I don't remember who suggested it, but whoever it was is simultaneously the world’s worst and best person.
I mean, on one hand, it’s a huge concrete box. Two points of entry, both easily defended, and so many things with which to defend it. On the other, we’re not as mobile as we need to be to stay ahead of everything, not to mention everyone, else.
I should back up though. As nice as it is to be able to get this down on paper, people who find it later are probably going to be as mystified as we are, so I’ve decided to do what I can to shed some light on what happened over the last week, safe here in the quote World’s Largest Hardware Store unquote.
My parents were children of what’s known as Baby Boomers. At the start of the 2010s, they were coming to the realisations everyone eventually has about how the world works and how, in their eyes, the previous generation had all but ruined their chances at having a successful career/life; two things they considered one. I don't know. My parents had a lot of ideas that didn't really fit together, or rather, shouldn't have fitted together, but I'm digressing. My point is that they didn't want me to end up resenting them like they did my grandparents, so they, effectively, let me do what I wanted.
If you're my age, that is creeping into mid to late teens, or younger, then having no parental oversight might sound like the best thing in the world, but it applied to everything. For most of my childhood, I didn't have a mother or father, I had babysitters who had coincidentally given birth to me.
Part of me wonders if their decision to let me loose on the world with no restrictions was their way of saying that I wasn't wanted, that they considered me an unfortunate circumstance of the sort of hippy revival they found themselves in as their parents generation died off and they took over.
Sorry, digressing again.
It all amounts to me learning about the world via outdated and biased textbooks at what passed for a school here, and practical on-the-streets experience which, when you live in a town of less than 20,000, and where the most exciting thing to happen is a hardware store’s opening, isn't a whole hell of a lot. Somehow, though, I managed. You know, more or less. I know my way around town like I built it. I have in’s with most people that are useful to know. I've even had an after school job for a year or so that my parents don't know about. Among my buddies, I'm the cool one. Or I was.
Rewind a week. Everything is fine. I'm doing my thing, just wandering. I have no restrictions, which means everything is open to me. So long as my parents don't hear about the shit I do, I'm allowed to do it. The problem is, there's no challenge in doing things they don't want me to do. So I wander. Not necessarily aimlessly; there are places I always go and people I always see when I'm out and about, and I'm technically on my way home at this point, but I'm clear across town from home and the odds of me grabbing the last bus are slimming. Not that it matters; I'm not actually planning on getting home tonight. Gloria has said her parents are both away for work or something, so I'm heading there.
It’s around 6pm and the streetlights haven't switched on yet. I watch as the orange glow fades and then blinks out behind the mountains off to the west and I'm in that dull darkness that immediately follows twilight. I've never once seen it with no streetlights on; the council are reasonably anal about ensuring public facilities like that are 100%, 24/7. They're very proud.
I stare up at the sky, watching for the stars. I don't see them at first, but slowly, surely one blinks on, then another, then two more, four, a dozen and out of nowhere the sky is alight with thousands upon thousands of little white, or blue or red pinpricks, more dazzling than I have ever seen them. I turn to take in the entire sky and that's when I see it, the first sign that something is up. The moon is flickering.
Look, I'm not a scientist, nor does the crap in the sky usually interest me, so I don't know if there's a proper term for it, but to me, it was flickering. Like if it was behind a slightly greasy window. And then it was gone. Just gone.
We don't live on the coast so I can’t know for sure, but some of the survivors we met up with later came from there. They tell us stories of what happened. Entire cities, millions of people all at once, gone in a horrific surge of water.
Of course, the first thing I do is pull out my phone and try to ring some people. To talk about this, whatever it was. It was exciting. But my phone was dead. No amount of button pushing, or holding or battery replacement would make it work. It’s still in my bag, hidden with the rest of my supplies, down in garden tools. One day I’ll see if I can learn how to at least diagnose whats up with it.
So that was the second thing that I flagged as a symptom of this thing.
Number three was something altogether different and is why we hold up here, in a huge concrete box, either waiting for death or waiting to evade it.
There's nothing out there.
What I mean is, our town backs onto a large swathe of forest. Once upon a time it was a national park, but my grandparents generation decided affordable housing was more important and it was declassified before I was born. Now, it’s either dead or dying trees over the back of the latest subdivision or a perpetual construction zone. Point is, it’s full of animals. Big and small, friendly and not. But now, at 6pm, when you normally heard all the predators come out to play, scuffling through the scrub and finding an easy meal on those day time creatures who hadn't made it back to their hidey holes in time, there was silence. Even the wind was gone. But there was something out there. You couldn’t hear it, you never saw it, but you could feel it.