February 21, 2024

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Dear Diary,

It’s me, Jessica.

It has been a crazy, exciting week, but not in a good kind of way.

The day after Christmas, two things happened:  1)  It snowed.  Not much, a ‘dusting’ as Dad put it.  It was mostly gone by noon, except in the deep shadows.  Snow around here is rare.  2) The ‘HAM’ guy said there were reports of a ‘gang’ going around in trucks attacking remote homes and farms.  

The next day two men on a dirt bike came speeding down our street.  They had those big black rifles.  No one has heard a car let alone a dirt bike in months.  Everyone came out of their homes to see what was going on, many with their own guns.  The guys on the dirt bike turned around and sped back the way they came.  

Many in the neighborhood gathered in groups to talk about what they saw and what it meant.  Jack showed up a few minutes later from his street and asked what happened.  Once he heard what people were saying, he seemed to think for a moment.  Jack then said while he was out trading with others in surrounding neighborhoods and way down in town, a few said they saw two trucks pulling RVs with another half dozen or so trucks, one with two dirt bikes in the beds going down Old River Road.  Jack went and talked with the HAM guy to ask the local HAMs if they heard of anything unusual.  The HAM guy said the net was ‘chattering’ about running trucks and the attacks.  An old fisherman went to his favorite fishing hole off Old River Road, a remote boat launch and picnic site, to find it was occupied by two RVs, a bunch of trucks, and some mean-looking guys in ‘tactical’ gear.  The fisherman high-tailed it out of there before they saw him.  Jack did not think they would attack our neighborhood.  He pointed to all the people with guns.  If the two guys on the dirt bike were out scouting the area, the Miller farm, on the other hand, they would attack them.  

Jack, who is the leader of the militia, split the militia into two.  One group he called ‘home guard’ would stay in the neighborhood and keep watch.  The other group, he called the ‘assault team’, made up of mostly combat veterans, would set up an ambush at the Miller’s farm.  

It was early morning the next day, I was helping Mom turning over the compost pile in the back yard when we heard dull explosions and then gun fire in the distance in the direction of the Miller farm.  Mom and I stood silently, listening to the rapid fire of many guns.  Then it stopped.   Diary, I am not going to lie, I felt a little guilty, but the first person I thought of was Billy.  It was not till much later that I found out he and his entire family and the farm were safe.  

Jack and his assault team set up an ambush, using what he called ‘a few household chemicals in the proper proportions’ to make something Jack called ‘HMEs,’ whatever those are, and ‘interlocking fields of fire’ to take out the gang.  To Mom and me, the firefight sounded like forever. 

But Jack said, “It was all done and over with in less than five minutes.”

There were no survivors.  

Jack and his assault team took the two remaining functioning gang trucks and went to the site off Old River Road, where the fisherman saw the RVs and trucks at the boat launch.  They got within a mile and then ‘humped’ it in.  There were two trucks with RVs behind them, three women with rifles, and an old man with a shotgun sitting around a campfire talking with each other.  Jack gave the signal, and the ‘assault team’ quietly overtook them without a shot. 

The larger RV was empty.  Jack said it was ‘nicer’ than his own home, just a bit smaller and on wheels.  The smaller one was filthy inside, smelled badly of human sweat and had ten women and a small boy tied up in it.  Jack said the other women, the old man, and the others used them as ‘slave’ labor and ‘entertainment.’  When someone asked what Jack did with the ‘other’ armed women and the old man, Jack just said he gave those women they freed a length of firewood and let them have at it.

Justice was served, he said.

Diary, I am not sure how I felt about that.  

Then a truck pulling a RV driven by one of the ‘assault team’ members rolled up to a stop in front of us.  The RV door opened, and slowly, the women came out.  They were thin.  Mom said ‘gaunt.’  Their hair was messy and greasy.  Some had bruises on their faces.  A few limped, and one needed help because she limped so badly.  The boy was not much better.  One young, thin girl, younger than me, looked around fearfully at us.

I don’t know why, but I walked up to her and told her it was ‘okay’ and she was ‘safe’ now.  She suddenly hugged me and started sobbing, ‘It’s over,’ again and again.

A tall, big ‘boned’ woman with long auburn hair stepped down from the RV, saw me hugging the young girl, and walked over.  She put her hand on the girl’s shoulder.  The young girl looked up at the woman.  The woman told her, 

“Yes.  It is over.  We are safe now.”

She then looked at me.  Her face was a mess of black, blue, and yellow bruises.  Her nose was crooked.  But she had beautiful blue eyes with a fierce determination behind them.  She winced slightly when she smiled at me as much as she could smile with her swollen face.

Diary, now I am not sure what to think.

Entry 2

Dear Diary,

More exciting news:  I have a gun.  

Nope.  Not a gun.  A rifle, as Jack would correct me.

After the gang firefight, Jack and the assault team recovered a bunch of rifles, ammo, and other ‘tactical’ gear.  They found even more in the big RV.  Jack guessed it was plunder from the gang’s victims.  

Much to my and Dad’s surprise, after seeing the condition of the freed women and hearing about the rifles and ammo, Mom walked right up to Jack and said, “Give me one.”

Diary, the thing is, we have never had any rifles.  As far as I know, Mom and Dad never had one, let alone shot one.  

