The Splendid Expedition of Eddie Garrick, Esquire
What is The Splendid Expedition of Eddie Garrick, Esquire? A companion piece to the Color of Fear series, telling the story of teenaged electrogeek Eddie Garrick as he leaves his San Francisco home for the unknown wilds of post-apocalyptic America!
For more information, click the WINDMILLS tab above!
(With special thanks to Jonah Foxman and Stacy Garrett)
For anyone who finds this someday—if there’s anyone left by then—I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of pretentious ass. Well, not all the time, anyway. Haha. It’s just that, after my parents died from the virus, and most of my friends, too, I wasn’t sure what to do. It wasn’t too hard to find food and blankets, and all that stuff. Enough people passed away that you can find what you need, scrounging through the neighborhood here in Pacific Heights.
Not what you want. Hardly ever what you want. Like a fresh peanut butter cup. But what you need.
I’m writing this journal and taking pictures so I can document this journey. I want to remember it all, Here’s one of the few pictures of me I could find–I didn’t pack much stuff. I’m seventeen, a genius when it comes to electrical wiring and robotics, and the third strike (as if being underage, and a nerd aren’t enough), I’m Jewish. I guess Hebrew genetics saved me from the terrorist attack two years ago.
With all the government chest-thumping about WMDs in Iraq and nukes in Iran, no one apparently bothered to examine the ships coming into San Diego Bay. Turns out one of them was full of biochemical viruses targeted to the gene that gives you cystic fibrosis.
Can you believe it?
Apparently that gene is most prevalent in white people. Those guys on CNN said it wiped out most of the world’s pure Caucasian population in a matter of months, when the prevailing winds carried from where they dumped it in the Bay across the States, then over to share with our European brothers and sisters.
The best part? Then it started mutating. So after that, it could kill anyone, once they got susceptible. You better believe there was a run on vitamin C and zinc supplements after that! Not that they helped much, in the long run.
I wish, like my media hero Jon Stewart always says, that this was the fake news. But it’s all very real.
San Francisco’s a nice enough city, don’t get me wrong, but when half the people there are dead, it’s creepy as hell. My best friend Xi San survived, being a Chinese immigrant. We hung out some after what they started calling the Second Holocaust, but then he got busy being a hero.
No, for real.
He decided that since he’d lost his mother and father and everyone else, it was only a matter of time till he died. Better to live like you’re dying, right?
So he spent his nights patrolling the Heights, protecting the good citizens and keeping the gangs under control. They called him the Enforcer. He got shot at least once. He even showed me the hole! He preferred to use his martial arts skills instead of guns, but heck, sometimes you gotta use what you got, right?
I stayed as long as I could, but I wasn’t cut out for fighting every day. San wouldn’t let me hang with him. I only got in his way. (Even the glory of the shiner I got from that one fight with the Seajays gang wore off pretty quick. Definitely not my thing.)
So I gathered up some things over a couple of months, things I knew I’d need—food, clothes, guns. I felt like a real survivalist. I’d have posted a picture of the new, awesome me on my blog, if I still had one. Stupid San Francisco seemed to think running two of its hospitals was more important than trying to route power to the Internet companies. Losers.
I asked San if he’d go with me. I thought he was going to say yes. I mean, he’s my best friend, right? But he didn’t. The fool would rather wait for death to find him there. Fine. I don’t need him. I can do this myself.
Once I decided to go, I didn’t see any point in waiting. Sure, it was February, but the weather here wasn’t too bad. I found a good thick coat at my neighbor’s house—not like he’s going hiking at Glacier any more. If old Glenn Bateman could walk cross-country, then so can I. Like I told San. Maybe I’ll find a nice Jewish girl out there to the east somewhere. Even if I can’t attend Yale, at least one of my mom’s dreams can come true for me.
Wish me luck.
Now I remember why I hated laps in gym class.
It involved exercise.
I haven’t walked this much in…well, ever. I keep telling myself it’s good for me. Somehow when I thought about walking across country, I pictured myself like this:
But what I really feel like is more this:
Hopefully I can pick up something to drive when I get a little farther out of the city. I used to drive my parents’ old Mercedes when it wasn’t just easier to take the bus. It kicked the bucket not long after they did. So I’m on the lookout for wheels. I’ve seen a couple of motorcycles dropped along the side of the road, but I’ve never ridden one before.
You know, if my feet hurt this bad tomorrow, I might just try to learn. Real quick.
Overall, I’m trying not to mind it too much. The air out of the city smells better. It was a good decision to stick to the Amtrak tracks, instead of the highways. When I’ve been close to the interstate, all I’ve seen are nefarious-looking types. (Okay, for a guy who used to experiment on frogs in Mr. Freedman’s 11th grade honors biology class, a lot of people on any road are nefarious-looking types.)
