The world went dark on July 20.
Fortunate for my family and I, we still had some of our garden left. By the time the supermarket shelves were ransacked and the riots hit, we’d gathered four twenty-gallon buckets of tomatoes, seventy cucumbers, four dozen banana peppers, ten plump bells, and nine watermelons. We wasted no time dragging it all inside; we knew it wouldn’t be long till the riots overflowed from the city and came our way. They’d sweep through, a wall of greed and disorder, and ravage our land.
Phones were down for the few who still had landlines, and cells were inoperable for loss of signal, which meant no 911. (Criminals...were acutely aware of this.) I took plenty issue with the notion of being inevitably robbed without recourse, but in times like these you kinda’ had to suck it up. We were thirty miles from any police station. Smith and Wesson was our only fallback.
This was social anaphylaxis, an allergic recoil from the sting of primitivity. And like anaphylaxis I figured it would eventually subside.
Scariest were those who depended on technology like a lifeline. We didn’t have news to tell of the suicides. I would’ve been afraid to ask anyway.
A week in and you had stray influencers wandering the streets, lost and despaired, looking like something the cat coughed up.
And I wondered. Had we fallen so far as a species that survival hinged on something as recent as electricity? I kept telling myself how two-hundred years ago there was no such amenity, and the residents endured just fine.
My mind kept circling back to a show I used to watch. Dr. Stone.
A mysterious flash of light leaves humanity petrified, and a handful of humans awaken 3,700 years later to a world devoid of modern means, reminiscent of a Stone Age. Aided by the supergenius Senku, they have to start over from scratch, meaning relearning everything from agriculture to architecture to the reinvention of more luxurious articles like automobiles, phones and cola. I loved that show; I just never thought I’d have to live it. Had I known this was coming I would’ve taken notes. But the extent of my note-taking was when I’d recorded the ingredients for cola on my Pages app. Which was now out of commission. Bruh.
Maybe I don’t really have room to judge the technologically bereaved.
The Stone World residents had it a bit tougher, I’d dare to say. At least we still had standing civilization, skyscrapers, cars. We had battery powered fans; we just lacked a way to charge the batteries.
What ground my gears was knowing all the writing I had logged away on my Pages app. All I knew was, when signals were restored my work better not’ve been lost. I probably had over three-hundred documents.
My anger dissipated a little when imagining the scope of effects brought about. Hospitals would be in trouble. Generators could only get them so far. And what about winter when farming was an impossibility? Hunting would have to suffice, but with the population so high could wildlife really sustain us all? I chose to be hopeful. It was really all I could do.
TV made this look easy.
There was an Amish commune a little ways from our farm. Dad bought wood from them regularly, so we had something of a rapport. Three months in we drove out to see if there was any wood left they could sell us. Winter was coming and our furnace supply was lower than usual. We’d had to start using it early for the cold nights. I met Isaiah out by the barns and he looked nothing like what I’d remembered. He was always so jovial for our wood runs, a man with a countenance of steel. But all the while he was explaining to us, he looked so beat down. He said some outsiders had hit their commune about a month back, and killed a couple of their men. The looters made off with as much as they could carry.
Fear does things to people. Things you can’t really explain. More than just fight or flight, these things hardly ever make sense. Perhaps it’s a narcissistic, impatient, nearsighted drive that fuels it. Why vie for cordial discourse when violence could get you so much further so much faster?
Isaiah told us the names of the dead. A few of them I’d known.
One of them was only a year older than me.
They could only spare a quarter-load of wood, but we were grateful. Isaiah refused money.
Dad gave him a gun and told him to protect his family. Reluctantly, he nodded and took it.
Driving back in our family pickup, I watched the sky. It looked so dreary anymore.
Again my mind circled back to Dr. Stone. Just a few of the petrified had been revived, and even then they managed to find conflict. Enemies were quickly made, and a war eventually followed.
The first thing I heard was the sound of shattering glass. The window at my right shoulder exploded. Dad gunned it but we didn’t make it far. A loud popping noise sent us rolling, ground turning to sky. Next thing I knew, I was in a ditch, about a hundred feet from the truck. I could hardly feel my body, my mouth tasted like copper, and my sight was barely clear enough to make out the faces eclipsing my periphery.
“She alive?” a gruff male voice called.
“Yeah, looks like it,” another replied. “What about the old man?”
“He ain’t moving. Big dent in his head. I’d say he’s a lost cause.”
“I got ’is wallet. He only had about seventy bucks.”
“You think she’s got anything on her?”
“Na. I don’t see no jewelry. And she looks about fifteen, so forget cash...”
“Wanna’ check? I mean, what would it hurt?”
By then, all I could see was black.
I felt myself being rolled over.
“Nothing... Told you.”
“She looks pretty bad, man. You didn’t tell me it would go like this.”
“Well, how could I have known?”
“So what, we just leave her here?”
“You got a better idea? Wanna’ take her to a hospital?” Sarcasm. Even concussed I understood that much.
“What, you feeling guilty now? If you don’t wanna’ leave her then be a man and just put her out of her misery.”
Silence. He’s thinking about it. I don’t know how I can tell, but I can.
“I can’t... I’ve never actually shot someone...”
His voice...he sounds so young.
“Fine. Just leave her. We’re moving out, though. I ain’t sittin’ around nursing some stranger’s kid till dark.”
Footsteps. The grass is rustling. They’re leaving.
I hear a click, and with a fresh fear I realize he’s made his decision.
I hear the first fraction of a gunshot.
Then I hear nothing.