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The wanderer
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4,350 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
"Twilight in the Desert" - a short story of TEOTWAWKI

Fred nosed the uhaul truck down the sandy hill, through the loose gravel and out onto the rocky point. The water of Lake Mead spread out below them, the shoreline twisting and wandering between ridges and washes. He turned the truck around and parked on a flat spot, the rear door opening toward the view of the lake.

The uhaul had been converted to a camper. It was February, and Fred and his wife, Wilma, had come down for a couple months to get out of the cold winter of the north. They didn’t seek out the parking-lot style RV parks, choosing instead to be in the wilderness. They had become familiar with the gravel roads that led them to remote camping sites.

“How’s this?” asked Fred. “Do you like the angle?” They emerged from the truck on each side, and Wilma walked around the back of the uhaul. She looked in all directions, then smiled and nodded her head.

They settled in, putting out lawn chairs, unhitching and unloading the motorcycle and bicycles from the trailer, and letting the dog out to run in circles. The sun was about to sink behind the ridge, so they cooked a quick dinner, then sank into their lawn chairs to watch the stars come out.

The city of Las Vegas was 50 miles away, over the ridge to their west. An endless line of airplanes, waiting to land ther,e spread across the desert sky in a line to the northeast. They turned their landing lights on over Lake Mead but had to keep their altitude up to make it over the ridge between there and Las Vegas.

Across the lake lived a band of wild burros, and their braying could be heard in the distance. Now and then a fish hit the surface, making a rippling sound, and there were the soft sounds of birds settling in for the night. Other than that, the desert night was silent.

“Ahhh, it’s good to be here. It seems like the drive gets longer every year!” said Fred.

“I know what you mean. Colder, too. That night at the rest area in Idaho took a lot out of me. Though it’s not always 8 degrees when we come through. The forecast was for a lot warmer than that.” Wilma sighed and leaned her head back. A shadow flitted over them, against the stars. A bat, probably, or some small night bird.

For a few days, the weather was sunny and in the 60’s. They rode bicycles to some of their favorite places in the area, including a hidden hot spring, and they hiked over the nearby hills and up the washes. They sat in the sun and soaked up the warmth. One day they rode the motorcycle to a small town 15 miles away and used the internet at the library to send emails to their kids and friends.

“Hmph. Rain’s coming Friday, and wind just ahead of it. Guess we’ll have to batten down the hatches!” Fred said, listening to their weather radio. It was Wednesday. They washed all the dishes and the laundry, then hung the laundry on a line they strung from the uhaul-camper to their folding picnic table. They made sure everything outside was picked up and that the lawn chairs were folded and placed under the uhaul.

It was pleasant that evening, so they made a campfire and cooked hot dogs. They sat nearby, looking at the sky. No sign of clouds yet.

During the night the uhaul-camper shook, waking Wilma. Then it began rocking as the wind pummeled it. Yup, that’s how it worked in the desert. One minute it’s calm, the next minute the wind is trying to peel everything off the surface of the earth. She gave a quick look around the camper to make sure all was okay, and went back to sleep. The dog, sleeping by the door, edged farther into the camper, away from the door, and buried it’s nose in it’s paws and went back to sleep.

In the morning they woke to the sharp patter of raindrops splatting on the roof. The wind nearly tore the door from the uhaul when they opened it. When they’d converted the uhaul to a camper they had removed the original door that filled the back opening, and built a wall with a camper door in the middle. It was nice and airtight, and it not only had a window, but the window opened! They’d felt lucky with the doors and windows they’d found for the uhaul.

“Well, it’s a good day to stay inside and read!” Fred said while Wilma cooked breakfast. Over the summer they accumulated books from yard sales and library sales, and ordered a few off the internet; saving them for winter when things were slow. They always brought some of them along to Nevada.

All day it rained. They stood up and marched in place and walked back and forth in the small space from time to time, but otherwise spent the day reading or cooking and eating meals.

The next day it rained, too. One wouldn’t think it would rain so much in the desert, but at some times of the year, it could rain steadily for days. They usually don’t create the violent flash floods of the summer thunderstorms, but the soft claylike sand and gravel of the desert become impassable.

