Over seven months, Steve had not found anyone alive. No-one at all. The post-apocalyptic world was bereft of life as he knew it.
For him, it was a strange way of life, for his world until that point all those months ago had been a very social one.
His executive role at the head of the PR organisation he owned and ran required him to be personable, attractive and above all, able to build relationships with people quickly, easily and in a way where he was memorable.
And how the business had thrived. From modest offices in central Ohio, to the glass and chrome edifice in uptown Manhattan, he had come a long way.
The chunk of rock that fell off the island two thousand miles away in the Atlantic had been warned of for years, but when it happened, the tsunami that sped across the sea to the eastern seaboard had been much worse than expected. It was higher, faster and much more powerful than the worst projections. The dark that enfolded the world had slowly and surely killed off everything that was vital for life.
Steve seemed to be alone, with no-one to talk to, but still positive and constructive in his attitude to his new life. In many ways, he enjoyed the isolation, yet he knew that wasn’t sustainable.
His escape had been bizarre. The pod in the summer wheel on the banks of the Hudson had simply snapped off and he had ridden the wave, like a spaceman surfer on a real-life theme park, over 50 miles inland.
But Manhattan was where he knew and above all, he wanted was to find and help any of his people to safety. As well as Amy, of course.
He had made his way back.
If anything the outcome of the tsunami and the chain reaction of cataclysmic events it set off around the world was much more challenging than anyone might have predicted, that cold morning in March.
This morning, there had been some signs that gave Steve hope. Small signs of life in the debris of the city. Scraping marks had appeared outside the 55th floor apartment, where the new ground level of the island now was. He did not know quite what to do.
Steve was adept with his social skills, but not very good practically. Yet over the months, he began to realise that the self-belief he had around how capable he was, could be challenged. After all, he had survived this long, now hadn’t he?
Winter was coming, that was for sure. The small party were huddled together by a makeshift fire. They were careful to maintain the fire, for one of them had seen signs of wolves over the past few days and whilst catching a wolf might provide them with valuable protein – that’s if you could eat a wolf – they we more concerned about self-preservation than anything lese. Food was one thing, but not being eaten was more important.
Grieves was the first to speak that day.
“We have to venture out, for we’re running low on fuel.” There was nothing new in that.
“Who’s going then,” asked Jackson, the quirky but technically adept pseudo-leader of the pack.
“It will be me.” Came the reply. Over the months, they had become much more pragmatic in their interactions. Terse and combative had turned to accepting and just about tolerant.
That night, as they were preparing for sleep, there came a cry. “Look!” Said Erica, one of the three women, to the others. “I see a light.”
Immediately they all turned and took stock of what they were seeing. Lights in the city were unlikely and incredibly rare these days, but a light there was.
The flashing light was making erratic sense, but they did not know what to make of it at first.
Jackson finally realised what it meant. “It’s morse.” He said in a matter of fact way. “We can read that.” Suddenly the light stopped, but they could still see something, fainter from the same approximate area.
“I think he’s turned.” Said Simpson, the younger girl who, on a much better day on the Staten Island ferry a year ago, would have certainly turned heads.
“That’s right,” said Jackson, “He’s flashing in a different direction now. Let’s hope he comes back around and then we can read what he’s saying.”
Steve continued to flash in the four directions. He tried this a few times and yet had no response at all. But this time, with the markings on the floor that morning, he wondered, just wondered if there might be anyone out there.
At the end of the first pass, he had to decided whether he should carry on. His torch was powerful and yet the stash of batteries he had found were not limitless.
“One more pass tonight.” He decided.
He watched closely as he sent the code.
…. / . / .-.. / .-.. / — / .- / -. / -.– / — / -. / . / — / ..- / – / – / …. / . / .-. / . / — / .- / -.– / -.. / .- / -.—
If there was anyone there, they would see it and respond – maybe? Was that a light?
Back at the group, Jackson was hunting for the code book he’d seen floating on the rancid pool a couple of months ago. “You never know when this might come in handy.” He said at the time. Everyone ignored him.
“Write down the flashes as ‘short’ or ‘long’.”
One of them produced a pen and a scrap of paper and as soon as the light was brightest for them, they did the best they could do to get it down.
Jackson then proceeded to interpret
H E L L O A N Y O N E O U T T H E R E M A Y D A Y
“There’s someone out there making sense.” Jackson said. “How far away do you make that?”
“About a mile,” said Grieves, “We can walk that in a couple of hours.”
“There’s hope at last,” cried Amy Simpson, “There’s someone else.”
Tentatively, they exposed the light of there fire and with some deft work with a blanket, they managed, using the morse code book that Jackson had secreted so carefully all those weeks ago, send back a little note of acknowledgement.
“A N D W E W I L L M E E T Y O U T O M O R R O W”
Was their final message for the night
“O K” came back the response.
Although Steve had found the practicalities of living alone with little opportunity for being a social animal, he had survived thus far.
He had now been able to appreciate that he knew more than he thought and his skills in the Army had helped him out.
“Communication, that’s what it’s all about,” he smiled to himself, and he realised that, for tonight at least, there would be hope.
For if there were one signal out there, there may be more and then the rebuilding could begin.