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Here's my rough attempt at writing an adventure story set in our modern world. The aim is to tell a Western-flavored mystery yarn that might have some meaning and relevance to today. More to come after these first few chapters. Hope you enjoy.



1​
Joshua Prophet woke up on Tuesday at his usual five thirty AM, and was surprised to find that he was in complete darkness. In the past two months of living in the motel, he’d grown used to the constant buzzing of the halogen light over the parking lot outside his window, and there was always a crack of light under his room door. He checked the time on his cell phone and was surprised to find that he had no service at all, and that the digital clock on his phone had frozen at 12:01 AM. Odd, he thought, since the cell phone clocks were synced and with the network provider’s satellites.
Even more odd, though, was the fact that his television wouldn’t turn on, and that when he cracked his window curtains and peeked out, the entire town was dark. Not a light to be seen anywhere. Must be a hell of a blackout, he thought. Had there been a thunderstorm? No, he’d heard no thunder and seen no flickers of lightning, and Josh was a light sleeper.
Josh dressed and brushed his teeth. He noticed that the water pressure was much less powerful than it had been in the two months that he’d been living there. Weird morning.
The hotel lobby was dark, with one young hotel clerk and a two guests milling around looking as perplexed by the power outage as he was.
“Does your phone work?” asked the clerk.
“No ma’am, I’ve got no coverage, though I usually get it fine here.”
“Damn, we got nothing either. No TV, no phones, no WiFi, man, we got nothing this morning.”
“That mean no coffee?” Josh asked the dumb question.
“No coffee,” was the unanimous reply from three mouths.


2

Josh drove his pickup to the jobsite, and was in the act of connecting his nail gun to the air compressor when he realized how stupid he was. Without power, he couldn’t fire up the compressor. Without the compressors, his nail gun wouldn’t work. Come to think of it, he couldn’t do a thing he’d planned to do today without electricity. No drills, no saws, nothing was operative when the power was out. As an independent contractor who generally worked solo, he was used to reacting to various situations and being light on his feet. But this threw him for a loop. He was remodeling a kitchen in a beautiful home on a lake in southern Alabama. The owner—a wealthy retired oil man and his wife—were in Europe and were not expected back for at least three months, and besides, it would do no good to call them.
Without a better option, Josh drove his pickup truck back into town and around the loop, hoping to find a place with some electricity and maybe someone with information about what the hell was going on. After forty five minutes of thoroughly patrolling the small lakeside town and its surrounding environs, Josh decided that something pretty major was going on. He’d not seen a single bulb burning in any building. However, he had seen a lot of people doing pretty much the same thing he’d been doing—wandering around looking for electricity and answers. He’d pulled over and talked to a few people walking along the roads. None of them had cell coverage, and everyone said the same thing. No TV, no Internet, no nothing.
At the end of the first day, Josh was feeling depressed. He wanted to see the fake brilliance of fluorescent lighting, and to see the cheap hotel TV fire up when he clicked the remote. But most of all, he wanted to call Beth. They’d been married almost three years. Beth and their beautiful one year old daughter, Angelica, his angel, were back home in Oregon. They’d gone to stay with Beth’s parents at their home near the coast. Beth hated being home alone, and Josh hated to leave her. But with the economy the way it had been, especially the housing sector, it was really tough to find decent work, and he’d had to jump at this chance when it was offered.
By midnight of the first night, Josh was annoyed more than anything. He figured it was a glitch in the satellite-electric-global whatever system, everything is so interconnected now, probably a problem somewhere that caused the whole system to momentarily hiccup. But it would right itself, he knew. Too many people depended upon it, billions and billions of people, it was just too vital to go unfixed in twenty four hours or so. And as far as he knew, maybe the problem was more local than anything? Maybe it was just the county he was in, or just south Alabama, or just the southeast? Hard to tell the scope of the problem when everything was down.
By the middle of the second night, Josh was worried. He’d been out most of the day but had thought better of his aimless driving when he’d attempted to get gas at a convenience store but the pumps wouldn’t work. He figured he’d better conserve what fuel he had.
By the third night, hell was breaking loose, and he could hear it from his hotel room.





3

Josh drove past the Biloxi city limit sign at six thirty, just as the sky was beginning to lighten to gray in the east behind him. The day before he’d paid cash to top off his tank at the one station he could find whose pumps were still operable. He’d had to wait in line for four hours and had paid over two hundred dollars to fill his tank, and was lucky to get that. The tank went dry soon after he pulled away.
He avoided the interstate, knowing that all major traffic arteries would be chock-full of frantic people escaping. Escaping what? The questioned continued to gnaw at him as the wound through the Mississippi back roads and into Louisiana. He’d cross the state line at Mansfield, Louisiana into East Texas by noon. He’d feel better crossing into Texas. He had a stop to make.
To get to Old Jeb’s place, Josh left Highway 84 at Timpson and headed north on a narrow farm-to-market road. When the farm road’s asphalt ended and the dirt road began, Josh knew he was still half an hour away.
Old Jeb was on the porch when Josh drove up. He shuffled down the creaky steps in his lopsided gait, his old eyes squinting against the late afternoon sun.
“Well, see you still got the Ford.” Jeb usually got straight to the important points.
“Yep, she’s still goin’.” Josh stuck out his hand to receive Old Jeb’s crushing handshake. For a moment, Josh forgot his anxiety and just enjoyed seeing his old friend.
“You hear about the trouble, Jeb?”
“I heard. Thought I might see you before long.”
“How’s that? Didn’t realize I told you I was down this way.”
“Oh, just a feelin. You know.”
“I swear, Jeb, you’re downright spooky sometime—“
“Where’s Beth and Angelica? You don’t have them with you?”
“No, I’m heading to get them right now. I’ve been on a job in Biloxi and they’re at her mom’s in Oregon, on the coast.” The anxiety came back so strong that it made Josh’s throat constrict as he spoke.
“I see. Well boy, come inside. I may be able to give you a little help.”
The two men, one stooped and crooked with age, the other tall, young and strong, climbed the steps to the old house, the screen door banging behind them.


