The second part of my epic adventure. Now getting hunted down by the man himself. How will I survive?
UPDATE 1/1/2018: After much deliberation I’ve decided to leave this story as it is, and not attempt to continue it. It’s no real conclusion at all and I did have plans to continue this story out for quite awhile. But I feel at this point the novelty of this project has lost its luster and I would be better suited to start writing something new. Something that has purpose from the beginning so I can develop a good story, or at least try to start learning how to. We’ll see if I find the time in 2018 to devote to some creative writing. Thanks for anyone who was reading on Facebook or has found it after the fact. I’m going to leave it up for posterity.
Day 1 of the Manhunt
I didn’t sleep much last night. Getting called out on Twitter by the next President of the United States is a little jarring. Oh and apparently I killed a guy so that’s pretty fucked up. I can’t wrap my head around that. He died? How? What did I do? I just grabbed that thing on his head…that “wig”. How was I supposed to know that it would kill him? How did it kill him? What are those things? We need to figure out what they are so we know what we are actually dealing with. But what help am I? My face is plastered all over the news. My picture is everywhere. I’m the most wanted man in America. Not Snowden. Not some terrorist. Someone plows into 90 people with a bus and I’m still the number one story. I know what you’re thinking. If I’m on the run and in hiding isn’t posting on Facebook stupid? In normal cases it would be stupid. But I’m posting this from one of the laptops in The Silo. Micky really thought of everything because this place is a Faraday Cage. A Faraday Cage is basically a metal screen around something that keeps electric charges or radiation out of the area within the cage. So no cell signal. Even if I had a tracking device or a wire on the people watching or listening wouldn’t be able to hear or see anything. The computers are hooked up to a line that connects to an antenna in the actual silo outside. The signal bouncing off of other places with VPNs and stuff. I think he said it switches between Sweden, Singapore, and Israel. So there’s no way to track me. I can keep you all updated without worry. Micky has been gone all day. He said he was going to gather some supplies since we were all going to be staying at The Silo for a while. Jackie and I have spent most of the day together. I think she’s worried about me. How I’ll feel about the fact that I’m technically a murderer. I’m going to be honest. I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel a huge sense of grief or regret. Maybe I’m a terrible person. I mean the guy didn’t deserve it. Or did he? I don’t know if these “wigs” are something people choose to have or maybe they are forced on people? What are they? Are they even bad? Only Jackie, myself, and two guys Micky is in contact with can see them as far as we know. Why us? Why are we different?
Day 2 of the Manhunt
Micky came back today. Early. Not alone. They had unloaded all the supplies before me and Jackie had even woke up. There were 3 more people that showed up with Micky. Two of them I knew, went to High School together. One I didn’t recognize. I wasn’t surprised at all to see Stones, Micky and him were always tight, but Rocky was the last person I expected to see. Stones was part of our group of friends I mentioned before. We called him Stones because well…frankly…he’s as dumb as a box o rocks. Even the teachers called him Stones. No joke. Probably wouldn’t have graduated if he didn’t have me to cheat off of. But he was one of the most loyal friends I’ve ever had. And the guy could rebuild an engine by the time he was 14. If you needed something he was there. He jumped my car. Let me lie and say I was at his place and cover for me when my parents called. I can’t tell you how many times he picked me up and drove me somewhere back when I didn’t have my license yet. My parents didn’t let me get the 14 year old license I had to wait until I was 16. So there were 2 years of my life where if I wanted to get any play from the ladies I had to have someone take me there. He was usually that guy. Shit, my first blowjob Stones was in the same room. Rocky was a different story though. I played basketball with Rocky. Rocky was on the honor roll. Not the kinda guy that would get involved in something like this. He wasn’t exactly in the group of friends because to be honest that group of friends would be considered “the burnouts” of our class. Rocky was kinda a golden boy. We had such a small class though that everyone kinda hung out anyway but it was still a surprise to see him. They didn’t seem surprised to see me though so I assumed Micky had given them a heads up. I greeted them like the old friends we were. Shared the typical words. How ya been. Good to see ya. The third guy…pretty short. Camo pants. Knife on his belt. Dexter kill shirt. Survivalist looking, just like I would have expected. Hadn’t said a word yet. I figured this was one of the guys Micky was in contact with. The one he was going to meet up with. “Glanzer,” Micky said after they got all the supplies into The Silo. “This is Scabz.” He gestured towards the short guy. “With a Z”, Scabz made sure I knew that. Micky continued. “He’s a friend of one of the guys I’ve been in contact with. He knows what’s going on with the wiggers. He can’t see ‘em but his boss can. Said that our outfit was pretty much ground zero right now since we had the most people that could see them and…well…since we had you.” At this point I felt like I was nothing but a liability. Like I was just going to cause problems for everyone. “He told Scabz to come with and help out as much as he could.” “Wiggers?” Jackie was awake now. She asked Micky what that was. “Well with Nathan mentioning they look like Trump wigs we just figured we’d give ‘em a name. Wiggers just kinda made sense. Might not be the most PC thing in the world but, who gives a shit?” I had to admit I thought about what to call them before. I was alright with wiggers. After the introduction to Scabz and some more reminiscing and talking to Stones and Rocky, we all put the supplies away where they needed to go. More food. Bullets. (I still haven’t seen an actual gun yet) Blankets. Pillows. Some more books. Enough to accommodate the 6 of us for quite a while. “When was the last time you shot a gun, Glanzer?” Rocky looked at me as he said it. I told em I hadn’t shot a gun since I interned in Pierre when I was still in college, years ago. One of the guys I worked with took some of us out. I’m not super familiar with weapons but I’m not hopeless. Rocky went to the gun cabinet and unlocked it. He pulled out a hand gun and held it out for me. “You should practice.”
