This is the tenth chapter.
Start at the beginning or read the previous chapter.
Copyright © 2014 by Christian Bergman, All rights reserved.
All people, places, and events are fictional … except when they aren’t.
The Nudist War – Day 50
They came from the North running over the steppe, man and woman, without clothing or even so much as footwear. So great were their number that they resembled migrating flocks of birds. Nothing stood in their path. All were consumed.
~ Chinese historian Xiao Guangxian, 1100 BC
• • •
Jess opened the stairwell door to the roof and let the dogs out. Maggie and Wolf scurried out, running and sniffing and peeing and sniffing and running and peeing and running some more. She climbed up to the helipad and walked over to one of the two spotters stationed there. “Hi, Jim how are you doing this morning?”
Jim did his best to suppress a yawn, “Been a long, quiet night. Be glad to be relieved and get some sleep.”
The sun was rising over the Gulf of Mexico providing a beautiful sunrise view for Jess and the two spotters. “What do you think Bill, isn’t that just a gorgeous sunrise?” Jess asked.
Bill dropped his binoculars, letting them hang about his neck. “Sure it’s pretty enough, but after being up all night I’d just as soon be staring at the insides of my eyelids, if you know what I mean.”
“What time do you boys get off shift?”
“Nora and Jan are s’posed to relieve us at noon.” Bill replied.
“Hunh, I wasn’t expecting women to be spotters,” Jess replied.
“They’re two of our best remaining spotters and snipers.” Jim answered. “Heck, they’re better shots than either Bill or I are.”
“And better eyesight than you have,” Bill quipped.
Jim snorted. “You’re one to talk.”
“Well I guess I better be getting back down. You boys have a good day. Maggie! Wolf! Come on!” She walked down the helipad steps and opened the stairwell door in time to let the dogs through.
• • •
Maggie and Wolf had run all the way down to the six floor by the time Jess reached them. Jess unlocked the stairwell door and let them in. She followed them. “WE’RE BACK,” she yelled.
“IN HERE,” a voice boomed. Maggie and Wolf were already running in that direction. “Coffee?”
“Please,” Jess said as she entered the kitchen area. “Good morning Matt. It’s going to be a lovely day today. Gorgeous sunrise.” She sat down at the table.
MAN arrived with two cups of coffee and a package of Twinkles.
“Oooo, how did you know?” Jess eyed the Twinkles.
“I pay attention. … So, let’s see,” MAN seemed to be talking to himself, “yesterday we got the radio antennas installed up on the roof and the main elevator doors welded shut on the first three floors. We will have two spotters on the roof at any one time and someone dedicated to watching the security cameras. This morning I’ll have a team out to check on the availability of shipping containers. And work will continue welding the elevator doors shut. I’d say we are making progress wouldn’t you?”
“Mmmf, I mean yes,” Jess said through a mouthful of Twinkle. She took a gulp of coffee. “Sorry, yes it sounds like you are making progress.”
“I can’t believe that Eddy came up with the design for the trap in a dream. He must’ve been thinking about it subconsciously. It really is a good design. Did he tell you that I’m the one who thought it up … in his dream?”
“Eddy hasn’t really been talking that much. I don’t think he’s getting any sleep these days, what with the dreams and all.”
“Speaking of Eddy. where is he? I haven’t heard him scream this morning.”
“Yeah, you’re right, maybe I should go check on him,” Jess suggested.
“Finish your coffee. I’ll come with you,” MAN replied.
When they had finished their coffee they took Wolf and headed up to the eighth floor.
• • •
Jess, MAN, and Wolf walked into the eighth floor break room in time to catch Tom, Cindy, and Maxine having breakfast. “Has anyone heard from Eddy this morning?” Jess asked.
“Not a peep,” Cindy replied,
“I hope he’s okay,” Jess responded with concern. “I’ll go check on him.”
As Jess left to go check on Eddy, Tom turned to MAN and asked, “how are the security modifications going?”
