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Author Topic: The Degenerate  (Read 9872 times)
mako
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« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2015, 02:03:47 PM »

Irena dreamt again.

This time, she was in school in a dream she had had before. She was up in front of her peers giving a speech when she looked down to realize she was not wearing any clothes. She tried to hide by running into the hallway, but the other students pressed in around her, staring at her. Then she saw her mother in the crowd. Mom was standing there looking at her, but not saying anything at all. At first she felt relieved and then in her eyes, she saw emptiness in her mother’s eyes like she used to have when she smoked pot all day. Empty. They were filled with nothing at all, like a blank piece of paper or a quiet mushroom in the forest. Mom stared at her and scratched at her ankles. As she scratched them they turned to ribbons, she was bleeding. The crowd pressed in tighter and tighter until she couldn’t breathe any longer. She was trying to breath, searching for air.

She awoke with a gasp, then started to panic and pant. James was up and to her in a moment. She was nearly hyperventilating. Mabus turned over on his bed: “Irena?”

She collapsed into James’s arms and started to sob. Mabus had the light on shortly and Irena had her face buried her brother’s chest. She cried and cried. James held her close and helped her muffle the sobs. Tears filled in his eyes too, then the deep pain of loss hit Mabus like a freight train too. He put out the light and he too cried in silence. James was composed in that stolid strength she trusted in her brother, and he held her and held her until finally her tears became exhaustion again and she collapsed into his body where they both eventually fell asleep. It was the last time Irena would cry for her Mother. It was the first cry which made her a woman.




Little changed for them in the next few days, except to busy themselves with making comfortable. They spent considerable time listening in to conversations above, but mostly it was jokes and the laugh of drunks. Two gunshots were fired the next day, and heinous arguing broke out between them. It seemed that Justus had fired and Aaron had scolded him and then Keegan and Erika had joined in for sport.

James deduced that the trays on the upper shelf of one half of the room were for sprouting beans; it was the sort of thing Mom would do around her house. Irena did not speak of her mother again, but was sullen overall, happy only to respond as necessary to mealtime or conversation but not initiate it. They played rounds of cards and bid beans to pass the time and that was fun. Mabus busied himself with whatever chore he could pursue to fill the time and make like easier. James took an opportunity to do some stretches and Mabus took an extra nap for privilege. They talked a lot to pass the time and Mabus told stories of the mountain men or the old American tall tales.

The crew up above grew more agitated by the day. They started to argue more. Then there was what sounded like a fist fight between Aaron and Justus. Keegan moved in to break it up and Justus did something to make Keegan curse and swear.

On the third day when little had changed, a loud snap of metal sounded in the bunker and a loud boom reported through the air vent. It was followed by four more heavy pops at the top of the ladder. By the time Keegan had emptied the chamber of his pistol into the stump above, it was clear to the three of them in the hole that their stay underground might be much longer than any of them had expected.
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vector001
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WWW
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2015, 08:21:47 PM »

 

good read.

good to see family focused on.

vec
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Some people bring a knife to a gunfight and win.

Some people bring swim fins to the knife fight, watch the other idiots kill each other, then take their stuff and swim happily out of zombie range.
Dodys
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Posts: 418


« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2015, 10:55:52 PM »

  That is some Decent,Good Writing! Thanx for that! 
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mako
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Posts: 89



« Reply #18 on: November 22, 2015, 01:59:53 PM »

C3 - The Company of Worms: James, Irena, and Mabus survive the zombie apocalypse for three months underground in an ad-hoc septic-tank bunker as they face themselves and their new circumstances.

Note - Chapter 1 is now Chapter 4 to follow this chapter sequentially. Unedited.

The Company of Worms

James Harris Gorman was born January 10, 1988, at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Michael Hugh Gorman and Dorothea Mary Goosens. He was the firstborn to a couple so profoundly mismatched, it would not have taken an astrologer to tell them that their stars had not lined up—except that on a steamy night on the southeast coast in April, 1987 on a college term break, over a trip to a small beach in South Virginia, under the alignment of a star called Whiskey, and the faint twinkle of the planet Mars, they had.

His father, Michael, was a pure-blood German from a long line of immigrants who had crossed the Atlantic with William Penn for the promise of land and were mistakenly called Dutch by Americans who had not been able to distinguish the German word Deutch from the word Dutch, as in double-dutch, and who had taken to the taken to the agrarian enterprise of raising corn and building furniture in the new lands. Except that he, James’s father, conscripted with the U.S. Army in 1983 doing Railway Section Repair and never fully acquired the family trade.

Instead, he had taken to construction by the time James was born and never finished his college degree. Only by extension, both of the sort of his trade and his bloodline ties, did it slip occasionally, and under the influence of alcohol, that he yet thought of himself as a carpenter, like his “fathers, and fathers before them.”

He was a deeply loyal man, to his heritage, to his regimen, to his family and to his friends, hardworking and philosophical in the most secular sense, who often read late into the night the works of John Keats, Aristotle, Immanual Kant or Confucius as if they were scriptures. He was strong for his size, and as steady as a clock, dependable and well-mannered, excepting his rare temper, and grounded. A worldly man who cared for ethics, commitment and piety.

His mother, Dora, was a beautiful woman and true Dutch. She was pale and thin as a spring fawn with a complexion so fair as to account for their being together. She had large blue eyes as bright as tempered sapphires with long lashes and the gentlest roundness, as perfect as the slope of a sand dune.

She was delicate and graceful, having spent time a ballerina in her youth, and was as smooth in speech as milk. She held peace in her countenance as if it were an heirloom treasure around her neck, whenever she could, and in those times, when she looked at someone it would seem as if she saw ten fathoms deep into them. That was before James was born.

Soon after James arrived, Dora quit her job at the local candy factory in order to raise him, and came to rely on Michael for their income, which was, Michael would tell James later in his life, “what I believe was the first mistake in our marriage,” because not long after James was born, in an unrequited stretch of postnatal depression, began using the herb, as she called it, to cure herself of the baby blues, and it was so effective, so utterly life changing, she said, that she never stopped. So James watched in his early years as his mother’s crystal clear, ocean deep eyes took on the fade of surface water on a cloudy day, and Dora became a little more like a cloud herself.

