Do not ask me love to linger
When you know not what to say
For duty calls your sweetheart name again
And your heart need not be sighing
If I be among the dying
I’ll be with you when the roses bloom again
When the Roses Bloom Again-Woody Guthrie
You Can run for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God will cut you down
Sooner or later God will Cut you down
Traditional Folk song as sung by Johnny Cash
Chapter I – Ryan
A full moon reflected off the gently rolling water of the Missouri River as Ryan’s hand held steady, like the support beams of the Eiffel Tower, strong and unwavering. This, however, didn’t surprise him because it always had. No one held one as steady. He’d come to find this to be true since The Days began. In fact he’d learned a lot about himself and others since The Days began and the way Ryan saw it, the wall and the water that stood between them and the outside “World” was the only comfort that he had to allow him the few restless hours of sleep he got every night. And he wasn’t going to let some rag tag boat of possible infected rob him of that.
“We’ve got money,” one woman yelled. She held up her ratty brown suitcase, its edges frayed and broken. Before she left her home she had most likely grabbed her most dear belongings, pictures, jewelry, memories of the world that she would never see again, and stuffed them into her bag. The thing probably didn’t even have any money in it. But it wouldn’t have mattered if it had. Money wasn’t going to do them any good anymore. Funny how people hold on to the concepts that we have pounded into our heads about what things are important and how things work. Money wasn’t worth burning anymore, and it never would be again. The only currency that mattered now was food and water and the occasional bottle of Jack. And they had plenty of that.
“I’ll go get the Mayor,” Andrew said over his shoulder.
“We don’t need him, no need in bothering him.”
“It’s his call Ryan.”
“It’s my call, I’m the one with the rifle. I’m the one charged with patrolling the wall. I’m the one that the camp relies on to keep it safe.”
“They rely on me too. Put the gun down Ryan, they can’t get over the wall anyway. Just let them set there until I get back.”
The wall stood right at the waters edge with steep rocky banks that were nearly impossible to climb. That was met by the two story wall of rock and mortar covered by slick blue green moss. There was one beach that sat on the other side of the peninsula. The refugees had obviously not found it yet and he wasn’t about to let that happen.
“No, don’t go anywhere.”
“What do you mean?”
“I said not to get the mayor and I mean it.”
Ryan heard the shuffling of feet through the moist fallen leaves and looked over his shoulder to the sight of his brother walking away with his rifle slung over his shoulder.
“I’m your commanding officer, God-damn-it, and I said to stay here.”
Andrew yelled over his shoulder, “Fuck you, Ryan, we aren’t kids anymore.”
Ryan’s face grew flush, he could feel the hot blood rush to his cheeks. His eyes filled with water from the heat and he pulled the gun back and took aim from the wall. His scope focused on the lady waving the bag.
“You think I’m fucking playing?”
“Please just give us a chance.” An old man pleaded. His face blistered, white sores oozing a nocuous liquid.
“Your lucky I don’t put a bullet in you old man.”
“We can pull our weight. We have farmers, nurses, tailors, and cooks. We can contribute.”
“The only thing you appear to be able to contribute to would be our downfall. Now leave before I start shooting.”
Ryan’s eyes blurred in and out from the water in his eyes and heat of his face. His brother was the one person that could always do this to him. Make him so mad that he wanted to shoot something. Why couldn’t he see that all he wanted was to protect their village, protect him and protect his wife.
The raggedy woman began to wave her suitcase back and forth again like a flag, signaling to Ryan that her offer still stood.
He could feel the tension on the trigger as he gently gave it pressure, “Your not getting in my home,” he yelled to them.
“It isn’t ‘your’ home mister.” the old man yelled.
Ryan didn’t know why these two seemed to be the only ones speaking for the group, there had to be twenty people on the little makeshift boat. By calling it a boat he gave it more credit than it deserved, it was in fact a large wooden raft like the Cubans would use coming across the gulf to land on the beaches of Florida. And while technically what the old man was saying was in a sense true, the compound wasn’t ‘his’ he had in fact brought most of the settlers here.
Sat on a forty-seven acre peninsula, Missouri State Prison had once been the home for some of the most notorious criminals of its day. Ryan and Andrew’s father, Winston Bowman, had been a guard there and had taken his sons there after it had closed in 2004. He liked to tell them stories of how he had guarded gangsters and murders, rapists and con men. The facility had also been the home for some of the more ‘confused’ criminals of the day and a separate building actually housed a serial killer and a woman who murdered her whole family, she was the wife a preacher and she said that ‘God’ told her to do it, and James Earl Ray, who had escaped from the prison and killed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Accurately nicknamed “The Walls” he had told them that it was built 1836 and was used as a model when building Alcatraz, it used walls and the water, the current of the Missouri river, to keep prisoners from escaping. It was shut down after two escapes and a riot that lead the death of four guards and prison cook, and the new technically advanced Missouri State Prison was built in in Jefferson County south of St. Louis. Ryan wasn’t worried about people breaking out, however, their worries had turned to someone breaking in, and as they had discovered it had become even more difficult than breaking out.
The property was well fortified and had everything someone needed to occupy and start a camp. And Ryan had seen the possibilities of making this a self sufficient residence for a group of talented individuals, like farmers, doctors, tailors, blacksmiths, cooks and anyone that one would need to keep a village running.
Ryan paused as something caught his attention. He focused on the lady with bag, who was still waving it like an idiot, when he heard a sound behind him. The sound of heavy footsteps plunging into to the soft wet earth behind him. He could hear the echoes of the voices calling to him. He recognized one of the voices instantly to be that of his brother. Then he realized that he heard another voice as well. It was the, Mayor Oscar Chandler. Probably coming to tell him to stop and let them in.
Between the stomping feet he heard, “…on’t let…o…ected…eached the sho…” what was the mayor trying to say?
The pounding of the feet stopped right behind him. “Ryan, they found the boat dock and breached the gate and several infected made it to the first check point. We managed to push them back to the raft don’t you let them get up here.”
“I fucking told you Andrew. I shoulda’ shot ‘em an hour ago.” Ryan’s hand steadied again and he focused the scope on the bag lady and pulled the trigger.
The shot echoed throughout the river valley and clothes and pictures dotted the rolling water until they where pulled under by the current.
“Unless you want to end up like your clothes and pictures I’d un-anchor your raft and float on down river. Make a right at the Mississippi I hear New Orleans is looking for settlers.”
The old man with sores reached down and slowly pulled the anchor up and the raft began to float down the river. The currents on the Missouri can be swift and it took no time before the raft was under the interstate bridge and out of sight.
Ryan found a stump of an old tree the villagers had cut down to use for the smoke house and sat down. Andrew took a knee next to him and placed his hand on his shoulder. He didn’t have to say anything.