I Told You So
Robert Torrence had been born in Riley, NV. Born and raised, he used to say, grinning while the bartender filled up his glass at the dingy Wild Coyote Bar. He knew just about everyone in that stinking little town. And then… the mall had come and it had gotten so shitty.
Riley was on the very outskirts of Reno, but Reno had a way of stretching and it seemed like in a blink of an eye they were what was called a suburb. A Starbucks had come five years ago. Then the God damned mall.
And the people had come with it. They bought up land around Robert and built these stupid houses that all looked alike and were landscaped alike. Someone had offered to buy him out of his five acres, but his response had been a resounding fuck you before he let Trevor, his pit bull, have a go at the guy in the suit who’d come to the door.
Asshole had yelled about lawsuits and shit, but nothing ever came of it. Except for the houses and the people. Yuppies, his Dad would have called them, though Robert was pretty sure that was an out of date term now. Whatever. They were fucking ridiculous. They had homeowners association rules they tried to stick on him to clean up the broken down cars in the yard and the dog runs outside.
Of course, he’d been there a loooooong time before them and no one had ever made a rule stick yet. He might have let it all piss him off, too, if there hadn’t been real shit to worry about.
The internet was mostly stupid, but he’d gotten it around the same time the mall came and the houses started getting built. It was a ‘benefit’, they told him, of the building that he’d get all these wires running out past his place.
Pretty soon, though, he’d found his niche. His place. His people.
They said an apocalypse was coming. They said it was because of the president or the congress or the blacks or the Jews or the whatever. Robert had never really gotten into the blame game of why it was coming. He just read the theories on what it was.
A solar flare… he’d worried about that for a while. Then they’d talked about a meteor like in that one action movie, but it had missed the earth. There had even been mutterings of a nuclear attack that would shut it all down, but even though there were plenty of rumblings in the world, it never seemed to come to fruition.
But the one thing that kept getting brought up, that kept getting talked about, was a pandemic. Some kind of virus was going to hit this world, spread like wildfire and wipe out a huge portion of the population… and infrastructure, with it.
Robert hadn’t gone past high school, but he wasn’t stupid. He’d done the research, he’d tracked diseases, he’d followed the little stories they tried to bury in the mainstream media and by the time he’d had the internet for a year, he knew that he was a believer. The apocalypse was coming. And it was going to come in the form of some kind of outbreak.
So he’d begun to build. First it was the underground shelter with its big ass lock and its rows and rows of food storage. Once it was finished, he started filling it up. Who’d have ever looked at him, a wrestler in high school, a guy who worked at the plant down Old West Road, and think he’d become a Super Couponer. But he had and those shelves had become heavy with dry goods.
He’d researched generators and ways to cook and preserve fresh foods. He’d dried fruit, he’d dried meat, he’d figured out how to make an ice house by the creek a few hundred yards from the house (the association folks hadn’t figured that one yet). And he’d devised a great system for filtering water so he’d never have to worry about dehydration for a dozen lifetimes.
Then he’d gotten to work on his arsenal. He’d put in a reloading rig in the shelter so he could make his own shotgun shells. He’d bought ammo and guns. He stored them everywhere, for the time when he’d need them.
The people in the neighborhood fucking hated him for it. The kids were always sneaking onto his lot to look at his tools and spook the dog. There were always people coming to talk to him about his outdoor preparations (when he’d started building the lock down system, lord the people who had shown up).
Aside from that, he was always hearing the whispers about his ‘right-wing survivalist shit’. They were wrong. What he was doing had nothing to do with political party associations. He just knew when he saw shit coming and was smart enough to do something about it.
The joke was on them anyway. He was ready when the news started getting weird out of Seattle just two days before. He sat in his living room with a beer and the dog, staring at the screen while normalcy dissolved into chaos. Oh, he’d pretended to be like them, to laugh it off, but he’d started filling up the generators that same night. He’d gone into town and loaded up on a few niceties he knew he’d miss when it all hit the fan. Milk, for instance. Cheese. Cookies in a bag with a laughing bear on it for some reason, like a bear would laugh at cookies and not just rip your arms off for them.
He also picked up niceties other people would trade for in the long run, like cigarettes and coffee. He’d nodded and smiled as people teased him, in friendliness or not, about his war room and his survivalist crap. He’d agreed that it was probably some stupid joke that would be cleared up in a day or two.
Then he’d gone home, locked his fortress down and started watching the TV, listening to the ham radio and taking notes on everything.
