I wanted to stay away from the town. It was crawling with zombies. We started north. The horses were fresh and we had to settle them down more than once. After about a half hour their heads dropped and they relaxed. I was hoping to come across a shallow crossing. We could use it to get back over to 322 and start for the farm.
We must have been riding for a few hours. I was starting to get sore and could see that Jean was twitching in her saddle too. We had another ten miles or so to where I blew up the propane truck. Our stories weren’t helping the stiffness in our bones and it was beginning to get dark. We didn’t want to be caught in the open at night. It was time to find a place to bunk down and secure. We rode up to the black top road and came upon a farm house and barn. This looked as good as any other place.
“Jean, stay on the road with the horses. I’ll check the barn first. If you hear a shot don’t come running in. Just move down the road to where we came out of the woods. If you don’t see me in about five or ten minutes the horses and everything in the packs are yours.” She just nodded.
This bank barn was situated with the hay storage entry on the road and the livestock area below with an exit to the pasture. A man size entry door to the barn was cut in to one of the larger sliding doors and unlocked. There was plenty of hay inside. Nothing was hiding under the hay wagon that took up much of the central space. I climbed to the top of the hay and was able to walk around the entire barn and check from above. I nearly cracked off a round when some cats startled and ran out through various tunnels in the bales. I walked back out the front and gave Jean a “hold on” signal with my index finger in the air. I walked down the drive beside the barn and couldn’t see anything inside the livestock area. Once I slid through the fence I could hear some scratching in the shadows. It was dark inside. I reached for the flashlight in my coat pocket. It was about six foot tall, balding and about 50 pounds bigger than me. It wore coveralls, a Carhartt jacket and a pitchfork in its hands. A pitchfork! I backed away and tripped over some bricks. The tines were like missiles heading for my eyes. I brought the shotgun up and wedged it between the tines. A pitchfork! What was a zombie doing wielding a pitchfork?
“Stop!” I yelled.
“You decock those hammers and I’ll stop.” the deep voice above me demanded.
“No problem mister.” I answered as I let the hammers down. “I’m not looking for trouble. I was looking to avoid it. I’m just looking for a safe place for my travelling partner and me to bed down for the night.”
“Travelling partner, where is your partner?” He asked.
“I’m right behind you.” Jean answered him as I nodded to her. “You can put that fork down nice and easy.” She said as she pulled back the hammer on her pistol.
“Mister” I said, “We don’t want trouble. We just need a safe place to crash for the night.”
The large man pulled back his pitchfork and laid it against the wall. “Well nothing here is free.”
“We can pay our way in trade” I told him as I put my hand out for a lift up.
Ten 12 gauge slugs and half a box of 45 colt bullets and we had a deal. We had a roof over our heads and the horses had the corral and a kick-bale of Timothy each.
Ned Simons was a single man of about 35 years. He had broad shoulders and a small waste. His shape was a testament to a life working on farms and with livestock. Most recently he had made a living transporting Amish craftsmen to construction sites. He’d load them up every day and drive them to and from Harrisburg, Lancaster and Lebanon or wherever their skills took them.
We moved inside after taking care of the horses and our tack. We put our bed rolls and my bags in the kitchen. I saw that Ned had rigged a hand pump to his sink. There was no electricity in the house. Ned cranked the handle on a small lantern/radio and turned it on. He stoked the fire in his wood cooking stove
“It isn’t much but its home,” he said as he pulled some venison jerky from a bag. “You’re welcome to share some of this. Not much else around anymore with the zeds out there.”
“Maybe we can offer you some variety.” I said as I dumped my MREs on to the table. It didn’t take long until we were at the kitchen table exchanging stories of our survival to this point. Ned explained how he and his crew of Amish were on their way home when everything got ugly. People were trying o escape the cities. They just wanted to get home. I could relate to that. They were coming down the highway when the plane smashed in to the truck stop. The force of the concussion knocked their van to its side. Like most good folk do, they rushed to try to help the others who were still alive. They stayed away from the crash but could hear the screams. The screams weren’t coming from the passengers. They were coming from those who ran to try to help people in the truck stop. It wasn’t long after they heard the screams that they saw the people attacking other people inside. They were biting each other and clubbing them to the ground. Everyone was freaked out by what they saw. Ned and his Amish friends hitched a ride with a trucker heading west.
“I haven’t seen those Amish since the accident and plane crash.” He explained. “I’ve been hold up here ever since. When the power went out I made do with what I had.” “If y’all like, there is a working shower upstairs. It’s the same set up as the sink here but you can clean up.”
“I think I’ll take you up on that Ned.” Jean said as she excused herself from the table.
“Towels and washcloths under the sink.” Ned advised as she walked up the stairs.
“Ned, do you think the Amish are doing any better than the rest of us?”
“I doubt it.” He answered. “They avoid regular folks as much as possible but they still mingle.” “They have their stores and fruit and vegetable stands. I’m sure they’ve got it too. I just haven’t had the nerve to go check.”
“Would you mind taking us out there tomorrow?” I asked. “I’d like to see how they’re doing.”
“Yeah, sure.” He answered. “I should probably see if I can find myself a horse and buggy anyway.”
“You and your lady can have the small bedroom.”He said. “It’s next to the bathroom.”
“Oh, she isn’t my lady Ned.”
“Is that so?” He said more as if he were thinking out loud then asking. “Well, if you’re not with her then all I can offer you is the couch.” “I’ve spent plenty of nights on it and it is comfortable.”
“That’ll do. Thanks.” I told him.
I heard Jean come out of the bathroom as Ned and I got up from the table. I set my roll out on the couch, got myself comfortable and lay down, ready for some deep sleep. Jean walked down the stairs and stood over me.
“Uh, where do I sleep?” she asked.
“In the room next to the bathroom.” Ned answered as I pointed up the stairs.
“Oh, okay then.” Jean responded. “I suppose I’ll be heading to sleep then.” She started up the stairs. Ned started up as Jean was near the top.
“I’ll get you some blankets, Jean.” He announced as he climbed the stairs. Jean stood in the doorway as Ted handed her some blankets.
“There’s a chair in there you can slide under the door handle if you think you should.” Ned let her know.
“Oh, okay then. Thank you.”
I could hear Ned walking to the front of the second floor. I assume that is where his bedroom was located. I heard some creaking near Jean’s door and then what sounded like chair legs dragging against the floor and jamming against the door. My comfort zone was finally reached as I decocked the 45 colt that I had under the sofa pillow. We were all still strangers and it’s better to be safe than sorry.