This is a continuation of my fictional depiction of one possible Collapse scenario. If you have not read my previous essay, “The Stranger Arrives,” this new one will not make much sense to you. So it would be best if you scroll down and spend a few minutes with that piece.
During what our tribe calls The Descent, the initial problem was economic. But it soon became societal. The threads of decency and compassion that normally hold the human tapestry together, disintegrated with astonishing swiftness. In the USA, the entire population was more or less under house arrest. The government tried curfews and martial law and gun confiscation, but they did not end the violence, they intensified it.
At this stage the trauma was limited to the United States. It was not global. So the big question for those who made it through the catastrophe is: How did it go from an economic and societal unraveling in one country to a global nuclear incineration? How did The Descent become The Shattering?
We do know that someone launched a massive cyber attack on China. The obvious prime suspect was Washington, because the issuing of the New Yuan had been the catalyst for the U.S. meltdown. It was probably an act of vengeance. The initial target was the Chinese banking sector and their stock exchanges. Retaliation was expected, but there was no immediate response.
It was at this point that our sea gypsy tribe headed out. In the Council of Deciding before our departure, there was considerable disagreement over whether we should leave. Some argued that since the Internet was still functioning, we would have better access to information - particularly the alternative media - by staying in port. But others pointed out that the government could shut down those voices at any moment. The deciding factor was the recognition that we could still get reliable intel, from the many short wave radio contacts that we had, even if we were at sea.
In less than 3 days all of our vessels had completed their final preparations and made it to our offshore rendezvous point. What a sublime delight it was when all 11 sailing ships answered the twilight radio roll call on our first night as genuine sea gypsies. However, that euphoria dissolved quickly the next morning when someone announced that the expected retaliation had just occurred.
The U.S. power grid had been hit – and hit hard. Fortunately, the nuclear plants had not been attacked. But all of the conventional facilities had been unplugged as easily as if they were toasters.
With the power down at the U.N. in New York, there could be no emergency Security Council meeting. But Russia stepped in and held a meeting in Moscow with the Chinese and U.S. ambassadors. The discussion was later described in the language of political correctness as “animated.” Everyone recognized that tensions had not fallen - but risen.
In the next cyber strike, the spillways at massive dams all over China were held permanently open, thus flooding valuable croplands and killing who knows how many innocent people. Then the big U.S. internet servers were disabled, so the net went down. This meant that almost all news now came from the Mainstream Media, which was little more than a government propaganda megaphone. The world looked on in horror as these nuclear powers continued their lurid chess game. It seemed like a match between the Devil and Dr. Strangelove.
Our tribe now faced a tough decision. Should we sail to the Panama Canal and try to get through before things got worse? The Southern Hemisphere is much safer from both of the nuclear threats – war and the meltdown of power plants. We decided to run for it. Our two fastest boats left immediately, so that they could arrange the complicated administrative procedures for our flotilla to transit as soon as possible. But when the rest of us arrived we learned that they were only allowing “strategic” traffic through the Canal.
Understanding that this critical choke-point was probably a nuclear attack target, we headed out to a position in the Southwest Caribbean with much less wind circulation than the surrounding area. It seemed like the safest option if we had to deal with fallout.
The ham radio nets were our best information source. The scenes they were describing in the U.S. were grisly. A population suddenly deprived of food, water, security, electricity, phone service and information, might very well band together in a colossal effort to survive. Or it might go in the other direction…
We did not need a radio report to inform us of the next cyber target. Suddenly all of our GPS navigation screens went blank. Who knows which country initiated that attack? We quietly rejoiced over the fact that about half of our captains could still do celestial navigation. One of the younger tribe members optimistically announced that without GPS there could be no nuclear war. But one of the elders reminded us that during most of the First Cold War there was no GPS, and yet all of those doomsday missiles had incredible accuracy.
And then The Shattering just arrived. There was no warning, no announcement, no fanfare. Ham radio operators in the Midwest frantically started screaming into their microphones that silos were opening and the rockets were heading off into the sky. We never heard from them again. Everything went dark. All was silent.
We don’t know whether that Armageddon moment was deliberate or accidental. We don’t know how much of the world was incinerated. We don’t know whether the people in charge – who the Sea Gypsy Philosopher liked to call The Malignant Overlords – made it into their bunkers and are down there still plotting away. But the lack of any radio communication for almost two years now, leads us to conclude that essentially the planet was consumed by fire and stupidity.
Although we survived, it was extremely difficult and stressful. We never saw any nuclear blast flashes or any mushroom clouds. But the fallout was massive and seemingly endless. Each boat had at least one basic detecting device and a few had more advanced versions that could measure not just the presence of radiation, but the amount. We had bought cheap white paper plates that would reveal the fine, grainy brown and gray dust. They were positioned outside of portholes so that we could monitor them from inside.
Essentially, we were trapped below for days or weeks at a stretch. What saved us were our radios. We could joke and jabber and try to bolster everyone’s spirits and resolve. Jokes were exchanged and we held on-air trivia tournaments. Each evening at sunset there would be a haiku contest. In the mornings the women bragged about the imaginary dinners that they had cooked the night before. We did what a floating community of survivors had to do – we cared for each other!
Eventually, we headed back to this cove, which we thought would make an excellent safe haven. We did this cautiously with a few men scouting ahead at night in dinghies. Another reconnaissance party headed to the nearest town about 10 miles away to survey the scene. When they returned we could read their body language from 100 yards away. It had been total carnage. Most of the buildings remained, but apparently not a single human survived the radiation, the poisoned water and food and the desperate violence.
That is why our lookouts were so startled to see you float into our bay, clinging to that ice machine. Although you are battered and wounded Dear Stranger, you are also most fortunate to have received deliverance from of all possible saviors - a Guardian Ice Machine.
As for the local Indios, they abandoned their shore-side homesteads and headed back up into the hills. A week after our return three very sturdy men showed up with a small wild boar that they had killed with a bow and arrow. They offered it as a gesture of friendship. We asked how many in their tribe had survived and they indicated about 50%. They had hidden in caves and watched the wild animals. When those animals stopped dying from the “death powder,” which is what they called the fallout, they assumed it was safe to emerge from the caves.
When we invited them to return to their homesteads, they graciously declined because they wanted to be closer to the caves in case the death powder returned. But every few weeks a small group of them visits us bringing something to trade or asking for some sort of hand tool.
And that, Dear Stranger, is Our Story. When the wound in your neck has healed and you can again speak, we look forward to learning Your Story. As you might easily imagine, your sudden appearance and how you managed to survive, is a frequent topic of conversation around our camp fires and aboard our boats. But go lightly and continue to rest and heal.
Next week is the Solstice, and so we will have our Festival of the Telling. Each year, one of our teenagers memorizes Our Code and recites it on Midsummer’s Night. All day there will be friendly games and archery and all sorts of juggling displays. And in the evening the coconut wine will flow and the night will resound with laughter … and affection. And thus, in our tiny way, we will do our best to help heal our wounded planet.
TO BE CONTINUED…