tagRomanceDefeating Greyness

Defeating Greyness

bystev2244©

As usual, I want to thank Randi and George for being kind enough to edit this for me and Randi for motivating me to write it at all. Warning, no explicit sex scenes ahead.

~~

I switched off the news. I'd seen enough; it was time to go. I might have waited too long. The thing was, I loved the life I was leading and I didn't want to leave everything behind.

I looked around my luxury condo, taking everything in for the last time. This whole world was about to end and I already knew how much I was going to miss it. I had painstakingly selected every piece of furniture. Every decorative item was perfectly placed. Buying the kitchen alone had taken more than a month and cost a small fortune. The condo itself, with that fantastic view on the Elbe was invaluable anyway. It seems all of this was about to be destroyed. That was a shame. Unfortunately, nobody asked me, so the world was continuing to go crazy, regardless.

I had mostly spent the last few days in front of the TV while my duffel bag waited near the door, hoping that someone would find some piece of sanity somewhere around the world. Nobody had, apparently, at least none of those that counted. The screaming and shouting among our leaders, humanity's finest, had constantly escalated, and it seemed the hurt feelings of a few were more important at this point than the lives of millions. Time to go.

Like everyone else, I had seen this coming. It was hard not to see it coming: literally everyone was talking about the impending end of the world. Unlike everybody else, I had a plan and now it was time to execute it. The plan was good, but having to follow it still didn't make me feel good. I liked Ms. Bauer, the nice elderly lady next door. I liked that cute cashier down at the supermarket who flirted with me every time I saw her. I even liked the few friends, well, make that acquaintances, I had. There was nothing I could do for them, though. They were doomed if things progressed as it seemed they would. I had no family left to take care of, which made leaving a bit easier.

I switched off the TV, and like an idiot I checked if all the windows were locked and everything was switched off. I knew I would never return here, but I liked my condo too much to not leave it in a proper condition. I looked out the window to check the situation in the streets, but everything seemed eerily quiet. I knew there had been a lot of demonstrations, well, better call them riots. Some had evolved into pure violence or looting. I had seen it on TV and heard the screaming and shouting during the night. This crisis had escalated steadily for more than a year, and during the last few weeks it had gotten so bad that it seemed the unanimous opinion that everyone was almost certainly going to be killed and that it was about to happen soon. At first, after this realization, things were eerily quiet. Everyone seemed to be shocked. Everyone knew things had been bad, but most still had hoped it wouldn't come to this. After this rather calm phase the stress and desperation kept growing and combined with the feeling of total helplessness, things had erupted into more and more violence and the dissolving of societal structures.

The part of my street I could see was completely deserted. I could see a lot of smoke in the distance, though. The constant sound of police and fire truck sirens that had dominated the night had finally abated and was not to be heard now. It seemed the authorities had capitulated, just like I was about to do.

Wanting to get it over, I grabbed my bag, locked the door and stepped into the elevator for the last time. In the underground car park, I put everything into my SUV, started the engine and toyed with the gate remote control. Pressing this button would open the garage and the whole building to the violence and developing anarchy outside. Most of my neighbors, including Ms. Bauer, were certainly cowering in their condos. They didn't stand a chance, anyway. I pushed the button. The heavy gate moved slowly upwards, but there was no sign of intruders waiting behind it. I gently nudged the accelerator and my car glided silently in electric mode through the garage. I stopped behind the gate, closed it again and looked around.

I looked to my left and was shocked to see a blackened, enraged face maybe five meters from me, closing in quickly. The guy held some kind of brick in his right hand that he was about to hurl into my window. Glass to my right crashed as my foot stomped down the accelerator. I heard a scream to my right and something heavy thudding against my car on the left. Probably the brick. Didn't matter. I needed to get out now. Quickly. Group of people to the left. Mostly blackened faces. Looking like a warrior group from some bad stone age movie. I turned to the right. Some guy jumping in front of my car. Loud thud. Car 1, crazy idiot 0. Trusty car. I accelerated down my once quiet street at an alarming speed. For some reason I thought of speed traps and that they would probably be the last working governmental function in this developing anarchy.

