Friday, April 21, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 25 -- Burials

Part 25. That means we are into month six of this project. This is the somber part of the story, but for the larger tale, this is where motivations are cemented. At least for me, the person that knows how all of this culminates, these moments are those first steps toward the next chapters and the ultimate end. I know that probably doesn't make a lot of sense from where you're sitting, but it does to me.

Looking at how much story we have left, I'm guessing we will get to 30 parts before all is said and done. So, we should be finished by the end of May.

Hope you enjoy this installment. On with the story.

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Welcome to the End//Part 25:Burials

I hold my stone out in front of me and assess my creation. I’m happy. Caroline is still concentrating on the rock in her lap. I take mine over to the hole I dug for Walter and situate it at the top, adjusting it so it’s centered square. I wait a moment before heading back over to Caroline. I am trying to give her space. I don’t know if it’s what she needs or wants, but I haven’t asked. I don’t know how. I know her emotions are raw. I see that she’s been crying. And why not? Her entire world is now different. And that’s on top of it all going end over end with the attacks. She’s alone. Part of me, I suppose, is frustrated that I can’t predict her reactions anymore. Not like I could a day or two ago. She was feisty and bored. I could tell you with some certainty what she was going to say to my questions or how she’d respond to my remark. It wasn’t so hard to put myself back in that teenage headspace and predict what she’d do. Mostly because it’s what I would have done or said. But now, after the wailer attack and her mom dying, I didn’t know what she’d say or what she’d do because I couldn’t imagine, even in my wildest thoughts, being her. She was dealing with things that I would have never been able to handle at that age.

I go back to camp, and Caroline has finished with her rock.

“It’s nice,” I say. “She would have liked it.”

Caroline doesn’t stop looking at her creation. “I hope so.” She pauses. “I think so.”

“I’m going to transition Walter over. Spend a few more minutes with your mom. We’ll move her over after I get back.”

She nods then looks up to me. “Let me help.”

I tell her no, to stay here, and she doesn’t insist.

We’ve wrapped Walter in a blanket that we found over at the empty horse stables. Bundled like this he’s easier to carry, but still heavy. I take slow steps over to the grave. I lay him on the edge then jump in. I pull him into the hole with me. It’s only a few feet deep, but not so shallow that it should be disturbed. The bottom isn’t finished smooth, and he lays in there awkwardly, sort of half on his side. I adjust him so he’s flat as possible then jump out and start throwing dirt into his grave.

The dirt lays in a round mound on top of him, just like some fresh grave you see in a cartoon. It’s an oddly familiar site. Thanks, pop culture and your casual references to death.  I go back to where Caroline is and can see that she’s already wrapped Maggie in another blanket. It was one that Caroline picked specifically. It’s a Native American pattern of some sort, very angular and geometric. It’s all golds and oranges and reds. Caroline spent some time pulling the old hay and other debris from its weave, and it’s clear that she took some time getting Maggie wrapped. Extra fabric is tucked neatly away. She looks like a young, sleeping child bundled tight in its blanket.

Maggie’s head isn’t yet covered, and I can hear Caroline talking to her. I slow my steps, but she hears something crunch under my feet and turns. She wipes a tear then stands.

“I’m ready,” she says.

“There’s no hurry.”

“We have to do it at some point. I’ve said my goodbyes.”

I nod and bend to pick up Maggie. I grab the fabric that’s laying near her head and start to pull it over her face. Caroline puts a hand on my shoulder, and I stop. She bends down and kisses her mother’s forehead.

For the first time, I cry. Big tears wet my cheeks, and I can feel my chest wanting to turn this to sobs. I fight the wave of emotions back as I finish wrapping Maggie. I pick her up, and my tears fall into wet spots on her blanket as I carry her over to the grave I’ve dug. I go through the same procedure with her as I did with Walter. She lays flatter.

I climb from the grave and begin piling dirt back into the hole. Caroline places the stone she created earlier at the head of the grave then begins to sing.

“Amazing grace. How sweet the sound …” Her voice is a bit thin, and it’s understandably unsteady. But it’s pleasant. She continues to sing a variety of old church songs that I recognize until we can’t see Maggie anymore. That’s when she leaves.

I finish the job then step back and look at our small graveyard. Just two plots, but that’s a third of the population of our camp. And it should be bigger, but Caroline never told me where Britt and Bethany were. Once I get graves for them dug it’ll double our number of dead.

