Everybody left, and I'm still squatting at home, this one-room apartment like nothing has changed. The floor is still a mess, I still don't go out much, and hunger mostly remains my only motivation for getting anything done.
My building had fifty-odd tenants, but now it sits empty. Even the squatters have gone. There's a big ugly stain up one wall where a car collided with the building, though even that is long since gone, cannibalized for supplies.
When my neighbors, who I never knew, started leaving, I raided what I could, but found little. Scarce food or clothing was left behind. I pulled down or smashed up what mirrors I could and hauled the shards down; before walking, my landlord helped me board the windows, and then I strung up the shards with duct tape to periscope light into my indoor garden.
Before the city shut off the pumps, I filled every bottle I could find with water, my shoulders and back aching shuffling the gallons to precarious piles on the floor and along my walls.
Why should I move on?
I have all I need here, and in any of the bareback-makework camps that have sprung up, my only gift is an extra pair of hands. I don't need the community-feeling or the social construct, and I certainly don't want someone dictating to me my chores. Besides, I can't smell my own body odor unless it gets really bath, and washing clothes wears them off faster.
I'm better off alone.
Motorcycle gangs roar by about once a week. Early on some of them stopped, hunting for supplies or sport. My door got jammed up good and tight, and someone dropped some furniture in front of it that's too much for me to move alone. They'd climb over, shake the handle, rattle the boardings, and go looking for easier prey.
Now, though, we've had some right good storms. Branches and brush have littered everything, and the property looks like it's started returning to nature. Nobody suspects one little hermit living inside the midst, and I like to keep it that way.
Sometimes, I wonder about the bigger cities, like Chicago a few dozen miles east of here--of more homes than one gang can plunder in a week, more crime than one community can defend against, and possibly more mouths to feed than hands to make food--but most of the times I know better.
I keep myself busy.
My basic needs are far from labor-intensive, at least as long as the roof holds out and my food doesn't run low, so I divide myself between writing, reading, and exercising.
I don't expect anyone to be reading any of these things, but I do my best to keep my mind working and busy, and that's what's important. I've always had a surplus of ideas and now I have a surplus of opportunity to record them. Paper supplies are no concern--even before there were signs of collapse I'd kept a goodly collection. If anything, light is the greatest shortage; it sure does seem to get dark quickly.
I exercise enough to keep my body from atrophying, but it's all endurance work. If I lift any weight, it's liquid--I have no free-weights of my own, and they're hardly a priority when searching for supplies. I used to ride my bicycle a lot, but going out is hardly safe anymore. I still have it, propped up in the corner behind my equally unused electronics; I won't have it said I've let much go to waste.
Yes, I managed to keep my television and computer. The power has been off for ages, and not expected to come back, but why not?
The last news of my family came before the phone services gave out, while my batteries still lived. My parents had joined up with one cooperative and my sister and her boyfriend with another. They all sounded like they were getting by, and offered invitations to join them, but I left my denials unspoken.
The closest cooperative is over at Mooseheart. I stopped by, just the once, and stayed only long enough for them to try to enlist me. I remember the smell of home-brew gunpowder chasing me off their land too well to stop by again.
I don't like guns. I don't have any. I've got a nice assortment of staves, knives, and stakes; a few bamboo swords and one of steel; two pairs of nunchaku; and a homemade crossbow. I'm also teaching myself how to build an actual bow, completely through trial and error. If anything, I have excesses of wood and time.
I'm not looking forward to the first winter, but I'm ready for it. I can seal myself in nice and tight at the first sign of a lasting frost, and have my intake calculated into a science.
I hope it snows heavily, like I haven't seen since I was very little. I suspect the collectives would suffer for it, but I could use the added insulation.
In the meantime, the star seem brighter than ever. No power means no light pollution, and there have been a fair number of meteor showers as of late. Part of me wonders if they're not meteors, but satellites and debris falling out of orbit instead.
It makes no difference as long as nothing falls on my home. If it's going to hit here, it might as well take me out with it, because I sure don't want to go through all the effort of getting myself reestablished somewhere else.
If I'm the last person on earth, I wouldn't mind it so terribly. It might do me some good to spread out a bit. Don't get me wrong--I mean nothing lavish, and have no intention of encroaching on nature's reclamation of these lands more than necessary.
As for companionship, why, that's just another mouth to feed, another body to house, another nose to be offended at the smell, another critic to judge.
If there's anything I don't need, it's any of those things.
Winter's passed and I'm not worse the wear for it. Didn't get as must snow as I'd hoped, but more than I feared.
Come the waking for spring, animals have started to rove about, but we've got unspoken understandings. Who needs to share a language when you're both content to leave the other alone?
The north-bound geese have more to fear from the dog-packs than the cat-herds, and there's at least one of each in the neighborhood.
Coyotes and deer have become commonplace, but both are more skittish than the tame-turned-feral former house-pets.
I smelled smoke the other days and saw it welling up on the horizon south of me. Following the next storm, I snuck down for a look and found the Mooseheart collective fallen. Whether it was an internal dispute or an external raid, I'll never know. I picked up a few wheelbarrows of supplies and trucked them back home from the deserted compound.
A pack of dogs, scrawny and starving, found me on the way back. I fed them generously and treated them kindly, and found myself with an honor gaurd for the duration of the move.
I've found myself a fair hand at building bows, better than shooting them, at least. I assembled a workshop in the apartment next to me, entering through a hole between the defunct refrigerators, for making and storing spares.
The second winter is nearly upon me, and I'm doing spot-checking on the makeshift cistern I've built at the other end of the building. It's close enough to watertight, and has a tap at the bottom right over the sewer drain. I don't need the water yet, and don't expect to until spring, so if something fails, I won't be excessively inconvenienced. Unless I get flooded out.
It's camouflaged entirely by the disrepaired building, fed by troughs across the roof.
Upon the come of spring, I hope to relegate another of the abandoned apartments to food storage. My gardens have been producing more than I use, even with moderated sharing with my four-legged neighbors. What I don't eat gets canned, stored, packed away in cubby-holes and hiding spots. If it ever goes horribly wrong, I'll have something to fall back on.
Even still, my original suppy of paper holds out, though I'm writing with found and recovered pens and pencils.
I don't remember the last time I've opened my mouth to speak, though I still remember how. There isn't any need. Still, no caravans have passed, as the second spring fades into the third summer. Neither have I seen any humankind since the fallen dead at the Mooseheart compound.
My cistern held, wonder of all wonders, and it tastes better and fresher than any water I can remember since the days of buying it in stores. I'm not confident enough to injest it without boiling it first, but I expect it's only a matter of time.
I've finished clearing out debris from another apartment on the other side of my workshop for food storage, and installed makeshift shelving, not that there's much of anything here that isn't makeshift something-or-other.
Open the emptied closets, and instead of clothes, you'll find my collection of bows and weapons, hanging or leaning as works best. I keep making them, and arrows too, though I hardly expect to be equipping a passing army, improving all the time.
The days have long since begun to blend together, only counting the moons and passing of the seasons gives perspective of the time I've spent here.
I've relegated the cleanest and most intact wall of plaster to a calendar, tallying not days but moons, for both the sake of saving space and the lack of excessive caring.
Every night in good weather, warm or cold, I watch the stars. I've remembered the names of all the constellations I never could find, though have since while made up mine own.
They are my characters now, that wheel through the sky and weave through my stories, and some of which talk not of post-apocalyptic worlds, but of grand civilizations than span the continents, of cities full of people.
I do not find myself missing such things--people, in a word--I merely prefer to write of worlds that I don't live in, leaving that to the musings of my journals.
One is always tempted to build an impressive fortress around one's home when time and supplies are so close to hand, but I bstained. My greatest defense, especially with so few helping hands, was discretion: I was safest when my presence remained unknown.
On the inside, the years and my handiwork had been kind to the building, but without was nature growing wild. What looked like a building falling into shambles from disrepair was common enough that it was passed by without a second glance. And so I was saved from raids by the wandering discontent, who occasionally spent the night in temporary camps within bowshot, but never grew wise to my presence.
Date written: 26 May 2013
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