DBS Publishing LLC
Copyright 2015 by DBS Publishing LLC
Two Months After
West of the Hudson River, the village of Nyack, New York, had changed drastically in the two months since losing electrical power. The once busy downtown Main Street of local shops, coffee houses, and diners had become virtually deserted. Cars lined the streets, long abandoned—some with their doors hanging open. The normally idyllic town was absent its residents, who had simply fled in droves.
The streets were deserted and the sounds of vehicles, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers had been replaced with silence. Stray dogs roamed in packs. Shops along Main Street stood vandalized with their windows smashed in and shelves pillaged and emptied.
Shattered glass was strewn across the sidewalks in a layer of tiny broken pieces. The sky was as desolate gray, much like the town below it. Only a few of months ago, the streets were bustling in this modest cornerstone of Rockland County. And in one brief second, everything had changed.
That morning, a small group of outsiders passing through were on a desperate search for supplies. The five men, two women, and three children were far from home and hoping to reach their destination before nightfall. They heard that help awaited them there. Their leader, a Baptist minister, named the Reverend Allen Phelps, had remained loyal to dwindling parish, promising to get them somewhere safe. With the guidance of God, he believed anything was possible.
They had received a broadcast through an old emergency radio with directions to a disaster relief center, twenty five miles from Clarkstown, their hometown. They had been on the road for one day, in search of assistance, tired, hungry, and nearing the end of the water supply in their canteens.
“We’ll find help soon enough,” Phelps said, leading the group into downtown Nyack. His boonie cap shaded his bearded face. He carried a walking stick as his parishioners followed closely behind. Their shoes crunched against the broken bits of glass covering the ground.
Harvey and Beatrice Wilson were couple in their fifties. Behind them, Dale Ripken, a landscaper from Westchester County. And at the end Zach and Erin Brantley walked with their two children, Tyler and Sloane. They moved quickly down the street past the trash and vandalism saying very little. There were dangerous people out there. That much they knew.
Reverend Phelps believed that they could very well facing the beginning of the apocalypse. On September 16, 2016—the day of the blast that destroyed the power grid—many people had simply vanished. Phelps’s group had no idea what had happened to their friends and loved ones. They had no clue on how far things spread. And they had no idea what was out there. They were a vulnerable group, and Phelps knew what people were capable of, especially during times of crisis. Dale carried a .40 caliber Glock 22 pistol for protection, but violence was the last thing anyone wanted.
The sky thundered. The clouds above had darkened. As they passed another shop in ruin, Phelps stopped dead his tracks. Ahead, sat a man in a lawn chair with his head tilted up a black fedora covering his eyes.
They weren’t sure what to think of the gray-haired, leather-jacket-clad mystery man before them as he made no notice of their presence. Phelps turned to Dale. “Let’s check it out.” He turned to the others. “Stay here. We’ll be back.”
Glass crunched under their shoes with each step. The man in the chair made no movement. He was a tall man with long legs, wearing boots and jeans. He had some light stubble on his face and gray hair tucked into his hat. As they neared, the man moved his head, looked at them, and spoke.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome.”
Startled, they both froze in place.
“My apologies. We just wanted to make sure that you were OK,” Phelps said.
The man tipped his hat at them with a smile. “I was just taking a little rest.” He then stood up from his chair and stretched. “But seeing how I’ve got visitors now, let me introduce myself. My name is Arthur Jenkins, mayor of Tartarus.”
Phelps and Dale looked around, confused.
“I’m sorry, where?” Phelps said.
Dale pulled out his map. “I thought we were in Nyack.”
“Oh,” Jenkins said. “We changed the name not too long ago.”
Phelps went on and introduced himself.
Behind his glasses, Jenkins eyes widened. “A pastor, aye? Welcome to my town, reverend.”
“And I’m Dale Riken.”
They shook hands as Jenkins looked behind him to their group waiting at the end of the sidewalk.
“Who are your friends?” he asked and adjusted his glasses.
Phelps turned around and held his hand out in their direction. “That’s my parish. We’re just passing through and looking for a relief center.”
“Yeah, we’re from Clarkstown,” Dale added.
Jenkins put his hands on his hip and looked upward, nodding. “Well, I don’t know anything about some relief center, but you’re welcome to stay in town, that is, if you have something to trade.
Phelps and Dale looked at each other with uncertainty.
“We don’t really know,” Phelps said. “Running a little low on supplies ourselves.”
Jenkins seemed undeterred. “You know it’s a barter’s world out there now.”
Phelps scanned the area for others. “Indeed it is.”
Jenkins stood at over six feet. They were skeptical of him and wondered where all the townspeople had gone. He then pointed to the road ahead which forked in two directions.
“The quickest way out is right down that road there and take a right at the fork. You’ll even find a park with a pavilion and everything. Some nice shelter from the coming rain.” Jenkins paused. “Where is this relief center located, anyway?”
Phelps thought to himself. He was hesitant about revealing too much of their plans. “Somewhere close to the city, I imagine.”
“New York City?” Jenkins said, astonished. “Heck, you couldn’t pay me to go near that place right now.” He examined the men and then smiled. “But don’t let me hold you up.”
“Thanks,” Phelps said. He turned around and signaled to the group with his walking stick. They came forward and met up as Phelps turned to Jenkins. “You have a nice day.”
“You too. Be safe out there,” Jenkins said.
The group nodded and waved, passing him by. As they continued on Jenkins called out to Phelps.
Phelps stopped and turned. “Yes?”
“You never asked me where everyone is. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
Phelps look beyond the street corner where Jenkins stood among the ruins of Main Street.
“I guess we’re just used to it by now,” Phelps said. “Good day.” He waved with his stick and marched on. Jenkins watched the group as they continued up the road. He didn’t take his eyes off them.
Phelps moved quickly without looking back. A noticeable gap formed. Dale jogged forward to catch up. “I think maybe you should slow it down some,” he said.
Phelps continued as his walking stick clinked against the pavement.
“Reverend, please.” Dale moved in front of him, blocking him. Phelps stopped.
Harvey and Beatrice caught up out of breath. “Why are we moving so fast?” she asked.
The rest of the group were just as curious.
“Who was that man back there?” Zach asked, walking up. “What did he want?”
The group slowly looked back to see if the man was still on the street corner watching them. He wasn’t.
“We need to keep moving,” Phelps said.
Thunder echoed through the sky louder than before.
Harvey chimed in. “I say we go back and try to round up some food.”
“Not with that man around,” Beatrice replied.
Harvey waved her off. “Ah, he’s just a harmless weirdo.”
Dale opened his map again. “Interstate’s the other way,” he said, pointing ahead to the fork in the road.
“That man, Jenkins, said to take a left,” Phelps said, pointing his walking stick.
“Screw him,” Dale said. “That’s not what this map says.”
He went right at the fork as the group followed. They passed empty vehicles and stopped at a nearby guidepost. Dale stopped and looked at the map, then back to the guidepost.
The sign had an arrow for the interstate pointed in the opposite direction they were heading. “Something’s not right here,” Dale said.
Zach pulled a compass from his pocket. “We’re headed west, right? Well, we’re going the right way then.”
“Maybe the other way’s a shortcut,” Harvey said.
“Or a trap,” Dale said.
“Oh please,” Harvey quipped.
The bickering men looked at Reverend Phelps for guidance. “You’re the man with the map,” he said. “Show us the way.”
They continued down the two-lane street where cars and trucks sat motionless and abandoned in both directions. Harvey then suggested that they take a look inside the vehicles for supplies. The group seemed in agreement. Harvey leaned into a Pontiac Sunbird and found a bag of peanuts
Zach and Erin searched through the front of a Buick station wagon, while their kids looked in the back. Zach stuffed some quarters into his pocket from the dashboard. Erin looked under the passenger seat. The family came up empty-handed and moved on to the next car, a red four-door Corolla, just as drops began to fall.
The reverend approached a white utility van and opened the door. It had plenty of room inside. “Look everyone!” he shouted. “We can all fit in here until the rain passes.”
The group assembled at the van with a few found items of note—batteries, Gatorade bottles, potato chips, trail mix, half-empty bottles of water. Harvey walked up, proudly displaying an umbrella.
“Think I’ll just stay out here,” he said, pressing a button on the handle. The umbrella popped open as raindrops smacked its canopy.
Beatrice climbed inside as the others followed. Harvey paces near the van and then took notice of someone walking toward them wearing a hat and leather jacket.
“Looks like, we have company, Reverend,” he said, tapping his shoulder.
Phelps turned and saw the figure getting closer as the rain began to fall. “Dale!” he said.
Dale was about to get in the van but stopped. “What is it?”
Phelps signaled up the road. “Looks like he’s back.”
They told Harvey and everyone else inside the van to wait as they went to investigate. The man was a mere fifty feet from them and advancing as if he was taking a stroll in the park. Dale pulled his pistol out and led the way as Phelps urged caution.
“Better to be safe than sorry, Reverend,” Dale said.
The rain picked up as they approached the man, clearly resembling the person from before.
“Mr. Jenkins?” Phelps said.
The man pulled a pistol from his side and aimed at them with a smile on his face.
Dale raised his Glock and suddenly felt a cold barrel jam into the back of his neck.
“Drop it,” a harsh voice behind him demanded. Dale heard the hammer of the rifle click and opened his hand. The pistol bounced on the wet pavement.
Phelps turned around to see the rifleman standing behind Dale. He then faced Jenkins who had a gun pointed at him, between the eyes. “What is this about?” he asked in disbelief.
Jenkins held his pistol steady. “I told you the way to go, Reverend. And you deliberately disobeyed me. This area’s belongs to our men. We’ve claimed it along with everything in it. You’re officially trespassing.”
Phelps could feel his heart beating faster. He held up his hands defensively. “Our mistake. There was just some confusion with the group. We’ll go the other way now.”
The rain beat against Jenkins’s hard fedora. Phelps blinked rapidly as drops rolled down his forehead and into his eyes.
Jenkins scratched his chin as if to consider Phelps’s plea. “We’ll let you pass… for a small fee. How does that sound?”
The man behind Dale jammed the barrel further into his neck. “Get on your knees!”
Dale held his hands high and knelt slowly.
“Let’s talk about this, Mr. Jenkins, please,” Phelps pleaded. “We haven’t got much of anything. Our supplies have been stretched thin.”
Jenkins raised his .357 magnum. “The name’s Mayor Jenkins, if you don’t mind.” His barrel looked as big as a cannon.
“Mr. Mayor, I’m sorry,” Phelps said.
“Tell your group to come out,” Jenkins ordered.
Phelps carefully turned around and signaled to his frightened group in the van.
Jenkins leaned in closer. “And if one of them runs or does anything stupid, there’s going to be trouble, unfortunately.”
“What the hell is going on?” Harvey walked up first, still carrying his umbrella.
“Just stay put, old man,” he responded.
The rest approached, unsure of what was going. Zach and Erin huddled together holding their children. Beatrice latched onto Harvey in fear.
More men suddenly jumped out from behind nearby cars and surrounded the group all armed and pointing weapons.
“Why are you doing this?” Erin asked with, gripping her children’s hands.
Jenkins and his men only offered stone-cold silence.
“Look, we don’t want any trouble,” Zach added.
Dale was still on his knees. There were up to ten men surrounding the group—some kind of bizarre ambush.
The reverend attempted peaceful resolution once more. “Gentlemen, I would ask that you allow us to go on our way. We don’t have much, but we’ll gladly give what we can.”
“And we plan to take it,” Jenkins said. He waved his men over.
They swarmed the group and yanked the backpacks off their backs, tossing them to the road.
“None of this is necessary, please!” Phelps said.
Jenkins took a step closer to Phelps and pushed his magnum into his right cheek. Phelps shuddered and closed his eyes as the tore through their backpacks, coming up short of anything of value.
“Ah hell, Mr. Mayor. There ain’t nothing here but baby wipes and clothes in here,” one long-haired, tattooed man shouted.
“I told you we didn’t have anything,” Phelps said.
“Not true,” one the other men said. “He dumped a bag out revealing all the items they had taken from the vehicles.
In response, the men went ordered everyone onto their knees—all but Phelps.
Jenkins lowered his magnum paced Phelps as ran soaked their captives. “I thought I’d seen it all,” he said, pausing. “Trespassing and theft. This isn’t good, reverend.”
“We…” Phelps began. “We didn’t know.”
Jenkins swung his blunt pistol hard against his face, knocking him to the ground. Beatrice and Erin screamed. The children shook with fear.
Zach jumped up, infuriated. “You bastards!”
One of the men stepped forward and clubbed Zach in the back with the buttstock of his rifle, sending him to the wet ground.
Jenkins stood over Phelps, clutching his magnum like a hammer, as the reverend lay there on his side holding his face. He tried to rise from the ground, but the throbbing pain in his face was too much.
Jenkins noticed his struggle. “Stay down, Reverend. If you know what’s food for you.”
He looked up nodded to his men. They shouted at the group to stand up, jabbing them with their rifles. Once on their feet, they led them off the road and up a hill. Phelps remained on the ground paralyzed with pain.
“Where are you taking us?” Harvey asked.
Jenkins pointed to a small dilapidated warehouse ahead and off the road. “A holding are where you can get out of the rain.”
Dale turned and looked back on the street where Phelps still lay—head in bloody hands. He looked for any sign of his pistol, which he knew had fallen somewhere in the road near Phelps. Maybe Phelps could find it, storm into the warehouse, and save them.
“What are we going to do?” Erin asked, as they were pushed along.
“Pray for the best,” Zach said. He squeezed her hand gently.
From the road, where they had left him, Phelps struggled. His jaw felt broken and his vision was blurry. He couldn’t even move his mouth to shout. For the first time in as far back as he could remember, rage was building within him. But he was angrier at himself than anything. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t even stand up. Not even when he heard the first gunshots.
One shot after the other rang out in rapid succession from the warehouse, followed by screams. Then silence. What had they done? They wouldn’t have just killed them all like that, would they? Why even waste the time taking them away?
Silence followed. Lying on his side, Phelps reached his shaking hand out, trying to brace himself. Up ahead, he saw Dale’s pistol lying in a puddle. He didn’t know why they had left him and what he could do. He searched for the answers, hoping something came to mind. He was no hero. What game were the men playing with him and why? He had to know what happen to his people. He turned away from the pistol and walked up the hill toward the warehouse, ready to face his demons.
Two Months Before
Monday, September 12, 2016
The microwave in Rob Parker’s kitchen emitted a lengthy, piercing beep—the frozen sausage patties were ready. A coffee pot bubbled to the top, with steam steadily rising toward the ceiling. A television was on in the living room with the local morning news playing at a moderate level. There was commotion all throughout the house. Still in his bathrobe with light stubble on his thirty-six year old face, Rob stormed into the kitchen, distracted and half there mentally, searching for something of great importance. His eleven-year-old daughter, Kelly, followed him, and was on the brink of tears.
“I know I gave it to you last, Dad. You said that you were going to sign it.”
Rob went straight to the microwave and opened it.
“And I did.” Rob pulled the plate out of the microwave and set it on the counter. “We’ll find your permission slip before the bus gets here, I promise.” He slid on the tile over to the coffee maker and turned it off. “Now have a seat and eat your breakfast.”
On the table were two plates and two glasses of orange juice.
“I don’t eat those things,” Kelly said.
Rob looked perplexed. “Oh. Well, have some Froot Loops or something.” He went to the pantry, pulled out a box, and set it on the table.
“That’s OK,” she said, pushing the box away. “I’ll just get something out of the vending machine at school.”
“No. We don’t buy cereal so you can spend your allowance on candy at school.”
Already behind schedule, Rob’s day was off to a hectic start. The school bus was going to arrive soon, and he couldn’t find Kelly’s permission field trip permission slip.
His thirteen-year-old son, Josh, walked into the kitchen with his backpack over his shoulder and his iPod earbuds in place watching Rob riffle through the kitchen drawers.