Lots of bricks and other stuff on the street now. Steel bars, tires, various debris. I had to drive zig-zag to save my tires. I cringed as I heard some shots near me and ducked behind the wheel. My front window cracked, so it was really me someone was trying to shoot. In the mirror I saw some maniac on a motorcycle following me, aiming a gun at me. I slammed the brakes hard. He didn't expect that. Boy, didn't he expect that. The gun went off once again while he and his bike were flattened against my boot. I accelerated hard again. Someone with what looked like a spear ran towards me. Seriously? A spear? Had we already sunk that low? The guy with the gun showed at least some civilized standards as he tried to kill me. I pointed the car towards the guy, surprising him while he still struck at me. 'What have I ever done to these guys,' I asked myself while my car knocked him out of the way. My rear window splintered while another spear plunged into the dashboard on the passenger side. Those guys really didn't like me.

I turned left, and suddenly everything was quiet. I coasted down the clean and totally deserted side street. These guys who just tried to kill me and who I might have just killed. A few weeks ago, they had been accountants or clerks. Sure, we had a crisis. Humanity might face a nuclear doom, but why did they suddenly want to kill everyone in sight? How could humanity have eroded that quickly? Had the layer of civilization really been that thin? Society had clearly broken down even before anything had really happened.

I turned right and passed the street where I used to shop for my groceries. Every single shop was either burning or had already burnt down. The street decoration was supplemented with burned out car shells. No sign of police or firefighters. The street was littered with debris again. No corpses, luckily. I had hoped to top off my food supplies today, but civilization had fled sooner than I had expected.

I finally reached the marina where everything was almost other-worldly quiet. I had expected everyone to flee the city on their boats, and sure enough, many were missing. It seemed I was the last one to finally accept reality and get out of Dodge.

Of course, I had no way to know whether the missing yachts had been taken by their rightful owners. I had prepared mine in a way to prolong my life aboard as long as humanly possible. I might have been dumb or overly optimistic by waiting too long to leave my fellow humans behind, but I wasn't dumb or optimistic enough to let it sit here in the marina for everyone to take. I had anchored it a few kilometers away, inaccessible from land. I had locked it as much as I could, like the dinghy I had left in my mooring place in the marina.

I even locked my car as I left it and took the keys with me, which made as much sense as the cell phone I still had in my pocket. None.

I winced as the noisy outboard motor roared into life, but the area remained completely silent. While I puttered along the shore, I anxiously looked out for more shooters, spear throwers or maybe mounted knights, but none were to be seen.

I gradually calmed down and could see my yacht waiting for me impatiently. Just as I passed under the last bridge, I heard a gurgling scream from above. Startled, I looked upwards and could see a human form dangling upside down from the bridge, pointing at me and screaming. Cold fear ran down my spine. Shit, what was that? Some kind of lookout?

From the corner of my eye I could see something big and dark dropping down on me from the low steel bridge above. I didn't even look up. I just instinctively yanked the outboard motor hard to the left. Unintentionally I opened the throttle fully. The small dinghy willingly turned right immediately. I sensed something big and dark passing me downwards on my left. I looked around while the thing hit the left side plate hard. I assumed they had thrown a big stone or something like it at me until I saw hands clutching the side plate, pulling a male face from the water.

I looked upwards to see if more human bombs were following and could see a group of about ten people standing there, all wearing red bandanas. This crisis was only a few weeks old and they had already formed some kind of gang? I had to question the solidity of the society I had relied on for so long. It was amazing how easily it had broken down.

The guy had meanwhile pulled his head out of the water and I had armed myself with a paddle. I was about to strike his hands when I saw that I knew him. He was Erik, a pleasant guy working at the marina. I was suddenly unsure whether I should greet him like I had done so often or flatten his hands.

"Grrr, you asshole!" he growled, trying to grab my leg and to pull me down. There was madness in his eyes, convincing me that this was no longer the Erik I had known for so long. He was covered with bruises and wounds. A part of his left ear was missing. His left eye was badly injured and the patch he wore to cover it had moved during his drop. He looked like he had been to war and lost, which might explain his madness.

