Politics. Politics never changes. When the end came, it came pretty much how radio talk show hosts said it would.
It’s Monday morning, the first day of October. Uh, 2013. I’m pretty sure the date and time shows up on these posts somewhere, I don’t know why I told you that.
The US Federal government has been shut down for. . . Well, I don’t know actually. . . Does the whole government run on Eastern time, or is it by time zone? Did things shut down three hours later here in PST? Is the government live sports or a sitcom? Also, does it all shut down at once? I mean if everyone used their exact budgets for the year to the minute, I guess, mad props, but I’m assuming there’s some office somewhere where everyone got the flu last week so they can technically make payroll for another day. So it’s some sort of staggered event, then. Probably.
I don’t know. I just don’t know. There’s so much confusion around. I guess, like a lot of you, I have a lot of questions. For example, should I buy an eyepatch now, or should I wait until after I lose an eye to some sort of battle wherein I establish my badassitude? Luckily, this happened in October, otherwise I’d have no idea where to buy one.
Obviously, I was prepared. Apparently, the people who watch the SEC and stuff are down for the count, and the grizzly bear wranglers (yet another job no one mentioned to me growing up) are on furlough, so I can only assume that the people who enforce all federal laws are out for the duration. I hear the people who press the elevator buttons for the Senators have been sent home, so things are truly desperate. I’ve downloaded a list of federal crimes so I know what’s okay to do now.
Highways are federal property, aren’t they? I mean, this is like Mad Max, right? The fate of the world now revolves around gasoline, leather clothing, and guns? I’ve been waiting for a chance to put machine guns on my car since roughly ten years before I got one.
Why don’t we shut down the government every year? Because I have a leather jacket. I am prepared for this. Anyway, I need to make some car modifications.
This is already turning out to be a bad morning. Not only could I not find any machine guns, and had to settle for welding machetes to my wheels, but everything appears normal. I felt like such a damned fool driving around with those chariot scythes spinning along at knee height.
Sure, they seem awesome in theory, but they were really hard to install and the Ben Hur vibes are really muted by how tiny they look on something the size of a car.
I’m not sure it was worth the time to install them. They make this whoosh!whoosh!whoosh! noise, so people would hear me coming even if I was driving a Prius. On top of that, I only saw one person who looked like a post-apocalyptic cannibal on the whole drive to find the machine guns. Well, he was a white guy with dreads. Close enough. I tried to use the scythes, but he just jumped right over them. I mean, he screamed and looked confused, but he jumped over them, no problem.
I’m almost glad I haven’t put the machine guns on yet. Machine guns are harder to find than I expected them to be in the post-apocalyptic wasteland we’re now living in. I thought every single store was supposed to be well-supplied with arms and ammunition after the government collapsed?
Well, I’ve been to three 7-11s, a Cracker Barrel, and a Hallmark store, and there’s been not one damned machine gun. Obviously, I avoided actual gun stores since those are no doubt shooting galleries right now as people battle over the last supplies.
I did see many people who looked like they may have been zombies, cannibals, or severely shell-shocked in 7-11, but that’s not really strange. Not only were there no heavy arms or explosives, but things still look fairly normal. At least Coke half of the Slurpee machine was still working. Who knows how much longer that will last? I grabbed some Slimjims and filled my pockets with some sort of greasy meat tubes that were rolling back and forth on what appears to be some sort of repurposed exhaust manifold. They seemed barely edible, but beggars can’t be choosers in this day and age. It’ll be iguana on a stick soon enough. If it’s not already.
The man at the counter looked up and asked, “Hey, you gonna pay for those?”
It’s a fair question. One hand, this is a new world where only the strong will survive, but, other hand, it seems fair to be generous while supplies last. I took a handful of bullets and bottle caps out of my pockets, and threw them on the counter.
“Keep the change,” I growled, practicing my best post-apocalyptic voice.
“Shit.” The man goes pale. I grinned as I walk out the door. Apparently, I’ve got the growl down.
Still, I need some heavy weaponry to back it up. I think I’ll have to take a trip to one of the nearby abandoned military posts.
One thing I have to say I’m enjoying is the total lack of speed limits. The chaos on the freeways is palpable. People are weaving in and out of lanes without signalling, cutting each other off, and moving twenty, thirty, miles above the speed limit while recklessly texting and shouting into cellphones.
Finally, some real action.
Oh, and a pleasant surprise: The armor on my car was light enough that I could still hit 85-90 mph on the flat stretches!
Soon, I looked in my side mirrors and spotted flashing red and blue lights; a bandit in a stolen police car. . . I know, right? Who’s going to fall that? The government is shut down faux cops!
