I’ve decided to share the opening of “Aftermath – Episode 3” with all… Enjoy…
Three weeks passed before Danny Cargill reached his final decision; that was all the time it took him to make a throughout assessment. Life at Camp Hailberry during those same three weeks had been uneventful lot and, certainly, a definitive eye-opener that helped him to decide.
The fine morning when he made this choice found him perched on the observation deck of North-15, one of the many ranger towers built around Hailberry. He liked it there; with the passing years, that tower had fell into disuse for no particular reason and was generally unmanned. Danny always enjoyed climbing to its top, as he seemed partial to high places w think things over. At the tender age of eleven (and very soon twelve, according to his father Andrew) years old, Danny was quite a thinker.
Dan looked down onto Hailberry Camp and thought deeply about what he loved about his new home… and the little details he wasn’t too crazy about.
The people here were as fine as you could find anyplace else. The day he arrived to Hailberry, he met John “Big” Kowalski—Big Jon for short—and Diana Simmons. Big John was the main man at the camp and a very rugged individual. Dan fondly suspected he might be a bear hiding under the guise of a man. Diana was a raven-haired woman in her mid-twenties, very athletic and muscular. Dan had gone with her to the extensive berry fields that blanketed the neighboring hills the other day, and they spent most of the afternoon picking strawberries until managed to fill a big basket with the small fruits. Of course, Dan and Diana had encountered a couple of scrawny-looking zombies shambling through the fields… and Diana simply grabbed her hunting rifle from the spot she had left it, and shot both creatures dead with unflinching efficiency. She seemed more peeved about the zombies trampling the delicate stems of the strawberry plants than worried over her and Dan’s safety.
Which brought Dan back to the motives behind his decision. But he was digressing. A few days later he met Dr. Farmington. Strange, gangly fellow. The Doc helped Danny to synch up with life at Hailberry by using all his influences to introduce the boy into the local educational facilities, even though it was near the end of the term and school was going to be up soon due to the beginning of summer.
Andrew Cargill, Danny’s father, had been all fussy about his only son joining a classroom full of more advanced and older students, as Dan had received very little schooling back at Camp McGregor, their home camp. But Dr. Farmington just gazed at the boy in a very cryptic manner, looking quite confident.
“He’ll catch up… you’ll see,” he said as he ruffled Danny’s hair. Dr. Farmington was so far the only human the boy knew who was still capable of doing that from a high perch, as he was a very tall pre-teen (nearing five feet, seven inches already). “He’s a very smart kid. He’ll be running circles around all the other kids before the summer starts.”
And the good doctor had been correct. Danny was very bright (much to his teachers’ joy… and the dismay of all the other students) and very soon he overtook the leadership of the classroom, even in spite of the resistance of the two local bullies who did their best to challenge Dan’s rising star in Hailberry.
The two bullies, in their silly attempt to confront Danny, went back home with a few loose teeth, two bloodied noses… and one of them had a couple of bruised ribs that Dr. Farmington had to wrap in tight bandages while he bit the insides of his mouth to avoid exploding with laughter in front of the battered bully. That would have been too humiliating for the poor tyrant apprentice, of course.
Danny sighed with pleasure at the memory. That had been a good moment, which only cost him a scratch on the right cheekbone and a shiner in his left eye. Another good moment had been the moment when Diana Simmons had taken him to Thomas Cantor’s record store, as she had promised to him when they had first met.
The place had been brimming with CDs as far as the eye could see. Most of them were still in their original wrapping. Perhaps the rumor that that the owner had raided every record store in the eastern seaboard, from New York to Boston, was true after all.
Thomas Cantor was a very small, mousy-looking man (if Danny’s father had been around, perhaps he’d have commented the guy looked a lot like lot Steve Buscemi) and was very knowledgeable individual in the music department, helping Danny find what he was looking for in the matter of minutes. Danny was very surprised when he was only charged one of the gold pieces that were in use as money in Hailberry Camp.
“Stolen goods are still rather cheap around Hailberry, isn’t that true, Tom?” Diana joked with the owner, who smiled rather thinly.
“Indeed they are, Diana,” Cantor’s said through his teeth as he rang up the sale. “It’s the new stuff that will pluck an eye from your head.”
“What did he mean, Diana?” Dan asked her while they exited the store.
“Exactly that, Dan,” she replied. “There’s plenty of stuff from the previous world still lying around. You just grab it. Though Big John is taking great steps in the right direction, we haven’t managed much progress in building things from scratch. John just got an alkaline batteries factory, six hundred miles south, up and running again. We’ll be swimming in brand new batteries very soon, but that doesn’t strike me as real progress.”
“It sounds like we’re just switching on a lot of the old world’s stuff to me,” she said grimly. “The same sort of crap that got us into this mess in the first place. I think I have a spare CD player I can loan you; enjoy your records, Dan.”
And she left it at that.
Later that night, while Dan was laying in his bedroom at the house assigned to him and his Dad when they arrived to Hailberry, the boy understood Diana’s sober viewpoint a little better. He placed the earbuds of the battered Sony Walkman that the girl had lent him and cried with joy when he heard the first bars of Help!, The Beatles’ famed song. Then he went into Queen, the Rolling Stones… this Maroon Five band his father talked so much about… It was Danny’s first encounter with recorded music. Until that moment, he had always heard live music performances only, carried out by clumsy musicians who did their best—very little—to honor the songs that the audience requested from them.
The music was like a cocaine fix… until the instant when Danny realized he was just listening to ghosts… people who had been already dead when the Z-day struck or who didn’t survive the zombie apocalypse at all. He set down the earphones with reverence and placed the Walkman inside the drawer of the night table at his right before turning off the light. He went to sleep with tears brimming in his eyes.
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