Authors: Thomas A. Watson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Military, #Supernatural, #Thrillers
By Thomas A. Watson
A WINLOCK PRESS BOOK
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-61868-736-4
Journey: Wilderness Travel
© 2015 by Thomas A. Watson
All Rights Reserved
Monique Happy Editorial Services
This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.
Thomas A. Watson’s Author Page on Facebook
Six days ago, the modern world had come to an end as a massive coronal mass ejection, or CME, hit the earth. If that alone wasn’t bad enough, several satellites had mysteriously detonated, releasing electromagnetic pulses or EMPs on the earth. In the blink of an eye, most of the modern world reverted to the early nineteenth century.
Caught thousands of miles from home at a truck stop, Nathan did what he could to help those around him. The quick collapse of society startled even Nathan, a reserve police officer and nurse. Not long after the lights went out, Nathan had to use deadly force to protect the innocent.
Seeing all those at the truck stop get away safely, Nathan met Amanda, who had survived on her own after watching her whole family slaughtered at the hands of a street gang. Not really wanting to take the teenager with him, Nathan offered to leave her with the group he had met but Amanda believed only Nathan could protect and teach her.
The day they left the truck stop they met a rather obese boy named John, who practically begged to be allowed to just follow them for protection. Feeling sorry for the kid, Nathan allowed him the chance to prove he wouldn’t be a burden and let him join them for a little while until he could find a place to leave both children where they would be safe.
Nathan sat watching the sky slowly lighten as dawn moved in. He reached a hand down to caress Amanda’s head. He’d had her sit up with Ares till ten and then he took over watch. She didn’t really care since he gave her the handheld night scope. Smiling, Nathan knew she’d had it on the entire time.
He had done his watch with his back against a tree in a light doze with Ares’ head in his lap until two a.m. That was when he heard Amanda moaning in her sleep a few feet away from him. He got up, went over and sat down beside her, rubbing her head till she calmed down. Ares laid down on the other side of her. Without his early warning system on his lap, Nathan stayed awake.
Taking a sip of his second cup of coffee, he looked over at John. When John had laid down last night, Nathan had him rest his legs on his pack to elevate them. The only movement that boy made all night was snoring. At times Nathan was sure they could hear John in Atlanta.
When the sun was up Nathan still let them sleep, knowing both were tired. He put down his cup and stood up and stretched out. Then, moving away, Nathan started doing stretch exercises over his entire body. Then he started doing pushups, sit ups, lunges, and back extensions. When he was done he was sweating rather well. He turned to get his cup for some more coffee and found Amanda sitting up and looking at him.
“What was all that?” she asked, tilting her head.
“Stretches and exercises,” he said, picking up his cup and walking over to the coffee pot. He poured another cup; still seeing steam on the liquid, he smiled.
“We walked carrying those heavy packs. Isn’t that enough exercise?” she asked.
“It’s only working certain muscles and the stretches loosen up all the muscles. The human body is very stubborn. If you don’t use muscle, it takes it away,” Nathan said, pouring in some powdered cream and sugar.
“Why didn’t you wake me so I could do it too?” she asked, letting out a groan.
“You were tired and needed sleep,” he answered, pulling out stuff for breakfast.
“I want to do it,” Amanda said.
Letting out a long sigh, Nathan shook his head. “Well, you saw me do it, so copy what I did,” he said.
She crossed her arms. “It’s not the same,” she said flatly.
“Okay, tomorrow I’ll wake you up and we can do them together,” Nathan promised her and she perked up. He walked over and woke John up then moved over by the folding stove and fixed some food. John got up and grabbed his clothes and got dressed. He came over and sat down with them. Nathan spooned out the MRE scrambled eggs and bacon.
When they finished breakfast, Nathan put bandages back on Amanda’s feet and handed her his plate and the pot he used to fix breakfast. “I have to wash your stuff too?” she whined.
“I tend your owies, teach you how to survive, let you take over my dog, and you don’t want to do chores?” he asked in shock.
“I’m teasing,” Amanda said, hugging him then walking over to the creek.
Nathan walked around, taking down the camp and packing up. Today Amanda had on the pants he’d gotten for her out of the truck and they fit, kind of. He was glad he’d grabbed the suspenders from the baseball uniform for her. Still, wearing his jacket and hat made Amanda look a lot smaller than she really was.
As they were loading up, Amanda looked at John. “Ready?” she asked.
“I’m ready,” he said smiling.
“Amanda, put your gloves on,” Nathan said, tightening straps on his vest.
“What is it with you and gloves?” she said, pointing at his gloves. “It’s not cold,” she let him know.
