Sci-Fi Land Thursday! If you want to read the previous parts just choose the Sci-Fi Land tab above.
After I lay out the basic plan for moving us we all go to work and the amount that needs to get done is almost overwhelming. Tyler and the rest of the protectors, Marc, Colin, Toby and Chryse are drilling residents in moving in a phalanx formation. Over and over again we practice dropping to one knee and raising what amounts to metal shields to our sides and above our heads. It is surreal to practice the warfare of days long past.
We make staffs and spears while Ulysses dreams of compound bows and arrows. I know that he is sneaking off in the night, raiding stores in hopes of finding weapons that got left behind. He was a small arms tactical expert for the NYPD and has a mental map of places that others might have forgotten to look, as well as a set of keys to cages of weapons throughout the Burroughs. All I need is one look at his face and I can tell from the clenching of his jaw, and the fatigue surrounding his eyes, how tough the run was. He never tells me what he finds, what new horrors he comes across, but the more his soul takes in, the less he talks. I hate to see the thousand yard stare in his eyes, but I need his relentlessness and the comfort it brings me.
Shiva is organizing metal and wheel scavenging groups for a rolling ram he is building, as well as for the shields for the phalanxes. The ram is shaped like an arrow and its main purpose is to clear debris on the road. It also functions as a moveable wall that we can take refuge behind when we need to fight. Shiva dreams of blowtorches, soldering irons and fuel. His level of success and frustration is gauged by the amount of kicking and cursing that rolls out from his workshop. The depth of his colorful vocabulary is impressive and his son Ramen gives me frequent updates on the latest phrase.
Tyler and Toby organize winter wear scavenging runs. We are moving after the fall harvest, when it is cold but hopefully before the snows. I am gambling that we are less likely to be attacked in the winter. That whatever people are left on Manhattan won’t be ready to quickly run out of their strongholds to fight us. Because our route takes us along the water, the wind-chill factor will make the journey even colder. Anything that we can find to fight the cutting wind will make the difference between living and dying. Plastic sheeting, plastic bags, anything that we can weather proof ourselves, food and the seeds that we will carry have become coveted, precious objects. Tyler dreams of Under Armor, fleece and sleeping bags.
Chryse, Marc and Colin are leading hunting parties for anything that we can dry down into jerky. Suddenly, the pest of the city, rats, pigeons, squirrels, even possums have been elevated to savory delights. Their skins kept for stuffing boots, hats and jackets. We have some chickens that we are going to try take with us, their eggs being a renewable source of protein as well as potential currency. Assuming that the Cloisters has residents, I’m betting on our seeds, eggs, and military training helping us through the front door. If they don’t let us in, the next nearest place that I can think of is further than I want to contemplate.
Jessica and Monica focus on seed collection and storage as well as building contraptions to carry some of our essential medicinal plants. I doubt they will survive the journey but Jessica refuses to come unless we try. Billy and I are part of the harvesting, drying and storing team. That is when I can get Billy to stay still for long enough. I suspect that Tyler and Toby have been sneaking him off on some scavenging runs, but I say nothing figuring every teenager needs some rebelling and at least he’s being useful as he’s doing it. In fact, I wonder where he has got off to now.
The rich earth scent of the potatoes I just packed perfume the rising odds of our survival. My fingers linger, playing for a moment in the moist soil, it is a texture I have always loved. As I’m laying the last piece of burlap in the box I hear the sound of frantic footfall and the cellar door flies open. Though I can only see the shadow of Chryse’s body, I can tell from her stance that what is about to come out of her mouth is bad.
“Sci, we have a problem. A serious problem,”
“I want you to brace yourself, you aren’t going to like this.” I glare at her and then realize the gesture is wasted since she probably can’t see me either. “Sci, just come up.”
For no reason, other than fatigue I feel tears pricking the backs of my eyes. I try not to self-indulge, but I dream of a day when crisis stops dominating the weather. I take in a deep breath, it’s ragged and I’m glad that Chryse is the only one to hear it. I take another it’s stronger. And another. After placing the wooden lid on the crate of precious potatoes, both seed and food, I turn, ready to face whatever ill omen waits for me up in the courtyard. I shove myself, and my emotions back into their cage, as I get ready to lead.