Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fortieth Entry: Riding Out The Storm

March 23rd

It's so nice to not have too much to write about here. With a few exceptions and reminders that we are living in a dead world, things have been quite nice really.

Things with Sharon and I have not really changed that much from the way they were before, which makes me glad. I'm not saying that we don't have the occasional awkward moments, but I think it's because we have been comfortable with each other for so long that we are able to get through those.

I feel happy again with Sharon, even if, like me, she's changed. She's not the bouncy happy person I used to know. I'm not saying that she's a misery to be around or anything, just that the bouncy exuberance she used to have is completely gone. I suppose it had been gone since we fled from Mallville, but it has only been seeing her side-by-side with Pippa that has made me notice..

I suppose to least critical way to put it would be that Sharon has matured. She still re-reads the graphic novels and mangas we got from “The Geek Shall Inherit” and all, she just doesn't seem as full of energy as she once was.

Don't get me wrong though; I love her every bit as much as I ever did. I just mourn the person she used to be in the same way I mourn the person I used to be. Those versions of us are the couple that never got their chance before the world killed them off.

I have dreamed of Tara once since Sharon and I finally got together. This dream was different than the other ones. We weren't in the shopping area for one, we were in Tara's apartment instead. It was Christmas Eve before the knock on the door, and Tara's blue Christmas tree was sitting unassembled on the floor.

“So you finally did it, eh?” Tara asked me.

“Did what?”

“Slept with Sharon, of course.”

I could feel the blood drain out of my face, “Wh-what?”

“It's okay, my love,” Tara said, coming over to where I stood by the couch and putting her hand on my cheek, “I know it's what you wanted all along.”

“But I want you, too,” I said.

“You know you couldn't have us both, “ Tara patted my face gently and laughed, “Well, maybe that one night when we'd both had too much to drink, eh?”

“The thought hadn't crossed my mind,” I said in mock defensiveness.

“Of course we'd have had to have Alex there too,” she shrugged her eyebrows suggestivley.

“Ew! Enough!” I said.

Tara laughed, “Well, who's a little insecure?”

“I miss you,” I told her.

“I know, and I miss you too, but come on, you two were always meant to be together. If you two had hooked up earlier, you and I never would have had each other.”

“You might still be alive if that had happened,” I explained.

“Maybe, but I wouldn't trade what we had for that. Would you give up what we had to save the life of a stranger? That's what I would have been, you know?” the humor drained out of her, and she became her frosty self

“That's not a fair.”

“Neither is the fact that you keep beating yourself up about it. I want you to stop it. I want you to enjoy your time with Sharon, because you don't know when it will end. You could die tomorrow, next week, next month; I don't want you to waste one more second feeling sorry for yourself.”

The room was getting colder, I could see my breath in the air

“I feel like I am cheating on you,” I explained.

Anger crossed Tara's face, and frost started to form at her temples. I looked around the apartment, and frost was forming on everything, as if the room was inside of a freezer. After a moment the anger dissipated, but the cold remained.

“Honey, you can't cheat on me; I'm dead. I made my choices, and I'm sorry that it's you that has to live with them, but it's not your fault. Please let me go, and try and be happy. There is so little left in this world to be happy about, please don't fuck this up.”

I heard the door behind me open, and warmth radiated from that direction. I turned to see Sharon standing in the doorway. She smiled and waved at me; she beckoned me to go to her.

I felt Tara's hand on my shoulder; it was cold as ice. I turned back to face her; her skin was a pale icy blue. A tear ran down her left cheek, and froze on her skin before it got halfway down.

“Go to her,” Tara told me.

“I love you, “ I told Tara.

“I know you do, my silly boy, and I love you. Sharon loves you too, and she's alive. You can't be with me anymore, not as you are, and I don't want you any other way. Please let me go, and know that wherever I am that I love you, and hope you are happy, okay?' A tear rolled down her right cheek, freezing less than an inch out of her eye.

“But....”

