Michael Casey is a writer from Melbourne, Australia. He has a degree in Fine Art and has written articles for pop culture sites such as Cracked, Poplurker, and Nerdbot. He presently lives in Bangkok, Thailand where he is a program leader at a Cambridge Professional Development Centre, as well as a freelance content writer.
The internet wasn't around when I was a kid. It wasn't until I was around the age of 15 that it came along, sometime in the 1990's. I used to depend on television channels, cinemas, and video stores for movies and TV shows, and the news usually came to me via TV, newspapers and radio stations. My music was played through CD's and cassette tapes on my stereo, and video games were either played on consoles or in dodgy video game arcades, the kind that seedy people used to hang out in.
Shopping was something that happened in shops. There were delivery services back then but nothing like the ones the internet introduced. The ease of access that the internet provided was something I used to dream about as a kid without ever really thinking that any of it would ever come true. At the time my suppositions of the future involved things like flying cars, helper robots, and moon colonies.
Before the dawn of the worldwide web, my options were a little limited. This was a good thing really. When the internet did eventually come along, I had a slower world to compare it with. You can never really appreciate convenient conditions until you've lived through inconvenient ones. The internet served up everything on a platter. After years of chance encounters and treasure hunts, the internet was like a genie on a screen.
At the time it felt as though I'd broken free from the control of others. I didn't have to wait for the 6 o'clock news on TV, I didn't have to search through aisles in the hope that video stores stocked the movies I wanted to watch. The internet imbued a deceptive sense of emancipation.
A little something was lost though. When everything is readily available, nothing is special. The thrill of the hunt is often more worthwhile than the capture. Uncertainty and limitations can make things both frustrating and invigorating. After a while, to get anything you want whenever you want gets to be about as much fun as playing pinball with unlimited balls- Pointless.
Those born after the advent of the net didn't know any better or any worse. They became plugged in from day one so they never really learned to appreciate the convenience and potential of it all. They quickly realized how good things were when everything came to a grinding halt though. When the power went out across the globe, those left alive were like junkies forced to go cold turkey. The plugs had been yanked out of their systems without warning, the World Wide Web pulled out from under their sticky feet.
I must confess that it rattled me too, there’s no way that it couldn’t have. I had grown accustomed to having everything at my fingertips. All that accessible information and entertainment had been tremendous. Boredom was something that was usually kept at bay during the internet era. To suddenly be thrown back to the Stone Age was a scary experience, one that most people couldn’t cope with.
The shock and withdrawals weren’t the worst of it all, however. The true horrors came a little later.
I know the year in which it began but I can’t remember the exact date. It’s funny, it seems like the kind of thing one should and would remember, but for some reason my mind never bothered. I guess I was too preoccupied with everything else that was going on at the time. Keeping track of dates no longer seemed important. In one quick moment they pretty much became obsolete.
It was some time towards the end of an October, that much I know. There had been Halloween decorations in front of a lot of houses: ghost like sheets hanging from tree branches, pumpkins strewn across lawns, fake cobwebs across windows, plastic skeletons, all of that sort of thing.
I was asleep when it happened. A quick, loud bang from somewhere unknown had snapped me out of my slumber. At first I thought it must have been one of my neighbours dropping something, or maybe a bolt of lightning or something like that. I tried to get back to sleep but another bang came a few moments later. This one sounded as if it had come from somewhere far away.
More crashing noises and sounds that could have been explosions followed. It sounded like a domino effect, but they all would have been independent incidences. Some sounded nearer than others. I didn’t know where they were coming from or what was causing them, but I knew that lying wrapped up in my doona with my eyes closed wasn’t going to give me any answers, so I rolled out of bed and made my way to the doorway.
It was a little while before dawn and everything in my room was obscured by darkness. I flipped the light switch on but the globe didn’t respond. I felt my way to the kitchen, trying other switches along the way, but nothing worked.
At first I thought it was just a power outage, but it soon became clear that it was something a little more widespread. My phone was dead despite the fact that I’d recharged it fully the night before. My laptop and tablet were the same. Even my old, double- A battery powered wireless wouldn’t switch on.
My balcony allowed for a pretty extensive view. No lights could be seen coming from any of the houses or buildings within range.
The only sources of luminosity I could see came from the few remaining stars left in the sky and the hidden sun to the east. No vehicles could be seen moving and there were no working street lights to guide the way along the roads.
Even my emergency, manually powered flashlight wouldn’t shed any light when cranked. The only thing that gave me anything was a box of matches from the kitchen drawer, and there were only three sticks left. I lit up one of them but it quickly died out, so I decided to save the other two.
I felt the need to go outside so I slowly made my way down the dark fire escape in my apartment block. Some other residents were moving down it as well. None of them knew what was going on either but an old lady I’d never met before claimed that she’d seen a plane fall from the sky when the power went out, which had been around twenty minutes prior to our meeting according to her. She said it had fallen somewhere on the other side of the city and that she hadn’t seen the explosion where it landed, nor had she heard the sound of the crash.
More people were out on the street, most of them in their sleeping attire, all of them looking around as though the darkened environment might give them some sort of clue as to what was going on. A few cars were on the road but not one of them was moving. Everything was eerily still, yet not at all calm.
“What the hell is going on?”
I remember someone saying this at the time to no one in particular. It’s a question I still struggle with. How all electronic devices around the world could suddenly die out, even battery operated machinery that had batteries full of juice, was a mystery to me then and it still is now. All I know is that it was a harbinger of worse things to come.
With no lights on out in the streets or in any of the buildings around me, I decided that it would probably be wise to go back up to my apartment. I stayed there for the rest of the morning, checking my phone and other electrical devices every so often to see if they’d come back on. None of them did.
From my balcony, I saw people wandering the streets, presumably uncertain of what they should do. Everyone had become disconnected from the world at large. No phone calls could be made, no messages could be sent. The TV and radio couldn’t tell anyone what to do.
That morning was a strange one, to say the least. My thoughts hopped around all over the place, as did my emotions. Disbelief that it could be anything truly major was the predominant stance. I told myself it was just some technical difficulties, something that would get fixed up soon enough.
A small part of me hoped that it was something incredibly catastrophic, something that would change society in a really radical way. This was a very selfish if not diabolical wish to have, I know, but it was one I couldn’t get rid of. The tedium of an everyday, humdrum life used to make me long for a big ole apocalyptic shakeup. I knew what such a thing would most likely entail but the excitement and novelty of it all compelled me to want it nonetheless.
I tried reading some sci-fi novel but my mind couldn’t focus. A niggling feeling kept interrupting my attention. It felt as though I was wasting my time with something that wasn’t at all important. There was something I needed to do, but I didn’t know what it was exactly. I needed to find out the cause of the blackout but I didn’t know how I should go about it. If telephone books had still been around I might have been able to find the location of the nearest electrical company, but something told me the people there would have been just as clueless as I was.
When the sun was around the centre of the sky, I decided to venture out once more. Movies and other forms of media had always told me to expect the worst from people in catastrophes, so I decided to go to the supermarket and stock up on supplies. It seemed other people had the same idea, but most places were closed. With no electricity, businesses were reluctant to open their doors to the public.
Surprisingly, nobody panicked. The supermarket was closed when I arrived and there was a large crowd of people loitering out the front, but it seemed no one had attempted to break in. A few smaller shops were open in the neighbourhood, but none of them had much in the way of proper food. Using cash, I bought a can of tuna, a loaf of bread and a carton of UHT milk, and then returned to my home.
I’m guessing that the reason nobody panicked on the first day was because, like me, everyone assumed it would all have be fixed soon enough. The ability to harness electricity couldn’t just be lost overnight. Things would return to normal and there would be an explanation as to what was going on. This appeared to be the general consensus at the time.
