The Blown Shadow: Lights Out
I miss the sun. The feeling of heat on my face, kissing my cheeks, freckles deepening each year. Now we're a pale version of ourselves; frail from lack of sunlight. Hydroponics and stockpiled food keep us fed, for the time being. I never knew volcanic ash could disrupt the power supply. Glad my father drilled us such a deep well, water is in high demand, traded for fuel.
The vog from Vesuvius blocks most life-giving rays. The smoke lingers; a foreboding cloud adding to my anxiety. I wish I'd gone to sleep to never wake. Like so many closer to the eruption, Italy now Pompeii in grand proportion, an ashen pile of rubble. I visited The Gulf of Naples with my girlfriend; it was a beautiful place, with lots of people in tight proximity. Adding insult to injury, Kilauea and Maunaloa in Hawaii responded in kind, within weeks of the primary blast, smaller in scale yet mighty.
My car died recently, remains of embers affecting the machinery inside. It coughed out its last bit of life; so did my mama, lungs made black from years of smoking only to be taken by a different sort of cinder. Not much of a funeral, few of us left. Empty of tears, eyes irritated not from crying, "the shadow" responsible for both. The nosebleeds grow more frequent.
We buried her in the backyard, my brother Elijah and I. He's sixteen.
"If I go next, will ya bury me with a pic of Daphne?" Elijah said.
"Yeah, sure. But you're not going anywhere without me."
Eyes downcast, he fingered something in his pocket. "Funny, she said the same thing." He still wears her necklace.
He shuffled his feet for a while before going inside. I was off at college, the first in the family, final year, when things blew up. I wish I'd been able to reach him in the early days, to provide comfort. It was difficult to travel, roadways covered in a slick ash; chaos. The last time I saw my girl, she was headed north to her family.
Sarah’s last words; "I'll call you when I get there. I love you."
We kissed like in the movies, her breasts against mine; I could feel her heart pounding.
Holding her tighter, "Bring them to the farm, it’s safer."
I dream about her most nights.
At first, countries fought over food and oil, planes going down. Shouldn't have been flying blind up there. Several US military aircraft went down before they smartened up. Oil is like gold, although it always has been. Generators coughing smoke to fuel the fires, that's just what we need, extra containments to breathe.
Better than freezing to death, though. For many places north of the equator, that's exactly what happened. The days and nights grow colder. I think of her further north. Communications are sparse globally, I assume, cell networks down, the ash interfering with reception. Same with planes and machinery; artificial arteries clogged; an attack raging on their technical organs.
Nuclear power plant malfunctions ended the pockets of power a week ago. My brother and I won’t take unnecessary risks, keeping our stockpile of gas from prying eyes. The door to the root cellar bolted shut. Walking past it, I smell the fuel, no longer the scent of rotting apples from last year's harvest, jars of my mama’s preserves long gone. The rations and fuel share an identical purpose, ensuring survival. My mouth waters, the hydroponic tomatoes almost ready; the fresh juice will run down my lip, a welcomed treat.
Bless mama and her depression era mentality. Despite my gratitude for our relative safety this next month, my stomach gnaws at itself, not from hunger but a mixture of fear and guilt for hoarding, considerably more than others; a churning tornado of emotions eating my insides.
True to the southern stereotype, we have guns and use them when necessary. For years, I refused to touch one, notwithstanding my father insisting I learn. Once I reached my teen years, we stopped agreeing on much. We didn’t speak of my lack of boyfriends in senior high school or democratic views. He missed the ash cloud although lived a life in a shadow of ignorance. He died while I was a first year at college, disappointed. After the eruption, my brother taught me to shoot and we've protected this isolated farm. He doesn’t know about Sarah.
My thoughts travel to my best friend; lover. In that city, there’s little hope she’s hidden, safeguarded from thieves or worse. I text a tragic monologue, cell charged in secret, using up precious resources. I lie to myself, swear it’s my last feeble attempt to connect with a ghost.
I’d trade every drop of fuel, all the food in the world to hear her voice, gaze on her smiling face or watch the way she tilts her head back, laughing at the stupid things I say.
The meager sunlight fading into preemptive dark, I look out the window,
into the budding blackness, then turn to the calendar and check off another day.
The candle blows out, smoke twirls in the air; in the darkness I lay.
Nighty Night. Don't let the ashes bite.