It’s been almost two weeks since the War and I still can’t believe my luck. Joe, a senior Green Peace member, showed up late and heard me trying to dig my way out. There were no other survivors of the secret meeting. Why was I spared? I deserve to still be under that house. My dreams always start me in the basement. Maybe I’ll find answers there.
We're holed up in a barn with a tin roof, waiting out the storms, and I wonder if my companion hears any of what I dream about. Doesn’t matter. Not much does now except making it to Little Rock. My grief for America is almost unbearable.
We hit Nellis today and I think maybe I’m sick. I’m seeing things Joe doesn’t, hearing voices. I see odd colors in new places; stare at eyes that glow like neon bulbs from dark and empty windows. There are words in the trees and movies in the gritty clouds, puddles with reflections… I may be having a break down. It’s barely a scratch on what I deserve.
It’s getting worse. The people we’re seeing, the awful, pain filled refugee’s still trying to find each other, haunt me, stalk me. They fall to their knees at my feet, beg me with tears and outstretched hands to help, to save them, and then I blink, and see they never even looked at us. What the hell is happening to me? Am I in a comma somewhere and this is all one of my horrid nightmares? How I wish that were true. I’d gladly trade my life for America’s.
I share the blame for all the pain and death, should have revealed who I was back when there might have been a chance to stop it all, but like those who betrayed us, I didn’t want anyone to know the truth either. The need to atone is consuming, overwhelming, and I can’t make enough progress each day to be satisfied. The worry is endless.
The dreams are slowly convincing me I’m not crazy, demanding I take action. I remember each scene in such vivid detail when I wake! Even in the clear light of day, they look good to me.
I owe the whole world a huge debt but to my country, I owe everything that I am, even the one waiting for me in Arkansas, and I have to at least try. I’ve decided to start in the morning, when we reach Las Vegas. That infamous skyline is dark now, but in the city that never sleeps, there are people. I know. I can almost feel them.
Other than myself, there are only 30 people here so far. Most of them are elderly men but I doubt half will make it; their injuries are just so bad I can’t help them in anyway but provide drugs to dull the pain and a comforting hand to hold while they die. Each one kills something inside me and I wonder if I’ve sacrificed family for dead strangers but I can’t just walk away. They need me too and other than a little ‘listening’, I’ll put it out of my head and go on. I haven’t abandoned him. I’m just very late.
We sleep in vans and buses, not enough workers for tents yet but I have an idea for two common room set ups, and when the new man, Doug, recovers, that’ll be his first chore. Doug’s important to me, I know it. I just don’t know how yet. I found him by accident or maybe by Fate leading me?
He was trapped under a collapsed concrete bridge in a national forest near the Nevada state line. Small packs of coyotes were keeping him from escaping the crushed car and shallow water, and it’s amazing he survived so long despite his huge size. A retired Army Sergeant, he’s one of my kind, just a little too old for what I need the most. He said a tremor took out the bridge while he was crossing it and that made me decide to start keeping track of those things too. If the temperatures continue to drop, and this is wintertime, so they should, then we won’t make it to Montana before we have to hole up somewhere. That thought keeps me awake at night even when the guilt isn’t burning into me. Where?
Damn, I’m tired. These people are depending on me for everything and I’m encouraging it, showing them I can handle the weight, but between standing guard at night on third shift, rescue and supply runs during the day, and camp setups and breakdowns, I’m beat. I have to get the help, the magic my dreams hinted of last night. Will Fate send me what I need?
We heard foreign voices on an American military channel yesterday and I moved the camp, ordered it. No one argued and that makes it official for me. I’m the boss. I know it’s because they were scared, the voices calling for everyone to surrender to the Mexican Draft, but for me, it’s real now. I’m in charge of 48 terrified, hurting refugees, and I’ve started carrying a portable CB system on my back so I can listen for trouble from that side too. Gangs are attacking towns in New Mexico and Colorado, the stories are awful and many of my "sheep" are now survivors of two Wars. The threat of the Guerillas is a serious one that will require a harsh plan and a lot of defensive work that these people will have to learn, help with. They’ve had an easy ride so far but soon, that will have to change. The first mandatory meeting’s coming up. Guess I’ll find out then if I’ve done enough by them to get their support and cooperation.
They’ve agreed to all the things I wanted. We even have a name now: Safe Haven.
We set up the two big tents, along with a center bonfire in a big metal pool and celebrated by barbecuing the chickens Doug found on a nearby farm. Tomorrow, I’ll show them the mess truck a few of us quietly put together. It has it all, including a hot water heater, and since we have a cafeteria cook now, we’ll have regular meals soon.
We also have more heaters and supplies on the way. Kyle and Neil found an undamaged sports store and I’m damn glad to have those two. They’ve both volunteered for the private and the public police force I’m starting and I chose to split them up, have them both lead their own team. Kyle started first and I’m encouraged, feel okay about sometimes leaving the camp in his hands on third shift.
My leadership is official and I can see some of them waiting for me to become like the politicians of the past but I won’t use my authority unless I have to. I plan to keep giving them back some of what was stolen and slowly, things will come together. I see a better time of it in the future and look forward to the help my dreams keep hinting of. Five or six more like me will take us to better places. Like Arkansas.