I’ve got a pot of coffee just made. You look like you could use a cup.
“Jeb, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were expecting me.” Jeb crooked an eyebrow at him over his ancient coffee cup, but said nothing. They drank the first cup without speaking, as if each man was gauging the situation in his own mind. Josh was the first to break the silence. “Do you know what caused all this, Jeb?” he asked. “Nope” said Jeb flatly. Josh felt himself deflate a little. If anyone had a secret insight into the state of things, he felt it would surely be Jeb.
“Nope. I don’t know what caused all this. You know I don’t have a television, and my radio’s been busted for a coupla years.”
They both sipped in silence for a minute or two.
“Josh, I don’t know for sure what caused all this, but I have my ideas. And I don’t think it’s gonna end well for a lot of folks. I think you need to git and go find Beth and Angelica. That’s a good woman and a good kid you got, and they need you. It’s gonna be a hard trip to Oregon if I’m right, and I’m usually not far off of being right.” Josh pushed back his chair and stretched his stiff back.
“Now before you head north I want to give you something, you may need it.” Jeb was shuffling towards a staircase that lead down into an ancient cellar- a place Josh had never entered on previous trips. Jeb eased down the damp stone steps holding an old fashioned kerosene lantern overhead. In the undulating lamplight, Josh could make out strings of onions and garlic bulbs drying from the rafters, dusty mason jars of homemade wine, bushel baskets of potatoes, and a long, heavy deep freezer against a wall.
“She’s served me well for the better part of fifty years, I guess she’ll serve you too.” Jeb held a greasy, narrow cardboard box in his hands, about three feet long. He presented it to Josh as if it were a ceremonial sword of some kind.
Upstairs in the better light, Josh found that the box contained a well used and lovingly maintained .30-30 rifle. Its walnut stocks were satiny with use and oil, and its blue barrel and receiver gleamed deep blue. Josh was reminded that there was nothing in the world like handling a piece of equipment that had been cared for as this gun had; its great age and condition seemed to give it a power and a potency that a newly manufactured weapon couldn’t claim. Josh had handled guns since he was a boy, and he knew something special when he saw it.
“Jeb, I swear.” There was a lot said in the gift, Josh knew. Old Jeb thought he might need a gun—that was a hell of a thought coming from Jeb, who was never one to jump to rash conclusions. And the presentation of the gift had a sense of finality to it, as if Jeb thought they might not meet again. And judging by the wear the gun had received, it looked like this had been Jeb’s only gun—had he no other weapon to defend himself, if he was foreseeing the potential need for defense? The questions began to well up in him like a spring, but Jeb silenced him with a wave. “Get on now, boy. You got your girls waiting on you.”
Jeb pressed a paper sack of peanut butter sandwiches on him as they walked down the creaky steps. Josh climbed in his truck and cranked the engine.
“I’ll be seeing you soon, you hear old man?” For the second time, Josh’s throat wanted to tighten while he spoke to Jeb. Jeb only grinned a funny grin at him and backed away, his hand up salute.
“Watch out for lawmen,” Jeb called as Josh eased the truck into drive.
“What?” Josh stuck his head out the window and looked back.
“Watch out for lawmen.” Old Jeb looked funny, as if he’d been fighting with himself about whether to say it or not. He looked Josh dead in the eyes and nodded slowly. Then he turned and ambled crookedly up the creaky steps and the screen door banged behind him.
Josh didn’t have a clue what to make of it. ‘Watch out for lawmen’—what did Jeb mean by it? Surely he wasn’t talking about speeding or traffic cops; that was absurd. But there’d been something in the way Old Jeb had said it, too; there was a finality and a certainty in his voice that made Josh feel very uneasy. All the anxiety he’d felt over the last three days roiled up inside him like a boiling liquid. He’d come to Old Jeb because of all the friends he’d ever made, Jeb was the most solid, seen the most life, had the wisdom of eighty years and more. Jeb didn’t scare; Jeb understood things and put them in perspective. But Josh had not gotten perspective from Old Jeb, at least not the perspective he’d wanted. He took a deep breath and put the pickup in drive. He may not have gotten an answer, but he did know a thing or two for certain. For one, he was shagging ass to Oregon to find Beth and Angelica, and two, Old Jeb knew something. Knew something, and was scared by it.
Josh put his hand on the .30-30 lying on the seat next to him. The cool blue steel of the receiver was reassuring.
 

