One Last Hope
Everyone cried when the world ended, when the heat went out from Sun, when millions left their homes in the rapidly freezing Mid-Latitudes for a stab at surviving on the hopefully still livable equator. Not me. I was one of the intransigent few, the die-hards to were convinced that this was just another false alarm, that nature would soon right itself and that leaving would simply open up our hard earned possessions to the looters.
We weren’t wrong. With the police and army all gone South to protect the refugees the first few weeks were a near constant assault of opportunists seeking to strip the bones of our former society. While many simply went elsewhere when they found our hamlet occupied, a deranged few thought themselves lords of their new world and that we should pay homage. We showed them a thing or two.
But the cost was high. Almost half of our little band were lost in those hectic weeks. But, in time, the snows fell ever heavier and not even the most determined looters could make it through. As soon as the roads finally closed, we found that the enemy was no longer without, but within.
With ever colder temperatures, we found that some of the homes we stayed to defend were no longer livable. We were forced to huddle together, conserving our resources to pull through. Needless to say, this did not live well with the mindset that had lead us to stay in the first place. It only took a day for tempers to start flaring up, only two weeks for temper to turn to tragedy.
For each murder, the loss was double because of not only the dead but since as a group we also banished the perpetrator, sending them off into the snow with a backpack of precious supplies. Many of them went willingly, some fought to the end and had to be dealt with.
In the end; only a dozen of the most stable of us were left and a period of calm descended. Every day we ate meagerly, tended the fires that sustained us, and prayed that God would bring Spring back to us. If he ever listened to us, we never found out. The long winter continued, month after month, year after year.
As conditions gradually worsened we lost more by attrition. In knife-edge conditions even simple mistakes can be a disaster. A cut in your heavy coat can let enough cold in to bring frostbite, which without antibiotics, leads to infection and your end. Our food was plentiful but bland, we had even located a stash of vitamins in the drugstore to supplement the nutrition but the cold kept us ever hungry. Every empty larder, ever scavenging expedition that came back empty, told us our plight. Some couldn’t take the strain, we would hear the door open in the middle of the night and all that would remain would be a neatly folded set of clothes and a note asking to remember his or her sacrifice.
In the end, only I remain. I do not know how long it has been, I spend so long indoors that the change of day rarely effects me. I have enough food for maybe a month, if I am lucky. The body of my last friend was left in the outer room, preserved by the chill. I was considering the unthinkable, but I don’t think it will be necessary. The fuel will run out long before the food. Perhaps I will burn her, it would be fitting, warming me once again, like when we used to huddle together in life.
Perhaps not yet, there is still one last thing I want to try, one last hope to cling to. Today looks like it is going to be a clear day. I think I will go down to the river, It is as safe to walk on as, concrete now. I found something in my son’s things, a smoke bomb, bright red. On a day like this it should be seen for miles. Maybe, just maybe, someone will see it, someone who can help.
It is my last hope. After this, I have nothing.
Image from Anton Ginzburg’s Hyperborea series.
Written for The Grammar Ghoul Press Writing Challenge number 10.