“You guys are still looking for that thing?” he asked, tossing his bag on the counter. He grabbed a sausage biscuit from the table and devoured it. Rob was too distracted to answer. Josh reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “Well, I’ve got mine. Better luck next time.”
“Don’t say that! It’s around here somewhere,” Kelly said, defensively.
Rob looked at his iPhone. “You sure about that?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Right, Dad?”
Rob slammed the last drawer shut pulled up a stool next to Kelly. “Now think real hard. Are you sure that I didn’t give it back to you?”
Kelly folded her arms. “You didn’t. If you did, I would have it.”
Stuck for an answer, Rob thought to himself, trying to play each step back in his mind.
Josh looked at his phone through bushy-blond bangs. “Bus will be here in ten minutes.” He scooted out from the table, grabbed his backpack and left the kitchen.
“You could be more helpful here, you know,” Rob called out.
Josh stopped in the adjacent living room and turned to face them. “What do you want me to do?”
“Help us find this thing,” Rob said. “If your sister can’t go, you can’t go. How do you like that?”
Josh stared back. “You can’t do that.”
Rob leaned back on his stool with his arms crossed. “I’m your father. I can do anything that I want.”
“But it’s not my—”
Rob stopped him. “Start helping us look.”
Josh turned and stormed off toward his room, muttering under his breath.
“Dad, look,” Kelly said.
She was staring ahead, over his shoulder, wide-eyed.
He turned and could see it pinned on the refrigerator. The Rob stood up and walked over. A small note had been placed over the slip from Mila, his wife, addressed to Kelly: Don’t forget your permission slip. Have fun! Love, Mom.
Rob snatched the signed permission slip from the fridge and handed it to her.
“Well… I guess that clears it up.”
Kelly held the paper in her hands, relieved, but wanting vindication. She then looked up at Rob. “I told you that you never gave it to me.”
Rob humbly bowed to her. “Accept my deepest apologies, fair maiden.”
Kelly ran out of the kitchen with the paper in hand.
“Don’t lose it,” Rob said jokingly.
He then went to the counter and poured some coffee into his Brooklyn Dodgers mug, contemplating his day. After the kids went off to school, there was much work to be done. Their field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art would last all day.
Josh walked into the kitchen, ready to go. “Kelly told me it was on the refrigerator the entire time?” he said.
“That’s correct. How’d you miss it?” Rob retorted.
Josh shook his head and walked toward the door when Rob called him back. “Wait for your sister.”
Josh stopped. “Ugh. She takes forever.”
Rob approached him at the door. “You need to look out for Kelly, you know,” he said, placing a hand on Josh’s shoulder.
Josh looked down and he began to shift impatiently.
Rob continued. “You remember what it’s like to be in sixth grade, right? New school with new people.”
Josh looked up. “She has the same friends from last grade, Dad. Just a different school.”
“That’s not my point. She needs you there for her. You’re her big brother. Understand?”
Josh nodded. Kelly emerged from the hallway and into the foyer wearing a pink hooded jacket under her backpack.
“You all ready?” Rob asked.
Kelly said “yes” and smiled.
“OK, gotta go,” Josh said, impatiently.
“Hold on, guys.” Rob leaned down and hugged Kelly. “Stick close to each other and enjoy the museum.”
He then turned to Josh and gave him a hug, despite his son’s futile resistance. “Remember what I said. Love you guys. Have fun today.”
The kids said goodbye and left the house. The sun was just rising as cars from the neighborhood street passed by—commuters going to work.
Rob waved to them and watched as they walked down the front lawn and onto the sidewalk to their bus stop at the end of the road. Once they were out of view, he closed the door. The house was quiet again, except for the television in the living room.
With the kids off, Rob decided to take a breather and sat on the couch for a moment, catching the morning hodge-podge of random topics on cable news. The economy was in the tank and there were new terror alerts issued from all around the country. The country was in trouble and had been for a while. Rob, like some other people he knew, was preparing for the worst. It was, in fact, his main trade.
He owned a shop downtown, Pro-Survival Gear, an outdoors specialty camping and hunting outlet that also specialized in survival equipment. He catered to what the market demanded: reliable and affordable products for the self-sufficient individual. His target demographics were people, commonly known as “preppers,” concerned individuals and families who strived to be prepared for natural disasters, economic turmoil, and societal collapse. They were realists who took the trade very seriously.
The young female news anchor on TV was itemizing the day’s news with images of the New York Stock Exchange and plummeting Wall Street numbers filled the screen. Her commentary droned in the background.
The news was enough to make his head spin. There was little, he believed, the government could do to revert the disastrous course they were on with their frivolous spending. Because of this, he was certain of one thing: money would soon lose its value. Inflation was on the horizon and his family had to be ready. He gave it six months to a year before things got exponentially worse. Though, he wanted nothing more than to be wrong.
He wanted his family to be as prepared as possible. He wanted his kids to possess the skills needed to be self-sufficient. To prep and plan effectively, it had to be a joint effort. But that was easier said than done.
Mila had her hands full at the local hospital where she worked as a registered nurse. With four years of school behind her, she still had her fair share of student loans to pay.
In his youth, Rob had established himself as a competitive marksman, when his interests soon shifted toward running his own business. Before then, all he did was drift through the country, taking odd jobs where he could. That was, until he met Mila and started a family in his thirties.
Nyack was a quaint town with there was plenty of nature and beautiful scenery. Moving there had been a dream come true. But the dream, Rob knew, wouldn’t last forever.
He took another sip his coffee. It was time to get ready for work. The day was September 12, 2016—one day after the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, and as he contemplated the future, he found himself filled with dread.
Was the outlook really so glum? Was most of it in his head? The mood of the country was reflected in what he was seeing. His products were flying off the shelves: emergency food kits, water purifiers, camping equipment, flashlights, batteries, multi-tools, Para cords, and other prepper basics.
He knew a community of preppers who had purchased land in the mountains along the Hudson River, close to where his own family maintained a small cabin for his familty’s weekend getaways. They hadn’t been up there in some time. A travesty, Rob believed.
He heard Mila’s car pull up in the driveway. The time displayed on the television news said that it was 7:30 A.M. His store opened at nine. He’d have a little time to spend with her, maybe discuss going to the cabin for the weekend. However, after a thirteen-hour night shift, he knew that Mila probably wouldn’t be up for much talk. He went into the kitchen and cleaned off the table just was Mila walked inside.
He cleaned the table off as the front door opened and Mila’s jingling keys sounded down the foyer hall.
“Good morning,” he said to her as heard her keys jingle down the foyer hall.
She turned to him dressed in purple scrubs and looking exhausted. There were lines under her hazel eyes. Her black hair was tied back in a ponytail, reaching her mid-back as a lone piece hung over her forehead.
“Hey,” she said, looking around. “I guess I just missed them.”
“Yep. They just left about ten minutes ago,” Rob said.
“Did they remember their permission slips?” Mila asked.
“All taken care of,” Rob answered, without going into any details. He placed some dishes in the sink, walked over to Mila, and hugged her. “How was work?”
“Long,” she answered. “Arleen is at it again. Basket case.”
Mila was convinced that Arleen, her hopelessly combative shift supervisor, had it in for her. She took her purse and hung it on a nearby coat rack.
“Hungry?” Rob asked.
“Not now,” Mila said. “I think I’m just going to lie down.”
Rob poured the rest of his coffee out in the sink. “Sounds good. I’ve got to get ready for work.”
Mila voiced trailed down the hall. “Thanks for getting them off to their field trip. I know Kelly was really excited.”
Rob turned and followed her down the hall. “So I was thinking, maybe we should spend some time at the cabin this weekend. Get re-adjusted to the place.”
“I’d love to,” Mila said. Then her face dropped, along with her enthusiasm. “But I have to work a double on Saturday.”
“How many times are they going to do that to you?”
“They’re short of nurses.”
“They’re always short nurses,” Rob said. “Tell them to hire more.”
Mila rolled her eyes. “Not happening. They’re supposedly stretched financially thin as it is.”
Rob put his arms around her and pulled her close, trying to provide some comfort to her obvious stress. “We’ll have all our debts paid off soon. Trust me.”
“I know,” Mila said.
Rob finally got to what he wanted to talk about. “We need to start talking about prepping. The kids need to be out in the wilderness more. I’m concerned that they’re too green right now.”
With her vacant eyes and frown, it seemed a topic Mila wasn’t in the mood to explore. She put her finger to his lips. “We should talk about this later. I’m very tired.”
Rob let it drop. But it was something he wasn’t going to let up on. Mila went off to bed while he showered and got ready for work. The start of a normal day.
Adapt or Die
Pro-Survival was located two blocks from Main Street in downtown Nyack and about three miles from where Rob lived. After parking his blue Chevy Impala, Rob got a coffee and bagel and headed to work. The brisk morning walk down the street from the coffee place was exactly what he needed. Rob’s shop was sandwiched between a thrift store and a book store and seemed to fit right into the eclectic mix.
The modestly busy downtown area had an assortment of restaurants, cafes, bars, markets, hair salons, and other specialty shops. Several franchises had also moved in over the years, but his main competitor was the West Nyack shopping mall. Rob, however, felt he had a niche market and catered to the needs of his customers in ways the mall couldn’t. So he believed.
The main issue he faced was with his landlord, Mr. Clayton. Rent offers were coming in from places with much deeper pockets than his own. And to make matters worse, Clayton had increased rent every year, blaming it on the economy and other external factors. Rob couldn’t really say that he blamed him.
He unlocked the front entrance to his shop while holding his coffee and bagel in the other hand. The glass door had a Closed sign hanging above and bars on the window. Two windows on each side of the entrance displayed camouflage camping gear and various bug-out bags.
The shop’s motto, written on the door said, “Adapt or Die.” Non-preppers shopped there for camping and outdoors supplies. Preppers, however, came for the survival gear. Next door to him was the Thrift N’ Save, owned and operated by an older man named Bernie, an antique enthusiast. He had wild, white hair and often wore Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops.
On Mondays, Bernie usually swung and talked his ear off for a little bit. That morning, he was nowhere to be seen. Rob was relieved. His other neighbor, Carol, ran World of Books, an independent book seller. She was a pleasant-enough, outspoken red-haired woman. But she and Bernie never didn’t get along. Different personalities.
He entered in shop and flipped the light switch near the door. A line of long, fluorescent hanging bulbs lit up in unison, casting light across a long glass display counter in the corner by the register. In the center of the two-thousand square shop sat four rows of shelves stocked with goods and a display wall in the back with various carry bags and prepper apparel hanging on hooks.
Rob placed his coffee on the counter near the register and looked around. Everything was just how he’d left it the day before. As sole owner, proprietor, and employee, he spent six days a week there. It was hard to believe that two years had already passed since he’d first opened his doors.
He usually spent the first part of his day on-line surfing prepper sites and keeping up with the latest items. He went behind the sales counter, turned on a nearby radio, and took a seat where his laptop sat.
A little light rock music helped get his gears turning. Computer time consisted of working on his prepper blog during the slow hours of the morning. Things usually picked up later in the day and on weekends. He took a sip of coffee, and just as he turned on his laptop, Bernie walked in.
“Hiya, Robbie. What’s the good word?”
Rob looked up and paused. Bernie was wearing a beige suit, black tie, and dress shoes. It was an unexpected sight, to say the least.
“Nothing much, Bernie. How about yourself?” Rob said, looking back at the computer screen.
Bernie didn’t seem to notice Rob’s busy distraction. Instead, he waltzed into the store and leaned against the counter, tapping on the glass.
“What do ya think? Is it me?”
Typing, Rob looked up. “Oh, it’s you, all right. Where’d you get it?”
“Customer dropped it off last week. Got it pressed and just trying it on for my big day.”
Rob nodded. “Mmmm.”
“Jury duty,” Bernie said.
Rob looked up. “Jury duty?”
“First time in my life.” Bernie laughed. “You know, at sixty-five, I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance. Can you imagine that, someone actually wanting to have jury duty?”
“Hard to imagine. For sure,” Rob said.
“Well, I think it’ll be exciting. What if I get on some high-profile murder case?”
“That would be something,” Rob said, scrolling his blog they talked. He had been thinking about his next post: Five ways to prepare for a financial collapse.
Bernie moved down the counter and switched topics. “What’re you workin’ on there, buddy?”
Rob was slow to respond. His fingers typed wildly across the keyboard. “Oh… Um, just some work stuff. Posting to my prepper blog.”
Bernie snapped his fingers. “Ooo! You should do something about the Russians. You see what they’re up to?”
“Yeah, a lot of crazy stuff,” Rob said, with indifference.
“That’s not the half of it. They’ve taken the Ukraine. They’re moving in on Poland. I’m telling ya’, these guys can’t be trusted. They’re trying to build the Soviet Union back up.”
“No surprise there,” Rob said.
Bernie’s tone intensified. “But we have to do something. Wouldn’t you agree? They could nuke us some day.”
Rob looked up again. “What time is your jury duty, anyway?”
Bernie backed away from the counter and shot Rob a cockeyed glare. “Oh, I see how it is. Can’t talk to ol’ Bern, eh? Too busy?” He pulled on his sleeve and looked at his wrist watch. “You know what, Parker? I think I’m due at the courthouse about now.” He then stormed off toward the exit.
Rob tried calling him back. “Oh, come on. It was an honest question!”
Bernie stopped at the door and turned around. “Look into what Russia is doing right now. That’s what you should be blogging about. Not some post about booby traps.”
Rob waved. “I’m not a journalist, but I’ll look into it. Fair enough?”
“Sure, sure,” Bernie said. “No hard feelings. I really do have to get to the courthouse.”
“Good luck,” Rob said. Bernie waved back and left the store. Everything went quiet again except for the light rock playing softly and the hum of the air conditioner. His edit screen was open, and he had only typed the title of his economy post. He deleted it and instead added: A Coming War with Russia?
The land-line office phone suddenly rang near the cash register. Another interruption. Ron got off his stool and picked up the phone by its fourth ring.
“Pro-Survival. Your one-stop shop for when disaster strikes.”
There was a slight static on the line, then a man’s voice talking loudly. He had a Long Island accent and sounded like he was driving. He wanted a tent.
“Yes sir, we have plenty of tents. What size are you looking for?”
“A big one. Me and the family are looking to do some camping on the Hudson this weekend.”
Rob looked around the store, holding the phone to his ear. “Um. Yes. We have two-to-four-person tents.”
The conversation went on and Rob made his first sale of the day. The man didn’t seem concerned with price, he just wanted it set aside for him for the weekend. He thanked Rob and quickly got off the phone.
Just as Rob went back to his computer, Mr. Clayton, his landlord, walked in unexpectedly. Seeing him first thing in the morning wasn’t a good sign.
“Mr. Clayton. Nice to see you this morning.”
Clayton turned to him and tipped his ball cap. He was an older man, mid-fifties with tan bronze skin and a slight paunch under his blue polo shirt, which he wore tucked into his brown slacks. Rob hadn’t seen him in over a month.
“Good morning, Rob. Sorry for the intrusion,” Clayton said, approaching him.
“No problem. What brings you here?” Rob said.
Clayton walked closer and rested his elbows on top of the glass display counter of hunting knives, multi-tools, and Para cord bracelets.
“It’s such a nice day outside, how about we take a quick walk?”
Rob gave his landlord a funny look. “You mind telling me what this is about?”
Clayton seemed defensive. “Nothing in particular. I just wanted to talk to you and get some fresh air at the same time. Is that so wrong?”
Rob narrowed his eyes. “I’m trying to run a business here. Can you just tell me what this is about?”
“Just a brief walk outside. Please?” Clayton said. He then turned and glanced around. “By the looks of it, I’d say you could spare about five minutes.”