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Go to blurb.com and see how you can publish all your stories in book form for around $25.00. No gimmicks. I wrote a book and am hving them do everything for me
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Guys, thanks a lot for checking out my story. Glad you were able to get through it and hopefully enjoyed it!
 

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Hey mt1761,

best story start I have read in a long time. There is real talent there. Keep developing that gift!!

Sincerely,

JDP

Team 35 # 88
Team 30-30 # 82
Team 39 # 31
 

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Great beginning, we need MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE. Thanks for posting it.

riflerick
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the comments! Here's a couple more chapters. Hope you enjoy.

4

Growing up a military kid, Josh didn’t consider himself to be from any particular place. But if pressed, he would have called East Texas his childhood home. His father had spent the most time stationed at Fort Hood and Josh had spent the bulk of his teens in and around the base. He’d graduated high school in nearby Killeen, and still had friends there.
Josh had a decision to make. He was hell bent on getting back to Beth and Angelica as soon as possible, but Fort Hood was not far out of his way. He thought he might be able to run into an old buddy or acquaintance and find out more about what had caused all the communications to go silent.
Still avoiding the major highways, Josh drove down highway 84 through some beautiful country. A two lane road today, 84 was formely part of the Camino Real, the King’s Highway, built and used by the Spanish explorers a little over three centuries before. Always a keen and enthusiastic student of history, Josh had often thought about the Spanish explorers who had used the route hundreds of years before, and the Native Americans who had used it for millennia before. He’d imagined the road to be a river through time that somehow joined his journey to those taken in the past, as if the journeys and struggles of all men were bound up together in spirit.

Josh shook the drowsiness from his eyes. He needed coffee, but was unlikely to find it. The few stores he encountered on the back roads were dark and deserted. It was at that moment that Jeb’s words came back to him. “Watch out for lawmen.” Did that warning extend to the military as well?

He decided to go to Ft. Hood. He thought that he might learn something, and if he was lucky, perhaps even get military assistance in making sure his family was safe.

Ft. Hood was completely deserted. Not only was it deserted, it appeared to have been for some time—at least a month, probably more. The absence of any presence at all was shocking. Ft. Hood had been a very busy permanent military installation for decades. What could have caused the powers that be to cause it to be deserted so suddenly? Josh felt that it had to be somehow related to the silence of the communications networks, but how?
The discovery of the deserted fort bothered Josh immensely. If there was one aspect of civilization that he had not expected to be affected by the Silence (Josh had started referring to the sequence of events this way), it was the United States Military. Of course, the personnel at Ft. Hood may have deployed in response to the Silence. But the whole fort? It made no sense.


Josh pulled the pickup over onto the shoulder and parked it. He needed to clear his head and come up with a clear plan. He started by focusing on the things he did know for certain: he needed to get to Oregon as fast as possible; he had no means of contacting Beth or her parents; and fuel availability was questionable at best, and would probably get much worse as panic spread. He decided that he couldn’t do anything about communications—he could try a pay phone or land line somewhere along the way, but nothing of the sort had worked so far. That left the more immediate concern: ensuring he had enough fuel to make it to his destination.
Josh had driven cross-country enough to judge distances and fuel expenditures fairly accurately. Though he did have a good atlas in the glove box, he rarely used it. He knew the main highway arteries across most of the west and central United States, and was usually pretty adept at navigating where he needed to go. He knew that from where his truck was parked at that moment- on the east shoulder of Highway 281 in Bell County, Texas—he was about 2200 miles from Tillamook, Oregon, on Tillamook Bay. In his pickup truck, that meant about five full tanks of gas. He had about three-quarters of a tank, which he figured would get him to about Amarillo. From there, he would either find fuel or work on hitching a ride towards the northwest.

Josh rolled into Amarillo at around three o’clock in the morning. He caught himself thinking about what hotel he’d stay at, but quickly corrected himself. There would be no hotels open if there was no power, and Amarillo appeared as dark as any other town he’d passed through. The more he thought about it, the more uneasy Josh felt about staying overnight in Amarillo. In fact, he thought to himself, he didn’t want to be in any town at night. It was too dangerous, even with the doors locked in his pickup. Josh wasn’t particularly down on the human race in general, but he had sense enough to know that a situation like this would bring out the worst in society very quickly. He decided he’d spend the night outside of town and see about fuel in the morning.

Josh drove outside the city a few miles and found a secluded little draw that was out of the wind and more importantly, out of sight for anyone strolling by. He parked his truck and killed the engine to save gas. He tried to stretch out in the cab, but he had no luck finding a comfortable position for his tall frame. After an hour or so, he climbed out of the truck and walked around to stretch his legs. Careful to keep his ears perked for the warning of a snake’s rattle, he walked over the scrub land a little ways. The night air felt good. There was a cool, dry breeze blowing, and the night sky was a riot of stars with no city lights to dim them. He decided to build a campfire. It would give him something to do besides pacing around in the dark, worrying over questions that he couldn’t answer.
He got a nice little fire going a few feet from the tailgate of his pickup. He reclined on the tailgate, occasionally getting up to feed dry mesquite sticks to the little fire. The fire brought a peace and comfort to him that he hadn’t felt since the morning the Silence began. Somewhere out on the plain a pack of coyotes started up their nightly yipping and howling. Soon Josh was asleep in the bed of his truck, sleeping the sleep of the bone-weary.