Things were a little different over the following days. People gradually became more and more anxious. Uncertainty inspires fear, nothing surer. Being trapped in a realm of mystery made everyone worried. No news came to us. No light was shed on the situation. People from other areas passed through mine on foot but none were in a position of authority and none had any answers. As far as I could tell, everyone was in the dark.
Fear wasn’t the only thing that crept in during the first few days, boredom came along as well. With no internet or TV, I had to resort to books to keep myself entertained. I went to a friend’s home but he wasn’t there. My guess is that he probably went off in search of answers. Where he expected to find them, if that’s what he actually did, I have no idea. I haven’t seen him since before the change. I don’t think he ever went back to his home.
All my family were in other countries at the time, so there was no chance of getting in contact with any of them. There were some other associates I could have sought out but I decided not to. Instead I stayed at home most of the time, twiddling my thumbs, waiting to see what would happen next. I was lucky enough to come across some food and water during my brief sojourns outside, so hunger and thirst wasn’t too much of a bother. There was no longer any water in the taps of my apartment, so I had to think outside the pipes sometimes when it came to staying hydrated.
The pulse of machinery was noticeably absent everywhere I went. The hum of refrigerators, the whirring of escalators and elevators, the tic-tocking of clocks, engines of various kinds, sound systems; all the unnatural sounds we’d grown accustomed to were gone, waiting dormant in dead machines.
Home seemed like the safest place for me to be. There was no visible violence out on the streets, but the air was rife with tension. From my balcony, I saw one guy pushing an unconcealed trolley filled with canned goods and large bottles of water. A lot of eyes followed him along the way.
It reminded me of a story I once read in the paper. A couple had flaunted their wealth on social media before announcing that they were going on a two week vacation. They came home to discover that their house had been robbed while they were away.
I was lucky that no one decided to try and rob me or take over my apartment. Plenty of other places in the neighbourhood got invaded as time rolled on, houses mostly. My apartment block was large and I was quite high up. I’m sure people on the lower levels had a much harder time than I did. My guess is that no one wanted to battle the stairs all the way up to the 25th floor.
I stayed inside mostly, only going out for things like fresh air, exercise, food and water. At the time I’d been tasked with taking care of my uncle’s garden and chickens while he was away on holiday, and he didn’t live too far away, so I went around there when needed. Unlike my fridge and pantry his were fully stocked, so I managed to get by for a while on all the things that hadn’t gone off.
There seemed to be no point in checking in at work. My workplace was too far away and I’m sure it would have been closed. I used to write content for a lifestyle website. With no electricity, there wasn’t much I could do there anyway.
There were no other places I needed to touch base with, none that were reachable. I couldn’t stay in forever though. The urge to go out and explore was always there, but there was also something else, some form of intuition telling me that it would be smarter to wait a little while longer; see what would happen next.
Noises came up from below every now and then. Some were recognizable, others not so much. Explosions were heard every so often but I could never tell where they had come from or what had caused them. Once a week or so had passed, screams came too. When they started to come up from the floors below me I started to think that maybe it was time to head out into the world beyond my neighbourhood, look for somewhere there were less people and more water sources, somewhere out in the countryside.
My apartment had started to feel like a bubble, one that was situated in the middle of the larger bubble that was my neighbourhood. The world beyond everything I could sense seemed like some sort of void, a realm of amorphous potential. At the time there was no news of what was happening in other countries, but as the days wore on I came to the conclusion that what was happening in the world around me was also happening right across the globe. If it hadn’t been, someone somewhere would have surely attempted to make contact with people in the area.
The rest of the world wasn’t going to come to me, so it was up to me to go to the world. Two entwined, opposing forces had held me back at the time: fear of the great, mysterious beyond, and hope, hope that the power would come back on and everything would return to normal.
These two things didn’t hold me back for too long though. After many days of being stagnant, I eventually uprooted myself to go exploring.
With no vehicles around to help me move faster, perceived short distances suddenly revealed themselves to be long. Getting from one side of the city to the other took around the same amount of time it would have to get to a neighbouring state in a car.
I’d chosen to pass through the city because I wanted to see it with my own eyes. People who had been through had told me what to expect but I’d still had my doubts.
There was definitely a pre-Apocalyptic vibe to the place. Pretty much everywhere was closed. A few places looked like they’d been looted. I remember seeing that an electronics shop had been broken into, which seems totally absurd in retrospect. How are you going to watch a TV or use a computer or phone in a post-electricity world?
A lot of cars had smashed into things. They were strewn all over the place. Some of the crashes looked like they would have been fatal for the occupants but I didn’t see any bodies, they must have all been removed.
There were still police around, patrolling the streets on foot and on bicycles. This was a tremendous relief. Without them I would have felt a lot less safe trekking through the near desolate city. It seemed that their mere presence was the only thing keeping the crazies at bay. Everyone knew that taking them out of the equation would be like taking a teacher out of a crowded classroom.
The cops didn’t stay around for long though. As with all other sectors, the police force eventually dissolved like an effervescent tablet in water. It doesn’t take much for people to decide that they should look out for themselves, rather than take care of others. We all like to think that we’re good people but most of us are quite happy to walk over others in order to avoid getting trampled on ourselves. That doesn’t necessarily make us inherently bad, I suppose. Panic and fear tend to take over when there’s no time to think clearly and gather bravery.
The hospitals I passed by were packed. I’m sure a lot of people on life support and things like that would have died when the power went out. Backup generators were gone too, so there wasn’t a lot that hospitals could do. Medicine was still available, which was at least something. People stocked up on that and it quickly replaced money as the main form of currency. Major pain killers were like 100 dollar bills, whereas the smaller things like ibuprofen and paracetemol were the equivalent of 1 dollar coins.
This currency didn’t last for long though, and no others came along to replace it. In a world where everyone is against absolutely everyone else, trading has no place.
Many people tried to reach loved ones and relatives who were far away. Even people who were not far away seemed elusive for some; shows how luck and providence can play a part in such things. Painted signs popped up all over the place. Some were spray painted on walls, others on billboards, others on large plasma screens attached to facades.
‘Jenny, I came by your home but you weren’t there. I’m waiting at my mother’s place. Don’t go back to my apartment. It’s not safe in that area.’
That was something I saw written once on a large wall outside a block of flats. I’m guessing Jenny must have been one of the residents. There were plenty of other signs of that ilk. People trying to get in contact with those they couldn’t find. Text message replacements.
One guy I met during the early days had cycled up from another state down south. We’d gotten to talking because he didn’t have a map and needed directions. His wife had been on the other side of the country when the power went out. Like countless others in search of stray associates, he was traveling blindly in search of her. With no way to call her on the phone or email, he was dependent on clues that might pop up along the way. He knew the name of the hotel she’d been staying in but not the address. He didn’t hold out hope for finding her there.
We’d chatted for a while, he’d seemed like a good guy- the kind who drew his goodness from better times. He set off around dusk of that day and I haven’t seen him since. At the time I thought that it would have been nice if he’d found his wife again, but now I know better.
Life had pressed the restart button. Everything had been erased. It was like the feeling you get when you’ve done a tonne of work on your computer and it doesn’t get saved, but this was on a scale of all of human history.
Books were all that was left. All of mankind’s knowledge was preserved on pieces of paper, and yet very few people sought them out. There seemed to be no drive to get things started again. I guess we all felt abandoned. Despondency overwhelmed us. No one wanted to relight the candle. We’d been betrayed and fooled. We weren’t going to risk having it all taken away again.
With electricity on strike everything seemed so unreal, like some sort of preternatural demon was up to hijinks. When circumstances can’t be explained, the imagination runs wild. People were coming up with all sorts of theories ranging from the religious to the scientific, some were even a mixture of both. One guy told me that he thought it was the planet trying to preserve itself, stop its occupants from ruining everything through technology.
