Leela sat in the shade near the water. It was a hot summer day and the breeze coming off the lake felt good on her hot skin. Today had been an exceptionally hot day. It was at least 100 degrees right now and it was almost 5:00. She could feel the sweat on her forehead. She had to smile when she thought of her hair because with the humidity it turned to frizz.. It really didn’t matter. That was the least of her concerns. Her main concern was survival. It was too hot to cook and nobody would want to eat on a day like this. She liked sitting by the water. Every now and then you could see a fish jump out of the water. The ripples it made on the lake were nice to watch. It was peaceful here by the edge of the water. This lake was good for fishing on a summer evening. Sometimes her friend Nick would come down by the lake and lay on the hammock. She liked when he would take time out of his day to spend some time with her. They would talk for awhile and he would doze off. He worked hard and deserved to rest when he was tired. Leela had been in this area for about three months. She had come here to stay with her friend. He had a log cabin right here by the lake. The cabin was in a very small town. It was far away from the big city.
The climate was changing. It was getting hotter every summer. Droughts were common now. Each year they got worse. Last year the corn crops were destroyed. The heat had been very hard on them. They didn’t survive. This year seemed like it was going to be worse than last year. Most days were nearing 100 degrees and there was no rain in sight. If they did get rain, it would be a torrential downpour. It was either none or too much water. There was no happy medium. At this point in her life she was willing to believe that someone or something was playing havoc with the weather.
Leela had arrived with her backpack and little else. Everything that she owned was in her bag. She had her necessities with her. A couple outfits, an emergency kit, bottled water and a good flashlight. Her friend Nick had always told her that she could stay at his cabin if things started getting really bad in the city. In the past few weeks fighting had escalated to the point where nobody was safe. That’s when she decided to pack her backpack and start out for her friend’s cabin. She was sad to leave her home but, the alternative was not good. She had to leave all her friends and family behind. When she would talk to her family and friends about the state of the world, they would not listen. She had talked to them for hours on end. Day after day she would point out all the signs of trouble. She could not get them to listen. They would roll their eyes at her or worse yet fall asleep right in the middle of one of her discussions. She’d finally given up. There was nothing she could do.
She couldn’t call her friend Nick because there was no cell phone service. The gas stations closed a few days ago. There wasn’t a drop of gas for miles around. The grocery stores had closed long ago. She had exhausted all her food supplies. She knew it was time to leave. Leela was closing the front door when she heard a noise. She turned around to see her friend in the driveway. He was a sight for sore eyes. Nick was the best. He was her friend, protector and teacher. He was always there for her. She didn’t ask where he’d gotten the gas to come for her. He was a genius when it came to survival. Nick had always told her if things got bad he would come for her. He was true to his word. There he stood right in front of her. He told her they’d have to take back roads to his cabin. Leela didn’t care how they got out of the city. She was just glad to be leaving. She didn’t want to be near the city if things got any worse than what they already were.
As Leela sat quietly by the lake she thought back over the past couple years. It was hard to figure out when everything started to go wrong in the world. There was the closing of banks, housing foreclosures, high unemployment and the list went on and on. Leela noticed that the more trouble there was the more that came. There were numerous murders reported right along with suicides. There was threats of war right along with promises of a new world. It was impossible to make sense out of the world they lived in.
The power was constantly going off and coming on again. The powers that be would make rolling black outs constantly. Two weeks ago it had gone off and hadn’t come back on. There were so many people that would be hurt by this. Leela and Nick were powerless to do anything about it. The only thing that they could do, was to use their survival skills. They thought alike. If she started a sentence he could finish it. She thought that might just come in handy someday.
There were drones flying around day and night. They looked like small silver spheres. It was supposedly for their protection. Leela wasn’t so sure about that. How the drones were supposed to protect people made no sense. She had this deep gut feeling that they were tools used to spy on people.
There were tent cities everywhere. People living outside with whatever they could get their hands on. The tents were made out of old blankets and tarps. Furniture that had been discarded was placed around the area. People were outside sitting on discarded chairs and couches. They did say there was safety in numbers so maybe that’s why tent cities were growing.
She was content here. There was food and water and shelter. She gave thanks everyday for her friend. Since there was no phone service and no television or radio there was no way to know what was going on in the city. Every now and then someone would come through the small town and they would hear a little of what was going on. It sounded like a warzone. Leela was very thankful to be where she was safe.
The days were quiet. The nights were much cooler than the days. Sometimes they would sleep outside under the stars. They would each pick a star and make a wish on it. The wishes were always for peace. They had planted a garden and it was actually flourishing. Leela was learning how to cook over a wood stove. Nick was a pro but, Leela was just learning. It was a different life than what they’d lived in the city. The old way of life was over. The new normal was finding ways to survive on your own. It was necessary to be self-sufficient. There was a well on the property that supplied the water they needed. They could fish in the lake. At least once a week they would fry up some fish in a cast iron skillet. Fish was not Leela’s favorite food but, she was getting used to eating it. In these times you had to be thankful for whatever food was available. One of her favorite dinners was actually quite simple. She would walk out to the garden and pick some green peppers, tomatoes and onions. She would cut up the vegetables and put them in a big, cast iron pan. The tomatoes would make a nice soup base. After the vegetables cooked through she would put in some rice and seasonings and it made a very filling meal. It wasn’t a fancy meal from a five star restaurant but, it was still very good.
Leela loved her nights. When all the work was done for the night they would sit back and talk. They would go over all the reasons why the world had changed so much. They spent hours going over everything that had led to the collapse. There were no answers for many of the questions they had. When the stock market had crashed that was when they knew they had to get out.
They both loved to read and they shared many books. It was hard to believe that everything that had been was now lost. Cities destroyed and all the finer things in life were gone. Art museums destroyed. History museums gone. All the old artifacts were now lost to future generations. If there was a future generation. That was a question that couldn’t be answered. When Leela was in school she could remember taking field trips to the history museum. One of her favorite sections was the one with all the displays of the old west. Now all she had left was her memories.
There were rumors of explosions through the night. Drones flying over major areas. Nick and Leela just wanted to be left alone. They were trying to lead a peaceful, quiet life. The new way of living required a lot of work. If they didn’t plant vegetables they wouldn’t have any to eat. They were fortunate to have a body of water close by. Some days Leela missed the electric but no sooner did she mention it than it would come on for a day or two and then everything would go black again. It was the new normal. Every day was a challenge which they met without too much effort.
Leela was hoping they would find enough materials to build a greenhouse. A greenhouse would be perfect for growing vegetables. Nick had promised her a greenhouse but materials were scarce. They were going to have to do some bartering to get what they needed. They did have some silver coins that might come in handy. They traded a few jugs of water for tea, coffee and salt. They were great bartering items.
Welcome to the new world. A world where survival depended on survivalist skills. It was a time when people couldn’t afford to be lazy. They had to work for everything they had. The government handouts were gone. There were no soup kitchens, food stamps or assistance of any kind. All hospitals had been shut down long ago. It was the year 2033.