5

Josh woke before light, cold and miserable in the cool of predawn. His head ached with dehydration and the sudden lack of caffeine his system was experiencing. He needed fuel for his truck and his body.
The buildings of Amarillo were covered in ugly beige dust, giving it the look of an abandoned ghost town. The outskirts had become a shanty town of sorts. Dozens of cars and trucks parked in loose association formed the nucleus of several sprawling, ragtag camps. Dusty tents made of tarps and sheets hung between equally dusty vehicles. Inky black smoke emitted from rusty oil drums mingled with the dust carried on the breeze.
As Josh penetrated deeper into the city center on Canyon Drive, it became apparent that the camps were divided by race. The camps on the outskirts of town were Mexican camps, while the interior of the city was mostly whites. Josh had seen enough TV to know that most prison populations divided themselves along race lines, but he was very surprised to see that a city the size of Amarillo had done it so quickly. Surprised and alarmed. He sent up a silent prayer of thanks for the hunch he’d had the night before to avoid the city till daylight. The town had the feel of a danger zone. He would not like to have to spend a night here.
Josh saw the cars lined up from a half mile away. They seemed to converge from four main traffic arteries on a big intersection a few blocks from downtown. As he crested a slight rise he saw what the commotion was about—a mob of people had descended upon a shopping strip in which two large home improvement stores, a grocery store, and a Walmart were located. Josh pulled over before getting into the worst of the traffic and stood in the bed of his truck to get a better look.
The shoulders and medians leading up to the intersection were full of cars parked at every imaginable angle. The roads themselves had ceased to be avenues of transportation and had instead become narrow paved parking lots for people who seemed to have no intention of moving. The wide parking lots in the shopping centers had become campgrounds for various groups massed together. There seemed to be a lot of people trying to get into the stores—probably people needing water, food and caffeine, just as he himself did—but it seemed that the entrances to the stores were blocked by walls of bodies. Each storefront was claimed by a different race—Mexican, white and black—and the ‘gatekeepers’ seemed to be serious about defending their stores. Josh had seen enough. Climbing back into his truck, he checked the gas gauge. He judged that he had about a gallon left in the tank, or around thirty miles, give or take a few. He breathed deep and tried to exhale the pain from his head and eyes out with his breath. Think clearly, he told himself. List the priorities.
Priority number one- get himself headed northwest towards Oregon. For that he needed fuel. The hundreds of parked vehicles within sight told him immediately that he was in the wrong place to find gasoline. Priority number two- the city had become a hellish field of tensions and panic. It was not safe. Josh suddenly longed for the peaceful feeling he’d had the night before as he’d sat by the campfire. Alone. The desert was far better than this hellhole. He drove over the grassy median and took the first street that pointed west.
About fifteen minutes later he struck a farm-to-market road that led him out of town towards the northwest. He passed a vandalized city limit sign that read:

AMARILLO
POP 186,327
bienvenidos al infierno

His plan was to drive as far as his gas held out, then try to pull off the road and hide the truck before it completely died. He drove up a modest hill, judged by west Texas standards, and looked back towards the city. The tan colored buildings grouped together on the beige plain appeared to be suspended from several thin lines of inky black smoke that rose from various points in the city, as if God the Puppeteer was playing out some farce on the dusty caprock by pulling the marionette strings. Josh’s truck died at the top of the hill and began to coast. He slipped the transmission into neutral and began to think of what to do next as the truck rolled slowly downhill.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I've re-written since my initial posting. Hope you guys enjoy!
4.

