Shake, Shake, Shake Chapter2 and Epilog


Shake, Shake, Shake – Chapter 2

That evening, after supper, and after Sheri had gone to bed, Benji asked to talk to his mother and father. They naturally agreed and the three sat down around the camp table, in the faint light of the moon.

“You know, I did lots of studying on preparedness to get my merit badge.”

“Of course you did,” Sally said. “And we’re certainly glad you did. Your knowledge has really helped us all during this.”

“I know, Mom. I wasn’t looking for praise. It’s about some of the other things I learned.”

“Like what, Son? You sound very serious,” Jack asked.

“According to some of the information I ran across was the speculation that the government has set up refugee camps and…”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Sally asked, her face brightening.

“Well… Some people think they’ll be more like concentration camps. Sure, a place to put refugees, but also a place to put anyone that doesn’t go along with everything the government does under Martial Law.”

Again Sally spoke up. “Oh, Honey! I think you may have fallen in with some very suspicious type people. There are always these conspiracy type people that say all kinds of bad things about the government. If any camps do exist, I’m sure they are for refugees like us.”

Jack spoke up then, his voice soft. “I don’t know, Sally. I’ve no reason to doubt that the camps exist. But Benji may have a point about them turning into concentration camps. You didn’t see what happened today.”

“You said it was no big deal,” Sally replied.

“I know. And in and of itself, I really didn’t think it was. But if what Benji is saying is true, the possibility of abuses is almost a sure thing. If they start rounding up people, for their own good, they will wind up taking people like us.”

“But, if they have food and water and shelter…” Sally said, her words trailing away, a perplexed look on her face, even in the moonlight.

“But what if they don’t have enough? Or get some hotshot military guy that wants to get some glory. Or a pencil pusher like me that tries to save every dime for the boss, in this case, the government. Gruel three times a day…”

“Oh, it wouldn’t be like that! MRE’s at the worst!” Sally tried to laugh, but couldn’t.

“I think we have two options. Neither one very good,” Benji said.

Both his parents looked at him, waiting.

“The first is we try to get out of the affected area. Mom, your family in Colorado would take us in, wouldn’t they?”

“Of course they would. They must be frantic to find out about us! I didn’t think about them until you brought it up.”

“Go on, Benji,” Jack said.

“But I’m really afraid we’d never make it and would wind up in one of the camps, anyway. There are so many rivers and streams to cross. We were barely able to make it into town on the road. I don’t think there is any way to get there in the Excursion. That leaves being on foot, unless we can buy or trade for some bicycles. And making river crossings would still be a problem. It just not a very viable plan.”

“You said you had another?” Jack asked.

“That’s to hunker down, cache everything but enough to get by on a day at a time. And wait for the round up. Assuming the worst, going in, maybe we can avoid the worst. Get on good work details. Maybe even ones where we can be together.”

“What do you mean, where we can be together?” Sally asked, alarm in her voice.

“From what I read, they are barracks style places. They split up the families. Men in one, women in another. May even split it down with male teens separated and female teens also in separate barracks.”

“Oh, Jack! No! That can’t be true, can it?” She looked at Jack frantically.

“I don’t know, Sally. I just don’t know. I don’t think Benji is just trying to scare us. It is information he got from the internet. It is always questionable.”

“Then it isn’t true,” Sally said firmly. “I just won’t believe it.”

Benji looked at his dad for support, but Jack shook his head slightly. “That’s the two options, Benji?”

“Well… There is one other, I guess. Stay and hide out. Live off the land. Salvage things from abandoned buildings. Hunt. Fish. My water purifier will clean enough water for months of use. I just don’t think we can do it. We’d certainly be declared outlaws. Even things that are just going to be bulldozed anyway, if we take them first, will still be considered looting.”

“We are not going to loot!” Sally was adamant. She was also quite visibly upset. Benji drew away and went to his tent to leave his mother and father to work something out.

Benji was up early the next morning. He’d actually slept very well. If there had been another quake he hadn’t felt it. His father was already up, making coffee. “Is Mom okay, Dad? I didn’t mean to upset her last night…”

“It’s all right, Benji. It’s not really your fault. It’s the whole situation. She put a lot of herself into the house and her business. You saw the place when we passed. Worse than my office. I had just told her about that when you asked to talk to us.”