Tara smiled at me, and the tears on her cheeks broke, and fell away from her face, “But nothing, “she poked me in the chest, over my heart, “I'll always be right here with you, wherever you are, no matter what happens, I'll be with you. Now go!”

Tara pushed me away from her hard enough to make me stumble. My foot slipped on the ice that had formed on the carpet, but I didn't fall. I backed away from Tara, towards the door, towards the warmth, towards Sharon. Suddenly Tara's living room seemed as big as a football field.

“Don't make me come back!” Tara called to me, “I won't be happy if I need to come set you straight again! I love you.”

I was outside the apartment door, standing next to Sharon. It was so nice and warm out here, unlike the icebox that had been Tara's apartment. Sharon put her warm arms around me.

“Goodbye, my love!” Tara called, and the apartment door slammed shut.

My eyes jerked open, and I was in the cabin, in the master bedroom, the fireplace was burning low, and I was lying in my half of the two sleeping bags that Sharon and I had zipped together and put on top of the large bed. Her arms were around me, and I felt warm all over.

My chest hitched involuntarily as I tried to stifle a tear-less sob. Sharon must not have been fully asleep, because she responded sleepily, “Are you okay?”

“I'm fine, go back to sleep, Sharon.” I answered softly.

“Okay,” she replied, and kisses my cheek, “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

By the next morning, a lot of my feelings seemed to have solidified. I know deep down that that isn't really Tara in my dreams, it can't be, but maybe she's right all the same. I do need to move on, and focus on the here and now. I still can't bring myself to get rid of the mangas or the Vader helmet though. Not yet, anyway.

We've been making trips into town more regularly now. We finished clearing out the Bianco's of anything useful. We left behind the novelty lawn gnomes, but I did get Sharon a Snuggie, since it was one of the things she was thinking of giving me on Valentine's day.

We never go into town all at once, we always leave two people at the cabin for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that we don't want to come back to find the place in flames, and all of our supplies destroyed. The only person who goes on every run in Gerry since he knows how to open the locks (although he is a lot slower at it in the cold)

To my and Sharon's dismay, we have discovered that this town does not seem to have a comic book shop. This is of course proof that this was never civilization to begin with. We did come across a used book store that had a pretty good selection of used mangas and graphic novels, so we did load up on books there. It s good to have new things to read, especially with Pippa being a big reader too (although she doesn't care for manga).

Sitting on the couch in front of the fire, looking out the back windows over the lake with some Sinatra on the record player, and good book in my hands is probably one of the best things in life right now. It almost makes things feel normal. Sharon of course is the best thing in my life, but I think that would still be true even if things were normal.

Another useful place we have scavenged was Lakeside Hardware. We were a little worried at first when we found that someone had broken into the propane cage outside of it and taken all of the canisters, but for some reason that person never went into the store. We were able to load up on some lumber and tools, batteries, and a bunch of the little butane canisters that our little stoves use.

Things have not been all peace and relaxation though. Aside from our daily routine, we have had our share of excitement.

We tried cutting down a tree for firewood; it took me, Gerry, a fully recovered Maria, and Beth all taking turns with the ax to finally cut it down. Luckily it fell down away from the house. We risked the noise of using a gas powered chainsaw to cut some of the tree into smaller, more usable, pieces only to find that it doesn't burn for crap. It's too wet I guess. This would have been a big problem if not for the neighbors.

When we weren't searching the town for supplies, we did a bit of checking out the other cabins on this side of the lake. It seems like we are on the more expensive side of the lake, as the houses here are pretty far apart from each other with lots of forest between them. I'm guessing the idea was to maintain a sense of isolation for the individual homeowners. When it's clear enough to look across the lake you can see the more touristy side of it with sandy beaches, close together buildings, and what appears to be a boat launch. Maybe we'll check it out eventually.

The only really useful thing we found at the houses directly “next door” (I use quotes because it's a good fifty yards of woods between us and either of those houses) was firewood. I'm not complaining, mind you. I can imagine just how miserable it would be in that house without a fire going constantly, approximately as miserable with the cold in the ski shop was, and after the fiasco that was trying to cut our own, well....

