A Change of Major Chapter Twenty Five
The Final Holocaust Part One
There was no sound other than my heart beating. A steady, thumping throb in my head. I was holding Curtis' lifeless body sitting on the ground surrounded by strangers.
A crying lady was clutching a little boy who was struggling to reach for Curtis. A middle aged man had his head down and was holding a child to his chest in a death grip.
A young man was next to me, in shock, his glasses in his hand, he was trying to stop the blood from flowing from the dead body in my arms although there was no point any longer.
Silence but for my heart. Thump. Thump. Thump.
I let Curtis slide limply from my lap and I stood. I found I had a gun in my hand, I staggered over to the dead body of the monster who shot Curtis and unloaded the three remaining rounds into his still body. I looked at the empty weapon in my hand and dropped it to the ground.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
A pretty girl ran up to me her mouth was moving, but I heard no words. I walked past her and ran into a woman who tried to grab me, but I went through her arms and on to the body of the big guy who tried to impale me with the knife.
His lifeless body lay on the grass and I started kicking his head repeatedly. The guy with the eyeglasses came up behind me and tried to take my arm but I pushed him away.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Old people and young, some bleeding, others not. All shocked. Some holding weapons, some holding each other. All staring at me.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
I walked towards the gate where an old man with a rifle, helping a wounded man to his feet, was mouthing something at me while imploring me with tired old eyes. I looked away and walked towards the gate.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
I walked between the damaged vehicles and found the rifle one of the attackers had dropped. A young man holding a rifle stood and watched me carefully, but I ignored him and walked over to the closest attacker's dead body and started firing into the torso until the weapon went dry.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The film started in my head, a montage of images.
Curtis playing his video games with that bear hat on...
Holding his iPhone into my face with some stupid app blinking away...
Curtis conning the last soda away from Chuck..
Curtis goofing off with Tyler...
Curtis singing in the kitchen..
Curtis standing in the rain wearing a trash bag with a dead guy by his feet..
Curtis talking incessantly about his family who could care less if he was alive...
Curtis turning to me to say something..
Suddenly the world exploded with noise.
Delbert was walking towards me, his boots on the pavement, dressed in black, black cowboy hat, big rifle in his hand, old west gunfight, here comes Mr. Death...
My voice, faraway, shouting, "Where were you? Curtis is dead! Where were you!"
I took a swing at his unemotional,expressionless face and a large hand stopped my fist in flight while an arm wrapped around my neck.
My other arm was pulled behind my back. The arm around my neck tightened and the world went black.
I sat up, slightly sore and shaking. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and I felt very, very tired. It was real. Curtis was dead.
All of this. The shelter. The road. The work. All for nothing. Curtis was dead. His family would never know. They would spend the rest of their lives thinking any minute he would walk through the door all the while he lay dead.
It was all my fault. We could have stayed at the farm. If I had not insisted to Celina the other day that we had to bring the campground more food, this never would have happened. Curtis would still be alive.
Curtis was my friend. He lived in the room next to me. He was my friend and I got him killed.
I looked up and saw I was in the lobby of the welcome center sitting on the floor with a blanket around my shoulders.
Ernie was standing against the counter holding his carbine.
Celina was on her haunches inches away watching me carefully.
Delbert was leaning against the nearby wall staring at me with his arms folded across his chest.
"What happened?" I asked.
"We brought you here. Sorry about the sleeper hold, Jose thought it was best considering the situation." said Delbert.
"Is that what that was? I thought one of the bad guys was still alive." I replied.
"Nope. Can you talk or do you need a few more minutes? We don't have much time, but if you can't handle it, it's cool, just let me know." said Delbert.
"Handle what? What else happened? What's going on?" I said frantically thinking someone else had died as well.
"We were attacked and it wasn't by accident. They were part of a larger gang working this area and are the same group who attacked Celina's farm the other night. But there are more of them, a lot more." replied Ernie.
"And these guys today had help, but that's not important. What is important is we have to do something and in the next 24 hours." added Celina.
"Do we get to kill more of the guys who killed Curtis? Then I'm in."
"Not like that," said Delbert. "Guys like you got us hurt in Iraq and Afghanistan. Same with 'Nam, right Ernie?
Nope, you want in on this than you forget about Curtis right now, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get your head on straight. Or I'll nail you before you set foot in the field. Got it?"
I said nothing but took a deep breath.
"Mike," said Ernie, "I know this is hard. We talked about this the other night and I know what you are going through.."
"No you don't old man! You didn't know Curtis! You didn't lose your mom, your dad, your sister, your friend all at once did you, huh?" I interrupted.
"No I didn't Mike," he replied calmly. "But I lost all my family and my closest friends died the same way in battle as well. It took me years to get through it, not over it, not around it, but through it. And you will too.
But today, Mike, we don't have the luxury of rubber rooms, shrinks and Prozac. We have a war to fight and we need to know if you, in the next few minutes, are going to be with us or not. Afterward, if we survive, we can all deal with the pain, but for now, we don't have that choice."
I sat there and said nothing at first.
"How are we going to fight a war? How many guys just attacked the camp ground? Ten? Twelve? Who fought back? Me? Celina? Ernie? Arturo? We lost a bunch of people in the process besides Curtis I'm sure. How's that going to work for us, huh?" I finally said.