“Pretty well,” MAN replied. “We’ve welded all the main elevator doors shut on the first through third floors. That should keep them out of the main elevator shafts. We’ll weld the higher level doors as time permits. As for the freight elevator, we’ve parked it on the first floor loading dock and turned off the power to it. We also welded shut the emergency escape hatch at the top of the elevator car. Even if they pry open the elevator doors on the loading dock, they will be stuck inside the elevator car with nowhere to go. We will also weld the second and third floor freight elevator doors. We’ll be installing motion sensors in all of the elevator shafts. As I was telling Jess we’ve got the military radio antennas set up on the roof and I’ve got the radio room set up down the hall with monitors for the security cam feeds. It will be staffed twenty-four-seven. Finally the spotters are outfitted with wireless headsets so we can stay in touch with them continuously from the radio room.”
“So how do you like it here?” Cindy asked.
“I like it, I do. I understand this building was designed to be both hurricane and terrorist proof and I must admit they did a good job. With the first floor dedicated to parking and the loading dock, the water level can rise all the way up to the second floor before doing any real damage to the building. Since the elevators can be parked on any floor, the only water damage would be to the door mechanisms themselves on the first floor. The lack of windows above the second floor, combined with the smooth sides, makes this building both hurricane and Z resistant. The rooftop generators and the UPS and power conditioning equipment on the seventh floor are a real plus.”
• • •
“Where am I? This doesn’t feel like my room.” Eddy’s mind was spinning. “Why can’t I open my eyes? Why can’t I move?” Panic was beginning to set in. “Is this what an alien adduction feels like?” Eddy wondered.
He forced himself to calm down and pay attention. Even though he couldn’t open his eyes or move his arms, he could still listen, he could still smell, and he could still feel sensation on his skin. He felt sheets on his body. He felt a pillow under his head.
“Dreaming. Must be dreaming again.”
“Wait. She’s here. I can sense it.”
He felt a presence in the room. The presence approached, slowly. Now the presence was next to him. Now he felt sensation. Fingertips on shoulders. Fingertips on arm. Fingers intertwined with his fingers. Soft-spoken words he could not understand. The presence remained seemingly forever. Fingers intertwined seemingly forever.
Lips kissing his lips.
“Tomorrow.” Whispered in his ear.
She was gone.
• • •
Jess returned. “I checked in on him. He’s sleeping like a baby.”
“Finally!” Cindy responded. “That boy was starting to look pretty ragged.”
“Well if everything is okay,” MAN said, “I guess I’ll be heading back down. I have a lot to get done today.”
“I’ll stop back down later,” Jess replied.
• • •
Something caught Bill’s attention in the distance. He studied it for a few moments through the binoculars. “Jim, take look at the causeway from the mainland.” He asked jokingly, “Are they running a marathon today?”
Jim swung the spotting scope around to get a view of the only bridge connecting Galveston to the mainland, “Oh god.” He keyed MAN on his headset. “MAN, come in MAN. Bring up camera four. We have a major situation heading our way over the causeway.”
MAN heard the call and brought up the feed from camera four. Even from a distance it was obvious … big trouble was heading their way. At first glance what appeared to be a massive ant migration, was in fact a super-massive nudist migration funneling onto the causeway joining Galveston to the mainland. The mega-horde was running full speed toward them like water flashing through a dry desert arroyo during an intense summer rain storm. MAN turned to the radio operator, “Contact the Away Team. Tell them to abort the mission. Have them get back here immediately. Looks like we got a million uninvited party guests heading our way.”
While the radio operator contacted the Away Team, MAN headed up to the roof to see the situation for himself. Maggie beat him to the stairwell door, “woof woof … woof woof” ( me too … me too).
“Okay, okay,” MAN opened the door and followed Maggie two-steps-at-a-time as she ran up the stairs to the roof. He reached the door, let her out, and continued bounding up the steps to the helipad.
Bill handed him the binoculars. MAN whistled under his breath. “With luck they’ll turn right at the Gulf and keep heading south. Stay on the roof until the Away Team gets back, then come back down. We’re gonna play this like Run Silent Run Deep. If they don’t know we’re here maybe they’ll leave us alone. Keep me updated on the position of the Away Team and the horde. Come on, Maggie.” MAN headed back downstairs.
• • •
Eddy woke up strangely refreshed. “I haven’t slept that well in quite a while,” he thought. “Think I’ll wander up to the roof and get some fresh air.”