We found both treasure and excitement about five houses over though. We took one of the Excursions over. I know we shouldn't waste the fuel, but it's still pretty cold out there; you'd never suspect that spring is on the way by looking outside right now.

Our little exploring party consisted of me, Sharon, Gerry (the master of unlocking, or course), and Pippa. The house was actually kind of creepy looking from the outside, and I say house because it was two stories and really felt even more like a house than a cabin that what we are staying in.

Gerry leaned his baseball bat against the wall, and got down on his knees to work on the lock. He was able to pop the lock with ease, commenting that , “This lock is so old that I could pick it with a fucking bobby pin. Why do people think locks like this will keep anyone out?”

“It would keep me out, but then I'm not an ex-cat burglar,” I quipped.

“Wouldn't stop me,” said Pippa, patting her crowbar against the palm of her gloved left hand.

The door creaked open, and the musty smell of disuse hit us. Pretty much everything we find that is still closed up has this smell to one degree or another, but this place probably smelled like that even before the end of the world. I don't know why, but this house just felt more dangerous than normal, and I found myself gripping my sword's handle tightly as we entered.

Pippa didn't seem to sense any sort of danger, as she bounded into the house without an apparent second though, “Wow, creepy antiquey!” she proclaimed.

If the cabin we are staying in was last updated sometime in the seventies, then this place had never been remodeled. Hardwood floors, ancient and delicate looking furniture with doilies on the backs of the chairs and couch to keep hair oil off of the fabric. It was actually quite nice, but I still found it a little unsettling.

While Gerry, Sharon, and myself moved farther into the house cautiously, Pippa disappeared around a corner and into the kitchen.

“Pippa, stay with us, “Sharon called after her.

“You guys gotta see this!” Pippa replied from the kitchen.

The rest of us joined Pippa in the kitchen, and found what she was excited about. The kitchen contained a stack of cardboard boxes full of canned food, ten of them in all, as well as five six gallon bottles of water, and two big burlap sacks full of rice. This is enough to feed us for a month or two.

While Gerry and Sharon started rummaging through the boxes, showing off what food they found, Pippa slipped away again, this time through the door at the back of the kitchen. I've grown somewhat attached to the young woman, in a big brother sort of way, not in a pedophile sort of way, so I followed her.

Pippa noticed me behind her, “Lets go look upstairs,” she said excitedly.

“You make me tired, you know that, right?” I said

“That's just 'cause you're old!”

Pippa went through the dining room, which despite the thick layer of dust was still elegant. The large dark wood table was set for six people. This was not a setting like someone was actually getting ready for dinner, but like it was set for decoration whenever it was not really in use. There were coral napkins in dusty golden rings set on salad plates which rested on dinner plates, which rested on golden chargers. All very fancy; three different forks and everything.

I hurried to catch up with Pippa as I heard her boots thumping up the stairs. As I started up them, I saw that Pippa had stopped at the top and was just looking, “What is it?” I asked as I climbed.

“Something probably not good,” she answered, sounding uncertain and maybe a little afraid.

When I got to the top of the stairs I saw why she had stopped, and the feeling of fear that I felt entering the house intensified. The stairs let out onto a narrow hallway with a door at each end, three doors on the side opposite the stairs, and two doors on the side with the staircase, one on either side of it. The doors at either end of the hallway were closed, but all the others were open, and enough light came through them from outside to illuminate hallways

Leading from the door opposite the stairs and to the left to the door at the end of the hallway on the right was a dark maroon smear; almost certainly dried blood. The door at the end of the hallway that the red smear disappeared under had been boarded shut with three planks nailed across it.

“Lets go get the others, “ I suggested.

“I want to see what's in there,” Pippa declared, and stepped out into the hallway, walking towards the boarded up door.

“What are you doing?” I asked in disbelief.