“We aren’t getting out to town any time soon!” said Fred as he took off his boots by the door. They were caked with the desert clay, which sets like cement and takes work or a lot of walking to get off the bottom of shoes and boots.

“Well, we’re pretty well set with everything we need for a long time!” Wilma said cheerily. They had come prepared with enough food to last for weeks, and several ways of cooking it, including a propane stove, a small, folding wood-burning stove, and a solar oven. They brought along a solar panel, a deep-cycle battery, and a small inverter for electricity to power a couple of lights, a netbook computer, and a small DVD player. They were used to being self-reliant.

Finally the sun came out and dried everything. Fred and Wilma spent a day basking in the sun and taking care of camp chores like washing dishes, shaking out the rugs and sweeping the camper floor. They cooked over a campfire, happy to be outside. In the evening they sat watching the sky. The moon was nearly full and the desert was visible in it’s light.

“That’s odd!” Wilma said suddenly. Fred looked over at her questioningly. She went on.

“The sky isn’t glowing over there on the ridge where Las Vegas is!”

It was true. The sky was the same pale blueish gray of the night sky all along the ridge. Usually it was lit with an orange glow from the city lights.

“Maybe the power is off over there. Something from the storm, probably. Weird, too, I just noticed there aren’t any airplanes coming or going. Must have been something big. I guess I’ll get the radio and see if they’re saying anything about it!” Fred got up and headed for the uhaul.

He came back with the portable radio and turned on the dial. As he scrolled through the stations they only heard static and the far-off rambling of unintelligible voices.

“That’s odd. There should at least be something from the emergency broadcast system!” Fred turned the radio off and they sat there in silence. The dog, sensing something disturbing, walked over and laid it’s chin on Fred’s knee. He absently patted the dog’s head.

“Well, I don’t know what to make of it. I guess we should go to town in the morning and see if we can find out what’s going on.” Wilma nodded her agreement.


In the morning Wilma cooked French toast and bacon for breakfast. Then they shrugged into their leather jackets, and headed off to town on the motorcycle. They drove a few miles up the dirt road, still somewhat soft from the recent rain, and turned north on the paved road. Ten miles up the road they topped the hill high above town and looked out across the little valley and it’s scattering of towns. It was a comforting site to see the roofs of buildings in the distance. They headed on down the hill and a few miles later they were riding into town. The parking lot of the grocery store and nearby restaurants and the hardware store were half-filled with cars. There were also cars parked on the street in front of other businesses. Nothing seemed to be stirring though. Nothing moved and no one was in sight.
 

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The wanderer
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4,350 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Fred pulled over along the sidewalk in front of the grocery store parking lot. He let the motor idle for a minute, then shut it off. They pulled their helmets off and sat without moving.

“Why is it so quiet?” whispered Wilma. She felt a shiver run up her spine.

“Maybe the power is still off?” offered Fred.

“It’s more than that,” said Wilma as she slid off the motorcycle and stood there, helmet dangling from her hand. “I don’t see any people. There should be someone, coming in or out of the store, or voices. Anything. But there’s nothing!”

Fred got off the motorcycle too. He hooked his helmet over the bike, then took Wilma’s and did the same. With a hesitant look at each other they walked across the oddly still parking lot. Usually someone’s pick-up truck would have a dog or two in the back, but there were none today.

The automatic door didn’t open, but when they pushed on it, it wasn’t locked. They stood in the doorway and stared. In the dim light they could see food sitting on the shelves. But there wasn’t a soul in the store, nor was there a sound. A cart sat in a check-out line, half filled with groceries, more groceries on the belt, and yet more in bags at the end of the check out line. There were carts sitting in the aisles of the store, some with a few food items in them, but no people.

A dripping noise came from an aisle at the far right. They cautiously walked over, Wilma holding Fred’s arm. Peering around the end of the aisle they saw a carton of ice cream in a cart, melting and dripping into a puddle on the floor.

“What’s going on???” Wilma yelled, grabbing at her head. She turned and ran back toward the door, Fred right behind her. They stood in the sunshine, breathing hard and holding onto each other’s hands.

