Eraticated the remiss, p.1
eRATicated: The Remiss
By A. J. Oxford
Copyright 2015 A. J. Oxford
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eRATicated: The Remiss
"Why won't they stop?.... Leave me alone. Why are they trying to break in? I don't have anything. I barely have enough food to last a few days. I hope they can't hear me. This closet is too small and is getting hot. I should have prepared for this and moved some of these coats out. What are they hitting the door with, a tree? When they splinter the door they will easily be able to remove the couch blocking the door.
"This gun only has two bullets. What do they want? They are going to kill me. I can hear them. There must be four or five. I can hear their voices; one is a woman, at least one is. Maybe I can shoot one. But what if that doesn't stop them? Then what?"
I don't know why we lost power; it was gone when I awoke. It happened from time to time when we lost power lines and poles to the wind swaying burdened tree limbs beyond natural resistance. Either the wind would push the tree prone exposing a massive ball of dirt and roots and the crater left from where the roots once anchored the shade granting pinnacle, or the wind would rip limbs from the tree like an old fashioned quartering. Winter would occasionally bring freezing rain that accumulated on the branches and limbs until there was more ice than bark and fiber, bowing the tree's trunk earthward and breaking its back. But it was summer. And there was no storm.
I awoke to the sounds of chaos outside. "Stay in your homes ... do not leave your homes," the unmarked police car's loudspeaker repeated over and over as the car slowly patrolled past. I looked out the window to see that the warning was too late--it seems the entire apartment complex was outside scrambling and loading vehicles to leave. It used to be a gated complex, but I could see that the iron entrance gate was now in the street slightly but clearly bent in the middle and rocking side to side as cars passed over it.
I grabbed my neighbor's arm as he hurried past. "Hey, what's going on," I questioned.
"Let go!" he shouted. "Oh, you; get out of town! Hurry!"
"Where? Why?" I replied, but all I could hear was a mumbled response drowned out by the surrounding confusion as my neighbor slid into his car's driver's seat pushing a box of canned goods in the only space left in his wife's lap. And they were gone.
I returned to my third-floor apartment and locked the door. I watched out the window as cars flooded the four-lane out front, outside the iron fence, as the remaining apartment tenants pushed and maneuvered their way into the line of traffic. I could see two men and a woman fighting at the gas station a half a block to the east as others waiting to fuel impatiently honked. The line of cars waiting for a pump stretched into two of the four lanes in front of the station. I could leave, but to where. And would I even find fuel to get there. Would there being electricity to pump it? Is there any now? Maybe that is why they are fighting.
Forgetting there was no electricity I still tried to turn on the TV and waited. My patience almost outlasted the realization that the TV screen could not raise a picture or sound. Perhaps the radio on my bedside alarm? Of course, the alarm radio was also off--if only I'd bothered to install the backup battery. Emptying the remote controls to the TV, the cable box, and the DVD player garnered all of AA, AAA and 9 volt batteries in my apartment. Whose bright idea inspired such inconsistency? Even though I now had the requisite AA batteries, my effort brought only static on the radio on both bands. Perhaps later.
By dusk the chaos subsided. Looking out my front window I could see no movement except a lone hawk perched on the stockade fence dividing the complex from an empty field, vainly in search of a quick meal. I ventured out to a near abandoned parking lot to find an old Chevy truck with a flat front tire, a beat up Ford Taurus with a raised hood and three foot of water hose hanging out of the gas tank, and my Honda with no more than a quarter tank of gas. The evacuation left my Honda intact. I turned the key to try the radio. Being digital I'd hoped a scan would find a working station but again there was nothing--even the Emergency Alert (Broadcasting) System message we always hated to hear, was missing, which seemed a bit more than ironic. Only when I took the time to manually move one step at a time on the AM band did I finally catch a faint broadcast.
The man on the station played no music but only spoke of the rat disaster, the food and then fish shortage, and the electricity going out. The station was on backup generators but for how long the announcer did not know. He talked about the evacuations that occurred despite the government's instruction. He promised to stay on the air as long as he could broadcast. I decided to try and pick him up on my radio alarm.
Back inside I tried to reach the station. The alarm had antenna wires but whoever uses them? I raised the volume and tried to stretch the wires vertically, horizontally, and multiple varieties of every-which-way. Nothing. It would have to wait for a better solution. I turned off the radio but the clock still flashed the incorrect time. My cell phone; I always reset my clocks by the time automatically updated on my phone. As I began to push the "time" button I instead decided to preserve the batteries and I removed them. The phone: "We're sorry, but your call cannot be completed at this ...." Great job 911. Now what? I called the office. I called every number in my phone, even the telemarketers I designated as "Do Not Answer" in my contacts. I called "Saul", "867-5309", and a variety of area code "555" numbers for fun until I noticed I was down to one bar. Off.
