Robert has the barrel of the shotgun pointed toward the floor between his feet. Good job. My hand shakes from post adrenaline as I put the Jeep in gear.

We start the drive back home, retracing my previous route. There is only the wind as it whips against the soft top of the Jeep and our minds are all working through the situation in which we find ourselves. Kind of numb and working furiously at the same time. In my peripheral, I see Robert looking around us at the total lack of people.  Through the rear view, I see Bri doing the same thing while Nic is staring at her hands folded in her lap.

“Dad?”  Bri says from the back.

“Yes, hon,” I say wondering what question is coming and worried about it at the same time. I am not sure where her mind has ventured but her question should ascertain that for me. Like I said, her mind is always working. So does Nicole’s and Robert’s but they are more silent and contemplative.

“Was that Mom? I mean, in the house? Making that noise?”

Sighing heavily, I answer, “I don’t know, sweetheart.”

I pretty much know the answer given the fact that the front door was sealed and locked from the inside but I don’t know for sure. One of the windows upstairs did seem to have been broken, but honestly, my answer came more from a dad-protective place. Robert gives me a sideways glance from the passenger seat but says nothing.

“Do you think she’ll be okay? I mean, will she get better do you think?” Her questions say that she already knows the possibility of who it was.

“I don’t know, hon. I just don’t know.”

“Should we go back and see if we can help her?”

“No, Bri, I’m not sure what we could do.”

A tear forms in her eye. She turns to the window once more as the tear slowly trails down her cheek. Silence once more descends as I drive along the mostly empty highway. My thought turns to Lynn hoping she is okay. I don’t think even the sands of Kuwait would be spared from the kind of pandemic we are looking at. I mean, the military ensures that its members get the vaccines first and, if memory serves me right, requires flu vaccines for everyone, so this must have erupted everywhere.

We both enjoy zombie books and the genre in general. Well, she actually introduced me to it but I became taken with it. We would cover scenarios, stories, and ‘how-to’s’ in case such an event happened. Not seriously thinking anything would actually happen, just an amusement between us with what we would do. We were more interested in applying our survival skills than seriously thinking it could happen. We had both had to apply survival skills a lot in our military careers so that was a natural progression for us to take. We had an agreement in our stories that I would fly to pick her up. Now, I feel unsure as to what to do. What if she is okay and waiting? Should I follow through with what we talked about even though it was more play acting than reality? My heart is sick with worry as I truly love this woman.

I stare out of the windshield at the sun shining on the trees, grass, and houses as we pass. Should I do what we agreed even though we were only telling a story?  Is she is okay? Should I just focus on creating a safe environment here for my kids? I haven’t had any contact with Lynn for the past two days. She hasn’t been online and no phone calls either. I called and left a message but have not heard anything back. No great revelation comes. No light bulb suddenly flares in my mind. With the kids looking out of the windows, the trees just continue to pass, unaware of our situation and without a care to my quandary.

Both thoughts and questions continue to rattle back and forth. The movie drive-in passes by on our left with “CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE” on the sign board. Oh, the fun times the kids and I had there on summer nights. Bri always wanting to watch from the back of the pickup and me wanting to be inside because I couldn’t hear the speakers very well. Her falling asleep during the second movie and me having to wake her when we arrived back home. Both her and Nic just appreciating our being together; loving the moment more than the event. Or the times where it was just Robert and I. Popcorn, drinks, and a multitude of snacks from the service station nearby. “300” on the screen in front and us proclaiming this was the best movie ever. Those times are over now and this is just one of the many changes that have occurred in this new world we find ourselves in.

Turning off the highway towards home, my heart is light, because my kids are safely with me, but heavy with thoughts of Lynn. My stomach is in knots when a decision clicks into place. I have to find her. I have to go to Kuwait. The guilt and shame of not trying would be too much. I love Lynn and can’t, no won’t, do anything less. My decision is made, as if there were truly any other. My thoughts turn to the when and how.

A Trip to the Store

Pulling into the driveway, I turn off the engine, and we climb out of the Jeep. Carrying the shotgun, Robert gingerly steps across the gravel and walks toward my little cottage. Nic and Bri are right behind. Normally, my little Bri would be making a little noise about walking on the gravel barefoot, but neither an utterance nor word comes out.

“No, we are going into Mom’s house,” I tell Robert and he switches direction in mid-stride to the front porch.

The front door opens and Mom steps out onto the porch. “Thank goodness you are alright,” she says in a sigh-like voice and comes forward to give them all hugs.

We walk into the house, a little darker now than when I left but the window shades are open giving a little light. “I see the power has gone out,” I mention as I walk through the kitchen that opens from the entry way.

“Happened right after you left.”

The kitchen opens into a sitting room ahead with a mostly glass door that lets in quite a bit of light and leads to a small deck outside. Her computer desk sits against a half wall to the left and ceiling-high bookcases fill the right wall. Turning left out of the kitchen, the living room is illuminated by only two windows set into the far wall along the right and is therefore a little dark. A wood stove sits in an alcove in the middle of the wall between the windows. Her white couch sits against the half wall and two reclining chairs rest on the other side of her large, Persian-style rug.

“Set the shotgun there,” I tell Robert pointing to the corner of the desk. “I’ll be right back.”

I head out to the cottage sitting in a small copse of cedar and firs where I am staying to get some clothes and shoes for the kids. A single room with my bed, two couches, a large screen TV for movies and the Xbox, a small kitchen, two closets and a small bathroom with a shower. It’s small but it suits me and I like it. The sound of the birds chirping away in the trees fills the air around me but I pay little attention to them as my mind goes through various aspects of the venture I am about to set in motion. Items I will need to take; food, water, warm clothes, weapons, and first aid. The absence of weather reports, maps I will need, going on the assumption of no navigational aids, my route, the hope that GPS still works, what will I face, contact, fuel stops, oh, and yeah, the fact that I will have to learn to fly a different aircraft. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a checklist and manuals on board.

I gather what I need. Jeans for Bri, and shirt, jacket, socks, and the specially-ordered converse shoes I gave her for Christmas. The same for Nic. Socks and the boots I bought for Robert for our hiking trips up the creek to the falls. We can still do that I guess, I think briefly piling their stuff in my arms. Or maybe not. I have no idea what the future may hold or what the world around me looks like. Outside, the early afternoon sun greets me as if nothing has changed.

Coming back into Mom’s house, I hand the various articles to Robert, Nicole, and Brianna. Bri takes her clothes and disappears into the bathroom, Nic into one of the bedrooms.

“Thanks,” Robert says and leans forward, stretches the thick, white socks over his feet and puts on his boots.

I walk into the laundry room by the front door. Mom has cases of bottled water stacked there. We live in the country and loss of power is no stranger so she stockpiles water. I pull several bottles out and head back, hand them out, and plop into the other chair beside Robert. Nic and Bri come out. I hand them water and they sit next to Mom on the couch.

Silence fills the room as we are all wrapped in our own thoughts. I have a vague idea of my route, plan, and

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