Authors: Dan Yaeger
Remedy Z: Solo
By Dan Yaeger
Copyright Champ Publishing, 2014
"For my wife and sons who gave me space and freedom to write, and the love and support to keep me going." - D.
Thanks to C.K and A.B for editing and helping me make the book what it is.
Chapter 1: Solitude
It was cool and wet; perfect weather for hunting. For a man in my circumstances, the weather meant a greater likelihood of game, and that meant survival. The fresh, crisp morning air was always invigorating and I focused on a particular trail with optimism. The grass had been disturbed; circular motions that left a distinct trail were further underscored by a cluster of grape-like droppings. With a light rain falling and exceptional light, the entire world’s beautiful detail could not be escaped nor denied. I followed the trail and passed through raw nature, experiencing all its wonder; the moist, fresh air, the textures of the ferns and sounds of birds and other life as a backdrop.
I wiped sweat from my brow with the back of a gloved hand and took a moment to consider the trail and my surroundings. Looking back the way I had come, a picture was captured in my mind, a reminder for later. I gave it a name, like I did with many things; "Piano Keys"; three blackened tree trunks mixed with the light hues of snow gums. With that mental note, I turned back to the trail and survival. It was humid and cool; invigorating weather for a hunt and I was on the trail of something special. I knew it. That day, however, was more special than I could have imagined as it set me on a course that I could not have expected. As I stalked along, looking around for movement, listening for noise and smelling the bush air for something other than its fragrance, I was mission-focused and unaware of what would play out.
My very vintage 1990s “Flecktarn” camouflage jacket was doing a good job of diverting the moisture from the outside and letting my skin breathe. Despite being cotton, I had applied some fabric waterproofing spray that I had found in an abandoned shop about 12 months before. I had liberally coated this jacket in the right places and was appreciating the benefits. Waterproofing spray was one of those finds that was a special prize for a person in my situation. It was those little things that gave you a boost in such times; “score!” I had thought at the time. Just a few years prior, someone would have nonchalantly plucked a can of the waterproofing product off a shelf and thought nothing of it. For someone like me, managing rain and ventilation was part of a new daily life. I was often out in the weather, over some days and in varying situations, from hunting and fishing to exploring and fighting for my life.
The world had drastically changed as had my wants and needs. My priorities were now very different to what they had been just a few years before. I remembered times where I would walk through abundantly filled isles of a supermarket and buy anything I wanted, needed or didn’t need. All was boring, mundane, gluttonous and taken for-granted. Large food courts, fast food joints, wholesalers, vending machines, supermarkets; all meant an easily full stomach but an empty soul. I was not the only one: many people had shopped for excessive amounts of food and spent money on items they never had the time or passion to use. We had more than we ever needed and more money than sense. Things were different back then. While wandering the malls and shops aimlessly as a form of affluent recreation (or purgatory) was gone, I was quietly happy about it in some ways. The world I found myself in could have been arguably described as a sort of hell to some, but not to me. It was raw, brutal, real and fulfilling at the same time. I had a freedom and self-reliance that brought out the best in me. I got satisfaction from the small things and no longer had to worry about the irrelevant modern world we had created.
Where there was life there was hope and life, despite all its challenges, was persistent. I was not going to give up. That special spark of existence was precious and in short supply when it came to humans. What was sure was that there weren’t many of us left after the single greatest catastrophe in the history of mankind. I was convinced there were others like me out there; I had to believe that to go on. It made me even more determined to carry on, whatever my fate or future.
Before, I had been like everyone else; largely ignorant and aloof when it came to other people in society. I had been acculturated to walking past others, without any acknowledgement. "Now I would spend days tracking them, looking for signs," I thought. "Funny how things change," I smiled at the irony of it all. Before the Great Change, I had gone to malls and shops, only ever talking to the cashiers or salespeople due to necessity. Everyone was largely the same; communities were alive in growth but superficial and dead. On weekends, few mowed lawns and ignored the neighbours, most were inside, looking down at devices and hoping no-one would harass for a presentation, report, survey or review of something. This sort of “anytime” work added to productivity and churned modern economies based on the computer systems and rules that kept some countries down and others up. It delivered nothing of any real value and poorer countries were the slave labour and polluted manufacturing plants for the decadent. People hadn’t worked out that real work, growing and building things were real production and growth.
Our urban, consumerist lives spread all around metropolis-sized capital cities, out and into what had once been rural areas. With humanity growing and broadening its reach, like a thousand flowers blooming or a cancer (you be the judge), water, food security, sanitation, health and hygiene and land management were just a few of the issues that returned to plague humanity, despite all our technology. People were struggling with the idea that they still had to do things for themselves.
We had become isolated hyper-consumers who had no idea about the people in our rich and populace communities. It was social engineering at its worst. Old, faceless men were behind an agenda to disempower the masses and isolate them in order to be receptive to their messaging and agendas. No-one could see it, until you were taken out of it. I remembered just having human company and how it had been taken for granted: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just walk past one person and talk to them?” I asked myself the rhetorical question. In truth, I wasn’t ready after what I had been through. I had been in a sort of self-imposed exile for the past 12 months; that was set to change.