One of the less fanciful theories people jumped to at first was that a solar flare had wiped out everything. Another was that it was the result of a man made electromagnetic pulse weapon. None of the wires I’d come across seemed to be fused or destroyed though, so I don’t know if it could have been either of those things.
There must be electricity around of course, but it’s all hiding away. Every now and then it pops up and makes its presence known through static electricity and lightning, and other things like that, but when it comes to working machinery, the bugger’s totally obstinate.
Needless to say, the cataclysm made me feel as though I was in some sort of Science fiction movie. Come to think of it, I sometimes felt that way even before everything changed. Watching people walk around glued to their mobile phones kind of gave me that impression. I felt like the protagonist who breaks free from the mind control device to see that everyone around him is enslaved. The only difference was that instead of trying to wake everyone up, I just went along with it all.
Losing the ability to communicate and travel quickly over vast distances had been a jolt to the system but it was nothing compared to what happened next. Losing all power might have made me feel like I was in a Sci-Fi, but the demons that came along after turned the whole thing into a horror show.
Since the incident, all the cats I’ve come across have been acting strangely. All the other animals seem fairly normal given the circumstances but for some reason cats have been doing weird things.
Felines have always done odd things but this is different. It’s as if they see or sense things that other creatures can’t. They hiss and scratch at things that don’t appear to be there. They run frantically from nothing and jump over invisible or imagined barriers that cross their paths.
This wouldn’t be so unusual if it was just one cat doing it every now and then, but when groups all seem to see the same thing on a regular basis, something that is invisible to the human eye, there must be more to it. What that could be, I don’t know.
I’d never been the most ambitious person around. I worked to live, not the other way around. To me, money was a tool to be used, not something to strive for. I never understood those people who worked their arses off day in, day out, just to get a little bit more. There were plenty of rich folk around who had all this money but they never had time to spend it on anything worthwhile. They were addicted to the pursuit. It seemed like an awful waste.
When the electricity left us all, it fled with everyone’s money like a thief whose only ambition was to burn up all the loot. When it became more and more apparent that the electricity wasn’t going to bring any of our cash back, those who had spent most of their lives trying to obtain as much wealth as they could were the first ones to show signs of aggression.
There was still paper money of course, but that form of currency was of no real use without any electronic records. People horded as much as they could at first, myself included, but none, or very little of it, ever got spent. No one was willing to trade a valuable bottle of water for a piece of crumpled paper.
Things fell apart in a strange way. With no electricity, industries came to a standstill but the world tried to plod along for a little while longer, or at least the small portion I was in did. Immediate chaos probably ensued in other parts of the world. The stock market would have surely come to a grinding halt. International relations, Trade agreements, foreign debts; you name it, all of those types of things would have been wiped out in an instant.
On the plus side, it probably meant that no nuclear weapons could be launched. The way things were going before the change, it seemed that a nuclear war might have been lingering on the horizon. A lot of nations were isolating themselves at the time, battening down the hatches just like everyone is doing now. In the news sites and papers, there were always articles about how things were falling apart.
At the time, futurists were predicting that the third world war would be one where no countries had allies. It would be every country VS every other country. These theorists were almost right I suppose. If they’d narrowed it down from countries to individuals, they would have been right on the money.
The world around me wasn’t too bad at first really. For the most part it was quiet and uneasy, like the calm before a storm. When I used to imagine apocalyptic scenarios, I used to picture things up in flames and people running around killing each other. This ended up happening of course, but the path that led to it was gradual.
Maybe a part of what happened was a result of everyone being idle. Sure, people felt the need to scavenge for food and water, and rob others to survive, but I also think that having no jobs or purpose could possibly have been contributing factors to the downfall.
We’d all gotten so used to living in a world dependent on electronic gadgets that a world without them seemed fantastical, even though it had been the norm only a couple of centuries prior.
Apocalyptic scenarios had always seemed like fiction too of course, right up until one of them actually came along. They always seemed possible I suppose, but when you’ve been conditioned to see the world in a certain way, you don’t expect it to suddenly flip over to being the exact opposite overnight.
This particular scenario was not one I would have bet money on. Electricity going practically extinct followed by everyone inexplicably cutting off communication with each other seems a little farfetched. Then again, history has had plenty of strange things happen throughout it, if the historians are to be believed. There have been plenty of mass psychogenic illnesses reported.
I remember reading about a sickness long ago in some place where everyone started dancing for no reason. They danced non-stop for long periods of time, wearing themselves out. Some of them even exhausted themselves to death. There were plenty of theories as to why this happened but I don’t think there was anything conclusive.
There was another case I read about where people started laughing uncontrollably for no reason in some village, and it spread to other nearby villages like a contagion. It lasted for a month or two and then it suddenly stopped.
If that sort of thing can happen on a small scale, it stands to reason that it can happen on a large scale; as evidenced by everything that has happened since the cataclysm. The cause of what’s happening now is just as unclear as the causes of those other weird events but there must be a reason. Did the global power outage somehow cause the severely anti-social behaviour in everyone or was it something else? Was there a direct, intentional link between them or was it just one big coincidence, or perhaps an inadvertent consequence? I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.
Electricity is still running through our bodies at least, it has to be for us to be functioning. Our brains run on chemically converted electrical currents. Our movements are dependent on charges that pass through our muscles. Why electricity is running through us but not our machinery doesn’t seem to make any sense. Maybe the change in its behaviour is what changed ours as well. Electricity is dancing to a different tune now and it’s dragged us all along for the waltz.
One thing that was nice in the first few weeks was that the air became a lot fresher. I was able to hear the birds more often too, which was nice. I’d always loved listening to birds but living in close proximity to the city I only ever really got to hear them when I went for walks at dawn or at dusk, which hadn’t been very often at the time.
Another plus side was that people started to watch where they were walking and began listening more to the natural sounds of the world around them. People were seen checking their phones every so often to see if they’d come back on, or maybe just out of habit, but by and large it was as though everyone had awoken from some deep form of hypnosis.
Without phones and other gadgets to consume them, people began to interact a lot more face to face. This changed later on, but at the time it was a nice albeit brief change from seeing everyone walking around like zombies, their eyes glued on phone screens.
There were a lot of people riding bicycles as well. It was nice to see, despite the cause, but it was also a little bit eerie. I didn’t have a bicycle at the time, most of the ones I saw were either padlocked or smashed up. I eventually got around to acquiring one but it got stolen and I haven’t come across another usable one since.
Seeing people gliding by as though they were just going out for leisurely rides used to be a somewhat calming sight, but not anymore. Nowadays, everyone rides around slowly until they see other people; then they start to peddle fast. There have been plenty of times where I’ve been chased down by some maniac on wheels.
Just the other day, I was hunting around for some food when a cyclist glided around a nearby corner. Some guy in his 20’s with long red hair and a baseball bat strapped to his side. The moment he saw me his eyes flared up and his facial expression changed from being dully passive to illogically aggressive. He began to pedal with purpose, snarling as he rode.
I climbed over a nearby fence, the other side of which was a backyard to some typical, middle class suburban house. I heard the guy drop his bike by the fence so I made my way through a series of other yards. He must have jumped over the wrong fence at some point whilst chasing me because I managed to lose him.
The thought of doubling back and stealing his bike crossed my mind but I decided against it.
An old friend of mine who used to work in a supermarket had once told me that if shit ever hit the fan and society collapsed, supermarkets would have enough food to last people for about seven days or so, depending on the size of the surrounding communities and the levels at which they panicked. I don’t know if this is true or not, but people certainly ransacked places soon enough and all the raided stores quickly became empty.
