In the Ashes

July 21, 2011
I’ve always found it sadly ironic how it seems the younger people of the world always seemed to understand the world around them and think of the future better than adults. Groups of them always used to say “If we keep making weapons instead of peace we’re going to cause our own extinction!” Or “The environment is more important than another factory.” To the people of our government these kids were radicals, hippies, or just some group that wanted attention for other means. Too bad it was those “crazy” teenagers that actually knew what was going on, while the rest of us were unprepared.


In the years preceding and continuing past 2000 the technological race between nations jumped from devices such as automobiles and planes, to nuclear weapons and other military equipment. It was always said by the government that it was “for the sake of peace”, “a defense against terror”. Most people who knew the full extent of it thought of it more of a contest to see who could build the bigger gun. Yet, even with this knowledge, we kept living our lives as if none of it were true. Eventually, in the year 2140, the amount of nuclear arms stationed in each country and increased to some number never taught to children until about year eight or so of school. It’s almost like they were preparing for some massive war against Martians or some other bloody fictional creature.


Around that time, the government had decided it was too expensive to “leave room for the environment”. Seems they thought people would prefer oxygen dispensers over trees and animals. The planet, over the course of a decade or two, turned from green to silver as the cities began to utterly dominate the planet. The only reminder of nature then was the weather, which of course scientists had been spending billions on attempting to gain control of said weather. At least then we had oceans, the sea was virtually untouched aside from the occasional underwater resort, but those were almost always run by the few remaining environmentalists anyway. Technology in those days almost seemed as natural as a bird in the sky or a doe in the woods.


Several moths before the next election of the United States president disaster struck. During one of the many planned debates, while millions of citizens watched on television the supposedly momentous event in which the remaining two candidates were in a heated debate over the economy, Mother Nature cast her vote. An earthquake, measured at a category 14, beyond what science believed possible or measurable, struck midway through the United States. A hole was literally ripped across several states and magma once entombed beneath miles of earth spewed forth from the gaping chasm. Surprisingly the quake lasted no more than a minute, which was a relief to some people. However, technology had overstayed its welcome, and Mother Nature had decided to give it the boot.


In military based throughout the United States, nuclear weapons were stored in mass far beneath the cities in order to prevent them from being nicked from the government. All of which, were set off because of the quake. Ever single last one of the sodding things… The sky was torn to pieces, the cities and ground upon which they stood seemed vaporized, and people literally melted alongside the buildings in which they lived. The resulting explosive was indeed so massive that it set off the armaments in other countries. From one to the next, to the next, on and on. The whole world store of nuclear arms was set off at once, without warning. North America is more a crated than a country, the island nations are simply gone, and now all the remains of the cities of earth is ash, disfigured metal ruins, and its broken surviving people. There’s hardly any water now, the oceans turned toxic from all the bloody radiation from the bombs, and there’s almost more ash than air out there now, so any poor soul who ventures outside without a gas mask suffocates from the inside.


We’re still out here living, in what was once the United Kingdom, now more the United Wasteland. At some points we all work together, teaming up to do labor for somebody who needs something done, as long as they’re willing to share their shelter and whatever food they can conjure up. Crops are almost impossible, seeing as the explosions dispersed most of the natural clouds and replaced them with smoke, so these days whenever you spot a rain cloud by God you follow it.


I’m one of the lucky ones, which isn’t saying much. I’ve found myself a place to work and live. Or at least survive, because the definition of living isn’t what it used to be, even though it feels like it never should’ve changed. I found a family that turned a crater near where their house once stood, and with their help I dug down into the earth deep enough to find usable soil. Now it may be more of a swamp than a farm, but they can grow a good amount of food there. They started hiring a few weeks ago, and offered me a job because I helped fix the place up for farming. Nowadays we been busy harvesting and planting an’ all that, even fixed up a few shacks for us workers to live in so we don’t have to spend all our nights buried under some bloody rubble pile like everyone else.


Humanity is sad in my eyes. It seems like the loneliest form of being in these times, and why you ask? We make ourselves that way. The “farm” manager came up to me the other day, and he asked how the other workers were doing. Apparently I’m some sort of supervisor to him. I’ll accept that, it’s better than being just another faceless man who only knows what he’s doing half the time. Anyway, so he says to me “Lad, you’ve been ‘ere a fortnight longer than all of the workers out there, and I swear all of ‘em feel the same to me, excepting you. What was your line ‘o work before that flipping apocalypse?”

