The ice house was my brothers not mine, but I lived there. It was on highway 441 just north of the City of Gainesville Florida. Like my brother Dennis always said, “The ice house is not a good place to meet girls Charlie.”
Dennis thought I needed to meet girls because I was the youngest brother and the only Collier not married yet.
I met plenty of girls before the ice house, too many. Some I knew a week before they said, “So why don’t you fix your teeth?”
The army recruiter even said, “After you finish basic training they will fix your teeth.” Not that teeth were my priority, it was other people who saw my teeth and wanted changes. They always worked fine for me, like to eat with. I had no speech problems, I could talk as well as anybody.
Anyway the wrong girls liked me. The fat ones, or at church the needy ones. I quit going to church over a woman named Mrs. Rachael Brooks. She sort of grabbed me up at the Waldo Florida First Baptist Church. Her husband had died suddenly, and I was walking home when she screamed out the window of her big car, “Want a lift Charlie?”
I was seventeen and she said she was thirty-five. Well with me the last serious offer of sex was by a girl that weighed at least 100 pounds more than me. Mrs. Brooker offered and we went at it, first in her car in her garage.
We about wore out every bed in her home when she confessed to me she had killed her husband and wanted to fix my teeth with his insurance money.
The police had even his garage wired for pictures and sound. She went to the woman’s prison near Ocala. I especially liked the soft beds in Mrs. Brooker’s house.
So I went in the U.S. Army and had this one woman in my unit who would say, “My god look at Collier’s teeth, he should be in the circus, damn Ringling-Brothers Freak Show Central. Has anyone noticed he has two sets of fuf-e-n layered chompers!”
Her name was P.F.C. Miller and I got discharged because she finally said it one to many times and my one punch got her unfit for duty. My discharge was ‘Other than Honerable’ and that means only a brother would hire me, and I worked the ice house north of Gainesville.
I lived in a part of the ice house that was once also cooled for ice. We just didn’t need as much ice as once before, so I had my few things inside that part of the cooler. It was great in Summer and in winter it was time to dress warm.
I had no radio or TV except a device to play old movies on. I really didn’t have to do anything but be there when the trucks came to pick up ice. There was a code and when it was punched I would open the cooler doors and they would get my brother’s ice and drive away.
Dennis would bring me my food and new movies. But once over about two weeks Dennis didn’t come, and neither did any ice trucks.
I didn’t have a phone or a car so I just waited and expected Dennis to come. Then the electricity went off and our generators went on for my lights and to keep the ice.
After two days of the generator I went outside and there was no traffic on highway 441. A few cars were along the road, and that was strange where we were, but it could happen.
I figured I needed to contact Dennis and tell him the power was shut off and we were on generators. I had lots of time because the generator could run for weeks and was rigged for hurricane season. It was August and that was still storm season. During a really good storm Dennis would just get rich on ice.
So I locked up the house (I thought of it as my house), and walked up the road. I was headed toward Gainesville and the nearest store. I waited until almost sunset because it was hot during the day, and got cool at night. As I walked I noticed there were no cars on the road, so maybe there was an accident on the highway, and maybe all the traffic was diverted to I-75 the big road that also went north and south.
DeMint Grocery and Notions was closed and I knew they stayed open to 9PM. Actually I had stayed inside the ice house for the last few months. I was becoming like a hermit.
The store was dark, but the night was cool, it had rained earlier in the day. With no ice pick ups I just slept most of the daylight hours. It was nice dozing time with the pitter patter of rain on the metal roof. Looking down the road toward Gainesville I was enjoying my walk, but the next place on the same side of the road was the new Highway Patrol District Office. I knew they had phones there. Dennis said, “I’ll get you a phone Charlie, you might need to call me.”
I told him, “Just a few quarters and I can walk down the road and call you.” Well in 3 years I had not needed to call.
At the highway patrol office there were about 50 cars and dead people were in them, or hanging out the windows. Sometimes you know people are dead because their tongue is out of their mouth. Then when lots of people are dead you don’t check to see if there is a heart beat, in my case I just walk a distance away from them.
I could hear a generator going at the patrol station and the inside lights were on, but on the floor were people who were dead. Some of them were piled up, and others just fell willie nilly. It reminded me of kitchen floors when you came back home after setting off 3 or 4 Real Kill Bombs. The roaches would be all over like that.
Near the pay phones was a car running with the keys in it. I reached over the woman, who had bugs all over her face, and turned it off. I had to open the door to get her down enough to get it finally off, and when I opened the door the interior lights came on. A newspaper was open on the front seat which said, ‘China Uses Poison Gas Bombs’. That was the Jacksonville Times Union Newspaper.
None of the phones worked outside and I tried the official phones inside, and they didn’t work either.
I heard static sounds coming from other parts of the building and they were radio’s still on battery. I turned the dials and got nothing. I tried different bands on the patrol radios and didn’t even get local AM or FM stations.
One thing I learned in the army was about guns. The army gun instructor that trained me once said, “Charlie with your strange teeth I don’t know who let you freakin in the armed service, but if they want an Alien to shoot, well I’m the Alien Instructor. In the army they say exactly what they think to lower ranked fellows, well I was the very lowest rank. Because of that shooting teacher my nickname became, “The Alien’. That got P.F.C. Miller laughing every time. At first I just cursed her. Maybe it was my teeth that made me hermit like?
I finally picked a highway patrol car, several guns, a nifty uniform, and plenty of amo. It was the first time I had driven in 3 years. I never even renewed my drivers license or wanted a car before the poisoning. What do you get when you travel around and meet people? In my case you met people who want to talk about your teeth. Rachael Booker talked in her own home about paying to fix my teeth and that was the recording they played in court.
I could have been charged with being an accessory after the fact, because I heard her say she killed her husband, and I didn’t run taddle-tale on her. But then I was just 17 and had signed up to serve my country. One officer of the court told me, “If they convict you Charlie, they will have to fix your teeth, and that would destroy some law enforcement budget.”
So Rachael got double life plus 30 years, and I got almost 3 years in the United States Army, and a cot in North Carolina that was hard and lumpy.
Well I drove into Gainesville and had to sometimes go on the sidewalks because of all the dead students. Sometimes I just drove over the bodies slow.
The Oaks Mall was full of people, dead as doornail people. I could tell by the light of their very powerful generators that few of the dead went peacefully. I had been to two funerals up to that time. One was my mother, and then for my older sister. The preacher said about my mother, “She went peacefully.” I guess that is the good way to go? And for my older sister Loretta the young guy waving the Bible said, “She didn’t feel anything.” Well the people in the Oaks Mall felt something — that they couldn’t suck in any more air. I don’t need to be a doctor to know that, most of the tongues were sticking out trying to grab some more breath. They choked to death.
There was food everywhere in the mall, and I was hungry. I turned off the gas several places in the food court, so nothing would burn down. Then I wondered why?
I finally ate three candy bars and the Snickers was best, they were all fully wrapped. I didn’t want to get any poison or germs like those unfortunates got. Then I drove around the University of Florida Campus. I parked my cruiser on a patch of open grass called The Plaza of the Americas. It was way past midnight, and there were lights from a generator in one library. As I went up the stairs a big sign said, ‘STRICKLY ENFORCED, no bookbags beyond this point.” It was pitch black outside and the air conditioning was working in the library. I sat in a comfortable chair and read 2 newspapers before I dozed off to sleep. In my dreams was the last headline I read, ‘They Get Us, and We Get Them.’ I woke up when the sun was coming in the windows and the generator had stopped. It was now lit with natural sun in the library. The librarian was sitting behind her desk with dead eyes. Bugs went in and out of her mouth and nose. I think it was a string of ants that was making a new home in the brain of a gray haired woman. She didn’t care that they did, and they could care less what hive they inhabited. I wondered how long she would sit upright in her library, and enforce the book bag rule? I didn’t even notice her the night before, or I would not have dreamed about newspaper headlines.
I started the cruiser and drove all over Gainesville from Santa Fe College to downtown, and I even toured the courthouse annex. Lots of people were near the marriage license office. What a time they picked to get hitched, or maybe they were getting passports. They offered that also in the same office. It was also not a good time to travel. I wondered what happened to people on airplanes — well I guess you had to land. Maybe you ceased breathing at 20,000 feet. I decided to look for crashes, but didn’t see any.
I had gone by the corner of 13th Street (hwy 441) and University Avenue the night before on the sidewalk, but in daylight I read a message written on the middle of the intersection it said, “August 20 and five of us are still alive. Orlando and Cape burned up last night and Jax before that. We think Leesburg will be safe. See you there!”
I had no idea of the current date and I wondered if they were all men or women? I hoped none of them were dentists. They said they were ‘alive’, but were they sick? I figured they had searched Gainesville for anyone alive, but so many had to be dead. There were 80,000 students just a U.F. and half as many at Santa Fe, according to what Dennis had told me, and he sold them ice for their kegs every weekend.
I decided to search Shands and the Veterans Hospital for survivors. I remembered there was a tunnel between the two hospitals and I wondered if people could live in that, sort of like an ice house? All I found was lots of dead people crowded down there.
So I started driving toward Leesburg, and that meant I-75 or 441. I took the road less traveled, and that meant Highway 441.
Everything was fine at first for one lane going south. I went around wrecks and then found a blocked bridge. I could have walked around the obstruction carrying my things, but I had gas in the present car. I also didn’t like the idea of pushing dead bodies out of a car. So I went back and found old 441 and drove that way to Ocala, and then to Leesburg.
When I got to a sign saying Lowell I at once thought of Mrs Rachael Booker, the only female I had ever had sex with. I figured maybe I was saved from the poison because of the ice house, well maybe Rachael was still alive in the big house. So I turned right into the Woman’s Correctional Unit. I avoided in the parking lot and drove to the front door of the administration building. Lowell was like Ganineville with dead bodies all around, to step across and walk around.
Somehow the gates and doors were open, but it didn’t look like many women escaped. It was all so stupid everyone dying but me, and the five others maybe in Leesburg. I could have visited Rachael on Sundays, if I had a car, and didn’t work in the ice house. Inside the women’s prison were lots of little rooms with regular doors and some large rooms full of cots, I didn’t see cells like in the old woman’s prison movies, with bars. The women always clutched the bars until the warden called them down to rape them.
At the trial the prosecutor called Rachael a sexual predator because she had sex with me, and I was just seventeen.
There were also big dorm rooms in the prison with maybe a hundred cots in each area. Nothing was alive in there but big black flies. They swarmed around some of the bodies, others they seemed to avoid. I should have listened more in science class, and maybe learned something.
By the side of the prison was a trailer park with double wide vehicles and they were full of dead. Some women were dressed free, and others wore the blue inmate uniforms.
I saw one concrete path going out to a metal building that shined in the sun. The building had no windows, I walked out there and hit the shed with my rifle butt and said, “Anybody alive in there?” It was what I said maybe a thousand times at locked doors at U.F., Shands and VA. This time a voice inside said, “I’m still in here.” It was a very weak voice, or maybe a sleepy voice.
“Who are you?” I said.
“Prisilla Mulberry, triple life sir.”
I had taken lots of keys from the administration building and it took me a few minutes to open her door.
“Wanda has been training me to be a slave. Can I call you master sir?”
“Yes, exactly right, call me master.”
She crawled out of the box covering her eyes and she had dark hair cut very short.
“How long have you been in the box?”
“I’ve been here 4 times master. Wanda doesn’t tell me how long I stay, but before she had me get two meals a day. I think if I remember right I got 40 meals before she stopped feeding me. Then yesterday she turned off the air conditioning, and I went from shivering all day and night to Bruning up.
Wanda has trained me well master. Now I’ll do anything.”
She sat up on her knees peeking up at me. I had dressed in clothes from the highway patrol office and she said, “Master you are the highest ranking officer in the prison. I’ve never seen a general before. Will I be your personal slave in your traitor? Where you and your wife live?”
Priscilla was a smaller woman than Rachael. Priscilla had big breasts and was pressing those nice big things against my shoes as she clutched my legs.
