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  • Writer's pictureAnita Tosh

"Beth" Chapter One

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

My legs ached and my fingers felt like they were frozen to my handlebars. I hoped I wouldn’t have to stop quickly. I wasn’t sure I could move my fingers. Whoever thought gloves without fingers was a good idea? I didn’t want to be a wimp and complain to Carl, my new husband. He was used to long bike packing trips, I wasn’t. For me it felt like I should be getting to the other side of the universe any minute.

My thoughts drifted back to our incredible wedding the day before. So much had happened that it now felt like it was a long time ago.

My sister, Ruth and I had a beautiful double wedding in a redwood grove. We decorated with lots of homemade flowers, bows and archways. The ceremony went perfect but when our pastor declared, “You may kiss your brides”, bombs shook the earth, people screamed, and chaos broke out all around. Carl may have been the only one to keep his head. He hurried me to his SUV in a lot close by then backed his sage colored Hyundai Tucson up to our gift table and quickly scooped everything up with the tablecloth and stowed it in the back.

We stopped by the big blue van that all my family was crowded into and told Dad that we were going to our apartment.

We had one night in our new apartment. Then reality hit.

We had no water or utilities in our apartment. The bombs must have messed that up. We couldn’t even flush the toilet! We kept each other warm that first night. The candles were kind of romantic. But, the next day we saw vans picking up our neighbors and taking them away. I pictured the Jews boarding trains that took them to concentration camps. We knew we didn’t want to join them. Carl and I worked feverishly to prepare everything so we could leave by midnight.

While we packed, we timed the drones that flew by. Like a high-tech gestapo, they buzzed by every three minutes, eliminating anyone disobeying the lockdown order with a loud boom.

God get us out of here!

Thanks to my generous uncle Dave, we had night vision goggles. He was known as the “conspiracy theorist” of the family. Most people thought the things he talked about were just plain crazy but Carl and I realized his predictions have been right. He had been warning about an attack on the USA and here it was. About two weeks before our wedding he came by with his gift and made his apologies for not attending the upcoming wedding.

“I’ve waited as long as I can. My place is ready up in the Sierra and I’m going to high-tail it out of here. To tell you the truth, I’m surprised I had time to get my place together. World War III could break out any minute. I’m praying God will hold it back till after your wedding.” As he left he said,

“I’ll be praying for you.” A shiver went up my spine and I fought back tears as I gave him a good-bye hug, wondering if I would ever see him again.

With a lump in my throat I croaked, “We’ll be praying for you too.”

Rather than think of the fiery pain shooting through my legs or my freezing nose and fingers, I forced my thoughts to concentrate on retracing the events of the past couple of weeks. As we biked through the smoky night I reviewed the day before the wedding when we all packed my sister’s things into her fiancé’s Blue and white Cessna plane. Somehow that made things feel more real. We cried and hugged each other tight, not knowing when we would see each other after our double wedding.

Days before, family and friends helped me and Carl get our apartment ready for us to use after the wedding. Furniture came from unexpected places to fill the empty rooms. One friend gave us a couch and table, another brought a dinette. My three sisters helped clean and line shelves. Grandma made curtains, and Mom filled the kitchen with our favorite foods. These memories brought mixed feelings. I was thankful for all the love shown to us, but now our apartment was a memory left in our past.

Maybe we should have gone with the rest of the family when they left from the wedding. My little brother-turned-prophet was crying as I told Dad we would meet everyone in a day or two. Boy, was I dumb.

It must have been God who led us to ask for bike-packing gear for presents. We had planned a romantic bike-packing trip for the following week, but the bombing changed all that.

In place of the upscale yuppie town, a dystopian nightmare was now the view from our second story window. I could see robot-dogs appear out of the heavy smoke, policing the streets. A speaker where the head should have been, these K-9 Nazis commanded everyone to stay inside until a transport unit came for them. That made my skin crawl and reminded me of something Uncle Dave had said.

“The nine scariest words are, ‘We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.’”

Thank God for Uncle Dave and the night vision goggles. Without them we would have had no hope of escape. With the dog-robots and killer drones patrolling the city streets, our only chance was to go at night on bike trails. An evening curfew started immediately. The smoky streets were empty and creepy. I wondered how much damage the bombs had done. They sure left a lot of smoke.

I saw a young man through the smoke as he tentatively looked both ways just outside his door. A drone deployed a small exploding dart to the persons head. I caught my breath, put my arms around Carl and buried my head in his chest. I wish I had never seen it. Now the horrid picture kept returning.

The pain in my legs brought me back to the present. We must have been cycling for hours. My legs were screaming for me to stop. I knew Carl had gone on bike trips that averaged 70 miles a day! He is a Naturopathic Doctor who practices what he preaches. When he tells his patients to exercise, he leads by example. I was more like a 20 mile a day kind of girl. I loved my new Aventuron bike, but it was still time to stop. Oh! My bottom hurt!

But, we were not stopping and my thoughts returned to the events of today. My husband was brilliant, but today he scared me half to death.

We timed the drones and the gestapo dogs so we would know if it was possible to outsmart them. Carl figured it out, then said it was time for a trial run!

“If we can get past the three blocks between us and the trail head, we should be home free.”

I stood there in stunned silence for a moment, then grabbed his arm. “No!” I put my arms around him remembering the poor soul I had seen who had their brains blown out by a drone dart.

“Don’t go!”

Carl put his arms around me and spoke softly, “I got this, Beth. I just have to make sure before we both go tonight. It’s going to be alright.”

It was the usual ‘it’s going to be alright’ pep talk. I wasn’t buying it. I clung to Carl and would not let go.

“Beth,” Carl tried to back away, then paused. “I have to do this to protect you. I can’t let you go out there without proving it first.”

The concern in his voice touched me and I released my grip. “Okay.” I sniffled and realized tears were rolling down both cheeks. Carl handed me a tissue. I took a breath. “Okay, you go, I’ll pray.”

I saw the door of our apartment close behind the back wheel of his bike and it felt like my heart was in a vise. I watched from the window until I saw him make it around the corner, then I slid to the floor and prayed – hard. I was talking in tongues when I heard the click of the door. I jumped up and ran to him. “Thank God!”

That afternoon Carl showed me how and where to pack things in each of the bags. Our bikes were covered with special bags that fit each space. We had bags on either side of the back wheel, two bags in the center, above and between the peddles, a small one in back of the handle bars and a larger one in front of the handlebars. Carl even had a tiny wagon that attached to the back of his bike where we carried backpacks and water.

We were as ready as we would ever be. Midnight approached. We put on our night-vision goggles and opened the door.

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