This is a fictional account of Martial law in no particular town in America. It is an account of how two, completely different neighbors cope with Martial law in their city, and the trials they go through along the way.
I thought it best to describe a plausible scenario to the reader, rather than merely post regulations and speculate on the ways it may transpire. I hope perhaps sharing this short story of how martial law may affect us, will drive the message home of what it may feel like if it happens.
Authored by Jack Woods
A Fictional Account of Martial Law in America
That final day has come; Congress ratifies martial law in America…
Fractured light rolls beneath heavy storm clouds in America, all is not quiet. A dim gray light bites through the edge of the nation’s coastline.
Last night’s riots in the cities across the country, were rife with angry mobs, as throngs of the citizenry were herded into writhing masses by our country’s Military.
The troops are now acting on orders from the President, occupy every town in the Republic. The rebellion has been curtailed in the downtown streets. A gathering of humanity grows weary, tired from the government overreach, the injustice of the Justice system, and gangs of corrupt politicians holding the nation hostage. The tensions spur uprisings everywhere, and the relentless cries for blood overshadow any calls for reform or justice from the nation’s capital.
A lone man stood on his balcony well above the angry city, listening to the distant squeal from the bullhorns. A siren cries out over the nearby hills, as gunfire crackles in the nearby neighborhoods beneath him.
The previous nights’ chaos has finally disturbed the morning calm of Nathaniel Murphy. He grew up in these quiet streets immune to violence, nothing but fond memories of peace and quiet in his middle-class suburb, at least before the unrest of the nation, and well before the people’s hell was released onto the land.
The reaction was fundamentally different this time. Murphy could no longer ignore the earth-shattering events unfolding around him. After several restless nights, he woke to a sudden wailing of sirens, mushrooming up from the core of the city.
Those long forgotten, post-war relics, the antique air-raid sirens, unused since World War II, suddenly squealed to life. Their metal moaning sounded tortured and coughed plumes of red dust from disuse. They howled into being, like banshees, painfully screaming over the urban firestorm. Rising to a fever-pitched wail and filling the skies as if from those days of Blitzkrieg and that long forgotten war.
Murphy could almost see the shockwave from the horns as it bent the air before it; then rolled over the city skyline, like a bomb blast.
His hand shook with palsy, spilling his morning coffee on the sleeve of his bathrobe. He steadied the shake with his other hand. At that moment, another reality blast through Murphy’s mind. It came from the streets in front of his home. He moved to see what it was.
A sharp tin voice barked commands through the metal loudspeakers mounted on the roof of an armored vehicle. As it rolled past, his suburban home shook. Murphy had seen vehicles such as these on the news before, usually in some Middle Eastern uprising in some distant land or those civil wars in South Africa. The monster trucks rolled past, as he became part of the evening news. He had fallen into this story like Alice, following some white rabbit into some apocalyptic nightmare.
Three trucks slowly moved down the empty street. One blaring messages at the people, the others carrying soldiers, a third with a turret on top. Their wide fat tires hummed along on the immaculate urban roadways as diesel engines, belched black smoke into the air, disturbing the suburban bliss.
This neighborhood used to be referred to as Pleasant Valley, a modern ergonomically designed subdivision. It lay tucked up in the hills at the end of a quaint valley. The immaculate lawns and blue and gray recycling bins lined up row after row, perfectly set at the end of every trash-free asphalt driveway, hopelessly waiting for that forgotten Monday morning pick-up, now two weeks over due.
The authority in the tin voice was hypnotic, a mechanical metronome, frightening the people into submission.
“Attention citizens of Metro,” it blasted,
“Martial law is in effect, and all people are to remain in their homes, until further notice. We will be conducting military drills in your neighborhood all day today, and ask that you stay inside and cooperate with your Armed Forces Personnel.”
The shaken community looked somehow vacant and strange to Murphy these days. He could almost see the fading shadow of urban bliss slowly disappearing from his neighbor’s faces as they peered through their front windows at the spectacle.
The neighborhood now resembled one of those mock nuclear test towns built on some clandestine New Mexico desert, designed to be leveled by the blast from some secret bomb. The only difference is in his neighborhood they did not have the fake mannequins on their lawns, to give it that surreal look of the 1950’s military movies. Murphy remembered watching their plastic faces melt from the heat of that thermal nuclear wave.
Hundreds of loose yellow leaflets cartwheeled behind the military trucks as if some ill wind of change had blown these strange tumbleweeds into his neighborhood.
The title printed on the crumpled pages read as follows,
“A Citizen’s Guide to the Rules of Military Martial Law,
Martial Law has been declared by order of Congress and the Federal Government of the United States of America.”
All Civil liberties have been suspended…”
The metallic voice barked commands, throughout the morning.
Murphy recognized this as the Federal Governments abuse of power, the newest form of freedom now stolen by the Kleptocracy, all while using minimal effort, and giving little recourse for any that dared to resist.
The voice squawked out the message of military fascism,
“All citizens must remain in their homes,”
The speaker crackled then squealed…
“By order of the Government of the United States, Martial law is in effect. All civil liberties have been suspended. Any persons apprehended outside during curfew will be without exception, subject to arrest, and detention by the military authorities. The citizenry is asked to tune all Televisions and Radios to the appropriate emergency channels for the periodic updates on news and new military emergency procedures.”
It then repeated this mantra, again and again, so all the citizenry would soon know it by heart.
It blared on and rolled past like a storm cloud,
“You are required to remain in your homes until further notice.” Official curfew still begins every evening at 6:00 PM running until 6:00 AM the following morning.”
The voice then barked out, one more command, and faded off into the distance.
“Due to this emergency and the imminent danger, all people must remain in their homes until further notice, while we secure the neighborhood.”
Suddenly an ambulance flew by with that eerie sound of a siren, of a Doppler shift. It sent shivers up Murphy’s spine as it sped past. He carefully lowered the corner of the curtain to hide from the soldier peering into the window as he walked past.