“Come on, let’s drive though town and check some other places. Maybe everyone gathered at the community center. Maybe there’s going to be some kind of announcement or something.” Fred led the way back to the motorcycle.

They drove slowly through town. Doors were propped open at some of the businesses, as was normal in nice weather, and they could see that no one was in sight. At the far end of town they pulled into the parking lot of the community center. The door was propped open, so they walked on in. At the reception desk a cup of coffee sat next to a notepad and pen. Fred reached over and felt the side of the cup.

“Cold,” he said. They walked up the hall and glanced into the rooms, then into the large room with all the tables. In the adjacent kitchen the ingredients for a meal were in various stages of preparation.

“This is creepy. What’s happened to everyone? If they’d been evacuated, wouldn’t there be notices posted? Signs of chaos? Wouldn’t they still be going building to building making sure they found everyone?” Wilma hugged her arms against her chest and felt panic rising inside.

“The phones!” Fred exclaimed, and they headed back to the reception area. He picked up the receiver and held it to his ear. Tapping the phone with his hands he said “Hello? Hello?” Apparently nothing happened because his voice got louder and louder, repeating “HELLO? HELLO?”

Wilma took the phone from his hand and said gently, “honey, if it’s not working, yelling won‘t help!!”

“Let’s go back outside,” said Fred. He couldn’t figure out, for the life of him, what was going on. It felt hard to breathe.

“There’s no electricity. No people. But no sign of damage or rioting or even a hurried evacuation.” Fred said slowly.

“Everything is intact,” Wilma added. “I wonder if these cars would still start?”

They walked car to car, looking for keys. “Here’s one!” Wilma called. Fred joined her, opened the door, got in and turned the key. The motor started smoothly and idled. He shut it back off and sat there with his hands dangling on the steering wheel, a perplexed look on his face.

“What should we do?” Wilma asked. After a long silence Fred said “I don’t know….I just don’t know. I have no idea!”

He got out of the car and they walked back to the motorcycle. They stood near it, looking first one direction up the street, then the other.

“Come on. Let’s walk through the neighborhood and check door-to-door. Someone has to be here somewhere, and someone must know what’s going on!” Fred led the way, determinedly, and they started up the blocks of houses. They knocked on each door. When no one answered, they checked to see if it was locked. They opened the unlocked ones, took a glance and hollered “hello!”, then went on to the next house.

After 3 blocks and finding no people and no pets, they felt creeped out and headed back to Main st.

“I’m hungry. Let’s get something to eat, and we’ll make a list so we can pay them later. I don’t want to just leave money on the counter because someone might show up and take it,” said Wilma. They rode the motorcycle back to the grocery store.

“Hey, let’s go check out McDonald’s!” said Fred. It was across the street from the grocery store. They walked over and entered the restaurant. Trays of partially eaten meals sat on a few tables, and a tray with food on it sat on the counter. Fries sat, cold, on the serving stand, and wrapped burgers on heaters that were no longer warm.

Sadly, Fred said “We don’t even know how long this stuff has sat here. Nothing smells spoiled, but we don’t dare eat it!”

They walked back to the grocery store. Walking through the aisles they decided they better stick to canned and packaged food, the non-perishable kind. They gathered up bread, canned meat, a jar of mayo, a package of chips and a bag of cookies. Finding a pen by one of the cash registers, they took a receipt out of the trash and wrote down what they had.

Back out in the sunshine they made sandwiches and ate. They made another trip back inside for something to drink, writing that down as well.

“Do we leave the list here, or take it with us? What if someone else takes it or moves it?” Wilma asked. They decided to make another copy of the list for themselves. They gathered up more groceries, wrote them down, then headed back to their campsite.

The rest of the day they felt like they were in a daze. They went about things, staying close to the uhaul and to each other.

“You know what this reminds me of?” Fred asked finally. “The old TV show, “The Twilight Zone”. It’s like, today is creepy, and tomorrow we’ll go to town and everything will be normal and no one will have any idea what we’re talking about. I won’t even mind if they laugh at us!”

“Yeah!” Wilma said with a feeble laugh. It comforted her a little to think of that. “Or maybe this is just a dream. Maybe one of us is asleep and having this dream and none of it is real!”

