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Pandemica chapter twenty, Repopulation

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 22 Mar 2022

Montreal and gas


The Suncor refinery Montreal. suncor

In the following weeks the game plan went into full gear.

Sheila and her contingent went to Montreal and started reparations, almost around the clock, Sheila with pen and pad in hand, overseeing everything. They found good help too, as the city of Quebec had a Church and a population of three thousand, who immediately surrendered to Wilde’s army and tanks. They had no forces there. Everyone was trying to farm or fish, even the priests. Many were sick and looked to his forces, as they doled out pills, as saviors.

In the days that followed, interviewing each survivor, quite a few were from Montreal, reintegrated there by the Church’s first plan to keep to seaports, and a few were engineers or employees who’d worked at the refinery, immediately sent down to help.

I stayed with Nancy most days and every night. I spent hours reading to her again. She started therapy and I helped her take her first steps and hobble across the floor with her heavy cast, the doctors instructing us, each day a little further.

Then layer by layer the cast came off. Now with only a metal brace and a crutch, they told me she could go home. Jim was there and could handle the rest.

During those four weeks the General would come downstairs sometimes with questions, but most often with the news of all the hundreds of miles of progress they were making. Just like I’d predicted, everyone they came across, even the few tattered remnants of armies, immediately surrendered to them for the pill.

He’d sent out convoys as far as Chicago and up to Sarnia where much more gas was found. Johnson was in Atlanta and the fragments there eagerly joining him and swelling his forces, the pills winning everyone over, distributed and delivered as fast as we could make them.

Then Sheila stepped into our room one afternoon, unexpectedly. She was back from Montreal looking exhausted. She’d been working too many hours at the plant. It was a maze of pipes and pumps, numbers and factors to scale down to a workable size and it proved an over match to her complex mind, trying to redesign a massive system into a quarter of what it was.

But she was more than instrumental to getting it running. The engineers and welders came to her all day long in droves, chasing her as she continually walked about with her pads, checking off lists, doing complex calculations in her head, while a circle of people around her interrupted with questions. She always had a ready answer to every query. She cut weeks, maybe months off the completion, as they would have been leafing for hours through stacks of scattered blueprints, scratching their heads. But she had them all memorized in her's.

Now a quarter of the plant was running as a whole, with the damaged areas stripped of working parts and reintegrated into the salvageable section. The engineers praised her to the skies and insisted she go home and rest. They saw she was close to a nervous breakdown. But she stayed through completion and her calculations worked. The output met all our military’s needs. Some of the engineers were about to set off on their way to Sarnia, for more refineries. They walked her to a jeep in told the driver to take her wherever, but far away. He asked where she was headed, where was her home. She told him she had no home. So she mentioned us, sleeping the whole way.

Nancy and I were just starting to pack when she came in and flopped into my arms. After a night’s sleep we begged her to come with us for her much needed rest. She gladly accepted our offer, calling us, in a rare display of tearful emotion, ‘her true and only friends’.

We left the next day in a new four-door Ford truck, but in a convoy. The general insisted upon this, four jeeps of soldiers to inhabit the small town and be at our disposal, for all our needs. He also promised to send us regular supplies and would settle more farmers in our neighborhood, and finally repopulate the town, make it a community again with the best people he could find. I drove while Sheila and Nancy sat in the back and talked a bit.

As we pulled in, the two girls greeted us first, screaming with joy.

Bill came down from his room, then the farmer’s wife from the guest house, fully cured and smiling. Then Jim and Jane came out to the front porch with some news to tell us.

The farmer was far out in the field with his son, on the tractor, so far out they were specks in the distance, much further than our fields used to stretch. They must have cleared hundreds more acres.

Nancy went to the living room admiring every detail of the house, gazing at everything, as if it were the first time all over again.

We took a seat on the long couch, the two girls between us, Miranda hugging Nancy. Jane and Jim sat across from us on the smaller couch, holding hands. Sheila, after greeting Jim took a seat nearby.

Jane began: “I’ve taken back my bedroom again, so yours is free. Jim is with me now. We’re in love”.

I could have guessed that. Nancy offered her a true-felt smile.

