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Earth’s Survivors is copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.
Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet
Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignee Andrea Scroggs. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.
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Joel and Haley
Fort Deposit Alabama
It was early morning. One moment the road had been there, and the next it had been gone, angling away down into the water. They all stopped, shut down the motors and looked over the water.
Joel fitted a pair of binoculars to his eyes, as did Scott.
“Way out,” Joel said as he passed the binoculars to Haley.
“Yeah… Yeah, hardly see it,” Scott agreed. He passed his own binoculars to Alice.
Haley lowered her binoculars and then passed them off to John. John had been quiet lately, but he was speaking to them. “So we’re here,” Haley said.
“We are here,” Joel agreed.
They had stopped two days earlier when they had found a small marina and picked out three boats, trailered them, and hooked them to the trucks. It had made the going slow as they finished the last few miles into Alabama looking for the place where it ceased to exist, but it had been worth it. After all, they had decided, they would have to have boats. Get them now or get there and have to back track to get them.
“It’s not deep at all,” Scott said as he looked out over the water. “It’s, like, barely there, maybe just inches… I wonder if this is high tide or low tide?”
“Good question,” Joel agreed. “We’re here, we have time, let’s wait and see. We may find ourselves driving quite a lot of the distance.”
“Or backing up from here to higher ground,” Haley joked.
“I don’t think so,” John said. “Look. There are no marks anywhere that resemble water rings… That means this might be high tide right now. If so, and it’s only inches right now, this road might be high and dry in a few hours.”
Joel nodded. “Tides can be a foot or more in places.” He snapped his fingers. “Billy mentioned a truck dealership not far from here. Four wheel drives.”
“Right,” Haley agreed. “What do you have in mind?”
“Four wheel drive, and those kinds of trucks sit higher… Put some wider tires on them, what do they call them, tires that float over the top of the mud instead of sinking in?” No one spoke. “Well, I can’t remember the name, but we should put tires like that on them, wider, that should do better if we have to drive on the bottom… Sand, mud… Just in case it doesn’t go all the way out.”
“Now?” Scott asked.
“No. Let’s see what is up with the tide first. We have the time now. It’s on our side,” Joel said. “I saw a herd of goats back a mile or so, I say we go get us a goat, come back here and make a celebration meal.”
“Kill the fatted goat?” Haley asked.
“Kill the fatted goat,” Joel agreed. “Honey, you feel okay here alone? Me and Scott will head back and get a goat. You can get a fire ready, a place to stay… Probably for the night.” He looked off to the sides. “It’s clear over in there.”
“Go ahead,” Haley said. “We’ll get a fire going and get set up… Wait on you.”She leaned forward and kissed him. “Come right back,” she said.
“Will do,” Joel agreed. “John? You want to come or stay here?”
“Stay,” John decided.
“Anyone else?” Joel asked.
“Just you two,” Haley agreed as Alice and John shook their heads once more. Joel smiled, bent and kissed her once more, turned and left.
Fort Deposit Alabama
Joel and Haley
“This should be low tide,” Joel said as he stared up at the sky, eyes shaded by one hand.
“Should be,” Scott agreed.
They had spent the last few days observing the tides and working on the three trucks. They had found a garage a few miles back while they had been searching for tires to swap out the ones on the first truck. A rusted truck had sat on the cracked and kudzu choked pavement. Wide mud tires on all four corners. A few minutes work had gotten it to run at a choppy idle.
Scott and Joel had driven it out in to the Gulf themselves, ten miles on the odometer, but it had plowed along with no problem. The bottom was hard packed sand, not mud. The water at low tide was no more than a foot deep, at least where they had driven. It had been a good deal farther out to land, maybe twenty miles or better, maybe less than another ten: Distance over water was hard to tell, Scott had said. Joel had tended to agree with that statement. To him it looked like the land mass had gotten no bigger at all. He had begun to wonder if it would.
They had stopped, debated, and then decided to drive back. They had little fuel, no boat in case it did get deep, and no idea how far they had to go. As far as the binoculars could show them, the water looked no more than a few inches deep.
That had been four days ago. Their own trucks, now equipped with wider, aggressively tread mud tires should be able to drive right over the sandy bottom: Dig themselves out if they did bog down. The question was whether the drive to the land could be made in one low tide window. The deeper question he had asked himself more than once now was why? Why was it so important to reach a spit of land that was cut off from the mainland. Abandoned by nature to the ocean? And what would be there?
He had no answer except a vague certainty that it would be safe. Safe from the gangs, safe from the dead, safe.
Haley touched the back of his arm, he turned and smiled at her where she stood with Alice. Behind them, John was checking over the trailers they intended to tow behind the trucks with Jayne. They had picked up Jane back in Hayneville where they had found the tires and a still standing garage to do the work in. It had taken two days to break down the tires on all three trucks and swap them out with the new ones, using only jack handles, crow bars and a foot operated air pump. There had been no generators anywhere close by. On the way back they had nearly driven into a big one that had been left by the side of the highway. That generator was now attached to the third truck.
