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Vaxdemic Chapter 5

talexratcliffeSep 13, 2021, 9:00:27 PM

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Chapter 5

I can’t lie I was kind of hoping Ruth wouldn’t like the dogs. That thought went straight out the window the moments they rushed her at the front door. She was really happy. She even told me she was surprised that I had thought so far ahead. I’m still not sure what she was talking about but I didn’t want her to know I just couldn’t leave them behind.

Rusty, the big red brown monster took an instant liking to Ruth. He follows her everywhere. It’s really weird to see. Rusty has to outweigh her by a good fifty pounds. When I first saw him, he nearly made me ruin my pants. Now I watch him sitting next to Ruth as she works on meals with his big dopey dog smile, and I can’t imagine him being vicious.

The black dog follows me most of the time. When we’re home, she’ll sleep in the living room until it’s time to eat or go to bed. I named her Abigale. Ruth said it was sweet how I named her after an old girlfriend. I don’t want to tell her I named the dog after my romance choice in Stardew Valley. We both started calling the dog Abby for short. The biggest problem I have with her is she likes to sleep in my room. I tried to keep her out the first night, but she whined at my door till I let her in. Then she wanted to sleep right next to me. I refused at first, but the night was cold so I decided I would let her. I think it may be too late to change that.

Most of this week went a lot like the last except I was finally able to get a bath. I had to gather wood from the neighbors’ houses. Most of it was actual fire wood but some of it was furniture. It takes a long time to boil a tub full of water, and I really don’t like the idea that we have to share bath water, but Ruth let me go first. I say let, insisted is more accurate. She’d been complaining about my smell for a while. I remember looking at myself in the mirror. What little fat I did have is gone. Now I’m just a pale skinny nerd. I hate when I look like this, I’m not unhealthy but I look like some guy on TV would want to feed me for fifty cents a week.

My house doesn’t really feel like my house anymore. First of all, it’s full of stuff. Every room has a camping lantern. You can’t see the walls in the kitchen for all the shelves of food, cooking stuff, and cleaning products. My two other bedrooms upstairs are nothing but storage, as is my basement. All my computer stuff now sits in the corner of my bedroom. At one time it was the most valuable thing in the house. Now it just sits in a pile. I really miss the internet.

The neighbor’s house without the bodies has become a different kind of storage. Most of the tools I’ve found are over there, as is a lot of the stuff Ruth had me pick up from the hardware and tractor store. I remember one day she sent me to both, to see if they had any seeds. The hardware store had an old display that was half empty. There were some vegetables, but it was mostly flowers. The tractor store had loads and loads of different seeds. Ruth gave me a list of the different ones we would need. I didn’t bother and just took all the seeds in the display.

Gas is starting to become an issue. My neighborhood isn’t out of cars, but the distance I’m having to travel is starting to negate the purpose. One day I told Ruth I was going to find a bike so I could travel without using the trucks. (I now have two, one gas, one deasil) Ruth looked me up and down and turned away. I’m pretty sure I heard her choking back a laugh but for the sake of not arguing I decided to ignore it.

I owned a bike when I was a kid. I never rode it but I had one. I’ve never owned one as an adult. I knew that Walmart had a lot of bikes in the back, but the smell coming out of that store from the rotten food does a good job of keeping me away. I’m pretty sure I saw things moving in there last time I went, so best to just leave them be. I decided to find a small bike shop. The thing about stores like that is when you’re not looking for them, you see them everywhere. When you look for them, you never find them. After a long day of searching, I finally found a store about 10 miles from my house.

I’m kind of glad that I didn’t have to pay for a bike because they’re a lot pricier than I thought. Since I don’t have to pay for anything anymore, I looked for the one with the highest price tag in the store. That bike happened to be candy apple red and looked like it came out of the 50s. The bike didn’t have a price tag on it. I found a leger behind the counter that listed all the bikes and that one was listed at sixteen thousand. I assume it’s made of platinum under all that paint. It rides really smooth from what I can tell, in my minutes of experience. I decided to take it, but I wasn’t sure if it would work so I got two others. One with the widest tires I’ve ever seen on a bike and little springs around the forks on the front, and another that had a large rack over the back tire.

I tried riding one around my neighborhood. I was confident after a few times around my block and decided to try a local trail. I got about half a mile down it before my first hill. So yeah, hills suck. After struggling with it for a few minutes I decided to turn back. It turned out I had been riding down hill the whole time. The trip back was agonizing and several times I had to get off and walk the bike. I’m really not cut out for this.

