From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
The thing about the end of the world is its boring, and then it gets exciting for a few minutes like when some idiot decides to start shooting at you. I had thought that surviving the undead made the survivors excellent shots, it might seem to be the rule on Sullivan but its not a universal rule or I would be dead right now.
I’m thinking my attacker was pretty upset about missing too, especially since Henry killed him two minutes later while I kept him occupied. Special note, being a target is not a job for any one with a weak heart or that wants to live, or wants to keep his pants dry. Id swear that my attacker was actually improving his aim the last two shots.
Anyway, this section of Hilton head is mostly in ruins, there were a couple of tornados spawned by the hurricane, that smashed through this area. You can follow the path they took if you wanted to. Me I think I will stick to the street for now, its still open despite the amount of debris from town homes and condo’s.
I should reach Tuckers Sea pines Enclave tomorrow or the day after.
“this sucks” Henry said as he stopped and studied the house that had been dropped in the middle of the road by the storm a while back now. The homes that had been on either side had been reduced to piles of rubble nestled in fallen trees. “If we didn’t have that cart, we could just climb through the debris.”
“So we backtrack, and take another street. Scouting as we go” Chris said, looking around the area carefully.
“By we you mean me,” Henry said shaking his head. “Always send the black man first.” He joked.
“Your braver than I am” Chris said with a grin.
“Sure I am” Henry agreed then laughed. “Do not be surprised if I somehow manage to duck so you can be shot.”
“Lets get this done” Chris said with another grin. “otherwise I will have to flog you for mutiny. Used to a man was hanged for mutiny, see I am progressive”
“You’ve come a long ways, I agree. Maybe next year you can learn to bathe” Henry said with another shake of his head as Chris chuckled and began to turn the heavy cart he pulled.
The trip was taking far longer than Chris had expected, granted he had headed east on lighthouse road, and instead of turning off onto greenwood drive like he should have he had kept heading east. He had thought he would check out some of the buildings and homes for things he might be able to trade, but that hadn’t really panned due to all the storm damage. It seemed that the east side of the island had really been hammered during that storm.
They made their way around the blockage and trudged down the road silently lost in their own thoughts. Scattered along this stretch of road were several Live Oaks with their limbs draped in Spanish moss, mixed in were old shrubs gone wild, loblolly pines and even a willow or two. It was quiet here among the still standing trees, peaceful. The gentle sigh of the wind through the trees that rustled the leaves was soothing.
Chris just lived in the moment, soaking it in, the tang of the ocean, the touch of the wind and the smell of earth and loam. It was rare this peacefulness, he thought, before the dead the average person had have been in far to much of a hurry to stop and appreciate times like this. their lives had revolved around hurry to finish one thing or another or to get some where fast. Now it was hard to appreciate moments like this because of bandits, murderous scum and still being too busy. We just cant win for losing Chris thought sadly shaking his head.
“I want to see the ocean” Henry said suddenly.
“Your leading the way, its not like we have any place we need to be in the next ten minutes or even the next hour, as long as we make it to Tuckers tomorrow morning I’m a happy camper.” Chris replied.
The smell of the ocean, always present on the island grew stronger as they got closer to the beach, the previously widespread houses and business, began to grow closer together and the amount of destruction from the storm began to increase as well.
Lighthouse road became North Sea pines drive, they made their way slowly down the now clogged street. passing an overgrown golf course, and Golf club. To the south loomed an old Marriott, what ever charm it may once have had it had lost over the last six years of storms and neglect. Now it was a battered wreck with broken windows and fire blackened walls that rose above the trees.
The road curved north paralleling the shoreline and entering what had once been a heavy residential area. Wreckage and debris were scattered across the road, in a tree was one of those old Smart cars. “guess that’s as good a place to park as any” Henry muttered.
“if you really want to see the ocean for the first time we can go down here” Chris said stopping at a side street that had Beach access sign.
“I’ve seen the ocean before, I guess just once I’d like to do something from the old world. Just go to the beach and watch the water come in or something.” Henry explained. “take a break from exploring, trading, being shot at, chased by cannibals, Threatened by midgets or …”
“Dwarves, they were technically Dwarves” Chris said.
“What ever, they were still pissed off and tougher than their pint size led me to believe.” Henry said rolling his eyes.
“I think it was calling their leader Half pint that started the whole fiasco.” Chris pointed out.
“okay sue me, I wasn’t politically correct.”
“Just goes to show you that …”
“Do not! start throwing old sayings out at me.”
“I would think that a black man would be more sensitive to …”
“tell me you did not go there white Boy”
Chris’s smile spread then he started laughing unable to stop for a minute or so then finally holding up a hand, tears running down his face as he managed to choke back the laughter. “sorry the memory of that incident was just too much.”
Henry shook his head for a moment then grinned, “it is pretty funny in hind sight.”
Together they turned down the side street and headed for the distant beach.
The street they were on fed into a road that ran along the shoreline, across that road they could see the ocean beyond the dunes.
Hiding the cart in the ruins of an old store, Chris and Henry crossed the storm damaged street and made their way past the thick poles that had once held up a beach house. “Damn” Henry said gazing out at the sparkling water.
“Damn is right” Chris replied gazing up and down the beach, maybe one in six houses along the beach remained after the storm. The ruins were being reclaimed by the sands forming new dunes. He suspected that in another ten years or so most of the ocean side shore line of Hilton would look much like it had a hundred years ago. At least if any more major storms like that last one that had hit the island.
