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Copyright 2017 Dell Sweet


Published By Wendell Sweet. All rights reserved foreign and domestic.

Portions copyright 2010 by Dell Sweet.

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March 1st

The traffic leaving the parking lot had slowed to a trickle, the lot nearly empty. The live shows were over, the bands packed up and gone, the dancers gone before or at the same time. The club was empty except Jimmy, the club boss, Don, the main door security, and me.

“Why are you still here, Candy,” Jimmy asked as he came up to the bar. He was on his way back from the parking lot. It was a short trip across the parking lot to the bank night deposit on the lot next door.

“I had an idea that Harry would be by tonight. He wanted to talk to me,” I shrugged. Harry was a Bookie, at least on the surface. Off the surface, or maybe it would be truer to say under the surface, Harry controlled most of the organized crime north of Syracuse. Jimmy... Jimmy managed the club, among other things, but the best description for Jimmy was to say Jimmy solved problems for Harry.

“Wants to talk you into staying here. That's about all,” Jimmy said.

I turned away and pretended to check my face in the mirrored wall behind the bar. I wanted to Dance. I had suggested to Harry, through Jimmy, that maybe it was time for me to move on if there wasn't any hope of me dancing. “Anyway, I ended up tending bar. So...”

“So it's not dancing.” He dug one hand into his pocket and pulled out a thick wad of bills. He peeled two hundreds from the roll and pushed them into my hand, folding his hand over my own and closing it when I started to protest.

“But,” I started.

“But nothing. We did a lot in bar sales. You and I both know it was because of you.” He smiled, let go of my hand and stepped back. “It was me, not Harry,” he said.

I fixed my eyes on him. I knew what he might be about to say, but I wanted to be sure.

He sighed. “It was me that put the stop to your dancing. You're too goddamn good for dancing, Candy. And once you start?” He barked a short, derisive laugh. “The law thing? Right out the window. What's a cop make anyway in this town? Maybe thirty or forty a year?” He settled onto one of the stools that lined the bar, tossed his hat onto the bar top and patted the stool next to him. He continued talking.

“So, thirty, maybe forty, and what's a dancer make? I can tell you there are dancers here who make better than one fifty a year. And that's what I pay them. That's not the side stuff or tips.” He moved one large hand, fished around behind the bar and came up with a bottle of chilled Vodka from the rack that held it just below eye level. He squinted at the label. “Cherry Surprise,” he questioned in a voice low enough to maybe be just for himself. “This shit any good, Candy?”

“It's not bad,” I told him. I leaned over the bar and snagged two clean glasses when he asked me, setting them on the bar top. He poured us both about three shots worth. “Jesus, Jimmy.”

He laughed. “Which is why I don't make drinks. It'd break me.” He sipped at his glass, made a face, but sipped again. I took a small sip of my own drink and settled back onto the bar stool.

“So, I said to myself, smart, beautiful, talented, and you have that something about you that makes men look the second time. You know?” He took another small sip. “Man sees a woman walking down the street or across a crowded dance floor, beautiful or not he looks. That look might be short or it might be long. Depends on the woman. Then he looks away. Does he look back? Not usually. But with you he does. There are women men look at that second time for whatever reason, and you're one of them. I looked a second time, and then I really looked, for a third time. And I've seen a lot. That tattoo makes men and women look again.” His eyes fell on the tattoo that started on the back of my left hand, ran up my arm, across my breasts and then snaked back down over my belly and beyond. I knew it was provocative. That was the rebellious part of me. I had no better explanation for why I had sat, lain, through five months of weekly ink work to get it done.

Jimmy rubbed one huge open palm across the stubble of his cheeks. “Jesus do I need a shave.” He took a large drink from his glass. “It wasn't the tattoo. It caught my eye, but that wasn't what made me look that third time.”

“Candy, I took a third look because I saw a young woman that doesn't need to have anything to do with this world. You're too goddamn smart, talented, for this. So I said no. I let you dance a few times, but I didn't want you to fall into it. I made the decision that you should tend bar instead of dance.” He tossed off the glass.

“I see that,” I told him, although I didn't completely see it. He was reading a lot about what he thought, what he saw, into who I really was.

“Yeah? I don't think so, Candy. And that's a reason right there. Candy... like a treat. When did it become okay for anyone to call you that, because I remember a few months back when you started hanging around, it was Candace, and pity the dumb bastard who didn't understand that. Now it's Candy to any Tom, Dick or Harry that comes along.” He saw the hurt look in my eyes, reached below the bar, snagged the bottle and topped off his glass. I shook my head, covered the top of my glass with my hand and smiled. He put the bottle back and continued.

“I'm not trying to hurt you, only keep you on track. I'm giving you the keys. You drive. All I'm saying is set your ground rules. Make them rigid. Don't let anyone - me, Harry, these boys that work here, customers - Don't let anyone cross those lines. You see, Candy?”

I nodded.

“Yeah? Then why not call me on calling you Candy? I've done it since we sat down. Why not start there?”