That made up my mind. Instead of "Hey Erik," my greeting was a solid hit with the paddle on his left hand. He howled, retracting it, but continued to try to pull himself into my boat with his right. I hit that one just as he was able to get a leg over the side plate. Having lost the support of both hands, he slid off the boat. He tried to follow me, but his swimming was no match for the outboard motor.

I looked up to the bridge just in time to see a stone being hurled at me. I had to yank the outboard to the left again and easily avoided it. Why did they want to kill me? Just because they could? Erik had just risked his life to try. Were they on some kind of killing spree? I had to get out of here. The bombs might not even be necessary; people were already busy killing each other.

~~

I woke up after an uneasy night full of the usual nightmares. I lay in my bunk, trying to come to terms with reality once again. Every morning was more or less the same. Bad dreams, no relief in finding out I had just been dreaming. The reality was not much more appealing than the wildest nightmares.

I forced myself out of bed. There was no real reason to do it. Nothing needed to be done; I had no plans for the day. I never had. It was more a matter of discipline and not becoming a total slob. Looking back at my unmade bed, I once again managed to bring myself to make it, although it seemed totally pointless. By noon I would probably take a short nap again, mostly to avoid the total boredom that dominated my life.

After having finished this task, which represented one of the few signs of discipline still left in my life, I listlessly shuffled out of my cabin, through the galley and upwards onto the deck. The wind was soft and steady, the sky was grey, the waves were gentle, it was way too chilly for the latitude and everything was just too calm. In short, this day was exactly like every other had been recently. While my yacht crept through the Atlantic Ocean, nothing hinted at the catastrophe that had befallen humanity.

I thought about that other life. I was born rich. There was no way to tell for sure, but I guessed none of this money was still worth anything. I had some gold aboard, but as it was very hard to digest, I doubted this was still worth anything either. The only good thing resulting from my former wealth was this boat. As the political crisis became serious, everyone reacted differently. Many demonstrated in the streets, some became criminals, some fucked like minks, some resorted to drugs or alcohol. I bought this ship while my money was still useful.

I had tried to imagine what I needed and had equipped it as well as I could. My power sources were a wind wheel at the stern and a lot of solar panels. All of it still worked to some extent, but due to the ubiquitous clouds and the generally low light and wind level, the efficiency was reduced. I had a small electric motor added to the main diesel in case of an emergency or a slack. It wasn't very fast and would deplete the batteries in a few hours, but it was better than nothing.

Most of the electricity was used for the reverse osmosis pumps that kept me hydrated. Personal hygiene was a lower priority. Who would care, anyway? For some reason I still didn't understand, I had forgotten to bring a Geiger counter. Consequently, I had no idea about the ocean's radioactivity level and mostly avoided it. There was not much bathing for me and not enough water for regular showers.

It didn't matter much, though. Even before the crisis, I had no family and no stable relationship to speak of. I had always been a bit of a recluse. Consequently, I had decided against asking any friends to join me. Call me egoistical, but in every scenario I could come up with, companions would mean trouble and less resources for me. My best chance of surviving for at least a few years would be alone. I had anticipated loneliness, but not to the extent I felt it now. It seems contact to other humans is as essential as breathing, and the solitude was about to get to me. I was learning the hard way that being mostly alone in a city full of people and being really totally alone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean were totally different things. I had vastly overestimated my ability to live without human contact.

With my escape from Hamburg, my connection to humanity had been cut and I had no source of information about what had been happening on land since then. Maybe order had been restored and I held out on sea for nothing, like these Japanese soldiers in South East Asia, long after WWII had ended. Maybe no other human was alive at all. Most likely, some kind of stone-age anarchy had developed and I would be slain and possibly eaten as soon as I came near land. That didn't sound too tempting. I might need to risk checking the situation sooner or later, but I wouldn't as long as I had enough food.

Food. That was my big problem. I had everything I needed to survive for years: water, safety, energy and loads of vitamin pills. Food was my only problem. I had stored a lot on the yacht and had brought a bit with me during my flight, but, of course, it wasn't enough. It couldn't possibly be enough. How long should it last? Two years? Even ten years wouldn't be enough as I had no desire to die in ten years. I had no illusion that civilization would have been restored, even then.