“I'm opening the door,” Pippa said as she wedged the hooked end of her crowbar behind the board, and yanked. The nail pulled free from the wood with a squeal, and Pippa repeated her act on the other side of the doorway, pulling the top board completely free.

“Have you never seen a horror movie?” I asked her.

“ I love them, well before I started living in one anyway,” Pippa answered as the first nail on the second planks gave a protesting squark as she yanked it from the door frame.

“Then you know that nothing good can lie behind that door. Stop that!”

“The door opens into the room, not out. If there was anything in there trying to get out the door would be open already,” Pippa reasoned, pulling the other half of the second plank free, and setting it aside.

“Do those things even know how to use a door knob? I know I've never seen one open a door before,” I cautioned her, “What if those boards are to keep people out as much as in?”

“I've seen a zombie use a knife before,” Pippa replied, pulling half of the last board free.

“Use it, or just holding it?”

“I didn't give him a chance to demonstrate before going all Gordon Freeman on his ass,” the last nail pulled free. Pippa leaned the plank against the wall with the other two.

I finally left my place at the stop of the stairs to join Pippa at the door, “Be careful,” I cautioned.

Pippa gripped the door knob for a second, as if psyching herself up, and opened the door. The hinges creaked, begging for lubrication, as the door opened. Pippa gasped.

The room was apparently a study, or an office; it was too small to be a bedroom. Directly opposite the door was a set of shelves made of twenty-eight cubes, roughly a foot square each, about the dimensions of a milk crate. The cubes went four across, and seven high and they were full of records. Pippa squealed with delight, and entered the room.

“Pippa, wait!” I cautioned, because I saw something she had apparently missed in her excitement.

It would seem that at least one of the former occupants was a big fan of vinyl. It would also seem they were not so former as we had hoped, as there were two bodies lying on the floor of the nearly freezing cold room. One of them, and older woman had no visible injuries, but appeared to be stone dead all the same. The other was a man of about the same age, the woman's husband, I suppose, and he had a very visible cause of death. The front of his formerly white button-up shirt was a ragged mess of dried blood; it looked like her had taken a shotgun round at close range. This had to be the source of the blood smears out in the hallway.

It might have me some embarrassment if I had noticed that the dried blood trail did not end with the old man's body. There was the shape of a dried blood pool, but the old man was not lying on that, he was a couple of feet farther away.

“Pippa, look out!” I almost yelled at her.

Pippa looked down from where she was standing in front of the record cubes, and jumped back in surprise. After the bodies didn't move though, she returned to her place.

“They're dead,” Pippa told me, “The cold must have killed them if they were not already dead when they were put in here.

“We don't know that,” I said, “Whoever nailed the door shut obviously thought there was a risk.”.

“You worry too much, dad,” She stepped over to the hamburger chested old man, and kicked him gently in the ribs, “See, stone cold dead,” and that was when the old man's eyes opened, and his hand closed around her ankle.

Pippa shrieked, but rather than try to pull away she began pounding the zombie in the face with her crowbar as it tried to sit up. The thing stopped moving after the eight or ninth blow, but she still kept pounding its head another dozen or so times just to be sure. When she was done the zombies face looked a lot like a jack-o-lantern that someone had kicked with a steel toed boot.

When Pippa was convinced that her would be attacker was dead again, she tried to pull her leg free from its grasp, and found that its grip held fast, “Get this thing off of me!” she begged.

I could hear feet thumping up the stairs; Sharon and Gerry running to help us. As I moved forward to help Pippa, I noticed that the old woman was starting to stir.

“Stone cold dead, huh?” I asked as I moved towards the old woman, who was slowly trying to sit up.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Pippa, still yanking her foot, making the old man's body jiggle with each pull.

The old woman looked at me with her milky eyes, and opened her mouth to reveal rotting blackened gums. I guess she must not have had any real teeth in life. Can you be infected by a toothless zed? I wasn't keen on finding out.

