Don’t Feed the Trolls – Chapter 15
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.
Dec. 13, 2018
I’m beginning to think this stretch of land is some kinda good luck charm or something. The weather is super nice and perfect for hiking. I looked back through my notes, just to be sure, and yeah…this is the same area we were in when we got that Indian summer weather. We’re about to head off of 40 again and go for the backroads.
Everyone is armed. We’ve figured out a riding schedule. I found out we’re not QUITE as bad off with the food as I thought. It’s still bad, but I forgot about the amount of farming these people had been doing. We have a LOT of veggies that are either ripe, or on the verge of it. The people from the settlement (is it bad that I don’t know their names?) brought along their wagon of what plants they could. They switched out some of what they had for the crops Gomez’s people had going on, so we have a bit of variety, but it’s still only enough to be a…shit. Can’t think of the word. It’s enough to help, but that’s about it. We need more. We can’t just eat salad. We did find some jars of peanut butter and little things of honey, but with nothing to put it on, it doesn’t do us much good.
One of the civvies suggested making teas out of some of the herbs we’re finding along the way. She said drinking something hot helps you feel full longer. I told her it was okay with me if she wanted to give it a try. We can have Luna keep the hotplate running with boiling water. The tea might start tasting kinda funny cause we won’t really be able to rinse out the pot in between batches, but if it works, it works. I wonder if we could actually make a HUGE batch of tea over the fire at night, and then warm it up again the next day on the hotplate? I’m thinking it won’t work cause of how long it will have been sitting, but if we make some tea with dinner, and then whoever is on nightshift starts another batch for breakfast, maybe that will make the food stretch longer? It’s worth a shot, anyway.
The Controller is staring at me again. She stopped for a little bit, but she’s back at it. Gonna have to sit down and talk to her soon. Find out what’s going on in her head. Hopefully she’ll have the words for it. I know she asked Tiny for another injection. Need to ask him about that, too…
Dec. 14, 2018
Today was interesting. Got cornered first thing in the morning by Gomez. He informed me that his people feel like they’re being coddled. They appreciated us thinking of them, but they would rather us reach a safe place ASAP. To be fair, they’re not wrong, and this is entirely on me. I forgot that most of these people were used to walking at least 6-10 miles a day, back and forth, and then spending most of the day either farming or clearing debris and building shit.
I told Gomez we’d push further today and see how far we could get. Which means, of course, that it rained on us all day. Well, almost all day. And it was just a drizzle for now, but combined with how cool it got, I went ahead and called it a day. I’m not sure how far we got, but they’ll have to be okay with it today. I was asked if we had any baskets for some of the people to use. They want to collect things like dandelions and mint leaves, if they can find them. We don’t have any baskets, but since we’re going through all the houses we find, I told them they were welcome to join the search parties and see if they can add anything to the loot pile.
Some of them have already modified my idea with the shower curtains. They took all the ones they could find, along with a bunch of shower poles and…I dunno if they glued them or what, but they’re basically making awnings out of them. They have people holding the poles and fitting as many people as they can in the middle. It wasn’t enough to cover very many people, and Jean pointed out that the sound of the rain hitting the plastic is kinda loud, but they’re already working on fixing that.
When we stopped, the Controller came up to me. She wanted to know what her name was. I told her we didn’t have one yet, and that we were waiting for her to pick out a name for herself. She looked…frustrated? I’m not sure. She hasn’t quite got the facial expressions down yet.
Talked to Tiny about the injection thing. He said he didn’t know why she wanted another, but he asked the other trolls if they’d be willing to let him draw from them. They said she doesn’t need it. They didn’t have any “new data” to share. The Controller sat off away from them tonight. Actually, away from ALL of us. We’re not sure if she was doing that because she feels left out, or if she was giving them her version of the cold shoulder. Either way, this could be a problem. If the difference between a good “cloud” and a “bad” cloud is based on how connected they are to the people around them, we can’t afford to let her feel left out. On the flipside, we also can’t risk alienating (sp?) the other trolls by forcing them to let us draw from them. If we try spending one-on-one time with the Controller, then the other trolls might think we’re playing favorites, so we can’t do that, either.
If this is what it’s like having more than one kid, Bridgette’s just gonna have to be happy being an only child.
Dec. 15, 2018
Well, this is annoying. Kinda.