The pleasant tree-covered hills andhollows of East Texas were gone, and Josh was driving due west through theflat, scrubby Texas prairies as the sun peeked above the eastern horizon. The farther west he drove, the fewer townsand people he passed. He’d spent a lotof time in Texas in his youth and had crisscrossed the state dozens of times,but he never ceased to be amazed at how big the place was. It seemed that you could spend days and daysjust getting through Texas, and you could see every type of landscapeimaginable along the way.
The long, straight highway and thefeatureless landscape quickly lulled Josh into a dull stupor. As the miles and hours ticked by, his mindslowly eased its iron grip on itself and the anxiety faded a little. His neck and shoulders slumped a little, notused to anything but strain. The sunclimbed steadily in the sky and the road kept coming, never changing. No other cars or trucks passed, only endlessasphalt and the occasional coyote loping lazily across the road. Then it happened. The engine coughed and stopped; the powersteering went out and the wheel went stiff and unresponsive in his hands; thelights on the dash faded. Theunthinkable. His truck was dead.
He’d been too worried, too anxious. He’d pressed too hard. A rookie mistake, one that even a child couldhave- should have! called him on. He’dleft the more populated regions in the east and central parts of the statewithout topping off his gas tank. Nowgranted, he’d avoided most towns like the plague, and his last experiencespurchasing fuel had left him with a particularly nasty idea about the wholeprocess, but…damn. Now he was well outonto the plains, with no gas, no towns or people anywhere around, and very fewvehicles travelling the roads. He feltthe rage building inside himself, the wrath he reserved exclusively for himselfwhen he made a mistake that he felt was beneath him. Deep breaths, he thought, deep breaths. But it was no good.
“God…God damn it!” He shouted, slamming his booted foot onto theunresponsive gas pedal. Then he punchedthe driver’s side window as hard as he could, but of course it did nothing buthurt his hand. The violent outburst,however stupid, did let out enough steam to allow him to think a little. He massaged his bruised hand (luckily itwasn’t broken) and closed his eyes to concentrate.
Maybe, he thought, just maybe it wasn’tsuch a blunder to have avoided all towns, even at the cost of securing fuel. He’d seen what the average person could dowhen desperation set in, and each passing hour would only increase thosedestructive emotions. “Josh”, he said tohimself, “you may have done good after all.”
If that was the case, then being in the middleof absolute nowhere, Texas, wasn’t such a bad thing. Perhaps even better that few cars would passthis way. He quickly abandoned anythought of searching for a place to buy gas or hitchhiking. The goal now was to keep moving west, bywhatever mode of travel necessary, even if it meant walking. His family was all that mattered.
Josh knew that he would have to abandonthe truck. It was an unnervingthought. Like most modern people, hisvehicle was a shockingly large part of Josh’s life. He’d spent more time in that truck in thelast five or six years than he’d spent in his own living room, which was asobering thought. Abandoning it underthese precarious circumstances would not be an easy thing to do, but do it hemust.
Josh also knew that taking time to planand prepare now would pay large dividends down the road. He needed to know exactly what to take fromthe truck when he walked away for good. As a travelling contractor, Josh was the owner of a very well-supplied three-quarterton pickup truck, but most of its contents were far too heavy for him to carryfor any distance, and Josh had no idea how long he’d be on foot. He fished out a stubby carpenter’s pencilfrom his glove box and began to make a list on the back of an old envelope:

1. Gun. For hunting and protection. Haveone box of shells (20).
2. Pocket knife
3. Coat
4. Spool ofnylon cord
5. Blue tarp
6. Butanelighter
7. Plastic sodabottles (for water)
8. Paper, penand pencil
9. 1 pairleather work gloves
10. 1 rollstandard duct tape

After poring over his list for a half houror so, Josh pronounced it complete. Weight was the major issue- too many cumbersome objects would slow himdown and tire him out. The blue tarp henormally used to cover machines in the rain was especially handy, as he couldwrap up the rest of his stuff in it and use it as a pack of sorts.

Once he’d gathered the items, carefullycrossing each one off the list as he went, Josh bundled them up in the tarp,gathered it into a ball, and started walking. He hadn’t gotten more than a couple hundred yards down the road beforehe realized it wasn’t going to work. Hecouldn’t possible carry the wadded-up tarp and its contents to….Oregon? It was crazy. The bundle was just too cumbersome. Overwhelmed, he threw the bundle onto the pavement and kicked it hard,cursing as profanely as he knew how to.

In about ten minutes he’d calmed downenough to reconsider the situation. Herepacked his survival gear, as he’d begun to think of it, carefully into thetarp, then folded it meticulously into a much more manageable shape. Careful to leave the rifle’s stock stickingout at easy reach, he stuck strips of duct tape together to form severalstraps, with which he made a harness of sorts that looped around his shouldersand waist and supported the bundle on his back. It was amazingly more efficient than carrying it in front of himselflike an idiot.

Reinvigorated, Josh mashed down hisdusty black cowboy hat and strode purposefully westward along the shoulder ofthe highway and abruptly realized that it was almost dark, and that unless hewanted to walk the road at night, he’d better set up camp. So almost as soon as he’d begun, he left theroad and searched for a place to sleep away from the highway, whose warmasphalt attracted rattlesnakes at night, as well as whomever else might betravelling this lonely road.







5.

Josh spent a nearly sleepless nighthuddled against a boulder with his coat on and the blue tarp wrapped clumsilyaround him. In his haste and fatigue thenight before, Josh had picked the first sizeable landmark he’d come across- theboulder- and basically collapsed against it. It seemed to him that he carefully packed contents of his tarp pack werescattered from hell to breakfast, but he didn’t remember being particularlycareless.

His body and head aching due to lack ofsleep, Josh took off his hat and squeezed his temples hard. He’d kill for a good cup of coffee to knockthe chill from his bones. He’d have tosettle for unpleasantly cold water from his plastic bottles. The past night had taught him a hardlesson: settling down for the nightrequired a surprising amount of planning and preparation, and being caughtright at dark with no sleeping place procured was a ticket for misery. For amoment, Josh sat in the cold, his body aching and his head throbbing, and wasovercome with despair. He was in themiddle of an empty prairie in the middle of nowhere, with no vehicle and noidea of how he would travel other than walking, and he was almost two thousandmiles as the crow flies from his wife and daughter. There were mountains and rivers and desperatepeople and God knew what else between them. It seemed impossible that he would ever make it.

But make it he must. What could he do, sit by the boulder and cryall day? It was time to plan, toprepare, and to move. What could helearn from the awful night he’d just spent? First of all, he had to have a fire at night. Although it could possibly give away hislocation, he also had to survive. Eventually he’d have to cook food. And he couldn’t wait until twilight to start gathering firewood. Darkness came so quickly, and he knew that itwould take quite a lot of wood to keep a fire going through the night. He resolved to keep an eye out for likelypieces of firewood as he travelled that day and to put them in his pack.