Frustrated, Rob bit his tongue. He wanted to tell Clayton to get the hell out of his store, but he wasn’t up for a fight.
“Fine. Five minutes. And that’s it.”
He grabbed his keys and followed Clayton outside a puffy could-filled blue sky awaited. He closed the entrance door and locked it.
They walked along the sidewalk, past the bookstore and a mechanic shop, where sounds of drilling echoed down the street. Clayton, it seemed, finally felt it appropriate to reveal the nature of his visit after Rob asked him again.
“I insisted on this walk because I wanted to show you something, Rob. Look around you.” Clayton paused. “This area is changing.”
Rob scanned the streets. It was the same thing he saw every day. Cars passing by. People walking by store windows. Bicyclists. Dog walkers. A family out for a stroll.
“You wouldn’t know it by looking around, but it’s a shaky market out there now,” Clayton said. He leaned in closer, almost in confidence. “Now you don’t have to answer this, but I was just curious how business was going.”
Rob took a step back. “Business is doing fine, thank you.”
Clayton continued. “I understand that, but you might want ask yourself if this location serves your purposes anymore.”
Rob crossed his arms. “Why are you giving me business advice? All you should be concerned about is if I make my rent on time.” Rob stepped closer, nearing Clayton’s face. “In fact, if I want to train pigeons in there all day, it’s none of your business as long as I have your rent.”
Clayton nodded. “I understand, Rob. Just hear me out for a second here. What I’m saying is that property taxes are increasing. Damn city council can’t seem to get enough revenue. You may want to think about that.”
Rob huffed and waited for Clayton to get to the point.
“I’ve got an offer on the rental space,” he revealed. “Twice what you’re paying. And I’m afraid that when your lease is up in a few months, I’m gonna have to go with it the offer, or ask you to match them.”
Rob couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I knew it,” he said. “You could have told me this in the shop and avoided all this nonsense.”
“I’m only trying to give you a fair assessment of the situation here. You have to understand where I’m coming from.”
Rob tilted his head back and then stared Clayton down. “Who is making this offer? That’s what I want to know.”
“That’s not important.”
“Just tell me.”
Clayton’s eyes glanced downward, then back up. “A Bistro.”
Rob was taken aback. He slapped his forehead and laughed. “A Bistro?”
“Beth’s Downtown Bistro. They run a variety of chains in the northeast.”
“This is just rich, Clayton. I guess I’m not surprised.”
“I’d be happy to let you renew the lease.”
“For twice what I’m paying now.” Rob said.
“Yes. I’m sorry, but I’m trying to pay off a mortgage here. Can you tell me that you have the money to buy?”
Rob stared back, unresponsive.
“You can’t, can you?” Clayton sad.
Rob stopped shifting and balled his fist. Clayton could sense the building tension.
Suddenly a giant, white flash burst into the sky, knocking them down on the ground as if they’d been hit by lightning. The transformer on a power line post exploded into sparks. The sky went gray. Then, so it seemed, there was a deafening silence throughout the street. Other people had fallen to the ground as well, still shielding their faces from the stunning bright flash.
Clayton was on his knees holding his head after hitting it on the sidewalk, his hat tossed aside, revealing a brown comb-over in disarray.
Rob slowly rose from the ground, dazed. “What the hell was that?”
EMP on a Monday Morning
Vehicles swerved haphazardly in both directions on the four-lane street near where Rob and Clayton stood. A white station wagon slammed into the back of a silver Mercedes, causing a loud, chain-reaction crash. Glass and plastic burst onto the pavement. A tire blowout sounded in the distance. Cars swerved, skidding across the road. Their tires screeched as some pulled toward the sidewalk, hitting the curb and slowing to a halt.
More crashes echoed from blocks away. Cars rolled by, engines silent, with perplexed drivers jerking their steering wheels and stomping on unresponsive gas pedals. Intersections had non-functioning traffic lights.
For a moment, the chaos on the road went completely unnoticed by Rob and his landlord.
“You hear that?” Clayton asked as Rob helped him up.
“Hear what?” Rob asked. All he heard were groups of people on the street shouting, calling for help, and staring at their cell phones mystified.
“A ringing. Like a high-pitched tone,” Clayton answered, looking around.
Rob didn’t hear any kind of tone, but he did see tiny floaters in front of his eyes, as if someone had just flashed a spotlight in his face.
Clayton held the back of his balding head as he picked up his hat from the ground. “Got a hell of a bump,” he said. For a moment, they just stood there, trying to get themselves together while becoming painfully unaware of what had just happened around them.
“What was that, lightning?” Clayton asked.
Rob looked up. The sky had gone from blue to gray in an instant, but something wasn’t right. This had been no ordinary storm or lightning strike.
“Do you see any rain clouds? Do you hear any thunder?” he asked.
Clayton looked around. There was a faint rumbling in the distance, no clear signs of a storm, but something was definitely out of the ordinary. “Look, uh. Maybe we can talk about this later, Rob. I don’t think it’s safe to be out here.”
Rob grabbed his arm. “Wait.”
An unsettling and eerie silence permeated the air. “That was no ordinary flash of lightning,” Rob continued. “That was an explosion.”
Clayton looked around, disoriented. A couple up ahead of them were holding their heads and stumbling around in a daze.
“What do you mean, like a plane or something?”
“I don’t know just yet, but I think we do need to find cover.”
Clayton pulled out his cell phone and tried to make a call. He held it out and looked at its blank screen. “Huh? Phone’s dead.” He turned to Rob. “You don’t mind if I make a phone call in your store for a minute do you?”
The power was out on the entire block. Shops and cafes were dark inside; their lights of their signs were off. Customers and employees alike walked outside, uncertain of what had happened.
Vehicles were at a standstill. Not a single engine was running. Drivers repeatedly turned their ignition switches to no avail.
Having seen enough, Rob headed back to his store with Clayton following. They passed a rear collision that had just occurred. Smoke rose from the car that had plowed into the back of another.
“This is too much,” Clayton said. “I can’t think straight. I gotta get out of here.” He ran off in an instant.
“Hey!” Rob said.
“I’ll check in with you later!” He called out while turning down an alleyway and out of sight.
“Damn you, Clayton,” Rob said to himself. He approached the accident.
The driver of the Mercedes, a middle-aged man in a suit, got out and hurried to the rear of his car, where the crushed front-end of the station wagon smoked from its engine. The man slapped his forehead and crouched down to get a better look at the damage.
“Son of a bitch. This is a rental!” He shouted, kicking a newspaper stand.
An older, dazed man sat at the wheel of the Buick, pushing away the deployed airbag. The man tapped against the window with a thick ring on his index finger.
“I hope you have insurance, man. I really do.”
Up the street, drivers exited their cars in defeat and opened their hoods, peering inside. Others took out their cell phones and seemed stunned to find them no longer working.
Rob felt his pockets for his cell phone and yanked it out. One touch of the screen gave him all the answers he needed. The screen was powerless and blank. He pressed the thin power button on its side and held it, but the phone did nothing.
The gray mist in the sky had faded, revealing a vibrant blue now returning. Rob looked around. The dead engines. The power outage. The blown transformer. There had to be a logical explanation for everything that had just occurred. And all the signs pointed to one explanation: an electromagnetic pulse. They’d been hit with an EMP.
Rob began walking back to his store with extra caution, his realization of the situation pushing him to action. A tense, uneasy feeling gathered in the air.
Dumbfounded by their inoperable cell phones, people pried the backs open and fiddled with their batteries. When that didn’t work, their frustration only increased and turned to anger.
Rob passed them as they stood locked-in on their phones.
“What the hell is wrong with this thing?” a man mumbled to himself. He stared into at his iPhone desperate.
“Is your phone working?” a woman asked her friend as they stepped out of a white Honda stopped in the middle of the street. “Mine is completely dead.”
Rob could see denial on many of their faces. The Mercedes man didn’t take the sudden loss of his own cell phone too well. He threw it onto the pavement as hard as he could, splitting it in half.
A group of teenagers walked by Rob with their cell phones up, tapping at their screens.
“Anyone getting this?” a lanky kid with a backwards hat and baggy jeans asked.
“My phone’s dead, dude. What is this shit?” a long-haired skater said.
“All of ours are. That’s what I’ve been trying to say,” said a girl with short blonde hair.
Rob walked past the teenagers and gave them a quick warning. “Your phones aren’t working because this area has been hit with an EMP.”
Their faces were clueless and rife with confusion.
“Electromagnetic pulse,” Rob said. At least I think that’s what it is. The best thing I would recommend is for all you kids to get home as—” he stopped. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be in school anyway?”
Their faces lit up with nervousness and they scattered just as two bicycle cops came from around the corner and pedaled down the sidewalk, observing everything it seemed. They appeared calm and focused, both wearing bicycle helmets, Oakley’s, and belts with radios, and their pistols, and badges.
“Officers, you must help us. We’re stranded!” a man in a wrinkled dress-shirt shouted as they passed.
“Make way, please,” said the officers. One of them had a mustache and a booming voice of authority.
“Why aren’t our cars working?” a woman in the crowd asked as the officers whizzed past her.
The other officer—clean-cut, round-faced, and identified on his badge as Larson, signaled for the crowd to step back.—“Everyone just needs to remain calm. All we know is that we’re dealing with a temporary power outage.”
“Yeah, but our cars?” a frazzled man added. He held up his cell phone. “Our cell phones, too. How do you explain this?”
“We don’t know anything about that, sir. A transformer malfunction might have sent some crazy signals out there that may have disabled portable electronics as well.”
Rob walked away and toward the parking lot to find his car.
All the makings of a high-altitude nuclear EMP, he thought, looking around.
He approached his Chevy Impala in the corner and pulled his keys out, ready to give it the test. His remote key didn’t unlock the doors. After opening the door manually, he jumped behind the wheel and tried to start the engine. Nothing. Not even a flicker of light on the dashboard or a wheezing from the engine. His car was dead.
“Damn,” he thought.
Rob left the parking lot and looked around. Many people were still at their cars, some pushing them down the street in a last effort to keep moving. As many of those around him clutched their cell phones feverishly, Rob could see the panic in their eyes.
“Work, damn you, work!” one man shouted at his phone.
The collective desperation made Rob fearful of things to come, when suddenly a thought jostled his thinking.
Josh and Kelly.
He ran down the sidewalk and took a sharp left on Cedar Street. Pro-Survival was a few shops down. He pulled his keys from his pocket, dangling them in the air, and then jammed the master key into the lock.
He flung the door open, and as the bell sounded, he ran in, and slammed the door. The lights were off in his store. The air conditioner, too. He stayed low and moved to the front counter where the land-line phone was. With the receiver to his ear, he heard nothing. It was as if someone had unplugged it. He tried his laptop. It was dead.
In his own way, he could understand the frustration of the people outside, and the panic they began to show in such a brief amount the time. Without his phone, he couldn’t contact Mila, and she couldn’t contact him. But he did have a GRMS handheld radio. He only hoped she would remember to have one on her as well.
Perhaps the range of the EMP strike was relatively small.
But Rob knew it was wishful thinking. From what he’d read, an electromagnetic pulse could span continent-sized areas if detonated at heights of two hundred feet. This was it—the moment he had been preparing for all his adult life.
There among all his prepper goods, he began to plan. If things got worse in town in the time it would take to bring power back to Nyack, they’d have to bug-out to the cabin. But he couldn’t get too ahead of himself.
First thing was to get his family together. He peeked out from behind the counter to the front store window. The coast was clear. He grabbed a bug-out bag from the display window, threw it over his shoulder and tried to leave, when someone began banging on the door, rattling the bars. Rob stooped back down, hiding as the banging persisted.
“Rob, come on, man. Let me in!”
He could recognize that voice anywhere. Bernie was back. But what did he want? Probably what everyone else wanted: answers.
Having not slept long, Mila awoke on top of the covers in her darkened room. The blinds were closed. The room was stuffy, and when she looked to see what time it was, the alarm clock on her nightstand was off. Something felt strange and out of the ordinary.
The ceiling fan was off, as was the air conditioner. As she raised her head from the soft pillow, she wondered if she was still in some kind of dream. Sleeping during the day was disorienting enough. Even worse with the sounds of construction and lawn maintenance going on all day. Oddly enough, things were quiet, both in and outside the house.
She wanted to go back to sleep but was curious about the power being out. There was no storm. They’d paid the power bill. She looked around to see what time it was, but the alarm was off. She slowly got up to check her cell phone charging on the dresser across from the bed.
With a stretch, she walked over to the dresser tugging at her white nightgown which had bunched around her legs. It was eerie how lifeless a room could be without electricity, the air so still and quiet.
She reached for her phone-still plugged in. Its screen was blank. The charging light wasn’t on. Thinking that she had maybe turned it off, Mila pressed and held the power button. Nothing happened. The phone had probably died, she thought, after the power went out, with no electricity to charge it. It made sense to her.
She glanced at her three-piece, queen-sized bed. The blankets were tossed around and hanging over the side. As enticing as the thought was, she chose to investigate further. Something wasn’t right, and she was going to find out what had happened.
She walked down the hall, past both Josh and Kelly’s rooms, and into the living room. A subdued sunlight shone in through the thin drapes covering the window. She approached the front door, where the keypad for their home alarm system was. The digital screen was blank, which was odd, because the system was supposed to have a back-up power supply in the event of a power outage. She pressed buttons on the keypad, just to see if anything would happen.
“Unbelievable,” she said under her breath.
She unlocked the front door and opened it, squinting as she looked outside. Their neighbors across the street, the Rockwells, didn’t look to be home. Their cars weren’t in the driveway, and the garage door was shut. The barks of neighborhood dogs echoed in the silence.
She grabbed her keys and a jacket and opened the as sunlight hit her face. She walked to the driveway, blocking her eyes, to where her silver Kia Sportage was parked.
Her retired neighbor, Ken Blackwell, stood at the end of his driveway looking around in his straw hat, suspenders, and gloves. He was an old-fashioned man, who spent most of his mornings in the backyard tending to his vegetable garden.
“Morning, Mila,” he said.
“Good morning, Ken,” Mila said, startled.
“How’s that night shift treatin’ you?” he asked.
“So far, so good,” she replied. She stuck the key in the door and opened it.
“Goin’ somewhere?” he asked.
She turned around and brushed her dark hair out of her face. “No. The power’s out, and I just wanted to check on something.”
“Lost power here, too,” Ken said. “Looks like the whole street is down.”
She got in, put the key went into the ignition, and after a careful turn, all she heard was a sputtering click. She tried again. Nothing.
“I’m sure whatever it is, it’s temporary,” Ken said in his usual calm tone.
Distracted, Mila agreed with him and walked to the end of the driveway.
Houses on both sides of the street were quiet with little activity. Three houses down, she saw her neighbor, Allen, with his sleeves rolled up messing with the engine of his Ford Taurus. She turned the other way and saw a garbage truck broken down in the middle of the road, its doors and hood open, with two garbage collectors examining the engine.
“You all right?” Ken asked.
“Yeah,” she said, returning to the house. She felt the warm hood of her car as she walked by, and thought the other car they had in the garage; a red four-door 1979 Datsun, their bug-out vehicle. The vehicle they had for a number of reasons: the low gas mileage. The easy-to-repair-parts. The low-key design. And most importantly, the lack of computerized components susceptible to electromagnetic pulses. The more she began to add things up, the more resolute she became.
She waved to Ken and went back inside, straight to the kitchen in search of the Datsun keys. She opened their miscellaneous kitchen drawer and searched through tape, pens, markers, receipts, and finally discovered a key chain with some old keys on it. She snatched up the keys and went to the garage.
From what she understood about nuclear EMPs, they produced damaging electrical currents with the ability to disable and destroy power grids and electronic components. Upon impact, high-frequency surges travel to the ground and trigger electrical components to exceed their voltage.
