I trudged through the forest, carrying all my possessions with me, in the form of my pack and a few weapons for survival and self defense. not long ago it was called the Natahla national forest... but now I would image there wasn't much of a nation left since they came... Dragons, the great predators.
I used to spend my days like any other young guy.. working, hanging out and talking with friends both locally and online... I had considered looking for a date, but I never really felt ready. I had a number of hobbies, everything from stamp collecting to attempting to garden... But there was another.. 50 years ago it would have been considered wise, these days it was called odd, but to me it made since.
I was a Prepper. I did my best to prepare for numerous scenarios. They started at natural disasters, making sure I had more than enough food and water supplies to last for a few months or more and all they way to the brake down of the rule of law, or marital law. The more grand events I always hopped would remain only theory... it was a game of sorts.. I would discus the scenarios with friends and figure out what we would do.
The basics of all our plans were quite simple. The bug out bag. The idea was that it was a bag that was always ready to go. It would contain the majority of survival items needed to rough it in the woods for a few days at a minimum. Then came the items needed for longer term survival. Things like Flint and steal, water purification tablets, a good woodsman knife, and methods of getting food for when the packaged food ran out.
After I had my basic pack put together, I spent a lot of time thinking about weaponry. My thought process was reliability over ergonomics. With time and money I was constantly thinking how I could improve my system...
But then.. the day came.. the scenario I could have never envisioned. The dragons came out of nowhere... at first the reports were sketchy over the radio.. News of some disaster to the far western states.. hundreds dead, and buildings demolished. It was assumed there was a earthquake, for several hours.. It wasn't until later that night when the first images came on TV there in fact was a earthquake... What people had feared for several years in that area... it collapsed buildings, destroyed homes and lives as it ripped a gash in the earth... but the natural disaster was only the beginning. It was what came out from the crevice that was the real disaster.
Monstrous beasts.. reptiles with long necks, huge claws, wings and remarkably colored scales. They ranged in sizes, most larger than any house... there was only one word that accurately described them... Dragons. I remember watching the screen in disbelief as the blurry footage showed a particularly massive beast scooping up over a dozen people in its maw... the world was shocked.. humans were no longer on the top of the food chain.
I didn't go to work the next day, I imagine most people didn't. However instead of calling people and staying glued to the television I spent the day locking down my home. I smoked and cooked what meat I could from my freezer, packing a extra bag with it. What food I couldn’t eat or take with me I left in bags at neighbors doors.. mostly the elderly and disabled I knew. I then boarded my windows and locked up my gun safe... reluctantly leaving the majority of my collection within... in the hopes I might come back one day.. then finally I pulled out my power meter, in order to prevent possible electrical fires. And that was it. I locked my door and with only my pack, a few firearms, some extra food and water, and my car. I drove off to the location I had picked a long time ago... A area on the edge of the national forest, but still close to a town.
Throughout the day I kept a ear on the news.. the dragons were spreading, heading both north and south, but mostly east, starting to sweep across the continent. The military had attempted to counter the creatures, but there were so many that what little forces were near got overwhelmed. People had begun a mass exodus away from the dragons, in no time all the major highways heading east were backed up, providing the dragons with a buffet and trails to follows. They were spreading to all the major cities and populated areas on the west coast at a rapid pace... It was being estimated that they would reach this region in about a week at the most.
After a couple hours I reached my destination. A area of about 50 acres on the edge of the national forest, property that belonged to my family. I drove my car up past were the dirt road ended and with a sigh shut off the engine. I then set up my hand crank/solar power radio and for the next few days I lived out of my car, eating the meat and drinking the water I could not carry with me as I had a constant ear on the news and never took my revolver off my side. I ate good for those few days, Doing a little scouting into the forest, checking for bear sign and such before always returning to my car.
As the dragons made their way east, the cities were becoming more sparce. Rule of law had pretty much completely broken down even in areas the dragons had not yet reached as riots took hold. People were taking to the countryside with little more than limited camping supplies, most with less. It was actually something I expected. People were desperate... and when their desperate they become animals... Willing to kill for what they need. Such scenarios I thought long and hard on and I had done my best to prepare.
On the fifth day the dragons were near, only a hundred or so miles off. I left my car for the last time, leaving what I could not carry with me. Mainly leftover cooked food and some water... Maybe someone who really needed it will find it.