“I’ll be traveling around and I’ll use you for a sort of all purpose slave, a utility slave. What has Wanda taught you so far?”
“She was planning for me to belong to this Captain Mels and he has five slaves already in his doublewide, but wanted some younger ones.
I’ve trained for all kinds of sex master. Wanda says I’ve been a slave all my life and that’s why I helped Herman kill all those people.”
“Did you know a inmate named Rachael Brooker, she killed her husband?
“I’ve never been in general population, but was picked the first day for intensive training.
Why do you carry a rifle, and pistol inside the prison master?”
“Who can know when someone might attack me.”
We walked up the ramp and Priscilla saw several bodies laying around and said, “Oh god what happened out here?”
“We sort of had some kind of germ attack by the Chinese and most people are now dead. You are one of the lucky survivors here.”
“No one else is alive?”
“Not that I can find. I looked in the trailers and the big and little rooms and the office, but you seem to be the only survivor at this point.”
“What about the men’s prison across the road. Are you going to check and see if their all dead?”
“No I just like women.”
We walked around the yard and saw parked vehicles around the fence with a dead guard in every car or on the ground.
I had found a bathrobe cord and tied it around Pricilla’s neck and led her around the grounds. It was a nice fall day, but inside there were swarms of flies around the dead people. I gave her three candy bars that I had in my pocket (from the Oaks Mall’s Candy Kornor) and she ate them like a hungry dog eats hamburger scraps.
“This master is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, even worse than when Herman made me kill all those doctors and nurses in the hospital.”
“How many did you kill?”
“Fifty-two,” she said and then after we walked toward the car she said, “This is much more.”
When we got to the highway patrol car I asked her, “Can I trust you and leave your hands free in the car, or do I need to cuff them?”
“You can trust me master. If I do anything that doesn’t please you whip me, please don’t shoot me.”
Old 441 is a two lane road. Cars were stopped in the middle of the road with people dead inside. I often drove off the road to get past them.
At one place on the road was a large boarded up building that looked like it was once a supermarket, and several trailers were on the other side of the street. In the road were three bodies and cars were on the road side so one could not avoid the bodies. I stopped some distance from the bodies and Priscilla said, “Are you going to run over the bodies?”
“This looks like a trap.” I said and gunned my engine. The three bodies moved as I was almost on top of them, but one didn’t move fast enough, and I took him along with us on my bumper. A bullet went through my side window as we drove out of sight.
I took a left to get back on the four lane 441. And said, “There are some living people in this area.”
“I think master that the boy on the bumper is still alive, I saw him move, and it was not the wind.”
I stopped the car, and pushed him to the ground, checking him for weapons. He had a pocket knife and I took that. He didn’t seem to be bleeding anywhere. I guess I hit him at 20 miles an hour, it couldn’t feel good. But he only seemed winded.
“How many of your gang were there?”
“Three of us all 15 years old, we were all friends from school and stayed with the Jeff Bridges family in their wine cellar, it was once a bomb shelter. We were there during the attack.”
“What happened to the family?”
“They all went upstairs too soon and died. We didn’t go out until yesterday, when we heard people in the house.”
“Who was in the house?” I asked.
Inmates from Marion Correction, two men. They made us lay in the road. They have Mr. Bridges scope, and they saw you coming. They also have his guns, and would have shot us if we didn’t obey them.
“Have sex with them, and then lay in the road.”
“What kind of sex did they have with you?”
“Anal and oral sir.”
“Things have changed in the world now I guess you realize.”
“Yes sir, I see the rope around your girl’s neck.”
“Yes now some people are the belongings of other people.”
“I think sir we better get further away, those criminals have cars. I can get up and walk to your car.”
“Priscilla tell the boy what you are to me?”
“I’m his slave.”
“That’s what I figured sir, when I saw the rope. She’s a beautiful slave.”
“How could you be valuable to me boy?”
“I don’t know sir, but I know we better hurry away from Matt and Jim the two convicts.”
