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Morning Walk

Off the keyboard of K-Dog

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Published on Chasing the Squirrel on March 1, 2015

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Back in the house the pellet gun was stowed away.  Sunlight broke over the ridge across the rabbit field and through tree branches along the wooded creek.  With the sun up curfew was over.  He locked up his house and property and slipped behind to the vacant house next door disguising his departure.  Yard to yard, tree to tree,and bush to bush he made his way to the main road walking out onto it by the nearby shut-up elementary school.  The vacancy and silence of the school providing anonymity.  Be began a brisk walk.  The grocery store was fully three miles away and food deliveries happened while he hunted when curfew still ruled the n.  It was easier for the truck escorts to consider everyone hostile, shoot first.  With night-vision and automatic weapons guarding food trucks  It was not only a violation of curfew but foolish to be on a main road at the wrong time.
As he neared the grocery store he encountered travelers as wary as himself heads down going to the store.  Everyone maintained distance.
A few blocks away from the store a group of men with groceries passed in the other direction.  This was something new and it uneased him.  With other other food deliveries an every man for himself attitude had prevailed.  Both coming and going there had been little camaraderie.  This group of men was different comfortable with cooperation and the safety in numbers.  They seemed unusually relaxed.  They were carrying as much as they could.  That the food delivery had been ample was clear.  The men were a block behind him and he two streets of row houses away from the road fronting the grocery store when he turned suddenly to his left.  He wanted to know what was different at the store before he got closer.  Something unusual could mean trouble.
The road in front of the store had once carried heavy traffic but was empty as he crossed it several hundred feet down road and south of the grocery.  Private cars had not been able to get gas for months, all was quiet.  The emptiness of the streets as he made his way around to where he could see the back of the strip mall holding the grocery was normal.  The stillness was beginning to make him regret his paranoia and his long trip around to the back of the store as foolish when he saw the first hum-vee.  His caution was well founded.  Behind the store was a large vacant lot surrounded by cyclone fence.  Behind the chain link tents were up and soldiers in dark green camouflage uniforms were busy setting up camp.  He quickly moved to a nearby tree so he could not be seen.  From that tree he moved back away a street and continued around the formerly vacant lot behind the mall.  Houses and fences kept him hidden.  He swung around to the side near the main road in front of the store.  He could see the store loading docks on the north side and the front parking lot of the grocery.  Another truck was being unloaded.  This delivery was like none before.
The parking lot was more active than it had for months.  It had been cleaned and was now swept free of broken glass, dead leaves and weeds.  The parking lot was vacant of cars except for two police cruisers parked along the red curb in the front of the grocery.  The cruisers covered with soap suds were being washed by a group of men in civilian clothes.  Most of the parking lot was cordoned off with orange cones and yellow polyethylene rope draped over the cones linked them together.
A corridor had been formed down the center to the front door which appeared propped open.  Two of the plywood panels which had covered some of the glass windows all along the front of the store were gone.  The panels had been covering the only unbroken glass windows in the wall of glass of the store front.  Where once had been handicapped parking another crew of men in civilian clothes were busy putting new glass in the aluminum frames of the sliding front doors which had been removed for repair.  Out of the vacant door frame a slow stream of people issued, they tightly clutched bags of groceries and with an unusually lively step they made their way down the corridor away from the store to the street and home.  Next to them people walking into the store the other way stopped and waited in line at tables which had been set up in front of a large tent that had been erected in the middle of the roped off corridor of the parking lot. Everyone going past had to stop at these tables before they could get get into the store.  Soldiers in green manned these tables and were busy talking to the new arrivals at the tables.  They typed away on computer keyboards and behind them printing equipment linked together by power cables fronted the tent. Every few minutes a soldier would reach back for something resembling a credit card and hand it across the table to whom they were talking with.  Ration cards were being issued and with card in hand people checked at the door were free to enter the store.
Deciding it was safe to join the line in he turned to work his way back out and on to the street.  He turned and immediately froze.  A stab of fear shot through his chest.
Before him were two green camouflaged soldiers and a county cop in the familiar green and khaki of the county uniform.  Guns were out and pointed at his chest.  In a calm and clear voice county the cop said without any hint of tension.  ‘Sir you need to come with us.  But reach up I need to see if you are carrying.’