It appears we missed our turn off. Apparently, most of us forgot how to use our brains when we were traveling this way, and didn’t mark the maps. I say “most” of us, cause Tiny, at least, marked his (or he says he did), but, hey, guess what? We can’t find it. We had 15 of these damn maps, and now we can only find 5, and those 5 don’t have this area marked.
Before you get pissy with the boys about losing the maps, we’re pretty sure we know what happened to the damn things. We had set aside one box for things we could use as tinder. We didn’t think we’d need all 15 fucking maps, so we tossed some of them in that box. We’re thinking the maps we wanted to keep got mixed in with the ones we were planning on burning, and they ALL got burned. The only question is if it was Luna or one of the trolls that made the mistake.
It’s not a huge deal. As the boys said, it’s probably better not to follow the EXACT same path back, anyway, just in case we had any followers. Plus, the ones we found DO have the little settlements marked, so, I mean, that’s good. Also, since we stayed on 40 this time, we found a massive shoe store. It’s obviously been picked through, but it was too big for everything to be gone, so SCORE for us. A lot of our walkers had been putting shredded paper in their shoes and duct taping them. Now, everyone has a pair of new shoes, and a spare. The boys and I went ahead and grabbed new pairs, too, but we’re still wearing the ones you guys provided. They’re more for emergency than anything else.
We found socks, too, but we actually already had plenty of those. That’s one of the things your boys insisted on hunting down at every house we stopped in. I’m not sure what the hell that’s all about, and they swore they were doing me a favor by making sure I never found out. Sounds a lot like when parents say “because I said so” to me, but whatever.
The Controller is somewhat back to normal. She’s been watching me again, but I’m not as creeped out by it anymore, because I THINK I know what it means. Tiny said she kept staring at him the day before she approached him about another injection. That was after she asked me about her name. If I’m right, she’s trying to think of how to phrase what she wants to say. It’s like it takes her a while to get the words right in her head before she’s okay with them in her mouth, if that makes sense? Like, rehearsing what she wants to say, I guess. I figure she’ll tell me whatever it is she wants to say here in a day or so.
Oh! Before I forget. I almost had a stupid moment. Right after we all got the new shoes, we came across another one of those annoying stream things. You know, the ones just deep enough to be annoying, but not so deep the horses couldn’t take the wagons across? Yeah. I was getting ready to just stroll on across, and then I remembered that we had a bunch of people with us who hadn’t lost a good pair of shoes…yet. Doug volunteered to stay on that side of the stream and warn people to take off their shoes before they crossed. I told him to tell them all that if they lost their shoes (and/or socks) in the mud, they were shit outta luck. Most of them chose to climb over what was left of the bridge, rather than risk the mud and water. Can’t say I blame them, either…it was actually kinda chilly today. Like, it started off somewhat warm, and then it got colder. It was annoying, but no rain and no twitchers, so I refuse to take it as anything other than a win.
Dec. 16, 2018
I don’t think I mentioned this before, but I LOVE having scouts. Your boys saved us a lot of time and ugh today. We’re at the area where 40 goes over the river a bunch of times. The boys got to the bridge, went “wait a minute…” and checked the map. We don’t have the road we took around the river marked, but it’s kinda hard to miss the blue line on the paper, you know?
We had to cut today’s walk short because the next day, maybe two, are going to be all uphill and I don’t remember there being a lot of places to stop in the hills. I could be wrong, it was a while ago, but I don’t want to take that risk, and the boys agreed. It’s already hard enough to find a place for all of us as it is. Where we are now, we’re split up between two different buildings, and I am NOT happy about it. We’re basically living in a horror movie, and what always happens when the team decides to split up? Yup. Not happy, but it was too warm for all of us to stay in the same place. We tried, but nope.It wouldn’t be so bad, except we can’t even SEE the other place. It’s on the other side of a bunch of trees and I don’t LIKE it. The trolls aren’t sensing any twitchers, and we split the group up so both of us have a couple trolls on deck to keep a nose out, but I really really hate this.
Have I mentioned I don’t like the group being split up? Just checking.
