It's been more than a year since I last signed in. I live in the midwest, in a town I won't divulge here. Let's call it New Texas since I have come to think of almost everywhere surrounding me as some sort of strange mirror world of the old West.
My name is Joe. I am older than middle-aged. No family. No kids. I had plenty of friends, good friends going all the way back to my youth but almost all of those lived on one coast or another. Sometimes I wonder if any of them are still out there and the notion warms me. I don't dwell on the idea for long because it might tempt me to wander off looking for them. In some ways having fewer connections was a lucky thing.
There was a crazy shift in the political landscape. People just got mean. Nobody wanted to talk. Everyone wanted to shout. Everyone was lining up to buy a gun. Total insanity. Then came the virus. That came on quick. Before you knew it the sickness was everywhere. Things broke down. People tried to ride it out for awhile. Later, a few months later, there was a few weeks of crazy violence. Men driving around in pick-up trucks with flags and rifles and hauling the neighbors they didn't like or whose things they wanted out into the street. Thankfully the perpetrators of the lynchings soon discovered that guns and not even masks were any protection from the illness. Anyone that could catch it, did. Anyone who did catch it died, usually within a day, maybe two.
I survived to this point for a few reasons.
First. I lived in a forgotten part of the old town where almost all of the stores were long since closed, their spaces boarded up and for sale and for lease signs in the windows for so long they had become more of a fixture for the town than the original stores they replaced. I had a cheap, two-bedroom apartment over an empty law office that had been offered for lease for at least the last six years. My place was reached by a back door at the top of two flights of iron stairs that rose up the back of the building in a zig-zag from a small back parking lot. There was a narrow hallway that spanned the length of the building front to back on the second floor. In this hall, there was a little alcove where the property owner had installed a washer and dryer mean to be shared with the neighbor. The neighbor in this case was a businessman who leased the place so he would have a spot to land and work when he was in town, working at the company's main headquarters, which was further towards the center of town. He was a nice guy, a few years older than me. He was thinking about retirement. I was lucky in that he was out of town when the virus hit and never returned. Things fell apart so quickly. So I had no downstairs neighbors. No landlord to come looking for me and no neighbor upstairs either to negotiate or share with or to accidentally draw unwanted attention.
Next, there was a small corner grocery at the end of my block which was a narrowly packed row of buildings nearly connected into one mass. The grocery closed when the virus hit and the reports of the nut jobs driving around with guns hit the radio. I had supplies of my own. I had what I'd decided to stash when news of the virus first hit plus I had everything in the neighbor's pantry. I admit I was selfish and maybe a little ruthless but early on I had a sense that things were going to slide and continue to slide and the best option was holing up for a very long time. Months if I could manage it.
So one night I climbed out a window onto a flat section of roof and made my way from roof to roof to the roof access above the grocery store and I broke in. I was honestly surprised that no loud alarm went off. I assumed that some silent alarm was probably being sent to the police, if any were still out there listening for that kind of thing. I propped the door open with a brick and I left. I went home. That day I stood vigil, watching between the slats of the window blinds for the police, the owner, a neighbor, anyone. I had a little excitement when one of the pickup trucks full of gun-toting patriots slowly rolled past. They didn't spare so much as a look in my direction. They were probably headed downtown where there was a pawn shop, bars, and more interesting places to loot and people to harass. The next night I went back with a big box and a red filtered flashlight. I spent eight hours carefully, quietly emptying the place across the rooftop. I had plenty of food. Plenty of pop, beer, liquor, and cigarettes if I wanted them to, Stacks and stacks.
Lastly, I assumed the worst. After my break-in was ignored I decided in for a penny, in for a pound and I broke into the neighbors place too. He had some nice things. Best of all he had a large collection of books. This was good both as a means to pass the time and because it meant he had an impressive collection of bookcases. Some of these I dismantled and used the wood to board up most of the upstairs windows. I did this from the inside. Almost all of my block and the neighboring blocks had been boarded up for years. I added my very own FOR LEASE sign in the windows facing the street in front and the parking lot in the rear. For all intents and purposes, my place became just another locked up, empty and boarded up, run down dusty old nothing of a place above a similar such office space downstairs.
Even during the normal days before everything happened, I might not see a single soul walking on the street outside of my place for two, three days in a row. After the break-in and the truck driving by it got quiet. Not necessarily quiet in the city beyond but in the immediate area, quiet. It was a month before the power began to become unreliable. I had the advantage of having my stolen stash of a hundred or so batteries, more than enough to keep my old cd player and radio going. I listened to the news from the world outside quietly, with an earphone. I made it a point to keep the lights out. Most of the power off. I kept my head down and I didn't leave the upstairs apartment area again for four solid months. One hundred and twenty-one days to be exact.