There. I said it. I needed to write that down on paper. Those two, simple, primal words. A statement of feeling, but a statement of fact. There's no denying it anymore. Fear is constantly with me now.
Meg started dividing her pills in half weeks ago, trying to make them last as long as she can. But the effects of her lessened dosage are becoming obvious. She spends more time in bed now than not. And her appetite is vanishing – I feel like I’m force-feeding her at times. She’s literally wasting away. And when the last bit of medicine is gone, I’m afraid for what will happen next.
So I’ve been thinking. I haven’t worked out the details yet, but I’m wondering if I might journey out into the darkness. If I might attempt a rescue of sorts. I know it sounds crazy – that’s why I haven’t talked about it with her or the kids. But she won’t live without more medicine, and I know where that medicine is. (Thanks, Dr. Raj!) But could I reach it in time? Could I reach it at all? I just don’t know. But I’m beginning to think that I’ve got to try.
I’ve never kept a journal before, so I don’t really know how to start one. But now that we’ve reached this point, which might be the proverbial “point of no return,” I’m inspired to write everything down. To have some sort of record. Maybe, if we do survive, I can go back and revisit what it felt like to go through it. And if we don’t, at least a little part of us will be left behind. I don’t know why that’s important to me, but it is. So here goes - my first journal.
My name is Gordon. I’m a husband and a father. I used to be so much more, but none of that matters now. All that’s left is my family - Meg and our twin teenagers, Jessica and Henry. We’re still alive, and that’s the only thing that matters anymore.
We left the city while we still could. I could see the chaos coming. Strike that. I could feel the chaos coming. I pride myself on being intuitive. It’s a natural instinct, intuition. One of those rare things you can’t teach yourself or learn from others. You’ve either got it, or you don’t. I had hoped my intuition was off this time, but it wasn’t.
We retreated as people began to panic, which didn’t take long. Just a matter of days, really. When the blackout began, we did what we always did: gathered candles and flashlights, packed some coolers with refrigerated food we wanted to salvage. But then it continued. 24 hours, then 48. Three days, then four. On the fifth day, I could sense the desperation. It wasn’t just the lack of electricity, it was the lack of information. One of our neighbors ventured out a couple hundred miles, as far as half of his car’s full tank of gas would take him. It was the same situation.
On the sixth day, we packed up as much as we could fit into the SUV and took off for Meg’s farm. And that’s where we’ve been, and where we’ll continue to be for as long as it takes. We’re well-supplied with food and water. I don’t know how long our provisions will last, but we have guns for hunting if we need to. That’s something I’ll have to teach the kids. But I know that we can survive, however long the darkness may continue.
I'm so tired today. I haven't been sleeping – I guess worry is getting the best of me. The few reports that we've received have convinced me that we will never return to the life we knew. That's a hard concept to grasp. That whoever has conceived this new world has thrown most of us back into the past – decades, maybe further. I fear what the desperation will do to people. Or, more likely, what it's already done.
We haven't seen any other people since we exiled ourselves to the farm. I don't expect that to last. People will have to search for resources. And they'll eventually find us. Yet another reason to worry. Can I defend my family when the time comes to do it? Will I be strong enough?
And then there's the thing that I've kept tamped down until lately. It's finally crept out of the hole where I had hidden it for the past two-and-a-half months. Meg's lonely fight – her cancer. I have to admit that I don't know if she can do it. If she can beat it again. No more doctors or hospitals. And her medication will run out. It's inevitable. So there it is. Written as record. Worry and fear. I'm just so damn tired.
This is what I will forever call the week that changed everything. We now know that the darkness was intentional, and that there was evil behind it all. And finally, that we will never go back to the lives we knew before.
Henry was successful in receiving a radio transmission. It came from a news agency out of Chicago. I don't know how they're still broadcasting, based on the information we now have. The reporter described what's been happening there for the past few weeks, and what I can now imagine is happening across the country.
A portion of Chicago still has power, but the area's been cordoned off. Apparently, some group has taken control of the area, not letting anyone from the outside in. And this is where the report became difficult to hear, and hard to even comprehend. The group inside the powered area is guarding it, protecting it with violence. The reporter described a family approaching the guarded border, a couple with two young children, starving and desperate. As they neared the edge of the powered area, the guards tore them apart with machine guns. I can't believe I'm actually writing this down. I told Henry to turn the report off.
He was able to find a different broadcast. This one is just music. A broad mix – jazz standards from the early 20th century, folk songs of protest from the 1960s, even traditional symphonies and orchestral pieces from times so long ago that I can't even place them. I don't know who's broadcasting this music, but the humanity behind it has somehow made our situation better. At least for a little while.
We remain un-electrified, if that's a word. No lights, no communication, no contact. I’m actually starting to think that last one is a good thing. Hey, you can't fault me for trying to spin this thing in a positive direction. We're safe, we have food, and we have each other. The only contact with other humans that might occur at this point would be dangerous. So no contact = safety. At least until the darkness passes.
I've started training Jessica and Henry with the rifles. I put up some basic targets in the back field for now. Truth is, I need the practice, too. I've got to start thinking long-term, like this could go on for a long time. It's looking more and more like we'll need to start living off the farm's natural resources. We've got the garden that Meg's father planted before he disappeared, but we may need more than that can provide before it's all said and done. Plus, the target practice has given us something to do, somewhere to place our focus and energy. Jessica's a natural, by the way. It's like she knows how to shoot instinctually. Her physical prowess continues to amaze me.