“Well, I’m sorry, anyway.” Benji said. He went about helping make breakfast, using the last of their fresh food. It was ready when Sally and Sheri came out of the tent. It was a quiet meal, as they listened to their only source of information. The windup flashlight/radio combo.

Sally looked over at Benji when the newscaster began reading off a list of sites for people to report to, within the stricken area. It was basically a list of Wal-Mart retail stores. People were advised to bring only ID, a change of clothes, toiletries, plus all the food and water they could carry. Absolutely no alcohol; tobacco; or weapons of any type, including knives with a blade of more than two inches.

Those unable to reach the named camps due to the unavailability of transport were to stay where they were and wait for military transportation. There would be no relief rations or supplies airdropped or delivered in any other manner. It was go on your own, or wait for transport. Everyone hearing the message was to pass it on, word of mouth.

“Jack,” Sally said, “There are people that won’t have enough food to wait. I mean, if it wasn’t for Benji, we would be out of food as of this morning. Why aren’t they bringing in help?”

“I don’t know, Sweetheart, but that sure sounded like an official broadcast. I’m not sure why the President hasn’t addressed the nation.”

“Daddy?” Sheri asked, a quiver in her voice.

“It’ll be all right, Baby,” Jack said.

Sally took Sheri in a protective hug. “It will, Sheri. It will.”

“Why Wal-Marts?” Benji asked.

“I’m sure it is because they have plenty of space,” Sally said. “You know. Those big parking lots. And they let RV’s park there. And… I don’t know. I’m sure there are plenty of good reasons.”

Benji had his doubts, but he’d upset his mother enough.

“It isn’t that far to the Wal-Mart,” Jack said. “We’d have to leave the Excursion, and then wade or swim the river… Wouldn’t be able to take all the food, but if we leave our camping gear behind…”

Benji began cleaning up after the breakfast, thinking all the while. Then, with Sheri doing her exercises to stay in shape and Sally taking some quiet time in the tent alone, Benji went over to his dad. Jack was doing a mental inventory of their supplies.

“Dad? Can I talk to you a minute?”

“Sure, Benji. What is it?” Jack sat down on the ice chest.

Benji started pacing. Something he’d never done before. “Dad, I’m worried about going to Wal-Mart.” He saw Jack start to protest, so quickly continued. “I think we should go. But I think it would be a good idea to cache our stuff before we get there and just go in with the clothes on our backs and ID. From what I read on the internet, there is a big chance the authorities will just take everything we bring for general use.”

“Benji, don’t you think that is a pretty good idea? If enough people bring enough food there would be enough for everyone to share.” Jack suddenly got a startled look on his face. “Lot of ifs, though, huh?”

“I think so, Dad. And what if we decide we don’t want to stay. If we could get away, we’d have our equipment and supplies where we could get to them.”

“Benji, you keep making this sound like it is going to be prison.”

Benji stopped pacing and faced his father. “I think it will be, or so close you won’t know the difference if you’re inside the fence rather than outside.”

“Wal-Mart’s don’t have fences…” Jack’s voice was hopeful. Benji didn’t respond. “Let me think about this and talk it over with your Mom.” As he got up from the ice chest he asked Benji, “Would you sort our equipment and supplies? Using your assumptions?”

Benji nodded. He made a point to steer clear of the big tent. It was obvious his mother and father were having an argument. He just hoped his father won. With everything sorted, Benji got the shovel again and began to enlarge the hole he started earlier. It was for a different reason, now. If his father went along with Benji’s suggestions, it would be a cache of most of their supplies.

It was over an hour before Jack and Sally came out of the tent. Benji and Sheri could both tell their mother had been crying. Jack said, “I’m going to go talk to the Stevens. See if they heard the news.”

“Sweetie,” Sally said to Sheri, “Could you help me get the tent cleared and the sleeping bags rolled up?” She looked over at Benji, a sad look on her face. “You’d better break down your camp, too, Benji.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Benji said quietly. His mother was not happy with him.

Jack came back a few minutes later, alone. “I told him we were walking out. They’re staying. They did hear the broadcast and believe FEMA will come to the town to get them out. Harley is hooking up the trailer now. They’ll probably leave before we do. He said it would be all right to leave the Excursion here.”