He nodded his chin in the direction of the pistol under his coat as he raised his arms.  One of the soldiers stepped up and deftly slid his gun out from its holster under his coat.  The soldier stepped back next to the others. Looking at county cop he said: ‘Thats the only one I have’.
County cop studied his face.  Satisfied with the honesty behind the statement and flipping his thumb towards the back of the store he said ‘this way’, and began walking back to the vacant lot and its tents.  Walking behind he followed; a soldier on each side.  A crew of soldiers was starting to cover the top of the chain link fence with razor wire as they passed through the section of fence removed to make a gate.  They led him into the first tent.
Behind a table like those which served as makeshift desks in the front of the store a man sat.  Short albino white hair was instantly familiar but it took a couple of seconds before he recognized the face.  It was older and tired now but it was the man in black.  No doubt about it.
One of the soldiers reached into a box against the tent wall and pulled something which resembled an old Polaroid camera out.  Lifting it and pointing it at his face an intense green light flashed into his left eye.  The soldier pointed the camera thing down towards the floor and pressed a red button on the back of the device before returning it to the box.  Rental scan results were downloaded to the laptop on the table before the albino.
The man in black was dressed in black as before but before he had always worn a shiny black suit with a china white starched shirt.  Now his clothing resembled the uniform the county cop was was jet black but shiny as before.  Without the contrast of his white shirt only the round insignia patch of an American eagle with blue background and stars punctuated the uniform blackness of his shirt.  Glancing down at the laptop before him with an knowing look or recognition he quickly jotted something down from the screen on a yellow post-it note.
‘Take this to the front and get Haze his identity card’ he said handing the note to the other soldier.  The he looked at Haze saying:
‘Everyone gets an identity card and without it you won’t get food or anything else.  Don’t bother loosing it.  We know who all you are and can get you a new one any time we want.  Loosing it and all it means is that you will be standing in line for a new one.  Without it I have the right to shoot you if I want or if I just need to scratch an itch.  Orders of president Jeb.  Everyone out front is getting orders on where they will be reporting for work interviews and when.  You are in a special category, having already been checked out.  We know you are not a terrorist and can use the passions we know you have and which made us think you might be.  You are going to direct the a new battery center.  Every city is going to have one.  Batteries are going to be manufactured locally and recycled.  With almost all transportation going electric you are going to have an important job.  You are lucky.  Everyone is going to have a job no exceptions.  Mandatory six-year commitment from everyone under seventy or it is off to a community care center with you.  If you are older than seventy your going there anyway, no job for you.  Jobs are assigned now and everyone is going to have one.’
It was strange this familiar conversation from a man who knew everything about him but who had only pretended to be a businessman of some kind with a website last they had met.  It had been at a local gym where he had a membership where they had seen each other.  The man in black had pretended to be someone else.  They both knew that experience in a past now long gone wasn’t worth talking about.
Sent to spy on him and sniff out radical connections the man in black had struck up conversation but had been a poor actor and Haze did not trust easily.  It did not take much to arouse his suspicions and his suspicions had only been confirmed when he looked at the man in black’s website back at home.  The text had looked normal enough.  At first glance it looked normal, but it could not be copied; not any of it.  Everything had been done using pictures and knowing a bit about website construction having one himself Haze knew this was very strange.  After a few days the website had vanished never to return.  He downloaded everything he could while it was up putting everything on a thumb drive.  Hundreds of pictures, with language going in circles, going nowhere.  Graphics without purpose, he noted a label identifying the website pages as WordPress had not been removed from the last page when the pictures had been posted.  A detail that any real businessman would not have let pass.
The thumb drive had been passed to others for safekeeping and after a few years had been returned to him just before WWIII had began in earnest.  As it passed through hands on the way back to him one curious hand had plugged it into a computer located behind a secure firewall while at work.  In the intervening two years the virus the businessman’s website had placed on his thumb drive had been identified and was detected when it sent a phone-home message reporting its location back to it’s mother hive.  The phone by the computer had rung within a minute and a voice from I.T. had said to unplug the thumb drive right away.  The person at the computer was confused and immobile so I.T. remotely shut down the computer for them.  I.T. re-imaged the machine before it could be used again.
As if a quota had been met three in four Americans had died since reliable food deliveries had stopped.  Now with enough people dead men in black were running the show openly.  Not pulling strings behind the scenes.  Haze speculated if this new honesty would be an improvement but wished things had turned out different.

