Chapter One (1)
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It was Friday morning and I was headed to the break room for a doughnut and a refill for my coffee, then back to sitting in an office with two women that hated each other. I was almost back to my office when the lights flickered, then went out. “Well, shit,” I muttered. I made it to my office with the light coming from the front windows, I found my purse and felt around for my flashlight. One of my coworkers lit a candle on her desk. I took a large drink of the terrible coffee and sat down. As I picked at my doughnut, I realized how quiet it was.

I grabbed my flashlight and headed out to the front of the store. There were no cars moving out on the street. A few people had raised their hood and were looking intensely at their engine, willing it to work. I walked back to the office and I grabbed my cell phone, it was dead, but I had just taken it off the charger before I left home two hours ago.  “Oh, fuck,” I said, out loud.

“What’s wrong, Sophie?” my office mate, Alice asked. 

“I think we have been hit with an EMP,” I said, dropping into my chair.

She laughed, then looked at me. “You’re not joking, are you?”

“I wish I was,” I replied. “I’m getting out of here before the chaos begins.”

“Shouldn’t we just wait for help?”

“Help ain’t coming,” I said. “They don’t have working vehicles either. The military might, but they aren’t coming here to Birmingham to go house to house.” I watched the truth of my words set in. 

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to grab some food, water, and cash, then go to my car and get my hiking gear and start walking towards home. Do you want to come? You live on the way to my house, don’t you?”

“You will go by my road, are you sure you should do this? Why don’t you wait and see what happens?”

“Because the longer we wait, the less daylight we will have and the more people will be out being assholes, and I want to get past the cut off to the prison before they start getting out. Make up your mind, I’m leaving as soon as I get my shit together.” I grabbed my flashlight and went back to the breakroom to get my cheese sticks out of the fridge and six bottles of water. Then I grabbed my turkey jerky and meal bars out of my desk drawer. I opened the safe and put in an IOU for $200 and took out the cash in small bills. 

“Why are you taking money?” Alice asked.

“Right now people still think it’s valuable. I can get food and stuff I need on the way home with it,” I explained. 

She walked over to the safe and put in her own IOU. “You’re right. My husband has been telling me for years that something like this was going to happen. He will go get his son from school, then start walking towards me.”

“Go grab some bottles of water and let’s get out of here. Do you have extra clothes or a blanket or anything in your car?”

“My husband put a bag in there, just in case.”

“Thank God. Don’t tell anyone that we are going. No one else lives out where we do and there is no reason for them to tag along.” 

She grabbed all the food from her desk drawer, got some water and we went out the back door to the parking lot. I used the key to unlock the trunk and grabbed my backpack. Then I got in the back seat and changed into my hiking pants and shirt. It was mid-September, but it would get into the mid to low 50’s at night in the hills where we were headed and I had no faith that we would cover fifty-four miles before dark. We would likely be sleeping outside for the next couple of nights. I prayed it wouldn’t rain. 

As I was walking out I remember there was a can of bug spray on the filing cabinet and I grabbed it on the way out. I didn’t want to be eaten by fire ants if we had to sleep on the ground. 

I got my jacket from the front seat and started stuffing it into my bag. My husband’s small 9MM was in the pocket. I had forgotten to give it back after my walk last night. I stuck it in my pocket and thanked God for my forgetfulness. I just wished I had a pocketful of ammo to go with it. 

Alice changed and dug her bag out of her trunk. I pulled everything out and quickly made sure she at least had the basics. Her husband had done better than I had in some ways. She had an emergency sleeping bag and some quick-dry shirt and pants. She had a life straw and a collapsible bladder and water treatment tablets and a nice knife. Her first aid kit was way better supplied than mine and she had four freeze-dried meals. 

“Do you have a gun?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s in my purse.”

“How much ammo do you have?”

“I have a full clip and two extras and I know how to use it, my husband makes me practice.”

“Put it where you can get to it quickly. I’m not going to put my holster on until we get out of town but I have a small pistol in my pocket. Once we get out of town I’m going to wear mine out where anyone who would want to bother us can see it.”

“Ok, do you really think anyone will bother us?”

“I hope not, but I’m expecting it. You ready?”

“I guess so.”

“You know that there is no way we will walk fifty-six miles before dark, right? I have a small emergency tent, you have an emergency sleeping bag in your bag, we will be ok. Your bag has stuff in it I didn’t think to put in mine.”

She paled a bit, then took a breath. “Let’s go!”

We walked the six blocks out of town without attracting any attention at all. Everyone was so focused on their phones that didn’t work and their cars that wouldn’t run, that they didn’t notice two women walking down the sidewalk in hiking gear. We crossed the bridge out of Birmingham and started our journey north towards home. 

“It was around nine when we left, we have about nine hours of daylight. I mapped walking with Google maps before. It said 19 hours, but I think that was a bit optimistic considering half of it is uphill.” I pulled my .22 pistol out of my bag and strapped it on my hip.

Those first few hours we walked in silence,...Continue Reading

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