Absently, he thought of his youth, and back to his junior high days. The high school science teacher, Mr. Williams, decided one day to demonstrate the Doppler affect to his nearly comatose class. It happened one fine day, when he led the entire class on a mini field trip. It was only down to the back of the school. That is where the highway ran just beyond the base of the hill, beneath the playgrounds.
Mr. Williams asked the class to listen to a semi tractor-trailer roll by. The truck noise grew in volume and pitch, and then quickly subsided as it sped by. He wanted us to pay close attention to how the tire’s whistle fell off into the distance. He pointed this out as the “frequency shift” or a Doppler effect. To the more alert students in his ninth-grade class, who were fascinated by this simple trick, it seemed magical.
However, the other kids were simply delighted just to be outside and did not care about the frequency or the sounds of diesel engines as they rolled by. Some students even snuck off and jumped the fence skipping class for the rest of the day.
Mr. Williams explained to the small group how this effect was used in sonar for the navy’s submarines.
It was on that day that Murphy realized many people would never be reached by knowledge, no matter how hard you might try to warn them. Many simply chose to ignore it, preferring to believe some other person would learn it for them. He wondered if perhaps he had become one of those people now.
The soldiers were at the side of Murphy’s house.
He felt he should hide from the soldiers as they walked by. Several were on either side of the street, making their way behind the armored vehicles. The men marched over the newly mowed lawns, serious faces, guns ready, peering into windows and backyards as they moved along the streets.
He watched three military helicopters fly overhead, in exact formation low with surgical precision.
The wailing air raid sirens kept rising and falling on the wind, moaning throughout the entire city for an hour or more. Long after the trucks rolled past, the sirens continued.
The noise was beginning to make Murphy question his very sanity, then suddenly they slowly fell quiet, with a strange unwinding descent. The silence was a shock to Murphy, he felt like a man that had lost something; the ringing seemed to linger in his ears, a ghost or soul that remained long after it should have moved on. It took an hour or more for his mind to adjust to the new quiet. He wondered whether the government used sirens as some form of psychological warfare on the people. It certainly had that effect on Murphy. Mentally it seemed to make one do whatever was asked of them, subconsciously believing it would help make it stop.
He decided to go to his front door. He opened it cautiously poking his head out, looking up and down the empty street. Not a soul was in sight, anywhere, not even the soldiers now.
Murphy thought to himself,
“There isn’t much else to do, is there, except stay in, until this nightmare ends I guess.”
He shut the door and went to his kitchen.
Although he had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind, he consoled himself, hoping the madness would end soon, repeating it in his head over and over, “this was just temporary,” desperately wanting to believe all would be normal again very soon.
The banks were closed and there was no job for him to go to, and no way of leaving the house either way. What else could he do, but watch TV, and wait?
Murphy was a newly made bachelor, with no one to call. Last month he and his Teresa, his girlfriend of two years, had broken up because of her infidelities. He closed the front door. He then fixed himself some breakfast and sat in front of his television, as if waiting for the newscaster to give reason to his life again.
He flipped through the channels, one after another. He noticed that most of the smaller networks showed only test patterns and the large national networks had talk shows on, in one form or another. Some had the daily news hour, now running all day long, and all of them were speculating on what might be happening to America.
Murphy could tell they weren’t telling the truth about what was happening, or maybe they had no clue as to what was going on at all. He grew frustrated with the news circus. Most networks tried to suggest their reporters were in the field gathering news and the people are watching, should tune-in hourly to get the best news there first. Murphy could see, they often were standing in front of an artificial “green screen” because the tell-tale halo effect gave them away. He was, however, impressed at how good green screens looked nowadays.
He recalled years before in the early days of the millennium change, when two foolish journalists from CNN, tried cheating the people and using a green screen during the Iraq invasion. As it turned out, they were home in the States and not in the country at all. It occurred to Murphy that almost all technology is eventually used in nefarious ways by the media.
Anyhow, these two Einstein’s were obviously caught in their lie. Like most idiot media nowadays, they denied it, hoping our modern short attention spans would prevail, and no one would notice it in a month or two, and we didn’t.
The nation seemed to forget all crimes nowadays; at least that is what the mainstream media wanted us to believe. The networks immediately replaced the negative news story with another story, before solving the previous calamity. This tactic was used so often it was hard to keep track of what was solved and what was not.
Anyway, apparently, the studio crew forgot to turn on the background image, before broadcasting the story all over live TV and only a blank green screen showed up for the background. The story went viral. The image of these two Morons standing in front of a simple green screen, with no image behind them, looked like some awkward comedy sketch that had gone hysterically wrong.
The two were on live TV with Press helmets, acting afraid, and ducking from fake war sounds blasted through speakers in the background. To complete their comedy skit, they had a fake balcony with fake potted plants staged in front of a fake sky of green waiting for the image of the war in Bagdad, but it wasn’t there. Murphy chuckled remembering the hilarious, surreal, and impromptu comedy sketch, made even more hilarious by the fact neither one of these guys was any good at acting.
He could only imagine the meeting afterward with all of the TV executives and a bunch of disenchanted video technicians laughing their heads off in the boardroom at these two. Someone was probably fired for dropping the ball on those two buffoons. Whoever it was probably thought it was worth it.
Murphy was suddenly distracted from this mental image by the sound of his neighbor in the back yard. Bob was probably working on yet another secretive and clandestine project no doubt. His neighbor was a special kind of character, prone to conspiracy theories, and gloomy end of the world scenarios.
He went to the kitchen window and saw Bob as he ran from his house to the shed and back several times, cautiously shielding his face when the choppers flew over, then looking up into the sky every now and again in rapid glances. Murphy shook his head, “Now what is that fool up to,” he wondered?”
