Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Vision, Part VIII, The New Beginning

When I was lead through the door, the councilors were seated at a long table in front of maybe 50 chairs. I sat up front and in the center as the councilors thanked me for the medicine. I was urged to discuss the proposal I had mentioned earlier to one of them. I asked the council if it would be alright if those that were to be involved in this endeavor, that they may be present to hear of this account. The council didn't seem to have a problem with this, but wanted to share a few things with me first.
Apparently, other than the local farmers who had been cooperating all along, I was the first from "the outside" not needing assistance and who was presenting something to offer. They were hopeful that there might be others like myself, who might eventually come in. However, they thought this wasn't likely to happen, coming from our area. From what they could gather from eye witness accounts and aerial flights made over the area, suggested that perhaps 80 to 90% of the population had expired. That most small rural communities had not fared well at all during the long winter months. Starvation had disseminated whole communities and in some, evidence of cannibalism had been discovered. I was assured, that it wasn't likely any groups of people survived within at least 40 miles of the location that I came from. That being the very small community next to this one. The council was cooperating with other communities and would soon become trading partners with them. They were cautiously becoming optimistic about the future. However even more were expected to die due to their weakened state before things could be turned around.
I thanked the council for their insight and information. This put my mind at ease somewhat, it did answer many questions that I had. My wife and the others who were going back with us, were brought in and seated.
I explained to the council, that this group of people and I would attempt to bring in "harvests" coming from the area, into the community. I would need time with this group before more people could be brought on in helping to achieve this endeavor, that would likely be in the late summer. We had already enough fuel stock piled to make three such trips back and forth in the boat that I had arrived on. This would likely increase as more fuel was expected to be gleaned. If the council would a lot us the goods to bring forth a dry crop and those of preserves would be much appreciated. The council quickly agreed to this and assured us that they would help all they could providing labor, boats and fuel to bring forth all that could be harvested. The council asked us if there was anything else we might need before we started our journey back? I requested a dozen chickens and chicken wire to contain them, this was also quickly granted. Everyone seemed pleased, I shook hands and thanked each member of the council. Our group would leave the community at nine o'clock the next morning.
At the seven o'clock morning report on the radio, the announcer came on almost ecstatic. The whole community was going to do something that was monumental! It was going to send off, for the first time, a dozen people of it's own on a mission! That this mission would almost guarantee fresh fruit and those of preserves coming into the community! This would greatly ensure the survival of the community in the coming months. That these "explorers" would only be the first needed to start up the operation and many more would be called upon later that summer! Everyone was expected to gather at the "Welcoming Station" to send these "brave hero's" off!
There was a large crowd of perhaps, 2,000 people gathered in front of the station when our group was assembled. Upbeat music was playing over the loud speakers as the crowd cheered! Our group was then greeted with handshakes by every member of the council. Pictures were being taken of this event. Then a two-way radio was presented to the group and more pictures were taken. The councilors wished us well and would be looking forward to our return.
The crowd parted as we made our way back down the hill. There was a lot of tears, hugs and handshakes, moving through these great people. It had been a long journey for them of unimaginable horrors, yet they managed to stay alive. I felt proud to be leading this group of people and knew they would be productive, if only to support the brethren they were leaving behind. They would grow strong again and it would be soon when more people would be brought on. This was the start of a new day and there would be many more to come.
At the beginning of this journey, it was my hope there would a chance of survival for my wife and I. Perhaps now, we'll have the chance to begin a new life together, one that is worth while....
Many thanks, yooper

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Vision, Part VII, The Revelation


My and wife and I were really excited as I started up the boat, we were really taking a risky chance. Chance is the price of life and without taking any chances perhaps life wasn't worth living at all, we'd both agreed. I had never quite felt this alive as the spray of water hit my face as the boat crashed through the waves! We were truly going into the unknown, hoping to find some purpose along the way.

On our way, we passed two people who were waving on the beach near a small community about 30 miles from town. I kept looking back to see if anyone would come out to "greet" us, we were armed just in case, thankfully nobody followed. Closer to town the boat was tied on the other side of a small island not visible from shore. I definitely didn't want to risk everything going into town and wasn't about to burn all bridges going there. We boarded the small row boat and motored even closer to town. We tied up in a little slip, gathered our back packs and would travel the rest of the way on foot.

Walking the roadway and passing a burnt out neighborhood, we came across a sign telling all visitors to check in at the station up the hill. As we approached the station, I was surely getting second thoughts as a high fence was sprawled out on both sides. After entering the station, the first question of business coming from a women behind a counter was, why were we there? When we told her we wanted to inquire about our relatives, a small ledger was brought out and sure enough my two nephews as well as her grandson was on the list. Another large ledger was brought out confirming the deaths of my sister, my uncle and his family also her daughter. Her son and the daughter's husband were unaccounted for, but were presumed dead.

We were asked what was in our back packs and told that no weapons of any kind were allowed into the community. After my sidearm was checked in, I let on that there was medicine in my back pack. This drew the interest from a man sitting behind a desk further back. After introducing himself as a council member, I opened the pack and told him I had a proposition for the commissioners. I told him that I needed men to help bring in a crop and other wild edibles to town and that the medicine was a gift of good faith. The man's eyes sparkled and he was really excited when he learned what I intended to bring in.