James’s next of kin would have been born when he was three years old, following a bountiful summer when Dora had acquired a small inheritance from her deceased paternal grandfather and Michael had taken time off work to help “sort out their differences.” For the duration of their second child’s birth, both had agreed to change their habits, which Dora at least saw through to her third term, when the baby died from complications.

The depression came back, but this time the herb only numbed it out, and Mom became a little more distant, and joined the new age movement in search of something missing in life. When her Catholic quirks got around to the newfound beliefs, she began collecting things—feathers, pendants, energy stones, angel figurines, affirmation card decks, talismans, ankhs; and books on topics including healing, fairies, divination, and self-empowerment, until the house was sequestered into cluttered corners and empty spaces, his and hers respectively.

One of James’s earliest memories was a day his mother came home to announce that she had become a feminist. It was done in a moment of utmost imprudence, for Michael was nearly drunk and reading Marcus Aurelius, who did not turn his head and said: “Wonderful. Now you can get a job.” Mom never brought the subject up at home again. She continued thereafter only by subterfuge campaigns to encourage other women along the path, and sometimes give them his money, perhaps out of spite for her husband’s refutation.

Dora put him into a ballet class that year, convincing his Father is was good for him since he was not yet old enough to join tumbling. Then at five he was placed into gymnastics, which he loved, and his mother would sew needlepoint as she looked on. It was a place of peace for him in those years when it seemed that his parents fought ceaselessly.

Then a year later, his parents separated and James moved with his father to Lacrosse. The trauma and the domestication of their hermetic father left James secluded and lacking friends.

There was a fog over those years, as thick as cold pond mist, of James’s memories in the new city at a new school with his mother estranged from reality and them, and his father busy at work. He fought sometimes at school with other boys and got into trouble. He passed his classes on minimums and retreated home every night to own quiet suffering to his books, television and Nintendo. His father washed his pains away with long work hours and plenty of drink, leaving James often to take care of himself.

Then the next thing James remembered, it was seven years later, and he found himself studying the Japanese martial art of Aikido, a pupil of Asora Sensei, student of Mitsugi Saotome Shihan.

Aikido was the high pressure system that moved that fog along its course and slowly away from his consciousness, bringing light once again to James’s world. It woke him from his sleeping reverie of stupid anger and frustration into the shining glory of day. It brought him discipline and courage in a world otherwise so meaningless that it would have snuffed him out.

He might have considered it a blessing, were he given to his mother’s proclivities, for it seemed to make little miracles come about in his life. His grades improved, he stopped fighting at school and was much improved in demeanor. He avowed no more to steal liquor from his father’s cupboards. Instead of depression, he found movement. In place of anger, he found calm. Where he was lonely, he started having real friends again.

In that year, Dora grew up too and took up a job under the local catholic parish as a food bank administrator. And although she never claimed to be Catholic again, the work was sufficient to sober her up from her idle selfishness. As she worked with the homeless and needy in her community, her heart opened up and she began deeply caring for those around her. In this new transformation, she resolved to set things right with her family.

Despite their differences, Michael and Dora had made long efforts not to affront themselves on James’s behalf, so her ties with the Gorman family had remained strong for events such as James’s birthdays, holidays and special occasions. As her worked changed her, she became present with her family in way James had not remembered since his early childhood, and Dora even managed to convince Michael to seek help for his drinking.

Soon after, came the biggest miracle of all. Little Irena. James did not know whether she happened before or after his parents chose to reunite, but he always suspected the second more likely, because Dora was as beautiful as she ever was and he knew very well what a lonely man his father had become. Irena was born almost one year to the day from when James had become a member of his Aikido dojo, in the year 2000, when James was fourteen. So it was all very auspicious, and favorable to his deep dedication to that art.

And that, for all purposes, is where he stayed for the next twelve years, a devoted student of the martial arts, member of the Aikido community, tenure to the in-group of his dojo and student of the way of peace, slingshot through high school, two years of community college and into a grocer career.

His parent’s reunion did not last forever. Dora remained committed through Irena’s earliest years until finally she and Michael decided to part ways again, but this time for different reasons. Because after more than a decade, they had grown too dissimilar. James’s mother continued to work for the parish, until she was finally asked to become a manager at a sister shelter in Seattle, Washington, offering her benefits with a healthy retirement package and help financing a home. Irena was seven when she left.

This time, for James, his Mother’s parting was hardly more than turbulent. His focus, his world seemed so deeply centered in the philosophies, movements and community of Aikido that the rest of the world hardly seemed to substantiate much concern. He had learned to hold his own center in the midst of life’s circumstances so well that he could doff them as effortlessly as the turning of Ikkyo. His sister relied on his for this strength, and his experience in her own circumstances and so she was reasonably well to do for her trials. For James, the only other thing between here and there were girls.
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mako
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« Reply #19 on: November 22, 2015, 02:00:12 PM »

James, Mabus and Irena made themselves at home the best they could in the dark, subterranean capsule within the earth, but they were not alone. For in the days which followed, they became aware of others there with them in the ground, in silence reaching out with clammy tendrils to grasp hold of them, crawling with inching fingers towards their innards, to a place so far beneath their skin, until, like a slow fog, each had percolated into the very fabric of their souls. For it was dark there, like a harrowed cell in a third-world country, in some dank place where humans are forgotten, and the plumpness of a mammal’s flesh shrinks to hard edges over corners of bone, and the warmth of human emotions become solid, and brittle, and break.

The first of these familiars was darkness herself, for it was so thick and dense that it seemed to have a sort of character, so much so that these three who knew it and would come know it in the long course of their stay in this plastic cavern, might describe it in the way you would a friend or acquaintance, saying that she has such and such characteristics and acts like this or like that at times, and overall gives an impression that is a lot like so; using words you might attribute to a relentless, heavy, and overbearing matriarch.

