Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Survival

Richard marveled at how well the information in the Survivor’s Guide worked. True enough, he had gone out and tried each and every item in the book before he wrote it, but he never truly and honestly believed the world would end, up until the day it did. Now, he hoped what had worked so far kept working, and the half bin, that personal shelter in the desert for just such an occasion as the end of all civilization as mankind knew it, was so perfect Richard could hardly stand it. He fought back the urge to wallow in his self pleasure, for he still had some work to do to get to his cache, but still…
            The half bin was two metal fifty-five gallon drums cut in half long ways and buried just three feet under the sands of the desert. Of course, the entrance was left open which guaranteed there would be a rattlesnake or two inside but these made for good eating. A man sized cave was formed by the drums and Richard felt a little warm but he was still beating the heat of the day. The water jugs he had buried here were intact. The steel box held a little food but he would leave it, just in case. This was the sixth of ten such man made caves, and each one Richard could reach by walking just five hours each night. They all aligned to send him deeper and deeper into the desert, and totally out of reach of the hell the world had become.
            The Crèche, as he called it, was one hundred miles deep into the Mohave. There was a naturally occurring cavern no one else had ever found, and Richard had explored the deepest parts of it, stashing away food and water and supplies for five years now. How long would this thing last, Richard thought to himself, and each time this thought popped into his mind there was never an answer. He had enough food to last him for a decade, if the freeze dried stuff didn’t go bad, and the canned stuff stayed good. He could haul water if he had to, and he hoped to dig a well through the rock, for what else did he have to do with his time no? But what he had on hand should last five or six years, at least. Richard began walking as soon as the sun went down and used the stars to guide him. He had a star chart, and had walked this path a dozen times without a flashlight, or any other artificial light. Richard had practiced this for years now, nearly a decade, and in the light of a full moon it was almost easy.
            He passed the first checkpoint a full half hour ahead of schedule, and the receiver strapped to his wrist buzzed happily as the transponder awoke as Richard got near to it. On path and ahead of time, Richard thought, damn I am as good as I thought. Even as far out as he was, Las Vegas was always this false dawn rising in the wrong direction, as well as other city lights. But now, there was nothing but total darkness except for the moon. For thousands of years the moon was as bright as it ever got at night and now it was that way again. A billion stars replaced a billion street lights and the night was better for it. Richard stood on a rocky outcropping and looked out into the blackness with his binoculars. Nothing. Blackness. Empty spaces illuminated by the silver light of the moon, and deep, deep shadows. Richard took his pack off and rested. He set the timer on his watch for fifteen minutes and scanned the path behind him. Nothing. Blackness. From one horizon to another there was nothing in the desert that should not have been.
            Richard eased himself into the half bin an hour before dawn and sipped some water. The two diamondbacks had made for a good breakfast, and now he was getting sleepy. Seven had been lucky so far. Richard set the timer to go off an hour before sunset, and slept. He woke right before the timer went off and emerged from the half bin to a glorious sunset. He started walking early, chewing on a granola bar, and wondering if he could make it to The Crèche in one night. No, no, there was no need to push that hard. He might skip number ten, but there was no need in changing a plan that had worked to perfection so far.  He arrived at nine nearly an hour and a half early, but there were no snakes to be found. Richard dared a small alcohol flame to warm up some water for tea and waited until sunrise before slithering inside the half bin himself.
            Richard arrived at The Crèche an hour after the sun had risen and cursed himself for pushing it like he had. Twenty miles in one night had been foolhardy, but Richard liked the idea of taking chances when everything indicated he could make it. The hidden door to the cavern pulled up easily, and Richard could feel the bite of the sun’s heat behind him as he closed it. He had done it! No one had found The Crèche! All the food stores were intact, and his water supply untouched. Richard laid down on his cot and feel into a deep sleep.
A year later Richard stuck water in his well and it was three months after that he was able to set up small crude windmill to help pump the water to the surface. At the two year mark Richard discovered he had nearly stopped eating food out of his pantry, and he had more water than when he started. Damn, Richard thought to himself, I am that good.
            At the two year mark Richard walked out into the desert and couldn’t find ten. The transponder’s battery had died and Richard couldn’t find the half bin. If he tried to get to nine in one night and failed he would die.  Richard realized that even if there was someone left out there who remembered him, they would have no idea where to begin looking. He had been very good at hiding who he was and what he was doing. When things had begun to fall apart he slipped away in the night. He had worked hard at never being able to be found, and he discovered he was very good at that, also.

Take Care,
Mike

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