Dec. 17, 2018
I’m all over the place today. On the upside, the group is all back together. Also, we found out there’s a LOT of deer in these hills. We ate GOOD tonight. The boys took down two good sized ones and made stew out of it. We still had some of the goods from the farms, so we cut up most of the potatoes and stuff and tossed it into the pot. The boys plan on hunting another couple tomorrow and cleaning them while we walk. They’re grumbly because we don’t have anything to turn the meat into ground meat for spaghetti and such, but they think it’ll still taste alright as a stew again, but this time with some of the noodles we have. Our little herb gatherers have spread the word to be on the lookout for wild onions and anything else that might stretch the meat a bit further. They’ve also been told to stick close to the group, however, because deers aren’t the only bits of wildlife in this area.
Garcia thinks he spotted a wolf. I told him it was probably just a wild dog, we’ve seen a shit ton of those, but Garcia said it looked too big to be a regular dog, and it sure as fuck wasn’t a coyote.
I was surprised, but Ty said he was more surprised this was the first time we ran into trouble with them. He was expecting this to be a regular issue, which got him a massive bitching out, just so you know. I never heard him say ANYTHING about wolves and shit, and a little bit of warning would’ve been fucking nice, just fucking saying. Coyotes, I wouldn’t care. They’re relatively easy to scare away, especially with as big of a group as we have. Wolves? Fuck. That.
We found…well, we thought we found some of your guys. We crossed the river at a dam, and there were buildings marked as the engineer corps, but they were all empty. Gomez said that if the corps are alive, they’re probably in a settlement nearby. We still had some light left to work with, but we went ahead and stopped for the night so the boys could go see what they could find.
They found the wolves and some deer, but no settlement. I don’t think Gomez is taking it very well, either, but it’s not like I can ask him about it. Well, I mean, I could, but he wouldn’t answer. All your boys are like that. Stubborn asses.
Anyway. There is one other piece of news to share. The Controller picked a name. When we stopped for the night, I went to let Luna and the trolls know what was going on. The Controller was the last one out of the wagon. She got down and didn’t even look at me. Just said, “I am Joshua,” and walked away. I told Tiny, cause, I mean, I get society has collapsed and all that, but…Joshua is still usually a guy’s name? I mean, shit, I’ve got two Joshes in my family, as it is, PLUS the Josh we picked up. All three are guys. I also don’t remember any characters named Joshua in the Potter books, so where’d she get it from?
There’s a guy in the Nashville group that goes by Josh, but as far as we know of, he hasn’t had any encounters with her. I asked Sarai if maybe there was a handler back at NORAD named Joshua that she might’ve known, but she said she couldn’t remember. There were too many people she worked with, supposedly. She did point out that it’s possible she picked up the name from something on the computers at NORAD, which, I didn’t even think about, but it makes sense. Still doesn’t explain why she picked that name out, unless maybe it’s something she remembers from before she was turned into a troll? Is that possible? Something to think about, that’s for damn sure.
On the troll note, we’ve been letting the trolls come and go from the wagons, as long as they stay close to one of us. The Nashville people seem to be handling their presence better, but none of us are willing to push things. There’s one lady who seems to have taken Ron under her wing. She’s been showing him the plants she gathers and explaining what they’re good for. He’s not fantastic at emoting, but she smiles at him a lot, and he smiles back. It’s cute.
I think that’s it. Tomorrow we hit the road again.
Dec. 18, 2018,
Dear General Williams,
Today, we shall talk about lessons learned.
Lesson 1. Going over a hill is the shorter path than going around, HOWEVER, it also takes more out of you, especially if you aren’t used to it.
Lesson 2. When your squad leader tells you to stick to the road and you choose to disregard their orders, complaining about your aches and pains will garner you no sympathy. There will be no rides in the wagons while you recover from your own stupidity.
Lesson 3. Bitching about the squad leader refusing to let you ride in the wagon will get you latrine duty for the rest of the month, or the end of the journey, whichever one comes first.
Lesson 4. Yelling and screaming at the squad leader for being “unfair” and “playing favorites” will get the attention of the other squad leaders, many of whom are rough and tough and have 0 fucks to give regarding your unhappiness with the situation. They do, however, have plenty of fucks to give when it comes to where you’ll be sleeping at night, how many nights you’re on watch, how much food you get and when you get it.