But along the tracks, it’s a little more protected. More places to hide. A lot of them run along fresh water creeks, too, so that’s a nice fringe. Water fresh from the earth tastes like…it’s hard to describe. So much different than what we could get back in San Fran.
I remember a trip I took to Denver with my parents back when I was a kid. The Rocky Mountains were awesome. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. But the difference between that trip and this one becomes more apparent with every step I take.
It’s the details.
It’s the peculiar color of rust on the tracks. It’s a hunk of quartz reflecting sunlight. It’s the big empty sound of walking through a landscape covered with snow. It’s the chill of the air filling my lungs. It’s my heartbeat pounding in my ears as I walk.
Poles apart from speeding along the highway, listening to music, glancing out every so often to see how far we’ve gotten.
Something tells me that when I get wherever I’m going, I’ll be a very different person.
I almost killed someone today.
I mean, really killed them.
I remember how San’s eyes got big when I laid out all the guns and ammo I’d scrounged up to bring along. He didn’t ask if I knew how to use them. Maybe I just had enough chutzpah in my voice he figured I did. I mean, sure, I’d done some target shots at rocks and trees and stuff. But I’d never shot at someone.
I was coming down a rise off the tracks, wanting to fill up my canteen with water from the creek, when I spotted footprints in the snow. Fresh footprints.
You know those conversations you have about sci-fi movies and aliens, where someone always says that the aliens will be like those in V and Independence Day and someone else says they’re like the ones in E.T.? I’ve always been the E.T. guy. Aliens, I’d assume they were good and had kind intentions.
People? Not so much. Not after the Second Holocaust.
So I dig in my pack for one of the pistols and make sure it’s loaded, all the time looking around to see who made the prints. I’ve got it in my hand, and I’m walking down the hill toward a small stand of trees by the creek, still watching. I’m so intent on watching, in fact, that I trip over a damn stick and fall down the hill, rolling the rest of the way. When I finally stop, I look up and there’s a guy standing over me dressed in layers of ragged clothes, his hair long and gray, sticking out from under his torn knitted cap like the Unabomber. He stinks worse than my old drunk neighbor Mr. Tanner. Beady dark eyes study me and he reaches out for my pack.
“Gimme,” he says. He looks hungry.
“Back off,” I say, and I scramble up, pointing the gun at him. My hand is tight on the butt of the pistol, but I see the tip bobbing up and down, not a lot, just a little.
The guy eyes the gun, then he laughs. “You ain’t never shot one, have you?”
“Sure I have—lots of times!” I scowl, trying to scare him off. Hoping he’s more scared than I am. But he doesn’t look it.
“Yeah? You’re a tough guy? Gimme the pack.”
“C’mon, man, I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just trying to find some water.”
But somehow when it’s a live human being standing in front of you, it’s just not that simple. I wanted this man to just go on his way and I’d go mine, and we’d pretend it never happened. Just go….just go…just go. I counted to ten, not knowing what I’d do if he called my pseudo-bluff.
He weaved a little in his holey sneakers, still studying me like he’s working out the risk. Finally his shoulders fall, and he looks at the ground.
“You got food, man? I ain’t eaten in two days. Even the rabbits have taken to hiding, it’s so cold.”
My first response is to say no, to keep what I’ve brought for myself. Who knows when I’ll find another place to stock up? But the guy is so pitiful and sad. He must have ten layers of shirts on, not even a coat. His hat’s full of burrs. He doesn’t even have boots. “How long have you been out here?” I ask.
“You writing a book?” he snaps, and I can see him reconsidering.
Not dropping the aimed gun, I lean my shoulder down until the pack falls off and reach into the pocket with my free hand. I toss him a two-pack of granola bars and a beef stick. “Go on, now,” I say.
He grunts and ambles back into the trees. I stand there with the gun in my hand like a frozen idiot. The creek’s in the direction of the trees. My mouth’s as dry as ever, but at this point I’m not motivated to follow the guy. Maybe he’s got a pack of friends back there with their own guns.
I grab a handful of snow and slowly eat it as I head back up the hill. Wish San had come with me. He made me feel brave, just being with him. I think of him, back on the street in San Fran, and I hope he’s all right. I sure do. So far, I’m all right, too. And that’s a good thing.
Spent the last couple of days burrowed inside a sleeping bag in a little pup tent. The snow was coming down like glitter in a snow globe, big thick pieces that just didn’t quit. When the wind let up, I could hear the gentle tap of the icy bits as they hit the ground. It would have been beautiful if I wasn’t freezing.