Friday, April 14, 2017

FREE FICTION FRIDAY : Welcome to the End : Part 24 -- Survivors

We had a rhythm. One that was very nice. For about 3 months, maybe more, I'd posted one of these every Friday. Go on vacation, forget to do it once, and all of that rhythm is shot. But we're back with Part 24. We are starting to deal with the ramifications of what happened in the last episode.

This is where the story changed for me in the writing. The character of Caroline suddenly felt a lot deeper and more important. She suddenly became whole to me. Hopefully she will for you too as you read on, not only in this episode but the episodes to come.

This is also the point in the story that I made some pretty big changes to the overall outline of the story. I thought I knew where it was going to go, what story I was going to tell. Right about the time I was writing his part, when characters seemed to shift on me like they sometimes do, I also shifted. The story that needed to be told became different. We will still end up in the same spot ultimately, but the path to get there is different now. Good different. It'll be a stronger story, so I'm not upset.

Enough rambling. On with the story.

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Welcome to the End//Part 24--Survivors

Caroline is up early and scouting Fair Park for an open space to bury her mom. I have been out looking for something to dig with. I’ll do the heavy lifting today, as it were.

The wailers have done us a favor. They’ve broken into just about everything, and that includes maintenance rooms. It took some hunting, but I was able to find a shovel. It’s not much, smaller than I would have liked, but it will work for our purposes.

I am back at camp. I’ve also found a few packets of instant coffee. I’m boiling water, and Caroline comes around the corner.

“I walked this entire park, and I can’t find a better spot than the one I thought about last night. It’s just around the corner. Come on. I’ll show you.”

“Coffee first?” I hold out a mug for her.

She takes it and sits.

“How you doing?” I ask.

She shrugs and looks over at Maggie.

“I found a shovel. The ground should still be wet enough that the digging will be easy.

She nods.

We finish our coffee in silence. Caroline sets her empty mug on the ground then gestures with her head like “follow me.”

“It’s this way,” she says.

We walk a few hundred feet west of where we’ve camped to an open spot that has a few picnic tables and a couple of tall, thick trees that somehow survived the initial assault.

“She’d like it,” Caroline says. “I figure we can bury her this way.” She uses her hand to indicate a position that’s perpendicular to the concrete path.

“That way,” she continues, “She can look to her right and see the Ferris wheel and to her left she can see Dallas.”

I’m just following orders and begin to dig, but Caroline stops me. She steps out to the middle of the open area and surveys the view.

“Do it here,” she says, so I do.

It takes me close to an hour to dig a hole deep enough. I don’t want to put Maggie or Walter into a shallow grave that’s going to be disturbed by whatever animals take over this place once we are all gone. There are already menacing packs of dogs wandering around.

Caroline comes back to check on me. I wipe sweat from my forehead with the back of my arm and tell her that I’m ready whenever she is. Then I start digging a hole for Walter. I don’t do it near Maggie’s plot. Somehow it just doesn’t feel like I should. The two were friends out of necessity, not choice. I don’t think they disliked each other, but burying them side by side feels like too much.

It takes me a little longer to dig a spot for Walter, but Caroline hasn’t returned. I head back to our spot and see her crying again. Deep sobs, bent over her mother’s chest. I turn and walk a loop around the park.

It’s crumbling more, like the wailers have accelerated the timeline on when all of this was going to come down. And I’m under no impressions that it wasn’t going to come down. Everything will, eventually, either by nature or by force. There was a lagoon area that is now filled with debris and floating trash. That stuff—plastic bags, bottles and cans—always seems to find the water.

I turn right and get a good look at the food court. There used to be tall and narrow towers that went up the front of the building and extended beyond the roof. Those are gone. Torn down, somehow, by wailers. The blue awnings that covered the Midway, at least those that had been still intact, are shreds now. For our purposes, this place has lost some of its practical value. And emotionally, after finding Maggie, all of my connection to Fair Park is gone. I don’t want to stay. I can’t stay. I have to leave, but I can’t abandon Caroline. Not now.

I come back to camp and see Caroline. She has her back to me and is working on something that’s in her lap. Her hands are busy. Magic, I’m thinking. But I get closer and see, no, she’s creating a marker. Some sort of headstone for her mom.

“Do you want to make one for Walter?” she asks.