They called the outbreak he’d been waiting for a form of zombie-ism. He’d never been a fan of those kinds of films, but he knew of it, knew the signs, knew the ‘cure’ was a swift smashing of the brain into little bits.
It left Seattle within hours of the ground zero outbreak. It had spread down the coast and out west and within twenty-four hours, it reached Reno. They lost power and the local news sources about six hours into the outbreak in the city.
And all the while, Robert settled back in his comfortable chair, with his happy dog, and smiled. Because he’d known all along. Because he’d prepared when all of them had mocked him. Because he was safe down here and they were going crazy up there.
The generator fed the cameras outside the house. Solar power backed it up and he knew it would run for at least a few years, only stuttering if there were long stretches without sun. In Nevada? Yeah, he felt pretty good about it.
On the fifth day, he saw them come onto his property. Not the zombies (though he’d seen a few of them here and there), but a family from one of those God-awful communities around him.
He was eating chili and he set his half-full bowl aside as they limped and staggered their way up the driveway. The Crawfords or something? He only knew because they’d made their shitty little snot nosed kid pay for damages when he broke a window in Robert’s shed two years ago. Casey or something, the kid’s name was. He was there, too, face all streaked with tears and dirt as they moseyed up to the front door of Robert’s house and started knocking like they were just there for a neighborly powwow.
“Should we answer, Trev?” he asked the dog. The pit raised his head, looked at the screen and lowered his head again. “Hm, that’s a vote for no. But I say yes, and I run the intercom. So…”
He depressed the talk button and said, “Crawfords right? From up the street?”
The father, who was wearing a dirty pair of jeans, expensive boots that were worth shit and a torn t-shirt, jumped at the sound of his voice coming from the box mounted above the door out of reach. On Robert’s screen, the man looked at the rest of the family and then nodded toward the camera he’d only just noticed.
“Y-Yes. That’s right. I’m Mark and this is my wife Kristie and our son Casey.”
“Huh, well there you go. What do you want?” he asked.
The wife stepped forward, shoving the kid in front of her like a human shield. “We know you’ve been building a shelter for some time, Rob.”
Robert shook his head. Rob. Like they were old friends. Except none of his friends called him Rob. They called him Bobby. Had since he was four or five.
“Indeed, I have, ma’am. What of it?”
“Please, let us in,” she asked, the mascara around her eyes streaking further as she began to cry. “We’re not prepared and we’re going to die out here.”
Robert shook his head and took a bite of chili, enjoying the flavor as he thought about her question. Thought about her demand, really, since she was pretty obviously using guilt as a weapon.
“Now Kristie, is it?” She nodded on the screen. “Yeah, I think I know you. About a year ago, you stood on the opposite aisle of me in the grocery store and bitched to one of your PTA cow friends about my ‘compound’. You accused me of being a crazy person, an extremist and… I think you might have even said pedophile. At least, you implied quite strongly that I might hurt your little kid if he was left alone with me.”
He watched as Mark Crawford shifted uncomfortably and Kristie swallowed hard. “I-I’m sure it wasn’t me.”
He laughed. “I’m sure it was, ma’am.”
“Please don’t lock us out because I was stupid,” she said, raising her hands like she was praying to him. “Please don’t do that to us. Let my husband and my son in, if nothing else.”
“Naw, you see I’m not going to lock you out for something like that. I don’t hold grudges.” He leaned back in his chair and looked at them through the screen. They looked cautiously relieved. Until he kept talking. “No, Kristie, I’m going to lock you out because you saw the same signs I did and you didn’t do anything. Even if you didn’t make a compound like me or store supplies like me, you should be able to figure out a way to survive just by the fact that you paid attention to the world. If you can’t… well, that’s just Darwinism, isn’t it? The weak dying off and the strong surviving.”
“You son of a bitch,” Mark began as Kristie covered her face with both hands. “You unfeeling bastard.”
“If I let you in, I have to let everyone in. Then we all die,” Robert clarified. “And I won’t die for you. Now I’m going to turn the box off, so anything you say I won’t hear anymore. But before I do, I just wanted to say something.”
“What?” Kristie Crawford asked.
Robert leaned closer to the mic. “I told you so.”
Then he clicked off the sound, turned off the television screens and went to start a load of laundry with the dog.
Pre-Order Club Monstrosity (April 30, 2013)
Copyright Jesse Petersen 2012
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