Authors: Edwin Page
‘How can you smile?’ Clive looked at me in disbelief.
‘It’s what they deserve. They placed themselves in the roles of gods,
false gods whose power was a temporary illusion. They spent most of their sorry
lives watching as so many struggled and did they lift a goddamn finger to help?
They deserve to fucking suffer!’
‘Surely there’s some way to survive this?’ said Dodge, standing with a
forlorn look on his face as he stared across the parking lot.
I stepped over to him and placed my free hand upon his shoulder. He
turned to me, his gaze haunted by what I’d said, the middle of his brow deeply
‘You’ve already outlived millions, probably billions. Now you’ll all bear
testament to the glory of God.’
‘Glory?’ He stared at me as if I was insane.
I nodded. ‘Yes,’ I replied, giving his shoulder a squeeze of reassurance.
‘You’ll see the truth of it in time.’
I released him and took a step back. ‘We need to get the food. The longer
we stay the more likely others will begin to realise they should be doing the
I turned from
the fresh loaves resting on the kitchen counter as Bob entered the room. ‘Do
you think anyone will still come?’ I asked as he went to the sink, crouching
and opening the cupboard beneath.
‘What do you mean?’ he asked, looking over his shoulder.
‘To the Women’s Group meeting this evening.’
Realisation dawned. ‘I doubt it, but then, Hildie never was aware of
anything much other than herself. She probably hasn’t even noticed anything’s
happened apart from discovering her tanning bed isn’t working.’
‘It’s spray-on,’ I responded with a thin smile as he peered into the
cupboard and began to root around.
‘There they are. I knew we had some.’ He pulled a red box from the
shadows and turned to face me as he stood, holding it out towards me so that I
could see the picture of candles on top.
I nodded, my thoughts still dwelling on the meeting that was scheduled
for that evening. ‘Should I make some sandwiches just in case?’
‘Is that what I think it is?’ he asked, turning to the view out of the
window beside him as regular tapping began to filter into the room from outside.
‘I sounds like…’ My mouth hung open slightly as I went over to stand
beside Bob and stared out into the large back yard with its flower borders,
seeing Chrissie playing jump rope and counting off each skip.
‘I didn’t even know she had one,’ I commented. ‘She must have dug it out
of the back of her wardrobe.’
We stood and watched her as our sense of surprise was replaced by
melancholy in the face of her childhood innocence. Her rediscovery of simple
joy thanks to the absence of electricity or phone reception was a sad sight in
the context of what had happened to the world at large.
‘Next she’ll be trying to catch butterflies in jars or building a raft
for the lake,’ commented Bob in an attempt to lighten the mood. ‘We’ll have to
start calling her Huckleberry Williams.’
I didn’t smile. ‘Are you still planning to head out tonight?’ I asked,
looking up at the bank of cloud coming in from the south, an unnatural brown
taint to their darkness.
‘Yeah,’ he replied. ‘It won’t take long.’
He took hold of my arm and turned me to him, looking into my eyes. ‘You
know it’s the right thing to do, don’t you? We’ve got no chance of fitting even
half of what we need into the Interceptor.’
‘And you’re certain there’s no way we can stay?’
‘There’s no reason to stay.’
My eyebrows rose in response to his answer. ‘What about our life here?
What about our daughter and our friends?’ I asked, glancing at the lakeside
photo of the three of us that rested on the sill, the image of Bob teaching
Chrissie to skim stones coming to mind.
‘We don’t have a life here anymore, Leah. It’s over. It may not feel like
it. Heck, even I have to take a moment now and then to remind myself what’s
happened, but it has happened. You only have to try turning on the lights to
know it’s true.’
‘But it can’t be over. I mean…’ I shook my head, finding it hard to
comprehend what had happened. There was no damage outside, no noticeable effect
of the bomb other than the electricity being off, and without some visible
evidence it was almost impossible for me to grasp the situation. ‘…Surely the
government will step in. There’ll be help on its way.’
‘From where?’ asked Bob pointedly. ‘New York won’t be the only place
where the bomb dropped. There’ll be dozens maybe even hundreds more. Even if
some remnants of the National Guard or army still remain, there’s little chance
they’ll be on their way here.’
