Kadriana struggled as she tried to peddle her way through the four inch layer of pebbles that covered the path like a stream of water. Finally she hopped off the bicycle and pushed it up the gravel road to the abandoned single story brick home. It was isolated on a side road about a mile away from the interstate. It’s only neighbors were abandoned pump jacks and mesquite covered fields. From the position of the Sun she estimated it to be around 7 pm. But, in the middle of June that West Texas heat was unrelenting even into the late hours of the night. The 24 year old hoped she could find something to quench her thirst and help her rehydrate, and maybe get a little sleep before she hit the road again. She had been on the road for three days now as she headed for Pecos, TX in search of her mom’s relatives.
The weary traveler was slender and stood at 5' 7” tall in her jeans and a black T shirt with a printed image of a 64' Impala on the front. Her steel toed boots weren’t exactly comfortable but they were definitely protective. In fact they saved Her when she unwittingly stepped on a rattlesnake the day before and it struck her boot. Luckily the fangs didn’t penetrate. Her dirty coffee brown hair was just as curly as Shirley Temple's, she still had no clue who Shirley Temple was but her grandpa swore Kadriana and her momma’s hair were both just as curly as the child actress. Thinking of her grandpa, or Papa as he liked to be called, always brought a smile to her face. He could make you laugh no matter what was going on or how bad the situation happened to be. She sure wished he was here with her now.
Kadriana walked up the concrete steps to the front door and knocked hard as she yelled out, “Hello, is anyone home?!” After a few more knocks and no answer, she jiggled the door handle and the door creaked open. She entered the living room and noticed that other than tons of dust, it almost seemed as if the family just went on vacation because everything was in place and untouched.
She then stepped back out on the porch and reached into the mailbox next to the door. Kadriana pulled out a handful of mail and began skimming through it’s contents. The latest envelopes were dated around the winter of 2 years before. There was even a postcard advertising extended car warranty. “Don’t those people ever give up?” She thought to herself.
Her own car, a small electrical Prius, had run out of charge just outside of Odessa and there were no operable charging stations nearby. So, Kadriana grabbed her backpack out of the backseat and started to head West. The summer heat was ridiculous, it must have been at least 112° and it was a dry heat which was hard on a girl who grew up in Central Texas. After walking a couple of miles, Kadriana came up on an abandoned trailer park that was used back in the day when the oilfield was booming. There was not much left of the place. But she did luck out when she found a 10 speed bike leaning against one of the trailers. She checked the tires and they still had air. So, Kadriana mounted the metal stallion and hit the road again.
Although, the summer sun added misery to her trip, it also served a necessary purpose as it rejuvenated the solar charger Kadriana had strapped to her backpack. With every drop of sweat that flowed down her brow, Kadriana knew another bit of charge was also flowing into her apple wrist band. She remembered when she was a toddler and her mom and dad would let her play with their I Watches. Now, or at least before the collapse, people would video chat, talk or text through this virtual screen that pops up on the back of their hand when the wrist band is activated.
Commercial network providers had shut down over a year ago. But, Kadriana’s dad had linked up with a group who hacked into the government networks and used an underground communications system. The only downside is a person had to cut communication down to less than 90 seconds or the government’s tracking system would identify and eliminate them. Such activities were considered as treasonous and anyone involved was considered an enemy of the state.
When the end of democracy came, it was nothing like Hollywood predicted it would be. There was no major nuclear war, chemical or cyber attack. It just slowly eroded month by month and year by year. Everyone slowly became more dependent on the government because of different isolated catastrophes and viral pandemics and the economy slowly collapsed. At the same time, the government was eliminating traditional fuel and economic resources and everyone began using electric cars and natural gas was eventually eliminated all together as a heat source in homes. The world became dependent on electricity and technology to go about their daily lives. Everything seemed fine at first. But then came the controlled blackouts that would sometimes last days or weeks at a time, in an effort to “conserve” energy. Of course citizens of the United States remained divided on political and social issues as the government and media kept stirring the pot. Eventually it all came to a head and major cities across the country began erupting into riots and violence. Shortly after, martial law was enacted across the country and America became a police state.
Rural folks managed to keep their lives somewhat normal for a few months until they also were affected with rolling blackouts, except theirs did not just last a few weeks. Those poor people were forgotten about completely and eventually they had to move closer to suburb or cities with family members who already had homes there.
