After World (Chapter One)

Chapter One

Kalon climbs a few painted concrete stairs and pushes open a half shut door then calls out.

“Rae, are you there?”

There is a shuffling from within and a grey haired smiley man in his late sixties appears.

“Kalon, hi, how are you? You’re in Auckland again? What did you bring me?”

Kalon shakes his acquaintance’s hand and moves over to a table by a window then unshoulders his backpack. He carefully produces the contents and places them on the table.

“There are four high speed CPUs with working motherboards and ram, six clean SSD drives and an assortment of cables.”

“Good, good” says Rae in a quiet voice. “These will fetch a price I’m sure and you tested them?”

Kalon nods and sits on a chair by the table.

“Yep, fully tested and the ethernet cables are extra long “.

“Ok”, Rae says, looking over the items. He then carefully places them one by one on a nearby shelf and sits down at the table.

“So, what can I give you in exchange, tea bags, coffee, rice, flour?”

“How about a little of all of those?” Kalon says.

“Sure” says Rae and finds a bag with handles nearby in which to place an assortment of the supplies. He hands them over with a smile.

“Heh there’s 250 grams of sugar in there too, I remember you have a sweet tooth.”

Kalon acknowledges. He knows to not ask where Rae gets his stuff from but he guesses that people bring him things to exchange just like he does.

“Did you come up the motorway?” Rae asks.

“No, it’s too covered in dead cars. I come across country and up the Great South Road. It’s relatively deserted.”

“Right, that makes sense. Can I get you a cup of tea before you go?”

Kalon decides to accept and the two sit and discuss things in the afternoon light that pours through the window onto the table.
They exchange news and information about the current events and their separate lives.
Finally Kalon says goodbye and heads back to his vehicle. He navigates through the Auckland streets and down the Great South Road to eventually cruise along empty rural straights towards his home.
It takes two and a half hours before he reaches his destination on the Thames Coast.

With the sun just setting down over the seabird coast across the Thames estuary, Kalon sits and  reflects on the day. He had chosen this house to base himself because of these sunsets and the peacefulness. The place is hidden above the coast road and there have been no intruders.
Kalon’s thoughts wander and he remembers when he hadn’t lived alone. Gail had insisted on having the injections and she was gone within six months. The Great Reset had become The Great Collapse and millions in New Zealand perished. As far as Kalon knows, it is the same everywhere on the planet. Rumour has it that the population of New Zealand is now under a million, possibly half a million. The injections had done their work too well and the boosters made sure of things.

Kalon sits in the twilight and a Morepork owl arrives on a tree branch just outside the window to screech and announce the night.
It is eight years now since the Collapse and roads and properties have become overgrown, buildings are beginning to disintegrate in the towns and a lack of maintenance is apparent everywhere.

Yesterday Kalon made the short trip into Thames to explore the Council Buildings. That’s where he found the computer parts to take to Auckland. Extracting them from their rusty cases wasn’t difficult but getting into the building had been. The entrance doors were impenetrable behind vines and debri and he was forced to clear and break a side window. He came across two bodies inside, well decomposed and he paid little attention to them. Before going for the computer parts he found the kitchen and searched through the cupboards for anything of use. Unfortunately someone had been there previously, possibly years before and the coffee, tea and sugar were gone. He had a quick look around various rooms then once the computer gear was procured Kalon had made his way back to his house to test it.

Now, after the trip to Auckland he has some treasures and decides to cook rice. A herb garden outside the backdoor contains self seeded parsley and there are also some spring onions. The garden has gradually been extended over the years to contain silverbeet and whatever else he can grow. There is even a small tomato or two to add to the meal.

Kalon finishes cooking and sits in the glow of an LED bulb enjoying the meal when he hears a noise outside. He puts his plate of rice down and picks up a gun that is leaning against the wall.

“It’s probably a dog” he thinks as he creeps to the kitchen window.

Marauding dogs have become a major problem in Thames and other centres and he usually takes a gun with him whenever he is out but along the coast here canines seldom appear.
This time what he sees is no dog. Peering through the window Kalon spies the shape of a person bent over his garden and stuffing parsley into their mouth. In one quick motion he heaves the window open and points his gun at the person.

“Back off” he shouts menacingly and the startled person jumps back in fright, putting their hands up at the sight of the gun.

Very quickly Kalon assesses the person. In the dim light he can see it is a girl in her late teens and she looks like she has been sleeping rough.

“No harm” she says “I’m just hungry.”

“Sorry to hear that, push off.”

“Is that food I can smell, can I have some?”

“Nope, get going” and he waves the gun around a bit to emphasise.

“I’m not armed” she says “and I have something to trade.”

Kalon hesitates,

“What could you possibly have that I would want?”

Very slowly the girl takes the pack off her back and reaches into a pocket. She produces a large container of salt.

“Salt.”

“Damn,”  thinks Kalon, “I need salt.”

There’s another hesitation then Kalon makes a decision.

“One meal for the salt, then you go, immediately.”

“Deal,” says the girl and reaches forward to give him the container.

