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Knowledge is the key to survival. Luckily, my parents taught me well.

By Christopher KellyPublished 3 years ago Updated 5 months ago 9 min read

The world used to be so busy. So much hustle and bustle, and so much noise. So much noise. Noise from people, cars, buses, trains, planes, trams, and that constant gentle hum from the people.

I remember a story my father once told me. It was shortly after I was born when the COVID-19 pandemic ripped through the Earth. Every night he took our two dogs out to the garden just before he headed to bed so they could “do their business” as he would say, and he would listen to the world. He would hear noises from the main road nearby, people in their gardens, planes soaring overhead. But then came COVID, and the leaders finally issued a lockdown across the country. My father remembered that night like it was yesterday, and he said he would remember it for the rest of his life. I wonder if he did.

This one night, the night the lockdown was ordered, he once again let the dogs out and stepped into the garden and he was instantly put on edge. Something was wrong, he said. He was put on high alert by something. A gut feeling, he said. He was ruled by his gut feelings. He always told me to follow my gut because, after learning this lesson himself many times, nine times out of ten the gut feeling was right. Think on a problem all day long, but if your gut tells you the opposite, go with your gut. And this night was no different, he had a gut feeling that something was wrong. He stood there for what he said felt like hours but what was surely just minutes until he figured it out.

It was silent.

Not quiet, but silent. No, he used the word silent very deliberately. Now, my father grew up in London, he was used to noise. His parents lived on a main road with all manner of traffic driving by. He went to university in Canterbury, quieter than London to be sure but nevertheless, there was always noise, no doubt thanks to all the students in the city.

But this was different. Before this night, my father had never experienced silence like it before. It weighed down on him like a physical presence. It was a few minutes until he realised why it was silent. The lockdown. COVID-19. Everyone was hiding inside, scared of any human contact. The impact of this virus was far more severe than he thought it would be. He said he thought of himself, my mother, and me. That night changed my father, according to my mother. She told me he worked harder than he ever had. In those uncertain times, he needed to make sure we were safe and looked after.

Well, Papa… I think you underestimated the virus.

15 years. That’s how long it took the world to fall. A single virus made in a lab in China had ravaged the planet. According to the internet, the world used to be inhabited by over six billion people. There had been no official count of the new population but it was suspected that less than 1% had survived. Those of you who either still know math or were lucky enough to have someone teach it to you would know that’s still over six million people. Sounds like a lot, but spread over the entire world? Not so much. Some countries were all but vacant, flocking to those more developed in hopes of more supplies.

Six million. As small as a population for a planet that was, they were still divided. Divided into two groups: The Rich, and the Immune. The Rich could afford all the privately funded vaccines against the several dozen variants of the COVID-19 virus that surfaced over the years. They could afford to keep themselves shut up in their walls when it got really bad. Now they stay behind the walls and make the Immune work for them. Most did, that way they got money to buy food and shelter. Luckily, my parents taught me that money was not everything. Instead, they taught me to survive.

Sitting atop Arthur’s Seat, my eyes were drawn to Edinburgh’s own walled-off Rich community. It was a place my parents called Old Town, but my father and I had great fun making up other names for it and the occupants within. I smiled, remembering the laughter of my parents. My hand instinctively went to a locket around my neck. My mother gave it to me after my father passed. The virus took him first..

“Papa,” I said to myself as I clutched the locket like I did every day. My fingers traced the heart-shaped token around my neck. The gold plating on the locket had long rubbed off, leaving the bare metal.

Pulling my eyes away from that evil place, I cast my eyes over the rest of Edinburgh. It was vastly different to what it used to be, but Arthur’s Seat was still the best vantage point in the entire city. Yes, the view was beautiful, but more importantly, you could clearly see the movement of the herds. Yeah, I said herds. Once the COVID virus had finished with the humans, wildlife returned to the cities. No longer repelled by the pollution, the constant noise and the potential danger humans posed, wildlife had returned in earnest to all the major cities.

