Whakahapa

by Kiwi

Part 3

He didn't imagine the fish, did he? He couldn't see them now, not a sign of them. He lay face-down looking over the end of the jetty and down into the water. At first, all he could see in there were the weeds. Then, flicking about amongst them, more fish, other fish.

These were not the ones he saw before, these were just little ones, like miniatures. They were only about half the length of his forefinger and there were dozens of them. They were everywhere. There were snails too, water snails gliding across the broad-leaf plants. There were other insects, the more he looked the more he saw.

The school of fish came back and swam past like they were in a parade. He felt like cheering, like it really was a parade.

There was a whole world down there in the water, a whole different world and it was teeming with life That was good, just a pity that he wasn't a fish. Oh well.

What about the other insects, the land-based ones? Were they still alive? He hadn't noticed any all day, but he wouldn't normally anyway. He got up and went back across the road to the small patch of green grass under the trees there.

He crawled around, searching carefully, but found no signs of life - no insects, ants, spiders or anything. They'd gone. Blast it!

What now? It was almost 3 o'clock. The bus that he'd arrived on came at a bit after 5, so he had a couple of hours before today's one would be due. So?

Food! Yes, food was always a good idea. He'd get some more to eat. It wouldn't hurt to stock-up on some for tomorrow too. He went back to the bakery where he'd been before. He knew how to get in there and it was full of food.

He'd closed the outside door when leaving before. He opened it again and went back in. Nothing had changed, the place looked exactly the same. The cash he'd left on the counter was still there. The price list was still on the wall. What could he afford? Not a lot actually.

He had money in the bank. He was given enough to keep him going all week, but there was no way to get it out now. It didn't look like the bank would be opening anytime soon. Maybe it never would?

No. He didn't want to think like that; the people would be back. There were no dead bodies around, they weren't all dead. They'd be back.

He filled several bags with goodies, took some drinks from the cabinet and left an IOU with a list of all he'd taken, next to the cash-register. Back to the motel, he dropped everything off there, keeping just one small drink bottle and a pie and cake to eat while he sat and waited for the bus.

He sat in the small glass-walled shelter where he'd got off the bus the day before, and watched the shadows lengthen. The sun went down behind the hills across the lake, sunset faded and day turned into night.

There were no street-lights working, of course, and there was no moon either. It was dark, very dark, and he was all alone, defenceless and very small. He didn't want to, but he had to accept that there was no bus coming. Whatever had taken all the people must be wider-spread than just this town.

He went back to the motel unit and locked himself in there. It was pitch-dark inside, inky coal-face black and he had no light at all, not even any matches. He had no weapons to defend himself if he had to either. He was so dumb! He'd had all day and there was a whole town-full of stuff out there and he didn't even think about it.

Feeling his way, he climbed into bed and pulled the covers over his head, hiding from the world like he used to when he was a little kid. If nothing happened tonight, and if he was still all alone tomorrow, he'd be better prepared next time. He'd make sure of that!

Now, all he could do was to hope and pray that he survived the night. There was no way that he was going to go to sleep, he was much too nervous and worried for that to happen.

He went to sleep.

Amos woke in the morning and rolled onto his back. The room was full of light, and why wouldn't it be? He hadn't closed the drapes when he came back last night.

Whoah. Last night, yesterday, the empty town and all of the people gone - it all came flooding back as he woke properly. He sprang out of bed to go out and see if things were back to normal. Maybe yesterday was just a dream?

It wasn't. Nothing had changed, there was still no-one around and he was all alone. He wasn't scared like he was yesterday, he was over that now, but what the Hell was he going to do?

'What the Hell?' He didn't say that out loud, did he? He looked around guiltily, but, of course, no-one heard him if he did. He could actually say whatever he liked and there was nobody to stop him.

Like something clicked in his brain, he felt different - he felt free. He was free to say and do whatever he wanted to say and do. Anything! He stood, hands on hips, and defiantly yelled the worst words he could think of.

"Poos, no Shit! Shit and Piss and Bugger. Bugger the Elders. Bugger the lot of them!"

He closed his eyes and waited. Nothing happened. No-one whacked him around the ears. The sky didn't fall down. Nothing happened. All right then! He could do whatever he wanted to do. That was, well - different.

What did he want to do? Nothing really.

Standing there in the bright sunshine, (at 7.30am!), he felt a bit embarrassed about how scared and worried he was yesterday, especially after dark. It was all bit silly now and who was ever safe hiding under the bedclothes?

Whatever it was that had happened, had happened and he was going to have to deal with it. He wasn't used to thinking for himself, now he was going to have to. All of his controlling family and the Elders had gone wherever they'd gone and he was all alone.

In a way, he wasn't all that sorry really. He still didn't like all this and some of them he would miss, but not all of them. Good riddance to most of them!

And - foodtime. He was not having a morning shower today. He already had his clothes on, he'd slept in them, and he wasn't dirty anyway. He didn't smell, but if he did, what of it? Who was going to object? Nobody, that's who.

He went to the kitchen. No-one there to feed him so he had to feed himself. There was still no electric power going, but the gas stoves were working. So that was good.