Day 3 of the Manhunt
Front sight. Back sight. Target out of focus. Fingertip. Hold. Exhale. Squeeze. BLAM! After shooting all day yesterday and most of today, I’m pretty used to the recoil from the .45 caliber M1911 that Rocky thrust into my hand yesterday. I’ve probably fired 200 rounds through this thing since yesterday. I gotta admit. I love this shit. After we shot last night Rocky taught me how to strip and clean it too. Said that’s almost as important as learning how to shoot it. He’s a fucking monster with guns. He field stripped the fuckin’ thing in 30 seconds flat. I’m not proud of how long it took me the first time. I figured out how Rocky got involved with the group though. After High School he had a full ride to a college on the West coast for basketball. He was always a baller. 6’7’’, long, but never a scrawny guy, good shot, smart on the court. The summer after graduation he got in a car accident. No one’s fault. Bad roads. His leg got pinned and fucked up real bad. His foot got basically destroyed. They had to amputate it. I felt so bad that I didn’t know that this had happened. I lost touch with everyone after High School. I wanted to get the fuck outta that town so bad I never looked back. He could tell I felt bad but he said don’t worry about it. “I wouldn’t have liked those faggots on the West coast anyway.” He stayed around here. Said he got into target shooting because it was something he could do sitting down. He was good at it too. Actually ended up competing in some tournaments over the years. Even had a shot at the Olympic trials….’til he got busted with a big enough arsenal to occupy a small country. “I like guns, man”. He seemed pretty okay with everything that happened. Ever the optimist. He had shown me the ins and outs of aiming and stuff like that all day yesterday. I missed a lot. A .45 ain’t easy to handle when the only other guns you’ve shot are BB guns or 9’s. I loved how powerful it felt though. I definitely liked it more than shooting some .22 pistol at pop cans. Micky had set a range up in the woods behind the Silo. Good tree cover. The targets were on a bunch of hay bales to catch the bullets. At 15 yards if I aimed body I usually hit the target somewhere, but I missed 1/3 when I took shots at the head. Now I understand why cops unload 15 rounds at the body. Shit’s hard, even close. After we got done shooting we headed back to The Silo. Micky and Stones took off with Scabz earlier in the day, said they would be back tomorrow. Jackie came out to watch us shoot for a little bit. Hard to keep my eyes off of her, man. She had been in The Silo most of the day on the computers. Watching the wire for news. Seeing if anyone has any leads on me. Making sure we were all informed. When we got back in Jackie had made us some food. Jackie let us know what was going on in the world. We talked about the Russian ambassador that got assassinated for awhile. “The world is changing…” Jackie said. I told her that there had been 2 world wars in the past. Nothing has changed. Rocky nodded. We all sat in silence after that.
Day 4 of the Manhunt
I woke up this morning and Rocky was gone. Jackie was sitting at one of the tables reading. I walked over to her and sat down. I asked where Rocky was. She told me that Rocky had gotten word from Micky to meet up with him and the others. They had gone to touch base with the last of the people Micky had been in contact with. She didn’t say much more than that. We hadn’t said much of anything to each other since her little outburst about me wanting to leave. As I sat next to her, watching her turn the page of her book every few minutes, I was reminded of all the times I sat with her at lunch in school. At tables not much different than these ones. I tried to find the words to say but nothing seemed right. What could I even say? What did I even have to say? She was right. I had left. I made that decision a long time ago and I don’t think anyone could have stopped me. Not her. Not Micky. I chose my life plans over whatever feelings I might have had for her. Was that selfish? Should I have been trying to look out for her? My best friend. My first real love. How bad had it been for her since I left…we didn’t keep in touch at all…I don’t know what she’s been through. Stuff with her dad had gotten so bad she was literally living in this place. How could I have let this happen to her? I was sitting there staring at the table, lost in thought. I hadn’t noticed she had closed her book and was just staring ahead. “Do you remember the fair?” She asked without turning her head. The fair. Ha…yeah I remembered. The county fair. We used to go every year, but I knew which year she was probably referring to. We always went with a bunch of friends. I think Micky and Stones were there this time. They wanted to go on rides, it was wrist band day when you could ride as much as you wanted for like 13 bucks or something. I’ve never really been a carnival ride guy and Jackie wasn’t feeling the best so they went off to get on the Zipper and we just wandered around. We ended up down by the train tracks close to the field where everyone parked. Big pink rocks around the tracks made it hard for her to walk in her sandals. As we walked and talked just like we had done countless times in our lives…she grabbed my hand. That was the first time we ever had a moment that was more than friends. We were…13 at the time? Still a few years from the first time we kissed. But that moment had always stood out in my mind. I always wondered if she remembered it. “Yeah. I remember. The train tracks?” She looked at me. Then looked away. “Yeah…the train tracks…” Why was she bringing this up? Why now? “Back then I thought that that was going to be it. When I grabbed your hand I thought it