When the Lights Go Out: The Next Chapter
See the beginning chapter to see where the saga begins: When The Lights Go Out:Chapter 1
30 Hours Later
Thirty hours since the lights went out and it feels like it has been 30 days. Your clothes are filthy and from what, you have no idea. You decided that huddling over a meager fire was not getting you anywhere. You do however; have opening soup cans down to a science with barely a scratch from puncturing the cans with a flat-headed screwdriver. Small victories are what keep you going.
You are out of propane for the gas grill but you realized if you removed the tank and couplings you could fill the heating chamber with wood and use it like a charcoal grill. There were only a few matches left so you had to keep the fire going, you do not want to think about what happens if it goes out. If it starts to rain, you could lower the lid you reason.
You talked to yourself about why the seemingly simplest of things took so much thought to figure out, and once you had figured it out you wondered what took so long.
Stumbling around in the wooded lot behind the house, looking for firewood you discovered a seep. By pushing the lip of your metal pot down into the muck slightly, you managed to half-fill it with dirty water. Running the water through a coffee filter cleaned it up somewhat. A few more trips and you now had several gallons of murky water heating over the fire in various pots and pans.
Water and fire, in less than three days, luxury living was now dirty water simmering over an open fire in the backyard. You set the coffee filter basket full of grounds over the glass pot, poured boiling water slowly over the grounds, and let it drip into the decanter.
Coffee never tasted so good though. Maybe it was the fact that the simplest things now required work and thought, no more push button access to anything. No more thoughtless moves based on habit, because life is now different, and new habits needed to be formed. Amazing how quickly a person learns to appreciate the little things in life.
Your cell phone battery was dead. You had left it on in hopes of some sort of signal, some sign maybe of life getting back to normal. Hope against hope that some miracle would happen and you would hear the phone’s familiar ring. It was dead weight now, clipped to your belt but for some reason you would not remove the phone.
The house was sweltering and you were filthy from dried sweat, not to mention smashed mosquitoes. Some of the simmering water would be used for a sponge bath and once you felt the water had heated long enough you were going to filter it again and store for drinking water. You realized that just keeping up with the water was going to be work. You needed enough water eventually to wash clothes if the electricity stayed off much longer.
Twice you had climbed on your mountain bike, intending to ride into town, and twice you had gotten off it in the last two days. You could not explain why but you did not want to ride into the small hamlet up the road just yet. It was a quarter mile to the main highway, and once there a five mile ride into town. Third time was a charm however and after pulling the water pans from the fire, and propping the lid open so there were a few inches of airflow to keep the fire smoldering, you set off for the highway. Already you are worried about the fire going out.
The US highway was a mess, cars littered the road and a few were off in a rutted field next to the highway. Hoods were up and trunk lids were open on many of the cars. You noticed smashed windows on a few.
You spotted movement and immediately pulled back down the narrow lane. Someone was walking between the cars looking in windows. It dawned on you this may be a looter, you felt sick with fear, and this made you want to turn back home.
You wondered how the looter, if in fact he was one, managed to get here. Obviously whatever had happened affected vehicles, and quickly. You had read somewhere that an electrical pulse would ruin electronic components, so cars had electronics, and now obviously they were disabled because of some occurrence.
After moving back down the road to get out of sight, you positioned yourself so you could still glimpse the highway between some trees. The looter was out of sight but suddenly you heard a noise and after three days of virtually no manmade sounds, it startled you to the point you stumbled over your bike.
You knew that sound and realized it was a lawnmower, a riding mower, and now you could see it creeping along the shoulder of the road. The looter was hunched over the wheel. A wobbling trailer was hooked behind the lawnmower bobbing up and down as if it had square wheels.
Fear turned to frustration and then into anger. This man, this thief and obviously one that lived close by was here looting cars, cars disabled because of some freak occurrence that you still cannot comprehend. You wanted to chase after him, you even went so far as to grab a stone to throw, but realized you would not even come close to striking him. You paced with frustration undecided as to your next move.
He was getting father down the road with his ill-gotten gains. The limping trailer had items poking out. Your face was heated with anger, frustration and once again, fear crept in. What would you find in town?
Here you were dressed in filthy clothes and tennis shoes, with only a set of house keys in your pocket. You had absolutely no way to defend yourself if confronted by anyone. Would you even know how to defend yourself you wondered? The situation you found yourself in was so foreign, so inconceivable that you feared for your sanity and you simply had no answers.
Three days ago, you would have grabbed your phone and called the police to report someone breaking into cars. However, the way the looter went about his business made it seem like it was normal to search cars that were parked hither and yon in the middle of a highway.
The lawnmower man conducted himself as if it was an everyday occurrence. What did this tell you about human nature during a crisis? The man looked normal, middle aged, dressed in gray work pants and a blue shirt with a white tag over the left breast pocket, so a janitor maybe from the local hospital or school.
Is this the new normal after only three days, looters acting as if on a picnic and looting cars is just fabulous sport, a stroll in the park to smash car windows? Here you are without a clue as to what has happened or is happening right now and the looter is out there carrying on as if he is punching a clock and has to get back for the noon whistle.
You suddenly started ticking off reasons why you could not make it to town today. The road was full of cars, more looters possibly. You had no way to defend yourself and the list of reasons was growing. You had enough canned food for several more days, and the stores would be closed, so no point in trying to navigate the maze of stalled cars, right now anyway.
Your house came into view and you decided you were mad because you never gave a thought to what would happen if. The “if” has happened and you feel helpless, cut off and now realize your life was nothing more than pushing buttons and flipping switches, until now.
Now you have to find food, maintain a supply of water and think about personal security. One middle-aged man on a lawnmower should not have scared you. You could almost imagine him whistling off tune as he went about his business, not a care in the world. This is what scared you the most.
Is the Above Scenario Possible?
Quite possible and indeed likely at some point because there are simply too many plates being juggled in today’s world. Eventually some of the plates will fall. Tensions between countries will cause many people to end up in a situation as it was presented above.
The problems in other countries contrary to what many in this country may think will spill over the borders of this country and create untold chaos if they are not resolved. The citizens of the United States will be expected to absorb all of the problems until the country splits at the seams, and it will, sooner rather than later.
The macro problems will become someone else’s problem in a worldwide or national catastrophe however, because you will be busy dealing with situations like the one presented above. Life at the micro level will be gritty and heart wrenching for millions of people. Just getting five miles down the road to town may be impossible for some people during a crisis.
The initial attack, if there is one, will have an effect at the onset, but once everyone realizes the government at the local, state and federal level is incapable of handling the situation you will find people like the lawnmower man going about their business. The business of surviving the only way they know how.
How will you survive? Is having a stockpile of supplies the only way you know how to survive or are you worried about your attitude and the attitude of others during a crisis. How will you react, to looters and seemingly normal people doing abnormal things?
People react differently during a crisis, no one knows how others will react, and you do not know how you will either. You only think you know, but when the SHTF for real all bets are off, and you had better be strapped in with your head on straight.