We mocked them, laughed at them, but when the apocalypse came they were the most prepared. Welcome, to Redneck earth.
She had family back in Kentucky. She had rarely thought about them past when she graduated from her bachelor’s over at UK, then rose an assistantship as far away from backwater Kentucky as any one could possibly get, lodging herself firmly in Atlanta Georgia.
It said something that it took the apocalypse to drag her back. Her lab equipment rubbed together in the back; every inch of things she could salvage from the labs.
The problem with a global research system was that it would take days for the rest of her colleagues to get to the muster point near the dying towns of Kentucky. If they could outrun the Flock.
She was just grateful to have a place to run.
The barricades caught her off guard. Wire, old furniture, heavy stone, concrete barriers reduced the highway from a five line to a single lane.
The shotgun pointed at her face wasn’t unexpected though. She’d been raised matter of factly, after all, and while Atlanta wasn’t yet to fall, it was only a matter of time.
“Now, what the hell is a bitch with a car as nice as yours coming down this highway?” The man asked, curiously.
She kept her gaze levelly off of the shotgun pointed in her direction. There was no sense trying to get herself nervous. Get herself shot.
“Visiting family,” she said, levelly.
“Oh?” The man said. She finally let her eyes stray across his face. Rough. Scarred. Had seen things. She’d seen things to, through the bevel of a microscope.
She’d be seeing more of them. This was just buying her time.
“And what family is that?”
“I’m going to see Ma Jones over by Daviess,” she said, tasting the words on her mouth. Felt a bit like losing. Everything had tasted like losing for a long time.
“Ma Jones?” he asked, curious. “Who does all the canning?”
Slowly, she nodded.
He laughed, then twirled the shotgun away from the car. He turned and looked towards the barricade, now crawling with dispossessed men.
“Boys, go and give Ma Jones a call and see if she’s expecting someone crawling up through Tennessee. Roads aren’t that safe much anymore, you understand.”
She nodded again, her fingers tapping out a slow move on the wheel in front of her. With a sigh, she turned off the car to reduce gas consumption.
A cellphone, tattered, worn. A few generations ago, shoved against her head. Probably through proprietary jury rigged channels.
She knew the type. There was another doctorate lying around, waiting to fix things up. Academia could drive you nuts.
“Harley?” Ma called.
“Ma,” she said. “It’s me, Harley. I’m coming home.”
A choked sob on the other end of the line. “It takes the end of the world to drag you back. Like you said, huh?”
“Seems like the family’s popular around these parts.”
“Your dad’s out hunting deer, and James is running about trying to get people out of the coal mines. With everything down and all…”
“I know Ma,” Harley said, leaning back in the car seat. She didn’t know how to feel.
Relief? An anger that it hadn’t ended yet? That she’d been deemed decent enough to not die to the guards?
The drones had devoured Florida’s infrastructure. Stole bricks and mortar from everything within ten miles of the coast. Lifted up cars, stolen fridges, metal. Beds. People. Everything in between. She’d seen the photos. Knew it was time.
“Head on over home, you know we never really took apart your room,” Ma said, kindly.
Harley closed her eyes, and pinched her forehead to try and draw away the growing migraines. Doctor Jones she might be, but she’d be someone else here.
“I will, I will. Love you Ma,” Harley said, then hung up the phone, looking at the long arms bristling from the top of the encampment. “Y’all got enough bullets to deal with the drones?”
“Not yet, but we figure the boys over in Frankfurt’ll see our way soon enough,” the man said, grinning. “So you really are the prodigal daughter?”
Harley shrugged. It wasn’t too late for her to figure out how the gun taped under her seat worked. “Might call me that.”
“Glad to have you on board. Let me escort you. We got the occasional bumper scouting ahead to take care of, anyway.”
A rifle cracked from over top of the make shift fort, and a bird fell, tumbling from the sky. The flock scattered, hot and alive, furious with the world for letting it happen.
It was finally time to return home.