The council was to meet at seven pm the next night and I was expected to be up and center for it. In the meantime we were welcomed to the community. My wife and I would lodge at the guest quarters and were welcomed to to eat at one of the shifts the community put on. The water was not running as of yet and we'd have to use the latrines. We were told that that we could meet with the young men that we were seeking there at the six pm shift. The councilor and I shook hands and we left for the quarters.

Having a little time before the six pm shift, we walked around a bit. We could faintly smell latrines off a short distance were the people were being housed. A guard was posted at the entry of these places. It didn't take long to to size up the community and we were just shocked on how much this section of town had changed. It looked like a small military base, neat and orderly.

We decided to check the town out from on top of the hill. As we crested the hill, we were just horrified at what we saw down below! It looked like a town that had been blown apart in WWII. The whole downtown area and large sections of the residential area had burned to the ground. Basements filled with water, debris everywhere and the beautiful trees that had graced the town, gone! Burnt vehicles littered the streets. We both just sat down and gazed at the destruction, not saying a word. Tears welled up in my eyes, my hometown was almost unrecognizable. So many fine times and people had enriched my life here! I felt ashamed of myself for expecting something from these people. What could they possibly give me? Overwhelmed with grief, we wept out load as we made our way back to the community.

We pulled ourselves together the best we could, as we approached the "cafeteria". Hundreds of people were lined up outside the building waiting to go in. Making our way to the back of the line we could smell the stench emitting from these people. It just broke our hearts, never had we seen such a poor lot! Most people had sunken eyes and almost no color in their faces. Most were pathetically thin resembling human skeletons, beneath their tattered clothing. The scene reminded me of pictures I'd seen of the Jewish Holocaust. Once in awhile one would look back towards us, I couldn't bring myself to even look up, to acknowledge them.

Not a word was spoken in our part of the line. We held each other tight as we made our way into the cafeteria. We received our bowl of soup, that looked like water with two small chunks of beef in it and made our way to a table in the center of the room. Shortly after we sat down, I could no longer hold my grief back and began sobbing uncontrollably. This created quite a stir as people got up to see this spectacle. Then I heard my name called, then again! I slowly stood up before all these grand people in the room. Never, have I been so humbled!

Slowly a small group of people came towards our table and then two more from the other end of the room. The grandson, his girlfriend, the two nephews, their wives and the family of one of them approached the table as if coming out of a fog. The people who had been sitting with us got up and made way for those coming over. My once "strong as a bull" nephew, now this side of a walking skeleton, helped me down to my seat.

I sat there paralyzed, trying to regain myself, as the group sat down. When I did finally manage to sit up, I looked directly into each one of their eyes, making my way around the table. While doing this I reached down to the fabric of my soul and whispered, "I have a plan". Nobody said a word, but the sparkle radiating from their eyes looked like moonlight dancing on a riverbed.

While outside and of hearing distance from the others, I explained the plan I had and about the proposition I'd put forth the next night in front of the council. All of the people agreed, they'd rather take their chances on the outside with me than to continue to live like this. I assured all of them the work would be hard but the reward of starting over would be worth it. Also, that there might be a chance of having to defend this new way of life, on the outside. The next night, they would also attend the council meeting.

The Vision, Part VI, Solitude

two months later.

The winter had been a rough one with more snow than we'd ever seen. I had to give up hunting and gathering more "gifts", as all this loose snow confined travel just around the house. This little game of solitaire my wife and I had been playing, tested our very spirit. I had cut enough firewood with the chainsaw to last perhaps three years and she made trip after trip hauling logs on the plastic toboggan, to the wood pile. Also, I dug a new hole for the outhouse and rolled it over logs to the new spot. Using ferns sure filled a hole quick!

The radio almost became a third member of the family. The winter had been especially hard on the people in town. Even though truck loads of beef had arrived before the deep snows came, it simply wasn't enough as they tried to stretch it out in soups and such. To even compound matters worse the water main had frozen, leaving the entire city without running water. The diesel back up just couldn't keep the flow fast enough and the line had frozen. They endured a couple more major fires but had been lucky as much what was lost, couldn't be lived without. The hardest part was the town had lost a significant amount of people to sickness. Outlying areas were also reporting similar problems, as whole communities were trapped in the snow with very little to eat. Reports coming in from "hams"were getting fewer as more were going off the air. In town, a group of five people were caught raiding a meat locker. They were tried, convicted and hung, all in the same day.

On the bright side, the radio was now playing three hours of music every Friday night! The Christmas music had been such a hit. A little concert was even performed over the air by local musicians from town. Over the winter months the commissioners were announcing constructive plans for the town. These new plans sounded exciting and were going to shape the town toward what the immediate future might bring. They were working together with what they had locally. This is what had kept them alive up to this point and they were going to expand further on this concept.

Organized crews had already been sent out gleaning goods that had been left behind. These goods were being cleaned-up, sorted and stored, in large warehouses. In effect they would become "trade goods" and this is what the new economy would be built upon. Goods and services brought into the community could be exchanged for these goods. Rapid expansion of local cattle, dairy, hog and poultry operations, was to be expected. A communal garden would be started, and acreage supporting grain crops would be moved closer to the community. Fuel that had been stock piled would be used to support these projects. Electrical power however limited, was expected to be created from a renewable resource for the betterment of the community. A new water system was to be implemented this spring.