He’d also have to find a source for waterand refill his bottles. A full day ofwalking, even if the weather was crisp, would dehydrate him rapidly. And food. Where would he find something to eat? He could shoot jackrabbits or maybe even a deer if he were lucky, but heonly had twenty bullets. He’d have to besmart about rationing his ammunition. Were there any wild plants he could gather as he walked? He wracked his sore brain but came up withnothing.

Midmorning found him walking towardsa distant line of trees that he took to be a creek bed of some sort. He’d repacked his belongings carefully intothe tarp and lowered the brim of his old hat to break up the sun’s glare. He wasn’t used to judging distances on theplains, and had thought the creek bed to be no more than a few hundred yardsaway. After a solid hour’s walk heseemed no closer. The line of trees wasapparently several miles distant.

When he finally arrived at the trees hefound a wide, shallow depression in which several shallow pools of water werejoined by thin, slowly running streams. The water appeared to be clear and clean, but Josh knew better than todrink it. Who knew if a dead animal, oran abandoned car battery, or whatever lay upstream?

Josh was a methodical man at heart. His work and the various travails of life hadtaught him to take in each situation carefully before making any rash actions. In his words, he preferred to do things in‘chapters’. In his judgment, the creekwas a collection of resources, and he had to figure out how to utilize thoseresources in the most effective way possible. He wasn’t going to walk to Oregon tonight, anyway, no matter how bad hewanted to.



He walked the creek a couple miles ineither direction, just taking in what there was to see. His reconnaissance netted a stand ofpersimmon trees full of great big dark burgundy-colored fruit, an old coffeecan and two very sore feet.
He filled the coffee can with ripepersimmons and chose a camping spot- a flat, well concealed area elevated a fewfeet above the water. Fallen brancheswere plentiful, and with the butane lighter he was able to get a fire going inshort order. He dumped the persimmonsout on the tarp and, filling the can with clear water, set it in the coals toboil. In the meantime he sampled thefruit. It had a tangy, sharp flavor, butit tasted good and went down well to Josh’s rumbling stomach. He ate a lot, and once the water boiled andsubsequently cooled, he drank the can of water straight down. After throwing a few more sticks on the fire,he rolled up into his tarp for a midafternoon nap.



Josh woke up feeling muchrefreshed. He broke camp, whichconsisted of kicking sand over his dead fire and repacking his gear, and headednorthwest, with only the vaguest sense of where the hell he was going. This part of Texas was mostly open when youjust glanced at the landscape- endless beige, with few breaks- but once you actuallywalked through it, it was a lot less empty than one might imagine.

After about an hour, Josh figuredhe’d covered about three miles. His feetwere already sore- his old cowboy boots weren’t great for hiking. He was wearing an old black felt cowboy hatthat he’d come across several years ago. It was great at keeping the sun and rain off, but it was hell forhot. He crested a gentle rise thatallowed him a pretty wide view of the plain, and his eye was immediately drawnto a distant shape that didn’t seem to fit the landscape. It was too far off determine exactly what itwas, but to Josh’s eye it looked like it might be a person. Though it was probably close to a mile away,the shape wasn’t moving much. He decidedto walk over and check it out.

There was a shallow, dried-out creekbed that ran in the general direction of the shape- Josh decided to use this tokeep a low profile on his approach. Ashe got closer, he quietly chambered a round into the breech of his rifle. The pretty metal click pleased his ear butmade his mind wince. It meant that hemight have to shoot.

When he judged himself to be withinforty yards of the shape, he stood up, rifle leveled and ready.

“Easy!” he said the first thing thatcame into his mind.

“Oh!” she turned as she said it, herempty palms next to her ears.

She’d been leaning over a young boy,wiping his face. He looked sick.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. Is that boy OK?” He lowered the rifle and began walkingover.

“He’s sick, sir, he’s been throwingup all day and he’s had diarrhea.” Sheshowed no reluctance when he strode right over to her, which was strange. He could be anyone.

“It’s probably dehydration. Do you have any water?”

“No sir, we run out yesterday.” Josh pulled out one of his cans and gave itto her. She took it to the boy withoutdrinking a drop herself.

“Where’re y’all headed?”

“Oh, towards California. It’s yonder way, right?” She pointed southwest.

“More this way,” he pointed “but you’re about eight hundredmiles from the California state line, and God knows what you’ll find once youget there. What are you after inCalifornia?”

She neither responded nor looked upfrom ministering to her sick boy. It wasobviously her boy. They were thespitting image of each other in the face, and they both had flaming redhair. His stuck out in all directionsfrom his head, as if a comb could never tame it. Hers was curly and hung in ringlets over hershoulders and down her back. They wereboth fair skinned and were getting pretty burnt up by the sun.

“We should find some shade for youtwo. The sun will be getting pretty badsoon.”

“You seen any shade around here,sir?”

“There’s more in this land than onemight think. I think I know just thething.”

“Is it far? Jacob’s very sick.”

“It’s not far.” He was expecting she’d tell him her name, butshe’d turned once more towards the boy.


