The Collapse Ch. 01byChristie052780©
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Author's Note: All characters involved in sexual activity are +18 years of age. Nitpickers please accept that the narrative is first person from the point of view of the main character and that the grammar is exactly as I intended it to be. This is a work of fiction set into the future and has nothing to do with anyone, anything, or anyplace in the real world.
December 21, 2073
When I was a little girl my mother used to show me her collection of old currency sometimes and it always amazed me when she'd try to convince me of how much they were supposed to be worth. No matter how much she tried she could not convince me that some fancy piece of paper was worth as much as real money. As I got older I would learn how the whole world had once traded worthless paper and figures on computers as if they had actual value and that when that system eventually broke it led to the Collapse.
Seems the world's big countries and their banks had been making all sorts of this phony money and one day the international banking system stopped working. The stories I hear vary depending on who tells them, but most people agree that it was Germany that started the Collapse when the Germans one day refused to take the phony money for payment on things. They wanted gold or silver or palladium if anyone wanted to buy from them. In the United States several states followed suit and implemented the same policy over the protests of the Federal government. Things just snowballed from there and at the end of that week there were very few people left in the world who would accept paper money or computer money for payment on anything.
The whole big world changed that week. A bunch of wars broke out and some countries used nuclear weapons on other countries and some countries even used them on their own people. At the end of it all there were a bunch of countries that were not countries anymore because their governments could not stand after the Collapse. Some of the names that passed into the history books were China, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, and the United States, to name a few. Famines followed the Collapse and the wars and then plagues spread, too. Five years after the Collapse the world had only three billion people left. Ten years later there were only two billion.
Trade and distribution systems that had lasted from the days of the Hanseatic League failed with the Collapse and contributed to the intensity of the wars, famines, and plagues as food and medicines became rare in most of the world. My mother's family did okay because my grandparents had planned for the Collapse. Momma used to say that Grandpa had been a very careful man and that he gave a lot of thought to planning for his family. He had bought a place in the Nevada desert and quietly built our home there. Momma says she grew up in Palo Alto and sometimes she'd show me pictures of what it had looked like and she'd show me pictures of holidays where the family had all sorts of food on the table. I can't imagine the pictures are real. Who'd ever have that much food?
Anyway, Grandpa built our home into a mountain in the Nevada desert and he'd hidden it from the outside so only people who knew where it was could find it. We still keep it secret from outsiders because you can't ever trust outsiders. I remember we once had a family show up asking for water and when one of the men went to get it for them the little boy from the family shot him. We kept their baby and one of the men took their girl who was older than me but the rest of that family got killed. I got a book with pictures of old Europe from their truck and I still have it. Italy was really pretty. Hate to think what it looks like now.
Other than that one family that accidentally found us we don't get visitors and we also don't get bandits like the fortified towns deal with all the time. I've been out scavenging and seen bandits but that was a long way from the family home. I have also seen militia a few times but never up close. People around here talk a lot about the big battle between the militia and the bandits up in Elko a few years back and they're all happy about it because you don't see as many bandits anymore.
Daily life for us included getting water from the well, dusting the solar panels that were hid way up on the mountain, taking care of the gardens inside the caves, cooking, cleaning, and such. Mostly we younger people were all happy and it was the older people who were sometimes sad and missing the way things used to be. They missed cities and shopping malls and driving cars. Myself, I can't imagine being around so many people like they used to have. That would scare the hell out of me! What did people do back then when someone got sick? Did the whole city get sick too? It makes you wonder. But our life is really good.
For me I suppose I should say that it was good. As I was getting older Grandpa once said to me that I was pretty. Then he said, "Being pretty in hard times is a blessing and a curse. I always hope it's a blessing for you, baby."
At the time I didn't understand him. But I learned what he meant.
