By Chris Bunton
“Hey kids, it’s almost power hour!” Ellen yelled.
She closed her wind up pocket watch, as the kids came running into the room.
“Ok, Lacy get all the re-chargeable batteries ready for the outlets. Carrie, get the pots ready to cook on the electric stove for dinner, and make sure the radio is plugged up and on the news channel. Fred, make sure the laptop and phones are charging.” She said.
“No, Fred’s coming with me. We gotta go hunt, our food is getting extremely low. He needs to learn.” Dan said.
“Really dad?” Fred said.
“Yes, go put on your camo and boots.” Dan said.
Fred took off running down the dark hall to his room.
Ellen walked up to Dan as he dressed in his camo, and put his boots on.
“Are you sure he should go. The news says there are food riots everywhere and people are in the woods killing each other over food, hunting rights and land ownership.”
“He’s gotta learn. There’s no other way to survive. The rations they allow us to have at the store are just barely making it. We can’t even go there any more without being armed to the teeth. So, what’s the difference between the store and the woods? Beside’s I’m taking the rifle.” He said.
She nodded and walked away. Dan felt relieved that the discussion ended so easily. Maybe the reality of this new way of the world was sinking in.
“Fred, grab the 12 gauge pump, and put a box of squirrel shot and a box of slugs in your vest pockets. Pour them out of the box and zip them up so you don’t lose them. One box per pocket. Remember which pocket is which.”
Fred did as he was told. He placed the shotgun on the kitchen table and put the shells in his pockets.
Dan slid a 1911 style .45 into a holster on his right hip. Then, he put an AR-15 magazine in each side pocket of his cargo pants.
At that moment, the power kicked on and everything came to life. The news on the radio filled the room.
“Food riots continue across the country as people demand lower prices, and more rations. National Guard units have set up security check points around authorized stores, and points of need. Meanwhile, several counties have begun deputizing citizens to go door to door and search for food, and other needed items that people are hoarding. Sheriff Jones had this to say…”These hoarders should be ashamed of themselves. Everyone around them is starving and they want to keep things hidden for themselves. We won’t have it. They can take me to court or whatever they want, I’ll gladly violate their rights to save people in need.”
Dan shook his head.
“They orchestrated this collapse, and devalued our money, but they want to blame it on the little guy and get us to turn on each other.” He said.
Ellen came up to him and handed him a sack lunch.
“I’m going to be boiling water, and storing it. The news said that the water company will no longer be chlorinating the water, so we must boil it. I’ll also hide everything we have, that’s over the amounts we are allowed. I’m happy to share, but I’m not going to be robbed.” She said.
Dan kissed her on the forehead.
“We are going to Sam Wainwright’s property. He gave me permission. There are a lot of nut trees for squirrels, and we might come across some other stuff. We are going to take the car, its better on gas. And you won’t need it for work anymore.” Dan said.
“Stephanie texted. She said everyone at work is overwhelmed. They laid everyone off except a skeleton crew, and it’s impossible. They are closing down, so they won’t be calling me back to work, she said. We can’t afford this phone I got any more and I don’t need it for work. I got a contract on it. I’m not sure what to do? How am I supposed to find a new job with no phone?” Ellen said.
“We will figure it out. We always do. Just take care of what needs done today. I love you. We’ll be home a little after dark.” Dan said, and kissed her again.
He grabbed his rifle from behind the front door.
“Let’s go Fred.” He said.
Fred went out the front door carrying the pump shotgun, while his dad held the door for him.
Ellen walked up to Dan.
“Please watch him, he’s only 9.” She said.
“He’s fine.” Dan said.
He turned and walked out the door.
The forest grew darker as the late afternoon sun lowered.
Dan and Fred moved as silently as possible through the undergrowth. They moved a few steps, and then stopped to listen. They look up in the trees for signs of squirrels. Dan pointed to where he thought he heard a squirrel barking.
