Her husband Martin had been gone almost 24 hours, give or take. She didn’t want to turn on her phone and waste power just to check the time. Not that it mattered - communication lines had been disrupted almost immediately and their phones were useless. He left when they realized their only neighbor, Ms. McCreary, was probably still home alone. Warnings had gone out the day before, telling everyone of the impending invasion and recommending they find a well-stocked, safe place to hole up until a solution was found, possibly as long as a month.
That didn’t leave much time to prepare, and the broadcasts during that period showed chaos and mayhem – looting, friends and family turning on each other, scenes of unimaginable, violent desperation... How had things deteriorated so quickly?
Luckily, Jane and Martin lived remotely and simply. They weren’t preppers by any means, and hadn’t chosen this lifestyle because they were introverts or intentionally avoiding anything, but life happens, and through a serious of random events they’d ended up in a distant corner of an area with lower than normal population. They were just as surprised as anyone at how happy they were their lifestyle, and how well it suited them.
When whispers of trouble began earlier in the year, Jane started stocking up. She didn’t think it was a conscious act, but if the local store ran a sale, she found herself grabbing more cans of corn or bottled water than she might have previously done. Martin noticed.
“Honey” he said sweetly. Gently. She loved him so much. “I promise you nothing’s going to happen. They’ll figure something out before...” His words trailed off.
“I know, I know” she said, embarrassed by her probable foolishness. He never said anything about her extra purchases after that, even if they weren’t made of money and couldn’t eat everything she’d bought, even if they were trapped for ten times the length they were told they might be.
Ms. McCreary lived a little more than two miles from them, at the end of the rutted dirt road that passed their house. It was a friendship built on independence and privacy. Jane had immediately tried to befriend the octogenarian after they’d moved in; she still grimaced at the memory. Ms. McCreary (there was no first names or ‘Ms. M’ with her...yet) was in the garden when Jane pulled in her driveway with brownies, intending to win their reclusive neighbor over and begin a lifelong friendship! Ms. McCreary quickly killed that dream when she fussed at Jane for scaring the birds and her dog, slinging mud in the driveway, and she didn’t like brownies, thank you very much. Jane left defeated and depressed. Not long after they had a breakthrough when Martin offered to plow her portion of road, and they’d been friendly ever since. Well, ‘friendly’ might be stretching things, but they nodded when they saw each other.
Jane couldn’t imagine what would happen if Martin convinced Ms. McCreary to stay with them until things died down. One month? In a one bedroom?? But she and Martin both agreed they had to try. While they agreed Ms. McCreary was more than capable of taking care of herself, there was strength in numbers.
Jane checked the yard again. Martin had warned her he wouldn’t be back immediately. Ms. McCreary would need convincing to leave her home, and then he hoped she was well-stocked and would be willing to share, so the truck would have to be loaded. And that would have to be done quietly, so it would take additional time. He made her promise she wouldn’t leave the house. He promised he’d be back, with or without their neighbor.
She could only assume since he wasn’t back yet that he had convinced Ms. McCreary to come.
Please let her have weapons, Jane prayed. Then she laughed, in spite of it all. If ANYONE had weapons, that woman did!! Townsfolk were amazed that she hadn’t run Jane and Martin off yet, even though legally they had every right to be there since Martin had inherited the land from his uncle. Ms. McCreary had a reputation of being someone not to mess with, and Jane was confident that – at the very least – she had a gun or two.
Jane and Martin were not prepared in that sense. Oh, they’d meant to buy a gun, if only because their friends and family told them they should, living as remotely as they did, but had not gotten around to it. When Martin decided a month ago that they might really need one, he couldn’t find one anywhere – sporting goods stores, pawn shops, Craigslist. He tried to chalk it up to mass paranoia and fear mongering, but the teeniest, tiniest part of him wondered if he’d been wrong, putting all of his trust in the powers that were supposed to protect them? But not that they were entirely to blame; no one could have predicted this chain of events.
Although Jane knew she had promised Martin to stay put, there had to be a limit, right? I mean, how long am I supposed to wait? she wondered.
She looked around for anything that could be used as a weapon. A fireplace poker was too long and thin to swing effectively, and none of their kitchen knives were long or sharp enough. You have GOT to be kidding me!! She screamed internally. Nothing in the bathroom, the bedroom... She returned to the living room, more frustrated than scared at this point, when she saw Martin’s toolbox in the corner. He’d been working underneath the house recently and drug all of the debris in with him afterwards. At the time, Jane had been furious, but now, seeing a piece of scrap pipe, she was grateful for and amazed at the randomness of it all.
She liked the length and heft of the pipe in her hand, and although she’d have to be closer than she liked to anything she wanted to hit, it was better than nothing. Now to plan the route... Despite the fact she was afraid of most everything (she had to cover her eyes and ears for scary movies), she knew her best chance to reach her husband was to travel off-road. Through the woods. The dark woods. The thought terrified Jane, but she knew it was her only option. She threw on her camo flannel shirt regardless of the warmer temperature; it would hide her better than the pink tee she had on under it, and it would provide some protection for her arms as she travelled through the brush.
Jane took one last look around the house, looking for anything else that could help her. What was she missing? She couldn’t think straight. She completed a checklist in her head - it was still morning and it should only take her an hour or so to reach Ms. McCreary’s, so she didn’t need a flashlight. It was a beautiful day, so she wasn’t worried about carrying rain gear. She found the only weapon she felt comfortable with. She shouldn’t need any snacks... She absolutely, positively could not think of anything.
She walked to the front door. With her hand on the knob, she said a quick prayer. She started by asking for safety for those she thought of immediately – herself, Martin, Ms. McCreary, family and friends – but she quickly widened her prayer circle to include everyone affected by these scary times, because based on the last news reports she’d seen, there were people in situations more dire than hers. Then with a deep breath, Jane opened the door and headed to the woods.