...I had tried the television, radio and internet but all systems had failed and there was nothing but empty air. The same was true of the telephone and I couldn’t reach anyone. Seeing this confirmed to me the severity of what had happened - the emptiness was clearly evident in the whiteness of the television screen as I scanned from channel to channel. I didn’t give up and tried on each successive day. It would have been interesting to hear some news and I can tell you that I was becoming very curious - but I did not delude myself into thinking that any would be forthcoming. I dove instead into the past. Some films, I could now see, were like predictions and warnings. They became very interesting when seen in this new light.
But then, one day, as I tried the short wave bands, I heard something but only for a minute or two. It was a female’s voice speaking in English but with a foreign accent and I could just make it out. It was very faint and faded in and out. Then, it simply stopped and I could no longer hear it. This voice seemed to be calling for “all survivors” to meet in a place, and I wasn’t sure if I got it right, called Silverdam which I assumed must be somewhere in Europa. I found this somewhat surprising for I was sitting half way around the world. The voice spoke of the “apocalypse” and I thought that I even heard the phrase “God’s children” which, as you can imagine, alarmed me. Unfortunately, this tidbit of information kept me searching the radio and television bands for days to come. Although it was frustrating to hear only static, I tuned in day after day. But it was all to no avail. It would be a while yet before any “communications” were established.
It was during the second week of my stay that I decided to venture out to the library to pick up some books. It was perhaps curiosity that led me to make the excursion for I didn’t really need to pick up any books - there were plenty in the house and good ones too. I was looking however for a few specific texts that I thought would shed illumination on a couple of problems that were troubling me. Furthermore, I wanted to find out about growing vegetables and fruit hydroponically for, as I said, there was such a system in the basement of the house. There didn’t seem to be any books about this subject in any of the libraries that I had by then checked out.
As I said, I am a vegetarian so the animal question was of little interest to me. It was however an issue for all those farm animals who would now die and suffer from not being fed. For some reason the animals hadn’t been effected by the bombs - I suppose that they simply didn’t realize that they were “lethal.” I had thought that I should maybe go and free some from their pens but rationalized that the problem was too great and that I would only be prolonging their suffering. Now was not the time to be worrying about all the farm animals of the world. I had bigger issues with which to deal. I did however feed the five hens that were in a coop in the garden for, though I was a vegetarian, I did make use of eggs. I also fed the two cats who had become my constant companions.
I did not lock the door behind me when I left. It was fairly early in the morning but warm enough for it was still the summertime. I decided to take the motorcycle. I had found a knapsack and I figured I could carry a few books in that. The motorcycle promised to be the wiser decision for I would be heading into the city where the streets were sure to be clogged. Besides, I enjoyed riding the motorcycle. I hadn’t ridden one since I was a teenager so the experience presented itself as a novelty. It started on the first try and I went down the long lane and onto the almost barren highway. As I expected, there was neither a moving car nor person to be seen. It wasn’t long before I came to the outskirts of the city.
I did not plan to visit the inside of city hall just yet but I did figure that I would drive past it just to see if anything was happening. I planned first to go to the library and then drive around a bit and see what I could see. I was unarmed but I was not afraid of what could come my way. I was on the verge of changing my position with regards to this attitude, however, for I was about to lay my eyes on a most troubling sight when I drove past city hall. But I will get to that in a minute. As I said, it turned out to be a most interesting excursion.
It did not take long to navigate my way through the city to the university library. I did not see anybody in the streets and no vehicles seemed to be moving. This was somewhat creepy and my mind filled up with nightmarish images. I soothed myself with the knowledge that I was not alone and that, in time, I would get together with some of the other survivors. That’s all a human really needs I concluded - other humans. We provide the entertainment for each other. I wondered now what sort of museum all this would become. A strange thought given the immediacy of the situation. My mind was racing all over the spectrum in those early days.
I parked the motorcycle by the front doors of the library and went inside. I realized that it too was out of power when I went to check for the location of the books on the computer. I should have known that this would be the case but for some reason it had slipped my mind. I guess that I was not yet used to this “new” way. I realized in that moment just how complex things had become. This library was five stories high and filled with racks and racks of books. I figured that there must be a hard copy of the directory somewhere in the library but, without the computer, I would have no idea where to look. For now at least I would not be able to find the books I wanted. Besides this problem, the library was darkened for there were only small windows in the perimeter walls.
I had been to the library before so I knew the general location of some texts. I figured that I would pick up a couple of art books just for the hell of it for there didn’t seem to be any in the house for some odd reason. It had not been my plan but, since I was already there, I figured that I might as well take something out. I went up to the third floor and over to the racks that I knew housed these books. Luckily they were close to the windows so I had no problem finding a couple of suitable, medium sized books. I made sure to take survey texts for I was looking for general rather than specific information. I put them in my knapsack and began to head for the doors that led to the staircase.