Realistically, I had food for about one more year, maybe one and a half. That meant in about two years, there would be a ghost ship sailing around the world, full of water, vitamins and a starved corpse. I thought about tying myself to the helm as a joke, to be a suitable skeleton ghost-ship captain. No, survival was the way to go, not some cheap Flying Dutchman joke at the expense of my life.

All I had achieved with my escape was to postpone my death by a few years and to cut myself off from all communication, leaving me totally alone. At the beginning I had considered myself the lucky one, but doubts were beginning to creep in.

While fleeing Europe through the English Channel, I had received my last bit of information about the fate of humanity. It came in the form of three separate and intense flashes of light, followed by loud booms a few minutes later. I had the confirmation I needed. Humanity had finally gone mad and decided to destroy itself, using nuclear weapons to achieve that noble goal.

I shuffled across my deck, most of which was covered by solar panels. As usual, I tried to determine where the grey sky ended and where the equally grey sea began. As usual, I wasn't successful. The ubiquitous greyness had set in a few weeks after the event; the hefty temperature drop had taken longer. This was what they had always described as nuclear winter. I had set sail towards the equator to flee the temperature drop. In the beginning I had experienced stronger winds, but now everything had settled down to a constant 2 or 3 Beaufort. It was enough to sail if you had time, which I had. So I roamed the Atlantic Ocean, roughly following a huge triangle.

Right now, I was headed back towards the Azores. Surprisingly, the GPS was still working, so despite seeing no stars I knew pretty much where I was. Usually, I would tack at this point. If I continued on this course I would reach Flores soon.

Decision time.

Cautious contact with humanity again, or stay safe until the food is gone and I can't hide anymore? The problem was that I couldn't assume my first contact with possible survivors would be successful and would lead to replenished food stocks. In fact, it seemed rather unlikely. I couldn't wait until I was almost starved until I took the risk. I wouldn't have enough time to find alternatives then, and seeing people and land was oh so tempting.

~~

Never in my life had a piece of rock in the middle of an ocean looked so attractive. It was the first stretch of land I had seen since I had left the English Channel. It seemed surprisingly grey, I had expected more vegetation. Might be a visual effect caused by the ubiquitous mist. At least I hoped so. The alternative would be a lack of vegetation due to the nuclear winter, which would probably mean no food for me or anyone.

Still, it was so tempting. Just walking on solid ground again, maybe talking to people. The whole food aspect was almost becoming secondary. I also needed to hear how humanity had fared; I was desperate for any bit of information. I needed to at least check the situation on Flores from afar, I just couldn't resist.

The sky was, of course, clouded, as it always was, but I had no doubt my yacht could easily be spotted. I decided to anchor at a distance I could cover by rowing the dinghy. If things got hairy, I still had fuel in the dinghy's outboard motor and in my yacht's diesel tank. If they didn't have speed boats with fuel, I could flee easily. I was gradually convincing myself.

A few hours later I was trying to crouch in my dinghy as low as possible in an unnecessary attempt to be invisible. I was quite certain the darkness hid me perfectly, anyway, while I was staring at the coast through my binoculars. Nothing. Okay, in this darkness it wasn't really surprising to see no people, but the absence of any source of light on the whole island was more than a bit disappointing. Not even candles or fires, it seemed. No light meant no civilization worth mentioning. Shit.

Then right in front of me, not even a hundred meters away, some guy appeared with a burning torch. He was the first human being I had seen in a year and, well, he was a bit of a disappointment. He looked plain bizarre. His head was way too big and looked distorted. No, that was a mask. At least I hoped it was, for the poor guy's sake. No one should have to run around with a head like that, even in a nuclear winter. He was wearing... junk. There were plastic bags, parts of car tires and various mechanical parts involved. This would certainly have caused a roaring success in an haute couture show in Paris, but here it was just another sign of the downfall of civilization.

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bystev2244© 24 comments/ 14733 views/ 28 favorites

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