She was always with them, except in times when the small, hand-crank flashlights were on. These were convenient for use as lamps, and the three found ways in which to hoist them against the hostility of their host. It was a welcome relief whenever they were on, and often they were kept working for no better reason than to make armistice. Then they were hung by their lanyards at a high place and left to sway until someone had to crank them again. It was always a happy task to do.

There were others too, and insomuch as each had characteristics of their own, they were all female, in the way in which such things get classified, and James who was not amiss to eastern philosophies by virtue of the martial arts in which he had studied, would have called them “yin”. Yin who was the mother. Yin who was the earth. Yin who was darkness and rest and death. Yin who was absence, Yin who received. Yin the female, the valley, and matter and curves. Yin of the circle. The same yin who was the moon and the night. All were yin.

There was another companion with them there, and she too was of the yin nature, being an absence, for as darkness is the absence of light, so she was the absence of sound, and her name was silence. She was not a passive silence, as some are, but an oppressive one, heavy as a haze, who campaigned like a wordless woman against their wills, looming with a kind of unpleasant abiding, and made pressure about them like a boa constricting its prey. Nor was she quiet.

She invaded their minds like a woman raping a man, and drew them in, one by one, into their own neuroses until silence resounded through their imaginations, keening with the static sound of their thinking, growing until it could have seemed to have a decibel count. Then their cognitions seemed like an engine at idle, or the thrum of large powerlines. Sometimes there were voices too, and it seemed as if a thousand small voices clamored in each their heads, chattering like a playground full of children.

If there were a true silence, of the more virtuous sort, it could not be heard; for this fuzz of madness eclipsed any lesser lack. When these boiled throughout their imaginations too long, and movement set the kettle to rocking, then it was too much. Sometimes it seemed to poor Irena that she could hear worms moving in the soil beside and beneath them, and then it would seem as if the worms were inside their domicile and then in her head. To Mabus, it was the sound of old voices, long departed—his ex-wife, old colleagues and many of his students, his father’s voice and children he had known in his youth. Every memory of things each had said, long forgotten yet burnt deep into his psyche as if he were there again, reliving his life through each nostalgia.

Against these, the black and the hush about them, Irena set herself a hanging talisman, a ticking watch that her mother had given her upon passing her first period, suspended from a steel bar, close enough to the main aisle that when the light was turned off between meals and at night, it continued to glow and gently tick for all of them. It was enough to bring her to the precipice of sleep and over into dreams, and soothed the others too.
There was also the ventilation port, which was opened only when the three of them were quiet, and this brought sounds, often violent sounds, down to them from the immediate world above. Sometimes there was a wind, and other times screaming, gunfire and strife. This was a reprieve of sorts.

Apart from this, there was little respite, except the sound of someone turning over in their sleep, or one of them coughing, or those happy hours in which they were all awake and speaking. So Mabus made it a point to keep conversation steady and to learn and share about each of their histories in as much lengthy detail as each was able.

But there was another absence which was hard upon them, a she pregnant, for she brought with her bad children in this shared space. She came upon them like the approach of a bad dream. She was fifty or fifty-five, in degrees, and was at least as forward as the darkness. As desperate and clinging as a needy lover whose approach is humiliating and to which there is only either deference and fealty, or outright pugnacity.

She was cold, and remained cold—the sort of companion you might expect in a submarine. Against her there were too few tools. Each of James, Mabus and Irena had a certain dress which might have been nearly adequate in the upper world and at the same temperature, with sufficient movement. But because of their space and the lack of activity, she had at each of them many times each day. There was one sleeping bag of sufficient warmth, barely enough for two of them when used as a blanket.

The first of her children came to James when Mabus volunteered that he could sleep with the coats and packs if the two of them took the bag, or sleep in another shift, all things being dark. This made an unspoken problem, because Irena was of age and a young woman and James was in his sexual prime and had usually been very active in this regard. It happened nonetheless that both of them slept together for comfort, but the challenge was a quiet one for James, even though she was his sister.

James knew his shadow all too well. He was no better than his father in this regard and he knew that too. He had been, since the fifth grade, in possession of what seemed to him an unmanageable surplus of this energy and had struggled in other ways to manage it since his youth. In the normal world he had sought the sorts of relief all other boys seek in aging and had found the ultimate satisfaction in the pursuit of girls upon maturation. When there were not girls, he had another stratagem which he did not possess now which was to immerse himself in an ice cold shower or to jump in a cold Michigan lake in order to “cool the fires.” It was a system that got him through most of the time.

But with such close proximity in the space and the necessitation of sharing their resources, James was forced without tools to control himself, which was something he had never done. There was, first of all, the raw sexual energy, and then the energy of his mind which he had never better addressed than in appropriate application with consenting women of his age. That is to say, it was not a true self-control.

The circumstance necessitated an internal change, for James, who for reasons other than social, was not inclined towards his sister, except in the imperfect way in which males seek females on the basis of their shapes and being. There was, what might have been an incompatibility in the discernment of good pheromone combinations, which was good. And James had to admit, there was Mabus there with them, like a good sentinel in his mind.
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mako
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« Reply #20 on: November 22, 2015, 02:00:38 PM »

But none of this stopped the need, which would have been present even without Irena there, and Irena was, in being a girl, only a small representation of this bigger problem. In the dark, long hours when sleep would not come and there was only silence, it seemed too as if his sexuality was larger than life, and every cell in his body seemed to scream in desire that he satisfy it. It was the most embarrassing sort of predicament.

There was a book that James remembered, given to him by a friend and martial artist who had self-studied in some of the ancient Taoist traditions which seemed to have a solution fitting to the problem. The ancient Taoists were said to have a technique for transforming the essential life-force of the sexual organs into higher energy by “pumping” this energy to the brain for use in thinking and reasoning by way of the spinal column. James had read part of the book and returned it graciously. The idea was to create a sort of circuit between the groin and the brain in a full cycle, traveling up the spine, spinning in the brain and back down the front channel through the tongue and back to the hara and groin again. Up was a “hot” cycle and down was to “cool” it.

