WARNING: Rated R
Be sure to read Chapter 1 first: GreyWorld Chapter 1
Deborah fussed with the tea lights in the basement for the second time in as many minutes. She rearranged their faint lights in various patterns or shapes. It was all she could do to keep from losing her mind. Her world had collapsed around her. First her husband had passed away. A particularly vicious strain of influenza had rocked his body over three days, and his body had given up. Deb used all the mental energy she had to retain sanity after he had passed. She was left with three boys, mostly grown and a large house. Her boys did their best to cheer her up. They took her out camping, visiting relatives and introduced her to nice men they knew. Nothing worked for Deb, nothing could replace the man that had filled her life with joy. Then everything turned into a nightmare.
She didn’t pay much attention to the daily news, but it didn’t take long before the news started taking up every channel. Talk of comets and scientists predicting strange weather anomalies. At the same time, political and economic problems started to snowball into huge issues around the globe. A broadcast of warning was the last she remembered on the television. They told people to prepare for the cold, a lack of water and food shortages. They said to stay in your homes until help arrived. The next day, the power was out. And it remained out. No more advice came. The house was dark, cool and without water, and her kids and neighborhood friends became worried.
Frank Gardner was a logical and mature old man, but he was also worried. A few years short of seventy, Frank was generally a happy retiree. He lived in a nice house with his wife Grace. Their thirty something son Vincent rented the basement suite from them. Frank had seen power outages before, but nothing like this. Usually it was something simple, like a downed line. This was completely different as the weather was calm and generally warm; it was summer. Taking the calculated steps to figure out the problem, Frank walked from door to door to strike up conversation with some of his neighbors. It seemed no one really knew what was happening. His next-door neighbors, the Lozinskis, seemed desperate for some sort of answer to the power outage. The poor lady. Deborah had lost her husband, and it was obvious her household was not what it had once been. Her kids were a chipper bunch, but the energy of their home had changed. Still, Frank often invited them over, and they were happy to share a meal with the older couple from time to time. After the third day sitting by the fire, Frank decided he would invite them to stay at his place. They had a fireplace, a large supply of food and enough room for everyone. It was the natural thing to do for neighbors in need. While meek and quiet, Deborah could not resist Frank’s old charm, and she reluctantly moved her brigade of young men into the spare rooms of the old couple’s home next door.
David was an energetic young man. He was always out camping, biking, drinking or working on his car. If it weren’t for the recent turn of events he would most likely be out with his pack of friends on some adventure. He used the constant stimulation to keep his mind off the loss of his father. While the power outage had taken away his connections to most of his friends, he was still finding ways of enjoying himself. David’s younger brothers were fun too, but not quite exciting enough. Too many video games and not enough real action. His neighbor Vincent was a pretty cool guy. He showed David his pair of pistols he kept in a small safe in his basement bedroom. David loved guns, but didn’t own any of his own. He had shot a revolver once and a few BB guns, but nothing serious. Vincent showed him how to chamber a round, change the magazine and operate the safeties and locks. The smooth actions of the pistols, and the slight sheen of the black finish mesmerized him. Together, over the days and following weeks, they became good friends. Things were becoming much more exciting for David, his family and their new roommates, the Gardners.
As the weeks passed the city smoldered in its own chaotic embers. People had reallized the enormity of what was happening, and they panicked. Hordes of vehicles had poured out of the major lanes of the city. Every route had been blocked with an endless parade of every vehicle imaginable. Stalls and vehicles drained of gasoline clogged the roadways. All manner of high speed wrecks and spills made any sort of real transportation impossible, save for offroad vehicles. In the first week the stores were packed with people grabbing essentials at the last minute. By the beginning of the second week people were kicking in windows of the stores left locked by their absent owners. Malls struggled to seal their entrances early enough, before their staff was overrun and their stock looted. As the banks had shut down with the power, people had gone mad trying to acquire the things they needed, and once purchased through credit. The daily essentials ran out quickly, and crime increased dramatically. Break-ins, robberies and vandalism rocked every corner of the city. The core, the suburbs and even outlying communities were plagued with every form of villainy. The quick had left, the strong started fortifying, and the evil in society thrived. The weak were the fodder for those that would take advantage and subjugate. Makeshift shelters in the cores of the largest cities flooded with those seeking asylum. These places were deemed some of the worst places to be. The most desperately hungry were caged with other starving people, making these shelters veritable madhouses. Over private radio chatter people traded rumours back and forth over the catalysts of the power outages. Those listening found the banter and broadcasts to be confusing. Some said the government was trying to initiate a new order for the country. Others retorted that the power outage was a result of terrorist attacks. Others said that comets striking the Earth had been mistaken as nuclear strikes. There was definite lawlessness throughout the world, with world leaders seemingly missing in action. Reports of governments relocating to remote locations were countered with reports of violent takeovers and coups in others. No one knew the truth, and everyone had something to say. The only real truth was that everything, every part of our functioning world, was crumbling. Then the reports of war had emerged. An actual nuclear strike had wiped out the capital of Iran and the surrounding lands. A retaliation strike followed, and word had it the Middle East, with its stores of oil, was an irradiated wasteland. It was every family for themselves, worldwide.
