The need to flee:
It came down at too high an angle and too fast to be anything other than extra-planetary. It was a meteor. The light was so bright that it left purple spots on my eyes, but I recalled seeing several shock-rings around the thing's path as it screamed through the atmosphere and struck somewhere beyond the curve of the earth, out at sea. I was in Santa Rosa California, on vacation with my aunt Terry. I'd been out at a mall waiting at a bus stop when that thing hit. Within four hours afterwards the ground shook, and shook hard. I figured that I was a dead man. One among many.
I looked around to see what vehicles were moving. I spotted a big Ford F250 with a 'cow killer' front grill and exhaust stacks that rose up behind the cab. The driver had just slammed into a Kia when the road bounced him across the intersection. I ran over to the guy who was just climbing down out of the cab to fight with the Kia's driver. I grabbed his shirt and shook him. Now, I'm just a little bitty guy, maybe five-five, one sixty. The guy driving the pickup looked like he could have changed one of his truck's tires without a jack. He was maybe six-eight, two eighty and muscular. You could tell because he was wearing a wife-beater and a pair of shorts.
"You saw that thing come down out of the sky?" He slowly said, "Yeah. One hell of a thing. I've never seen anything like it." "You never will again, either. That meteor hit the Pacific at a high multiple of the speed of sound. Wherever it hit is going to be one hell of a hole in the water. That means a world record shock wave. That means a killer tsunami. How fast can you drive inland?"
He wasn't dumb. He spent about three seconds looking at me and dove for his truck. I was right behind him. The Kia driver just stood there with his jaw hanging open.
Within two minutes he had the engine started, in gear and we had bounced across the lane divider to get to 101 south. He was really pushing it, dodging in and out of traffic. I spotted a trucker's map book between the seats and opened it to central California. "Heading for 80?" "Yep." "Better get fuel first chance before the traffic builds up at the stations." "Got it."
While he was filling the tanks at the truck stop I ran in to pick up a couple jean jackets and some jeans & flannel shirts for the both of us. I figured that he ran about a 4XL. A stock boy had a cart out with cased goods on it. I took a case of pork & beans off of him and a case of Arizona Iced Tea in gallons. I loaded it all in a cart, paid for it, took out the max I could at the ATM and ran out of there, hoping my driver hadn't split on me. He had pulled up to the door and waited while I threw my goods in the back of the cab. He said, "Good idea. Blankets, tarps and rope would help. We'll need good boots, too." I nodded.
I said, "Tom. Tom Baker." "Virgil Simmons."
We made it down to Ignacio in less than an hour, then picked up 37 east. Not a half hour later we were blasting east on 80 doing all the traffic could bear. "How much fuel does this thing carry?" "About a hundred and ten gallons. It's got two wing tanks. Why?" "I had a nasty thought. If that tidal wave blows California to hell, all the credit card clearing houses will go down in a flash. We'll have to keep those tanks full. It might be a good idea to max out every ATM we come across, and if you spot a branch of your bank, stop in to pull out cash--lots of cash. I'll do the same. We might only have half an hour to twenty hours until the wave hits, no tellin'."
Within an hour we were in Sacramento. I screamed, "There! Pull over!" I'd spotted a Citibank. I blew into there and pulled out eight grand, all I had in checking, then ran back out. "Hit a camping store if you can. Tarps, blankets, rope and such, like you said. Boots, tents, packs. No firearms, no sense standing around wasting time arguing. This is California. Wait until we hit the Nevada line."
We peeled into Cabela's and got a checker's attention. I gave him fifty to pile my quickly-scribbled shopping list on a cart while we went for boots, underwear and socks. We were out of there in a half hour--a new world's record. Just down the block was a California National Bank. Virgil slammed the truck into park and ran in. He was back out within eight minutes. I know because I had my eyes on my watch. We smacked into a Porche as we reversed out of our parking spot and drove off, leaving a highly irate rich person behind us.
Soon we were in Auburn, climbing into the mountains. Once we hit Truckee and had a couple ridges behind us we relaxed a little. I said, "I give us a fifty-fifty chance from here. If we can make it to the Colorado plateau, maybe an eighty percent chance. Then it'll come down to making it through the aftermath."
