Author: Paul Cesarini

Den leaned back in his chair, wishing he were someplace else. The sole lightbulb in his “office” flickered defiantly, daring him to try to fix it. He looked up at the bulb but didn’t budge. He’d much rather be home with his wife and his son. Their dog. Those were simpler times, he thought. Back then, my biggest problem was trying to figure out why the sprinkler system wasn’t working, he thought. My big To-Do list – that somehow occupied my weekends – was maybe going to the lumber store, maybe mowing the lawn. Grilling. Real first-world problems, he thought, shaking his head.

He remembered actually getting upset with his son about him forgetting to wipe his shoes before he entered the house. Seriously. Admittedly, most of that was a show for his wife. If it was important to her, it was important to him by default. Still, he actually made a big deal out of something as utterly trivial as that. We were complacent as hell back then, he thought.

Entitled. Pampered, even.

Now, his wife was gone. Almost certainly dead, like nearly everyone he knew. Their house was gone, as was most of their town. That lumber store? Gone. His son – like all other able-bodied males 13 and older – was enlisted and doing his part to help save the world. He wondered if he was still stationed in New Mexico, or if that had fallen, too. He hadn’t heard any chatter from there in weeks, but that wasn’t necessarily atypical for regions that far apart. Each remaining division was almost an island now, cut off from all but the most local communications.

No Internet anymore. No cell towers. No satellite phones. No functioning GPS that he was aware of. Strictly shortwave now, and maybe forever. But how much longer is “forever” now? A year or two? Months? Weeks?

And I got mad. Because he forgot to wipe. His shoes…