Note: File corruption has rendered the photo that accompanies this story hopelessly distorted, but I provide it as it arrived for the sake of authenticity.
The Route 12 Barricade has seen a significant uptick in activity over the last 14 days, some violent, some peaceful, but all ominous in their implications for the state of the nation outside of Gilead and Camp Brook communities.
Since mid-May, the Gilead Route 12 Patrol log has noted 15 separate “passing incidents,” the term used by the patrols to describe the passing of a vehicle or group of vehicles. The passing incidents involved 37 individual vehicles, with the largest convoy consisting of 5 vehicles. Of the 15 passing incidents, three involved violent confrontations with the exchange of gunfire, and six involved requests for aid.
“The three passing incidents that resulted in violence weren’t a huge threat, strategically,” said Defense Coordinator Rich Bennington. “Basically, it was a bunch of disorganized thugs who had gotten used to getting what they wanted by sheer numbers and firepower.”
Because the Route 12 Sentry and Patrol duties are well-organized and ready for such confrontations, however, the violent incidents have essentially amounted to drive-by shootings that resulted in no casualties on the Gilead side. “All of our positions have good cover, and the only way for Raiders to cross our barriers is on foot, which exposes them to fire from at least two directions,” said Bennington. “We even had one group head south across the bridge after shooting at us, thinking they could come at us by descending the steep bank and crossing the brook.”
That approach failed, however, as part of the Route 12 duty consists of two sentries behind the Jones home, overlooking the Gilead Brook. “Those sentries shot a few warnings at them, and they didn’t even get down to the brook before deciding to leave,” Bennington said.
For many on Route 12 duty, the hazards of that exposure are outweighed by the opportunity to help those who ask for it, and most important, to receive news of the outside world. “Patrol along 12 is incredibly boring, and it’s even worse if you get Sentry,” said Marcus Chambers, dairy owner Sam Chambers’ 18 year-old son, who has been assigned Route 12 for five days. Marcus was referring to the patrol route along Route 12 between Gilead Brook Road up to Spooner Road, as compared with the relatively sedentary duty of manning the barricade that prevents Gilead Brook Road from being accessed from Route 12. “It’s hotter than hell standing behind those barrels, and the G—mned deer flies never leave you alone,” he said.
But that changed for Marcus when more vehicles started passing. “I missed the shootouts, but one time we had two cars pass on a single day, and both of them had news,” he said. “It was f—ing great!”
It should be noted that although the Chambers family is exempt from sentry or patrol duties outside of the dairy, Marcus has been assigned Route 12 duties because he established a work-trade with Paul Tobiason, 17, who had requested exemption from any and all armed duties (related story to be posted soon).
Information gleaned from the Route 12 Sentry shifts during their brief interactions over the past few weeks paint a sobering picture of the situation outside of Vermont, and even beyond the Gilead’s immediate surrounding area. GDC Chair Jim Nash, who, along with Vice-Chair Joe Tobiason and Defense Coordinator Rich Bennington, receives daily reports from all patrols, said Gilead seems to be more alone than even he had imagined. “I thought for sure there would be some significant population centers where the Pandemic didn’t hit as hard, or at least that some other rural areas might have weathered the situation as well as we have,” said Nash, “but it seems that places like Gilead and Camp Brook are by far the exception.”
Although reports are necessarily incomplete, the news of cities seems to be the worst. Passersby from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and one from Ontario, said that the cities were full of unburied corpses, rendering entire buildings and blocks uninhabitable due to the smell and number of flies and vermin. Some who survived the Pandemic banded together to hunt for resources, but before long, groups of survivors began raiding other groups, prompting some to flee.
A small group of four from Long Island, who stopped at the Route 12 Barricade on May 30 and got some water and sandwiches from the sentries, said they were the only ones to survive the Pandemic in their subdivision, which was populated by an estimated 3,000 people before the Collapse. The four, on their way to find friends last known to be living in the Champlain Valley region, also reported that as they drove through New York City, they passed block after block without seeing any signs of living people.
Regarding suburban and rural areas, the Long Islanders and others told similar tales. Entire towns appeared to be completely abandoned, with no signs of life — not even barricades or other defensive emplacements, while rural areas were much the same.
At least two groups said the interstates were not safe to travel, as Raiders tend to block them and rob anyone who happens along, leaving side-roads like Route 12 an increasingly important artery for travel. “That explains why we’ve seen a surge in the number of vehicles passing by,” said Bennington.
“It seems that we are indeed alone out here,” said Nash, “and it also seems like we can be grateful that we’ve got a lot of Survivors and are relatively well-off in terms of resources. I don’t mean to minimize the pain and grief of those of us who have lost friends and relatives, but I guess we’re hearing that it could’ve been worse. A lot worse.”