Alone Chapter 3.

Chapter 3. Alone

Today would be the day Mark’s isolation would come to an end. At nine o’clock he would receive a satellite phone call from the producer followed by a chat with friends and family. Well that is what had been arranged just over a year ago. Mark did not sleep all that well so he was up and about early, he had completed all his chores and found himself sitting on the veranda waiting for the phone to ring. It was going to be a busy day as a helicopter was due mid morning with a film crew and reporter who would interview him about the last year. As he sat there he started to wonder about how the show had gone, if it had failed, may be there will be no helicopter and reporter. May be he will just get a phone call to say, ‘thanks that’s it’ but on the other hand the show might have been a great success and he will be a celebrity.

Nine o’clock came and went with no phone call, the phone seemed to be working fine so he just kept waiting. He wondered weather it was day light saving time so he waited thinking the phone would ring at ten, but it didn’t. He wondered if he had the wrong day but if he had forgotten to cross a day off the calendar he would of received a call yesterday. He decided to try calling out, but the phone did not connect, it did not seem to matter what number he tried. He decided that the phone or satellite were broken and he would have to try something else.

There was a system within the video link that would enable Mark to talk to the producer via video. So he plugged in a camera and microphone and tried to make a connection but after a few hours of playing around he could not make it work so he called it a day.

After dinner Mark sat on the veranda with Jen on his lap and George sitting next to him wondering what had gone wrong. In the end he decided that it was technologies fault.

“What do you think I should do George old mate?” said Mark, but George did not reply, he just looked at him with a silly doggy grin. “What about you Jen?” Mark asked Jen but like George there was no reply.

“Well I might give it a few days and then drive out,” said Mark more or less to himself.

The next day Mark put some time into making sure the old Land Rover was in good going order, checked the oil, checked the radiator, filled it with fuel and generally checked everything. It was in good going condition as he did use it around the property for collecting fire wood.

It was no longer registered so he shouldn’t drive it on the public road so he only intended to drive it as far as the property boundary, well may be a bit on what was technically public road from his boundary to the neighbours place. Now it may be public road but in reality it was just a one lane track so they were next to no chance of being court.

It would take about an hour to get to his neighbours place so he packed an esky with something to eat and drink.

“Come on George,” Mark called out, and George came running jumping straight into the back of the Land Rover. George loved riding in the back of the Land Rover.

The first part of the access road was in good order as Mark drove it on a regular bases as it lead to part of the property that was just bush and was were he collected all his fire wood. But after a kilometre or so the access road veered one way and road to where he collected fire wood veered the other way. So from there on, the road had not had any vehicles over it in twelve months, so it was a bit over grown with long grass down the middle of the road but other wise in good condition.

After another kilometre or so Mark came upon a tree over the road, it must have come down during the big storm of six months ago. Luckily the chain saw was still in the back of the Land Rover so he cut it up and moved it out of the way. This happen another two times before he got to the property boundary, which added to the travel time by a good amount. It had taken him over an hour to get to the property boundary and he still had a fair way to go. Now he was on the public road, and even though it was only a one lane track, and unlike his private access road this was a proper made road so he expected to be able to drive a bit quicker.

He had only travelled about two km’s when he came upon another tree over the road and like the others it had been there for some time. This was a big tree, over a metre in diameter. It took Mark over an hour and a half to cut it up, as the chain saw was not big enough to cut it in one go so he had to cut it from both sides. Once cut up the pieces were too big for him to move so he had to tire a rope to them and pull them out of the way with the Lane Rover.

Mark puzzled on why this tree had not been moved given that it had obversely come down some time ago, most likely during the big storm of six months ago. The road didn’t really go any where and no one other than Mark lived beyond this point but it was a public road and he thought it odd that it had not been cut up. As he continued along the road it was blatantly obvious that no one had been along this road in a long time. After about half an hour or so Mark was approaching his neighbour’s house but it looked over grown and unlooked after. Mark’s neighbour was into self sufferance and tried to grow all of their own food and generally live of the land so to see the property unlooked after was a bit of a shock.

