“This is Brooks County Survivors calling, can you copy, over?” Berg said into mike, and everyone in the camp was crowded around. “The is Brooks County Survivors, over.”
There was a pause. In the pause Reba held my hand tight and I held hers. Berg stood there and he had his eyes closed. A crow cawed in the distance and I could hear the irrigation pump running, and thought I might need to send someone to cut it off.
“Brook County Survivors, Brooks County Survivors, this is Lt. Colonel Henderson of the United States Army, identify yourself. Over. ” The voice on the radio was loud and alien sounding. It was the first voice any of us had heard electronically in a very long time.
“This is William Bergstrom, over.” Berg said and it was the first time I had heard his first name in a while.
“Mr. Bergstrom, are you the leader of the camp we flew over yesterday? Over.”
Berg looked at the people crowded around him and heard voices saying, “yes” and yes sir” and people were nodding.
“Roger that Colonel.” Berg said. “Over.”
“We’re on the paved road outside your camp, about a half mile out. We would like to meet with you. Bring no more than six people. No weapons except sidearms. We will wait for your reply.” Henderson said. “Over”
“We’ll be there in fifteen minutes, over.” Berg said and the camp cheered as one.
“You’re nervous, Berg.” I said as we walked towards the men in the armored vehicle. There were two trucks behind it, and there was a tank looking vehicle with an odd-looking gun mounted on it.
“Excited, actually.” Berg replied. “I never thought we would live through this, and this might be a trap, but they could wipe us out from the air more efficiently than ambushing us.”
“You never stop figuring things out do you?”
The Colonel was a crisp and hard nosed soldier who didn’t want us to get our hopes up too high. There were damn few human beings left anywhere. There groups here and there who had figured out how to build fences to keep the creatures out, but most failed for one reason or another. The Army had landed at Moody Air Force base to figure out if we were viable. And oh, by the way, they had figured out how to kill the monsters. The odd looking gun formed a force field around the monsters, depriving them of their ability to phase out and then a metal spike was fired at supersonic speed into the creatures. Its effectiveness was, the Colonel said with a gleam in his eye, one hundred percent.
Better yet, the monsters seemed to be dying out on their own. Starvation was killing them and they were even eating their own dead now. There were a few reports from other countries of people living in the open again, but those were unconfirmed. Mostly, there seemed to be fewer than one percent of the population left, but the rural areas where people could grow food were doing much better.
“I’ll be frank with you, Mr. Bergstrom.” The Colonel said. “We have an even dozen camps scattered out from here to North Carolina that we call secure and self sustaining. We have more room than we have people, but we’re looking to keep those camps outside our control open. You’re doing okay. Not great, maybe not even good yet, but we can help you get more out of those solar panels, and we can get you a tractor or two. We’ve got a camp building team that can clear more land for you and if there’s a medical emergency we can get a doctor to you. We have one that can visit once a month or so, and if you break out and want to move into that little town, Quitman, is it? Then we can help you secure it, once you have enough people. I see it happening in ten years, maybe, if you can keep doing what you’re doing.”
“We have people who might want out.” Berg said quietly. “Not everyone has adapted well.”
“We’ll take women.” Henderson said. “We have too many men sitting on their butts already.” Henderson drew closer to Berg, “You deal with your issues the way you want, sir, because we quite frankly haven’t the inclination or the resources.”
“Send me your engineers, Colonel.” Berg said after a few seconds. “We could use the help.”
“Roger that.” Henderson replied. “We’ll leave you with some food, dried mostly, and some medical supplies, and some female stuff too. And soap and a solar powered washer and dryer unit.”
“Thank you.” And that was all Berg could say.
Later, in bed, with a single candle burning, I held onto Reba. “You could leave, you know.” I whispered, “There’s some Army officer out there who is looking for a woman. You could marry up in a very big way. Maybe even a General. Could be even better for you than you might imagine.”
I thought she might. I let my hands explore her body, in case this was the last time she let me touch her.
“You remember the Halloween party, the one back in High School, hell, seven or eight years or so ago, before things got really bad?” Reba said.
“The one where the lights went out and they didn’t get them back on for a week?” I laughed. “That was weird. Everybody thought the monsters did it. But it was a squirrel in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“That was me.”
“That was me. That night.” Reba whispered.
“The two Spanish women are leaving, as well as Betsy Johnson.” Berg told me. “Oddly, that’s it. Everyone else is staying put. I got a note from the Edwards family requesting they be allowed to stay, and a few more people asking me if you and Reba were going to leave.” There were a few booms in the distance. The Army was hunting hard around our area.
“What did you tell them?” I smiled.
“I told them that you were going to stay, and you and Reba, along with Ray and Roy, would be taking over more of the day to day operations.” Berg looked relaxed for the first time since I met him.
“What makes you think Reba will stay?” I asked.
“She is in love with you.” Berg replied without hesitation. “Has been.”
“How do you know that?” I was stunned.
“She’s fearless.” Berg told me. “That woman isn’t afraid like most people are. Yet you are the one man in this camp she never looked at when he walked into a room. I noticed it when we were eating lunch one day. She was clearly miserable with Junior Johnson but smart enough not to let it show much, and she was looking around to see who might do. I made eye contact with her a couple of times, but when it got down to it, you were the one man she made an effort not to be around. When you entered a room Reba would find a way to leave. That’s love.”
“Damn.” I said.
“Surely, you weren’t really that blind?” He laughed at me when he saw my face turn red. “Okay, you were.”
“She told me something last night, Berg” and I waded into too much information here and I knew it, “but back in High School we had a black out one night at a Halloween carnival. I was standing by myself in the corner when the light went out and suddenly there was a girl there, and she kissed me hard. I never told anybody about it until now.”
“Reba” Berg said simply.
“Yeah, she kissed me and told me she was in love with me. Eight years ago.”
“That’s stranger than anything that had happened so far.” He said.
“Love usually is.” Reba said as she joined us.