Jack asked Mom if she or Dad knew how to use one.  Jack looked like he was about to say ‘no’ when Mom said they didn’t, but then the auburn woman interjected, “The world was dangerous before the lights went out.  It is more so now.” 

She looked right at me with those fierce blue eyes.  “They are going to need it.”

When I first heard her talk, I thought the accent was from her swollen face.  Nope, she just had a deep Southern accent.  Her name was Celia-Rae, but everyone called her ‘Rae.’

Jack looked at Rae, looked at me, seemed to think for a moment, then simply said, “Okay.”

Jack and the rest of the militia spent an entire week training those in the neighborhood who were physically able how to shoot.  Even those who knew went through ‘remedial’ training.  The first day, I was surprised to see how many people had firearms.  I didn’t know the difference between all the firearms.  What I did know was from what I saw on TV and in the movies.  

Now, I know the difference between a bolt-rifle, a lever-action rifle, a semi-auto rifle, a shotgun a rimfire, revolvers and semi-auto pistols.  

For those of us who have never fired a firearm, our group includes me, Mom and Dad, a few kids younger than me, and about a dozen other adults.  We practiced basic marksmanship with air rifles.  

Dad was just ‘okay.’

Mom was better than him.

I was better than both of them.  Jack even gave me a rare smile and said I was a ‘natural,’ whatever that meant.

Then, it was time for us to ‘try’ out different rifles to see which we were most comfortable with. 

Mom and Dad were most comfortable with the black rifle.  Surprisingly, Mom was excited about shooting it.  

Me, nope.  Don’t know why.  For whatever reason, it just did not feel right.

Jack was looking at the folding table of rifles for something else for me to try when Rae walked up to me, handed me a lever-action rifle with a black synthetic stock, and said, “Give this one a try, honey,” in her heavy Southern accent.

I aimed at the target taped to a tree a hundred yards away and squeezed the trigger just like Jack taught me.  I looked over my shoulder at Rae and Jack and could not help but smile.  Rae laughed, and Jack gave another rare smile.  He then told me to take another shot.  I did.  Then I said to them, “I like this!”

Jack gave me a look.  He then nodded, told me to ‘make safe,’ walked down and replaced the target with a different one.  He came back and topped off the rifle’s magazine. 

“When I say, ‘go,’ I want you to shoulder the rifle, take off the safety, and shoot five rounds at the paper plate as fast as you can.”

Diary, I shot and hit the paper plate with all five rounds in six seconds.  The paper plate was eight inches.  All my shots were well within six inches.  Jack said he had never seen a woman shoot a lever-action so well on her first try. 

Rae said, “You never met me.”

Jack actually chuckled.

“I knew she could do it,” Rae said.  “She has it in her.”

So, Diary, now I have a rifle.

Entry 3

Dear Diary,

Dad and I hiked it to the Miller farm for work, him with his ‘black’ rifle, me with mine.  

As we walked up, Mr. Miller came out, looked at us both with our rifles, and said, “Good.”

Billy said, “Looks good on you,” and smiled.  I could not help but smile back.

Diary, New Year’s Eve, I think, was better than Christmas.  But then there was a whole lot more drinking going on for the adults.  And some bad but fun singing.

Everyone did what they could for dinner: turkey, chicken, rabbit, venison, a few hams, and the HAM guy made hamburgers with homemade potato buns, onions, bacon, and mushrooms.  Diary, I never liked mushrooms till now.  Now I love them.  A few desserts.  Dinner was an outdoor traveling feast.  Mom and Dad stayed at home, handing out plates of turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes.  When I had my fill, I went back home and handed out the last of the turkey while they made a round sampling others’ offerings.  

During the first and second weeks after the power went out, some people in the neighborhood loaded up their cars and tried to make it to family in other parts of the state or even in other states. None returned.  

The neighborhood made a decision to let the freed women and the boy use those abandoned homes as their own.  Rae and two other women and the young girl took a home two doors down.  Rae and some of the others were adjusting well to their new homes and the neighborhood.  Others still were fearful, mostly of the men.  The little boy, when I did see him, just sat and rocked back and forth, not saying anything or even looking up when I tried to talk to him.  There are two women who had worked as social workers and one woman who had worked as a psychiatrist, trying to work with them to help them.  I overheard Mom talking with one who said a few of the women and the little boy may be ‘lost forever’ due to the damage done to them.

Diary, I guess I have lived a pretty sheltered life.  Back in the old neighborhood, I saw some things that were not good and I knew bad things happened to good people.  Bad people did bad things.  But I had never seen it up close like this.  

Physically, all the women are healing.  Even Rae.  The bruises on her face have faded away, her face is no longer swollen.  She is actually very pretty.  But she has a presence, a strength about her that the other women look up to.  I have even seen Jack looking at her in a different way.  One day, while she was training me how to dry fire the snap shot, she said something I don’t think she meant to say, at least out loud.  Her strength and determination may have been why she was abused so much.  One of the gang members found her strength and determination as a challenge and relished the opportunity to abuse her.  But she never let him win.  Even when he was violating her, she said her only regret was she was not the one who ‘squeezed’ the trigger at the ambush at the Miller farm to ‘end’ him.  

Diary, I am not sure how I feel about that.

About 1stMarineJarHead

1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.

He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.