Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Vision, Part IV, The Hollowing

Two weeks later.
We were beginning to settle into this lifestyle, and there was always something to do around camp. We had to keep our minds occupied on tasks, this helped to prevent some unrealistic thoughts of paranoia, which can occur while isolated. Gathering firewood, picking berries, and fishing took up most of our time. Some of the pressures of our past daily lives were slowly slipping away. No more lifestyle that produced bills, no more having to work to pay those bills, and so on. In fact, we were really enjoying each other's company more, we sure were doing a lot together now. We realized that if we were to "get by" we'd have to rely on each other, more than ever before.

We were going to make a point of not coming into contact with other people which wasn't hard as most people were not venturing far from their houses at all. I had been checking on the "neighbors" from a distance, trying very hard not to be spotted. There was some interaction between a few of them at first but by far and large, they kept to themselves. I could tell most were running out of food and some places I could see no activity at all, where there had been. Once in a grand while I'd hear a shot or two. There were no attempts of anyone trying to cut through the tree piles, perhaps they felt more secure this way too.

Conditions in town were getting graver by the day from the lack of food and medical care, people getting weaker. A flu like symptom was spreading through the tent cities, mostly effecting the elderly and the weak. Meat and milk were now to be rationed amongst those there, but this wasn't nearly enough. Perhaps a third of the town's population had passed on, but they were being replaced by others coming in from surrounding areas, smaller communities and the countryside. The number of refugees coming into town was increasing daily. Most of these people had run out of food or needed medical care and had nowhere else to turn to. Similar circumstances were being reported from other areas, mostly by ham operators now. Horrific stories of rape, murder and even cannibalism.
Some order had been restored in town as most of the roving gangs apparently were leaving for greener pastures or simply giving up and mixing in with the others. People were now disarmed at the tent cities, for better security. Around half of the town had burnt down but there was about a quarter of the population that was still holed-up in their homes, that had running water. Often with 10 to 15 people living in a house.

The situation elsewhere that was being reported, wasn't much better. Whole cities had fallen and millions were reported dead. Reports of where the power had been restored were getting fewer and less creditable, as there were no other radio stations being picked up in the area. For the most part, people had given up any hope of ever seeing governmental relief and openly wondered if there was a Federal government left. People were much more concerned what was happening locally and in surrounding areas.
Three months later.

My wife and I, had moved into a small A that was was used for a vacation home fully equipped with a wood stove, wood oven, hand water pump and a very nice outhouse! These people had been acquaintances of ours before the crisis. They were from a large city outside the state and probably just couldn't make it here, in time. This place was just off the beach and probably a mile away from our primitive camp. We had plenty of wood for heating and cooking that was conveniently already there. This really brightened our spirits and sleeping in a real bed for a change was most welcoming. My wife and I were just thrilled to have a roof over our heads again!

It was late fall now and we would spent the winter there, nice and cozy like. Our supply situation wasn't too bad, we had run out of things like coffee, toilet paper, and toothpaste long ago. However, we still had flour, salt, oil and a good supply of dried berries, fish and other edibles that we had gathered. I was reasonably sure we could make it through the long winter months but after that....

Our nearest neighbor now was over five miles away, the others had either left on foot or had passed on. This neighbor had a wife and two smaller children. I had suspected this man was "cleaning out" most of the homes in the area. I was very thankful this man didn't venture any closer than he did to our camp. He had quit coming this way for about a month, perhaps he had all there was to have. There was always a possibility he'd be back, he always walked the roadways, so it was easy to keep track of him.
In town, sickness had taken it's toll and the population was now just half of what it was before the crisis. People were still trickling in but nothing like the influx of people during the first month. Conditions were much improved, people were getting feed more regular.. When the cold weather came, the tent cities disappeared as people were relocated in one story buildings that could be kept heated with wood, as the natural gas had stopped months ago. Most of the buildings now used were once ground level convalescence homes and apartments. Sanitary conditions also improved as new systems were built. Order had been somewhat restored and the city jail was reopened. People were better organized and a sense of communal spirit was being fostered. The old hospital was let go, in favor a smaller building that had better lightening and was again easier to heat. They had enough fuel to keep the water on in this part of town where all this organization was coming together. There was also enough fuel for the radio station, as this was the new pride and joy of the town.
one week later.
The first snowfall of the season came. I decided to check on our neighbors, perhaps for the last time of the season. When I finally got there after almost a half a day's walk, I was just stunned to see no smoke coming from their house! Being so careful as not to be spotted, I could not find any tracks anywhere in the snow. Upon closer inspection, their bikes were gone. Had they left? I went another two miles further towards the small community and there was no sign of anybody being around. I had to turn around at that point since it would be already dark by the time I arrived home.
At least now with snow on the ground and at least seven miles to the nearest neighbor, I could finally risk shooting my shotgun. Now taking game would be much easier.We had accomplished what we had set out to do, becoming "ghosts" without a soul knowing we were there, at least it appeared that way... Soon the snow would isolate us from the rest of civilization until the spring thaw came. A big sense of relief fell upon me as I made my way back, finally I could let my guard down.
Finally making it home two hours after dark, I found my wife just frantic! I sure didn't want to stress her anymore than what the crisis had already brought upon the both of us. She calmed down considerably when I explained what I had found out. This was good news, almost assuring our survival until spring. In the next couple of weeks there was enough game shot and processed to carry us through spring and into the summer.


berto said...
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WENDY BANDURSKI-MILLER (nee Callard) said...

your writing is EXCELLENT..... i barely stopped throught the whole thing......WONDERFUL.......I really like you linking the snow as protective..I NEVER thought of it that way before but it is now really obvious....i will be back.