“Well... I mean, you're the boss, Jimmy.”

“This is why you start there. I don't allow anyone to talk anyway to anyone that doesn't want that. Let me explain that. You got girls that work the streets. You don't see it so much here. It's a small city, but it happens. I spent a few years on the streets in Rochester, bigger place, as a kid. Happens all the time there.” He sipped at his drink. I took a sip of my own drink and raised my brows at what he had said.

“Yeah? Don't believe it? It's true. I fought my way up. I have respect because I earned it.” He waved one hand. “Don't let me get off track.” He smiled and took another sip from his glass. “So, I've seen girls on the streets... Whores... It is what it is. Would you hear me say that to them? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't. If a woman sees herself as a whore, if that's all it is, what it is, then who am I to say different? Do you see? It's a living, or it's a life... There is a difference. Now back to you. You want to dance. Some of these girls,” he waved one meaty hand at the empty stage area, “work the other side. Some of them do that for me, some do it on their own. Some don't,” he sighed. “Either way you would not see me treat them any other way than what they want to be treated. I mean that. If you believe you are a whore and that is what you see, then that is what you show the world, and that is how the world sees you... treats you,” he settled his eyes on me.

I nodded. I didn't trust my voice. I had been down this road on my own. What did it say about me? That it only mattered that I made it? That money mattered more than anything else? Would I be swayed by the money? Was I even being honest with myself about my motivations? I really didn't know. I knew what I told myself on a daily basis... that I wanted to follow my Father into law enforcement, but was it whimsical like so many other things in my life that I never followed through on?

“You are not just a dancer. There is a part of you that is, a part of you that likes the way a man looks at you, likes the money. But there is another part that is the private you, the real you. You need to keep those distinctions.” He rubbed at his eyes, tossed off the rest of his drink and rose from the bar stool. “Let me drop you home, Candy,” he asked.

I stood, leaving my mostly full drink sitting on the bar top. “I have my car,” I told him.

“It's late. Creeps around maybe.”

“Jimmy, every creep in my neighborhood knows I work here... for you. Guys stopped talking to me, let alone the creeps.” I laughed, but it wasn't really all that funny. It had scared me when I realized who Jimmy was, who Jimmy worked for. In effect, who I worked for. Another questionable thing? Probably.

Jimmy nodded. “Smart creeps. The southern Tier's a big place. Easy to lose yourself, with or without a little help.” He looked at his watch and then fixed his eyes on me once more. “So you keep your perspective, set your limits, draw your lines,” he spoke as he shrugged into his coat, retrieved his hat from the bar top and planted it on his head, “Don't let anybody cross those lines. You start next week, let's say the eleventh?”

I nodded.

“Take the balance of the time off. By the time the eleventh comes around you should be ready for a whole new world. A whole new life.” He stood looking down at me for a second. “The big talk I guess. For what it's worth, I don't say those things often, Candy.”

I nodded. “I believe that. And, Jimmy?”

He looked down at me. He knew what was coming. He expected it, and that was the only reason I was going to say it. I knew better than to correct Jimmy V. There were a lot of woods up here. They did go on forever and they probably did hold a lot of lost people. I may be slow but I'm far from stupid.

“Please don't call me Candy,” I told him.

He smiled. “Don't be so goddamn nice about it. Don't call me Candy,” he rasped a dangerous edge to his voice. “Look 'em right in the eye. Don't call me Candy. Put a little attitude in your look. A little I can fuckin' snap at any minute attitude. Let me see that.”

I put my best street face on. The one I had used growing up on the streets in Syracuse. I knew that I can snap at any minute look. I'd used it many times. “Don't call me Candy,” I told him in a voice that was not my own. My street voice, “Just don't do it.”

“Goddamn right, Doll,” Jimmy told me. “Goddamn right. Scared me a little there. That's that street wise part of you.” He took my head in both massive hands, bent and kissed the top of my head. “I will see you on the eleventh,” he told me.

I nodded. I let the Doll remark go.

I followed Jimmy out the back door past Don who nodded at me and winked. Don was an asshole. Always hitting on us when Jimmy wasn't around. But Jimmy was his uncle. I was employing my best selective perception when I smiled at him. I wondered if I would ever get used to him. Probably not, I decided, but maybe that would be a good thing. Of course, it didn't matter. I never saw Don again. Or Jimmy. Or anyone else from that life.

I said goodbye to Jimmy V, crossed the parking lot for the last time and drove myself home. I parked my rusted out Toyota behind my Grandparents house, and twenty-four hours later my world, everybody's world, was completely changed.

Candace ~ March 2nd

This is not a diary. I have never kept a diary. They say, never say never, but I doubt I will. I have never been this scared. The whole world is messed up. Is it ending? I don't know, but it seems like it's ending here. Earthquakes, explosions. I've seen no Police, Fire or emergency people all day. It's nearly night. I think that's a bad sign. I have the Nine Millimeter that used to be my Father's. I've got extra ammo too. I'm staying inside.

