Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Collapse CXXXXIII: On The Road I

16 July 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

I write this to you at the end of two days of walking

The trip to Little City was unremarkable enough to give you but the high details; this area remains relatively reliable safe, at least so far as we know – although a certain wariness is always advised in any circumstance. The road remains solid and in relatively good condition, the trip between ourselves and the first stop – Kentucky City – nothing but the quiet walking of myself and Young Xerxes, he lost in thoughts he did not share and I lost in thoughts of leaving this morning and learning to fish in the man-made lakes along the side of road with my grandfather a very long time ago.

The stop in Kentucky City was both a reunion and a planning session, the reunion with The Colonel and the planning for what would come after. After a hearty round of greetings, the Colonel laid out the route he proposed: four days out to the location where we were to make contact, one day to survey, and then four days back. Based on what we found, further plans could be made from there.

The hike the next day – from Kentucky City to Little City – was started at the crack of pre-dawn. It was at this point that a thing that I did not expect occurred: not only was The Colonel there, but so was the Leftenant and Ox. I was (pleasantly) surprised beyond belief and told them both so. The Leftenant said I made a good traveling companion and Ox said he simply had nothing more pressing to do.

This was a harder hike as we made our way up and over the hills that divided the Garnet Valley from the next valley over. This was a little more nerve wracking than the day before, simply because of the fact that the ambush possibilities here were far richer: higher cliff walls, a pass, and (on the descent) a high wall of rock on one side and a steep drop on the other.

Add to this as well the fact that the rate limiting factor is me.

It is not something I care to dwell on often, Lucilius, but both you and I are on the long downhill slope. Likely I am 15 years older than The Colonel, between 20 and 40 years for the rest of the party. One of the members ran point, then myself and two others, then someone bringing up the rearguard. I was in neither rotation; my job apparently was simply to make sure I could keep going.

We stopped at the top of the pass for a breather – I say “we”, it was most likely for me. The sun had come up by this point and it gave a long view down to Little City and across the river to the valley’s edge on the other side. Here and their one could see clusters, mostly vacation homes like the ones outside of McAdams for vacationers that would likely never return. A wealth of materials there, Lucilius, to be mined.

Likely we would need to. Another plan for filing away to explore later.

The descent down was far more pleasant and by a little after noon (so far as I could tell) we made contact with the pickets of Little City. The Colonel talked for a moment, then we started in, following something of the route we had taken only a month ago before we arrived at the high school gym again.

I gave The Colonel a quizzical stare as I looked around the empty gym; were there no other shelters offered? The Colonel, perhaps sensing my question, simply shook his head.

Even with the recent past here, the sense of “us” and “not us” seemed a palpable thing.

Someone had taken the time to leave some supplies; digging through them, it appeared that they were loot from the McAdams storehouse. Dry oatmeal, tins of meet and fruit, even a tin or two of the little sausages covered in their own fat. For the sense of “not us”, someone at least seemed grateful for the attempt.

You may laugh at me that at what is about 5 PM here, I am already for bed. I am tired, Lucilius, and there is a very long hike ahead of me.

Of all the things that I had thought about in imagining The End, being tired all the time was not one of them.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. Well written. I like that you're bringing back in characters we're familiar with.

    As I read, I reflected back on an audio-biography I recently listened to, about a young couple who migrated from the Midwest to California in the 1800s by ox team. We who have grown up with modern transportation can't appreciate what it was like when walking was the primary mode of travel. When we read histories of ancient wars, we get only the high points. It's hard to put it into a proper time perspective when we don't experience the amount of time it takes to walk everywhere.

    Most dystopian movies and television series seem to give the characters the benefit of modern vehicles and fossil fuels. I get that they have to keep the action going, but your portrayal seems much more realistic.

    1. Thank you Leigh.

      I reflected on a version of this issue during my recent travel. In the course of something three hours, we traveled from London to Instanbul. Once upon a time, that would have taken months.

      It is a little tough to write for, as one has to split the difference between conveying the time and distance and making things move along enough that the story does not drag. I think it is tied to the action (and time of programming), but it is a bit unrealistic.

  2. Anonymous5:12 AM

    I'm guessing in the future, sitting around with nothing to do will not be a common occurrence.

    My Dad told me when he was a young teenager in the 1930's, he worked for his Dad (small grocer) as a delivery boy six days a week. Chores at the house before and after school were assigned and if you finished early, you pitched in with your siblings to finish their task. Sun up to sun down - you didn't have any time to rest, at least on purpose.

    1. More and more, Anon, it is going to be a common occurrence given the way the economy going. Either we are going to be working or looking for ways to move our lives forward.

  3. Nylon125:58 AM

    Remove the power grid or limit the hours of it being available and simple chores become time consuming and harder. Take away powered transport and a ten minute drive becomes how many hours of walking especially if you decide to be stealthy. Now throw in being older than ANYONE else......well then.........

    1. Ed, FOTB (Friend Of This Blog) John Wilder has often commented how dependent the modern world and modern economy is on energy. Everything done by hand takes far longer.

  4. I'm a bit envious of their ability to just hike up and over the hills. I'm sure the pioneers of our country could never fathom everything being parceled up and trespassing not being allowed. When I was younger, I often dreamt of walking from some point back to the farm but just going in a straight line through the fields versus having to follow roads. I never did though for fear I might get shot.

    1. Ed, much like the comments of Native Americans that they could not imagine fencing the land; how could you own something like that.

      That said, I am sure in a grid down situation there will be "borders", but that they will be much closer in.

  5. Anonymous11:37 AM

    Will be interesting to find out more than one group sees McAdams as a rich "mining site ".


    1. Michael - Geographically, it depends on who else decides to come through. As we are finding with Seneca's trip, they are easily 4 or 5 days away from the next major city. Writing this after the next week's episode, there is a least one other choke point (Crossroads) that could be stood up as a tripwire post or even a blockage, if needed.


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