I wouldn’t even know where to begin the process, I tell her. I didn’t know Walter other than from here. I’d let him sit in my chair, but that’s about the nicest thing I’d done for him.

“That’s fine,” she says. “But he should have something. He can’t just go into a hole in the ground. I’ll make it.”

“If it’s just going to be something simple then I can put it together.” I sit. “What do I have to work with?”

“Whatever you can find.” She has a wide, flat stone in her lap and has painted something on the front. It’s an abstract of colors in a looping swirl. It looks vaguely magical.

“Pretty,” I say as I stand. I’m about to dig in the bushes that line our path to find a rock of my own when I remember that the wailers have done most of my excavation for me.

“Thanks.” Her cheeks are still damp. She’s been quietly crying.

I go to the nearest pile of rubble and find something that looks as little like broken concrete as possible then come back to sit next to Caroline.

I push small tins of paint around looking for black.

“Where’d you find this stuff?”

“Over there.” She points to a spot on the Midway and a face painting stand. The door had been bent and broken to disengage the lock then left open after the contents were looted.

“You do that?”

“I needed in.”

I pick up a brush and dip it into the black paint. I letter “Walter” at the top of my hunk of concrete. I don’t know his age or his last name, so below that I just write the year: 2016.

I think for a moment then write one more thing in the space under the date: Survivor.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 23 -- Mom

It's me again. Told you we'd have three posts this week. Here's the second. For me, writing this story, what you're getting today is the point when everything changes. There's a shift in the dynamics of the relationships. Goals get solidified. Motivations begin to get cemented.

Hope this section lives up to that. As for how much more story there is left, we are about 2/3 of the way through, so there's probably six more weeks to go, but that's just a guess.

Enough of my rambling. Here's the story.
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Welcome to the End//Part 23--Mom

I run and find Caroline on the ground, brought to her knees. Her hands are covering her face, and her screams are mixed with sobs.


I look up, and there’s Maggie, her body leaning against the deep orange wall of the food and fiber building. She’s cut across her front, half a dozen slash marks that have gone deep into her chest. There’s something in her hand. It looks like a piece of rebar, probably something she pulled out of the crumbled remains of one of these buildings. I leave Caroline and move to get a better look. If it’s as bad as it seems then Caroline doesn’t need to see her mom like this.


It’s bad.


The gashes across her chest are only the biggest of dozens. They cover her arms and legs. Her clothes are cut to sloppy ribbons. She clearly went down fighting. Not surprising. But I wonder why she hadn’t tried some of her hoodoo like Caroline had.


“It takes concentration,” Caroline says from behind me.


“Wait,” I tell her and put my hands out in front of me in an attempt to stop her. She steps around me and kneels in front of Maggie.


“You were wondering what good being able to do magic is if you can’t use it to save yourself.”


I don’t respond.


“It takes concentration,” Caroline says. She puts her hand on Maggie’s. I reach up and pass a hand in front of Maggie’s face and force her eyes to close.  


“You need to have a moment to connect with the universe, to pull down the power that you need to finish whatever it is you are wanting to do. The older you are the longer it takes. The bigger the spell the more energy you need. Clearly, she didn’t have time. Not from looking around here. Not seeing what happened. She didn’t stand a chance. Neither did Walter or Britt or Bethany. They were overrun.”


I still don’t know what to say. I’ve never been in a position like this. A friend in college lost his mom, but we weren’t kneeling in front of the body, staring into her face. He was gone. She died in a hospital. It was all so Hollywood. He came back to campus and we gave him space. I need Caroline. She needs me. Space is something we can’t afford.


I stand up and give Caroline time to do whatever it is she needs to do. I back away far enough that whatever it is she’s saying to Maggie is just noise. It sounds like distant mumbling. It could be some kind of mystic thing that they do, but likely it’s just a daughter saying a premature goodbye to her mother.


Caroline stands and turns. Her cheeks are wet. She wipes a tear and says: “We have to bury her.”


“Here?”


“You have a better place?”


I don’t.


Caroline tries to lift Maggie, but she can’t. Maggie had a couple inches and more than a couple of pounds on her daughter. I step in and lift her from the ground, one arm under her knees, the other across her back. Her body is heavy without her helping support any of the weight, and I take it slow down the few steps there are leading to the food and fiber building.


I follow Caroline back to where our camp had been. We pass Walter’s body and Caroline points toward her mother’s bed roll.


