It was early in the morning when Amy sat at her window waiting to see the sun rise. As the earth spun allowing the sun to peer over the mountains, the wonders of the morning filled her with hope. The horizon turned a mixture of fuchsia and salmon, the dark blue haze slowly devouring the velvet black of the night sky from the hours before. One star stuck around, sitting alone in the now retreating Darkness. Shining brightly and happily; like a child on Christmas morning, happy, giddy, ambitious and ready to grab the bull by its horns and take on the day. It joined Amy to watch the day burst into life. The crickets chirped excitedly and all was peaceful in Amy's mind. A shooting star caught her line of sight, she made a wish. As suddenly as the star had appeared it changed direction and started to gain speed flying towards the sky. Amy's jaw dropped. White missed spun out from behind her shooting star, spiralling in the sky. The star gained more speed than broke the sound barrier. A sonic boom shook the glass of Amy's tiny house, a white cloud of frozen water droplets circled out from the middle of where the sound barrier broke, like a wall had been shattered and was now radiating outward in slow motion, showering the blue sky in white drywall dust. The spiralling disappeared, than the white cloud of broken sky vanished into oblivion. She waited a moment crouching in anticipation. The star, her star, was gone from view, the sky was starting to brighten, the fuchsias and salmons turning to gold's and orange. She stood up leaning against her window sill in anticipation and curiosity.
When the loudest strongest noise she had ever heard shook here to her knees. Porcelain ornaments fell from her shelves to their demise. The windows shook and the sun blinded her sight as it reached over the hill turning everything into a black silhouette. Amy had never seen anything like this in her life. The final sonic boom was impossibly astonishing. Amy looked around her room, broken glass and shards of porcelain cluttered the thread bear carpet. Amy decided to start tidying up. Amy's only valued possessions now lay in pieces. With a few tears she hustled the broken bits into the bin. Grandmother made a trip once a month to the black market to sell broken bits and bobs for money. Mother worked in a bank. She used to be a lawyer but once the plagues hit there was no need for lawyers anymore. Or at least that's what her mother had said.
Thinking about what she had just witnessed Amy pulled out her diary and sat at her study and began to write.
I am not sure what I have just witnessed, a shooting star had a mind of it's own and decided to fly back into the heavens. It ran away from the earth! I guess it realised that our world sucks and wanted to die in a prettier, happier place. It had a spiralling misty tail, It looked a little like a comet on sugar. I wish dad was here to see it. Dad died 7 years ago during the first outbreak of the plague. My mother was at work and I was only 5 years old. Mother tells me every day of how beautiful, strong, and kind he was. I remember the stories he told me of the sky, and of space. I guess that's where my curiosity comes from. He would have loved my fearful shooting star. I am going to name my star Cleopatra after the Egyptian pharaoh. She is my favourite!
Amy closed her journal and preceded to the kitchen to look for some breakfast, she cut herself a slice of bread; freshly baked by her grandmother the night before, and some jam; also canned by her grandmother the previous year. She sat at the slab of wood and stone they called a table in front of the fireplace. Embers burned in the blue haze of the morning. The earth had not yet turned enough to light the rest of the house with gold's and yellows as it had down to Amy's room.
"My grandmother told me about living on the welfare system in 2012 with her mother. Her mother went to school to get an education and a good job to support her and my grandmother. She said that living on the welfare system of 2012 was the closest thing to living like a queen in this day and age. There were cars and aeroplanes and buses, 7 billion people roamed the world, it was a sight that could only be imagined."
Amy bit down on her bread and jam, tasting the sweet straw berries; the sticky liquid was a comfort against her tongue, she smiled, remembering her grandmother's stories.
"I went to school every day, I was in the 7th grade and had tons of friends we had electricity and running water, no going to the river and distilling it yourself, no we had fridges and freezers that kept everything cool, and heated hot water tanks that kept everything hot! The electricity was amazing everything was electronic. Although people worried about greenhouse gasses carbon fuel, depletion of the ozone layer, martins, and asteroids. 'Oh the planets going to explode' they said 'we need to save the polar ice caps' they said. No they were wrong; we needed to worry about population, and tectonic plate movement." She giggled as she remembered her grandmothers mocking tones of the parliament and prime ministers.
The door opened and her grandfather walked in.