Candace ~ March 3rd

I lost this yesterday; my little notebook. I left it by the window so I could see to write, but I swear it wasn't there when I went to get it; then I found it again later on by the window right where I left it. Maybe I'm losing it.

There are no Police, no Firemen, phones, electric. The real world is falling apart. Two days and nothing that I thought I knew is still here. Do you see? The whole world has changed.

I got my guitar out and played it today. I played for almost three hours. I played my stuff. I played some blues. Usually blues will bring me out of blues, but it didn't work. It sounded so loud, so out of place, so... I don't know. I just stopped and put it away.

Candace ~ March 4th

I'm going out. I have to see, if I don't come back. Well... What good is writing this?

Candace ~ March 5th

The whole city has fallen apart. I spent most of yesterday trying to see how bad this is. I finally realized it's bad beyond my being able to fix it. It's bad as in there is no authority. It's bad as in there is no Jimmy V. I hear gunshots at night, all night. And screams. There are still tremors. If I had to guess, I would say it's the end of the civilized world, unless things are better somewhere else. I have to believe that. Power, structure, it's all gone. I mean it's really all gone. This city is torn up. There are huge areas that are ruined. Gulleys, ravines; missing streets and damaged bridges. The damage costs have to be in the billions... And that's just here. There's me and my little notebook I'm writing in, and my nine millimeter. I've got nothing else for company right now.

I've got water, some peanuts and crackers. How long can this go on? What then?

Candace ~ March 6th

I've decided to leave. I can't stay here. There was a tremor last night, and not one of the really bad ones, but even so I was sure the house would come down on me. It didn't. Maybe though, that is a sign, I told myself. And scared or not, I have to go. I have to. I can't stay here. Maybe tomorrow.

Candace ~ March 7th

The streets are a mess. I've spent too much of the last week hiding inside my apartment. Most of my friends, and that's a joke, I didn't have anyone I could actually call a friend; So I guess I would say most of my acquaintances believed my grandparents were alive and that I lived here with them. They weren't. I didn't. I kind of let that belief grow, fostered it, I guess.

I planted the seed by saying it was my Nana Pans' apartment. You can see the Asian in me, so it made sense to them that she was my Nana. But I look more like I'm a Native American than African American and Japanese. It's just the way the blood mixed, as my father used to say. But Native American or Asian, they could see it in my face. And this neighborhood is predominantly Asian. Mostly older people. There were two older Asian women that lived in the building. They probably believed one of those women was my Nana, and I didn't correct them.

I can't tell you why I did that. I guess I wanted that separation. I didn't want them, anyone, to get to know me well. My plan had been to dance, earn enough money for school - Criminal Justice - and go back to Syracuse. Pretend none of this part of my life had ever happened. Some plan. It seemed workable. I wondered over what Jimmy V. had said to me. Did he see something in me that I didn't, or was he just generalizing? It doesn't matter now I suppose.

My Grandmother passed away two years ago. The apartment she had lived in was just a part of the building that she owned. Nana Pan, my mother's mother, had rented the rest of the building out. The man who had lived with her was not my Grandfather - he had died before I was born - but her brother who had come ten years before from Japan. They spoke little English. People outside of the neighborhood often thought they were man and wife. She didn't bother correcting them, my mother had told me. Nana Pan thought that most Americans were superficial and really didn't care, so what was the use in explaining anything to them? Maybe that's where I got my deceptiveness from.

I had left the house as it was. Collected rents through an agency. For all anyone knew, I was just another tenant. Of course Jimmy V. had known. He had mentioned it to me. But Jimmy knew everything there was to know about everyone. That was part of his business. It probably kept him alive.

So I stayed and waited. I believed someone would show up and tell me what to do. But no one did. I saw a few people wander by yesterday, probably looking for other people, but I stayed inside. I don't know why, what all my reasons were. A lot of fear, I think.

There have been earthquakes. The house is damaged. I went outside today and really looked at it. It is off the foundation and leaning. I should have gotten out of it the other night when I knew it was bad. It's just dumb luck it hasn't fallen in on me and killed me.

It doesn't matter now though. I met a few others today, and I'm leaving with them. I don't know if I'll stay with them. I really don't know what to expect from life anymore.

I'm taking this and my gun with me. Writing this made me feel alive. I don't know how better to say it.

I'll write more here I think. I just don't know when or where I'll be.

~Downtown Watertown~

He came awake in the darkness, but awake wasn't precisely the term. Alive was precisely the term. He knew alive was precisely the term, because he could remember dying. He remembered that his heart had stopped in his chest. He had remembered wishing that it would start again. That bright moment or two of panic, and then he remembered beginning not to care. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. And he had drifted away.

Now he had drifted back. But drifted was not exactly right. He had slammed back into himself where he lay on the cold subbasement floor where he had been murdered by a roving gang of thieves. And he knew those things were true because he remembered them. And he knew they were true because he was dead. He was still dead. His heart was not beating in his chest. His blood was cold and jelled in his veins. He could feel it. Some kind of new perception.