I raised my sword above my head, and felt it impact with the ceiling; a small shower of plaster dust fell on my head. “Shit,” I said, realizing that my badass looking sword would do me absolutely no good in here.

“Oh fuck!” Gerry's voice came from the hallway. I heard a baseball bat land on the floor, and the sound of feet scuffling out there, like there was a struggle going on. Something rebounded hard off of the walls.

I used the end of my sword to push grandma back down to the floor roughly, and turned to go back to the hallway.

“Don't leave me with her!” cried Pippa as I slipped past her and went into the hallway.

In the narrow hall Gerry had a male zed, probably in his mid to late thirties, at arm's length, and was slamming it against the wall as it gnashed its teeth at him. Sharon stood between me and him holding her sword up in front of her as if she were unsure what to do. She couldn't get a clean swing at the zombie, and even if she could there was not enough room in the hallway to even swing the sword.

It was at this point that I suddenly understood why most swords have pointed tips; not all battles take place in wide open fields.

The zombie pushed Gerry off balance, and he staggered through the middle doorway, the one opposite the staircase. I pushed past Sharon to help him.

“It's getting up again!” Pippa yelled from the study, and I saw Sharon go in there out of the corner of my eye as I went into what turned out to be a bathroom.

The zombie had pushed Gerry against the edge of an old fashioned claw footed bathtub, and he was starting to go over backwards as I grabbed the ghoul by the back of its brown sweater, and pulled him towards me. It released its hold on Gerry and turned to come at me, grabbing at my coat. I pulled it back out into the hallway, intent on throwing it down the stairs.

My plan would have worked perfectly had I not stepped on Gerry's baseball bat. My left ankle sent a scream of pain up to my brain as it bent sideways, and I went down, thankfully releasing, and slipping out of the grasp of, the zombie.

The zombie would have been on my had Gerry not come out of the bathroom like a navy blue clad blur, and shoved the thing towards the stairs. I didn't see it, but I heard it tumble down the stairs. Gerry thundered down after it.

I could hear a wet crunching noise coming from the study which turned out to be Sharon dispatching the old woman. This was followed by a similar noise from downstairs. Moments later, Sharon emerged from the study gripping the hatchet she wears on her belt (like me, she feels this is better than a machete); it was covered in black ooze.

“Are you okay?” Sharon asked, seeing me sitting on the floor. She slipped the filthy hatchet back into its holster, and extended her arms towards me.

My face was burning red. I'll admit it, I was embarrassed. Sure, you could say I just saved Gerry's life, but given that he saved mine not five seconds later, I'm not sure that's really an accomplishment. Why can I only pull of badass feats when no one is looking (no one who will remember anyway)? I had just made a fool of myself in front of my girlfriend, and two of my friends.

“I'm not sure,” I said glumly.

As Sharon helped pull me back up to my feet, Pippa came out of the study, having freed herself from the old man's grip (crowbars are multi-taskers). “What happened to you?” she asked.

“I tripped, “I said, and then put my weight on my left foot, and cursed loudly as pain shot up my leg.

“Is it broken?” Gerry asked as he came up the stairs to find me leaning heavily on Sharon and wincing in pain.

“I think I just twisted it,” I said, and took a half hop, half step towards the stairs, bracing myself against the wall.

“Let me help you, “ offered Sharon, putting a hand on my shoulder to try and steady me.

My first impulse was to shrug her off and tell her that I could do it myself, but I didn't do it for two reasons. First of all, I didn't want to be an ass; just because I felt embarrassed didn't mean I should take it out on her. Secondly, if I fell down the stairs and broke something, I would be well and truly screwed.

The stairs were just wide enough for two people to go down them together, and Sharon did her best to keep me steady as I slowly hopped down them one step at a time. Once we reached the bottom she helped me over to an old flower patterned sofa where I sat with my leg up so that I could look over the back of the couch at the staircase.

“I'm going to go back up, you don't try to go anywhere, okay?” Sharon advised.

