Authors: Algor X. Dennison
Get Out of Denver
Part One of the
by Algor X. Dennison
Copyright 2015 Algor X. Dennison
This is not one of those survivalist novels that are 90% gear guide, 10% plot and character development. It’s not meant to shock you with descriptions of how bad things could get during a societal collapse, and the scenario is possible but admittedly not likely. Instead, it’s meant as a non-stop thrill ride featuring the kind of people you wouldn’t mind sharing a post-apocalyptic journey with.
I have a degree in screenwriting, and I actually began this novel as a concept for a prepper movie. This meant that it needed a storyline much more dramatic and heroic than most of the grim, plodding stuff in this genre. I decided it would be a fun novel to write first, and if it worked well enough than I’d write the screenplay later.
It’s also a call for a more balanced and emotionally healthy approach to “prepping”. I’ve had a survival pack since I was a boy scout, before it became a “thing”, and I’ve been fascinated but a little dismayed to watch the principles of preparedness and self-reliance turn into a philosophy that (in some corners) promotes mistrust and violence. Although there’s shooting and danger in the story, my aim is to demonstrate that nation-shattering events can be dealt with as our grandparents did—by rising to the occasion and overpowering evil with good.
Get Out of Denver
, details a hasty exodus from a city in full meltdown. Part two,
Take Back Denver
, shows the protagonists coming around again and emerging from their retreat to get to the bottom of what went down and to win back what was lost. I hope you’ll enjoy this journey with my characters. I sure did.
Algor Dennison, June 2, 2015
Table of Contents
The morning was clear and cool, with a crisp sun that brightened the South Platte River Valley as McLean Ferrier drove into Denver. It wasn’t a trip he enjoyed-- too much traffic for his liking, too much humanity-- but he was on the job, and there were some good people here that depended on him for deliveries. The tall, lanky westerner never wore his hat while working for somebody else, so his sandy locks spilled out uncovered. But his jeans, boots, and the Cabela’s t-shirt under his work shirt belied what he’d rather be doing.
The magnetic sign on the side of his Ford truck marked him as today’s delivery man for Wilson Medical Supply, a local business that serviced small clinics in the area. He’d picked up this part-time work to get by until the proceeds from his small ranch stabilized into a real income stream. He’d hoped to find the medical field somewhat insulated from the deepening economic recession, but Wilson couldn’t even afford their own truck fleet any more and they were only calling him in once or twice a week these days.
The radio mumbled about the imminent collapse of the dollar and the crisis-of-the-month on the other side of the world. McLean listened with one ear while he thought about the new mobile chicken coop he was going to construct that weekend. The radio wasn’t telling him anything he didn’t already know, and his brainpower was better spent on productive planning for the collapse he knew was on its way. It had been a long time coming, but it would happen soon; that much he could be sure of. The signs were unmistakable, but McLean meant to weather it well by becoming self-sufficient at his ranch.
His first stop that day was his favorite: the Rescue Mission. Not just because of the chance to help the homeless. That was a side benefit, and he gave generously whenever he could. But the girl who managed the place during the day, Carrie Alton, had captivated him on his first trip out this way. She was what he would have referred to in his younger days as “smoking hot”, with long brown hair and blue eyes that literally sparkled whenever he dared to look her in the face. Now, at thirty-five, he preferred a more respectful “stunningly attractive”. And, more importantly, she was just his type: sincere but practical, a hard worker, and a fellow Credence fan.
He stopped his truck at the side of the rambling, single-story building and walked around to the front entrance. He nodded to a weathered-looking fellow in a dirty coat sitting on a bench outside the door, and said “Good Morning!”. The man looked up briefly but continued mumbling frantically to himself under his breath. McLean went inside and was gratified to see Carrie coming down the hallway toward him.
“Hello! You’re right on time this morning,” she said with a heart-stopping smile.
McLean grinned a foolish grin and replied, “Eager to please, Miss Alton. I’ve got several boxes for you today. Where would you like them?”
Carrie put a clipboard down at the front desk and came around to shake McLean’s hand. “I think we’ll just unload them here, and I’ll move them to the back bit by bit when we get things organized in the dorm units. It’s a mess right now. Can I come and help unload?”
McLean started to protest, but Carrie was already opening the door, and he was inwardly elated at the chance to chat with her. As they walked outside, he noticed that the bench by the door was now empty.
“That’s funny. Just a second ago there was someone sitting there, having a conversation with himself,” he said.
