Beth, Chapter 2 Escape and Camp
It was eerie racing through the street in the darkness. My hands gripped the handlebars till my knuckles turned white. We just had time to make it around the corner, slam ourselves against the wall and freeze.
We waited for the buzzing of the drone. It came and went.
We counted: one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, to be sure it was far enough away. Then we raced toward the trail head.
We passed a long block of apartments. I glanced at the glowing face of my analog watch. We had only three minutes to get down the road and find another hiding place. The next block had single family homes. On the corner was a weeping willow in the front yard. Perfect.
Carl pointed to it and we disappeared through the hanging leaves.
Carl held up his fingers one at a time, counting as he approached the veil of leaves. On three we pushed through pumped hard the last block to the bike trail.
I hoped we were right about there not being drones on the trail because there was nowhere to hide.
Carl pointed back to the last house and we rushed to take cover on the side of a garage. Just as we got there I heard it. Like a giant mosquito the drone sent a chill through me like an ice pick.
We had just made it. The night was cool, but sweat trickled down my neck. It was difficult to take a deep breath in the thick smoke. Where did all the smoke come from? Was it from bombs that had exploded? Were we riding into radiation? What if the bombs were nukes? I didn’t want to think about it. God would get us through this. We couldn’t go back.
Carl was motioning to me. It was time to go.
Even with our night goggles, there was precious little to see and my lungs burned from the smoke. A gas mask would have been nice with these goggles, but who knew?
When it would have been time for another drone we stopped and waited.
We waited for ten minutes, just to be sure.
We took off.
The long trails led through underpasses, and over bridges. Some parts intersected with streets or expressways. These took longer. We had to wait for two passes of drones to get the timing before we crossed. They were not all the same. I welcomed a moment to rest and get a drink of water. My throat was dry and raw.
After a long stretch of trail Carl slowed and pointed to the right of the bike trail. It was cold, and dark with darker blotches here and there. Great. Even with the night vision goggles I could only see right in front of me. The darkness pressed in on all around us.
“Come on Beth. We have time to set up our tent and stuff before the sun comes up.” He led the way behind a knoll. “See over there? Those trees will help hide us. He coughed and stopped to get a drink from his water bottle. I grabbed my water bottle too. My legs felt like rubber. How far had we traveled? much farther than I had ever gone in one trip, that was for sure.
Carl pointed to one of the darker areas and walked his bike toward it. I followed the best I could on my wabbly legs. Our footsteps crunched on a thick layer of dry leaves. I could smell pepper. As we neared the darker area, I could make out knobby trunks. In my mind’s eye I saw feathery leaves and tiny pink bunches of seeds. Pepper trees reminded me of fairy tales. I thanked God for a bit of beauty in the middle of the nightmare we were trying to escape.
Carl wet his finger to test for wind direction. It’s a wonder his tongue didn’t stick to his finger. My fingers were like popsicles.
“OK, we’ll use that tree over there to tie up our food supplies. Never know if there are hungry animals around.” He turned and said, “And right here looks like a good place for the tent.”
We began to clear twigs and rocks from the tent area, then Carl went to his pack and pulled out something small and began to unfold it.
“That looks like a shower curtain,” I said.
“That’s because it is a shower curtain.” he said and grinned at me.
I tipped my head to the side. “You want to take a shower - now?”
He smiled at me and handed me one end of the shower curtain. “This, my sweet, is going to help keep us dry. Take that end over there and we will cover the ground where we are going to put the tent.”
I nodded and took the corner. “Good idea.”
We piled more leaves on top of the shower curtain for padding.
“These are supposed to be green leaves, but oh well,” Carl said as he piled more on the shower curtain. We pitched the tent over the mound of leaves and the smell of pepper filled the air.
Next Carl pulled out a tarp and we put it over the outside of the tent for camouflage and insulation. Our lime green three-man dome tent would be way too easy to see.
I had heard the coldest time is just before sunrise. It must be about 4 in the morning, because I was freezing. My breath came out in puffs on the cold air.
Carl handed me my back pack. “Let’s get some food and water out of our packs before we tie them up in the tree.”
I rummaged around in my pack. It was hard to grab anything with my stiff fingers. Finally, I got some beef jerky, dried fruit and water, then we hoisted our packs up into a nearby tree with a rope and secured them there.
“Wow, I almost feel like we know what we are doing,” I smiled up at my husband. He was tall, blond, with a lean body and incredible blue/green eyes that I wished I could have seen right then.
We went into the tent, zipped the door flap shut and took off our night vision goggles. It was as dark as a coal mine. We crawled around feeling for our sleeping bags and bumped heads. God sure has a sense of humor. Our laughter was almost hysterical, we were so exhausted.
Before sleep claimed us, we held hands and prayed. If ever we needed prayer, it was now.
I dreamed about our wedding, the day before, but something was wrong with my legs. I couldn’t move them to walk down the aisle. I woke to find I had slid down and my legs were bent and jammed against the back wall of our tent. The ground was not as level as it looked. I woke two or three times to push myself back up and straighten my legs.
We slept through the morning and the sun was high when the call of nature came. It had been icy during the night, but the sun brought some warmth and light. I tried to exit the tent quietly, but zippers are not quiet. I unzipped slowly, then fast. It didn’t matter, so I finished fast. Once outside, I looked through the smoke for a suitable place to answer the call.
I wished there were some bushes, but the other side of the tree would have to do. As I neared it, I heard a high-pitched whine and froze. The sound intensified, then faded. Something had just flown by.
It was a drone.