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Descent of Silence May 5, 2011

Posted by sarahsfate in Writing.
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I wrote this in February when I was stuck indoors for a week during the snowstorm….

The true character of man makes itself evident in a disaster. Neighbors either pull together or steal from each other — they take food and blankets, firewood if there is any left, and clothes. They will slice their neighbor’s throat to steal these things and justify it by calling it survival. No one believes it and the blood, no matter how vigorously scrubbed away, remains.

Friends forget each other unless a whimsical memory reminds them of that time they went to the local club and danced all night to the raging beat of a disco jockey. Sometimes, when the wind whistles just right, I can still hear that song in my head, the drum beat so loud it seems those around me can hear as well. But I know it is just a memory. Friends abandon each other in a disaster because it is easier to move without encumbrance. Travel is easier to manage single-file as opposed to large groups and criminals cannot find you when you travel alone.

Family sticks together. Most of the families died together because they stuck together because the damning truth is, it is easier to travel alone. I saw families, once I ventured out, lumbering down frozen streets. They traveled slow and hunched together for body heat, with small children carried on backs, in arms, or wept over beside a twisted tree representing the edge of the road.

The end of the road.

Had I seen every instance of the world falling to pieces, and the subsequent betrayal of one man against another, it would have shriveled my soul to some dark recess that, perhaps, would have turned me into one of the betrayers. But it was impossible to watch, because the first thing to dissipate into the darkness was not the character of man, but power.

Electricity was not something I ever took for granted as I found it necessary for heat or cooling and the refrigerator depended upon it as well. Power never became some unseen entity in my life. When it was gone, I mourned the loss but was hopeful of its return in a few hours, days even. I did not know that its return would never come.

We were told by the news anchors and meteorologists that an epic ice storm would hit the country with a blast of wintry air the likes we had never seen. We bought firewood, canned goods, and bottled water to withstand the hours or days the storm would last. The grocery stores had been a madhouse of shoppers, some desperate to stock up what they could, but most were laughing and conversing with other shoppers who were strangers to them. They mocked the storm and were grateful for the days of work they would be required to miss. Snow days, they said, and promised hot chocolate and Wii marathons with their kids.

The neighborhood kids were gleeful, playing in the streets and yards, building snowmen, sliding on sleds, and making the typical nuisances by people who rarely saw such gleaming product fall from the sky and linger long enough to play in. After a few days, the cold became unbearable and the children were noticeably absent outside. The passing of cars, the overhead hum of plane engines, and the noise made by electrical items in the house — all became noticeably absent. The descent of silence was unnerving.

The firewood, canned goods, and bottled water only lasted a few days and by then the roads disappeared beneath feet of snow and ice, making travel to a grocery store impossible, assuming the store would be open once you made it. I remember longing for a hot bath in a way that people long for food today; I stood in my bathroom door staring at the leaping shadows of candle-lit flames as the muted light bounced around the tiled room, wishing I could boil a pot of water on the stove in order to have that hot bath. I could not feel my toes and my fingers ached. My fingers. I consoled myself with the possibility of taking a bath in a few days and moved on.

The last television news broadcast, before the power went out four days into the storm, was a grave picture painted by meteorologist of their gross miscalculation of the coming storm.

Epic did not begin to cover it.

The snow flurries, expected to make their way north, continued to fall during the afternoon, followed by shards of ice carried on nearly horizontal wind in the evenings, a deep freeze of below zero temperatures during the night, and more sleet in the morning. Sometimes the speed in which they fell would slow to a crawl and there were complete afternoons with nothing falling at all, presenting a clear view of the world. A white world. Sometimes the speed was so terrible and fast, it proved fatal to step foot outside, where the mournful wailing wind carried invisible ice.

When the sun appeared, when an occasional break of the white clouds afforded view of the sun, I stood near a window pane to gaze at it until my eyes burned, allowing what little heat emanating from it to reach my frozen cheeks. My hallowed cheeks. We were starving to death in the blizzard. I would stand staring at the crystal-like sparkles flashing on the ground, ignoring the cold seeping through the window glass in favor of feeling those rays of sunlight. It gave me hope, when the sun appeared.

If the sun appeared.

Many months passed in global silence and I had no idea, at the time, of what went on beyond my front door for I refused to unlock the door to leave. I had enough food, blankets, and firewood to last six months — not because I planned it that way but because when one of my neighbors left “for warmer climates”, they left me their goods.

Every day I wondered about that warmer climate and if my neighbor made it. I wondered if it was only my street, only my town, only my state. I wrote in my journal every day about what I could see from my windows — about my fears and the strangeness of the silence. I wrote because I am a writer. The same reason why my people asked I write this bloody account of the change to mankind’s historical timeline.

Ice Age II.

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