“There,” she says. “We’ll go find a place to bury her in the morning.”


It’s beginning to get dark. I go lift Walter. He’s heavier than Maggie and in worse shape. He’s awkward to handle in ways that a human body isn’t supposed to be. It feels more like trying to carry a pile of limbs rather than a body.


I lay him in the little space that he’d claimed and join Caroline up near where they usually install the big cowboy statue when the fair is in session.


“This was mom’s favorite thing,” she says, a big smile painted on her face. “She loved the fair. I think that’s why she chose here as where we ran to. It was a safe space for her. Good memories.”


“Plus, it’s pretty open,” I say.


Caroline is looking up like she can see the cowboy now, lost in some mist-filled magic world. Who knows. Maybe she can see him.


“We’d come once a week whenever the fair was going. Maybe more often if she got a deal on tickets. Every time, even if we’d come the day before, she’d make us take a goofy picture in front of Big Tex. The first were usually all smiles. We’d get a corn dog from a stand over there.” Caroline points. “Put mustard all down the front and hold them up in front of us with Big Tex in the back.”


“ ‘Howdy folks!’ ” She says in a deep twang, imitating the talking statue’s catchphrase.


She turns and walks off. I follow.


“I was thinking that tonight we could stay in the food court. It’s covered. The doors are unlocked.”

Caroline is shaking her head. “Tonight,” she says, “I’m sleeping by mom.”

Sunday, March 26, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 22 -- The Search

It's been a busy couple of weeks here. Vacation and a crazy-busy day job schedule has kept me from posting the last couple of weeks, so we are going to try and make up that time by tripling up this week. Here's the first of what will be three posts. The story is starting to change. Things are happening that will transform our characters.

Hope you're still liking it. As always, thanks for reading.

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Welcome to the End//Part 22 -- The Search

I drop down to comfort her and she falls into my arms. She’s inconsolable so I just hold her. We stay like this for a few minutes. I keep glancing over at Walter, and saying a brief thank you that we weren’t here last night.  That’s when I notice the rest of the park. It’s in shambles. Trees are uprooted. Stucco has been pulled from the sides of buildings. Large chunks of the sidewalk have been pulled up. This wasn’t a small number of wailers that did this. It had to be hundreds. More even. I can’t imagine being there. Walter was probably overrun quickly, but I don’t imagine he went without a fight.


Maggie either, and that’s what I try to tell Caroline.


She pulls back and looks up at me: “She might not be gone.”


“What?”


“This is just her scarf. It’s not her. She could have dropped it or something. I could have been pulled off. It’s a possibility.”


I agree.


“I’m going to go look for her.”


“Then I’ll go too,” I say. “We can split up. If we find her she’ll probably need help. Better to locate her sooner rather than later.”


Caroline stands and starts heading for the Midway. I go the opposite, toward the exhibit halls.


“Hey,” I call out. Caroline turns. “Meet back here in 30 minutes. It’s going to be dark. We need a plan to get us through the night.”


She gives me a thumbs up then heads back toward the Midway.


I’m trying to remain hopeful. I tell myself that Maggie’s smart. She’s resourceful. She’s magical. All those could get her through whatever this attack was. I dig into a pile of crumbled stucco, seeing if maybe the side of the wall for what used to be the food court had fallen on her. Then I climb over the pile to see if she’s somehow been stuck inside. She hadn’t. The building is dark and cold and heavily damaged. The wailers didn’t just limit their stampede to outside.


One thing the wailers did do was break down doors. Despite the damage, the inside of this building is dry. It’s a possibility for tonight.


I circle the building, but Maggie isn’t here. I move on. I’m walking toward the automobile building when I hear Caroline call from behind me. She’s yelling my name. I turn quickly, expecting the worst.


“Did you find her?” I realize that my voice sounds panicked, and I try to calm myself.


Caroline is shaking her head before I even finish my sentence. “She’s not at the Midway, but we’ll find her.” Caroline has a confidence that I wish I could muster.


“It’s been a half hour,” she continues. “You’d said we should stop.”


“Let’s not yet,” I say and start walking again. I head for what’s left of the automobile buildings. Caroline joins me.