“Does it ever depress you” Henry asked as they stood there in the wind blown grass the surf rolling in like it always had and always would with or with out man. “Seeing it all falling apart, the empty streets and homes. The bones in the streets”
Chris stood there hands in his pockets, like Henry he needed a break, needed down time. But that wasn’t going to happen for a while and Henry was waiting for a answer. “Sometimes it does, Some times I wake up and half expect to see people outside or passing cars when I step outside. Its better than when the dead were walking” Chris said with a shake of his head. “don’t think about it Henry, we cant change it and it will drive us insane if we dwell on it.”
“hard not to think about it when we are walking through the set of a disaster movie.” He said softly as they turned and headed back to the cart trudging slowly through and shifting sand.
“might as well camp here for the night” Chris said as they entered the old store, weapons drawn just in case some one was waiting for them inside. “easy to defend if some one wants to try and take our stuff.”
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
The worst part of the apocalypse is it never ends. Oh sure its better but it never really ends. You can be walking along happy as a clam and then see a childs skull. Yes we have all seen them by the thousand. But this time faces, places, good times come rolling back, things you had forgotten slam you in the gut like a sucker punch and you don’t see the skull but the kid who had been content to play video games and watch Teen age mutant ninja turtles or what ever was popular. A kid who wanted to grow up and to be a fire fighter or astronaut. A kid who died screaming, probably killed by one or both of his parents.
The undead killed all our futures. Nothing we once dreamed of doing, of accomplishing will ever happen now. I will never find the woman of my dreams, that dream died with the old world. the things I wanted in woman are a dead as the society that spawned them.
But there are other times, you can almost see the light at the end of the apocalyptic train tunnel. Hell I wont live to see the big changes, but I guess its good enough to know that I am helping make the little changes that will grow into the big society and life changes.
Last night Henry had nightmares, and talked in his sleep again. I hope its not what I think it might be. Surely that ended with the undead.
Anyway, we are going to head for the Sea Pines Enclave today, I am not expecting an easy sale, but you can never tell. Might even find a cute single woman to pass the time with.
the day had started off overcast, but the clouds were slowly breaking up revealing patches of bright blue sky.
They had stopped to take a break beside an old weatherbeaten two story wood building with peeling blue and white paint. It had survived the years and the storms remarkable well, old plywood covered the windows, and the door was locked. Beyond it lay dunes and then the ocean.
“Wonder what it used to be” Henry said gazing at the two broken poles out by the road that at one time had probably held a sign.
“Bar, Diner, tourist trap, all of the above” Chris said with a shrug.
‘Should we go in?” Henry asked. He was curious about what might still be inside.
Chris studied the building for a moment then shook his head slowly. “its been boarded up since the dead rose, the doors locked and no one has busted in. No there’s some thing about that, that bothers me. I think we should do what every one else has done and leave it alone.”
“but what if there’s medicine or something decent inside.”
Chris shrugged, there was something about the place that sent a shiver up his spine and set his nerves to twitching. “I don’t care if Jennifer Connelly is butt naked and waiting inside for me, we are going to leave that place alone until we can come back with a SF team and have artillery support. “
They walked away with looking back, but Chris had the strangest sensation that if he did turn and look back the front door would standing open revealing only inky Darkness inside the old building. Darkness where something waited for him. He shivered and kept his face firmly forward.
Chris allowed himself to get to comfortable, to relaxed and they almost paid for it with their lives. They had put maybe a mile between themselves and the old blue and white building when Chris noticed how quiet it had gotten, no cry of birds, no trill of insects. Instantly the relaxation he felt poured away like so much water. There was a glint of sunlight off of glass on a roof top just ahead. He didn’t shout, he just lunged at Henry knocking the younger man down. hampered by the Harness straps Chris twisted and hit the ground struggling to get free as the first shot rang out.
Henry rolled into the ditch on the side of the road, he couldn’t see the shooter but he had good idea where the shooter had to be. he fired in the general direction as Chris struggled free of the straps and scrambled towards a rusting car to take cover as two more shots rang out. One shattering the passenger side window as Chris raced past. .
Chris crouched behind the car, as two more shots shattered glass and hammered the seats of the car.
Henry fired again, “I have a question” Henry called out. “do you ever actually use those weapons you carry.”
“Yes!” Chris called back. “not long ago I had to use it against five men”
‘ then do you think you might want to shoot at the guy shooting at us.”
“your doing a great job” chris called back grinning wildly.
“You left your rifle on the cart didn’t you?” Tucker called out, shaking his head and trying to keep the wild braying fear induced laughter from bursting out.
“if you already know the answer why bother to ask me” Chris replied.
“how you managed to survive before I came along I will never know”
“I didn’t have a side kick back then and had to work harder.” Chris said as he popped up to check the shooters position.
“Why do I believe that” Henry replied as he fired three more shots. Chris rose and sprinted for the Cart on the second shot, as he passed he snatched his rifle from the Cart and slid behind a truck that sat on four flat, dry rotting tires.
Broken glass rained down around him, as bullets struck the windows of the truck. Chris knelt on the cracked and pitted road and charged the weapon. Then with a deep breath he sprang to his feet firing over the top of the old work trucks full bed tool chest.
Chris fired two bursts then dropped down and raced to an overturned Police car, popped out from the side and fired again, covering Henry who leaped up and ran towards the sniper.