Henry's talents haven't disappeared either. He's been working on an old radio receiver he found in a back closet in his grandfather's study. It has to be at least 30 years old. He's gotten it powered up by generator, which is a feat in my book. But he's pressing for more, to get us connected to any information that may be coming through from somewhere, anywhere. I've got my fingers crossed that it will work – even though I’m not sure it will transmit anything I want to hear.
I'm going to allow myself a little levity. Whoever may be reading this, please know that our lives are still terrible, our situation still desperately hopeless. But if all the humor disappears, I'm afraid things will spin out of control quicker than they already are. In other words, I need a break. So forgive me this one entry of escape.
I've been making a list. I call it "The Things I Miss the Most" – a list of things from life before the Great Dark that I took for granted, like everyone else did. I imagine people who get stranded on a deserted island might make the same type of lists. Don't know what you got 'til it's gone, right? So, without further ado, "The Things I Miss the Most"…
Beer – cold, refreshing, end-of-a-long-day beer.
HVAC – when it's hot, so are we. Same with cold.
Baseball – the great American pastime, one of my favorite ways to spend three hours. See also: beer, football.
Cars – I don't have anywhere to go, but what if I did?
People – hey, I love my family more than anyone other humans on the planet, but an old friend would be nice, for a little while.
It’s a work-in-progress. A distraction, if nothing else. I’ve actually had dreams about these things, waking with a smile on my face only to find nothing changed. You can’t hold that against me. After all, this darkness may last forever. But a guy can still dream, right?
I saw someone today, at the entrance gate to the farm. Just one man. I watched him from a distance, hiding myself behind some overgrown brush. He just peered through the gate's iron bars for a long time. He was haggard and tired-looking, and his eyes seemed to focus on nothing particular. But his stare never wavered, his face steadily pointed in the direction of our house. Our safe haven.
After a half-hour or so, he made a move, raising his hands from his sides and slowly wrapping his fingers around two of the gate's bars. I didn't wait any longer. I fired the shotgun I was carrying with me into the air. Just one shot, as a warning. The sound pierced the day's utter silence, reverberating its echoes through the calm air. But the man didn't flinch. I held my breath for a few seconds, contemplating what I might do next. Finally, he let go of the bars, turned back toward the road, and walked away. It was a slow, sad walk, his head and shoulders drooping as he appeared to drag each foot along. I watched him until he was out of sight, then went back to the house for the rest of the day.
Jessica and Henry are getting better with the rifles, killing rabbits in the back field with regularity. It eases my mind a bit to know that they will be able to protect themselves if they must.
Merry Christmas, dark world. For us, today is also happy birthday. It was 15 years ago that our miracle twins were born. The memory of that morning is still clear.
We celebrated, both the holiday and the birthdays. We found the boxes of decorations in the farmhouse's attic last week. Garland and stockings and ornaments. The kids and I cut down a small tree and brought it inside. It all seemed like a good distraction.
There was no cake. Add that to the things I miss the most – cake! Meg opened some canned peaches for dessert after our rabbit-and-potatoes dinner. She stuck small candles in two slices of the syrup-soaked peaches and presented them to Jessica and Henry. We sang, a separate version of the standard birthday song for each child as we always had done. Life felt normal for a few minutes.
I'm writing this as everyone else sleeps and the farmhouse is eerily quiet. Christmas night used to be my favorite night of the year. Everyone worn out from a full day of gifts and turkey and family. Everyone sleeping peacefully while I finally relaxed in front of a Christmas classic, like Die Hard. Everyone happy because our lives, while not perfect, were still so good.
I'll never forget those Christmas nights, and I suppose I should be proud that I had as many as I did. But tonight I don't feel proud. Instead, I'm wistful and envious of the past. And I don't like feeling this way, especially on a day when we celebrate life, in so many respects.
Happy birthday, kids. And Merry Christmas, dark world.
I've taken some time away from writing. What I've been telling myself? I haven't had that much to say. The truth? I haven't had anything positive to say. Depression is trying to set in, trying to drag me down. I can feel it every minute, pulling. I could never relate to depressed people before. Now I know – it's not something a person can control. Instead, it's controlling me, holding me back from any sort of normal emotions. I have found myself just trudging through the day's activities, which now consist of basic life maintenance, nothing more. Food, water, shelter. Then sleep, if I can. But those simple things have become so hard to do.
Jessica and Henry have become surprisingly self-sufficient, so that is helping. They can hunt without my supervision now. And I don't fear letting them explore the farm on their own anymore. Turns out they can handle more than I ever thought they could. Teenagers becoming adults before my eyes.
Meg is maintaining. Which is to say, she's keeping her cancer at bay, for now. But we've started discussing plans for her medication. The supply is only good for another two months or so. After that, we don't know what we're going to do. She says the cancer is still there. And I trust that she knows. After all, she's been through this before. But this time, she's on her own.
So I can't shame myself for being depressed. It's only natural, I'm trying to believe. It's been pouring rain here for three straight days now. The sun's got to come back out eventually.