This one year we lost our whole potato crop in just a few days. The plants would wither and just a few hours later they turned black. Grandpa called it 'The Blight' and said some stuff about Ireland and he also told us not to eat any of the bad potatoes. It took us a couple weeks of hard work to clean out the gardens to get all the infected soil out and then start bringing in fresh dirt to make new soil. It would still be a year or two before we would have another potato crop. It meant we would starve.
It was six months after the Blight hit us that Grandma died and then just a week after that one of my cousins lost her baby. All from starvation. I was feeling it, too. My dress fit on me looser than before and my hair was starting to get kind of thin in places. Some of the men talked about it and made the decision to go to Elko to see what they could buy. Where I was actually stronger than some of the men at that point I volunteered to go along to help however I could.
One of the things that Grandpa had put away in a cave was a big old truck he called a 'deuce and a half' and it got used when we had really big things to carry. This got prepared for the trip to Elko and the battery got fixed up in a day or so charging on the solar and then we left. It was only my second trip ever to Elko and it was and is the biggest city I have ever been to. It took us six hours to get there and I enjoyed every minute of it! The cool winter air felt nice blowing by and it was so nice to see the new mountains and all. Walking that far would have taken ten or maybe even fifteen days and it was just amazing to go that far so fast! I wished we could use the truck more often.
When we got to Elko we had to stop at the city gates to be searched to make sure we were not bandits. The guards asked us about our guns and the men traded ammunition back and forth which is a way of saying you're friendly these days. We drove to the market and at the market it was incredible to see so many people! There must have been three hundred people there! The smells of fresh bread and cooking meat were so torturous after spending so many months hungering for just a potato. The women had nice clothes and the men were all mostly clean. You could tell that they were eating well because no one was thin like we were.
Grandpa and some of the men went off to do some trading and I was allowed to walk around with a couple of the women. I wanted to go see the bakery just to look. They had all these hot loaves of bread sitting out and my stomach was growling with the smell of it all. I imagined that food like this must cost a fortune. All I had were the three silver dimes I found one time scavenging a wrecked car near Fallon.
"Hiya, honey!" said the baker, "What can I do you for?"
"Oh, I was just looking at your bread. It looks so amazing but it must cost twenty dollars each!" The baker laughed at me, "Sweetheart, I've never seen a twenty dollar gold piece around here! You flatter me with your compliments! And for your compliments you can have three loaves for a real dime."
All of that wonderful bread for a dime?
I handed over one of my dimes and the women with me shrieked with joy as I handed each of them a loaf. They ran back to the truck to share their bounty with their men, leaving me alone at the bakery. I tore off a bit of the bread and savored it in my mouth before swallowing. It wasn't long after that when half of the loaf had disappeared. I hadn't been this full in months. As I was basking in the glow of my sated stomach a pang of guilt hit me as I realized that I'd just eaten enough food to feed three other people. I went back into the baker and handed over my two remaining dimes and in return he gave me seven loaves of the hot bread. When I got back to the truck it seemed that a few people had bought different things and we ended up having a little feast with some left over, too.
When Grandpa got back to the truck he didn't seem so happy. He ate and that helped him a bit but then he explained that the man he wanted to buy corn from had asked for more gold than we had and that we were going to have to figure something out. After eating Grandpa took a nap, something he was doing a lot of as he got older, and the men sat around and talked.
About an hour later a stranger walked up to us. He was dressed in really nice, clean clothes and his boots were shiny. He spoke to some of the men and then came closer to talk to Grandpa.
Standing up Grandpa spoke to him, "Hi, Mr. Evans. What can I do for you?" Grandpa didn't sound so happy as he said this.
"Well," said the man, "I was thinking that if you didn't have a hundred in gold that maybe you might have something else we could trade on. I'd feel bad if you people were to starve but I can't just give you the corn because that'd be bad for business, you understand, right?"
Casting a glance at our truck he said, "Yeah, the truck won't do for me. What else you got?" He started looking around again and then his eyes settled on me.
