By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 21 May 2023




It wasn’t hard to find this camp from all the details he’d given. They weren’t in hiding either. I heard the sound of children playing before I came to the bend in the gravel road that led to their camp. I strolled right up to it on my horse before one of the woman hanging up her wash noticed me. I dismounted with my gun tucked under my jacket and greeted her as I would a friend. She called to several others nearby, the children ran up and I asked to talk. There was a group of picnic tables near their campers and that’s where we had our meeting.

When they slowly gathered I could see that this was a motley group, no one set type but people from all different walks of life, stray survivors from the storm now collected together for safety. Two of the men were in their fifties along with a woman. The other man and three women were near my age, healthy and fit looking. One was Black and another Asian, seemingly unrelated. The drunk had been wrong in one detail, three of the so called children were at least in their late teens, the other three were children, between ten and fifteen. I suppose he called anyone under twenty a child.

They seemed a mild mannered and friendly group, offering me food as I told them I was just a harmless wanderer in search of others, that I found Pete in town the day before and he pointed me in this direction. They even apologized for him as a drunk and brought me some fish they’d caught and cooked that morning which I ate with relish. They sat close around me in complete ease which I reciprocated. I asked if I could stay with them for a night and a day, that I’d share my long story and would love to hear there’s. They immediately agreed to my proposal with nods and smiles.

That night around the campfire we told our tales. I was right in assuming that this was a composite group of strays. The two Blacks were a couple and one of the women was mother to two of the younger children. Other than that none were related in any way, except in being the rare survivors of the upheaval. They were all from the neighboring hills and had collected slowly in the two years after the drone attacks. They had no plans for their future except to survive and they had no clue of the state of the rest of the world, except in knowing that it was in shambles.

On this matter I was able to enlighten them a great deal. They hung on every word I spoke in a hushed silence. I gave them a synopsis of the last seven years from what I’d learned from Dora and Ted. Dora was in my saddle bag tucked away and Ted was far away. I didn’t mention them or my retreat, just a general news of the world for which they thanked me. My own personal history I stopped short after my egress from the woods in Canada two years before, as if I’d been a solitary wanderer ever since. I was still gauging their characters and my estimation rose in their favor with each passing hour.

As the firelight dimmed I told them I’d sleep a little ways off in the woods but rejoin them in the morning. By then my mind was made up. I told them of my clan in the redwoods and asked if they’d like to join. We spent the rest of the day seated at those picnic tables in a flurry of talk, mostly excited questions directed at me, all activities stopped and the children just as glued to my every word as the adults. They were all in and I was glad to gain such a diverse set of people for my colony because they were all human and that’s what makes a world better, variety.

It took two days to organize and collect what we needed. One of the so called ‘girls’, named Sarah, grew up in Brookings and knew where to find the truck and horse trailer and the small bus we’d need to make this trek. She knew horses and loved horses and squeezed me all the way into town sitting behind me. It wasn’t hard to guess by these unspoken gestures that a new love affair was in progress. I wasn’t against it. A month alone in the saddle and solitary nights in my sleeping bag had warmed me once again to the nirvana of a female’s embrace.

The next day we loaded up and left. Poor Pete we left behind. They told me he’d only be a hindrance and unhappy. They tried to reform him from his constant drinking and failed. The liquor store shelves were still half full and with him its sole abuser he should have another ten years of uninterrupted inebriation. Sometimes the best solution to a problem without a solution is to walk away.

Once again I returned to Bohemian Grove like a hero, horns blaring this time. Sarah was sitting beside me, kissing my cheek in the truck that was pulling our horse trailer with the bus right behind with all of our new arrivals. We were nearly double in size in an instant and the rest of our newcomers had to be lodged in the separate buildings meant to house the security and staff. But they were all accommodated comfortably and to their extreme delight as they took in the regal surroundings and smelled the delicious air of the redwoods, just as Sarah did before I led her to the last empty bedroom in our lodge, our bedroom now, a honeymoon suite and sweet it was.

