This story is the counter-part to the “Girl” story: HERE
The man stood outside a mid-grade hotel in a medium sized city somewhere in the Midwest. Over his shoulder was a strap connected to a simple black bag about the size of a large toaster. In one hand he carried a black laptop case/briefcase with the company he worked for’s logo embroidered on the side.
He was supposed to be picked up by another local manager about 15 minutes ago, according to the green digital watch he wore. He looked up, the sky had a bright gray quality to it – one could not tell if it was going to be sunny in a few hours, or if rain was on the horizon. Not being from the area, the boy had no idea on what to expect. He pressed one of the buttons on his large watch labeled “bard” to check the barometric pressure, hoping to gain some insight on the day. He was like that, he always wanted to know what was going on, and wanted to be ready for whatever it was. His Pathfinder watch allowed him to do this, in addition to the sensor he was currently using, it had numerous others to give him data; compass direction, altitude, and temperature to name a few.
The pressure was going down, a sign that better weather was on it’s way. Now, the Casio told him his ride was 20 minutes late.
In 5 more minutes, the manager arrived – driving a newer sedan. He popped the trunk as he pulled up, and jumped out of the drivers seat almost before the car came to a complete stop.
“Morning Sir! We gotta hurry!” he said, as he took the man’s bag and case, throwing them in the trunk.
The boy said “yes we have to hurry, you should have been here a half hour ago.”
“No need placing blame, we can tell the clients that there was traffic.”
The boy snorted as he got in the passenger seat, he would address this later- now was not the time.
The manager drove, swerving in and out of traffic on the freeway, ten to fifteen miles per hour over the speed limit.
Just as the boy was going to tell the man to slow down, the driver exclaimed “what the hell!” and started turning the keys in the ignition. “The car just stopped man!” Distracted by this unusual situation, the driver stopped paying attention to the road, and the fact that he was going 75 miles per hour in traffic. The results of this attention loss were quite predictable; they slammed into another motorist, spun out of control, crashed into the center divider, and were in turn impaled in the back by an SUV.
The boy opened his eye, the other held a heavy gash above it that made moving his eyelid to something other than closed a painful proposition. He moved his arms and flexed his fingers; things hurt, a lot, but there did not seem to be any mechanical injury.
The same could not be said for his driver. The boy rolled his head towards the drivers seat, and examined the scene before him. The manager was looking at the boy with unmoving eyes from a head that rested on it’s owners chest, left ear to breast. The mans neck and spine must have been broken and twisted in the impact.
The boy looked away and out the spiderweb of windows around him. Cars were everywhere; broken, burning, twisted and stopped. Not just those in the accident he was in, but all cars he could see on the road.
Adrenaline surged into the boy, he had a good idea what could cause this. Pain and his driver forgotten, he undid his belt and after a bit of force got the car door open. Getting out, he saw the SUV that had smashed into their trunk – the front had flames coming from under the hood, the mangled remains of the back of the sedan he was in was tangled in with the truck and those flames. There was no getting to his bag or briefcase.
“Crap, no GHB.” His personal supply of gear, or Get Home Bag, would be in flames in short order.
Not to be one to just sit around idle, he started moving, seeing if he could confirm his fears for what caused this.
The boy climbed up the side of the embankment to the higher side of the freeway. At the top he looked around. For miles in both directions there was fire, smoke and damage. In the distance he saw a large commercial jet liner try to glide onto an assumed flat area of countryside. The fireball following the landing indicated the pilot’s success in the attempt.
“Damn, EMP for sure.” he said, with no one near him to listen.
He thought about his girl, and the ring in his pocket that he was going to present to her when he got home – hoping that she would accept and become his wife. Once again he spoke out loud, “please, please only be here, and if not – please let her find the notes!”
His watch beeped, indicating the passing of another hour, and the time he was supposed to meet his clients. The boy speculated for a bit, why was his watch working? Because he was inside the car that acted as a protective faraday cage? Were the circuits protected from the plastic housing? He did not know.
What he did know was that he needed to get some supplies, and he needed to start going west. He pressed the “comp” button on his watch, found east, and started walking.
Going cross country in business clothes is never advised, but the boy was not waring any standard attire. His shoes were actually polished boots, so under the slacks he wore they looked the part. His button up shirt was actually a sturdy long sleeve oxford marketed to undercover police. It had double stitching, internal pockets, and other upgrades that made it more suitable for one of his personality. His belt looked like a black dress belt, but it held internal pockets with a small amount of precious metal coinage and cash.
