Amateur Historian

by 

Author : Robert Niescier

“Why do you keep writing in there?”

He looked up and into her eyes, through steam shaded orange from the bonfire’s glow, and smiled. “It’s so people, future people, remember everything we went through. So we don’t get lost as just two generic survivors of the bad times. History tends to cast a blind eye towards those who don’t record their own endeavors.”

“Yeah, yeah, ‘people who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.’ I’ve heard the cliché.”

“Yes, and it’s advice humankind tends to ignore. But that’s not why I’m keeping a journal.”

The fire had begun to die down, so he groped through the darkness for another log. He placed the wood onto the weakening embers, close enough to the water-filled pot to keep its temperature up and boiling. His hand recoiled in pain as a flame jumped up like a startled snake and burned him.

Her eyes widened. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Here, let me get something to put on it…” She began to rummage through her backpack and came up with a cream. “This will help.”

“Thank you, but no. Save it for when we really need it. It’s only a little burn.”

“And when that little burn turns into a little infection, then turns into a little toxic shock, where will I be? You want to test out just how much of a survivor I really am? Use the damn medication.” But still he refused, and soon she put the cream away and sighed. “You didn’t finish answering my question,” she said.

“What else is there to say? I don’t want to be forgotten. It used to be that if you produced a grand work of art, a moving story, an invention or theory that would improve the quality of life, your name would be remembered, your memory encapsulated in books and landmarks dedicated to your name. But those opportunities are gone now; the only thing left for us is to survive. To be.

“This journal, this story, is the only thing I have left to give. I want future generations to know that, even though our time may have come so close to destroying that which we had spent centuries to build, everything that we held dear, that we were still just people. Neither villains nor heroes. Just people who made a grievous mistake and paid for it with everything they had.

“How can you be so sure that these future people will find your little journal, or if they will even exist? What if we were the only…” Her throat made an odd noise and she stopped. She poked at the embers with a stick for a few minutes, then shifted her body away from the fire and laid down, her gaze to the sky.

He grabbed two scraps of cloth and, after picking it off of the fire, placed the water pot onto the highway blacktop. He stood up and looked down the highway, but there was nothing to see but inky blackness all around. He shivered. It was getting colder every day; they would have to increase their pace if they hoped to reach the western coast before the winter months.

“Beautiful,” she whispered.

“What?”

“The sky, it’s beautiful. You know, I lived in the city all my life. I never really got to see the stars. Not like this. It’s like we’ve entered a whole new world.”

A coyote howled somewhere in the distance. He looked up, up at the black, star-sprinkled tapestry that seemed to go on for ever and ever. She was right; it was beautiful.

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