A solar flare phenomenon was something else she had heard about. The sun regularly releases broad flashes of powerful magnetic rays that, if they reached Earth, would damage electronics considerably. Whatever had happened, Mila needed to get moving.
She stopped at the living room window when she noticed a man walking by. He looked lost and out of place. His hair was short and disheveled, and his face looked dirty. He wore a blue mechanic’s jumpsuit and walked with a slight limp. A cigarette rested behind his left ear.
He glanced at the house and then kept walking. Mila backed away from the window, out of fear of being seen. After a moment passed, she took a quick look and didn’t see anyone. She raced through the living room toward the garage and opened the door, instinctively flipping the light switch. There wasn’t even a spark.
She walked inside the darkened garage passed a large shelving unit on the side of the garage stocked with canned goods and emergency food kits. The dust-covered Datsun was right across from the shelves. Her hands clutched the door handled and pulled open the squeaky driver’s side door. She sat on the smooth vinyl seat as its rusty springs squeaked.
“OK, here we go,” she said, putting the key in the ignition.
With one turn, the engine sputtered to life. It choked and heaved as black exhaust blasted out of the tailpipe. Mila pressed her foot against the gas pedal as the dashboard lit up with a barrage of engine lights. Excitement gripped her heart.
But there was so much to be done, she didn’t even know where to start. If an EMP was at play, she knew the plan: they’d bug-out to the mountains. The most important thing, she knew, was getting the kids.
She revved the engine while examining the fuel gauge. They were at half a tank. They would need more to drive to the city and back. She turned the ignition off. It was time to get Rob, get the kids, and move on to the bug-out phase. Surprised by how naturally the thoughts came to her, she felt in control. Whatever happened had happened. The question was, what was she going to do about it?
There was running water, still warm. Mila took a quick shower and got ready as fast as she could. She threw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, put on a pair of sneakers, and opened their closet.
Inside was there biometric safe. She unlocked the safe and looked for her snub nose .38 Special revolver. It rested there next to their passports and an envelope containing five hundred dollars in cash. She grabbed the revolver, shut the safe, and looked around. There was something else.
She suddenly remembered the radios. Next to some boxes on the floor was a protective metal case with several high-frequency handheld radios and one emergency hand-crank radio inside. As a rule of thumb, Rob had usually kept the handhelds charged. She grabbed the case and fled the room, hoping there was nothing else she might have forgotten.
She opened the garage and tossed her purse inside the Datsun. Just out of the shower, with her hair tied back, she was already sweating. The thought of her next hospital shift crossed her mind. She had to warn her co-workers and make the sure the patients were OK. Rob. The kids. The hospital. It was too much to think about all at once.
“One thing at a time,” she told herself.
She knelt down next to the car and opened the radio case, seeing three 50-mile GMRS/FRS two-way radios, chargers, and the emergency chargers. Rob had a radio at the store, and she hoped he had it on him. Familiar with how to use it, she switched it on and stood up.
The bright sunlight shone into the garage. She walked toward away from the Datsun and looked around outside, relieved when she didn’t see anyone. It was time to hit the road.
“Rob. If you’re there, answer me.” She waited. Nothing but static came through. “Rob. Are you there? If you can hear me, let me know. I’m coming to the store. Wait on me.”
She turned to open the car door when a voice crackled on the other end.
“Mila!” Rob said.
“I’m here, Rob.”
“You’re awake? Listen to me. Something bad has happened. Just like we discussed. Looks like an EMP.”
“I know. I’ve got the Datsun packed and ready to go. My car won’t start. We’re going to have to drive into the city and get the kids.”
She waited for a response, but only static came through. “Rob?”
She walked back into the garage and next to the driver’s side door when she felt the presence of another person behind her. A shadow entered. She spun around, startled. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the man, instantly recognizable and leering and smiling with crooked yellow teeth.
“Mila, are you there? I lost signal.” Rob’s voice said. “Hold on, I’m coming!”
She was frozen in place, unable to respond.
“How ya doing?” the man asked. She could smell his oil-stained mechanic’s jumpsuit from where he stood.
“Names, Chet.” That much was evident by the name patch stitched on his chest.
“What do you want?”
Chet smiled wide and raised his arms to the top of the garage, holding onto the small ledge. He began to rock back-and-forth on his heels. She looked beyond the man and hoped to see Ken. The revolver was in her pocket, she wasn’t afraid to use it.
“My car broke down about a mile down the road that way,” Chet said, pointing in the direction he had come from. “Can’t find anyone to help me. I saw you were having a little car trouble yourself and thought that maybe we could help each other.”
“How exactly can we do that?” she asked.
“I’ll take a look at your KIA, and maybe you can give me a ride into town.”
“No thanks,” she said.
Chet examined the Datsun. “Going somewhere in this thing?”
Mila felt angry. Violated.
“I don’t really think that’s any of your business. I would advise that you call a tow truck.”
“Good idea,” Chet said. “Can I use your phone? My battery died.”
“I’m sorry. The power is out throughout the entire block. Our phone isn’t working.”
Chet lowered his arms and took a step forward. “You don’t like me, do you?”
Mila felt the bulge of the revolver in her pocket.
He noticed her growing anxiety. “I won’t take offense if you don’t. But I would hope that you’re not judging me by my appearance alone. I could really use some help.”
“Again, I’m sorry, sir. There’s nothing I can do.” She took a step toward the garage door to close it just as he took another step in. Mila stopped.
He looked at her and smiled out of sheer amusement. “There’s plenty you can do. Trust me.
Rob cautiously approached the door outside where Bernie was standing with his face pressed to the glass, pleading with Rob to let him in. Through the bars on the door, he could see the sense of dread on Bernie’s face. Rob unlocked the door and opened it slightly as Bernie rushed in. He quickly closed and locked it again.
Bernie was out of breath. He held his suit jacket over his shoulder. His white button-down shirt was covered in sweat, as was his face. He leaned over, bracing himself on his knees, gasping. Rob handed him a bottle of water.
“All right. Take a breath, Bernie,” Rob said, standing over him.
Bernie raised his head, guzzled the bottle of water, and then wiped his mouth. “I told you this would happen. We’re under attack. It’s clear as day!”
Rob went over to the front window and pulled the shades down, blocking out the sunlight and prying eyes. “That much is obvious, yes. We’ve been hit with an EMP.”
Bernie stood up a little, finally catching his breath. “Whatever it was, power’s out through the entire town.”
“The entire town?” Rob asked.
Bernie nodded. “It’s out at the court house, that’s for sure. I went there, ready to report for jury duty when it happened. At first, I’m thinking, no big deal. Then I saw the cars. All dead in the water. Tried to call a cab, but the driver was just sitting there in the middle of the road. Cell phones. Nothing. Computers. Nothing. Then I thought about the local prison.” Bernie walked closer to Rob with fear in his eyes. “How long do you think they can keep that place under control?”
Rob nodded understandingly, and then walked over to one of the aisles. He grabbed a camouflaged tactical backpack and began loading it with supplies from the store.
“What are you doing?” Bernie asked.
“What does it look like?” Rob asked, going down the aisle and tossing items inside his bag.
“Looks like you’re on a shopping spree.”
Rob set the bag down on the floor. It was nearly full. “I’m getting out of here. In two weeks, this town will be out of food. The grocery store shelves will be empty. Without trucks delivering food and goods, there’ll be nothing coming in.”
Rob pulled at both ends of a draw-string, clinching the bag shut. “The EMP has dismantled the power grid. From what I’ve read, officials estimate a minimum of two months before power grids can be repaired and back on line.”
“So just like that, you’re leaving?” Bernie asked, astonished.
Rob brought his bag over to the counter and set it down. He went behind the counter, took his non-functioning laptop and slid it into a cubbyhole. “I have to get my family together. Then we’re going to hunker down for as long as it takes.” Rob didn’t go into too much detail. Bernie had a big mouth. However, he wanted to at least set him in the right direction.
Bernie looked desperate and afraid, and Rob never liked to see anyone like that. “Bernie. I want you to take what you need from the store. Think of the basics. What’s going to get you through the next two months? You and your wife. Then I’d suggest you lie low until things blow over.”
Bernie was flummoxed. “I have a business to run. Mortgage payments. You do, too. We can’t just walk away from everything and hide in the mountains.”
“Think about it,” Rob said, placing a metal case on the front counter. “Things are only going to get worse from here on out.”
Bernie seemed to get the picture. “It was the Russians, wasn’t it? Just like I was saying before. They’re trying to start another Cold War.”
Suddenly someone else banged on the door from outside, causing Bernie to jump. Rob pulled another case from under the counter, small and plastic. Inside were a 9mm Beretta pistol and three full magazines. He opened the case, keeping an alert eye on the door.
Mr. Clayton stood at the door, frightened. “Hey, Rob. Let me in. Come on, no hard feelings, eh?”
Bernie looked back then at Rob. “Clayton? Nah, don’t let that asshole in.”
Rob sighed and quickly moved from the counter to the door. He unlocked it and let his landlord slip in. “What’s wrong? Car doesn’t start?”
Clayton looked exasperated. He took off his ball cap and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Couldn’t even get the engine to turn over. What the hell is going on out there?”
“It’s an EMP,” Bernie answered. “The Russians hit us real good.”
Clayton shifted and turned to Bernie, giving him a funny look. Then he switched to Rob. “What are they saying on the news?”
Rob walked behind the counter, where his work stereo rested on a stool, powerless. He opened the metallic case he had set down earlier, revealing a two-way GMRS/FRS handheld and an emergency radio. He wound the radio’s hand crank as Clayton and Bernie waited quietly. He tried both FM and AM stations but received nothing but static.
“Can I buy one of those from you?” Bernie asked. Clayton jumped in and asked for one, too.
Rob took a breath and placed the radio back in the case. He spoke as he stuck the handheld in his pocket. “We’re closed. And I’m locking up until further notice. You guys get what you need and be on your way home, where it might be safer.”
Both men seemed overwhelmed. They looked at Rob, expecting answers and solutions. But he had very little to give.
“Find your families and stay close to them,” he reiterated. He glanced at Clayton in particular. “And don’t forget that my lease doesn’t run out on this place for another two months.”
“Of course. I would never do anything like that,” Clayton said sheepishly.
Another knock came at the door. Rob was nearing his wits’ end with visitors. This time it was Carol, the curly, red-haired woman who owned the book store.
“Rob? Are you in there?”
Bernie turned to the door and rolled his eyes. “Oh no. Not her.”
“Let her in,” Rob said, tossing Bernie the keys. He then lifted his backpack onto the counter, dug into his pocket, and pulled out the handheld radio, hoping to hear Mila’s voice on the other end. But there was no way to know if she was even up, let alone trying to reach him on the radio.
“Why the metal case?” Clayton asked, referring to the container with the radios inside.
“Blocks damaging magnetic waves,” Rob answered. Clayton looked intrigued.
“Hello, Carol,” Bernie said as he let her in. He locked the door and tossed the keys back to Rob.
Carol nodded. “Bernie.” She walked farther in, approaching Rob. “People look really lost out there. None of their cars work.”
Bernie stepped in with the answer. “It was the damn Russians, I tell you. Hit us with an EMP.” He stopped and turned to Rob. “Isn’t that right, Rob?”
Rob looked distracted, fiddling with his handheld. “I can say I’m ninety-nine percent sure it was an EMP. Where it came from, there’s no telling just yet.”
Carol scoffed. Her blue blouse was darkened with sweat and her flimsy sandals didn’t look strong enough to make any kind of long distance walk to Nantucket city, where Rob knew she lived.
“From what I’ve read, it’s much more likely that this was some kind of solar flare,” Carol said.
Bernie threw his arms in the air, frustrated. “What are you talking about? Rob said it’s an EMP, and he’s the prepper expert here.”
Carol was undeterred. “The idea that a nuclear electromagnetic pulse could disable vehicles and electronics is a myth. Why don’t you try reading about it? The most you’re looking at with an EMP is maybe a massive failure of power grids. NASA has already estimated that a solar flare, striking the earth from the sun, might hit within the next eleven years. How can you disregard that?”
Bernie waved her away. “Ah, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“And you do?” Clayton interjected.
Rob latched the snaps of his backpack and scrutinized his three bickering guests. “Enough. I need to get moving. Just take what you need and get home to your families.”
They all looked at him, trying to figure out if he was serious.
“I appreciate the offer, but I don’t have any cash on me,” Clayton said.
“I don’t think you’ll have much luck at the ATMs either,” Carol added.
Bernie gasped. “The ATMs. Oh, my God! People are going to start tearing them apart.”
“Don’t worry about the money,” Rob said. “Just load up a bag and get moving. I have to get to my family. I’ve got two children in the city on a field trip.”
Bernie was beside himself. “What are you going to do, walk to New York? What are any of us going to do?”
“Well, I’m just glad I brought my bike today,” Carol added.
Rob threw his backpack over his shoulder and told everyone he was closing the shop in one minute. After all their stalling, the group kicked into gear and started taking items from the shelves and putting them into bags.
He briefly explained the most critical: multi-tools, water purification tablets, dried food kits, medical and hygienic products, batteries, Para cord string, baby wipes, and whatever else he could point out. “Just pay me back later,” he said, knowing full well that it would probably never happen.
Coral had mentioned a bike, and that was exactly what he needed in order to cut his travel time home in half. “Where can I get one?” he asked her.
“I have two,” she answered. “You can borrow it for as long as you like. It was my ex-boyfriend’s. Tit for tat.” She continued filling her bag, thanking Rob along the way.
With everyone loaded up and ready to go, Rob herded them outside the shop, where more and more people were filing out onto the streets. Not one for long goodbyes, Rob wished his landlord and neighbors well. Coral emerged from her store with a bicycle—a ten-speed Huffy—and passed it off to Rob.
“Thank you,” Rob said. “I’m grateful.”
“You have another one for me?” Bernie asked.
Coral ignored him.
“Surely you must have a bike or two in your thrift store,” Rob said.
Bernie’s eyes lit up. “Yeah, you’re right! I should check on that.”
“Thanks for your help, Rob. Don’t worry about anything with the shop until this thing blows over,” Clayton said.
Rob hopped on the bike with his tactical bag over his shoulder. “I won’t. You guys stay safe. Get home as fast as you can and ration everything you own.”
His store was completely closed up. Metal shutters covered the windows and the front entrance had bars on it. He hoped that it would be enough.
People around them and on the street seemed, more or less, to just be waiting. Most had already abandoned their cars, and stood around directionless, waiting for someone to help. In the distance, the bike cops were still dealt with hordes of people demanding answers. In another day or two, Rob imagined things would get worse.
Before pedaling off, he turned his handheld radio up. And just as he was about to say something, he heard Mila’s voice come over the speaker, startling him. He fumbled and nearly dropped the radio.
“Mila!” he shouted.
He pedaled off in haste, navigating through cars and people, as if they were roadblocks. He quickly gained momentum and sped off faster as he soon lost contact again with his wife.
Chet stepped closer to Mila each time she inched away. Screaming would either send him fleeing or encourage him further. But Mila knew she was neither vulnerable nor helpless. She had taken self-defense courses and was ready to use her .38.
“Why don’t you go on your way now?” she said.
“At least let me use your phone,” he said, moving in closer.
He had managed to back her in. A few more steps, and he would have her in the corner and within an arm’s length.
“I told you. Our power is out. My cell phone is dead. Now please leave.”
Chet stopped at the Datsun, leaned in closer against the tinted windows, and looked inside. The keys were in the ignition. He glanced up at Mila with a smile as she backed up against the washer and dryer.
“I’d say you’re going somewhere in a hurry.” He opened the squeaky driver’s-side door. “Mind if I take it for a spin first? Satisfied, Chet perched over the driver’s side door.
Mila drew her revolver and aimed, her arms straight out and level. She clicked the hammer back and waited as Chet looked up, surprised.
“What have you got there?” he said with a nervous smile.