He lay and watched the shadows deepen in the corners of the basement ceiling for a short time longer, and then he tried to move.

His body did not want to move at first. It felt as though it weighed a ton, two tons, but with a little more effort it came away. He sat and then crawled to his knees.

In the corner a huge rat stopped on his way to somewhere to sniff at him, decided he was probably food and came to eat him. He had actually sat for a second while the rat first sniffed and then began to gnaw at one fingernail. Then he had quickly snatched the rat up with his other hand, snapped its back in his fist and then shoved him warm and squirming into his mouth. A few minutes later he stood on shaky legs and walked off into the gloom of the basement, looking for the stairs and the way up to the streets.


Journals and Diaries

Mike ~ March 8th

I debated with myself about how to start this. Isn’t that stupid? Not whether I should start it. I guess that means that I have some hope that I am not the only one.

Actually, I know that I’m not the only one. I’ve heard gunshots more than once. I’ve heard a dog barking as well. And I’ve seen several dogs, cats, squirrels, etc... I’ve also heard what sounded like a car or a truck, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Everything is so quiet; it could be anywhere.

The sound of the river drowns things out. Even so, I haven’t seen any other people. None. And, I’m getting ahead of myself again.

I have no idea what has happened, even here in this town. It doesn’t really matter either, except to tell you, whoever you may end up being, what happened from my point of view, I guess. Maybe it’s the same for you. Maybe writing this out is a waste of time. But, it keeps my mind off shit, you know?

So, I wondered where to start? Today? Last week? Just start, I guess...

I have heat, food, fire. And I’ve finally gotten myself moved into this cave, so my mind is more at ease. But, again, I’m getting ahead of myself. It started for me last week on the 2nd of March. Only six days, but everything here has changed.

I was having a few beers, watching the coverage of the world countdown party; hey, it was supposed to be a joke, right? And, supposedly, we had a few months to go. It was supposed to be one long countdown party. One minute everything was fine, and the next the power was out.

Then the first quake hit...

I made it through that night and… two more quakes? Aftershocks? Who knows? I was just trying to get through to the morning. Phones were out; Sirens everywhere; No power. But, the closer it got to dawn the less noise there was. The sirens fell off. The rain started hard, and then the lightning came. A thunder and lightning storm in the middle of winter!

It was spooky, and when morning finally came, it didn’t make much sense at all. Almost everything I could see in every direction was flattened. The streets had cracked open and had become rivers. The temperature was higher than it should have been. But that didn’t last.

By noon the rain stopped, and I kept expecting to see someone. Emergency workers… Power Company… Somebody. Even a neighbor. But I saw no one at all that day.

I guess as serious as it was, I wasn’t taking it seriously. At least not the first day. I was still thinking rescue, help, it’s on the way. This is the most powerful country in the entire world. Help is coming. So I sat on my ass and drank beer and ate bologna sandwiches and chips, staring out at the street from my front porch, which was perched on the edge of a twenty foot rain gully.

Just before dark, the real quake hit. It had to have been stronger than the previous ones. It felt like it anyway.

I barely jumped off the porch before it fell into the gully. Scared the hell out of me. It wasn’t long after that when darkness settled in and I knew I was in trouble. Something in the whole structure of the house was damaged. Every aftershock made it dance, sway around me. It was also now a two foot drop down to the ground since my porch was gone. And I didn’t dare leave, because I had no idea what it was like outside. No Streetlights. No Moon. No starlight. No starlight, none! Then the storms came back, and the air turned back to cold.

Every time the lightning flashed I could see the street, or what had been the street. There was no more street, not really. It was a river; wide, and it looked pretty deep, all the opposite side of the street was gone now. No houses, cars, telephone poles, satellite dishes. Nothing. It seemed like the entire side of the street had washed away right down to the river. The water roared past me - just a few feet from where my porch had been - flattened out, and then turned into rapids breaking away to crash into the Black river further down the hill. That was when I realized it wasn’t just the other side of the street that was gone. The other two blocks that had been between me and the river were also gone.

Later on, the rain turned to snow, but the lightning kept up. Lightning in a snow storm. How crazy is that? By the morning of March 4th, the river running past my house was down to a trickle, but the snow was piling up. Down the hill the Black was over her banks. There was nothing else to see, a few solitary houses still standing as my own was. But there was no one around anywhere. That’s when I got into the hard stuff.

I drank myself to sleep, and when I woke up I’d lost several hours. My watch still worked at that point. When I walked to the front door, the first thing I noticed was footprints in the snow. Three sets, two small, maybe kids or women, one big, going just past my house, no more than three feet from my house, where once upon a time in some other world my porch had been, and I had slept through it. I yelled and screamed for a half hour hoping that someone would hear me, but no one came. No one yelled back and told me to shut up either. Just absolute silence. No birds, just the roar of the swollen Black. Nothing else.

I’ve thought about the day, the fourth, a couple of times. Was it the fourth? The fifth? Did I sleep more than a few hours? I don’t know. And that was the day my watch stopped working, so I don’t know. One minute it was working, the next it wasn’t. The face was blank.