The joint home of the Gardners and Lozinskis had been transformed into an armored fortress. The garage was completely stripped of its wooden material. All that was left were a secured two by four studs and the concrete pad. The windows were boarded, the doors reinforced from the inside. It wasn’t impenetrable, but better then nothing. They young men worked in conjunction for days. The first murder in the neighborhood happened three weeks into the blackout. A young man had been shot in the head in a car jacking, by an unstable man desperate to flee the city. Soon after, a house several streets down had been broken into, and the father stabbed to death in his own kitchen. These shocking events motivated the two families to secure their own safety.
Together, they spent their evenings sitting by the fire, talking about when things might take a turn for the better. They cooked their meager meals by the fire, talking over the crackle, and often fell asleep side by side on the couches. It was the last comfort they had, the warmth of their loved ones close. The last scrap of humanity they had, before they were stripped and left with nothing. They listened intently to the crackle of a wind-up radio, hoping for any sort of broadcast. For weeks, as fall turned colder there was nothing.
The sounds of car break-ins and banging on doors were becoming an every night things. The darker elements of society were rummaging for anything they could grasp. Shattering glass broke the night calm often; the falling shards bringing chills to the families while they tried to keep warm. Frank Gardner had kept his old hunting rifle loaded and ready beside an upstairs window. Before going to bed by the fire, he would stare out the window for hours, vigilant. Some nights he would fall asleep on his rocking chair, exhausted from lack of sleep. During the days, the Lozinski boys, accompanied by Vincent Gardner would head over to their old house, and fetch various items deemed useful for the other home. Using rain catches and the recently fallen snow in the area, they collected water, disinfecting it with bleach. They conserved their bottled water as long as they could. They were unwashed, ripe with the smell of perspiration and started to look more and more worn down. After their food supply started running down, they would make forays into other neighbor’s homes.
First, they were hesitant. They were friendly with most of the neighbors on the block. But after a few weeks, a majority of the neighbors had left. The few remaining had boarded their homes extensively, and the homes occupied were quite obvious. The homes that were left unsecured were the first that the boys and men checked. They left notes for their absent neighbors, explaining the lack of food that plagued the city. They took everything they could. At first they left cash, but after running out, they returned to collect it once more. Money was no good now anyway. In their foraging during the day, they would occasionally see other neighbors, out checking their block for remaining families and available food and supplies. They would speak cordially to each other, but kept everything brief. Formalities were a thing of the past. They took note of each other’s homes, promising help if it was needed to each other. After a month and a half, no one came out of their homes anymore. Were they dead? The Gardners and Lozinskis were unsure of the status of the other families, and did not risk any more daylight trips. They utilized a well-placed bush, a basement window, and the cover of night to conceal their departures.
It was one such night, when Vincent and David jointly decided it was time to find another cupboard of food to borrow. They left late in the day, before dusk. Making their way a few streets down, they scouted a house that appeared to have been empty. After checking for occupants, they discreetly entered via a main floor window. Unlike most of the houses they checked, looters had either not noticed, or not bothered with this house. Unrestrained they filled their backpacks with canned goods, baking supplies and cereals. A bedroom in the basement had obviously been lived in by a rebellious youth. Knives, band t-shirts and empty beer cans littered the floor. This household seemingly hadn’t been occupied since the first days of the blackout. David pocketed a switchblade knife from the room, and they continued checking every nook of the house. A few drinks from the liquor cabinet, and the two men were starting to feel the warm glow of alcohol in their veins. They saved a bottle of scotch for the cold nights around the fire, and decided to leave. Their families would start to get worried, despite the pistols that Vincent carried on his hip. They noted the address, and exited quietly from the rear. They dashed down alleys and through backyards, trying to hide the path to their home. The evil eyes of looters were everywhere, peering through black windows, waiting for their next catch. People living meant food was present.
Vincent led the way over his neighbor’s fences, towards his basement suite. He pushed a board aside, and stooped, snuck under a thick bush. Following him, David thought he heard a voice from the front of his house. Assuming it was his brothers, he continued under the bush towards the window that Vin was opening. It was completely covered by the bush, useless for light in day. Now, it served as an invisible way to enter or leave the house.