"Oh, now this looks promising." He walked towards me.
"Edwin," he said to Grandpa, "is this here young lady one of yours?"
"That she is. Why?"
The man looked at me like I was one of the loaves of bread at the bakery.
"Because, Edwin, I'm willing to take this here girl of yours and then let you load your truck with whatever you can carry on it, that's why."
I saw the pain in Grandpa's eyes as he stood on his pride. "No, sir, I'm sorry but Amy isn't for sale."
The man looked at me some more before saying, "That's a shame Edwin. After you people starve she won't be worth much to anyone, now will she?" A lot of thoughts ran through my mind over what was going on here. This man was talking about buying me from my family. Momma had told me that before the Collapse that slavery had been banned but then after the Collapse that it had come back in places where no one really cared. I guess Elko was one of those places. Still, what the man was offering to my family was easily two years' worth of corn. That enough to see them through until the potatoes could be counted on again.
I spoke up and all that came out was a croak.
The man looked at me. "What'd you say girl? Spit it out!"
I swallowed and then said, "It's a deal. I'll go with you."
Mr. Evans smiled.
That was followed by an argument between me and my Grandpa which ended after an hour with me telling Grandpa that if I didn't do this that I was going to die anyway. He knew that I was right and we hugged for a while and he told me that he loved me and that my mother was going to be heartbroken.
We parted and Mr. Evans told us to meet him at his warehouse where the deal would be concluded. I sat with Grandpa in the truck as we drove to the warehouse and I mostly just cried the whole way. Grandpa did, too. Arriving at the warehouse the truck was backed up to the loading dock. I got out of the truck and as I stepped up on the dock near Mr. Evans he nodded to his men and they started to load up the truck. In thirty minutes the truck was filled to overloaded and Mr. Evans even had his men fill the truck's fuel tanks for the trip home. The way he was so generous I could see he felt he got the best part of the bargain.
When it was time for Grandpa to go he hugged me and told me that he loved me and then just turned and got into the truck. I was just crying the whole time and I don't think I really said much of anything to him. The truck started up and bucked as it tried to move the huge load and then it got going, turned a corner, and was gone. A few seconds later I couldn't even hear it anymore.
Taking me by the arm Mr. Evans said to me, "C'mon girl, we got some business to take care of now." We walked from the warehouse down the street a ways and came to the courthouse. We walked into the clerk's office and Mr. Evans rang the bell on the desk.
A nice enough looking woman came out from an office and said, "Robert! Good afternoon, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company today?" "Seems I need to record a purchase I just made. Think you can help me with that?"
She smiled. You could tell they knew each other. "So tell me what you have?"
He nodded at me. "That's what I bought."
"Okay, the usual ten year indenture?"
"Nope," he took another look at me, "this one's a keeper."
She turned around and picked up a big red ledger. Opening it she said, "Good then, we always like that kind of business around here. Twenty dollars in gold up front and I'll get the paperwork done. Did you bring your brand?"
"Good. Now let's see the color of your money." He pulled out a gold coin and put it on the counter. The woman picked it up and scratched it on a piece of slate and then looked at the mark it left.
"Looks good to me."
She wrote up some paperwork and then turned on a holo camera and aimed it at me and then spoke to me.
"Sweetie, you understand you're on holo right?"
I nodded and said yes.
"Good. And you also acknowledge that you are entering into this business arrangement of your own free will and you understand the complete contract that you are entered into, is that correct? If so, say yes."
She smiled and looked at Mr. Evans, "Bob, you got yourself a slave. You be nice to her now, okay?"
"Of course, I will."
She came around the counter and walked up to me and took some sort of thing from Mr. Evans that looked like a flashlight but with a small tip. "Hold still honey." She said this as she held me by the neck and pressed the flashlight thing into the other side of my neck.
The pain was indescribable as it burned into my skin! She pulled back and put a wet cloth on the burn. "Bob, you be sure to put something on this so she don't get infected, you hear?"
