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*** Chapter 2 Part 8
The car ride home was slow and time consuming. There were far more cars clogging the busier streets. The bridge over the American River at J Street was impassable. Panda and Dell worked for an hour to drive those cars off the bridge and park them near the University before they could move on, as the two pigs slept in the back of Dell’s car.
“It’s like we are valet parking attendants all of a sudden!” quipped Dell. Most of the cars still had the keys in them and the others were not hard to find. Right outside the driver’s door was a pile of keys, a wallet, and much to Dell’s delight, jewelry of all kinds. When all the people went poof, their clothes seemed to go with them. But anything metal was left behind, as were most leather items. Belts, shoes, purses and wallets.
Dell grabbed a few rings, at first, and then thought better of it. By mutual, unspoken consent, the personal items left by the roadside were tossed into the passenger seat of the car they belonged to, and left there. They left all the cars unlocked with the keys in the ignition. Panda thought it likely that over time they might need to siphon off gas or drive a stray car in an emergency. Best to leave the keys and the car ready to go.
They went to Dell’s place first: a third floor apartment in a gated complex. Because she had just gotten the pig and had not told her landlord, she had not yet moved to the required first floor. She thought she would like to stay on the third floor where it felt safe. But Panda said this was not a good idea. “Dell, I don’t know how long the electricity will keep working without humans to flip switches and monitor gauges and stuff at the electric company. I do not want you getting trapped in that elevator with no way out. Please promise me you will take the stairs from now on. And move to a first floor apartment right away.”
Dell, always one for improving her lot and being upwardly mobile, said, “Panda? What about if I moved into a real house somewhere. I’ve always wanted to live in the Fab 40’s in one of those beautiful big houses.” Shoving aside any discomfort at occupying someone else’s home, she quickly latched onto the idea of being able to live somewhere elegant and well furnished without having to have spent a penny to get it!
Panda, too, was considering this option. She remembered reading somewhere about a multi-million dollar home that was fully ‘green’. Solar powered, with wind generators, and designed to last a century with very little maintenance. She was starting to think about the need to plan ahead. Farther ahead than getting fresh groceries, at least.
“Well the 'Fab 40’s' is a wonderful neighborhood but it might be too close to the downtown flood zone for when the levees break. Remember, they never did fix those levees.”
“Panda, it’s springtime. It won’t rain again until the fall. I think I’ll be fine downtown without risk of drowning. Keep in mind that 30th through 40th streets are on the Mercy Hospital electrical grid. If you’ve told me once you’ve told me a thousand times that houses on the same grid as a hospital don’t get brown-outs or power outages because they have to power those grids no matter what.”
How long would the electricity keep running? wondered Panda. Once the electric went, the water pumps would stop. So would the telephones. Without masses of humanity using up what was available, maybe the systems would run a little longer. It would all depend on how long those systems were designed to run without human input.
Sooner or later they were bound to run into some other survivors. It was statistically impossible for them to be the only two people left alive. She could only hope that amongst the raggle taggle bits of humanity left wandering the empty planet there would be a cell phone tech, an electrical engineer and some serious survivalists. She still didn’t even know how widespread this disintegration of mankind was. Judging by the dogs, it was worldwide. Best not to think that wide. Best just to think about the immediate neighborhood, the city, and the countryside.
“Do you have lots of printer paper, Dell?” asked Panda. “I’m going to need to print out a lot of information.”
“Why?” asked Dell as she tore open packages of King Crab legs and got them ready to steam.
“Because I need to look up stuff about power plants, cell phone towers, solar houses in the area. So many things. The internet could go down at any time. I just have no way of knowing how long these systems are going to stay up and running. All the information in the world will basically be lost once the internet goes down. I need to grab what I can now. I just don’t know where to start! It’s too much!”
“Goats.” Said Dell. “We need to look up local goat farms.”
“Why?” asked Panda.
“We have to set them free. We have to set all the animals free that can forage for themselves. There are farms with cows and goats and chickens in buildings and fields they can’t get out of on their own. They will starve if we don’t help them! We just need to open some gates and some pens in barns. So they have a chance.”
“So they can populate the ecosystem” agreed Panda.
“Well, it’s not like we need to keep our day jobs!” Dell laughed.
They sat down together for what was to be the best meal of both their memories. When it was all still new and stunning. Long before the decay, attrition, erosion of all things manmade had begun to wear them away, as well.