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Joe sat on the hood of the bombed-out Ford Taurus, which was his home these days. The sky was grey. It hadn't been any other color for years. Not since the Last War. A few flakes of something fell around the car. Since it didn't melt, it wasn't snow. Not this time. But snow would come soon. It snowed almost all the time except for July and August. What he thought was July and August, anyway. He hadn't really kept track of the calendar. No one made them anymore. Or anything else for that matter.

Joe knew he had to head south for the coast again soon or risk dying in Tennessee. He'd take the Gulf storms over snow any day. Maybe take a different route this time. He always went through Alabama but maybe going through Georgia would be better. Maybe this time... But he didn't finish the thought. He knew better than to get his hopes up.

Joe was fairly sure he was the last person on the continent, maybe even the world. The nukes had taken out even more than the so-called experts had thought. But the worst wasn't the bombing. It was the radiation, then the lack of communication. The loss of civil control resulted in riots, killings, starvation, and finally, disease. Probably some virus was used in some of the latter bombings. Whatever it was killed more than the nukes did. Joe got sick, but hadn't died. "Lucky me," he thought, laughing.

Joe had not seen another living human in over 10 cycles of snow and heat, his concept of "years." No voices on the few working radios he found. He hadn't come across a working computer. The electrical pulses from the nukes took those out. Fairly sure satellites had been blown out of orbit.

It took Joe longer to get to the Gulf this time. Finding fuel for the Harley was harder now. The Alabama route turned out to be no different than the other trips. Crumbled buildings and piles of skeletons marked the landscape. There were more animals, though. Guess they had a larger food supply. Joe shuddered.

Joe had been to the Gulf many times before the War. It was beautiful back then. What used to be gentle waves of blue were now towering walls of blackened water. Oil platforms, tankers and refineries were targeted in the war. Now oil spewed from dozens of undersea wells, even years after their destruction. The sugar white sands were like asphalt now. Fish and marine life had long expired. What washed up on the shores now was the leftover debris from a two-hour war started by paranoid and arrogant leaders who thought each could teach the other a lesson.

Joe's thoughts once again went back to those first days of the Last War. The President was easily convinced that North Korea would use nuclear weapons. His base urged a pre-emptive strike, saying that such action would ultimately save more lives than would be lost. What wasn't realized was that countries sympathetic to North Korea would jump at the opportunity presented. America fired first so they were justified in retaliating. China and Russia both launched missiles to the United States before the first nuke hit Pyongyang. India and Pakistan launched their own at each other, prompting Israel to launch their own at Syria and Iran. Many other factions had obtained nuclear weapons without knowledge by the other super powers. They fired their missiles at everyone. Once established governments were gone, rogue factions took over and used every other weapon of mass destruction they could find. The world went to hell from that point.

Joe was awakened by a hand touching his shoulder. He flinched, then yelled upon realizing he was not alone. A woman stood, peering down at him.

"You are the first person I've seen in years", she shouted. "My god, you're actually real!" She fell on Joe, hugging him, her tears falling on his face. He didn't know what to say. He wondered if he was still dreaming.

"I'm from West Texas", she said. "I've been headed this way for years. Nothing is left back home. I followed the Wall President Trump built, figured I'd find someone sooner or later. But I didn't, until now. Thank Trump, you're alive and I found you!," she said as she tried to hug him again.

"Wait, you said, 'Thank Trump'?," Joe asked.

"Well, yeah, he's my hero. He rid the world of all those foreigners and terrorists. Here, you need a hat? I have a good supply of MAGA caps. Yes, sir, you and me are gonna make America great again!"

A little later, as night closed in, Joe walked back from the beach, leaving the shovel and cap on the grave as a marker.

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to devin.houston@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 02/07/2018

Print Headline: Future shock

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