With that I set off into the woodland, Still thinking over my gear of choice, still trying to think on how I could have made it better... Trying to not think of the fact, that chances were, I wouldn't be able to come back.
I soon reached a spot I had already determined in previous trips out here would be my initial camp site I set my pack down and did one last inventory. I had enough food and water to last three days, at least three different methods of lighting a fire, and three days worth of clothes. underwear and shirts anyway. I had a basic military first aid kit as well that I had expanded upon a bit with some quick clot and compact splints. In terms of getting fresh food and water I knew of a blueberry patch nearby, and there was a creak nearby, and I had two methods of making the water drinkable. I also had a compact fishing kit with a telescopic rod and I had my old 22caliber bolt action rifle. The rifle I got in a trade a while ago, I found it was built as a military trainer for snipers in the 40's and so it would easily suit taking squirrels, rabbits, or coons. With a brick of subsonic ammo it was silent at closer ranges, and for longer ranges I had a brick of high velocity ammo. Over a thousand rounds for only a few pounds of weight. It would also make good trade stock as nearly everyone had a rifle in 22.
While technically my other two firearms could be used for hunting, they were more for protection. My 44Magnum revolver at my side could take down anything unpleasant or wishing to do me harm at close range, either human or bear. The advantage of a revolver over modern semi automatic was it's reliability. A wheel gun would operate no matter how dirty it got, so long as the cylinder and hammer could move. I also had a field reload kit and a pound of power and cast bullets in my pack, so I wouldn't have to carry as many rounds. My other firearm was a true battle rifle. A Yugoslavian SKS. The 7.62x39 cartridge was perfectly suited for ranges up to 400 meters, considering the terrain I was working with I wouldn't be able to do much past 200 yards for the hills and trees. The rifle had a renowned reliability all over the world, and I wouldn't have to worry about much maintenance. Another advantage in my mind was the fixed box mag with a ten round capacity. The firearm was built to be loaded by stripper clip, So I wouldn't have to worry about keeping track of magazines. I only had a few hundred rounds with me though. I had one other firearm. My backup, a small 22caliber revolver. It remained in my pack though, in case of a dire emergency. The only other weaponry I had as was a old AK-47 bayonet I used as a field knife.
In my pack I also had my solar powered radio, so I could try to keep tabs on the news.. as long as news we being broadcast, I had a feeling it wouldn't be long till that item was useless. The only other electronic devices I had was a old Ipod classic, that had all my music along with a few movies, and a solar charger for it.
All of this fit, with the exception of my rifles, in my surplus Alice pack, or on my Alice belt. I had found that even older military equipment was still very useful, even a 40's Russian wool poncho, it would help keep me warm at night and act camouflage me if need be.
Once I finished my inventory I packed it all back up and started making my camp. A simple lean-to shelter out of a tarp with a woodlands camouflage pattern on the top, and some brown parachute cord. And so began my first night of survival. I slept very lightly, my mind dwelling on things I could no longer do.
The next morning I awoke to beastly roars in the distance. I jumped from my sleep and took my rifle in hand, looking for the source of the noise. After a few moments I realized they were far off for the most part... The dragons had reached my home city and were striking the highways of fleeing people.
I moved quickly and tore down my camp, repacked everything and donned my Alice pack before moving up to the ridge line in the thicker part of the forest. I huddled into the thicker brush and watched to sky.
From this vantage I could see them.... I almost couldn't believe it. Dragons. Real live dragons in flight. They were watching down below and they would sweep down, like a bird of prey. And disappear from my sight for a time, going after some prey.. humans.. before returning to the sky... for a brief time I wonder if they killed their prey before swallowing them... A smaller one caught my eye, I’m not sure why... it appeared to have a red body. Unlike the others I saw it seemed to just be flying around, enjoying it's self rather than feeding... perhaps it didn't want to challenge the larger beasts? I wasn't sure.
I continued watching the dragons, until late in the day, when I finally started my trek down from the ridge. The forest was silent.. it made since, It seemed that ancient predators were back, and the whole world was silent in honor of them.. at least that is what it felt like.
As I made my way back to my first camp site, a roar suddenly cracked the sky, loud enough to shatter the earth. It seemed like an announcement to the world. It said a new predator was claiming this land. I looked up in time to see it fly overhead. It was the red one.. with brilliant crimson scales, and a wing span, if I had to guess of 25 or 30 feet.
