After the Apocalypse
Chapter 94: Acceleration

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Steve, of course, had intentionally bypassed Lapeer on his northward trek, so the firefight at M-24 and I-69 had occurred well behind him. Northwest of Lapeer, the urban development quickly yielded to the countryside, and the roads were less traveled. Clearly the Flock and the Night Razers had focused their patrols to the south of the city.

The toboggan, to be sure, slowed his progress as it tracked the snowmobile only on the smoothest and most level of straightaways. Steve was learning not to turn too sharply, but only after nearly flipping the sled twice had he foregone his plans to chart an evasive, meandering course and aimed the snowmobile on a direct northward trail. He soon found that he could rev the engine higher when cornering was no longer a necessity, and made reasonable progress toward-what?

Where he was going was still uncertain. He actually welcomed the intricacies of piloting the sled as a release from the laserlike focus his mind had maintained on the events of the past month. Replaying the past was a dangerous distraction so long as new-although less severe-challenges potentially loomed over every hill.

Nights were a different matter. Each afternoon's travel was tempered by a search for overnight shelter-fortunately, there was now an abundance of abandoned buildings in decent shape for one night's rest. Still, he saw no other survivors, nor any signs of recent occupation.

On the other hand, he detected no signs of an atomic attack, either. While he wasn't exactly sure what those signs would be, he noted with some relief that the damaged clusters of houses resembled the wreckage he remembered from Metamora-destroyed by seismic shock and the heavy snow and wind rather than direct enemy attack. He wished there was some way of reporting his discoveries back to Winter Camp, but his resolve not to return before securing atonement remained undiminished.

The garage in which he'd taken shelter was only lightly damaged. More importantly, it held a full 5-gallon can of gasoline. Steve hadn't thought about his limited fuel supply until he noticed the can. His last actions before falling into a fitful and dreamless sleep were to refill the snowmobile's gas tank and lash the canister, somewhat awkwardly, onto the toboggan-for he had no idea how easy fuel would be to find on his aimless journey.

On the fourth day of travel, he awoke, no longer aimless, with a determination to change his course and head east. He had earlier had to reject I-69 and its direct access to Port Huron out of the need to avoid Lapeer, but some compulsion from within was undeniably drawing him toward the sunrise.

The clouds obscured the Sun as Steve started out eastward-since he wore no sunglasses, this was an important benefit. As he moved along unfamiliar roads, his resolve grew stronger-although he didn't know what he was looking for, he began to believe that Port Huron would hold the answers that would free him from his personal trauma. Or maybe they were even in Canada-if the Blue Water Bridge was still standing, he might be able to cross the border to Ontario and set his life straight there.

His eyes carefully scanned the pastures on both sides of the road as he drove past the farms of the southern Thumb. There were no apparent human survivors in need of aid, but at the same time, he could see no hostile forces.

"Why Lapeer, then?" he thought. "There's no real reason I can see why we should be getting by and everything else has been destroyed."

He raced the engine and pushed forward at a steadily increasing speed, suddenly anxious to find-perhaps not survivors (he wasn't sure how he'd react to strangers just now), but certainly some evidence that civilization carried on elsewhere. It wasn't a well-defined goal, but it gave a measure of meaning to what he felt compelled to do.

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