Don’t Feed the Trolls – Chapter 09
Just when she thought everything was finally settling down, Shelly is once again thrown into the fray. Her friends are stuck on the other side of the Mississippi River, with no weapons, no food, and no chance of survival without her help. Throw in the complete collapse of civilization, extremely limited technology, and hordes of zombies that are becoming more and more sentient every day…
Hey, no one said it was going to be easy, but where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Shelly made sure to update hers just before she left.
Please note: this work contains language and themes that may not be appropriate for young readers.
Oct. 2, 2018
On the road again, on the road again.
For some reason, the further we’re getting into the mountains, the more little settlements we’re finding. We actually found one that was based in a rest stop, that was weird and gave me some major First Trek vibes. I couldn’t sleep at all, I kept remembering the last time I was in one of these, and the horde we had to sit through.
Which reminds me, but okay, first things first. What’s it called? Sitrep? That’s what Jean said it’s called, anyway.
We’re following I-40 through the mountains. It’s our best bet, even though I’m not entirely happy about having to go through Nashville. BG made a joke about making a side trip to Elvis’ grave, and I had to tell him don’t. Just, don’t.
On that note, we are in Tennessee now. Not sure where, but we passed by the “Welcome to Tennessee” sign, and another rest area with a bunch of maps and whatnot. We almost had to camp out in the open last night, but we got lucky and found a place about an hour ago. It’s full dark now, but I wanted to write this up real quick, cause as soon as we get back, we need to start branching out and finding (and marking) the little communities.
We found one that has made a base camp in a mountain tunnel. It was raining, and we just about tripped over them. They’re a tiny group, and looked like they were about to starve, so we gave them some provisions, and told them to follow the road to Joe’s place. Joe can get them more road ready and then send them on to Jan and Beth if they’re not a good fit.
Speaking of Joe, we traded horses. He said it “just made sense”, and I wasn’t going to waste time arguing with him. Gift horses and their teeth, you know?
What else. We’re marking our path on maps. We all have one now. Bonus from the rest areas. We’ve still been marking our path with the towels and stuff, but this is something more concrete.
We’ve all caught a bit of a cold (thanks rain. Much appreciated), but nothing too bad yet, and I think that’s it, when it comes to the group updates.
On a completely different note, I finally got around to reading the journal thing from Flat Rock. I couldn’t sleep at the rest station place, and I got bored, so I read. There wasn’t much in it. They mostly kept notes on supply runs, which stores were empty, which stores they hadn’t checked yet, etc., so I skimmed a lot of it. Near the end is where things started to come together.
They – whoever it was, they only talked about other people, not themselves – started expressing concerns. They said that they had too many people, and not enough supplies to last through winter. They also had no weapons beyond the metal bars they had broken off the seats. Long story short, the old people got together and decided that they had lived long enough. They were ready to pass on, especially if it meant that the others would have enough food to make it.
The last entry was dated back in January. They had finally decided on a way to end things in a way that would be painless, and with “minimal effect on the ones left behind.” The writer and “Robert” both were the leaders of the two…“outgoing” groups, I guess you could say. They were in charge of opening the nitrogen cannisters for their “group.” Each one would open a cannister, breathe in the gas as deep as they could, then step away and let the next person go. The last person in each group was supposed to close the cannister back up before the lack of oxygen made it to their brain.
When I told Tiny and asked if he thought that would work, he looked at me like I had sprouted ten extra heads. He said in theory, maybe, but it wasn’t a very good plan. He also said that things made a bit more sense. He said people don’t realize that it’s entirely too easy to think the gas hadn’t taken effect yet, because it’s not like regular suffocating. It’s not gasping desperately for breath, so the people who inhale it don’t even realize the kind of danger they’re in.
His new working theory is that someone must’ve passed out before they expected it, maybe even a couple of them, but in any case, the one cannister must’ve gotten knocked over or something, and when they all went to get that one under control, the other one was allowed to leak freely.
I still think he’s just looking for a way to make the whole thing seem like an accident. My faith in humans isn’t that strong. I kinda feel like Mulder. I want to believe, I just can’t. Not like it really matters at this point, I suppose. It won’t bring them back, and it’s not like we’ll ever know.
Anyway. No trolls today. Well, none up close, anyway. Ty and Mike saw some in the distance, but Poppy didn’t seem concerned, so either they were too far away to smell, or they weren’t twitchers.
I don’t have anything else to report today. I’m not on watch duty tonight, so I’m gonna try and get some sleep.
Oct. 5, 2018
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate backtracking? I don’t hate it quite as much as I hate rain, but it’s up there. (Speaking of which, we’ve just had three days of no rain whatsoever. I keep waiting for one of the horsemen of the apocalypse to ride by.) Ty and BG have been in charge of the route planning, and they decided that I40 is the wrong way to go for now. They’re having us take a back highway through the mountains to Knoxville.
I don’t like it, but it made sense. Where we were, we were up against a river, and Jean said there was a better chance of the bridge across the river being intact along the smaller highway, rather than the interstate. The interstate also took us about 10-15 miles out of the way. If the boys did their math right, we’re shaving an entire day off our travel time, and at the very least, they were right about the bridge. It had cars on it, but it was still in one piece.
