I’ve had a couple of sunny days to charge up the handset, so I guess I can afford to write something longer than a comment. My mate Jack’s been spectacularly losing his grip, so I’ve been checking in with a daily Lonely Planet guide to the Edge of Reason, given I’m pretty familiar with that territory, but it’s not going so well.
Back in the real world, I’ve been finding a new hole to hide in every night, moving away from the store and hopefully from anybody who might feel vengeful.
The wound’s healing up nicely, but I still got to be careful how much I try and carry, which is awkward given I never know where my next meal’s coming from. Every couple of days or so I bump into somebody else, and we either fight or run away or spend an awkward hour sharing out a haul and making stilted conversation, trying not to look like our right hands are hovering over our guns.
The usual routine goes:
“So, you been down Weston Creek?”
“Yep, nothin’ left. Tried Yarralumla?”
“Yep, nothin’ left there, either.”
Nobody’s going to say there’s anything left anywhere, cause if there is we want it for ourselves. I mostly try to stay out of sight. I’ve cut my hair to a fuzz and wear a big hat and baggy clothes. I’ve not had any major trouble, but one guy did follow me around like a lost puppy for two days. In the end I had to shoot at him to get him to fuck off.
Only other thing I’ve used the guns for is taking pot-shots at the odd cockatoo, and scaring off anything that starts barking at me out of the shadows. Yep, there’s feral dogs about, and some of them are even canine. It’s not true about them being two meals from wolves, though. That’d be easier to deal with, if they were just snarling, drooling monsters. I’d shoot the skinny bastards for soup if it were that simple. The harsher reality is that most of them would as soon have you for an owner as a dinner, but they’re neurotic and needy and narky, and liable to turn on you soon as something spooks them. Think furry, traumatised toddlers, with sharp teeth and an average running speed of 25 mph. Still more trustworthy than your average human, but I’ve got enough trouble just keeping myself fed right now.
Biggest danger, though: police patrols. Last raider who tried to be friendly told me, “You hear barking, shoot into the air and keep going; you hear an engine, drop your haul and get out. They find you, shoot to kill, and if you’re lucky you’ll die in the gunfight before they can take you to quarantine.”
I asked about the quarantine camps, but then the bastard tried to steal my pack and I had to ram him in the guts with my rifle butt until he let go. This is why I don’t get chatty so often.
I’ve only met one other woman out raiding. We shared a fire for a night, and sort of skirted round the topic of teaming up for protection, but one or other of us always changed the subject. She was in her late 60s, maybe, tough and cheerful, but when she sat down or got up you could tell she was feeling the strain. My shoulder was still pretty bad back then – I guess we were each wondering whether the other would slow us down.
Just before we parted company she said, “Your shoulder’ll get better, but I’ll only get older. Better I walk now than make you leave me behind.”
I nearly said, “I wouldn’t leave you behind.” But I wasn’t sure it was true, so I said nothing.
I haven’t met anybody who’s heard of a case of the flu recently, though word has it the quarantine camps are rife with dysentery and scurvy. Or were, last time anybody got out alive. There’s probably not many left there, now.
Pretty much the only places that survived almost intact were a few isolated farming towns, self-governing now, so long as they’re capable of self-defending. From what I read on the blogs and hear from the raiders’ rumour-mill, a few have come under police control, some under other gangs, but a few are still considered “free communities”. ’Course, nobody can say exactly where these free communities are, else they wouldn’t be for long, so we can’t be positive they really exist. Well, what can we be sure exists, these days? Just ask Jack. He thinks he knows what’s real.