I made it back.
It’s kinda all just sinking in now. We survived. I can’t believe it. The last two hours have been insane.
We left as it was getting dark. Al’s house was on the other side of town. It took us a while to get there, but it was pitch black when we did.
Al owns a huge plot of land that had been his grandfather’s maple farm in the 20’s. He sold most of the trees for lumber in the 30’s and bought the trading post. It became the general store soon after. The Johnsons ran that store as long as anyone around here can remember. The whole town was basically built around it. Al lived on the same plot of land his whole life, though the house had been rebuilt twice now. They were probably the wealthiest people born and raised in Baraga County.
We approached through the woods, keeping low and quiet. Though honestly, it became apparent the four of us probably couldn’t be loud enough. We heard them before we saw them. They were dancing and singing and laughing and shouting by the light of five fires they had built nearly a hundred yards from the house. No one was fighting, they didn’t even look ready for fight. There were about fifty of them, drinking, gambling, and lounging about. They had made camp.
I put my hand on Mikey’s shoulder and we dropped to the crouch. Ted and Nate came up next to us and followed suit.
“What’s going on? Have they taken the house already?”
A look of worry flashed across Mikey’s face, and he gazed at the scene ahead. “No I don’t think so. I think they’re setting up to wait us out, look.”
He pointed, and I followed his finger with my gaze. Next to the fires closest to us I could see semiautomatic rifles stacked together. There were small piles around each fire. Not a huge armament for how many people there were, but enough.
“What are they after?” Nate hissed. “Why don’t they just storm the place?”
“There here for our guns.” Mikey said. “When everything when to shit Dad took his whole stock and moved it to the house. Apparently word got out.”
“How many do you have?”
“We had seven before he moved the stock here. I never really bothered to count those though.”
“Christ, no wonder they’re stuck outside.”
Mikey looked at Nate with a grin. “Took a couple of em to figure it out, but they were quick to set up camp.”
I surveilled the scene, it wasn’t the best seige I’d ever seen. There were no barricades or patrols, most of the Scavengers weren’t even carrying their weapons. But there was a lot of them. Numbers were their advantage.
Suprise was ours. I began to come up with a plan.
“See that one?” Mikey shook me out of my thoughts, and I followed his finger towards a lean-looking scavenger with a mohawk. “Pretty sure he’s the leader. He was shouting orders at the others when they first showed up, anyway.”
“I didn’t think they had leaders.” Nate mumbled, almost to himself. I heard it, though.
I took a clear look at the man with the mohawk. He seemed more put together than the rest. His face was clean shaven and his haircut perfectly symmetrical. The clothes he wore were different too. Cleaner. Not rags, like the rest, but garments worn with purpose. A uniform of madness. He calmly drank, watching a small group of scavengers gamble as firelight cast the sharp features of his face into sharp relief. By the dim gleam of light, I could see something in his eyes, something glinting behind the crafted features and manic grin.
I almost can’t believe I missed him the first time. Once I noticed him, he stuck out like a sore thumb.
“How are we gonna get past them without them seeing?” Ted whispered. His voice was wavering a bit.
“The short answer is we’re not.” I turned back to Mikey. “Have they found the old barn yet?”
Mikey looked down, thinking for a second. “No, I don’t think so.” Then a look of realization dawned on his face, and he began to get excited. “No if these idiots found whats in there they’d be screaming about in it right now.” He started to get excited. His head swiveled in short, jerky movements over the yard in front of his house, looking for any evidence of his father’s toys.
The old barn stood on the back of the property. Built by Al’s grandfather, it was pretty much abandoned when general store opened up, used only for storage. By the time Al inherited it, and started acquiring his toys, it was nearly falling down. He rebuilt and refinished it, and turned it into a garage and workshop. I had been in there once before, when I was a little kid. It felt like being let into the batcave.
Nearly fifteen minutes later, all four of us were back trudging through the woods. Mikey was leading the way, but the going was slow. In those woods it was so dark you could barely see the trees in front of your face, let alone the roots beneath your feet. Falls here could be dangerous even without a small army of bloodthirsty scavengers waiting a few acres behind you.
“It’s just up ahead.” Mikey leapt forward, running through the trees like they weren’t even there. He was the only one of us who wasn’t having trouble navigating the dark groundcover. He could probably do it in his sleep.
A clearing opened in the forest, and before us stood the old barn. The one built by Al’s grandfather. It towered over the trees at one point, but now it was hidden away behind the thick forest. It’s old and worn, but sturdy.
“Is it locked?” Ted asked.
“Nah.” Mikey walked right up to the door handle and yanked. It moved on greased wheels, barely making a sound.