Of course not all the country and small town folks moved. Some had been prepared for such scenarios for years and still managed to keep their feet on the ground. Folks like that were why Kadriana had embarked on her journey. She was headed to Pecos to stay with her grandfather. He along some other family members and friends had managed to maintain their own little community. Kadriana’s parents planned to come the following week after her dad got enough supplies to set up a better communication post at her grandfather’s place.
Kadriana slowly walked around the living room of the abandoned home and looked at the family photos on the walls and fireplace mantle. They seemed like a happy Latino family and she noticed a crucifix above the front entrance. There were also candles with saints and the virgin Mary on top of the mantle. Kadriana wondered if the family was still alive and if they still held on to their faith.
She glanced around the room almost in a peaceful daze as she took in the remnants of a life that once was. Then she remembered why she rode up to the house in the first place. She was starving! Kadriana hadn’t eaten since the day before when she finished her last bag of beef jerky. She began scrimmaging through drawers and cabinets and finally found a can of Pork N Beans. It looked disgusting but beggars can’t be choosers. So Kadriana continued to search through the drawers hoping to find a can opener. There was an electric one on the counter but without electricity it did her no good. She sure as hell wasn't going to waste any of the charge her solar charger had built up because it would be dark soon and she might need it for something else.
Kadriana also had a buck knife that her grandfather had given her but she didn’t want to risk dulling the blade. If this was an emergency she wouldn’t have hesitated to use the knife. But this was no emergency and she had time to think of another way. Then she suddenly remembered her grandfather had showed her a life back video once where they opened a can of food by continuously grinding the edge of the can on cement until it eventually popped open. So Kadriana grabbed the can of beans and headed to the front porch. She sat on the steps and began rubbing the can against the cement as fast as possible. It seemed like forever but after a couple of minutes the metal seal broke and juice began to drip out of the can. Kadriana went back inside and found a spoon and pried the rest of the lid open.
She then grabbed a bottled water from her backpack and poured a little on the spoon and cleaned it off with her shirt. Then she dug into the can with the sloon and began gobbling up all the pork and beans. It was the tastiest and simultaneously disgusting meal she ever had. After she scraped every last drop out of the bottom of the can, Kadriana set the can down on the counter and searched for something else to eat. She found a can of tomato soup in the very back of the Hubbard and she pulled it out. Something didn’t feel right about the can and she shook it. Kadriana heard some metal items banging around inside and thenshe remembered her parents used to tell her about fake canned items that had false compartments inside. She twisted the top and felt it turn as the lid came off.
Kadriana dumped the contents onto the counter and then reached into the can and pulled out a letter. In total there were 3 quarters of different years, a necklace with a heart shaped pendant and a hand written letter. Kadriana opened the heart shaped locket and stared at the small photo of the young man and woman. The photo looked like it was taken in the 90s because it had one of those airbrushed backgrounds. Then she opened the letter and read it. “To Maria I love you more than you will ever know and I want you to be my Valentine forever. I love you always 4ever and a day, Miguel. The letter was dated 2/14/92 And the back of the locket was inscribed with M&M 2/14/92.
Kadriana then walked back to the living room and noticed the main family photo was of a couple and three children. She wondered if the dates on the quarters were the years the children were born. She returned to the kitchen and placed the items back inside the can, sealed it and returned it to its resting place.
The exhausted young lady explored the rest of the home and decided to retire on the king size bed in the master bedroom. Kadriana stared out the window and watched the sky turn a fiery orange as the Sun set. No matter how bad things had become, West Texas sunsets were still amazing. Kadriana grabbed her solar charger and plugged her bracelet into it and turned it on. She wanted to message her mom before it got too late.
Kadriana spoke into the bracelet, “Hey Mom I’m ok, I should get to Pecos by tomorrow afternoon. I love you.” Then Kadriana said, “Send.” and she stared at her hand as the tiny circle in the transparent screen spun and spun as it tried to find a signal. The bracelet kept struggling to connect and Kadriana suddenly stilled herself as she heard a familiar noise of small whirling blades grow louder and louder. Kadriana quickly tried to shut off the bracelet and in frustration yanked it off her wrist and threw it against the wall. She fell to the side of the bed away from the window and controlled her breathing. Kadriana went into a silent panic, the drones were coming.