“I believe your story and I’m glad your alive and kicking. So you probably know about everybody around here. You might as well just go and find a life. So if you can’t be of value to me, goodbye.”
“I just met two convicts and maybe hundreds escaped. Those guys were laughing about cutting off our toes, to make us walk slow. Please sir, don’t leave me here.”
“You can go along if you agree to be my slave.”
“For how long sir?”
“All your life.”
“What work will I do?”
“Anything at all. Its not like you work at a Burger King, or your working for me for wages. You work and won’t be punished.
You’ll be a belonging that I can use, mark or sell. Agree or go hide from the animals. I’m driving away with or without you.”
“OK I’ll agree to be your slave.”
“Drag yourself over to the car and get in.”
He did and in ten minutes we were on regular 441 again. We had gone only a few miles on the road when he said, “Look I think I’ll get out in Ocala. I have a grandmother who lives there.”
“You surrendered as a slave in Lowell” I said.
“Well I didn’t sign anything. I just said it.”
“We’re you thinking I was the taxi service? No you became my slave when you agreed to be one. Now you need training and punishment. Priscilla didn’t you receive lots of slave training?”
“Yes master, I was whipped and starved, and locked in a box.”
“Well I wouldn’t let anyone do that to me.”
“If I’m the owner of an animal I can do that and more.”
“You do have a gun.” He said. “maybe you will shoot me if I don’t do what you say?”
“I might. Priscilla snap these cuffs on his hands.” I slowed down the car and almost stopped, before I stopped completely he stuck out his hands from the back seat, and she snapped them on him and handed me the keys.
“Usually they put these on me.” She said.
“What has been your given name slave boy?”
“Ben or Bennie sir.”
“Since that’s the name you have used and answered to for 15 years I’m going to continue calling you Bennie. Do you know what name I must be called?”
“No sir, but I see by your rank your a general. Should I call you general?”
“No Ben as my slave what name do you call me?
“General I’m only fifteen and I know I said I would be your slave if you didn’t leave me near Lowell and the men who were saying they would cut off my toes. I’m sorry I said that now. I should have found a car and driven off by myself.”
I slowed down looking for a safe place to pull off the road and as I got off the regular pavement where I had a view of any traffic up or down road, and as I pulled off he said, “What are you going to do?”
“Start your slave training.”
“I think I’m hurt sir, really maybe I have internal bleeding. I’m weak because of being on your bumper.”
I sort of hid my patrol car behind a camper and dragged the boy out and put him up against the camper’s side. Priscilla was a good slave and sat in the car. Priscilla was afraid of me, the boy Ben was not.
You have been a disappointment so far slave boy. You lied to your owner. You said you volunteered as my slave, and then you keep having independent thoughts.” I put my rifle against the camper and grabbed his belt and untied his belt letting his pants fall around his ankles.
“If you made a grab for my rifle now slave I could solve you as a problem right off. Se if you grab at my rifle you will be a man. See those lumps in the field. Those are the people who drove the motor home. You’ll never be like that slave boy, do you know why?”
“Have you looked closely at your master boy?”
“Well how am I different as far as you can see?”
The boy was shaking now in his undershorts. It was a hot day outside the air conditioned cruiser..
“Your teeth master.”
“Have you ever seen teeth like mine?”
“Well I’m right here in your face slave boy what do you think is different about my teeth?”
“It looks like you have two sets of teeth master.”
“How different is that?”
“Very different master.”
“Don’t you think it’s superior?”
“Oh yes master,” he was shaking now, “I can see that it’s better.” I was opening my mouth right up in his face. P.F.C. Miller had wanted to see my teeth up close. I had opened my mouth for her because it got her big breasts up close to me.”
“What’s better about my teeth slave.”
“You can chew your food better.”
“Look at the 2nd set of teeth slave, is that different and superior to the first set?”
“Oh yes master, they seem much sharper, like knives, better teeth for eating.”
“Why are you shaking boy?”
“You scare me master.”
“Why slave boy?”
“I hope master that you don’t eat me.”
“Just always know that I could.”
Written by Ray Cates
2024 SE 8th Street. Ocala, Florida 34471