It was automatically apparent that something was wrong. The usually monotone sound of his mother was broken, emotional and panicked. David heard her whimpers from upstairs as he set foot on the floor of the basement. Seeing David’s look, Vincent unholstered his pistol and chambered a round. The sounds of a strange man could be heard from upstairs, muttering. Neither of the men could figure out who it was, and both had the sheer chills of adrenaline pumping their bodies with action. The basement was in disarray, and the evidence of a break in was all around. David fumbled for the knife he has taken, and fingered the action switch. The cold blade flipped out without a noise. In his other hand he grabbed a large snow globe that decorated the basement hall. They slowly moved up the stairs, listening for anything. At the top of the stairs, the faint light of a single candle shone through the cracked door. David could see the silhouetted figure of the back of a man’s head. He held a shortened double barrel shotgun loosely in his right hand. Dull wisps of smoke embed and flowed around him. In front of the man, David saw the bound and gagged face of his mother. Her front of her blouse was was torn. The others were beside her. Tears streamed down her cheeks, but her eyes burned into the man facing her. The stink of kerosene filled the air. That was enough for David. His leviathan anger overruled any calm logic he had left. He pushed Vincent aside, and kicked the door open. Lunging for the man, he struck his skull with the snow globe. The momentum of the boy and his strike knocked them both forward, past his family and into an adjacent room. In the dark, David stabbed into the bulk of the horrible person he had fallen on. His anger carried his arm as it struck again and again. The knife sank deep several times, but then a knee to the stomach winded him. The darkness of the room was blinding, the pain rocked him. He stood as the man rolled off him and barreled out of the room. Beside him, David saw the fallen shotgun, knocked from the hands of the unknown thug. He choked on his breath, but grabbed it, following the crashing retreat of the man down the black hallway. Lifting the weapon quickly he pulled the trigger. The blast went wide, and shattered the wooden frame of the front door the man darted to. The flash had lit the target however, and he slapped the second trigger. Immediately another figure, female, appeared in front of the retreating man and the blast discharged directly into her face. The leather clad marauder pushed past the mystery woman but tripped on her crumpling body. David looked back, shocked, but saw Vincent close behind. His outstretched arm shoved the younger boy to the wall. Several rounds tore from his barrel, chasing the fleeing figure outside. He continued to the front, stopping at the door, and started emptying his magazine. A pair of his bullets struck true, bursting into the legs of his target that was crawling hurriedly out past his driveway. A trail of blood colored the snow with contrasting rouge. Another figure tried to help the man into a van. Vincent’s second pistol was out before his first was empty. Seeing multiple figures, he crouched for cover, expecting return fire. Vincent aimed his pistols at the van and squeezed the triggers. The rounds punctured the side of the van as the door slammed shut, and it peeled away.
Inside, the families sobbed together in relief. They had been cheated. A street girl had betrayed Frank’s trust. She told stories of being beaten, and left to die on the street. She said she saw their lights, and needed refuge. His kind old heart could not refuse, and they offered her a bed. Deborah had distrusted the girl, but kept her opinion to herself. They had been awakened brutally by the gang of men, tied, abused and robbed. It was mere moments before their lives were to be ended.
The Gardners and the Lozinskis tended to their scratches, scrapes and bruises. While most of the injuries were superficial, the look in Deborah’s eye’s eluded to something more sinister. She had been taken into a room for a short time while the others were tied up. The tears of the group continued to flow that night. They secured the front door tightly, and stayed awake together. Vincent retrieved the bottle of liquor, and together they shared it to soften the vileness they felt in their hearts. Slowly the fatigue of their ordeal delivered them to slumber.
The next day, the families decided they would leave. They had a friend a few blocks away who was sure to help them out. The bandits had taken virtually all of their supplies. They had precious few bottles of water left and excepting the food gleaned from the house on the foray, they were out. The bandits had stolen Frank’s hunting rifle.
Together, Vin and David dragged the gory body of the girl from the step of the home into a nearby park. With a splash of kerosene, they set her alight.
Frank had noticed a friend walking with two others down their street in the early afternoon. He greeted them and they spoke of the previous nights events. Dumbfounded and filled with empathy, the man outspokenly offered his home as a safer residence for the two families. The man’s name was Walt, an old hunting buddy of Frank’s. He lived a few streets down, and was doing a patrol of the neighborhood. In addition to a shotgun strapped on his back, he carried a large revolver. His mates each carried rifles of their own, and additional side arms in holsters. They had been walking the community of late, trying to deter looters from having at the unguarded houses of his neighbors. He was tired of the fear, the hiding. His home was a veritable trove of food, essential supplies and weaponry. His military service had trained his mind and body, and his hobbies entailed hunting and collecting firearms. He promised them safety, and hope.
