The North: a Halloween special

     The year is 2023, a deadly virus broke out in the year 2016 and  has devastated the mainland of the United States. The survivors have no knowledge of the rest of the world. Shortly after the outbreak the power grid collapsed leaving all in total darkness.

    Despite best efforts by the National Guard, the country dissolves into total anarchy for a short while, cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago are hit hardest. Ninety three percent of the U.S. population is killed within the first year, due to the virus, rioting, and lack of food.

     After a few years, the surviving people form themselves into warring tribes. The mountain tribes control the North. The North, despite harsh seasons, presents the best chance for survival, with lower populations, lands for farming and plenty of fish and game.

     Few families who had been prepared for emergencies escape to an island on a lake. But thier supplies are dwindling and they must send some on a ten day expedition to the mainland.

     Among nine other men, Jedidiah Smith volunteers to go.

     Jedd's eyes shoot open, the day has come when he must leave. He sits up, it's been weeks since he slept more than 4 hours. He glances at his pack and his rifle, and thinks to himself "I pray I won't have to use it, but I know I will." He gets dressed and grabs his gear and walks into the main camp where he meets with his father and two sisters.

   Jedd's father Gregory erupts  "Are you sure you want to do this? Your brothers died trying hold back the rioters, are you going to leave me with no sons?"  "You have Willow, KylieAnn. It's better that I go than any others because I won't have someone else risk their life for me." Gregory ponders his statement for a moment, before he can speak, Jedd assures him that he has the most experience when it comes to survival. "The girls are not my son." Gregory adds. "It's time for me to go, father. I'll bring you back something from the mainland." Says Jedd. Gregory replies "Bring yourself back."

     Jedd drops his gear into his kayak, and turns to his sister KylieAnn, in tears she tells him that if the mountain tribes catch him, they'll kill him slow. He assures her that he'll be okay and that the tribes are just a myth. He hugs his sisters and his father and sets off. His father's words echo in his head, "Bring yourself back." He lands on the sleepy shore, stashing his kayak and sets off into the woods.

     It's now midday, and Jedd is still on the move, stopping at every building he happens upon, grabbing anything he can find, batteries, bullets, food, most of all food. All the while those words, words that cut deeper at him than any blade ever could "Bring yourself back." Jedd notices that the sun is droping even lower, he sets camp and gathers wood for a fire.

     Jedd lies there beneath his tarp, "Bring yourself back" he mutters to himself. He begins to run an inventory of his gear and the supplies he's gathered. "One candy bar, two cans of food, beans and corn. Three triple A batteries, a space blanket, and 14 rounds of 7.62×39mm for my rifle, and a pack of smokes for dad." And the words came again, "Bring yourself back." He mutters them over and over again before drifting back to sleep.

     He wakes up and begins cooking breakfast. He recalls of when he was younger, and the first set of rangers had gone on a similar run to the mainland to try and find settlements and one came back a year later. Mitchell was his name, he's gone mad. Rambling non stop of a group up in the mountains and how they killed the other two rangers and tortured him before he escaped. "All a story, he just went crazy." Jedd thought.

     Scavenging from town to town, Jedd had traveled 13 miles, or was it 14, he wasn't sure. That's when he reaches his childhood home. A 40 acre farm, he stops and admires the view before seeing a small fire in the distance. He watches through his binoculars. There's people, eight exactly, one standing head and shoulders above the rest. That's when he hears a click and someone shouts from behind "I have a range.." before he can finish Jedd knocks the gun to the side and stabs the tribesmen in the chest who fires his gun as he dies. Jedd panics, grabs the dead man's gun and retreats into the woods.

     "He was just a boy." Jedd's mind began to race, he thought of Mitchell the crazed ranger who may not have lost it after all. He runs out of breath, just beneath a ridge on the bank of a river. Jedd kneals, but before he can catch his breath two more tribesmen attack from above, Jedd shoots and kills one and wounding the other with a shot to the arm but not before she shoots Jedd in the waist by his hip. Pain. A searing, burning pain, and he takes cover in a nearby cove. The words echoed louder in Jedd's head, "bring yourself back." Thats when he hears the tribesmen above him.