“Oh, that would be Mr. Timothy,” Carrie replied. “He’s been jittery this morning. A lot of the fellows are, actually. Our rooms emptied out pretty quickly after breakfast.” She pulled her beautiful brown hair back into a ponytail as they reached McLean’s truck, and waited for him to get the tailgate down. “So, you’ve heard we’re getting closed down, right?”
McLean’s face fell. “What?! Why? When?”
“Oh, probably after Christmas. Legislation was passed last month that did away with our tax status and cut off our access to private, religion-based funding. Either we have to conform to a whole list of new federal regulations that are designed to make life hard for us, or we have to move over in favor of a federal or state-sponsored facility. Our board of directors isn’t willing to fall in line with this administration’s social agenda, so they’re folding.”
“That is really sad,” McLean said, handing Carrie the two lightest boxes he could find and taking three of the heaviest for himself. “Damn liberals!” he added with a growl he couldn’t help, and instantly felt foolish for. “Sorry. I don’t mean to be profane.”
Carrie grinned and shook her head, partly at his outburst and partly at his simplistic, sweeping condemnation of half the country. “What’s really sad,” Carrie continued as they took the boxes into the front office, “is that a lot of the people we help don’t qualify for the government programs that are supposed to replace what we’re doing. So they’ll probably just fall through the cracks again and again.” She frowned. “But whatcha gonna do?”
“Vote next November,” McLean said. “Kick ‘em out of office.”
“Yeah. And pray,” Carrie added. “Anyway, fundraising hasn’t been going terribly well with the economy tanking. People can’t give as freely as they used to. But we appreciate Wilson’s contributions, and I appreciate you coming here. A lot.”
They went back out to the truck in silence as Carrie brooded.
“Did you hear about the fires up by Fort Collins?” McLean asked.
Carrie nodded. “Don’t you have a cabin up there somewhere? It isn’t threatened, is it?”
“Oh, no,” McLean replied. “My ranch is west of here. The fires are all to the north, so far. But the authorities don’t have the cash or the manpower to fight them effectively, and a lot of people are being displaced.”
“Where exactly is your ranch?”
“In the White River forest, south of Aspen.”
“I love that country!” Carrie’s eyes got misty with nostalgia. “I’ve skied at Breckenridge and Aspen, and my family used to camp on Dillon Reservoir. I haven’t been over there since my parents moved to Washington.” She reflected for a moment as they dumped another load of boxes in the office. “That was almost ten years ago. Sometimes I wonder if my life is slipping away from me, living and working downtown. I haven’t gotten outside for more than a couple of hours in several months. City life has kind of a frantic pace, you know?”
McLean’s stomach lurched as he realized what he was about to do, but it sounded like this might be his last opportunity and he wasn’t about to let it go without a shot. “Would you like to come out and see the place?” he asked Carrie as they went back out to the truck. “The drive takes an hour and a half, but I never get tired of that mountain scenery. I’d love to have you over for dinner this weekend, if you’re free. I make wicked good chicken marsala.”
“Wow, that sounds good,” Carrie said with a smile, her blue eyes lighting up.
“Well, it’s the only thing I know how to make,” McLean admitted. “So I’ve practiced it quite a bit.”
Carrie’s smile deepened at his self-deprecation, but then faded. “I have to work all weekend, unfortunately,” she said. “I’m the last line of defense around here, and Gerald is out. Sorry. We’ll have to plan on that little trip another time.”
McLean felt like his innards had been ripped out, but tried not to show it on his face. “Oh, that’s fine. I’ll take a rain check, okay?”
There was an awkward moment of silence while they unloaded the last of the supplies in the office. McLean filled it by asking, “So what are you going to do? After they shut this place down, I mean?”
“Oh, I’ll find somewhere to keep doing good,” Carrie replied. “Times like these, there’s never a shortage of opportunities for willing hands, even if the pay stinks. I don’t know, maybe I’ll follow my parents to Spokane. They love it there, and it sounds like a good city.”
McLean nodded, even though he felt like shouting “No! Don’t go!”. Instead he said, “Might be. Last I heard, Washington was all out of money.”
“Yeah, that’s happening to more and more states, isn’t it?” Carrie admitted. “Our country is really fraying at the edges, I’m afraid.”
“Let’s pray that it stays at the edges, then,” McLean said. “And that we can keep the lights on in the heartland, even though our government is beyond bankrupt.”
Carrie snapped her fingers. “That reminds me. I have something for you.”