Kalon lowers the gun and shuts the window. He opens the back door and indicates where the girl should sit on the couch. He then proceeds to reheat food and organise a plate for the girl.

“Do you stay here on your own?”

“Maybe.”

The girl looks out the window and sees the Morepork in the tree. She says nothing and Kalon hands her the plate of rice and vegetables, laced with salt.
The girl is obviously ravinous and can barely wait to be handed a fork to eat it with.
Nothing is said and they eat. Upon finishing the girl is quick to say something before Kalon tells her to leave.

“Can I have a hot drink?” she says, “I have a tea bag” and reaches into her bag.

Kalon grabs his gun and is ready in case she may be tricking him. But a tea bag appears and he relaxes. Saying nothing, he brings some water to the boil and hands her a cup of boiling water for her tea bag.

“You sure are cautious” she says.

“Yep” Kalon replies.

The girl sips her hot water with the bag in it and is obviously feeling better.

“Before you kick me out do you want to know where I got that full container of salt?”

“I don’t need to know where you got it” Kalon replies.

“Not even if I told you that I dug into the side of a carton full of those and that the carton is in a room full of more cartons with different markings?”

Kalon felt an ever so small smile effecting his facial muscles.

“So where is this room” he asks?

“In the supermarket.”

“That’s unlikely” Kalon says, “the supermarket was stripped out years ago, I know because I got the computers.”

“True, but no one found this storeroom, until I did when I was looking for somewhere safe to sleep. It’s not where you would expect it to be.”

“So where is it?”

“It’s hard to describe it but I can take you there tomorrow, in exchange for a sleep on this couch.”

Kalon realises that he is dealing with a real negotiator and tries to think of a way to safeguard himself.

“Actually I plan to sleep on the couch tonight but if you want a good night’s sleep there’s a bed in that room and he points to a door. Only stipulation is that I lock the door from this side. The window opens in there if you want to take off. That way my stuff in here stays safe.”

“Deal” says the girl and immediately drags her pack into the room and shuts the door.

Kalon still feels a little unsure about the situation but locks the door, cleans up in the kitchen then retires to the couch where he reads for a while on a tablet. He closes it down and drifts off to sleep with an open sleeping bag over him.

The morning arrives and is not at all the way Kalon expects it to begin. When he opens his eyes there is the girl sitting on a chair two metres away with a smile on her face.

“Good morning” she says “I would make you tea but I don’t know how to work that kettle.”

“How did you get in here” Kalon croaks? “I can pick locks, the front door was easy” and she holds up two wire like objects for him to see.

Kalon sits up and tries to orient himself. He drags himself over to kitchen the sink and splashes water on his face, gets the electric kettle going and soon they are drinking coffee.

“This is a luxury” the girl says “real coffee” and she savours the taste.

“Kalon looks at her. What’s your name?”

“Jen” she says, “what’s yours?”

“Kalon.”

“I’ve never met a Kalon before,” Jen says and returns to savouring her coffee.

“I don’t eat during the day” says Kalon “so I guess we’ll be off.”

“I hardly eat at all” says Jen and follows him out the door and soon they are cruising down the coast road towards Thames.

“How come you drive a car, where do you get the petrol” Jen asks.

Kalon smiles a little,

“It doesn’t use petrol, it uses electricity” he says.

They arrive at the supermarket and park the car near the main doors which are wide open. Jen takes the lead and they walk through the empty isles and out the back behind a plastic curtain.  Then through some offices and they sidle along a narrow passageway. Half way along Jen points to a window with bars.

“Let me step on your knee” she says.

So Kalon crouches down to give her a step up. She reaches in through the bars and has soon retrieved another container of salt and hands it down.

“So where is the entrance to this room?”

“That’s what I can’t figure out” Jen says.

 “Ok, well if it’s a storeroom then the entrance is most likely outside” says Kalon. “Let’s explore.”

The two go back to the car and drive around the back of the supermarket where all the loading and unloading originally took place. They find the narrow passageway that has a iron grill over it to prevent access and they look for something resembling a door next to it but there is just a blank wall.

“There” says Jen, “at the base”.

Two cellar like doors with dull chrome handles show promise of being the entry point so Kalon parks the car and the two examine the find.

A large chain is wrapped through and around the handles and a big combination lock prevents removal of the chain.

“So” says Kalon with a smile, “I guess your lock picking skills won’t be of any use to us here”

Jen agrees and is at a loss of what to do.

Kalon bends down to examine the doors hinges and discovers that they are old and quite rusty from the sea air.

“I have an idea” he says and recovers a wire strop from the hatch of his car. He loops it around the two door handles and secures it to the car’s towbar.

“You had better get in the car, if these doors give way they could go anywhere.”

Jen does as suggested and Kalon waits briefly then revs then propels the car forward. The metal strop slips off the tow bar and it rebounds back into the metal doors. Kalon backs up and this time try’s a slightly different technique. Once attached, he moves the car forward so the strop is taut and unlikely to pull off the towbar then accelerates the car as before and while releasing the handbrake. With a loud bang, the hinges give way and the doors are dragged across the pavement leaving a gapping hole into the cellar like room. ~