Robert Michaels, or Bob as everyone in the neighborhood called him, was a good man. He was a little odd perhaps, friendly enough, just paranoid. Murphy recalled how the last Fourth of July, Bob brought two-dozen beers over with plenty extra for Murphy. That was a good egg in Murphy’s mind. Certainly, a welcome guest at least until he drank too much, and the conversation turned to prepping or some SHTF scenario that he was working on. The evening went downhill from there for Murphy, who didn’t believe in such nonsense at the time.
He used to indulge Bob’s fantasies at first, going along with them for a spell, even agreeing with his twisted version of America’s future.
Murphy felt that he had to make up excuse when Bob went off on his rants. He would claim he needed to get up early in the morning or wanted to finish some project he was working on. Murphy dropped hints, whenever he could, trying to change the subject to anything else. Bob would take the hint and politely thank Murphy for inviting him, comment what a great party it was, and head home. Either way, he certainly was not a nuisance, Bob was okay in Murphy’s book.
Murphy was sorry he doubted Bob, and he was now, beginning to wonder about his unusual take on life. With the recent riots, and Martial Law he even realized that maybe; “Bob might have some good points about the prepping after all,”
This Epiphany and the end of days feeling, was now especially poignant considering the recent uprisings across the nation. This made Murphy consider Bob’s crazy notions and the prepping ideology for himself. Was he too late?
Suddenly Murphy realized he would need more food before the curfew was over. Nothing on TV indicated it was going to end soon.
The national networks, broadcast brief videos, showing military police in some downtown area of some major city neighborhood, like the Bronx, New York’s downtown, Detroit, South Boston, Compton, or some other urban ghetto. The soldiers in their Military fatigues were clearing the houses, one by one, roaming the vacant streets. As they moved from house to house, searching for suspected subversives, and dissidents, they emptied people’s lives onto their front lawns for the whole world to watch on TV. This had a profound effect on Murphy.
Prepping became Murphy’s new obsession. As far as Murphy was concerned nothing of any great importance ever happened in this town. He wondered why Martial Law was even declared in the first place. He reasoned that the entire country must be in lockdown because if it was here, it must be everywhere.
Murphy reckoned that it all started because of a bank holiday being declared with all the nation’s bank accounts being frozen. A bank holiday is when the major banks declare all accounts suspended, meaning no transactions such as moving money in or out of the accounts is allowed. All financial transactions are shut down.
When this happens, it is a modern day run on the banks, much like that Great Depression movie with Jimmy Stewart, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” except without the holiday fuzziness to warm your heart. This bank skullduggery drove the people into the streets. They rushed to the ATM’s and their local banks to get their money out and could not. Whatever the reason it was here to stay.
By the hour and on the hour, a talking head newscaster came on the cable TV’s emergency channel, to explain the same news that they had broadcasted the hour before, yet acting like it was the first time the fool had heard it for himself.
By late afternoon, Murphy finally gave up waiting for any news.
He decided that no one was ever going to tell anyone anything important. Especially about what is happening outside. So, he stumbled his way to the kitchen to fetch another beer from his fridge.
The rest of that evening went by, in much the same manner, with some monotone newscaster interrupting the scheduled programming, punctuated by the occasional test pattern blaring that annoying hum. Then some government official would occasionally come on spouting some treat about what was NOT actually happening in the world. It was all so pointless.
That night when Murphy went to bed, he dreamt of an apocalyptic world, where the entire planet was burning, even high-rise buildings were ablaze. Thick black smoke filled the sky, and throngs of looters running up and down the city streets, hurling bricks and wielding clubs, or pipes above their heads. The billowing plumes of smoke and ash rolled above the skyline, with large pieces of burnt trash, circling in the thermal updrafts, looking like vultures soaring above the people.
An entire week rolled by like this, with that same newscaster on every channel, and each time is repeating the same thing, in the same way, hour after hour the news droned on with no end, and no real news promised or otherwise.
Murphy’s routine was the same day after day. He got up from the bed, turned on the TV, watched the news until he passed out. He would wake up later in front of the TV with the end of day montage blasting “God Bless America,” over amber fields of waving grain beneath the fading orange skies, signaling the end of the broadcasting day.
He turned off the TV and dragged himself to bed, then dreamt the same dream as the night before, and woke in the same cold sweat. Repeating this day after day, with him sitting in front of the TV, watching until he passed out, and like the bottle says, “just rinse, and repeat.” It was a nightmarish Groundhog Day, looped for eternity.
On the seventh day, Murphy made coffee, as he always did and he turned on the TV. He didn’t dare miss anything important, he waited for the newscaster, and the morning news to come on, hoping that this time, anyone would tell him what to do next in his life.
He had a twinge of guilt and wondered if maybe he had been wasting his entire life this way, well before any of this ever happened to be sure.
Murphy sat at the kitchen table watching the sunrise over the city while sipping his coffee. The sun peered through the brown smog just as the sirens began their mournful morning moan, waking the people of Metro to another robotic training day for the inevitable apocalyptic future it now faced.
Suddenly a male voice came from the living room, “This is an emergency broadcast, from the Government of the United States of America. Please stand by…”
Murphy ran to the TV and fell in his recliner, and he waited for the announcement, anxiously bouncing in his chair.
He was going insane and wondered what he should do next. He never considered anything like Martial Law would__ ever__ happen in his country. He found himself unable to think at all anymore. It was as if he could no longer decide for himself, without the aid of the Internet or the TV, what to do next. He wondered when he had lost track of himself when he had shifted to being just another cog in the wheel.
The TV screen then filled with static and jumped about. Eventually, a picture of an empty podium appeared on the TV, and on the front, it showed the Presidential Seal. Murphy could hear reporters voices from just out of camera shot. Moments later, the Secretary of Defense walked to the podium, as the voices fell silent.
“Jeezus this is it…” Murphy thought, “Finally some news.” He shifted in his chair.
The Secretary stopped at the podium, and laid a stack of papers on it. He reached down, adjusted the height of the gang of microphones, and readied himself.
Murphy brimmed with excitement,
“What, come on say something ALREADY,” he shouted at the TV as he bumped his leg nervously up and down. He glared at the TV, and shouted again, “Get on with it.”
The Secretary of the Defense began,
“I am here to introduce to you, The President of the United States of America, but first I will read from a brief press release. All of you present should have received a copy earlier in your press kits.”
The Secretary then cleared his throat and began…
“The United States of America, consisting of all fifty states and the District of Columbia, has been declared, by the President to be under Martial law. This is due to multiple terrorist threats and numerous states of emergencies, to be detailed later at the noon press conference.
Murphy thought this unusual, as he knew for a fact, that locally these riots had begun because of a bank holiday being declared.
Murphy knew this, because he worked at the National Bank, and was part of the upper management team. As far as he knew, all the major banks in the nation had been shut down.
The US Secretary continued speaking…
“All metropolitan areas and major towns have been locked down. No, I repeat, No, travel will be allowed by any non-military personnel. Any violators will be apprehended and detained without exception by…”
He waved a hand to a line of generals standing off to the side, and continued,
“…our nation’s military. All civil liberties have been suspended until further notice, and all residents, non-resident, citizens, and non-citizens are now subject to the rules and procedures of Military Martial Law. Any people apprehended outside after hours, without proper identification, will be detained pending charges, or until verification of their citizenship can be made. The Sovereign process of Habeas Corpus have also been suspended.”
He cleared his throat once more…
“Throughout this day, updates will be provided as to the situation that our nation faces and any changes henceforth will be made known through the President’s press conferences.”
After a long pause, he continued,
“These updates will be made available by the President or his staff between the hours of 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM every day, and on a bi-hourly basis, with the occasional emergency updates when required.
We ask that the people of the United States of America be patient during these trying times and that they understand that the situation is well in hand. The Military is here to help with our nation’s situation, and we ask all people to cooperate with our Armed Forces Personnel.”
He then adjusted the gang of microphones, to match the height of the waiting President, and finally stated…
“Ladies and Gentlemen the President of the United States,” He scooped up his memos, stepped aside, and began clapping as the President entered from behind the curtain.
The President, with his own stack of papers in his hand, walked directly to the podium. He looked about the room, as if searching for people he knew, and even pointed to ones that he obviously recognized. He smiled and gave the nod to the others.
The President paused, and stood ready, with both hands gripping the edge of the slanted tabletop, and he began…
“Many of you,” he paused, probably for effect or to gather his nerve, “by now are aware that a state of emergency has been declared by our Government. Most major cities are now under Martial law and are under military control by orders of my office.”
He went on citing Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15, of the Constitution and how it had been ratified by Congress.
He then wiped a drop of sweat from his brow,
“All people within the borders of the United States of America are now under military rule, and all civil liberties, civil laws, including Habeas Corpus has been suspended. All non-military persons are to remain confined to their homes until further notice by this office” he stated this exactly as the Secretary had stated it just moments before, as if he was under some legal obligation to do so.
He then continued,
“…Highways have been locked down at all the major off ramps, and on ramps, and all civilian air travel has been temporarily suspended.”
Murphy’s stomach begun to grumble, he suspected he needed some food in it, or maybe it was a sign he was getting sick.
The President then flipped to the next page of the memo,
“Most of the major airports and highways are being controlled by the United States Military, as well as the National Guard. The nation’s ground troops and Air Force, control all the major airports, train stations, and bus stations. Henceforth, any unnecessary,”
He emphasized the word unnecessary,
“…commerce and business have been suspended until further notice. By order of the Office of the United States of America and the Federal Government.”
A reporter shouted, “Mr. President, Mr. President… how long will this martial law be in effect?
“Well, Joe, I’m glad you asked. The current state of emergency is to remain in effect until we can better evaluate the present situation that we are dealing with. We are doing everything we can, to keep a handle on the situation as it now presents itself. Therefore, there is nothing to worry about. We have the present situation well under control, and if every citizen remains calm, cooperates with our military, and remains in their homes, they have nothing to fear.”
The reporter then asked, the obvious,
“But, Mr. President, what exactly is the situation?”
“I’m sorry, but as you can imagine, I am a very busy man today, I must leave this conference in the capable hands of my Secretary of Defense.”
The president turned and walked away. The room erupted into chaos, and shouts of questions followed his retreat.
The Secretary of Defense moved back toward the podium; he adjusted the microphones once again.
“I will take two more questions. You, Ms. Valentine from the Washington Post,” He pointed to a young woman in the second row.
The other reporters scoffed at the amount of time they had been given.
“Mr. Secretary, has the National Guard been able to control the riots in New York City?”
Groans from the other reporters went up, punctuating the young reporter’s inane question, most were feeling it was a wasted chance at addressing the most important issue of finding out the true nature for the Nation’s lockdown.
“As the president stated earlier, we have the situation well in hand. The uprisings are in the process of being subdued as we speak, next quest… please.”
Adam Kaufman, from the New York Times, butted in next… “Mr. Secretary…” he shouted above the roar.
The Secretary pointed over the top of the waving arms, to a middle-aged dark-haired reporter standing in the back row.
“Mr. Secretary, does the president anticipate wrapping up this emergency martial law soon?”
The Secretary smiled as if expecting this question,
“The President has assured me that the situation is well in hand.” At this point, most of the other reporters begun to gather their things and leave the room. They knew there would be no answers today. Perhaps some could catch an intern or some lackey in the hallway willing to shed some light on what was going on.
It appeared to Murphy that this was simply, another way of this new world regime telling the people absolutely nothing, at least nothing about what was going on with their nation.
He felt betrayed by his government. He was finally beginning to piece together that this was much more serious than he originally thought.
He went to his pantry in the kitchen just to see what he had to make for breakfast.
He hadn’t been to the grocery store for maybe two or more weeks before the lock down. His job had kept him too busy, and his cupboards were bare. He was in the middle of a year-end audit. It had taken all of his time away from shopping or his home life.
He stood at the cupboard for maybe five minutes staring at the empty shelves. Usually, he bought what he needed, all in one go. Buying enough for the entire month, and this month, he had been waiting for the 10% off “Tuesday sale” at the quickie-mart. Then this Martial law thing was declared, and now he had no food.
Grocery prices have been so high recently, that Murphy honestly hoped to catch a break, and waited all week for the sale. He just needed another day for a payday to purchase enough for the month.
Murphy opened the fridge and stared at the empty shelves; he was beginning to worry.
A sliver of panic seeped into the back of his mind.
“What if I don’t have enough food to make it? The grocery stores may have all been shut down, or looted during the riots.” He nervously considered asking his neighbor Bob for help,
“Maybe Bob would be able to lend me some food, at least until this was over.”
Murphy felt small, after secretly making fun of his neighbor Bob. He wondered if he had anything, he could trade in exchange for Bob’s help.
He always wanted to stock up on emergency food for events such as this. He had considered investing in silver or gold for that coming “raining day to end all days,” As a banker, he knew a total economic collapse was coming.
He just never wanted to believe it would be so soon. Recently put in charge of the accounting department at his bank, he was way too busy at work.
His knowledge about prepping and hands-on things, like survival, food storage, or self-defense was minimal. Not to mention his knowledge of construction, and other useful skills, which again were practically nothing at all?
He knew only what he had gleaned from watching survival movies or on reality TV shows. He also had never practiced anything that he learned from these shows either.
He decided to go ahead and ask his neighbor Bob for help and planned to head over after the early morning news, even if, only for some advice. At least he felt he could safely do that.
For fear of being spotted by the military patrols in front of his house, he snuck out his back door after the news ended. The soldiers were regular Army, watching everyone coming and going in the neighborhood. They were stationed at both intersections and stopping anyone that came by. It reminded Murphy of one of those old archival films that he had watched on the discovery channel about Nazi Germany, and the SS guards monitoring Jewish ghettos.
Murphy had seen several soldiers out front since the lock down. They walked up and down the street sometimes chatting with the neighbors. He certainly did not want to cause any trouble for himself and was feeling paranoid enough about what to say to them if he was confronted.
He kept low as he moved across the yard. He recalled yesterday watching troops search a New York home on TV. It was being raided by the soldiers and the homeowners were pulled from the house by several soldiers dressed in combat gear, helmets, full body armor, all holding M4 styled rifles. This did not make Murphy feel safe at all. He decided not to take any chances by drawing attention to himself, for fear they might choose his home next.
The government had suggested that morning that house-to-house searches could begin in his city, at noon that day. However, Murphy felt confident that they would not be searching his neighborhood. Although the news anchor would not say what they would be searching for, he assumed it was for dissidents. Murphy suspected that news such as house-to-house searches just meant they were getting closer to ending this nightmare.
He snuck to the back gate; the air outside seemed oddly stale to Murphy after being cooped up for a week, and the wailing of the sirens had finally stopped earlier that morning. They usually ended now, within minutes after curfew ended, around 6:05 in the morning. He was glad that they were not wailing for an hour or more like the first few days of the lock down. He wondered whether he was getting used to them now.
He poked a cautious head over the back fence and looked both ways up and down the alley. Two-weeks of trash had piled up high in the alleyways, ever since the garbage collection had stopped last week. The smell of rotting garbage was beginning to take on a life of its own. Murphy couldn’t see anyone in the alley, or anywhere else for that matter, just a stray dog rummaging in a broken bag of trash.
Suddenly, a rat scurried from the bag of garbage and into another, it dislodged a tin that fell to the ground and scared the dog.
Murphy hated rats. He had ever since he was a kid after a huge wharf rat jumped from the rafters of an old shed behind the fish market. The creature landed on his chest then bounded away. The other kids claimed after it was the size of an alley cat.
The children all screamed when they saw it, and poured from the old shed into the yard, dancing about brushing imaginary rat cooties from their arms and hair, vowing never to go inside the shed again.
The coast was clear in the alley. Murphy ducked quickly through the back gate and closed it behind him. He squatted low, shuffled over to Bob’s yard, and unlatched his gate. He suddenly felt silly squatting down, and straightened up, looking about somewhat suspiciously as he entered Bob’s backyard.
Murphy had not noticed that Bob’s gate was rigged with a sensor that silently alerted someone in the house. The instant Murphy opened the latch; a curtain was pulled back in Bob’s window, just slightly. Murphy could just make out a hand on the curtain. He assumed it was Bob so he waved to his neighbor.
Moments later he reached the porch where a motion detector turned a harsh spotlight on, even though it was quite bright out now. He cautiously stepped up onto Bob’s porch, and his neighbor opened the door halfway before Murphy even reached for the handle.
He looked up at Bob, staring back with concern, still holding the door half closed, with a faint smile.
“Hi neighbor how are things going over your house,” Bob motioned his head toward Murphy’s home with a casual nod.
Murphy looked up at Bob and could see that he knew something was up.
“Oh… Good, yeah…” he stood straight, “real good… you betcha,” Murphy shuffled nervously from one foot to the other,
“Ummm, I was feeling cooped up. You know, all by myself in there. And thought well I’d come over and offer you a beer or two.”
He held up that universal icebreaker, a six-pack of cold beer, that he was hiding behind his back while sporting a contrived smile to sell it to Bob.
Bob smiled back, “Well it’s early, but what the heck come on in a friend,” he jokingly waved a friendly arm in a pin-wheeling motion, while swinging the door wide inviting Murphy inside.
Murphy was relieved that there hadn’t been anything more to his intrusion than that, and he ducked past Bob and headed toward the kitchen.
Bob’s house layout was identical to Murphy’s, because, in this neighborhood built in the 80s, all row houses in this area were one of three, maybe four designs at the most. They were the cookie cutter generation of building homes back then, like those 1980s songs that repeated themselves over and over.
Bob offered Murphy a chair at his table.
“Have a seat buddy,” he then pulled one back for himself, just across from Murphy. “Do you want a glass, they’re there in the cupboard,” he pointed as he sat down.
“No I’m fine, thanks, Bob,” Murphy figured he would have a couple of beers before revealing his true motive for visiting his neighbor.
Bob was seated with a can in his hand,
“Wow… how about this crazy shit… with this lockdown Buddy, too much huh?”
Bob noticed a worried look on Murphy’s face.
“What’s up?” he asked. Murphy took a long drink from the beer and just jumped right in…
“I know, you were right, when you said just last week, you said, things were going to start happening. I wished I had listened to you, Bob. I do.
But, I didn’t, and that’s my fault. I kept putting it off and putting it off, now look at me.”
Murphy held his breath and took another long drink from the can. Bob took a drink too, and looked at Murphy with a raised eyebrow,
“You… ah okay… are you doing alright over there, Murphy? I mean you got food and water, and stuff?”
“Water, Jeezus I never even thought of that.” Murphy chastised himself out loud and took another long drink.
“Do you think, they might shut off the water too, Bob?” Murphy looked horrified by the revelation.
“Well, they usually do whenever they use these long-term lockdowns. I believe it’s S.O.P. buddy.” Bob took a final drink and set the can down.
Murphy knew what S.O.P. meant, “Standard Operating Procedure.” Bob’s frequent conversations regarding prepping had taught him that much.
Bob was ex-military, or so Murphy thought. He seemed to know a lot about military things, anyways.
“If you haven’t got bottled water just fill your bathtub up as a precaution,” Bob pulled another beer from the plastic rings. Three cans were left sitting in the middle of the table.
Murphy sat quietly for a moment, contemplating the situation. He decided just to blurt it out. What harm would it do?
“Bob, I’m pretty much in trouble here, and I don’t have anything prepared for this. I thought maybe I could come over, and you might at least give me some advice on what to do and what to expect. I mean, I totally understand if you don’t… want to… like maybe sell me some food, or help me out with some questions I have. I have some cash.
Murphy was losing his grip; he could not even tell that he had been rambling on and on for maybe five minutes or more, while Bob stared at him.
“I mean I get it, you’re ready I’m not, I deserve being in this predicament and it’s really my fault when you think about it. I should have prepared, but everyone laughed at me at work whenever I brought it up.“
Murphy felt stupid listening to himself say these things out loud.
He grabbed another beer and quickly pulled the tab and tilted it back. He nearly finished the contents in one pull, when Bob finally said something,
“Shit dude, relax… wow… you need to chill out Murphy. I’ll help you, buddy. I’ve got plenty of food, not to worry. But, you’re going to have to pay me back as soon as this is over because this is just the beginning you know.”
“What do you mean?”
Bob looked at Murphy in pity.
“These guys are just getting started with this stuff. This is a test run to see how we react to it.”
Bob took a long drink too; he then slowly shook his head at Murphy.
“Maybe next time when I tell you to get prepared you’ll get prepared. I may have to turn you down the next time Murphy, you got that?” he took another long drink and crushed the can. Murphy felt the tension lift from his shoulders. He had a new respect for his neighbor Bob.
“Oh, trust me, Bob, I’m going to pay you back you’ll see,” Murphy vowed to himself to do whatever it took to pay Bob back and then some.
Suddenly the two men heard the TV come to life in the other room. Murphy wondered whether Bob listened to the news all day, as he did.
The next presidential announcement was about to be revealed. Murphy and Bob both grabbed the last of the beers from the center of the table and headed for the living room. They moved to chairs and stood in front of them waiting for the President to appear on the screen.
“This is crazy,” Bob said as he fell into his chair, looking as if he was exhausted. Murphy agreed, but remained standing, he was in a trance staring at the screen and waiting.
Bob almost appeared excited by the events happening around them, as if the whole week’s chaos was in some way fun to him.
However, Murphy was feeling stunned, just like a man who had barely been missed by a speeding bus. He could not sit; he could not even move. He could only stand there, and both men waited for the President, as they drank their beers.
The President entered the room, and the journalists fell silent as usual. The seventh time in as many days, he repeated the same messages that he had been giving all the days before that. This time, the difference was that he apologized for not having any new news.
The two men stared in disbelieve:
“This is pure shit, man…” Bob shouted at the TV waving a foaming beer can back and forth.
“Frig these mothers; we can’t just stay in our homes waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m not just friggin’ sitting here day after day waiting for these wankers to tell me what to do, where to stand when to jump, what a bunch of ass-hats. Screw these guys.”
Bob was getting out of his chair, shaking an accusatory finger at Murphy. Murphy was still in a trance, watching an empty podium on the screen, he looked back to Bob’s animated waving fist?
“I’m going out tonight,” Bob said with a maniacal grin. “I’m going downtown, buddy. I am going the-frig downtown, tonight, oh yeah. Are you coming with me, neighbor?”
He grinned at Murphy and raised his beer in the air. “Give it here,” he said. Murphy assumed it was just the beer talking, and banged his can against Bob’s without thinking much of it.
Suddenly, outside across the street, there was a commotion, as two Military Humvees rolled up, onto the front lawn of their neighbor’s house. Arny Kershaw’s place was well groomed, and his wife Mariam tended the immaculate flower beds that surrounded the front yard that the Humvees had just driven over.
Arny was a nice guy that had been in the neighborhood for thirty-seven years or more. He was ex-military like Bob, a sniper, from the Korean and Vietnam War.
Eight heavily armed soldiers climbed out of the vehicles, three quickly stormed the front of the house while four of them secured the backyard, moving low between the buildings, two on either side of Arny’s place, one soldier stayed behind and guarded the Humvees.
“Holy, crap Murphy, are you seeing this?” Bob sloshed his beer in the direction of Arny’s.
The two men stared out the window in horror, as their neighbor’s door was bashed in with one of those steel battering rams. Moments later, guards herded Arny and his wife out onto the front lawn. They were forced to sit on the ground with their hands secured behind their backs with those special zip ties. Murphy cringed as the two old folks were pushed to the ground, and two soldiers stood guard over them as if they could even get up by themselves.
“Jeezuz, they must be in their eighties, what would they want with those two,” Bob took a swig to wash down the notion.
Some of the soldiers exited the home, removed their helmets, after setting down armloads of canned goods, and what appeared to be several guns, filing boxes, and two green ammo cans, they then headed back inside for computers and personal belongings. It looked like moving day at Arny’s place.
Another vehicle pulled up curbside; it was some type of armored personnel carrier that blocked the rest of the street. The vehicle’s rear door folded down, and the Arny and his wife were ushered inside the vehicle before it drove off.
The whole operation took maybe 5 minutes. Three soldiers stayed behind and ransacked the rest of the home, then screwed a sheet of plywood over the broken doorway.
Murphy and Bob watched as the carrier and one of the Humvees drove down the street. There were other soldiers stationed at both ends of the street now, with Humvees parked in a V pattern, aimed to stop anyone from coming or going in the community.
“That’s it, buddy; I’m calling operation BUGOUT.” Bob pulled the curtain shut.
He looked angry because of what they both had just witnessed. Murphy knew this was not good news, if the military was doing home searches in this neighborhood, they must be doing them everywhere in the city.
Murphy was in shock,
“Arny and his family had been in this neighborhood since the first houses went up. What could they possibly want with him?” he asked Bob.
“Hey, Murphy, who knows, all I know is this, I don’t want to be locked up in some chain-link FEMA camp kicking myself for not getting the hell out of town when I could.”
“How the heck are we going to get out of town with all of the checkpoints and highways closed?” Murphy asked.
Bob thought about this just for a second,
“I bet we can move to the outskirts of town in the morning, just after the sirens end. We can then camp by the Longview Marshes, and from there, we should be able to make it cross-country by way of the old logging roads to the Kettle Mountains and the federal preserve.”
Murphy’s head was spinning. That was 150 miles, “how could this be happening to him?”
“What can I do to help?” Murphy asked Bob.
“Gather anything you cannot afford to lose and hide it. Take only things that will help you survive and load them into your car. Hide the food, camp gear, or weapons in your car’s doors. Not in your driver’s side door as you will need to be able to roll that down at the check stops. The military may confiscate anything they want at the checkpoints, so be careful.
Bob paused for an instant rolling the plan over in his head,
I will meet you just past the Dump Road at Longview Marshes. If it is clear and no military is around keep heading down the dump road. I will leave a surveyor’s ribbon tied to a tree where you are to wait for me. Hide off the road there, and we can transfer your things to my jeep. I have an off-road trailer with plenty of room, then we then can head out from there to my cabin.”
Bob was walking toward his garage while he was talking and Murphy was right behind him as Bob reeled off the list of things that Murphy needed to do.
“We should have enough supplies to last several months at my camp. We can head to the cabin, on Myrtle Creek without being detected, by going through the logging roads.”
Bob knew, this was not the ideal situation he had hoped it would be. He always reckoned he could see it coming and when it was going to hit the fan. He was sure he could pull it off with Murphy’s help.
All the major roads would have checkpoints cordoning off the city into sectors, and going through each one would be difficult for the men, especially when smuggling contraband items, like survival gear, food, and guns.
Bob turned to Murphy:
“Above all else Murphy, you need to carry your ID at all times. People going through check points without ID will be detained without question.”
Murphy nodded, hoping he was still processing all this information.
“Bob, I don’t own any guns.” He looked as if he was going to get sick.
”What should I say at the checkpoints, about where I am headed?” Murphy’s stomach rolled, and fell.
“Just say you are joining your family in Millville. That is in the general direction of the Dump Road. If there are Military present at the turn-off, for the Dump Road, don’t slow down, but drive about a mile past, and then turn right, and there is an overgrown logging road a hundred yards off the main road there. Stash your car, get it as far off the road as you can, cover it with brush. I will meet you there the following day.”
The two men stood at the back of Bob’s garage.
“I have some work to do to my Jeep tonight, you go get ready for the morning, and meet me here for coffee.”
Murphy ran out the back gate and didn’t stop until he was standing in his living room, with another beer in his hand. He didn’t know how it got there, but he drank it to steady his nerves.
What the heck happened just now? Was he going to “bug out” as Bob put it and hide in the hills with some combat vet, that he barely knew? The thought was insane, but everything that Bob said made sense. He certainly didn’t want to end up in one of those FEMA camps.
Murphy started to pack. He made a mental list of things and moved them into his garage. He pulled the door panels off his car and looked for areas in the trunk that might be useful to hide items. He decided not to hide all the food he brought, as this would seem suspicious especially to a checkpoint soldier. So, he left things out in the open but only what he could live without.
He hid cash and jewelry in the doors, and behind the door panels, and threw a sleeping bag and some extra clothes on the seat in the back.
He reasoned, “Anybody would have these items when visiting relatives,” consoling himself.
All night Murphy tossed and turned in his sleep. He heard Military choppers all night long buzzing low overhead. Occasionally a spotlight shined into his windows blasting the drawn curtains, and lighting up the inside of his home with their blue light.
By morning, Murphy was a wreck. He hadn’t slept a wink. He decided to get up and head over to Bob’s house for coffee, and reassurance.
He needed to have some more information, some advice on how to handle the checkpoints. This flaw, Murphy felt was a fly in the ointment. He felt this is where the plan might fail. Why would they allow anybody to go anywhere while Martial law was in place? He hoped Bob would shed some light on how this could be done.
Bob let Murphy in the back door, meeting him just like last time before he even reached for the handle.
“Come on in, Murphy,” Bob looked calm this morning. “Did you get any sleep?”
Murphy shook his head side to side, to answer Bob.
“I think I’m packed and ready,” he said. “But I want to go over the plan again before we head out,” Murphy had aged several years since the lockdown began.
“Sure Buddy, I was planning on doing that anyway. Let’s have a coffee while we talk.”
Bob poured two cups of coffee and began to go over the details of the plan, He drew a map of where the meeting points would be, and destroyed it after. He said this was in case it was discovered at one of the checkpoints. He even showed Murphy the general area where his cabin was, but would not show him the exact location, just yet.
“I’ll head out first. You wait maybe until noon before following, and then drive toward the old Dump Road. Follow my directions to the T, and you should be fine
Murphy nodded but was nervous. He felt he could do this because he had to. He tried not to think about it much but ran the plan over in his head once more anyway.
“If the military were seen near the Dump Road drive by, then proceed about a mile, pull over as he said into a side logging road, hide, and wait until morning.
If I could make the Dump Road and Bob was not there, he was to proceed down the Dump Road until he saw a band of orange survey tape in the trees in the shape of an X.”
He was instructed to hide there and wait until Bob showed up; it was most likely that he had just gone ahead and checked the trail to his cabin to see if it was safe.
It all seemed easy enough for Bob, but Murphy was new to this. If he could keep his cool, Bob said he would make it.
He kept saying, “just stay calm, you’ll be fine.”
Bob didn’t need to pack much in his Jeep. Therefore he was sure to make it through the checkpoints. He had been prepared for this for years now. All his guns and ammo were at the camp stashed in many hiding places around the woods. He was stockpiled with food, and the cabin had a good clean water source. Bob even had a short-wave radio, satellite Internet, and TV too. If they were still working, that is. The only way to Bob’s cabin was on foot or by quad. He anticipated the two of them could ride out the chaos until spring if need be.
Murphy wondered about his ex-girlfriend, Teresa and how was she doing with her new beau? Selfishly, he almost didn’t care, but then felt guilty for thinking that way. There wasn’t anything he could do for her anyway; it would have been Bob’s call, not his.
Bob headed out after his coffee, and Murphy closed the garage door behind him. The last thing he said to Murphy as he pulled away was,
“If I’m not at the meeting spot Murphy… in two days’ time, then I have been detained, and you are on your own buddy.”
His warning didn’t make Murphy feel very confident. He imagined being locked up in one of those FEMA camps, an image that didn’t appeal to him at all.
After Bob had left, Murphy watched the news until noon, he decided to have two hits of Bourbon to steady his nerves, then threw the rest of the bottle in his duffle bag, and walked out to his car. He pulled into the alley and closed the garage door behind him.
The first checkpoint was just at the end of his street. The soldiers seemed relaxed, listening to rock music on radio. They were thorough with his ID, but they didn’t even ask to look in his trunk. This gave Murphy a sense of confidence; a thought that he would make it through this day, after all, seemed reasonable.
The next three checkpoints were more of the same thing, relaxed, and easy. It seemed to Murphy that the further out of town he got, the further apart the checkpoints were, and the more thorough they became. Until about five miles south of the Dump Road, he came upon the biggest checkpoint he had gone through yet. Armed military persons waved him over to the side. He waited in line with the other travelers.
After several hours of creeping along the breakdown lane, he was motioned forward and asked for ID. The soldier glanced into his back seat.
“What’s with the sleeping bag?” Murphy explained the story about his parents again.
The soldier stepped back,
“Open the trunk, sir,” indicating Murphy to get out and pointing to the rear of his rifle barrel. Murphy obliged, and exited the car with his keys. He opened the trunk, and was asked about the food stores, and camping gear inside.
“Like I said… earlier,” he tried to reign in his fear, “I’m going to my parents’ home in Millville. They’re elderly and expecting me. I promised to help them get through this martial law thing. They have no one else to help them survive.
The Corporal considered Murphy’s story for a minute or two and asked him to stay put while he confirmed his ID and he headed to a makeshift checkpoint station. It was one of three brand new khaki wall tents, with satellite dishes, solar panels, and a wind turbine for power. Murphy was asked by another soldier to get back in his car until the corporal got back.
Time crawled by slowly like bad days passing, and Murphy waited for the Corporal to return.
The dialog in Murphy’s head was deafening. “Try not to look nervous. They know you are hiding something. Don’t look at them, stop fidgeting. Everything’s going to be okay. Damn it just let it go, if they get you, they get you. What are you going to do?”
Suddenly, Murphy felt relaxed. Once he realized it was out of his hands, and the adrenaline kicked in. It was as if he had foreseen all the possibilities and nothing more needed to be done.
The corporal appeared at his car door again,
“One more thing, Mr. Murphy, we ask, that you head directly to your parents’ home in Millville, and do not, under any circumstances, leave this road that you are on now. Have a nice day, sir.”
He handed the ID back to Murphy, backed away and waved Murphy on to the road.
Could it be? Did he pull it off? He couldn’t wait to tell Bob about how great he was at the checkpoints. He smiled to himself and pulled away. Murphy was now on his way to meet Bob, and hopefully, ride this nightmare out in the cabin in the woods.
Murphy tried to contain himself as he drove by the tents. He made it. The excitement grew in him as he watched the checkpoint fade away behind him growing smaller and smaller in his rear-view mirror, until he couldn’t contain it any longer, and let out a deafening whoop, which came from someone other than that corporate accountant he was just a few weeks before.
Written by Jack Woods