Fred reached over and gave her rear-end a squeeze. She jumped and squealed. “What was that for?”

“Just checking to see if it’s your dream or mine!” he said with a mischievous grin.

That evening they sat inside the camper. It was still dark toward Las Vegas when they looked toward the ridge, and no airplanes flew over. They went to bed reassuring themselves that all would be back to normal in the morning.

A light wind made the Greasewood bushes shake slightly as the sun rose. Fred and Wilma opened the camper door and poked their faces out like a mouse looking to see if the coast is clear before leaving it’s hidey-hole. They stood, listening, for airplanes or cars, or anything man-made.

“Well, welcome to Day 2 of the Twilight Zone!” said Fred.

“Not necessarily! It may just be quiet here. We won’t know until we go back to town!” said Wilma. They made oatmeal for breakfast, feeling all the while like actors on a stage. It was all so bizarre. Then they got back on the motorcycle and headed back to town.

Nothing had moved. Nothing had changed. Their note still laid on the check-out counter.

“We need to go to Las Vegas and see for ourselves what’s going on! You know, back in the 70’s and 80’s they did a lot of nuclear testing up on Yucca mountain north of Vegas. Maybe there’s been some kind of accident related to that. Maybe we’re being exposed to radiation here.” Wilma said.

“You’re right, but we don’t have enough gas in the motorcycle. We’ll have to find some gas, or…take one of these cars!” Fred looked around the parking lot.

“But what if we get to Las Vegas and everything is normal? We could be arrested for car theft!” Wilma exclaimed.

“Right now, even that sounds pretty good! At least there would be people! And we could find out what the heck is going on!” Fred said emphatically. He walked along the rows of cars in the lot, mumbling to himself and testing door handles. Several were unlocked but there were no keys. Then he gave a yelp and hollered “Eureka!” and waved her over.

“Oh, come on, Fred! You’ve got to be kidding!” Wilma said as she eyed the powder-blue Prius with fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror and a raccoon tail on the radio antenna. “Even in a time like this, you’d take a chance of being seen driving that thing?” She giggled and leaned on the car next to it. She turned her head and saw keys dangling from the ignition, noted that it was a Cadillac, and said “How about if I follow you in this one?”
 

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The wanderer
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4,350 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Fred walked around and looked in the car Wilma was leaning against. He kicked it’s tires and furrowed his brow, which made Wilma laugh. “We better see how much gas is in it first”, he said, reaching for the door handle. He tugged, then stepped back.

“It’s locked!” he exclaimed. “Someone was going to be in for a surprise! Guess we better see if the powder puff is unlocked!” It was, and when he turned the key to check the gas gauge he was nearly blasted out of the car by rap music pounding out of the speakers. Fred’s fingers fumbled frantically on the buttons of the CD player and it changed to another song. Wilma reached in and turned the volume off.

“Thanks.” Fred grumbled. The gas tank was nearly full, so they buckled themselves in and drove out of the parking lot.

“Wait! Go back!” said Wilma. “We don’t know what we’re going to find. We should get some food and water and supplies.”

“Good idea,” said Fred. He swung a u-turn in the middle of the street, grinned, and went the full 360 and made another u-turn.

“What on earth are you doing?” Wilma asked him in amazement.

“Baiting the cops!” Fred grinned. He pulled right up to the “No Parking! Fire Lane!” sign and shut off the engine. “What should we get?”

“Just grab a bag and find whatever you like. Get drinks, too.” She handed him a bag and took one herself. It felt weird bagging groceries while walking the aisles, and even weirder to think about not paying for them. In a short time her bag was full, and she had a few extra bottles of juice under her arm.

When she got back to the front Fred was setting a bag next to one that was already full. “Just got to get some drinks now,” he said sheepishly. Wilma’s mouth dropped at the sight of bags of chips, candy bars, beef jerky, and other junk food piled up in the bags. In a few moments Fred reappeared with a case of pop in each hand.

“We should get some water, too,” Fred said innocently, trying to appear at least somewhat responsible. He set the pop down and headed back into the aisle. He returned with a case of 16-oz bottles and two 1-gallon jugs of water. “Okay, this should do it. You done?”

