The Rocky Road to the End of the World
By Sandra Bell Kirchman
Copyright © 2013 by
Sandra Bell Kirchman.
All rights reserved.
CHAPTER ONE (REVISED) – You Never Think It Will Happen to You
“Are you packed?” Mark asked, throwing his jacket on the table. The question and his grim expression set my bad-things-are-happening senses tingling.
I stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
“You should listen to the radio more often,” he snapped. Mark rarely snapped, and my dread deepened. “Throw some warm clothes and blankets into your duffel bag. Pack canned goods, utensils, matches, medicine kit and your medications into it. Hopefully, stuff that the two of us can carry for a few miles.”
The shock I felt drained the blood from my face. He patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’ve thought a lot about this ever since the Mayan calendar scare a few years ago.”
“Oh, my God! The Mayan prediction? It’s happening after all?”
“Nope,” he said. “We have to hurry, Alex. Get the details on the radio. They’re broadcasting them pretty often.” He gave me a quick half-smile, meant to be reassuring. “I’ve got it all under control.” That was his answer to just about everything, and I tried to smile back.
Hurrying into the bedroom, I listened to the radio while I packed. My blood ran coldby the time I had finished. The announcer seemed vague on what was happening, but very precise on when and where.
NASA has released a statement warning of an unidentified Wave sweeping over the planet. Scientists cannot say exactly what the wave is or where it originates. Apparently, NASA scientists are debating whether this is the Mayan prediction of the end of the world coming some years later than the original prediction of December 21, 2013.
The Wave hit the east coast of New Zealand and the Pacific islands in that area about an hour ago. We have no reliable information on the precise effect of the Wave. One last broadcast from New Zealand was garbled by heavy static, but words of devastating destruction and of people dead or dying were understood. The Wave continued on to Australia and the southern portion of Africa, then appears to have stopped in the southern latitudes of the Atlantic Ocean. Nothing has been heard since from New Zealand and Australia. Reports are filtering in from South Africa, which appears to have been cut in two by the Wave. The northern portion of the country is seemingly untouched.
Canadian Prime Minister Monique Leger has declared a state of emergency. If the Wave moves north, she has ordered help stations set up in every province in the most populated areas. Pundits predict going south may the best route, since, with winter on the horizon, the north turns to a survivalist’s nightmare in two months, adding to the challenges of surviving the Wave itself. In the final analysis, each person will have to make his or her own decision.
Looting has already started in many countries. Canadians are warned to look after their own safety; relying on the authorities may result in unanswered distress calls. The Prime Minister has called upon Canadian Armed Forces personnel to assist in helping the population defend against looting and to organize their orderly retreat to any place they deem safer than their current location.
Depending upon unfolding developments, this may be the last live broadcast from this station. We will continue to transmit the information that we have to date regarding the situation on a regular basis. Any updated information will be remotely uploaded to the station’s broadcast system and transmitted. We will keep you informed as long as we can.
Listening to the brief buzz after the broadcast, then a spate of frenetic music that threw itself against the speakers, I gave one last look around the room to see if I had forgotten anything. Trotting into the kitchen, I grabbed another bag and mechanically started packing kitchenware, along with an economy size box of wooden matches. Mark’s camping skills will pay off, I thought, and opened the dog cupboard, staring at the dog food and treats lining the shelves. I put out a bunch of stuff, then realized that I would need to find another bag for their food and meds.
Next stop was the medicine cabinet; I hadn’t realized how many meds I took every day. I didn’t see how we could carry all we had so far, but hopefully Mark had a plan. He usually did and he usually shared it with me.
I wasn’t sure how long I would last without my diabetic pills. Perhaps the extra exercise would reduce my need for the Metformin.
What else was necessary to my survival? I didn’t know, but I suspected the blood pressure pills were up there. Maybe if the exercise reduced my need for medications, it would handle my blood pressure as well. I was pretty sure that the end of the world might raise my BP pretty high. I shrugged and started carrying stuff out to the Jeep. I left them on the garage floor, since Mark preferred to load the vehicle himself.
Rummaging around in the storage area, I found an old kit bag for the dogs’ food. Suddenly, it hit me. Mark hadn’t mentioned anything about stuff for the dogs!
I ran inside to the top of the basement stairs and shouted down. “Mark, what about food and medication for the dogs?” There was silence, then, “Never mind about that.”
Fear froze me for a second. I started down the stairs slowly, using my cane to steady me. I reached the bottom and stood watching Mark as he finished packing one duffel bag in his precise, calm way and reached for another.