I awoke to the sun peering through the cracks in the wood slat blinds. It was strange waking up naturally with no alarm. I usually left for the office before daylight. Was there any need to go in? Would there be anyone there? Would my card key work? Was there electricity there? Probably not. I turned my cell back on: "Recent Calls"... "Office" ... "We're sorry ...." I decided to make the trip.
The road into town was almost vacant. I saw few moving vehicles and occasionally someone running for cover as if I were a cop patrolling for drug dealers. I became even more apprehensive as I saw smoke rising near my destination. There was always a white smoke rising farther south in the sky from the power plant, but that smoke was gone and this new smoke was not south and wasn't white. As I arrived I saw the smoke wasn't from my office, but the front glass door and windows were in pieces on the sidewalk and, I'm certain, on the inside, although I did not exit my Honda to see. Around back I could see that the employee parking lot was even more vacant than the highway coming in. Where the card key scanner usually shown red, the red dot's absence made clear there was no electricity, even if the boss was "home."
The trip wasn't completely fruitless as I could still listen to the lone radio station. The same man spoke but he didn't have any more to say than he did last night. I already knew there was a problem with the rats and food. He had no more news but stayed on the air anyway--just in case, I guess. But the new news was that the station's backup generator would soon run out of fuel. Will the electricity return before then? I also charged my cell phone; however, I could not even raise the annoying recording. The phone beeped as I touched the buttons but the "Send" button did not result in even the annoying automated failure message. The cell towers died.
I arrived home to the same near empty lot.
I ventured out near dusk. There seems to be no one around. My neighbor--the one who left me standing--left his door unlocked. I cautiously ventured in. "Hello?" I said a few times with no response or echo. I'm not a big bread eater but I grabbed theirs, along with their "almond butter"--weirdos; just what is wrong with plain old peanut butter? They must have had a ton of can goods with what they took with them and with what they left. I left those cans; I have enough. But I did take both of their manual can openers. If they return, I'll leave one at their door. But if they don't, at least I have a choice. No wood. They did not use their fireplace either.
After a few more apartments, I finally found some wood stacked on a balcony. I took the fireplace grate and tools as well. It took a few trips, but I really don't know how much wood I'll need and for how long I'll need it.
I'm not good a starting a fire; the wood just won't catch. I finally used enough paper to do so, but it created too much smoke in the room--less when I realized how to open the chimney damper. A hot meal was nice, but difficult to accomplish; it might become irregular.
The days became long and boring. I occasionally spied a pack of wolves in the distance. On one occasion I saw them take down a deer. I quietly kept my distance on the third floor. The water flow quit after about four days, but I was able to drain water from the water heater. Scavenging, I found plenty of food and wood. I drained water heaters into every bottle and container I could find keeping my tub and sinks full. I found a pry bar that allowed me to break into the maintenance building. The four wheeled barrow made moving supplies to my apartment much easier, although the three flights of stairs were clearly exhausting.
It was 47 days since the evacuation before I heard the familiar sound of vehicle exhaust. I quickly entered my apartment to peek through the wood blinds. I never saw them, but I could hear voices when the engine stopped. I couldn't tell if there was one vehicle or two. The voices faded but I never heard the engines fire. About 20 minutes later the voices grew louder as did the banging on and slamming of doors. I don't remember which I left open and which I closed. I left the barrow at the bottom of the stairs. And the fireplace; I had a fire burning. I quickly ran to and from the tub of water to dowse the flames. Oh the smoke; it bellowed more than the chimney could expel and the smoke spilled into the room. I can't open the window for risk of being seen. The voices are louder.
I checked the door locks. That won't hold them; they didn't stop me and my "borrowed" pry bar. I dragged the couch away from the wall and pushed it across the carpet to the doorway. Lifting the closest end, I turned the couch on its side to stand between the door and the hall closet. It wasn't a tight fit but it would keep the door from opening. The smoke continued to fill the room. I ran to the bedroom and shut the door. Trying not to cough I entered the closet. It is tight. I can hear them outside banging on my door. Why won't they stop?....
"Maybe I can shoot one. But what if that doesn't stop them? Then what? Then nothing." With the first splintering of the front door he placed the egress end of the barrel under his chin and pulled tight the trigger to a single "pop". His eyes closed but he could still hear and think if but for a few moments. He felt no pain as his head drooped to the right pressed against clothes against the closet wall. As blood pooled in the hardwood floor closet, slowly spreading and soaking into his pants and the carpet's edge under the door, he could hear that the voices and the violence on the front door finally stopped.
eRATicated: The Remiss by A. J. Oxford / Science Fiction have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes