The haphazard convoys that Joe had seen leaving the city were all strangely heading in similar directions; somewhere away from people and, preferably, safe.
Unfortunately the Santaristas had made the huge cognitive leap and had come to the same conclusion, that being that the innocents would try their best to reach safety before they were subjected to the Census.
They had been travelling with only the light of the lead vehicle showing their way.
It was decided that this way would enable them to keep as invisible as possible. They had about sixty vehicles in their convoy; the larger ones had run into difficulties and more difficult ambushes. Some of the more rural areas were more ‘ambushy’ than others and what was truly surprising was how so many people with a range of weaponry could be so bad at missing such big, but moving, targets.
Nevertheless, the larger convoys were being tracked and blockaded with their passengers being taken into internment. Huge roadside containment camps were being set up at the sides of major highways with very little to support their long-term prospects. The people who were running them were a mixture of Army, Police, and small-time bureaucrats who were angling to see some action. The Christmas season had never been so merry; goodwill was in short supply.
Some of the Fake-News agencies had tried to cover the story, but then they too found themselves being detained and moved towards other camps where the atmosphere was significantly less convivial. All broadcasters were playing the same White Christmas loop that the President thought fit. Any version, interpretation or Liberal-minded mash-up of anything to do with A Christmas Carol was definitely banned. People didn’t need that type of warped message any longer.
“Pull over, Duke.”
“Pull over?” Duke was a little confused by the request.
“Yes, pull-over. There is something up there, just around the bend.”
Duke was going to ask the little guy, whom they had encountered a few days previously, how he knew that there was something around the bend. He would have asked if he had not witnessed a number of strange predictions that had unerringly come true in such a short space of time. Just yesterday, the little man had made a call about avoiding a small hamlet and using secondary roads and back lanes to pass it by.
Almost as soon as they had circumnavigated the place, they heard the unmistakeable sound of machine-gun fire crackling in the winter air. Whatever the little guy knew, it was something that was keeping them safe and Duke was ever willing to follow his lead.
“What do you think it is, Noel?” Duke asked.
“Just pull over and let me out. I will walk around there and see.”
“Ain’t that a little risky? What if those militias or even Santaristas are around there with their big guns and bad-ass attitudes?”
“I think it’s something else,” Noel said as he unbuckled his seat belt and began to open the door.
Duke was not so sure. He had quickly grown to like the little guy with the funny name and the strange accent. Hell, he had grown to like him a lot.
“Don’t blaspheme, Duke, he is always watching.”
The little guy was out of the pickup and strolling down the road as Duke let out a silent exclamation, shit, how did he know that? Noel turned and touched the peak of his black cap. Can he hear me from there? Strange times indeed.
The rest of the convoy waited at the side of the road. All engines had been switched off.
The remains of the carbon-monoxide clouds were being subdued by the clean, cold air.
The mountain trees grew around them and all was still.