would be me and you. Until the end of time…” I looked at her. Her dark brunette hair falling over her face, hiding her bright blue eyes. “Then later that day you met Molly. Standing by the skee ball.” Molly was my first girlfriend. I had forgotten that was where we met originally. She was a friend of a friend and after that day we started MSN’ing and talking and eventually started “dating”. As much as you could date someone at 13 that lived in a different town, ya know? She was my first kiss though, at the movies haha. “We were only together for a couple months.” I’m not even sure why I said this. Why was I defending myself? “It just seemed like fate to me. That you met her that day. When I thought things were going to change. Life had always been against me. My mom……my dad. The only thing good in my life was my sisters, the guys…and you. And the day I try to solidify you in my life as something important…” Maybe things had been worse for her than I thought. I reached my hand toward hers to comfort her but she pulled away. “After you met her it was like holding my hand at the train tracks never happened. You seemed happy when you talked about her. I wanted you to be happy. I just thought I would let you be you. And I would be me. But we would never be…us…at least no more than good friends…” I didn’t say anything. She waited in silence next to me for awhile. I think she was waiting for me to say something. But I was speechless. She stood up. “I’m going for a walk.” I was still sitting at the table. Stunned. I had never thought about how things had happened back then. Or how they affected how she felt about me…or that she felt this way about me for so long. Before she walked out the door she paused. She looked back at me, still sitting at the table. “I knew that day that I would never be to you what you were to me.” Then she walked out the door.
Day 5 of the Manhunt
Everyone came back this morning. It was frantic. The door burst open out of nowhere. Micky and Scabz were holding Stones between them, hanging between their shoulders like a Fraternity brother on his 21st Birthday. He looked limp. They were having trouble getting him through the door. I rushed over to help and saw Rocky behind them in the basement, covered in blood. I helped them get Stones to one of the beds. He was breathing but seemingly unconscious. “What happened?!” I almost screamed at Micky. “We don’t know. We got to the barn we were supposed to meet our contact at. The other guy that can see the Wiggers.” At this point Rocky walked in. When Jackie saw him and what he was covered in she rushed over to him. “Oh my God, are you alright?” She said as she started looking for the wound causing the blood. “Not my blood.” Rocky said to her softly. Then she put her arms around him, they embraced, and then kissed. They kissed?! It wasn’t a friendly peck either. What the hell?! “Glanzer!” Micky shouted at me. I looked over at him. His gaze went towards them. Then back to me. He understood what I was thinking. He gave me a look like “We can talk about that later”. He continued telling what happened, “When we got there they were already dead. Three of ‘em. There was a lot of blood. It was pretty bad.” He looked at Rocky. “One of them was still breathing, Rocky tried to save him but he was already too far gone. We were clearing the place out to make sure whoever did it wasn’t still around. All of a sudden Stones was on the ground in the fetal position yelling about his head. We couldn’t calm him down and we were worried someone would hear him so we tranquilized him. I thought maybe he was just reacting to seeing what we saw. We carried him all the way here.” I looked over to Scabz who was now sitting on one of the beds, a faraway look in his eyes. What had happened to those people? “Look, we can talk about what happened later but right now I gotta know something. Jackie.” He looked at her. She didn’t move. She was still buried in Rocky’s chest as he embraced her. “Jackie!” Micky yelled. She stepped away from Rocky. She glanced at me before she looked at Micky. “I’ve had a bad feeling ever since we left. I need you to look at him and tell me he’s still himself.” I looked over at Stones, then back to Micky. “What are you talking about, Micky?” I asked him. What was he trying to say? He looked at me. “You too, Nathan. I’ve had the same feeling I get when one of those bastards has been around before. Look at him and tell me I’m just crazy.” Jackie and I looked at each other. We walked over and sat by Stones. I looked at him. His face was still. He was out. He laid there on the bed. He had his long blonde hair in a ponytail. We used to joke about him being a surfer with his long hair, but he hated water. Jackie saw it first. “Oh God….” She whispered. I saw it. Faint. But there. It was almost like a very translucent version of a Wigger’s head, surrounding his. “Shit, Micky. Yeah there’s something there. It’s not…completely there or anything but it’s kinda there. It’s hard to explain. What does this mean?” “Shit. Shit. Shit”. Micky said as he paced back and forth. After a few minutes he stopped and looked at me. “The Cheetos.” He said. “Did you hide them in your house?” I looked at him puzzled. “Yeah I did.” He asked me how hard it would have been for someone to find. I told him they would have had to tear the place apart to find it. “Well, let’s hope they didn’t get the chance to do that.” He went over to the supplies locker and started filling a bag. His demeanor changed. He had a plan. “Rocky get changed and cleaned up. Nathan, Get your keys. Search and Rescue mission boys. We need those Cheetos, I’ll explain on the way. Scabz, you stay here with Jackie. Watch Stones. If anything happens.” He held out a pistol to him. ”Shoot him in the fucking head.”
Day 6 of the Manhunt
It’s about 1am. We’re sitting outside of my house. Well, across the street in the church parking lot. We can see my back door from here. We’ve been waiting for a couple hours. Making sure there’s no activity. Micky left about an hour ago to do some recon. Make sure there’s no one watching the place. Rocky and I have been sitting in silence since. I had to work really hard to not ask him about Jackie. This just wasn’t the time. Micky just got back. “It doesn’t look like there’s anything where it shouldn’t be. No sketchy cars. Place looks pretty untouched on the outside. You said you heard people inside before you left for the Silo?” I told him about the voices I heard, and what I thought was the sound of searching. “How confident are you that they wouldn’t be able to find the box?” I thought about that for a minute. I had put the box in my closet. I know what you’re thinking. How would they not find it in my closet? But my closet is kinda weird. I’m pretty sure that part of the house was a porch at one point. In the closet there’s a little hatch thing that opens up into a crawlspace thing. I assume it was once what you would have called “under the porch”. It’s shitty and nasty and there was originally carpet over it but I fucked up and pulled up the corner of it awhile back and found the hole. If they tore the place apart completely maybe they could have found it. I’m just hoping they didn’t. I echoed that sentiment to Micky. “Well here’s hoping they didn’t. Let’s go.” We all stepped out of the car. Rocky walked across the street in front of us. Micky on my left holding the bag he filled with various tools. He was on the lookout, watching our backs. He kept walking down the sidewalk and didn’t turn up the alley to my house. I walked up to my back door and put my key in the lock. It didn’t turn. “What the fuck?” Micky was behind me in the dark. “What’s going on?” He asked. “I don’t know man, the key won’t work.” I was a little frantic at this point. What the hell is happening? “Shit” he said under his breath. I kept trying. “You got some sort of alarm in this place?” I started to tell him that I didn’t but before I could even finish he had already reached into the bag, grabbed a hammer, and stepped past me to break the window on the door. “Dude what the hell?!” “Relax. It’s not breaking and entering if it’s your fucking house. We are more at risk standing out here looking like idiots trying to break in than we are actually just breaking in.” I followed him in. “Find the fucking thing and let’s go.” He went into the other rooms to make sure everything was clear. I went right to the closet. I heard him say clear from the other room. My place was a mess. Someone had definitely been here. The carpet looked untouched in the closet. I ripped up the corner and lifted the hatch. “Oh thank God.” Micky said as he saw me lift the box up. “Let’s get out of here.” We stepped outside and immediately heard the sirens. We looked at each other. No way those were for us right? We didn’t care. We bolted for the car. Micky whistled for Rocky who was still in front of the house. Casually smoking a cigarette to not seem suspicious. We all got to the car at the same time. I jumped in the driver seat and left the parking lot. I tried to not rush too much but definitely wanted to get the fuck outta there. I wasn’t going to wait around to see where those sirens were headed.
Day 7 of the Manhunt
We’re still on the road from last night. I don’t think the sirens were for us. But hearing them at all made Micky paranoid enough to leave town in the exact opposite direction of the Silo. We left Vermillion towards the interstate on Highway 50. We turned onto Greenfield Road and have been on gravel roads since. We’ve been driving without headlights most of the time. The moon is bright so we can see just fine. We’ve been driving for over an hour and haven’t hit a single car yet. I feel like Micky has had this route mapped out just in case something like this happens. He sure seems like he knows where he’s been going this whole time. By my guess I would put us somewhere near Lennox right about now. Micky used the time we had to explain a little about what was going on. I asked him what the Cheetos meant. And why we needed them. “I’m not really sure that we do. You weren’t the only one that noticed Cheetos were basically disappearing. One of the guys we found dead… He had said something about it a long time ago. But he thought it meant something. He looked into it. Started stockpiling them and would rave about how it was the only thing he knew that could stop it. How it made them weaker. None of it made any sense to me back then. When you mentioned your craving for Cheetos it got me thinking. That thing was chasing you when you were having those cravings. And I know you man, you’ve never really liked Cheetos.” He wasn’t wrong. They are definitely low on my list. I don’t think I’ve ever bought them myself but I’ve eaten them when they were around. “So why would you want them? It kinda hit me earlier that maybe since you can see those fucking things, you can do other things too. You could tell it was getting closer to you. Maybe your body knew that the Cheetos would help. That’s why I gave them to you. I thought they would help protect you from the things that were after you.” I asked him if he thought that they would help Stones. “I don’t know. But we don’t really have any other option. I had to try something. Hopefully it’s not just a deterrent and it will help now too.” I sat in silence for a while thinking. I just couldn’t imagine a snack having an effect like that. What could possibly be in it that would help? Rocky broke the silence next. “We need to get back. Jackie is there with him alone with Scabz right now. What if something happened? What if we’re too late? Why did we have to take so long to get back?” I could hear the anger and worry in his voice. He wasn’t happy we didn’t go back sooner. He must care about her. Micky responded, “If we lead someone to the Silo Stone’s condition would be the least of our worries. This was a precaution I had to take. I had to make sure no one could follow us and no drone or anything could track us. We will be back within the hour. Jackie knows the sat-phone number. If something happened she’d call. Scabz doesn’t know Stones very well. If something went wrong he wouldn’t hesitate to protect himself and Jackie.” Rocky kept staring at Micky for a while. Micky just watched the road. “Anything that happens is on you, Micky.” Rocky looked ahead. Micky continued to stare forward, “Everything that’s happened is on me, brother.”
Day 8 of the Manhunt
We got back to the Silo right around the time the sun was coming up. It was actually kinda beautiful. I can’t remember the last time I saw a sunrise. I’m not really a morning person and a sunrise is like EXTREME morning person. Rocky rushed out of the car as we parked in the tree line. Micky and I walked slowly to the Silo together. He knew what had been on my mind. “After Rocky had his accident he and Jackie got real close. Not very many people our age around anymore. She helped him through the harder points of dealing with everything that happened. His future gone and all. He turned to the bottle at first. She helped him outta that…things just kind of went from there.” Maybe that’s why he seemed so content with what had happened, it had brought him to Jackie. Or maybe…had brought Jackie to him. “Don’t take it personally, man, you just…weren’t around.” He walked passed me to the old house, and disappeared into the basement. He was right. How could I take it personally? Why was I taking it personally? Rocky had been a good friend to me in High School. Why did I feel…animosity towards him? It’s not like she chose him over me. I wasn’t an option for her…but why did I feel this way? I stood outside in the cold for a while, until I heard Rocky yell from the Silo. “What the fuck did you do to her?!” I rushed down to the Silo to see what was going on. When I got there I saw Stones tied up to one of the bunk beds. Rocky was over him, a fist full of shirt, yelling at him. It’s like Stones didn’t even notice, still staring at the ceiling. Jackie was trying to keep Rocky back, sporting a fresh black eye, pleading with him to calm down. “It was an accident, Rocky! I’m fine!” Scabz jumped in to help keep him at bay. “Yeah man, he was talking all crazy so we were tying him up just to be safe. Jackie was trying to give him some meds to knock him out and he resisted and just caught her in the eye. It wasn’t on purpose man!” Rocky backed off and looked at Micky in anger. Almost as if to say, “I told you if something happened…” Jackie again said that she was fine and grabbed him by the arm and pulled him toward the tables. He went with her and sat down. I walked over to Stones to check how he was doing. He didn’t look any worse. His head and hair was still surrounded by that transparent…thing. Although it did seem like it was sort of…moving? He still didn’t seem lucid. Micky walked over to me with the box. “Here. Give him some of these.” I grabbed the box and reached for a couple Cheetos. I couldn’t believe that they would actually help…but I had to try. I put a couple in front of his mouth and he resisted at first. Almost as if he was in pain. I talked to him. I told him that if Stones was still in there that he had to fight whatever was going on and this might help. He made eye contact with me. It was almost like he was pleading with me. Pleading with me to do what? What do you need, man?! Finally we were able to get him to eat probably a handful, one at a time. He passed out shortly thereafter. I had a conversation with Micky about how much he should have eaten or if eating them was really what we had to do. We also talked about what we would do if they did help? Do they cure it? Do they just keep it at bay? What happens when we run out? He obviously didn’t know. These were things we were going to find out as time went by. Rocky and Jackie went for a walk. Micky started cleaning some of the guns. It was calming to him. Scabz helped by stripping some of the guns, always keeping an eye on Stones. I sat down at the computer to write this. We left Stones tied up for the night, just in case.
Day 9 of the Manhunt
The papers still have my face all over them. Every paper. Local papers. National papers. Every news website in the country. It’s incredible. Buzzfeed even did an article: “10 Things to Do If You See Nathan Glanzer”, how fucking gnarly is that? Reduced to a click-bait article. I’m terrified and amused all at the same time. They used a great picture of me, though. Haha. There’s not much detail on what exactly I did, murder, theft of government property (what?), general devilishness. But you know the internet, that’s all it really takes. I’m the enemy now. Maybe there’s a way I can combat this. You all know I’m not guilty of what they say. Can you help? Well…I mean I did kill that guy. That’s not up for debate I guess. But the circumstances shouldn’t have warranted this. What does Trump want with me? Why would he get involved? Why am I important? It’s South Dakota. The middle of fucking nowhereland…he’s probably never stepped foot in this state. I still don’t get it……..Stones woke up today. He freaked out a little bit because he was tied up. Understandably so. “Why the fuck am I tied up?!” he started shouting. It was actually pretty funny. We untied him. He sat up on the bunk bed and we took places around him. Micky pulled up a chair in front of him. Rocky and Jackie sat on the bunk across from him. Myself and Scabz standing on either side. Micky was still suspicious. He asked him questions. Who he was. Where he was. What happened at the barn. Stones knew who he was. He knew he was at the Silo. He knew all our names. But when Micky asked him about the barn he grabbed his head, feeling around. “Am I…Am I one of them?” He looked at Jackie, then me. Looking for an answer. I looked at Jackie. Do we tell him the truth? Stones continued before we could decide. “I remember being at the barn. We were…looking around for stuff. Those people…I started going to the back room and then…oh God those people?! Something terrible happened to one of them, were they all dead?” Stones looked to Rocky, Rocky nodded. “Oh God…it’s like I could feel one of them. It’s like I WAS one of them. Something digging into my skull. My head flooding with memories.” Micky looked at Stones confused. “What are you saying? What do you mean, Stones?” Stones was silent for a while as we all waited. “I can’t really explain it. It’s like I was part of…something. Part of someone. I have memories of that barn, but I had never been there before that day. Memories of…a table…a doctor? It’s all fuzzy but they feel…painful. Like they aren’t my memories. Like someone put them there. What happened to me?” Micky ran down what happened. About him collapsing, grabbing his head, bringing him back here, what me and Jackie saw, the Cheetos. Out of nowhere Stones jumped up and came at me. He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “Tell me Nathan. Do you still see it? Am I still one of them? I swear to God I’ll off myself right now if I’m a threat to you guys. Tell me I’m still me. Nathan you gotta tell me.” I saw Micky stand up and pull his gun from the corner of my eye. I put my hands up, around Stones, and waved him off. “Stones! You’re you. You’re here with all of us, man. You’re not doing anything to yourself. We need you.” He let go of me. I couldn’t tell him that I still saw a halo of ghostly strings around his head, only Jackie knew I was lying. He straightened his shirt. Looked around at everyone and the shocked looks on their faces. Micky with his pistol at his side. Stones looked intently at Micky. “We have to go back there.”
Day 10 of the Manhunt
We headed for the barn today. We made sure we were well equipped before we took off. We each took a gun, well…aside from Stones. He didn’t argue when we suggested it. We waited until the afternoon to head there. Micky said it was about 2 hours away. We left 4 hours before sunset. That way we had 2 hours to look around and could come back to the Silo under the cover of darkness. Jackie said she’d stay back at the Silo and do some research on everything that was going on. I caught some looks between her and Rocky. Rocky didn’t want to leave her alone but he knew Micky wouldn’t let him stay. We needed everyone there, especially if something went awry with Stones. We took Mickey’s van. It didn’t have enough seats for all of us so Stones and I hung out in the back on the floor. I tried not to stare at him. I didn’t want him thinking I was looking at…whatever the hell it is. I really wish there was a better way to make you understand what it looks like but it’s…like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Almost as if it’s not even real. Which I guess makes sense since not everyone can see it. We pulled up to the barn and stepped out of the van. I stretched my legs a little, they were cramped from sitting Indian-style for an hour on the metal floor of the van. Before we headed into the barn Micky stopped us all. “Alright guys. I didn’t mention this before because I’ve always tried to hide the bad things from Jackie…but last time we were here there were three dead people as you know. It’s been a little bit…but luckily it hasn’t warmed up much. Hopefully the cold helped slow the process but…if not…it might be a helluva smell in there. I’m just warning you. We don’t want you guys throwing up leaving your DNA all over the place, ya got me?” We all nodded. This was a new world for all of us. But we didn’t have a choice anymore. They had already seen the aftermath of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. And I was about to. Micky lead us into the barn. Turns out, even he was surprised with what we saw. Because there were no bodies in that barn. Everyone stood there dumbfounded for a little. “What the fuck?!” Micky finally said quietly. Stones dropped to his knees. Clutching his head. I went over to him, the tendrils didn’t seem to be moving much anymore, just lying flat. I asked him if he was alright. Micky threw him a little bag. Full of Cheetos. “When the headaches come, eat a few.” Micky looked at the rest of us. “Come on we’re burning daylight. Look around. For anything. Obviously someone else has been here since the last time we were here. If they were looking for something let’s hope they didn’t find it.”
We searched for about an hour and a half. The sun was going down and we were losing our light. We hadn’t found anything yet. We had flashlights but searching with flashlights isn’t an easy thing. “Alright guys we need to start heading out. There’s nothing for us here.” We made a final sweep to make sure nothing was left behind and we all headed for the door. Stones stopped short of the door. I was the only person behind him. He looked behind me towards the back room, a stall where they probably kept feeder calves at one point. That must have been the back room they said he started screaming. He walked slowly towards it. “Stones.” I tried to grab his arm but he shook me off. “Stones!” I yelled once more after him. I could hear the others come back through the door behind me. He kept walking. Wincing. Clutching his head. When he got to the back room I could tell he was in a lot more pain. He was kneeling now holding his head. I went over and knelt next to him. “Stones what are you doing?” He looked up at me, the tendrils were going crazy. “I’m trying to remember.” He shuffled a little further into the room, almost into the darkness and whispered. “Laptop.” Then he passed out. “Scabz. Get him outta here. Get him to the van.” I said, almost yelling. Scabz obliged and with Mickey’s help carried him out to the van. Rocky was standing next to me. One last visual sweep of the room. I saw Rocky’s eyes locked onto something in the corner. “What’s up, man?” Rocky shook his head. “I don’t know man. Just something from that last time I was here.” I asked him to explain before I remembered that someone died in his arms. Maybe that was where it happened. “The guy that died…before he stopped breathing he said something. ‘Abel’. I thought that might have been his kid’s name, ya know? His life flashing before his eyes or some shit. But…what if it wasn’t?” He walked towards the corner. I asked him what he meant. “What if he said…’Hay Bale’”? He pointed to the lone hay bale in the barn. In the corner where he was looking. I walked over to it. What could that have meant? I noticed some of the ties weren’t lined up quite right. I pushed on it a little and the hay, well alfalfa I think, was a little softer in one spot. I looked at Rocky. “Knife”. He tossed the Bowie knife he had attached to his belt on the ground next to me. I picked it up and started cutting away the ties. Pulling layers of alfalfa away. And there in the midst of it all. Buried deep. A shiny, black laptop.
Day 11 of the Manhunt
I tried to turn the laptop on in the car on the way to the Silo, but the battery was dead. We were going to have to get a universal charger from Wal-Mart or somewhere before we could find out what was on the laptop. Stones had been munching steadily on the Cheetos. At this rate we will run out sooner rather than later…then what happens? When we got back to the Silo Jackie had her head buried in a laptop, papers strewn all about her. When she saw us she jumped up to greet us. “Did you find anything?” We relayed back to her what had happened earlier. I stretched the laptop out to her, asking her if they had a charger that might work. The plugin was different than the laptops they had so their chargers would be no good. I took the battery out and wrote down what they’d need to know. Micky took it and headed out to get a working charger for it. He wanted to know what was on that laptop ASAP. Scabz, Rocky, and Stones started unloading the supplies from the trip. I could tell Scabz was keeping close watch on Stones. He saw me watching him as he watched Stones. I nodded, signaling that I understood what he was doing and I was okay with it. He nodded back to me and continued being mindful of Stones and his movements. I walked with Jackie as she took back her seat in front of the laptop. “Hey, Jackie. I still haven’t told anyone that I can still see the shit on Stone’s head. I think I want to keep it that way. We’ll keep an eye on him and as long as we have the Cheetos it should be okay.” She glanced in their direction and nodded. She didn’t say a word but I knew she agreed with me. “Speaking of Cheetos.” Jackie motioned me towards the mess of papers on the table. I asked her what all of it was. She turned her computer towards me. “I started Googling stuff about the fact that Cheetos basically disappeared. I was just trying to see if it was widespread or if maybe there was an explanation. I didn’t see any articles about the Cheetos being missing. So I started thinking of rational explanations for it all. So I checked Cheetos stock. See if something seemed wrong…record highs.” She turned the computer towards me and showed me the stock. ”That Burger King thing they did must have been successful…so then why did they stop?” I jumped in. “Because BK can’t get Cheetos?” She smiled. “I’d bet on it. I called a factory, pretending to be the owner of a small town gas station looking to make an order on Cheetos.” I looked at her surprised. “That was clever.” She smiled again. “Thanks. They said that they couldn’t take any more orders. I asked why not. I expected for him to say because they couldn’t make more or were out of them or something….but get this.” She paused for dramatic effect. By this point Rocky and the others were done putting things away and were also listening. “They are running at full capacity almost 24 hours a day.” Rocky spoke up. “So lemme get this straight. We’re in some sort of ‘Cheeto Shortage’ and as far as the factories know, they are shipping out more Cheetos than they ever have before?” Jackie answered, “Yeah. Apparently they got new contracts for a shit ton of the stuff. But in order to accept it they had to drop all their other shipments. Not a single factory owner turned it down, the money was too good.” I saw Stones reach into his pocket and pull out the bag of Cheetos that was nothing but crumbs. We all just stood there puzzled. Trying to figure out what was going on. Stones broke the silence, “So who the hell is getting all the Cheetos?”
Day 12 of the Manhunt
Micky didn’t get back with the charger until the morning. He didn’t want to risk getting tracked down somehow by the charger. Someone had moved those bodies. Maybe someone had been looking for the laptop too. What was on it that they needed to hide it to begin with? Hoping that it was something that would help us…Micky didn’t want to chance anything. I took the charger from him and set up the laptop on the end of the table. I plugged the computer in and the charging light lit up red. I turned it on and was promptly greeted with a Linux login screen. “Oh Thank God” I muttered to myself. Cracking the password on a Linux machine is far easier than a newer Windows machine. I closed the lid to let the laptop charge. I jumped onto one of the other laptops and made a Kali Linux boot disk. I wouldn’t say I’m a great hacker, but I know enough to give it a shot. If this guy knew what he was doing, there’s no way I would figure it out. But if he didn’t take any steps to secure anything, maybe I have a chance.
