His soul felt as lonely and desolate as the winding road ahead. He thought about his lost family and the last ten years walking the empty roads, carrying a small suitcase packed with a pair of underwear, a clean shirt and dozens of pictures of his wife and two children.

It wasn't bombs, or natural disasters that brought the devastation to Earth, but a virus, a virus that fell from heaven in a spaceship from another world. The virus spread like wildfire. Quarantines were set up and doctors from around the world tried feverishly to find a cure. It only took a year and eighty percent of the world's population, including animals, were dead. The only animals left were the cold-blooded fish of the sea, insects and an occasional dog, cat or squirrel. Even these animals were fast disappearing. The survivors that managed to stay hidden from the Gargolinks hunted these remaining animals for food. Birds had long ago become extinct. Humans gave the aliens the name Gargolinks for the strange gargling noises that emanated from their throat. They called themselves Inkonoshkens, the closest approximation humans could gather from the alien's strange language.

The Gargolinks came much as the first white man came to the Americas, exploring and looking for riches. Water, salt water specifically, was one of the particulars they traveled the universe in search of. A scout ship had crash-landed. Doctors suspected this ship contained the virus, for the humans who were unlucky enough to have direct contact with the Gargolinks did not contract the virus.

After complete and utter devastation, they came in spaceships; hundreds, maybe thousands and had no trouble situating themselves in every major city in the world. Most people succumbed, having no will or resources to ward off the invaders. All human communication and transportation had ceased. Only the Gargolinks were allowed such luxuries. The ocean-scape became littered with strange, black, domelike structures jutting from the water on long legs. These extracting plants pulled the salt from the water and the long tubes from the top of the structures continuously jetted billowing clouds of fresh water steam. In ten years the oceans had dropped twelve feet.

Jeffrey Bolt would not succumb, so he walked the land, seeking out survivors in remote areas doing odd jobs for room and board, always vigilant and on the lookout for Gargolinks.

After passing several abandoned broken down farmhouses he looked at the darkening sky. He should have stopped at one of the farmhouses for the storms nowadays were fast and violent, another gift perpetuated by the Gargolinks to prevent any large-scale farming. Jeffrey hadn't thought about what the aliens eat but rumors swirled that the Gargolinks feasted upon stuffed and roasted human slave children.

Hearing the low rumbling of thunder and the smell of sulfur in the air he knew he had only minutes to find shelter. He twirled on the road looking in desperation for anything that would protect him when he spotted a footpath almost hidden by scraggly weather-beaten bushes. It had to be human, for no wild animals large enough to make the trail had survived the virus. He quickly pushed his way down the path, his ears alert, for the fierce lightning that would soon start, followed by high winds and hail the size of baseballs. Twice a day the storms would assail the earth, everyday for the last ten years.

Breaking into a clearing Jeffrey spotted a two-story, paint-chipped, clapboard farmhouse, surrounded by unkempt high bushes and oak trees. A flicker of movement caught his eye from a black-curtained window upstairs. He ran toward the house holding his hat onto his head. The wind had kicked up, pushing relentlessly against his back. The thunder and lightening were simultaneous now causing Jeffrey's skin to tingle. He jumped onto the rickety porch that leaned to one side. Jeffrey held his suitcase tightly and with his free hand pounded on the door. The huge bolts of lightening filled the sky and struck the earth with such force that the porch trembled.

The door opened a crack to reveal a pale young face with blinking dark eyes.

"Please, let me in. I mean you no harm. The storm." Jeffrey had to yell to be heard above the ferocity of the storm.

The door was slung open and a hand grabbed his arm pulling him in.

"Come. Hurry."

He saw only the back of a child and a dark-haired woman leading him down stairs to a cellar. He heard the hail crashing against the roof and side of the house as the woman closed and bolted the door. The room was dark, dank smelling and alive with scurrying sounds. A kerosene lamp was lit and threw a golden glow, barely breaking the shadows in the corners, on a myriad of faces blinking and gazing at him in suspicious silence.