McLean watched as she rummaged in a desk drawer and pulled out a long black flashlight, a 20-inch Maglite like police often carried. It looked like a huge, clumsy club in Carrie’s slender hands. “This was left behind when we lost our security guard. Will you take it as a souvenir of all the time you’ve spent delivering here? I figure you’ll get more mileage out of something like this; I’ve got smaller, more practical ones myself.”
McLean took it, hefting the big light in his hands. “Are you sure? This could come in pretty handy in an emergency, or even for self-defense. It could easily double as a nightstick!”
“I’d rather you took it,” she replied. “I’ve seen too many of my clientele beaten with such things. I’ll take a compact LED flashlight any day.”
“Fair enough,” McLean said. “Thank you. It really has been my pleasure coming here. I’ll miss you-- it. Miss it. And you.” His face started to turn red, so he turned to leave.
“Goodbye, McLean,” Carrie said, waving.
“Goodbye.” As he walked to his truck, McLean’s fists involuntarily clenched as he agonized over the way he’d blown it, his last chance with Carrie. He hadn’t even gotten any contact information for her-- how would he follow up on that rain check? It was too late to go back in now, he’d look like a desperate fool.
He rounded the corner and almost bumped into a cameraman that had set up a tripod and TV rig next to the building. They must have been setting up while McLean and Carrie were inside talking. “Hey, watch it!” the cameraman snapped. “And keep quiet, please.”
“Sorry,” McLean said, taking in the rest of the TV crew at a glance, a female producer and a sound guy with a long boom mike on a pole. What were they doing here, next to the alleyway by the homeless shelter?
A man in a suit was straightening his tie and standing in front of the camera. “Make sure you get those crumbling bricks and that old truck in the shot,” he told the cameraman, listening to something in an earpiece he had on. “Tell me when you’re ready.”
“Segment is live in ten,” the producer said, looking at an app on her phone.
McLean tried to stay out of the way, but the crew was partially blocking his way out from the alleyway, and they wouldn’t like the rumble of his truck starting up. So he waited and watched.
“Five, four, three, two…” the producer counted down, then made a hand gesture. The cameraman was rolling.
“Yes, thank you, Dawn,” the man in the suit said as he flashed his teeth at the camera. “I’m actually standing here in front of one such facility now, an old homeless shelter run by a local church. As you can see behind me, we desperately need to modernize and bring our accommodations for the economically-challenged in line with the BETTRment Act’s provisions. As a city, we’re striving to do our part to fulfill the president’s vision for social improvement despite the current economic turmoil, and I think we’re going to be seeing increasing gains in the next year as we go about this.”
An unseen news anchor asked the man a question, and McLean realized belatedly that he must be looking at Denver’s mayor. The man wasn’t as impressive as McLean would have imagined. He didn’t even have a badge or a nifty hat; he just looked oily. If the rumors about his backroom dealings were half true, oily was putting it nicely.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” the mayor continued. “There are obvious tax advantages for all of us here in Denver as we step into line with the new act. It makes a lot of fiscal sense to turn over control to the federal programs that will oversee operations in places like this one. The government is always going to be better equipped to provide these kinds of services than some church with a shaky offering plate.
“But primarily, we’re doing this because we in Denver care about the less fortunate. Federal and state-run programs and facilities will provide more consistent services, and will have much better-trained staff than the local church volunteers. It’s time for Denver to step into the twenty-first century and get rid of places like this that, frankly, are a stain on our bright city’s future.”
That set McLean’s blood boiling. He was already upset about losing Carrie, and now this corrupt politician was spewing lies about her. “They’re not volunteers, they’re paid staff and they’re well-trained,” he muttered. The producer motioned at him to shut up and go away, but he had nowhere to go unless they wanted him to drive over their interview with his F-250.
“That’s right, Dawn,” the mayor went on. “This and other religious institutions like it are increasingly under-funded, poorly staffed, and unable to meet the standards of social services. We need to get rid of these old, dilapidated places and secure funding to build new facilities that are federally approved. These places don’t even have basic, basic supplies or hygiene kits.”
“That’s not true,” McLean protested, outraged now. “What do you think I just delivered?” he asked, pointing over his shoulder at his truck.
The producer was nearly spitting at him now, she was so furious, but the mayor turned to look at him with an evil glint in his eye. “Okay, case in point, right here, Dawn,” he said. “I mean, look at this guy. Look, turn the camera-- yeah, right there. Here we have Delivery-man Bob, in his boots and jeans, bringing sub-standard equipment to this shelter. Do we want to see this guy entrusted with the social care of our most vulnerable? Or do we want a federally-approved, DHHS-mandated force?”