Now he wished he had that book. Could he still try it? And if so, how? He spent some time recalling every photograph and instruction in the book. He had pieces of this ancient Chinese system in his memory, but he didn’t know if it was enough.

There was something to do with tightening a muscle called the Perineum at a point dead-center in the groin. The master had said something about the muscle that contracts to stop the flow of urination as well as squeezing the buttocks and attempting to draw that energy up the spine. There were two techniques to draw it up. That was all he remembered—and to keep the tongue up.
So he decided to try.

On his own, and in silence, he began visualizing this energy moving up from his groin, then up to his head and back down. He pumped the muscles of his pelvic floor, like an old man doing Kegel exercises. He tried long holds, hard pumps as well as gentle isolations. In almost no time at all he could control his sexual urge, and it seemed like the first time since adolescence. It felt amazing, so he kept doing it.

This did not account for the cold in the long hours of the day. Sometimes they would share the blanket at mealtime or during stories, or give it to Mabus to rewarm himself or for his nap. So the sleeping bag was almost always in use, but someone was always cold.

To counter this James began exercising one day by running in place for a while, and this gave him the idea to have each of them exercise to keep up their strength, morale and body heat. There were plenty of calories with them down there, and enough water. So each of them in turn began doing exercise and an hour, two or more a more a day as needed.

James found a way to use the ladder for a variety of workouts, starting with simple pullups then inventing a range of alternative pullups, climbing exercises, static holds and dexterity challenges, added to floor exercises of a variety of types of pushups, sit-ups, planks and handstand challenges. Over days he developed an evolving exercise regime for each of them, and helped them all not only to maintain their wellbeing, but even to make them stronger.

There was another opportunity, created by these circumstances for James, which was an opportunity to increase his flexibility as a martial artist. He had, in a previous year, had a short stint with a lovely half-Russian contortionist named Lydia, whom he was convinced would be quite a novelty. It had not been so. Instead, she seemed boring and dry, uncreative and was busy nearly eight hours a day improving her flexibility on top of a side job. She had fascinated him in the physical sense, but the lack of mental or emotional muchness left him soon amiss to her and he had never called her again, nor she him. But he had learned, at least by talking with her, about flexibility in the body and how to become flexible, only he had never had the time or alacrity to pursue it.

So he had learned of a very yin way of stretching, which was well suited to a yin time such as this. So in the darkness, or semi-darkness he could explore with great depth the nuances of stretching by which to improve himself.
It was theory, more than technique, which he added to his understanding of the stretch, but it was enough that in time he could apply it anywhere. It was not like ordinary gym stretching in which you find a position to stretch on a muscle and then push and wince for a few minutes in the hope that over time, there is improvement—the yang approach. Instead, it was a much gentler approach.

In a yang stretch, tension is created by the activity of holding yourself in place during the exercise, so there are two opposing actions at work: the contraction and expansion of the muscle. This is not good Aiki he reasoned; it is pain. Lydia had said to proceed methodically through your muscle groups and release that tension before attempting to lengthen the muscle, finding ways to support yourself without creating tension.

At a deeper level, was a physical response call the Golgi Tendon Reflex, though Lydia had not called it that—James had learned the term from a physical therapist. It is the body’s response to activate tension in order to protect the muscles and ligaments from tearing in physical exertion, literally a contraction response.

It was a number of weeks before James really felt it. First was the release of major muscle groups, especially the ones he was targeting. Then he began to find smaller tensions elsewhere—down his legs, in his arms or his neck. Then finally, in the long hours in which he practiced he began to notice the fine tensions of a set of toes, a specific muscle in his hand or even a little wrinkle in his forehead.

When he felt it first, it was in a sort of back rollover with his legs over his head, when he found a set of small muscles in his shoulders where his tension remained, and he adjusted his hands to support himself—then suddenly the reflex released and he feared for a moment something in his back would rip. But because he had moved so slowly and carefully into this supported position, it did not. Instead, he felt his whole back open up as the tension released and he relaxed back into the stretch and had a full head rush. Being balanced, he barely held himself in place until the tension and blurring past, and when he rolled back out of it so carefully, he felt as if his entire back was open.

From then, he was able to open up a stretch in his back like this every day, then onwards to other muscle groups until they released for him, and it felt as if at times he were stretching his very ligaments longer. Usually, at the start of a muscle, he would find tension in what seemed like a small strand in the muscle and sit with it first until that strand and the strands adjacent relaxed, and he could approach the stretching of an entire muscle group without pain whatsoever, and sit with each stretch in a state of meditation for five or ten minutes. There was plenty of time and he soon stretched hours each day, breathing.

Then there was a range of motion for every group of muscles, and he began by experimentation to explore himself, as if he were taking Anatomy and Physiology, but without a classroom or textbooks. Stretching became a sort of self-exploration into his muscular design, and he changed stretches to incorporate eight three-dimensional directions, as applicable, as well as twists and other variations of his whole structure, so that by moving an elbow ever-so-slightly it would incorporate a new dimension to the stretching of his wrist.

In time, this pleasant exercise made him aware of each part of his body and he could hear each tendon and muscle as if they were a person crying out with needs, hopes and desires. Wrists, knees, foot, toes and fingers; somehow the body was communicating, only he had ignored its parts for so long that he hadn’t known how to hear. Then it reminded him of strange toe stretches recommended in ancient texts for the martial arts, and he knew then how these systems had been invented, for he could have invented his own.

When that began to be easy for him, he began to combine his exercises. With an attention to breath, mindfulness, and the imaginary cycling of qi energy up and around his body, he was able to obtain quite a state of wellbeing within himself. In addition, and despite the cool air, these exercises served to warm him in the hours of reticence as he improved himself on the floor. Then he would exercise, and eat, and talk with the others until his schedule was too full and too good for him to feel disturbed at all. It was as if the universe had provided him with something perfect.