Henry covered less then ten meters, before he dove behind a wreck.
When in doubt advance, control the situation, Chris heard in his mind as he fired again. Then ran forward past Henry to shelter behind another abandoned car, to cover Henry who advanced past him.
They finally reached the building, with out any more fire from the sniper. Chris slung his rifle and drew his pistol with a nod at Henry he breached the building, the old door squealing from long disuse as it opened. it had been some kind of office space back before the dead. The letters on the glass door had long ago faded away.
It was dim inside, the only light was what little entered through the broken windows the place reeked of death, fear and urine. “you wait outside and watch the cart” Chris told Henry. He waited till Henry was outside then moved quickly through the downstairs, which was pretty much empty, there was some old broken furniture, and trash but that was it.
He climbed the rickety stairs to the second floor, wishing he had three more people with him, so he could enter like Eric stone had trained him. that was something else that really argued the need for a larger team in the future, Chris thought as he pushed open the door at the head of the stairs and rushed in with his weapon up and ready.
Some one had been living here, he saw, there was a mattress on the floor, and boxes full of empty tin cans that had once held food stacked around it. there were other boxes too, stuffed with old clothes, rags, sheets, toys stacked everywhere creating a central path from the stair well to the opposite side of the room. Various other trails snaked off into the maze of boxes.
Originally, this had been hall that separated two large offices, but some one had ripped down most of the sheet rock and framing to create one large room. They must have removed a load bearer because the roof had sagged down in one spot and someone had propped it up with old lumber and even a desk.
He moved slowly through the area, he hesitated on calling it a room. Trying to look into every corner and hiding spot but with out a long slow search he wouldn’t be able to clear the room. He was halfway across the room when he heard a creak like wood and leather moving. He wheeled around towards the noise and saw a pile of clothing had slid away revealing a now open trunk.
A figure leaped at him from inside the trunk, for half a second he stood frozen. It was like the undead had come to life again, the figures face was disfigured as if it had been chewed on, the hair was patchy and falling out, one ear was missing. The crooked fingers reached for his throat, as its mouth opened wide revealing rotting teeth and the charnel smell of the grave washed over him and he realized it was screaming a wild bestial sound.
He took one involuntary step back, but his pistol snapped into position and all the training he had been put through by Eric Stone and his SF men took over as he fired three shots, two in the chest, one in the head. It doubled over and hit the floor, covered in blood.
It was then he realized it was a woman and she had been alive. He only had the blink of an eye for those thoughts to race through his mind, before a deep throated roar of fury and grief came from behind him. he turned again, and that motion saved his life, as the man at the end of the room shot at him, the bullet passed through the space he had been standing in just seconds before.
The man looked little better than the woman, Chris only had a heartbeat to take in the scarred face and arms. The ghostly pallor and the fever bright eyes told Chris all he really needed to know as the man fired again, he tried again then the weapon clicked on empty with a cry of rage the man tossed the weapon aside and ran at Chris.
One of the many things Eric stone had trained Chris for was hand to hand, and his advice to Chris had been, “no matter what Jared may say or do, the only excuse for unarmed combat is stupidity or being caught by surprise.” He had said with a laugh. “Seriously if you have a way to stand off and fight using a force multiplier like a piece of rebar, a hammer or fire arm use it. Do not try to match strength against strength unless you have to.”
Chris agreed, he was no Jared or Eric Stone. He centered his sights and fired once, twice, three times, the man staggered under the impacts to his chest and kept coming then the final bullet took the man between the eyes who fell with a surprised look on his face.
Hands shaking, his stomach surging, Chris leaned against a beam, breathing deeply to calm his rapid heart rate as he replaced the magazine in his pistol. The man must have been hiding back there behind all those stacked boxes, Chris thought, his eyes sweeping the room. There could be more of them hiding up here, maybe even feral kids.
He backed towards the door to the stair well, pausing only long enough to grab a box with four bottles of rum. He opened the bottles of liquor and poured them across the piles of trash and clothing as he backed towards the door then stepping back into the stairwell he lit a match and touched it to a puddle. With a whoosh Blue flame raced across the lines and puddles he had poured. He waited only long enough to see that the trash had caught fire then headed down stairs.
Henry was waiting anxiously near the front door as Chris stepped outside. “what the hell happened in there? I thought you might be dead or something” Henry said, his voice tight with worry.
Chris quickly explained what had happened while looking up. thin streams of smoke were starting to drift from the upstairs windows. “…I think they were diseased” he finished.
“What are you going to do?” Henry asked as Chris walked towards the cart
“Find something to get a good fire going, burn it out.” Chris replied. “then we find our way back to where we need to be.”
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
It turns out there were more of them inside that building, I got a good fire going downstairs and then Henry and I went and stood by the cart. Black smoke and flames were boiling out the windows by then, I was just about to say we should keep heading north when the first flaming body threw itself out one of the upstairs windows. It was utterly silent like one of the undead. then two more leaped out these screamed on the way down.
I think I just killed a family, I know they would have killed me, but there is a part of me that feels like a murderer. Maybe there was some kind of cure, but I guess I will never know. Henry is worried that there might be more of them around here and wants to move on and I think that would be the smartest thing we could do. I just hope I wasn’t exposed to what ever they had.