Inside was like something out of a spy movie. Walking through the doorway was like walking into a different building entirely. While the outside was worn and dilapidated, the inside was modern and well-kept. Drywall had been put up all around the barn, and Al even had a cement slab put down for the floor. Mikey shut the door and hit the lights, and I heard Nate and Ted gasp.
The walls were covered in Al’s “toys.” A collection of power tools that would’ve put Home Depot’s inventory to shame. There was a whole section of wall dedicated to grinders, each one a different size, some brand new in orange and yellow casing, some borderline antiques gleaming in meticulously polished aluminum. Impact wrenches, air hammers, drills, saws, some hanging so high on the walls you needed a ladder to get them down. It was beautiful.
But the real fun, the things I really came for, were sitting smack dab in the middle of the barn.
There were two cars. One was a Hummer. A real Hummer, not the scaled down bastardizations they made after to try and save gas. It’s loud, stupid, and size of a house. I love it. Next to it, however, was the crown jewel. A 1979 Dodge Charger, all black, complete with a 7.2 Liter V8 Ron had rebuilt and upgraded himself, off-road tires, and a heavy duty grille guard. I could help but smile despite myself.
“Holy Cow.” Ted breathed next to me.
“Yeah, this place is something else.”
“You got a plan?” I looked at Mikey. His jaw was set and his eyes held a look that could’ve drilled a hole through the wall.
“How much gas do you have?”
His eye’s went left and mine followed. A 50 gallon gas tank sat up against the wall. Typical Ron, always prepared.
I looked over at Ted and Nate. Both of them were in awe of the array of equipment.
Their heads turned to me on swivels. They were so synced up I almost laughed. I managed to hold it in, though.
“Fill em up.”
We shut the lights, and rolled the Charger out of the garage. There was a narrow trail that the Scavengers hadn’t found yet. As soon as I started it, though, they’d notice. The V8 wasn’t exactly “quiet.”
Loaded with gas, and with me steering, we rolled the car down the trail. I gotta be honest. I hoped someone was on the trail. I prayed we ran into a Scavenger.
Ted, Nate, and Mikey Pushed me into a roll.
I put the key into the ignition, turned the electronics on, and cocked my pistol.
The headlights were off, but I could just see where I was going. I could just see the trees. The guys had already turned back. The trail hit the clearing where Al’s house was at an odd angle, hiding me among the trees for much of my approach.
I turned the ignition, pounded in the clutch, and stomped on the gas.
The ancient engine roared to life. Dirt and mud spat everywhere as the tires dug hard into the dirt. I shot into the clearing, flicking on the headlights, blinding the Scavengers in front of me.
I didn’t run them over. I wouldn’t do that to the Charger.
I aimed my pistol out the window and fired into the crowd. I wasn’t too concerned about hitting anything, so long as I kept the house out of the line of fire.
I dropped my foot on the pedal and listened to the engine scream to the red-line. I flew across the yard, kicking up dirt and sparks and debris, and making a whole lot of noise.
Everyone was looking at me. I grinned as I yanked on the wheel, pulling it into a skid, and side-swiping one of the campfires.
I saw him, slack-jawed in the flaring light. The young, clean-shaven one. He stared at me as I slid by. The only one not running and screaming from the attack. I whipped a shot in his direction, but missed. He didn’t even flinch.
I turned the wheel and the big car lurched as it righted itself. I kept going, kicking bullets and dirt up at as many scavengers as I could. I wanted them mad at me.
By the time I had circled around the house once, I really had them whipped up in a fervor. A few unlucky bodies littered the field. The rest, however, were beginning to grab their guns. A few were even managing pot shots at the rampaging charger. Once the windows started to rain glass around me, I decided it was time to get out of there.
I purposely dropped it back into second and slammed the gas. The power shift was so high I barely moved at first, but I kicked up so much dirt I damn near blinded the Scavengers behind me.
I took of zig-zagging across the plain. Both to make me harder to hit, and easier to follow. I needed to take as many of them with me as possible.
In the end I got most of them to follow me. Ted, Nate, and Mikey took the Hummer straight into the house as I made my escape. No one was even looking. They got his family, the weapons, and three crates of supplies out without firing a shot.
Nate told me when we got back — as soon as Al got in the car, he took over driving from Mikey. As they left, he aimed the monstrous vehicle right at the crowd of Scavengers that had coalesced behind me.
It’s been a long night. I’m tired but wired. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. There’s a lot of work to do tomorrow.
Yeesh. This took me a while. I’m sorry about that guys, life kinda got over me. I’m writing and posting a lot more right now though! I’m working really hard to make this blog and my writing my priority going forward. That meant getting this chapter out ASAP. I’m working on the next one already!