A mood of optimism was being fostered in town that would hopefully spread throughout the "listening area", via the radio station. Mutual benefaction for everyone would only be realized through the spirit of cooperation. My wife and I thought a great deal about this and about the family we had left behind, who could be barely alive.

We decided that we would attempt to venture back to town in a boat that was left behind by the neighbors. Although my plan had kept us alive and well up to this point, it just wasn't feasible in the long term. I thought it would be just a matter of time before other people would venture here and how could I defend this alone? We both were wondering out load, if living a life like this was really worth it, if it couldn't be shared with others.

one month later.

Spring had finally sprung! My wife and I had stocked piled a considerable amount of gleaned goods that the neighbors had left behind. After the snow pack became hard, trip after trip was made to caches in the woods. On one such trip, we had seen a small plane fly almost over head, the first one we seen in months. Getting the inboard/outboard pleasure boat to the beach was a real job but thankfully it was full of fuel. We'd be taking more than enough fuel to make the trip there and back. This came from our fuel stock pile, that we had built up. A small row boat would be towed behind filled with trade goods. Probably more of what they already had, however we had special medicines that were also left behind by the neighbors. We were set to make one of the biggest trips of our lives.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Vision, Part V, Christmas in the Backwoods

Even though my wife and I, were snug as a bug in a rug, we often thought about what had become of family members. It's not that they hadn't heard me tell them time and again that something like the crisis might happen. Perhaps, they were blinded by society and couldn't see it coming or refused to believe it, until it was too late? Life is so fragile. We both knew in our hearts that most people were caught completely unable to care for themselves in this environment. We'd often discuss what might became of so and so but at last, this is hard to imagine in a world were money and gold have no value.
Already the snow was so deep, travel could only be made on snowshoes. We hadn't seen snow like this since the 1960's. This was highly unusual as snows in the past twenty years had been relatively light. I continued to harvest game, this kept my mind occupied and away from the house for spells. This gave her some private time, giving each other space is a sure cure for cabin fever.
I was now bold enough to approach some of the neighbor's houses. We were desperately low on some supplies, perhaps I could find something of use. I would gather some "gifts" for my wife, as well for myself, that we would "open" for Christmas. I tried to make life for us as normal as possible, adapting to change is never easy. It took some looking around but I was just shocked at what had been left behind. Dry foods, coffee, sugar, salt, guns and ammo. Perhaps our neighbor, "the rummager" already had enough of these items, but why did he leave? I had assumed the family was starving and left. Why didn't the other neighbors find and utilize this? Then it came to me, since he couldn't take all that he found at once, he would cache items often coming from other homes, leaving some items in favor of carrying others as he went on. I wondered if he would be coming back for them in the spring? Even if he was back at his house, there would be no way he'd make it this far on snowshoes through the soft snow. Perhaps, he knew this and bugged out? Maybe the "pickings"were easier and more plentiful closer to the small community? I was driving myself crazy with these thoughts... Anyway, I told myself, I wouldn't worry about that until spring, and that was at least three months away.
On the way home, my mood changed dramatically, I almost felt like Santa Claus. The coffee was sure to be a hit! When I got back, I placed the backpack on the wood pile before I went inside. There she was singing holiday songs to herself, while she decorated the tree we had gotten the day before. At five o'clock, I cranked up the radio and behold, Christmas music was playing! We hadn't heard music in months! I just couldn't resist, I grabbed the backpack and handed to her. She had tears in her eyes as she took each "gift" out. Not a word about where I had gotten them, she knew. In fact, there were very few words that passed between us, as we sipped our coffee and listened to Christmas music in the candle light.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Vision, Part IV, The Hollowing

Two weeks later.
We were beginning to settle into this lifestyle, and there was always something to do around camp. We had to keep our minds occupied on tasks, this helped to prevent some unrealistic thoughts of paranoia, which can occur while isolated. Gathering firewood, picking berries, and fishing took up most of our time. Some of the pressures of our past daily lives were slowly slipping away. No more lifestyle that produced bills, no more having to work to pay those bills, and so on. In fact, we were really enjoying each other's company more, we sure were doing a lot together now. We realized that if we were to "get by" we'd have to rely on each other, more than ever before.

We were going to make a point of not coming into contact with other people which wasn't hard as most people were not venturing far from their houses at all. I had been checking on the "neighbors" from a distance, trying very hard not to be spotted. There was some interaction between a few of them at first but by far and large, they kept to themselves. I could tell most were running out of food and some places I could see no activity at all, where there had been. Once in a grand while I'd hear a shot or two. There were no attempts of anyone trying to cut through the tree piles, perhaps they felt more secure this way too.

Conditions in town were getting graver by the day from the lack of food and medical care, people getting weaker. A flu like symptom was spreading through the tent cities, mostly effecting the elderly and the weak. Meat and milk were now to be rationed amongst those there, but this wasn't nearly enough. Perhaps a third of the town's population had passed on, but they were being replaced by others coming in from surrounding areas, smaller communities and the countryside. The number of refugees coming into town was increasing daily. Most of these people had run out of food or needed medical care and had nowhere else to turn to. Similar circumstances were being reported from other areas, mostly by ham operators now. Horrific stories of rape, murder and even cannibalism.
Some order had been restored in town as most of the roving gangs apparently were leaving for greener pastures or simply giving up and mixing in with the others. People were now disarmed at the tent cities, for better security. Around half of the town had burnt down but there was about a quarter of the population that was still holed-up in their homes, that had running water. Often with 10 to 15 people living in a house.