With all the exercising, specifically the hard exercise, and the preparation of food, the other child of the cold came forth, and this child was adopted by grace with Mabus, who was not inclined to wait on the heels of emotional inevitability. The little brat was humidity, and it was a constant. But Mabus was constant too, and made it is job to clean every surface of the entire place with a rag, wringing it out occasionally into a tub to be used for washing and cleaning. Not once, but twice a day, he went over everything as impeccably as he was astute.

He exercised with much less variety than James, and satisfied himself to a soon grueling regimen of pullups, pushups and sit-ups, and gained much in strength. He was very careful to attend to the morale of his troop, but also let them each do their own things as they were inclined. So mostly he spent time with Irena as James took care of himself. Most of all, Irena loved his stories.

Mabus was a master of stories. In particular, he knew the tall tales of early America. It was something he had picked up from books on behalf of his students and had kept with him like a rabbit’s foot to counter superstitions amongst scared scouts. So he told them as tall and as long as he could, to Irena’s great comfort: Babe and the Blue Ox, John Bunyon, Johnny Appleseed and all the Davey Crockets. He also began to teach her school to pass the time, as she enjoyed science and math. They rarely had time in surplus.

Hunger was hardly a concern, with buckets of food about. It took them awhile to arrange a system for the sprouting of beans on a water budget. James knew enough from his mother’s interests, but it took him a week to get it right. They would sit the beans first in jars submerged in water for a day, then remove the water and rest the beans in the trays atop the shelves, rinsing them three times a day over damp towels. Mabus kept the lids on.

Then in time, they had rotating beans. The oats were soaked in water overnight. The rice was soaked for half a day and then rinsed and slowly masticated. The beans were always cooked, because they were bitter and because it was all they could ration for fuel, and always with seasoning. Then there was cod liver oil for their vitamins. It was never exciting, but it was enough. Once a week there was a canned meal or an MRE cooked as a very special event.

Mabus used a knife to cut open one of the water jugs, and made it into a washing machine. Everyday someone washed their clothes with soap; James and Irena had a second pair each from their travel bags and Mabus wore a blanket and some of James’s seconds while his clothes dried on the ladder. Everything was wrung hard to quicken the process and usually they had to sleep or wear the last little bit of moisture away.

The bathroom was also kept regimented by Mabus and they succeeded in keeping nearly to their limit of a gallon a day of water. Each of them washed as they please, doing a kind of hobo-job of the important areas and more thoroughly as they desired, usually after a hard workout when they felt warm enough to brave it. Each of them did dishes once a day.

As water jugs emptied, they were soon filled again with waste products—Mabus had to build a special funnel for transferring those from their toilet, and they made a careful group effort at this unpleasant task of dealing with it. Then everything would be capped, they would all wash and resume their routines.

Soon all was rhythm, and they were, more-or-less, at peace with their hosts: the dark, the silence, the cold and her children. There was still a heavy taste of plastic in the air, and it hurt them to think of its effect on their health. But they were alive and mostly happy underground, and Mabus kept their spirits fresh and made them all talk and keep positive.

The sounds of chaos continued intermittently for many days, until many days became many weeks, and weeks even became months. First all the canned food disappeared, and then the water became low and Irena started to develop a small cough and become melancholic. When the spirit of the group started to give way, Mabus knew it was time for them to go.

As a group they decided it was safer above-ground than below for them and they would take their chances. So they developed a plan to scout like Noah sending a dove out from the Ark, except they were the doves.
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Dodys
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« Reply #21 on: November 22, 2015, 07:05:40 PM »

  Man! that's some Deep thinking going on there! It seems the Islander's have an XLNT prowess for writing,at least from my point of view anyway's,though Alan is not an islander,he did a darn decent bit of story,as well! Must be somthin' in the Dirt Grin, Mako,Thanx for the Good story! Mahalo! It's Ono! 
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Zengunfighter
Lynch Mob
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Posts: 2410



« Reply #22 on: November 22, 2015, 08:49:21 PM »

You have the potential to be a well read author. You have the talent, you just need to do the work.

One of the many things my editor points out to me is to avoid using 'like a'. While common, it's lazy and weak.
You are more than clever enough to do it properly.
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mako
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« Reply #23 on: November 22, 2015, 10:19:26 PM »

Yes, I agree Zen.  That's why I'm practicing.  Just like using a pistol. Wink 

My wife calls this my B+ work.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2015, 10:22:02 PM by mako » Logged
mako
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« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2016, 03:06:23 PM »

James, Mabus and Irena find Teddy's last cache, with a few good supplies, and are shocked by the scene in a strange new world.  First draft, unedited.

Chapter Five - Teddy's Last Cache

“Mabis…[static]…the pantry.”

They were some of the last words Teddy had spoken on the HAM radio.  It hadn’t been much, but Mabus remembered.  Important things are in the details.

It was the sort of thing he assumed the kids could have missed.  They hadn’t been through enough important life events with very real consequences yet.  It wasn’t their fault, it just…

He listened outside to know they were ok.

Mabus had learned it on the dogsleds.  It were the tiniest things which often mattered most.  Little sounds, little things to notice, even smells.  Like the feel of a leather halter in the hands—how dry it was, how it creaked or how stiff; the sound of an unhappy piece of wood on the sled forewarning of a runner bowing; or the pace of a Husky’s breath on a cold day—every sign important.

It were the little signs that forecasted the end of a marriage, or the death of a child, the end of a career or a scout troop problem.  Fate is vain, he thought.

Something mattered to him now much more than he had known.  These kids were not just kids anymore.  They were his kids now.
 
Good god, they really are.

He could not have missed the comment, so despite the fact that the pantry was as bare as the history of mice, he found himself with his face against the floor, rapping with the knuckles of his hand.  This disturbed a small corner of dust across from him, leaving two perpendicular lines in it.  He knocked there, and the floorboard jumped a little.

“Hey James, that bar.”