Almost silently the Harrison family went about packing up. With a heavily loaded pack each set aside, all four helped line the cache hole with a tarp and put the rest of the supplies in it. Benji folded the tarp over the bundle and began to back fill the hole. He packed the fill down by stepping on it repeatedly and spread the extra dirt around the area. The first wind or rain and the spot wouldn’t be visible. To add to the security Jack parked the Excursion over the spot.

With Benji and Jack in the lead, carrying the empty ice chest, the family headed across the open fields to the first spot they would have to cross water. They developed the system they would use repeatedly to cross the bridgeless drainage ditches and streams on the route to the nearest Wal-Mart.

Jack and Benji would strip down to their shorts and ferry the packs two at a time across the water in the large ice chest. It would float even with two of the packs in it. Then as Benji got dressed, Jack would escort Sheri and then Sally across the water. Benji was waiting with dry clothes for the women to change into, as he and Jack kept their backs to them.

There were even a few cases where, though a bridge had collapsed, the family was able to make its way across on the remains of the bridge without even getting their feet wet. It seemed to Benji that many of the ditches and streams were carrying only a fraction of the water they normally did.

They camped early that evening. It had been a demanding day and would be so the next. They’d seen a few people traveling the same way they were, but everyone seemed leery about getting too close to anyone else. It suited Benji. He didn’t want a repeat of that first morning when Bill Bascombe started causing trouble.

Fortunately the land in Southeast Missouri is relatively flat, and with many of the tree rows downed by the quakes, Jack could see well ahead of their path most of the time. When he saw people starting to group up in the distance he quickly led the family off onto a side road.

“Benji,” he said, “If we’re going to follow your plan, this is where we’d better stop and cache the rest of our stuff.”

Sally said nothing, but stood stiffly out of the way as Jack and Benji took turns digging two holes. One for the ice chest and the other for another tarp covered cache. Everything went into one or the other, except for the day’s food Sally insisted on keeping out, and a few bottles of water, which went into Benji’s small pack, which he’d carried empty inside his big pack.

With the ice chest hole covered and the tarp cache almost covered, Benji laid the Cold Steel shovel in the hole with the tarp cache and finished filling it with his hands. He and Jack compacted the ground and scuffed it up with their feet to blend it in with the surrounding ground.

“Make a mental note where this is,” Benji said, putting on his small pack. Jack and Sally in the lead now, hand in hand, the family went to join the small group of people on the main road into town.

When they got closer they could see the camouflage uniforms of military personnel, though there were no vehicles in sight. They did see a couple of large helicopters fly over the area. Benji thought they landed nearby, by the way the sound changed and then cut off.

The first thing Benji noted, besides the camouflage uniforms, was the fact that all the military personnel were armed, mostly with M-4 carbines. They appeared to be loaded. The soldiers sure handled them like they were loaded, Benji decided.

For the moment, all the soldiers were doing was directing people along the route they wanted them to go. They were close to the Wal-Mart. As they got closer, more and more people around them began to look uneasy. There were commotions in front of them rather often.

When they were close enough, Benji and his family saw why. Some people were objecting to having their possessions taken. Obviously many had brought much more than instructed.

Then a real altercation broke out and half a dozen soldiers tackled the man and his family that were trying to turn around and leave. Benji saw his mother pale when one of the officers, Benji couldn’t tell which, bellowed, “You come here, you follow orders or else!”

Sally moved close to Jack and he put his arm around her shoulder. Benji saw the scared look on Sheri’s face and did the same for her. “It’s okay,” he whispered.

When the family got to the check point in front of the entrance to the Wal-Mart, Benji’s bag was dragged from his back even as he attempted to take it off. Two soldiers opened it and tossed the food in a bin behind him. The water went into another, the clothing in a third, and the bag in a fourth.

“Empty your pockets,” came a barked order. Jack and Benji hastened to comply. Benji had made sure he’d cached his good knife. He still had a Swiss Army penknife. Its blade was well under two inches. A soldier took it anyway and tossed it into a five gallon pail that contained similar items.

Sally and Sheri, both in jeans, were a bit slow to comply and soldiers tugged them aside and went through their pockets. At least they were searched by women soldiers. Benji wasn’t sure it made that much difference to his father. Jack had a very angry look on his face.

Then all four were ushered forward, gone over with a metal detecting wand and then patted down. Benji could tell his father was using all his self control not to do something. Sally was shaking and near tears. Sheri was crying quietly.