The key to surviving such a situation is knowing things that others don’t. People assume that it’s the strongest who survive, and that can be true to a certain extent, but if you don’t have the right information stored away in your noggin, soon enough you’re going to get swept away with everyone else.
I had a self-sufficient uncle at the time who grew his own vegetables, made his own honey, and had chickens that laid eggs on a daily basis. He also had a rainwater tank. Fortuitously I’d been tasked with feeding his chickens and watering his garden while he was away on holiday. Another stroke of luck was that he didn’t have too many friends on account of his abrasiveness, so no one other than me and a few other family members, all of whom were out of the country, knew about his treasures.
If it hadn’t been for his self-sustainability, I would most likely have perished alongside all the other pampered souls in the world. Wherever my uncle was when the electricity went out, he must have been kicking himself that he wasn’t at his home where he had everything he needed. All that preparation for naught.
In retrospect, I should have moved into his place as soon as it all began. Feeling secure, high up above it all in my apartment was probably one of the reasons I didn’t. Not fully comprehending the implications of what was going on would have been another.
I kept telling myself that things would return to normal, even though it was becoming increasingly apparent that they probably wouldn’t.
Staying at my uncle’s meant that I’d be at ground level, a position of vulnerability. On the plus side, it also meant that I’d be in a position to defend the place from invaders. Kicking marauders out once they’d settled in would have been a lot harder than deterring them from trying to enter in the first place.
Luckily no gangs came along at the time, so everything stayed intact without too much effort. There have been people who have tried to take over my territory since I moved in, but they’ve all been individuals and I’ve been able to take care of them. Sometimes they get caught in my traps and sometimes I have to fight them off myself.
It was soon after the bodies started turning up on the streets that I decided to move into my uncle’s. Most days I get the urge to travel a little further abroad than I usually do but I have everything I need here and it would be foolhardy to risk losing it all, just to broaden my horizons.
If you have valuables in such a world, you obviously have to make it seem like you don’t. My uncle’s place was very nice so I had to turn it into a dump, the kind of place that looked like it had nothing to offer.
If you ever bury treasure or anything of value that you don’t want someone to find, a nifty little trick is to bury a partly concealed piece of used toilet paper with it so that people think there’s nothing there except shit in a makeshift toilet. I applied this thinking to my uncle’s home, surrounding it with all sorts of things that most people don’t want to go near.
When the dead bodies started popping up on the streets was when things really started to turn. Beaten corpses appeared sparsely at first but quickly became a more common sight. The first one I saw was in a park near my old apartment block. A middle aged man with a bald head and a big bushy beard was lying on his back on the grass with his hands clasped over his chest. He was wearing work trousers, a shirt and a tie. I don’t know why, I’m sure he hadn’t been going in to work at any office building.
His face was pale with traces of purple and his head had been bludgeoned. It was just before dawn and there were people standing around looking at him when I approached. As with all the other corpses I came across after, none of the people in the area claimed to know what had happened.
With no vehicle to collect the corpse, it was left there for a while until someone, or some people, came along and removed it. Where it ended up I don’t know, just as I don’t know what happened to pretty much all the other corpses I’ve come across since.
With things the way they were, the few police officers left who cared enough to do their jobs properly were unable to do much about the mysterious murders. At first people banded together to gawk at the bodies but when they mounted up to become a prominent feature of the suburbs, no one acknowledged or talked about them. They didn’t talk about anything after a while.
More and more everyone turned inwards, as though it was all too much for them to deal with, as though they just wanted to wrap themselves up in their little cocoons and block out the outside world. Friends and family members abandoned each other. Husbands and wives separated, parents shunned their children. Even babies were left in homes and on the street.
I didn’t see any acts of violence at first, that all came a bit later. For the most part, people went quiet and stayed away from each other. That eventually changed and they started becoming hostile towards anyone who entered their bubbles. There were a few gangs around that roamed the streets, hoarding what they could, but they all disbanded after a short while. The one good thing about everyone being out for themselves is that it evens out the playing field. All conflicts are one on one, no one gangs up.
I never understood why people chose to intentionally fuck up the lives of others for no good reason. I guess to some they feel as though they’re winning some sort of competition. To me, life is like watching a movie in the cinema. If you talk, you ruin the movie for others and you don’t get anything from it yourself.
I could understand people banding together to survive and killing rival gangs but total isolation and killing others for no reason just didn’t make sense. Sure, in such a situation there would always be those who would reign terror, but for everyone to become so feral in such a short period of time seemed absurd.
It could be argued that the need to survive was what made everyone look out for themselves, but it must have been something more than that. People don’t just leave their loved ones to fend for themselves. Sure, everyone was paranoid and fearful as a result of what was going on, but the collective state of isolation must have been due to something else, something darker.
I guess the best way to describe it is that it was as if something awful was rising up from the collective unconscious, something that no one could bear to face consciously in the company of others. To me it felt as though there would be an imminent exposure of my most awful secrets, laid out for all the world to see. I get the feeling others felt this way as well, or at least something along similar lines, but I couldn’t confirm it because no one would talk to me.
Perhaps the electricity was what had kept everyone civil somehow. When it left, it might have somehow dragged away our sociable needs along with it, leaving only our basest natures behind, our bare, naked Ids. Maybe the change in the behaviour of electricity was what changed the behaviour of people. It seems crazy but logic and reason don’t seem to hold the same value as they used to, so who knows? It might be true.
I think one reason people used to become cold, maniacal psychopaths was because they were trying to untangle themselves from the web of life. A lot of spiritual types used to say that you shouldn’t let the realm of the senses manipulate your emotions and thoughts; that you shouldn’t be taken in by the world around you. This is an easy notion to grasp but a harder one to follow through with. In order to truly detach yourself from social prisons and the like, you would need to be ok with doing the most horrendous of things. If you’re not, then it would follow that you’re still attached to preconceptions imbued by external forces.
When the electricity abandoned us all, it didn’t just have physical consequences. The psychological effects were just as palpable. It was as if by disrupting our expectations of the way things were, everyone felt as though the idea of the world around us being one big illusion became a little more realistic. Something broke in all of us. Our collective sense of propriety fled like a killer in the night.
For me, it felt as though those around me were abandoning their views of right and wrong along with their assumptions about the mechanics of it all. They shed their skins as they rejected what once had been the norm. Something inside them all seemed to burst forth and challenge the way of things. The natural, physical world had come at us from left field and our form of retaliation was to fight back against conditioned behaviour. Nature’s attack had been one of abandonment and our counterattack was to abandon each other. We tried to detach ourselves, and the only way one can truly do that is to detach ourselves from the things we’re stuck to the most: each other.
A lot of people must have fled the city to try and isolate themselves, I suppose. I certainly wasn’t exempt from the inexplicable drive towards self-inflicted isolation, but I never felt the need or desire to attack others. When I kill someone, it’s always in self-defence. I don’t seek violence and I’m not fond of having to resort to such measures. I don’t rise to any challenges if I can help it.
These days, most people I come across are all eager to do battle. No one seems to have any hesitation about getting into a confrontation. They don’t stop to think that maybe I’d defeat them or that it would be a waste of energy and time. They don’t care. They just charge.
The first time someone attacked me without provocation was probably a few months after it started. By that stage, many people had kicked the bucket. Some had been killed by other people, whilst others had stumbled across different ways to die.
There were a lot less people around, or maybe it just seemed that way because they were all trying to keep themselves hidden. I’d seen a few unprovoked attacks but it hadn’t yet reached the level we’re at now.
I was walking down the street, minding my own business just like everybody else, when this guy burst through the front door of a rundown old house that I was passing by. He came straight at me with a look of pure rage smeared across his face. I wasn’t carrying anything valuable and he wasn’t carrying any weapons, which was foolish on his part and lucky on mine.
