Dawn, a pale hint in the eastern sky, foretelling of a day blanketed by clouds and again devoid of the warmth of the sun. I sit waiting, as I have for the last three hours, teeth clenched against the arctic winds gnawing my feet and hands, and biting my exposed cheeks. As I sit, frozen as the scene surrounding me, my mind drifts back to what is now the beginning and the chilling pronouncement of the end of our sheltered existence...
The six of us had been planning our April Fool's jaunt since the beginning of January. We knew by then school would have worn us to a frazzle, and a good way to combat the mind numbing fatigue of our studies would be a camping trip into the Ozarks. We were setting up camp about forty miles south of Russellville, all three couples singing along with some old Beatles songs, when the Little Rock station we had tuned in abruptly went silent and instantly replaced by an insane screaming of static. It took more than two hours of sifting through the noise before we were able to get a signal clear enough to understand.
... "no telling how many blasts actually occurred or how many people have died as a result
of these horrible explosions. It is becoming clear though that the targets included military
bases, major population areas, ports, communication centers, and governmental
transportation complexes. If our estimates are correct, somewhere between forty and
sixty percent of the population of the United States will have died within the next forty-eight hours..."
No one spoke for a long moment. The words of the announcer had pronounced death on all of our dreams. No longer would our struggle to become doctors, lawyers, and engineers mean anything; and though each of us shunned those incredible reports, striving to believe that they were some kind of monstrous April Fool's joke, the words that followed scattered the ashes beyond any chance of redemption.
... "Earlier reports of landings in force, of an occupational army are even now being
confirmed. Retired General H. R. Mendelson of the USArmy estimates this country
will be successfully occupied by this time next week. In his words, ' The only viable
elements of resistance left in this country are scattered units of the National Guard,
without a prayer of surviving even limited engagements against the superior firepower
that this group of Africans and South Americans will be able to put into the field.' "
Sobs wracked my body and tears filled my eyes at the realiza–tion of our loss. Tears of outrage and fear, but also tears of defiance and hate toward those who planned and carried out this rape of our lives...
The echoes of a shotgun blast jerk me back to my immediate surroundings, and prompt a curse at my inability to maintain a constant vigil in my icy perch. My throne consists of a single board placed across two convenient limbs twelve feet up in a denuded oak. My coat, though somewhat ragged, is of heavy gray wool as are my leggings, which serve to soften the contrast of the snow against my black jeans, and prevent my legs from growing stiff with cold. My eyes, a chill green, peering out from a nest of woolen scarves, smoothly caress the landscape and search for signs of movement, or something out of place. With the coming of dawn they can follow the twin rails of an old road winding slowly past the boles of oak, pine and ash to a spring-fed farm pond at which creatures often slake their thirsts. A crumbling chimney stands as sentinel atop the hill to my left; a jumble of soot-colored bricks keep it company and provide mute testimony to the lengths that the Af–rican and South American oppressors will go in their enslavement of Am–ericans.
The chimney had been part of the home belonging to Adam and Adele Rucker. He had been a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives and had been at home when the bombs destroyed Little Rock. He had been attending the funeral of his eldest son when the incineration of 135 million Americans began. Rucker died two weeks later when a battalion of Libyan paratroopers finally overran the Atomic One power plant just northwest of Russellville. The Libyans had lost 35 dead to the defenders and had not taken any prisoners. It was not enough for them. Ten days later a groups of Roamers, Recon–struction Operations Armed Militia Members, called on the families of the defenders. Fifteen Roamers with their Libyan leash holder surrounded the Rucker home and demanded their surrender. The Ruckers had refused.
Synthia Johnson and I had been getting water at the spring when the shooting started. We knew at once where the shots were coming from, for our group had been staying with the Ruckers when the news of Adam's death had arrived. We were both armed, I with a .22 caliber rifle and she with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. We had brought them camping with us for practice, and for plinking. When the firing started we both dropped to the ground until we were certain the shots were not directed at us. We held a short whispered conference and moved across the slope to come up on the western side of the house. This side we knew had neither doors nor windows opening on it, and we had decided it would be the least dangerous from which to approach. When we reached the edge of the clearing embracing the buildings of the Rucker's farm, we stopped. Three men had moved to the red bricked wall of the house, then turned and ran toward the protection of the family pickup parked some twenty yards from the tree line. Behind the truck stood a Libyan Army Lieutenant with an AK47 in firing position across the hood of the truck such that he could cover either corner of the house. Synthia did not hesitate or speak; she simply stood, raised her pistol, and fired three shots into the back of the Libyan officer while I stood immobilized by this sudden unveiling of death. Syn whirled, still unspeaking, and fired into the running "civilians." My rifle turned as if possessed, and spoke its song of death as well. One of the three fell immediately. The other two stopped and raised their shotguns. That is when an explosion bloomed at the base of the wall sowing bricks and shrapnel on the winds of a reddish-black tornado. The man farthest to our left flew forward, the back of his head a mass of blood, the third screamed and stumbled toward us, then danced backward as the fire from Synthia and myself splattered into his chest and face like hailstones in wet cement.
The firing ceased as abruptly as it had begun. JT Rucker appeared, as if from nowhere. One look at the wall and he was running to the flame garbed hole screaming for his mother and sisters. They couldn't answer. They had been seeking shelter from the fusillade at what had become the center of a six foot crater. Jeff and Mitch, his younger brother, faced each other across the mangled remains of their family and wept. While Synthia held my head as waves of nausea meshed my latest meal with the grass of the lawn.
Thus we were introduced to the Roamers, locals seduced by the power and authority the Opps, the oppressors, have bestowed upon them. They are mostly Blacks, Latinos and White Trash that 'police' the area around their homes; and are the powers of high and low justice to the free people, or Freeps, who have so far managed to escape the nets thrown out to quell the resistance of true Americans. I am a Freep, and a hunter constantly aware he is also the hunted...
A shadowy movement on the far side of the dual tracks –captures my attention and slowly defines itself into a sleek-sided white tailed buck. He is moving slowly, grazing head down in the general direction of the spring fed pond. Judging from the path he is taking he will soon be at his nearest, and just to the right of a holly bush some sixty yards from my stand. The gun-stock sends questing fingers of ice through the skin of my cheek as I settle its well oiled surface into position for the kill. The buck's head and rack pass into the sight and pause, then move past leaving his shoulder and upper back exposed in the flush of dawn. He pauses again and I fire. Once, twice, and twice again I see and hear the bullets striking home. Straight up he leaps, eight or ten feet into the air, then crashes to the forest floor, tongue hanging earthward from grass-speckled lips, eye staring blankly toward the gray shrouded sky. Though my rifle is sound suppressed, even small noises carry, so I stay where I am for the moment. I watch and listen with bated breath and memories of a time when impatience cost a life...