Amazing Grace –
The El Niño Legend
(photo by Tim Richardson)
Carl had a lot of chores to do. He had to check the caverns for structural strength and leaks of the pouring rain. The mountain had been saturated and the fear of leaks was based on the relentless of the rain and the copious amounts of precipitation that had fallen in the past twenty four hours. Sometimes, the structure might be weakened of its rain catchers are bent or broken off giving the water no recourse to drain off as designed.
He was certainly interested in Heather’s story and wanted to hear more about her horrifying ride down the hill and into the valley on a sheet of high rising water that ended up marooning her somewhere close to his cavern and making it possible there were other survivors around there.
Satisfied the cave was undamaged today, he went back to the kitchen to fix himself something eat and drink some ice cold water. Suddenly he heard a loud crashing sound. It was Heather screaming and as soon as he heard her shriek, he came running. It was strange to hear another sound inside the cave as he had been alone for so long, he had forgotten what it was like to have others around him as his Rottweilers paced his run and followed him into the guest bedroom.
As he pushed the bedroom door open, he looked at the distorted reflection of himself standing in front of a cracked mirror. It must have come loose and came crashing down when the door was accidently slammed shut and since the room was hardly ever used, the mirror had never been tested before.
A frightened look on Heather’s face told Carl the broken mirror had frightened her badly. Her hand was shaking. In almost an instant moment, he bent over and picked up the jagged silver pieces of the broken glass and tossed them into the waste basket. He calmed Heather down and said to her, “don’t worry, it wasn’t your fault, I must not have fastened it too good.”
He asked her if she was up to going to the city to find some places that had survived the storms and selling essential supplies that were needed now that there were more than one mouth to feed and the kid had a weird taste of her own.
At the same time, he offered Heather a chance to leave the cave and find her family or friends who may have survived the rising El Nino waters and hordes of zombies roaming around out there without any cops in sight to fight the good fight.
Reassuring Heather she was welcome to stay until the storms were over and the zombies were contained or killed, he passed by her slowly sensing a deep sensual sexual vibration as he got close to her and slowly walked through the blurred silence of the bedroom and turned left into the narrow hallway and left her out of sight stepping into his bedroom.
His bedroom had been cordially decorated for a single man’s taste in furniture as everything in the room was functional and practical when chosen. In his own taste, an Oakland Raider logo covering the wall and the pillows holding up the pirate’s skull and bones, he had converted the room into a bachelor’s pad that was sports oriented and simple.
For a while he stood there facing the wall and remember the words a frightened Heather had spoken. Her tale of zombies floating underwater and grabbing at her from the rushing waters while trapped inside her SUV were intriguing to say the least but it gave him concerns that he might need to take extra precautions.
Maybe this time around, he would take some weapons with him when he goes into town. Perhaps a few guns, a baseball bat and other blunt objects that could help fight off the zombies if attacked. Carl was a medium size man. Not standing as tall as his brother, he was stocky in stature and his features were distinguishing salt and pepper hair with the long Fu Manchu mustache covering his small but thick lipped mouth and brown eyes which moved with deliberate caution.
Licensed to carry concealed and proficient with a firearm, long or short, he had enough ammunition in his cave to hold off an army for months at a time. He had predicted isolation and defending his dwelling with force if the time ever came where his government would fail to protect him thus he equipped himself with weapons that could inflict mass destruction.
After standing there thinking for a few minutes, he took a long slow breath and went back into his bed room where he entered the closet and opened up a secret compartment. Once open he gathered up some boxes of .40 caliber S&W ammo to fit his Glock semi auto pistol he favored over the others.
As a precaution, he picked up a smaller .38 revolver that he put in his back pocket in case he needed something small to take care of any threats that encroached him in close quarters. Packed and ready to head into the city, he went to a hollowed out space on the exterior of his well-structured cavern and check his vehicle for fuel and started it up as a door opened to allow him to exit the hollow.
He had not shared this place with Heather and didn’t want to worry her since he had been gone for over ten minutes now so he drove his truck out of the hollow and parked it near his entrance to the cavern.