“A .38 Special snub-nosed revolver, filled with enough hollow-point rounds to put you down,” she said in a frank, no-nonsense manner.
Chet stood frozen. His smile dropped and his mouth twitched uneasily.
“You, uh. You sure you know how to use that thing?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I pull the trigger.”
Chet backed up slowly with his hands out and palms showing, as if to push Mila away. “Now, no need to get restless. I was just curious. I wasn’t going to do anything.”
Her aim remained steady. She didn’t take her eyes off him.
Chet grew more edgy with each careful step back. “Hey, look. You can stop aiming that thing at me now, got it? I wasn’t gonna do anything, I promise!”
“Just get the hell out of here, and don’t come back,” Mila said.
Chet turned and sprinted off in the direction he came from. “You crazy bitch!” he shouted, running down the street.
Her neighbors a few houses down watched as he ran past the garbage truck, fleeing into the distance.
Mila kept the revolver up until he was out of sight. After a moment, she lowered the gun and fell back against the washing machine, shaking and nearly in tears. The safety and security of her home already felt as if they were on the line, and it hadn’t even been an hour. She rested her head in one hand, put the revolver in her pocket, and called for Rob on the radio.
“Rob, come in. Are you there?”
She walked to the Datsun and closed the door, but just as she approached the garage door to close it, Ken, her neighbor, stuck his head around the corner, startling her.
“Something wrong, Mila?”
She jumped back, dug into her pocket for the revolver, and then stopped and put her hand over her heart. “Oh my God, Ken. Don’t do that to me.” Nice timing, neighbor, she wanted to say.
“I heard someone shouting, saw him run right past the house. Someone you know?”
“No,” she said. “Just a wanderer who I told to keep moving.”
From under the shade of his sun hat, Ken took a look at the Datsun, noticing the supplies in the back. “Going somewhere?” he asked.
“To the cabin,” she said, not elaborating any further. She didn’t know how much she should tell anyone about their plans. They could trust Ken though, right? After all, he had helped with their vegetable garden in the back.
Rob’s voice suddenly came over the radio. “Mila!”
She grabbed the radio without hesitation. “Rob, where are you?”
The transmission was spotty, but she was able to make out his words. “I’m on my way now. Hold tight!”
Having finally reached their neighborhood street, Rob pedaled with a fury, running on pure adrenaline. So far, he was confident he had made the right choices. Offering supplies to his business neighbors and landlord, and explaining what they needed to do was the best he felt he could do under the circumstances. He stood up to pedal faster, even though the pack weighed heavily on his back and he was already winded.
Up ahead, he caught sight of a man in a mechanic’s jumpsuit running up the road toward him in seeming panic. The man raced past without making eye contact. Further ahead was a garbage truck, likely broken down, in the middle of the road. Rob moved on, his house within a few more determined pumps on the bike pedals.
He rode up the driveway to find Mila standing there, inside the garage with Ken. Her eyes lit up as he skidded to a stop. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and looked ready to go.
Rob jumped off the bike, letting it fall onto the pavement. His legs felt cramped, and exhaustion nearly sent him to the ground in a sweaty heap.
“Rob! You made it,” Mila said, running to him.
Ken said hello and tipped the brim of his sun hat. He seemed to have inkling of their concerns.
Rob nodded at his neighbor and then noticed for the first time the distress in Mila’s eyes. “Are you OK?” “I’m fine. I have everything ready for us to go, just like we discussed.”
Rob took a step back and pulled his backpack off, placing it on the ground. “And the car? It starts?”
“Absolutely. It’s a miracle.”
Ken stood to the side, confused.
“Then we need to get the kids right now. We know where they are. They’re not going anywhere. But we have to hurry before things begin to turn ugly.”
“What’s going on, guys?” Ken asked.
Rob turned to Ken, trying to remain calm. “EMP, Ken. We’ve been hit with an EMP. The standard range on one ballistic missile alone is enough to cover half, if not all the country. We’re leaving.”
“In that old thing?” Ken asked “Why?”
“Because we have to get our kids.”
Ken seemed to understand. Rob and Mila then told him they had to go and that they’d be back. They went into the garage, but before getting into the car, Rob gave Ken a few words of advice. “Keep your house secure and stay alert for looters. Keep your supplies well hidden. I’d cover that garden, too.”
Rob got took the driver’s seat and turned the ignition. The reliable Datsun started without issue. He had never seem the theory put in practice of older-model vehicles resisting an EMP. But there they were, and he felt extremely fortunate and vindicated.
Mila stepped into the car cradling her cell phone. Rob told her that it wasn’t worth it—that her phone had been destroyed. “Magnetic waves are designed to destroy the internal circuitry of electronics, not to temporarily disable them.”
“Does anyone really know for sure?” she protested.
“I’d say we’re seeing evidence of it now,” Rob conceded. He revved the engine, and its roar was like music to the ears. After looking at the fuel tank gauge, he felt a silver of panic.
“No. That’s not going to work. We need more fuel.” He slammed his fist on the steering wheel in frustration.
Mila touched his shoulder. “We might make it there at least,” she said in a comforting tone.
Rob stared ahead, gripping the steering wheel with both hands, searching for a solution. He then snapped his finger as of a bulb went off.
“Of course! The Kia,” he said. He stepped out and walked toward his tool bench behind the car. In the corner was a long black hose and a five-gallon fuel can.
He grabbed the can and house and walked by the car window. “I’m going to have to drain all I can,” he said.
“Need help?” Mila asked.
“Nah. I have this,” he responded, walking off.
He knelt next to the Kia’s tank, took off the cap, and threaded the hose inside. He held up the other end of the hose to his mouth and paused. He hadn’t siphoned gas in years. The first and last time he had put the art of siphoning into practice was so that he could write about it on one of his prepper blogs. Now he was doing it for real, and the stakes were much higher.
One deep breath, hose to his mouth, and then a long, hard suck until the nauseous taste of gasoline rushed through. He spit and hacked as fuel poured from the hose and into the can at his feet.
“Disgusting,” he said, spitting. A couple more times, and they’d be good to go. He gave Mila the thumbs up and ran back to the car. He placed the can and hose in the trunk, and then hopped in the front seat, ready to go. He spit the awful taste of fuel in his mouth as Mila handed him a bottle of water.
“Was there anyone around?” she asked.
He swished the water in his mouth and then spit it out the window, starting the car back up. The sound of the engine was music. He put the car into gear, and pulled out of the driveway.
Mila volunteered to step out to close the garage door. Rob waited as she got out and scanned their still-quiet neighborhood around them. Mila returned, and they were ready.
“New York City, here we come,” he said.
The Datsun sped down the street, already gaining looks from nearby residents. The most challenging task of their day was ahead.
On the Road
On an average day, the drive to New York City from Nyack took about an hour, depending on traffic. But with the roads literally at a standstill, such estimates were no longer valid. Despite that, driving presented a litany of challenges, although they were different from the usual ones.
Gas stations for miles were without power and unable to dispense fuel. Vehicles already at the pumps, hadn’t moved. Lines at convenience stores were growing as people tried to scrape together some cash, because the loss of power prevented stores from processing transactions. How long, Rob wondered, before people began looting?
In the age of digital currency, credit cards, debit cards, and on-line bank accounts, not having a way to pay for anything created helplessness and frustration. But such a realization was only the beginning.
In response to the power outage and their inability to continue working, shopping, or driving, most people reacted with agitation and annoyance, even fear. Left stranded, their only option was to wait. Wait for the power to come back on. Wait for their phones, computers, and vehicles to begin working again.
Leaving Nyack behind, Rob could see that the entire town had was powerless—a massive blackout which spread to unknown distances. Somewhere, he felt sure, government officials and representatives from all agencies and branches were scrambling. Had they been prepared? What measures had been put in place? What procedures had been implemented for schools, hospitals, and prisons? Was the country at war? And if so, with whom? Rob didn’t have the answers, but he hoped someone did.
Avoiding cars stopped along the way, he managed to merge onto Interstate 87 South, toward New York City, roughly forty miles away. Mila was glued to the window, watching nervously. People walked down the highway in droves. Many remained at their vehicles. Others pushed their cars in desperation.
Rob kept to the right shoulder of the road while remaining mindful of the dangers ahead. They had received plenty of curious looks from people they passed along the way. Before they reached the main bridge out of town, an anxious police officer ran at them from his downed-vehicle, waving his gun in the air.
“Stop! Police! I need your vehicle!” he shouted as they passed him by, and they watched him grow smaller in the rear-view mirror.
They drove past bicyclists and people on foot, and from their expressions, Rob sensed trouble brewing. The sooner they found refuge the better. Judging by the number of those still on the road waiting, it was clear that, for them, the magnitude of what had happened hadn’t fully settled in.
The route was predictably congested with both pedestrians and stranded cars. And Rob knew that the closer they got to New York City, the worse he was certain things would be. He was consumed with thoughts of the dangers ahead. Traveling to one of the largest cities in the world after a potential EMP strike was among the most foolish things anyone could do. Yet they had no choice but to continue on I-87 South.
Stranded pedestrians repeatedly waved them down, but there was little Rob could do for them but avoid them and pass. Mila had a road map open, tracking their route.
“Almost there,” Rob said, scanning the area ahead. A road sign said New York City was twenty-five miles away
Mila nodded. “Thank God. I’ve heard the expression, sitting on eggshells before, but this is ridiculous.”
Rob took her hand and squeezed it.
They passed more gawking groups of people at their steady speed. He maneuvered around vehicles dead the road, randomly moving between three lanes of traffic. Mila cracked her window and let in a fresh breeze. A motor-like whopping sound caught their ears from above.
“Is that what I think it is?” Rob said pointing up.
Helicopters flew in the distance. Three military Apaches. He’d never seen anything like it, certainly not around upstate New York. The four-blade, twin-turboshaft helicopters trailed off and became small dots in the sky. They were headed south, toward the city—a sign of the chaos that most likely awaited Rob and Mila.
In the long run, the city didn’t have a chance, he believed. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe instead of mass panic and fear, they city would remain calm and civil; though Rob thought it unlikely. Martial law was inevitable. And then what?
They neared line of cars spread along the right shoulder of the road. There had been an accident. Rob slowed as Mila looked up from the map, concerned.
“What is that? A traffic accident?” she asked.
There were no people around. An abandoned four-door Nissan Sentra had smashed into the side of a Volkswagen Jetta in its front quarter-panel and pushed it to the side of the road. Plastic and glass was strewn across the pavement. The third vehicles, A Ford F-150 was parked behind the other two unscathed.
They proceeded past the accident with caution and came upon a clear stretch of road, which provided temporary relief. They were entering a rural stretch of road where fields and trees and farmhouses flew by. Far up ahead on their right was an eighteen-wheeler semi-truck, parked to the side. Its trailer had a giant Target logo.
As they passed, Rob scanned the truck with deep interest. Both rear doors were closed and bolted shut, and there was no sign of the driver. The desire to investigate was there, but they were on a time crunch.
Maybe on the way back, he said to himself.
He turned to Mila and spoke. “You know, once supplies begin running out, people will be raiding these trucks like wildfire.”
“I know. Just terrible,” she responded.
“Pretty soon the shelves in the stores will be empty, food will run out, and people will grow desperate. And that’s when everything starts.”
“What about air travel?” Mila asked. “Can’t we just get out?”
“I don’t know,” Rob answered. “The obviously have helicopters, and I’m sure there are still planes flying around. From my understanding, electromagnetic waves travel down, not up.”
Mila smiled and held his hand. “Or how about we just take a rocket and go into outer space?”
“I’d liked that,” Rob said with a smile and keeping his eyes forward.
The Datsun barreled down the mostly open road, nearing the end of their scenic route and edging into a more populated area, closer to their destination. One large green traffic sign indicated that New York City was less than five miles away. They were closing in, determined to face whatever the city had in store for them.
From Manhattan to Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx to Staten Island, New York City was already in a state of disarray. A massive power outage had occurred across all five boroughs in a stunning fashion. Normally busy roads frequented by millions of commuters daily were completely clogged and at a standstill. The same gridlock could be found on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Queens Expressway, and the New Jersey turnpike.
The vibrancy of Times Square—all its thousands of flashing signs, giant screens, and Broadway ads—diminished in an instant to blank screens. Massive skyscrapers from the Chrysler Building to the Empire State Building to the One World Trade Center were dark. Every office on every floor of every building was without power. Noisy road construction from all over the city, normally blaring from every direction, had stopped, as equipment sputtered, failed and went silent.
Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, JFK National Airport, the United Nations Headquarters, and every other major landmark, locales known throughout the entire world, was without power. Media centers, publishing companies, public libraries, museums, restaurants, tech firms, schools, hospitals, and prisons all suffered the same fate. The switch had been flipped off. The cord unplugged. But loss of power throughout the city was just the beginning of an immense national nightmare.
On the ground, the scene was chaos defined. From Times Square to Wall Street, the financial center of the world, everyone faced a crisis similar to that in Nyack, ten times worse. The New York Stock Exchange was in a storm of disarray. Millions of vehicles throughout had just stopped working and the exacerbation among commuters was staggering. Taxi drivers were helpless to explain to their passengers why they weren’t moving. The NYPD struggled to keep up with the mounting chaos. Their backup generators were failing. Nothing seemed to be working—from vehicles to communications—and the department was in a panic.
Theories abounded after a white flash exploded over the Manhattan skyline at 9:35 A.M. Witnesses saw a clear link between the aerial blast and the sudden loss of power and mobility. The most stunning personal realization, among residents and tourists alike, was the effect on their personal electronics. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and computers no longer functioned. It was inexplicable and frightening at the same time.
From Park Avenue to Columbus, most people were in a state of denial. Some rightly suspected an EMP blast, but there were stuck on foot like everyone else.
Under the towering skyscrapers, oceans of people flooded the streets, leaving vehicles, offices, stores, and schools—desperate to find loved ones and get home. As mass confusion spread, a sizable fleet of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters flew toward the open city skyline.
“Your orders are to take control of this city before it’s too late,” the Flight Commander’s voice said into the headphones of his pilots.
Rob exited I-87 and merged onto Harlem River Drive. He could already see the noticeable increase in traffic ahead, all of it at a dead stop. There were more people—stranded at their cars or wandering around—than both he and Mila could count. They passed Yankee Stadium. It looked empty, but there were hundreds of people outside. It looked to be about eleven or noon, by Rob’s estimate. His watch no longer worked.
Mila’s concern and impatience grew the closer they got into the city. She kept a close eye on their map for the quickest route to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the eastern edge of Central park. Roads in the city were confusing enough, many of them narrow one-way and only two-lanes.
“We might have to consider finding a safe place to park and travel the rest of the way on foot,” Rob said, looking ahead.
Mila studied the map while running her finger along its surface. “If you take Harlem River to Park Avenue, it looks almost to be a straight shot from there to the museum.”
Rob nodded and pulled to the right shoulder of the highway to avoid a stopped line of vehicles. People, it seemed, were growing more aggressive by the hour. A half mile ahead, two large men blocked their path and waved him down. Rob continued his steady pace.
Mila looked up. “Be careful,” she said.
“Relax,” Rob said. “They’ll move.”
The Datsun got closer and the men hadn’t moved an inch. They shouted for Rob to stop.
“Rob…” Mila said, clutching the dashboard.
“Don’t worry,” Rob said. His eyes were locked ahead—unwavering.
“Pull over!” the man on the left shouted.
His friend gave up and moved out of the way.
Twenty feet away and getting closer, Rob stared back into the face of the remaining man’s stubborn defiance.
Inches, away Mila screamed and closed her eyes just as the man jumped onto a nearby guardrail. The Datsun’s front end clipped his leg as he leapt. Rob didn’t slow one bit. He didn’t even look back.
Mila slowly opened her eyes and turned her head to the back window. The man was standing up and brushing his jeans off.