There were a couple of more aftershocks that day, and I began to wonder if my house would be standing much longer. After all, nearly everything around me was destroyed already. And, I thought, what if that was an aftershock? Like I had thought the first quake was the real one and then the one the next day was so much stronger. It made me realize how stupid I was to still be in that house. And, I thought, no wonder no one is answering when I yell. They were all smart enough to get away from the buildings. Leave. And if I left also, I reasoned, I’d most likely catch up to them, whoever they were, wherever they had gone. That was when I had glanced at my watch and noticed that it had stopped working.

I had been in the habit of looking at my watch all day. Just nervous, I guess. I was positive that I had just looked at it and it had been working. But, when had that been? What time had it been? And when had it been that I had looked at it? How long ago? All I could remember for sure was that the last aftershock that had started me wondering had been at 2:57 P.M. I wasn’t sure of anything after that. Even when I thought back on it later, wondering what day it was, I wondered why I had never thought to push the little date button to see what the date had been. Or had I? Had I and then forgotten that I had? Had I only remembered subconsciously that it was the fourth? Anyway, the watch was dead. And what time was it? And where should I go? And how soon would it be dark? After wasting time wondering about things like that, things that were absolute bullshit in light of everything else, I just jumped down into the snow and headed off towards downtown.

There were a few buildings standing in that direction. It was still snowing pretty hard, but I could see the outlines of the buildings through the snow.

There were planes overhead in the night. I know that sounds crazy, but I awoke to hearing them. There was a strange smell in the air, and I was thinking, in my dream? Maybe in my dream or maybe awake. Anyway, I was thinking crop dusters. Like they were crop-dusting. Spraying something. It was weird. Now I could see traces of blue... powder? Something on the snow, and it made me remember the dream. But I pushed it away and walked. Too much to see and comprehend as it was without worrying over bad dreams.

Normally it’s no more than a fifteen minute walk to the Square. Watertown has an old New England style Public Square that is the center of downtown. I figured that if anyone was still alive, that was where they would be.

In fact, I told myself, they probably would have some buildings open for shelter. Fire Department passing out blankets, bottled water, hot soup. I could see it so clearly in my head. I was wrong, of course, but that’s a story for tomorrow. My fingers are shot. Hey it would be easy to write this on my computer keyboard, but computers are a thing of the past now.

I’m warm. I’m dry. I’m pretty much okay. I survived the day the world ended, but my fingers are sore and I’m tired, so I’ll pick this up tomorrow.

Candace ~ March 8th

Fresh snow today. The whole world is covered in clean, white snow. It makes it look like nothing ever happened here.

I'm with a man named Tom. He's crazy about me. I just can't feel the same. I could fake it, but I told myself I'm not going to do that. But I can't keep on this way either. It is too hard on him, too hard on me.

Bob and Jan Dove are also with us. I don't know what I would do without Jan. She is level headed where I am impulsive, a thinker where I tend to just act. A good balance. Bob has an idea of rebuilding his peoples' lands. He's Native American, and so is Jan. It sounded crazy when he first said it, but after I thought about it, it began to make sense to me.

Lydia is the other member of our party. She hates me. That's because Tom wants me, and she wants Tom. Maybe that will fix itself before I have to fix it by leaving and going on my own.

Today we decided to see if the city was any better on the other side of the river. It isn't. We crossed the river, the Black river, on a railroad trestle. There is a traffic bridge, and it looks passable, but it's clogged with cars and some of those cars look purposely placed to block it off. That creeped me out.

We walked across the trestle, carefully, and went up State Street. There's a store there, a supermarket, and we found tracks in the snow. One person. A man I would guess from the boot tread.

I cannot tell you what that was like. Seeing a footprint left by someone else. Someone else alive in this whole mess. I felt connected to him. I can't say it or explain it any better than that. Like a connection existed forever and I only had to find it. I tried to explain it to Lydia but she just shrugged. We have this thing with Tom between us though. She wants him; he wants me. I don't want him. It could be so Goddamn simple, but it isn't.

Except the footprints. Maybe the footprints are the answer. I think they are. I believe they are. We just need to find the person, the man that goes with those footprints and... And I don't know. I really don't. But I think he'll know.

The only bad thing today, we came across a dead man lying crumpled by the side of the road. I could have sworn he moved, so I hurried to him. But as I got closer, I could see that he was dead. Long dead. We stood for a moment and then walked on. Later when we came back he was gone, and I thought, was he dead? Was he? But I know that he was. I suppose that wild dogs or something got him. We didn't talk about it, but it bothered all of us.

Mike ~ March 9th

Maybe it’s March ninth. I guess I really don’t know. But that’s what I think it is, so that’s what I’m going with.

It’s late. I spent today getting food, canned stuff mostly. It was rough. Almost everything is flattened, and what isn’t flattened is badly damaged. I spent about five hours a few days ago digging my way into a supermarket on State Street. The roof was down but held up by the tops of the aisle stacks, so I was able to make my way through. I just had to be really careful of broken glass. That was where I went back to today.

