Sitting at the side of a lonely road in Northern Ontario was Hayden’s beat up old Toyota with a tarp for a window. The sun was just beginning to rise above the trees, painting the landscape with shades of orange and pink while birds merrily sang out from the surrounding treetops. The fall of civilization did nothing to dishearten the feathered animals’ enthusiasm for life, if it had affected them at all, the opposite was true.
The air was warm and thick with humidity. Hayden lay asleep in the vehicle on a back seat covered in leather, stained and crusted with the dried blood of the crazy man that he had stabbed in the eye socket just the day before. It wasn’t the ideal spot to spend the night, but alas, this was the world that he lived in now and he was making the best of it. He was thankful just to have a safe spot to sleep in.
Hayden woke up to the sound of the wind gently rustling the branches of the trees around him. He felt refreshed from a good nights sleep, yet he was in no hurry to carry on, especially given that the tank of his vehicle was nearly out of fuel before he stopped driving the night before. Hayden laid there for some time listening to the quiet movement of the world all around him. His empty stomach was growling and rolling over leaving him feeling sluggish and apathetic, he needed food but lacked the motivation just to move. Depression was getting the better of him and he began to wonder if there was even a point to carrying on with his journey. So many challenges had found him in the past few days that he was beginning to feel like the odds were stacked against him. He thought for a moment that death may be inevitable, but then again, in whose life was death ever an uncertainty? Time just felt as if it were running out more quickly than he thought it would.
Hayden recognized the defeatist attitude that was taking hold of his mind and he had to consciously take control over his inner voice. His father had always taught him the value of repeating a mantra to himself when things got tough. He forced himself to repeat the words, “I will stay strong, and persevere for better days” three times, then sat up in his seat with a new sense of conviction. Brushing flakes of dried blood from off of his pant legs he began to think of his old life and the family that he had known in his younger years.
He had some family that lived in British Columbia on the Western side of Canada. Drew and Theresa, his Uncle and Aunt and two young cousins were out that way. He had visited them a few times with his mother and father when he was a child on two occasions. He had always enjoyed being there and felt welcomed. He remembered the house was North of a small town called Hope which he thought was ironic.
He remembered the road they took there ran along the side of a valley encased by mountains larger than any he had ever seen before. He also remembered a set of steel bridges that allowed colorful trains to cross the gap over the river below so that they could move from one side of the valley to the other. His Uncle’s driveway was long and narrow wrapping around the contours of a mountain as it ascended three quarters of the way towards the peak and that it had frightened him to go up or down it with his parents. Their home was modest on a beautiful piece of land overlooking the valleys and rivers with a yard large enough to garden and plenty of trees nearby for firewood.
He considered that they might still be living there, it was probably easy to defend given it’s remote location and that they were close to all essential necessities for survival. He wasn’t sure if they were still alive, living on that property or if he’d even able to make it there alive but he didn’t really have any other ideas. Southern Ontario was far too populated, lawless and rampant with the disease plus the thought of having family around again left him with a sense of longing.
He sighed and dropped his face into the palms of his hands…
He decided at that moment that he would make British Columbia his destination to search for his family in the mountains.
He sat there quietly pondering his situation for some time then suddenly, he was struck by the realization that he had never checked the trunk of the vehicle that he was in after he had stolen it. Perhaps the looters that he had taken it from a few days prior had something of value in the back that could help him on his journey. Anything would feel like an absolute blessing to him at this point.
He perked up with anticipation, jumped out of the back of the car and walked around behind it. He pulled the car key from out of his pants pocket impatiently and stuck the key into the lock on the trunk. He hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath, closed eyes and twisted the key slowly until he had heard a click. The trunk of the car released and opened.
With the strength of his entire being, he hoped to find anything other than nothing at all.
Hayden slowly opened one eye…
Then the other..
To Hayden’s delight sitting in the trunk was a 20 liter red jerrycan full of fuel, a duffel bag full of goodies, and behind those items lay a .308 bolt action hunting rifle with a dark oak stain. It looked to be in good condition.
A smile shot across his face from ear to ear, he could hardly believe his eyes. He jumped up and down, laughing, shouting, and rejoicing without any inhibitions. The corners of his eyes were wet with tears from his fits of joy. He danced triumphantly and rambunctiously, celebrating his fortune the only way that any teenager knew how. Ridiculously.
If there were a God, his prayers had been answered.
Time passed and Hayden took some time to forage for a meal out of his new found duffel bag. Among the loot he found inside the bag was a box of .308 rifle rounds, a box of shotgun shells, two flares, a large bag of rice, dehydrated lentils and a few cans of different foods. He took a few cans out for breakfast and left the rest in the bag.
Hayden feasted like a king on canned ham and kidney beans, sitting cross legged from on top of the roof of his car. With the wind blowing through his shaggy brown hair and some food in his stomach, he was feeling on top of the world. After he had finished eating, he topped up the gas tank of the vehicle with what was in the jerrycan and loaded up the backseat of the car with his possessions.
He took a moment to familiarize himself with his new rifle. Setting the butt of the rifle into his right shoulder, he aimed down the rifles sight for a moment to get the feel for it. Then he dropped the rifle, pulled the bolt back and noticed there was no round in the chamber. He flipped the rifle over, found the magazine and filled it with bullets from the car. He returned, set the magazine, pulled the bolt up and back, then forward again moving a round into the breech. He found the safety and switched it off, brought the rifle back to his shoulder, aimed it at a distant tree and held his breath.
The gun screamed and a chunk of tree bark popped off on contact with the bullet. The recoil jammed Hayden pretty hard in the shoulder which was painful with his injury, but the gun worked and he smirked slightly, pleased with himself.
Hayden walked back to the car and laid the rifle across the floor in the back. Then he took to the drivers seat of the car, started the engine and prepared to drive his beat up sedan until he ran out of gas. Destination: British Columbia. He drove off down the desolate winding highway heading West with the rising sun to his back, a full belly and a sense of renewed hope. He had no idea what kind of challenges were about to come his way, but he was ready to meet them all head on.
First time reading the adventures of Hayden? Check it out where it all began (Part I) here.