“This coming from a girl who had to have her hands wrapped up like Q-tips from cuts and scratches,” was all Nathan said. Blushing, Amanda pulled off her pack, took out her gloves and put them on. Then she grabbed her pack, ready to leave.
Nathan tied the solar charger to the top of his pack to recharge the batteries for the NVG that Amanda ran down, then pulled on his pack as Amanda loaded Ares’ pack on his back and buckled it on. Finally ready, they followed Nathan through the woods. Amanda was surprised when, after only fifteen minutes of walking, they stepped out on a gravel road. Not even stopping, Nathan turned left, keeping a steady pace. She ran up to him, well, not really a run but more like a fast waddle, and grabbed his left hand.
John, upon seeing that, moved to Nathan’s right side and the two kids started the scanning. They saw several deer and a ton of rabbits. When a snake crossed the road in front of them, Amanda let out a scream and climbed up Nathan like he was a tree. Before Nathan could do anything, Amanda was sitting on the top of his pack.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked as his legs trembled from the added weight.
“That was a snake,” she said as if it explained everything.
“It never came near us,” he said. “Will you get down? With my pack on you’re about ready to take me down,” Nathan said, fighting the urge to just drop her.
“I can’t,” she said, looking down and wondering how she’d gotten up there.
With his legs screaming for relief, he snapped, “You climbed up so climb down!”
“Help me,” Amanda pleaded. Nathan kneeled down and with John’s help they got her off the top of his pack.
When she was down, Nathan looked at her. “Amanda, next time, just jump behind me,” he said.
“Are you kidding? That thing was a hundred feet long,” she informed him.
Nathan closed his eyes, shaking his head. “It was barely five feet long and it was a king snake. It wouldn’t hurt you.”
“How could you tell?” she asked. Knowing if a snake would hurt her seemed like good information to have.
“By the shape of its head and the color of its body,” he answered.
“I just saw a snake,” she admitted.
Seeing Amanda still trembling and looking at the grass where the snake had slithered off, he asked, “Have you ever been camping?”
“Yes, we rented a cabin at Yellowstone last year,” she said.
Giving up, Nathan stood up and walked over to the side of the road. He pointed at a plant and pulled it up from the ground. “This is Amaranth, and this one is Palmer Amaranth. It is okay to eat from top to bottom,” he told them. He continued down the road, instructing them on how to pick out several edible plants. In two hours they both could pick out the three plants Nathan had shown them.
They sat down for their first break and Nathan pulled out his map. “Come here you two,” he said and pointed at the map. “We are right here,” he said. “See the bend in the road and these lines that are forming a smaller and smaller circle? That is the hill in front of us.” Then he explained the legend and the elevation lines.
Amanda looked at the map then around them. “Which way are we going?” she asked and he drew his finger along their route. “We’re going to be going across that creek right there?” she asked.
“Very good. Yes we are,” Nathan said, very pleased.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“We are going to try and camp here tonight,” he said, pointing past a dirt crossroad.
“No, I mean Idaho,” she said.
“It’s not on this map,” he said.
“If it was,” she insisted.
Nathan held the map up in front of them and pointed up and to the left. “Two hundred feet that way,” he said.
Amanda and John looked where he pointed. “How many snakes are we going to see?” she asked.
“Well I don’t have the latest snake travel times so I really don’t know. They very rarely car pool,” Nathan answered, rolling the map up.
“Nathan, they’re creepy,” she whined, stomping her feet.
“They’re just reptiles,” he said, standing up.
“They don’t have legs and they stick their tongue out all the time. That’s creepy,” Amanda said, which made perfect sense to her.
Shaking his head, Nathan reached over on his pack and took off his tomahawk. Walking over to the ditch, he chopped down a small tree and trimmed the braches off. Then he cut the top off, leaving a four and a half foot walking stick. “Hold this,” he said, handing it to Amanda. She took it, wondering what to do with it as he put his tomahawk away.
“The Indians carried those,” John said, looking at the tomahawk.
“They sure did,” Nathan said, picking up his pack.
“They are on several games I play,” John said.
“Yep, I play several with them also but the real one doesn’t kill someone with one hit,” Nathan said, grabbing the stick and walking along.
“What’s with the stick?” Amanda asked.
“So I can find a snake,” he said.
“You’re going to find one?” she exclaimed, fighting the urge to run.
“You can outrun a snake,” Nathan assured her. Amanda looked at him unconvinced. Coming up to a tree line, he led them into the woods, looking around several logs and clumps of bushes. He moved over to a log and froze. “Over here,” Nathan said quietly.
The two came over and stood on either side of him. “Do you see it?” Nathan asked in a quiet voice.
“See what?” John asked in a whisper.