There was something about Sarah that singled her out from the others though she was only nineteen. She was forward and independent in her personality, the type of person that plucked the apple she desired from the tree without hesitation. You might say she plucked me, and for the first time in my life, I was the happy recipient of Cupid’s arrow.

Our group had nearly doubled overnight. It now numbered twenty six adults, five older children and four infants with two more on the way. I considered this a full and healthy number for a clan and for our collective survival. I wasn’t about to set out looking for more survivors anytime soon. It was time now to integrate, to get to know each other for what we were, a band of very lucky refugees. And with the latest arrivals from the hive, three more young couples wanting to be humans, we had our hands full.

I suppose I was still the leader of our group. I started it and collected it. Ted was definitely my second if ever a question came up who should do what. But things were pretty well settled along simple lines. The women were in charge of tending the livestock, the men the fields. The women managed the household and the cooking and most important of all, the nursery, with Beth in command. If any heavier lifting cropped up in these departments she had full authority to appropriate a few of the men to help out.

But the living was easy and we divided the chores so evenly that everyone had at least four hours of leisure a day, for horseback riding or whatever they liked, and the children for play. The Oregon set were especially taken by our little theater room and filled it to capacity watching movies every night, rekindling old memories. The children also flocked there on rainy days, matinee hour and toy stories.

One thing we did need was more livestock. Ted suggested that we hitch the trailer and get it ourselves. He was curious to see the hive, how it operated. He asked that I come along with him, as Dora’s favorite and with my gun belt on for security. He never did like weapons or violence. My guess was that four years among the Amish had made him a pacifist. He wouldn’t even go hunting with me. But he had watched me fire off six rounds with deadly accuracy many times at the firing range and with Dora around our necks felt no fear with me at his side of walking into a thick crowd of droids.

I told Sarah of this expedition one night and she insisted upon joining us. Even though I told her it would be too dangerous, she was a fireball of persuasion in bed and quickly won her way, not with words.

She seemed to have her way in everything, especially with me. Yet she also made friends with Beth, who didn’t mind our arrangement being eight months pregnant. Sarah had an indescribable charisma about her, both alluring and demanding at the same time and Beth fell as completely under her spell as I had. You could tell she’d be everyone’s choice for a leader in a few years, the only obstacles now being her youth and her sex, and I knew she’d overcome the second before the first.

She had a one-mindedness in her desires, a wilfulness that you could see in her eyes. I never considered myself a weak man but when I saw that focus, that beam staring at me I felt like putty in her hand ready to be molded into any shape she chose. And more than that I felt fortunate to be that putty, to have been chosen by her as a close aid to her ends. Some rare people have a stare so intense, it’s as if they can focus their whole life force in it and you can never drink in such a sight to satiety. It creates a thirst as it feeds it, a greater thirst with every draught you imbibe, an unending cycle of desire and satisfaction.

Such was the miracle of Sarah, a force of nature, a Zenobia, queen of Palmyra and everything she ever surveyed. Even when the Romans finally conquered her armies they bowed to her and kissed her feet.

We set out on our mission, the three of us, but half-way there, driving down the beautiful, wooded highway through Marin, I thought: ‘why not make this a pleasure trip?’ Ted was driving and I told him to cross the Golden Gate into San Francisco. We’d spend the afternoon in some elite lounge admiring the view, sipping the finest wines. We’d spend the night at the Regency in the finest suites and be off on our way the next day.

With Sarah beside me, her arm around me, I felt like a king, master of the world. It was an empty place, but it was still all mine, with no one to object.

That afternoon, after a few drinks in us, we strolled through a posh mall and broke some glass. I loaded Sarah with jewelry, pearl necklaces, gold bracelets and diamond rings, every finger, and kissed each one as I put them on. I didn’t forget the others and filed a large satchel with twenty times more for all the women back at the ranch. Then I suggested we visit the museum of fine arts, as I wanted a few pictures for my bedroom. There must have been an exhibition of French impressionists when the end occurred because I was able to choose from some choice Van Gogh's, Renoir's and a Degas I particularly liked, along with a Whistler. We thew them in the back of the truck with a shopping spree abandon. We were the new billionaires of this earth, without shame, as there was no one below us.

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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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