I had no flashlight at first, but I managed to get a small flashlight and batteries. I had to take so much stuff out of the front area of the store, that all the impulse stuff they sell was right there, candy, little radios, and of course flashlights and batteries. I tried a small portable radio. Nothing but static on the A.M. and F.M. bands both. I brought it back with me along with some extra batteries. I listened to it a short while ago; still nothing. Maybe tomorrow.

I spent the day at the supermarket digging out canned goods and bringing them back here.

Here is a cave. The cave is down in back of the square, downtown as it’s called. I knew about it from growing up here. It used to be bricked up. The quake took care of that though. I was worried about the cave itself collapsing, but it seems to be fine.

It’s only about a mile and a half from here to the supermarket, but with no vehicle it’s slow going. I’ve been piling stuff up on a large sled and making trips back and forth.

I found several cars and trucks, snowmobiles, but none of them will run. Most of them have no juice, but even the ones that do just turn over but won’t fire up. Maybe if I was a mechanic I could do something, but I’m not. So, it’s the sled and a lot of muscle work.

I did notice today, after not going there for two days that no one else had been there either. No tracks in the fresh snow. It’s depressing. No way can I be the only freaking guy here, right? And that made me wonder, what the hell am I writing this for? I mean, if there’s no one left, who will read it? I guess those are questions for another day. Another day because, truly, I don’t want to deal with them today.

So I spent my day getting food. There are maybe two dozen buildings still standing downtown. But that’s where I was when I left off writing yesterday, heading for downtown, so I’ll pick it up from there.

When I got downtown there was no one there, only the handful of buildings standing as I mentioned, and two of those went down a short time later from an aftershock. The Police department... Gone. The Fire department out Washington Street… Gone. I know I walked out there. Ditto the high school. All the old houses, the newspaper, the museum. Really, it’s all gone.

There were some tracks, but how old were they? I couldn’t tell. And I couldn’t tell where they were headed either. I got pretty down about it and ended up walking back down to the square and then down towards the river in back of the square. There was a porn shop, still there. It seemed like the dirtiest place I’d ever seen. I mean, why would a place like that still be there, still be standing when almost nothing else was?

Is that a statement or what? Hey, maybe it is. But since I was down that far, I thought I’d take a look at the river, and that made me think about the cave.

This whole area is limestone, caves everywhere. This one just happened to be a big one.

It wasn’t hard to find it. It’s on an old abandoned road below the level of the square, but a good hundred feet or so above the level of the river. All the brick work that had once closed it off had fallen. The cave itself seemed okay. Some rock had come down, but not much. Most of the rock lying around looked pretty old, like it had been there for some time. Given the buildings, which were still falling, or the cave, I chose the cave. It just seemed to make more sense.

It’s quite deep. I have no idea how deep it goes and no inclination to follow it and see. The front area is huge, and dry, more room than I could ever use, so there’s no need for me to go into that darkness and find out how deep it goes. And that’s funny, isn’t it? What is it that I’ll need? Might need? Could need? I don’t know. I do know I won’t be spending the rest of my life living in a cave, that’s for sure. But it’s winter. I have to stay somewhere for the next few months. Then maybe I’ll head south if no one shows up to rescue me. I guess it would be me, there’s no one else here. It shouldn’t be that way though. There has to be more than me.

I spent the rest of the day looking around. I walked all the way out to Arsenal Street as well as Washington Street. The mall, or most of it, has collapsed. But I should be able to get some stuff out of it. The interstate is car wrecks and bodies everywhere. I could see it from the overpass. I didn’t feel a need to go down there to see it in person. I didn’t want to.

I hadn’t really seen many bodies. Some at the mall, some at the supermarket, a few others here and there, but there is so much ground, houses, things missing, that I think the other people just got swallowed up by the quake. There is a lot of raw earth. Most of the streets are messed up. The interstate is like that in places, what I can see any way, but close to Arsenal Street, it’s all wrecks and bodies, wrecked and burned vehicles; and it smells horrible. I could smell it long before I came up on the overpass. I’ve decided it will take a lot to get me to go back out Arsenal Street again.

The supermarket has that smell also, and I found two people up by the checkouts when I first dug it out, but none since then as I’ve dug out other parts of the store. Maybe it’s the meat department at the back of the store that smells like that.

I spent most of the next day wandering around, trying to start cars and trucks, calling out to the people I had hoped were there. Nothing. I heard something that sounded like an engine running, but it came and went on the wind and I couldn’t tell where it had come from. But I took that as a good sign. It has to be someone, right?

I can’t imagine being alone.

I tried to start new cars, old cars, new trucks, you name it. None of them do anything except turn over. But at least their batteries are working.

That was the day I realized that the daylight seemed to last way too long. My watch wasn’t working, so I can’t say for sure, but the sun just seemed to hang in the sky all day, then it seemed to sink in the wrong direction once it did set. And I was sick all day. My stomach. And I was light headed.

