Authors: A.J. Winter
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Copyright 2015 by A.J. Winter - All rights reserved.
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Dawn of the Alpha
Post Apocalyptic Dystopian Romance
By: A.J. Winter
When the world went hot life changed for everyone. The rag-tag group of travellers moving south through what remained of the American heartland had no idea how bad life was for the rest of the world, there were no more international broadcasts and nothing to watch them on, and they no longer cared. The structure of society which allowed wages to be collected and the money to be exchanged for food and necessary items, and for that food and those items to be delivered to stores in the first place, had collapsed. Cities could not sustain their populations, what was left of them. Towns and villages walled themselves in, refusing the urban refugees admittance. All that was left for the survivors was a life on the road, scrounging for food and anything they could trade at these last vestiges of civilization.
This group had crawled from the rubble of Bismark, North Dakota, into a scorched and savage America. Men, women, and children, they took what they could carry and went south to find this new land inhospitable and dangerous.
Damian had been wandering for weeks already. He’d been in the capital when the month long world war had broken out. Washington DC had been hit early and Damian had travelled through the every growing waste lands as the war swept across the country. He hadn’t bothered going very far west – too many giant cities that had been nuked early on; nothing of value or interest. As winter receded he abandoned the fighting in the south and made his way north, always one step behind the destruction. He watched city after city burn, watched the civilians crawl out of the wreckage, and watched the United States of America patch itself together into a hodgepodge of walled towns, guarded farms, and strong-houses.
He reached Bismark, North Dakota so soon after the planes that he could still see the flames raging through the city. Dark memories wouldn’t allow him to venture any closer until the flames finally burned themselves out.
He walked up the deserted highway until he found the first band of survivors. An armed man atop a semi-trailer hailed him. “Hold on there! Who are you?”
“Second Lieutenant, Damian Winters of the United States Army.” There was no Veteran’s Affairs, no military command office, no one in the entire country who could tell these people, or the dozens like them, that he had been discharged for failing his last psych evaluation
“Oh good,” the man said, “Are you here to save us?”
“Save you? The entire country looks like your city back there. I’m betting the rest of the world isn’t faring any better. I’m just here trying to survive.”
The man began crying and Damian walked into the make-shift camp. He had seen refugee camps in war-torn countries and knew what to expect, but it was harder when the faces all looked like family and friends instead of foreigners. He grabbed a young boy by the arm and said, “Is anyone in charge?”
The boy pointed towards the city and Damian let him go. He continued north through the camp until he found more armed men. He left his gun slung over his shoulder and kept his hands visible as he approached, but he figured no one would know he wasn’t just another survivor from the city.
“Is someone in charge of the camp here?” he asked.
“Where did you come from?”
“Not from here. I’m just passing through, spreading the news. Is there someone in charge?”
“They’re fighting about that now,” another man said. “Over there.”
He followed the raised voices to a crowded meeting. When it became obvious no one was going to pay any attention to him he jumped on a nearby barrel and shouted, “I have news from further south!”
Suddenly everyone was staring at him. There was a core group standing in the center of the crowd, mostly middle-aged men, a few young bucks, and a young blonde woman in tattered office attire.
“The rest of the country looks a lot like Bismark. You’re one of the last cities to get hit. There’s no retaliation, no war, no army and a pretty big chance that the entire world has just gone up in smoke. The government and the military is radio silent. There is no internet and not a single radio or television station is broadcasting.”
“Who are you, and why are you here?” demanded the largest of the men in the core group.
“I’m just a traveller, passing through. I’ve seen the destruction first hand, many times. You have a few options; you’ll need to make some tough choices.”
“You don’t tell us what we need to do,” the man shouted.
Damian ignored him. “You can try to hold the city but in most places they’re already overrun with gangs. Get whatever food and necessary items you can out of there before it gets closed off. Your best bet is to make for some of the smaller towns. They weren’t hit as hard. They’ll be closing in too though so you have to move fast. If you are willing to work, to help defend the town, or if you can work a farm, they may let you stay. Otherwise you need to find shelter, or stay on the move. I passed a few caravans on my way north.”
“We’re not leaving.”
