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Vaxdemic Chapter 21

talexratcliffeJan 2, 2022, 1:28:03 PM

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Chapter 21

We’ve had our first chilly week and I’ve found there are areas of the house with a draft. When power was cheap and contractors plentiful, I wouldn’t worry about such things. Now it’s occupying most of my time. One of the things that has remained untouched at the hardware store is the insulation and I really hoped I wouldn’t have to use it. Since my house hasn’t been worked on in a few years Ruth says it’s a miracle it’s in such good shape.

I don’t think Ruth is doing better. Claire has taken over most of the cooking and cleaning, but Ruth sleeps more than ever. She also has more evenings where she forgets things. Claire realized what it was right away, but has said little to nothing about it. The two women are getting a little bit closer, but Claire is a hard person to get close to. I think it’s the year of living like an animal. When she speaks, she’s unexpressive and there’s still the danger of upsetting her. When she gets flustered, she’ll often disappear to her room for the rest of the day and not come out until everyone else is asleep. Ruth tells me I need to be extra nice to her, and winks at me every time. I get what she’s going for but I had trouble with normal women before the world stopped. I don’t know how or why she wants me to woo Claire the feral. I do catch her watching me from her window sometimes, but it feels more like being watched by a cat.

Claire does have some softer moments but those are with the dogs. She checks the dogs over at least once a day. Apparently, she was in residency with a vet before the accident that laid her up. She’s very attached to the dogs and has taken over feeding them much to their disappointment. Claire doesn’t feed them as much as I was, but she does feed them more often. She told us we were feeding them too much and we needed to look after their health if we wanted them to be useful. She’s also taken over their training and I’ve got to admit she’s doing a really good job. The only dogs she has trouble with are Abby and Rusty. Abby spends her days with me, and she seems resistant to all of Claire’s attempts. When Claire get mad at her, Abby will turn and in her best doggy voice fuss at the poor woman. I’m not helping because every time Abby does this I laugh.

Rusty is a different story. The giant lump of mussel only leaves Ruth’s side to eat and use the bathroom. He sleeps next to her at night and gets her up in the morning. Claire tried once to take him for some training but he simply refused to listen and he was too heavy for the small woman to move. Ruth told her not to worry, that Rusty was just a big baby and should be fine. I think Rusty like myself noticed there was something wrong with Ruth and is worried to leave her side. He’ll come say hi to me by giving me a sniff when Ruth is around but ignores Claire where ever he finds her.

Lump, Bip, and Bop absolutely love Claire. When they aren’t following me around the garden, they’re following her around the house. Many times, I’ll come inside and see the three big puppies watching her clean, cook, or are following her lessons. All three have taken to sleeping in her room. The three only go outside with me as Claire doesn’t like to leave the house, but they come running when she calls leaving me outside with Abby.

Strange as it sounds, I’m starting to feel like we might actually make it. I’ve started the autumn harvest and after teaching Claire how to can properly, we have more food than the same time last year. We’ve almost reached a year since the power shut off, and looking around it’s hard to count the number of things that have changed. There’s something that still bothers me. What Claire told me about the others out there.

Since this all started, I’ve been in danger a number of times, fear is nothing new to me. But this is something different. I assumed that once we found other people, we would all just work toward survival together. After all, that’s what Ruth and I did. If Claire was right, there may be some terrible people out there. She’s not been very open about her year alone since the day she confronted me by the fire, but it’s her attitude that worries me.

At first, I could discount her skittish nature to having to survive alone among wild animals and living near starvation. I’m starting to think it may be something else. She’s started to fill out into a more feminine shape now that she’s had a steady diet, but her fear hasn’t left. I think I accidently made it worse when she caught me staring at her one day. I didn’t mean to, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen an attractive woman, and now one is living in my house.

Back to the dangers. I’m not sure how to prepare for this problem of hostile people. Claire said they were keeping their distance from the city for now but how long would they stay away. Even though I had taken a lot of stuff from the stores and business there was still a lot that could be salvaged from the city, I have no doubt about that. I was more than happy to share, but that may not be an option. I’ve imagined angry raiders killing me and burning my farm for nothing more than the canned food and shiny things here. I’ve also imagined an armed militia simply coming into the city and taking over. We’re only three people and I’m the only one who can really stand against such a thing which worries me more than words can say.

I can think of little to do. I could lay traps, but that runs the risk of hurting us or one of the dogs. It could also turn a potential friendly into an enemy. I could go looking for them, but the sign in front of the blocked interstate exit keeps coming to mind. They may be just as likely to shoot me as listen to me. Worse still, my existence might prove that the city was mostly safe and they may try to take over. I decided I needed to be as prepared as I could.

I’ve started stockpiling all the weapons and ammo I can find in the city. My reason for this is they won’t find the means to kill us here in the city at least. My first step was to claim all the guns I found in the rich house’s safe. I then proceeded to find every store that sold guns or ammo of any type and empty their stock entirely. It took two weeks of my free time but we now have an extreme number of guns.

My second step is a fence of sorts around my property. I want a wall that will channel them to one direction, but what to build it out of? I could use some of the houses around me to make a ramshackle wall out the wood frames, but that seemed far too unstable. I would prefer to make it from cinderblock or concrete, but neither of these are abundant enough for me to enclose everything we need. I even thought about using some of the scrapped cars I’ve parked. Just turn them on their side and make a wall that way. I decided this plan had too many variables to be used.

I stumbled upon the answer while reading a book on road work. Reinforced earth. It’s how they build these large on ramps. The idea is fairly simple. Earth when in a pile will fall in every direction. But if you layer it with something like fabric or a tarp you actually get a structure that will hold up a huge amount of weight. Dirt is also a great bullet stop. The only problem is it meant I was going to need a lot of dirt and something to shore up the sides.

I started my project by scraping a house at the end of my street for wood. This was the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever done. I needed wood to frame my walls so I had no choice. I decided to start from the top down. It took two days to remove the metal roofing and pile it in the yard. I decided I would try to use it for the layering of the dirt. Then I started removing the plywood underneath. I started the wall on the street in front of my house. I set up two walls about two feet apart. I did everything I could to keep it level and straight up and down. Then I started taking dirt from the yards we didn’t use. It takes a long time to move dirt by hand, and trying to fill up several cubic feet of layered dirt took several days. I finished the first ten feet of the wall in a little over a week. I had to secure it internally with several scavenged boards to keep the sides from separating but I finally had my wall.

Around this time Claire and Ruth were distracted by the goose eggs hatching and the cute little fluffy grey birds they were feeding. Ruth was spending more time than I thought healthy teaching Claire how to care for the squeaky little things, but the two women had grown closer over the past month and nothing I said would sway them on the matter.

The wall needed to be tested. I grabbed one of the many rifles we had, the biggest I could find. From my front porch I took aim. If you’ve never fired a really big gun, you can feel the shockwave in your chest. The damn thing nearly knocked me over, but my test was complete. There was an entry hole on my side of the wall, but it didn’t make it through the tightly packed earth and dirt. It did make it pour out my side through a watermelon sized hole. Both Ruth and Claire came to the door when they heard the gun go off. Ruth was beside herself when she found out what I was doing. Clair looked almost happy when she heard my explanation. I’m glad she landed on my side on the subject, I don’t think I could have convinced Ruth otherwise.

The biggest problem was not convincing Ruth however, it was building the wall itself. After a second week of work, I was starting to realize how long this was going to take. Not since the windmills had I taken on such a large difficult project, but for some reason seeing Claire’s slight smile at my idea made me want to finish the wall. I needed a winter project anyway.

Bob Stackey

October 10, 2022

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