James was close at hand, who rounded the corner and handed it to him, which he set to loosen the floorboard.  With less effort than he expected, the plank shifted from its place and the bar fell over, revealing a piece of something green, and a bit of metal.

The board moved easily for his fingertips now and beneath it was a cache with a small green backpack with the letters “B O B” embroidered on a large, white patch, with a hole eaten through it that looked like the work of mice.  Next to it was a green roll of cloth, with steel tins packed tightly around it.  It was Teddy’s last cache.

“Hot damn” Mabus murmured, with a grin like a four year old boy who shot the Indian dead.  Dedicated son-of-a-bitch. 

It surprised him very little, and impressed him very much, in a way which he attributed nonetheless to an outstanding stroke of luck.  He wished he could see his brother-in-law now, or if Ted could see them.  Maybe he could see them now.

Mabus pulled the pack gently from its cradle and set it behind him.  Beneath it were four larger tins; he arranged the tins into piles, and the green roll of cloth felt like two steel rods inside, with a peculiar shape, which Mabus carefully enrolled.  It contained two halves of a very small rifle, stock and double barrels wrapped in military chord near the breach, with inscriptions: CZECK REPUBLIC M6 Scout SPRINGFIELD ARMORY GENESEO IL USA .22LR/.410GA.
 
Mabus wasted no time getting to know her.  There was a bolt where the two halves were to meet with a wingnut; Mabus replaced this to connect them.  In the stock was an arm that retracted to house a row of .22 rounds and four .410 shot shells, with a clip to keep it in place.  The site flipped between the two barrels assembled in an over-under arrangement, so the hammer pushed up and down and in between the barrels as a safety setting, and it also had a shoulder strap with four more sleeves for shot shells. 

That arranged, he felt much better.  It was a good enough weapon for now as backup.  He handed it to James who was as much affected as he.  James took it with the deference of a bokken.

All the tins were rounds of ammo for that one gun.  In all, five hundred rounds of .22 long rifle and forty rounds of .410 shotgun, plus whatever was in the gun stock already.  The shot shells were divided almost evenly between lead buckshot and regular birdshot—to take each sort of game respectively.  When it came to humans however, and self-defense, it meant the difference between semi-long and short range respectively, Mabus thought without knowing so.

The four large tins were no less a boon.  Each had a commodity Ted has stored if not for his own use, then for trade, as if he were to attend an early mountain man rendezvous.  They contained approximately one pound of ground coffee, one pound of sugar, one pound of pipe tobacco; each compressed solidly in cellophane and rubber bands, and a tin full of sticky cotton balls with the smell and feel of Vaseline.

In the pack was a tiny Swiss Army wool blanket and one reflective emergency blanket.  A change of socks, a set of cheap flannel underwear.  There was another tin wrapped in plastic with a steel flint and striker inside, cushioned in fine jute roving.  A pill bottle full of iodine pills, labeled Iodine in duct tape and marker.  A small, wallet-sized first aid kit, a pan, and a red-handled Mora knife with a small sharpening rod on a steel lanyard.  There were the remains of a military MRE gnawed to bits by the mice.

Mabus was all teeth and nearly in tears, as he held up the tobacco satchel and the firearm to the air for Ted to see.  Thank you, brother.

They took it outside to lay by the fire, summoning Irena from her dutiful post, where they stretched themselves in the sun.  Mabus made them practice flint and steel into cotton balls, and taught them to make kindling and tinder in stages.  Soon there was fire. 

The air was so clean.  It was September.
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mako
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« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2016, 03:08:55 PM »

 “James, you know how the Apaches built fire without smoke?”

“No.  Not at all.”

The fire was not big now, but it had a steady start.  Mabus had done right with his materials, so that the flames had a steady base of fire, combustibles and good air.  He took one of the larger sticks of pine, gently peeling off bark from it with malformed fingernails.

“Use dry sticks only, like this.  No bark, and only hardwood.  Nothing green either.  Then we need to keep the fire hot, not let the air get stifled.  It needs good airflow all the time.  That’ll keep it hot.  Hotter the better.”
“Mabus,” Irena asked, “do you think they’ll come?”

The fire kicked up and the old man drew more sticks to himself, which he began to peel as a squirrel might do a nut.  “No.  I don’t think so.  That girl we saw, looked as much a scared rabbit as I’ve ever seen.  She looked to me like a scared rabbit looking for a hole.”

“It came straight for me!”

“It?”  James asked Irena.  Her mouth twisted.

“Well,” she had to confess, “she didn’t act very human.”

“No, she didn’t.  None of them seem to.” offered Mabus.

“The disease seems to be sort of dehumanizing” James said.

Mabus was chewing on a piece of his moustache, then he added another stick James had prepared.  “Maybe that’s exactly what it is.  Anyways, I don’t think we’ll see any more tonight.  It’s been quiet for weeks and I think it…she had that to her advantage.  I think she was hiding, and this cabin was safe.”

“As long as they don’t see our smoke from a distance.”

“That’s right.  And we won’t let them.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not in a hurry to head back downstairs.  I was thinking we could all have a hot bath today.”

Irena lit up and seemed to brighten the sunshine all about them.

“There’s no running water.” James said.

“No need James.  We can us hot rocks.  The Indian way.”

There were round rocks in a pile of dirt from Teddy’s long-since excavation of the bunker, now grown over with sow thistles and spotted knapweed, that were of sufficient girth for the old man’s plan, which were placed in the coals of the fire and about the coals.

The fire was hot and welcome, and seemed to dry out weeks of cold humidity from their being trapped inside that subterranean capsule.  It warmed them, bone and soul, so that the enemies of their fortitude began to lose their grip.
A pot from the kitchen was filled with water from the rain barrel, boiled, and tossed over the surface of the dry tub to first rinse it and then sterilize it, this after Mabus used a small broom from a bough of pine to brush at its sediments.  Then water was taken in buckets and boiled in the old fashion and added to the tub until it was almost ready for a bath.

