a cautionary tale by Emmy Jackson
We’re rolling slow along a hilly stretch of I-65 coming down into the wreckage of metro Nashville when I see two vehicles stopped alongside an overturned truck about half a mile ahead. I bring the RV to a slow stop before we get into hearing range, drifting toward the overgrown woods so the dazzle camouflage breaks up its silhouette. I pull down the binoculars for a better look, and see figures in the road by one of the cars. They haven’t heard the diesel yet, or haven’t reacted to it. I put the binoculars down.
“What is it?” Lin asks.
“Apocalypsters,” I say. “Nothing to worry about.” I put the rig back in gear and continue down the road.
As we get closer I can see that there are five of them, three men and two women. They’ve got two vehicles, a Mercedes G-Class and a vintage Unimog 406. The G-Class is the AMG version, with shiny chrome wheels that can't claw their way through mud with all the horsepower in the world. From the look of it, they pulled over to scavenge the wrecked big rig, and managed to cut a tire on the Unimog. The jack they are using is too short, and there’s some confusion as to why the portal axle won’t come off of the ground.
I stop the RV a respectful distance away and get out, carrying my Halligan casually across my shoulder, and nothing else. Lin stays in the rig.
The men are all sporting beards that have been trimmed and shampooed to short, medium and bushy lengths. Their clothing is a melange of mismatched biker vests, fake skulls, body armor, skull decals and knee pads, ill-fitting tactical gear and studded black leather pants worn too tight. Short Beard and Medium Beard have AR-15s at the ready, even though they’re changing a tire, and neither of them has a shred of trigger discipline because they’re too busy trying to look badass. Short Beard is holding his gun across his body in what would be a safe position if it weren’t pointed directly at Bushy Beard’s pelvis. The sneering woman dual-wielding Desert Eagles (one of which has a scope and laser sight attached to it) has her fingers on the triggers too. At least her guns are pointed at the sky.
Neither of the women is wearing pants. The one with the guns has boots three sizes too big, a push-up bra under a leather jacket and matching booty shorts, while the other’s in panties, a ripped pink T-shirt and mismatched sneakers. Most of her exposed skin is tattooed, her face is painted, her hair is spiked asymmetrically up and her belt is made of dolls heads. She’s carrying a giant mallet whose head is covered in circular saw blades and grinning. It’s also fifty degrees out and she’s visibly shivering.
Keeping my hands in sight and off of the Halligan, I glance at the truck they’re raiding. It’s full of Keurig cups. I imagine if they dig past the ones that have been exposed to the rain they might find some good ones in there. The back of the G-Wagen is open and I can see cases of microbrew, a ukulele, a carton of e-cigarette refills and what looks like a clear garbage bag full of kale. The cargo area’s mostly full of beer though.
“You guys need some help,” I say.
It’s not a question, but they assume it is. “This is a specialized vehicle,” the bushiest beard says. “I think we’ve got everything under control.”
“Let’s see what they’ve got in the RV,” Medium beard says. One of his knee pads has slipped down to his ankle, and he’s got so many things in the pouches of his tactical vest--including a wad of grenades at his hip like a bunch of metal grapes--that he rattles when he moves.
“Are you going to make me regret offering help?” I ask them, still walking forward, wondering how they’ve survived this long.
“He’s right,” Dual-Wielding Girl says. “I’m starving. They gotta have something.”
“And if you’d have asked, we might have given some to you,” I say.
She brings her guns down from the sky and points them both at me, arms extended, grinning. “We take what we need,” she says.
She was probably expecting me to make a quip, but as she’s saying, “need” I’m swinging my Halligan one-handed into the side of Short Beard’s head. I use the blunt end rather than the spike. There’s no sense in killing them; they’re not malicious, just dumb. Just as I expected, Short Beard pulls the trigger as he falls, hosing Bushy Beard’s legs and hips with full-auto fire. He hits the Unimog a few times too.
As soon as the Halligan connects I drop, and Dual-Wielding Girl fires both of her guns. She manages to hold on to one of them, but she’s screaming bloody murder and from the look of it she’s broken at least one of her wrists and two fingers. Hammer Girl is rushing forward with her weapon raised high above her head. I stay down and let the Halligan swing back, collecting her legs. Her feet go sideways and out from under her and she comes down in a sprawl, whacking herself in the side of the head with her own sawblade hammer. It lays her scalp open pretty good, and she curls into a fetal position with her hands over the wound.
Medium Beard is standing there with his mouth open, just staring at me. I snap my fingers and point at the ground, and he nods, tosses his gun aside, and lays clumsily on the ground.
I collect their weapons, ignore the agonized shouts and groans from Hammer Girl, Dual-Wielding Girl and Bushy Beard, and go quickly through their trucks. I wasn’t going to rob them, but they started it. Doesn’t matter. As I suspected, they don’t have anything of use; there’s a crate of vinyl records, a replica samurai sword and a big hookah pipe, but they don’t even have a tent, and there’s no food worth taking.
Since they’re more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else, I take the AR-15s. The apocalypsters don’t have any more ammunition for them, and both guns have been left out in the rain without being cleaned. They’re covered in grease and rust. The Desert Eagles are in similarly sorry shape, but I take those too. I don’t need them but I can trade them to someone willing to fix them up.
None of them says anything as I walk back to the RV. Lin’s in the driver’s seat and was covering me with the Remington. I climb back aboard and nod to her to get rolling, setting the guns on the floor and unloading them. As we pass the apocalypsters I toss one of our spare first-aid kits out the window. It’s a reflex; in hindsight I realize they probably didn’t know how to use it anyway.
Lin and I traveled another two miles up the road and set up camp for the night, in a hidden spot off the road. We heard an engine go by, then took our bikes, the big bottle jack, some spare wood and a length of chain to tie the axle up, and went back. Just as I’d suspected, they had abandoned the Unimog. We had the spare on it in ten minutes, and that was how we got our second vehicle.
is sure that an artisanal disaster of unprecedented magnitude will hit, leaving bands of people who emerge from micro-breweries to repopulate the Earth. Post-apocalypsters (TM, copyright, pat-pending Emmy Jackson).
In the flamesword/immortal/magnificent words of Emmy Jackson, writer of post-apocalyptic novels extraordinaire, "Fucking post-apocalyptic hipsters."
Life, the universe, and everything creative
Towel Photo credit: EvelynGiggles via Foter.com / CC BY