1145 hrs June 25th, 2016, N. Sea Pines Dr. to Cordillo Parkway
The trip up North Sea Pines had been slow going because of having to avoid storm debris and old rusting vehicles. behind them the smoke from the burning building hung on the horizon. Chris hadn’t minded the walk, not at first but as the day wore on the destruction and emptiness began to wear on him.
Eventually North Sea Pines turned into Cordillo Parkway, and what seemed to have once been a more affluent area then area further south where they had camped. At one point they passed a sign for a preparatory school, some one had painted Schools out forever on the sign.
Like the area around Harbor town it was heavily wooded, and nestled into the trees they began to see Art Galleries, fitness centers, resort rental offices, a volley ball club or what was left of the buildings spread through out the woods. This area had been hit hard by the hurricane but did not have as extensive damage as the area to the south.
It was depressing Chris thought as he stopped in the middle of the street and gazed at the ruined buildings, fallen trees and abandoned cars that littered the once Upscale area. All these people who were just living life, making money and then the dead came and this is all that’s left, even their bones were gone scattered by wind and animal. They had lost their bodies, and their names and he couldn’t even explain why it bothered him so badly.
Something sparkled in the light of the sun, Chris walked over and squatted down moving aside a fallen branch and some leaves to reveal a gold necklace with a spray of diamonds in Ornate settings. He picked it up and slid it into a pocket as he rose to his feet. Back in the day, the thing had probably cost twenty thousand if it had cost a dollar.
He was just about to stand again, when he saw a large alligator slide out of some brush and lay on the road maybe twenty feet away.
“What?” Henry asked, looking around nervously. Trouble could lurk anywhere in the ruins around them, ready to spring out at any moment. “tell me its not more of those freaks”
“Do not panic, there is an alligator over there. its not doing anything and lets keep it that way.” Chris said, he was no interested in trying to out run a gator. They might look ungainly and slow but they could run faster than a man in a straight line. There had been joggers in Florida who could attest to that fact too.
He hadn’t known Gators lived on Hilton head, but apparently they did. Chris had also found raccoon and deer tracks since his arrival but hadnt seen any of the elusive creatures.
Henry looked and then looked nervously back at Chris. “so we shoot it”
“No We leave it alone, we just go way around it.” Chris said.
it was a long nervous ten minutes of going slowly around the alligator that watched them with its dead flat eyes. Soon it was lost to sight behind them and Henry let out a sigh of relief.
“man and I have been sleeping on the ground with those things roaming around” Henry complained.
“Could be worse”
“How?” Henry asked.
“You could be sleeping out in the open and the dead rise again.” Chris replied. Or some of those diseased folks could come creeping up, he thought but didn’t say.
“Now that is not even funny.” Henry muttered.
“Puts alligators in perspective though” Chris said.
They walked on for a little while then Chris took over pulling the cart to give Henry a break. They talked little, falling into the old routines to keep safe. They both had the feeling they were being watched but saw no one in the area. Both of them wondered if maybe there were more of people like the ones Chris had killed earlier stalking them.
They stopped for an early lunch, choosing an old diner, but finding the place littered with bones and scraps of clothing they moved to an old real estate office that still had a roof and mostly intact windows.
They ate silently keeping a watch out the windows, but still saw no one. Neither of them doubted that some one was out there whether they could see their stalker or not.
They finished their lunch and started walking again, around 1230 the feeling of being watched faded and was gone. Leaving them in some what brighter spirits.
“So when is Stephanie going to meet up with us?”
“In a couple of days, Erin wants her to leave with the two Sea pines guys when they return home. She thinks Tolman is long gone and she thinks her own security people will be good enough. I hope so.”
“What’s her story anyway?” Henry asked. “Stephanie that is”
Chris didn’t answer at first, they had reached a Major road, called Pope Avenue that ran east to west. He pictured the map in his head, thinking that Pope would have to cross Greenwood Dr. at some point. Greenwood was the road that supposedly ran all the way up to the Sea Pines Enclave.
“she was married, some one laid an ambush and her Husband was one of the men killed by a sniper. I wasn’t around for that part, I was told she became a changed women after that determined to learn how to fight so she could help defend the Group. That was before they got to Sullivan.” Chris explained after a moment, then turned left onto Pope Ave. “she married again, to Ryan. So don’t hit on her, Ryan has already gone through the SF course and has earned his tab. I don’t know if Stephanie has any interest in trying out for the SF, but skill level wise she’s a shoe in. It’s the mental side of things she might not do to well at.
“Looks like some one didn’t like that bank” Henry said pointing to the shot up, burned out ruin that had once been a bank of America.
Chris only nodded; he had seen that kind of thing all over, Schools, banks, police stations. Once there was no law every one with a grudge and a weapon had attacked places that they blamed for their problems. Who knows maybe they were right. Some had happened during the early days of the dead rising, some during the long years of the dead, but most had happened once people could move around freely after the dead had stopped moving.
Further down they began to see obvious signs of people, a shopping center that had been stripped bare, the plate glass and doors removed. A catholic church and a Methodist church sat side by side and it looked like some one had been doing lawn and repair work on the two buildings. That was a good sign in his book. It was when the reached the traffic circle that connected Greenwood, William Hilton parkway and pope Ave that he realized they had come far enough.
1300 hrs. Sea Pines Enclave.
The enclave itself was not the resort as he had assumed, but a walled in area much like Harbor town. Though in this case the enclave was nowhere near the intercoastal or the Atlantic ocean. It was closer to the center of the island than the shore.
