Alone and Afraid
Chapter 6: Driving into Marietta
We traveled down the Interstate going at a sedate pace with me honking frequently. Karen was talking and more animated than before. She admitted that Jennifer had inhibited her even before the vanishing. Karen said, “Jennifer was a sad, young woman. She was clinging to Jimmy almost desperately. I’m not sure they would have married. He was a distant cousin and he was becoming concerned about her emotional state. She had a troubled childhood and that seemed to take her over at times.” She shook herself.
“Anyway, I feel freed to be me. I want to live and thrive even in these troubled times.”
Lisa said, “We could make it today, Brian. Why not?”
I replied, “I’m going slowly and plan to stop at many large intersections hoping to find more friendly people. Five people aren’t enough to keep going in my opinion. I am hoping to find more people willing to join us and hope for some of them to have skills that we don’t possess.” They thought about that while I continued to drive down the Interstate and honk. At every exit of any reasonable size, I got off and wandered a bit honking even more than while on the Interstate.
At Cartersville, I left the Interstate and followed the road to old US 41 and south through Cartersville honking as I went. I kept hoping we would find someone. I got to old US 41 even went into the downtown area all to no avail. I headed down for he Red Top exit and returned to I-75 heading south. At Acworth, I left the Interstate and took Georgia Highway 92 west toward Woodstock. We saw no one and had no responses. I wandered around the shopping areas at Highway 92 and I-575 but heard and saw no one. I went over to Canton Highway and turned south honking. I’m sure Lisa and Karen were tired of that horn. I know I was tired of it. I decided to turn onto Barrett Parkway and ride through the mall. I dreaded the memories of Taylor that I would see but felt I should make the trip to cover the land. I followed Barrett to old 41 and turned left and south still honking and traveling slowly. We were coming up to the Big Chicken when we heard a response!
We heard a siren’s wail. I stopped in the middle of the road with my hazards blinking. I honked a couple of times. I pointed toward the source of the sound and saw a firetruck with all its lights and siren going full tilt. I jumped out of the car and waved my hands in the air. Lisa and Karen got out and waved with me. Behind the fire truck were two SUV’s! This had all the earmarks of a big group! The fire truck pulled up about twenty feet away. As the siren wound down and the lights shut off, people came jumping off it and out of the SUV’s. One guy about forty years old came up to us shouting, “People! We’re glad to see people! Where are you from? Where are you going? We’re glad to see you!”
A women about his age came up next to him and said, “Ted, calm down. They can’t answer you if you don’t shut up.” Ted and the others grinned.
Ted said, “Let’s get some cokes at the KFC. We keep it clean for visitors and for when we meet. Of course, we haven’t been meeting much and you’re our first visitors.” Everyone chuckled. He looked friendly and I was hopeful. There were too many and the rifle was under Karen’s suitcase if they weren’t good people.
I said, “That sounds good.” Everyone jumped back in a vehicle and maneuvered into the lot. I did the same. “Ladies, either this will be good or we’re screwed. There are too many of them to hope to get away.” Lisa and Karen nodded.
We went inside and sat down with Ted and the woman with him. She had a proprietorial air regarding him. It was curious because they seemed to have the companionable feel of two people who have known each other for a long time.
We got some drinks and sat down surrounded by smiling people. I said, “I’m Brian Childers from Nashville. With me are Lisa Donaldson and Karen Moore from Monteagle also in Tennessee. We are on our way to Augusta to meet up with two friends and start farming.”
“Wow!” Ted said. “That’s really neat. How did you meet those in Augusta?”
“I met them driving from Myrtle Beach where I had been vacationing with two buddies. My buddies vanished. I decided to head home. I met Bert and Ed on the way. I met Lisa and Karen on the way back from Nashville. We were riding through all areas looking for any other remaining people who might want to join us. There haven’t been any.”
The woman with Ted said, “I’m Alice Jones. Ted and I were married before everyone vanished but both of us didn’t.” Her calm broke for a second. “Both our children vanished though. The rest here are people we have met thus far. You said you were going to start farming. Why are you going to do that?”
I said, “It’s my opinion that this situation is permanent. With no deliveries of any kind in the future, fuel for vehicles is going to run out. Electrical power will go out and there won’t be anyone to fix downed lines or whatever. Bert, Ed, and I figure we will be on our own and plan to thrive anysay.” Lisa and Karen nodded.
Ted said, “We’ve been hoping our kids would come back. I think Alice and I know they won’t but have been hoping. We did gather some people to form a group. We ran into a crazy guy and it was only luck that no one but him was hurt. We will protect ourselves but prefer being peaceful.”
I responded, “That works for me, too.
“Ted, what are your long term plans?”
“Brian, I don’t guess we had gotten there yet. We have only met once though planned to meet tomorrow morning and generally talk. Would you stay and talk to everyone tomorrow?”
Lisa exclaimed, “This isn’t everyone!”
Alice said, “It’s most of us but there are a few missing. Some live pretty far from the Big Chicken and only come for our planned meetings. Ted and I hang around here with the fire truck most days. If we aren’t here, then someone else mans the truck.
“We heard you honk and there were a couple of SUV loads of people collecting supplies. That’s why there were so many here to meet you.”
“We will be glad to stay over. We can pick up rooms pretty easily.” I said.
Alice said, “We have rooms for visitors. That’s one thing we have planned and prepared.”
Ted said, “It’s close to supper time. We keep Williamson Brothers barbecue open and fired up. If you three would like it, they have fantastic barbecue. It was all you can eat before and still is. We just don’t charge. Pulled pork, Brunswick stew, and all the fixings will leave you full and happy.
Lisa and Karen nodded. I was salivating. I said, “Ted, that sounds great. We’re ready when you are.”
It was good. The place had a sweet sauce that was quite tasty. Every good barbecue place at which I’ve ever eaten has always had a good and different sauce. I had tasted many and found all to be distinctly good. This place was no exception. I noticed that they even sold bottles of their sauce. Ted explained that the place was popular and well-known in the Marietta area. We had a good meal and met some more of the people. From there, we were guided to a nice motel for the night. Ted said that they would come for us at eight and take us to breakfast. I went inside and slept soundly all night.
I woke reasonably early and showered and shaved. I was ready and hanging around outside waiting when Ted and Alice drove up. Moments later, Lisa and Karen walked out. We drove to a restaurant and ate breakfast with another couple, Angela and Ben Stevens. They had cooked the meal and did a marvelous job of it.
From there, we went to the Big Chicken for the meeting. Everyone in the group was present and there were introductions all around. We were introduced and I was asked to speak. I told my story in short form and gave some time to where we planned to go and why. That caused some murmurs until Ted asked everyone to quiet down. He said, “We will take that matter up fully later in the meeting so be patient.”
There were then introductions. There were Ted and Alice Jones and Angela and Ben Stevens, of course.
After that, we met the others. It was a diverse group by age and by background. There were Amy and Paul Smith-Robertson, who had met after the vanishing and decided to be married. They were in their early thirties and had been in sales. The next ones were three ladies, Margaret Winston, Delores Jones, and Stella Anders. All were in their late forties and had been office workers.
Two old men were introduced next. George MacDougal and Evan Thompson were in their mid or late seventies. They fit the pictures of “kindly old men.” Their manners and mode of speaking were formal and gracious. George was a retired lawyer and Evan had been an executive in a warehousing business.