A Kind of Drug
Chapter 7 - Sloth - Part IV
Shortly after that ridiculous conversation of ours was when we finally lost the truck. See, Louie’s truck wasn’t exactly what you’d call “new”. It was something like twenty years old and, by itself, ate gasoline like a fat kid ate cake. Put three people in the cab and stock the bed full of supplies and fuck it. We were running on something like 10 or 15 miles per gallon.
This meant that by the time we hit south Jersey, we were running low on gas. But shit wasn’t as good there as it was up in upstate New York. When a good chunk of humanity freaked out and fled for the hills, a lot more people headed south than they did north. Plus supply trucks stopped coming around a long ass time ago. Not like unleaded gasoline was made down the block. Anyway, this all meant that we soon found a lot of gas stations that were completely drained of fuel.
We weren’t far from Philly when we got down to a quarter tank of gas. I said I was gonna pull over and look for a gas station. Three stations later, we were still coming up empty.
No pun intended.
By the time we hit station five, we were getting seriously freaked out. We still couldn’t find any gas stations that had any fuel left in them and we were still REALLY far from Wilmington, much less from Sobriety.
After we left gas station number nine, we had to concede to reality. We weren’t going to find any fuel. It was Vanessa who suggested the best idea: We find a supermarket, park in the loading area, put as many supplies into shopping carts as we could, throw a tarp over the truck so it looked less desirable, and start moving on foot. She said that if we ended up finding a gas station, we could always get a couple of fuel cans, walk back, and fire the sucker back up. And, just to make sure no one stole the beast while we were away, I thought it’d be a good idea to unscrew the vast majority of the lug nuts, too.
And so, that’s what we did. We found a grocery store that had been completely abandoned and went inside. Immediately, we were overtaken by the stench of rotting food. We walked back outside and checked our map. We figured we were about a hundred miles away from Wilmington, Delaware. A two-hour journey by car, but a two-day journey by foot. And when we landed at the grocery store in southern Jersey, it was already well into the night. We decided to crash and make a fresh start of it in the morning. We found some air fresheners and made a little corner toward the front of the store bearable for the night.
The next day we woke up and packed an excess of supplies into three shopping carts. We even tossed a few backpacks inside, just in case the roads got tough and we needed to lose the carts.
And that was sort of it. Without another thought, we started moving. I’ll be honest, it was really fucking weird. There we were - the three of us with shopping carts – walking down the empty highway as though it were a country sidewalk.
Now, for a hot minute, we did think of trying to replace Louie’s truck with any one of the other random, abandoned cars that were still all around us. However, there was one, major problem: None of us knew how to hotwire a car. And since the internet had gone kaput, there wasn’t exactly any way for us to look up how to do it.
But you know what’s really fucking hilarious in a dark-ass way? None of us ever thought of walking into a dead stranger’s house, picking up their keys, and driving their car off. I mean, how fucking stupid is that? We were just already so convinced that everything was horrible and our fates were fucked, that simple traveling solutions like this never even crossed our minds. How craptastic is that?
Anyway, our first day on foot was pretty uneventful. We just walked down the highway as though it were the most casual thing in the world. We played random word games to try and take our mind off the situation. We stopped and took breaks and had snacks. We talked about the time Rash came to visit us in New York and he got hammered and fucked a fat girl named Asher. This girl had a vag so hairy, even her ass was bushy. Rash denied it for a long time that he screwed her, but one night he finally owned up to it when he was really drunk. He made me swear to never tell anyone.
I fucking told the world. Even Julia had known about it. I don’t think he ever forgave me for that one.
Ah, whatever. It was worth it.
That first night, we just walked off one of the highway exits and found a nearby motel. We made sure it had also been abandoned like everything else before we broke into a couple of rooms and setup shop for the night. It wouldn’t be until that night while that we’d realize how we still hadn’t seen anyone - not a single person - since we left the lake house.
It was not a fun realization. And despite how tired I was from walking all day, it kept me awake well into the night.
The next day, nothing really exciting happened until we started to get near the bridge that crossed over the river from Jersey into Delaware. That’s when our whole game changed. And I guess when having had a car wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.
About a mile or two before we hit the Delaware Memorial Bridge, a massive traffic jam suddenly began out of nowhere with all the traffic headed in the direction of the bridge. Bumper to bumper cars completely took over the highway. And every single one of them had been abandoned
For a long time, we just walked along the other half of the highway and stared in awe at what must have been a mass migration of people leaving their cars and walking on foot. I mean, not a single car had a dead body or anything even remotely unsettling inside of it. For some reason, everyone had just left their cars in the middle of the highway. It wasn’t until we reached the river that we figured out what had happened.
It was gone. The Delaware Memorial Bridge had ceased to be. From what it looked like, a news helicopter had crashed into the bridge and knocked the whole center of it into the river. Cars, cement, and twisted iron could be seen poking through the water all along the half-mile gap. That’s when I realized that the people who abandoned their cars probably didn’t walk away from them. They ran screaming.
“Well, fuck my sloppy gate post,” Rash said as he stood at the edge of the collapsed bridge and looked into the river.
“No wonder everyone fled,” I said as I looked down into the cold water. “We probably woulda done the same if we saw a helicopter take out the bridge only a mile in front of us. Sorta the shit that ruins your day, eh?”
“God I hate this baby. ” Vanessa said. She looked down at her stomach and poked it. “When you get outta there I’m gonna drink my fucking face off, you hear?”
“I think I’ve got a bottle of wine in my cart. I think your little parasite can survive one glass. What you say we regroup back on land, crack her open, and figure out what the fuck we’re gonna do?”
“Sold!” Rash yelled out. “Assuming of course that when you say ‘crack her open’, you’re talking about Vanessa’s vagina.”