I remembered then that I knew where the film history books were located and decided to look for one for I still had a bit of space in the knapsack. For some odd reason, I felt that I had to learn a few facts about the film industry and its history. I can of course see now why I was, at least unconsciously, interested in this information for it would become very important in the months and years to come. As they say, he who controls the lens controls the world. I found a suitable book in the film history rack and, after I had placed it in the knapsack with the others, I made my way down the staircase, through the lobby, and out the front doors. I turned the key and the motorcycle started.
I was at a loss now as to how I would find the books of my original search. I needed some specific information and the art books would not tell me how to grow fresh produce in my basement. Still, I didn’t worry too much for I knew that I would figure out a way to solve any problem that may arise. So much of the information in those days had been stored electronically and, until the power problems were solved, these systems would be useless. I took some comfort in the fact that there were always hard copies somewhere and the world was full of books so none of the information would, ultimately, be lost. But if the information couldn’t be easily accessed, a lot of time would be lost in locating it. The labyrinth of the world had been shaken up in many significant ways.
I now decided, in accordance with my plan, to swing by city hall and check out the scenario in the area around this building. I didn’t plan on stopping my motorcycle to go inside for I still did not wish to take any risks - not this time around at least. I knew that there would be time enough to do this in the weeks and months to come. I was afraid to confront these people by my lonesome and I had a vague notion that I should first meet a couple of individuals and persuade them to go there with me. Anyway, this time I planned to simply drive by slowly and maybe stop on the other side of the square and observe the comings and goings for a minute or two. I rode the motorcycle across the library’s parking lot and pulled out onto the street.
Some streets were very clogged and I found it easier to simply avoid them altogether by taking alternative routes. Still, in any direction I went, I had to do a bit of weaving and it slowed my progress. There was, however, no rush and I let myself enjoy the childish fun of riding a motorcycle in a deserted city after the apocalypse. The atmosphere reminded me of a number of books and films that I had experienced. Perhaps these works of art were responsible for the atmosphere I was now experiencing - a question of life becoming art and not simply reflecting it . In any case, the world now had a strange atmosphere and, in a teenage way, I imagined myself embarking on a great adventure. This vision was, however, to become very dark in the coming minutes.
I rounded the final corner and came onto the square. I could see the city hall on the other side which was now about 100 meters away. I slowed the bike down and came to a stop. Although I could not make it out very well, I could see that there was a group of people standing in front of it. I looked around the square but I didn’t see anybody else - just those few who were in front of the building. I counted maybe fifteen people but, from where I was stopped, I couldn’t tell how old they were or if they were male or female. I doubted whether they had seen me for I was parked behind a telephone booth. I knew, however, that if I wanted to go closer I would most likely be seen.
I decided that I would drive right up to the building without stopping. If there were to be any trouble I could simply race off and avoid capture. Still, I reasoned that it would not be a good idea to get within arm’s length of any of these people and I decided to drive down the other side of the street. I only needed to get a quick look and I didn’t want to risk anything. Furthermore, I was not armed and I didn’t have any idea what these people might have in mind. I assumed that there wouldn’t be a problem but, all the same, I wanted to be prepared in case of any eventuality.
I came out from my hiding place behind the telephone booth and started up the street. When I got to the end I turned left and, making sure to stay on the opposite side, I drove past city hall. I could now see that this group was made up exclusively of males and they all appeared to be quite young - in their twenties maybe. Although I could not look too closely, for I had to keep my eyes on the road, I saw that a number of them were brandishing rifles. This of course unnerved me but I kept my pace and continued to look. What I then saw was most alarming indeed. Hanging from the arches above the heavy wooden doors was the body of a dead man. When I saw this, I lost my nerve and opened up the throttle. I didn’t look back.
These men had not done anything when I drove by but, nonetheless, I felt menaced. I concluded that they had been simply surprised by my appearance and did not have the time to react. I half expected to get shot but I didn’t hear any guns going off in the distance behind me. I would later learn the identity of the man that had been hanging from his neck. He was associated with a coterie of government officials who this group saw as being responsible for the bombings. He was one of those who survived by taking refuge in a bomb shelter and was thus seen by many survivors to be a traitor. They had used him as they would use others - to set an example.
Needless to say, I was severely disturbed by this image and it haunted me for days to come. So soon after the bombings, the serpent had made its way back into the garden and our violent nature had again reared its ugly head. I did not know what to make of it all. Why, I wondered, would people form a group in a former government building and then guard it with armed young men? What was the danger and why did they have to protect themselves? Was there a new war underfoot? I was very apprehensive about the whole situation and raced back to my “dream” house in the country.
