Authors: Edwin Page
of the Hudson lay to the left, high-end apartment buildings rising along the
bank and the river visible between. Its waters were sluggish as they flowed in the
opposite direction to the convoy, heading south towards the devastation of New
The church came into view and we turned off to the right just after
passing, pulling into the parking lot at the side of the building. I looked to
the sidewalk, a few pop-up tents having been erected while we were gone, people
seated about them in clusters.
‘Ain’t they allowed in?’ asked Shane as Wade brought the Chevy to a stop
facing the building, the vehicles of the convoy parking in a row.
‘There’s no room. It was already packed when we left,’ I replied, taking
hold of the handle and opening the door. I took the sack in my arms and stepped
‘We’ll take the food and water straight into the vestry,’ I called,
glancing around at those exiting their vehicles, knowing that the masses within
the church would make the going hard if we took the provisions in through the
‘You bring in the food from the trunk,’ I instructed as Shane and David
climbed out of the back.
I walked to the door near the rear corner of the church. Entering the
vestry, I found that no one inside, though there was a foul odour lingering in
the air that caused my nostrils to flare. I went to the table in the middle of
the room and put down the sack, one of the sheet’s corners peeling back from
the piled meds.
‘Put the food along that wall and the water along there,’ I stated,
pointing to the wall beside the door and then down to the far end of the long
Dodge nodded and stepped over to place the large box in his hands on the
floor. ‘What the heck is that? Smells like the sewers have burst,’ he commented
as he straightened.
I looked to the washroom door, gaze briefly resting on my ‘end if nigh’
sign. Striding over, I opened it and balked at the stench that arose from
within, quickly slamming it shut again as the others who had accompanied me on
the food run filed in and put their loads down.
Reverend Peters walked into the room, flustered and drawn. ‘Thank
goodness you’re back,’ he stated, looking to Dodge rather than me and
addressing him as if it had been his mission. ‘The pipe is blocked and people
are starting to complain of headaches and dizziness.’
Dodge looked over at me. The Reverend followed his gaze and his
expression tightened further.
I nodded at Dodge in acknowledgement of his simple action as the Reverend
stepped over to me. ‘We’ve got to do something about the WC,’ he stated,
wringing his bony hands.
‘Can’t you deal with even the smallest fucking problem?’ I asked loudly,
making sure that those who’d been on the run could hear as they headed back to
collect more of the booty from their vehicles.
‘Do you know what to do?’ he challenged.
I thought for a moment as Shane entered with bottled water cradled in his
arms. I pointed to the space beside my sandwich board and he nodded, taking it
over as the Chang brothers loitered outside the door. ‘We get water from the
river and use it to flush down each time someone goes,’ I replied to Peters’
I glanced around the room, gaze coming to rest on the large waste bin
tucked in the corner behind the door. I strode over, pulling out the garbage
bag within to the sound of broken glass scraping against the sides. ‘We keep
this full and have a bucket beside. People can fill the bucket and use it to
‘Will that work?’ asked Peters dubiously.
I nodded. ‘Unless you’ve let it get so blocked up already that there’s no
fucking chance of shifting it,’ I raised my right eyebrow as I regarded him.
‘People needed to use it. What was I supposed to do, refuse their
requests?’ he said defensively.
‘You were supposed to use some common sense. It’s pretty damn obvious
there’s going to be a problem if you let people go without any chance of
flushing away the waste afterwards. How anyone could think you’re fit to lead
is a mystery to me.’
‘Because I’m the Reverend,’ he replied weakly.
‘And?’ I asked. ‘Just because a group of pitiful men drunk on the power
of their position decided to ordain you doesn’t mean you’re qualified, doesn’t
mean you feel the touch of God and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve the ability
to lead now times are tough.’
‘He’s right,’ stated Dodge.
Peters glanced over his shoulder and then turned back to me. ‘And you
I nodded confidently. ‘Yes.’
He managed to hold my gaze. ‘Then maybe you should take those who would
follow you and go somewhere else.’
