Edvice and Jed got out of the truck and walked across the Walmart parking lot.
“So much for early bird gets the worm looks like the entire town beat us to it,” Jed said. The line zigzagged back and forth a dozen times through guide ropes and poles into the parking lot.
“Why are we parking all the way over here?” Edvice asked.
“So no one scratches the paint,” Jed said.
“You don’t have to be a dick,” Edvice responded.
“I want to be able to leave quickly if we have to. See, look at that.” Jed said, pointing in the direction of the line. Walking in front of them were three men with guns on their hips, another with a rifle slung over his shoulder.
“Probably double the number of guns here today compared to the last time we were here,” Jed said. “Makes me nervous.”
As they crossed the parking lot, there was trash strewn everywhere, and the smell of feces was present. Several fires burned with people huddled around them. Jed and Edvice got in line just behind two men wearing biker jackets, one with a ponytail, the other with a long bushy mustache, the disheveled masses of their small town all about them.
“Look at the Haze. Does it look like it’s getting worse?” Edvice asked.
“I can’t tell,” Jed responded.
“Hey, does the haze seem worse than yesterday?” Edvice asked, addressing the bikers.
“Possibly.” The ponytail biker said while yawning and stretching his arms above his head.
“It is cooling off,” the second man with a big mustache said.
“Have you all heard any news?” Jed asked.
“Nothing official. We’ve been as far as South Valley. The power is out there too, and no water,” the biker with the big mustache said.
“I heard the mayor sent cops to Amarillo,” Ponytail biker said.
“Yes!, If they find out Amarillo has power, we could go rent a hotel room,” Edvice said. “I need a shower, and finding out what the hell is going on would be excellent.”
“Yeah, the whole lot of us could use a shower,” mustache bike chimed in.
They stepped forward in silence as the line inched along.
“Screw you. Get out of line!” A man ahead of them in line was pointing at another man.
“He is with me, man. Mind your own business,” a third man said.
“Shit,” Jed said.
“No, he is not with you. You’ve been here. He just showed up. He gets in the back of the line.” The man pointed past Jed and Edvice.
Others joined in, telling the man to go to the back.
“Screw all of you,” He said. He stepped out of the line and said. “I’ll be back.” Then walked toward some parked cars.
“Ed, I’m going to the front to make sure we are even going to be able to buy water. I don’t want to waste time here if we can’t. Things are getting stupid.”
“If anything happens, just meet me at the truck,” Jed said and walked toward the doors. Edvice waited.
“How could this happen in America? It’s the 20th century, for God’s sakes,” a heavy-set lady with her hair up in a bun said to the man next to her. Edvice noticed his face and hands were dirty. Edvice nodded his head in agreement.
“My phone is dead. I don’t even know what time it is,” the biker with the mustache said to his friend.
Edvice looked at his watch. It was noon.
Ponytail biker said, “Time to buy and old fashioned wind up watch.” As he raised his arm and looked at the watch on his wrist, “it is straight-up noon.”
Edvice looked up at the sun, it was dark for noon, and there was a chill in the air. He had not thought about looking at the time when Jed left, but it appeared hours had passed, seeing as it was noon.
“This line is barely moving; I wonder what is happening up there,” Edvice said. He was speaking to the two men in front of him.
“Real slow.” One of the guys with a gun said. He and his friends had just entered the zigzag of poles and ropes.
“Why isn’t there any water? What does that have to do with the power?” the heavy-set lady with the bun asked the man next to her. He wasn’t saying much.
Edvice had thought the same thing several times over the last few days. A young man with an old-style portable radio walked by. He was listening to the radio with his ear pressed to the speaker.
“Hey, Hey you,” Edvice spoke loud, trying to get the attention of the young man. The bikers turned to see who edvice was calling.
The young man turned and saw all three of them staring at him. Edvice could see the movement of the young man’s Adam’s Apple as he swallowed.
“Are you hearing any news on that thing,” Edvice asked?
The young man turned and walked over to Edvice; he looked pale. “You have a car?” He asked in a quiet voice.
“Are you able to get any news on that?” Edvice asked again.
The young man stepped closer, looking to the two bikers, then back to Edvice.
“I don’t have a car man? Do you have a car? Can I get a ride?”
Edvice heard a squawk from the radio. The young man must have had the volume way down.
“Is there any news coming through?” Edvice asked.
“Yes, just now. Nothing since the lights went out, now, just about ten minutes ago, repeats the same message over and over. You give me a ride man? You have a car?”
“I’m waiting for my friend. He went to see if we can actually buy water. Can I listen to the message?” Edvice asked.
“Can I get a ride man? I ain’t got no car.” He drew in a deep breath and blew it out slow handing the radio to Edvice.
Edvice turned up the volume. The radio squawked.
The young man pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit up.