The wall, again Hesco Barriers with a chain link fence that ran along the top of the barrier, ran from Target Rd. along Palmetto bay Rd. or I 278, then curved along the north side of the Seapines Traffic circle before turning sharply to follow the William Hilton Parkway also known as Business 278.
Like Harbor town it enclosed a large area of land, meant to house thousands or more accurately tens of thousands. “I wonder why they enclosed so many business’s instead of the resort or blocks of homes” he asked aloud.
“Well you can knock on the doors and ask” Henry pointed out.
The gates were easy to find, they followed the arrow painted on the Hesco Barriers, Harbor town had chain link gates, but here two large solid metal sheathed gates mounted to a gate house made of Conex shipping containers, hung across what had once been Arrow road. Guards in ACU’s stood on the walls to either side of the gate. Their weapons ready and pointing in Chris and Henry’s general direction.
“State your business” a stocky dark haired man called down.
“Trade and I have some messages for Tucker from Erin Brinn Leader of the Harbor town enclave.” Chris called up.
“Trader? What kind of trade”
“Coffee for starters, two solar panels, odds and ends stuff really.” Chris called “I feel like I am trapped in a Monty python scene, any moment someone is going to either launch a cow at us using a catapult while insulting us or they are going to ask what my favorite color is and what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.” Chris whispered as the man on the wall vanished from sight.
“Monty who?” Henry asked puzzled. “I take it that’s supposed to be funny”
Chris sadly shook his head, the first chance he got he was going to hunt down a generator, fuel and find copies of the monty python movies to play for Henry.
They waited in companionable silence, keeping the tension and worry they felt standing there exposed, hidden from each other.
Finally on the other side of the wall, Chris heard something mechanical rumbling and clicking, and the gates swung slowly open.
“Why does this remind me of a movie” Henry muttered.
“Wait outside with the cart if it makes you feel better and I will go in and talk with them.”
“No I’ve seen that movie too.” Henry said. “and the black man always gets killed in that one too.”
Chris laughed softly, then fell silent as he saw something that he couldn’t believe.
It looked like a wooden cart with a curving dashboard and a cloth canopy, rolling towards him on tall thin rubber tires on spoked wooden hubs. The wood of the cart was black lacquered and decorated with a flower motif along the edges. A man wearing a stiff collared white shirt sat in the driver’s position. Some kind of leather cap covered his hair and brass rimmed goggle like glasses covered his eyes. The Cart came to a stop and the man jumped out. Sunlight flashed on the black knee high boots he wore. Doffing the cap and goggles he silently studied Chris and Henry.
“You wouldn’t happen to be one of Franklin Coates people would you?” Tucker asked Henry, there was a trace of a English accent to his voice Chris noted.
“No” Henry replied.
“aaah well to bad I needed a Message taken to him. I’m Waylon Tucker co-president of Londonairia, otherwise known as the Sea Pines Enclave or just the pines as most call it.” the man said.
“I’m Chris McCaffrey and this is Henry Jefferson.” Chris said reaching into his pocket and pulling out the letters that Erin had asked him to bring. He passed them to Tucker who thumbed through the envelopes before stopping at one that he opened on the spot.
He read the short note quickly then turned pale blue eyes on Chris. “She encourages me to speak with you and assures me that you might be of some help.” Tucker said calmly. “What help might you be Mr. McCaffrey, you see the Pines is doing quite well.”
“First I wanted to set up trade between you and Harbor town, Mr. Tucker.”
Tucker smiled an then waved at both men, “please come with me, you can leave your cart at the gate, the soldiers will guard it for you.” He said as he strode back towards the cart thing and climbed inside.
“Soldiers” Chris asked as he climbed up and sat on the red velvet Victorian looking seat.
“ They are all that’s left of the Guard” Tucker said waiting for Henry to climb up then moved a lever forward and the Cart started rolling. “I added a steering wheel instead of the original yoke style steering. Sometimes Original is not better” He explained as he made a wide turn and they started down the street.
“How do you charge it?” Chris asked, ignoring Henrys mumbling about being in the back.
“simple old chap, a wind mill generator I built. There are fifty of them scattered around the Pines.” He said. “The harder task was to build the bucket wheel that provides us water from the pond.”
They rolled down Arrow through the traffic circle that had served Arrow Rd and Dunnagans Alley.
“You people have been busy” Chris observed as they passed a row of new greenhouses built in a newly cleared area on the north side of Arrow Road. on the south side, were several new small brick and wood buildings. They looked like small homes, with garden plots beside each one. Just down the street he could see the western Hesco barrier wall where Arrow curved south.
“We like to eat” Tucker said, “the food thing is all Chapman and Lourdes, He owned a greenhouse that provided fresh herbs and organic vegetables. Even before the dead fell over, he had gotten a crew together and built ten green houses here in the pines, We’ve built six more since then.” He said as he made a U-Turn and headed back east. The Cart was slow enough that the faster walking dead might have been able to keep up with it.
“So you were lucky to have the material to build the stuff” Chris said, thinking of what Sullivan had gone through in the first three years and he had to wonder why no one there had thought of greenhouses.
“Not lucky no, The Guard officer who picked this location, picked it because there was a hardware and lumber supply place here, and few other business’s that would be of benefit” Tucker explained, Chris gazed at tucker for a moment thinking about the advantages of having a place like that easily accessible during the time of the dead. “another reason this site was chosen, was because of the Stores across the road, the guard stripped them all and brought it all in here. Fuel, food, medicines, Even dog food.” Tucker explained.