But the remaining humans were still a danger. A girl's gotta eat, after all.

I picked out a smaller herd moving near the base of Arthur’s Seat and set off. Thanks to my father, who was an avid hiker even with an artificial foot, I quickly and quietly made my way down the side of Arthur’s Seat and towards the herd. They hadn’t moved much, grazing on the luscious green grass that hadn’t been cut in over a decade. I took cover in the ruins of a chapel that once stood on this extinct volcano and watched the herd as it grew closer. I pulled the bow off my back and took an arrow from my quiver. Another gift from my father and the gift of how to use it to hunt came from my mother. Her father was an ex-special forces soldier. He taught her, and she taught me. In their final years, they did all they could to pass on the knowledge from countless generations before them into my brain so that I may live. They are the reason I survived.

I nocked my arrow, and as the herd approached I picked my target. I pulled back the bowstring, aimed, and waited. Waited for the wind to die down, waited between heartbeats, and waited for the deer to pause for just a moment too long. I released. The arrow flew. The arrow struck. The herd fled, but my target fell. A pang of sorrow seized my heart as I watched the deer pass as I approached. I didn’t like taking a life, but if it was a choice between me and them? There was no competition.

I took the arrow from the deer’s neck and pulled the body back to the chapel ruins where I had stashed my cart. There was no way I was dragging this creature all the way back to my house.

A noise caught my attention. I quickened my pace and made it back to my hiding spot just as an electric truck came through the clearing where the herd just were. It was a pickup truck, the back filled with three men, all with guns. A hunting party. My eyes glanced back to the walled Old Town, knowing that’s where they came from. I was looking at either a group of Immune or, more likely, the poorest of the Rich who needed extra money. They would go out, hunt for food and bring it back to the Rich for a “fair” price. I ducked down as they approached. Another Immune slave was worth ten times that of a deer. I drew another arrow, just in case. I had nearly been picked up by a hunting party a year ago, I barely escaped, I lost my hunt for that day, and I suffered a bullet wound to my leg, through and through, and didn't hit bone. I cauterized it with a red hot arrow. As I said, Grandpa knew how to do this, and by extension, so did my mother.

The hunting party stopped right where I had killed the deer. One jumped out and looked at the pool of blood, and the drag marks, and looked up to where they led. I ducked back but still listened. The blood would still be warm, the drag marks fresh, and my position was revealed. Dammit! Rookie mistake. Overconfidence. My father would shake his head, but with a smile and say “Now you know for next time!”. Always a silver lining kind of guy, was my father. Right till the end.

A shout from the hunting party brought me back. I peeked from around the corner, and the hunters were pointing. A herd of deer had broken through some trees. The hunter who had jumped out clambered back in as the truck tore after them. A single kill or a whole herd? Greed saved my ass today.

I sighed a sigh of relief. I had made it 3 years on my own, and I was determined not to end up in that Rich Ditch (thanks Papa for that one!) as someone's slave. My parents taught me to survive, and that is what I intended to keep doing.

I loaded up the deer onto my cart, and I started off back home. This deer would last me a good week if I played my cards right.

As I walked, I looked around and enjoyed the beauty of this city, even in these dark times. Another lesson my father had taught me. He had spent a lot of time with his head down, working hard, too hard at times, but one day he realised if you looked up there was a whole beautiful world to see.

My hand went up to my locket again. This time I stopped, and opened it. On the right, my father smiled at me, and my mother smiled at me from the left. I closed my eyes and smiled, remembering their faces, laughs, lessons, and the fun times we had. Anger filled me too. I was angry at the scientists that created the virus that killed them. One group of ill-minded scientists had decimated the planet, and for what?

I shook my head, banishing these thoughts, my mothers voice echoing in my head.

“Your anger won’t bring him back, Luna,”

She was right, of course, she always was. Another thing that made me smile.

I whispered, “Love you, Papa. Love you, Mama,” and closed the locket.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Christopher Kelly

Engineer by day. Writer of mages, dragons, werewolves, vampires, and all things magical by night.

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