Entering his front door, he surprised Heather as she didn’t expect him to come in from the outside thinking he was still inside his bedroom. Smiling Carl said softly, let’s get ready to go to the city and get some supplies and find something for you to wear. He had noticed the clothes Heather and the kid were wearing were old and wrinkled and compromised their fashion style somewhat.
They headed for the mall where Heather had said she had seen zombies headed that way as she floated down the flooded streets in the opposite direction. The first thing Carl wanted to do was to find a hardware store and gather up some equipment he needed to outlast the storm.
His eyes keen and sensed for zombies, he strangely found the streets scattered with debris and at some locations littered with dead bodies but there were no signs of any zombies, dead or unalive.
His four wheel drive F250 supermax truck was strong enough to get them through the debris and mud that had gathered when the rains subsided somewhat and lowered the water levels down far enough to travel the roads.
Looking at the sky, he knew that had a couple of hours before the next rain storm arrived and drench the area all over again. It was the way the valley funneled the water from the high country. It was destined to be flooded if the rains didn’t stop and the sun disappeared for more than three days at a time.
The El Nino was a three month long prediction with endless rain falling on the once drought countryside and now filled with mudslides, pools of standing water and mass destruction of water damaged buildings and structures without electrical power.
The first store they saw was a Big 5 store that was also a sporting goods store. The place was empty but their merchandize was out there on the shelves and floor ready for anyone who came in to grab. Carl told Heather to take her child and grab a cart and pack a big backpack, a couple of rain proof coats, some baseball bats, and a tent, a big tent. Looting was not a becoming trait of Carl but under the circumstances, he felt compelled to survive and if that meant to steal what he needed, so be it.
He didn’t explain why he wanted a big tent but she didn’t argue. Along the way she grabbed some shoes and boots as well as some exercise clothing that would fit her and the kid. In the meantime, Carl had grabbed some extra ammunition, a high powered scoped 30 - 06 Remington rifle and some extra flashlights and batteries.
He figured that although he had plenty of handgun ammo, he needed the rifle for survival if he had to dash into the woods if the zombies found a way to enter his mountain bunker. After taking what he needed from the Big 5 stores he found a ravished partially damaged empty grocery store and pulled more foodstuff off the shelves loading up the carts with perishables and instant foods that would feed an army.
Making sure he hand extra space for candy, he loaded the groceries in the back of his cab and took off down the road to the service stations that still had lights on and power to their pumps. Although parts of the city had lost power, the outage was sporadic and varied block to block.
Searching for a gas station with power, he found a Chevron station and fueled his supermax truck up to make the needle touch the full mark. So far, he had not found any survivors or zombies walking around the stores or areas where he traveled.
One last to the grocery store so we have as much food as possible. Then we would make our way back to the cave unless Heather wanted to be dropped off somewhere else. Carl gave her a choice, not an ultimatum and she decided to stay with him until the storms subsided and the cell phone system was back on the air so she could contact someone for help and find a place to stay until she got her life back together.
When Carl drove to the mall he passed the townhouse complex where Heather was living. It was destroyed by the raging waters and dark with no electricity and signs of life. She lived about an hour’s drive from the cavern.
He offered to take her to her apartment to recollect or recover some personal stuff but she declined to go there as she was in tears that she had lost everything she had and didn’t want to see it leaving a bad taste in her mouth and even foulest memories in her head.
So as the water was only knee deep in some areas and the power was off, the streets were manageable and open. There were no cop cars in sight and the smoke from the fires was heavy in some places.
Surprisingly, the need to fight off an attack by the zombies had not arrived making Carl a little bit more relaxed and giving Heather a chance to recollect her emotions and sense. She had been a mental wreck on the way down the hill as they approached the mall as she expected hundreds of bodies spread out in the huge parking lot but to her surprise, there was a small body count.
Many of those found out there in the street and parking lot were slowly decomposing and falling apart under the high humidity and the heat of the day, the water that hastened the decomposition and the flesh torn open by the bites of sub-human species attacking at will when the opportunity was created by the rushing waters.