“What happened to your accent” Chris asked as he noted the change in the other mans voice.
“Aaah yes the accent,” Tucker said in a thick English accent. “it comes and goes, I blame it on being born in Kansas.” He said with a grin the English accent gone once more. “it was part of the act before the dead rose, I just got used to it.”
“Yes, I was a steam punk artist, made some good money at it. Part of the Personae of course is to be British.”
“You’re an artist” Chris asked shaking his head.
“Wait till you see my art then you can comment” Tucker said as they entered the traffic circle again only this time they made it half way around the circle before he pulled into a small parking lot in front of a glass fronted two story building. “Welcome to my studio” Tucker said as he pulled the lever and engaged the brake. Then shut the electric motor off.
“ This is where the magic happens,” Tucker said with a smile as he slid out of the cart.
They entered the building and found themselves back in 1860’s. Belt drive fans in the ceiling moved the air with a soft whooshing noise. to either side and straight ahead were paneled walls with wainscoting. Elegant Victorian furniture was scattered around the room in conversation groups. But was the displays that drew the eye, scattered artfully around the room. A collection of clockwork and art from an era that never existed fused into a something that was greater than the sum of its parts.
Chris found himself staring at a golden head on a pedestal; the sides of its head were open exposing intricate clockwork. Large eyes sat with lapis lazuli stared out from under the heavy brow, thick lips articulated for movement was surrounded by waves of beard and mustache.
“One of my favorites, its based on the golden head that one of the popes and Newton were supposed to have made.” Tucker said as he stepped past the pedestal and held his arms out turning in a circle. “Your free to wander around and look even touch if you want to.”
The shop was full of the oddest things Chris had ever seen, and he had seen a lot in the last six years. There was a stand with some sort of outfit or maybe armor made out of Brass, tin, steel and leather, with a gleaming bronze helmet that looked like a world war one gas mask and German World war two helmet had been combined with odd looking contraptions on the mask and helmet that might or might do anything.
Chris bent over to exam the right arm of the suit, a metal brace covered both forearm and upper arm. The entire thing was a complex working of gears and hydraulic tubes, a brass box three inches thick, etched with gears and leaves was mounted to the forearm part of the brace and ran from the back of the wrist to the elbow.
There was what looked like spot of dried blood on the leather, which roused his curiosity but he didn’t ask, maybe later.
He rose ignoring the itch to touch and play with the thing and turned to look at the fake steam powered pistols and other odds and ends before he noticed the six richly stained and decorated pedestals that lined one paneled wall, sunlight spilled through the window illuminating the mechanical spiders that sat on each pedestal. Made of Brass, and copper, they glittered in the light. the abdomens of the largest spiders, were open frames of brass filled with gears of a thousand sizes.
Tucker smiled and picked up one spider its body the size of a dinner plate, with its legs extended, it would be much larger, Chris thought. its thorax and abdomen were encrusted with colored crystals that flamed in the light.
Tucker put it on the floor and touched a stud in the center of its thorax. With a whir and clicking noise, it began to move forward. Its segmented legs Clicking with each step, glittering brass mandibles would spread apart and snap closed every six steps. The red glass eyes glittered in the sunlight as it abruptly stopped and its abdomen lifting up as the front lowered as if it were about to pounce.
‘This is what you’ve been doing since the world ended” Chris asked.
“No,” he said chuckling, “I made these before the dead rose. That one” he said pointing to spider on the floor, “would have sold for thirty thousand to the right collector.”
“an idiot born every day” Henry muttered.
Chris was happy to note that Tucker didn’t seem offended by it.
“it’s a matter of taste, Art is” Tucker said. “Besides if it had not been for my interest in steam punk art, I would never have learned clock repair, Jewelry making, and every other odd skill that no one had much use for before the dead.” He said then picked up the spider and placed it back on the pedestal.
“Waylon there you are my darling” Chris turned towards the voice and saw a woman sweeping into the room wearing a dress straight out Victorian fantasy novel.
He had to admit that she looked very, very good in the black leather corset with white laces, over a black lace blouse. She had pleasant good looks with high cheekbones and pert lips. She smiled at him, tucking the brass handled walking stick she carried under one arm as she knelt and grasped the hem of the pleated black skirt she wore and curtsied.
“If I had known we had company I would have dressed more appropriately” she said rising, one slender hand touching the artfully piled dark hair on her head. “you are a handsome gentleman aren’t you.’ She said to Chris.
“Mr. McCaffrey this is Lourdes Green” Tucker said then turned to Henry “ I would also like you to meet Mr. Henry Jefferson”
“Charmed” she said holding out her hand to Henry.
Not really sure what he was expected to do, he took her hand and shook it.
She laughed brightly “I like you” she said taking Henrys arm and tucking it into her own. Henry stood there completely unsure of what to do next. In the world before the dead he might have tossed off some lines, showing his game since she was a pretty woman. but this was so out of the ordinary for the Apocalypse he opted for the golden rule and remained quiet.
“How did you get that car out there running, I mean working batteries are getting harder to find.” Chris asked as he studied something that looked like a gear driven chainsaw with a sword hilt.
“I made the batteries” Tucker said, “Did you know that the first electric cars were running the streets of American cities in the 1880s, they were pretty popular till gas powered motors allowed drivers to go further and faster and Fueling up was easier too.”