Mabus thought of precautions as a nurse in a NICCU might, concerning blood and fluid borne pathogens.  If this disease were airborne, then it hardly mattered.  But that was improbable at most.  So as best they could, each washed their hands in water as hot as each could handle, kept their hands out of their mouths, touched nothing suspicious, made careful choices—in short, treating every action as if all had an immunodeficiency.

“A hot bath is the Panacea.”

“Pana-what?” Irena asked Mabus.

“A cure-all.  To fix anything.  That’s what my wife believed.  A hot bath, good for what ails you.”

“She’d take a bath whenever she got sick?”

“She’d bathe for any reason at all: headache, shopping stress, bad day, in-laws, an argument, broken nail.”

Irena giggled.

The fire drew air like a bellows now, making its own small low pressure system, suspended from the ground as it was by Mabus’s engineering of stones and struts.  It drew clean, and burnt clean, so that the thin line of smoke which arose from it might not be seen past a quarter mile.

There was work enough to be done, and each glad to participate, so that everyone had a chance to stay active in the cool, clean air of a quiet fall morning.  The needles of a larch tree nearby were just beginning to take color.
“Irena, you get first bath,” Mabus said.

Irena brimmed with excitement that showed her mother’s beauty, still round with the fleshy curves of a child.  Her cheeks were more sallow than they had been a month ago.  “I can’t wait!” she said.  “I have never wanted a bath so much in my entire life.  I think it will cure me.”

“Of what?” James asked.

“Of being too long underground.”

The tub was nearly ready, and the rocks in short time were ready to reheat it for continued use.  Mabus had a forked stick for rolling hot stones along the ground, into the house and up into the tub, sizzling and sputtering as they dropped.

“I want to start now.  You can bring me more water.”

“There’s no ah, curtain Irena.”

Irena threw Mabus a fourteen-year-old glance which showed more of a ‘cup full’ of maturity than any absence thereof.

“I am not embarrassed.  You’ve heard me poop for the past two months from a no more than a few feet away.  All that time I’ve slept in the same sheets with my brother to keep warm.  I don’t care if you see me naked.”  Irena’s voice gathered volume, as if she cared not what might emerge from behind the trees.

“I want to start my bath while the water’s hot and have it brought in to me as it’s ready.  I feel disgusting after two months of being cold all the time and having cold washes with slimy bean water and dreaming about how cold I am.  While it’s my turn, you may wait on me with fresh, hot water at my call.”

Mabus laughed then, in rasp baritone.  He shook his head.  “So be it!”

“Enjoy your bath,” Mabus said, and escorted her with a fresh pot of hot water.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2016, 09:57:04 PM by mako » Logged
mako
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« Reply #26 on: January 04, 2016, 03:11:46 PM »

“We need to talk about our guest,” he spoke to James, replacing the pot with fresh water over the fire again.

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that.  All our stuff could be contaminated.  But I didn’t want it to bite your finger.”

“I know.  It was the best call.  It just surprised me, that’s all, how she slipped straight into the bunker.”

“I don’t think she could have known it was even there before we came up.”

“No, unless the others told her a long time ago.  But, no.  That was an opportunist move, I believe.”

“It all happened so fast.”

“Yes.  The way she went down, she may well have broken her neck at the bottom.  We could have a look.  If not, there is an old Indian trick for flushing a rabbit out of a hole, a way they used to hunt.  You know it?”
James tilted his head, curious.

“Smoke.”

“You mean, smoke her out?  How?”

“Well, there’s one air vent I’ll bet she doesn’t know how to close yet, goes up through the clothes line I think.  I had it open when we came up.  We could build a smoke box with a chimney attached to the pipe and I doubt she’ll stay put very long at all.”

“Then what, wait at the entrance with arms?”

Mabus swallowed dry, pulling a tin can up from the fire where he had left it to clean, and dipped it into the water for tea.

“I don’t like it either, but we’re giving up a lot in losing that space, namely safety, but a cache of invaluable supplies as well.  Food, and your radio most of all.”

James grabbed at the soil.  “I agree, but I was thinking.  We could just leave it, leave her alone, leave the whole thing be.”

The silence that pursued was as good as to say that Mabus was predisposed to the same.  His gut knew something he had not yet been ready for, that the best thing for all of them was to walk away from that space forever, without thought, regret or remorse.  To leave those advantages behind for better things, for new opportunities.  And a chance live anew in this strange new world.

James had that resoluteness about him, the same as when he had climbed into the entrance first months ago, while Justice and the others turned their backs.  And the old man also had a resolution of sorts, for the prospect of fresh air overwhelmed all other less immediate needs, so that he could not think of spending another night underground, cold and damp again.
 
“I don’t want to go back down,” James said.

“Neither do I, but we lose a lot in leaving it all behind.”

“I know.  It’s already behind us.  Anything could be infected down there.  We know she’s infected.  It’s a bad risk anyways.  We’d rot to death if the she didn’t kill us anyways.”

Mabus felt his sense crystallize in that moment.  The answer was as clear as the fall day about them.  His gut had been right, as it most always was.  The way now was forward, not beneath.  It was time for a change in their paths like the one of the autumn air beginning to tickle long needles of the pines all about them.

“Alright, we take our chances.”

“HOT.  ROCK.  PLEASE!”



James landed with a small thump, rolling wide in a circle started by his arm.  Then he let out a moan.

“You ok?” Mabus stood up from tending the campfire.  

He wore the long-johns from Teddy’s cache, off-white pajamas only a little too big for him, but clean nonetheless, with his other change of clothes hung out over the line to dry.  They had all had chance to bathe, each of them taking the leisure of afternoon felines in turn, so that the sun was now only hours from its place of respite beyond the mountains southeast.

Across from him, James gasped somewhat for breath, and obviously in pain.  He pulled himself up, clutching at the backside of his ribs, nodded, and tried to conceal a grimace.  Mabus, not one to alarm prematurely, stayed his place until the young man made his own way on his own.