The situation elsewhere that was being reported, wasn't much better. Whole cities had fallen and millions were reported dead. Reports of where the power had been restored were getting fewer and less creditable, as there were no other radio stations being picked up in the area. For the most part, people had given up any hope of ever seeing governmental relief and openly wondered if there was a Federal government left. People were much more concerned what was happening locally and in surrounding areas.
Three months later.

My wife and I, had moved into a small A that was was used for a vacation home fully equipped with a wood stove, wood oven, hand water pump and a very nice outhouse! These people had been acquaintances of ours before the crisis. They were from a large city outside the state and probably just couldn't make it here, in time. This place was just off the beach and probably a mile away from our primitive camp. We had plenty of wood for heating and cooking that was conveniently already there. This really brightened our spirits and sleeping in a real bed for a change was most welcoming. My wife and I were just thrilled to have a roof over our heads again!

It was late fall now and we would spent the winter there, nice and cozy like. Our supply situation wasn't too bad, we had run out of things like coffee, toilet paper, and toothpaste long ago. However, we still had flour, salt, oil and a good supply of dried berries, fish and other edibles that we had gathered. I was reasonably sure we could make it through the long winter months but after that....

Our nearest neighbor now was over five miles away, the others had either left on foot or had passed on. This neighbor had a wife and two smaller children. I had suspected this man was "cleaning out" most of the homes in the area. I was very thankful this man didn't venture any closer than he did to our camp. He had quit coming this way for about a month, perhaps he had all there was to have. There was always a possibility he'd be back, he always walked the roadways, so it was easy to keep track of him.
In town, sickness had taken it's toll and the population was now just half of what it was before the crisis. People were still trickling in but nothing like the influx of people during the first month. Conditions were much improved, people were getting feed more regular.. When the cold weather came, the tent cities disappeared as people were relocated in one story buildings that could be kept heated with wood, as the natural gas had stopped months ago. Most of the buildings now used were once ground level convalescence homes and apartments. Sanitary conditions also improved as new systems were built. Order had been somewhat restored and the city jail was reopened. People were better organized and a sense of communal spirit was being fostered. The old hospital was let go, in favor a smaller building that had better lightening and was again easier to heat. They had enough fuel to keep the water on in this part of town where all this organization was coming together. There was also enough fuel for the radio station, as this was the new pride and joy of the town.
one week later.
The first snowfall of the season came. I decided to check on our neighbors, perhaps for the last time of the season. When I finally got there after almost a half a day's walk, I was just stunned to see no smoke coming from their house! Being so careful as not to be spotted, I could not find any tracks anywhere in the snow. Upon closer inspection, their bikes were gone. Had they left? I went another two miles further towards the small community and there was no sign of anybody being around. I had to turn around at that point since it would be already dark by the time I arrived home.
At least now with snow on the ground and at least seven miles to the nearest neighbor, I could finally risk shooting my shotgun. Now taking game would be much easier.We had accomplished what we had set out to do, becoming "ghosts" without a soul knowing we were there, at least it appeared that way... Soon the snow would isolate us from the rest of civilization until the spring thaw came. A big sense of relief fell upon me as I made my way back, finally I could let my guard down.
Finally making it home two hours after dark, I found my wife just frantic! I sure didn't want to stress her anymore than what the crisis had already brought upon the both of us. She calmed down considerably when I explained what I had found out. This was good news, almost assuring our survival until spring. In the next couple of weeks there was enough game shot and processed to carry us through spring and into the summer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Vision, Part III, Chaos