All and all, the drive down the valley and up the hill was uneventful. Although no cops were seen and no firemen or EMT personnel were spotted, there didn’t appear to be a mass casualty out there but then, they had been gone for hours and anything that happened during their absence from the city.
One could tell by the damage and strewn debris and broken buildings, there was a mass evacuation and most had left the city and headed for safer places under the protection of martial law as streets elsewhere are reported to be guarded by soldiers.
Long before the El Nino prediction, an apocalyptic event was predicted and Carl had done his homework on the possible effects of such a disaster. One thing he certain of was the triggering of zombies by calamities or disasters that were bred by air or water.
It was not through some weird satanic process that zombies were created. He knew it had to be a virus carried by contaminated water or air that spawned the formation of such mutations. Whether or not they were supernatural by design or origin was never in question. They have no super powers.
They are mere undead people who are formed from a virus yet to be determined. Carl had read this virus was very powerful and so far, even the most intelligent and brightest scientists in the world have not found a cure for such mutations.
There have been numerous military experiments conducted on zombies as Carl detected when he was overseas and there were times where zombies appeared out of nowhere but the volume of bombs and munitions used to destroy the enemy from the air or artillery weapons were massive and disturbed much of the air and dirt around such places and nothing they have seen or tried has stopped the mutations from occurring.
Carl knew how the virus worked and infected a human being. The virus, still unidentified and proliferated by wars and disasters, enters the victim through any kind of open wound. Wounds that may have been created by accidents, bullet wounds, knife attacks or even shrapnel from explosives and of course there is the infection by a bite. This infection is said to take place about sixteen hours after the exposure to such an infectious moment.
At sixteen hours, the victim will go into a deep coma. At twenty hours duration, the heart rate will slow down to about a standstill rate giving the infected person a very slight and detectable pulse.
At that time, the brain waves stop to function at their normal manner and the mind is reawakened by the fact that although the person would be legally declared brain dead, this virus resurrects the dead and reanimate to the altered state of being the undead in a living body.
Thus it is safe to say that as twenty four hours passes, the subject, a once human being, no longer functions as a human but instead turned into a zombie where the body organs have ceased to live, perform or function as before and the blood system is completely broken and dilapidated rather than circulating the blood flow through the body.
Any person familiar with the functions of the brain and circulatory system will tell you that once your brain is dead and your blood stops moving, your body does not create a means to deliver oxygen to all its parts but that in this state, the body doesn’t need the oxygen or air to function in slow motion. For this reason Carl knew that in order to kill a zombie, he had to aim for the head.
The virus lives in the brain tissue of the infected host and reproduces rapidly. Though eventually it will spread throughout the entire body, the whole thing will be stopped if the brain is damaged. Other means to kill or stop a zombie is blunt trauma to the head and cutting the head off the main torso.
The virus is in fact, seemingly specifically evolved to live in human nerve tissue. This is apparent because it can only kill, but not reanimate in other animals such as dogs, or snakes, or other species that roamed the earth.
This fact has been known for centuries as the long-lived virus is resilient and able to withstand extreme temperatures either hot or cold and survive once the chain of infecting the others around them is not broken.
Arriving at the cavern, he dropped Heather and the kid off at the front entrance and carefully looked around to see if anyone had followed them from the city. Although the road is a two lane highway, if someone was slick enough to avoid detection, they could follow and find out where the hidden bunker was. At this time, he was convinced nobody followed and opened the door to let Heather and the kid in the cavern.
Unloading the food to the side of the hollow and putting the perishables inside the reefer and freezer, he tried to catch his breath as he reached in his cab to retrieve his sporting goods and stashing the weapons and ammunition in his secret closet.
He was worn out by the vigilance the drive had drained from him. Exhausted he wanted to lay down and take a nap but he knew there were things to do before he could take that long earned break for the night. Heather and the kid went into the bedroom and unpacked their newly selected and picked up clothing.
Fitting them fine and making them feel a little bit better how they were dressed and the feeling of their new shoes made them smile and hug each other with a little relieve in their sighs.
Unknown to Carl, they needed a break from the old wrinkled smelly moth scented clothes they found inside the bag as the fashion of the ones who wore them was old fashioned and not even close to the latest style.