“Yeah,” she said with a sigh and decided not to make a fuss over it. She reached for one of his bags. “Let me help you with that.”

He looked at her with surprise, then followed her out the door with a smile on his face.

They drove north to the freeway, passing through two other small towns on the way. Buildings and cars sat where you’d expect them, but nothing moved. There wasn’t even a breeze. It was like driving through a painting, or a still-life model.

They were quiet as they drove up the freeway ramp. Nothing moved but there was a change here. Cars and trucks sat in the lanes of traffic as though someone had hit the “Pause” button on life.

“This is SO weird! If there’d been something like an EMP or a solar flare, the cars would have drifted to a stop and people would have been pulling over on the shoulder. And there would at least BE people!” Wilma said, shaking her head and trying to make sense of it.

“It would be complete chaos, not this freeze-action stuff!” Fred agreed. “It’s like…I don’t know….” His voice dwindled into silence. He steered the little car around the cars and trucks on the freeway. At first they stared into each one they passed, but all were empty. All were silent, no motors running.

They topped the rise and looked across the city of Las Vegas. The freeway lanes were cluttered with cars now and they drove slowly on the shoulder. On the outskirts of the city they came to an overpass with no shoulders and stopped the car. There was no exit here, so he couldn’t simply back up and go off the freeway.

“Let’s carry the food and water across and find another car,” Fred said. They walked across the overpass, threading their way between the vehicles. Fred pointed out that there were keys in all of the ignitions. He leaned closer and looked into a couple of the cars, then said, “The odd thing is, they’re all in ‘park’ and it looks like the keys have been turned to the ‘off’ position! So, if they knew they were going to park and shut off their engines, why didn’t anyone pull off on the shoulder? Why did they just stop right where they had been in motion?”

Wilma didn’t answer. She was so far out of any element of understanding that she had stopped trying to find an explanation for anything now, and simply tried to function with what was at hand.

The road widened out and the shoulder reappeared. Fred started looking for another car. His eyes widened and a huge grin filled his face. Wilma followed his gaze to a Highway Patrol Cruiser.

“Okay, go for it. Might as well live the whole fantasy!” she said. They walked over to it. The keys were in it, so they got in and Fred started the car. He reached for the buttons and knobs and had the siren and lights going within seconds. He pealed onto the shoulder and the parked cars became blurs as they passed them. Wilma just hung on and let him have his fun. A few miles later they came to another overpass, but this one had an exit and they took it.

The siren and lights went off now, and Fred headed down Las Vegas Boulevard, once more weaving among the cars. At intersections with stoplights the cars going one direction were lined up and obediently stopped, as though waiting for the light to turn green.

“You’d think if people simply disappeared, all the things they’d been carrying, like grocery bags, would be sitting on the sidewalk!” Wilma mused as she looked out the window. They were on “the strip” now, entering the normally-glittering casino district. Fred pulled to a stop in front of Caesar’s Palace.

“I always wanted to go in there and see if it looks like it does in the movies,” Fred said, and opened the car door. Wilma did the same. “We better lock it so our food and drinks are still here when we come back,” he added.

They walked across the concrete to the doors of the casino and entered. It was dim inside, with only a small amount of light coming through the row of glass doors. They walked among the gaming tables and the slot machines. They came to the cashier‘s cage and walked through the open door. Stacks of money sat on the counter near the barred exchange windows. Fred picked up the piles and made one stack. He flipped through it, tapping it with his finger.

“More money than we make in a year. And it probably isn’t worth anything,” he said sadly.

“True,” Wilma said. “Keep it anyway. I don’t know what this whole thing is about, but in my opinion, all the rules have changed. From now on, if it’s there, it’s ours. We may be in a whole lot of trouble if everyone reappears, but I guess we’ll have to sort that out when the time comes.”

Fred nodded his head and looked at the money. He separated a stack about an inch thick, folded it and put it in his pocket, placing the rest back on the counter. He took Wilma’s hand and they walked back to the door and out into the sunshine. They went back to the cruiser and drove farther up the street. When they reached a place that was blocked, they backed up and turned onto another street. Soon they were away from the strip and in a shopping district surrounded by houses. There were fewer cars here and they didn’t have to backtrack for a while.

