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But Not Forgotten

By Bernadette JohnsonPublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 7 min read
Photo by Emerson Peters on Unsplash

The woman walked in the dark, flashlight in hand, past burned out husks of buildings, traversing the rubble and debris on what were once sidewalks. She looked nearly as worn as her hoodie, cargo pants, and heavy boots. Her unkempt hair was uncovered, the hood resting between her and her hiking pack. The pack looked newer than everything surrounding it.

The wind kicked up and a cloud of dust enveloped her. She lifted a fabric-strip covered arm and wiped residue from her safety glasses, but kept walking. Dust and dirt particles joined their older relatives in the lines of her face. When the cloud subsided, she shined the light back and forth on the ground, looking as she went, until she reached a familiar patch of concrete.

She lifted the flashlight and looked up at the sign. Savings Mart. The building was relatively intact aside from some broken windows. Not a scorch mark on it. She wondered what made it luckier than most of the others.

As she pushed her way through the double doors, she sang, or rather croaked, “You can fill your cart at Savings Mart.” Too bad the old jingle was no longer true.

Rows of shelves lined the floor and walls, empty of most useful things. She walked past an assortment of hairbrushes and styling tools, the cardboard portions of their packaging long since disintegrated. She turned her flashlight and her eyes to and fro, looking at the floor, the shelves, everything, down each aisle. When she got to the pet section, which was now devoid of food, she grabbed a metal bowl decorated with pawprints. This should keep longer than the last one, she thought as she swung it over her right shoulder and placed it in her backpack.

She heard a noise outside and her head jerked toward the door. She listened for a minute, then relaxed. There’s no one, Honey. Just the wind again. You’ll be less skittish when Roger is back.

Honey shined the light at her wristwatch. She needed to go. It wouldn’t do to be out past daybreak. Covered enough ground for today.

She left the store, crossed the broken street, and strode back in the direction she had come from. She noticed the sky growing orange as she treked along.

When she got to the parking lot of another lucky building, an old auto garage, she turned and made toward the garage door. The signage was battered and worn to unreadability, but the structure was solid. Any broken windows were boarded up with plywood and other flat materials, and the remaining storefront windows blocked out with reflective paint.

Honey looked up and could just see the solar panel peeking over the edge of the roof. She hoped it had worked its magic while she was gone.

She pulled the heavy garage door open from the bottom. It slid up with several metallic clanks, and did the same on the way down as she closed it from the inside. She walked through the garage, avoiding the hole in the floor.

A table rested against an interior wall, two chairs keeping it company. A large fan occupied the middle of the ceiling. From the fan, a belt ran to a contraption near the storefront, and another belt ran down from that to a hand crank. She walked to the crank, turned it a couple of dozen times, and let it go. Belts and gears moved, and the fan started spinning, stirring up the air and creating a mild breeze.

Honey took off her pack and propped it up against a cot that lay directly underneath the ceiling fan. She removed the glasses, unwrapped her arms, took off her boots, pants, and shirt, and sat down on the cot for a moment in her tanktop and underwear. Sunlight crept in underneath the garage door, and through some gaps in the window coverings. It was already hot. It was going to get hotter.

After a short rest, she got up, took the dog bowl from the top of the pack, and walked to the table. The wall above it bore a map of a few city blocks. A pencil dangled from a string taped next to the map. Putting the bowl down, she picked up the pencil, outlined a small area that included the Savings Mart, and drew a diagonal line through it. Three quarters of the map had similar markings. Must be getting close. Maybe tomorrow. Been here too long.

She picked up the bowl and went through an interior door beside the table. A single pane of window in the back door was uncovered, allowing in just enough light to see the counter and sink. She took a jar from a cabinet and poured a small amount of grain into her new bowl. She turned the cold faucet. Nothing. Not that she expected anything. They had all run dry long ago.

Doesn’t hurt to try. Maybe after a rain something would give. But when was the last time it rained? Honey couldn’t remember.

She went back out into the main room and over to a clear container with a spigot. A PVC pipe, patched with duct tape, ran out the top and disappeared into the ceiling. There was a small amount of water in the container, maybe half an inch high. Less every time. Need to move soon. Maybe north this time.

Honey put the bowl under the water collector’s spigot and spilled most of its contents onto the grain. She stirred it with her finger, walked it over to the table, sat, ate her gruel, and licked the bowl clean. She brought the bowl back to the water spigot, drained the last of the water into it, and drank.

Honey turned the wall crank for much longer than before, then lay back down on the cot, stared at the ceiling, and let the moving air lull her to sleep.

Honey awoke. She checked her watch, wound it, got up, and looked at the map again. Just a few more sections to go. Maybe today’s the day. There was still a little light.

She dressed then checked the water container. Nothing. There should have been a few drops, at least. She sat and waited until the light through the cracks dimmed. Then she grabbed the flashlight and cranked its handle until the light glowed steadily. She went into the kitchen, out the back door, and climbed a metal staircase to the roof. She stepped lightly over debris that had blown onto the building. It had been a while since she last cleared it off. Last time she had to fix the water harvester.

Honey reached the metal box at the front of the building. An antenna had fallen across the top. She lifted the antenna and dropped it to the side. The box seemed intact, but the solar panel on top was cracked. She’d have to replace it again. It was life or death.

She put the flashlight in her mouth and started the work of unscrewing the panel. As she moved her head to see the next screw, light glinted off something below the box. She focused on it. The end of a thin silver chain. Honey scrambled for it, dropping the flashlight out of her mouth. After stopping to calm herself, she felt around the bottom edge of the box, found the chain, carefully pulled it out from underneath, held it up, and felt her way down its length. Broken.

Honey picked up the flashlight, wiped it off on her shirt, re-cranked it, and put it back in her mouth. She detached a PVC pipe from the harvester, pushed the box away, and shone the light on the newly exposed spot, and an even brighter glint hit her eyes.

He was here this whole time.

She picked up the silver heart-shaped locket, held it between both hands, and closed her eyes. A tear ran down her cheek. She let out a long-buried sob.

Putting the flashlight on her lap, she opened the locket.

A faint glow emanated from its interior, and when fully open, moving images of a woman and a man looked at each other from each heart and smiled. If you took away the lines and dirt, the woman was her.

“Happy anniversary, honey,” said a male voice emanating from a tiny speaker. “I’ll always love you.”

“Roger,” said Honey, pressing the locket to her chest. She could move on.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Bernadette Johnson

Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.

You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at

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