I must admit, I was mildly impressed by the Reverend’s fight. I hadn’t
thought he had it in him.
A grin curled my thin lips. The fact he had the sack to front up to me
meant I’d savour his overthrow even more than would have otherwise been the
case. ‘I am staying right here, where I belong,’ I stated coolly.
‘Do you remember who took pity on you when others avoided you or worse?’
‘I didn’t ask for your pity and certainly don’t fucking need it now,’ I
sneered. ‘You are the one who’s pitiful. You’ve no idea how to handle this shit,
no idea what to do or how to help the people crammed in there,’ I said, nodding
to the door that led to the church interior. ‘They’re looking to you, Reverend,
and you’re fucking failing them big time.’
‘Then help me rather than trying to undermine me,’ he countered.
‘I don’t need to undermine you, you’re doing a fine job of that
‘Everything’s in,’ stated Dodge, those that had gone on the run gathered
in the doorway listening to the exchange.
I turned to him. ‘Take half of the group that first set out from here and
head to the offices a couple of blocks north.’
‘What are we looking for?’
‘Water coolers. Empty any food or drinks machines you find. Shane, you and
the brothers will come with me. The rest of you, go looking for some good sized
containers to carry water from the Hudson over here so we can flush down the
waste and keep the washroom running.’
‘What are we going to do?’ asked Shane.
‘Go get a couple of buses to create a barrier between the parking lot and
roadside. They’ll also make a good place for people to sleep.’
‘They can sleep in the church,’ stated Peters.
I turned my attention back to him. ‘There you go again, undermining
yourself,’ I scoffed. ‘You think we can feed and water everyone in there and
make it a bunkhouse? We need to free the church up so we can feed people in
shifts, that way we’ll be able to handle the volume.’
I noted a few nods of approval amongst those who had gone on the run.
The Reverend continued to look at me for a moment and then bowed his head
‘I’m taking charge. You can conduct services while each group is fed or
between sittings,’ I stated as I stepped by him and went to the door, the
others moving aside as I drew close. ‘For the time being at least,’ I added
before stepping out.
We pulled up
outside the wire fence of the bus depot, the gates shut and chained with a padlock.
‘I don’t suppose you got a set of bolt cutters?’ I asked, turning to Wade as he
sat behind the wheel of the battered Chevy.
He shook his head and his gesture was echoed by Shane and David when I
looked over my shoulder to the back seat.
‘We’ll have to climb it,’ stated Shane.
I stepped out onto the sidewalk and stared up at the two runs of barbed
wire that ran along the top of the high fence. A line of coaches were parked
over to the left of the compound’s yard beyond, a large fuel tank hunkering
against the side of a warehouse at the rear and the depot building looming to
Gunshots arose from nearby and I looked around for any sign of trouble,
seeing nothing of concern.
David and Shane walked across the street and I watched them curiously for
a moment. They took hold of a large wheeled bin tucked in an alley alongside a
paper merchant and began to push it over as I nodded to myself with
‘Good idea,’ I stated as it rumbled across the road.
It was placed up against the fence and Shane delved inside, taking out
some card and wedging it under the wheels to keep it in place. Without
hesitation, he climbed on top, the wheels shifting slightly but their movement
limited. Taking off his blue jacket, he threw it over the wire above and then
began to make his way over,
Shane dropped to the other side, small clouds of dust rising as his
sneakers hit the concrete. ‘Piece of cake,’ he said with a grin.
‘You next Rev,’ said David, his means of addressing me bringing a smile
to my face.
I made sure the pistol was secure in the back of my shorts and then
hauled myself onto the bin, stiffening when it moved beneath me and remaining
on my hands and knees. Wade stepped forward and held it still, nodding to me.
I returned the gesture and rose to my feet. Reaching up, I felt my shoulders
strain as I pulled myself to the top and hooked a leg over.
