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In the old world, I worried too much about the quality of my bed and how comfortably I slept in it. Pillow? Not too soft, not too stiff. Mattress? Not too flat or rigid, not too tall or plushy. If my skeleton was to suffer any more after that failure of a dive in the London Olympics, I might as well retire and teach toddlers how to swim. Covers? Beyond the satin sheets, whatever the weather required. I'm not 100% picky. Only 90% picky.

Correction. I *wasn't* picky. Now? My first night I slept in a car, wind and wolves howling outside. Barely warm enough to make it to dawn. Ever since I found a crappy bedroll, I sleep anywhere I have to, as long as there is a warm fire nearby. I sleep on cave floors, wooden floors, snow banks, ice, you name it. I face the warm glow as I close my eyes, something that feels like the city lights of the cities we once knew. Every now and then I find a house that isn't ruined or boarded up, and sleep in a normal bed.

Unfortunately, the worst kind of sleep I get now is in ordinary beds. I walk by framed photographs and mementos as I prepare to rest. I lay down on a cold bed that once belonged to all kinds of people from every walk of life. Sometimes I fall asleep exhausted, while other times I stare at the photographs by the nightstand, picturing myself in their lives, before they froze to death or got eaten by wildlife. Those nights just won't end. The unnatural aurora kicks in occasionally, mocking me for trying to imagine a louder, living world. In its stead, eerie silence broken up by electrical hums, the corpse of our techology reanimated like a contemporary Frankenstein's monster.

A few nights ago, I slept in the town of Milton. All the dwellings were filled with useful gear but, in my search for a place to rest, the biggest house was off limits, according to the old woman that aimed her rifle through her window. The second biggest would have to do. It took me a while to navigate the broken floorboards and scattered toys. On the upper floor, I discovered a double bed next to a crib. The last few rays of the setting sun guided me to my new bed. I passed by the crib nervously, even though only a doll and a toy now sit in it. As usual, I look at the photograph of a happy couple with a newborn. All three of them hugged together and smiling, the Milton Basin filling the background. As I try to imagine living that life here, in Great Bear, I hope, against all odds, the entire family is safe, somewhere, somehow. I dream as I sleep, for the first time in over 127 days.

In the morning, bright, natural sunlight fills the room. Something catches my eye after breakfast. Behind the photograph, a piece of paper sticks out, hidden between it and the frame. The scribbles I could barely make out, but I could make out the phrases "too late", "won't survive otherwise", "faster if we run" and "I'll be waiting by the gas station if you come to your senses -Josh" I didn't understand until I looked at the crib again. The doll was facing down. Except that isn't a doll. 

I ran out, nearly falling down the stairs. I tried to lie to myself, saying that no one could or would do that. I was dehydrated and hungry before eating that can of tomato soup for breakfast. I could only keep it down long enough to fall to my knees, unable to move as I let it out.

"How far will you go to survive this Quiet Apocalypse?" We've already gone too far before it started. Perhaps we deserve Nature's punishment. 

I no longer care where I sleep because I never sleep.

At least the aurora is awake with me.

 

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On 4/8/2021 at 12:22 AM, Sherlock Holmes 18 said:

Is the baby dead? Damn, that's the last thing I want to hear in the world😠

 

But you know the drill. The more I read, the more I say, "Where's the sequel?" 

Oh man, my heart can't take it to write a sequel 😆 In the longer unedited version, I mention how the dad ran away after the first aurora ended and everyone was going crazy without power, after begging the mom to leave their adopted son behind because they were never going to survive fighting wolves and blizzards AND tending to the newborn. Because they're both terrible people, they did the unthinkable. As I imagine it, one of the escaped prisoners separated them as he tried to kill them, somewhere between the Prison transport bus and the Orca Gas Station in Milton. They are probably alive somewhere. The only thing that keeps them up at night is how they're alone, not abandoning their child. And the protagonist (the Olympic diver) goes from being picky about sleep to being so scarred she can't sleep at all. 

There you go. The next one will be a comedy, I swear to God 😋

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