July 15th, 2033
I was up before the sun and after a quick cup of coffee, I doubled back along the coast to Ventura in the hope of scrounging up much needed supplies. The area was still hot, and would be for quite some time, but I really didn’t have a choice. I’d run out of food late last night and the prospect of starving to death is not an appealing one to me. I’d have to take my chances. It’s not like I had much of a choice.
I slipped into the north end of the coastal town, not far from the old pier and slipped into the courtyard of a traditional Mexican restaurant and tried the front door. It was locked. A good sign, – it hadn’t been ransacked, – at least, that’s what I told myself.
I went around back and knocked out a small square window and was careful not to cut myself on the broken shards of glass as I crawled inside. I made my way into the kitchen and started gathering up as many tortillas, cans of beans and bags of rice as I could fit into the duffel bag I’d brought along. I also helped myself to a pair of can openers, a half dozen knives and a small frying pan.
I grabbed cans of anything and everything, I didn’t even look at the labels, I just stuffed the sack.
I had food. That was my main concern.
I spent the next hour slipping from shop to shop, starting with an Ace Hardware store and ending up at a thrift shop. Despite the stores having been tossed through many times before I still came away with a few of the items I’d been hoping for. Pants, sweaters and socks from the thrift shop, – and an axe I found in the rubble outside the hardware store.
A score I knew I’d probably never see again.
I crammed what I could into the duffel bag and what I couldn’t fit inside, namely, the axe, I fashioned a sling and strapped it across my back and left town with the setting sun. I had a sack of supplies on my back and a spring in my step. Things were looking up. I’d planned on continuing up the coast for a few miles and then I’d be able to disappear into the hills and head back for Lake Casitas.
A solid plan, I thought, until a trio of warbirds arrived to let me know otherwise.
They came in low and fast over the destroyed city and dipped their wings as they flew overhead. Had they spotted me? I had no idea, but I operated on the assumption that they had and made a mad dash back toward the downtown area.
Not the greatest place to hide, I understand, but at least I wasn’t caught out in the open.
A second wave of warbirds screeched over a minute later.
Followed by a third.
And after the third wave made its pass, all nine fighter craft circled low over the city, like buzzards waiting on a body.
The ground troops, if not already on scene, would be shortly. That was a given. It was time to bail. I readjusted my gear and took off up Olive Street, careful to avoid the warbirds circling overhead. I heard the telltale whine of a troop transport making its way toward the center of town and took pause.
The walls were closing in all around me.
I ran as quickly up Olive as I could, stopping now and again to listen for approaching troopers, and to check in on the circling warbirds.
I ducked inside the shell of a trashed and burnt SUV and looked for a way out. The only air cover separate from the retail district was a stand of eucalyptus trees aligning the southern end of the San Miguelito Oil Fields a mile or so up the road. From there I could cut north through the field and eventually drift west, along the coast.
The troopers were closing in on my end of the street, and much to my relief, I caught a lucky break. One by one, the warbirds circling above peeled off and shot off to the south.
Why? I’ll never know. I’m just grateful they did.
I followed Olive Street to its end, – crossed north over State Road 33 and cut through the oil fields without incident. The warbirds never made a return visit and, as a result, I made good time. Had they turned back, I’m sure I’d have been spotted, but they didn’t and I’m still here.
Four hour later I was back in camp, rolling a bean and rice burrito and looking over the gear I’d picked up in Ventura.
An axe, I have a freaking axe!