I turned to look over my right shoulder, gaze settling on Chrissie as she
continued to skip merrily in the back yard. ‘There has to be a way we can
‘I wish there were, but I can’t see any other option. There’s going to be
a lot of people realising the same thing very soon, or at least getting to
grips with what’s happened and what they need to do in order to survive. We
stay and we’ll be fighting off looters, or worse. We need to get out while we
still have the chance.’
‘The police?’ I looked back at him.
‘From the lack of sirens I’d say they’re with their families and probably
having similar discussions to ours.’
He held my gaze. ‘There’s something else,’ he said, his expression
‘What?’ I asked, my tension rising in response to the strain evident in
‘I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to worry you even
‘What is it, Bob?’
‘There’s a good chance we’ll be overrun. Where do you think all the
survivors from New York will head?’
‘You think they’ll come north?’
He nodded. ‘Maybe not all of them, but imagine a few hundred thousand
sick and injured coming through here. They’ll pick us clean and we’d be lucky
to escape with our lives.’
My pulse became elevated as I imagined hordes of refugees pouring into Burlington,
ransacking the houses and taking everything they could, willing to kill for the
chance to prolong their survival. My gaze returned to our daughter and a hot
flush came upon me.
She glanced up at the window and saw my look of concern, her rhythm being
disturbed and the rope becoming caught about her ankles. ‘What’s wrong, Mommy?’
she called through the glass.
I shook my. ‘Nothing for you to worry about, Honey,’ I replied, forcing a
Chrissie glanced at the sky, taking the jump rope handles in one hand and
holding the other out with the palm up. ‘It’s starting to rain,’ she commented
with a frown.
A quick, fine rain began to fall. There wasn’t a breath of wind. I
remember it with such clarity. I remember it because it was the first time I’d
been fearful of the rain.
I leant forward and banged on the glass to get Chrissie’s attention.
‘Come in now, Honey,’ I called, trying to hide my fear, but the tone of my
voice revealing its presence.
She looked at me questioningly.
‘Quickly now,’ I said, ‘you don’t want to catch cold.’ Besides the risk
of fallout, Chrissie had a weak constitution, something my mom had always sworn
was related to her being premature and spending the first two weeks of her life
in an incubator.
‘Can’t I stay out here a little longer? It’s only a bit of rain.’
I glanced up at the bulbous clouds as I shook my head. ‘No, you need to
get inside and you need to hurry.’
‘Do as your mother says,’ added Bob firmly.
Her frown deepened, but she made for the back door, her demeanour one of
dejection as she dragged the rope behind and shuffled her feet.
‘Do you think that’s come up from New York?’ I asked, staring up at the
‘Yes,’ replied Bob, the single word carrying the weight of his concerns
and reflecting my own.
He looked down at the box of candles in his hand. ‘Haven’t we got more in
with the Christmas decorations up in the loft?’
I turned to him and nodded. ‘I think so,’ I replied. ‘Won’t the RV have
‘Yeah, but there’s no harm in being prepared. Anything that may come in
useful we should pack. We’re going to have enough room.’
‘Is there anything I can do?’
‘Start packing your clothes and get Chrissie to do the same. Warm clothes
are the priority and comfortable is better than respectable.’
‘But it’s nearly summer.’
Bob glanced outside. ‘I’m not sure the sun’s going to show its face again
for a long time. Best to pack layers.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’ll get all the water containers into the hall and pack up all the
food. We need to be ready to rock ‘n’ roll once I get back with the RV.’
‘You’re getting an RV?’ asked Chrissie as she entered the kitchen and we
both turned to her.
‘That’s right. We’re all going to be taking a trip together,’ said Bob,
adopting a smile.
‘A trip? Where are we going?’
‘We thought we’d head up to the mountains. It’ll be an adventure.’
She looked at us in puzzlement. ‘You didn’t mention it before.’
‘It’s a spur of the moment thing, Honey. So be a good girl and go and get
some clothes packed.’
‘Can I ask Rachel to come?’ she said with an expectant expression.
Bob shook his head. ‘This is a family trip, Honey. It’s a chance for the
three of us to spend some quality time together.’
She studied us for a moment. ‘Is it because of the bomb?’
‘Yes,’ he responded. ‘We just need to go somewhere safe for a while.’
‘We aren’t safe here?’ She glanced over her shoulder at the hallway.