In case you couldn’t tell, we had some problems today. Some of the Nashville folks wanted to go over the hills here, rather than around them. I told them to stick to the roads. I don’t care if they cut across a field, if it gets them to the same place with less effort and no additional risk, I mean, hell…we’ve been doing that since the beginning. The problem is that the hills are covered in trees, and a lot of them have steep ass sides. If anybody falls up there, they’re risking injuries that we are not equipped to deal with.
And, I mean, I get it? The main people who were pitching a fit are a group of guys Gomez says he had placed in charge a few times. They’re used to being their own men, as it were. But before we left Nashville, Gomez told the people that they were to listen to me. Supposedly, I outrank him, when it comes to them? Don’t look at me, that’s the way they phrased it. I can’t “technically” boss the boys around, but I can boss the civvies around. From what Sarai tells me, the only “civvie” I can’t boss around is our new Joshua, and that’s because she’s considered government “property,” which is another discussion you and I will be having, but ANYWAY.
As I said, I get it. They don’t want to listen to me. They don’t know me. They haven’t done this kind of a march before. They don’t know that I’ve been there, done that. I wish I could give them time to realize that I’m not talking out of my ass, but we don’t have that time. And frankly, I don’t have that patience.
We had a group meeting today. Gomez reiterated that his Nashville folks were to follow my commands, and that if anyone had a problem with that, then tonight was the night to get their shit together and go. We had at least 15-20 people get up and start packing on the spot…until Jean and BG told them that they were only allowed to take what they brought with them. There would be no taking any of our food or water, etc.. They were also instructed that if they left, they would have to do it as soon as they were done eating. No hanging around to see if there was any extra (there was a little bit extra yesterday), no stopping to chit chat and start trouble, just “stuff your face and get the fuck out.”
In the end, we had three walk out. Everyone who remained were warned not to try slipping away to give them anything from our supplies. We’re not forcing anyone to stay with us, but we’re also not going to continue providing for people who don’t want to follow a simple fucking rule and then expect special treatment. There was a little grumbling, but most of the people seemed to agree with us.
The lady that Ron’s been hanging around told me she saw it coming a mile away. Said he used to be a pretty decent guy. Then his sister died in the first winter, and it was like he got it in his head that it was HIS job to take care of everyone, and no matter what anyone else did or said, if it wasn’t his way, it was the “wrong” way. He had butted heads with Gomez more than a few times, and when the building collapsed, he tried telling people that Gomez knew that the building was unstable, and let it fall with people in it on purpose. Said that he did it so they had less mouths to feed. Pointed out how the people who died were the kids and the elderly. The “unproductive” members of the group. Nevermind that the kids had been learning how to take care of the rooftop gardens, and the older people had been keeping the area clean and food ready to eat when everyone got home. Some of the older kids had actually began helping in the fields. They would help one day, get a day off, and then help the next day. The day the collapse happened, just also happened to be their day off. As she said, yeah, the timing sucked, but there was no way Gomez could’ve known the building would fall on THAT day. People wanted someone to blame though, and Gomez was an easy target. “Hell, he was such an easy target, even HE blamed himself.”
The two guys jackass took with him looked like a couple “good ol’ boys,” so our hearts aren’t exactly broken right now. I’m more concerned with them trying to retaliate against us on the road, but I guess the boys know me pretty damn well now, cause I didn’t even get a chance to say anything before they told me they got it handled. They’re doubling the guard, a civvie with each soldier, and none of the people who were ready to walk out were picked to help out.
Tomorrow, some of the trolls are gonna be on scout duty with the soldiers. The rest will stay near the wagons with me. I’ll be riding along with whoever is on the riding schedule for the day. We’re trying something new. The gatherers are gonna bring their loot straight to us, instead of waiting til the end of the day. The civvies and I will go through it together, keep the good stuff, and give the trash to the next group so they can dump it off for us.
The hope is that we’ll all be able to pick each other’s brains for good uses of what we find, and learn from each other. Some of them already have a pretty good idea of what to grab, but we definitely have some newbies, which isn’t exactly a surprise. I mean…most of them did their looting from the other business offices near them. Kinda hard to grab anything “good” from places like that. The others just did quick grab and runs along the walk to and from the fields, but they did it often enough they knew where NOT to look, at least. At any rate, we’re hoping to get the newbies up to speed, so when they leave me and go back to gathering supplies, they’ll have a better idea of what to grab, you know?
Yeah, we’ll see how that goes.