But they made it past that point without Jack doing anything. As soon as they stepped inside the Wal-Mart they were separated into different lines. It was just as Benji had suggested. Men over eighteen in one line, pregnant women and women with children under thirteen in one line, other women over eighteen in a line, teen girls in yet another line, and finally teen boys in a line.

“Mother!” cried Sheri, attempting for a moment to get to her mother. She was yanked back in line.

A grim face soldier, at least six and a half feet tall and weighing two-fifty growled at Sheri. “Behave little girl, or you’ll wish you had.”

Jack couldn’t take it. He started to rush the man, but Benji, one line over, grabbed him. “Don’t Dad! Please! They’ll hurt you. We have to be calm.”

Jack, still staring at the big soldier, stepped back into his line. “Take care, pappa,” the soldier said. “What you do affects your family.”

Cutting his eyes down, as hard as that was to do, Jack moved forward as the line did. He was the first to reach one of the checkout stands, coming from the outside rather than the other way. There was a machine sitting on the bagging counter. As the operator asked for a name, date of birth, and social security number, the information way typed in and then a tiny pellet came out of the side of the thing.

Another soldier picked it up wearing latex gloves, inserted it into an injection needle, which was inserted into Jack’s right shoulder. Another step and a hand scanner was waved over the injection point. The soldier spoke a single word after looking at the register display. “Good.”

Apparently the process wasn’t completely perfect. Jack heard a “Bad.” behind him as he followed those ahead of him. He looked back, but was shoved forward by one of the soldiers forming the corridor for his line. “No concern of yours. Move on.”

Jack strained to see ahead, to see if the separated families were being rejoined at some point. It didn’t look like it. There wasn’t. Jack continued to follow the line and in one of many screened areas, was made to strip, get sprayed down, apparently for lice or something, and was handed a simple jumpsuit to wear and a pair of flip-flops.

He seethed inside, knowing his wife and daughter were going through the same thing. Benji, he knew, would hold up all right. He’d thought about this apparently and suspected what was happening would happen.

When they exited the building through the second entrance, there were several waiting helicopters. Again the groups were kept separate as they were loaded onto the helicopters. When one group of helicopters were loaded, they took off. A few minutes later another group would land for their load.

Jack wasn’t sure how long they flew, or exactly where they flew to. The helicopter had made several turns. They might be only a few miles from the Wal-Mart where they were processed. It was getting dark when they landed, but the area was lighted by searchlights on tall observation towers flanking the entrance to the double fenced compound.

Jack saw the razor wire on top of both of the chain link fences and cringed. There were military K-9 units patrolling the area between the two parallel fences. When it was their turn to be unloaded, they were marched single file between two rows of armed soldiers leading from the helicopter to the compound.

When Jack passed through the double gate his shoulder was scanned and he was told, “Barracks Nineteen. If you are found anywhere else in the next twelve hours and you will be disciplined.” It was said in a drone. The man was saying it to every man passing him. Only the Barracks number changed.

Jack was directed by another pair of armed soldiers down the line of one of the groups of barracks he could just make out in the reflected light from the searchlights and other lights around the perimeter of the compound.

“Concentrate on your own barracks,” said one of the soldiers that saw him looking around. “The rest of the compound is of no concern of yours until tomorrow morning.”

When he reached the long barracks building numbered nineteen, there were five soldiers inside. “Take any bunk tonight. You’ll be assigned a permanent one tomorrow.” Jack couldn’t help but shiver at the word ‘permanent’. It had really bad connotations.

He wondered how the rest of his family was doing and tried to figure out some way to contact them. He was sure they were here in the same compound, as one of the helicopters in his group had carried some of the women from the same Wal-Mart. It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that Jack finally fell asleep, still wondering how his family was doing.

Sally, Sheri, and Benji had gone through the same procedures as had Jack. Sally stoically, constantly worried about Sheri. Sheri cried most of the time, but carefully followed orders after the first incident she’d had with the big soldier. Both kept strictly to themselves.

Benji was also careful to follow the instructions, but he constantly looked around, trying to learn everything he could about the place. But he was careful not to look anywhere for very long, having seen others reprimanded for doing so. He quietly talked to any of the other male teens that would talk to him, trying to find out exactly where they were.

Also like Jack, they all went to bed hungry. At least there had been a water fountain in the barracks, along with a multi-toilet bathroom with a large hand washing station. There were no stalls.