"Good morning sweet pea" he tipped his hat to his granddaughter as she rose to her feet and gave him a tight hug around the middle.
"I brought ya' some milk nice and worm straight from the utter."
Amy looked at the thick sallow liquid that clung to the walls of the pail and smiled delightedly. She ran out to the back and garbed the other pail of milk; only half full but heavy enough to make her waddle it back to the house.
In the kitchen sat a large milk sifter, it sifted the cream from the milk itself. She wasn't tall enough to poor the liquid and every time she tried she always spilled some. Her mother used to laugh every time she saw her daughter standing on a stool helping separate the milk and spilling the warm liquid gold all over the floor. Her mother was the one to mention that it would be better if she just cranked the wheel to actually separate the milk itself. I remember being so excited at the thought that I was the one SEPERATING the milk, I felt so important that I jumped to the task and knocked over the last litre of milk on the floor, mother hid her face in her hand, well grandmother looked a little distressed, grandfather just laughed and laughed hysterical and my giddiness, and clumsiness. Cranking the mechanism to turn the milk was hard work; Amy was always having to stop to wipe the sweat from her brow. But today as she sat there cranking the wheel and turning the mechanisms sifting the thick cream from the warm thin milk she did not need to stop, she had gained muscle tone on her thin body she was becoming a true farm girl. Helping the family with chores separating the liquids, making butter and selling good on the black market for spare change, Grandfather and I finished with the milk and he poured me a glass before sending me back to my breakfast.
"Hey, brat" came my grandfather's deep voice from behind me. He was holding an apple, a bright red juicy apple.
"Where did you get an apple those are out of season!" I asked him excitedly.
"the neighbour just over the hill gave me a bushel of apples for 3 pounds of butter" he exclaimed handing the delicious fruit to his granddaughter. "I dare not ask where he got it, I just know that today we have apple's for breakfast. Taking the apple in her hand Amy went back to the table and sat her milk and apple down beside her half eaten bread and jam. She poked at the fire and added some small pieces of wood and got them smouldering, than a couple more until a flame was blazing in the pit. She added the log to keep the fuel burning before continuing at her breakfast. Again her thoughts wondered to her grandmothers stories. About electronics and computers and iPod's and magazines, printing presses and all these amazing things that seemed so inconceivable but grandmother had lived them.
She looked around her small 3 bedroom shack with the stone fireplace, the boarded up broken windows, thread bear curtains. This used to be grandmothers ranch in the good old days, the walls were a beautiful forest green, with dark red curtains highlighting the bay windows. The cupboards in the kitchen were a beautiful honey oak and the oven and microwave all worked and the pantry was full, the fridge was full, the bathroom was a sunny yellow and my room was purple and beautiful. But now the paint has faded with age and is pealing off the walls. Bits of sunlight shine through cracks in the drywall, and vines are finding their way into the house under door frames and through cracks in the window sill. Where the fire places is now there used to sit a beautiful gas fireplace with a honey oak mantle, grandmother showed me a scrap book she made of her life, of her house, and of her wedding to grandfather. The digital pictures all printed at digital photo editors inside supermarkets. So beautiful, I remember wishing I had lived during grandmother's age.
I remembered her stories about the time civilization fell. The planet had hit 9 billion people when grandmother was 25 years old. It was 2027 and the earth couldn't do it anymore. Its orbit shifted and earthquakes struck, devastation threatened the planet. Japan sunk under its own weight and was swallowed up by a tsunami. Volcanoes open up around the whole planet and lava fields threatened major cities. Hawaii was no more, New Orleans, Miami, the savannah, Washington, New york, and Boston are all gone, under water, bodies are still floating up and everyday the list of deceased gets larger. Its been almost 25 years and still we hear about more and more destruction. Amy bit into the golden red apple her grandfather had given her, sweet and juicy. The goodness of the fruit spilling down the corner of her mouth and framing her chin. Eyes closed, savouring the delicious golden fruit.
