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Alone

Alone

Postby fastback65 » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:05 pm

Alone




Chapter 1


Lying on the bed of pine straw, watching the morning sun work it's way up through the tangle of limbs on it's journey to the top of the sky, Lyle tried to remember the last time he had seen another human being. He thought it had to have been at least a year, maybe longer. He had been a lucky man, being on an inspection tour of an abandoned coal mine being considered for reopening. He was well over a mile underground when the CME hit the earth. He had been the only one in the mine, the only one foolhardy enough to take a chance on the abandoned structure not falling in on him. Now, at least as far as he could tell, he was the only person left.

When the sun was well above the tree line, Lyle got up and fanned the coals into a small fire and started some breakfast. Squirrels and some greens he found around the camp site would provide a little nourishment, but he knew he needed to score some real calories pretty soon. His diet was all but void of fat. Protein alone will not keep you healthy for long. After finishing the skimpy meal and taking care of his morning ablutions, he put out the fire and buried the coals. Ten minutes later, his gear was packed and after checking his compass, he was on his way.

Lyle knew he didn't want to spend another winter this far North. He held firm to a belief there were other people still alive and he was going find them if it was within his power. He had walked from West Virginia to Chattanooga, Tennessee, looking for the beginnings of the Natchez Trace. His intention was to follow the Trace South to a warmer climate and look for survivors along the way. To the best of his reckoning, he was near the town of Tishomingo, Mississippi. He was looking at a broad river that had to be the old Tenn/Tom Waterway. A project designed to enable the hauling of coal by barge all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It seemed in the year or so since the event, nature had rebounded rather well. The larger Interstate highways were slowly giving way to the inevitable assault of trees and plants, the smaller roads were almost completely hidden in places and in others the road was no longer discernible. Lyle considered looking for a boat to float the river with, but he knew there were locks and dams on the water and he didn't know how he would get through them..

“Best keep to the woods,” he said to himself, “I would rather be safe than sorry.”

Lyle unrolled his fishing lines from his pack and set up a few on the river, tying them to limbs overhanging the water. Bait was a few worms he found and a big fat grasshopper he managed to catch. He built a lean to, intending to stay a few days and hopefully catch some fish to dry for the road ahead. He built a drying rack and gathered some wood to start the fire and cut up some green wood to smoke it with. Using some boughs from a nearby cedar tree for walls, he quickly built an expedient smoke house. He quickly gathered some more wood for his cook fire. When he was sure he had everything prepared, he took his Savage Model 24F, out of the pack and assembled it. It was chambered in 22 Hornet over twenty gauge. The Hornet was a bit much for squirrel, but it served him well on larger game. He had even taken a deer with it. He had a Lee pocket reloader and a couple of cans of powder. He had stocked up on his reloading supplies while he was in Chattanooga. He could reload for quite a while. He didn't know what he would do when the supply ran out. Lyle checked his lines and re baited a couple of them and then he slipped into the woods to try to find supper. Lyle found a large hickory tree and concealed himself as best he could. It wasn't long before the bushy tails were climbing all over the tree. Lyle waited until he could hit two at the same time and he let the 20 gauge ring out. Both squirrels hit the ground dead. Lyle maintained his concealment and in a few minutes the squirrels came back. He took one more and picked up all three and moved on.

“The hunting sure has gotten better since the event,” thought Lyle, “I could have taken a dozen or more if I had wanted to.”

Back at the campsite, he checked his lines before cleaning the squirrels and found four large appaloosa catfish. There were also a few Bream, “Sunfish, the Yankees call them,” said Lyle to himself. Lyle made quick work of skinning the catfish, cutting them into thin strips for drying, he hung them on the makeshift rack and started the slow fire. The bream and squirrels, would go into the old cast iron frying pan Lyle placed on the fire. Lyle had a love hate relationship with the old frying pan He cursed the weight, but loved the way it cooked, “I suppose I would leave my gun, before I would leave the skillet,” he said. He checked the fire in the smoker once again and then stretched out for a nap. A sound nearby brought him out a light sleep and without moving, he slowly opened his eyes and looked for the source of the sound. Seeing nothing, he slowly rolled to his other side to scan that side. Not more than 20 feet away was a young doe deer. He could have gotten off a shot, but he knew that much meat would spoil before he could use it. If it had been closer to Winter, he would have chanced it, but as it was, he simply lay there and watched as the deer fed on the young grass shoots. “Strange,” thought Lyle, “one generation of deer, and they are already losing their fear of man.”