The following morning sirens sounded the wakeup call at five o’clock. Each of the Barracks occupants were marched to one of two large mess halls in turn for a simple breakfast of oatmeal, a carton of milk, and a carton of juice. There was no extra butter, no toast, no coffee, no tea. Only the oatmeal, milk, and juice.

When breakfast was over everyone was marched back to the barracks they used the night before. Then, one Barrack full at a time they were marched to an administration building. Right arms were scanned and clerks began getting additional information from each person. The data was entered into a computer, the implant scanned again to add the additional information, and the individual was given a new Barrack and Bed assignment. Each one of the Harrisons asked about seeing the other members of their family. Each got the same basic answer. “Not my department.”

Once the individual was processed they were sent out into an exercise yard to wait until everyone had been processed. Finally, slowly, one person at a time, the individuals were sent to their new Barracks and told to settle in and wait for the evening meal. There would be no noon meal.

There was no end of speculation about the future among the occupants. Some were indignant about the situation. There were a few that were thankful to be where they were, having been in the process of becoming starvation victims without help from somewhere. Others, like Jack and Benji, constantly watched quietly, waiting for any opportunity to contact their other family members.

Those that tried to buck the system were dealt with harshly. Usually tackled by four or more soldiers, they were taken down and worked over with nightsticks for several blows, then yanked to their feet and marched/carried off somewhere that was yet to be determined by those that saw the altercations. So far, none of those that had received the treatment had returned.

Suddenly, just before six in the evening, the PA speakers that were mounted all over the areas of the compound that any of the occupants had seen, came to life. “Attention. Attention.”

Another voice came on then. “This is Colonel James Arcadia, in command of this facility. My staff and I welcome you to this camp. Be assured, that if you follow the rules, you will be well cared for during the earthquake crisis. I know some of the rules seem unnecessary, but all the rules are for your own good, and to make this camp run as smoothly and safely as possible for the duration of the crisis. Beginning tomorrow, those willing to work will be given the chance to help their fellow citizens of the camp. Enjoy your evening meal.”

The evening meal turned out to be an MRE, no choice of which meal. There was some attempted trading, but the soldiers spaced around the dining hall quickly discouraged the practice.

One of the conversations the Harrison family had conducted on the way to the Wal-Mart, was what jobs they would try to get, if that opportunity arose. Sally and Sheri would volunteer for the kitchen. So would Jack and Benji, in hopes of being able to work together, as slim of a hope as that was.

It turned out they didn’t have a choice. Soldiers went down the lines of bunks the next morning, after reveille, with everyone standing at the end of their bunk. They assigned a job to an individual. If the individual protested, the soldier would make an entry on the handheld scanner each carried and scan the person’s implant. When asked what was happening the soldier just went to the next person.

Out of pure coincidence, Sally and Sheri were picked for kitchen duty. They met at the kitchen and shared quick hugs. The scene drew the eyes of the soldiers and the two quickly stepped apart and whispered back and for quietly, keeping there faces forward until they were given instructions on what to do.

Jack got the unenviable job of digging holes outside the compound. It suddenly dawned on him that he and the rest of the men with him under guard were digging graves. Jack put it out of his mind.

Probably one of the worst jobs was cleaning the bathrooms in each barrack and the common shower rooms. Benji was tagged for that job, among many of the other male teens from different barracks. There was much outcry and many of the teens had their chips updated, again without any specific explanation. It slowly dawned on everyone that those that caused trouble of some sort were the ones getting tagged. Benji was careful to remain calm and collected, but didn’t want to look too eager. Not that he was eager to clean bathrooms, but he wanted to get on the guards’ good sides.

The good attitude seemed to pay off. One of the friendlier looking of the guards whispered to Benji, “Don’t worry. Once there are enough infractions of the rules, you won’t have to be doing this.”

Benji got the message loud and clear. Keep on the good side and you got the good jobs. Cause trouble and you got the rough details. Benji worked hard, keeping his mouth shut, just about the only one of the teen boys that wasn’t complaining the entire time.

The worst of the offenders, the ones that slacked off on the work as well as complaining, had their chips updated. Then, to Benji’s dismay, he was asked to step out of the line. His chip too was updated. But the soldier quietly said, “Good job today, son.”