They moved slowly toward the noise. It was a squirrel, sitting in the crook of a tree limb barking at them. He had obviously seen them, but did not understand that the shotgun could reach him where he was.
Fred raised the weapon, took aim and fired. The squirrel fell from the tree with a flop. Dan patted Fred on the back as the boy ran over to the squirrel, picked it up and stuffed it into the back of his hunting vest, with the other squirrels they had gotten.
Dan walked up to him, and squatted down beside him.
“It’s getting late. We need to head back before it gets too dark to see.” He told Fred.
“Hey!” Someone yelled through the woods.
Dan looked around and spotted three men, armed with guns walking towards them through the woods. They were spread out and around 100 yards away.
“How’s it going?” Dan said, standing up and waving.
The men kept walking closer.
“You see him?” One said.
“Yeah” another answered.
“You’re trespassing!” The leader yelled.
“No, Sam Wainwright gave us permission.” Dan yelled back.
The men continued walking closer.
“Sam Wainwright don’t own this. You’re gonna need to give us your game and your guns, you don’t belong here.” The leader said.
“We’re sorry; we must have crossed a line somewhere. We will just head on out.” Dan said. He reached down and patted Fred on the head. “Let’s go.”
Fred rose and both of them started walking away from the men, who continued walking after them.
“No! You’re going to stop walking and do what we say!” The man yelled, and jacked a round into his shotgun.
Dan kept walking with Fred.
“Stop I Said!” The man yelled and fired a shotgun blast above Dan and Fred.
Fred jumped at the sound.
Dan shoved Fred to the ground behind a large oak tree, then spun and opened up with the AR, sending rounds toward the Leader. He then dropped behind a tree.
The three men cussed and dove behind trees themselves.
“Fred, load that shotgun with those slugs” Dan yelled to Fred. Fred quickly complied.
“Dad, what’s happening?” Fred said.
“It’s ok.” Dan said.
He yelled out from behind the tree to the three men.
“Hey, we don’t want any trouble. We just came hunting and must have crossed a line somewhere. Let us go, and we won’t be back.” Dan yelled.
“Oh you definitely crossed a line. You’re trespassing.” The Leader yelled.
“Do you own this?” Dan asked.
“We do now!” The leader yelled, and the other men laughed.
“We’re just gonna go.” Dan said.
“No, you’re going to give us your game and your guns, and we might let you leave.” The leader said.
Then, the three men fired rounds at Dan and Fred. The father and son lowered themselves behind the big trees.
Dan watched as one of the men rose up and started running to try and outflank him and his son, on the right side. Dan quickly aimed and sent three rounds at the running man hitting him.
“Ugh!! I’m hit!” He said. He dropped to the ground and squirmed around piling up leaves around himself with his movements.
“Joe! Are you hurt?” The leader yelled at the fallen man.
“I’m hit! I’m hit!” The man groaned back, squirming around.
“We’re gonna get you out.” The Leader yelled back.
He started firing at Dan, striking the thick oak trunk that Dan hid behind.
“Fred.” Dan said, across the path to his son who was hiding behind another tree.
Fred was terrified, but looked at his dad.
“I need you to start shooting at them, and keep shooting and reloading, till I tell you to stop. Ok?”
Fred nodded and rolled over onto his belly, then rose up to his knees. He peeked out from behind the tree, and quickly shot at the leader.
Both the other men ducked when he shot.
“Keep shooting, Fred!” Dan yelled. “Keep it loaded.”
Fred shot again, and shoved a shell into the shotgun from the bottom, and jacked another shell into the chamber and fired again.
Dan rolled out from behind the tree to the left and charged to another tree where he dropped down.
The other men shot back at Fred, and where Dan was.
Fred shot again, while Dan maneuvered to get along the men’s flank, while their heads were down.
He dropped behind another tree, and lay on his belly aiming his rifle and waiting. One of the men rose up on his knees and began to shoot at Fred.
But, Dan dropped him dead with one shot center mass.
The Leader was alone.
He opened fired on Dan, while Fred fired at him again, driving his head into the dirt.