She whipped her head around to Rob. “Don’t ever do something like that again!”
“What else am I supposed to do? Let them steal it?”
“You need to be more careful, especially after we get the kids,” she said
Rob shrugged. “We have to be prepared for more encounters like that. Once we get to the city, it’s a guarantee.”
She pointed her finger at him. “You’re not hitting anyone with this car. Do you understand?”
Rob glanced in the rear-view mirror and nodded. They continued on, getting closer to the Park Avenue exit. A blurry line of vehicles rushed by the tinted windows. Face upon face turned to watch them pass. They were in an uncompromising spot and woefully outnumbered. Harlem and Madison Avenue. That’s where they needed to be. He wanted to find a parking garage. Someplace safe and out of sight.
“Imagine that,” he said. “We can park anywhere we want and we won’t get towed.”
Mila looked at him unamused. “Well, I’m glad you can find some humor in this terrible situation.”
“Me too,” he responded.
They went off exit 34, Manhattan and Queens, driving to the side of two lanes, avoiding all the cars in the way.
“Hold on,” Rob said, taking a sharp turn over a median to their right. Mila clutched the door’s armrest as the car bounced up and sparked as the tail end came down and hit the pavement.
The hit was jarring, like going over a speed bump too fast, but Rob maintained control and veered the car off the exit and onto the street. He glanced to the side and saw hordes of people standing around, near vehicles, attentively watching him drive by.
Mila looked around trying to get her head right. The museum was a few blocks away along the congested streets before them.
Rob took another sharp turn down an empty alleyway between two abandoned buildings. He drove past a large green dumpster and several crates, coming to the back entrance a three-story parking garage—just what he was looking for. They coasted past the unmanned guard shack and up to the second floor, where he slid into a space along a row of other parked cars.
“What is this? How’d you know about this spot?” Mila asked, catching her breath.
“Just a hunch,” Rob said. “I still remember some places to park around here.” He shut off the engine and put the keys in his pocket. “So I guess it’s on foot from here.”
“Do me a favor,” Rob said, pointing. “Could you check the radio again, please?”
Mila opened the glove box and pulled out the emergency radio. They repeatedly had tried to get a working frequency during the drive, but had failed. Nothing but static for miles. Rob took the radio, cranked the knob and turned the dial slowly as the speaker crackled and hissed.
“Come on…” he said impatiently. “This is ridiculous. Surely the government put measures in place to protect emergency broadcasting.” At the height of his frustration Rob heard a high-pitched emergency tone.
“Massive power grid failure along the east coast…” a faint voice said over the radio.
“We got something!” Anxious, Rob held the radio up and closer to his ear.
“Residents advised to stay indoors… utility companies are working with government officials to fix issues…”
The signal disappeared again. “Damn it,” he said, setting the radio to the side. And looked at Mila. She was nervous and fidgety.
He took her hands in his. “We’re halfway to our goal. All we have to do is get the kids and get back here.”
A slightly-forced smile came across her face.
“You have your gun, right?” Rob asked.
Mila patted her side. Rob pulled his Beretta from under the seat and pushed it into his pocket. “Let’s do this,” he said, pulling the bottom of his short-sleeved plaid shirt over his pocket.
They stepped out of the car and closed their doors. The sound echoed throughout the quiet garage. Rob circled the car, inspecting the tire pressure and searching for leaks. Everything looked good. The last thing they wanted was to be stranded in the city, helpless as everyone else.
“Ready?” Rob asked Mila, standing up.
Mila flashed a resolute expression. “You bet.”
Rob took her hand and they walked down the parking garage ramp to the first floor where there foot journey would begin. They emerged from the parking garage onto a sidewalk which led to Park Avenue.
The path ahead looked on troublesome. Businesses seemed to be closing their doors and the streets were full of people and growing by the minute. Hordes had taken up residency on sidewalks, at bus stops, and anywhere they could find shade and rest. The seeds of discontent and lawlessness were planted and looked ready to germinate.
Rob pushed through the crowd while keeping Mila close. He kept his eyes forward, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. Most of the crowd moved in unison down Park Avenue in the same direction as Rob did his best to maneuver through.
A group of police officers rode by on bicycles, trying to keep the roads clear and maintain some semblance of order. They had resorted to the basics—air horns, to maintain crowd control. People demanded all sorts of answers to why the power was off, and why their vehicles and cell phones weren’t working.
The police had little to tell them. “Interference,” they answered. It was “a temporary glitch.” The utility companies were working to get everything back on-line.”
The situation was becoming more heated by the minute. People bumped against Rob and Mila time and time again. A lanky, haggard-looking man with a beard and dirty ball cap, grabbed Mila’s arm mumbling to her. His breath reeked of alcohol. Mila yanked her arm away and kept walking. A string of profanity then came from the man’s mouth in her wake.
“Keep moving. Just a few more blocks,” Rob said.
Swarms of people blocked their way from all direction. They were packed in tightly among the crowd and it was hard to breath. Rob pushed on, longing for the cabin. Mila kept her hand over her pocket where she could feel the bulge of her revolver.
They crossed a pedestrian walkway to the next block, at a corner store. As they passed, a voice shouted from inside as a man came running out with a carton of cigarettes tucked under his arm and a sixty-four ounce beers in each of his hands. The store owner, a heavyset Indian man with a mustache, ran outside and chased the man. Rob in Mila froze as the shoplifter headed right into their path.
“Stop! You!” the storekeeper shouted. He pulled a pistol from his jacket and fired six shots in rapid succession, taking down the fleeing man. The bottles shattered on the pavement. Mila screamed and threw herself against Rob.
Rob crouched down, pulling Mila with him. The shoplifter collapsed right in front of them, riffled with bullet holes. The storekeeper approached, gun in the air. Mila glanced downward. The man lay dead on his side with one leg over the other. His arms were out, his eyes closed, and his mouth open.
The storekeeper went pale with disbelief. “I told him to stop,” he said. “Why did he not listen?”
“Come on,” Rob said to Mila, standing. “Let’s keep moving.”
They held each other’s hands tightly and moved on. The bicycle cops were quick to the scene following the echo of gunshots. They shouted at the storekeeper to drop his weapon. A large group of people had gathered around, paying the scene no mind, even with the sounds of the police tackling the storekeeper to the ground.
“Only a few more blocks,” Rob said.
A sign for the museum was in view. Two sophisticated women walked by them trying to explain to each other why their phones weren’t working. “Maybe it’s just a bad reception area,” one of them said, holding her phone.
“I don’t know what the hell’s going on. Terrorists?” another man said to his friends as they walked by.
“Your guess is as good as mine, dude,” his friend said.
“EMP,” another one said. “I’ll bet you a million bucks.”
The words caught Rob’s ears.
Approaching the museum, they crossed over to Madison Avenue and took East 84th Street. The regal stone building with Greek columns lined up at the entrance was a welcome sight. The overflow of people coming outside made Rob’s heart jump. He squinted to search for any sign of Josh and Kelly. It was impossible to tell anyone from anyone else.
“Where do you think they are?” Mila asked. The three-story metropolitan building was massive in size, and they had a lot of ground to cover.
“I’m sure their teachers have kept the classes together for the time being. A power outage in a museum isn’t the end of the world. No reason for panic among the students.”
As they got closer to the front entrance, they noticed that most of the doors were closed; only a few remained open. A considerable amount of security guards manned the doors, and it appeared that they weren’t letting anyone in.
“Come on,” Rob said, running ahead. “We don’t have much time.”
They charged up the steps of the entrance, dodging around people leaving, and tried to push their way through. Rob had lost Mila’s hand and turned back to find her. She was struggling to get up the stairs, pushing through an angry batch of people denied entrance.
“Where do you think you’re going?” one loud-mouthed dirty-looking man shouted at her as she tried to push by.
Rob went back down a few steps and tried to make some space for her to get through. He took her hand and walked up a couple steps, shouting, “We’re looking for our children!” His pleas only did so much, but it was just enough that people began to let him push past, all the way up to the platform entrance, where security guards manned two open doors.
“My children are on a field trip here,” Rob said to the first, blue-uniformed security guard. “We need to find them.”
The thirtyish security guard showed little sympathy for Rob’s plight. There were simply too many people making demands to get inside, and he had heard it all. “Sir, in light of current events, we’re temporarily closing our doors for the safety of our staff and of our artifacts. It’s standard protocol.”
Rob tried to push his way through. The guard grabbed his arm as other security guards stepped closer, ready to act. “I’m not leaving without my son and daughter, do you hear me?” Rob shouted. “They came here on a field trip. Do you still have any school children in there?”
The guard looked unsure, and didn’t respond.
“You don’t even know, do you?” Rob asked. “That’s why you have to let us in.”
The guard raised his hand, blocking Rob. “Sir, I can’t allow that.”
“Let me in!” Rob shouted.
Suddenly a woman came out of the building wearing a long dress, her hair pinned-back in a bun. She called for the guards to wait and examined Rob through her glasses. “I’m a teacher!” she shouted. “And this man is right. We have three grades still in the building. There’s a good chance his children are among them.”
Rob looked back at the guard.
The guard looked his partner, who nodded in agreement. “Make it quick,” he said to Rob.
They walked inside as Rob shook the teacher’s hand. “I’m Rob Parker, and this is my wife, Mila. We’re looking for our son, Josh, and daughter, Kelly. They’re in the sixth and eighth grades.”
The teacher thought to herself carefully, distracted as further unrest was grew steadily outside the museum. “We have classes from all three grades in here. No one has been released yet, so there’s a good chance they’re still in here.”
“Good,” Rob said.
The museum lobby was dark as night inside. The staff was already hard at work locking the place up. Rob assumed that with thousands of priceless artifacts, artwork, and sculptures, they weren’t taking any chances.
“I’m Mrs. Ramsey,” the teacher said. She then turned down a long, darkened corridor. “This way, follow me.”
Operation Urban Breach
The security in and around the “Met” was at its most heightened. Spectators pushed past Rob and Mila with guards hastily escorting patrons toward the exits. The vast dome-like ceiling raised on pillars high above. Mrs. Ramsey stayed close and led the way past museum wings and cultural exhibits. Under normal circumstances, Rob would have enjoyed the private tour, but ancient artifacts were the furthest thing from his mind.
They passed an Egyptian wing spotlighting the famous Temple of Dendur monument. Sunlight poured into the exhibition room from the long, angled windows, from floor to ceiling. Staff members entered the room and quickly pulled down shutters, blocking out the sun and darkening the room. Mrs. Ramsey led Rob and Mila down a hall passed several exhibition rooms.
“The children are in the cafeteria,” Mrs. Ramsey said, slightly turning her head.
“It’s a good thing we ran into you when we did,” Rob said. “Where were you headed?”
Her Algeria shoes clicked against the glossy stone floor with her hurried pace. “I was on my way to go check on the buses,” she responded.
“My guess is that they won’t start. Am I right?”
“We’re working on it, and I don’t know what the problem is,” she said.
“Mrs. Ramsey,” Rob began, “things are going to get much, much worse. I’ve read a lot about this. What we’re experiencing now is only the beginning of a deliberate attack on this country. Are you familiar with the effects of an EMP?”
Mrs. Ramsey paused. “An electromagnetic pulse? Yes. I had my suspicions as well.”
“Then you understand how important it is to keep these students safe. You’re going to need a police or military escort, if you plan to get these students home.”
Mrs. Ramsey looked at Rob wide-eyed. “I wouldn’t even know where to start to request for that.”
“I wouldn’t know, either. But I can tell you that it’s the only way.”
Mila spoke up. “And not every parent is going to do what we’ve done.”
“I understand,” Mrs. Ramsey said. “The teachers are going to have a meeting and discuss the best plan of action.”
“We saw a man being shot to death in broad daylight, right in front of us a few blocks away. He was shoplifting. Thousands of other people will soon be doing the same,” Rob said.
Mrs. Ramsey seemed unnerved. He hoped that she got the message.
They approached the cafeteria—the size of a large mall food court—and could see room packed with children sitting at tables. Mrs. Ramsey pushed open double doors and they were met with clamorous chatter. Students ate from their sack lunches, talking and laughing as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
Mrs. Ramsey stopped them and turned around. “We have six classes in here, two from each grade. We’ve got them under control now, but it’s been difficult.”
“And their cell phones?” Rob asked.
“Not one works. It’s got them on edge, that’s for sure.”
“What did you tell them?”
She shrugged. “Temporary glitch.”
“Not the first time that’s been said today, I assure you,” Rob said.
Mila scanned the room through a sea of children. She wanted to yell for them, but wasn’t keen on making a scene. Rob seemed to not share the same concern. He cupped his hands and shouted for them, gaining the attention of the entire room.
The chatter among the students died down as faces turned to them. Mrs. Ramsey stood sheepishly to the side as other teachers looked up startled.
Two children stood up on opposite sides of the cafeteria as all eyes turned to them. Josh, on one end, looked over and squinted, clearly perplexed by his parents’ presence.
“Dad?” Kelly said, hurrying over. “Mom?”
The other students watched in near silence as Josh scurried away as if facing the most awkward moment of his life.
Mila hugged Kelly and then went toward Josh—who backed away, embarrassed.
“What are you guys doing here?” he asked.
“We’ve come to take you home,” Rob answered.
Kelly was not enthused. “But they’ve had us in here all morning. We’ve haven’t seen anything yet!”
Mila put her arm around Kelly, comforting her. “We’ll come another time, honey. We have to get home now.”
“The power is going to come back on any minute,” Kelly said. “I know it.”
Rob leaned in with a stern look and not a hint of patience left in him.
“Do you have all your things?” he asked.
Kelly nodded with her backpack over her shoulders.
Josh was empty handed. “What is this all about?” he asked.
“Get your things and let’s go,” Rob said to him. “I’ll explain later.”
Josh seemed to get the message and moved quickly back to the table as some of the other kids looked up and watched him, snickering. “Have fun sitting here all day,” he said back to them, grabbing his backpack.
Rob and Mila thanked Mrs. Ramsey. “You have no idea how much you’ve done for us,” Mila said.
Rob looked around the cafeteria one last time. There was no conceivable plan to look after them all. He only hoped Mrs. Ramsey would heed his warnings. Feeling magnanimous, he lifted up the end of his shirt, exposing the pistol in his pocket. “Mrs. Ramsey. I don’t want to alarm you, but I really think you might be better off with this. It’s the least we can do.”
She recoiled. “Mr. Parker. This is a gun-free zone. I’d suggest your family move along before any of the security guards get wind of this.”
“I understand,” Rob said, lowering his shirt. “Just remember what I said. Things are only going to get worse. Your best bet is to wait in here until proper accommodations can be made to get these children home.”
Mrs. Ramsey nodded. “We plan to, Mr. Parker. The safety of our students comes first at all times.”
Rob didn’t envy her position, and he knew they had to move on. He looked to his waiting family and signaled to the double doors. “Let’s go.”
True to Rob’s fears, things only seemed to have gotten worse outside. Museum security guards had organized a vast perimeter around the building with barricades and extra guards. He hurried his family down the stairs outside the museum’s north entrance, down onto the sidewalk where crowds had assembled along 5th Avenue in a cacophony of pandemonium. Neither Josh nor Kelly looked prepared for it.
Rob stopped them before going any farther. “Stay close to us. We have a good two miles back to the car.”
They tried to listen, but were distracted.
“Why’d you park so far away?” Josh asked.
Rob outstretched his arm in an all-encompassing gesture. Easily outnumbering other vehicles, Yellow taxis filled all three lanes of the 5th Ave and East 82nd Street intersection near the museum. The roads were filled with hundreds of people, on the sidewalk and street corners as well. The NYPD was on the scene, mismatched between riot gear and regular uniforms, trying to enforce order.
Lines of street vendors defensively manned their stations, trying to keep up with the demands of the encircling crowds, growing impatient and demanding food while waving cash in the air. Local news crews were on site, trying to get their equipment to work to no avail.