Leaving my thoughts behind, I raised my binoculars to glass the scene of alpine trees, grasses, rocks and moss. This kaleidoscope of greens, browns, greys, whites and blues never ceased to amaze me. The fresh air, the beauty; I had found a piece of paradise in a chaotic world. Those alpine ranges were my territory, my home, my sanctuary.
I kept following the deer trail. Good-sized cloven prints and the droppings in grape-like clusters were welcome indicators that I was on the right track. The trail was hot; only an hour old. I walked down a rise, through the trees and into a clearing. I got there with only a rustle of grass and an easy slide and vault over a fallen tree. Movement and an unexpected sight grabbed my attention. I slowly and silently dropped to one knee like many ancestors before me. The only break in the gentle rhythm of birds or the trees creaking in the light wind was my empty stomach. It gurgled but did not disturb her; she, whom I was watching. She was perfect and silver and resembled hope and survival. Despite the horrors I had faced over the past years, I could still find solace in alpine peace and beauty. The more I detached from the horror and took in that which I took for granted when the world was easy, the more I forgave. Through still-proud glass of German industry I looked upon an alpine wallaby of a rare silver colour and health. With a glance down, I slowly lowered from kneeling to cross-legged, swinging my rifle gently off my shoulder and onto my lap. She knew I was there but didn’t mind being watched. She sat in a clearing that had the gentle but abundant light, dappling her in a band of glowing warmth. A baby in the pouch reminded me of a warm sleeping bag in the cool alpine mornings before many a trek; old world and new world. “Ah, babies, I missed mine,” I was feeling some emotions but had to think of what was right in front of me rather than that which was lost. I watched these native, innocent friends and they kept me company as they were going about their business. What she was and what she had in her innocent world up there in the high-country was something rare in the “new world”. It was a real, nurturing scene I would remember and reflect on; “life, love, innocence.”
Those who read this must remember that television, the Internet, mobile phones and more recent holographic and public clouds of the contemporary world were no more. It had all collapsed in the Great Change; a human cataclysm and tragedy of epic scale. Centralise everything; fail consistently and catastrophically, globally. And that's exactly what had happened.
My humble human condition had reverted to old ways and entertainment was in simple things. This wallaby and her joey were such a thing. A starry night, a curious insect, a vista or an alpine wildflower or a book now held my attention like never before. I was in a world where I had found a small alpine paradise, away from the rest of it, where time seemed to stand still and days were long and fulfilling for the most part. But something was indeed missing: company. Life had become instinctive and had stirred in me the true nature of man; satisfaction and contentment in the world around me and the direct link between my actions and my own survival. Staying alive was not easy and I did have occasion to venture into towns and population centres, where the zombies were, in order to get by. As I had found, modern man can indeed survive and subsist, but not flourish. Without the technology and innovation we prized, humans struggled. That coveted technology had ultimately been our undoing.
But I was different; a new-world hunter-gatherer with real job satisfaction, for the first time in my life. Even though I held loss, longing and guilt, it was the post-trauma stresses that were the hardest. In spite of all I had been through and all I had lost, my day-to-day work was better. Part of me had never been more fulfilled in hunting, gathering and surviving. But the rest of me was empty. Soon all that would change and my world, as I had forged it, would be turned upside-down. But unaware, at that moment, staring at the wallaby, I got on with things. I enjoyed a special moment in time and a bit of company with a friend and kindred spirit.
The wallaby bent down and indulged on the dew-soaked grass. She indulged me too. Like he was in a hammock, the joey in the pouch turned around, its feet in the air somewhat comically. I smiled and took in the scene for a moment more. This was a welcome meal; for the soul, not for the stomach. Calm-down: I was no damn zombie like so many.
I enjoyed the company for a little while longer, ignoring that my next meal was getting further away. This was special, this was worth it. While I tried to supress it, my sense of timelessness and relaxation was being pressured now by the intense hunger and need to find food. “Time to switch-on and move.”
I gathered myself up; the moment and the wallaby gone just like that. I trekked up toward the side of a rise and followed my instincts. A path well worn by animals was recovered and fresh signs lifted my spirit and attentions. The grass was freshly disturbed and, in moments, the trail yielded fresh droppings and hope.
The trail was fresh and it was on! It was getting fresher the more I pushed on. No wallaby this time: something to eat. I walked onward, deliberately, carefully and swiftly. Noticing a tell-tale flicker, instincts were heightened; animal and predator playing their traditional roles. The ear moved again between the trees and some ferns. I could see the majestic creature: a lone Black Fallow buck. A young male without a harem of does would not persist in the brutal world of survival. On later reflection, I realised he and I were the same. There would be no imbalance of the natural order of things in taking him. “Perfect weather indeed,” I thought again, readying my rifle. But that wasn't just any rifle; it was "Old Man". He had been in my family for a long time and he was one of the inanimate objects that I thought of as a friend. Having saved me too many times to count, one could not ask for more of a friend than Old Man. This was especially true in the new Dark Age that I found myself in.