This question he posed was something I thought about all the time. Not a clue why I stood out, but perhaps it was because I was one of the few living people who had clothes that somewhat resembled a business suit. “I used to be a banker before that God forsaken earthquake. Lost my home, my job, my friends, but that isn’t different from literally everyone else on that planet. The living ones anyway,” I struggled to speak out from under my gas mask; blasted thing was too tight around my face. But it was better than suffocation. During this conversation I had been fastening a makeshift hoe from a busted electrical pipe and a broken kitchen knife.

“Well,” he said coughing, “I got lots of workers out there an’ not one I think I can trust, except you. I gotta be headin’ out of here for a few days to see if I can rustle up some more o’ them supplies we need. I want you to look after my wife and kid so as they don’t be getting into trouble.”

“Well that’s certainly a lot of faith you apparently have in me. I can do that.”

“Perfect, I’m leavin’ tomorrow morning. Now remember, you or anyone else touch my wife, my kid is gonna set yer bum on fire an’ throw ya in a ditch. Thank you kindly.”

Seemed he was pretty on edge, as if that was anything new for us. His son was not much younger than I, in his early twenties or so, and nobody seemed to like him, so he always seemed to play the part of the brute who bosses us all around. Most of us either ignore him or try to be pleasant around him, but we all despise his presence. He apparently used to fancy himself a bit of a body builder, and his groupie wife followed him to his first wrestling match the day of the earthquake. He hasn’t seen her since and anyone who pays attention to anything, which isn’t much, knows how miserably lonely he is at night without her. It’s like losing a part of yourself; losing a loved one hurts more than people who haven’t had them same happen to them can imagine.

When the manager, who I now know to be named Pete, left I went to speak to his wife, who spends all her days in the house cooking for the men. She offered me a bottle; a broke one mind you, of tea and asked me to stay a while and talk. Sadly, I found that not all was well in the house as I had hoped. Her husband is apparently rather temperamental and her son is un-attentive. She’s not allowed by her husband to leave the house for fear she’d leave him, nor are most workers allowed inside in order for him to be sure his wife doesn’t run off with another man. She stays only for her son’s benefit, despite the fact he doesn’t seem to care for anyone but his dead wife.

This is what I meant when I said we make ourselves lonely. Husband’s abuse their wives whilst their wives long to be away. Men disrespect ladies, and the few they don’t wind up disappearing from their lives. White’s discriminate the men of color, and employers mistreat their employee’s. And nobody, absolutely nobody travels together; none of us have any trust left to give besides to ourselves. The American’s had situations like this back in the days of the Great Depression so many ages ago, it seems completely mental to me how we can enact the same actions as the people back then almost as if it was some demented script to our lives.

We’re all alone in this world, whether we believe it or not. It seems that being in groups and living together makes us feel more alone. No longer do we wish to understand or care for each other; no longer do we wish to comfort those who need it or be comforted in hardship. I don’t rightly know what to call us anymore, but people I no longer believe is the word. We’re outcasts from our old world; this planet we live on is old and mutilated because of us. If only we had listened to the younger people, we could have changed the future. But even then we did not listen to those with different thoughts and feelings. We’re alone because the only company we want is that which mirrors us, and whether we want to believe it or not we are all different.

I hope one day humanity will rebuild itself, yet I don’t. If we change, if we no longer make the same errors we used to, and make a new and better society then best of luck to our race. However if we continue the lives we lead back before this disaster, I care not whether to say this is cruel, but if we do in fact not change, may God put us in our place.

Pete never did come back to the farm; we all assume he met his end. His wife admitted to me she was relieved, she felt a bit freer now. But she was more alone than ever. She asked for my help running the farm, and I obliged. Pete’s son never did soften up, but I care not, we understand his pain and leave him alone lest he ruin our lives any more than they already have been. I’m going to make something out of this place. No more loneliness, no more anger, and no more suffering. Soon I’ll call up the boys and have them help me collect materials to make a proper place for everyone to stay. The crops are growing in spite of the odds, and even Pete’s wife; whose name I never inquired, is lending a hand to keep this place alive. We’re all truly alone here, but it’s not going to stay that way forever even if it feels like that. Even if not till after my time, upon the ashes on the old world we’ll grow a new and better one, and it’s got to start somewhere.





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