Apparently you could get good marks if you did what they wanted, plus more, and didn’t complain. Benji felt a bit like a goody two shoes, but decided to continue to try and keep on the good side of the guards. He vowed silently to himself that he wouldn’t become a Quisling and get others in trouble. He’d only do what he could to make it better for himself, and hopefully his family, without causing anyone else grief. Benji knew it was going to be a fine line to walk.

The family hadn’t met that morning on the food line, since Sally and Sheri were both working in the kitchen area, mostly washing dishes. But for the evening meal, again an MRE, they were in the line handing them out. It was all each could do not to break ranks and hug each other when first Jack, and then Benji passed the two.

Quick ‘how are you’ and ‘I’m okay’ phrases were passed back and forth and that was it, except for huge smiles on each of their faces.

That evening, when it was time for showers, Benji had to admire his work. The shower he used was spotless. It was one he’d cleaned. He watched for his dad as the teen boys filed out and the adult men filed in, but it was a different barracks.

Life settled into a routine for the next two weeks. The trouble makers wound up doing the dirty jobs, or staying in the close confines of the punishment cells. The Harrisons continued to work anytime they were picked for a job.

It turned out to be counter productive to volunteer and ask for specific jobs. All four Harrisons saw it happen to others before they tried it themselves and so saved themselves from demerits, which is what people had started calling the quick to happen chip updates when a person did something a guard didn’t like. There weren’t that many positive marks given and they were usually given in an unobtrusive setting.

Jack was regularly picked to do the grave digging. Though it was only the second time he was doing it, he saw that some of the graves were filled back in. There had been no mention on the PA system about anyone dying. When a guard saw him looking at the filled graves he suggested, forcefully, that Jack forget what he’d seen. It would not be good if the information got around. Jack just nodded.

Sunday of the second week their interment the Harrisons all got a welcome surprise. They were all called forward individually and sent to one of the buildings they’d not been in before. It was for the purpose of a family visit. There were hugs all around, some crying, and plenty of ‘how are you holding up?’ questions.

Not long into the visit Sally put her hands on Benji’s shoulders. “I’m sorry I doubted you, Benji. Your warnings were right on the mark. I simply couldn’t believe it.”

“That’s okay, Mom,” Benji said, giving his mother a hard hug. “I wish I’d been wrong.”

“I wonder why we were allowed to see one another,” Sheri asked. “I know lots of separated families are asking for time like this.”

“I think it is because we are all behaving the ‘proper’ way. Doing our jobs and not causing trouble.”

“I think Benji is right,” Jack said. “I know how hard it is to accept things, even when they are happening to others, but that is what we must do to get through this whole and healthy.”

Jack lowered his voice. “Benji, have you seen or heard anything that might aid us in getting out of here? The right way or… escape?”

Benji shook his head sadly. “Security is just too good. The risk of getting seriously hurt is too high. I’m just hoping those with lots of good merit points get chosen to leave first.”

“You think that might be possible?” Sheri asked breathlessly.

“I don’t really know. It’s more of a hope than a real feeling.”


“But it is something we can hope for to keep up our spirits,” Sally said, hugging Sheri again.

From the guards’ movements it was obvious that the visit was coming close to ending. It had been fifteen minutes, Benji noted, according to one of the few clocks he’d seen. There was one in the visiting area.

The group broke up and left without fuss when the guard put her head in the door and said, “Time’s up.”

One night, a month into the interment, Jack and Benji both woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of gunshots nearby. Sally’s barrack and Sheri’s barrack were both well away from the gate and neither heard the commotion or knew about it until the next morning.

The information was sketchy the next morning, but apparently a group of men had attempted to storm the front gate when a helicopter was delivering more people. They overpowered a couple of the barracks guards and attacked the gate guards when the gates were opened. There was no word that it had been successful. The guards all looked grim and were much more harsh in their treatment of the camp occupants for several days.

On Jack’s next turn digging, he noted that there were more than thirty newly filled graves. Usually there was only one or two between his rotations. He decided that there would be no attempt for the family to escape, unless things became really dire in the future. He made it clear to the rest of the family during their next visit, which came two weeks after the first.

After three months in the facility and Jack was reconsidering his decision to not try to escape. Meals were down to one a day, often just a full loaf of whole wheat bread each and water. Showers were allowed only every third day. The lightweight flip-flops that had been issued were all wearing out and people were going barefoot as fall arrived.