Josh went back to the dry creek bedand found the steepest part of the embankment. It still wasn’t very steep, but it was the best thing he had to workwith. He spread one edge of the tarp outon the upper end of the embankment and weighted it down with rocks, andstretched the other end to the sandy bottom of the creek bed. It created a very rough lean-to styleshelter, which was very sandy and dirty, but it was at least out of thesun.

“Ma’am, if you’ll come this way, Ithink you’ll find this place more comfortable for both of you.”

“Oh, thank you sir. Can you please…” She gestured towards the boy, who wasapparently asleep. For a moment Joshdidn’t know what she was talking about.

“Can you carry him, please? He’s in a bad way, and I haven’t been able tocarry him since he was five.”

Josh carried the boy over to thecreek bed and helped the woman down the slope. The boy seemed to be about the same age as his Angelica. Josh already found himself feeling protectiveof this odd pair. He was a father and heknew what it was to worry over a sick child, and the poor redheaded womandidn’t seem much more than a child herself. He ran over their needs in his mind: they had water enough for a day or so, but they would need more verysoon, and the woman would want water to clean the boy. Water was the first priority. Food would be needed soon, but water camefirst.

“Ma’am, I….” he caught himselfmid-sentence. “I’m sorry ma’am, Ihaven’t introduced myself. My name isJoshua Prophet.”

“I’m Eve and this is Benjamin.”

“Pleased to meet you. Ma’am, we need more water. We need to let this boy rest, and we’ll beneeding water to wash and such. I’mgoing to go look for some now. I have awife, her name is Beth, and our little girl is Angelica.” It felt awkward to inject his family into theconversation, but he thought it important that she know he was a familyman. Maybe it would make her feel safer.

“Well, we appreciate your helpSir. Please don’t be long.” She looked anxiously at him. The poor woman, she seemed not much more thana scared child herself.








Josh lucked upon a tank of water ina draw about five miles to the east. He’d found it by climbing the highest point he could see, which didn’tseem very high at all from a distance, but was a surprisingly effective vantagepoint once he’d arrived. This vast,empty landscape kept surprising him with its variety. The tank was made of metal, the size andshape of an above-ground swimming pool. It was fed by a pump, which was powered by an old-fashioned windmill. This setup was still commonly used in the Westto water stock, and there were plenty of tracks of cows and horses around thetank. He must be on someone’sranch. He quickly refilled his watervessels, wishing he had more. He neededto keep a sharp lookout for bottles and such that could carry water. Fearing being discovered by the landowner, hehurried back to Eve and Benjamin.

The water and the shade did the boywonders. By the next morning he was wideawake and full of vigor. Despite hisphysical similarity to his mother, his personality proved to be altogetherdifferent.

“Mister, you have a g-gun.” He had a thick stutter, but that didn’t holdhim back much. “I always wanted ag-gun.”

“Ben, you should call him Mr.Prophet, and he may not wish to speak about guns just now.”

“No worry, ma’am. I enjoy the boy’s direct way of speaking.”

“The poor thing has stuttered sincehe first started talking. His teacherssay he can’t be fixed. I done took himto a dozen speech therapists. We evenwent to Atlanta once. Nothing helped.”

Josh didn’t like her speaking of theboy’s impediment like that in front of the lad.

“Do you know something, Ben? I stuttered terribly when I was younger. Much worse than you do.”


“Rrr-rr-rreally?” It was worse when he got excited.


“Yes sir. I stuttered something awful, so much youcouldn’t understand me. You know how Igot rid of it? By reading poetry outloud.”

“Poetry? Poems and stuff? Cause I don’t know any poems and I don’t likethem anyway.”

“You might like it if you hear theright ones.” Ben didn’t respond, so hewent on.

“This is one of my favorites. It’s by an Irishman by the name ofYeats. It goes like this:

WHEN my arms wrap you round I press
Myheart upon the loveliness
That has long faded fromthe world;
The jeweled crowns thatkings have hurled
In shadowy pools, whenarmies fled;
The love-tales wrought withsilken thread
By dreaming ladies uponcloth
That has made fat themurderous moth;
The roses that of old timewere
Woven by ladies in theirhair,
The dew-cold lilies ladiesbore
Through many a sacredcorridor
Where such grey clouds ofincense rose
That only God's eyes didnot close:
For that pale breast andlingering hand
Come from a moredream-heavy land,
A more dream-heavy hourthan this;
And when you sigh from kissto kiss
I hear white Beautysighing, too,
For hours when all mustfade like dew,
But flame on flame, anddeep on deep,
Throne over throne where inhalf sleep,
Their swords upon theiriron knees,
Brood her high lonelymysteries.



“Mister,that sure was a lot of words.”

“Itwas beautiful.” Eve seemed to be takenwith the poetry. In fact, she’d neverheard anything so wonderful in her life. Her only fleeting contact with anything poetic had been in a countryschoolhouse, and then both the teaching and the learning had been half-heartedat best. These words by the Irishmanstirred something deep within her, something she’d never be able to describeherself. All she knew was that it waslovely, and mysterious, and powerful, and she wanted to hear more.

“Do you know any more?” It was Eve who asked.


“Why,Mr. Yeats wrote a great deal more poems, but I don’t know all of them. Let me think…..”