He had no idea what the night would bring but having the company of Anna, Reyna and Axel by his side, he took a deep slow breath for a few minutes and then took a slow walk back into the kitchen where he found some fresh fruit and bananas left out there on the table.
Chomping on the large green apple, he realized that he still had some tools in his truck and that he needed to check on his equipment before the night was over. Tools that he needed to make sure his equipment was ready for a long trip if needed or a repair on his hollow as this rain was relentless in punishing his humble domain with all the power it had from the El Nino that had delivered a powerful hurricane force wind just a day before and creating tsunami like flooding all over the valley.
Suddenly the lights began to flicker. Picking up his toolbox he headed for the power room where the generator was located. Tossing the hammer on the concrete floor, he saw what was wrong with the generator almost immediately. The red warning light was telling him the oil level was low and he needed to add some right away before the generator would seize up and stop.
He kept a case or two of the motor oil he needed for this occasion. His mind had prepared him for situations like this as he always played the ‘what if” scenario in his mind to prepare himself for the unexpected.
An ex-soldier by trade, a mechanic at night and a lonely man most of the time, Carl sought different ways to deal with the loneliness and found ways to grind up the time on the clock by keeping himself busy.
Resetting the generator from the power source to switch the caverns to the stored up solar battery power packs, the lights dimmed momentarily and as the generator was off, he took the time to make sure all the settings and associated equipment was in good order.
He had the time to make a quick inspection so he pulled the plugs, changed the oil and checked the filters before switching it back to run on the fossil fuel that was costing him more than he bargained for when the gas prices went sky high without any justified reasons.
Working inside the poorly air conditioned hollow caused Carl to sweat a little. The generator was vented to the outside of the mountain through a well ventilated shaft that reduced the exhaust of the generator to a trace and almost undetectable from the air as a heat source or a pollution device.
A conscientious environmental person, he made sure there was no carbon monoxide and not excessive pollution into the air so he did what he could to make his power sources environmentally sound and efficient.
Carl was exhausted and needed a drink. Something cold and something that would tingle his senses. He forced himself to walk all the way to the relaxation room where he had his stash inside the glass covered liquor cabinet behind the bar. Sipping on his drink, he heard footsteps in the hallway.
It was Heather by herself as she said the kid was laying down and tired from the long day and shopping spree. He forced himself to put away the drink and asked her if she was okay. Heather nodded her head and told him she was thankful for all he had done for her and the kid.
She seemed a bit emotional and made Carl uneasy. For Carl was a man used to solitary moments and not such emotional encounters that caused him to feel uneasy. He was alone most of the time, except for his dogs and the big yellow snake, he kept to himself pretty much most of the time. He was a poor housekeeper and those things were of no importance to him.
It was getting late and he wanted to lay down and rest but Heather kept talking and found herself in a comfortable position as she smiled and even laughed a little as the burdens she had experienced were wearing her down and leaving her vulnerable to her emotionally driven senses.
It looked like she wanted to hold his hand. It sounded like she wanted to talk a little and tell Carl a little bit more about herself. Then as she approached Carl and sat down on the couch beside him, she touched his hand and smiled offering Carl a deep sigh and a blushful smile. It wasn’t clear why she felt embarrassed, it wasn’t anything she had done or said but as soon as she began to tell him how she felt, the lights began to flicker again and it was time to check the generator again.
Carl jumped up and grabbed his laptop that was loaded with the service manual for his generator. The generator was at it again. He’d knew that this time is wasn’t going to be as easy as the last time by merely fixing the red warning light. He had to find the damned service manual and start checking the wiring and other components as he went to the trouble shooting page and started from scratch.
Carl knew if it was too much trouble to get going or to repair, he’d have to install a new high output generator. Somewhat angrily he jerked the tool box off the shelf as Axel and Reyna laid down on the concrete floor away from him, keeping a vigil on the room with Carl’s back towards the door.
As he had entered the hollow he could smell something burning. It smelled electrical and as he checked the wiring harness closely, he found a burnt section of wires that were touching and shorting the generator out causing it to stall and flicker.