It took me about 2 hours using Hashcat to get the password hashes for the accounts on the machine. Which, to not over complicate things, is an encryption of the password itself. After that I started to run it through John the Ripper which uses a Rainbow table to try and match the hashes with the hashes of known words, and then use those words in a dictionary brute force attack on the password. I’ve used it before on my friend when his password was “Plasticcup123” maybe I can get lucky. I set it up and let it run. If I did it all right and the guy’s password wasn’t super complex, I might have a chance at this. If I didn’t then it will run forever and never come close to cracking it. I sat back and sighed while I looked up. Everyone else was doing their own thing. Jackie was still looking into the Cheetos debacle. Stones was sitting on the bed looking somewhat like a crack head, he was trying really hard to conserve the small amount of Cheetos we had. Scabs and Rocky were playing cards and Micky had left earlier. Probably doing a security sweep of the area, making sure no one followed him somehow. I moved over to sit next to Jackie. I asked her what she was up to. “I’m still trying to find out who bought all the Cheetos.” I told her that maybe I could help. She was looking over a bunch of documents trying to see if she could find out the name of the company that made the orders. “You’d be surprised how good they are at confidentiality.” I remembered back to my days working for AT&T, thinking to the times when I thought someone was trying to scam me, or the times I wondered if I just got scammed. “Who owns the Cheeto brand?” She looked up at me, “Frito Lay, why?” I thought for a second. “Get me any number you can, customer support, ordering, whatever you can find. Where’s the information about the orders?” She handed me a stack of papers, I sat down and started looking through them. I needed to know everything I could.
A few minutes later Jackie had every number for Frito-Lay with labels for what each was in front of me. I created a Skype account with a throwaway email and loaded it with some credits. Time to make some calls. First I called ordering. Being sure to keep track of everyone I spoke to. If I ever got the same person twice it might cause some suspicion. I asked if I could place a large quantity order. “I’m sorry we aren’t accepting more orders at this time.” I tried different approaches. I got bits of information each time I called. Eventually I got a number directly to Cheetos ordering. Anytime I was given information I pried deeper. One person told me that a few large scale orders have taken up their manufacturing. Something they probably shouldn’t have told me. I was on the phones long enough to know all it takes is one person who didn’t feel like doing their job that day to give you more information than they were supposed to. I called over and over. Whenever someone denied me information I moved onto the next person, with the same or slightly different tactic. I tried saying that I was a chef and I needed them for my famous chicken breading. I asked if they could give me the information about the people who bought them so I could try to broker a deal to buy directly from them. “I’m sorry we can’t give out customer information.” No one budged. Male. Female. American. Foreign. I called enough times to get many different personalities but to no avail. “God damn it.” I whispered to myself. I needed a different approach. I called one more time. A man answered confidently. I paused for a moment…then hung up. What I was about to try needed a particular person. I called until I got a voice that sounded good. A small, shy, meek women’s voice greeted me after 4 tries. “Hello. Thank you for calling how may I assist you today.” She said, her voice almost shaking. Perfect. She’s new. Or shy. Either way this might work. “Hello yeah I’d like to confirm the delivery date of my most recent order.” I tried to sound as impatient as I could. Channeling my inner businessman. “Of course, sir. Could you please give me your account number?” I waited for a couple seconds. Most people are trained to minimize the amount of silence on calls. It’s awkward for everyone. “Sir? Your account number?” I picked my computer up and started walking briskly around the Silo. I wanted her to think I was on the move. “Oh God damn it I don’t have the fucking account number with me I’m out of the office.” Jackie looked at me like I was crazy. When men get sworn at they get defensive, it’s confrontational and most don’t stray away from it. When women get sworn at they try to defuse more, they avoid confrontation. “Sir if you could” I interrupted her before she could tell me to watch my language, or whatever wording her script would use. Now I was angry. My headphones came unplugged, she was coming through the speakers now. “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t say I’m a God damn adult. Do you have any idea who I am?” I paused for a second but continued before she could answer. “How long have you worked here?” I used the word here, not there. Implying I might be someone of importance. I also made sure this sounded as accusing as it could. Most places train you not to admit to being new, even if you are. It avoids people asking, “Let me talk to someone who has worked here longer.” I’ll never know if she was telling the truth or not but she said she’s been working here for almost a year. “Well then you should know that there should only be one fucking company making orders right now, and I fucking own that company! So unless you want to not have that job of yours you’ll tell me when my next fucking shipment will get delivered!” She started to stammer, I could hear her typing on her computer. “Ye, ye, yes Mr. Trump. I’ll get that information for you right away.” I stopped in my tracks. Scabz and Rocky looked up, mouths agape. “What?” I couldn’t help but say it out loud. I was confused but I was still in character so it came out slightly angry. “Oh I’m sorry…Mr. President. I’ll get you that information, Mr. President.” I hung up.