A good majority of former Mexico was now under water, new rock deserts now cover the western coastlines. Its starting to get cold now. With so much destruction the world is freezing, earthquakes are becoming more frequent and volcanic eruptions are a way of life. Amy looked outside to see the sun riding higher in the sky. Amy made her way back to her room still eating her apple. She got dressed, faded patched jeans, and a faded purple princess shirt. She loved this outfit and wore it all the time. She through on a thread bare off black sweater and fastened the miss matched buttons. The clothes framed her small slender body, her chest was flat and she had no curves. Amy was seven years old with Vibrant green eyes and thick black straight hair. Her skin was almost as white as snow. Her grandmother calls her "snow white" a princess from a fairy tale hat her mother reads to her. "Snow white and the seven dwarfs" Amy always dreamed of a prince charming to come and rescue here, so she could live like a queen in a castle. Only she would wear the pants and make the rules. Amy had a strong heart. Even for a seven year old her mind set on getting work done. She was a farm girl, a hunter, a tailor and a ruler. Amy pulled a sock over her foot only to find a whole in the big tow. As she had done hundreds of times Amy pulled out her sowing kit and started to stitch the hole, and fix her sock. Once she was done she slipped on her leather boots and went out into the sun with a fir lined jacket to meat her mother, Grandfather and Grandmother in the yard.
"Good morning my love!" Her mother greeted her. With a tight hug around the middle and a soft kiss on the cheek.
" 'ello champ, did you enjoy your apple?" Grandfather was next, handing her a hoe, and bag of manure,
"I did, thank you!"
Grandmother Clarissa shook her head disapprovingly at John, Her grandfather.
"It was jus' an apple Clairy, Not Like I giv'er any o' dat sweet grub ya call candy, eh champ"
John gave his grand daughter a playfully punch in the shoulder making her giggle His thick Scottish accent framed his looks perfectly. Bright Ice blue eye's Framed with age, his all too familiar crow's feet lining the corners every time he smiled. His red hair as bright as fire, the colour of the spew from the volcanos at night, glowing with life. His beard was as dangerously over grown as the ivy that threatened the structure of his house. He was a tall thin man. But his body was strong and tanned, he worked hard, a hunter himself with large callused hands where his arrows would rest as he pulled back the bow ready to strike in silence. He looked like a warrior, clad in leathers and furs, a tribute to the animals that he had killed. My grandparent's skin and tan leather from each kill we make. My jacket is my grandmothers pride, Rabbit fur lined the inside keeping it warm. Oxen hide on the outside, she beaded the side of it, adding feathers and fur. Is was warm, and beautiful. My grandmother also made matching boots for me rabbit fur and oxed leather. With embroidery around the mouth just below my knee, I was an Indian princess. I felt like Pocahontas and looked like snow white. I was Xena!
"So today we need ta plow da' feilds, an' harvest what we can, for Clairy to Prepare. We than nee' ta finish our tanning before night fall. Sophia, you nee' ta take Amy down to da river ta ge' us some wa'er to staralize and than take her ta da green house to collect herbs. Clairy is startin' to feel a little ill."
"yes sir!" Sophie saluted her father and took her daughter, Amy to fetch some water. The day continued with work, back labouring sweaty work. Amy got the easier but more tedious jobs because she was younger while the Adults did the heavy disgusting jobs like skinning and spreading manure. As the sun started to set grandfather started the fire in the stone fire place. Sophia boiled some water and pored it into a wash basin, Everybody bathed in the 4 litre's of water sponges and towels one at a time they washed, cleaning the grime from their bodies. After they cleaned they sat down for dinner.
Clarissa Had made a stew over the fire, smoky beef and vegetables. It was delicious.
"So, same plan tonigh' as usually den' eh?"
"Yes sir, we will take Amy as well, its time she learned how it's done."
"Yes, tha' sounds good. I shall ge' her a pack and a knife"
Everyone continued to eat in silence drinking milk and eating stew.
"Ma' what do you do at night?"
"We hunt, and scavenge, we need to make a living some how."
"Mom, it's illegal to hunt the authority says that if you hunt without a licence you will be prosecuted at the highest extent of the law, same with scavengers!"
"Yes dear, but does it look like we can afford to buy meat and supplies of the Authorities hunters. I understand that they are trying to re-build the economy but that is not the way to do it. We are starving and cold so we must survive any way that we can."
"So are you with us?"
"Yes! I am in, teach me what to do, Let's take the man down!"
"Da's ma Girl!"
