Tribulation: Fiction Or Foreshadowing?


Fortunately we don’t yet live in a world where you have to buy military-grade ordnance from Walmart.

Mark and Linda came into town for a big omnibus Walmart run about once a month. Without children the logistics were greatly simplified. This recurrent onerous outing had morphed into some kind of perverse date.

They got two carts and started with the food. They always saved the heavy stuff until the end. Canned vegetables, frozen pizzas, Frosted Flakes, and toilet paper gradually filled one cart. Linda stopped, studied the list on her phone, and declared the grocery run complete.

The couple loaded up forty pounds of Ole Roy dog food and crossed the aisle to where the baby clothes had previously been arrayed. “What do we need this month?” she asked flatly.

Mark glanced at his phone and read off the list. “Looks like two cans of M855 green-tip—the 840-round sort on strippers, a 20-round case of M433 40mm HEDP, half a dozen M18 Claymores, and a couple of AT4’s. We’re good on .50-cal but could likely use another thousand rounds of 7.62 four-and-one linked for the 240. Look like they’ve got all that in stock?”

Linda perused the tall stacks of olive drab ammo boxes and answered in the affirmative. Were it not for the government ordnance subsidies there would be no way that homesteaders like Mark and Linda could survive outside the fortified towns.

Linda perked up a bit and said, “Looks like AT4’s are on special. Three for the price of two. I’m gonna pick up a few M67 frags as well. They’re not always available.”

“OK,” Mark replied. “Just know that’s an impulse purchase. We haven’t needed grenades in six months. They put the frags on the end caps so you’ll buy them whether you need them or not. Walmart’s not stupid, you know.”

These are indeed unprecedented times.

The second cart groaned under the weight as the couple made their way to the self-checkout. Enroute they bumped into Maggie Spencer. Linda and Maggie had attended the same yoga class before. Now nobody had time or inclination for yoga. These days most folks spend all their energy on just not dying.

“Hiya, Linda,” Maggie said. “I see you’re still out in the woods. When are you two gonna see the light and move into town with the rest of us? There’s plenty of space. When the Bible thumpers blipped out their houses fell to the state. You can get one cheap through the federal program.”
A bit more than two years prior there had been a catastrophic mass disappearance. Literally millions of people and every single child on the planet disappeared in an instant. Pregnant women suddenly weren’t any more. Ever since that moment nobody could get pregnant. Obstetricians had to get real jobs.

Most but not all of the missing had been church folk, and most but not all of the church folk were gone. Regardless, the houses of worship were empty now. Those that remained used the space for community activities and shelters. Then the monsters came.

Communities that walled off and armed up survived. Those that didn’t fell to the beasts. A remnant survived, but the world was now utterly bereft of joy. Suicide rates exploded.

“Hi, Mag. I know we likely should, but we still love our space. Mark works remotely from home, and I like to garden. We don’t have much of a footprint, so they leave us alone mostly. The federal ammo subsidies help us stay prickly. We’ll move into town eventually, we’re just not ready yet.”

“I get it,” she replied. “Bob and I considered staying outside as well, but I guess we’re just not as independent as you two. Just know we’d love to have you.”

By then Mark had everything checked out and bagged. Maggie and Linda exchanged a hug. The family MRAP vehicle was maybe thirty meters from the door. Mark shouldered his M4 and slipped off the safety to his M203 grenade launcher. Taking one last measured look around the parking lot he said, “You ready?”

“Yeah, I’m set,” Linda replied.

People said stuff like this as they left Walmart nowadays, kind of like they used to say, “Be careful” or “Have a nice trip.” It was reflexive, something stated by rote that originated someplace deep inside the common human experience. Mark turned one last time to his wife and said flatly, “OK, let’s go. Keep an eye out for monsters.”

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