“Benjamin,it’s time for bed. You need to beresting.” She then began fussing witharranging Benjamin’s bedding, apparently losing interest in poetry.

Joshstared into the flames of the campfire. The poem had had an effect on him, too. It had been a very long time since he’d read or reflected upon thatpoem, but it was one of the few he’d memorized. He’d never read it in school; he’d run across it in a volume of poemssometime in his twenties, in the rather lonely years before he’d married. He’d had a soft spot for poems ever since,but had little reason to recite them. He’d forgotten how powerful a collection of rhymed lines could be.


Thered headed woman put her boy in his pallet under the makeshift shelter and madeher way back to the campfire.

“That was awful nice of you,with that poem and all. Ben can besensitive about his stuttering. I guessit means more to hear talk like that from someone who has experienced the samedifficulty.”

“Ma’am,I’m sorry to disappoint, but I’ve never stuttered a day in my life.”

Shewas surprised for a second, and then she positively glowed at him, suddenlyunderstanding.

“Please,call me Eve.”

“I’mJosh.”

“I’mgoing to bed, Josh.” She was the pictureof a young, happy mother. Josh sat upnear the campfire for several more hours. The poem had put him in a sentimental mood, and he missed his Beth andhis Angelina more than he could say. Somany thoughts wondered through his head, so many doubts and fears. They were just so far away, and so much couldhappen.







Thenext week passed quietly. They werelucky with water, finding several small creeks and tanks along the way. Twice they came upon large herds of wild pigsat the watering holes, and Josh was able to shoot three, one of them a verylarge sow. Josh had heard that wild pigswere taking over the South, but they had none in Oregon and he’d never huntedthem before. The three pigs providedgreat feasts for them at night, and Josh smoked very thin slices of the leanercuts above the campfire. They ate thisas they walked during the day.

Itsoon became very apparent that the woman and the boy depended upon Joshcompletely. Josh was appalled that thepoor girl- for she was not much more than a girl- was so pitifully ignorant of the necessitiesof survival. The need for new sources ofwater eluded her, as well as the needs for food and shelter. Josh quickly began to feel that the woman andthe boy depended upon him. It was afeeling that he was used to, being a husband and father, and it was a role hefelt he played well.




 

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Sorry, formatting got screwed up somewhere along the line.
 

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Hell of a story bro I love it!!
 

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Thanks very much Cajun, I'm very glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed some of your state's fine eating the past few weeks- I've been in Shreveport on business. Herby K's has the best crawfish etoufee I've had.
 

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Itsoon became very apparent that the woman and the boy depended upon Joshcompletely. Josh was appalled that thepoor girl- for she was not much more than a girl- was so pitifully ignorant of the necessitiesof survival. The need for new sources ofwater eluded her, as well as the needs for food and shelter. Josh quickly began to feel that the woman andthe boy depended upon him. It was afeeling that he was used to, being a husband and father, and it was a role hefelt he played well. He still needed toget back to Beth and Angelica. Did Eveand Ben slow him down? Was he avoidinghis responsibility to get back to his family by helping these people? The question gnawed at his mind, but hisheart told him that he had to help them, at least for now. They would still travel in the direction ofhis family, and as quickly as possible, but he couldn’t leave them to die inthe dry heat. He couldn’t see far enoughahead in the future to tell exactly how it would all work out, but he had tofollow his heart. This was the rightthing to do, and he could only hope and pray that it wouldn’t put his wife andbaby girl in harm’s way.

Joshfigured they managed about twelve or fifteen miles per day. That was pushing it; much more and they’dharm themselves in the long run. Theyweren’t in terrible shape, as they’d stuck close to water and they’d been luckywith game, but they needed to rest. Eveand Ben had proven to be strong, uncomplaining travelers, and they didn’t speakmuch as they walked. It seemed that they,like him, were focused on a destination far away, and were trying to endure thetravel with as little fuss as possible.

Onthe fourteenth day from when he found them, they arrived at U.S. Highway 56about an hour from sundown. It wascompletely deserted, as was the wide, empty land in every direction. They followed the highway briefly, which wasagainst Josh’s policy, but the vast land was so obviously empty and open that heallowed them to enjoy walking on a man-made road for a while. It almost made them feel like civilizedpeople out for a stroll.

Theroad narrowed down and abruptly turned from north to east at a rightangle. In the apex of the curve, a dustymetal sign read in peeling letters:

THENORTH WEST CORNER OF TEXAS
LEAVING THE LONE STAR STATE

Theypaused and read the sign. Looking aroundat the empty fields, the knowledge that they were standing on the very cornerof a very big state seemed very insignificant. Maps were an illusion when you were actually standing on theground. Hell, thought Josh to himself, states were an illusion now. They crossed the road and began picking theirway northwest, into New Mexico. Oklahomawas only a stones’ throw to the east, and Colorado not very far at all to thenorth. It was all the same, dusty, emptyland to the three travelers- Josh wasn’t thinking about this strange confluenceof state lines. He was counting hisshells. Fifteen shells. Better make them count.
 

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This promises to be a great story !! Please finish it soon and post some more ! My Wife has just finished a novel but its a womans novel and while its very good - its not really my cuppa tea ! Good writing !!
 
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