I’m just not really happy at the moment, cause now we’re in the middle of a shitload of houses, and Poppy was showing signs of agitation earlier today. Not ‘bad cloud’ level, but…I don’t know. She kept looking really confused. She’d stop, sniff the air, give this little huff, and frown…then start walking again. Tiny tried asking her what’s wrong, but she keeps saying “I don’t know.” Tiny’s been working on increasing her (and our) vocab, but whatever is bothering her, she doesn’t have the words for yet, I guess. She’s not signing ‘bad cloud’ yet though, so I’ll take it as a win.
BG says we’ll reach Knoxville tomorrow. He’s hoping one of the bridges into town will still be intact. Or, at least, intact enough for us to make our way across, anyway. I’m just hoping we’ll be able to get in and get across quick. I hate going through the big cities. Honestly, I think we all do. When BG told us that we’d be going through tomorrow, you could almost feel the difference in the air. No one played cards after dinner or sat around talking, or anything. They just headed straight to their rolls or their post. Is this the mental equivalent of the ‘thousand yard stare’?
I refuse to end this on a gloomy note, so I’m gonna tell you about something kinda funny that happened earlier. Remember I said Poppy was looking confused and kept saying “I don’t know”? Well, Tiny and Vicki are the only ones fluent enough in sign language to really communicate with Poppy, so they were taking turns walking with her. They have much different approaches, when it comes to talking to her. Vicki tends to leave her alone, or will ask her things like “are you hungry?” and then wait a while before saying anything else. Tiny, on the other hand…
Well, at one point, Poppy apparently got tired of being asked the same questions over and over, and when Tiny asked her (for the millionth time), “bad cloud?” she stomped her foot at him and signed something that looked rather rude. He looked like someone just slapped him with a wet fish. I only understood “mouth” and “stop” so I’m guessing it was something along the lines of “shut your mouth” and “stop talking” but I don’t know. Tiny wouldn’t tell me, and Vicki wasn’t there to see it. I tried mimicking what I had seen, but Vicki said she had no idea what I was trying to say. I think she’s lying to save (what’s left of) Tiny’s dignity, but I’ll weasel it out of one of them eventually, just you watch.
Oct. 7, 2018
Well, kinda. It’s not like it used to be, obviously, but people have made their way back into town. I was surprised by how many people from the east side of the river had made it into town, considering the only bridge still in one piece is an old railroad one. It took us forever to get across it, and the horses were NOT happy.
Brandon, one of the guys in charge, said they’ll keep an eye on the bridge for us. They’re not exactly expecting any trouble with it, but they’re gonna wall it in to keep trolls from taking it over. They’ve already used bits of pieces of the old Knoxville to put together a series of walls around the new town. They have the openings at different places on each wall, so it’s almost like a maze. They’re lacking food animals, but they’ve torn apart yards to make farms, and aren’t doing too bad, food wise. They were struggling with what to do this coming winter, but we think we’ve got that sorted out for them.
Last winter, they had taken over houses with fireplaces and spread everyone out. This winter, they were debating leaving town and going back to the houses, but we told them what Jan’s group had done, and Jay and Garcia sketched up some plans for them. When we left, they were deciding on what building to use, and discussing what would work best for the different parts. Considering the sheer amount of crap laying around that they haven’t even touched yet, I don’t think they’ll have any problems finding what they need.
Side note: it took forever to find I-40 headed out of town. So many of the roads here were either melted or blocked off with debris. Brandon had a couple people lead us to where it used to be, and then we had to figure out which gravel road was the right one. Talk about a headache and a half. Ugh.
On the plus side though, Poppy stopped looking so confused. She’s back to chasing butterflies. Tiny still hasn’t told me what she said.
Oct. 10, 2018
I knew it wouldn’t last. At least it waited until we had made camp to start raining, but still. Tomorrow’s gonna be cold and wet, just you wait and see. I’m just glad we’re sticking to the road now. No more muddy ground and stuck wheels to deal with, woo!
We’re stopped at a hotel for the night. There’s a settlement just down the road from us. We had a very interesting meeting with those folks. They don’t have a lot of people, but they have a shit ton of space. They were excited when we told them they’re not alone out here. They’re going to try to start building a safe path over to Knoxville. They’re also planning on having a couple people make a run into town, and see about both side starting to build a fence or something around the road so they can travel between towns safely.
Wish I had thought to suggest that to the other groups we’ve ran into.
Oct. 11, 2018
She’s doing it again.
Oct. 12, 2018
I am no longer allowed to bitch at people in horror movies for splitting up a group. Granted, in my case, it turned out for the best, and I’m not the one who suggested it, but still.
We’re well into the mountains now. The maps we have, however, failed to tell us that 40 splits into two different roads, and whatever signs might’ve been here before, telling us which one led where, aren’t around anymore.
Before you give me any shit, we did scout the roads, there just wasn’t much to go off of, either way. The boys didn’t see any signs of troll activity, and Poppy was still showing signs of agitation, so we finally just said ‘fuck it’ and split. BG, Jean, and Ty took the high road, and the rest of us took the lower with the wagons. We didn’t expect the road to go on for fucking ever. It was pitch fucking black by the time we finally stopped. We kept looking for a house to stop in, but the boys didn’t find anything on the upper road, and we didn’t have any luck on the low one, either.
Mike finally found an offshoot road that showed promise. We called BG and them down and they all went to check things out. It took them a while, but they found a house. It was friggen hell to get to though, and Poppy is getting worse, in a way. She’s still not signing bad cloud, but she’s doing the pacing thing, so we’re doubling the watch tonight and moving on at first light.
Oct. 13, 2018
They have a kid.