Over the next few days I gave a lot of thought to the current situation. I still felt fairly safe in my secluded place in the country. Besides the young men in front of the city hall, I had not seen any other individuals. I took this to mean that very few had survived and in that assumption I was not wrong. Going back to the city hall was out of the question and I now had to ponder the thought that I would be spending a lot of the future in solitude. I knew that it would not be a good idea to try and approach those individuals who were guarding the building. I figured that it would be best to bide my time in my well stocked abode.
Not well stocked enough, however, and I decided that I needed to go and do some “shopping.” I concluded that it would be a good idea to arm myself and pick up medical supplies in case of any problems. One could no longer call a doctor in the case of an emergency. I also figured on going to an outdoors shop to pick up items that could be needed. Besides these items, the house was still very well supplied and I guessed that I’d be able to complete my “shopping” in the space of a few hours. I decided that I’d steer away from the city hall and even the city center altogether. I figured that I could get everything I needed at the local mall and I knew where there was a hospital in the vicinity.
This time I took the small van that had hitherto been parked and unused. I found the keys in the kitchen and took them with me outside and over to the garage. I opened the door, got in the vehicle, stuck the key in, and turned the ignition. I t took a couple of tries to get it going so I let it warm up for a good long time before backing it out of the garage. I knew that if this vehicle didn’t work, there were plenty of others that would. Still, I did not wish to deliberately destroy it. I guess I had outgrown my vandal tendencies when I passed out of late childhood. That is not to say, though, that I treated it with the same care I would have before the bombings. No, I drove it rough. I knew that another one was always available for the picking.
I found the things I needed at the mall. I had brought along a flashlight to make my search easier for I knew that there wouldn’t been any electric light. I vaguely knew this mall so I found the proper places quicky. Needless to say, a creepy atmosphere enveloped the empty shopping complex. It was now somewhat in disorder, a result I figured of the mad dash in the final moments. The shops still displayed all their wares and here and there was a broken window or a pile of clothes. I went first to the camping section of the department store. There I found several rifles and other weapons some of which were sealed in glass display cases which I had to smash in order to gain access. I had taken a shopping cart from the front of the store and I now piled the weapons into it. The next stop was the tobacco shop and I loaded up as many cartons as I could. I figured that I had done enough shopping and made to leave, but then I caught sight of the candy shop.
I walked into the small store and made my way behind the counters from where I could gain access to the various candies, chocolates and licorice. I filled up ten or so bags with various goodies and returned to the shopping cart that I had left in front of the store. I piled the bags into it and then pushed the cart out the front doors and into the open air. I had stopped the van right by the entrance so I did not have to walk to the parking lot. I opened the back door to the van and began piling in my “loot.” There was still a kind of thrill in shopping in this fashion even though I had been shopping for guns. The situation was indeed becoming macabre.
The next stop was the hospital which was also deserted. I did notice, however, and much to my surprise, that others had come before me. They had not taken everything of course so I was able to get most of the things I needed. It seemed that these individuals had gone only into the drug cabinets which in those days were firmly locked. Some glass had been broken and they had taken some narcotics. Luckily they had left some behind so I stocked up a supply of opiate medicine which I knew could kill any pain. In addition to this I got some antiseptics, creams and other remedies for any eventuality. I did not hesitate to grab anything that I thought might be useful and I left there well armed with bandages, medicines and other supplies. I was surprised that the hospital too was without power. I had assumed that a secondary system would have kicked in after the power outage, but in this assumption I was wrong. It was therefore useless to check the kitchens for all the frozen food would be spoiled. No matter, I thought, for there were still plenty of supplies at home.
I found it a little odd that people had come all the way out here to get medicine but then I realized that it had probably been drug addicts and not people like myself who were there for medical supplies. I figured that such people would want to stock up on these substances and would be willing to travel in order to obtain such things. It was more odd, though, that people had even been there given the complete absence of anyone in the streets. There seemed to be so few people about that the appearance of any survivors struck me by that point as a surprise. I would soon discover, however, that there were others in the area.
I was now fully prepared for any eventuality. I loaded a couple of the guns and set them around the house. I then returned to my normal routine of eating, sleeping, watching movies and reading. After I had left the hospital, I came upon a video store so I stopped in and stocked up on films too. I must have piled a couple of hundred of video discs into the van before speeding of to my secluded nest. These films came in handy as I sprawled out in the living room with expensive alcohol, cigarettes and good food. I had been a poor man for many months before the bombings so I took extra pleasure in the indulgences I now allowed myself. I didn’t get too lazy though and I still did many chores in the house and yard. The vegetables in the large garden seemed to be doing well and I was beginning to figure out how the hydroponic system in the basement worked. I could thus enjoy my situation even more in the knowledge that the future didn’t look half bad. I was beginning to feel a little lonely, however, and the desire for companionship was growing. It may have been a sort of paradise but it was certainly a mitigated one...