By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire. I had lost track of how long I had been living in the tent in the woods, but it had been early spring when it all started. It was clearly now fall, of the same year? I had no idea and I didn’t even really care.
Those first few weeks in the woods had been terrifying. I only slept for an hour or two at a time and I didn’t remember eating much at all. I don’t know how many weeks passed before I no longer heard the sounds of diesel engines and helicopters, but it was at least six. I waited two more weeks before I carefully made my way back to the house.
It was eerily quiet. All the houses were empty. Everyone was gone. I thought about searching some of the nearby houses but decided that could wait for another time. I took the wagon and filled it with clothing, blankets, books, matches, and anything that was still there that might be useful. Then quietly weaved my way back to the tent, carefully covering my tracks.
I made a small fire, just long enough for a hot meal, and sipped some whiskey before laying down for my first real sleep in weeks.
The next morning, I lit a small fire to make coffee and oatmeal. God, I had missed coffee. After I ate and cleaned up, I sat down to think. “Now what?”
I hadn’t consciously made a decision to live in the woods alone. I had made a decision to not go to the ‘center’ with the FEMA guys. Now I had to live with it. I had no regrets. I would rather die out here than ‘live’ in the center. I just wish I had been a bit better prepared. Maybe some sort of shelter built up here, but I would rather die alone in this tent than the alternative.
When it all went to hell, we stayed home and obeyed the lockdown. I will never know how we got it, but we did. Both of us at the same time. I had stocked up on fever reducers, cold medicines, cough syrup, congestion relieving meds, and herbal remedies. The first two weeks weren’t bad and I really thought we had it beat, then we took a turn for the worse. Both of us, at the same time. I woke up a few days later, he never did.
I wanted to die too, but I continued to improve. I had also stocked up on whiskey and tequila. They provided the buffer to keep me from coming apart. I called 911 to tell them that he was gone. They said that they were no longer collecting bodies. I was told to bury him myself.
I turned on the news. It was full of riots and fires and death. I went to bed hoping to wake up from this nightmare, but the next morning nothing had changed.
He wanted to be cremated, somehow I managed to do it. I gathered all the ashes I could, so that maybe someday I could release them where he wanted. I drank a lot and cried a lot. Then the power went out. It’s all very blurry after that.
My next clear memory is waking up and hearing someone knocking on the door. I stayed quiet so they would go away. There was so much traffic that day and noise, voices shouting. When it got quiet, well after dark, I stepped out on the porch. There was a letter taped to the door.
Dear Sir or Madam:
We are relocating all survivors to our care centers until the unrest and virus are under
control. We will return to transport all survivors in five days. Please be ready for transport
by 8:00 AM. You will be allowed two pieces of luggage per person. Your center is located
in Huntsville, AL.
When this crisis is over you will be returned to your homes. Please bring all medications
or other items that are essential. Be prepared to stay for several months.
Captain Alexander Mason
I hadn’t been completely sober since he died, but I was now. I filled storage containers with the dried beans, rice, and other foods I had stocked when this hell began and placed them in the back of his truck. I found all my camping gear and placed it in the truck along with all my seeds and gardening supplies. When the sun came up, I went to bed. For three days, I packed at night and slept during the day. My final task was to put the chickens in a poultry cage and took the coop apart and loaded it too.
I drove the truck as far down the ATV trail as it would go, then I started unloading and hauling my stuff to my favorite spot by the stream and set a camp for myself. It took two days. Then I covered the truck with branches, settled into my new home, and made myself a drink.
I built some raised beds out of limbs and debris. I had seedlings I had already started and I planted them in the beds. I organized all my supplies and built a rocket stove out of cinder blocks. I heard the military trucks come back, they didn’t look for me or anyone else too hard. They came back once or twice a week for a while, then they gave up, I guess.
So that’s how I got her. Alone in the woods with winter coming on and not a clue what to do now. Should I stick it out here or take the chance to go back home for the winter? Do I even care anymore?
I pick up my emergency radio. I haven’t turned it on since the last time the trucks were here. I hold my breath and turn it on. Static, nothing but static No more, ‘We are FEMA, we care about you.’ message. What the hell does that mean?
I change the radio to scan mode. Nothing. I’m about to turn it off when it stops on channel 11. “If anyone is out there, please talk to me. We don’t have to meet, it’s too dangerous, but God I want to hear a voice that’s not my own.” I pause, then turn it off.