There are normally statues in front of the buildings, four of them. They are framed by narrow, tall arches. Not anymore. The statues have been pulled down, art deco relics that are now in pieces on the ground. Large chunks have ended up in the reflecting pool that runs between the two buildings. He arches are also gone, pulled down by the hoards of wailers who came through. A bad feeling starts working its way up from my toes. It tingles my ankles, punches at my knees and crawls up my back.


We get near the entry to the first building. The door have also been pulled off their hinges. Caroline come to a stop, and I pause with her. She’s struck by something. I don’t see it at first. Then, there it is. Blood. It’s streaked across the damp ground. It moves across our path and away from the automobile buildings. Caroline begins to follow the trail, and I follow her.


We lose the trail in a fountain but pick it up on the other side. It passes in front of the Hall of State, another big art deco monster that used to have a curved entry that was taller than the rest of the building and a colonnade that stretched across its front. Both are gone now, The entry was taken out by a rock that first night, the columns pulled down by wailers. It’s a shell now, the doors still intact. Not even wailers could get through the pile of rubble that laid at the entrance.


Caroline is well ahead of me now. Her pace has picked up, and I’m chasing her again. She disappears around a corner that heads toward the area of the fair given to livestock, and that’s when I hear her scream.

Friday, March 10, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 21 -- It's Walter

Our little serial experiment hits part 21 this week. It's old enough to drink, so a toast to it for reaching this milestone. And a toast to you for reading along, especially if you've been with us since October when this all started.

It doesn't feel like i've been doing this for almost six months,but I guess I have. I'm excited about this story. I'm excited about the new covers. I'm excited that it feels like something that could sell a few copies and find me an audience as a writer. As great as it is to see the number of visits that these posts get, I always wish it'd be more. Same is true with book sales. I don't need to be a best seller, but a better seller would be nice. I do think it'll happen. For some reason I have probably unearned confidence in that.

One last thing. Digi City, the standalone story set in my New Eden universe is free today and tomorrow at Amazon. If you like cyberpunk, dystopian, near-future scifi then you'll like this. It's got all the things of New Eden—data addicts and a corrupt corporate power—plus it features Miller, the possibly-too-earnest-for-his-own-good antagonist from Finding Faded Light. Plus it's got an ending that I love. Grab a copy here then tell all your friends about it.

OK, that's it. On with our story.

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Welcome to the End//Part 21 -- It's Walter 

“So you are a bit of a liar,” I say to Caroline.


“Excuse me?”


We pause at an intersection and I let Caroline pick our path.


“You told me that you couldn’t do any of the magic your mom does,” I say while she decides which way we head next. “You said that was something you left to your mom and sister. Had no interest in it, I believe is what you said.”


“I did say that, didn’t I?”


We go right. It’s a little roundabout if we want to get back to camp quickly, but if it makes Caroline more comfortable then a few minutes detour is worth it.


“I guess my secret’s out,” Caroline says.


“Why is it a secret?”


“Mom doesn’t know.”


“She doesn’t? Why?”


“I made too big a stink about not being interested in it when I was younger. I didn’t know how to tell her I’d changed my mind.”


“So you had your sister teach you some stuff?”


“Her some, but mostly books. I’d study them at night when mom was at work, making sure to be careful about putting them back so she wouldn’t see them disturbed.”


“They have books on this kind of stuff?”


“Nothing you can get at the store. But, yeah, there are books. And real books too. Not some kind of thick leather-bound volume you see in movies with all that frilly handwriting that’s hard to read.  These are book books.”


We pass under the interstate and are nearing camp. The neighborhood turns residential here. Older houses. Smaller. The population mostly lower income. It was an area ripe for gentrification but that never got a chance to push this far east. The homes were small but cute, and being this close to downtown could have gone for quite a bit if the right crowd had ever taken an interest. But they hadn’t, and it was too late now.


The number of bodies in the road has dropped and everything is painted now in a light brown thanks to the mud rain. But there’s something different about the neighborhood. It looks worse. More ransacked. More destroyed. Caroline notices at about the same time I do, and her pace picks up.


“What do you think?” She knows what I’m asking about. Something has happened. Wailers have been here. These houses look torn apart, and it’s only getting worse the closer we get to camp. It’s all visible now. Claw marks. Boards snapped and breaks that are obviously fresh.


Caroline’s walk turns to a jog then to a full run. I’m following behind her best I can, but my pack is slowing me down. She’s a few hundred feet ahead of me.