“The snake,” Nathan said, and Amanda started shaking.
“You see a snake?” she asked in a normal voice, looking around feverishly.
“Amanda, don’t be so loud. The louder you are, the better they hear you. You can see him too if you just look,” Nathan said, staring straight ahead. “Look ten feet in front of me then one foot to the left of the white flower or Indian potato I just taught you about.” John gasped when he saw it and took a step back.
Amanda scanned where he’d said to look but didn’t see anything but dead old leaves and some green potato plants. Then the dead leaves moved just a bit and suddenly, just like she was looking at ‘Where’s Waldo,’ she saw the snake. She whimpered and grabbed Nathan’s arm.
“Don’t move fast or make noise. That is a Copperhead; he’s poisonous and can be mean,” Nathan told them.
“Shoot it,” Amanda commanded.
“It’s not doing anything to us,” Nathan said.
“It’s looking at me and sticking its tongue out. It’s going to kill someone,” she tried to reason with Nathan in a soft whisper.
“If I kill it we’re eating it,” Nathan told her.
She slowly rotated her head till she was looking at the side of his face. “You have lost your mind,” she whispered.
With a slight shrug of his shoulders, he said, “They taste pretty good.”
“Don’t shoot it, I really don’t want to eat a snake,” John said quietly.
Nathan chuckled. “That snake is about three and a half feet long. Now that we don’t have anti-venom available its bite would really be painful, but you would probably survive unless it got you in an artery,” Nathan told them. “Now stay right here. I want to show you just how much he doesn’t want to bite you,” he said, moving toward the snake.
He reached out with the stick and tapped the ground in front of the snake several times before the snake even moved. The kids watched intently as the snake tried to leave and Nathan used the stick to turn it back around. After five minutes the snake finally struck at the stick and Nathan backed away. The snake turned around and slithered off.
Nathan turned around to see Amanda trying to climb John, but all she was doing was pulling him to the ground. “Amanda, quit that,” Nathan quietly snapped. To John’s relief she listened.
With wide, scared eyes, she said, “It tried to kill you.”
“Yeah, after I wouldn’t let it run away. Even you fight when you don’t have a choice,” he said, and she stopped shaking to look at Nathan.
It suddenly dawned on her. “You had to do that to make it bite,” she said, understanding.
“Yes. Now if you are walking along not paying attention and step on his ass, he will pop you. If you were just lying there and someone stepped on you wouldn’t you hit them?” he asked.
“How did you find it?” she asked.
“I had to look for it,” Nathan said and led them back to the road.
After a mile he went back into the woods till he found a grass snake. Amanda came unglued when he picked it up to show them the round head. Then Nathan looked around till he found a black Kingsnake. Picking the snake up, Nathan called them over and Amanda shook her head no, seeing the snake was almost as long as Nathan was tall.
“Amanda, come here or I’ll bring it there,” he said, and she slowly inched over, expecting them all to die. Ares was just walking around waiting for Nathan to put the snake down. It was a long chase toy to him though not the best one.
After Nathan taught them how to tell the difference between the snakes, he made them touch it. Amanda extended her hand gingerly, expecting not to ever see it again. Even with her gloves on, she jerked back when she touched it and the snake jerked back from her. Nathan thought she was fixing to pass out.
Without him telling her to, Amanda reached over again and touched it and the snake’s head turned toward her. “Okay, the dangerous end is looking at me,” she said, not taking her hand away, afraid the snake would chew it off.
“It’s not poisonous. It has little bitty teeth; it catches and eats the poisonous snakes,” Nathan told her.
She looked at him in shock. “It eats the bad ones?” she asked, amazed at that information.
“Yes, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. No snake likes girls or boys,” Nathan said as the snake slid on her arm up to her elbow.
“Are you sure this one is a Kingsnake and not a Cobra?” she asked.
“Well we have only walked one day and a few hours today so I don’t think we’ve reached India yet or Africa,” Nathan said as the snake moved up to her shoulder.
Slowly relaxing, Amanda looked down at the snake. “Its head is round,” she said, looking at the snake closely. As it turned around and went back towards Nathan, she asked, “It’s that bad of a scaredy-cat?”
“Amanda, you are a hundred times bigger than he is. How would you like for a sixty-foot man to pick you up in his hand and yell in your face?” Nathan asked, shaking his head.
Slowly, Amanda reached up with her other hand, petting the snake’s head. “I’m sorry,” she said and the snake stuck its tongue out to her glove. It only took fifteen minutes but she finally held it and Nathan pulled out his camera and took a picture. The snake was draped around her neck and its tail was on the ground. John held the snake after her and said he thought it was cool.