As long as he was awake, he got up and tended the smoking fire, adding some more green wood to both dry and flavor the fish. He walked down to the river and checked his lines again. The fish had stripped his bait. Rather than bait again, he pulled his lines in and carefully wrapped them so they wouldn't tangle. Back at camp, he prepared everything so he could leave fairly early in the morning. He would have enough dried fish to last him until he hit the next town. He walked back down to the river to wash up and walked around a gentle bend in the waterway, always scouting for something useful, he saw a small dock, and a boat tied up. It was obvious the boat had not been moved in a while and the dock was in a state of disrepair. He watched it for a few minutes and after assuring himself the boat was unattended, he walked up to explore it further. It was a simple fisherman's boat, a Vee hull with a 35 horsepower motor and a makeshift cabin on the front. He found a few cans of Vienna sausage that weren't bulged, so he added them to his pack. A quick check proved the batteries were long dead in the flashlight he found. He picked up a knife that had seen it's fair share of use, but, it was far inferior to his own knife so he left it. Finding nothing else of interest, he clambered over the side to the dock and thought to himself, why the dock would be there. A careful examination uncovered an almost hidden path. Having nothing better to do, he set out to follow it. He trudged uphill for about thirty yards through the overgrown weeds and saplings that were reclaiming the path until he came upon a cabin. He hailed the cabin, more out of habit than anything else, and after getting no response, he entered the cabin.

There was a hand built gun rack on the wall next to a stone fireplace. It reminded him of the gun rack he made while in high school wood shop. It held a single barrel twelve gauge shotgun that had accumulated some surface rust. The pull out drawer revealed several boxes of number 6 shot. “This would work pretty good for squirrels,” he thought. He tripped on a throw rug in the middle of the floor and out of habit, he reached down to straighten it. He felt something under the rug and after moving it he saw it was a metal ring that fit into a relief cut into the trap door. Throwing caution aside, he pulled the door open and saw a ladder going down into the basement. Reaching into his pocket, he turned on his led light and looked in amazement at the cache of food. “This must have been someone's bug out location,” was his first thought. “It's a darn shame they didn't make it here.”

Lyle picked up what food he could use and made a mental note of where this cabin was located. This would easily get him to the coast, and the chance at making contact with other survivors. Back at his camp, he rearranged his pack and decide he needed to visit a town. Tishomingo, would be the closest town so he set out. Walking back toward Tishomingo, Lyle started thinking about how less severe the damage from the flare seemed the further South he traveled. He wished he had paid more attention in school now. “I am guessing that the flare was more directed than I first thought and maybe it was aimed more to the North than the South. There are a lot of buildings here that seem to have little or no damage, but back in West Virginia, most of the buildings were burned. I will ask the next person I see,” he laughed.

Chapter 2
Tishomingo


Walking through the eerily empty town was familiar and disquieting all at once. Lyle had grown accustomed to the loneliness, but somehow the lack of anything alive gave him the willeys. He looked for a sporting goods store and found one that was a combination of military surplus and hunting supplies. Lyle looked for and found a spool of para cord and added it to his pack. The one item he really wanted was not to found. He left the store and headed up main street. There in front of the small arcade he hit the jackpot. Bicycles. He checked and found all six tires on the three bikes were either flat or low. Lucky for Lyle, on of the bikes had an air pump attached to the down member of the frame. He quickly pumped up the tires on one bike and after a minute or two to re-familiarize himself, he was off, pedaling toward the main street hardware store.

He left the bike leaning against the door and let himself into the store. He moved quickly to the aluminum tubing and selected the pieces he thought he would need. Typical of a small town hardware store there was a workbench in the back of the store. Using a tube bender from the tool department he quickly made a frame and using a long rod he fashioned an axle that would hod a bicycle tire on either end. “If I can't find a trailer, I will make one,” Lyle said to himself. He brought the bicycle to the rear of the store and started measuring the bike to make a hitch. He found a oxygen acetylene torch and in a couple of hours he had a working trailer for the bike. He jumped on the bike and went back to the arcade and took the front tires off the remaining bikes. He carried them to the hardware and using a larger tire pump from the store's inventory, he pumped up the tires and installed them on the trailer. Looking carefully through the store he found more bike tires and tubes, patches and water bottles for the bikes. He gave thanks for the small store in a small town that still carried a large variety of things. Most stores now were specialized and he would have a difficult time rounding up all the parts he needed.

“Time for a test drive,” he thought. With everything assembled, he pulled onto main street and pedaled the bike up the street. Making a wide turn he came back to the hardware store and parked. It tracked pretty good and using a tape measure he confirmed the toe in was about as good as he was likely to get it. He checked the tire pressure with his newly acquired air gauge and pronounced it good to go.