“As long as nothing else tries to eat me, I will stay here and wait for your return, my love,” I answered, trying to smile convincingly.

Sharon bounded back up the stairs leaving me alone in the living room with no one for company except the dead zed in the brown sweater. The somewhat misshapen fireplace poker laying on the floor next to him told me that he was unlikely to be a good conversationalist.

While I waited for the others, I tried to figure out what had happened here. It would seem that the sweater guy locked the old couple in the study, and presumably he's also the one who shot the old man. My first thought was that he had shown up, and murdered the old man (maybe the woman had a heart attack or something as a result) with the intent of stealing their supplies. This of course also assumes that he's the one who boarded them up in the study, but if that's the case, why not take the food and leave? And how did he die?

Then I noticed the picture on the fireplace mantel. It showed the old couple and a younger man. Looking back and forth between the picture and the corpse I realized that the younger man was a younger version of the dead guy in the sweater. This changed everything, why would he kill his parents? Grandparents? Whoever the hell they were to each other.

This called for a new theory. Sweater Guy is related to the old couple. When the world ended they decided to try and wait it out in that house. They either purchased, or for some reason already had, a large amount of canned food, bottled, and rice. Something happened to the old man, he was bitten and infected, or died from something else, turned into a zed, was shot in the chest, obviously not killing, but incapacitating him, and Sweater Guy put him in the study.

This theory also says that grandma died of a heart attack, or something else natural, possibly as the result of seeing her son (or grandson) shooting her husband in the chest, and the Sweater guy stored her body in the study with the old man. At some point during all of this, Sweater guy himself was bitten, and evenmtually died and turned himself. The winter came, and made the, all dormant since it did not actually get cold enough in the house to freeze them, and was awakened by us making a lot of noise.

That theory leaves too many questions (like who was the record collector?) for me to think it is quite right, but it's not like I'm ever really going to find out what happened there. It's a close enough explanation for government work.

We brought back about half the food and a bunch of records to our cabin, and then the three of them went back for the rest of the food and more records while I rested in bed with my foot up on a pillow. Revealing my injury (and the inglorious method by which I got it) earned me some genuine concern from Beth, and a derisive laugh from Maria.

Pippa made some interesting, if not necessarily bad, music choices. The Beatles went over well, as did Crowded House and Bon Jovi. Beth and Sharon danced together when Pippa put on “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive, and Maria threatened to break the record player if Pippa every played Rick Astley again.

Somehow I find it strangely comforting that it is still possible to be Rickrolled in this dead world. Now if Pippa can just come up with some lolcats... lolzeds maybe?

As winter comes to an end, we have to face the coming of spring, and if there's one thing that the incident in the house down the way showed us, it's that the cold does not necessarily kill the zeds. It is with that in mind that we took some plywood, two by fours, nails, and tools from the hardware store; we may need to board up the windows, and we want to be prepared for that. Of course there are other reasons one might need to board up the windows that we did not think about; not until last night anyway.

It has been a relatively mild, if cold, winter here at Daisy Lake, but in the last couple of weeks we've started having some pretty serious storms; storms that would easily have knocked out the power if there had been any to knock out. The kind of storms that rattle the windows, and cause branches already weighted down with snow and ice to come thumping down onto the roof, and scaring the hell out of us.

Last night was the worst storm yet; it was a mix of snow, rain, and hail thundering down on the roof all day long, propelled by really bad winds. I think the surface of the lake got so choppy that you could probably have surfed on it; there was certainly enough wind out there to windsurf on it if you were insane enough to do something like that in a storm that was dancing back and forth between freezing and near freezing.

It was around two in the morning according to my watch (which seems to match up with everyone else's, so if our watches are inaccurate, at least they are consistently so. I wasn't sleeping very well; the wind kept waking me up. Sharon was sleeping like she had been drugged, the storm wasn't bothering her at all, at least not until it happened.

