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By: David L. Souers

Chapter 16

New Birth

Using every skill at her disposal; cards, mirror, bones, and the aura of the world around her, Danielle guided them all through the topsy-turvy world they now occupied. Their first summer in the year 1 p.w.,(post wave), as they all had begun calling it by common consensus, was short and cool, but their gardens did quite well in spite of it all. The season was far too short to grow corn or sweet potatoes, and peppers and tomatoes were also out of the question. The root crops did much better than they usually would have, as the normal southern Arkansas weather was just to hot for them. The broccoli, brussels-sprouts, and other cabbage related items would have won blue ribbons at the county fair, if the world had been as it once was.

Gary had designed and built a device to slice the cabbage for the big barrel of kraut they planned to make. “How much clearance do you need to cut that cabbage properly?”

Those few words ended up giving him a headache before he finished the job, as her reply of, “Why don’t you design it so I can use it to slice the beets and other vegetables too? You know what I need. Four or five different settings would be nice.”

Without a single audible word, he went back to the design phase at the kitchen table. The finished product was nearly as good as anything that could have been purchased in a reliable hardware store back in the 1800’s. They were learning as they went, as no other choices were available.

The salt was invaluable in the actual process of packing the cut cabbage into the barrel for the next year’s supply of sauerkraut. The barrel to the right of it was filled with salt pork, and the two of them would be used together for many delicious meals. Jimmy had claimed that he just couldn’t eat kraut, but soon learned that you could get used to any kind of food, if you got hungry enough, and necessity dictated that they couldn’t afford to eat cafeteria style.

Danielle’s herb gardens did even better than they had done in the pre-wave years. She harvested basket after basket of culinary and medicinal herbs. Some were dried some were used fresh on the table, or put into her canned foods. Gary always raved about her bottled spaghetti sauce. He loved to say, “It’s to die for.” It invariably got a chuckle out of the whole group. The elixirs and other medicines required the use of alcohol to steep the vital essences from the plants, and the dozen or so bottles of one hundred proof vodka in her closet, were strictly off limits to the rest of them. It would have to last until she could get enough grain to make her own supply of, ”medicinal”, alcohol. If it went well, they might all be allowed a bloody mary or two on a New Years Eve that was yet to come.

On Danielle’s fortieth birthday in May of 2 p.w. She had looked up from hanging laundry to see a jet contrail in the otherwise totally blue sky, overhead.

“Hey, everybody! Come look at this!”

They all stood there, shading the bright sun from their eyes with their hands, watching the jet streak across the sky towards the west, not quite believing their own eyes.

A small, single engine plane had come over a couple of times in the past six months, but they knew that it didn’t require any chip technology to fly, while the craft they were watching now probably couldn’t stay in the air without it’s advanced computers.

“Dad, how did they get their hands on chips that were still viable?”

“Now that’s what I’d call the sixty-four thousand dollar question, and I’m obviously, not going to collect the cash. Your guess is as good as mine.”

Ellen couldn’t hold her tongue any longer, and quipped, “My girlfriend in Arizona told me she was working on something called a, “RAD-HARD”, chip for the government that would be used to stop EMP damage if we ever had a nuclear war, or for use on spacecraft that might get too much radiation. I wonder if they might have perfected it, and stockpiled some of them before the wave hit?”

