Authors: E. M. Kokie
They can die in their beds for all I care. All of them.
Mom’s always been hopeless, but now Dad’s checked out, too. He spends more time thinking about baseball than what we need to be doing to prepare — like knowing game stats of rich guys who wouldn’t spit on us if we were on fire is going to matter at all in a grid-down scenario.
Then they give me crap for trying to prepare on my own.
Well, fine. Screw them.
My boot catches on a root, and I almost go down, grabbing the tree to save myself from a header into the trunk. My face scrapes down the bark until I get some purchase and stop the slide. The weight of the pack shifts to the side, pinning me against the bark with the rifle in its sling between me and the tree. I focus on the arm that’s keeping me upright and turn just enough to brace my body against the tree until I can get my footing.
Once I can peel myself off the tree, I assess the damage. Stings, scrapes, aches, but nothing serious.
Before moving on, I adjust the shoulder straps on my assault pack and tighten the waist belt to make sure it won’t shift like that again.
If I knocked myself out, I’d never hear the end of it. Instead of just being restricted to Uncle Skip’s land, I’d probably be housebound, too. Maybe roombound. That would make them happy: me “safely” locked inside. Like keeping me from training will make me safe.
At least before he gave up, I had Mark. He rolled his eyes at all my plans and would never train seriously, but I knew that if we needed to bug out, he’d be there, right beside me, helping me get them out of here. With both of us, we might have a chance. Dad would rally. Uncle Skip would be another armed man, if we could get him to leave. Mom would need help, but with all of us, she’d be okay. But without Mark, it would be just me. They never listen to me.
I could survive by myself if I had to. Hook up with a good Mutual Assistance Group. Or form my own MAG. But that’s only if I would go and not look back.
What kind of person leaves their family behind? What kind of person even thinks about leaving their family behind?
Thinking it is giving up.
I won’t give up.
be preparing. But until I can make them see what’s coming, I will keep preparing on my own. And then we’ll be that much further along.
Because it’s only a matter of time until we will have no choice but to fight.
My phone vibrates, and I drop to my knees behind brush as if evading a scout. I work deeper into the brush and then pull the rifle to ready while I go prone. A perfect transition. Sweep the area. Acquire my target: a knothole on the tree. Sight and hold, as if waiting to engage. Dry fire, work the bolt to load the next imaginary round, and scan the area for other hostiles. I’m pretty sure I would have hit the knothole. With dry firing, it’s hard to be sure, but it felt right.
When the phone buzzes again, I take it for the all clear and sprint for the pond, ignoring stealth. Sprinting all out like I’m being pursued.
They say that the difference between getting away from danger and not is the ability to sprint for three minutes. If I was ambushed — or even now, if someone tried to jump me on the street — the energy exertion to break away from the initial threat would be like sprinting all out for two to three minutes. I might not be able to outfight a grown man, or a trained soldier, or a bunch of hostiles, but I will be able to outrun them, outthink them, and hide, especially in wooded terrain. I could last a long time in dense woods.
At the pond I sweep the area, as if the dirt berm we use for shooting could be shielding hostiles. I sight on a fragment of clay disk still stuck in the dirt, steady, sight, and pull the trigger. I know I would have hit it.
It would be better if I could be sure, but Mom would go ballistic if she heard live rounds. Dad isn’t crazy about me shooting alone, either, but he’d be most pissed at the “wasted” ammo, especially with Mom’s ban on unnecessary spending. Like anything is more necessary than ammo. We don’t have near enough on hand. I can only squirrel away so much without Dad noticing. The message boards and forums say you should have at least a thousand rounds for each armed member of a unit. If our family is a unit, we are nowhere close. We couldn’t each carry a thousand rounds, but what we have is not nearly enough if we have to defend ourselves here or fight our way out.
If I were already eighteen, then I could stock up whenever there’s a deal on ammo, but we don’t have two years and I can’t get Dad to see reason. The government is restricting guns and ammunition already, cataloging us with permits and paperwork. Supply is already disrupted, and if the online warnings are right, supply could be cut off at any time.
With every incident — protest or shooting or whatever — the pressure builds. I watch the news and the sites. I stay on high alert, everything packed and ready to go. We are one rancher standoff or police shooting or massive protest away from all-out chaos, followed by a military state.
In the forums and message boards, people are sharing leads, talking about what they’re hearing. The guys in Texas are freaked. Their governor is mobilizing the National Guard, in case those army training exercises end up being cover for something more.
Some people think it’s the multinational corporations turning us on each other and distracting us with foreign problems and culture wars so we don’t have time to watch them take over everything. Some think it’s the government stirring up all this unrest so they have an excuse to declare martial law. I think it’s all related. Dad loses his job because some rich guys decide to send the jobs somewhere else, and then we lose the house because the banks get paid either way. The rich guys and their corporations own the government. They won’t be happy until they own everything else, too.
Whatever sparks the chaos, the result will be the same. It will be us against everyone. We’ll need to be ready.
Government forces. Militarized police. Foreign hostiles. So-called patriots. Fellow survivors of whatever plague or catastrophe hits first, maybe gone feral or just competing for scarce resources until society rebuilds. We could trap and fish and forage. We’ve done it before. But getting somewhere safe and defending ourselves will take more than that.
Why can’t Mark at least see it? I get that Mom isn’t clued in to this kind of stuff and that Uncle Skip and Dad think it’s all paranoid “wackos” with “conspiracy theories.” But Mark reads the same sites I do, or he used to. He used to be right there with me and Dad on survival skills weekends and deep-woods camping trips. It’s like when we lost the house, they all gave up. Even Mark.
Every time I try to make them see the urgency, I get in trouble.
They’re probably sitting at the kitchen table right now, Dad reading the box scores, Mom wishing he’d focus on the want ads. If they’re thinking about me at all, they’re pissed that I’m out here training instead of obsessed with useless crap the way my cousin Hannah is.
I like it out here by the pond. A breeze and a stump to sit on and no one bugging me.
I dig into my pack for a protein bar.
Everything I’d take if we were making a break for it on foot is in this pack — my bug-out bag.
Most guys think the bigger the better. Like a four-wheel-drive vehicle stocked to the rims is the bare minimum. They think dragging as much as they can physically carry is better than maximizing efficiency.
Even Mark. He doesn’t know what we would really need, or how it would feel to pack it, carry it, go for days on what was in that pack strapped to his back.
I’ve been training with my pack for months. And before that, I used my regular backpack, weighted down with whatever I could get my hands on.
I raided what I could from our camping supplies — compass, D rings, paracord, fishing line and hooks, a first-aid kit, the firesteel and scraper, and the aluminum tent stakes and military surplus poncho, which I can strap to the outside of the pack and use to build shelter pretty much anywhere.
But I can only add new things one item at a time, quietly, so as not to draw Mom’s attention. I need a better water-purification system and a space blanket. A portable chain to cut wood (much smaller and safer to carry than a hatchet or chainsaw). A better knife sharpener, because if ammo gets scarce, or it’s too dangerous to go where the ammo is, the fixed blade strapped to my thigh might be my best weapon.