The guy looked to be in his late teens. He was pretty scrawny, which was another stroke of luck for me. When he drew within reach, his fists made a b-line for my face. They connected a couple of times each, but the punches were weak and he managed to miss the spots that would have caused the most damage.
I blocked a series of punches and then returned a few more effective ones of my own. His were all hay makers, whereas mine didn’t mess around. When he fell to the ground, I ran. I could tell that he wasn’t going to stop until one of us was down and out. I should have started running the moment I saw him, but the shock of it all had super glued me to the spot. His punches had been the only thing to break me out of my petrified state.
Once he got to his feet, he began chasing me. What he lacked in fighting finesse, he more than made up for in his ability to run. He was fast and he had endurance. If it hadn’t been for the sight of another person, he would have surely caught up and tackled me to the ground.
The person in question was an old lady, probably in her 80’s. The guy chasing me caught sight of her and then changed his target. He veered off towards the woman, who had become just as petrified as I had when I’d first seen the guy burst out of the house.
I won’t mention how their encounter panned out. I missed most of the outcome, I only saw glimpses of the altercation when I looked back a few times. I knew I should have helped her, but something stopped me. It wasn’t cowardice, it was something else. Something that had been brought on by mysterious forces, or perhaps just one.
The more I felt like cocooning myself in, the more I saw people fight. It could have been the other way around I suppose. Seeing everyone become violent is the kind of thing that will make you want to get away from everybody, but looking back it feels as though I would have wanted to steer clear of everyone even if they’d all been civil. There was something in the air, something nasty that we all seemed to understand without talking about it.
I’d never really suffered from agoraphobia before any of this began but I imagine it’s something akin to that. I was able to go outside but the thought of interacting with others seemed utterly unappealing, almost terrifying. It wasn’t just the feeling that I’d expose my deepest darkest secrets, it was something else as well. I couldn’t tell you what, there was just an inexplicable feeling of repulsion. For others it must have been more than that.
If I had to draw a basic outline of how it all panned out, it would be as follows: People interacted at first, then they gradually became less sociable, and then they started avoiding each other completely. Around this point there were sporadic, unprovoked attacks that caused a lot of people to go into hiding. Many people got killed off, and then it got to the point where those left around attacked anyone they came across.
The time period of this progression seems a little nebulous. As I mentioned earlier, keeping track of dates isn’t something that I do. It could be any day of the year right now and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Judging by the weather I’d say it’s winter in this part of the world, but of course I could be wrong.
I’m probably wrong about a lot of things. Before all this began, I thought I had a basic grasp on the way of things. I didn’t know what was behind it all, but the world around me seemed to follow a certain set of rules without question. The sun always rose and set, the stars always came out at night, and electricity always went wherever it was directed.
Nowadays, I can’t rely on anything. Nothing is dependable. Everything is unstable. Anything could happen at any moment and the universe, or God or whatever, would feel no need to provide an explanation, or if it did it wouldn’t be too worried about making people understand what it was.
I can’t even rely on uncertainty.
Before the change, I used to think superstitions were for two kinds of people that sat at opposite ends of the spectrum: the primitive and the advanced. The primitive believe in such things because they don’t investigate thoroughly enough and they jump to foolish assumptions. The advanced see signs of such things in life and then they do their research.
The change brought about the validation of being superstitious, or at the very least that science might not be the be all and end all. There might be a scientific explanation for all this, but if there is it hasn’t presented itself in the scientific way we’re accustomed to.
It’s easy to let your imagination run wild. You start to come up with these fanciful scenarios and pretty soon it’s practically as if they really did happen. Before all this, I imagine a lot of the crazy homeless types were swept away by their own minds, caught up in imaginings that didn’t coincide with reality. The way things are now isn’t really that different. We’ve all been swept up with a collective insanity, some more than others.
For a long while it seemed that I was the only one around who didn’t feel the compulsion to kill. I had no desire to interact with people but I didn’t wish anyone any particular ills. Even dogs and cats and other traditional pets were creatures I wanted nothing to do with.
I had always enjoyed solitude before the change, but one needs balance. For a while, the new world took away that need and replaced it with a drive for extremism. All I wanted was to be left alone. Just the thought of other people being out there sharing my world made me shudder. Crazed people, annoying people, boring people, awkward people; the world had always been full of them but after the electricity left, none of them seemed tolerable. It was as if the absence of electricity highlighted the worst sides of everyone somehow.
Maybe with all our distractions gone, we had to face each other with undivided attention and that’s what sent us all around the bend: we got withdrawals from our gadgets, the abrupt change was too great a shock to our systems and it made us all lose it.
For what must have been a long while, I spent most of my time tending to my uncle’s garden, blocking out the outside world as much as possible. The garden, my major form of life support, kept me anchored to my neighbourhood. It was the one thing that kept me going. I managed to find some books on gardening, so was able to keep it up for quite a while.
I suppose you could say that the plants were my only friends, as lonely and pathetic as that might sound. Collectively they were something I had to nurture. Something I could watch grow and flourish. Something I could talk to without fear of judgment and interruptions.
I rarely travelled far from my uncle’s home. It was too much of a risk to leave the garden unprotected. I went out to get provisions every now and then but never stayed gone for long. As time rolled on, the number of dead bodies I came across outweighed the living. The stench was the only downside to this. Less breathing people meant less confrontations.
It was a real pain keeping the streets around my uncle’s place clean. Even with no bodies nearby, the stench of corpses made its way across from other areas. Bodies turned up in the strangest of places. I’ve seen them perched up on tree branches, dangling from lamp posts, nailed to billboards, I’ve even seen them attached to the prows of drifting boats on the river.
I never overheard people talking but I heard a lot of screaming. These days I mostly hear either attack roars or hollers of pain. Very few other types of sound spring forth from the mouths of man. Words come every so often, but the calls are always limited to threats. “I’m going to fucking kill you!” was a popular catchphrase for a while, as was “Die fucker, Die!”
The way things are going, it’s safe to say that a lot of words are going extinct, alongside the concepts they inspire or are inspired by. Thoughts have become limited. Probably the only thing that has kept mine from being so basic is my need to read books and my compulsion to write.
We’ve regressed to a more animalistic state. Actually, even animals communicate with each other in their own various ways. We’ve gone back to something even lower. A primordial state perhaps, or maybe one that we’ve never really been to before:
new territory in the realm of the psyche.
With technology gone, it’s almost as though we’ve nothing to strive for, no advancements to gain. Rather than steer the course of human history towards something more aligned with nature, which at this point seems to be our only option, it’s as if we’ve given up on the whole endeavour.
The only things I’ve seen people attempt to make these days are weapons, all of which have been crude. If anyone else is making art or inventions or anything else of that nature, they’re sure not parading it around.
The closest anyone gets to a work of art these days is through their attempts at making traps. I’ve come across some creative contraptions for catching and killing people on my travels, nearly been snared by a few too. Guns aren’t commonly used for some reason, but people do like to set large things up to collapse on people. Things fall from above and things come up or drag down from below. Installation art, you might call it.
I draw every now and then. It’s one of the few things that keeps me sane. No one sits for portraits of course, but there have been times when I’ve been able to do quick sketches of dead bodies. Mostly I draw street scenes and pictures of cartoon characters, though now that I think about it, it’s only been recently that I’ve started drawing them in interactions.
Libraries were ransacked, but not as much as they should have been. With no electronic forms of entertainment and information, books were the next best thing, but no one seemed to go for them much. Maybe it was like an extension of their anti-social behaviour: not only did they not want to converse with people, they didn’t even want to read anything that other people wrote.
The pictures in old books and magazines seem like the stuff of fairy tales now. Smiling, happy people promoting goods and services, communities living together in harmony and trust. Such things are unimaginable these days. Trust has become a notion only naive fools entertain.
