Our days and nights were no longer clearly defined in this strange dark world. The sky was a dark all day and this deepened into an even greater darkness at night. The cold was relentless and I did not want to waste our fuel, not knowing how long this terrible black winter would continue, or even whether it would ever end, although Tom assured me that it would. “Scientists predicted that nuclear winter would not last longer than ten years, but would go on for at least two years, depending on the number of bombs dropped.”
This was not as helpful to me as Tom seemed to think, as a difference of eight years in his prediction was a really long time when metering out food, drink and fuel. The fuel was my greater worry as it took considerable space to store wood and, as a result there was less in proportion to the stored food and drink. We settled into a routine of lighting the fire twice a day, early in the morning and again in the evening. When we had enough coals, I let it die down and then banked it to retain the heat in the coal until it was time to rekindle it.
During the time when the fire was burning brightly, we settled ourselves around it and read or wrote. Sometimes we played some board games which we found in a cupboard in the spare bedroom. When the fire died down and the cold started creeping in, we prepared and ate a meal and climbed into our beds, dozing in the warm until the time came for me to rekindle the fire.
As the days and weeks passed, I developed a yearning for some fresh intellectual stimulation. Tom too, was bored and it made him irritable and annoying. He would lie for hours singing the words of popular songs from before the winter over and over to himself. As the days wore on, and his appetite for new information and intellectual challenges remained unfulfilled, he became more inconsiderate and careless about his appearance. He did not want to wash or maintain his appearance in any way, nor did he want to talk to me and had chats or discussions. He withdrew into his own world of anxiety and fear. If I stirred from the room with the fireplace, which we were using as our primary residence, he would scream and cry hysterically until I returned. He would not venture outside at all which left me on my own to bring in all the wood and other items we needed from the outbuildings.
I have to do something. We are going to have to try to drive to the town. It’s only ten miles away. We should be fine. The thoughts went round and round in my head, banging on like a drum. I finally broached it with Tom. “Do you think we should take Glen’s 4×4 and drive to the town? There is bound to be a library there in the town’s Free Zone and we could get some books to read.”
His face lit up with enthusiasm and I felt bad for not having suggested it previously. His own yearning for respite from the boredom and routine reflected in his eyes.
“What will we do if we run into other people?” Tom’s face puckered slightly with distaste; he had never enjoyed meeting new people. His PTSD and OCD gave him a distrust of other people and their motives.
This boy can read my mind. How did he know I was worried about running into other people? We haven’t seen anyone since we arrived at the farm and it’s been a few months now.
“Don’t you think it would be nice to see some people? We have been on our own for a long time now.”
Tom’s eyes darkened and a wary expression crossed his face. “What about if they are hostile? We have food, drink and fuel; other people may want to take these things for themselves.”
My own fears were laid bare by these few words. What if there were hostile people out there? What if we ran into trouble?
“We’ll take Glen’s gun.” I had found it hidden in a safe at the back of a wardrobe in the bedroom. The safe wasn’t locked. Well done, Glen. Lucky for us, of course, but really careless not to lock the safe.
Tom nodded. “Okay, I do want to get some books. I am so bored.”
Written for Sue Vincent’s weekly write photo challenge. You can join in here: https://scvincent.com/2019/05/30/thursday-photo-prompt-yearning-writephoto/