Lyle went back into the hardware store and selected some things to replace some of his more worn items. He picked a new bow saw and extra blades, he got a new German made hand ax, and an entrenching tool, and a new Leatherman multi tool. He went to the gun counter and selected a para ordnance P-14 in stainless steel and a Ruger Single Six with a magnum cylinder. He got enough cleaning supplies and extra magazines to keep the pistol well fed and in good condition. He looked for and found a dozen boxes of .22 Hornet and he added to his 20 and 12 gauge ammo. He also picked up a case of .22 long rifle and a case of twenty magnum. He got a Coleman two burner gas stove and five gallons of Coleman fuel. Rounding out the shopping, he picked up a two person tent and a 4 seasons sleeping bag and pad. He found a real canvas tarpaulin to cover the trailer, a real one, not the plastic rip stop. He knew there would be other opportunities down the road so he didn't overburden himself. He packed all of his new found goods on the trailer and set out for his campsite. “This has been a productive day,”he thought. “I hope tomorrow I can make some progress South.
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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Re: Alone

Postby fastback65 » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:05 pm

Chapter 3
Load the wagon



Lyle ate a quick dinner and began preparation for an early departure. He had high hopes of doubling his daily mileage. He loaded everything he thought he could carry from the cabin and then he would sort and resort. Taking and leaving, until he figured he had the best equipment and the weight of the trailer wouldn't be too much for this hilly part of the state. He knew there would be some impassable areas and other places that he would have to walk the bike, but he was confident that his legs were up to the task. He had, after all, walked from Mississippi to West Virginia. Lyle put out the fire and took one last look around and fell into a fit full sleep.

About an hour before sunrise, Lyle opened one of the cans of coffee he found in the cabin basement and started a small pot of coffee. It had been months since the smell of coffee had teased his nose. It was a smell that brought back memories and mad him wish for the smell of bacon. Finishing his morning ritual and cleaning up the camp, he always tried to leave things the way he found them, even thought there was no one to appreciate the effort, it was just the way he was, Lyle pushed the bike and trailer the short distance to the road. He mounted the bike and with a strong push on the pedal, he was on his way. He could just imagine the miles ticking by as he pedaled down the Natchez Trace, on his quest for the Mississippi River and eventually the gulf of Mexico. He had scarcely covered a mile when he came upon a short section of road covered by downed trees. If he had been walking, it would have been a simple matter to walk around them, but the trailer and bike necessitated that he clear a path. There had evidently been a storm of some sort, either a tornado or a severe thunderstorm. The trees were mostly dead blow down and were partially rotted so they were easy to move, just time consuming. Finally the path through the debris was cleared enough to let him pass. He told himself, “I will just have to pedal a little faster to make up for lost time. There was very little to see on the Trace, other than nature. The Trace had always been devoid of commercial enterprises. He could imagine the old River men, sailing their barges down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and then selling their crops and even dismantling their barges and selling the lumber, before setting out on foot to walk all the way back home, using the same trail he was now pedaling down. Before them, the Indians used the Trace as a bipedal highway to allow them to trade with other tribes and to travel in relative ease. He recounted the tales of the infamous Highwaymen who wold lay in wait and ambush the unsuspecting river men as they walked home carrying their new found fortune with them. The most famous of the Highwaymen was a man named Mason. The governor of Mississippi put a bounty on his head and he was eventually caught. His head was delivered to the Governor, inside a ball of clay, as proof, he was indeed dead. Remembering these old stories sent a shiver down the neck of Lyle. Even though this was a relatively warm day, he felt a distinct chill. “Better think of something else,” Lyle laughed nervously to himself.

The highway mile markers were mostly still in place and Lyle reckoned he was making about thirteen or fourteen miles an hour on the flat areas. Little better going down hill and a lot worse going up. Still he thought it was a lot better than walking. There was a sign on the side of the road proclaiming 'Mackeys Recreation Area – 1 Mile', Lyle thought that would be a good place to spend the night so he took the turn and found himself on the shore of a very large lake with camping areas and little grills. It was in good repair and clean, so he picked a spot and pitched his camp. After a meal of dehydrated lasagna, Lyle made a cup of coffee and sat back to ponder what had happened. Was it a CME, he thought, there was nothing to prove or disprove his thinking, if it was a CME, would that explain the corpses he saw everywhere he went. They had become so common place he didn't give them much thought. It had been, after all, over a year. They were mostly bones now. The animals had taken care of the bodies. “And thats another thing,” he said to himself, “why are there so many animals left and no people? Seems to me the animals would have died same as the people, but I have seen almost no animal corpses. Curiouser and curiouser,” he said, “Well, at least I have plenty of time to think on it.”
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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Re: Alone

Postby stjwelding » Fri Apr 03, 2015 8:16 am

Thanks for continuing your story, I am looking forward to more of it when you can.
Wayne
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Re: Alone

Postby fastback65 » Fri Apr 03, 2015 12:35 pm

stjwelding wrote:Thanks for continuing your story, I am looking forward to more of it when you can.
Wayne


Welcome aboard, Wayne. I am glad you made it. I think the folks over there would have enjoyed this story, but they will have to have some patience. As you can see by the last chapter, things may not be as they seem. My intent was to take everyone down the Natchez Trace, and leave them with some survival skill tops along the way. Trust me, the ending will be worth the trip.
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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Re: Alone

Postby Redneck_Packrat » Sun Apr 05, 2015 7:45 pm

Fastback, the audience over there got better than it deserved: closure. I was kinda suspecting....nothing more from you, but that 3-4 line "chapter 3" made me laugh out loud.

