Something was hitting him in the head. Natog tried to open his eyes, but he couldn’t, and there was this awful screeching sound. He started to struggle but something was keeping him pinned to the ground. With a final THUNK, and the associated flash of light against his closed eyelids the hammering mercifully stopped.
It seemed his hearing was clearing up because the screeching was finally quieting down. Then something wet and cold was being rubbed over his face and eyes, struggling, he still couldn’t move his arms, but he managed to twist his head some so he could stop the wet thing from suffocating him.
It stopped and his addled mind could start to make out a litany of “Oh my god I hope he’s OK.” over and over. Then a man’s voice “Mum, he’s going to be ok, I promise.”
Finding his voice Natog managed to croak “Oi, it’s just a flesh wound! But why can’t I see?”
Bill’s voice came from closer this time. “It’s because you won’t let me wash off the blood, dick-for-brains.”
“Fucker, you were waterboarding me! And it’s cold as a witches’ tit.”
Mum was still frantic, but she seemed to be calming down. “I’ll get some more hot water.”
Natog heard Mum go into the house. “Ok, Bill, how bad is it?”
“Er. It’s a good gash. Mom was freaking out because we could see your skull.”
“Yeah, fucking blood is everywhere, I wonder if you need a transfusion.”
“Nah, I’ll be alright as long as I can see. What the hell were you doing to me? hitting me in the head with a hammer?”
Bill replied, “It’s the surgical stapler you gave to us for the first aid kit.”
“No shit. Hurts like a bastard.”
“I’m glad you were out cold, we washed the cut out with hydrogen peroxide, that would have stung.”
“Just a little.”
“Yeah a little bit. You gave Mum an awful scare.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“You’ve been out here at least 20 minutes. What the fuck happened to you? Your Jeep looks like it was used for target practice!”
“Fucking redneck national guard. They have New Bedford locked down. I ran into a roadblock and they started shooting.”
“Where? I’ll go kill those fuckers right now.”
“Let it go. The last thing I saw was one of ‘em wrestling with the one that shot at me.”
Natog heard the front door bang open and Mum come down the walkway. She was still alternating between the “Oh my god, I hope he’s ok”, and the “I’ll kill the summbitch” litany’s now.
This time the water was hot, but not painfully so. Bill finally got up off of Natog’s chest so he could help wipe his eyes clean. Finally able to see, Natog got up. It was a big mistake as the world started to spin and he barfed up his breakfast all over the front lawn.
“Easy there tiger, you have a concussion.”
“Yeah, not the first time. Remember that day we went sledding in the woods?”
“Fuck yeah, we should have been wearing helmets.”
“Help me into the house, My ass is frozen.”
Natog looked around as Bill and Mum helped him into the house. There was a lot of blood, a LOT of blood all over the snow. With his head still spinning he let them carry and drag him into the living room where he was dumped onto the couch. Mum stripped the blood-clotted jacket and shirt off of him and wrapped him in several blankets.
Lying on the sofa, he noticed Mum hand Bill had brought the old woodstove in from the shed and had it hooked up to the fireplace in the living room.
Bill busied himself with tending the fire, “So it looks like the Berger’s are going to sit tight down here for a while.”
Natog watched his brother load the stove. “Why’s that? Thought they would go up first chance they got.”
“Well, it’s cold up there, real cold, and they don’t want to get stuck on the way there in an ice storm or something.”
“You sound disappointed.”
“Well it makes the most sense, we have food, and fuel, and up there we could survive!”
Mum came in with a bucket of water and some soap, and washed Natog’s clothes sitting by the fire in her favorite easy chair. “I’m not ready to just leave, Bill, and neither are they, it seems.”
Natog watched the flames of the fire through the little vent in the stove’s door. “I don’t think we could take everything anyways. I was doing an inventory, and I could fill my whole truck with just canned goods.”
Bill sounded sullen, “So we leave some behind. We will still have plenty!”
“I know, but I think they have the right idea. If I abandon my house I know the local thugs will break in as soon as they can. Anything I leave I’ll have to assume it’s gone. I have the trailer, but even then there is no way I could get everything we could need. Plus, we are in no immediate danger here.”
“Natog, could you handle something to drink?” Mum asked while she wrung out the fleece pullover and sweatshirt and hung them near the wood stove to dry.
“Hell yeah, I’m starving, but food might be a bad idea. Hate to waste it of I’m still out of sorts.”
Mum went and made some tea from the kettle on the kitchen’s wood stove. Returning with three mugs, she dispensed them to the family. “Ok, now what happened? I need to know who I’m going to shoot.”
“Mum, It’s the national guard from Nebrasksa, I think. They have locked down New Bedford.”
“Why would the Guard from Nebraska be in New Bedford?”
Natog looked around at Bill’s and Mum’s faces. “Because New Bedford is burning.”
Mum looked puzzled. “What?”
“At least 20 blocks are on fire, it’s a scene right out of hell.”
Mum looked a bit frantic, “I wonder if Ginny is OK.”
Bill gave Mum a hug, “I’m sure she is, Where did these National Guardsmen come from?”
“Looks like they were just about to be shipped out of Handscom when the lights went out. They were probably deployed to New Beige to assist the cops. I bet they’ll be in Fall River, Brockton, etc. as well.”
Mum looked concerned, “But why shoot? I mean if it comes to that…”
Bill chimed in, “The Federal government is tossing the Constitution out, and enacting Martial Law! We need to rise up and kill these totalitarian bastards!”