Damian was getting sick of the big, red-faced man and hopped down from his barrel, intent on leaving them all behind. It was the young woman who stepped forward.
“What good is it to travel?” she said. She didn’t sound angry so he stopped.
“You can hunt and scavenge, maybe find a place to call your own, who knows. If not, you can trade with the villages and the other caravans. There won’t be any new shipments to grocery stores or gas stations. Your cushy civilization is broken. If you want to survive you have to learn to live the way people did before supermarkets and fast food chains. Good luck.”
He left them to their bickering. He had some money he had saved and scavenged and he knew that people in these situations would be clinging to the hope that life would be rebuilt soon and things would go back to normal. They would take his money in exchange for supplies and in time they would realize that their money meant nothing. It wasn’t honourable but he had no oaths of service to uphold and there was no room for honour in this wasteland. There was only survival.
He was packing buns, dried meat, and ammunition in his ruck sack when the blonde from the meeting stormed up to him.
“Were you telling the truth?”
“Look lady, I was in Washington when it blew. I can tell you that over half the people there died within the first days. It was the same in every city I saw. Three hundred and twenty million people in this country and I’m betting there’s barely a cool million of them left alive today, and that number is going to drop long before it starts to climb again.”
“Where are you going?”
He shrugged. “West a ways, far as I can get, then south again. Travelling takes longer on foot and summer is short. Have to stay south of the snow if I want to survive.”
“The idiots back there won’t leave, but there are a few, maybe two or three dozen, who want to go. Can we come with you?”
“Shit. That many is going to be hard to travel with. You’re better off grabbing a dozen people you trust and getting out of here with as much as you can carry.”
“I’m alone here,” she said. “My family, if they’re alive, are halfway across the country. I haven’t seen my friends since the bomb dropped, I don’t know if they got out. I’m choosing to trust you.”
“Grab what you can carry. I leave in the morning.”
“Thank-you.” She dipped her head in a show of gratitude.
Her eyes narrowed. “The others …”
“I’m not babysitting a bunch of whiny-ass urban refugees who don’t know a wild strawberry from a piece of deer shit.”
“You won’t be babysitting, you’ll be guiding.”
“Are there children in your group?”
“They won’t make it.”
“You won’t have to care for them. You just have to help us get somewhere safer than this. You’re right; there will be gangs soon, whether they’re drug gangs or business tycoons, or a little bit of both. The city won’t be safe.”
“I’ll take you to the first village, and then you deal with this yourself. I’m not interested in being a hero. I’m still leaving in the morning, so if they’re not ready they don’t get to come.”
“Fine.” All signs of gratitude were gone and she stalked off.
He smiled in spite of himself and went to find a sheltered spot to sleep.
They were waiting for him on the road, nearly three dozen people and less than a dozen looked like they could keep up any sort of decent pace. Before he could retreat the blonde strode over to him with three men and two women in tow.
“We’re ready to go,” she said. “These are Ryan, Matt, and Sean. All three have experience with guns. They’ll be helping you protect the group.”
“And these two?” Damian said.
“Susan is in charge of the needs of the group. You won’t have to listen to any whining or complaining – she will. If anything needs my attention, or yours, she’ll let us know.”
“They’re both Susan?” Damian said dryly.
“No. The girl is Violet, she’s agreed to help Susan. You won’t need to talk to her at all, and frankly I’d prefer if you didn’t.”
“You don’t trust me sweetheart?”
“Only about as far as I can throw you. For the most part you deal with me, since I’m in charge.”
“Like hell you are, Missy.”
“Anne,” she said.
“My name is not Missy, or any other pet name you care to come up with. My name is Roxanne, or just Anne. And yes, I am in charge. I’m the one that wanted to leave while all the other want-to-be leaders here want to stay. I’m the one taking responsibility for these people, and you made it very clear yesterday that you aren’t interested in heroics. I’m in charge, you’re the guide. Simple as that.”
, it’s even simpler. We walk when I say we walk. We go the way I say we go. We camp when I say it’s time to camp.” He walked over to the larger group. “Listen up people. We’re moving out. Keep up. We stop once at midday, otherwise we walk until it starts to get dark. If you don’t think you can handle it, stay here.” He turned his back on them and started walking west.