‘Daddy didn’t say that,’ I said, giving Bob a hard stare. ‘We’re just
going to take a trip for a week or two and then we’ll be back when everything
has settled down.’ I hated lying to her, but I didn’t want Chrissie getting
panicked. I needed her calm and together in order to get her things ready for
our departure. The last thing I wanted was floods of tears. I couldn’t handle
it just then, wouldn’t have been able to hold it together if I’d have seen our
daughter in distress. I was having enough trouble as it was, that would have
been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
‘So we’re coming home?’
I nodded and hoped the gesture turned out to be the truth rather than
‘We’ll be gone a few weeks at the most,’ said Bob, the tone of his voice
far from convincing.
She stood in thought for a while. ‘Can I take Ollie?’
‘Of course, Honey,’ I said, relieved that she’d believed us.
She nodded to herself. ‘I’ll go and pack.’
Chrissie turned and skipped from the room, the jump rope still in her
hands. We watched her go and a feeling of great sadness welled within me. How
were we going to preserve her innocence? The world she had known was over and
there was no way to stop this truth leeching into our existence. She would come
to know it. She would come to see it. There was no way to protect her from the
We walked into
Emergency. Shane and David flanked me, keeping one step ahead and masking the
fact that I was carrying my handgun. Wade walked behind, the bandana that had
covered his face as he sat behind the wheel of the Chevy now around his neck.
He and David were identical twins, born with a minute of each other, and if it
weren’t for the bandana it would have been virtually impossible to tell them
We went straight up to the nurse’s station with purpose. The nurse seated
behind the counter looked up as we neared, paperwork scattered before her. The
wards and the branching corridors were largely vacant of staff, but there were
lots of patients lying or sitting on beds and trolleys, some looking as if
they’d already kicked the bucket.
‘Can I help you?’ she asked, black hair scraped back and the tightness
about her dark eyes hinting at the stress she was feeling as one of the few
members of staff who’d arrived for work that morning.
Shane and David moved aside, hand to the pistols tucked into the tops of
their jeans. I rested my gun on the counter, its barrel pointed at her head.
‘Firstly, you can keep quiet and not make any sudden movements,’ I
replied. ‘Unless you want to find yourself with a gunshot wound that’s beyond
She looked to the gun and nodded. ‘Okay.’
‘Second, you can take us to the dispensary.’
‘And be quick about it.’
She glanced around, no one else having noticed what was happening and no
help in sight. Rising slowly, she kept her hands in sight. ‘There are people here
that need the medication,’ she said in a whisper. ‘Just look around you.’
I shrugged. ‘That’s not my problem.’
She held my gaze. ‘Are you going to let these people suffer?’
‘They’re just the tip of the iceberg. It won’t be long until everyone’s
begging for relief. Have you got enough meds for the whole city and for anyone
who makes it here from the south? How long do you think it’ll be before you’re
‘Now, take us to the fucking dispensary or I’ll let the gun do the
talking.’ I waved her to the exit from the counter with the gun.
She walked around to the right and came out from behind. ‘This way,’ she
stated, moving off along the corridor ahead of her.
We followed, Wade continuing to stay to the rear, glancing over his
shoulder and keeping his eyes open for any trouble.
‘Hold up,’ I stated, bringing us to a halt beside a gurney that was resting
beside the left-hand wall.
I looked at the elderly woman lying on top. Her eyes were closed and I
couldn’t see any sign of life. Grasping her far arm, I rolled her towards me
and sent her tumbling over the edge as I stepped back, her body thudding to the
‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ said the nurse, quickly
crouching by the woman’s side and taking up her hand, checking her withered
wrist for a pulse.
I ignored her and whipped the green cover off the gurney. ‘Let’s get
She looked up at me, her eyes containing a flare of anger. ‘We need to
get her back on the gurney,’ she replied.
‘We need to get to the dispensary.’
She shook her head. ‘Not until we get her off the floor. We can’t just
leave her here.’
‘She’s as good as dead anyways,’ I stated.
The nurse took the old woman beneath the arms and began to attempt
lifting her frail form.
I put the gun to the old woman’s temple. ‘Either you take us there right now
or I blow her fucking brains all over your uniform. The choice is yours.’ My
gaze was ice.
She glared at me, motionless with the woman still grasped in her hands.
‘I won’t tell you again.’
