the day the world was supposed to end — Chapter 5
The world was prepared for their certain death. The asteroid never hit and they survived. Now citizens try to rebuild a disordered world caused by panic and desperation of an end that never came. Everyone wants to know how the asteroid missed them. In a world controlled by local legions and militias and with communications systems destroyed survival can prove as difficult as to answers on why they survived.
A new chapter is released every Sunday afternoon/evening.
The wind blew Gerald's unkempt hair as his eyes squinted as the Jeep flew past the empty 1–40 road to Knoxville. He had been picked up near 1–62, close to the desolate Haw Ridge Park. He set-up camp at the park for a week and started to make his way back to the road with no plan for his next stop. He had preserved the granola bars, fished for food and slept under the stars. He was a post apocalyptic John the Baptist without a message. Haw Ridge was ransacked of canoes and other recreational equipment, hardly resembling the tourist attraction of Tennessee. Very few if any made their home at Haw Ridge. Haw Ridge was used as a collection area for wood, to hunt for food, fish and to bury the dead. There were hundreds of tombs, which Gerald suspected was another reason no Legions made this park home. It was hardly a holy ground but a reminder of death and ghosts of a past life.
Gerald said very little and as he made way to the main road, a white jeep roared in front of him. The white paint on the jeep looked new but with yellow sand sand and leaves sticking to the doors and rear. He reached toward a concealed pocket to fetch his glock. “No need for that,” the voice from the driver. He introduced himself as Ed. Ed wore small rimmed glasses made for a professor, dressed in a button down shirt and a wounded warrior project hat. He looked the part of a former military officer. His hair was cropped short, large arms with bulging muscles of his dark skin. Gerald noticed the jeep was fitted with gun racks inside and semi automatic weapons conspicuously attached in the passenger sides. Gerald approached the car as his hand let go of the zipper of the concealed pocket where his weapon was stored. He noticed Ed was well armed in the front driver’s seat with several pistols and a M-4 in between laying next to gear shift of the jeep. “You look like shit. Do you need a ride? I am going to Knoxville” Ed asked. Gerald said yes and entered the car. It was his only words as they drove from 1–62 to 1–40.
Ed tossed him a small box of beef jerky. Gerald happily accepted it and quickly opened the wrapper for the much needed protein. “There is water under your feet” Ed directing him with his left hand and index finger pointing down as his gaze stayed on the road. Ed lowered Gerald’s passenger window half way through the drive. “Happy to have you, but you not only look like shit but you also smell like shit. How long where you in those woods?” Gerald was on his third beef jerky and just nodded his head. In this world hitchhikers were just survivors looking to continue to survive in the unknown future of the new world. Ed provided the conversation, as Gerald drank water, ate jerky and nodded to show his appreciation and that he was paying attention. Ed was part of a Legion on the border of Kentucky. He planned to stop through Knoxville to refuel and was head further south where there was a stronger sense of what had happened and the status of civilization, America. Gerald started working on a granola bar from his book bag, with a neutral expression on his face of the news. Ed could talk. He could also chew tobacco. He put the tobacco inside left cheek and Gerald saw the plastic diet coke bottle with half filled with spit and tobacco in the jeep’s beverage holder. Ed was a marine, fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan and then served as protective detail for dignitaries, foreign service officers and intelligence officers in Southern Afghanistan. As the government defense money started drying up with American war weariness, he returned to Kentucky , got married and started a family.
“What’s your name?” Ed asked Gerald. Gerald looked at Ed surprisingly. “Give me a name, hell if I don’t care it is fake. If you don’t give me one, I will just call you jerky boy” as he glanced as Gerald put a beef jerky inside his coat pocket. “Jerry. My name is Jerry” he repeated the name with confidence. He felt Ed deserved to know his name, since Ed provided so much about himself. “Ok, Jerry, we are going to reach a checkpoint in Knoxville. It is a good stop to get cleaned up. You can find another hitchhiker depending on where you are going.” Jerry knew about the Knoxville checkpoint. It was where the Oak Ridge Legion would occasionally go to get news reports and build an alliance the Legion that loosely managed the Legions of the state. He had never been there but Steve and others in Oak Ridge would make the trip. “So Jerry, where are you going?” Ed asked. Gerald cracked a grin hearing his new name, even if it was just an abbreviation. “Nowhere. But I need to go somewhere.” Ed nodded and spit into the plastic diet coke bottle. Gerald saw a highway sign with spray paint over the original sign. Underneath the spray paint was a nicely stenciled white lettering “Legion HQS TN, next exit.”
The jeep took the exit not losing speed. The jeep finally slowed but didn’t stop at the intersection, then made a right turn. On each side of the street patrols of armed militia guarded the street. Gerald remembered this exit from visiting when the world didn’t worry about an asteroid. The hotels, gas stations and restaurants were still there and he could see people walking in and out of the hotel and people inside the restaurant. The jeep was ushered into a former car wash now serving as a vehicle check point. Ed looked at Gerald “Grab a water, take some jerk and leave the bag.” Ed reached out to the glove compartment with a signed letter as he made his way out of the vehicle. Gerald did the same. A young man, no older than 25, with blue jeans, a button down green shirt and a black kavalier jacket was discussing the letter with Ed. Gerald had moved a safe distance from the jeep not able to heat them talk, nor caring. They all had similar attire and a grey baseball cap. As these men inspected the car Gerald took a bite of his beef jerky. He looked over at the restaurant about a 100 yards away. The sign on the name of the restaurant was removed and he was trying to figure what chain restaurant it used to be, by the exterior colors and design. He could see waiters serving food as patrons ate calmly. Maybe the restaurant was a bubble of normality.
“Look a here” a voice came from one of the men inspecting the vehicle. The young man grinned as he held Gerald’s bible in the air. “I have not seen one of these in a while.” The young security officer reviewing Ed’s paper work looked up, rolled his eyes “Ed, you taking up preaching?” Ed laughed and turned his head to Gerald. “That belongs to Jerry. I guess I picked up an evangelist hitchhiker on my way to Knoxville.” They both laughed and returned discussing the letter and paperwork from the vehicle. The young security officer handed the the bible to Jerry and returned back to finish the inspection. Gerald held the bible in his left hand and walked further away from the vehicle checkpoint. He looked at the white Jeep as men slammed car doors concluding their inspection of the jeep. His eye caught a torn blue bumper sticker above the expired license plate. The bumper sticker said “Make America Great Again.” The phrase sounded familiar but Gerald couldn’t remember from where. It sounded trite. Gerald and America were just trying to survive.