Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 9

By Dwayne MacInnes

Food at the Ranger�s cabin was starting to run short. Carl, being the only person with any wilderness skills, decided that he should try to find something to eat. The chances of finding deer, bear, or even a squirrel this late in the season and this high up was very remote, but he had to try.

Ten people back at the station were counting on him. The Ranger cabin itself was more like a one bedroom house. There was a bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen along with the solitary bedroom. Fortunately, the cabin had a wood burning stove, or there would be no source of heat.

Carl figured that the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks were the only ones who used the station seasonally, more than likely during the summer months. The small building was sparsely furnished. There was a couch, a twin bed, a kitchen table with four chairs, as well as a small desk containing some maps and writing material.

The story of its occupants is interesting to say the least. It turns out that Rabbi Rosenberg and Pastor Brown were on their way to an interfaith conference in Seattle when things started to fall apart. The Rabbi and Pastor were old friends and had decided to carpool from Spokane to the Hilton Hotel holding the meeting in the big city. They only made it to the outskirts of town when the military roadblocks were set up. The army set them away.

The two men of faith decided that they were needed here to help those poor souls trapped in the city. They thought that if they found a remote location and laid low for a while they could sneak in at some future date. That was how they missed the general evacuation.

It turns out that they were in a campground when the word was given. The five days that they spent there was enough for the military to clear out the majority of the populace and retreat back over the Cascades.

When Rosenberg and Brown returned to the roadblock, they were met with a grisly scene. There were the burnt out hulks of vehicles that still held the smoldering remains of their occupants. People who weren�t killed by incineration were littering the grounds around the roadblock. Some were obviously shot, others were crushed from the stampeding mass of humanity fleeing the cities, and yet others had been butchered as if they had been sheep descended upon by ravenous wolves.

The smell was horrific; the stench of burnt human flesh mixed with that of decay permeated the air. Both men had terrible fits of gagging. However, they decided that they needed to see if there was anyone alive. They cautiously approached the concrete barricades that still had a few military vehicles behind it. There was the occasional dead soldier, but there was no sign of life on this end of the barricade.

The two men started to climb over the concrete slabs, slabs that were in another time the barriers between the opposing lanes of traffic, when they saw them. There on the ground mingled in with the human and mechanical wreckage were the zombies and they were feasting. The sound of these ghouls shredding and tearing apart their victims and hungrily chewing the flesh was too much for the two men. They quickly retreated to their car and sped out of there.

Neither man spoke for a long while. They were nearly out of gas in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. Pastor Brown decided that they should try to find a gas station in one of the small towns.

That was where they met the rest of the party. Brown had pulled the sputtering car into the station just before the last drop of gas was consumed. In the lot were parked an army two-ton truck and a school bus. The two men cautiously exited the car when they noticed a man in his late thirties wearing a dirty ball cap and greasy clothes come marching over to them. The name badge on his shirt said George.

This was George MacLaren, the owner of the MacLaren�s Gas and Garage. The two-pump gas station was on the outskirts of a little town that had been evacuated several days before. George was a small business owner and wasn�t about to leave his shop to the hands of looters and vandals. Therefore, despite military orders George stayed behind, he even promised several of his neighbors that he would watch over their homes until they could return. Little did anyone know that no one would be able to return to this dead zone in western Washington ever.

At first, George just looked over the two men of God curiously. The Pastor and Rabbi forgot that they were still dressed in their holy garments. It was like some bad bar joke come to life.

Pastor Brown initiated the conversation.

"Hello, I am John Brown and this is my good friend Rabbi Hershel Rosenberg," greeted the Pastor as he extended his hand.

George hesitantly extended his own grime-covered hand and started to pump Brown�s in a friendly handshake.

"George MacLaren, owner of this garage. How may I help you gentlemen?" asked the stoic faced MacLaren.

"It seems that we have had the misfortune of running out of gas. Do you happen to have any we could either purchase or borrow?" asked the Rabbi as he in turn shook George�s dirty hand.

