A Post-Apocalypse Christmas Story
December 25th, 2013
It has been only 7 months since the lights went out, but it feels like forever. Some people call it the Apocalypse and consider it the worst disaster that the modern world has known. At our house, we call it the Change, because my mother says that just because it is different, doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world, and that words matter. Whatever you call it, though, the day the lights went out is the day that everything in our world became dramatically different.
The days go on and on, blending into one another with the sameness of our tasks. I don’t go to school anymore because there was no school. My mother teaches me at night, when we leave the door to the wood stove open to preserve our precious candles, but still have light bright enough to read by.
I never thought I would long for gym class or for the school cafeteria, but I do. I missed hanging out with the other kids, sitting around the table making fun of the food, and being in the classroom, learning about the things that I used to consider incredibly boring. If I had only known then what true boredom was I would have cherished the time to just be a kid. I would have delighted in every bite of food that I didn’t have to harvest myself.
Instead of school, I work to keep us fed and warm. I work in the garden in warm weather. My mother walks with a cane, so it is my responsibility to be her legs. I walk in the woods near our house and look for anything that might be edible or useful. I collect branches and twigs in the cold weather. Staying warm and fed is the focus of our daylight hours, and those two tasks take up nearly every minute that the sun is up.
We have heard from those passing through that the cities were death traps. People there quickly ran out of food and water, and had no way to get more. Violence erupted because people were scared and desperate, and there was no one left to quell it. All the police had gone home to take care of their own families. The people who left right away were the lucky ones. Those left behind were constantly at the mercy of thieves and worse. I’m not exactly sure what “worse” is but when the adults talk, that’s what they say: thieves or worse. I’m glad that we don’t live in the city.
Our home is in a very small town. We have a big fenced yard with an apple tree. My old swing set has become the support structure of a makeshift greenhouse, and the rest of the yard is no longer a yard, but more of a field. I used to think my mom was kind of weird, with her backyard chickens and her garden and her herbs, but now I am glad because we have food. The well water that tastes so different from the liquid that used to come from the taps is our true saving grace, my mother says, because water is more precious than gold.