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Bitterroot 1.0

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posted on May, 8 2006 @ 06:37 AM
This is an edited reposting of the original work. Minor formatting errors are due to transition from Word to this forum.


“ . . . 51° at 5:20 a.m. You’re listening to KBSZ, 104 FM . . . ”

An arm shot out from under a heavy goose-down quilt. Smack. The arm disappeared just as quickly.

One eye popped open reluctantly. The other was stuck shut. Another night of dreamless sleep had passed. The nightmare that was life in 2012 had disappeared for seven hours. The beer had done its work.

That one grey eye examined the room. The sun was coming up. The window was clear. There had been no frost overnight. Thank Christ for that. She was tired of the relentless march of winter.

She was disinclined to get out of bed these days. Everything seemed pointless. She had been hot to retire and, now that it was a reality, she found herself missing that handful of colleagues who made life such a riot. She missed the practical jokes and the mindless conversation. She missed watching footage of rookies making asses of themselves, oblivious to the silent, invasive eyes that constantly filmed them all.

There was nothing left of her there but two little brass plates on a couple of plaques. One was for Employee of the Year; the other listed her retirement. She was ambivalent at the moment, which was not her normal state, neither liking nor disliking the fact that there was some record of her there. She preferred the comfort of invisibility and now it was finally possible.

The flu had seen to that. The population of the planet, so much discussed at the turn of the century, was no longer discussed at all. There were few left to talk about it. Man was no longer the current plague. The oil crisis vanished. Food supplies were still a problem because so many farmers had been lost, but the skills remained. Many farm kids who had left home for the big cities, and who had so far survived, returned to the land.

She rolled onto her back, forcing her other eye open, and watched the ceiling fan spin slowly above her.

Small towns were now ghost towns. She could walk into the pharmacy or the grocery store in Bitterroot and help herself to whatever she needed. Beer was on the house at the Dive Inn, so there were no worries about the tab. The entire police force was dead anyway, buried in one of two mass graves at the edge of town.

She groaned with the memory. She had had to man the skidsteer herself after the final deaths. No one remained to bury the last three bodies.

Sewing them in their funeral shrouds, simple sheets out of their own linen closets, she dragged them through their homes to their front porches and folded them into the bucket. One at a time, carrying each to the last mass grave, she rolled them onto their neighbors and limed them from the drum at the edge of the pit.

She fought for cremation and lost. People were still in the grip of faith, feeling that cremation was sacrilege, and they didn’t care about the hazards posed by so many contaminated corpses in their midst.

It hardly mattered now. Less than 5% of the population remained. America, brought to its knees by a tiny cell, seemed to have reached its nadir.

A shadow moved across the window and soon the head of an enormous black horse appeared. It was her Friesian gelding, Patrick. A huge five-year-old, Patrick was the only animal in the area she had not set free. Gas had to be conserved since she was so far from any large town, so Patrick was her principal mode of transportation. She had taken better care of him than she had her pick-up. In retrospect, it was a good thing she had.

“What do you want, horse?” she muttered, yawning.

He nickered and snuffled the window, leaving a steaming circle and a line of snot on the pane. She could hear his hoof pawing the ground. She knew he had hay, so he could wait for his oats. It was still early. He was impatient. She spoiled him too much.

She grinned, “Ever demanding.” She sat up and hunched over, aching from head to toe with winter rheumatism. “Go away, horse. Give me an hour. I haven’t had my beans yet.”

Patrick nickered again and tossed his head, his mane flapping in the breeze. She watched as he turned and plodded away, big head low and relaxed, thick tail swishing from side to side.

She threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, head in hands, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. The burner probably needed a couple of logs. It was a bit chilly in the house, but not too bad. She grabbed her long, white terry robe and dragged it on. She was short, but she liked her robes to drag on the floor like she was the Queen, so she always bought them tall. This kept her feet warm.

She stood and tied her robe about her. She pushed the collar up around her neck and stepped into her slippers. “It’s bacon and eggs for me today,” she said. “And a pot of plain old Eight O’Clock.” She shuffled out of the room.

Opening the stove, she shoved two large pieces of oak into its smoldering guts, teased the embers with a poker until they flared, and closed the door. She flicked the light on over the sink and ran cold water for coffee. Looking out the window, she spied Patrick at the hay bin.

She looked down at the water, mesmerized by it. By the time she consciously thought about what she was doing, she had lost time again. The sun was higher and Patrick was gone. In the post-flu world this was a hazard. Time disappeared in huge chunks while food went cold and fires burned down. Reverie was expensive. She couldn’t afford to squander her day in this way because she squandered her supplies with it.

She shook her head and reached for the coffee, “Get on with it, bitch.”

From the Pre-Pandemic Journal of A. R. –

I heard the White House issued an Executive Order today. The president considers domestic birds, people’s pets, to be potentially dangerous now. This weird-ass flu has taken so many people that the country is in a panic and everyone assumes that parakeets and the like will become an issue. I don’t know if they’ll be any more dangerous than any other type of carrier.

The president formed a subcommittee with his Executive Order. It’s supposed to examine the CDC’s claim that our pets may be the next vector for this bug. What if they decide our pets are going to be a cause of infection? Are they going to tell us to kill them, or come into our homes and take them?

There are a lot of people screaming for domestic cats to be euthanized because a couple in Germany tested positive for Ebo-Laotian flu. The Krauts aren’t freaking out. They’ve isolated all cats in question. They’ve not even killed the two that tested positive.

I don’t understand the government anymore. The laws coming out of Washington haven’t made sense since Bush Jr. took office in 2000. Things really started to get weird during his administration, especially after 9/11. Congress renewed the Patriot Act in 2006 and suddenly the NSA types went bonkers.

The alphabet agencies stepped up Carnivore and Echelon. The nincompoop in the Oval Office started talking about sticking it to Iran the way he stuck it to Iraq. Some kid got busted for sending Bush an e-mail about it and telling him he was a retard. Free speech and the First Amendment went right out the window with that one. The kid is still doing time in a federal pen.

Right now, people are afraid to speak their minds. The Internet, which used to be a great place to discuss things, is a wasteland. Conspiracy and political sites were locked down a while back. I think I wrote about it in an earlier journal entry, but I’m too lazy to flip back and find it.

Where did America go? How did we end up here, losing the very rights the men of Jefferson’s age died to obtain?

People got apathetic. That’s how. They decided “Spongebob Squarepants” and “WWF” were more important than getting their fat asses to the polls. They picked NASCAR over the Constitution and we all paid for it.

She laid the journal on the kitchen table and took a long pull from the mug in her hand. It no longer mattered. The government was gone. Few returned from Iraq. Most died there and at points further east shortly after the outbreak. They were too close to Asia to escape the spread of it.

The military advisors had soldiers watching videos about the Eastern issue. Some uniformed spokesman droned on about not associating with any Asians they’d not encountered before. The boys gave the brass the traditional finger and went ahead anyway. The attrition rate was nearly 100%. There were fresh mass American graves near Hong Kong and Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul. Young men and women from the US were again moldering in Asian soil.

Everybody thought Vietnam had been the end of that.

“Yeah, well, that’s what you get for thinking.” She stood, shoving the journal away.

End - Bitterroot 1.0

Bitterroot 2.0 in progress . . .

[edit on 5/8/2006 by Bibliophile]


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