“I’m out of practice.  Landed on a pine cone.  Over my lung.”

Mabus almost tried to hide his laughter, and then snorted.  “Ouch!”  Then he grinned as wide as piano keys.

Click!

“Yeah.”  James flexed his jaw like fish gills.  It was the best good look Mabus had had of him in months.  His skin was made pasty in complexion by long spell of darkness, and he had lost considerable weight too.  The bones showed a little on him, but not more than an average domestic teen.  The hair of his face was overgrown in patches that did not conspire to a full beard, and the hair on the top of his head was long.  Mabus wondered how he looked to them.

“See anything?"

Click!

“Catch your breath.”

James nodded, and it was a moment before he spoke, stretching his ribs open.  “I couldn’t see over the trees, even from the rooftop.  Almost, but.  I might be able to see if I climbed that tree there.”

“No.  Let’s keep our feet on the ground.  It’s too dangerous.  If a branch breaks and you ruin a leg I can’t just call 9-1-1.”  The small stroke to the young man’s pride bloomed onto his cheek, which Mabus set to remedy.  “Anyways, there’s an easier way for all of us.  I think if we climb up to the top of that hill we should be able to get a view of the valley.”

It still marred Mabus how much they had lost; it drove at him like a long sliver of wood under a fingernail.  A stock of foodstuffs, though diminished; a small HAM Radio, invaluable; water, also diminished; sufficient bedding; changes of clothes; plastic jugs and little things too valuable to be thrown away in these circumstances.  And that thought carried him to the thought of his truck, now nowhere to be seen.  Damn.

There were other houses nearby, perhaps some of them could be looted.  But the HAM radio, of all things, had brought them where they were.  It was too good a thing to give up, and he cursed himself under his breath for letting it leave their persons.  I should have known better.

Click!

“Hey, good shooting Irena!  I watched your hands that time, you didn’t flinch at all.”

Irena sat behind a log, dry-firing the rifle for practice away from the house.  Mabus had shown her how to switch between barrels, work the safety, and fire it effectively, short of having it loaded.  He wanted her ready, all of them ready, to work the firearm in a pinch.

 “Thank you.  I think I would have hit it!”

“Bet you would.  Now switch to .410 and do the same thing, but remember to flip the site first or it won’t quite aim right.  Remember, .22’s usually good for nothing bigger than varmints, squirrels or rabbits and such, but the .410 is a lot bigger depending on which ammo you put in it.  Both types will kick against your shoulder much more than the .22, so just remember to keep it tight or it’ll bruise you.”

“Alright Mabus.”  She did just so as Mabus and James watched on.

Click!

“I reckon we should try to get a lay from the hilltop soon, but I’d like to get a few things ready to make beds for us here tonight.  James, will you help me?”

“Sure thing.  What do you have in mind?”

“Another old Indian trick.” Mabus wore a magician’s smile.
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mako
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« Reply #27 on: January 04, 2016, 03:13:39 PM »

The three of them worked to dig a large trench, eight inches deep, by about the length and width of their three bodies prostrate, without accounting too much for the legs.  There was a stick, and a tin can, and a silicon chip from electronic inside the house, sterilized, which James once cut his hand on as the three of them worked the soil.  That done, the fire was stamped out.

Hot rocks were rolled as before into the tree line where their bed was laid a little ways from the house, until they lined the bottom.  Coals were scooped to cover the rocks, and finally soil, dry soil, from the excavation pile, until at last the ground looked freshly tilled.  Then they took to short preparations.

“We ready?”  Mabus asked.  He carried the M6 Scout like a Mohican tomahawk, loaded with shot and a single .22 round.  James cinched on a small green strap of the pack, angle iron at the other hand.    Irena was laced up for quick flight, with the Mora knife at her belt.  He had each of them hydrate before they set off.

Avoiding houses down the road, they set off past the barbed wire fence of the property, making a small arch north to the hilltop through the woods.  The forest felt as pure as a fairy tale set in a golden evening air, where everything seemed ordinary and undisturbed.  A draft in the trees carried its effervescence to make memories, enchanting each of them to recall happy times and hope.  Feelings stirred in like the movements of that wind as each of them walked forward in silence.

They stopped several times, although the distance was not far, for despite their exercises in preceding days, they were unfit for even so far a jaunt.  It was uphill somewhat.  Mabus was pleased to see James explore his strength again, as young men should do, so that he ascended to the crest for a view before the others.  He was out of sight only a moment.

He returned, changed in countenance for what they could see.  He shouted, “Hurry up, you’re going to want to see this.”  The shadow of a distant peak stole a fraction of the light about them with the setting of the sun.  Mabus and Irena quickened their stride, though already short of breath. 

There was a prostrate corpse near James’s feet when they reached the top.  Tatters of a once blue shirt and a leather belt around its waist were its possessive remnants.  The flesh of it was mostly gone, save bone and a flank of dry skin, curled like a dried pig’s ear.  The marks of teeth in those bones, the frayed tendons on those bones, and the last vestiges of scent from its disintegrating parts made Irena’s heart beat fast and her stomach turn.

James was not looking at the corpse.  He was looking far beyond, into the shadow of the valley, from which the light was quickly retreating.  Mabus was hard for breath, and Irena too.  There was a scream, far in the distance, then another which those two may not have heard over their panting, as if to punctuate the horror of the waning moment.

When the old man looked out onto the city below, his heart clenched as hard as the hand of a woman in labor, and all vestige of color blanched out of his face.  He was frozen.

“Coeur D’Alene burnt to the ground.”
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Dodys
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Posts: 418


« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2016, 10:06:28 PM »

  Mahalo Very Much! That's a Darn'Good Read going on there! Your Island prowess is Above the mark of Real Good! It's ONO!!! 
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vector001
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« Reply #29 on: January 11, 2016, 02:42:42 PM »

 
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Some people bring a knife to a gunfight and win.

Some people bring swim fins to the knife fight, watch the other idiots kill each other, then take their stuff and swim happily out of zombie range.
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