“The girls sleep together” Jane continued. “Joe and his wife and his son occupy the guest house and Bill is where he’s always been, happy with that. Tom and Mira are gone”.

She stopped there. I thought it an enigmatic statement. It could mean anything.

Then Jim spoke up, seeing my look. “Tom and Mira are living nearby, in a farmhouse where Bill said you bought some livestock. When Mira and Tom asked if there was another place nearby, for them, Bill thought of it. I took the drive with Bill and Tom the first day. He showed us the way. The place was empty, the farmer dead, a skeleton in his bed. We buried him and cleaned the place up.

But you wouldn’t believe it, the livestock were still there, just wandering around. The chicken coop had been raided and cleaned out, probably foxes. We brought some of the horses and cows here to take care of. We visit them a couple times a week. Joe and his wife help them with supplies and Tom helps us. It’s a fine farmhouse, just what they wanted.

The strange thing is, it’s not far off. By the road it’s a long drive, but a circular route. It’s less than a half-mile from where Joe is plowing right now. He’s built a path to it through the trees, so we’re neighbors, a fifteen minute walk away. I think the solitude does them good. She’s been through a lot and needs time. Joe’s boy, Jeff and the girls help them with a little garden they’ve started. We restocked their chicken coop, for fresh eggs. And Joe found other animals too. Our farm could support twenty or thirty people now. I hope you don’t mind the changes”.

“Not at all” I said, “everything changes, that’s the nature of things. The important thing is that we’re all happy and safe”.

With that Nancy kissed me.

Then Jim added: “Oh, and by the way, Mira’s pregnant.

We all had a feast that evening at the large table, all nine of us, telling our stories, drinking wine. Jeff was now old enough to have a glass of beer, along with his father, while Bill stuck to his bourbon. I noticed Jane didn’t take a glass of wine usual but said nothing. She kept smiling at Jim beside her.

The girls gone to their bedroom, with the table cleaned off, and Bill and Joe and family back at their place, Nancy insisted we start a fire and talk some more in the living room, the five of us.

All this while I was thinking where Sheila might sleep. I wanted her to be a part of the family. But putting her on the couch in the living room didn’t seem good enough, too temporary, like an in the way guest. And I didn’t want her to leave in a few days.

She seemed a little distant and didn’t say much over dinner, briefly describing her trials in Montreal and need for a long overdue rest.

But once again, matters worked out, almost miraculously.

As we resumed our former seats, my arm around Nancy now, I mentioned to Jane that she didn’t drink at dinner.

“I might be pregnant too” she said quietly and smiled. “We don’t know because we have no tests. But Mira certainly is”.

“First Mira and now you” Nancy couldn’t help but say. “And I’m the only one who can’t, when I want a baby more than ever”.

She was slowly tearing up, which made everyone in the room feel sad.

Then Jim spoke up: “Nancy, I never said you couldn’t become pregnant. All your parts are fine. I just said you and Luke could never have a child together because of the gene incompatibility. For that matter, he could father ten children himself with other women”.

Nancy looked shocked. “Why didn’t you tell us this before”?

“You never asked. You asked me why you two didn’t succeed”.

“So with artificial insemination I can have a baby” she asked Jim.

“I’m afraid the necessary parts for that procedure are long gone. No electricity for four years has surely killed off all the refrigerated sperm in the world”.

She looked devastated.

Then he added, to cheer her up: “You could still do it the old-fashioned way”.

“Then you, with Roland’s permission, and Jane’s, could inseminate me”?

This put a queer look on everyone’s face, especially Jim’s.

There was a long silence. But Nancy seemed excited and finally said: “You wouldn’t mind, would you Luke. He’s your close friend, and it would be our baby one hundred percent, to raise together, while Jane and Jim raised their child in the same house, and they’d even be siblings, two girls or two boys or one of each. It would be wonderful, a perfect solution”.

She said all this rapidly, excitedly, as if heady with wine.

Then an even longer silence followed, Jim and Jane and I trying to fathom the complexities of such a situation. I held my head in my hands, thinking, and so did Jim.