They had met Jayne Singleton on the second day. She had stayed in hiding the first day and night watching them. Three men traveling with two women, it had looked all wrong to her, but by the second day she had decided to take the chance.
She had seemed unsure at first, even after introducing herself, and so they had spent an extra hour feeling each other out: By the time they decided to head back to Fort Deposit, Jayne had been with them.
There was no friction between any of them. They seemed to be able to work together as though they had known each other for years, Joel thought now as he lifted his eyes back to the sky. He looked back down at Scott and shrugged.
“Let’s do it,” Joel said aloud in the quiet afternoon sky. “Let’s take a look.”
The Alabama Gulf
Joel and Haley
They were past the point they had traveled to previously, 12 miles on the odometers. Twice now they had crossed deeper sections where the trucks had slipped down into the water driving slowly across the sandy bottom, water nearing the tops of the door-sills. The island was closer, but the sun was setting and soon the tides would be changing, rising. Joel picked up the radio handset as he coasted to a stop.
“A few more hours… By midnight we’ll be in high tide… From now on out it will be rising.” He didn’t ask the question.
“I say keep going,” Scott answered after a few moments of silence.
“No sense in stopping,” John said a brief second later. “Jayne says so too.”
“Well, except we can’t swim,” Joel said half joking.
The silence held a few beats. “That’s why we have the boats,” Alice answered with a laugh.
Joel re-set the handset and dropped the truck into gear. He was making maybe three miles an hour tops, with darkness coming it would be even harder to see into the water. He shifted back out of drive.
“I think I’m going to ride the hood… sounds crazy, I guess. But I think we can make better time… I can let you know to slow up if anything looks funny, bad,” he shrugged.
“Does that mean you aren’t sure, because it sounds like a plan to me,” Haley said. Joel smiled as he leaned forward and kissed her. A few minutes later he was on the hood: One wet foot for his troubles. He looked behind him and saw Scott climb out on his own hood.
“No way are you getting all the fun,” Scott called. He scrambled up onto the roof of the truck and Joel followed suit. A few moments later they were traveling through the shallow salt water. Joel lowered his hand and moved it in a forward motion. A few moments later he gave the okay sign, and leaned across to the drivers window.
“What is that? Speed wise?”
“Ten, a little less, maybe,” Haley told him.
“Ten it is,” Joel said. He sat up straight once more and watched the small waves as they seemed to roll toward the truck. With the tide beginning to turn he supposed that was exactly what they were doing. His eyes shifted to the island, which now seemed to take up a much larger space on the horizon. His eyes returned to the water shifting from side to side and ahead. Not long now, he thought. Not long.
Joel and Haley
It was not far past the sunset when the nose of the truck rose out of the water and skimmed along across no more than a few inches of water. The moon had drifted behind the cloud cover, the headlights were on, but they did more to hide the surface of the water than anything else. They illuminated a small area ahead of the truck and then seemed to be swallowed by the night.
Before the bottom had risen, the water had been growing steadily deeper as they traveled. They had once again been slowed to just a few miles an hour, plowing through close to two feet of water, and there was a current with the depth that tried to pull them sideways. Joel had been close to calling it off, turning around, or getting the boats ready if there was not enough time to get back before the tide was fully in. A few minutes later they had begun the climb from the water and found themselves where they now were, proceeding slowly through the darkness in just inches of water.
The moon peeked out from the edge of the clouds and an island took shape before them, partly hidden in mist, the island stretched away on both sides. A quarter mile to the beach, no more. The moon slid free and the island was lit up fully. Trees, broken pavement delineating a road that disappeared into what looked to be a jungle. They were both standing on the rooftops now, knees flexed, arms pumping, screaming, as the trucks finally left the water behind and drove up onto a wide sandy beach. Birds lifted from the surrounding trees, momentarily blotting out the moon once more, as Haley bumped the truck up onto the wide beach, followed closely by John and Alice.
The fire burned brightly on the beach. They were close to the tree line, watching the tide bring the water up the long sloping beach., waiting for sunrise.
“Never make it at high tide,” Scott said. He worked open a pack of peanuts and tilted them above his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully.
“Probably has risen a good eight feet out here,” Haley said.
“At least,” Jayne agreed. She blew across a cup of broth and sipped at it.
“Maybe an hour until daylight,” Joel said now. He shifted his back where he rested against a tire, one arm around Haley.
“Be a good time to bring something in by boat though,” Alice said.
“Yeah,” Scott agreed. “Plenty deep enough now.”
Rifles and pistols lay nearby. There was no way to know what to expect, but to think there had been no living souls on this land that had died and turned would be foolish they had agreed. They would get no sleep tonight, and at sunrise they would start inland, looking the island over.