It's not my place to question your writing, there's gotta be a reason for your going the direction you go. It's my place to read, express appreciation, and enjoy the ride :)

Thanks for continuing your story, I look forward to reading!

Redneck Packrat
(remembergoliad over there and a few other places)
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Re: Alone

Postby fastback65 » Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:10 pm

Chapter 4
Reflection


Lyle broke camp and carefully loaded his trailer, checked the tires for proper inflation and made certain the load was centered. As he had done at every stop, he wrote his name and the date on a piece of scrap cardboard and left it where it cold easily be seen.

“My name is Lyle, I am heading for the Gulf Coast
via the Natchez Trace and the Mississippi River.”

Lyle straddled the bicycle and pulled back out on the road, to continue his trek South. He had scarcely gotten on the Trace, when his thoughts were again turned to what happened. It had seemed to him that a CME was the logical choice, but there would have been much more destruction. There should have been burned buildings, and as far as Lyle knew, animals were not immune to radiation, they would have dissipated along with the people. What else could it have been, Lyle thought to himself, a virus would have left bodies littered every where. A natural disaster would have left a trail of destruction. Lyle tried again and again to clear the thoughts from his head so he could concentrate on pedaling, but after a few hours, he found himself still trying to solve the riddle. Might as well pull over and have a little snack. “My rear end isn't used to that bicycle seat. I need to look for something more comfortable when I get to the next town.”

He pulled off the side of the trace and made a lunch for himself. Consulting the map he decide if he really pushed himself, he could make it to Tupelo, Mississippi, around dark. He quickly broke camp and set a good pace for himself. As the evening wore on, Lyle's legs felt like they would fall off. He had done a lot of walking, but pedaling through these hills were using muscles he wasn't accustomed to using. About a quarter past sunset, he saw a road sign announcing Tupelo 5 miles. Somewhat dejected, Lyle reluctantly set up camp. He made a quick meal from the dehydrated can of lasagna ,” might as well use it, since its already open”, thought Lyle. After eating his fill, he sat back with a steaming cup of coffee and listened to wind in the trees. He could almost swear that he heard his wife calling to him. “thats not good”, Lyle said aloud, “Gwen has dead for 5 years.” But the voice kept repeating to him, 'Biloxi', come to 'Biloxi'. Biloxi, Mississippi, had been where they had honeymooned. “I guess the loneliness is finally driving me crazy”, said Lyle. A fit full sleep finally came and Lyle dreamed about the nights in Biloxi, after the wedding. Finally, Lyle gave up and started the coffee pot. “I might as well get on the road, I'm not getting sleep.”

Pedaling through the once vibrant city of Tupelo was something Lyle was not ready for. The furniture capital of Mississippi, the sign proclaimed. There were vehicles everywhere, but again, not a single person, dead or alive, could be found. He visited a few stores and improved his provisions as needed, and finally decided he would be better off on the road. Consulting his map, he found the next town of any size was Baldwyn. He was sure he could make it by dark as long as didn't have any trouble. He set his mind and legs to pedaling. His thoughts turned to the Civil War and he thought of all the men that have given their lives fighting for and against the Confederacy. The battle of Brice's Crossroads, was fought less than 5 miles from Baldwyn. While not a pivotal battle, it was bloody none the less. He considered a side trip, but the voice came to him again, “Come to Biloxi, Lyle, I am waiting for you.”

Lyle tightened his grip in the handlebars and redoubled his effort. “I will bike to Jackson, on the Trace, and then I will take US 49 South to the Coast. I cannot ignore the voice,” Lyle said with new found determination.
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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Re: Alone

Postby sarawolf » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:13 am

Thank you for the new chapters, I finally got a few minutes to come in and read.
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Re: Alone

Postby stjwelding » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:47 am

Thanks for more of your story.
Wayne
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Re: Alone

Postby Nancy1340 » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:10 pm

Hummm......... Interesting. Thanks.
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Re: Alone

Postby ReneeT » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:30 pm

Really enjoying the story - thanks for continueing it!
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