I don’t want to live in a world without coffee…
The count. 100. One hundred days. It’s been that long since the world fell apart.
I realized it was going to shit while at home on my couch. I had been watching reruns of Seinfeld, but I had fallen asleep. I woke to the late night news. I think it was the National. At 11 o’clock pm. Like a lot of people, I thought it was a hoax. I remember the sound of the high pitched emergency signal filled my living room and the emergency broadcast screen flash onto the screen of my 55" flat screen.
The screen flickered and the image on the screen was replaced with a gaunt faced news anchor sitting behind a desk.
“Citizens of Canada,” he started. His voice had a quality as if he was severely hung over and about to vomit any second, “As many of you already know, there has been an…incident…” He looked down, gripping his notes with tightly clenched fists. A sniffle. Silence for a long drawn out moment. Finally, he shook his head, took a deep breath, then returned his gaze to the camera. Tears welled, but he fought them back with steely determination and professionalism. I sat forward, elbows on my knees, chin in my palms, my hands muffling a gasp as I sat watching.
“Major cities across the globe were targeted and destroyed by nuclear-grade weapons in what the PMO’s office described as a ‘coordinated and deliberate act of war against humanity’. The global anarchist group calling themselves Enemy of the State has claimed responsibility…”
The news anchor’s continued, relating details of the attacks, but I stopped listening. I couldn’t hear. There was a loud thrumming in my ears, like being under water when a motorboat drives by.
It was the real deal. The image on the screen of a mushroom cloud rising over Sacramento washed over me, making me dizzy with comprehension.
“Holy shit!” I said, the red glow of image after image of explosions obliterating city after city across the planet strobing across my face. I sat up. I sat down. I sat up again. I started pacing back and forth across the walnut brown hardwood floor of my living room.
“Holy shit,” I said quietly, slowly drawing my right hand over my face as the sobering realization that the world was ending at that very moment sank in. I fell onto my couch and just stared at the television and the chaotic scenes flashing on the screen.
I don’t remember how long I sat there, dumbstruck by the news. It was the frantic knock on my apartment door that snapped me out of my stupour. I got up and moved to the door.
“Martin! Martin!” cried the voice on the other side.
I opened it. It was Nancy, my neighbour/friend from across the hall. She launched herself into me, burying her face in my chest.
“Oh thank god,” she said. “Where were you!! I tried knocking earlier, but you didn’t answer.”
“I fell asleep.”
“You didn’t hear it?!”
“Hear what? The news? Yeah…”
“No, you idiot!” she said, pushing passed me and marched to my living room windows. The blinds were drawn. I liked it dark. She pulled up the blinds and turned to me.
I looked at her with bewildered eyes as I walked to window, then looked out the window of my 16th floor apartment.
Fires were blazing all over the city. A building on 2nd Avenue, I guessed it was, and would later confirm with my own eyes, the Potash Corporation Building. Flames belched out of the windows and rose from the rooftop, lighting up the nighttime sky in shades of red and yellow. Billowing clouds of smoke rose up from it and drifted away on the prairie evening breeze.
“It’s not because of a bomb or missile,” said Nancy, “The radio said it was members from the Enemies of the State. They said it was all calculated and organized to happen simultaneously. They started blowing up government buildings. Corporate buildings. They blew it all up…” Her voice trailed off.
A sudden explosion from somewhere across the river sent a mini-mushroom cloud of flames and debris high into the air. I could feel the rumble from the explosion as the shock waves traveled through the air.
I unlatched the window and pushed it open, letting it bang against the wall. The sounds of mayhem filled the air. Fire alarms. Car alarms. People were running in the streets, screaming, yelling. Some were actually…rejoicing. A gust of wind washed over me as I stuck my head out the window, carrying the smell of crispy toxic building materials, gasoline, and dew.
Nancy grabbed my shirt sleeve and yanked me around to face her. She grabbed on to my arm sleeves with both hands, tugging on them and said, “What are we going to do?”
She looked up at me with deep, imploring eyes, and for the first time I noticed how big and round they were. They were the prettiest green eyes I had ever seen. I was surprised that I had never really noticed before, despite all the times I had talked with her. In the hallway after work. In the elevator as we exchanged awkward conversation and flirtatious looks. Right now, they were staring intently at me. Her mouth was slightly open. Her chestnut hair pulled back in a tight pony tail that exposed her furrowed brow, laden with worry.
“I don’t know.”
“Well…should we leave?”
“And go where?”
“Oh! I don’t know?” she said, “The radio said to just sit tight and wait for the army and the police.”
“Maybe they’re right,” I said, putting my hands on her shoulders. “It’s going to be alright. Trust me.”
Her troubled face softened. The lines on her forehead disappeared. She let go of my arm sleeves and wrapped them around me, pulling me close to her. I hugged her back. Then I gently pushed her away and said, “But we need to get supplies. Who knows how long it’ll be before help comes.”
Nancy smiled at me. Then we got to work.
We managed to forage a lot of canned goods, but looting had pretty much cleared out most of the nearby grocery stores, corner stores, and restaurants by the time we got to them. Beans. We managed to get lots of beans. A 10kg bag of Basmati rice. Other than that we managed a few cans of this or that. Canned corn. A 12-pack of Mots apple sauce. That kind of stuff.
But, the big score was coffee.