“He is,” Vanessa said. “Course you ain’t getting anywhere near it. You can watch and masturbate and cry, if you want. I hear tears make the best lube.”
“My girl,” I said and kissed her on the cheek.
Ten minutes later, we were sitting on the side of the road, drinking wine out of the bottle, and realizing that we were fucked. By my estimates, the next nearest bridge was twenty miles away in the opposite direction. On foot, that meant a twenty-four detour. Rash had a better idea.
“Fuck bridges,” he said. “That’s why boats exist. Let’s just find a goddamn rowboat and get across right now.”
“Um, boy,” I said. “Look around. We’re on the shore. Where do you see any form of boat. This is a random Delaware coast in the middle of nowhere. Not a fucking coastal town. You see a boat, you let me know.”
Without another word, Rash got up and made his way to the water’s edge. He then walked five minutes in each direction trying to see if he could find any sort of sea-faring vessel. Twenty minutes later, he rejoined Vanessa and myself. I handed him the half-full bottle of wine.
He promptly drank half of what was left in one sip.
"I take it you didn’t find a boat. That settles it then. We back track.”
“No,” Rash said.
“Oh, Christ…” I began and trailed off.
“Rash, come on. What the hell else do we do? I hope we get to Julia soon, too. But what? You want us to fly?”
“No,” he said. “We swim.” He finished off the wine and tossed it off to the side.
“We what now?” I asked.
“It’s only fucking water,” he said. “All we need to do is take off a couple of car tires and use them to float our backpacks across the river. I know you still got that wrench from when you removed the lug nuts off the truck. How far it is to the other side? A mile? Hell, it’ll be a much needed bath for us anyway. And then according to your map, it’s only five more miles to Wilmington. We’re right fucking here. Why waste another day? We can be there long before nightfall.”
“Rash,” I said. “Come on. You’re nothing thinking logically. I mean…”
“Of course I’m not thinking logically, you fucking cocksmear!” he interrupted me. “You still have Vanessa. She’s right there. I’m sure your logic is doing solid fucking work right now. Mine’s in the goddamn toilet. My girlfriend - who I haven’t talked to in weeks now - might be only a couple miles away and you want me to wait until tomorrow? Like it’s no big deal? What would you do if this were the other way around? You’d punch me in the face and tell me you’d see me in hell if Vanessa were just over that river, right? Well, kudos, son. That’s what I’m doing to you right now.”
I looked at Vanessa. I was not prepared for this. By her expression, neither was she. Neither of us knew what to do. I was at a total loss for words. I sat down on the ground and looked up at Rash.
“Gimme a minute, eh?” I asked. He said nothing. Assuming silent consent, I thought about what he said. After gathering my thoughts, I looked at him and spoke quietly and serenely.
“I understand what you’re saying, kiddo. Truly. I even agree with you almost entirely. But I want you to think about what you’re saying. We already lost the truck. Now you’re asking us to lose the carts. We swim the river and we’ll be down to backpacks. That’s bare bone supplies for what could be several weeks. None of us can guarantee that we’ll find another store that isn’t picked clean. Plus we’re talking about walking from Delaware to North Carolina. Last time I checked the map, that was something like five hundred miles. That’s a tough walk for anyone. And Vanessa is pregnant. God only knows what shape Julia might be in. We’re talking a two week journey on foot. With minimal supplies. You prepared for that?”
Rash took a deep breath. “Of course I’m not prepared for that. Neither are you. Neither is Vanessa. Jesus H Fucking Christ isn’t prepared for that. But it is what it is. And what if the bridge that we back track to is out, as well? It’s closer to Philly, right? Well if the bridge in the middle of nowhere is out, then the city bridge is almost definitely a shit storm. That’s what we learned from New York, isn’t it? So then what? We keep back tracking? Till when? We’re in fucking Vermont? No, fuck it, man. We gotta deal with this. We knew shit was gonna be hard living. Well, here it is. Right in our faces. If we don’t start dealing with this now, we never will.”
I looked at Vanessa. “Monkey, I could really use some advice right about now.”
She thought for a minute before speaking. “I hate to say it, but he’s right. I don’t exactly wanna swim across a river, but I don’t wanna be wandering around forever either. Losing the carts is really gonna suck, but I’d rather lose them now than get all the way back to Philadelphia only to find out we still have to lose them. We should be expecting the worst wherever we go, not the best.”
I picked a rock up and tossed it into the slow-moving water. “Fine, then,” I said. “If you both think it’s the best course of action, I’m not gonna argue. Let’s do this.”
We spent the next thirty minutes very carefully packing our backpacks. We had to sort through a ton of shit deciding what things were important (booze) and what things could be left behind (not booze). Add to that all of our clothes and random necessities (like a can opener that saved my life on more than one occasion) and we really got down to the bare minimum needed for survival. Though I did decide to secretly take the gun that Rash found. I fucking wish I hadn’t. But my friends seemed a little too gung ho about charging forth into the unknown. I was scared shitless about what we’d find. The gun gave me more comfort than I care to admit.
Regardless, Rash’s plan was actually pretty solid. We got a few tires loose from cars and they floated our backpacks with ease. All we had to do was push them across; which really wasn’t that hard in the river’s low current. We also all swam across in our underwear which was a little on the cold side, but not exactly horrible.
“Thank God the world ended in late summer,” I even remarked. “If this were the winter, this swim would be remarkably uncomfortable. At least humanity did something right.”
We soon got to the other side, dried off, re-dressed, and got our backpacks on. We started walking toward the Night’s Inn.
No amount of preparation - not even ten thousand years’ worth - would have gotten us ready for what happened next.
© J.E. Tobal 2012