“This is the Emergency Broadcasting Association. This is not a test. Please proceed to your homes and remain there until further notice. The President has declared a state of Emergency. The Governor has implemented a state-wide curfew for 11:00 PM. More information will follow.”
The message stopped, and the local D.J.'s voice from the local country station came across the speaker.
“Ok, listen to me folks, It is good to be back on the air. Please do not come here, our generator only has power for the station broadcast equipment, and I do not have any water. Here is the guidance for our local area. Again, go home, stay there. If you have emergency needs, please hang a red-colored piece of clothing in a visible place from the street. If you have emergency medical needs in Tulie that can’t wait, please go to the local clinics, or there will be a medical crisis facility at Walmart the National Guard will set up. Do not drive to the hospital in Plainview. They tell me Information about water and rations will follow soon. At 12:30, I will play some music in between the broadcast of the emergency notice. Stay tuned.” The radio squawked again, “This is the Emergency Broadcasting Association; this is not a test.”
Edvice turned it down and looked around; those near him in line were quiet and listening to the broadcast with him.
“I need a ride home. Can I get a ride?” the young man asked again.
“Hey, turn that up.” The heavy-set lady with the bun said.
Edvice looked around, trying to spot Jed. He looked at the young man who was wide-eyed and pale.
“I think so, but we are trying to get some water. I’m waiting for my friend.” Edvice said.
There was a commotion. Edvice looked at the other folks in the line; they pointed behind him toward where Jed had parked. He turned around; camouflaged vehicles were pulling in the parking lot.
“Shit.” The young man said.
“No, this is good,” Edvice said.
“Maybe,” The biker with a ponytail said.
Up near the front of the store, Jed spoke with the Walmart employees who controlled access to the store. They had been chatting for a little while.
“So if we wait long enough to get in the store, we will be able to get some water?” Jed asked.
“So far as I know, we have enough. As long as nothing changes, I heard the boss saying they finally got word from the city government.” Joe, the Walmart employee, said.
There was noise from the line and folks pointing toward where he Jed had parked his truck. He looked and saw several trucks that appeared to be military pulling in the parking lot.
One of the smaller trucks pulled up to the front of the store near the doors. Jed watched as a group of men appearing to be soldiers got out and walked over to where he was.
“I’m Captian Anderson, Texas National Guard. I need to see the store manager.” The soldier handed Joe an ID card. Joe stood up from his seat.
“Hey Paul, I’m going to take the Captain inside to see the manager. You got this?”
Jed watched and listened.
Another soldier from the group came to the front of the line.
“Ok, Listen up. We are going to need this drive in front of the store here cleared. That means you folks are going to have to move.” He said
“I’m not going anywhere; I’ve been waiting all morning.” A man in the line said.
“We aren’t asking you to leave. We will take you out of line in order and start a separate line with you folks here. You all will go first. Then we will come back to the line here.” The soldier explained.
“Why,” a woman in line asked?
“Hey, do you know what is going on? Why is the power out?” Another person in line asked.
The group of soldiers started removing poles and guideposts from the line. They direct the people at the front of the line to a location out of the drive.
“I told you I wasn’t moving.” The man in line yelled and pushed the soldier.
Instantly more soldiers were running toward the fight, a shot rang out. Jed couldn’t tell who fired, but the glass of the doors shattered, and people started yelling and running. Jed began to run towards the truck, tripped, and fell. He got up with a large bleeding gash on his arm. As he got to his feet, he noticed the line was gone but for a few people who had gotten tangled up in the ropes and guide poles. The soldiers with their weapons at the ready had several people on the ground. Jed ran for the truck.
Edvice heard the shot and decided right away to head for the truck. He still had the radio in his hand. He glanced behind him to find the young man following close.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” Edvice said as he ran. “Jed!” he screamed. He saw Jed as he got closer to the truck.
More shots rang out, lots of them.
“Edvice, get in, let’s go!” Jed screamed, Then noticed the young guy following Edvice.
At the truck, Jed got in. The young man jumped up into the bed of the truck.
“Who is that?” Jed asked as Edvice got in.
He turned the key the truck started.
“Oh, God, oh God, Oh God.” Edvice continued to say. As he slammed the door, another flurry of gunshots rang out.
“Drive,” Edvice screamed as he lost all control, he started sobbing, and a wet spot formed in his pants.
Jed drove up over the curb into the street, causing the young man to fly around the bed of the truck.
Jed drove, and the radio Squawked.
Copyright: T. Mark Mangum, 2020. All rights reserved. No part of my story may be copied, reprinted, or published without my written consent.
T. Mark Mangum, is the product of the 60s and 70s, his imagination, wonder, thoughts, and ponderings, emboldened by Star Trek, Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, and The Hobbit. He loves a good story and hopes you will love reading his stories. Veteran, Father, TTRPG, and Board Game Junkie. He spent 20 years in the United States Army, another 10 working for the government, before realizing he should write.