three~ Bonfires and Steak Dinners

Posted: J July, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

The night was cool, but not uncomfortable. Wind whispered through the pines and the crackle of the two fires blended with the smoke from the meat roasting on two spits, slowly being turned over a bed of glowing coals.

I was being entertained by some new friends. As unlikely as that sounded, it was turning out to be a good thing. Everyone knew, or should know, the number one saying in Cherno: “Trust NO ONE!” But, to my amazement, I did trust these people and felt that even though I wasn’t in the Clan they would help me and have my back if needed.

Our arrangement was in all likelihood, not really unique. I was good at finding gear, and stowing it away for future use. I could drive like Andretti and Fly as well. I knew my way around weapons and field-craft and understood the vagaries of Military Protocol. Even though this was no actual Military, it still had a loose chain of command…very loose, but still there.

I sat on the ground and munched on a bag of peanuts from a MRE that I had found earlier in the pack of a ‘dead’ survivor…one of many oxymoron’s that brought an ironic smile to my face…Military Intelligence, Giant Shrimp, Honest Bankers, you get the picture. Occasionally I would raise my issue rangefinder to my eyes and peer over the scrub brush toward the small road that lead to the warehouse and ancillary buildings that surrounded one side.

Against the fence there were five eighty-eight gallon black drums in a line and two slightly away from them, one red and one blue. Drums being used as makeshift fireplaces were common all over this country.

 The system really wasn’t complex; if I needed a face to face I would light two of the black drums. Depending on which two were lit could mean “Meet me at___” or “I have Intel”.  A response was to light either the red, meaning NOT NOW or blue which meant “Meet at safe zone” The latter was an ever changing location where we had relative safety and solitude.

Earlier today, I had lit two of the black, and was glad to see a third and fourth black, and the blue barrel lit in response. I had stolen into the warehouse, stripped the dead body of his MRE, two bandages and a blood bag. Those you had to be careful of using as they as often as not would give you a serious infection. I stowed them in a bag alongside of the large chunk of fresh beef I had gotten early on in the day, and put out all the fires; message received. Had I changed my mind, I would have put them all out and lit the red.

This safe zone was an area clearly marked by the H1N1 Clan, very few would stray this far into the village. A few foolhardy fresh spawns would run into the homes, barns and sheds looking for food and weapons, and that was what I was watching now through the lenses of my rangefinder.

He ran crouched, and was actually doing a pretty good job staying concealed.  Weaving around buildings and vaulting over fences, he made his way deeper into the small, quiet Russian county village of Olsha.

Olsha was a very small community on the outskirts of the North East airstrip. It was formally a support village for the strip and enjoyed easy access to the ocean.

A distant growling reached my ears and I slowly turned my attention to a small, reddish house perched on the side of the hill facing away from the street.

The survivor was backing away from two zombies, one standing and a hopper. Both were equally dangerous. He had gotten himself pinned inside the buildings blocked entrance and a large fence.

‘Sucks for you buddy…’ I thought to myself as I watch the increasingly panicked man attempting to push his way through the aggravated Zeds, both now standing and striking at the human. Screams reached my ears, and shouts of other zombies ran to see what new food source was available. Flailing about himself with an axe, the man was being knocked to the ground repeatedly by the dead.  Before long, he lay prone on the ground, axe to one side and a hopper chewing on his right leg.

‘See ya next time…stay off the coast.’ The days of me saying prayers were over.

 

THUNK! The flaming arrow struck the side of the large wooden pallet that was leaning against an unlit drum. That was a signal to approach. I scanned the tree line one last time before standing and adjusting my gear and walking out to the middle of the street. It made my skin crawl knowing I was so exposed. I could almost feel the crosshairs on my skull.

“Shadow!” the familiar voice of Leroy came to me from behind a barn. He walked out carrying a crossbow, his DMR slung across his Ghillie suited shoulder. I crossed the street to him and shook his hand. “Good to see ya  Leroy!”  He smiled easily, his six foot plus frame made it easy for him to lug his Coyote backpack and the ever present Beretta M9sd strapped to his right leg in its green drop rig. “What’s shakin’ kiddo?”  I asked him, watching the zeds out of the corner of my eye.

“Not much Shadow, how are you?”

“Good…well you know…” my voice trailed off “Hungry? I brought beef!”

He clapped me on the shoulder, smiled again. “Cool! I could eat!” and with that he turned and walked into the woods, towards the makeshift safe area.

I followed him into the woods, every once in a while we would jink hard and double back to make certain that we weren’t being watched or followed. I knew that we were being over watched by another member of H1N1, but I didn’t know who or where they were.

After a short while, we came to a camp. Two familiar faces greeted me from around the rocks that surrounded the camp.

“Shadow, how are ya buddy!”  my friend Outlaw said to me as he crouched over the small, hot fire. Stirring something into a tin can he stood and took a slow, careful sip.

“Fuck! That’s Hot!” He said, wiping his chin with the back of his left hand. “Want some?” he asked

“Don’t do it!” said a voice in the rocks. That was Blackbird, another of the core members of this Clan. “It’s most likely poison” he continued.

“Your just pissed” said Outlaw, “Don’t listen to him Shadow, he’s just mad ‘cause I killed him by accident yesterday”

“Dude! Seriously!…Shadow, he decided to attempt a Heli back flip and smoked Mec and I!” Black spat.

“I do ‘em all the damn time!, and I said I was sorry” Outlaw replied.

“NOT AT 60 METERS in the air!” and with that, Black turned to me and continued. “ Don’t fly with this idiot Shadow…and don’t drink his ‘coffee’!

“Coffee?” I said. “Doesn’t smell like coffee.  Leroy walked over to the fires and lifted the chunks of beef onto a waiting spit. Setting it on two rocks, the meat began to heat, and cook, fat dripping into the fire and sizzling onto the coals and hot rocks.

“Well, its not really coffee…more like Chicory.”

Chicory was the roasted and ground root of the endive plant, which offsets what many refer to as the “bitter cup of coffee.” Since chicory tends to darken coffee, this darkness has often been misconstrued as meaning the coffee will be bitter or stronger. Many in the South would blend Chicory with coffee to yield a rich, sweet cup of coffee, and stretch the gounds to last longer.

“Lotsa gardens here, so I figured what the hell.” Outlaw took another sip. “Well, it’s not Starbucks, but it will do.” He took his can and walked over to the fires.

Black shook his head and turned back to watch the far tree line.

“Where’s Lead?” I asked no one in particular. Lead was another member of H1N1.

“Not here” said Black. Outlaw added “I expect he will be around shortly.

“So, what’s going on Shadow?” Leroy asked while adjusting the meat over the fire, it was charring nicely now and smelling even better. My stomach rumbled in anticipation of a steak dinner.

“I have some Intel on a base camp, but would rather wait to tell it once, to everyone.”

“Cool” Leroy said looking up from the spit

A crash deep in the woods split the quiet of the night. Leroy quickly covered the fires with a wet hide that was sitting in a pile of rocks, extinguishing the flames quickly. Steam and smoke rose from the pits and we were plunged into twilight. Quietly, Leroy un-shouldered his DMR and moved to the rocks to cover a flanking position to Blacks nine o-clock.

Outlaw and I looked at each other. Grim faced we moved out in a two man fire team to observe or engage the threat.

And that’s when a deep voice spoke to us from the barn…

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