If you are new to this series here is the link to Chapter 1 Part I.
CHAPTER 4, Part I
The rays of the sun hit my eyelids through the opening of the hammock waking me up. Pulling apart the opening I’m able to see below. Wilfred is gone and the fire has died out. Remaining still and listening all I can hear are birds chirping and the distant sound of water flowing through the stream. Rotating my body I’m able to hang my legs out of the cocoon, they’re tight and cramped. Stretching them out I feel the blood flow down my legs into my feet. Sitting for a moment I look out at the valley, the golden rays of the morning sun rake across the mountains showing the details of the topography.
Retrieving the hammock and climbing out of the oak is a task, I’m stiff and sore from sleeping in a cramped position all night, but splashing water on my face from the stream revives me. Feeling slightly refreshed I stuff my gear into my pack.
“Where’s the closest Starbucks? I need some coffee.” I mutter
There are rabbit tracks all along the waters edge. I wonder if I got lucky last night. Walking towards the spot where I set the snare I can see a furry object dangling about 5’ in the air from the sapling. “Score!” This has proven to be a pretty good idea to come through the preserve. There’s a reason they call it the Conejo Valley. There’s tons of rabbits everywhere.
The snare worked perfectly. I was afraid the piano wire would be too thick but it seemed to function well. The rabbit had died from the sapling whipping it up into the air and breaking it’s neck. I release the wire around it’s neck and coil it back up with the twine. Taking the stick I made for the trigger I shove it into my cargo pocket. It worked once and will probably work again. There was no point in redoing work when an important piece of the puzzle proved functional. Grabbing the rabbit just below the shoulders I slowly work one hand over the other squeezing its innards towards its rear legs. When I feel a small pop, I swing the rabbit down and through my legs, the innards came out in one quick motion spraying into the bushes behind me. He’s considerably lighter now and completely gutted.
Reviving the fire is fairly easy, the coals are still hot enough to ignite some fresh tinder. Stripping the skin off the rabbit is easy work allowing me to cut the meat into thin strips. If I cooked the meat like the rattle snake it wouldn’t last more than two days before spoiling, not that there’s a lot of meat here, but if I can keep the heat of the fire down I can dry the meat and make jerky which will last for months if I needed it to. I lay the thin strips on the chimney side of the Dakota fire pit, the smoke rising will be just the correct amount of heat.
I have a feeling the smell of the meat smoking will draw Wilfred out from the brush. Soon there is a little black nose poking out from the brush sniffing in the air.
“Hey there. Want to try some rabbit?” I throw him a small chunk and he gulps it down. “Yeah, well that’s all you get, I gotta save some for myself.” If I can make good time I might make it all the way out to the housing development on the other side of the preserve. Maybe there’s a house with some good supplies in it. Wishful thinking, but you never know.
In about an hours time while carefully feeding the fire, giving it enough fuel to keep it alive but not so much to allow it to grow more than glowing embers I’m able to jerky the meat. Luckily, I still have some salt to sprinkle over the meat while basting it with the honey. Never really thought of having rabbit for breakfast but it’s tasty and warm in my belly. I take one of the leaf trash bags, cut a section out of it, wrapping the meat into a triangle then folding the corners into each other like a large cocaine bindle it’s a tight way of folding the plastic so it won’t get dirty in my pack.
It’s not hard to clean up a campsite, there’s not much point to it, but I do it anyway. I doubt anyone will come along here and find my tracks. I know a Zombie won’t have the intellect to notice or track me from anything other than my scent. But I do it anyway, for some reason I think it’s just the right thing to do. We fucked up the planet once as a human race, maybe if we had been more respectful from the beginning we would’ve gone on a different path and not made things get to where they are now.
Cooking the rabbit makes me get a late start and it’s getting hot. I doubt I’ll find any water before the houses on the other side, It’s about 12 miles and I’m absolutely going to have to make it before sunup tomorrow. My water won’t last much longer than that. Ahead on the left is the junction for the high pressure gas lines that pass through this area. Eight foot tall chain link fence with razor wire on top. The sound from the pipes traveled a good distance in the past, when you approached them on a run or mountain bike you’d be able to hear the hiss far before you could see them. But the structure lies silent today. Nothing more than a network of pipes filled with dormant natural gas. I know this route by heart, it was my favorite training ground when I was trail running. From here it’s a left up a nearly un runnable grade. At the top the high voltage transmission lines cut across the preserve North to South.
After three miles I pause under a cluster of oaks with picnic tables from the days of the CCC. Looking back down the trail I can see Wilfred standing in the middle of the trail. Whenever I walk he follows, keeping his distance and when I stop he stops. Taking a pull off my hydration bladder I swish the water around in my mouth then spit it out like a small stream onto my hands. Your hands are like radiators of the body. The moisture on them evaporates, cooling me a little.
“I don’t know about you, but it’s getting too hot. I’m going to take a siesta. You wanna take watch?” He cocks his head again as if he’s listening. “Not sure if that’s a yes or a no, but if you hear anything would you mind giving a yip?” It’s too hot to move but the shade from the tree is just enough to take the edge off the harsh rays of the sun. I think tonight there should be a waxing crescent giving me some extra light to travel.
The moaning was getting louder, I extended my hand to her.
“Come with me.” I said. “They’re dead.” She hesitated then took my hand and grabbed her clothes while standing. “I’m sorry.” I said leading her down the alleyway. Looking back I saw several Zombies who followed the sound of the gunshot. I jumped on top of a dumpster and took a leap to grab the ladder of a fire escape. As it came down I saw them gaining on us. “Climb!” I yelled pushing her up the ladder. As we reached the landing one of them was able to hold onto the bottom rung and was trying to figure out how to climb.