After driving aimlessly for several blocks Fred pulled to the curb and parked. He leaned his forehead on the steering wheel and sighed, then sat back up. Wilma put her hand on his arm and looked at him, but her eyes went past him to the building across the street. It was a church, a brown brick building with white trim and a steeple. Thoughts filtered into her mind and a new theory came to the surface.

“Fred! You don’t suppose this is the rapture the Christians talk about, the “left behind” one and all that stuff, from that movie we saw?” she asked.

“I sure hope not. If we were left behind, it means we’re the bad guys!” he said. “Worse than that, it appears we’re the ONLY bad guys! And I know there were a lot of people who were worse than us!”

“Hey! We aren’t bad. We’re good, law-abiding citizens! Well, at least we WERE until this happened!” Wilma exclaimed.

“Well, I don’t think this is the rapture. There were other things that were supposed to be happening too, some ‘anti-christ’ things and stuff like that,” Fred said, wearily reaching over and starting the car again. “But it might be a good time to be praying!”

As they drove north they came to signs for Nellis Air Force Base on the north side of the city. “Go there, Fred!” Wilma said excitedly
 

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The wanderer
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4,350 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
“Yeah, that’s the place to go!” Fred said, and he pushed the gas pedal and roared through the residential streets parallel to the main arterial streets. Eventually he had to cut over to the through-streets until he came to an entrance to the base. The bar of the gate was across the road, but seeing no one in the booth Fred drove right on through, the bar breaking off and flying over the car. He wove around jeeps and hummers parked in random places in the road. All the vehicles seemed to be heading toward a large metal building behind what looked like office buildings. Fred drove around and parked where several cars and trucks were parked near an open hangar door.

Out on the tarmac dozens of small jets were parked in a row, at an angle, aimed toward the runways. Inside the hangar there were only two, and it appeared they were in the midst of being repaired. To the left, near 3 glass-walled offices, was a table with diagrams and maps spread out. They wandered over to look. The maps were complicated, with lines and numbers they were not familiar with. Other papers were diagrams related to the wiring and repair notes for the planes. Wilma shuffled through a pile of papers, recognizing weather information on one sheet, and instructions for training flights.

She heard a noise behind her and jumped. Turning around she saw Fred climbing up into one of the fighter jets. He glanced back at her and leaped over the edge, into the cockpit. Saluting, he sat down and began making airplane noises. Wilma smiled and walked back out the hangar door. A few minutes later Fred joined her.

“Didn’t you ever fantasize about flying a plane when you were a kid?” Fred asked her.

“No,” she said simply.

“Come on, not even once?” he asked in amazement.

“No! Well, okay, not an airplane, but I always thought it would be cool to fly a helicopter,” she admitted.

“Well, come on, there must be helicopters here somewhere! We’ll find one!” Fred started off.

“Fred, this is an awful big place, and I don’t think we should waste the time!”

“Why? What else should we be doing?” he asked. He walked over to a hummer and said, “we’ll take this, it’ll save time!”

“Do you really think they just leave the keys in them?” Wilma demanded.

“Why not? Who’s going to get away with stealing them? We’re on a secure base!” He opened the door, hopped up in the driver’s seat, and started the motor triumphantly. Wilma shook her head and walked around and got in the other side.

They drove around cars and among the buildings. They came to more hangars and more airstrips, and passed buildings of all shapes and sizes. Finally they came to helicopters parked near a fence. Like children playing, they jumped out of the hummer and went to the helicopters. They each got in their own and pretended they were having a dogfight with them in the sky. Wilma tired of the game before Fred, and she sighed as she slid out of the helicopter and walked back to the hummer.

“We need to make a plan. I don’t know what plan, but we need to figure out what to do next. What REAL plan to do next, though the playing was fun,” she admitted. Fred leaned against the Hummer next to her. Wearily, she asked “Do you think the kids and grandkids are gone too?”