There was a puddle of water around the big fridges, they were defrosting, but it was still cold inside and the food didn't stink yet.

He cooked ham and eggs. Choice. He quite liked this freedom business, it had advantages that he could get used to.

After eating, he cleaned-up and put everything away. He knew that he didn't have to, but he chose to. He didn't like mess. He was basically a tidy person.

Remembering last night's resolve to be better prepared next time, he walked back to the town area to see what he could find. There was a camping and hunting goods store, which was good. They should have everything he needed - firelighters, lamps, knives, maybe even guns and ammunition.

He looked all around the outside of the shop, as best as he could. It was in the middle of a block of others and all of the doors and windows were closed and locked. Nobody had conveniently driven a car through the front wall, so he couldn't get inside.

He thought about it, looked and searched. He prised a brick out of the edging on the kerb-side garden and he threw it through the glass door.

It was the single most rebellious thing he'd done in his life, and he wasn't sorry. He'd pay for it when the time came, if he had to, but for now he needed to get in there and he was not going to be stopped.

The glass was gone. The door was still closed and locked, but it didn't matter, he stepped through the hole in it. He stepped inside and looked around.

The next hour was one of the best hours ever. He searched the dark shop and found more and more things that he'd need if he was going to survive and live alone. He had every intention of surviving no matter what had happened to everyone else. Self-preservation is a person's most basic programming, isn't it?

Everthing was there for the taking, so he took it. He couldn't just steal everything though. He left his name, his home address at the Commune and a list of all he'd taken. It was going to cost a fortune! Whatever, he needed it.

He probably should have, but he didn't mention the glass door and how it got broken. They could work that out for themselves.

He was going home, back to the Commune, the farm that he'd grown up on. There might be no-one there too, but he had to go and see. And then? Don't know. One step at a time.

This here was a very nice little town, but he'd seen it now and there was nothing to keep him here. He had to leave, to go and find the people, or find what had happened to them all.

It was a long way home, he'd need transport. No buses, so he needed a car. He'd never driven, he was too young to drive yet and he hadn't even started to learn. But, how hard could it be? Lots of idiots drove everyday. He'd been watching drivers all of his life so he knew, he thought, what need to be done. He'd learn as he went and, at least he didn't have to worry about other traffic on the road.

He looked at the heap of gear he'd selected - camping, hunting and fishing equipment, including several guns and ammunition for them. It was all far too much to carry; he wasn't staggering around town with all of that. He'd get a car, bring it back here and load it up.

He went along the street looking at all of the parked cars and trucks. There were two basic types to choose from, electric ones and petrol-driven ones. Electric cars were out, there was no way to recharge their batteries when they were flat. He needed a simple petrol-driven car. That shouldn't be hard to find.

Unfortunately, nearly every vehicle along the main street was closed and locked. The few that didn't have the doors locked had no keys in the ignition anyway. Didn't people trust each other around here? Anyone would think that their cars might get stolen.

All he wanted was to borrow one. He couldn't afford to buy a car. He wasn't really an Elder.

He couldn't find what he needed and was getting frustrated when, ("Aha!"), he came across a car-sales yard. There were plenty to choose from in there.

He broke into the office by levering a door open - and breaking it, but whatever. The carefully labelled keys for all of the cars in the yard were on a board above the desk. That was good. He found the car he wanted, got in and started it, no trouble at all. Then there was a problem.

There was a chain across the way out of the yard and it was padlocked, so he couldn't drive out there. People really weren't very trusting. He couldn't find the key to open it, so he went across the road to the Hardware and Building Supplies Store and got some tools, including a hacksaw. He was going to need tools anyway.

He cut the chain and got rid of it, threw the tools into the car and drove out to the street - jerking and jumping all the way, but no-one was watching and laughing. Back at the other shop, he loaded up al his gear, and then went back to the motel. He got his luggage and the bakery food from there.

What else? A map. He'd need a map so he didn't get lost.

He drove to the Service Station on the way into town, broke in there and got a book of road maps.

Then, seeing as he was there, he thought that he should make sure that his car was full of fuel, oil and water. Oil and water were not a problem, the water hose worked and there were bottles of oil everywhere. However, he couldn't get any petrol out of the pumps, they weren't working because the power was off. What to do?

Ah, yes. He got a piece of hose and some fuel containers and went back to the car-sales yard where he siphoned petrol out of the other cars there. He filled his car, as much as it would hold, and put the containers into the boot in case he ran out somewhere away from a town.

He looked around, said goodbye, got into the car and left. He was going home.

Driving was not too bad, he was enjoying it, but it was probably just as well there was no-one to see him as he jerked and crashed through the gear changes. He was doing okay, he told himself. He was mobile and he was going in the right direction. He'd learn and get better at driving as he went.

The car rolled smoothly along the empty highway, purring easily over the small hills. His speed increased as his confidence did.

Winding down a heavily-forested hill, he glided, too wide, around a tight curve and there was a truck, a huge double-decked stock-truck and it was blocking the road! Blast!!

He wrenched the wheel around as hard as he could and jammed on the brakes. He stood on the brake pedal and yelled at the top of his lungs. He closed his eyes and waited for the crash, but it didn't happen.