Then Sheila, who hadn’t said anything yet and whom we’d almost forgotten about, broke the ice with what we thought was non sequitur.”

“I have the perfect solution to this equation” she said.

We looked at her puzzled and wondered if she wasn’t a bit crazy, as this was definitely not a mathematical equation and her remark totally out of the blue.

All heads turned to her. Then came the real shocker.

I want a baby too, and I want Roland to be the father. That equals out everything. He won’t feel like the cuckold. He’ll also be a father”.

This made my head spin. Both Jim and I resumed our former position, holding our heads between our hands and staring down hard at the floor.

The women were looking at each other, glad in fact, as if the equation had been perfectly triangulated. They instantly began a cacophony of chatter. I didn’t even know who was saying what.

“That’s wonderful news. We’ll be three mothers together. And we can all share and help each other. And they’ll all be siblings, all the same age, growing up together”.

“Triplets” I heard Sheila add in. This only amplified an out-of-control conversation, all three now speaking at the same time, hormones gone wild.

After ten minutes of this, Jim and I still thunderstruck, I pulled myself together, to squash the babel.

“Well” I said loudly, “this settles all our sleeping arrangements for tonight. I was worried about that and couldn’t quite figure it out. Sheila, you're sleeping with me in Nancy’s bed tonight. Nancy, you're sleeping with Jim in Jane’s bed. Jane, you’re already pregnant, odd woman out. You’re sleeping with the girls tonight, and maybe for another week, until this deed is done.”

Everyone looked at each other in mild astonishment, but to my surprise, in seeming agreement.

It was late. I knew there were a slew of details to be ironed out but that, I’m sure, would make for some interesting and possibly endless breakfast table talk.

I stood up, walked over to Sheila, took her hand and inviting her off the chair proceeded to the door then up the stairs.

Nancy and Jane did the same with Jim, still confused, one on each arm. They came right behind us.

At the top of the stairs, Sheila turned her head to Nancy and said: “I didn’t bring many clothes. Would it be okay if I borrowed some of yours” then in a more hushed voice, “you know, underwear, and have a few words with you in private”.

Jim was in a muddle. Jane pulled him to their bed and just sat him on the edge of it, telling him to take off his clothes. “You’ll be alright.” I heard her say.

Then she returned and I heard her whisper, right in Sheila’s ear: “I have some things you might like”.

This was all too much for me. I walked straight to my bedroom, turned and said, “I’ll be waiting”. Then I flicked off the light, stripped and got under the covers, same side I always used with Nancy, staring up at the ceiling in the dim glow from a light outside, trying not to think as I knew it would be a long time.

It sounded like they were giggling outside, like college girls.

Then the thought crossed my mind: “Is it possible to try not to think, or is that even more thinking”?

Difficult question. I’d have to ask that one to Sheila. Maybe she knew.

I didn’t get to ask it that night. When she finally came in she was dressed in black lingerie and had another agenda, tip toeing, after quietly closing the door, as if I might be asleep.

She slipped smoothly under the covers. Seeing me awake she whispered: “you waited. I’m sorry I took so long. I’ve never done this before. Let’s just start by kissing”.

I wanted to say how lovely she looked. But she cut those words off with a kiss. She was all business but by no means the scientist I’d known in the lab coat. She’d taken off her glasses and looked like a whole different woman.

As her arms pulled me closer she dallied with more kisses and caresses, in full control of matters. Maybe she was still the same, used to marshaling men all day long as she did at the refinery, telling them what to do, her one purpose being to get things done.

Maybe sex was just another area of her expertise. There were many books on the subject and she was an avid reader.

She was certainly professional that night and the nights that followed.

I wondered how many affairs she might have had in the past. She wasn’t a virgin. She was a mystery to me. But I let it go. Things were heating up too fast for any more rational thought.

After a few load moans on her part and mine, it was over. She turned away, to her pillow, and quickly fell asleep.

I stayed awake a few minutes, first wondering how thick the walls were between our two rooms, then how Nancy was making out with Jim next door, if she was thinking of me in a stranger’s arms, as I was thinking of her now, how beautiful she was

Kissing Sheila. beforesex.com


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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