The night lasted a long time, and the sun came back up in the wrong place, unless my sense of direction is off. Maybe it is. In any case, I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the earthquakes? I don’t know. It could’ve been, but it doesn’t seem possible.

The end of the world books were saying the Earth would stop and then run backwards. Maybe it did, but I didn’t feel weightlessness if it did, or at least I don’t think so. But I thought about the vehicles, magnetic poles. Maybe because everything is electronic now they can’t work? I don’t know. It’s just an idea, but I’m thinking I’ll look for an older vehicle to try out my theory on. Like I said, I wish I were a mechanic, and then I’d know.

I spent a lot of time clearing out the rock and broken bricks in this cave, bringing food in and even some chairs, blankets, things like that. I’ve collected a lot of firewood and every butane lighter I could find. Paper plates, plastic forks and spoons. And, man oh man, coffee. I found a small metal coffee pot in an aisle with camping gear. It works pretty damn well. I got some heavy duty pots and pans there too.

All of that over the last few days, but still no other people. It makes me wonder about the tracks that went past my house. Where did they go? Where is there to go? I turn the radio on every once in a while, but nothing. Even so, I’m keeping my attitude upbeat. Positive. There has to be other people. Doesn’t that just make sense? Winter can’t last much past May, and then it will be time to get out of here... hopefully with other people.

Candace ~ March 9th

I saw him! I know there is this other person just across the river. It was while we were on the way back, and I happened to look back across the river from the rail trestle, and there he was by the river bank. Climbing it? I think so, but why? And how can I say it was the same man that belonged to the footprints? I can't. I feel it though. I believe it was him. Who else could it have been?

I wanted to go back right then. Tom refused. There was no reason for him to refuse, but he did. We argued about it. I mean really argued. I hadn't realized or really even thought about what it is about Tom that I don't like. Maybe a better way to say that is, what keeps me away from him. Why didn't I, in all this destruction, hopelessness, just fall into his arms, or love, or whatever would pass for love in this world? Isn't that logical? Shouldn't I have? But I didn't, and the reason is that he's got this attitude about what place a woman has in his world. It came out today when we argued. I think I picked it up subconsciously before that though, and it kept me away from him.

Anyway I'm not going to go there. I'm leaving in the morning to go over there and find the man that I saw. I know that sounds crazy. I know it does, but I'm going. I'm getting up at sunrise, and I'm going. Jan and Bob said they would go with me. If Tom doesn't want to go, he doesn't have to. We're not speaking at all. Lydia seems upset by that. She wants him, but not at my expense. I guess that makes me like her a little more than I did.

I was outside until way after dark looking for firelight on the other side of the river. I didn't see any at all. I don't know that area though. Maybe I wouldn't see a fire over there. Maybe he is being careful. I want to know so much. When will I know it?

Mike ~ March 10th? (probably)

Another long day. More trips back and forth to the supermarket. The days are definitely longer, but so are the nights. I don’t see how that can be, but it is. I have no real way to judge it; it's just a gut feeling. I found several watches by the checkouts. None of them work either. But, I know it’s true. I feel the longer days. I feel the longer nights. That’s all I can say.

A few days back I became sure that the days were even longer, and that’s changed. They’re not as long as that, but still longer than they used to be.

I was thinking; who are you? I know that’s kind of dumb, but you are somebody, right? And you’re reading this, right? And, how far away is it in time? Place? Do you know who I am, or did you just find this and begin reading it? Have you been through this too? Is it over and explained? For all I know, no one is here to read this. I can’t really believe that though. Man, I really can’t… won’t. It’s the only reason I’m writing this. So that someone, you, will know who I am and that I made it, at least so far. And as I go along, I hope to get some answers. There must be some somewhere. Maybe you have them. Maybe.

So my name is Mike, Michael Collins. I’m a website designer... Was, I guess. I guess there’s no more internet, right? Hopefully it’ll be back though. I’m twenty-three years old and I live here in Watertown, have all of my life. I’m single, and it looks like I might remain single for a while. That’s not funny really. Hopefully I’ll find other people soon. I can’t be the only one left. But if I do, or if I don’t, I’ll have this written record.

I dragged about fifty sled loads of stuff down here today. The inside of the market is really beginning to smell bad. No, really bad. And, I found more bodies also, two today. I’ve been concentrating on canned stuff, trying to make sure I don’t get sick. There is a lot of it, and I have a lot of it here now.

I heard dogs today and not far away either. And, there were paw prints in the supermarket. And something had been at the bodies. The dogs, I suppose. I was kind of leery of going in, but they weren’t there. And had they been, they probably would’ve been as afraid of me as I was of them. But I was also wondering, were they dogs? Wolves? I mean, don’t they sound the same? Leave the same sort of tracks? Maybe not to someone who knows what to look for in the tracks, but to me they look like dog tracks. And the bodies I had found had been partially eaten. Something was eating them. Dogs? Wolves? I didn't know, but I knew I had to be careful.