Actually now that I think about it, magazines were cleared out of places pretty quickly when it first started. I haven’t seen a news agency with any old magazines or newspapers in years. I explored a few recently in an attempt to get an idea of when this all started but they were all either empty or burnt to a crisp.
There must be a clock or a calendar or something else around that had the date frozen in time on its interface when all this began, but I haven’t come across anything yet, or maybe I have and just haven’t noticed.
I really should try and find out what the date is for practical reasons, now that I think about it. It’s not often that I come across canned goods but for when I do, it would be nice to know when the expiration dates on them are coming up. There’s a good chance that all of them have already passed.
The desire for isolation all changed when I came across the girl I call Eve. I first saw her scouring the streets for food, but we met in a library. By the time we first encountered each other, constant animosity had become the norm. Everyone versus everyone else, that was the state of the world, or at least the parts of it that I’d come across. The days when people communicated in a civil manner were long gone. Men and women no longer worked together to create babies, the few children left didn’t play games with one another, and groups no longer built industries. Everybody was everyone else’s enemy. No one had friends, no one had allies. No one had family.
Unlike Eve, I’d been lucky to have been born long before the change. She must have been a small child when the electricity went into hiding. Her parents probably would have protected her during the years when she was too young to take care of herself but when we all turned against each other, she would have been forced to survive on her own. For a child to get by on its own in such a world, where even the most durable of adults were dropping off like flies, is nothing short of a miracle.
She didn’t even know her own name, or if she did she didn’t share it with me. Up until our meeting, she hadn’t really needed one I suppose, nobody would have ever called her by it anyway. I gave her the name Eve for a few reasons I suppose, but it now seems that those reasons all came to me a little while after the name did, or maybe they came before and it took my conscious mind a little while to catch up.
I’m guessing that one of the reasons was because it was supposedly the name of the first ever female, and she was the first I’d come across in the new world who hadn’t tried to immediately kill me. In my eyes she could have very well ended up being the last female as well, so there’s another link.
Also, we all seemed to be on the eve of total destruction, so there’s another possible reason, and yet another connection that came to me a little while after was that the name was an acronym for Everyone Versus Everyone, which pretty much summed everything up.
I couldn’t tell you why I felt differently about this girl.
Approaching anyone at all, even a young child, seemed pointless, unappealing and risky, and yet there I was, compelled to approach this one for no apparent reason. It was unlike any feeling I’d had since the change, one that challenged all common sense.
I’d seen her rummaging through garbage one afternoon on what I think had been a very cold day. A man who looked to be in his 80’s had tried to sneak up on her, but she’d detected his presence. The man had a knife but it didn’t do him much good. Eve disarmed him easily and then she used his own weapon against him.
This was very impressive, coming from such a young girl. The man had been old, starved and frail but even still, he was a lot bigger and stronger with many more years of experience under his belt. The deftness with which Eve had defended herself was startling, a warning that should have kept me away, but didn’t.
She returned to rummaging through the pile of garbage before moving on, the man’s weapon now tucked into the back of her torn jeans. I followed her through the winding streets, keeping a healthy distance. She moved fast and rarely stopped. Keeping up with her whilst also trying to not catch up too closely proved quite difficult.
I knew it would be a safe bet that she’d attack if she saw me. Judging by her last encounter with a fellow human being, it seemed possible, if not likely, that she’d be the one to come out breathing if we came to an altercation. Despite the risk, I kept following. I didn’t know when or how I’d eventually make my presence known. I was drawn to her, that’s all I knew. Drawn, but not yet snared.
She went into the library, a place I often visited. Perhaps that was a good sign, I thought. Maybe she was a reader. Maybe she longed for a world like the one before.
I waited a few minutes before following her in, observing her through the windows to see what she did. She walked down one of the aisles and then disappeared from view.
The doors at the entrance to the library had been dislodged long ago, making it easier to enter without making too much noise. I crept over to the aisle I’d seen her enter and then attempted to seek her out. She was in the children section, looking at a picture book. For some reason it seemed like the right place and time to confront her.
It was almost as if she’d felt my eyes upon her. The moment I looked at her she turned suddenly and looked straight back, wide blue eyes assessing her potential attacker.
“I’m not dangerous.” The first words I’d said to anyone in many years. My voice came out cracked and awkward, my vocal chords like an old, rusty machine that had been abruptly started up again.
She didn’t respond at first, prompting me to think that maybe she couldn’t speak. A lot of younger people hadn’t been taught how to form words. She obviously wasn’t much of a reader either, judging by the large, torn book she was holding. There was a good chance she had no idea what any words meant, regardless of whether they were spoken or printed. There was also a good chance that she knew how to speak, but like everyone else preferred not to.
“I saw you come in here.” I said, “I like this place.”
I didn’t really know what to say or do, I was acting without thinking. This interaction was unchartered territory; first contact with my own kind in the new era.
“I kill you. Go.”
She could speak, albeit not very well, but at least there was some form of comprehension.
“I’m safe.” I said, in what I hoped was a soft tone. “I won’t harm you.”
Why was I doing this? I wondered. She was clearly capable of causing me harm. She’d given me a warning though, that must have meant something. Most other people would have attacked by now, and judging by her last encounter with an assailant, she wasn’t the type to hesitate. Maybe she was under the same type of spell that had caused me to be so foolhardy.
The girl got to her feet but she didn’t approach. She stood on the spot, waiting to see what I’d do. Her eyes quickly shot around other parts of the room, scanning for signs of a trap most probably.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
She didn’t respond. Maybe she didn’t have a name, or maybe she didn’t understand the question. Maybe she just didn’t want to answer it. I told her my name and she echoed it back to me, keeping her eyes on my face with as few blinks as possible.
“Yeah.” I said, pointing to myself. “That’s my name.”
“I kill you.” she said, pointing at me also.
I shook my head, as though that might dissuade her somehow.
“No. I’m your friend.”
Friend. That was something I hadn’t been with anyone for a while. The concept of friendship was right up there with the concept of dinosaurs, something that was now extinct.
“What’s your name?” I tried again.
“No.” she said, shaking her head brusquely. “No name.”
She might have been lying, or just unaware of the name her parents had given her. The name I decided to give her came to me in a flash of certainty before I could think of reasons for it, as though some fairy had come along and whispered it in my ear.
“I’ll call you Eve.” I said. “You are Eve.”
Eve had icy blue eyes, smooth pale skin and narrow features, partly due to being emaciated but mostly because of the way her face had formed naturally. Her hair was red and tattered, unwashed and uncut for a very long time. She didn’t seem to know her own age but if I had to guess, I’d say she was around the age of 11.
We didn’t say much to each other in the first few days. Coaxing Eve to follow me out of the library hadn’t required too many words. I’d simply told her that I wasn’t a threat like the others and that she was welcome to come with me if she wanted to. Turning my back on her and leaving the library had left me vulnerable to an attack from behind, but I felt that it was a display of trust. One that she needed.
She made no sounds as she followed me from a distance. I didn’t turn to look back as I made my way through the streets, but I kept my ears perked for any approaching sounds. It was foolhardy to give her the opportunity to come at me from behind, but it felt like the right thing to do. I needed to make it seem as though I wasn’t worried about her attacking. It seemed like the only way to win her over.
Mirrors, windows and other reflective surfaces have become things I search for a lot more in the new world. No matter where I go, I always look around for surfaces that can extend my awareness of the things happening around me. There have been many times in the past where I’ve spotted people trying to sneak up on me through the aid of a store front window, or the shiny grill of an abandoned truck.
I caught Eve’s reflection in the facade of a large building. She was following me in the same way a cat stalks a bird, slowly and purposefully. Most birds would fly away in such a situation but I knew that any attempt to flee at this point would have resulted in her either chasing me or abandoning her curiosity entirely.