I ducked into some brush and in silence I watched... the creature circled high for a time, it seemed like it circling right above me. Eventually it stopped, and landed on the top of the ridge, the exact spot I had been not 30 minutes before. The creature easily pushed bushes and trees aside as it made its way up the ridge... I knew where the dragon was going, to a old cave... one I was pretty sure was abandoned by any bear... I sighed, groaning lightly.. it was the worst thing that could happen, a dragon had claimed this area as its territory... I would have to be very careful now.
For the next couple weeks I kept it low key, keeping my noise low, and keeping an eye on the dragon's movements... Fortunately it seemed to enjoy sleeping in, at first I attempted to hunt, bagging a few squirrels with my near silent ammo, but I had the throw my catch away.. I could not risk fire or the scent of cooking meat... not even when it went off the hunt... I ended up eating off of a blueberry patch and collecting black walnuts for food. However such a bland diet quickly grew old. I tried to keep my supply of canned meats in reserve, but I had already eaten through half of it. When I assumed it was hunting. I tried a get in what little hygiene care I could in the little time I had, however it did suffer over time. Other than that I kept my activity at a minimum, not wanting to draw it's attention, except I knew I couldn't stay so close to it forever.. I would have to try to move..
During most of the day, after its hunt it would sun itself, down near where I had left my car. That made me worry the most... surely it had investigated the vehicle. How strong were it's senses? Could it have gotten my sent?, could it spot my footprint in the ground? Could it pick me out among all the brush? Could it hear me as I shivered in the cold at night? These thoughts and more ran through my mind constantly, nearly driving me mad, as each day I felt I would make some small mistake, that would draw it's attention... assuming it didn't know I was here in the first place.
I figured my best chance to move would be when it was sunning itself. I wanted to avoid doing so at night as It would leave me blind in a heavy wooded area, which was to risky. The only problem was, the only place I could move would be into the national forest.. it's hunting area. There could also be more dragons to contend with there, but it was a much larger piece of land to disappear into.
I'll be honest though... as I spent time watching the dragon... I grew to admire it. It was the perfect predator. Hard scales, sharp claws and teeth, wide leathery wings, a long slender neck, and muscles that rippled all over its body... by the body shape I could only guess that it was female... but I could be wrong. When it first arrived I had considered trying to kill it... but then what if I missed? The noise from my long rifle would most defiantly get its attention... even then I'm not sure if I could kill it... unless I got very lucky... I decided it best to hopefully go unnoticed..
The time came. I watched as the dragon flew closer to the road, she normal sunning spot. It was a humid day, I'm sure I stank to high heaven, but I was long used to it. I waited a few minuets before picking up my pack and rifle, and then I headed deeper into the forest. Carefully moving through the thick of the brush, watching each step, and carefully moving limbs aside, and not letting them snap back, less I draw attention. I made my way up to the ridge, beyond which was my goal, but then thunder cracked the sky... I look up, shocked by the sudden appearance of dark clouds... I been to busy being silent to pay attention to the weather.
Droplets of water started to rain down, getting heavy all at once. I looked back down towards where the dragon rested. It too seemed surprised by the rain.. and annoyed as it rose from it's slumber. My adrenaline starting pumping as I realized, it would be seeking shelter from this storm...
I started moving faster, however I couldn't do that and remain silent. A several branches snapped back as I made my way over the ridge, and down into what was officially the national forest. The ground quickly turned to mud, making every step noisy as it sunk down. I quickly gave up all hopes of stealth and just tried to get away.
Then I slipped. My feet went out from under me and my back and pack hit mud. Gravity dragged me down a embankment. I eventually stopped at the bottom, in a brier patch. I quickly thanks my lucky stars that I still wore all my protective clothing. I remained there for a moment, not moving much as I remained in the mud. I looked up from the briers to the embankment I fell down. It was all wet grass.. not much difference than walking on ice sometimes. I sighed and just watched the rain fall... wouldn't be much point in trying to move now. For the time being I was safe.
Then it arrived. The crimson dragon. It landed right at the top of the embankment.
I froze in place, not daring to breath and hoping thee rain would make it difficult for the dragon to catch my scent. The dragon looked directly at me, through the twisting branches and barbs.. it had a toothy grin.