Natog sat up a bit during Bill’s rant. “Easy there Sam Adams. Let’s look at it logically. These troops were about to go to a war zone, and spent how many months in training to face a hostile population. I rabbited, and that was that, the training kicked in.”
Mum turned the drying clothes and replied, “I don’t know, but if anyone shoots at me I’m going to shoot back. And that is that.”
“Hell Yeah!” added Bill.
“I agree, but I was outgunned, and out classed.” Natog sat up more, feeling a bit better. “Now we need to figure out what we are going to do. It’s tough as hell to keep in communication with each other.”
Bill got a evil grin on his face. “I think I got us a solution to that.” He got up and went outside.
“Want more tea?” asked Mum.
“Please, got some toast? I think I’d like to try some food.”
“You always did love that as a child. I’ll get the supplies we can make it here by the fire.”
While Mum was in the kitchen, Natog got up experimentally and stood. Bending over he got a little dizzy, but he didn’t barf, which was a good sign. His head was throbbing though from the rush of blood.
“What are you doing!” Mum cried as she came back in the room.
“I’m fine Mum, really. Just a bit lightheaded from the blood loss, but I’ll be fine.”
“You were SHOT in the HEAD.”
“I wasn’t shot in the head, it was a ricochet. It just proves just how stubborn I am.”
“Got that right.” Mum began warming a cast iron pan on the wood stove when Bill came bursting back in.
“Happy Kwanza!” Bill exclaimed as he tossed a few boxes on the floor.
Digging into the boxes, Natog and Mum pulled out a series of marine VHF radios. They were brand new and still in the box.
“I got a few real nice antennas too, we should be able to chat back and forth.”
Mum asked the obvious question, “Where did you steal them from?”
Bill was still grinning like a fox in a henhouse, “I didn’t steal them, I got their generator working, and took these in trade.”
Natog and Mum exchanged dubious glances and Mum asked the next question, “Do they work?”
“Hell yeah, if we put the antenna high enough we should make the 20 miles to Natog’s house.”
Natog grabbed bill by the shoulder and looked him straight in the eye, “It’s a good catch, but don’t hang around these guys. The cops or guards will catch onto whatever they are up to. And If they will shoot at me for running from a checkpoint, who knows what the fuck they will do to a looter.”
“I know, but when opportunity knocks, you got to run with it.”
Mum handed Natog and Bill toast with butter, sugar, and cinnamon. While they happily munched away, Mum refilled their mugs with tea. After breakfast, Bill got suited up and went out to cut wood. Mum cleaned the house, and with Natog’s urging she reluctantly went through the pantry to inventory what food she had.
With the supplies Natog brought last week, it looks if Bill and Mum were going to have enough food for the month, but that was going to be a bit tight, and repetitive. Looks like the old cans of green beans that haunted the back of the cupboard were finally going to get eaten.
Natog was feeling a lot better with the sugar and starch in his system, so despite the protesting of Mum, he went outside and cut and split wood with his brother. After a few hours, with lots of breaks, they had enough wood cut and split for a week, and enough wood brought in from the woods to easily last a month, once Bill cut and split it.
The source of the wood was hundreds of felled trees in the woods across the street and in the landlocked lot behind the house. Both property owners could do nothing with the lots because they couldn’t pass perc tests, so they did nothing with them. Which includes harvesting damaged or felled trees, it seems. Bill and Natog were more than happy to provide the service to clean up the wood when Mum’s money was tight, no need to ask permission, either, as the owners lived out of state.
Mum made lunch and called the boys in. A meal of leftover pasta from the night before with Mum’s spaghetti sauce, sausage and the last of the bread made into garlic bread was just what the doctor ordered for Natog. During the meal, they came up with call signs and what channels to listen on at what times to monitor.
After lunch, Natog loaded the roll of cable, the antenna, and the radio into the truck so he wouldn’t forget it. Then the climbed a tall pine tree in the back yard and hung the antenna as far up as they could. Running the cable into the house, Bill connected the VHF radio to a car battery. A few minutes after they powered it on, a message came over the speaker.
Mum looked up from her knitting, “Well looks like a few others have radios that are working too.”
Natog picked up the packaging and sorted it into burnable and not burnable piles. “Yeah, I wonder how many base stations made it, the EMP must have fried anything hard wired.”
Later on, after more tea, Bill and Natog went over his maps and managed to plan out a route through Dartmouth, Westport and Freetown that should avoid any major intersections. If they were going to go to Maine, then Natog would have to conserve fuel, which meant they wouldn’t be able to see each other. With the radios they could keep in touch.
They busied themselves with patching the two bullet holes in his windshield with packing tape, and putting fresh snow on the blood in the driveway. There were two other bullet holes, one in the passenger side quarter panel, and the cross brace for his roof rack. Bill summed it up succinctly, “That nitwit needs to learn how to shoot!”
With plenty of daylight left, Natog drove down the back roads through Westport, then Freetown. Once in Freetown, he used bolt cutters he kept in his truck’s tool box to cut the locks on the entrance roads through the State Forest. He closed the gate after he entered, and used a zip tie to keep the gate from opening on its own.
He drove with the window open a little, as the fresh air made him feel better. Also, the noisy Hummers could be heard far away with the radio off. It was just getting dark when Natog pulled into the garage. He had a hair over a half a tank of gas left. Feeding the dogs, he skipped dinner and went to bed after getting a small fire going to warm up the cold basement.