Day 5
At sunrise we had coffee and breakfast over the fire. I cranked up the radio, having given it a break the night before. The situation in town had gotten much worse and there were two guards that were now posted at the radio station. The station had gotten refueled and was good to go for another five days. The water treatment plant and hospital had also been refueled. Evidently the State Police had been overrun or gave up trying to block the intersection, I spoke of earlier and returned back to town. One section of town that had lost water earlier had caught fire and was "permitted" to burn down. The hunger situation was getting acute and some pets were reported as missing. There was some good news, that local cattle and milk farmers located just outside town were working with commissioners in a plan that would help alleviate that situation. Still, there was no word from Federal authorities and members of the local National Guard were working in cooperation with the commissioners, in stabilizing what they could.
There was a "sketchy" report that had been received from someone who had flown over Detroit. There appeared to be hundreds of thousands of people on the edge of the Detroit River. Most of the city and the surrounding suburbs were on fire and thousands were seen fleeing in every direction. Large crowds of people were spotted along inland lakes and rivers. Roads and ditches were littered with vehicles. Grand Rapids was also enduring similar circumstances. My wife and I just shuttered, this was the first report of this kind that we'd heard. We had noticed very few planes since the crisis.
At last the announcer said fewer and fewer reliable reports were coming in and that the Associated Press releases had ceased entirely as had all satellite broadcasting . He was cooperating with other radio stations and also amateur radio operators in trying to verify reports. He was optimistic about this new line of communication and could verify that the Detroit metro area was on fire as the smoke was visible from great distances. He assured everyone listening that the radio station was becoming a top priority of it's own. Towards that end, a very large fence was installed around station. For the most part, people in town were cooperating and there had been very few incidents of looting.
Hearing this was surreal, could this really be happening? We both believed it was happening, however we were having a difficult time accepting this. We walked on the beach looking for answers that just weren't there...
Later that afternoon back at camp, we reluctantly turned to the radio again. Events seemed like they were happening at lightening speed and we didn't want to be caught uninformed. On top of the broadcast was a story about small areas in the New England part of the country having power restored near generating plants. The news in town was getting graver. A door to door organized effort had been sent out to pick up the dead. The smell of death was just overwhelming the area. Those that had expired were being temporarily laid to rest at the bottom of a very large and deep gravel pit located on the outskirts of town. Most had expired from exposure from a weakened state from the lack of medicine, food and water. An alarming rate of suicide was also taking it's toll. Also there had been unrest at the prison, they were almost out of food, medicine and none of them were allowed to shower since the crisis, to conserve on water. Sanitation had become an issue there, as well in town. Broadcasts were now to be limited from 7:00 to 9:00 am, 12:00 to 1:00 pm and 5:00 to 7:00 in the evening. The stations generating plant needed a motor oil change and to conserve on fuel, the new hours would be when the station would air until further notice.
The next morning as soon as the announcer came on at seven, we knew something big had happened. He sounded almost frantic as he reported that the guards at the prison had been overrun around midnight last night. It wasn't soon after the siren had gone off and that shots could be heard, along with screams for help and crying. Bottlenecks in the roadway quickly grew from those trying to flee the situation, trapping traffic in the small community. Of those that did make it into town with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, said it was impossible to access the situation as it was dark. Many of the prisoners were presumed headed for town.
Already, some people in town that had heard of the news were attempting to flee. Bottles necks were beginning to form. Shots were being heard off in the distance, which up to now had been relatively quite. The radio station, now had ten heavily armed guards but we had lost our favorite announcer as he decided to take his chances and flee with his family. Some of the commissioners were also reported as fleeing.
Reports from other radio stations and "ham" operators, were also implying that conditions where they are at were eroding quickly. By now, people were giving up any hope that any governmental relief would be coming at all. The large crowds that had gathered at lakes and rivers near metropolitan areas, waiting for help were getting desperate as chaotic conditions were worsening. Groups of armed individuals were beginning to form, taking what they wanted and were growing in numbers as they went. The announcer drew a breath and wished all those other stations and "hams", that weren't reporting any longer, the best of luck.
We both thought it would be a good idea to ride our bikes close to the community, as we could monitor those that might be coming into the area from town or quite possibly the prison. In addition of carrying my sidearm, we'd pack enough supplies for two days.
As we biked our way towards the very small community, we saw very few people venturing far from their homes. Most were very frightened and would quickly run back inside after spotting us on the road. Apparently there was no organized effort here and people were on their own. The heat was still unbearable and in one place where we stopped to rest, the smell of death wafted through the air. We made a day camp just outside the community where I could watch the road from which we came from, both ways.
The community and the surrounding area was made up of possibly 800 part time "summer" residents, that would dwindle to about 200 full timers that endured the winter here. Probably 85% of the population was seniors. I settled into a spot where I could watch the only intersection. The place looked like a ghost town which was about normal anyway, none of the very few businesses were open. A couple of children appeared riding on their bikes, turned around and went back the way they came. Then a few vehicles came and went, like they were checking to see if anything was happening, it wasn't. A couple more passed through like they were going somewhere. Nobody even came down the road we had came from or ventured down it.
At five o'clock, I cranked the radio to life. The announcer came across almost as defiant. Shots and screams were being heard across town. Small groups of people had been reported on the move, some armed, others not. Many of those that had fled town were now coming back, many on foot as roadways became blocked with traffic bottlenecks and trees that had been deliberately felled across the roads. No wonder there wasn't much traffic! A lot of people in town were "holed-up" in their homes and armed guards were placed at the entry of the tent cities. It seemed that half of the town were now at these tent cities. We wondered if our family were among them. Two more areas of the town were permitted to burn down, as the Fire Department would not go out under these conditions. Prisoners from the county jail in town, were released.
Day 7
We didn't bother with the seven am report and returned quickly back to our camp. As soon as we got there, I loaded the small chainsaw into the bike's basket and returned back towards the small community again. I began falling trees across the roadway where a series of curves occurred. Dropping a bunch in one area then proceeding to another out of sight from the first bunch. I had three good pile-ups when the saw ran out of gas and oil. I knew this was preventing people access to the small community and beyond, but what were they to accomplish there, anyway? I went back to camp to refuel the saw and proceeded to make another huge pile-up using all the fuel in the saw at one spot. If someone should attempt to cut through the last mess, I would be able to hear it. That would give us time to adjust to our next move, whatever that might be. No one appeared all the while I was doing this to my knowledge. It was almost five 0'clock by the time I made it back to camp.
As I cranked, the radio came to life. The announcer was somewhat upbeat, finally an armed group of men in three 4-wheeled pick-ups went to the cattle farm and brought back meat for the tent cities. Some prisoners that had gathered in the woods were taking beef from the farm but this wasn't viewed as a big problem. Many prisoners came to town simply to give up as they realized what was happening and wanted to help. These men had taken refuge in yet another area along the water front and in turn for their cooperation they would also be feed. They were also required not to be armed.
There were still armed bands of towns people and prisoners who were raising havoc with those still holding out in their homes. Shots rang out from time to time. Even though the security at the tent cities was much better, they were experiencing problems of their own, the people were armed and conflicts were starting to break out. Sanitation and privacy were becoming problems. Starvation was fast becoming a huge problem. As bad as things were in the tent cities, people were now questioning if conditions were actually better there than the hold-outs, some having to repeal repeated attacks from roving gangs.
Elsewhere, Detroit and other large cities throughout the nation lay in ruins. The great crowds seen around rivers and lakes had dispersed, leaving hundreds of thousands of the dead behind. Small bands of people were reported as scattering everywhere and the dead laid on the ground like from a huge battlefield. Reports from the outside where getting fewer and fewer...
My wife and I, cuddled at the fire. Reaffirming to each other that this nightmare was indeed happening and was real. It was almost beyond belief and our imaginations what we were hearing over the radio. We knew that life outside our little camp would never be the same. We almost felt guilty in someway or another.. Perhaps the only difference between us and them was that we were prepared to meet the challenge of this new day before it came and they weren't, as strange as that might sound.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Vision, Part II, The Pause