That’s why I hid. Found a little place inside a clump of trees, pitched the tent and tucked myself inside. It would have been the perfect time for a steamy cup of hot cocoa. But microwaves are a little scarce out here in the wild.
Because being stuck out by the train tracks in eastern California in a blizzard, you need that. Trust me.
I kept a watch over my shoulder after I met that bum, sure he’d come after me, but he didn’t. Poor guy. He’s surely worse off than I am. I hope he finds somewhere warm and dry before he has to go too much further.
Anyway, so I’m lying in this tent, trussed up inside the sleeping bag, when I hear voices. Two of them. Male and female. No, wait. I think it’s two girls, just one with a husky voice. The girly one is complaining in a Hispanic accent about how much her feet hurt.
“New boots,” the other one said. “You just have to toughen up. Me? They’re afraid to give me blisters.”
“You scare a lot of people.”
“Don’t know why.” But she laughs in a deep, throaty way, and I can tell she’s pleased about it.
“How far are we going today?”
A pause. “As far as we can get. You remember what we heard about Reno. We’ve got to hit that in the daytime. We’ll be lucky to get through there without being mugged. Or worse.”
“We shouldn’t have come alone.”
“I wasn’t gonna drag my old gram out here all the way to Omaha. And Tony didn’t want to leave her.”
I’m listening to this exchange, and I get a pretty good feeling about these two. They seem pretty harmless. And I’m all about safety in numbers. So I start to wiggle myself out of the sleeping bag, trying not to smell myself, cause I know it’s bad after almost three days. Note to self: stand downwind. I peek out of the tent and see the girls standing across from me, looking up at the mountains.
How to come to their attention without being riddled with bullets? Good question. Maybe throw myself on their sympathy. Girls like to take care of things, right? Especially pitiful things?
I start to crawl out, making myself cough like I’m a twelve-year smoker. They both freak and pull out knives. I see in their eyes the same thing that bum must have seen in mine yesterday. They’ve never stabbed anyone. I’m not likely to be the first, either.
The husky-voiced one is a broad-shouldered black girl. She eyes me like I have the plague. “Stay where you are!” she says, waving that knife like it’s Harry Potter’s wand.
Oh, hell! They probably think I have the virus. Dumb, dumb, dumb…
“H-Hi!” I stutter. “I’m fine. I’m not sick. I’ve just been staying warm in here.”
“Uh-huh,” she says. Her eyes are big and dark, like brown pools of chocolate.
I get to my feet, a lot less imposing in my skinny non-athletic body on the outside. I show her my hands. “Really. I’m not dangerous. I’m heading east, too. To St. Louis.”
“What’s in St. Louis?” the Hispanic girl asks. She takes a step closer, but the other girl grabs her arm.
“Watch it. He could be…I don’t know. Maybe he’s got a bomb or something.”
I start to laugh. “A bomb? Geez, you give me a lot of credit.” I strip off my coat and show her I got nothing. Except goosebumps. “Okay? Can I get dressed?”
She nods. “Sure, I guess. What’s your name?”
I pull on my coat, shivering, and zip it up all the way. “Eddie Garrick. From San Francisco. And I’m going to St. Louis because I heard they’re trying to get the city up and going again. Maybe even radio and TV.”
“No way,” the Hispanic girl says. I see she’s got purple nail polish. It looks cool.
“They got more than what San Fran has, anyway. Most everyone there’s dead or dying.” I study them, their knives still pointed in my direction. “Where are you going?”
“Omaha,” the black girl says. She studies me a minute more, then puts the knife away and holds out her hand. “I’m Dejana Jones. This is my girlfriend Maritza.”
The way she says “my girlfriend” I realize she doesn’t mean that they’re casual mall buddies. “That’s cool,” I say.
“We got some jujubes,” Maritza says.
I want to be hospitable, since I was here first, but I don’t have much. An idea pops into my head. “Hey, I’ve got some Gatorade. If we get some cups of snow, we’ll have snow-cones.”
“Yeah?” Dejana looks skeptical, but she looks hungry too. “We wanted to get as far as Davis today. That’s another couple hours before dark.”
“Maybe we should ask him to come,” Maritza says, her lipsticked mouth a little pouty. “He could help defend us.”
Dejana eyes her. “You don’t think I’m good enough?”
I cut her off before anything else happens. “I’m fine to go with you and to have you defend me. No worries. Just let me pack up my stuff.” I don’t even wait for them to say yes. I’m rolling up the sleeping bag and tucking everything into my pack. Before long, we’re walking along the tracks, and the time passes much quicker, all the way to Davis.