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City Sky

"Water Rat" (Short Story - Introduction)

Who’d have thought the Doomsday Preppers had it right?

Sure, they got the cause wrong. But in the End, the effect was what mattered.

It wasn’t an intrusive, Big Brother-like Federal Government that posed the ultimate threat. No fleet of black United Nations helicopters darkened US skies. Armageddon was not triggered by a rogue Artificial Intelligence. There was no catastrophic meteor strike, no Zombie Apocalypse. The End was facilitated by a combination punch many of us actually saw coming: global warming and overpopulation. The knock-out blow was delivered by Techno-Anarchists. 'Civilization as We Knew It' ended with a Cyber Holocaust.

Jackson stirs beside me. A calloused hand caresses my bare shoulder before he brushes up against me to plant a drowsy kiss. He smiles angelically before sinking back into a deep slumber.

I envy the ease with which he sleeps. Five months ago – 168 days earlier to be exact – I would have slept through the night, too. Now the minutes tick by slowly and my overstimulated brain refuses to allow my exhausted body respite.

I sit back against the headboard, putting pen to paper by the light of a precious kerosene lamp. Words spill out to decorate the pages of a battered leather notebook. Their release lightens my spirit. They prevent me from drowning in the oppressive atmosphere of this so-called Safe Haven.

Angst over the safety of my family returns. Pitā is a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering, Mā is a pediatrician. They have friends and connections. I also remind myself that no single demographic could be more prepared for an Extinction Event than the armed-to-the-teeth inhabitants of the sprawling Southwest Region. I try not to think too much about my sister, Zareen. Beautiful, mercurial, the embodiment of a free spirit, she resides in an artsy-fartsy commune in the densely-populated northern Great Lakes Region. I visited her there twice and can’t imagine her circle surviving more than a fortnight.

Jackson keeps me tethered; his presence makes the pain bearable. It shames me to admit that, without him, I might not have made it out of Greater Atlanta. Like too many others, I might have hunkered down to wait for the lights and heat to come back on, and simply perished.

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