Day 1.

Upon waking in the morning, I dashed to the window to see if the light was on from the power pole indicating the power from the grid was restored. No such luck and off to the generator house. Passing the 250 gallon tank that feed the diesel generator, I stopped briefly for a moment. I thought about all the countless trips I had made filling it, was it just fallacy?

No sooner than I got back to the house and sat down there was the neighbor at the door with two 5 gallon water containers. They had flushed their toilet twice and had lost all pressure from the well. I had faintly heard their RVs generator earlier when I was out and figured that's where they must have spent the night, staying cool. The neighbor and I sat down to watch the news most of it was local, how people were making do without power, grilling outside and such. When it came to reports on the hurricane, there was very little footage or clips of the actual destruction. Apparently almost all the oil refineries were either destroyed or severely damaged. There was no mention of the situation in the Western states, what so ever. The neighbor mentioned that he was happy to have topped off the tank in his truck and hoped the power would soon be back on as he only had 5 gallons of gas left for his generator. He thanked me for the water and left.

The phone lines were still up at this point, however I couldn't get on the Internet with my PC. Guess my server didn't have a power back-up or something. Deciding to go down to the mailbox, I noticed very little traffic on the freeway which I can see from my place. It was a pretty much a laid back day for my wife and I, as we just hung around the house doing what chores we could in the midst of the howl coming from the generator...

When our local news came on it was reported that most people were treating the day like a holiday. Much as the day before, going to the beach to cool off and having backyard cookouts. Gas stations and banks were all closed but some businesses remained opened. Some hardware's, restaurants and grocery stores were open, however most were refusing credit card transactions. Clips were shown of bare shelves by the end of the day in some stores.

When the national news came on there was more coverage of the devastation this time. A clip was shown of survivors passing a bottle of water between themselves. One reporter said they had a difficult time reaching the area because fuel was hard to come by with the power being out. Again the President briefly came on at seven, this time she looked like she hadn't slept for days. She started out by urging everyone to stay put especially in effected areas and that everything that could be done, is being done! She toned down a bit explaining that the damage was estimated in the 100's of billions of dollars, as clips of aerial footage was shown. The President was clearly shaken when she let on, although there had been no confirmation, the death toll would likely be in the 100's of thousands, if not millions. After a long pause she went into some kind of plan where nuclear vessels would provide power at unnamed ports and that by hard wiring into the system, this could restore some grids. However, many were deployed halfway around the world and it would take time. Again she urged everyone except emergency personal to stay home until help arrives.

Day 2.

Again, no power and there was the neighbor with his two water jugs. After taking care of him, I thought I'd go for a bike ride, this time there was almost no traffic on the freeway. When I came to an area where the freeway and another major highway intersected, there was the State police, blocking traffic. When a vehicle did approach it was turned around and sent in the direction it had came from. A little further up the road was a restaurant, I'd rest there before returning home. I mentioned to some people there what I saw down the road and they looked at me like I was stupid. Didn't I know that all main highways had been closed? Already there was a highway filled with "parked vehicles" six miles long coming from the Detroit metro area! While leaving the restaurant I thought to myself, at least I didn't drive there.. On my way home, I thought of a route we would take through the back roads to avoid the police, en route to our "bug-out" destination.

As soon as I got back, I began to assemble all my survival gear and food stuffs that we had stored. It was soon all loaded in the van, I wanted to be able to leave at a moments notice and was even thinking about fleeing at that point. Of course, this shook up my wife quite a bit, but I assured her, we'd at least give it one more day and see what happens. I had found the crank up radio while going through the gear, now was the time to use it.

The local radio station was also urging people to stay home and not to drive anywhere, as stranded vehicles were beginning to pile up, especially at gas stations. It was also being suggested that there was no point going to grocery stores, as there was nothing left and they would not be restocked until after the power was back on line. The county and city commissioners were to have a joint meeting to discuss any ideas if the power were to remain off for any length of time.

The local news at six o'clock was much the same. Stories of local officials making plans of better coping with the situation, however there was no word from the federal government, as of yet. On the national news there were more stories about the devastation the hurricane had caused and heroic efforts of some people. It was also reported that other countries around the world were experiencing weather related tragedies of their own. The President would be back on tomorrow at seven.

