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A Change of Major (Chapter Ten)

My truck started up after a few tries so we did not need the spare battery, but kept it all the same. We were loaded down, but with the food, our gear and my camping stuff, we were in pretty good shape for at least the next week or so until I checked the gas gauge and realized I only had about a half a tank.

"Guys, I only have about a half a tank of gas in the truck:" I announced. "That won't get me back to Dallas so I am going to need to get some more"

"Fat chance of that, Mike." said Chuck. "Was the power on at the dorm? It wasn't in the Science Building and I doubt it's on at the Shell station either."

"So what do we do?" I asked.

"Go to the parking garage. My car is there and we can siphon the gas out of it. Curtis, where is your jeep parked?" said Chuck.

"Uh, its in the shop. I kind of backed into some chick's car the other day and messed up the bumper and stuff" he said from the backseat.

"Just go to the parking garage, Mike. I filled up two days ago and I have a spare gas can in the trunk we can use as well" said Chuck.

I drove slowly over to the parking garage and with the looks we got from the few people on campus it seemed we were riding around in a flying saucer. Nobody did anything, they just looked. Later, I realized that most of these people were either in shock or too concerned where their next meal would come from to be worried about an old truck with three guys in it.

We pulled in the garage (no barrier was down, it was broken off) and drove down two levels to where Chuck said his car was. Sure enough, his old Toyota was where he left it and by all accounts had not been touched.

I parked next to Chuck's car on the side where his gas cap was to make it easier. Chuck hopped out, opened the trunk with his key and removed a siphon pump and a two and a half gallon gas can. He opened the gas cap on his car, inserted the hose and then put the other end into my gas tank after opening the cap. Working the pump, it was a few moments before the gas started flowing.

He filled my car and there was still a small bit left which he put into the gas can. I put the can in the back of the truck away from our other stuff as best as possible. Then Chuck wrapped up the siphon into a large plastic bag and put it in the truck as well. He checked his car for anything he wanted to keep, but could not find anything worth taking up room in the truck.

We started up and pulled out of the garage and decided to run down the main drag to check things out. What we saw was a cross between a third world nation and the leftovers of a hurricane.

Nearly every store or restaurant or any other place which could be associated with food had its windows broken and doors off hinges. There were people walking in and out of shattered stores picking through the same rubble hundreds of others had numerous times before them, each hoping to find something forgotten and discarded.

There was trash everywhere. Bags were piled outside of houses and buildings as if the owners thought garbage service would resume momentarily. We also saw people digging through the dumped trash looking for food and in the process making more of a mess. We knew they were looking for food because we saw it several times the worst of which was being carried out by a small group of children around an overflowing dumpster.

Cars were abandoned in the road with many with their hoods up, glass broken, gas tanks open and tires missing. In the same streets lay bikes, grocery carts, suitcases and other debris left behind by a panicked populace.

Everyone either stared at us as we drove past or had a blank look on their faces. There was no sense of order or structure anywhere we went. No police, no city workers, no FEMA or Red Cross volunteers. Just people standing around burn barrels, poking through buildings or moving furtively from place to place.

"Let's just get out of town" I finally said. "I am going to head north and work my way towards Dallas. We will figure it out as we go along, OK?"

While everyone agreed, we did not get far. On highway 6 just north of the campus, a road block had been setup across the road and manned by some guys wearing fatigues with many of them carrying rifles or shotguns. Judging from their appearance, they looked like a bunch of middle aged guys with hunting rifles trying to close off their neighborhood, but I have been wrong before. Besides, I did not like the way they perked up when we came into view so I stopped a half a block from the barrier when I saw it and pulled a U turn without saying anything.

"Hey, maybe that's the army or something!" said Curtis. "Where are you going?"

"That group of guys are not the good guys, Curtis. The good guys would be out handing out supplies, getting the streets cleared, helping folks. Nope those guys look they are stopping people and probably telling them to go away. Or worse." I said looking in my rearview mirror to see if we were being followed.

I went around the campus and down south, but again on the main road, saw that there were a group of people being unloaded from several school busses up ahead and decided to go west instead. They looked like the same type of people we saw in my dorm and with us being loaded down, would probably generate some interest I did not want.

"This stinks! I just want to get out of town" I complained.

"Chill out," said Chuck. He then took out a map from his bag and consulted it briefly before instructing me to keep going west and then turning on 12th and then to take another turn on Brazos. He said it would lead out of town and take us eventually towards Austin, but we could turn north in several different places before we reached the capital.

It took awhile, but finally reached the outskirts of town and were forced into a south by southeast direction towards Wellborn and eventually towards Navasota. I really didn't want to go that way and I told Chuck to keep an eye out for a route which would take us west. I figured we could cut down toward Brenham, then work our way towards Austin but cut up 77 to avoid that whole area.

The problem was the roads we took were all two lane country roads and there several broken down cars blocking the way. At each car, I had to slow down and carefully approach and go around them. More than once, cars had been abandoned and were blocking both lanes so we would have to slow to a crawl and go around on the shoulder or the grass along side the road. And I won't kid you, I kept getting the feeling that each road block would be an excuse for someone to get the jump on us. With no authority or semblance of law and order, crime was a high growth industry in post-nuclear Texas.

Twice, we had to leave the state roads and take farm to market roads as our way was blocked. Once it was a giant wreck involving four or five vehicles while another time, a roadblock outside a one light town, again manned by several armed people. We did not stop to find out what they wanted we just beat feet the other direction.

All in all, we were only able to travel about twenty miles from the school with all the delays and backtracking we had to do.

It was late morning when we pulled out of the campus and it was afternoon and getting late so we would need to find a place to stop. As miserable as it sounded, we were going to have to find an out of the way spot and sleep in the truck or setup my tent. Along the last farm to market road we were on, we came upon a metal cattle shed on the side of the road. I pulled the truck over and drove behind the shed and parked.