As he entered the stairwell to go up to the roof, people were coming down past him. “Stay inside. MAN’s orders.” Eddy stopped and decided to follow them to find out what the commotion was all about.
As he followed them onto the sixth floor, Eddie heard MAN’s voice booming over the PA system, “Everyone, listen up. We have an large unknown number of Z’s heading our way. They should be here within the hour. The less they know about us the better. Stay indoors. Stay above the third floor. Stay off the roof. Be quiet.”
Eddy found MAN in the radio room, watching the invasion on the monitors.”You go to sleep for couple hours and all hell breaks loose,” Eddy smirked.
“You’re looking human,” MAN remarked. “It’s amazing what sleep will do for you. If you plan on staying up for a while, can I offer you a cup of coffee?”
“Thanks. I could use a cup or two.”
“What brings you down here?”
“Actually I was heading up to the roof to get some fresh air when everybody else was coming back down. I followed them here to see what was going on.” He stared at one of the monitors. “That’s more than what hit the Seaside.”
“Yeah, and we sure as hell don’t want them to find us here.” He turned to the radio operator, “how soon will the Away Team be back?”
“Within five minutes.”
“And the first of the Zs?”
“10 to 15 minutes.”
“That’s cutting it close,” Eddy observed.
“Tell them to step on it,” MAN told the radio operator.
“Away Team, come in. MAN said to step on it. You really want to beat the party animals here.”
“Roger that, ETA in five.”
“What now?” Eddy asked.
• • •
Jess and the Brauns heard MAN’s announcement over the PA and pulled up the north facing security camera on each of their screens.
The common reaction was “[Expletive deleted].”
Eventually they all converged on the break room. “What are we going to do?” Cindy asked.
“What can we do?” Jess replied “except sit still and hope they don’t notice us.”
“I vote we go down and watch this on MAN’s floor,” Cindy replied.
“I’ll second that,” Tom said.
To which Jess replied, “okay, roundup Maxine and Wolf and I’ll meet you on the sixth floor.”
• • •
By the time Jess, the Brauns, and Wolf had walked the stairs down to the sixth floor, the Away Team had walked up from the garage and Bill and Jim had come down off the roof. They all walked in through the stairwell door together.
“Come on in and join the party,” MAN boomed.
Around the room multiple monitors displayed multiple views of the outside world. Each was filled with a scene of throngs of naked people running toward their building. It was like an endless nudist marathon with Galveston as a checkpoint.
“Let’s just hope that they pass through peacefully and head on down to Mexico,” Eddy chimed in.
The Away Team looked at the monitors in awe. “We were almost stuck in that?,” one of the them said. “Thank god for small favors,” another replied.
The horde had come down I-45 heading southeast, across the causeway where I-45 turns into Broadway and bends sharply to the east. By now the leading edge of the nudist shockwave had reached a position passing their building a few blocks to the south. The wave was amazingly focused to Broadway Street with few stragglers outside the main rush.
“They should start piling up where Broadway dead-ends into the seawall,” MAN said.
“It’s a shame we didn’t have the trap deployed,” Eddy commented.
“But why would they bother to run into it?” Man asked.
“Good point, unless …” Eddy’s voice trailed off. “What if … we open the container at both ends and put in remote-controlled drop panels? That way they just have to run through it. If we use portable fencing for the ‘V’, we can position the trap anywhere or even move it around.”
“Have you been dreaming again? Seriously though, if we put the ‘V’ on both ends we can catch them coming and going. Good idea!” MAN slapped Eddy on the back. “More coffee?”
“Sure, I can use another cup.”
• • •
MAN returned with two cups of coffee.”Have they reached the seawall yet?”
“Looks that way. It’s hard to get a good view of them from our vantage point, but it looks like they’ve run out of road at the Gulf of Mexico.” Eddy replied.
“Now we wait to see if they can figure out which way they want to go next. It might take them a while.”
“I wonder if this is one large pack or just a group of many smaller packs traveling together, ” Jess thought out loud.
BOOM … The low rumble of a distant explosion shook the building. BOOM … The building shook again.
“What the …?” someone swore.
“Check out the northwest camera aimed at the causeway,” someone else said. Mushroom clouds of smoke were rising off of the causeway. “They blew up the causeway. Someone just blew up the main causeway.”