All the radios that had managed to be smuggled in during the first days had all been found. There was no knowledge of what was going on outside the compound, except what the weekly announcements from Colonel Arcadia stated. It could have been recorded and replayed each week. “Follow the rules. They are for your own good and safety.”

The Thanksgiving Day meal had been a lone MRE. More and more people were being ‘disciplined.’ Things suddenly changed shortly after the thankless Thanksgiving. People started to be released, a few at a time, without advance notice.

Rumors spread that the people were being given a couple of MRE’s each and two bottles of water, and told to head west for Oklahoma. Many had come back to the camp, begging to be let in. They’d run out of food the second day of the trip and knew they couldn’t make it all the way to Oklahoma before they either died from the weather or died of starvation. Or worse, drank unfiltered water and died from a waterborne disease.

Jack and Sally were ambivalent about the situation when their family was called in, given ten MRE’s, a six-pack of two liter bottles of water, and a ragged daypack, not the one Benji had brought.

All four were barefoot and their jumpsuits were in less than excellent condition. Benji didn’t hesitate. He strode away from the compound gate with vigorous strides. Jack, Sally, and Sheri had to hurry to catch up with him.

“Benji, wait a minute,” his dad called to him. “We need to discuss what we’re going to do.”

“I thought it obvious,” Benji said, stopping and turning to face his family. “Get our caches and then go toward Oklahoma.”

“The caches,” Sally said. “I’d forgotten all about them!”

“I finally found out where we were. Heard one of the guards talking about it. At the old Blytheville Arkansas Airbase. We just bear north to get the caches outside of Kennett, and then west to get the cache at the Stevens’ farm. Then straight west to Oklahoma. There should be enough food if we’re careful. The bottled water they gave us will last until we get the Kennett cache. My water purifier is in it.”

“I didn’t realize where we were,” Jack said softly. “Once again you’ve come to our rescue, Benji.”

“Aw, gee, Dad!”

“It’s true. I don’t know if we would all have made it without your knowledge.” He looked at Sally and Sheri. “I say we follow Benji’s lead.”

The others simply nodded, turned, and followed Benji as he started hiking.

Everyone felt much better four days later when they reached the cache south of Kennett. It was intact, something Benji had worried about but hadn’t mentioned. A tarp cache was not a good cache.

Crossing the rivers, streams, and drainage ditches on the way from Blytheville had been grueling. So had walking barefoot. At least at first. They had been able to find suitable shoes for everyone, going through some of the abandoned houses outside of Blytheville. They hadn’t been able to replace their clothes, but the shoes helped immensely. So did getting a couple of kitchen knifes and a box of matches. The three blankets, though they were lightweight, were a welcome addition to their supplies, as well.

There had been some discussion about doing the scavenging, but they had decided to do it. But Sally put her foot down. They had what they had to have. No more scavenging.

It was luxury to put on their own clothes. The shoes they’d scavenged would have to do. They spent one leisurely afternoon and night resting up before they headed to the Stevens’ farm. It was easy to retrace their steps. There was no one traveling the route they were currently on.

Despite the two weeks worth of food buried at the Stevens’ orchards, and traveling in the Excursion as far west as they could go in it, it still took some accurate rifle and shotgun shooting by Jack and Benji to get them enough food to make the month long journey across northern Arkansas to the Oklahoma border.

They were even furnished a meal or two as they traversed the Arkansas Ozarks. There were people living there that were doing okay on their own. Even some of the bridges had been repaired enough to carry foot and horse traffic so they didn’t get soaked crossing every stream.

Shake, Shake, Shake – Epilog

They were a lean, trail hardened group when they finally got to Tulsa, the first place things were essentially back to normal. It took several weeks to get their identities verified and gain access to the money the family had in the banks they used. During the interim they all worked odd jobs to make ends meet. Prices had jumped dramatically.

Jack was finally able to make contact with the insurance companies he represented and worked out a claim for the family’s losses. He was grateful that the companies had been trying to do the same for all his clients that they could find. The federal government was helping fund the insurance payouts.

With the insurance payment, and the investments that Jack and Sally had made, the family was able to relocate and start up Jack’s Insurance business again. Having been treated so well in the Ozarks, they picked the area, on the Missouri side of the border, for their new home and business.

With Benji’s urging, the entire family became preppers, hoping they would never have to use them, but bound and determined never to have to go to a refugee camp again, no matter what.

Copyright 2007

Jerry D Young