded him that fire would set off the gunpowder. Richard said, "It won't get that hot. I want to try something. Give me a few minutes." An honorable request, and I'm sure the way we kept deferring to each other confused those from Conowingo. "While we wait, why don't you two from Delaware City have a bite to eat? Sue, can you and Shelly get some food for our guests? I believe they're hungry. They should stay there, and you stay out of the line of fire." The girls loaded plates with ham and chicken and greens. I watched those from the other village devour the pork, chicken, and vegetables while we waited for Richard. I decided their village was not doing as well as ours. Richard finally removed the pot from the fire and emptied the contents on the ground. After he let the gun cool, he said, "In a few months, or years, these weapons will become corroded, and the gunpowder old. This will be the usefulness of your guns." He pointed the weapon at the ground and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He opened the chamber and showed the men from Conowingo how corrosion had set in and the gun would not work. "That will happen to all your weapons. We, however, have bows we use for hunting. Very good bows, as I'm sure you have noticed. Believe me when I tell you they will bring down a deer from over one hundred yards." He looked pointedly at the man lying on the ground with an arrow through his neck. Richard asked, "Do you need another demonstration?" "I don't believe you," Kerry said. "The strongest bow made is only

accurate to fifty yards or so." Richard turned to the shaggy man from Delaware City and asked, "In the old testament, what would be the punishment for killing a man?" "Death, but Jesus taught us to forgive." Richard hung his head as if in thought, then looked at me and said, "Death. Bradley, may I?" I thought I knew what he planned. I didn't like what I thought he would do, however we did have to show we would not put up with terror tactics. "I'm not happy, but go ahead," I told him. Richard turned toward the people of the other village and asked, "Which of these men killed your people?" The shaggy man said, "The one on the ground, and that one over there." "This one?" Richard asked, pointing at one of the four. "Yes, that one." Richard peered into the darkness, shrugged, pointed at the man, made a cutting motion across his neck, and walked away. An arrow pierced the prisoner's neck, killing him. Richard turned back to the invaders. "Justice for murder. Kerry, Caleb, have I made my point? We will not put up with invaders of any kind. You go back to Conowingo and tell them that we to the north can defend ourselves, and that your best course of action is to leave us alone. If you want to trade, fine, but send someone else. You will die on sight." He turned to me. "Can we get rid of the bodies?" "I'll do that," Barbara said. She lifted one man in a firefighter's carry and dragged the other off toward the river. The constant walking and working had been good for all of us. I stared at each of the invaders for a full minute doing my best to look disgusted. Finally, I said, "You of Conowingo can all fit in the car. We don't want you or your kind near us. Leave, and don't come back. And remember, you are being watched." We watched as they moved into the darkness. "Now, you of Delaware City. Those folk did you wrong. Do you need anything? Do you have enough supplies? Do you need medicines? A healer?" "Thank you for your hospitality and offer," the shaggy man answered. "We have what we need for now. We fish and farm, and are so fed. We have very few sick or hurt. God watches out for us. We do have things you might need. How do you keep bugs from your outdoor gatherings in the summer? We gather plants near us that work very well. If we go down river a day, we can gather salt. Could you use that?" I missed salt. Besides the spicing of food, salt would allow us to preserve