Morning Hunt

Off the keyboard of K-Dog

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Published on Chasing the Squirrel on February 24, 2015

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The grass field was fifty feet below the potato garden. He locked the gate behind him as he always did. His air rifle pointed down towards the ground. He stepped down the rock path through bushes, carefully placed the bushes provided seclusion.  They hid his path and guarded the fence. High pressure sodium lamps along the fence top shown over grass. He looked for shape or movement. The first rabbit was easy and soon into his cloth bag. The second one was caught after a short walk in the concealing wood opposite the grassy meadow. Two in the bag and now back through the hidden gate in his fence, an hour before dawn, lights off.

His land everything from the edge of the bushes by the fence and inside. The sloped bank of rock and bush and the wide valley of grass field, wood and creek to the opposite slope a half mile away, public recreational area. His rabbit farm.

He always listened quietly before opening the fence gate. Coming or going he was cautious, taking care not to be seen. Better to drop the bag and take the long way around than be seen. Going to the back of his shed against the fence any noise that could possibly be human and hunting or enjoying its fruits would wait for another day. Today had been quiet, nothing amiss through his peepholes going and all was quiet coming back. The hunt had been a go and had given meat.

He quietly slipped through his hidden gate locking it from the inside his shed where the gate opened from. In the shed he dressed his kill and hung it making it ready for a later meal continuing to listen. Now he unlocked the shed door and glided through his potato patch back over to his house. His .177 pellet rife was quiet and accurate and hunger improved his aim. His hollow point ammo deadly. Public parkland in a city that now had no time for parks fed his family. He was quiet; not noticed, telltale robust health disguised by heavy clothing.

In the house the pellet gun would be put away and the regular gun checked. Curfew would end at sunrise and it would be safe to walk the streets. Neighborhood control would keep order with militia arriving if large crowds appeared. Unsavory and curious types were dealt with privately. Property was protected. He would head out for news and a chance for rations when he saw the neighborhood watch patrolling the road outside.

News had been getting better. Fewer people had been dying recently. Deliveries were keeping up with demand for the first time in months. Things were getting stable and a third of the local population was still alive. His neighborhood had done well. The properties were large and gardens had been tended the months when food prices had soared.

Soon vacant houses would be razed to produce more agricultural land. The country had changed and it had only been a year since American had collapsed from what had once been a land of plenty. Now with die-off nearly complete food security was achievable.

All it had taken was the trucks to stop running but now with food deliveries under military control trucks ran once again. Diesel was allocated to emergency services, police patrols, food delivery, construction equipment as needed. Some of the land soon to be cleared would be growing biodiesel along with food and the power grid was working fine. The claims of its demise had been exaggerated. It had only been a year and from now on its maintenance would be a priority. He had not needed his generator except for the single time the wind storm had knocked things out for weeks. It had been a serendipitous wind storm though; lights out. It had been a good time for night travel to be difficult. Desperate mobs filled the land. They walked as long as they could before they dropped and died. Devastating everything in their path. No neighborhood wanted wandering mobs; but the mobs had not been able to plunder in the dark. By the time power was restored all the wandering were dead.

The plan was under military control. Each region had an agricultural plan and land for biodiesel allocation fell out naturally from the plan. Global tumult would not interrupt food delivery a second time when the plan was in place.
Throughout the rest of the world populations were being thinned. Pervasive drought combined with no fuel for transportation devastated crop yields everywhere. The world had starved. In America only in the most rural of areas did dogs survive.

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