Little did they know how close Ellen was to the actual truth, “Seed chips” had been built that would help in case there was a disaster. They would help to reestablish a new chip technology by being programmed to run the equipment that would, and did in the past, produce the world’s technology. It would take a long time to get the infrastructure all up and running again, but the opportunity was there. They had been stored miles underground in specially insulated containers, then they were jacketed in copper mesh sacks that were grounded to the bedrock with eight foot long drill steels that had been cemented into place with a special conductive cement. The last step in the process was to suspend them from the tunnel walls by pure copper straps that would, in theory, shunt any energy into the surrounding rock before it could cook the circuitry in the chips. The entire affair was supposed to work on the same principle as any ordinary lightning rod. Three-inch thick steel doors blocked the alcoves that had been blasted out of the tunnel walls for the storage areas. It had all been done with thermonuclear war, and its resulting EMP bursts in mind, but it was just as successful in thwarting the galactic tsunami that had over-whelmed them all. Entering the crypt had been a daunting task. Without power, the one half mile vertical descent on the emergency system, and the three miles of horrific heat that had accumulated in the mine tunnel leading to the alcove was hotter than a sauna. The mine was actually right at one mile deep, but the mouth of the deep shaft was nearly four thousand feet high up on the edge of a tall precipice. They were worried that the water level would rise, if the huge pumps ever stopped, and to avoid the threat of submersion they went to a place just above the level, about a half mile above the bottom of the pit, that was used to remove the millions of tons of high grade ore that came from the old mine. The haulage tunnel exited the mine in the valley below at a processing facility, but it was no longer stable enough to allow the crew to enter the mine from that direction, as the roof had caved in at several different places. Some deep mines aren’t extremely hot unfortunately this one was a killer. Many men had died from the heat down there, and without the cooling air that had once been forced through the hundreds of miles of tunnels and shafts, the spray painted sign on the wall of the deepest level that proclaimed, “Hell..15 FEET”, with a down pointing arrow, wasn’t very far off base.

The group of intrepid volunteers broke the seals, and brought the treasures out of that shaft without losing a single man. Some of the conventional chips were scrap, but the advanced RAD-HARD variety, were still OK, and they would be enough to start anew. Within a decade, the world would recover. Hopefully, mankind would replenish its technological stockpile, so deep in the ground, once more. After all, recent experience had just shown that, one never new what the following day might bring. Obviously, in the long run, they would have to devise some type of technology that would be impervious to the waves of galactic energy in the future. Hopefully, the five hundred or so years until the next one might be expected to hit, would be a sufficient time period to accomplish that vital job.

If the four survivors standing in the small garden had known what had been sacrificed by so many, to send the jet on it’s mission, to show as many people as possible that some technology was re-emerging from the disaster, they would have been aghast.

Early in the spring of the year 3 p.w., Danielle had a vision of splendor in her mirror. Out of the mist that covered the surface, she glimpsed a beautiful field that literally brimmed with nature’s bounty. It was a cornucopia of such abundance that her heart was filled with joy at the sight.

That afternoon, they started up her old pickup truck for the first time in over three months, and headed for Bill and Shandra’s place some thirty miles to the southwest. Most of the signs of the preceding bad years were now gone. They had been partially erased by Mother Nature, and the clean up crews that had finished disposing of the bodies that had littered the countryside. True to her prediction, many pieces of previously abandoned farmland were now producing modest amounts of crops to the ministrations of ex-city folks. They had made it this far, and that was no small accomplishment.

The two Wiccan practitioners were overjoyed to see each other, and soon were comparing notes on perceived, ”coming attractions.”

Sitting on the front porch swing, Bill and Gary lazed in the almost warm, spring sunshine.

Gary commented, “I never thought to much of those two messing with that Wicca stuff, but I think we’d be history by now, without them.”

“Gary, I’ve thought the same thing for a long time. I really was far less than enthusiastic when Shandra started to learn those Wiccan things from Danielle, but now I think I might try to see if they will show me a few things about it.”

“Maybe we both should talk to them about it, huh?”

A couple of hours later, the girls came out on the porch. Their happy smiles were a confirmation of a bright future for them all.

Back at the farm, Ellen and Jimmy were also sitting on a porch swing enjoying the beautiful day. Looking over at her husband with a radiant smile, Ellen commented, “You know what, Jimmy, Danielle was right after all. This is a good life.”

As Jimmy was about to answer in the affirmative, he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching from the west, down the usually quiet rural highway. It slowly came closer, and he could see that it wasn’t the kids returning from Shandra and Bill’s place. At about the same time that he recognized the beat up old truck, the horn sounded, and a skeletal old hand snaked it’s way out of the side window, and gave them both a cheery wave. It was nearly out of sight by the time that he had recovered enough to tell Ellen that it was the truck of his dreams.....