The conversations flowed back and forth along with the occasional subdued laughter in the darkness. The Sky began to lighten behind them, gray light spilling across the tops of the trees. Far out on the water the first red-gold arrows of light touched the water and awakened what looked to be an ocean.
“Hard to believe we drove across that,” Haley said from his lap. Her head rested against his thigh, eyes slitted. She rose to one elbow and then sat up as the others began to stand.
The broken roadway ran through the jungle of vegetation and they drove it slowly into the interior of the island. There were several roads that cut off from the main blacktop, but there was no time to follow all of them. They passed through the overgrown remains of two small towns. Empty. Cars sitting on the streets on flats, buildings overgrown with kudzu and other vines. Mounds of sand trying to wipe out everything the Kudzu had not taken.
In places the road looked washed out, as if water had flowed across it at some point. The four wheel drive took them down into the resulting ravine or through fields and dry stream beds to get around it and up the other side. They drove through a slightly larger town twenty miles inland. Several large stores, a few car dealerships still stood: Sand covered most of the roads and streets everywhere they drove. The doors that lead into the stores were drifted shut four feet high in places. They stopped to dig one out, broke the locks from the aluminum door frames, only to be rewarded with a moldy interior that had obviously been flooded at one time. Somewhere inside a clicking came to them, a few moments late three dead, not much more than putrid flesh on skeletons, had come from the aisles to meet them. They had taken them out quickly and nothing else had come from the depths. Even so they had forced themselves to walk the interior to be sure. They were even more convinced the entire store had been submerged when they left it an hour later. The aisles were full of sand in places. The roof had collapsed in others and sand and what had probably had once been seaweed clogged some aisles.
Scott opinioned that most likely every car or truck in sight had a motor full of sand and was worthless. No one argued the point. They had gone through the town slowly after that, but they encountered no more dead. They had returned to the main road, driving farther into the interior of the island.
Fifty miles inland the land rose steeply and then flattened out. They stopped once the island began to spread out below them. They could see all the island from this point. The end of the journey was not far ahead. No more than five miles ahead, cliffs dropped down into the ocean. A much deeper area of water than what was behind them capped that end of the island. The western and eastern views were nearly equal. Off to the west there was a second smaller island that was removed from the main island by a small channel, at least it looked small from where they were. The distance was hard to judge, they would have to drive it, but it was far less than the fifty miles they had driven, maybe half that, Haley thought.
Whether heading east or west, roads snaked here and there, away from the main route, or what they considered the main route: Woods covered parts of the island, wide plains other areas. Nothing alive moved anywhere they looked.
“I think,” Joel said as they sat on the hoods of the trucks and drank warm bottled sports drinks, “This whole place, or most of it, was flooded over. I guess we can all see that, but I mean for a time, a long time. Any life washed away… Including people.”
“So what’s to stop that same thing from happening again,” Alice asked. She looked nervous even as she said the words.
“I would bet a tidal wave… No, tsunami triggered by the quakes, rolled right over everything on the coast. Probably took days to recede. That’s why there is no one here.” Jayne said thoughtfully.
“Wouldn’t happen again?” Alice asked.
“I don’t think so,” Scott said. “I think it’s been quiet for months now… I think this place is safe now… Maybe the only place in the world without dead. I think the dead in that store were trapped by the place being locked up. Probably locked it up themselves for protection… Drowned when it flooded.”
“We’ll have to be careful if we come across something like that again,” Jayne said, more to herself than anyone in particular.
Silence held as she finished, a few nods of agreement.
Joel upended his bottle, drank deeply and then grimaced. He looked at the label. “Cherry Cucumber,” he said aloud. “For real? Who in hell thought that up? Haley, take a letter to…” He paused as he looked for the manufacturers name on the bottle without success. “Well, to these sonsofbitches,” he said in his best Clint Eastwood imitation. “Tell ’em we won’t be drinking no more of these bastards.” He grinned, turned and spat on the ground. Scott applauded.
“No more Clint Eastwood, that sucks,” Alice said with a sad face.
“Or cold beer,” Scott said and grimaced.
“Or panty-liners,” Jayne said and then pulled a face. Haley broke into laughter so hard that tears squirted from her eyes. Alice joined in. Joel, John and Scott just shook their heads and looked at one another.
“I… I can’t believe you said that,” Haley said. She laughed harder.
Joel cleared his throat and looked out over the island. “A perfectly good conversation,” Joel said and sighed dramatically. Haley gave him a shot in the ribs with one elbow. They all laughed then.
Okay… Okay,” Jayne said eventually, “but really… Here we are, what is this place now that we’ve found it?”
“Alabama Island,” Scott answered promptly.
“Yeah… Alabama Island,” Joel agreed.
“Okay, but what is it to us,” Jayne said
“Home,” Haley said. “It’s home.”
The silence held as one by one they each nodded.
“We’ll need to make more trips,” Jayne said at last.
“A lot of trips,” Scott agreed.
“What do we need,” Joel asked, as Haley produced a small pad of paper and a pen.
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