Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad; whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.
- John le Carre
- John le Carre
You still there?
Yes. I thought you were gone.
No, just keeping busy. Did you get the photos I sent you?
I'm looking at it right now. I'm not sure what you're gonna do with a gutted school bus parked in a hole on the ground.
It's a makeshift shelter. To defend my property
From whoever did this to everyone else.
You think a person did this?
No, a group of people maybe. This is too big to be carried out my an individual. So...what do you think?
I think you're wasting your time. I think you're being a bit paranoid. Let's say there's a malevolent force out there who did this. How can you possibly think you can defeat something that pulled this off overnight? People are dead. They died while we slept. We heard nothing, saw nothing. I don't know about you but I've lost count as to how many corpses I've seen. I'm tired. And the only person I've had contact with is you. I'm not sure how long the grid is going to be up and running. But what happens when it does power down? Our only means of communication will be taken away from us. I can't trust you enough to give you a location. And I'm sure you feel the same way. I sure as hell am not going to leave my home to seek out some unstable stranger that may or may not shoot me down on sight. Not to mention what's really out there. I'm not prepared for that. Not yet.
You don't think I've thought about that? I'm just trying to do what I think is right. What about you? What have you been doing this whole time? How do I know you're not one of them?
You don't. I can ask you the same thing. I don't need to tell you what I've been up to but I will. I've been stockpiling on necessities. Just trying to think one two steps ahead. I've got weapons, food and shelter. I've been going into people's homes to check if anyone's still alive. I've been burying the dead. I've been reading a lot. Trying to keep an alert mind. That's all I've got now. And if my time comes. Then I guess it's my time to go. But until then, I do what I can with what I have.
She/He is absolutely right. Like it or not, this is all I've got. I'm not really afraid of dying but I'd rather not. I don't have much choice but to keep going. I take my chances with the stranger and type the following words up on the screen:
You're absolutely right. I think we should start over. It's bad enough that we're just words on a screen to each other. A proper introduction might help. I'll even tell you my location. My name is Dekalb. Female, 25, Middle quadrant, third tier.
An uncomfortable pause as I stare at the screen awaiting for the stranger's response. Then the reply scrolled across right underneath mine:
This is Jefferson. Male, 30, Middle quadrant, second tier. Nice to meet you Dekalb.
Hello there, neighbor.
Last night, I had a dream for the first time since the world disappeared around me.
The land had shifted. Mountains turned and swallowed by the sea. Soon, the oceans themselves drained into the sweltering core and took with it all its little creatures. The rumble beneath was felt by those above. It burst through straight up into the atmosphere. Then the earth turned sideways and there we were, clinging on to the edge.
I did the one thing you asked me not to do.
I looked down.
There I saw the rest of them, floating, not falling, into the empty. A breeze picked them up and swirled them around like weightless leaves in autumn. I looked over just as you released your grip. I reached out but it was too late. You joined them in their dance and all I can do is watch you spin and turn and tumble towards the far side. I watched until you were a speck of glitter in the distance, then it was all gone. I pulled myself up the ledge and stood there. At the cusp of the end and nowhere. The angry earth mocked and taunted me for not going when I had the chance.
"Why do you stay?" it asked me.
And I wished I could've answered it. Maybe then it would've let me be. Instead I said nothing and kept on walking.
The rumble beneath was felt by those above.