The snow lasted a couple of years. It was hard to find food to supplement my bomb shelter stash, but eventually I taught myself to hunt and trap small mammals. Prey is easy to catch when you can eavesdrop on their plans.
Initially, I thought that I had really gone crazy. A form of PTSD. But then I figured out that it was some sort of weird effect from the blasts or the nuclear fallout or who-knows-what. The first time, it was a faint mumble, like my grandfather in the other room. I was out for a walk on the country roads near my home, the perennially overcast sky and dirty snow a silent backdrop for my constitutional. Despite the apocalypse, I liked to keep a routine and stay in shape.
“Keep chewing, keep chewing.”
Another survivor? What the hell were they talking about? I crept through the fallen trees toward the house where the sound came from. I had not known the people who had lived there. As I got closer, the mumbling was louder.
“Put it over there, no, not there, THERE. Yea, that’s it. Okay, now—”
“Stop, that’s crazy. It looks terrible there.”
I peered over a log, sure that I was going to see an arguing husband and wife. But no, the yard was empty. Then I noticed four rats sniffing around a pile of wood and newspapers. As I watched them, the conversation got louder and more argumentative. The rats were dragging pieces of wood and newspaper in their mouth. I seemed to be hearing their opinions about decorating options.
I sat down hard. I could hear rats talking to each other.
After a while, I pulled myself together. I got used to what I was hearing and began to notice animal voices everywhere. I started creating small mammal traps and following my ears to good hunting grounds.
Each species has it’s own sound. I don’t know what it is—frequency maybe, or something like that. I never understood music theory. Whatever it is, I’ve learned to tell the animals apart. Rabbit was and still is my favorite. The larger mammals are gone. I think something about the burrowing habits of smaller mammals enabled them to survive. Or maybe some of them made their nests inside abandoned underground bomb shelters.
However they got here, I’ve been eating them and their descendants ever since that first day of rat redecorating. I haven’t seen another person yet. It’s almost 5 years since the bombs fell. No one else believed it could happen. I’m the only person who still kept their shelter stocked and slept in it every night.
I keep a garden too. I had stashed away bags of potting soil and vegetable and flower seeds in my shelter. And I have a whole water treatment setup up at my house. The bombs fell so far away that the buildings in my town were not destroyed. Just the people died and they’ve all rotted away now.
Written for: The Parking Lot Confessional