It wasn’t until maybe a week after the power went out that things started getting really bad. A week of people being unable to shop for food and unsure of what would happen… A week of bipartisan bickering with each party blaming the other and neither accepting any responsibility… I mean, if you think about it, really think about it, a week of Starbucks junkies unable to get their caffeine fix is a disaster waiting to happen. A week without television for the majority of the U.S. is asking for riots.
Things were already tense before that. With a market crash far exceeding the recession and bank bailouts that rocked the country in 2008, unemployment skyrocketed, businesses closed, and the economy tanked leaving people fighting for minimum wage jobs and still unable to keep afloat. The government was forced to cut social benefits. No food stamps. No welfare. Social security was next. People were literally starving to death while Congress and the President continued to make full salaries and dine on caviar for breakfast (metaphorically and perhaps literally) every day. When a new budget approval bill stalled in Congress that both reinstated and increased these benefits and raised the debt ceiling, the government shut down cutting tens of thousands of more out of their jobs with no end in sight.
That’s when things went from bad to destroyed… sovereign citizen militias took advantage of this vulnerability and attacked the White House, the Pentagon, and Capitol Hill. No one had any idea the numbers these groups had, and the arms that had been amassed by them under lax gun control laws were staggering. Their targets were quietly and swiftly taken down in a matter of hours leaving a bare-bones government in place that still couldn’t tell its asshole from a hole in the ground, bumbled their way through managing the problem, and still, obviously, couldn’t get a budget approved much less get things back on track… Chaos is an understatement. The central government completely fell, and the states weren’t too far behind. Everything dissolved. Everything. So, people started taking care of themselves any way they could. No one was looking to rebuild. It was complete lawlessness and not in a feel –goody Libertarian utopia kind of way…in a cannabilistic, we’ll-rape-you-just-for-fun kind of way apparently.
Alyssa can’t help thinking about the past. About what has led to where she is now—camping with her partner in the middle of the woods with no tent, no supplies, and her badly injured father on the run from a group of Others. Others who wanted to rape and kill her. Others who tried to kill her father and may very well have succeeded.
Daniel moans in his sleep then pulling her out of her own head. She goes to him to check for fever careful not to wake him.
“He’s got to be quiet, Lys. He’ll attract people making noises like that.”
“And this fire won’t?”
She smirks at Jamie across the fire. Even in the most dire of situations, she can’t help that warm feeling she gets when he admits she’s right…mostly because she’s right pretty often, and he can’t stand it. It has been that way since they were kids.
“I hate that look you get.”
“The one when I’m right and you’re not?”
Jamie shakes his head but even in the shadowy, low light of the fire she can still see the smile on his face. Moments like this almost make her feel normal again. That feeling is gone in a flash, though, when she hears her dad moan again and she has to wonder once more if he’s going to make it. She has lost everything. She and Jamie both have. He still doesn’t have a clue what he will find when they finally make it back home. Will there even be a “home” or will Jasper be taken over by Others? For all she knows, their childhood homes may be demolished, burned to the ground perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve seen it during their travels. What she does know is that her mama is gone and her daddy may die, too. The wound in his shoulder needs treatment that she can’t give especially not without supplies. If he makes it through the night, they’ll have to scavenge somewhere for whatever first aid items they can find.
She shakes her head attempting to break loose the thoughts that seem to have rolled their way inside her mind threatening to take root and realizes that Jamie must have been speaking to her then entire time. She hasn’t heard a word of it.
“Did you hear anything I said?”
“No…I was lost in thought, I guess. What is it?”
“Nothing important except that we should get moving soon. The sun’s coming up, and I don’t want to stay in one place too long just in case we’re being followed.”
“I don’t think Daddy can move right now. He needs his rest.”
“And we need to move. If he’s going to come with us, he’s going to have to move, too.”
What they really need, she thinks, is for everything to be fine again, for the power to come back on, farmers to go back to work, for each other to no longer be seen as food and for some sort of manufacturing to take place to fix what has been destroyed and get things back on the mend … Order needs to be restored. People can’t continue to live like this. As it stands, there have been several groups that have tried to take over and create a functional government or so the rumors go. News travels slowly in these times, but it still gets around. The regular players attempted to step up with their ideas about how to make it work, radicals with extremely conservative goals took a shot, and of course, the militias, but nothing has been able to stick, nothing works. Nothing’s going to work as long as far gone as everyone is, not for the entire country anyway. If it were left up to her, being as she’s always right and all, maybe the best solution would be smaller governments based on region with a central government forming later if at all.
With the sun higher in the sky, Jamie begins to get edgy. He paces out of frustration. Daniel is still out cold. He hasn’t stirred except the occasional moan, but he’s still not feverish. Not yet anyway. It’s time to go. Jamie’s right--staying in one place isn’t a good idea. She shakes her dad calling to him softly at first to wake up, but he doesn’t respond until she’s nearly yelling at him. He stirs and blinks slowly at her groaning in pain.
“Daddy, it’s time to go. We need to get moving…the sun’s already up.”
He nods. He’s in too much pain, it seems, to actually form words, but he manages to get to his feet with her help. There’s nothing to pack, and the fire had already dwindled down to smoldering ash.
They have nothing but themselves and each other.
The small group heads towards Jasper. Alyssa’s mind is on loss…losing her country, her home, her mama, everything she thought she needed. She lost her phone, her ipod, coffee…PIE…everything. Everything she thought was important in life, that was necessary for life is gone. She doesn’t even have tampons anymore. No gummy vitamins. No dresses or bags or shoes. No candy or chocolate. She doesn’t even have a fucking hair dryer or shampoo for fuck’s sake. Everything she ever knew about the way life works, about how to fucking live. It’s all gone. But, what she realizes now trudging through these woods to get back home with the sunlight in her face, hand in hand with Jamie and her arm around her dad for support, is that everything she ever really needed was inside her all along, and every day she continues to prove that. The things she thought were central to life were all just smoke and mirrors…illusions of necessity to fuel a broken system.
Of course this has been another installment of Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. I hadn't really planned to continue this story (again...ha), but when I saw the prompt this week was "power" I had to continue it at least once more. It's not all that action packed, but I enjoyed it all the same. Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out the other contributions on the MTCAB page and anonymous confessions on the Facebook page.