That got me thinking about the zoo. What happened to all the animals there? So I walked out State Street, but I couldn’t get all the way up to the park entrance. The road’s gone. The whole park area seems to be gone. No trees, just raw earth. So, I turned back around and came back. I don’t think anything could’ve lived through that. But lions, wolves, bears? There are a few new things to worry about, right? Can a lion survive in the winter? I don’t know. But I walked back from my trip to the park a lot faster than I walked up there.

But I heard dogs… or wolves. I heard them, and if they lived other people had to live, right? And a few times now I’ve felt that I was being watched. You know that feeling you get? Well I’ve gotten it a few times in the last few days. I still haven’t seen anyone though. I’ve called out a few times; no one has answered.

I haven’t seen other footprints, but it’s been a little warmer, and the snow has melted. Not all of it, but a lot of it. And they could also walk where I’ve been walking, in which case I wouldn’t see their tracks. But they should have no trouble finding me. I'm not trying to hide or be careful about the tracks I leave. I don’t know if that’s good or not. I’ve been thinking about that as well.

I’m not much for guns. I’ve never shot a pistol or a rifle or gone hunting. But I’m thinking of walking back out Arsenal Street. There were a few sporting goods stores out there. I even took a few things from one of them the other day, but I didn’t think about guns at the time. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.

A weird thing did happen today. I was being careful, making sure there were no dogs or wolves, or whatever in the store. Looking around. I was up at the front where the payphones are, there was a time when people used things like payphones. These were still here from that time, and one of them rang. As soon as it did, the other two there rang as well. Only a little jangle. It didn’t last more than a second, but it scared the crap out of me. I thought I was dead right there. For some reason, I thought the wolves had sneaked up on me, come up behind me and were about to get me. Don’t ask me how I got wolves from a ringing phone, but I did.

I calmed down after a few minutes, and so I walked over and picked up the nearest receiver. Static. Scratchy static. Then it cleared for a second and, it was probably just my nerves, but I could swear I heard someone there. Maybe not heard, I don’t know if I heard anything at all. It was more like I knew someone was there: You know what I mean? Like when you get a crank call and the person doesn’t speak, but you know that they are there anyway? Like that. Exactly like that. But, then it went right back to scratchy static, and I felt stupid for even thinking it at all. Who could’ve been there? Who would know I was there? It was just nerves. I know it was.

After I got everything back to this cave, I organized it. I’ve brought back a lot of stuff. Meat, vegetables, bottled water. I have to work my way over to some other aisles. I need rice, pasta, maybe some instant potatoes. I started on that today. I got part way through the end cap, but the whole roof seems to be resting on that part of the aisle stands, and it’s the same way on the other end. That’s when I found the bodies. It was so bad I couldn’t tell what they had been.

I thought it might be better to go through the aisle dividers. They are solid steel though, and I can’t see any way through them, short of a set of torches. Maybe I could find a set, but it seems as though it would be easier to start from the checkouts and work my way through the piles of stuff until I hit another aisle. I have no idea what each aisle is though.

Yeah, I’ve been there about a thousand times, and I can tell you where the beer and chips would be, paper plates, disposable forks and spoons, but that’s about it. I’d hate to spend five hours or more of digging just to reach the toilet paper and sanitary napkins in aisle four. That would be my luck. But there’s nothing to do for it except to do it. Or go find a set of torches.

I know I need carbs. Canned meat and vegetables are good, but very low carbs. It's funny, but I need fat, things I’m burning heavy and need to replace. I have nearly constant exercise. My pants are hanging off me. Who knew it could be this easy to lose weight?

I’d also like to find supplements, a good selection of first aid stuff, vitamins, band aids, disinfectant, and things like that. I guess that’s my next bit of time mapped out for me.

Other things I’m looking for: A wind up watch (Should work right?).

An old car or truck without an electronic brain (My hope is that if it’s just a simple distributor/spark arrangement with a carburetor, I should be able to get it to work). I think electronics are shot. They don’t work, that’s for sure. But I could be wrong. Maybe they will in time.

A battery powered T.V.; maybe there will be a station on. I know it’s a long shot. Everything is digital. Do they even make battery powered digital televisions?

A C.B. or Ham radio. That would let me listen to the state, maybe the world. I should be able to reach someone.

And last, I’m going to check every phone I come across… just in case.

It's early, but I’m tired. I wish I weren’t alone.

Candace ~ March 10th

It's late at night. What a difference a day makes. Mike is his name.

We went back today to see if he had been back to the store. I went there first. I hoped to catch him there early, but he wasn't there. Tom dragged his feet. Like he didn't want to go at all. He didn't say that but, it seemed that way to me. Maybe things were just getting to me. Tom's been putting more and more pressure on me to be with him. Lydia's turning up the I hate you attitude. Maybe it's just me, or just was me. Either way, by the time we did get there this morning, the snow was melting and there was no real way to tell if he had been there at all. I thought about what I had decided yesterday, just going without Tom, but I waited.

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