The dark haired woman held the lantern to his face and peered at him intently. Satisfied he was not a Gargolink she placed the lantern on the rough-hewed plank table and offered her hand.

"I'm Rebecca Conway."

He shook her hand. "Jeffrey Bolt."

The muffled pounding against the roof and the crashing of breaking glass didn't seem to faze anyone. The storms usually lasted about ten minutes. Ten minutes of hell.

A tall young man stepped from the shadows and Jeffrey noticed the ax hanging from his hand.

"These young men are my nephews." Rebecca continued with the introductions.

"Joshua." Joshua nodded at Jeffrey, keeping his distance.


They stepped out of the shadows as their names were being called.



"And Harold."

Harold was the boy of about eleven years of age who had opened the door for Jeffrey.

They all had the same dark eyes and hair of their Aunt Rebecca. All were unkempt with soiled ill-fitting clothes.

"Where are you from Mr Bolt?"

"Originally from New York. And its Jeff."

"You are a traveler?"

A traveler was the name given to humans who walked the land searching for survivors to recruit into the underground resistance. An intricate network of secret codes kept only in the minds of the travelers. Nothing was ever written down. The Gargolinks considered them to be a slight nuisance, nothing to be concerned about.

"No, only a weary handy-man looking for a couple of days of room and board."

"I'm afraid we don't have much. We can offer you one meager meal and a nights sleep, you will have to leave in the morning."

Jeffrey nodded. "Understood." He had gotten used to the suspicious nature of survivors.

She cocked her head to listen.

"The storm's over."

They made their way up the stairs, with ax-wielding Joshua following close behind Jeffrey.

The rooms were dark except for small slivers of light peering around the edges of the black curtains.

They gathered in the kitchen to assess the damage. The boys busied themselves picking up the hailstones and placed them in buckets for future drinking water. Rebecca set the glowing lantern on the rectangle table and looked around. Black curtains gently waved from three broken windows. A pot of steaming soup still cooking on the old-fashioned iron stove had not been touched by the storm.

Jeffrey was relieved when Joshua leaned the ax against a wall and helped with the cleanup. With broom and dustpan he busied himself with the broken glass. Rebecca quietly set the table with bowls and glasses. They all worked together in silence, each assigned a specific job from years of experience.

They sat after finishing their respective jobs and Rebecca spooned a red liquid into each bowl around the table.

Rebecca indicated a seat at the end.

"Sit here, Mr Bolt."

Jeffrey sat and was astonished at what she ladled into his bowl. A delicious array of squash, zucchinis and spring onions floated in a thick paste of tomatoes.

"Where in the world did you find these vegetables?" Jeffrey couldn't remember the last time he had tasted real vegetables. Most of his diet consisted of wild greens, berries, roots and occasionally a fish.

He noticed a silent glance between Joshua and Rebecca as she sat at the other end of the table.

"The previous owners built a hothouse on the back of the house."

Jeffrey spooned the vegetables into his mouth and savored the tangy, sweet mixture.

"How does it survive the storms?"

"Plexiglas and steel. Very sturdy."

Supper was finished in silence. Everyone ate quickly, probably the only meal they got during the day, Jeffrey thought as he finished his own off and wondered if he could ask for more.

Rebecca stood and retrieved the bucket of hailstones, melted to a liquid mush.


"Some water, Mr Bolt?"

She approached his end of the table and dropped the bucket. She backed away, staring at Jeffrey's glazed over eyes and stony expressionless face. Not one muscle moved in his coma-like state.

"Damn! He's a scout!" Joshua yelled in alarm as he jumped up to retrieve the ax.

The boys jumped up from their seats and scattered in all directions as a crashing of splintering wood reverberated though the house.

Joshua almost had his hand around the ax handle when he felt the sting on his back and went down barely conscious. The last thing Joshua heard was his aunt screaming and the gargling voices of the Gargolinks.

Not one flicker of movement came from Jeffrey as he sat and stared straight ahead, oblivious to the commotion around him.


*        *        *



His soul felt as lonely and desolate as the winding road ahead. He thought about his lost family and the last ten years...he would not succumb...



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