Seeing the look of doubt on Chris’s face he smiled and pulled a cigar from a brass tube he carried in his pocket. He lit the cigar and smiled around it. “we have five more of those around the Pines they don’t take long to build to be honest. Assuming my apprentices all help, we do little to no decoration on the things. But as you mentioned Modern batteries are going bad” He said then paused to draw on his cigar. “I need to find out how to make more of these too,” He added flourishing the cigar for a moment before putting it back in his mouth. “any way the batteries, Gaston Plante invented the lead acid rechargeable battery in 1859. The same battery design I’m using though with some modern refinements.” Tucker said smiling around the cigar in his mouth. “they aren’t all that hard to build to be honest or take to much time. That’s assuming we have the parts for them, which we are running low on.
Which is why I built a small steam engine to run a generator, I am working an a larger one to run a much larger generator but I have to make the models to make the molds, then cast each piece by hand. After that its checking each piece to make sure they are with in tolerances and then correcting any faults. At some point I really want to set up a real foundry to make life easier.”
Chris grew excited, if this man could do all that he was talking about, Jared would kill to have Tucker train people or come to Sullivan to do the job and train volunteers on the job. This was a trade he was going to have to really sell, the zone needed Waylon Tucker and his skills.
“There is more to see of course” Tucker said motioning to a set of double doors, with ovals of inset etched and frosted glass in the center of each door. Chris didn’t recognize the Logo, it was all elegant lines and swirls that formed a W merged with a T surrounded by filigree traceries
Chris followed Tucker through the door, leaving Henry to be escorted by Lourdes. This was nothing like he had expected. Chris walked slowly down the central aisle of Tuckers workshop taking it all in. Fans hung from ceiling, operated by pulleys driven by leather straps, each large bladed fan slowly turned keep the room cooler and the air moving.
Around the fans ran a rail and chain system, as he watched a man at the far end of the shop pulled a large bucket that hung from the rail out of a furnace and pulled it over to work area where he tilted the bucket and let the glowing molten metal pour into a large mold. “ He is pouring part of the casing for the New Steam engine” Tucker explained as they watched with interest. Its pretty much the same principle as lost wax casting in jewelry making except the molds are made using wooden models, which are removed from the mold instead of being destroyed like the wax in Lost wax casting.”
At five work benches sat five teen aged boys, their heads bent over magnifying glass’s as they filed down gears other benches, were covered in parts and partially finished inventions. Chris picked up a glass tube, it was nothing he could have once bought in a store, it looked old fashioned.
“the thing about Hilton head before the dead was that many Artists lived here or had exhibits and gallerys. That is hand blown by Rick Mercer, who has set up a shop close by to make things I need and that can be used around the Pines.” Tucker explained.
Chris sat the tube down, trying to hide the excitement he felt. if this place was as well off and trouble free as it seemed, it was a miracle, almost as much of one as Sullivan.
Near a bay door at the back sat a pallet stacked with the same kind of Batteries that he had seen in Harbor town. Two unfinished carts sat on saw horses, and what looked like a UTV stripped down to the frame sat beside those. “What is that?” Chris asked pointing to the frame.
“it used to be a Razor, but I plan on fitting it with a steam engine.”
“Why not use a Gassifier?” Chris asked. Tucker turned to look at him for a moment. Surprised maybe, chris thought.
“Do you happen to have the plans for one.” Tucker asked.
“I might be able to draw up a diagram for you, if the price is right.”
“Capitalist” Tucker muttered then laughed. “maybe Yankee trader is a more accurate term.”
Tucker entered a small office at the back, and sat behind an ornate desk. Smiling he propped his booted feet up on the desktop and lit a cigar. “I’m thinking you have a few hundred questions.”
“At least” Chris said with a nod. “First off, how are you firing that Furnace?”
1600hrs, Tuckers office.
Waylon sat in his priceless 1890, swiveling leather desk chair and stared out the window listening to Lourdes explain to Chapman, the deal that Chris McCaffrey had offered to Tucker.
Tucker rather liked McCaffrey, but his likes and dislikes didn’t matter when it came to Issues involving the Pines and its people. he had to assume for now that McCaffrey might be a bad guy regardless of what Erin Brinn had to say.
“do you think this is for real?” Chapman asked.
“Erin’s note said she met with the leader of the zone, A Jared Stone and that we can trust them at least more than most other groups.” Tucker said with out turning his chair around.
“I think I can get some information out of Henry, much more than we can get out of Mr. McCaffrey,” Lourdes said. “ He seems to be pretty cagey.”
“Hang on before you two go all Sherlock Holmes and Watson, what happens if this is for real.” Chapman asked.
“then some of the problems we face will be things of the past, but we might gain new problems.” Tucker said.
“first we get smoked fish in exchange for vegetables, and some batteries. Then the Zone is willing trade solar panels and other goodies for you to teach them how to work some of your magic.” Chapman stated.
“If they are telling the truth, yes. But I have to wonder what if instead of sending fish they send soldiers.” Tucker said.
Lourdes cleared her throat drawing their attention. “I just realized one of the things that bothered me about my conversation with Henry.”
“and that was?” Tucker said with a put upon frown. ‘or do we have to drag it out of you.”
“he didn’t seem all that excited over the cart” Lourdes said. “every other visitor we have had was at the least immensely surprised to see a running piece of transport. But not Henry or McCaffrey.”
“So?” Chapman asked.
