WELCOME TO TWIN OAKS
There is no damn Twin Oaks on this map.
I glance back to the sign post marking the town border. It says Twin Oaks, no doubt about that. It might be dark but the letters are two feet high and fairly illuminated by the headlights. Back to the large California map sprawled across the dashboard. I drag my finger across the blue line of the I-15. We had abandoned the freeway some time ago and cut through a mountain road. We didn’t want to; -+ but the freeway was blocked for miles. It took a day and a half to get through far enough to reach the exit.
The brown line through the hills, this is where we left the freeway. And up here there is a fork in the road where one half heads South and the other continues North East. The North East route ends after a quarter inch, but I don’t remember any fork in the road. Maybe it’s an unmapped rou-
“Holy shit!” I squeal, I’m not ashamed to admit it, and nearly fly out the side window when something hits the side of the RV. My head races with images of being torn to shreds and devoured by scabby faced cannibal lunatics in the woods.
No, no, no, no, no. It was just a knock.
“Holy shit,” I mutter again, leaning forward and resting my head in my hands. “Fuck.”
They knock again, just a quiet tapping on the outside of the door, but the silent intensity had amplified it. I stand and step across the RV to unlatch the door. John pulls from the outside and climbs in as I return to the driver’s seat.
“What’s going on?” He asks. He latches the door shut and collapses into the co-pilot chair, setting a large machete on the counter as he does so.
John was one of the first decent people I’d crossed in a while. He was leading a group North from San Diego. We had run into each other outside Los Angeles as we both set to pillage the same gas station. It was a tense moment at first but when he realized I was no threat he offered a mutually beneficial conjoining of our parties.
His truck and Lucy’s Van created a convoy with my RV… Ok, it’s not my RV. I kind of stole it. But! But, the end of the world had already been in full swing for almost 2 weeks before I snuck onto that lot, ferreted the keys and drove off with an 800,000 luxury home on wheels.
Anyway, in exchange for their expertise (John was a fireman, Lucy a construction worker, and Charlie, Lucy’s husband, used to build cars as a hobby), I would give more comfortable accommodations to the other two; Claire, a girl in her mid-20s, and Luke, a high school dropout almost 18. I had space for at least 8 people, so we all still have our own beds. Naturally, I said yes, as the alternative was being murdered and them stealing my RV.
Interesting thing about Claire, though, is she’s-
“Hey, hey.” I blink in mild surprise and turn to John as he shakes at my shoulder a bit. “Going off in your head again? I get the need to escape, Chase, but let’s get this figured out so we can resupply and move on.”
He’s so dreamy, always so nice and assuring I bet his hugs make you feel safe.
“Sorry,” I rub at my eyes and lean forward again over the map. “All this driving,” a half-assed excuse. “Um, yeah, I can’t find Twin oaks anywhere. We followed this route but it ends here with no towns within 50 miles. Either we’re nowhere near where I thought we were or,”
“Or,” he interrupts me, poking at the map. “You’re over thinking things. It’s not on the map, some places aren’t. Some roads aren’t on the GPS, some businesses not listed in the phone book.” He reaches over and squeezes my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s just pull in and see what they’ve got. Population of 216, not a big place. For all we know, they could be untouched.” He chuckles quietly at the concept of a safe-haven and I smirk for his benefit. Patting my shoulder again, he stands and exits as I start the engine back up.
A half mile ahead we find evidence that the town was not spared; several vehicles rest, abandoned, on the road side with doors open and signs of struggle and blood. No bodies… never any bodies. Not even the dead ones, as though they just disintegrate in the rain. Nice cars though. Mercs and Beemers; things I might prefer to an RV if I didn’t require passenger space.
There’s a bend in the road and then suddenly, a town hidden amongst the hills. Houses are spaced far apart, some buried amongst the trees for privacy, and every one of them with elaborate monogrammed gates and lengthy driveways.
“I think we just uncovered some rich secret society,” Charlie cackles over the radio.
I lead the caravan along the only road which takes us to the town center. Not a whole lot here, gas station, hotel, grocery store, a few sporting shops and restaurants, but they look pretty much untouched. I stop outside the hotel. John pulls up in front of me, parking his truck, and Lucy pulls up behind.
“Where are we?” Luke stumbles through the RV and leans over the dash. He’s followed shortly by Claire from the back room; she rubs at her eyes and exits the RV. The others have already gathered outside, so I tell him John will explain and follow him out the door.
