If you are new to this series here is the link to Chapter 1 Part I.
Here is this week’s continuation of Willet:
Laying back down I try to shut my eyes. I need to move tomorrow, it’s going to be hot so I’ll have to move early and find someplace to hold up during the hottest part of the day, then continue to move again at night. Opening one eye I come to the realization that sleep is never going to come. If I’m gonna move at first light I gotta get my gear organized. Crawling forward to my pack my back is starting to feel a little better but that might be the effects of the drugs and bourbon. Opening my pack I allow the contents to spill out on the plywood floor. Quickly I group the contents into piles. In addition to the stuff I found yesterday, I’ve got the following in my pack:
- 9 volt LED light that attaches directly on to a 9 volt battery. I need a new battery but it’s so small and light weight it’s worth keeping in case I find a good battery.
- Compass and map of LA County. I’m going to have to find a map of Ventura County when I get closer up to the county line.
- Small notepad and pencil.
- 550 Paracord. I had 100’ but it’s probably down to about 25’ now.
- Small first aid kit, mostly used up but I zip it open and add the items I found from the bathroom.
- SOL Bivy Sack
- Hammock with webbing and carabiners
- Swedish Fire starter
- Flask (now topped off with the Knob Creek)
- My multiplier, it’s heavy but has a thousand uses
On the floor is the penny can stove, bottle of Heet which serves as fuel for the stove, my spoon, my bic lighter, the cup I cook in, my hydration bladder, the bottle of bourbon, my benchmade folder, the tomahawk, and my bandana. That’s it. This is my entire life’s possessions. I’ve had several guns during the past six months, but they become a dead weight when you run out of ammo. If I find a gun it usually has ammo and if I find ammo of a popular caliber then I stash it in my pack and keep an eye out for a gun that’ll work. But truthfully it’s so seldom that you can actually use it with out attracting a crowd, it’s not worth carrying such a heavy item. That’s why I like my tomahawk, it’s quiet and pretty deadly. The downside is you have to get up close and personal.
Reassembling my pack I tuck everything neatly back inside with an order that’s all too anal but purposeful according to weight and necessity. When you have a specific spot for every single item it’s easy to tell when something is missing.
The sky is starting to turn blue as the sun rises. Standing is less painful now. I put my feet together and bend forward at the waist. I don’t even come close to touching my toes, but then again I never have. My back audibly pops and I come even closer to the ground. Bending my knees allows me to reach further and then wrap my arms around the back of my legs hugging my chest as tight as I can to my thighs. I take a deep breath and straighten my legs exhaling as my hamstrings scream. Stars shoot through my field of vision like a small fireworks display when I stand. I definitely feel better today.
After filling my hydration pack with water from the hot water heater I slip out the back of the house. The weight of the pack actually feels good, the waist belt is fastened tight around me and creates a solid platform for my spine. In the backyard it’s still dark from the canopy of trees, but I can see blue light turning yellow and getting brighter through the gaps in the leaves. I try to move as much as possible through back yards keeping off the streets unless I absolutely have to. Being in the open not only attracts Moaners, but as society has crumbled people have become desperate, looking for all forms of prey.
It’s not as easy as you’d think to criss cross through back yards in Los Angeles, every house has either a fence or wall of some sort around the entire perimeter of the yard. This yard I’m in now has a wooden fence with some of the pickets broken. I creep over to it and peer through the gap between the pickets keeping an arms length distance away from the opening. I look as far to the left and as far to the right as I can. The yard looks empty. Allowing my pack to quietly fall to the ground I pop my head through the gap. It was a tough call on what to do first, push the pack through ahead of me and risk a Zombie lurking in the shadows making me have to run away potentially losing all my gear? Or move yourself through first and risk being surprised by a Zombie and having to fight? After much testing on my theory I’ve found it’s best to drop your pack on the side you know to be safe, then enter the yard with your weapon drawn. This way you can always retreat and grab your pack during your egress or fight the fight without having the burden of your pack.
On the other side the yard are tall dead dried out weeds almost up to my hips. Standing I survey the yard and don’t see anything unusual. Quietly gathering my pack and putting it on I creep through the weeds making my way to the side of the house. Lying on the ground is the mummified carcass of a dog with a rope tied to it’s collar. There are two bowls next to his doghouse, one would’ve been for water and one for food. He had long since died of dehydration. His owner probably died at some point and the poor dog had been tied up in the back yard. It’s always unsettling when you see the corpses of children and animals. Probably because they had no say in any of this. They had no turn at life, they were just dealt this shitty hand and they paid the consequences for all of us grown ups being stupid and fucking everything up.
I hear moaning in the yard on the other side of the fence, through the slats in the wooden pickets I can see one walking in circles in the yard. Worn into the ground is a track she had made from the miles she had trekked in a circle. Still in a tattered bathrobe, you can see her pink nightie through the holes. Whether it was actually pink, or had been stained red from blood then faded over time was tough to tell. Setting my pack beside the doghouse and hopping up on to it’s roof as quietly as I’m able. My stiff back gives me the grace of a wrestler trying to be a ballerina. Better to be quiet than graceful I think. Slowly, I pop my head over the fence. Either I deal with her, or I’ll have to go out in the street and potentially have to deal with much worse. Every minute that passes the brighter and hotter it gets. On the other side of the fence just below me is an old 55 gallon drum.
Hopping over the fence, tomahawk in hand I land on the drum which is unstable and indents with my weight, making a loud gong sound. Turning she locks her hollow eyes on to me. Cautiously, I get down off the wobbly barrel and move steadily heel to toe towards her. She hisses and moans with her mouth open unnaturally wide. Taking a step she trips on the edge of the rut she has worn in the ground and falls. Taking two giant steps as quickly as I can while she tries to stand I swing the tomahawk into the base of her skull splitting it open. Stench quickly rises from the infected putrified grey matter flowing like jelly toward my shoes. I gag and stumble backwards.
I’ll never get used to the smell.
After retrieving my pack I make my way through several more yards. Two miles may not seem like a long way to go, but with every house comes a yard with its own challenges. It’s a long methodical process. I think I’ve only gone about a mile and it’s starting to get really hot. It’s got to be close to noon and it’s probably at least 99˚. There’s a house up ahead that looks like it might work for a siesta. Not sure why that house looks better or different than any others, but all you have to go on is gut feelings these days.