There was a screech of scraping metal. He peeked and, somehow, the car had missed and slid around the end of the trailer. It was now heading for a tree-covered cliff.

"Whoah!" He pulled the wheel around the other way and managed to get back on the road. The car stopped; he turned the engine off, got out and stood there shaking as he looked back at where he'd just come through.

He could not believe that he'd actually managed to get around there, it still didn't look like there'd be enough room. There was a long and wide scrape down the length of the left-hand side of the car. He had, literally, scraped through.

"Let that be a lesson to you, Young Man. Do not speed around blind corners. Also, stop talking to yourself!" He shrugged and grinned. Yes, he wouldn't get caught like that again. Why was the truck over the road like that?

He climbed up, opened the door and looked into the cab. There was no driver, of course. He shut the door and jumped back down, and then froze. He climbed back up and had another look.

Yes, he was right. The seat belt was buckled-up and lying empty on the driver's seat. That was odd, really odd.

It was unsual for someone to leave a belt fastened while empty, but it could happen, it takes all sorts. But he had just realised that every vehicle he'd seen in the last couple of days, not parked but on the road or crashed off it, had the driver's belt done up. Weird.

It was like they'd all been teleported out of them. That couldn't happen, could it? Something had happened, everyone except him was gone. What had happened?

"What the HELL happened?" He didn't know.

It was getting late in the day, the sun was low in the sky and shadows were getting long. He didn't want to be driving after dark, not after that experience. It was time to stop somewhere for the night.

He'd have to get off the hill though. There were no flat spaces and he wasn't sleeping on an angle. Also, he'd had nothing to eat for hours. It was about time he did.

There was a farm at the foot of the hill, big silver-roofed buildings below the road on the right and the house and other sheds above it on the left. He thought of stopping and looking around, but didn't. He just knew that it'd be lifeless and empty.

He carried on down the valley and stopped in the rest area by the bridge over a stream. There was an old fireplace there, which was good. He'd light a fire, eat and sleep here.

He got out, scouted around and gathered all the fallen wood he could find. A rubbish bin was overflowing, so he pulled some cardboard and paper out of there to get a fire going.

There was nowhere really suitable to put the tent up on the stony ground, so he wouldn't bother, he'd sleep in the car. He moved all of the gear off the backseat and spread the sleeping bag out on there.

He didn't have a pillow, which was a pain. He should've thought of that and he'd get one tomorrow.

He inspected his small stock of food and decided that he'd better eat the sandwiches. They were wrapped in plastic film but they'd be going stale. They wouldn't last forever.

There was a depressing thought - these might be the last sandwiches he ever ate. Bread didn't keep long and he didn't have a clue how to make any more. Bread making, cooking and stuff were women's work. He'd never had to learn about them. Now, he guessed, he probably should have but They wouldn't have let him anyway.

Anyway, he was eating the sandwiches. He should have got more and put them in a chest with ice in it. How long would they last then? Not long anyway.

He lit the fire, keeping it small so as not to waste the wood, and sat by it, eating. Apart from the crackling of the fire the only sounds were of the stream bubbling and sloshing in its bed.

It was not a noise that'd be noticed much, but it sounded loud when there was nothing else. He didn't know what to expect when he arrived home tomnorrow, but he had to go there. He couldn't not go.

His last bread. He should be enjoying it, even though it was a bit dry already. He kept sipping on the bottled fruit juice. The creek water was probably okay to drink, but juice was better.

He couldn't make any fresh bread. What could he do? He milked cows, skimmed the milk and made cream, butter and cheese. But he'd need electricity to do that and there were no cows anyway. Not so far.

He wouldn't make a very good Adam, he couldn't do much of anything really. Plus - no way did he want to deal with an Eve and all of that. No, if the future of the human race depended on him, then it was in trouble!

Finished eating, he sat watching the flames and thinking. The car radio didn't work and there was nothing else to do. Was this what it all came down to?

It was not quite 200 years since the Ark, the first colony ship, had arrived here on New Salem. Others had followed them, of course - lots of them, but everyone liked to think that their ancestors were on the first ship - it was called the Mayflower, of course! 200 years of people breeding big families, raising them and working hard, trying to carve a new land, a new world, out of the wilderness.

God's first command to the first humans in the bible was to "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it." They'd certainly tried to do that here as well.

234 carefully selected, matched and paired colonists with the seeds of their livestock, were all landed here. With help, in 200 years they had bred-up a population of over 3 million and the land they settled on, a large and isolated group of islands, was now subdued and terra-formed.

So ironic! Lately, Elders had been saying that the first settling work was done. Their base was well established with farms and industries, towns and cities and it was time to be moving out and taking the rest of the world.

Hah! That wouldn't be happening. He couldn't do it all on his own. What could he do on his own? Not much.

It was time to stop thinking about that before he got depressed. He'd go to sleep, go home tomorrow and see what was there. And then? He'd worry about that tomorrow.

He locked himself into the car, laid down in his sleeping bag, with a loaded gun below him on the floor, closed his eyes and, eventually, went to sleep. It'd been a big day.

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