World's End: Shame
You know, it's a funny thing. When The End of the World came, the world really didn't come to an end.
Sure, most of the big cities were gone. (Although, from what I've heard St. Paul and Minneapolis are still there. I guess whoever took us all thought Minnesota was just as useless as the rest of the good old US of A did.) Most of the little cities and towns weren't, though.
My parent lived just out side of a town called Shame in the corn fields of Iowa with my older sister, her husband, their baby, one of my younger sisters, and my younger brother. They grew corn. I guess they occasionally switched to soy beans to help the soil get better, but it was mostly corn. Dad was convinced that ethanol was the wave of the future. I hated growing corn. Me and my other younger sister, Trista, lived in town. She worked at the liquor store and slept around a lot. I worked as a clerk in a law office and didn't. I was hoping to save enough money to head off to community college part time and learn to be a paralegal. Didn't happen, though.
When The End came there were probably about 2500 people living in the city limits of Shame. We had one of the two high schools in the county, though.
At first, everything was fine. People were so scared of whatever caused The End of the World that they all worked together. Everyone gathered at the high school and set up cots and sleeping bags in the gym. We got ourselves organized into groups. Some of us went to grocery store to gather canned good and noodles and other things that didn't go bad; you should have seen the smiles when Roy pulled Ho-Hos and Ding-Dongs out of his cart, people looked like they thought everything was going to be okay. Others went to the hardware store to bring back stuff we could use, like flashlight of all sizes and batteries and tools and wood and other building supplies. The drugstore was hit, too, for peroxide and Band-Aids and other things for the scrapes and bruises we were sure to get.
A lot of families went to their homes and gathered up all their extra blankets and towels and camping gear and things without even being asked, which was great. We pitched tents out on football field so people who wanted the privacy could have it. Mostly, they didn't though. In that first month everyone seemed to want to be near people. I guess it set them at ease.
I moved out into a little pup tent that I had swiped from the sports store, the place I volunteered to raid. At the time, it seemed to me that this was the place to find the things we were going to need, seeing that the electricity probably wasn't going to be back any time soon, if at all, and I didn't think anyone was really out there watching the water, making sure it was kept clean, so the purifying pills seemed like a good idea. And if a couple of things that I took decided to stay in my backpack, rather than be handed over to the group of women who were sorting and storing everything, who could blame me? I had me and my sister to look out for.
Trista'd found Roy's tent, and he was all the happier for it.
After a couple of days, the gym started to stink. People weren't shitting in there or anything, they were using the toilettes in the locker rooms, but they weren't really smelling good, either. Water was still running, sort of, since gravity works whether or not the human race is destroyed; it just didn't get hot. Without electricity to pump the water into the big tank outside of town, though, we'd run out eventually and then what would we do? So, a couple of guys got smart. They went out and built a latrine where the baseball dugouts used to be, that way they didn't have to dig as much. And there were already benches there, too. Plus, having two made perfect sense: one for the men and one for the women. Lucky for us, the hardware story had tons of lime so there wouldn't be too much of a stink there.
Into the second week, some of the guys got restless. They wanted to know what was going on in the world outside of Shame and, since the radios weren't picking any thing up, they decided to put together an expedition to see what was what. At first, they were day trips to the nearby farms to make sure the families were okay and to see if any wanted to come back to town with us. No one came. Not even my family.
I was there for that one. Dad refused to come. He was sure that everything was just fine and that the government of the good ole US of A was going to come in soon and tell us what was going on and that everything was a-okay. When my brother-in-law said the he though him, my sister, and their kids ought to come into town, Dad punched him in the jaw and said nobody was taking his baby girl away from him. Dad always was a stubborn, and an ass. He should have stayed in the Marines. Become a sergeant. Boss scared little kids around for a living. Instead, he grew what he was sure was the gold of the 21st century. And while I feel bad that Ma and my brother and sisters and my nephews were stuck there, if they had any balls at all they would have left on their own.
After the local farms were checked on, people started talking about trips to other towns, or even cities. Lots of people wanted to head into Iowa City and, if no one was there, head up to Cedar Rapids. Some thought people should start by going straight to Des Moines. They argued that that's where most people would be heading. They also thought that if there was going to be any news from the government, it'd end up there first. The town voted, and the decision was to head to Des Moines and check in at Albia, Knoxville, and the other towns on the way.
A team of five men left by truck the first day of the third week since The End occurred. It's normally only a three hour drive, but they were stocked with enough food and gas to last them a week, just in case. Most figured that they'd be gone two or three days. To the best of my knowledge, they never came back.
After a week passed, some men wanted to go searching for the ones who went to Des Moines. Others argued that they had to stay to protect the women and children. Trista called them backward rednecks said, "The 'women and children,'" she put up air quotes, "can do just fine with you shitheads and can make better decisions without you around since you won't make decisions with them. Get the fuck out of here if those assholes are more important to you than your families!" Then she stormed out.
I thought she was right. So did some of the other men and women. What had started as a discussion to plan a trip soon turned into a yelling match. After a while, the group tired out and Roy tried to have a real discussion with everyone. But people flared up and then someone would call someone else something and the yelling started all over again.
Nothing was decided. Eventually people started to poop out, or kids came in saying they were hungry, or they just got mad and left.
I thought they were all idiots.
The day after the four week mark, a fight broke out in the gym between two mothers. One accused the other of hoarding Band-Aids. The accused said that the other didn't have to give her son a Band-Aid for every bump, bruise, or little scratch. The accuser pushed the accused. The accused pushed back. The accuser slapped the other. The accused grabbed the hair of the accuser. And it got worse from there. And I know that there are guys out there who think women fighting women is sexy, but let me tell you, it's not. Men, at least seem to have some rules--no nut shots, fists not feet, once one's down it's over--but women don't. Shins were kicked. Hair was ripped out. Scratches bled. They bit and broke the skin. And when one finally went down, the other kicked her in the face for good measure.
"She was hoarding the Band-Aids," said the winner, spitting blood out of her mouth. I couldn't tell you it was hers or if it came from the woman on the floor.
That’s when others started in. "He has a stash of rice!" "They're hoarding cans of beans!" "Well you're saving batteries!" "Who's saving batteries? I need batteries!" "I'm not saving batteries!" "And who has the pillowcases?" "You are!" And on, and on.
I watched this go on for a few minutes and decided to leave.