Letting myself hang for a moment on the far side, I then released and
dropped to the courtyard, my knees jarring and wincing with a touch of pain. I
turned to the coaches and then looked to the large depot building while
stepping away from the fence, hearing David climbing up behind me. There were a
pair of huge roll-back doors and to their right was a normal door that was
Me and Shane walked to the depot building as David dropped into the
courtyard and Wade made his way over the fence. Shane drew his handgun as we
came to a stop before the door, its deep blue paint peeling. Aiming it at the
padlock, he let off a shot.
The bullet ricocheted and I flinched.
‘They make this look easy in the movies,’ stated Shane as he stared at
the scuff mark made by the bullet.
‘Shoot the frame out,’ I said.
He glanced at me and then aimed the gun at the wood where the lock was
secured as Wade and David drew up behind us. Firing, the bullet ripped the
timber to shreds and became embedded.
I stepped forward and drew my pistol. Taking it by the barrel, I
repeatedly brought the handle down on the wrecked wood. The fastening of the
lock soon came free, hanging loose and useless with shards of timber still
caught on the screws which had held it in place. I gave the door a push, but it
didn’t budge and I glared at the keyhole.
‘Out of the way,’ stated Wade.
Me and Shane moved to the sides and turned to him. He took a couple of
steps back and then ran at the door, shoulder thumping into the metal. Much to
my surprise, the door flew open, slamming loudly back against the wall as Wade
stumbled and tumbled to the floor.
‘That’s how you do it,’ he stated with a grin, rising and dusting himself
off as we filed in behind him.
A line of five school buses rested to the left, a dark flatbed truck
beside them in the far corner with a grey dust sheet covering whatever was
stowed on the rear. On the far side were a couple more school buses and a tour
‘The keys must be in here,’ I stated, moving to the office on the right,
thankful to find the door unlocked.
I stepped in, the counters running along the sides littered with
paperwork. The air smelt of stale smoke and I noted ashtrays brimming with
butts amidst the clutter. A couple of chairs rested on the brown carpet, which
was stained and threadbare.
I moved to a small cabinet on the wall by a window that looked out to the
interior of the depot. Pulling open the door, I found four lines of keys
hanging inside with the bay numbers marked above and smiled to myself.
My gaze settled on the keys to bay six. A strong feeling arose within and
knew its source. The Lord was whispering to me. He was telling me to take the
truck, though I had no idea why.
I glanced out of the grimy window at the flatbed resting in the corner. I
could feel God’s presence, could feel his guidance in my gut. I knew it was the
I glanced upwards and nodded at the nicotine stained ceiling tiles before
turning to the three teens. ‘Each of you take a school bus back to the church.’
‘What about my Chevy?’ asked Wade.
I turned to the cabinet and took out the keys for bay seven, opposite the
doors to the depot. ‘You’ll have to leave it behind, but you get to be the one
who smashes our way out of here,’ I replied, tossing the keys over to him.
Wade frowned. ‘But I fucking love that car.’
‘We could come back for it later,’ suggested Shane.
I took the sets of keys for bays four and five and threw them over to
Shane and David in turn before taking the keys to six from the cabinet. ‘Let’s
I led them out of the office and walked across the concrete towards the
flatbed, staring at the dust street and a sense of excitement building as I
thought about what may lay under its concealment. I walked alongside the cab
and passed along the vehicle’s length, my fingers tingling with anticipation as
I fought the urge to take hold of the cover and pull it back, wanting to savour
the moment a little longer before revealing what bounty the Lord had provided.
Reaching the tailgate, I stood beside it and looked back along the bed.
There were box-like shapes beneath the cover at either end and from the way the
sheet dipped between, there seemed to be nothing on the centre.
‘Ain’t you gonna to pull it off?’ asked Shane.
I turned to find the youths all gathered by the cab as they waited to see
what was hidden beneath the cover. I stared at them a moment and then took hold
of the corner. I grasped it firmly, stomach churning and mouth running dry. I
felt certain that what lay beneath would confirm that my actions were blessed
by God, that I was acting upon His Will.