BOOM … The building rocked for a third time.
“And the rail causeway.”
“One thing’s for certain, those nudists aren’t leaving the island that way,” MAN exclaimed.
“Neither are we,” Tom observed.
“Hmmm, maybe that horde isn’t a horde after all. Just a lot of panicked Z packs. Wonder who drove them south. The Army?” Eddy ventured a guess.
“See if you can contact the Army on that radio of ours,” MAN instructed the radio operator.
“What say we all go up on the roof and take a look around,” MAN suggested.
“Is that safe,” Tom asked.
“As long as we don’t start yelling and screaming and shooting off our guns and drawing their attention to us we should be fine,” MAN laughed. “Bill, Jim, are you coming up?”
“Let Nora and Jan go up,” Bill replied, “I need some sleep.” Jim nodded in agreement.
“Nora, Jan, folks let’s go have a look see.”
• • •
It was mid-afternoon by the time they all got up to the heliport. It was a beautiful cool fall day in Galveston. The smoke had mostly cleared from the causeway, but the damage was evident when viewed through binoculars or the spotting scope. The north and south causeways of I-45 had been neatly severed approximately in the middle the span. The same for the rail causeway.
“Well it’s obvious the plan was to drive them down to Galveston and then cut off their ability to return north,” MAN stated. “Our best hope is that they find their way south to the San Luis Pass bridge and get off the island. Maybe we should blow that bridge once they’ve left.”
“Have we got the explosives?” Eddy asked.
“We can get them.”
Attention soon turned to the east and south as they brought their binoculars and spotting scopes to bear on the Zs at the waters edge.
“They’re pretty piled up down there,” Tom noted.
“Let’s hope they get their bearings and move in some direction soon,” MAN replied.
“Looks like we’ve got a group heading southwest now along the seawall.”
“And there’s another group following them.”
“With any luck they will be off the island by tomorrow morning,” MAN hoped out loud. “Then we can get back to working on our container trap.” MAN looked at the position of the sun and then his watch. “I’m getting hungry. I think I’ll head down and see what I can find for dinner.”
• • •
They each headed down the stairwell to their own quarters. Jess, Eddy, and the Brauns stopped on the eighth floor. MAN and his folks continued down to the six floor.
“It was the Army who blew up the causeway,” Brian, the radio operator said as MAN walked into the radio room. “I was able to get in touch with the radio operator at Camp Ellington Field, where what’s left of the Army has established a South Texas base of operations. Their radio operator told me that they were trying to flush all the nudists down to Galveston and then seal them off by blowing the causeway. Then let them migrate south over the San Luis Pass Bridge and then blow that one as well. In that way Galveston would be isolated from the mainland and accessible only by air and water. The Army would then be free to come in, flush out any remaining Zs, and establish Galveston as a safe haven.”
“Good work, Brian. Did he give you any idea of when all this was supposed to start?”
“It was a she, and she thought it would probably start within the next week or two.”
“Hmm, well that’s an interesting new turn of events,” MAN thought out loud.
• • •
“Eddy, it’s been a week. Time for another shot,” Jess said once they got downstairs.
“Oh goody,” Eddy replied, “more nausea and vomiting. What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t know. What have we got?”
“Canned chili and corn chips?”
“Oooo, that sounds good to me,” Cindy replied.
“Me too,” Tom chimed in.
“Can’t we send out for pizza?” Maxine responded. “I’m getting tired of canned chili.”
“Maybe once things settle down, we can set up our own pizzeria,” Tom suggested.
• • •
They ate their chili and after dinner Eddy gave Jess her shot.
“I don’t know about you folks, but I’m going to bed. Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in a while and I hope to repeat it.” With that Eddy shuffled off to his room.
• • •
Dreaming. Must be dreaming again.
It was different this time, she wasn’t in the room. Someone else.
“Edward mrff waaa shhh rrff …”
Beyond Edward he couldn’t understand a word being spoken to him. He hated it when people called him Edward. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs It’s Edmond, not Edward you stupid idiots, but he couldn’t make his mouth work.
“Whoever you are, it can wait till the morning,” Eddy thought. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, falling back into a deep sleep.
• • •