I stood there, stunned at the silence and the utter stillness of the town.. and at the devastation I saw around me. Once I felt my feet could move again, I ran next door as fast as I could. Of course I still had my keys, and I quickly unlocked the door and raced inside, yelling “Mom? Dad?” over and over. My voice seemed to almost echo in the eerie stillness.
What would I do without them. As an only child, we had been so very close all my life.. maybe they’d .. come back? Maybe they had been hiding for the endless days of the roar like I had been. Maybe they hadn’t been bold enough – or out of supplies enough to have to venture out yet. My mind doesn’t even want to consider other possibilities. By the smells emanating from the kitchen, there hadn’t been time to clean anything out.. the power was definitely out… and all their things were still neatly folded in the dresser. I tried the phones – nothing… same thing with the radio.. but on the off chance I could somehow tinker with them and fix them – if only I had tools – I took them back to my shack. I also found my old bike in dad’s garage and brought that home.. how odd to call that horrid tiny place home.. But there is no way I’m staying above ground when it’s dark. The darkness is always worse with the silence. Not even crickets can be heard. Shaking myself free of my thoughts, I quickly biked to where my best friend, Becky, lived, and peered through every window. Everything was like they had just .. disappeared. There was even her favorite breakfast cereal congealed on the table as if she’d still been eating her morning meal. (ew!)
Seeing the rotten food reminded me that it was stupid of me to forget that my supplies were low. If I was to survive, I would need to find a source of food. And safe drinking water. Those thoughts turned into quick action, and I pedaled to the local supermarket. Seeing it utterly and completely abandoned was un-nerving. Spoiled produce was still on the produce stand, the daily special signs still posted on the board. Nowhere could I find a single evidence of even a struggle. The doors were locked up like someone had simply gone home for the day and never come back. I had never been a thief.. and I struggled with myself for long moments before I decided life and it’s continuation justified the means.
In the end, I did the unthinkable. I found a good-sized rock, and busted in the front doors of the store. After a quick look around, it was very clear that most of the foodstuffs were going to have to be ignored. “Ah! – Non-perishables!” I thought, and ran for the soups aisle. I grabbed as many as I could carry in my bike basket, and raced home with them. I planned to make at least four trips – two for soup, and two to carry bottles of untainted, sealed water. It was still sealed in bottles, as well as shrink plastic in those multipak trays, so I figured it was probably at least drinkable. The trips back and forth the the store were incredibly eerie. The fog, the silence.. the utter lack of any form of life – even most the trees were dead or dying.
I was going to have to ration VERY carefully though. Who knows how long these meager supplies were going to have to last me. Weeks? Months? Years?? With a shiver, I decided there were other things I needed to check before nightfall. Delivering my last load of food and water to my shack, I pedaled furiously to the City Hall. All Police and even Military matters had been conducted from there, and there were extensive basements. Perhaps they had a Green Cross shelter set up there? A spark of hope lit in my mind.. only to be fully doused by the complete abandonment of the only Government building our tiny little town had.
Bitterly, I wondered to myself why Dad had made us move out here to the middle of nowhere so many years ago.
“I want to retire in a quiet place” he had always said, “With friends and fishing, hunting in the woods, and a nice quiet school for you to grow up in, Katie-baby.” I smiled fondly, remembering. With a sigh, I forced back tears and took a deep, even breath. Discipline. Practicality. I had always been good with my hands, and was always building little weird gadgets and tinkering with things as a kid – perhaps I could figure out this mystery – or at least fix the phones, radios.. anything to see if I really am the only one left. I couldn’t let my utter hopelessness completely consume me…. I HAD to do SOMETHING!
Spurred into action, I ran around the corner to the local school.
Locked, of course. But I found a side door that wasn’t – we kids had always known that it was prone to not closing all the way, and we’d used that “entrance” on some of our weirder pranks – especially senior year. Now, however, my target was the library. I quickly pulled out every book I could find (and carry in one trip) that was about basic Handiness, Fixing Stuff, Jury-rigging stuff, and even inventing. Found a faded book of logic puzzles and a couple of small paperbacks for the long nights, too. Glancing at the afternoon sky, I knew I only had a limited time left, and I wanted to make two more trips, so I hurried home.
My next errand was to the old hospital/medical clinic. Had to break a window here, too, but I was starting to get a little more used to this breaking and entering thing. I didn’t like it – but I wanted to survive. Even if I’m the only one left, I want to live! I went through any unlocked cabinets I could find, collecting what appeared to be clean sheets and a blanket for the cot in my shack. I also found some sterile band-aids, wound dressing, bandages, scissors, and antiseptic. All medicines were locked up of course – and who knows what their shelf life was anyway… I didn’t want to trust those.
Worrying at the already-darkening afternoon, I raced home with these supplies, then made quick work of a trip to the local dump. Perhaps I could scrounge something of use. In the little toolshed there I found a shovel, various tools that wouldn’t need electricity, matches, and .. torches? What did ol’ Jim (the town’s old handyman) need with torches?? Shoving the thought aside with the encroaching dusk, I scrambled around, looking through piles of other people’s trash, picking out scraps of things I thought I might be able to use. Pedaling as fast as I could, I raced home, and made it home before the shadows went past my shed door. Hurrying inside, stowing my gear, I descended into my lonely basement. The matches and torches quickly illuminated what I had only been able to feel before. I rigged up some holders for the torches, and started organizing and taking stock.
I was going to have to be VERY careful with my food and water supplies – because I had no idea how long they would hold out. I vowed to eat only one meal a day – and for now, that only meal was the various canned soups I had found. Perhaps another time I would check the Bistro and the Diner to see if they had any stock that was still good that I could pilfer. Beyond that.. I had the old fridge dad had abandoned down here .. – didn’t work, but it was mostly clean inside… so I put all my foodstuffs in there for safekeeping. The scraps I had found I tossed into the scrap bin on the old inventing bench that was down here from the hermit that had lived here long ago. Speaking of, I wondered if the nasty old sink and toilet still worked. The buckets I’d been using while trapped down here reeked, and I took them outside, dumped them, and put them far enough away that I couldn’t smell them anymore.
Well, at least the water works. The water smells of… undefinable substances, though, so I don’t plan to use it for much.. but at least I do have running water. I wonder if even boiling would sterilise it. However, I wasn’t desperate enough to try that out yet. The old bookshelf down here was quickly populated with my meager supply of reading materials, and I regarded the dartboard on the wall with a fond smile. Becky and I used to…. I blocked the thought. Until I found a way to figure out what had happened, or opened up communications with a world that may or may not even exist.. Becky, Mom, Dad, ol’ Jim, and the rest of the town members seemed completely gone. Thinking about it was self-defeating, and would only depress me. Having a moment to take my breath reminded me suddenly of the cellphone and walkie-talkie I’d had when I ran down here in the first place. During the roar, neither had worked.. and I’d thrown them at the wall in frustration.. Wonder where they’d landed. Scurrying around by torchlight, I located both and eagerly tried them out.
Again.. nothing. With a sigh, I decided I might as well tinker with stuff, see what I can do with it, and I headed for the invention bench. Many thumb-bruises later (from hitting it with things).. I felt I was finally getting a handle on this basic inventing stuff.
Time to try some of the tools down here in the cabinets.. hm.. soldering iron? Or blowtorch… Just what I needed. With a spark of ingenuity, I set back to work, determined to make something.. useful.
Ack… maybe a few too many sparks??
Definitely too many. On that note, I had a lonely bowl of soup, washed the bowl as best as I could, and forlornly curled into bed. It took hours to fall asleep, and when I did.. sleep was definitely not peaceful.