The sound of tick-tocking came to me as I passed by an abandoned clock shop. It was probably the first sound coming from a time piece I’d heard since the change. It must have been an old machine, one that didn’t require the great deserter. The sound was deep so it might have been coming from a grandfather clock.
I stopped out the front and peered in through the window, more as an excuse for Eve to catch up. The clock that was ticking was among many others that weren’t, but I could tell which one it was. I could have gone inside to seek it out, see what time it had to say, but decided not to. Instead, I pretended to look at the clocks inside whilst actually looking at the dusty reflection of the street around me.
Eve walked up to me casually along the footpath. I kept my eyes on the pane.
“I want food.” she said. “Drink too.”
I turned to face her. “I have some food at my place.” I said. “Water as well.”
“Give to me.” she said, an order rather than a request.
“Are you going to try and kill me?” I asked.
She tilted her head to the side in consideration and then shook it a few moments later. “No.”
I turned and continued along the footpath.
“My home is this way.” I said over my shoulder. “You can follow me or you can do something else.”
Eve stayed with me for what would have probably been a year or so. Most of that time was spent in the one neighbourhood but we did eventually travel farther abroad. There were three bedrooms at my uncle’s place. I slept in his room as usual and Eve alternated between the others, even though I kept telling her that she should choose a room and stick with it.
The garden there was probably the biggest draw card for her. Compared with the scraps she must have gotten by on before, the food that the garden provided would have seemed like Ambrosia.
I always got up with the sun, but Eve usually rose before us both.
More often than not, I’d see her out in the early morning light picking vegetables from their patches.
In the early days I had to chastise her for taking too many in one go. It didn’t seem to get through to her that we needed to ration things out. She must have thought that the garden was some sort of magical realm that would just keep on giving, no matter how much we took from it.
We didn’t leave our bastion too often, and when we did we hardly saw other people. This seemed like mere good fortune at first but I later realized that it was something more. People saw us, but we just didn’t see them. They watched from their hiding spots but never made their presence known.
Whilst traveling around with Eve, people had stopped trying to attack us. Instead of running at us, they would run away. Even the largest, most capable opponents would scramble, fear written all over their faces, terror pouring out of their eyes.
The mere accompaniment of a young girl had made me exempt from the way of things. How and why, I couldn’t tell you. I have my theories, but none of them seem valid or conclusive. The best I can come up with is that in a world of solitary figures, the sight of a duo disrupted the already warped minds of everyone we came across in a way that made them glitch. Two people being able to connect somehow threw a spanner in the works. We were free to roam without the worry of attack, free to be as loud and destructive as we wanted. All those we came across skittered away like cockroaches in the light. It was as if we were gods of terror, stomping through the lands.
Traveling certainly is one of the top ten things I miss doing. I’m guessing I’ll never get a chance to travel to another country again. All of those beautiful cities and towns out there will never be able to share their beauty with me. The only faraway places I’ll ever be able to see again are the places I can reach on horseback, bicycle or boat.
If everything across the globe is the same as it is here, then there are no more cultures to experience. Everyone is a selfish survivor. The carers and creators are most probably all dead. Conventional Art must be almost extinct. There will be no new buildings to gaze upon or walk through. The fragmented sculpture of mankind is complete.
Being in a position where no one attacked us made it so that we were free to travel farther abroad without too much fear. The garden was our anchor, there was no way that we were going to abandon it completely, but the urge to go out and search for others like us was strong now that I’d discovered someone who didn’t want to kill me on first sight; If there was one then it seemed likely there’d be others.
The garden had grown since I’d first moved into my uncle’s. I’d discovered an abundance of seeds in his shed and had set about planting as many plants as I could. The chickens eventually all died, each from different causes, one being an attack from a damn cat, so I ended up becoming a vegetarian most of the time through lack of better options.
Plants died off every now and then but new ones came along to replace them. There might have been other people around who had their own gardens but I never saw them. All the yards I came across were empty of anything worthwhile. Everything had been left to die.
Now that it had become apparent that traveling together practically made us untouchable, we rarely went out on our own. I still needed to go for walks on my own every now and then though, that’s just the way I am. I’ve always been that way, even before. It used to be that I couldn’t be around people for extended periods of time, and I also couldn’t be alone for too long either. I preferred spending more time alone than with people but I definitely couldn’t go long stretches without interacting. When I did, I became too insular.
This all changed after the cataclysm of course. Even the most sociable types lost themselves in their own minds. Chatterboxes went quiet, extroverts only showed their type through flamboyant acts of violence. Everyone lost that most basic of human traits.
Eve must have been similar to me, because she snuck out every so often to travel about on her own as well. This was fine with me, despite the worry for her safety. She’d been independent for a long time, so I could see why she needed her solo outings. It was good really, I didn’t want a clingy kid hanging off me all the time.
One day she came back home with two filter masks and a loaded handgun. She said that she’d found them next to a guy lying on the road, long since dead, who had been shot in the forehead. It sounded like he had once been military, judging by Eve’s description of his attire.
The filter masks and gun seemed like a sign that it was the right time to travel. Equipping ourselves with the things we thought we’d need, we decided to head out.
Night times are the most dangerous. They always have been. Before everything reset, most crimes took place at night. The cover of darkness has always aided criminals and deviants alike. Being ill behaved used to be more acceptable at night too. Stumbling along drunk used to be ok after nightfall but it was generally frowned upon in the middle of the day.
I haven’t noticed too many people being drunk since the change. There’s no scarcity of alcohol, I’ve come across plenty of untouched bottle shops. Drinking has always been a social thing I suppose, maybe that’s why no one seems to do it anymore.
I was always lucky when staying at my uncle’s place. I was always careful not to strike a match, or light a candle or gas lamps in rooms that could be viewed from outside. The nights were always filled with roamers drifting blindly through the darkness.
Judging by the sounds I would hear from my home, more people emerged at night despite it being the most dangerous of times. More screams could be heard, as well as more running footsteps and more sounds of smashing of objects. Fires often emerged from the darkness. No one seemed to use flames to guide their way through the streets but a lot of places got burnt down.
Some people lit fires on the roads and in houses during cold nights, but all that did was attract others to their location. Because everyone keeps to themselves, most fights are one on one, but fires bring everyone together. A person will light one and the smell and the flames will attract those from all around. Large rumbles break out in such cases. Carnage for no cause. Battles with no side victorious.
People saw us traveling together during the day and they shied away, but at night no one could see us together and thus became more likely to approach. We never lit fires at night during our extended travels and we made as little movement as possible. When there was no longer any sunlight left in the day, we took shelter in houses and other walled off places and wouldn’t go outside again until the sun brought visibility back.
There were fewer people in the countryside and we could usually see them coming a mile or so away. They usually saw us too. The usual reaction was for them to stop, stare, and then run away. Some seemed to toy with the idea of attacking, but the sight of two people traveling together always deterred them. They’d bare their teeth like scared, angry dogs and then move on.
The air was a lot fresher out in the countryside due to less bodies. There were no longer vehicles and other machines around to contribute to pollution but the cities still held that old familiar stench for some reason. I don’t know if there were any nuclear meltdowns anywhere or anything like that. I’m guessing there probably were, but it didn’t seem as though anything affected the area we travelled through too badly.
Eve and I both got violently ill for a couple of days, so my initial reaction was that we’d received radiation poisoning or something like that, but it all cleared up and we haven’t been that sick since, so it must have been food poisoning.