Day 3.

As I went out to start the generator, I could hear the neighbor's humming right along not missing a beat. Most people were certain that the government would restore the power soon, it was only a matter of time. When he came over to get water, I inquired where was he getting the gas to run the little generator? He was taking it from his vehicle...

Today, I would bike to a lake that was next to a small community, not a far drive from home... Within this community of 3,000 people is a large prison facility, housing about 4,000 violent criminals. Coming into view of the small lake, there were rows of tents maybe three deep where the small park was! Children were playing in the water cooling off, splashing around having the time of their life. I rested near a group of women sitting on a picnic table and started to eavesdrop on their conversation. One woman's husband gave another man 15 dollars for a pack of cigarettes! All the women were very concerned as they were running out of food and what they had was spoiling fast from the heat. There was some concern stemming from small talk, that the guards were having to put down small rebellions at the prisons. They openly wondered how long it would be before something big might happen? All the guards were ordered not to leave the grounds and had been put on double shift rotation, covering for ones who had not reported for work. Mounting the bike, I asked them why there were so many tents in the park? Apparently there was little or no water pressure in some areas of the community and it was just easier camping at the park with water and outhouses... No shit! I thought as I pedaled away.

Of course, my wife wasn't too thrilled after hearing this information. Turning to the radio, the situation in town wasn't much better, "tent cities" were springing up in all the waterfront parks. Again, certain parts of town were receiving little or no water at all. Food banks such as the Salvation Army were being overwhelmed with people looking for something to eat. A drive was put on by groups going house to house pleading for food for those that had none. Another problem had cropped up, the county morgue was now "overflowing" mostly from seniors living at high rise complexes. The commissioners promised there would be diesel fuel to keep the back-up generators going at the water treatment plant, the hospital, and one radio station. Another story was that firefighters had put out two small fires but the department was wondering if they would have enough water pressure to put down a big fire if one should arise. It seemed the local radio station had more than enough local news to report and reported very little from outside our area.

When the national news came on TV, it was much the same. There was plenty of news to report from New York city. "Great crowds" of people were forming, who had no where to go. Conditions from high rise apartments and certain neighborhoods had become "unlivable". A clip was shown of Central Park, literally filled with people. The stench from rotting food and human waste was becoming unbearable. All roadways looked like huge parking lots, making it impossible to get fuel delivered at some essential back-up power plants. Bodies of those who had expired from the heat or dehydration, were being stacked behind buildings. The situation there was described as deteriorating quickly and close to being chaotic.

As promised, the President did come on at seven. What a night and day difference! This time she looked rested and refreshed. She was now reporting from another location, not the Oval Office. She sounded optimistic when she reported that the Northeastern part of the nation's electrical system had been restarted, only to be shut down due to mounting problems once it started. However, she assured us that this was a start and more attempts would be made soon as possible. System designers were now being contacted and the power would be restored as soon as possible. She said they were having their problems organizing due to the circumstances, but would soon begin efforts in stabilizing the situation. We were to remain calm and hopeful through this crisis, that soon relief would be on it's way! She would again address the nation, as soon as she knew more.

Day 4

Our neighbors came over this morning to shower and fill their RV with water. They were pretty shaken after hearing a report of someone who flew over Tucson, Arizona. Apparently thousands of people were fleeing the city on foot, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them! Furthermore, it looked like the entire city was engulfed in flames. Similar reports were coming in from amateur radio operators near Las Vegas, Nevada. Many of those people out West had been without power for over six days now.

The neighbors came by for more water and were wondering if we were going anywhere after seeing that our van was all packed? I told them , that we'd not be sticking around long should the guards be overrun at the prison or for that matter, just letting the prisoners go. They hadn't thought about this possibility at all...

Turning to the radio, the conditions in town were worsening. Vehicles were being abandoned everywhere that this was creating problems and people were being urged not to drive anywhere. Already there were four abandoned vehicles that we could see from our place on the freeway. There were reports of people breaking into "summer homes" in search of food and other supplies. We wondered what our relatives in town were doing, if anything at all. There was no way of knowing since our phone line had gone down. I certainly wasn't going to risk a trip into town to find out either.

It was time to flee before we could be trapped in. Both my wife and I, cried as we knew we were leaving family and friends behind. Thoughts of leaving this home were overwhelming, we had come to love this place that we built together. Clearing the land, building the house and the many happy times that had come with it. Feeding and now abandoning the wildlife that had become our friends. Neither one of us could look back as we drove away. We stopped by the neighbors and offered the use of the house and the food we had left. They seemed somewhat happy accepting this offer. They too, were wondering if they would soon flee in the RV, but would give it a couple more days anyway. I told them to take anything they wanted from the house, that we'd likely wouldn't be coming back anytime soon. At least the fueled generator was there, that way they wouldn't have to use theirs...

Our destination was over 50 miles away and I definitely wanted to make this trip in the daylight, so I could see as far down the road as possible. We took the back roads through a lot of farmland, crossed one major highway and bypassed a small community, about 15 miles from the house. We hadn't come across another moving vehicle and at that point, I knew we were home free. The rest of the trip would be made through the wilderness with very few homes along the way. We would have to drive through another small community where I was raised and then a little more than ten miles beyond that. I could tell people were scared and were not just venturing out, as we only passed one moving vehicle during the entire trip.

