The Black Summer (GiTO)

I want to talk about guns, but before I do I have to talk about 2016. Everything odd about guns in the Outlaw — how the AK-47 became the iPhone of the Outlaw, how Utah became the arms-mongers of 2039 by selling AK’s to the quarter million Communist Chinese refugees occupying Seattle (and later, the dragon who took the city), and how the Emergence caused the widening adoption of the 10mm round — starts in 2016.

The plague hit the US in September 2015. People began getting sick, and three or four weeks later, started dying. During October and November, approximately 25% of the United States died of contagious gangrene. In the aftermath of the plague, came the chaos.

Pandemics are horrifying. Nobody knows what exactly they are, how to ward them off, or how to cure them. (Or if they do, they can do nothing about it.) All you can do is make the dying comfortable, and wait for the disease to run its course.

Adversity can be ennobling; some of the greatest moments of compassion can arise from communal suffering. But pressed too hard, for too long, and people become desperate. Civilized habits and morals are stripped away by the constant need to fight for life.

Let me explain.

The disease spread, and people are dying. You have a job, maybe a grocer, bus driver, or paramedic. But if you go out, into the world, you can catch the disease. Tens of millions of people are dying, their flesh rotting off their bones, and you see this every day. So you run away. You grab what supplies you can, bunker up, and wait out the plague.

And everybody does this. And trash is no longer picked up. And food stops moving. And fuel stops moving. And policing stops.

There is no food. The cities have been stripped clean. And you are hungry. And your kids are hungry. And the hunger never goes away. And you find yourself eating things you never would imagine.

And it is winter. And it is cold. And the snows begin to fall. And people begin freezing.

So you flee the cities, into the countryside. There are plants there, animals there, food there. Or there was, before 20 million other people headed south with you.

And your kids are hungry. And you are hungry. Not just hungry. Ravenous.

There is an empty pit in your belly, an aching pain that fills your torso, like getting punched in the gut. And it never goes away. Even when you eat leaves off trees, or the half-rotten carcass by the side of the road.

Then there was the time you found a single candy bar and had to split it four ways, and just for a moment, staring at the squashed, stepped-on Snickers bar inside the plastic wrap, your hands shaking with weakness, you thought about wolfing it down. Damn the kids, you needed to eat. After a moment of pounding hunger, you gave them the candy bar and wept after, dry sobs you tried to stifle, so the kids wouldn’t hear. So tired you couldn’t walk straight, you bedded down in the burned out store. You’d been carrying your youngest — she was just two — and the next day, she’d fallen asleep and never woke up.

Even after all that, the hunger never went away. And you were hungry and your kids were hungry.

Such people are desperate. There isn’t much they wouldn’t do to survive.

[Pt. 2, tomorrow.]

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