“What do you mean, don’t bother about food for the dogs?”
A look of what I could have called panic, except that the person I was looking at was Mark, flickered in his eyes for an instant. He spoke slowly. “Alex, be reasonable. We are on the run, going as far north as we can for as long as we can. No guarantees that we will be able to follow the roads…if there even will BE roads…or gas…or food. The dog food we have will last maybe a week at the most. We can’t take the dogs.”
Our three little Shih Tzus had trotted downstairs to see what required my unaccustomed presence in the basement. Tears filled my eyes as I looked at them, their perpetual puppy faces smiling, their brown eyes filled with love and trust. They knew Mark and I would never do anything to hurt them. They were our family.
I turned without saying anything and made my way upstairs. The big bag of special kibbles sat outside the back door into the garage, near where our Jeep Cherokee utility vehicle rested. Mark took good care of his belongings and especially his vehicles. I was willing to bet that the Jeep sported a full gas tank, contained recently changed oil and topped-up fluids, and had all the belts tightened and moving parts oiled.
I grabbed the kibbles and wrestled the bag into the house. If it cost me my life, I refused to leave my babies behind. They would learn to eat nothing but kibbles, and they would survive. Throwing the kibble into an old kit bag, along with a box of treats, I picked out three small toys and threw them in the bag as well. I knew Mark would condemn me as foolish, but there was no way these dogs were being abandoned.
In a moment of clarity, it struck me. Mark wouldn’t just leave the dogs behind…he would shoot them to save them from the terror and suffering that otherwise awaited them. I threw in a water dish and three small kibble dishes and zipped up the bag.
Mark came up carrying bags filled with his precious gun equipment, ammo, hunting knives, hunting tent, foldable hunting blind, and three sleeping bags. Stiffly, I grabbed the dogs’ carriers stowed neatly under Mark’s work counter and added them to the pile.
“We are NOT going to kill members of our family just for our convenience, Mark.” I rarely tried to change Mark’s mind. They invented the word “stubborn” just for him, and I had better things to do with my time. However, at this point I had no intentions of budging. To my amazement, Mark simply nodded and placed the carriers in a neat row near the Jeep.
I looked down at the piles of items waiting to be packed in the Jeep. “I dunno, Mark,” I said, hearing a note of panic shaking my voice. “It’s an awful lot to carry.”
He nodded again. “Don’t worry, Alex. I’m taking the big backpack. We may have to discard some of these things if we have to leave the Jeep and head for the hills, but at least we can start with them while we still have the vehicle.” His American accent came out clearly when he was under pressure. There is a certain way that Americans pronounce “vehicle,” like they pronounce the “h” and emphasize the second syllable. It must be the love that Americans have for their fancy cars and powerful trucks.
I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. He wasn’t going to kill them now, anyhow. Maybe I could show him how well-behaved they were becoming. I ran back to the foyer between the kitchen and the garage, snatched leashes and harnesses, and squeezed them into the kit bag.
Mark grabbed an axe off the wall and a jug of distilled water, and started packing the Jeep. It looked like we almost might have to take the Ford truck, but he managed to stow everything, leaving his guns to the last. I thought this might be a bad sign of what was to come, but didn’t say anything. Just as he turned to get his guns, the garage doorbell rang.
I got up to get it, but Mark grabbed my arm. “Leave it be,” he said softly.
I struggled to get free. “Stop it, Mark. It’s one of our neighbours, the young guy from from across the way.”
The man peered in through the window, anxiously shading his eyes. We were beyond his range of sight, on the other side of the Jeep. “Alex, you can’t trust anyone in a life-threatening situation like this. Our neighbours could turn on us like rabid dogs.”
I sighed, thinking of all the times Mark had ranted about people and how stupid they were. I used to try to show him how that was so untrue, but he remained unconvinced. So far, my faith in the human species hadn’t wavered.
“Get the dogs in their carriers, and I’ll go and lock up the house as best I can,” he said.
I called and the three of them came running. “Who wants to go for a car ride?” I asked them, forcing a teasing note into my voice. The two females loved going in the car; however, Oreo, our little male, was terrified because of an experience he had had before he came to us. Still, the promise of a treat calmed him sufficiently to get him into his carrier, where he felt safe. I left them to get my boots on. Immediately the three started yipping. I hurried back and hushed them. They must have heard the fear in my voice, because they quieted right away.