February is Fiction Month.
It wasn’t the destruction of the world that changed everything.
It wasn’t the skyscrapers reduced to rubble, the garbage blowing everywhere, the uncertainty of finding water or electricity, or, once found, how long either would last.
It wasn’t the danger of running out of oxygen, of learning how to find, access and retain pockets of oxygen, all the while avoiding pockets of other, deadly gasses; or the constant fear of encountering roaming mutant beasts that only vaguely resembled what they once were.
It wasn’t the uncertainty of finding food, of having to remember his Boy Scouts’ lessons: remembering how to make a fire, how to build a shelter when one couldn’t be scavenged, how to tell when water was safe; or adapting those rules upon discovering that they didn’t apply anymore.
It wasn’t the discombobulation; never knowing where or when the moon or sun would rise, if they would rise at all; not being able to tell which direction is now North or not knowing how long it would stay North; or long it would be before the planet shifted yet again so that South America became East America and Australia became Africa; or the poles switched so that heading towards the equator from what (he thought) was New York meant heading West instead of South.
It wasn’t waking up every morning to the erratic, unseasonal weather: one day rainy, one day snowy, one day sunny, regardless of the month. Winter came in July; Spring came in August; the dog days of summer arrived in December. Or not. One never knew.
It wasn’t even the loss of his young daughter in the initial strike. There was already too much loss to count. What was one child, more or less, when there remained nothing left with which to sustain any of the world’s children, even his own? Besides, if there was life to resume here, if he and his wife could heal and survive, if there were others with whom to rebuild a safe community, there could be more children. Then, there would be time to mourn her loss. There was no time now, though. There was too much to do, and just living took every bit of his concentration.
But it was one day. After several weeks of scavenging, of navigating the new, demolished landscape, of relearning how to wake up in the morning, how to breathe, how to eat, how to find their way about. Finding themselves near what might have once been Southern California, only split down the middle now. He could see (what was once) the western half, mere islands floating way out in the ocean, and estimated the new coastline starting at around what had once been, perhaps Los Angeles? His wife threw herself over a ledge of that new coastline and drowned herself in the ocean.
It was then that the weight of the chaos finally descended on his malnourished shoulders, pushing him down so his legs buckled and he slumped onto a nearby slab of concrete. It was then that he finally thought, “Now that changes everything.”
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