Sorry about the Xtreme lateness on this one. Life has been crazy, and while I’ve had motivation, I haven’t had the late night stamina to write. However, in the good news department, My wife and I went in for the baby’s first ultrasound, and everything is looking good. Pictures can be found on my wife’s blog.
For those of you who are new: You are now reading an online serial pulp novel. If you didn’t start at the beginning, you may want to do so. Chapter 1:Â Down By The Bay. New chapters are normally posted on Fridays, but I’ve got to put Journeyâ€¦ on hiatus through the end of April so I can finish up some other writing projects. This serial is the sequel to my first novel, Oasis.
As always, I appreciate typo alerts.
Chapter 8 â€“ A Gathering Storm
For a moment or two, nobody in the room knew what to do.
The television was silent, the patrons were silent, even the kitchen was silent.
I dropped my stare from the TV set and looked at Walter.
His wallet was already out. He yanked out a couple of bills and left them on the table. “Come on.”
He didn’t say it very loud, but it carried to the whole restaurant.
From the reaction of everybody there you’d have thought he had climbed on a table and screamed “Run for your life!”
A tsunami of sound washed over the room. Parents yelled at their kids to hurry. Cooks in the back shouted obscenities. Folks pushed out chairs and scrambled for the front door. One brave soul, probably the manager, was raising his hands and shouting for “everyone to please calm down like the president asked.”
It didn’t matter. Once fear had taken hold of everybody’s mind, there would be no letting go until they had found somewhere they deemed safe.
Walter was the first one out the side door. Once he popped it open, the fire alarm sounded, which only added to the craziness.
I slid out of the bench and took a quick look around the room. For there being so much noise, there sure aren’t many people in here.
I let an older couple get in front of me and I tensed up a little in case anybody started pushing from behind in their hurry to escape.
The whole situation was insane. Where is everyone going in such a hurry?
I figured it wouldn’t really matter where you were. If the aliens were going to hit us with a death ray or something, there’s probably no way you could get away anyhow. No need for running crazy.
Walter was half way to the van by the time I got outside.
I ran after him.
A good chunk of the crowd that was leaving the restaurant was beating cheeks for Walmart. A steady stream of cars was entering the parking lot. Traffic seemed to have increased since we had started our meal.
The van was started by the time I opened the door.
My father looked over motioned for me to hurry. “Come on, the swine herd is coming.”
I hopped in, “Swine herd?”
“The unprepared. The sheep. The ones that think everything is always going to be all right, and that think government will prevent things from getting too bad.”
He backed out and someone immediately crowded into his parking place.
I wondered how many people had heard the announcement. If it interrupted the sports network that was playing at the steakhouse, it probably interrupted all the other networks as well. Still, there were plenty of people not watching TV or listening to radio. It would probably take a couple of hours for the word to get completely around. Traffic was definitely picking up, but it didn’t look like a mass invasion was trying to hit the store. At least not yet.
Walter had been a little callus, but he was basically right. When the crisis hits, there’s no time to prepare. You’re either ready or you’re not. And if a panic set in, justified or not, everything worth buying would fly off the shelves in no time.
Walter flipped on the radio. Mostly it was replays of the speech.
Before I knew it, we were back at my childhood home.
Walter put the van in park but didn’t turn it off. He touched my shoulder. “Son, I know you and I may never see eye to eye on many things. I understand why you ran away. You may not like me much or agree with my politics, I’m sure you’d be welcome to be with us at the compound or wherever we end up until this blows over.”
“Blows over?” I shook my head. “What makes you- it doesn’t matter. I’ve got something I need to take care of. I can’t stay.”
“I know you’re probably still mad about everything. And you have a right to be-”
“It’s not about you. It really is something I need to-”
“Son, listen to me.”
“I haven’t had a drop to drink since you ran away. Not a drop. I’ve changed. I don’t know how to say I’m sorry, but I don’t want to lose you again.”
It was weird. I simply couldn’t muster the anger I had felt toward him for so long. Maybe I felt a little sorry for his lonely life. Maybe it was the fact that he had raised me to be a survivor, and I had been able to survive the horrors that happened in Oasis. Maybe it was everything else that was happening.
“This isn’t about you. I’m serious about that.” I looked out the window. “If this does blow over, I’ll come back.” I opened the car door. “And we’ll have a long talk.”
I looked back at him.
For the first time since the day my mother had died, I saw tears in his eyes. He took a deep breath. His mouth moved a little like he was trying to speak, but there were no words.
It almost made me feel bad for giving him a black eye. Almost.
The radio broke the silence with a report of looting somewhere in California.
There’s always looting in California.
“Thanks for the gun.” I slid out of the van and retrieved the box with my rifle and the bag with the extras. “I’ll see you around.”
I climbed up into the Jeep and pulled rifle out of the box. I hooked on the sling and loaded all four clips. For a moment I stared at the rifle sitting on my lap. The weight of wood and steel felt somehow reassuring. I wasn’t in any hurry to shoot anyone or anything, but the world had just been turned upside down and shaken. I’d need any extra edge I could get. There was no way of knowing how well it might work against a extraterrestrial, but it might come in handy if I caught up with Samir. Would it come to killing? I hope not. I tossed the gun and magazines in the box and shoved it all under the back seat.
When I looked up, Walter was coming back out of his house with something under his arm. He came up to the Jeep.
“Take this, too. You may need it.”
He handed me a black AM/FM/Shortwave radio. I nodded a thanks and set it on the passenger’s seat.
He looked up at me a moment longer, folded his arms and said, “Good luck.”
“I’ll see you around, Walter.”
The engine started right up and away I went.
The tank in the Jeep needed filling, and I was worried that gas prices would already be jacked up in anticipation of large crowds looking to get out of town.
I lucked out. The very first place I saw was priced the same as earlier in the day. After I finished at the pump, I went in and saw why.
The only employee on duty was a pimply kid who looked about seventeen. He was chewing gum and listening to an mp3 player. It was up loud enough that I could have sung along if I was into whiny pop music. A phone rang and rang in the back room. It was probably the boss calling with instructions to raise the prices.
While there, I bought a couple gallons of water, two bags of hard candy, and a few packages of beef jerky. It wasn’t exactly emergency rations, but if things got messy for the next couple of days, it’d do. I paid from the envelope of cash.
I put the supplies in the back with everything else and climbed on in, then flipped on the radio so I could get an idea of what was going on nationwide.
Every channel I scanned was talking about the aliens in one way or another. The president’s speech had happened less than an hour before, and already there were reports of mass UFO sightings in major cities. New York, Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles had all seen a low altitude flyby of mysterious ships.
It seemed that I wasn’t the only one who thought the president had spun too rosy a tale about the aliens. Across the US, stores were getting packed and food was disappearing from the shelves. In cities where the UFOs had been seen, the situation was worse. Unrest was becoming violence.
Less than an hour. We’re already falling apart at the seams. Why in the world are things getting so bad so quickly?
And then I saw why.
Keep Reading! Chapter 9 is here.