After an hour he started paralleling a small road, in that time he saw only one car pass, an old diesel Mercedes.
An hour later, that road crossed another, and the crossing had a small service station, convenience store, and gas station.
The man walked into the convenience store, a small brass bell rang as the screen door he pushed clanged against it. The store was dark, only being illuminated by what light could be let in by the windows.
The man that sat behind the counter spoke as the boy walked in “cash only, computers are down.”
“No problem mister”
The boy looked around, in addition to being the standard road side soda/candy shop, it held a small variety of tourist goods – all embossed with “historic route 66.”
The boy started picking out goods; a route 66 backpack, bag, a few bandannas, a sweat shirt, t-shirts, boxer shorts and three beach towels. He went to the store side and got beef jerky, trail mix, the healthiest packaged muffins they had, bags of nuts, some pull-top soups, water, gateraid, and other no-cook items. Continuing on to another section in the store he picked up a three pack of lighters, bungee cords, a local, state, and country map, super glue, electrical tape, tissues, a screwdriver, and a few more Nick-nacks.
The boy went up to the counter with all his stuff, and inquired “do you have any bleach, trash bags, or pocket knives?”
“Just what you see here pal.”
The boy nodded “ring me up”
The clerk wrote on an old carbon-copy receipt book, tallying up the cost. When he was done he told the boy the amount.
After paying, the boy went outside to arrange everything. He was able to stuff much if it into the backpack. He rolled the towels into tube shapes, placing what clothes he could in the center as they were rolled up. He strapped the tubes to the outside of the backpack with the bungee cords. Besides the roadmaps and two large bottles of water, what he couldn’t get into the pack, he got into a black handbag that had a ’55 Chevy embroidered on it, just under a big route 66 sign. He used the last of his cords to attach this bag to the center of the backpack.
While sipping from one of his waters, He unfolded the largest of the maps, and started laying out his journey. Using his fingers for measurement and consulting the scale legend he figured out how long his walk was going to take. “Crap, over a month” he said to himself.
The boy picked up the cobbled-together carrier, and swung it onto his back. It was heavy, but the weight was less than his ruck sack in the military or even his bug out bag at home. It felt a little awkward but manageable. He chugged all the contents of the open water, crushed the empty bottle, and hooked it to the side under one of the bungees.
Picking up the second jug, and setting a brisk pace, the boy started on his journey.
The day went quickly, and the boy put as many miles as he could behind him. He happened upon a small wreck after walking for a few hours; a red, few year old inexpensive imported sedan was in the ditch on the side of the road.
The owner was sitting on the trunk and called to the boy when he saw him.
“Hey, hey!” he yelled, waving, and jumping off the damaged car. “Do you have a phone? Mine not working, it must have been damaged in the accident.”
“No, sorry” the boy said, looking past the man down to the verity of debris that was strewn about.
The man must have assumed the boy was looking at the wreck, wondering how it happened. “It was the strangest thing – I was rolling along, listening to some tunes, when bam!” the man clapped his hands together for emphasis, “my car cut off, I tried to keep control, but the power steering was out and the dang thing swerved into the ditch.”
The boy turned to the man, “are you ok, did you hurt anything?”
“I’m fine, got some bumps, but that’s all.”
“If you want, when I get to the next town, I’ll find a service station and ask them to send out a tow truck.”
“Naaaa, don’t worry about it, I’m sure someone will drive past sooner or later who will have a phone.”
The boy walked past the driver, went into the ditch and picked up a metal hub cap. After some fidgeting, he was able to add it to the strange collection on his back. “Good luck mister,” the boy stated, continuing on down the road.
The driver started mumbling protest, but realized that it wasn’t his hub cap, and if it was, what would it matter?
Later in the day, the boy guessed he had about an hour or so until it would be dark, so he started looking for a place to set up camp.
Going off the main road, the boy found a small copse of trees that he found suitable for protection from the elements. He set down his bag, and started getting his camp in order. After setting down some of the towels to act as sleeping pads, starting a small fire and warming a can of soup, the boy began cleaning the metal hubcap he picked up.
After a while, the long day and warm meal caught up with him. Pulling the last towel over his body as best he could, the boy fell asleep, thinking of the girl.
Part 2 can be found HERE.