With teeth gritted, she lowered the patient back to the cold floor.
I waved her on with the gun. With a look of disdain, she continued down
the corridor and we followed close, soon coming to a stop before a door with a
‘Is everything okay, Rose?’
I pushed the gun into her side, making sure my body hid the movement
before looking back over my shoulder at the orderly who stood before the
‘Yes, everything’s fine,’ she replied, the deception clear in her tone of
voice and the strain evident in her expression.
‘Are you sure? What happened to Mrs Davidson?’
‘She’s fine,’ stated Wade, drawing the gun from the back of his jeans and
holding it at his side, his words containing a clear threat.
The orderly looked at the gun and balked. ‘What do you want?’
‘Open the fucking door, Rose,’ I hissed, turning to glare at her. ‘If you
don’t your friend dies.’
She hesitated a moment as the orderly remained at the end of the
corridor. She then punched in a series of numbers and opened the door.
‘Good girl,’ I stated condescendingly, pushing her into the shelf-lined
room with the barrel of the gun. ‘Shane, you’re with me. You two stay out here
and if anyone tries to interfere, shoot them,’ I said to the Chang brothers.
Slipping into the room, I nodded to the door and Shane closed it behind
us. ‘You watch her,’ I stated.
He drew his handgun and pointed it at Rose. I tucked my weapon into my
board shorts and lay the bed sheet in the middle of the floor. Moved to the
shelving on the left, I began to scan the bottles, boxes and packets gathered
there, taking anything that I thought could be of use. Bandages, antiseptic, antibiotics,
painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and morphine were all thrown onto the
sheet. I didn’t leave any of it behind for the patients. Most looked totally fucked
Stuffing my pockets with a few packets of morphine tablets, I gathered up
the corners of the sheet, finding that it was too bulky to carry and would have
to be dragged instead. Rose watched, holding her silence, but saying all she
needed to with her gaze as she stared at me with distaste.
I stepped to the door and the crack of a gunshot sounded from the
corridor outside. ‘Is everything okay out there?’ I called index finger
hovering over the keypad after having noted the combination.
‘Wade shot the orderly,’ stated David from the far side. ‘We need to get
the fuck out of Dodge before anyone else comes running.’
I tapped in the numbers and opened the door. Peering out, I discovered
the brothers standing back to back as they held their guns at the ready, the
body of the orderly lying along the corridor to the left.
‘You shot Otis!’ exclaimed Rose, suddenly running from the dispensary and
making for her fallen colleague.
Wade glanced at me questioningly. I nodded.
Another shot rang out, the sound amplified in the close confines of the
corridor and making my ears ring as I winced. Rose’s legs buckled and she fell
forward, sprawling on the floor and sliding forward with her momentum. Her head
softly bumped into Otis’, the orderly’s body bring her to a halt. She lay
‘Let’s go,’ I stated, taking the lead and dragging the makeshift sack
behind me as the patients stared at us fearfully.
We made our way out of Emergency, the automatic doors now permanently
open thanks to the lack of electricity. Heading left, we made for the small
convoy waiting beneath the sluggish clouds that continued to fill the sky and
darken the day.
‘You get the meds?’ asked Dodge, who was standing at the driver’s door of
the Raptor with gun in hand.
I nodded, a little out of breath as I approached Wade’s Chevy. It was in
the centre of the convoy, the vehicles pulled up where the ambulances would
normally park in waiting. ‘Let’s get going.’
‘Back to the church,’ I replied, going around the trunk to the passenger
door, the other five vehicles packed with food and drink.
I opened the door and glanced back to the entrance. An elderly man in a
wheelchair rolled into view, craning his neck to watch us with a look of
disbelief on his haggard and bearded face, his left leg in plaster.
Ducking into the car as Wade jumped into the driver’s seat, I dragged the
bulging sack onto my lap with a grunt of effort and slammed the door. Dodge
pulled away at the front and the rest followed, moving out onto the highway and
heading north to the church.
The road was still relatively empty, only a couple of other vehicles visible
as I smiled to myself, hands cradling the meds. I knew that they and the food
would win over most who still doubted my credentials to lead the group. There’d
still be a few who’d remain loyal to Reverend Peters, but I felt certain a way
to deal with them would become apparent, that God’s guidance would bring
inspiration and end their opposition to my leadership.