That seemed to break the tension as MacLaren started busting out laughing, "Borrow? Heh, heh," he ejaculated. "What do I get in return, exhaust fumes?"

Both the Rabbi and the Pastor started laughing in return. It was the first good laugh any of them had had in over a week. The magic of suddenly bursting out into such genuine and heartfelt mirth lifted a great burden off everyone�s spirit.

"You may have what�s ever left in the pumps," offered MacLaren as the trio started to walk towards the station.

Rosenberg suddenly stopped in his tracks holding back his friend, Brown, when he saw the faces looking out at them from the school bus. There were about half a dozen of them. Some were even children and all had puzzled expressions plastered on them.

"Oh, I�m sorry. These are some other stragglers like you who were heading east before they closed down the passes," offered George.

As the three men resumed walking, people started pouring out of the bus. A tall man in late thirties with brown hair and a well-groomed beard walked over to the men. He was dressed in a flannel shirt and blue jeans. Behind him followed a blond woman who had to be in her mid-thirties dressed in purple scrubs. A girl in turn followed her in her late teens or early twenties with her brown hair pulled into a ponytail wearing a t-shirt and a denim skirt. The faces of four children could be seen looking out the window.

"Were you men heading east?" called out the bearded man.

"Why, yes we were, but George says the passes are closed," replied Brown.

"The military has them locked down tight like they did the barricades out of the cities. We are heading for higher ground you are welcome to join us," offered the man.

As the two parties reached each other, handshakes and greetings were exchanged. The bearded man was in fact a veterinarian called "Doc", but his real name was Vernon Stephenson. The blond woman was an RN whose name was Gloria Meyer and the pony-tailed girl was Missy Jensen.

All three and the four children in the bus had been survivors of the stampeding mass fleeing the greater Seattle area. They had witnessed the cold-blooded murder as the U.S. Army blindly opened fire on the helpless people running from the massive horde of undead following them. They were part of those survivors of the military onslaught who were able to climb over the barricades and overwhelm the soldiers just so that they could escape into the surrounding countryside.

Doc started gathering the people he found in the woods into a party. He reasoned that there was safety in numbers. In addition, the veterinarian found an abandoned school bus, loaded the refugees inside, and drove them to a garage where they met George.

George figured with the passes closed no one was going to return and proposed that they seek shelter in a ski lodge up in the Cascades. George had an army two-ton truck that the military abandoned at the garage when it broke down. The mechanic estimated that it would take him two days to fix the truck and another day to load it with all the provisions that they would need.

MacLaren had the metal drums filled with gasoline that he was able to pump thanks to his backup generator. These where then rolled into the truck along with as much food, blankets and other necessities. They were in fact, just about to leave when George heard the car chug up to the pumps.

The Rabbi and Pastor agreed to join the party. It was that night when Seattle was firebombed that the small party started on their journey to the ski lodge. It was the next day when a terrible rainstorm hit them in the mountains. Fortunately, they had found an abandoned Ranger station to sit out the storm. When the weather cleared the next morning George and Doc searched the road ahead only to find that their route to the ski lodged had been blocked by a massive mudslide. So, they all decided to stay at the station.

That was where Carl found them and became a member of their small community. He really enjoyed being with the small group and felt sadden by the prospect of having to say goodbye when the snows melted so that he could resume his mission. A mission that none of his new friends knew about. No his mission was top secret and none had suspected that he came from the east side of the mountains.

The story he told them was that he was a hunter who was living off the land. That he was on his way down following the game when he came upon their homestead. Everyone accepted that and that in of itself pleased Carl.

Now the small party was starting to run low on provisions and it was up to Carl to find something for them to eat. There had to be something out here that he could kill so that they all could survive the cold winter.

The sound of a loud crash and the smoke billowing up from the trees many miles ahead popped Carl back from his musings. Quickly Carl started off for the origin of the black trail of smoke.

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1 Comment

Here you go "Terra Mortis" fans... I posted early, so I wouldn't forget this week!

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas Gogerty published on November 23, 2005 7:07 AM.

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