Having no doctors or surgeons around is a bit of a worry. I’ve read up on some medical journals but I don’t think I’d be ready if a real emergency came along. Before I’d met Eve, a woman on the street once tried to stab me. She was aiming for deep penetration into my chest but only managed to slash my forearm. Having acquired some equipment from a hospital I managed to sew myself up afterwards, albeit in a pretty shoddy way. There had been no disinfectant or anything like that around so I’d used a bottle of vodka. Stung like hell.
Gunshots were heard more often in the countryside for some reason. Maybe it was because farmers had been the only people other than the military and law enforcement who carried them around much. Every now and then, we’d hear cracking reminders of our lost world ring throughout the air. People were afraid to approach us, but we soon realized that they weren’t afraid to take aim from a distance. There were a few times when we both almost got shot. We never returned fire, partly because our bullets were few but also because we never figured out where the shots came from. We were always too busy running.
I’d never handled a gun before, but Eve seemed to know how to use the one we’d acquired. Either that or she was just a natural. We didn’t waste any bullets on practice shots. I just figured out how to keep the safety in place and some other basics and then left it at that.
The traps we came across in the countryside were a little different to the ones in the city. They seemed to show more ingenuity. Country folk had probably gained a better understanding of machinery before the change.
In a small town that seemed to have no living occupants at all, at least at first, we came across a trap that nearly took us both. The main road was lined with the kinds of cages a wild dog would be put in, but these ones contained crunched up corpses. Every one hundred metres or so, we’d see one chained to a tree or a pole. The remnants of some poor soul inside.
One of the cages contained a person who was still alive. An emaciated boy, a little younger than Eve, was sitting in a cage with his legs crossed and his hands on his knees like some sort of feral monk. His skin was dark and his head was shaved, leaving me to wonder how it got that way. I couldn’t imagine him bothering to shave it himself, especially without the aid of electric clippers.
He stared at us with a calm expression on his face as we walked by. It was always rare to see calm expressions on people, especially when they were looking at others. If the boy had been snarling we probably would have let him be.
Unusual things usually throw people off guard. A change in the norm tends to glitch people, even if just for a moment. There are times when such changes are so severe that the mind refuses to accept them. It freezes, freezing the body along with it, as it tries to process what is going on. The unbelievable can’t be believed, even when the incredulous truth is standing right there and there are no other options around to choose from.
The sight of the calm boy in the cage wasn’t so unusual that it froze us to the spot, but it was strange enough for us to slow down and consider whether or not we should free him from his cage.
Compassionate, selfless acts were a thing of the past, even from me, but since meeting Eve I’d recovered more of my former self. She too seemed to hark back to the old ways. She didn’t ask whether we should free him using words, but her eyes conveyed the suggestion.
“Are you ok?” I called out to the boy from the distance.
He didn’t respond, his face remained calm and his body stayed still. There was a chance that he didn’t know how to speak. A lot of the children who managed to survive never had a chance to learn. He seemed old enough to have been taught though, so my assumption at the time was he just didn’t want to say anything, for whatever reason.
Just as I was about to inspect the cage’s lock, a glimpse of light caught my attention. It came in the form of a very thin strand, just above the cage: a quick slash of white, cutting through the air. I saw it out of the corner of my eye at first and then it was gone. Only after staring in the direction it came from for a few seconds more did I discover the source.
Fishing wire was attached to the cage. It led from one of the top bars, up into the tree. It must have been Spring at the time because the foliage was thick, so thick that the trap the wire was attached to was totally hidden. The slightest movement of the cage would have probably triggered the trap. The boy was probably waiting for just the right moment to rattle his own cage.
I didn’t stick around to find out what the trap was exactly, I backed away and continued along the road, beckoning Eve to follow. When I looked back over my shoulder I saw the boy following us with his eyes. His expression still one of apparent serenity.
I haven’t been back to that town since.
All the time we spent together, I think I only saw Eve smile once, and that was when we came across the ocean. I don’t think she’d ever seen the sea before. Her face lit up as though she’d discovered Heaven.
We spent a few weeks in an isolated cottage by a desolate stretch of beach. No one else came by during our stay. For the first time in years there were no signs of danger. It got to the point where I could sometimes pretend that everything was back to normal. I imagined that we were on a vacation and when we returned to civilization we’d see that the machine of society was still grinding away.
This tranquil bubble soon burst. Every morning, Eve would get up before dawn and walk down to the beach. I joined her sometimes but most of the time she asked to be alone. From the cottage I’d see her walk along the shoreline. She’d wait for the creeping water to get near her feet and then she’d run away from it, as though she were playing some sort of game with a puppy or a cat.
One morning she walked into the water. When it became too deep to walk any farther she tried to swim. I waited on the shore for her to turn back, but she never did. When I realized what was happening, it was too late. I swam out to try and save her but she was too far out and I didn’t make it in time.
I don’t know if she drowned herself on purpose. In a world where everyone is trying to get you, suicide is the saddest thing possible. It’s one thing to be defeated by others, but it’s pure sorrow to be defeated by yourself. She had seemed distant during the days leading up to her departure, so I’m guessing it might have been intentional.
If you’re going to eat a chocolate bar, make sure you remember to enjoy it. There have been plenty of times in my life when
I’ve eaten a tasty treat while my mind was on other things. I don’t do that anymore though. Chocolate is scarce, it was one of the first things to run out. On the rare occasion I’m lucky enough to come across some, I savour every moment.
With no one to talk with now, writing has become my substitute for conversations. I talk with myself and the conversations I have in my head are often a lot more interesting than the ones I used to have with real people, but it’s not the same. I’d rather have a dull conversation with someone else than an interesting one with myself.
In a lot of ways, I feel betrayed. It’s as if life had been lying to us throughout all of history. We’d always felt reassured that there was order. The seasons were dependable, the laws of physics indisputable, reason and logic reigned, and science was the light of hope. It still might be of course, but not in the way we once thought.
It would seem that the world no longer follows the laws of its own nature. There still might be a deeper law beneath it all of course, one that is too deep for me to see. The laws of nature might be more mutable than once assumed. There might be more flexibility in the way of things.
I remember reading an article in a science magazine once that stated that the laws of physics in this neck of the universe are not the same as how things work in other areas. Perhaps our world adopted these laws somehow without checking in to see if it was ok with its occupants.
Every so often, I came across Halloween decorations out the front of places, all of them reminders of when the Apocalypse began.
Before the change, Halloween had always seemed like a playful version of horror, the kid friendly version of the occult. Now the happy, pretend scary decorations have a more sinister connotation. Now I know what the pumpkins are really grinning about.
Halloween had never been a big thing in my country when I was growing up, not like it was in others. Kids sometimes went trick or treating in the suburbs but most homes were ill prepared. I went trick or treating once or twice with my friends but we never scored much of a bounty. A lot of houses ended up getting covered with toilet paper and eggs as a result.
Over the years, Halloween became more popular. It never quite reached the status of Christmas or Easter, but it managed to make its presence felt in a stronger way. It started to feel like a proper holiday, even though no one got any time off. People started to get into the spirit of things.
Halloween parties were always pretty fun. A lot of people went all out, but my costumes usually consisted of fake blood spattered across my face partnered with regular, everyday clothing. I never really put much effort into my appearance, even when it wasn’t Halloween. I was never very stylish or fashionable. Comfort mixed with ease has always been my main priority.
I read somewhere long ago that Halloween is the time of year when the Earth is closest to the spiritual realm, or something along those lines. This idea always seemed slightly true to me, and not just because I have a predilection for being superstitious. The end of October and the start of November always made me feel a little weird. It always felt like some sort of turning point. Maybe it’s around Halloween now, I do feel as though I’m closer to things on the other side somehow.
Whether what happened had anything to do with realms being aligned, I don’t know, but the notion certainly holds a lot more gravitas to me now than it used to. That time of year was when the cataclysm came along. It was the beginning of a long liminal phase. One that is yet to end.