This morning as we were breaking camp, Mason thought he heard sounds coming from the highway. We were parked off the road about fifty feet, screened in by trees. We try to stay hidden whenever possible. Good thing, too.
Not far from us, a truck towing a livestock trailer trundled down the road. We could see it easily from the woods. The thing moved slowly, the truck lurching and sputtering as it strained to make it up the gentle hill our stand of trees grew on. It was obvious the truck's engine wasn't up to the task of hauling the trailer. Steam and smoke roiled from under the hood as the vehicle made it to the crest of the hill.
That's when we were able to hear the screams.
People were packed into the trailer so densely they didn't have room to move. We could see them when it came close, the holes in the trailer covered with window screening to keep casual observers from noticing the truth.
Mason didn't say a word, didn't hesitate. He put bullets into the cab of the truck with mechanical precision. He left one of the passengers alive, so we could question him. That was a mistake.
Even as we were making our way cautiously through the trees to subdue the surviving captor, the trailer went up in a gout of flames. Charges of some kind put in place to keep the merchandise from being stolen. Merchandise. That's the word the last captor used when Mason questioned him.
The overwhelming majority of survivors out there are decent people. Some may be rougher than others, more isolated and mistrustful but essentially good. Despite the ease with which we could fall into barbarism, most of us don't. We strive to do right by our loved ones, and are learning to trust and cooperate on a larger scale.
But there are always exceptions. Maybe it's because there are so few people now and crime in general is so rare, but it seems the worst of our society since The Fall are so far beyond what they were before it. Marauders kill and rape wantonly, and now we've learned that there are even groups of them that go around capturing innocent people to sell to other marauders. I guess when you're a sociopath with no regard for human life or decency, you have to stick with others of your kind.
That there are enough of them nearby to necessitate a market for this is extremely worrisome. There is only one possible way forward.
We're going hunting.