The wind roared outside the cabin, and then suddenly the cabin itself shook, and there was a loud, almost explosion-like, crash from the living room. I thought at first that somehow the storm had blown the house off of its foundation or something.

The noise was loud enough to rouse Sharon suddenly from her slumber as I disentangled myself from the sleeping bag, and climbed off the bed and onto the floor. I landed on my still sore ankle, and almost lost my balance. I managed to not fall, and instead grabbed my shoes and sat back on the edge of the bed..

“What's happening?” Sharon asked, her voice sounding slightly dazed.

“Don't know, “I said, lacing up my left shoe, “Something bad, I'm sure.”

Sharon got out of her side of the sleeping bag, and started putting on her shoes while I finished mine. I didn't wait for her, I bolted for the bedroom door, grabbing my sword just in case (no, the incident in that other house has not totally soured me to using them, I can at least use the end to push a zed away from me), opened the door, and ran into the hallway,

I was met by two things in the hallway. The first was cold air, it felt like someone had left the door open, and the wind from the storm was inside. The other thing was Maria coming out of the study, who nearly took a swing at me with her hatchet. We both went down the hallway to the living room, and then around to the dining room where the wind was coming from

There were a pair of flashlights whipping back and forth from the hands of Pippa and Gerry. The beams of light revealed dark green branches , as if someone had rammed a Christmas tree through the house. The dining room table was obscured under it.

The wind of the storm was very loud, and we had to yell to be heard, “What happened?” I bellowed, but neither of them heard me.

Maria and I went closer, and I wished that I had put on my coat as well as my shoes, “What happened?” I repeated, this time right behind Gerry.

“I think a tree fell onto the house!” Gerry yelled back, “It looks like it didn't break through the roof though, I think it's just the window.”

“We need to get it out of here!” yelled Maria, “We need to get this closed up, or we can't stay here!”

Sharon and Beth showed up, each clutching flashlights, as Maria barked more orders, “ Lets go out there and see how big it is!”

If I thought that the wind inside was bad, it was nothing compared to the full force of the storm. The cold wind and snow cut right through my shirt (I still hadn't put my coat on), and made my exposed hands and face feel raw and numb.

Gerry yelled something at me that I could not hear over the storm.

“What?” I yelled back.

“It's not a whole tree!” Gerry yelled, pointing with his flashlight.

He was right, it wasn't a whole tree, it was just one really big branch. Luckily it looked like it had missed the roof entirely, and only taken out the window. That is where the good news ended though, as it was still going to be a royal bitch to try and remove without... ah, but there was our solution.

“One of the cars!” I yelled.

“What? The cars?” Maria yelled back.

“What if we tied it to the back of one of the cars and dragged it out?”

“That might work,” Beth yelled.

“You should have taken more chainsaws from the hardware store!” yelled Maria.

“Tell you what,” started Beth, “You go into town and get us some chainsaws, and we'll work on this plan while we wait for you, okay?”

I think Maria was trying to glare at Beth, but with the wind in her face it came out all squinty.

Sharon and I went into the garage for ropes to use while Gerry went for one of the Excursions. While we were inside, I also grabbed mine and Sharon's hatchets, thinking that it might go easier if we cut off some of the smaller limbs while we waited for Gerry.

Seeing what we were doing, Pippa went a got a machete and Beth got a pair of clippers with long handles on them to cut through the thinner branches. Maria went inside; I was pissed at her at the time, but I realized when I heard the buzz of the chainsaw we did have that she was trying to trim off some of the branches in there. I don't totally forgive her though, as it was still warmer in there as it was outside.

It took Gerry almost twenty minutes to maneuver the SUV through all of the standing trees to the slightly more well defined backyard area. By well defined I mean that there were no trees growing there, so I imagine that there is a dead lawn or something underneath all of this snow. Once he was in place we started tying the ropes around the main trunk of the branch.

Once we had the branch tied up about as well as we could, we started tying the other ends of the ropes to the trailer hitch on the Excursion. Yes, that's right, we were smart enough to realize that tying them to the bumper gave us about a fifty percent chance of merely ripping the bumper off the the car, and sending Gerry crashing into the lake.