“What happened?” Josh asked. “Why are there so many people out here?”
“Listen to me carefully,” Rob said, trying to talk over all the noise. “The power grids are down. Cars have been disabled, along with phones and electronics. We have to get out of the city. Everything will be OK as long as we get to the cabin.”
Josh pulled out his cell phone, powerless like all the others. “But I thought it was just something in the museum that shut phones down.”
“It’s everywhere,” Rob said. “Happened about two hours ago. We don’t have a lot of time. Stick close and follow me.”
Kelly squeezed Mila’s hand tightly with one hand while biting her nails with the other.
People pushed against each other, as crowds overflowed the area. A child stood near, crying for her mother. A man carried unconscious female woman along. Rob pushed back and tried to keep his family from being suffocated. There was barely anywhere to walk. Barely any space to move.
The alarming sounds of helicopters further drove the panic. People looked up as five Black Hawk hovered overhead. Pat the helicopters, a fleet of fighter jets blasted through the skyline, leaving long trails of smoke behind them.
Thick black ropes then dropped from the Black Hawks onto what little space there was on the ground. Soldiers dressed sleekly in dark, urban-gray fatigues descended down the ropes with high-powered rifles clipped to their assault vests. Their abrupt presence startled the already uneasy crowd.
As the helicopters boomed above, sending circles of debris into the air, confused people took their attention off non-functioning phones and tablets and stood in awe.
“Dad…” Josh said, pointing as one soldier effortlessly slid down a rope and landed nearby.
Rob was caught in the spectacle and unresponsive.
“We should go,” Mila said, pulling Kelly along. “This doesn’t look good.”
Rob ushered Josh along, following Mila. “Keep moving. Let’s go.”
They pushed through a crowd and crossed the street. Rob pointed up the road. “Just the way we came. Hurry.”
They stayed close together, constricted by the crowd, and moved as quickly as possible as more and more soldiers hit the ground. They wore thick, tinted visor helmets with no discernible military branch, identification or rank on their fatigues.
The soldiers brandished rifles with long, one-hundred round magazines protruding from the ends, clutching them with black tactical gloves. The wary crowds began backing away from wherever the soldiers landed. A loud voice blared over one of the helicopter bullhorns.
“Please disperse from the streets now. A tactical clearing will take place in thirty seconds. Please disperse from the streets…”
“Tactical clearing?” Mia said, looking back at Rob. “What are they talking about?”
As they continued up the sidewalk, people began moving every which way. The soldiers kept their rifles aimed forward and began shouting to the people from under their masks, “Move! Move! Move!”
Even the police officers looked confused. The soldiers announced themselves as an elite urban tactical unit specializing in crowd control, through their voice boxes.
“We’ve been tasked with clearing the roads to make way for emergency transport,” one soldier told a police officer through the voice-box on his visor mask.
The police seemed reluctantly on board. They began to usher more people off the street, facing resistance from pedestrians. And while the officers showed restraint, the soldiers took a much harsher stance. They pulled noncompliant people out of their vehicles, threw them on the ground, and clubbed them in the head without hesitation.
Rob urged his family to move faster. They traveled north up 5th Avenue, desperately trying to reach East 84th Street, three blocks ahead. Rob led them across Madison Avenue, squeezing past cars, to Park Avenue, where many others were fleeing.
“Clear the road!” another soldier shouted through his voice box. He swung his buttstock and just missed Rob’s face. Rob shoved on without looking back, keeping his family close.
Soldiers ascended upon defiant crowds blocking the road,
“Get off the street!” they shouted with their rifles aimed. “Now!”
Smoke grenade canisters flew into the air and hit the ground, igniting loud pops followed by billows of purple smoke that dispersed the crowd into disoriented and frightened packs, trying to escape the noxious fumes.
Those in the thick of the smoke fell to their knees gagging, with their eyes watering and thick mucus pouring from their mouths and nostrils.
More canisters flew into the air, striking the ground, and rolling as they exploded into colorful clouds that spread down the street. Rob led his family in one long chain, out of the smoke and farther down the road. The unruly crowds were getting more dangerous, and he feared a stampede.
A thundering crash echoed down the street, followed by an explosion of glass and metal. People stopped, stunned and frozen in their tracks. An enormous cargo truck, wide enough to take up all three lanes, barreled down the street, smashing cars and heaving them out of the way with its front-end plow blade.
The machine tossed vehicles to the side in wrecked heaps, and showed no signs of slowing down. With smoke billowing from its exhaust pipe, the truck chugged down the road at a steady speed of thirty miles an hour, tossing cars aside with startling precision and no regard for anything in its path.
Rob pulled Mila close and shouted over the din surrounding them. “We’ve got to get through! Follow me!” Rob pushed his way through the crowd and they made it to the corner on 84th Street. They ran as fast as they could down the sidewalk, joining others, hysterical and desperate to get as far away as possible.
Soldiers dropped from ropes all around them as Black Hawks circled the city.
“Let’s go. Try to keep up,” Rob said.
Kelly was falling behind. Her legs could only move so fast. Mila kept a tight grip on her hand, slowing just enough for her to keep up. Mila suddenly lost Rob’s hand as he quickly moved ahead. She shouted for him, drowned out by the noise of the truck.
The disorder in the streets shocked her senses. Helicopters, panicked screams, voices blaring from intercoms above, roads blocked with motionless vehicles, and the methodical destruction of vehicles was unbelievable. It couldn’t have been happening. But it was.
After a quarter mile, they reached Park Avenue, only to find two green-military cargo trucks clearing the roads like snow plows. Anyone in the road soon discovered that the trucks were not stopping—no matter what. Commuters jumped out of the way and watched helplessly as their cars were crushed and swept along the road like debris.
Rob looked north down Park Avenue. Platoons of armed soldiers walked behind the trucks, scanning the road. The Black Hawks continued to blare from overhead. With blocks to go, the odds seemed insurmountable, but they had no choice but to push on. “Everyone stay together,” Rob said.
Kelly, close to tears, wrapped her arms around Mila. “I’m scared. Why are they doing this?” she cried.
Mila was helpless to move with Kelly attached to her. Rob pulled Josh back as he tried to run ahead. “Wait,” he said.
He went over to Mila and picked Kelly up, holding her in his arms against his chest. She was trembling and drenched with sweat.
“All right,” Rob said to Mila and Josh. “Now we move. And don’t stop until we get to the car.”
They moved forcibly through the crowds, trying to stay focused on their narrow path ahead, trying to ignore the impossibility of what was happening around them.
Race to the Cabin
After a long, exhausting journey, they finally neared the parking garage. Sirens wailed from every direction. Smoke and tear gas rose into the city skyline, toward the top of skyscrapers. New York City was a disaster, and the sooner they escaped, the better. The three-story parking garage offered temporary refuge. They were all exhausted and equally shaken—Rob’s arms strained from carrying his daughter, Josh in a state of shock, and Mila rendered nearly catatonic.
“Guess we should have taken the subway,” Mila said in a dry tone.
Rob laughter with uneasy. “Guess you’re right.”
They had no clue if the subway was still operational or not. Metro stations from Manhattan to Queens had been swarmed with no way for them to enter. Sad as it seemed, they were safer above ground.
Looting had begun along the way, in small doses, but apparent in nearly every storefront they encountered. The city looked to be in a full-scale riot. Smoke. Gun shots. Vandalism. Sirens. Helicopters circled above as trucks bulldozed through gridlocked traffic throughout all five boroughs.
The Datsun looked untouched—a glistening jewel, covered in dust in debris. He pulled the keys from his pocket, confident that the car would start, but a little nervous anyway.
“All right, everyone. In the car,” he said, unlocking his door.
Josh stood back and scanned the car. “In this thing? Where’s the Kia?”
Kelly and Mila were already inside, happy to be off their feet. Rob walked to Josh and pointed outside the parking garage to the streets below. “You see what’s going on out there?”
“I do. But I don’t understand it because you won’t tell me anything.”
Rob gripped his shoulder. “I told you that I’ll explain everything once we get home.”
Josh crossed his arms and huffed.
“What is it?” Rob asked.
He looked up, saddened. “My friends from school. I made fun of them for having to stay in the museum. I didn’t know…” he voice trailed off and he hung his head.
“None of us could have seen this coming. But all that matters now is how prepared we are.”
“Are we prepared?” Josh asked.
Rob looked ahead. He could see smoke and fire rising from afar, deep in the city. “I believe we are, yes.” He then gently ushered Josh in the back seat. After he got in, Rob took a seat and took a deep breath. He stuck the key in and turned the ignition to the glorious sound of his internal combustion engine.
He turned to Mila, exhaling in relief. “Thank God.”
Mila unfolded the map, and looked at the route back. There was no way to avoid the highway, and she was certain things had gotten worse. “Just get us home safely,” she said.
“I plan to,” Rob said, putting the car in reverse.
Kelly was quiet, still shaken. Josh, on the other hand, fired off a litany of questions.
“Is it like this back home, too?” “What shut the power off?” “Who were those guys dropping out of the helicopters?” “Why were those trucks pushing cars out of the way?”
“It was an EMP,” Rob said, backing out and trying to answer one question at a time.
Mila turned around to face Kelly. “Honey, are you all right?”
Kelly nodded. She looked pale, possibly dehydrated. Mila quickly pulled some water bottles from under her seat and passed them around. Josh and Kelly gulped them down.
“An EMP? You mean like that thing in Last Earth?” Josh asked. Last Earth was a popular science-fiction show from a few years ago that portrayed the effects of an aerial EMP over a small town. Josh and Rob had watched it all the time.
“Nothing is official, buddy. I did see a blast in the sky outside my shop. After that, everything just seemes to have stopped.”
Josh pressed his face against his window, trying to look out beyond the parking garage with renewed interest. “Whoa. I can’t believe it.”
They drove down the ramp past the guard shack and onto a road brimming with parked vehicles. Rob had just enough room to maneuver around and toward the Expressway on-ramp, less than a mile away. Hordes of people lingered and gawked at the one moving car on the road, as Rob drove over medians and sidewalks, narrowly avoiding them along the way.
Fighter jets stormed by again, followed by a fleet of helicopters. At first glance, it appeared to be a massive military exercise, but what they had seen was no training exercise.
Rob turned to Mila, handing her the emergency radio. “Here, give it another try.”
She turned the dials searching for a signal. This time, Mila wasn’t getting anything at all.
“I just don’t understand it,” Rob said. “Why aren’t we being told what’s going on.”
He drove up the on-ramp toward I-87, staying to right side of the road just over the white line and onto the grass. His driver’s side door was within an inch of a line of vehicles. The highway fared no better than the city streets, as hundreds of people walked along every lane, and blocked blocking the shoulders.
“This is going to be tricky,” Rob said, feeling anxious. Mila turned the radio knob back and forth intermittently. Frustrated, she brushed her black bangs away from her eyes, and set the radio on her lap.
“How could something like that happen? In this country?”
“The response-time is what gets me,” Rob responded. “Two hours after an EMP strike, and there was already a full-fledged military operation in downtown Manhattan.”
“Did those look like American soldiers to you?” Mila asked.
Rob scoffed. Not even he had considered the idea of their being foreign. “Mila, come on! Of course they were American soldiers.”
“What makes you so sure?”
Rob thought for a minute. He didn’t have an answer. He laid down on his horn, trying to clear the ranks of people walking along the side of the road.
A large group turned around, startled and slowly made space for Rob to drive through.
“This is ridiculous,” Rob said, getting frustrated. “These people have the whole damn road to walk down and they have to block the side.”
“They’re just as confused as we are,” Mila said.
They continued north as Rob repeated pressed on the horn to clear a path. The last thing he wanted to do was hit someone—but people were making it more and more difficult as he progressed. Up ahead, one particular group of young people saw the Datsun coming and began to look for a way to block their path. Their friends had already tried waving Rob down, but hand been ignored.
“What is it?” Mila asked, squinting ahead.
“Just some punk kids,” Rob said.
A half mile up the road, a group pushed a vehicle into the right shoulder, blocking their path. Rob pushed the gas, flooring it.
“Hold on tight,” Rob said, as they shot forward.
He swerved back into the lane, narrowly missing a parked dump truck and sped through a small opening in the middle of the road between two cars. The punks, unprepared for Rob’s maneuvering, tried to chase him down, but it was too late. The Datsun continued on unabated.
Rob swerved through open spaces in the road and then back onto the shoulder, where they were safe for the time being. With thirty miles to go, the radio suddenly caught a signal, broadcasting a message similar to the one they had heard before.
“Residents are advised to stay indoors until utility services can properly be restored to affected areas.”
Rob listened carefully as Mila turned up the volume up all the way.
“An unexplained aerial magnetic wavelength has disabled power grids across the country, also affecting stand-alone personal electronic devices and vehicles within forty thousand feet of the mass spectrum. A reported nine interconnected substations and transformers have been compromised, disabling power and mobility for hundreds of millions of Americans.”
The broadcast had yet to delve into exactly what the government was doing. Rob waited impatiently, and after a few seconds the broadcast resumed.
“Government officials are closely monitoring the situation while advising residents to stay off the streets and out of highly populated areas, where riot-control measures are currently being implemented.”
“Riot control?” Mila asked. “Is that what that was?”
Rob took Mila’s hand in his while keeping a careful eye on the road. The broadcast then switched to another long, high-pitched tone, followed by a repeat of the earlier message.
“This is a message from the Emergency Alert System. This is not a test. All residents are advised to stay indoors…”
The Datsun shuttled down the road as they left the smoking city behind them, headed back home where they could hunker down and wait for everything to blow over.
“Will everyone just calm down? I told you that we’re going to be OK. We’re prepared for this!” Rob said as they crossed the I-287 over the Hudson River.
It had been an exhausting and dangerous journey back home avoiding cars and angry pedestrians. Kelly was upset, Mila was on-edge, and Josh was asking too many questions. Stress began to weight down on all them, especially Rob. .
After avoiding another angry mob on the road, he slammed his fist on the steering wheel. “This is ridiculous. Why can’t these people just move out of the way? We should have never moved here!”
“Calm down, Rob,” Mila said. “You’re doing fine. Just get us out of here.”
He turned to her with understanding. Mila, herself, was tired and fatigued, but she had done everything necessary to retrieve their children from a volatile situation. And they had succeeded. The next step was simple: grab everything they could and bug-out to the cabin. Rob couldn’t believe they were actually doing it. In his mind, they were already there and safe. But they still had a ways to go before any such fantasy materialized.
Rob glanced into rear-view mirror at the kids.
“You guys doing all right back there?” he said, rubbing his eyes.
Kelly nodded, still in a quiet state of shock after what they had been through.
“Yeah, I guess,” Josh said. “But I don’t understand why we have to go to the cabin. Why not just stay at the house? What difference does it make?
“We have a plan,” Mila answered. “And we have to stick to the plan.”
“Sounds like a pretty dumb plan to me,” Josh said, scoffing.
“The longer we stay at the house, the harder it will be to leave. And trust me, we would have to leave at some point.”
Rob cut him off.
“I understand it’s not an easy thing to ask of any of you. But it’s the only way.”
Mila looked back at Josh with an attempt to console him. “It will only be for a couple of weeks.” She then turned to Rob. “Right?”
Rob nodded. “A couple of weeks tops.” He knew, however, that it could be much longer. What else could he say? After what Kelly and Josh had been through, Rob didn’t want to fill their heads with the true reality: that they could be there for months. A total grid shutdown posed detrimental effects for years on end, or things could go back to normal in a matter of months. Whatever the outcome, he knew that adapting to a survivalist lifestyle would have to be gradual.
Josh threw his hands. “I don’t like this one bit.” He shook his head in frustration and spoke in a hopeless, defeated tone. “Why did this have to happen? Who did this to us and why? I just… don’t understand.”