Mark pulled up outside the house, the grass had not been cut, the veggie patches were over grown, and the place was a real mess. He knocked on the door but there was no answer so he tried the door and it opened. He walked in calling out, “hello is any one home” but got no reply so he had a look around. Everything was tidy but a bit dusty, no one had lived there for a while. He checked the phone but it did not work so he went back outside and had a look around, the chook yard gate was open and there were a few chooks scratching around in the dirt. The shed was closed but unlocked, he went inside but everything seemed fine. There was no car so Mark concluded his neighbours must have moved away, may be life on the land got too much for them or may be one of them got sick, they were not that young.

What to do now? Mark asked himself. He decided to head home to take stock. He got home just on dusk and settled in for the night still confused about the day. As he sat on the veranda with Jen on his lap and George sitting next to him he went through the events of the day. After a bit of thought he decided to try again the next day. He would drive to town and phone the producers from there, he also came to the conclusion that the show must have been a complete failure. But he could not work out why they did not contact him. He then started to wonder if the isolation had got to him so he decided to stop thinking about it and go to bed.

The next day Mark checked around the property, making shore the animals would be safe over the next few weeks, that they had enough feed and water. He called George who jumped straight into the back of the Land Rover but what about Jen, should he take her with him or leave her. He had no doubt that she could live of the land but he decided to take her with him. Jen was pretty good when it came to travelling, she just sat on a shelf behind the seats and looked out of the window watching the world go by.

With all the trees cut up it did not take long to get as far as he did the day before. About ten kilometres past his neighbours place the road came to a tee junction where he turned right onto a two lane council dirt road. This road would be dirt for about ten kilometres before it would become bitumen. Straight away Mark started to feel uneasy, the road was covered with debris, sticks, leaves etc, and was in poor condition, like it had not been graded for a very long time. This was odd as this road was a well used road servicing many farms and to find it un maintained struck Mark as strange. A few kilometres later Mark came around a corner to find the road partially blocked by a land slide. He stoped and got out to have a look, the road was not blocked but it was plain that this had happened a long time ago, grass was growing in the slide. There was no sign of any traffic driving around it which made no sense.

Mark drove around the slide and continued with a great deal of apprehension as he could not work out why this road would not be maintained. As he drove on he started to wonder if he was reading too much into a few tree down and a land slide, there must be a logical explanation. He concluded that he was feeling the effects of a year in isolation and that he should just drive on. The road went from dirt to bitumen but still looked unused with sticks, leaves and dirt on the road.

Mark pulled over for some lunch and to stretch his legs. George had a bit of a run around but Jen just sat on the bonnet of the Land Rover. He sat there in a fold out chair looking out over the paddocks. He could see cattle in the paddocks but there was a corn crop just opposite that had not been harvested which did not help his feeling that something was wrong.

After a bit of a rest he set of again, George in the back and Jen sitting on his lap as he drove. He pasted a number of drive ways into farms but he continued on. After about an hour the country side started to change from farm land to forest country as the road followed the ‘Johnson River.’ Mark knew he was not far from ‘Johnson’ which was a small village located where the Johnson River meets Moody Creek. There was not much to Johnson, the only thing there was a Caravan Park come camping area, and General store which also sold fuel.

Mark pulled into Johnson general store’s driveway but straight away things did not look right, everything looked unkept. He got out, making sure the Land Rover was closed up so Jen could not get out and the put a chain on George to keep him from wandering around. He walked towards the shop, the front door was open but leaves were in the door way like it had been closed for some time. As he got closer he could see the shop was a mess and once inside it looked like animals had been inside. All the packet food was strewn all over the place, there was no electricity and the fridges were covered in mould, the place was a real mess.

He went though to the back of the shop which like the shop was a mess and then he saw a body, or what was left of a body, lying on the floor. He got out of there as quickly as he could. He stud next to the Land Rover looking around the camping area. There were a number of caravans and tents scatted around, the tents were wind blown and some of them had collapsed. The grass was very long and the whole place looked totally deserted. Mark started to check the caravans but all he found were more bodies. He started to feel uneasy and unsettled as he continued looking through the caravans and tents. He found himself running back to the Land Rover and driving away as quickly as he could. It was about five kilometres down the road before he calmed down and stoped.