I notice immediately that John is not present amongst the group. I glance about but can’t see him. There’s a bit of confusion amongst the others, wondering where we’re at, if this is a safe place. I’m wondering the same myself. I try to clear it up a bit with what I know.
“We’re not sure where we are. It’s some town called Twin Oaks, but it’s not mapped. John said it could be some secret land of celebrities and rich people.”
“Considering the grandeur of the properties and vehicles, I’d say that could be a fair assumption,” Claire chimes in.
“It’s also a Ski resort,” John declares from the other side of the RV. I move towards the front of the vehicle and catch him rejoining the group. “And a hunting resort, and golf resort.” It seems he’s returning from the hotel, a few pamphlets in hand. “Twin Oaks,” he begins to read as he nears. “The best kept secret of California. Skiing, hiking, horses, blah, blah. Join the Twin Oaks community and join the most exclusive of the elite. It’s a community of people who know they’re rich and want to get away from the rest of us.”
Luke snickers. “Hope they got hit hard, that would be just-“ He’s cut off by a slap to the back of his head from Claire.
“They were people too. They were probably tired of being hassled by media and paparazzi. Chase said there were celebrities too?”
“Quite a few,” John passes by me, handing a pamphlet to Claire. “They have a list. A few A-List names on there. Now, to business.” He leads the group to the front of his truck and spreads a pamphlet out to display a cartoonish map of the area with features highlighted. “It seems they had a few supply stores for the game hunters. I want to split into three groups and salvage what we can from the grocery store at the center of town, the game shops out here, and the police station back this way.” He points to each destination as he speaks.
“Depp has a house here?” Claire says absent mindedly from behind the group. “No wonder he avoided the media so well.”
“Luke?” John nods at Claire suggestively and Luke happily tears the pamphlet away from her. “Claire?” He gives her a fatherly ‘pay attention’ glare. She narrows her eyes at Luke a moment but, with a slight huff and crossed arms, nods.
“I know smaller groups mean we can clear more area in a shorter period of time, but if we all went to each location as a whole, we could cut the time at each store in half and transport a larger supply in a single trip.” Claire objects with a slight grin.
John looks from her to me, then to Charlie.
“Your opinion, Chuck?”
Charlie offers a shrug in response, showing he doesn’t really care much either way. Good ol’ Chuck, just along for the ride, really. “I ain’t seen nothin’ yet to say this place is a threat. Them snobbish people weren’t to tough when they had smarts, so if they is around, they can’t be too much worse off to us.”
“We’ve only been here an hour,” Claire says. “Assuming there are creepers out here, they could all be grouped up in one location which any small group could wander into or-“
“That’s enough Claire,” John, again. “I get your concerns, but there’s nothing to worry about. This place has a small population. Only a few of them would have turned, the rest would have fled or been lunch. So there shouldn’t be any large swarms waiting around. I think we’re all capable of handling a few. So, three groups, got it?” Claire rolls her eyes but offers no further objection.
I bite at my lip. John is usually a pretty good guy. He’ll often ask for ideas or opinions and accept them openly, but once he has his mind made up on a plan, questioning him just seems to upset him. Charlie will agree with just about anything John says, especially if it’s in opposition to Claire. For whatever reason, he never liked the girl and tolerates her only because his wife says to. It was his idea to kick her out of their van and have her stay in the RV.
“Here’s what I’m thinking,” John begins. “Claire, take Luke to the grocery store across the way and find some canned foods and anything that doesn’t look moldy. Chuck and I are going to raid the police station for ammo. Chase, Lucy, search the sport shops for usable weaponry and ammunition, and anything else that looks useful. Maybe a new tool set for each vehicle? Meet back at the gas station at 11, that’s about 2 hours.”
Claire rolls her eyes again. I’m sure she’s probably complaining on the inside about always getting grocery duty and babysitting Luke. She turns sharply and heads off toward the grocery store. Chuck moves off to his van, climbing in the driver’s seat, John follows him shortly after. I just smile at Lucy.
“Get that dumb grin off your face,” She teases, smiling in return. “This is rich people sporting goods. Golf Clubs and hunting things. You won’t find beer pong and hacky sacks.”
“Golf is good too,” I say cheerfully.
Lucy glances the map over and motions for me to follow. “It’s just around the corner.”