I call out for her, but she doesn’t stop. We enter Fair Park through a side entrance. She’s so far in front of me that I lose her. She’s turned a corner one way, and I’ve gone another. I turn toward the Ferris wheel, and that’s when I hear her scream. It stops me cold.


I break into as much of a sprint as I can, and that’s when I see Walter. He’s gone. Brutalized and lying in a heap near a planter box. Caroline is sitting near him. She’s holding a scarf that Maggie was wearing before the rain. It’s soaked and dripping water, but Caroline has it up to her face. It’s covering her mouth, but I can still hear her muffled cries.

Friday, March 3, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 20 -- Bodies

Part 20. 20? Yes, 20.
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Welcome to the End//Part 20 -- Bodies

Caroline puts her hand to her mouth and I gently guide her down another block. I still have my gun out. The wailers aren’t visible, but they aren’t gone. We walk quiet for a few blocks then see another body, this one in worse shape. Whoever he is, he went down fighting. We pass wide, on the opposite sidewalk and Caroline finally speaks.


“Who are these people?”


I don’t have an answer for her, as much as I’d like to be able to give her one. I don’t really think she’s expecting me to actually say anything. We turn another corner, to head back toward Fair Park, and things only get more gruesome. Three more bodies, or what’s left of bodies, and there are more past that.


Caroline begins to cry. We stop walking, and I put an arm around her. She rolls her head into my chest and her whimpers turn to sobs. This is all a little overwhelming to me, I can’t imagine what it’s doing to a teenager.


The only way we escaped this same fate was magic. Literal magic. Our little lean-to shelter was nice for a moment, but it had barely been keeping us protected from the elements. Without Caroline’s magic bubble we’d be out here dead in the wet Dallas streets. I whisper a thank you into Caroline’s ear and can feel her nod her response into my chest. Her crying has calmed and she turns away from me.


“Let’s get back to camp,” she says. “But let’s find another way.”


I agree and we turn back and start walking through Deep Ellum. It’s an old warehouse district that’s turned into mostly come-and-go nightspots and restaurants. And, apparently, it’s where many of Dallas’ survivors headed to when they had nowhere else to go because the number of bodies here is worse. They are all over the streets. Numbers in the dozens down each block. We do our best to avoid passing as many as we can. Somehow that feels respectful. Not to pass. To avoid the temptation to gawk. It feels like the right thing to do. Plus, it helps Caroline stay calm.  I also try to distract her with conversation.


“So when you said you weren’t really into the magic thing and your mom told me that you never really took to it, was that some organized campaign to lie to me?”


She smiles, just a bit.


“I’m not into it,” she tries to tell me. “But I know some stuff.”


“Just small stuff? Like how to make a candy bar appear out of nowhere. Poof up a hall pass for a friend at school. Or to create an impenetrable, hard-shelled dome of light.”

“Yeah, stuff like that.”


“Why didn’t you two want to tell me.”


“The magic thing doesn’t always go over well. Some people want candy bars and hall passes. Others want nothing to do with you. I didn’t want you -- we didn’t want you or anyone to cast us off on our own. We had an agreement to not say anything to anyone or do anything that would pull back that curtain unless we just absolutely had to.”


“Basically what your mom said when I asked the same thing.”


We walk in silence, passing fewer bodies than we had before. Fewer, not none. Caroline cuts a wide path around them whenever we come upon them, and I just follow her lead. The number of bodies is surprising. I want to bring it up to Caroline, say that I didn’t know this many people were still alive, or at least around Dallas. I figure that it’s best not to say anything. Still, I’d assumed that because the people I knew about were gathered in little pockets, like at our camp or at the one in Mesquite, then that’s all there were. I hadn’t considered that some would just huddle up on their own. Keep their heads down and try to survive. It adds a layer of sadness to all of this that we are seeing now. Bring these people into our camp and we could have had something of a little society. A community at least. Strength in numbers.


I think back to what J.R. said he heard, about the church in Oklahoma. It feels like a better idea now. At least it’s a proactive one. Trying to build something. Trying to build numbers, build strength.


People like Caroline and Maggie would be valuable in a society like that. They’ve kept me alive so far, and that was the real truth. I’ve had two moments since all of this happened that I shouldn’t have survived. Two moments when the wailers should have gotten to me, but they didn’t. And that’s only because I stumbled into these magic ladies’ camp early on. Dumb luck, destiny, or providence -- I didn’t care.