I found five bags of Salt Spring Coffee beans. French Roast. They were lying under an overturned shelf in a ransacked aisle of the Safeway. It had only been a week since shit hit the fan, but I had already been low on beans when it happened. I raced home through the debris-filled streets, moving carefully, trying to not be seen. I slipped behind the burnt out husk of a car when I heard loud voices and laughter. A group of middle-age white men carrying guns and baseball bats passed within a few meters of my hiding spot. There were a lot of these groups wandering around. They told everyone that they were acting as local militia, patrolling the streets in an attempt to maintain some semblance of peace and order. They were little better than thugs, ‘confiscating’ food and water when they found some poor, vulnerable sap too weak to stand up to them. I clutched the pack holding my score and prayed they just kept moving. They did, and soon I was running passed the broken glass doors of my apartment building, only recently vandalized by a pack of punk kids who must have been bored. I raced up the stairs towards my apartment.
“Honey, I’m home,” I said, as I closed the door and latched it. “And I have a surprise for you!” Nancy’s head popped up from behind the love seat that we had moved to the window so we could look out across the city at night. There were still a lot of fires in that first couple of weeks, and we kind of made it our thing to count them each night. Last count was a mere 32. Most of them were small.
“Oh yeah!” she said. “What?” I pulled a bag of beans out of my pack and held it high in the air.
“I know, right! What a find!”
“I have had such a headache for the past three days.”
“Me too. Oh, man. I’m gonna brew up a batch right now,” I said, tossing my pack on the table as I moved into the kitchen. Soon we were sipping the best cup of coffee either one of us had ever tasted. I mean, it was like heaven in a bean. The aroma. The rich, bold flavours lingering on the tongue with every sip.
Life was almost…good.
“The guy on the radio said partial power has been restored to parts of Calgary,” said Nancy between sips.
“I thought they said it was obliterated a few days ago?”
“That’s what initial reports stated,” said Nancy, “But, they’ve since determined that the nuclear device wasn’t that big, and that the blast radius was only 2km. The Saddle Dome and all of downtown is toast, but most of the rest of the city is still there!”
“Oh,” I said. “Lucky for them.” I sat back in the loveseat and put my arm around Nancy. She snuggle me and gripped her coffee mug with both hands. We sat back and watched the sun go down as we drank our coffee.
It was beautiful.
Days and days passed. Water started to get low. Luckily, I had a water filter that I had purchased for hiking in the back country. I never had the chance to use it until now. Up until then we were surviving on the water that we had both managed to collect in our bathtubs and sinks, and the 12-packs of water bottles that we managed to find in the early days after the attacks. We save all of the water bottles and filled them up whenever it rained. I have rigged up a system using a garden hose I had found in the boiler room in the basement of the apartment. I had a corner apartment, and a downspout ran right next to one of my windows. I cut the downspout and bent it like an elbow, then I fit a funnel over it as best I could, scrunching the jagged end of the cut downspout to make it fit. One end of the hose fit almost perfectly over the funnel. Whenever it rained, one of us held the other end and filled up as many bottles as possible, as well as pots, pans, and any leftover cans. After a few particularly wet days, we had enough water to last until the next storm moved in. There was always the river if we really got desperate. Nancy was worried about fallout and radioactive water. I tried to reassure her that we were probably safe, since the guy on the radio had said that by some miracle, both Saskatoon and Regina, any in Saskatchewan for that matter, had escaped being targeted by nuclear weapons.
But, I wasn’t really sure. At least the rains put out all the fires.
So, that was how our lives progressed. The first month was great. Nancy and I got along great. Every morning we got up, I filtered some water and put it on the little camping stove, bringing it to a boil before pouring it over freshly hand ground French Roast coffee beans. We’d sit and enjoy our coffee, by that time a rationed substance.
One cup per day. No more. No less.
The second month, things started to change. Nancy got tired of just sitting around. The radio had gone silent. No more updates about the state of the world. The seasons were changing. It was heading into October, and winter was just around the corner. I could see it in her eyes. She kept saying that we should head out while we had the chance to escape the bitter cold winter that would surely kill us if we stayed. I managed to convince her over and over again that we should just sit tight.
Help was on the way.
But, she didn’t believe me. I don’t think I really believed me either.
The colder it got, the fewer people we saw in the streets. The nights got colder. We woke to frost every morning. It covered the entire city like a glittering white blanket. Tendrils of fog hung over the slowly moving waters of the South Saskatchewan. I managed to scrounge up a small wood burning stove, and constructed a platform for it in a corner of the living room. I punched a hole through the wall for the chimney pipe. It wasn’t perfectly sealed, but it provided enough heat to make it worth while.
I woke up one morning and Nancy was simply…gone. I wasn’t really that surprised. I could kind of sense it. She was too restless. She had grown quiet. Withdrawn.
I’m not sure I would have gone if she had told me she was really going to leave.
I hope she’s okay.
That was almost a month ago now.
The count. 100. One hundred days after the apocalypse.
It’s clear that no help is coming. Winter is here. It snowed almost a 20cm last night. I just brewed up the last of the French Roast. Since I’m all alone, I’ve taken up writing down this and that. Thus, this story of how it all fell apart. Not like anyone will ever read it.
I am just going to sit here and enjoy the last of the bean. I may never taste it again.
I don’t think I can live in a world without coffee…