“Tell me, Tara. You do know you can’t win now. The only ending here is gonna be a bullet to the head when I’m done messing you up. Trust me, you’ll beg for it to end.” He let a broad grin play across his face.
“Right now, you’re just boring me to death.”
“See! There’s that spunk again! Death is staring you in the face and yet you’re defiant! I love that! Too bad we couldn’t have met under different circumstances. I’m betting we could have been good friends.” He lunged forward but stopped short of getting within engagement range. Instead, he started circling.
“Are your knees getting weaker? I think they are. You’re as white as a ghost. Honestly, I don’t know how you’re still standing.” His taunts weren’t far from the truth. The knife in my hand was growing heavy, my feet were slow to move, and my vision was beginning to blur.
My legs finally buckled, no longer able to support my weight. I collapsed to my knees. My blade clattered to the pavement. I was done. I knew I’d lost too much blood; I couldn’t take enough oxygen into my lungs. I raised my head and tried to focus on Keith. He walked toward me, kicking the knife well out of my reach. He put the tip of the bat in the middle of my chest and pushed. Unable to resist either him or gravity, I toppled over backward.
January 12th, 2023:
I remember the day the gates closed and stayed closed. I remember it like it was only yesterday. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the medical building, the American flag gently flapping in the breeze behind us, my father’s hand on my shoulder. I’ll never forget the way he apologized to me, the sadness in his eyes. He said he wished he could have done more to prevent what happened; he felt a horrible guilt about the way things turned out.
While the ranch had been a virtual beehive of activity, when that front gate closed with a metallic clang, everyone froze. There was a silence casting a pall over the entire ranch. No one spoke nor did they dare move. Even the livestock were unusually quiet. It was as if they too had sensed what had happened. The dire consequences of human actions had stunned every living thing at the ranch into silence.
It would be months before the cloak would begin to lift. It was an abnormally harsh and early winter that followed the mellow days of September. Over the course of the winter, we finally began to understand the magnitude of the devastation outside of our walls. One by one, our contacts on the HAM radio fell silent as the plague took its hefty toll on humanity. Before they went dark, the HAM stations all reported the same frightful conditions. While things had been bad for most, those not immune to the plague were about to have a much harder time.
The plague, as it had been dubbed, spared very few who came in contact with it. Those who were spared were left wishing for death to come. When January rolled around, the only contacts left on the airwaves were other immune outposts.
When it was finally time to plant the spring crops, the farmers were only allowed through the gate under heavy guard. It was the same when the cowboys went out to bring in the cattle or the wild horses. Hunting parties, scavenging parties, they were all heavily guarded. You see, to have the blood of an immune meant you had a target on your back. There were groups of survivors who held the belief that our blood could bring them the same immunity from the plague. However false their beliefs, it was the last shred of hope they had, and they clung to it ferociously, violently even.