What was going on? All these people died a long time ago so why they were still there were they died?

The sun was going down so he drove a bit further looking for a place to camp for the night. Once he found somewhere he pulled over, he did not feel all that hungry but he did have a sandwich and a drink. He gave George and Jen something to eat and tried to sleep in the front of the Land Rover without much success.

Mark woke with the dawn, had some breakfast and head off toward Town which was about two hours drive away. The closer he got to Town the better the road got but it still looked unused. He had to stop to move a large branch of the road that had fallen from a tree, it had no leave on it so it came down some time ago. He concluded that no one had driven along this road in some time.

On the outskirts of town things did not look good, the grass was long and it was obvious that something was very wrong. As he drove into Town he could see no one around, no cars on the road, it was a ghost town. Everything looked like it had not been touched in months, the roads were clear, it was like everyone had just disappeared. He pulled up outside the Police Station but he could see no signs of life. With a great deal of trepidation Mark made his way towards the Police Station, tried the front door but it was locked. He looked through the dirty class door but there was nothing to see. He continued driving around town but saw no sign of life except for animals, mostly cattle and horses.

Mark stoped at the shopping centre, the doors were open but there were rats everywhere so he decided to stay out. In the main street he found a newsagents and like just about everything the door was open so he found a newspaper. There was a lot of stories about a pandemic but none of it was written with any alarm to the extent that everyone was about to die, but it would seem that is what happened.

He had to break into an electronics store in order to get a UHF radio before heading out of town to a look out which was about five kilometres away and the highest point near by. He wired the radio up and gerry ridged an areal and then tried to contact others.

“Hello is there any one out there,” Mark said into the mic. He then twiddled with the knobs and said it again. Nothing came back.

“Hello is there anyone out there,” he said again into the mic. But there was no reply. He continued for about a half hour before giving up.

Mark just sat in his fold out chair looking out over the valley wondering what to do next. George sat next to him looking quite content and Jen was purring on his lap. Going home seemed like the best thing to do as it was well set up for a self sufficient life. He would need to go back into town to scavenge some supplies just to make life a bit better, so he made a list, it ended up being a big list.

Then he wondered weather anyone else was still alive and weather he should try to find them. He could stay away for about two week with out problems but after that the longer he was away the harder it would be to get things back up and running.

Mark knew that UHF radios worked better at night so he decided to try again after dark. After dinner he spent hours broadcasting over the radio in the hope of getting a reply but nothing came back, just static.

The next day he went back into town with his list of items he would need. He went to a hardware store for a pair of plastic overalls, mud boots and a mask as well as misalliance hardware. From there he headed to the shopping centre were he put on the overall boots and mask before entering the centre. There were lots of rats about and the smell was a bit strong but it was not as bad as he was expecting. He managed to find most of what he was looking for but the rats had destroyed a lot of stuff. He had to go to a number of garages in order to get fuel which was not that easy as he had to use a manual pump to pump it out of the under ground tanks.

As the day went on he was accumulating way too much for the Land Rover so he borrowed a new small pandect truck and loaded it with everything he had collected. By the end of the day the truck was ready to go with everything he might need for the future, tined food, fuel, soap, hardware, pills, you name it he had collected it. He drove the truck to the lookout and then rode a bush bike back for the land Rover.

His second night at the look out was a lot more comfortable as he now had some camping equipment and even a gas stove to cook on.

Mark spent a few more hours on the radio in the hope of finding someone else alive. He would broadcast every few minutes saying. “Hello anyone out there,” but he got no reply. He then played around with the radio and tried again. As the night went on Mark despaired that no one was still alive but he thought about it for a while and concluded that there may well be people still alive but who don’t have radios or have given up trying.

Mark just can’t go home without at least trying to find other people so he decided to leave the truck at the lookout and drive south in the Land Rover in the hope of finding others alive. The truck was new and water proof so it would be fine at the lookout for a few weeks.

It was a bright sunny day when Mark headed south with George in the back and Jen sitting on his lap. He felt a bit apprehensive as he did not know what he would find, if anything, the thought did cross his mind that some people my not be friendly but he just had to try.

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