Near the end of the week Ruth asked me to take her to her old house to pick up somethings. Her house is smaller than mine. As we entered, I had the strange feeling she had made my house her house. The only difference is my house is more stocked. She has the shelves for food and cleaning supplies but they are almost empty compared to what we have at home. She tasked me with packing up her cooking stuff while she got some keepsakes from her bedroom. It turns out almost all of Ruth’s old cookware is cast iron. It also turns out cast iron is heavy. My first attempt to put them in a box ended when I lifted the box and all the cast iron stayed on the floor, leaving me holding an empty cardboard shell. I ended up having to carry them out to the truck by hand. Abby followed me back and forth as I hauled the black cookware. She even tried to pull one of the smaller pans but I stopped her. I don’t know how to fix dog teeth and I don’t want to find out.

Ruth took a long time to get her keepsakes. I waited in the truck. Occasionally Rusty would run to the door, look at us in the truck, then run happily back inside. Ruth finally returned with a tub of photo albums, which she loaded in the back. I noticed she looked unhappy, but when I asked her about it, she put on her usual smile and told me not to worry. The rest of the day I noticed she would start to mope when she thought I wasn’t looking. I don’t know why it bothered me so much.

She told me about her family farm and how they had lost it to foreclosure again over a dinner of beans and cornbread. The latter was so good I understood why she wanted her cast iron. She even told me about her son and his new farm again. I guess she’s just reminiscing from her photo albums. Finally, something occurs to me. I asked her about what happened over the last few months and why nobody was around. Somehow in all the collecting stuff I had forgotten to ask.

I can’t quite process the story she told me. Early in fall more people started falling ill. The government tried to mandate everyone get the vaccine. This led to protests, walk offs, and a lot of unrest. Both sides were at each other’s throats and it wasn’t long before violence broke out. Then the micro strokes started. Soon people of all ages were starting to lose memories and control of their motor skills. There was already a labor shortage, but soon it was worse as so many people lost the majority of their motor skills. At first, they thought it must be the virus. That idea lasted a week till the first dozen autopsies. It didn’t take long to discover that all the new people dying had massive blood clotting issues. That the blood cells were just sticking to each other until they ran into an obstruction.

Then the die off started. In the course of a week almost 500k people died. The next one million. Then the count stopped. Some doctor went online and claimed to have proof it was the vaccine. He was arrested and during the perp walk one of the officers escorting him dropped dead from a stroke. After that the news went silent. The government tried locking things down, but news got out that they had proof it was the vaccine. Then they came out with the truth. The vaccine was indeed the cause and what was worse, it was spreading from person to person. They tried to organize the drug companies to find a solution, but their scientists died faster than they could be replaced. Ruth said it seemed like every day there was a new news anchor.

Then the insanity hit. One day with little explanation people started taking to the streets. Not to protest or fight. They wandered around, some screamed, some sobbed, others just talked. But every night they would return to their houses. Ruth assumed that the idea of home must have been as strong one. She told me how she saw what must have been the sane neighbors packing up and leaving at night, driving off to God knows where. The next day it all happened again. Most of the news stations were going off the air by this point. Ruth said she even saw a few military vehicles drive by one day. Soon everything went quiet. No more insane people, or people leaving, or vehicles at all. Then the power went out, and shortly after that is where we met.

After telling me the story Ruth looked tired. Or maybe I was finally seeing how old she really was. She then said she would clean up in the morning. She called for Rusty and the two went off to bed. I cleaned what I knew how to. Ruth expressly forbid me to wash her cast iron. I gave Abby some of the scraps and then we went to bed.

Tonight, is the first night I will use this notebook not as a journal but as a list. I guess I finally realize that there may be no return to how things used to be. I may not be strong, or know much about survival, but I know I am smart. That means there are somethings I can do.

We need power. Electricity to be more exact. I know a little about it since I built my own rigs. I’ll have to keep an eye out for books to help me. Maybe the local colleges might have some.

We need food. We have a lot of food already but it won’t last a life time. I’m not sure where to start on this one.

Lastly, we need fuel. I know gas goes bad, but I know there must be a way to preserve it for as long as possible. I’m pretty sure I’ll need to figure out some electricity stuff to get it. Gas stations work on pumps, I think. So, my first priority will be to figure out how to get fuel.


Bob Stakey

November 24, 2021


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