“So, it makes me think that they might be used to working transportation.” Lourdes said.
“Now that’s called reaching.” Chapman said laughing.
“no it makes sense” Tucker said, turning his chair to face them across his desk. “they didn’t seem to surprised to find working lights either. Oh sure they asked lots of questions, but overall their amazement was at finding this stuff here, but not the stuff itself.”
“Exactly” Lourdes agreed with a nod. “Chris thought the generator run by a steam engine was great, but it was the steam engine he cared about. Then he asked about us using a gasifier.”
“Its essentially a wood burning system that uses the escaping gas from burning wood to run anything from a car motor to, well a generator.” Tucker said. “I’ve heard of them but never really knew how to build one. They were damned popular during WW2 from what I’ve read.”
“Okay so assuming your right and where ever these guys came from has some power and other things, doesn’t that argue we should agree to a deal with them.” Chapman asked, sometimes working with these two was a test of patience.
“Maybe, but I still think Gideon Snows idea has merit, its only a matter of reaching an acceptable deal with him and the others. If we can use McCaffrey to make that happen as a condition for us to even consider a trade agreement with his people, I would be willing to consider it.”
“and why would McCaffrey agree to do that” Chapman asked.
“Because it would mean trade for Harbor town, something he seems oddly invested in making happing, and it wouldn’t just be trade with us but from all four Enclaves. And that would give him a united platform to establish island wide trade with his people.” Tucker stated. “Pax Hilton Head, I like it”
“You would,” Lourdes said smiling. “Speaking of, your idea to call the Pines, Londonairia is a flop.” Lourdes said with a grin. “No one likes it. not even the four Brits in the Pines. Who, I might add, think you’re a few bats shy in your belfry.”
Tucker smiled back, “its okay I have another name I will float out there, sooner or later they will like one, or realize I keep doing it to give them something to laugh at over a beer.” He said then pulled a pocket watch out of the watch pocket of his pants. He opened it and checked the time. “ And speaking of beer, Alexander is going to promote his new beer in exactly half an hour. Beer is an important part of civilization and we owe it to the future to be there at the unveiling.” He said with a impish smile as he closed his pocket watch and returned it to his pocket.
“Before you race off to drink, have we reached an agreement on what to do?” Chapman asked.
“Yes, I say we send our friend McCaffrey off to talk with Gideon Snow, and then Franklin Coates. We can send messengers to Baker and to Harbor town, both of them will probably agree to meet with us at the old Marina we used last year. If he can get them to agree to the conditions we set, then we will put the issue of trade with his Free zone to a vote. ” Tucker said.
Lourdes nodded in agreement then rose to her feet. “Enough work, we have beer to sample and hobnobbing to do.” she said holding out her arm to Tucker who flowed to his feet and took her arm.
“We need to gather my hat and jacket then we can leave. Chapman please turn out the light when you leave.” Tucker said grandly then almost waltzed out of the room.
Chapman leaned back in his chair watching the closed door for a moment, then shook his head. “it’s a great idea Tucker,” He muttered. “but we both know that some one wont like that idea and will do everything they can to stop it.” He rose to his feet and dusted off his pants. It could mean a war, some one already didn’t like the rare messengers that passed between the Enclaves, what would they do if The pines actively began to push for unification. He had a very good idea who was behind the attacks on the Messengers, but he really didn’t know for a fact.
The real question was did he warn McCaffrey. He thought about all the advantages that dealing with a group like Tucker and Lourdes thought McCaffrey might have come from and decided yes he would warn him. This was too important an opportunity to waste.
From the Journal of Chris McCaffrey.
I have arrived at the Pines Enclave, and met with Waylon Tucker. First let me say this place is nothing like Harbor town. They have food here, apparently they grow enough to have excess. Not only that they have limited power. I do mean limited but far better than any place outside of Sullivan I have seen.
Mostly they seem to use old LED string lights in front of several buildings and like Tucker’s Studio, some of the ceiling lights work. But overall the individual living spaces and homes are lit by candles or not at all.
Tucker is a mechanical genius, Electric carts, rechargeable batteries, plans for a foundry he plan on buildings.
They have established a brick making facility, a glass blower, and several other skilled craftsman businesses. I should mention the beekeepers, Honey and wax to make candles. It seems almost idyllic, but I understand that within the Pines there is some tension, mostly from a group of religious folks. Nothing violent, just philosophical disagreements. I might ask around and find out for myself.
On a side note I asked about the diseased people I encountered, and for the first time Tucker and Lourdes clammed up. I would even say they seemed disturbed possibly scared.
After our meeting with Tucker and Lourdes, We were shown to a newly built small brick building where we are to spend the night. Seeing several people out front, I took a moment to ask about the diseased folks I encountered, and the only thing I’ve learned is people here are scared of them. Call them the Scarred folk. They are violent, cannibalistic and not a sane bone in their bodies according to the people in the Pines..
The Scarred folk haven’t been seen in a year now, and many here were hoping that they had died off. So hearing that Henry and I had seen some of the Scarred folk has got the pines worried that the Scarred folk might come back.
Tomorrow Lourdes is supposed to show us around the Pine, before we meet with Tucker again, this time Chapman and Lt. Ramo’s of the National Guard will be in attendance. I cant wait to get closer look at the place. So far The Pines seems to be in better shape than most anywhere I’ve been. So why do I think the bottom is going to fall out on me any time now.