Ours is a small story, told from inside a far bigger one. The biggest story we’d ever been part of – and the biggest there would ever be.
The house was merely shell. Orange brick turned to white chalk. Fragmented and abstract. Blackened, charred. The bright smouldering long since cooled. Luckily for us the layout of the small 5 room building was such, that when the last of the big blasts came, the shockwave passed the south east corner of the house in a kind of slipstream. This left the large rear bedroom more or less intact – structurally at least.
We had the 3 beds for the 4 of us to share, a luxury that we’d told the children not to let on to anyone outside the family. The small stove worked fine and what was left of the bathroom was still attached to the inside wall of the bedroom so the toilet was workable most of the time.
Running water hadn’t been anyone’s reality for I think about 3 months by that time. It was hard to know for sure. We knew the date from the radio broadcasts, but the events of the period overall, were all just blurred into one another. The important thing was that the 3 remaining exterior walls were mostly intact also, forming something that still resembled a home. Or at least what strangers and scavengers could recognise as having been a home, once upon a time…
We had managed quite well for the year since last winter – the one they named ‘the dead winter’. We had seen neighbours leave in the hope of settling somewhere more populated, seen others perish. We had watched as those who had retreated to the countryside and outer suburbs - returned only to fade away weeks later. Meanwhile the decision was made that we’d stay put – wait it out. What we expected to happen wasn’t entirely clear, but we felt staying in one place would be safer for the kids.
We were wrong.