That night Amy got dressed in black jumper, and got prepared long night the lay ahead of her. She placed the new black Knife that her grandfather had forged for her in its sheath that rested on her hip. She had a black ski mask, and tired her long black hair into a tight bun. She was as dark as night and she was a scavenger. Ready for whatever dangers lay ahead of her. The forests were overgrown and full of wild animals that were starving and ready to tear her and her family apart. She had a bow and arrows on her back and a large black pack as well as side packs. Also black. Her new black boots fit tight to her legs. The sun was set and all was quiet except for the crickets. She looked around her room and sighed. She touched every wall and every bit of furniture as if she would never see it again. There was a knock at her bedroom door.
"Amy, it's your mother we are ready to go."
"coming." she left her room with a wavering sigh.
"Ah, dat's ma' girl," John gave her a hug, and they left. Silently without a word they were in the dark only the starts to guild the,. It took Amy's eyes a few minutes to adjust to the darkness but soon she could see the shape of the forest and its thick canopy in hues of greys and blacks. The starts swirled above her. The shape of the Milky Way curling around the earth filled her with hope and admiration. If there was a god there is no way her could have created such magnificent scenery. Unless he studied with Vincent Van-goth, Hundreds of shooting starts littered the sky.
"Mom, why are there so many shooting stars, I can't wish that fast."
"They aren't stars, that is space junk and rocks and trash from the old broken satellites burning up in the atmosphere"
"Back in grandmothers day there where hundreds of satellites that gave them electricity and telephone signals and information. One day a satellite collided with another and created a chain reaction knocking out all communication. Since then they have been falling from the sky and landing on earth. Every so often you can see one fall. Sometimes in the ocean sometimes devastation the land"
They continued to walk; Amy watched the sky and the starts; than something whizzed past. It had a similar spiralling tale as the one she saw that morning.
"Mom what's that!" Amy pointed at the object.
"Amy that is a space ship, we are not the only life in the universe. There are hundreds of galaxies and millions of planets. They have always been there but when the earth was lit we could never see them. The best disguise in the universe is light pollution but now that there is no light on earth we can see them all. They cannot hide and we now know they are there."
"I saw one this morning, But i thought I was imagining things."
"Yes, I heard it, the sonic booms. I have heard my fair share of space craft taking off. People say that they have visited us, Collected information and some times taken people with them."
"Why won't they take us? Why not save us and let us explore a new world?"
Another ship whizzed past, this one lower in the sky. Stopping and hovering, Surveying, than moving along again.
"I don't know sweetie, but let's just leave them alone. They haven't bothered us, so lets not bother them come along now."
The family moved on its way deeper into the forest until the canopy blocked all the stars from sight. Grandfather shot a few small animals with his bow and placed them in his large sack. After his pack was full he waved good bye and went back home. Amy and her mother continued of, collecting scraps of metal along the way. They final came across an old tractor.
"Alright, so this is how it works, we loosen all the nuts and bolts, you sort them into you side packs one pack for nuts and one for bolts, ok."
"Alright," They started and Amy's mother kept handing her odds and ends.
"What about the wires?"
"Here, take this, it's a wire stripper. It will take the plastic off. Leave the plastic ant take the metal. Put the wire into a separate side pouch."
It seemed like the two women had been working for hours. They had loosened all the nuts and bolts and all that was left was engine and panels. Amy's mother took jars out of her pack and emptied any oils or gas into the different jars before placing the strangely shaped objects into her large back pack. Once both women's packs were full they packed up and left without a sound.
There was a rustling in the bushes.
"Shh, don't move. What ever happens stay low, and don't move." Amy's mother covered Amy with some leaves and stood very still and very quiet. Eyes darting all directions searching for the sound, Bow and arrow in hand, Ready to kill.
Rustle, rustle, rustle.
A dear emerged from the shadows, found a nice patch of grass and started to graze peacefully. Sophia razed her bow and silently waited. The dear let out a sharp painful sound. Sophia ran to the animal and stabbed its brain quickly and silently petting its neck shushing it. It was dead. Quick and quiet.
"You can come out now dear."
"Why did you stab its head?"
"Well you don't want it to suffer do you?"
"Shush, and help me will you."
Amy helped her mother hoist the heavy dead animal over her shoulder and they slowly made their way back to the house. Once home Sophie placed the animal into the slaughter house and summoned her father John. She helped her daughter Amy out of her packs and clothes and sent her to bed with some warm milk. Amy's night was over and she was alive.