We all stood back while Gerry hopped back into the car. I held my breath while Gerry gunned the engine, it was barely audible over the storm. The ropes pulled taught as the excursion started to move forward, and then stopped as it met the resistance of the branch. The wheels of the Excursion spun spraying slush and mud into the air, trying to gain purchase in the snow.

The ropes strained, there were four of them in all, and there was a loud twang that was even audible over the sounds of the storm. One of the ropes had snapped, and the end tethered to the tree branch came flying back at us. Sharon grabbed Pippa. And yanked her backwards just in time to keep her from having her head taken off by the wild rope as it flew past us. We then realized that we were standing far too close, and the car going out of control was not the only danger right then.

We all backed up to the edge of the deck, and watched as Gerry gunned the engine again, and there was a cracking sound as the branch slid a little. The other three ropes were still holding as the engine roared again.

A loud crunching cracking noise was music to our ears as the branch suddenly pulled out of the window, and slid off the deck, taking a section of the deck's railing with it. It crashed down into the snow below, and was dragged by the car.

No longer held in place by the branch, the Excursion took off towards the water. Gerry slammed on the brakes, but the car slid forward on the snow down the lakeshore, finally coming to a stop with the front wheel halfway covered in lake water.

Gerry cut the engine, and flung the door open. He jumped out, slammed the door behind him, and did a sort of slow motion run back through the snow and mud churned up by the car's wheels back to where we were all standing and applauding him.

“We still need to close that hole up,” said Sharon once Gerry had joined us.

“That's the easy part!” replied Gerry, “We use the boards in the garage. We got them for boarding up the windows anyway.”

It didn't turn out to be quite as easy as Gerry has assumed it would be. This had been a big window, and it took two of the biggest sheets of plywood we got to cover it. Also we had neglected to scavenge ladders. We found one in the garage, but that meant that a couple of us had to hold up the other side while one side was nailed in place.

The whole task took another hour, and that included one instance of Maria being blown off the ladder by a sudden gust, and then her blaming Sharon for not holding the ladder steady enough. Maria wasn't hurt, and did not try to hurt Sharon, but Beth did have to hold the ladder for the rest of the procedure.

When all was said and done, we got the window sealed up as best we could by around four-thirty. Victorious, we went back inside cold, dripping, and all of us but Gerry were covered in sap. The seal was not perfect, and cold air was still coming in around the edges of the window frames, but it was better than a hole in the wall. We decided that we will go back into town tomorrow to try and get some sort of foam sealant and see if we ca do something about that.

A secondary concern was the general mess in the dining room. Broken glass, smaller branches, and green needles covered the entire room, but that is a mess for us to clean up later (we're all still too tired to even bother with it today). I guess there won't be anymore meals where we get to watch the sun set over the lake, oh well.

Gerry heated up some drinking water to make hot chocolate with, and then started heating a big pot of snow in front of the fire to try and give us some water to wash with. I am pretty sure the clothes I was wearing last night are totally ruined since I do not have access to a proper washing machine or stain remover. Given that, I am glad I never put my coat on, I would hate to have ruined it.

I am so lucky to have Sharon, after we had cleaned our faces and hands as best we could, we went back to out sleeping bag where we were able to warm each other up (no, not like that, we were far too worn out for that). The others don't have that, although for all I know a couple of them may have shared a sleeping bag. I'm not going to ask in any case.

I still kick myself over how much time with Sharon I lost all because I never told her how I felt. If I had known she would say yes, I would have spoken up years ago. I'm not saying that I don't treasure my time with Tara, or that I love her any less, but I've always loved Sharon, and have always wanted things between us to be just like they are right now.

It's horrible to think that it took the end of the world for me to finally get my shit together.

1 comment:

VoltRabbit said...

Great frickin entry! Felt good to get a little zed killing action in there.

Can't wait for the Tuesday after next...