For some reason, I simply couldn’t stay asleep last night, and I woke up “on the wrong side of the cot” as people say.. or they used to before they all disappeared. To distract myself from the constant hunger, I took yet another trip to my second home, the junkyard. For a change, I decided to go dumpster diving and see what might be in there.
I found a trashcan and a folding chair. Not exactly helpful.. but that’s what was there. By this point, I couldn’t ignore my stomach anymore. I forlornly headed to my little shack, and made some more peanut butter and jelly crackers. Then, I had a long conversation with myself and Norman. It didn’t help with the constant feeling of loneliness much, but it did give me a bit of an idea. With this inspiration, I headed for my inventing bench.. with Norman. Carefully, with my new inventing expertise, I fiddled and tinkered until I finally improved on his design. Now he moves!
With this success, I practically attacked the inventing bench. I managed to design a “Harvester” – but it’s not going to be much help without electricity or a good supply of batteries, so I stowed it away. By the end of my crazed try at inventing, I realized two things.. it was past dark, and I was out of scrap metal. I would have to go back to the junkyard tomorrow.
Day by day I find myself sinking farther into depression. What am I doing here? Why am I even still trying? Haven’t I figured out that it’s hopeless yet? Talking to myself.. and to Norman only raises my need to be social so much. Every time I venture out I’m faced with the horrifying prospect that I could be all alone. What could have happened to everyone? And how could there be no sign of where they had gone? It seemed impossible, but I had to face the truth. Everyone I knew was gone. They could be dead.. but I had no clear evidence of that. Maybe they all just left… but then why didn’t they clean up before they went? Everything seems as if people just vaporized. And people couldn’t just vaporize.. could they?
Finally, I managed to drag myself out of bed and stood by my inventing bench. I was running out of ideas in a hurry. I could tinker around with what I had, or go get more scrap. But what would I use the scrap for? I felt completely at a loss. Maybe I didn’t have to have a plan to keep going.
Out of sheer stubbornness, I went to get my bike to go collect more scrap. On the way to the junkyard, I noticed something else. It wasn’t supposed to be fall or winter, but the air was getting colder. I could see frost on the still blades of grass as I rode by. The grass kept looking more dead, too. The trees were dropping their leaves.. even the evergreens seemed to be dying. How could I still be here and alive when everything else seemed to be dying?
On a whim, I turned down a side road to take the long way to the junkyard. I pedaled along, keeping a keen eye out for anything that seemed .. out of place. As I passed by the old library, I noticed a side door was ajar. Since I hadn’t been down this road since the roar happened, I’d never noticed it. I quickly jumped off my bike and cautiously approached the door. It seemed as if someone had just forgotten to pull it shut. The lock was engaged, but the door wasn’t clicked shut. Disengaging the lock so I wouldn’t get locked in, I made my way inside. It was dark, but there was enough light from the windows to see the topics on the sides of the stacks. I browsed slowly, thoughtfully, but part of me balked at “borrowing” from the library without permission. From a very young age, stealing had been frowned on, and I still had trouble taking things that weren’t mine. I ran my hand along the spines of the books, randomly pulling one or another out and putting them back.
Eventually, I found myself in the section on inventing. With a little more interest, I squinted my eyes at the titles, looking for.. what? I wasn’t sure, but I felt I’d know it if I saw it. There were some books on more advanced inventing, but nothing struck me as a “must-have.” I finally selected a couple of camping-themed cookbooks, thinking they might have ideas for the limited foods I had been able to find. Perhaps I could figure out a way to at least heat up the soups I had.
After a few trips to the junkyard, and a hasty meal in between them, I was exhausted. No more biking for me today. The air was starting to get so cold it stung my lungs when I breathed too deeply. I could feel a sickness settling into my lungs, and headed next door to my parent’s attic to retrieve my winter clothes. After getting what I felt I was going to need, I carefully relocked the door and went back to my “home.” I still felt better being underground at night with the shed’s doors tightly barred. I wasn’t going to be moving back into my parent’s home anytime soon.
With plenty of time still left in the day, I tinkered around a bit more, making another couple toys with varying degrees of success. I also managed to make a rotational pull and improved upon my localized static tester.. I had half a mind to try it on the radio. If only I could find batteries for it.
Seeing that it wasn’t dark yet, I went up to the shelves in the shack where I had stashed the radio, and again tried to turn it on. The batteries were weak, but it barely worked. All I could get was static.. and the static tester only made it louder. Fearful of running out of juice in the only batteries I’d so far managed to find, I turned it off and headed back downstairs after barring the doors for the night.
Reading by the torch, I managed to increase my cooking skill, and felt sure I could rig a Bunsen-burner type thing with the torches and torch fuel I had so that I could at least, finally, have a warm meal tomorrow. Finally having a reason to look forward to the next day, I fell into sleep broken only by a nagging cough telling me I should have gotten out the winter clothes sooner than today.
Today, I took the side road to the junkyard again, stopping by the library to return the cookbooks. Since I was done with them, I felt too guilty at having them at all to keep them longer than absolutely necessary. I pulled out two advanced inventing books after re-shelving the cookbooks, then meandered around the library, for some reason in no hurry to leave. I browsed past rows and rows of non fiction books, seeing nothing of particular interest.
Slowly, I moved on to the fiction aisles. I’d long since tired of reading the three measly books I had, and there was a thought in the back of my head that perhaps I could find something more entertaining than just talking to Norman.
A shaft of light shining through a window landed on a section of Science Fiction. I walked over to it, for no reason other than being curious. I’d never been into science fiction, but being all alone in an abandoned world pushed the boundaries of what I felt was “normal.” Maybe these books weren’t that far out, after all. My hands fell on one book in particular, and I pulled it out automatically. Time Travel? Yeah, right. Too bad it wasn’t possible. Because if it was…
I stopped. Everyone disappearing wasn’t possible, either. But it had happened. I thought about some of the strange people that had been in some of my classes at school. Vampires and Werewolves weren’t supposed to exist, either.. and they did. Maybe time travel wasn’t as far out as it seemed. Shaking my head, I nevertheless tucked the book under my arm and headed back to my bike. Another couple of scrap runs filled up my inventing bench, and I got back to work.
Through practice, I perfected a dog, a whale, and a cow toy, and made several of each, practicing the tiny mechanisms that made them work over and over, perfecting my technique. I took a break for some soup for my meal of the day, reveling in the fact that it was finally warm. When I just couldn’t do any more today, I fell asleep reading the book on time travel, letting the idea seep into my brain.