Once safe inside, the single man painted a vivid picture of the horrors that were occurring across their once beautiful city. Fires consumed isolated communities, eating the buildings that stood in the way. Huge sections of city streets were blocked off with vehicles, keeping them from emergency assistance. Armed gangs, miscreants and murderers walked the streets in record numbers. The suburban streets were no longer safe to walk alone in the day, and immediately deadly at night. The scarcity of drugs, food, water and alcohol intensified the already bleak situation. Turf wars and looting city wide became a full time occupation of raiding looters and gangsters, and soon it seemed, they would outnumber the peaceful families that tried their best to survive in the ghost city. The police presence dwindled since the first week or two. It seemed most of the street level cops tried to defend the masses, but their efforts were for naught. Their own command structure fizzled, and as resources ran scarce, there ability to perform their jobs was seriously handicapped. Soon, multiple shootings and outright bold attacks forced most to disband and protect their families. Armed families quickly took a hostile stance to strangers. It was said that some of the worst gangs near the city center were formed of corrupted officers. The general peace that encapsulated the lives of the regular citizens was shattered.
Walt quickly armed the family members with various pieces of firepower. The younger boys were shown basic safety, and proper technique and Walt supplied them with an air pistol for practice.
The men were shown the watch points of the house; the tiny openings in the otherwise boarded home. High power rifles with scopes were positioned within easy reach of each point. Walt had completely blocked his front door with iron straps screwed to the front and a large bar across the back. His rear door was equally secured, but easy enough to open from the inside. No light shone through the windows, as he used black sheets in the rooms to contain any glow. His basement was a shooters dream. Steel racks in a cement room contained numerous rifles and shotguns of every make. A bench with reloading equipment and steel bins contained the ingredients to load bullets for months, or years. For continued sustenance, he had a water filtration system with disinfectants that he used to clean water from a nearby creek. A buried hose and a hand-pump provided the ability to tap from the creek directly, without leaving the home. His pantry was labyrinthine, with multiples of all home essentials. It seemed he was prepared for everything. He offered them some hot water and towels, to clean the grimy buildup from their bodies. In a hidden room in the basement, a small generator sat. Walt used it occasionally, and had the room insulated for sound to keep the noise from reaching those on the street. Small ducts lead away from the generators exhaust, through the house, and into the chimney vent.
Walt was prepared for violence, and violence had presented itself in the worst way. Several other men from his circle had taken steps equip themselves for the worst before it happened. Along with stockpiling food, water and other essentials, they were willing to use force to defend the lives of their loved ones. He had stayed in contact with several men and women within a close area, using pre-set times and locations for meetings. In the past weeks they would collect themselves, distribute arms and ammo, and conduct patrols along their suburban routes. It was all they could do to keep the murdering gunmen at bay.
Feeling more secure with their armaments, the adult members of the group started discussing the future. The danger of the gangs and armed groups in the area was ever present. Forced to hide in their homes, they would be doomed to waste away until their supplies had diminished. This was not the way they wanted to die. One of Walt’s associates, a quiet man in his fifties, mentioned the marauder activity around the mall not ten minutes away. It seemed that raiders and bandits had taken up residence there, and used it as their base of operations. The houses in the area were frequently plagued with violent break-ins. The options for survival in this locale were bleak. The men had many suggestions, one of which was all out war with the attackers. Shoot on site. The negihborhood survivalists were armed, and among the collective, including the two families, were over two dozen men and women. The hope for government intervention seemed too long coming for promise. Nothing more was heard from anywhere on the radios. It was as if this city were alone, sitting on an infinite ocean of solitude. They could find some fuel, and try to flee, but Frank argued that even if they found a decent spot somewhere, it was not guaranteed to be safer then here.
The groups decided on two courses of action. Frank and Grace would accompany the Lozinskis and two other small families out of town, to their cabin just over two hundred kilometers north. If it was still untouched, it would have the necessary supplies to last them for another month or two. It was far enough from town and on some deep back roads; this they hoped would keep them safe. The rest were going to make a stand against the raiders that were camped at the mall, and promised to follow shortly after. David decided he would stay amd fight with Walt and the others. There were several families still trying to outlast the blackout, buried deep within the shells of their homes. To leave and disband the only armed opposition to the criminal underworld would only mean death to those who stayed.
Assembled in the end of the cul-de-sac, the men stood quietly. They each inspected their weapons, magazines and gear. Divided among them were web belts loaded out with spare ammunition. David was given a vest of heavy body armor. The other men wore a variety of vests and plate carriers, covered with dark jackets. It seemed that the men had stashed away prohibited weapons, relics from days long past. Walt himself carried a fully automatic AK47, and some of the men from the other sides of the neighborhood carried weapons equally as destructive. David eyed Walt’s weapon curiously. Walt, in turn, produced a large goofy grin. It was as if his whole life was waiting for this moment. They each hopped into the back of a large black pickup that one of the neighborhood watchmen was driving. Today was the day that they came out of hiding. Today was the day that they stood up for what they believed in, and their lives. Today’s actions, would be the first task of the Neighborhood Defense Force.