“I’m sorry, Josh. I really am,” Rob said.
The car went silent again. Josh looked out his window, not saying a word as they passed another lines of cars parked on the interstate. They crossed the bridge over the Hudson, another landmark closer to home. The emergency radio crackled. Mila held it up, tilting the antenna, trying to get a better listen to the broadcast.
“Highways from the West Coast to the East, from the Mid-west to Southern states are at a complete stand-still. Seventy-five percent of the nation’s power grids are reported as non-functional as the federal government, and emergency response management agencies have reportedly implemented measures to address the growing crisis. Air space has been restricted nationally to military only. Residents of all affected areas are advised to remain in their homes until assistance can be made.
“Those left stranded on highways and roads are urged to remain calm and wait for assistance at emergency refuge centers. They are not encouraged to remain on the roads, which are being cleared for official transportation of casualties as well as other emergencies… More details to follow.”
Then the broadcast ended.
Mila clutched the radio, stunned. If what they had heard was true, things were far worse than he could have imagined. Rob had hoped… hoped that the EMP had encompassed a limited range. But any such optimism was now gone.
“We have to get to the cabin tonight. There’s no other way,” Mila said adamantly.
Judging from what they had seen in the city, the United States was either undergoing some kind of foreign invasion, or that the government had resorted to extreme measures to handle the crisis.
Their neighborhood was largely the same as it had been earlier that day. The garbage truck was still there, long abandoned. Any cars in the driveway in the morning were still there. Anyone not home earlier, didn’t look to be home now. There was an eerie quietness to the street, but it was a breath of fresh air after the city. Rob made it back to the house with a half-tank of gas left. It was late afternoon, and the evening was upon them—where anything could happen.
They pulled into the driveway, and Rob asked Josh to jump out and open the garage door. The Datsun was a hot commodity, no matter where they were or how safe they felt.
“Everything looks fine here,” Josh said. “Why don’t we just wait here, sleep on it? The power could be back on in the morning for all we know.”
“Please just open the garage door,” Rob said.
“I’ll do it,” Mila said, opening her door.
“No,” Rob said, touching her arm. He looked into the rear-view mirror. “Do what I asked.”
Josh huffed and got out of the car. As he walked to the garage door and pushed it open, Mila said, “He’ll come around at some point. Don’t worry.”
“I know,” Rob said.
After opening the garage door, Josh went inside the house through the garage without looking back.
Rob spoke in a hushed tone. “We think it’s difficult getting the kids to adjust tonight? Imagine tomorrow. The more they get settled in, the harder it’s going to be.”
“I don’t mind going to the cabin,” Kelly said from the back seat.
Rob turned. “That’s good. Now we all have to pack and be ready. Do you think you can do that?”
“Yeah,” she said in a flat tone.”
He pulled forward into the garage, unnoticed by anyone on the street. Their neighbor Ken was nowhere to be seen. It was late afternoon and they were already losing daylight fast.
“Nice to see that we’re all on board,” Rob said. “We’ll load up the car and get on our way.”
Mila sat quiet and reserved as Rob turned the ignition off. She thought of her earlier urgency, of wanting to get to the cabin as soon as possible. After seeing what had become of their town, their streets, the neighboring city, she had thought her mind made up. But something about the familiarity and comfort of their home made everything better.
It was hard to explain to Josh and Kelly why the importance of uprooting their lives for an undisclosed period. And then there was her job. What of the hospital? What of her patients? Could she really leave it all behind? She was beginning to feel a little bit like Josh.
But she also trusted Rob’s instincts. His quick thinking had assured her so far that they had a chance. She thought of Chet, the man who harassed her. She was lucky to have her gun on her. How many more people were out there, closing in on their neighborhood, just like him?
“All good?” Rob asked and turned off the ignition switch.
Mila and Kelly said, “Yes,” in return. Being told to pack for potentially months in a short amount of time and space was a bit overwhelming. This much, Rob understood.
“Just focus on the necessities,” he said. “We can always make a two trips if needed.”
They opened their doors and stepped out. Rob went to Kelly and knelt down in front of her, offering a light hug.
“How are you feeling?” he asked. Her face still looked shaken.
“OK, I guess. Just a little hungry.”
Rob took her by the hand and led her inside as Mila followed. It was getting dark and the air was stuffy.
“I’ll open some windows,” he said.
“Come on,” Mila said to Kelly. “Let’s see what we can pack for you.”
They went off down the hall as Rob opened the living room and kitchen windows, letting in a cool breeze. He thought about the house and how much he wanted to take everything. We’re they doing the right thing abandoning it? Was there any other way? He eliminated his doubt as he walked toward Josh’s room. His son could be heard riffling through his closet.
“How’s it going in here?” he said, pushing the door open. His blinds were open, and the sun was rapidly descending. A lush, orange sky could be seen outside the window. They were running out of time. Traveling in the mountains at night posed its own challenges—their headlights could be seen for miles.
Josh threw a pile of clothes onto his bed. His room was a mess of books, video games, and shoes, skateboard, books lying everywhere.
“What am I actually supposed to pack here? I have no idea.”
Rob strolled in and took a seat at the end of his bed. “No electronics. They’re useless now. Clothes. Hygiene stuff. Winter jackets. Blankets. It’s going to get cold up there.”
Josh stood in the middle of the room, shaking his head. “I just don’t get it.”
“We won’t be there forever. All I ask is that you understand that the safety of this family is my top priority,” Rob said, as he sat on the bed.
“Yes, Dad. I get it.” Josh bent down, grabbed another pile of clothes, and tossed it on the bed. “This is the worst day of my life.”
Rob stood up and approached Josh, helping him sort through his clothes. “Things will get better, I promise.”
Josh didn’t respond and just seemed to hang his head in defeated.
“After you get packed. I need your help with a few other things.”
“Making sure that your sister and mom are good to go. We’re the men of the family, Josh, and we need to act like it.”
Josh grabbed his cell phone. “My friends. They could still be at the museum, or they made it home. But I’ll never know, will?” He threw the phone across the room, hitting his dresser.
“We have work to do, Josh,” Rob said. “It’s time for you to put everything behind you for now, and do what’s best for your family.”
Josh turned to Rob, surprised by his matter-of-fact tone. He was too exhausted to argue any longer. There was nothing left to say.
They walked to the garage together and got to work. Helicopters raced above the house, giving them chills. With only an hour or so of precious daylight left, they got to work.
The Datsun was quickly loaded with everything that could fit inside the trunk and on the top of the car. Rob wrapped containers and boxes over the top railing with bungee cords like they were going on extended vacation. Josh thought of cabin and what he was going to do out there. He liked to fish and then noticed his pole in the corner near the washer and dryer. He grabbed it and then remembered something else.
“Do we still have room for my tackle box?” he asked Rob.
Rob finished fastening the last bungee. “Yeah, there should be some room in the truck.”
Josh went into the house to get it. After the initial shock, their trip was beginning to feel more like a vacation. Rob did a mental check of everything they had packed so far: emergency food kits, medical supplies, bug-out bags, weapons and ammunition. In the meantime, it seemed as if everyone was packed and ready. Mila and Kelly brought their bags out. Josh soon followed. For Rob, it was a sobering sight to see. They were really leaving.
After packing everything they needed, the family took the forty-minute drive to the cabin, with a quarter tank left of their gas, and a jumbled congestion of vehicles along their path. They left their house with the windows closed, locked, and covered, hoping to return home soon.
It was early evening as Rob up the winding hills of Bear Lake Mountain Road to where a quaint three-bedroom cabin awaited, far into the mountains and away from the civilized world. Rob knew the roads well, and he also expected to find a few others who had cabins in the area. People, like him, who prepped. With no way of knowing who had made it or not, Rob didn’t hold any expectations, but little by little, he was sure people would began to arrive.
His people owned bug-out vehicles as well with escape plans similar to his. He trusted each them and was certain that they could stave off the elements together and live off the land safely in relative harmony.
The camp community consisted of two families and two couples—all resourceful preppers—who had had purchased the cabins in the event of a national crisis or disaster. They were residents of Nyack, except for one Long Island family, and they were also frequent customers to his store. He hadn’t seen a lot of them in a while and hoped that they were OK.
“Have heard from anyone else?” Mila asked, referring to the prepper group.
“No, not yet,” Rob answered. He fiddled with the emergency radio in his lap, trying to get a decent signal. “I hope to see everyone soon, or at least in the next day or two.”
Mila grabbed the radio from him. “Let me see that. You need to keep your eyes on the road.”
Not much more came over the radio. There were continual advisements for residents to stay inside their homes, almost as if that was the government’s only plan. But it beyond that, they weren’t any closer to finding out who was behind the EMP and why. The time wasn’t right and the government wasn’t speaking. There would be no real answers for some time.
Twenty miles from the cabin, Kelly was knocked out, resting after some Ibuprofen Mila had given her. Josh stared out the window as Mila dug through her purse.
“Damn it. Forgot our passports.”
“Don’t worry, I grabbed them,” Rob said.
“Oh,” Mila said, relieved. “Thank you.”
“What do we need passports for?” Josh asked.
Rob’s eyes looked into the rear-view mirror. “Just in case we have to leave the country.”
“You’re serious?” Josh asked.
Their lack of response told Josh all he needed to know.
Mila looked out the window, and then covered her mouth with a slight gasp.
“What is it?” Rob asked.
“I was on shift tonight. Oh no. We should have at least swung by the hospital. They’re going to be so worried.”
Rob gently placed a hand over hers. “I’m sure you’re not the only one who didn’t show.”
“But what about our patients? Surely there has to be some kind of back-up generator or something. Right?” She looked at Rob, frantic and waiting for an answer.
“Yes. I’m sure there are. You need to put it out of your mind. Just for tonight.”
It all fell like a bad dream. There very livelihoods had changed. Bills, school, work, exercise, family time—all routines given an immediate moratorium. What would their new routines consist of?
“Almost there, gang,” Rob said, as they ascended a narrow hill leading to a dirt road where the cabin awaited. He could see the small wood structure in the distance, concealed under a patch of Redwood trees. It stood ten feet in the air, on wood beams—to keep wildlife and bugs from getting in. Wooden steps led to the front door. Beyond the windows, the house was as black as the night sky.
The air was cool and the town below was indistinguishable from the blackness of the forest. Rob had always wondered what a city without lights would look like in the evening—what things must have looked like two hundred years before. During their trip, his question had been answered, and there was no comfort to what they had seen.
They soon settled in, unpacked, and moved everything into their three-bedroom cabin in the rolling hills of Bear Mountain. Within the camp, there were five cabins total spread throughout three acres of forest. The others soon showed up, just as Rob expected. There was Peter and his wife, Krystal. The Santos family—Carlos, Mayra, and their children Gabriel and Antonio. Elliott and Reba, an older couple, who had long relocated to their cabin after retirement. And Brad and Ashlee, a young couple with five children.
The initial reunion between families was heartfelt and affirming. The families were excited to see each other and overwhelmed by the crisis that had sent them into mountains. But now, the real work was upon them. They were going to have to hunker down and work together if there was any chance of survival.
Days past, then weeks, and their routines soon became second nature. The days consisted of fishing, hunting, cooking, boiling water, gardening, and most important, learning from each other. There was even a few rooms set aside for the kids to go to school. It was life in the wilderness among a tight-knit group of people who trusted each other, motivated by their mutual longing for the return of normalcy so that they could go home.
Two months had passed and Rob’s family hadn’t left camp. Too many troubling developments were announced over the radio. Gunshots and looting could be heard from the town below. From their carefully placed look-out tower, Rob could see fire and smoke almost daily from his binoculars. Nyack didn’t look to be faring too well from afar. The faith and hope that had brought the camp together was put to the test with each day they remained without answers or assurances.
Their “temporary bug-out” had extended past the two month mark, and the news had gotten worse. The power grids were no more repaired than the cars on the road. The town was too dangerous to venture into. Their supplies were dwindling even with an emphasis on rationing. But plans were in the works for a supply run. It had to happen, despite whatever madness had gripped their town below.
Rob was on a morning walk when he ran into Peter, who had just finished his guard shift.
“Morning, Rob,” Peter, an energetic gray-haired man in his fifties. He and his wife, Krystal were both well-to-do realtors, and among some of Rob’s most loyal customers—when he had his store.
“Hiya, Peter,” Rob said.
Peter held a hunting rifle in hand, a camouflaged jacket, and black boonie cap. He looked worn from his long guard shift.
“I just wanted to share something real quick.”
Rob looked on, interested. “Sure. What do you have?
Peter brought his hand to his chin. “I was thinking about what you were talking about the other day. About when you and Mila went into the city to get your kids.” Peter stopped, took his boonie cap off, and wiped his forehead.
“What about it?” Rob asked.
Peter’s eyes were intense and wide. “They’re doing that everywhere, not just through the Bronx and Manhattan, or wherever you saw it. It’s part of a nationwide operation to clear the most densely populated areas of the country.”
“I don’t understand,” Rob said. “Where did you hear this?”
“From a buddy on my mobile HAM signal. It’s called Operation Urban Breach. A classified operation where they make room for complete militarization.”
Rob flashed him a skeptical look, but wasn’t entirely dismissive. What he had seen was every bit as Peter described.
“They know that after the EMP, millions of vehicles are nothing but useless hunks of metal blocking the road. So what is the government going to do, just leave them there? Who owns the roads, Rob? Think about it.”
Rob was deep in contemplation. Everything Peter was saying made sense. It just seemed so… impossible. How could the government pull off such a thing?
“And no word on who attacked us and why?” Rob asked. “Two months later, and none of your buddy’s knows.”
Peter shook his head. “Haven’t heard anything.”
Rob thanked Peter and went about his morning hike. At the very least, he had quite the story to tell Mila. He walked up a cliff and examined the open fields and tiny houses miles away. Thin waves of smoke trailed in the distance. It always smelled like smoke because something was always on fire.
For the time being, nothing was going to change. The outdoor life was just like any other. They were a community of people who lived in the area, dedicated to one untied goal of survival. And so far, it was working. Two months in the mountains had left them with disconnected from their normal lives, wondering if it was still possible to make the transition back to who they were before.
Despite the relative anonymity that surrounded them at camp, the times were changing. And on the afternoon of Sunday, November 19, things were about to get a lot more interesting. They had been discovered. And it was no accident. The men who watched them from a safe distance believed them to be thieves, for their latest supply run had crossed into gang territory.
About a hundred yards from the camp, a black fedora hat rose from the bushes, revealing a tall man in a leather jacket. He had a small group with him. Bulky, intimidating me, with tattoos, scars, gold teeth, while some were missing teeth. The man, along with his gang convicts, had taken over Nyack and claimed it as their own. Now they had an outside threat to deal with.
Mayor Jenkins called his men to advance, and they hiked up the latest hill, getting closer to the stretch of cabins before them. They had been staking it out for some time, studying their activities, defenses, and routines. The gang held their rifles close to their chests and moved with a stealth similar to the maneuvering that saw their prison escape.
Jenkins halted them again. They heard something not far ahead.
“What is it?” Larry asked. His braided long hair, hung over his jacket.
“We need to be careful from here on out. These people are armed and they know the area ten times better. They’re not going to be as easy as the preacher and his folks. Got it?”
“Got it,” Larry said.
They waited for a few minutes, and then advanced further. The men were itching for a shootout. Murder was on their mind and vengeance in their hearts.
The exciting tale of survival continues in EMP: Book One
After adjusting to life at camp, the group mobilizes to conduct a much-needed supply run. Rob knows that venturing into town carries its share of danger, but what lay ahead is worse than he could have imagined. The group narrowly escapes a violent ambush on the streets of Nyack and escapes back into the mountains to re-group and strategize. Having alerted a nearby criminal gang to their presence, an avalanche of conflict soon follows where lines are drawn between those who can survive and those who will die.