The U.S. of After Chapter 47
About a week after the ambush we started getting closer to a bigger city. Didn’t know at the time, but it was Shreveport. We could see the skyscrapers from a ways off and knew that either things would be dangerous or deserted, either one…probably both. We were also running low on supplies and probably needed to stock up.
As we got closer, we saw several bridges that had fallen down by either natural or unnatural means, and from the looks of the powder burns on the concrete somebody had set a good helping of explosives on the bridges and blown them down. We passed by a few cargo ships grounded on sand bars, some of them partially sunk, and we had to watch carefully so as not to tear open one of the pontoons on the scuttled ships in the river. The river was much wider and deeper here, but there were still dangers down under the water.
The weird thing was that all of the campfires were on the west side of the river and the people standing around those fires seemed pretty harmless, but then so did most maniacs. We took our time floating along the river until we saw a campfire with mostly women and children standing around. We got close enough for shouting distance.
“Ahoy there!” I said as official as I could. “Is there a place to get supplies here?”
A woman about the same age as Kelly looked at me and nodded. She waved us in, and so I turned the boat in her direction to pull up to the dock. The campfire was built just outside what I figured was an old loading dock, and I figured that these people might have more than they were letting on.
All of our men had their guns at the ready just in case, and the women and children were laying down on the deck like normal, and I decided to be brave and step out onto the concrete dock and put out a hand of friendship. The lady came closer, her yellow and blue dress covered with dirt and grime, her hands nearly black, and she was smiling at me, some of her teeth missing.
“You say you got some supplies for us?” she said when she got closer. “We’ve been waiting for weeks. You from New Orleans?”
I stood up straight and cocked my head to the side.
“I… I think there’s been some mistake,” I said to her softly, all apologies. “I was asking you if you had any supplies for us.”
“Aw, no,” she laughed. “My hearing isn’t what it used to be. Sorry, fella. We’re totally out of food, and nobody has the guts to go cross river to get it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Something is over there,” she whispered. I saw a grimy little boy peek out from behind her dress, then disappear again. “We don’t go over there cause of the wildlife. We hear sounds at night clear across the river.”
I handed her a can of tuna and got back into the boat. We poked along the river a ways and then stopped by a section of sunken bridge near a sand bar to talk it over.
“You heard the lady,” I said to the murmuring group. “Some kind of wild animals over in the city proper, but she said that’s our best bet at finding food. We can hold out for the week or so it will take to get to New Orleans or we can send a scouting party into the city to find supplies. What do you think we should do?”
Mr. Dillon spoke up from the back, his shoulder wound was healing nicely it seemed.
“I figure we could send a few of our best shooters in and see what we can find,” he said. “Anything is better than nothing.”
“What does Clayton think?” said Mrs. Edwards, her eight year old Timothy on her lap. “Our kids need to eat more than I do. I can go without if they get food.”
Clayton sat at the bow of the boat, his face toward the water again, praying to God or whatever. The group kind of saw him as some kind of Moses or something. I don’t know. Clayton had yet to pick up a gun and help us during a firefight, but he usually had some pretty good ideas about what do to, and the people trusted him.
“I’ll go with anyone goin’ into the city to get food,” he said, standing up. “But I’ll do whatever the group decides. We just wanna get to New Orleans as safe as possible, and I can’t bear losin’ anyone else.”
That Amy girl looked over at Clayton when he said that. I used to think she was sweet on him, but here lately she was all sulled up. Losing the Indian kid was kind of a blow to her. You know, Clayton talked a lot about God and what he did for us, but where was God when Tommy Fuller took one to his lung and drown in his own blood? I’d seen some weird stuff, some down-right unexplainable stuff, but like Clayton I didn’t want to lose anyone else, either. Deaths are always hard, but I guess people sometimes fall on religion to get them through. I just sucked it up and moved on, but that was getting harder to do.
The people discussed it a while, and finally decided that we should send a scouting party, and since it was my idea, I decided to lead it. Clayton tagged along and so did Amy even though young Moses protested. She just picked up that Winchester 1300, chambered a round and stared Clayton down. She did take out about five guys on the bridge by my count and that was cause she was all venomous over the death of her lovey. She had a cool head, though, and wasn’t too bad to look at.
We let them drop us off over on the west side of the river, and then Rick Young and Ryan McKinley, a couple of guys I trust, took the rest of the people over to stay with the nice lady in the yellow and blue dress. I told them to share what provisions we had with her group. The fellas rounded up a little bass boat from the locals and took us over to the other side. Wasn’t too much trouble to step out onto shore once the boat let us off.
The city was eerily quiet, as if we were in one of those horror movies where the monsters are asleep in the buildings. We went in at night so as not to wake the monsters up. Kind of wished we’d not gone in at all because of what happened.
I still get the shivers thinking about it.