     "Which way did he go?!"
      "Are you shot?"
       "It was the ranger, careful now he's armed!"
      "Looks like we're going hunting! You three come with me, you get back to the house and take your sister with you and patch her up."

     Jedd snuck around a large maple tree and silently moved east. He walked for a while, well past nightfall. He stopped at a nearby car shop. He built a small fire, and heated he's knife in the flames until it was red hot and stuck it against the gunshot wound. He roared in pain and blacked out.

     Jedd awoke around midday, unsure of his surroundings. Before he realizes what happened a voice boomed from outside, accompanied by three gunshots. "We know your in there! You killed Richard and Alex, and shot my daughter Brianna! Come out now!" Jedd peaks from the window, he counting three men, counting the big one. He wears a gas mask and carries a M1A rifle. Jedd answers"I didn't have a choice, it's kill or be killed!" The big one responds "We always have a choice!"  And gestures for the other two to infiltrate the building. Jedd fires his AK47 rifle and kills the two men and opens fire on their leader. His father's words came again "Bring yourself back" and suddenly his mission was no longer to scavenge, but to survive.

     The two exchanges gunfire for a few minutes before the man outside stopped, Jedd opens the door and proceeds cautiously towards an overturned mini van. When he's tackled from behind. The large man beats Jedd, punching him several times in the head. As Jedd fades from consciousness, the man looms over him and says "my name is Alan, and it's nice to meet you." And strikes him with the stock of his rifle.

     Jedd wakes up, hand cuffed to a bed. A young girl sitting next to him with a hand gun pointed at him. "Papa!" She shouts and Alan comes into the room. "You're awake, good. This is my daughter, the one you shot." Jedd just stares at him, "You rangers come up here, and you take what you like, kill who you like, and you don't care. I killed the two that came before you, after they killed my wife and brother."

     "What do you plan to do with me?" Jedd says firmly, but hiding the fear he's feeling. " for now, were going to have dinner, we were cleaning a buck before you attacked." Alan then pulls out a key to the hand cuffs and a 44. Magnum, unlocks the cuffs. "I don't imagine your stupid enough to try something but, I'll kill you if you do."

     The three make there way to the table and sit down. "Yesterday there were nine of us, and now there's only five. At the start of the collapse there were ten of us. So, you're going to eat, then I'm going to kill you." Jedd replies with a cold stare and a firm voice "I have no plans for dieing today, let me go and I'll never comeback, and warn all others to stay away from here, or your going to die today." Alan turns to his daughter and says, "go grab his gear."

     Before she can return the homestead falls under siege from a neighboring tribe, gunfire erupts and Jedd yells "Give me my rifle or were all going to die here!" Alan hesitates before handing him the gun "if we live through this, you'll go home." Alan says to Jedd.

     The shootout lasts nearly an hour, Alan and Jedd are hold up in the house with Brianna, Alan's other two sons are killed, along with his cousin. Jedd and Alan killed the attacking tribesmen.

      "My home......my family." Alan is in total shock. "Alan we need to go, we don't know how many are left and the sun is dro..." Alan interjectes "aye you're right....but I can't go with." Alan reveals a gunshot wound in his stomach. "Take my daughter with you. Somewhere she'll be safe. She's only 13."
Jedd says "Yes. Yes I can do that." Life fades from his eyes and gunfire erupts miles from the homestead and Jedd and Brianna gather what supplies they can and head back to the sleepy shore.

     The two reach the shore and are treated by Gregory who is almost in tears. "You're the only ranger to make it back, and you have a guest?" Jedd replies with tears in his eyes "Her name is Brianna, and I  brought myself back. Let's go inside, we have a lot to discuss." People gather to help unload supplies.

The End

It took me a great deal of time to write this story and I had a lot of fun with it. I hope everyone enjoys it and as always, good luck and stay safe out there!
   

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