Dan rolled out and charged the Leaders position, dropping to his knee to fire when the leader looked up to shoot.
Dan fired 3 three rounds into the man’s head and shoulders, ending him.
“Fred! Stop shooting!” He yelled.
Dan dropped into the prone position and listened to see if anyone else was coming. He was practically deaf from the gun fire, but he did not hear anyone else.
He rose up, and cautiously went over to where Joe was lying. He was dead also. A part of Dan told him to strip the bodies of useful gear before heading out. It was the wise thing to do in this new world, but it was still a crime scene. There were still laws, and cops; at least for now. The world was going downhill fast, but the worst thing to do was to get caught up in some kind of murder case. He had to play it straight.
“Fred, come on.” He yelled.
Fred came out from behind the tree.
“Let’s get to the car.” Dan said.
They moved quickly up the path to the road and down to where the car was parked.
Dan pulled out his cell phone and called the Sheriff.
Someone answered the phone on the other end.
“Sheriff’s office.” A female said.
“Yes, I need to report a shooting.” Dan said.
“Ok, sir I’ll be honest. No one is coming. Most of the deputies have stopped working because of no pay, and there are just too many shootings, and crimes going on everywhere. We will file a report, and have a record for later, but you are on your own.” The lady said.
“Ok, my name is Dan Harper. I had to defend myself against three armed men. I shot and killed them. They are on Sam Wainwright’s property, near the creek on Cudgetown Rd. The men shot at me first, and were seeking to rob me. They claimed they had done something to Wainwright, and his wife.”
“Ok, Dan. It’s in the book. Someone might come talk to you, but I doubt it. We are trying to maintain some kind of order, but it gets worse every day.” She said.
“What should I do about the dead men’s bodies and Sam Wainwright?” He asked.
“You can do whatever you want, really. Maybe contact Wainwright’s family, if you know them,” She said. “I’ve got a lot of calls coming in. Good luck to you.” She said.
The woods were completely dark, and the sun was setting. Dan was not going to go back into the woods. He wanted to get Fred home, before it was too dark.
“Come on, Fred. Get in the car.” Dan said.
Fred unloaded the shotgun and put it into the back seat. Then, he climbed in to the front and buckled his seat belt.
They headed toward home, and Fred looked at his Dad.
“We killed those men.” Fred said.
“Yes, we had to or they would have killed us and left mom and the girls alone.” Dan said.
Fred began to cry.
“I wish we didn’t have to kill them,” Fred said.
“I know, son. But, there’s nothing you can do about evil except stop it. They were doing evil things.” Dan said.
“They just wanted food.” Fred said.
“They shot at us. If they had asked and behaved in a decent way, we would have helped them. But, they might have killed my friend Sam and his wife,” Dan said. “Do you understand? The world is different now.”
Fred wiped his face and nodded.
“We don’t know if they killed them.”
“That’s true.” Dan said. “I’ll check on them in the morning.”
“Ok” Fred said.
“Now listen, we are almost home. You gotta be strong and let me tell your mother. She will freak out and not let you go hunting anymore.” Dan said.
“I don’t know if I wanna go any more.” Fred said.
Dan laughed out loud at that.
“Yeah, it makes you wonder if it’s worth it.” Dan said, ruffling Fred’s hair.
They pulled into the drive way of the house, and Fred bailed out of the car.
“Mom! Some guys were shooting at us and Dad shot them dead!”
Dan climbed out of the car and shook his head.
“Boy couldn’t wait five minutes.” He said with a chuckle.
Bio: Chris Bunton is a Writer, Poet and Blogger from Southern Illinois. He has written stories for Violent Tendency (VT) Comics, a subsidiary of The Yard: Crime Blog.
His dystopian stories on The Yard include: “For Your Protection” “Clear” “The Prisoner” “Power Hour” “Last Train to St. Louis” “The Rant“
Photo by the Author, a creek in Southern Illinois, in the Shawnee National Forest.