Taking me by the arm he tipped his hat at the clerk and walked me out the door.
"Amy, you're my legal property now and that brand says you're mine, you understand that right?"
"Yes I do"
"And if you run away from me then I'll consider your grandpa in breach of contract and him and I'll take it out of his ass, you got that?"
"Yes." I said.
He slapped me. Hard.
"Yes, SIR, Amy!"
My bells had been rung and I just mumbled, "Yes, sir."
He took my hand and walked me over to a car that he had waiting. He opened the back door and put me in and he said something to me but I didn't really hear it. He got in the front seat started the motor and we drove for about an hour before we pulled up to what looked like an old-fashioned fortress. There were a couple of towers and you could see some big guns on them there were some other things around the property that looked like weapons too. As we drove up to the gate it opened on its own, letting us enter the main yard of the fortress. As soon as we were inside I could hear the gate close. He pulled the car into a garage, turned off the motor, and got out. Opening the back door he told me to get out too.
"Welcome home," he said, "this is where I live and this is where you're going to live from now on. I hope you like it because you really have no choice about that."
As we walked out of the garage I noticed a couple of armed men walking around and I also saw some women and children.
As if he knew what I was thinking Mr. Evans said, "There're a few families living here. They're the families of my men and some of them are slaves like you. They sold themselves to me and in return I take good care of them and they do some work for me. I have other ideas for you so don't think that you have to live in one of the shacks like the rest of the slaves do."
We walked up to a large metal door that had like a peephole next to it. Mr. Evans looked into the peephole and then the door opened revealing a long hallway. It was about fifty feet long and it came to another door at the end. He put his eye up to the peephole there and that door opened, as well.
Going inside I was kind of shocked. Where the outside was all concrete and metal and rock, the inside looked like a very nice house with wood on the walls, nice carpets, furniture like I had never seen before, and most of all it was the cleanest place I had ever seen in my life. While I was looking around an older woman, maybe eighty -years old, entered the room.
"Welcome home sir," she said to Mr. Evans, "how may I help you?"
"Maggie, this here is Amy and as you can see from my mark on her neck she will be staying with us for a while. I'd like you to get her cleaned up, get her some fresh clothes, and then take these filthy rags of hers outside and burn them. Burn the shoes too. She won't be needing shoes anymore."
And with that Maggie took me by the arm and we left the room. The first thing she did was to have me strip off all my clothes and shoes. Looking over me she said that I didn't look too bad for desert trash. I would've been insulted if I didn't agree with her about that trash part. She had me get into a small room that was covered in the most beautiful tiles and she showed me some handles on the wall and told me to turn on the shower. I had no idea what she was talking about. She had to show me how to use the shower and I thought it was just amazing to see hot water come out of the wall like that. The burn from my brand stung a lot at first, but then the water slowly made it feel a little better. There was a bar of real soap in the shower and I figured that I was supposed to use it. I washed everything and I washed everywhere.
When I was washing my hair I was pleased to see the usual collection of bugs being washed away. I ended up staying in the shower so long that Maggie had to come get me and tell me to get out. She handed me a cloth and told me it was called a towel and I dried myself off with it. It was so amazingly soft and it felt so good on my skin.
After getting out of the shower Maggie had me turn around for her so she could see me. She went, "Tsk, tsk."
"Girl, have you never shaved your legs and your armpits?"
I was shocked at the suggestion. "Of course not. Who would?"
She snickered. "You would, that's who. And you're going to right now and don't even think of arguing with me about it."
It took a while to figure out how to use the lazor that Maggie made me learn how to use it and she made sure that my armpits and my legs were shaved smooth when I got done. It was after I got done with the shaving that she put some ointment on my brand and then put a bandage on it.
"Give it a few days and it'll heal up just fine. " She followed that up by combing out my hair and she told me all about my new home while she was doing that.