I couldn’t outrun the pursuer, and pretty soon I had a whole pack of them on me. I’m not sure if the armor was worth it. My heart was pounding. I had expected them to take a few shots at me. I guess they figured there was no reason to bother, with the armor and all. So I guess it’s a wash, overall. Too slow to escape, to baddass to shoot. Then, one of them attempted to send me into a spin.
You’re not going to believe this: Turns out wheel scythes are awesome for shredding tires! I mean, one got snapped off when it got stuck in the bandit’s wheel well, and the other side got clipped off by the median as I struggled to regain control.
The bandit spun off, careening into the other bandits and strewing their wrecks across all five lanes like something out of a movie.
The resulting pile-up and fire provided me plenty of breathing room to escape.
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, and told myself the something I’d been wondering, deep inside, ever since several hours ago when I heard the government shut down: Yes, you do have what it takes to survive in this harsh new world.
I am a road warrior now.
It turns out the abandoned base has already fallen into the hands of a militia. They seem well-organized and highly-trained, so I opted to enter negotiations with the guards.
I approached with my hands up to show that I was unarmed. I mean, I had no guns or knives or grenades. Obviously, I have arms, or what would I have been using to hold my hands up?
I had parked nearby and approached two of the guards on foot. One of them was about my age, the other couldn’t have been more than a kid, barely twenty. Truly, desperate times.
“Hi,” I said.
“Uh,” said one, “hello, sir?”
“You guys seems like a really effective outfit.” It never hurts to start negotiations with a little flattery.
“Thanks,” said the other. Things were off to a good start. “Can we help you, sir?”
“I was wondering if you guys had any machine guns.”
“Uhm, lots, actually, sir.”
“Awesome, are any of them for sale?”
They both shrugged.
“I don’t think so, but you could, I guess, check if there are any in surplus?”
“Awesome.” They had really great gear, it looked like. Camo, guns, ammo, shiny buttons. I’ve always been a lone wolf, but I realized then that I might not be able to go it alone. I would need friends, allies, powerful people who owed me favors, if I was going to survive.
“I don’t suppose you’re recruiting?”
“Yeah,” said one. He pulled out a card, and told me, “I don’t know if you’re exactly what they’re looking for, what skills you have, but it wouldn’t hurt to give them a call and find out.”
Business cards. Slick. Things seemed to be off to a good start, but it wouldn’t hurt to raise my standing with the group.
“You guys need water, or, like, half a Slurpee or anything?”
“No thanks, we got all that here, sir.”
“Yeah, thanks though.”
“No problem,” I tell them.
So I took one, and started to leave, then remembered I had another question.
“How hard do you suppose it would be to mount machine guns on my car?”
They both laughed. That stung a little. I may have earned their trust, but it was clear I had a long way to go to earn their respect. I changed the subject.
“Is your operation abandon this place any time soon?”
“Why would we do that?”
“Well,” I tell them, “soldiers don’t get paid while the government’s shut down, so I don’t imagine too many supplies will be coming in.”
“Soldiers aren’t getting paid?”
They held a brief, whispered, conversation. The only words I caught were “mortgage” and “alimony”.
“Look,” said the older one, “how much would you be paying for the machine guns?”
“Well,” I said, considering, “most the stuff I have you guys will already have, but I guess I could give you a bar or two of my emergency gold, would that work?”
I pulled one out of my pocket, to show them. They seemed impressed. Which was good, since it was the only one I had. There was another brief conversation.
“Come back in a week, same time, same place, and we’ll give you an address.”
I nod, and growl out thanks, before walking away. There was gust of wind that came by right then, and I’m pretty sure it made my leather jacket billow in a very cool way.
So far, so good. All I needed to do was find another gold bar by next week. Money was useless, now, but I wasn’t out of options. I looked out into the desert. Somewhere out there was bound to be a coyote or some sort of animal that had inexplicably swallowed one. Or maybe some raiders. I don’t know.
The drive home was uneventful. I took the beltway to avoid the bandits and it seemed to work.
As I sit at home writing this, collecting my thoughts and enjoying what will no doubt the last electricity and running water I will ever experience, what really strikes me as strange is how normal it all seems.
Everything seems so ordinary. The school zones are all on, the stores are all open, the trains are running, apparently the stock markets are up.
All around me, people pretend their world hasn’t changed. They continue on as if the very lynchpin of our existence hasn’t folded in on itself, and rendered us helpless in the sudden absence of the constant and overwhelming array of services it provides to us. For a wild second it almost seems as though nearly all the government services we can’t live without are administered on a state or even local level through private companies, functioning nearly independently of the distant Capital.
I know this is crazy, but sitting here eating my rehydrated dinner and the gallon of ice cream that would otherwise soon melt, I almost believe it will all hold together, and somehow, some way, we’ll pull through as a nation and a people.