meat and make better use of our resources. "Since you now know where we are, why don't you send one of your more liberal people to set up a trade agreement? He can see what we have and find what you need. We can exchange ideas and learn about each others' ways. However, he, she, or they must be very open minded and not easily offended. We do have different ways than yours." "That sounds like a good idea. I will bring it to the elder, now eldest." "Do you know of any other communities close by?" Tony asked. The shaggy man said, "No. You are the first we've met, besides the invaders. We trust the Lord to protect us, but what of yourselves? Aren't you afraid they will return?" I answered, "Not really. Not for a while. They're bullies. They figured they could take over the small, unorganized communities around them and that way get by without farming. They may do that, but not with us. Nor with you, now, I think. Like a bully from back in school, if they meet resistance they'll run. I think we're safe from them. There are others, though. Be careful." An engine started and slowly traveled up the hill. "That took a while," Margaret said. Richard stood. "I'm going to check on things, and Sid. We have an open guest house now, if you two would like to spend the night." "Don't bother checking on me," Sid called from the darkness. He stepped into the firelight, one of the new bows unstrung hanging on his shoulder. "They won't be so crowded for the trip home. There's another body I'll dump in a bit. They thought about sabotaging our supplies. I discouraged them." He moved toward the food. The Shaggy man said, "Then we can report when we return how you helped us. Yes, a bed to sleep in would be most welcome." "I believe you would like to get clean, first," Sally said. "I have questions for you, if I may join you?" "Getting clean would be good," the one called Jed answered in a deep bass. This was the first time he had spoken. "We would rather bath alone, or with a male escort so we don't get lost. The Elder says that to view the other sex in nakedness is wrong." Sally looked shocked, as did several others. I had thought that would be their policy, which is why I suggested an open-minded ambassador. Is that the word? I thought how lucky we were they didn't come during the hot part of the year. Jed continued, "I will answer questions though. What do you wish to know?" Sally took a deep breath. "Mainly what you believe about your dealings

with people. What if they are different? What if they believe differently than you?" "I can see that your beliefs and laws are different than ours. Men and women sit together. Some hold hands or each other. You killed to protect yourselves. These are different from what we do. Yet you immediately offered to help us. That shows you are good people. We could trade with you if the Eldest agrees, but I don't believe we could have a closer relationship than that. Does that answer your question?" "Well, sort of. I wasn't thinking of trade, but of friendship. I think you answered that." "Why don't I show you where you can have a swim and get clean?" I offered. We three left the fire to walk to the other side of the road. They wanted privacy, and above the dam would be private and calm. While we walked, I told them, "I agree we can trade, and should trade. Why don't you send a person or two with some of those plants you told us about? They can see what we offer, and what we're missing that you can supply. Like salt. Bring some of that, too. We'll send what we can. Oh, you'll want to send your most tolerant people, possibly a husband and wife." "We will see what the Eldest has to say," the shaggy man said. "Well, here we are. I can wait if you want. Or better yet, you look like you could use clean clothes. Do you want me to scrounge something up?" Jed answered, "That would be a blessing." "Then I will return shortly." I left as they began to get undressed. Tony wore about the same size as the one called Jed, I thought. I believed my clothes would fit the other. I knew I had many extras. I could afford to donate jeans and a shirt. Tony would, too, I thought. I worked my way back toward the fire. Sidney and Barbara each had a plate of food. Both were bloody and naked. Sidney waved a chicken leg at me. "Hey, Brad. We'll clean up after those two are done. Are they for real? Sounds to me like they went overboard on that religion stuff." "Possibly they did, Sid," I answered, "but they still need our help. Believe me, I have no interest in visiting them, or getting to know them better. I don't think they'd fit in our group. They do need clothes." I pulled Tony aside. Quietly I said, "Tony, I think that one called Jed would fit into your stuff." "I have a spare pair of pants, and a shirt. I'll go get them. You know, I'll bet they don't have charcoal, or any way of working metal." "I'll mention that to them when I take them their clothes." "How 'bout Sue and I come over later. With the kid Sue's just not

trading. Rumors and tales were all they knew. I met the traders. Keith and Carris their names. The two traders did agreed that the girls should have a new home. with which village we'd speak. Since then we've been farming. Then Sue did explain About the girls. the second time around. Samuel Three weeks later. stuff like that. about the trade. Works for me. We developed trade with them. . *** Spoke. How do I know? I counted the fires. Tony." In the morning Richard." I considered what the girls would say. and with others as I've said. They could not give me any news about those in the town Who said they worshiped Jesus Christ and called each other brothers. For now I share my bed with Carris. They would not tread that ground. though. . almost to the point of becoming fanatical. for now. They said they would speak to all the others the next time that they roam.interested anymore. It could work to spread the genes and keep birth defects down. but the river folk want nothing to do with us anymore. that's really all the interesting info. That's really all there is. The river folk were becoming more religious the last time we had dealings with them. "Could be fun. Grab those clothes and I'll meet you at the entrance. and I woke in time to see the two strangers off. When everyone gathers and enjoys the night. the night at the end of the week. Richard OK. Check with the others. with Keith and Carris before I visited others. I did.

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