Today is part two of the story Survivor from our guest poster Amy of Subject to Change.
The stench is awful. Jonah tells me the chemical tang hanging in the air and burning my nasal passages is the napalm, but that's not the worst of it. It's the burnt smell. Intellectually you'd think it was no different than leaving a steak on the grill for too long, but it's not. Somehow knowing that the still-smoking piles of bones crunching under the tires used to be people makes the smell so much worse.
At least we're not hungry anymore. We came up yesterday and stocked up on food, water, and gas. We switched the car for a truck because I figured having something with four wheel drive would probably be a good idea sooner or later. We looted a weapons shop, too. I remember making jokes about all this stuff when it was a just videogame scenario. It's not nearly as fun when it's real.
* * *
We're almost on the edge of the city now, I can see the barricades a few miles away. It took us two days to get out this far because we stopped along the way to see if we could find any other survivors.
No. Why am I lying? It wasn't anything nearly so altruistic. We did pick up a few people but I wasn't looking for them. I went home looking for Eric. I don't know why because he was all the way across town at work when the shit hit the fan. And even if he could have made it home he wouldn't have stayed there. He knew about Grandpa's stupid panic room, they all did. They would've tried to make their way there if they could have. Still, I had to check. After I went home I stopped at everyone's houses and jobs but I didn't find them. No one survived, at least not that I found. I didn't really expect them to be alive anyway
But when we were looking for the rest of our family we found the others. Jack, Isabel, Stephanie and Charles. Jack is six or seven. We found him wandering alone. I don't know how he managed to survive everything because he won't talk. We only know his name because his mom embroidered it into the collar of his jacket. I cried when I saw that. Isabel and Stephanie were in town with some friends to celebrate the New Year and Charles is an ex-marine, so that'll be useful, even if he is fifty-something. When we picked him up he set the break in Jonah's leg and found some pain meds for him.
We're on the 15 heading towards LA. That's where Isabel and Stephanie are from and they want to go home. Seems like as good a destination as any and the rest of us don't have a home anymore, so why not? Jonah, Jack, and I are sleeping in the back of the truck. Well, Jonah and Jack are asleep. Jonah's been passed out ever since Charles found those meds for him this afternoon. Jack's curled up in a little tiny ball against my side. I can feel him shaking and he whimpers in his sleep. I can't sleep. I keep thinking about everyone I left behind. What if I gave up too quickly? What if they're still alive out there somewhere?
* * *
The freeway is blocked off at the mountain pass. We weren't the only survivors from Vegas and apparently they all decided to go to LA as well, only the California Highway Patrol won't let anyone thru. People are saying they're shooting anyone trying to sneak by on foot, no questions asked. Looks like we're stuck here for a while. We could turn around and try to go somewhere else, but why bother? I'm sure every route out of Vegas has undergone the same treatment by now. None of the nearby cities are gonna risk infection just to give sanctuary to a few unlucky bastards that weren't smart enough to die right away.
There's a sort of refugee camp here now. People huddled together for protection. There's already been eight infections discovered, but they were killed before they could turn anyone else. Charles was one of them, turns out he got bit on the leg a few hours before we found him. He'd been hopped up on coke the whole time he was with us. Apparently that slows the process.
* * *
There's about sixty of us altogether. People kept trickling in for a little while, a few of them every hour or so, sometimes alone, sometimes in a small group like ours, but that's stopped. There hasn't been anyone new approaching in more than half a day. The pass is still blocked. We'll probably die here.
There's barely two dozen of us left. So many people have died, or been killed, because of this stupid virus. The other refugees brought it in with them, just like we did, because they couldn't admit to themselves that their loved ones were infected. Isabel heard from someone that they're gonna take out the camp because the California government doesn't want to risk us infecting their perfect golden citizens.
I can hear the helicopters coming with the napalm now. I should get up and try to run, like Isabel and Stephanie did, but I've got nowhere to go. Besides Jonah can't run anywhere and Jack's gotten sick from being out in the cold for so long. I can't leave them. I sang to Jack til he fell asleep, the poor kid. He must be more messed up than I thought if he can find my singing soothing. Anyway, he's peaceful now as the choppers bear down on us. That's the best I can do for him, make sure he's not afraid anymore. I've put these papers in a toolbox that I found in the back of the truck we stole and had Isabel take it out far enough from the camp that hopefully it won't be in range of the fire. I don't know why I want them to survive. Maybe they'll answer some questions for someone. Jack's mom, if she's still alive, or maybe Eric if he managed to escape, which I can't seem to stop hoping for.
If you're reading this it means that no miracle saved us at the last minute. After I handed these papers off to Isabel I went back to our makeshift tent and fed Jack the rest of the pain meds so I could be sure he'd sleep through whatever was coming. And who knows? Maybe I slept, too.
Good work, Amy, and thanks again for your story. A big thanks to everyone else who has sent us pics and links as well, we appreciate it.