We were both just relieved having made the trip without a hitch however I was armed, just in case. At least I didn't have to worry about that part anymore, I don't know what I would have done if we were confronted. We sat up camp just inside the woods on the shore of Lake Superior. Here, I would be able to defend us or have more than 40 miles of wilderness to retreat to. It was also here that we could sustain ourselves from the land itself, if it came to that.

My wife has some serious misgivings about leaving home and the security of it. A lot of people would have given the world to have what we had left, plenty of fertile land, water and house in the country that was paid for. However this home was somewhere in the middle of a town with a population of over 10,000 on one side and a sizable prison population on the other. I couldn't risk my life or that of my wife, trying to defend this home on land that couldn't sustain us especially under these conditions...

After our camp was set up, my wife and I, sat on the beach and watched the sunset just living for the moment....

The Vision, Part I, Blackout!


It had been an extremely hot summer season here in the North Country, as well as for the entire nation. Business as usual went on though, day after day through the sweltering heat. According to news reports, the heat wave was so severe demand for electricity was actually exceeding supply in many parts of the country. Once again California and other parts out West were experiencing "rolling blackouts" in an attempt to distribute available power. Even parts of Texas were experiencing rolling blackouts from time to time. While the North and East Coast regions were experiencing flickering and sometimes dimming of the lights, now and then. These "brownouts" seemed like they were becoming more and more common, lasting longer in duration. Climate Change was the talk everywhere as temperatures soared 10 to 15 degrees above normal.

It was reported on the news daily, just how world wide this heat wave really was and that this country was one of the better ones coping with it. Horrific stories were constantly being reported about countries that were fairing far worse, many had lost electricity completely. To make matters worse, a very large hurricane was building strength and was expected to land on the Southeast Coast of the country, within the next day. The bulk of the news was heat related and stories ranged from those expiring usually the elderly, to ways of keeping your pets cool. Following up every newscast was a plea for people to conserve on electrical energy. Mostly by controlling use of air conditioning, however this was extremely hard to do with temperatures soaring into the 100 degree range for most of the country.

This evening while watching the news, it was announced that almost all of the Western Interconnection Network had gone down, leaving millions of people without power. All 14 grids in California had failed! People there had been urged to stay put and to stay calm as the power was expected to be restored soon.

The next day while working in the blazing sun, the Category 5 hurricane was dominating the news coverage on the radio. It was pounding the East Coast and moving it's way inland along the Gulf states towards Texas. It wasn't long before the music stopped and that's all they were talking about, kind of like when 9/11 happened. Apparently, Atlanta had been hit very hard and people were doing all they could to get out of the way of the storm's path. "Sketchy" reports were also coming in that the California situation hadn't improved, that now almost all the Western states had blackout. By now the condition was now spreading to many parts of the much smaller Texas Interconnection Network, putting even more people without power. Then, it was back to coverage of the hurricane.

I'll admit I was getting a little scared at that point and decided to go back into the plant to cool off. As soon as I walked through the doorway, I noticed the lights were flickering and dimming. Worse yet, the huge electrical saw motors were surging! I immediately ran over to shut them down and threw the switch disconnecting them for the plants power. I proceeded to shut down the entire operation and sent the workers home. There was not much complaining as they too, wanted to go home after listening to what was happening over the radio. Almost surreal, my instincts were telling me something horrible was happening now.

There was no greeting of the usual hum of air conditioners when I arrived home. Instead my wife greeted me at the door, informing me that the power had gone completely out. Turning right around, I made my way to the generator house and within minutes, power had been restored to the house.

At noon the news came on and a visibly shaken newscaster told us that the station was on reserve power. Apparently the whole State had lost power, including surrounding states and most of Canada. They had no idea of how long it would take before the power would be back on line but to be patient and hopefully it would be restored soon. The hurricane was reported as the largest ever that had reached the mainland and reports were becoming sketchy, as the power had been lost for the entire Southern region of the nation. The President was to address the American people the status of the situation in the South at seven o'clock, right after the national news.

At seven o'clock, a very tired and distressed President began her address from the Oval Office. She started out describing the enormity of the hurricane and how it's powerful force had devastated Atlanta. The largest hurricane ever recorded to reach inland had apparently wrecked havoc across the entire Gulf state region and the assessment of the damage would begin tomorrow. There were no estimates in the loss of human life at the time. She regretted to inform everyone that the entire North American continent had temporarily lost power. Due to the catastrophic damage the hurricane had left in the South and the deteriorating condition the Western system was already in, engineers could not act fast enough before the entire system went down or was deliberately shut down to prevent further damage. She believed that this outage would only be a temporary condition and that some portions of the system would soon be back on line. The President then took a deep breath and further explained she was declaring a State of National Emergency and Martial Law was enacted. She would be ordering all armed forces back to the U.S. immediately and for all National Guardsmen to report for duty.

After regaining her composure, the President reassured the American people that Homeland Security was prepared and would soon be working with State and local officials. She was closing all ports of entry into the country for the time being. She suggested that everyone should stay put and remain calm. To cooperate with federal, state and local officials in the task of getting life back to normal as can be. But for now, to remain hopeful and upbeat in making an unpleasant situation the best it could be. Again, she repeated to stay put for now and wait for the power to be restored or when help arrives.

My wife and I, just stared at each other in a daze when that silly sitcom came on right after the address...