Delbert's jumped in,
"Actually more fought than you think. Having never served, you don't know about things like force multipliers and we wouldn't expect you to. Whatever. We have some things planned which might help us.
But you are right, we are short handed so we need all hands on deck including you, if you're up for it and you can keep your head on straight," said Delbert.
"Tell you what, why don't you take it easy for a few minutes while we wait outside. someone wants to talk to you anyway." said Celina standing up.
The three left the office and Brenda came in with her arms folded. I stood and let the blanket fall to the ground at my feet.
"You okay?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"Yeah. I guess I looked like a real dork out there." I said looking down.
"No, not at all. I'm sorry about Curtis. I didn't know him very well, but he seemed like a good person. He saved that little boy's life you know."
She paused, and then said "We really don't have much time. Today, maybe in the next hour we have to go to.. well Delbert will give you the details about where, I talked to Chuck and he said that you and he.. well, this sounds stupid, but Mike, we don't have a lot of time."
Brenda stood up straight and got right in my face,
"Curtis is dead. You or I may be dead in a few hours too. I want you to know what ever happens, Mike Brewer, I am glad I met you. I am glad you came into my life when you did and, mom is going to kill me for this, Mike I love you. And I don't want to lose you and..."
I went to Brenda and kissed her. I kissed her to make all the hate, the despair, the sadness and hopelessness of the world go away for two people for just a few moments. For that time, the world was normal and right and maybe, just maybe, it would be later for Brenda and I.
We had to. We had to for Curtis and all the rest.
I stepped outside holding Brenda's hand and saw several people looking at us, and then turning away to what they were doing. And there was plenty going on.
The tow truck was pulling the damaged car from the gate and the hood was up with two men, Arturo and some old guy from the camp ground looking inside.
A shot out tire on the other attackers truck was being changed for the spare while all the attackers weapon's and ammunition was being collected and stacked on the picnic tables near the central fire pit.
George was sitting on a folding chair while Mrs. Cooper cleaned his shoulder wound with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
A group of people, mostly the older folks from the campers and motor homes, but also a fair number of younger and middle aged people from the tents and mobile homes were standing nearby in groups.
Everyone was carrying some sort of firearm and showing them one at a time to Ernie, Jose or Delbert. While a few weapons were useless due to age, condition or lack of ammo, the rest would all be put to use with the operator, regardless of training or ability, behind them.
I was about to say something to Brenda when I looked up and saw sitting on the ground tied to a stunted tree a few yards away, Holland. Needless to say, I was shocked.
He was dirty, his jacket torn and his face showed the results of a servere beating. He was looking down at the ground and trying very hard to be invisible from what I could tell. It was a long way from the pompous arrogant jerk I remembered from a few days ago.
"Where did he come from?" I asked.
"He was with the attackers. We followed the trail of the guys who hit the camp and found him tied up in the trunk of another car just over the hill there." said Brenda.
"He brought them here." I stated coldly. Holland caused Curtis' death.
"Mike, don't," said Brenda grabbing my arm, "Delbert is going to take care of it. Trust me."
Maybe I was too tired, maybe I had seen enough, but I let it go. For now.
Mr. Hartman walked over and said,
"I think this is yours." it was the .25 pistol I had dropped near Curtis.
"Mike, I am sorry about Curtis. He went straight to heaven, I know it. He saved Tyler's life and we will never forget him or what he did."
"Thanks, Mr. Hartman. I.. Curtis was good. Better than me..." I trailed off.
I removed the spent magazine and replaced it with the only other one I had left in my pocket. I may not need the little gun again, but it came in handy all the same.
Delbert walked over and seeing the little gun in my hand, shook his head.
"You got lucky with that piece of s**t before, don't put your life in it's hands anymore."
He walked over to the table and picked up a medium frame revolver with a three inch barrel.
"This is a .38, ever fired one before?" he asked.
"Sure, I had a friend whose dad had one. We took it to the range a few times." I replied.
"Good. Find somewhere to stick it and keep it close in case your shotty goes dry or missing."
I took the pistol and carefully opened the cylinder and found it was empty. I looked at Delbert and he wordlessly handed me a dozen rounds and turned away.
I loaded the gun, checked the safety and stuffed it in my right coat pocket.
I had to do something to help out so Brenda and I went over to the tow truck and checked out her AK and reloaded the two magazines she went through in the firefight. I discovered that she and Tracy had matching rifles and Baretta nine milimeter handguns as well. I don't know why that is even important now, but it's something you remember. In another time, they probably had matching Easter dresses, now its guns. Welcome to the new world.
Tracy had been with Celina during the battle and I did not even ask Brenda how she was, but I saw her over at her mom's truck unloading the food into the welcome center.
Jose appeared shortly afterward driving the Mustang which he parked just outside the gate before he opened the trunk with Delbert and Ernie standing nearby.
Jose pulled a wicked looking long weapon out with two legs folded beneath the barrel. I walked over and watched as he handed the gun to Delbert and then pulled two long belts of ammunition from a box in the trunk.
Delbert saw me and said,
"I told you about force multipliers, meet one."
"What is it?" I asked.
"It's an M60," said Ernie. "We used them in Vietnam and up until you were a young man. It's a good weapon in the right hands."
"And those hands would be yours, pops." said Delbert.
"OK, let's get over to the tables and get this worked out." said Delbert.