“I don’t know. I suppose if everyone else is, they are too.” He opened the door for her and she climbed in. He went around and got in, and they drove to the gate and back out onto the streets. A shopping mall was in the distance, surrounded by all the stores and restaurants that grow up around malls like weeds.

“Oooh, Cabelas!” shouted Fred, and he pulled into the lot and right up to the door. “And it’s everything-is-free day!”

The doors were unlocked, like all the other businesses they’d been to. Apparently whatever had happened, had happened during business hours. Cabelas had a lot of natural lighting from the large windows and doors and from skylights in the ceiling. Fred was already trying on hunting coats and had a fishing hat on his head. At first Wilma just sat on a bench and watched him, but then she got into the spirit of things and before long she was trying on hats and coats and shoes. They moved among the racks and rows, looking and touching and trying out whatever they liked.

“We need to go home!” Wilma said suddenly. Fred turned around and looked at her blankly.

“Home…back to the uhaul home, or home-home?” Fred asked.

“Home-home. We’ll gather up everything we think we’ll need, and take dozens of gas cans from stores, and siphon gas out of cars and tie them down on our trailer, and go home.”

“Well, I don’t think the gas cans are a good idea. It’s kind of dangerous, plus time-consuming to siphon all that gas. I think if we do this, we should just keep switching vehicles when we get low on gas. If there are no people anywhere, there’ll be lots of supplies for the taking, all along the way,” Fred said.

“But…what about the uhaul? What about our stuff?” she asked.

“We’ll have to let it go. I have a feeling we’re going to face letting go of a lot of things,” Fred said soberly.

Wilma burst into tears, and Fred went to her and put his arms around her. His own throat felt pretty tight and choked. When her tears slowed he reached over and picked up a camouflage bandana from a rack and handed it to her.

“Need a Kleenex:” he asked. She gave a faint smile and wiped her face.

“Okay!” she said, taking a deep breath and bracing herself up. “Where do we start?”

“First…a whole new wardrobe. Find whatever you need. Pants, shirts, socks, shoes, whatever, and a warm coat. Let’s get some good sleeping bags, and maybe a tent, and…” Fred started off among the racks, his voice fading as he raked hangers aside, looking and sometimes pulling things off hangers. Wilma joined in. Soon they had piles of things on the counter.

“Camping stove and some of that dehydrated stuff!” Fred exclaimed, and headed that direction.

“I’m going to get a first-aid kit!” Wilma went looking for that. Last of all, Fred broke the glass on a case and removed two handguns. He picked a rifle from the rack behind the counter, then went looking for ammo for all of them. The handguns were both 9 mm so they could share ammo, and the rifle was a semi-automatic .308. He grabbed a canvas shopping bag and stuffed it with boxes of ammo.

They grabbed nylon bags from the camping department and stuffed everything else into them and tied the drawstrings. Piling it into two carts, they wheeled it out to the hummer and loaded it in.

“How much gas is in this thing?” Wilma asked.

“Enough to get us back to the uhaul, but then we’ll have to find another car. Or truck.” Fred pulled out onto the street and they headed for the freeway.

The sun was sliding behind the ridge when they reached the uhaul-camper. They let the dog out to romp around, and sat in lawn chairs facing the lake.

“There isn’t enough gas in the Hummer to get back to town. I guess we’ll drive the uhaul as far as we can, then switch to another vehicle,” said Fred. Wilma agreed. Her chest ached, and she felt a sob rising, but she pushed it back down. In the last of the fading light they unloaded the Hummer and tossed everything into the uhaul. They put the bicycles inside, and moved the trailer and motorcycle aside. Wilma knew it had to be breaking Fred’s heart to leave his prized motorcycle behind. They were very quiet as they went to bed.
 

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The wanderer
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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Sleep didn’t come at first. They talked about their route up from Nevada, up through Utah and Idaho, and finally Montana. They were fearful of how it would feel to be home and yet not be able to find their children and grandchildren. They knew it would hurt, but they had to see for themselves. Only a small part inside of them held out hope that they would find everything normal when they got home, and everyone would be going about their lives. It still wouldn’t explain this nightmare here in southern Nevada.

