Donovan could hear the sizzle of bacon frying as he awoke. He could smell the sweet maple aroma coming from the kitchen as he began to open his eyes. He envisioned Darly in his worn flannel bathrobe, smiling as she prepared his breakfast…
Suddenly with his eyes fully opened, all he saw was the undercarriage of the abandoned military transport truck he was sleeping beneath. The sizzle sound turned out to be air leaking from a tire beside his head and the sweet syrup smell was antifreeze, dripping from the radiator and forming a small pool about 3 feet from his head. In the distance he could hear sporadic gunfire, probably more than 4 miles away he surmised. Most likely a band of Trites ransacking nearby Havenwood, he figured.
The sun was breaking the ridge and he sensed movement all around him. He inspected his bags and pack, ensuring that he had not left any gear behind. He slid from beneath the truck, looking around noting landmarks, this had been a good place to sleep and he may need it again.
As the sun continued its climb, Donovan walked along the trails that had been made by the military vehicles when they had been protecting this zone, before the total collapse of the government. Donovan had been one of those defenders, before the leaders all went ‘underground’ and left the population to fend for themselves.
He walked most of the day towards the northeast, to Glen Valley, where it was rumoured that the Residents had formed a safe, growing community. The valley was surrounded by peaks and heavily patrolled to keep out the Trites and the Others.
Since the day of the abandonment, citizens had fended for themselves, with those armed the most heavily finding themselves safest. In the first days, there was widespread shootings, some seemed to be racially motivated, some were anti-government actions, while most were just bloodlust and total inhibition due to the lack of authority.
There were thousands of small communities that were trying to barter and live as normal a life as possible, conducting school for children and holding church services for those who still held the faith.
Donovan had been in the forces when the orders to ‘Abandon posts and defend your homes‘ was given by the camp leaders. All the soldiers took their issued weapons and combat gear home with them as well as all the ammunition they could carry.
By the time the troops had all left the camp, there wasn’t a firearm left in the arsenal. Or a bullet. Some of the soldiers had taken LAW’s and mortars, but without spotters and recon they were all but useless in their intended roles. They were great for making IED’s however and the Trites seemed to wind up with more than their share of the class 5 weapons.
As the sun began to set, a faint glow was visible in the distance. It appeared to be the High Chaparral Church engulfed in flames. As he came nearer he could hear the shouts and gunfire. The Trites never tired of burning things or of mowing down unarmed citizens that ‘didn’t fit their mold’. He had happened upon several little towns full of dead bodies lying in the streets and hanging from traffic lights among the smouldering buildings, since this insanity all began.
The Trites never set these fires until they were heading out of town, so Donovan decided this would probably be the safest place to camp for the night. He found a bluff about 500 yards from the still raging church fire and covered himself and his gear with his sniper’s tarp so he could remain invisible and get some rest before tomorrow’s leg of the journey. He would finally walk out of the desert by this time tomorrow, he figured.