Humboldt County Line
Steve saw the minivan and trailer with the flat tire pulled over by the side of the road. A sickening feeling in his gut intensified when a family of four people ran after seeing Steve's truck round the corner on the hot desert road. He knew why the family ran. He knew that if his truck broke down trying to keep his family alive, he would run too.
"Should we stop and help?" Steve's wife Kim asked, a benevolent pleading in her voice. He didn't answer; he didn't have to. Kim knew that stopping to help someone could get you killed, even if those you wanted to help looked as helpless as new-born kittens. Rumors that the tactics used by bandits were changing, evolving meant no one driving on the open roads was safe. Running away could be the latest ploy. You stop to help. They kill you. They take everything.
Steve watched as the family scattered trying to find sanctuary behind sagebrush too short to accomplish the deed. He guessed their trailer was full of food--just like Steve's trailer. Had not their home been compromised two days prior Steve, Kim, and their daughter would be hiding in their basement with enough food to outlive the deadly pandemic plaguing the country. Steve had studied just how travelers were murdered while trying to flee the populated areas, killed mostly for their provisions. He gained useful knowledge of the tricks that worked and those that didn't. He had to be prepared because he had food. He didn't want to leave, but when others found out about the food they'd spent years gathering, staying meant dying.
Since all the trucked in and shipped in food disappeared from the store shelves hours after news of the disease and its deadly properties hit the news, those with weapons controlled the new commerce. To survive Steve left Concord, California, their residence for the past seven years, and crammed as much food as possible into the family's trailer and headed east. He headed inland where populations thinned and where Steve's sister's family lived, just past the Humboldt County line in Nevada. God only knew if she and her family were alive, but he hoped. He'd know in a few short hours, just as long as no one blocked the vacant road, or shot out a tire as they flew by at 80 m.p.h.
"That poor family," Kim said. Steve glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw his daughter in the back seat, glad the eight-year old was sleeping. "I sure hope they can get where they need to go," he said.
Steve scanned the horizon, his eyes alive with fear. He thought of the scared family with the disabled trailer. He hoped no one found them before they could fix the tire. He thought of the father frantic to find the car jack as his wife stood at the edge of the road looking up and down both directions of I-80. If they were lucky, they'd fix the flat and be on their way. Of course, if they saw someone approach, they'd have to decide. Should they pray the person stopping was to help? Or should they leave the trailer and escape, giving up their own survival by transferring it to the hand of others? Steve pushed down the accelerator and the Ford screamed faster into the fading afternoon. Hopefully he wouldn't have to make that kind of decision any time soon.