‘This is a gift from God,’ I stated before yanking the cover back.
The far end slid from large black speakers and a generator positioned
behind the cab. There were a couple of banks of disco lights on top and a
microphone on a shortened stand before them. It caught on the cover, teetering
and then toppling to the bed.
I continued to tug, hand over hand, pulling the cover away until it
finally fell from the rear, revealing a matching set of speakers and lights,
along with a another generator behind. I stared at the items on the bed in
confusion, noting that the speakers and generators were bolted to the bed to keep
them securely in place.
Shane climbed onto the back and looked around. ‘It must be the beginnings
of a parade float for the Fourth of July,’ he commented, turning to stare down
I remained silent, unable to comprehend God’s plan. I had no idea what
the significance of the float was, but knew His hand had guided me to it, that
it was somehow part of His plan.
Shane righted the microphone which had fallen and adjusted the stand so
that it was suited to his height. ‘What are you going to do with it?’
‘God will reveal its use when the time is right,’ I stated with
confidence. ‘For now it is enough that He has guided me to it.’
‘Maybe you’re supposed to stage a concert for the end of the world,’ said
Wade with a grin.
‘Yeah, an End of the World charity gig,’ laughed David. ‘All the money
raised can pay for a gigantic headstone for planet Earth.’
Shane took hold of the microphone stand. ‘Welcome to the end of the world
concert,’ he called out, his words echoing around the hollows of the depot. ‘Forget
partying like it’s 1999, let’s party like there’s no fucking tomorrow, because
you know what, there ain’t gonna be one.’
He picked up the stand and strummed it like a guitar, stomping on the bed
as he did so. Something in the back of my mind stirred in response to his
actions. It would not reveal itself, but I knew its time would come, that this
was indeed part of God’s plan.
Wade and David climbed up with him and they all began to manically dance
around on the mobile stage. They collided against each other at its centre,
jumping and barging, playing air guitar, head-banging to tunes inside their
I watched, allowing them to let off some steam and kind of enjoying the
spectacle, thinking back to my days on arena stages before audiences of
thousands, lost to the moment and the music as I rocked out. I smiled to
myself, part of me tempted to climb up and join them, but resisting.
‘Are you all set to bust out of this place?’ I asked when they began to
calm, breathless and red-cheeked.
Shane turned to me and nodded, the three of them moving to the side of
the flatbed and clambering down. I walked to the cab and passed around the
front as the youths moved to their vehicles.
Reaching the driver’s side, I climbed in. My gaze settled on the stereo
system as I sat down. There was a graphic equaliser and a pair of CD/MP3
players. Guessing that it could be set to play through the rear speakers, I
felt God whispering at the back of my mind again as the potential of the future
Not bothering to belt up, I put the key in the ignition as I heard the
two school buses to the right start up, Shane and David behind the wheels. The
engine growled into life and I glanced at the fuel gauge, seeing that the tank
was nearly full. Turning to look out of the windshield, I saw Wade seated in
his bus across from me as he prepared to ram the doors, putting on his belt and
revving the engine, the roar filling the depot.
He gunned it, pedal to the metal. The bus accelerated straight at the
doors. The front of the unwieldy vehicle crunched into them, bending them back
to the sounds of screeching and tearing metal, the bus smashing through.
My smile grew as Shane and David pulled out from their bays and made
their way out through the gap. Hand to the stick shift, I put the truck in first
and slowly made my way out after them, the side of the bed catching on the
right-hand door and grinding wincingly against it.
I drew up alongside Shane’s bus and wound down the window. ‘How are you
on fuel?’ I shouted.
He looked to the gauge and gave the thumbs up. ‘Ready to rock ‘n’ roll,’
he called back.
I looked at the others in turn and found Wade staring back at me
expectantly, his bus already angled towards the gates. I chuckled and nodded in
answer to his silent question. He grinned in response and set off, his bus making
straight for the gates, a look of intense satisfaction on his face.