Virgil turned on the radio to see if there was any news about the meteor strike. The news was full of the thing hitting the largest of the north-most islands in the Japanese chain-- the Kurile islands--wiping out the northern half of the country, and more. A giant plume of superheated gasses was boiling up through the atmosphere from the impact point. Volcanoes previously thought dormant for ages had erupted--some relatively moderately, some quite violently. Boats were seen filled with people fleeing the Greek mainland and the Santorini area. The San Francisco earthquake line had triggered, dropping the western quarter of the state by forty feet. Yellowstone was doing grim things that looked like the build-up to one hell of a bang. I turned it back off. "Just keep drivin', bud. Just keep drivin'.
The need to plan:
Once over the border into Nevada we slowed down for the traffic leading into Reno. I spotted a coin dealer and Virgil spotted a gun store. I grabbed his arm before we left the truck. "There's something to be said for smaller rounds. A .22 magnum will take game as easily as a .30-30 if you sneak up on it, but the shells are smaller and cheaper. It would be wise to carry the same caliber for both of us, pistols and rifles. If we need something like a .308, fine. Try to make it a military weapon as they go through some fairly rigorous tests before approval." "Where'd you learn all this shit?" "Army recon training." "That'll do."
I dug out my reserve credit card--the high interest one that they were glad to give me a twenty two grand limit on--and walked through the store with a cart. He was part military surplus, part gun store. I got us both K-Bars, Gerber hatchets, ammo pouches, web belts, canteens and covers, ponchos, liners, rain hats, bolt-action .22 mag rifles with iron sights, a Belgian FN-FAL semi-auto in .308 and something we were truly lucky to find, a pair of Kel-Tek PMR-30.22 magnum pistols. I bought a couple of .50 cal ammo cans and filled 'em up, one with boxes of 40 grain .22 magnum and one with FMJ .308s in their boxes. I took ten minutes fooling around with holsters to find two that fit our new web belts. I picked up a file, two black grit sharpening stones and a couple little white Arkansas stones to sharpen our KaBars. They always shipped from the factory duller than snot.
I went wandering around looking through his older stock to find a couple of M65 field jackets that would fit us, with liners. I had to get the owner involved but we did it. I filled the cart with a couple pair of paratrooper boots for each of us, some cans of mink oil, a case of fire starter tabs, a case of plumber's candles and a case of tear-open pocket heaters. We were good to go. Shit. I went back in to see if he had any cases of MREs made in the last six months. He only had six. I bought all six cases.
Next stop, the coin store. Virgil asked, "What the hell are we doing here?" "Simple. Buying crummy old silver dimes, quarters, halves and dollars. If he's got any little 5-gram gold coins for sale, I'll pick those up too."
"Virgil, I'm a big reader. I've read more disaster-themed books than I care to count. Once the electronic fund clearing dies the credit cards will stop working. If it gets bad enough, the banks will close, period. Then what the hell will we buy stuff with? Our good looks? I don't know about you, but that sure as hell leaves me out. I'd rather have trade goods."
He sighed and looked at me, then shook his head. "I don't know where you keep digging this shit up from, but you've got me scared. Okay, where are we goin' from here?
"I want to pick up a box trailer, a couple cots, a trip to a home building center and hopefully we can find somewhere to buckle down. We'll have to make a few runs on grocery stores for high volumes of canned goods and sealed up stuff like flour, sugar, jarred butter, baking powder, lots of salt, something to cook on, pots 'n pans, paper towels, sanitary supplies, a metric ton of toilet paper, ... should I go on?"
"Nope. I get the idea."
We were so tired that we couldn't see straight. We took a hotel room for the day. When Virgil woke up he found me poring over the map book. I noticed that he was awake. I glanced at the clock. It said 6:30 PM. "Whaddaya say we get dressed and get some food, then I want to spring a change on you."
"I'm awake enough. What kind of change?"
"I'd like to take us south to Las Vegas, then east to central Texas. If we get an extended winter from the ash fall, and we probably will, living in a warmer climate will be easier."
"My only question is, why central Texas?"
.... There is more of this story ...