Wilma finally dozed off to Fred’s soft, rhythmic snoring. Toward morning she sensed it was getting light out. The uhaul shook with a gust of wind and Wilma awoke. She slid down from the bed loft over the cab, and pulled the curtain aside. Yep, it was windy, but the sky was clear. They wouldn‘t have any problems leaving this morning, but the wind meant rain was probably a day away. She was about to turn from the window when a motion caught her eye.

“There’s someone out there!” she exclaimed. A man walked along the ridge across the wash from them, a fishing pole in his hand. Fred climbed down from the bunk and stood next to her, sleepily scratching his stomach. He bent toward the window and looked out.

“Yep, going fishing, it looks like. Sometimes the fish bite better when the waves are choppy. It stirs up things they like to eat,” he said. “Speaking of eat, what’s for breakfast?” He turned to look at Wilma. She was staring at him like she’d seen a ghost.

“What? Do I have something on my face? Is my hair standing up on end?” He turned toward the mirror on the bathroom door.

“But…. I don’t….. I don’t get it. Everyone was gone!” she babbled.

“What are you talking about?” Fred was confused, and he was alarmed by Wilma’s white face and distressed look.

“Bu… we went to town and no one was there, and now there’s a man out there, and--” she whirled at a sound behind her and opened the curtain on the other side of the uhaul-camper, “--and there’s a pick-up truck with a camper driving over there, and oh! Oh, I know! Oh, Fred, you were RIGHT!” Her face lit up in a smile.

Still not sure what was going on, Fred said, “Okay, I was right. That’s nice to hear. Probably should mark that on the calendar, but what was I right about?”

“That it was all a dream!” she said. She seemed relieved at first, but then troubled. “It all seemed so real!”

She related the whole thing to him. His face filled with longing during parts of the story, and he even went outside near the end, to see if the Hummer with the Cabelas goodies was parked there! Wilma still seemed rattled and unsure when she finished telling him about it.

“Tell you want, sweetheart. Not only was it a dream, I’ll prove it was a dream. We’ll go to town, and I’ll take you out for breakfast!” He pulled their leather coats out of the cabinet and sat down to put his shoes on. Wilma did the same, and they went out the door. She put her leg over the motorcycle and sat behind him. She left her jacket unzipped until they got to the paved highway, then reached down to zip it. As he pulled onto the highway and cranked the throttle she glanced down at the top of the jacket zipper. An olive-green shirt peeked out the collar. She pulled her collar out and stared down inside her coat at the words “Cabelas” in letters across her left breast.

Her heart was pounding and she wanted to tap Fred’s shoulder and get him to stop the bike so she could show him. But she sat like a statue, automatically leaning with him on the curves. A couple of cars and a motor home passed them, going the other direction. A few miles from town they topped the hill overlooking the valley. Fred pulled off at the scenic turn-out.

“See? It’s all…” Fred stopped and stared. “What the--?”

They pulled off their helmets, got off the motorcycle and stood looking over the guard rail. Not a building was in sight, nor a road. Rolling sandy hills covered with Greasewood bushes and Rabbitbrush spread away from them. The narrow band of the river wound through the valley among the Cottonwood and mesquite trees. Wisps of smoke rose from small fires on the riverbank, and the small band of dark-skinned people rose from their work and turned to stare up at them. Wilma looked at Fred.

“Now who’s dream are we in?”


THE END
 

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Oh my gosh, that was sooo good, I was glued to my chair when I'm supposed to be going to bed. And, the end was a complete surprise; I loved it!! More, more, more..
 

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Fred and Wilma. :lolsmash: :lolsmash: :lolsmash:

Great story!!! Thank You.
 

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What?? No torn-down buildings with Barney playing in the Rubble?? :eek: :D
 

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Wow...

Good story! Was the dream the result of those pizzas with everything that you like? :rolleyes::rolleyes: :D :2thumb:
 

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GS luv... I've lived in the desert and I can tell you this...STOP EATING THOSE BEAN THINGS!!!!!... and stop smoking that wild wood weed !! Yawlz gonna come outta there with flowers in yer hair and patches all over your jeans..

Loved it!!!! really...keep smoking hahahahahahahhaah
 

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WOW! Great story, keep writing.:2thumb:
 
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