I’m Not Dead Yet!

Peterson Toscano / 6 min read / Cli-Fi Imaginarium
20 May 2022
A loner struggles to engage with his community again once the long reliable district heating unit fails.

I can’t remember the last time the system went down. It runs so smoothly I forgot all about it. Now it is bloody cold, and I don’t have enough clothes to throw on. It reminds me of that storm in 2028 when all the power lines all over the country frosted over, and most everyone was without power. What a mess! Lots of deaths. It was the last straw. Municipalities had enough and wanted to take matters into their own hands. Energy independence. Local power. All that became the rage.

And it mostly worked. Not sure what created this outage, though. The last time it crashed was somewhere back in ’43. I expect I’ll get a message from Wilna. She is good about keeping me up to date.

The worst part for me is that I like to be alone. Well, I am used to being alone. I bet they are going to herd us all into a building so we don’t freeze to death. Lots of chit-chat. Complaining. Stupid jokes. I don’t mind people, really, it’s just that most people my age bore me to tears. When you are in your 70s, you repeat yourself a lot. No one wants to hear my old stories.

I’ve been so long on my own, I really don’t have much to do with anyone, especially young people. Ha! Someone in their 40s is young to me. Very young. I guess I will get to see the latest fashions and maybe talk with young people about politics and whatever fad they are into right now. I miss that, actually.

When I was a teacher, I had a steady stream of information. I didn’t have to read the entertainment sites to keep up. My students kept me young and informed. I guess I got myself into a rut. The retirement blahs, not quite the blues. It was easier when Max was still here. I just stopped going out at some point, taking care of him, and then later just finding excuses to stay home. I have no need to go to the shops any more. They do local deliveries every day, even Sundays.

Here’s Wilna’s message. We must all meet at the school gym. They even organised a shuttle for the poor slobs who can’t walk. I can still walk, thank you very much, I just don’t do it nearly enough. If it wasn’t so damn cold, I’d stay away from the mob.

I guess I should clean myself up. Living alone, you don’t think about that. I go days without a shower, and now all we have is this cold water. So strange the system went down. It runs so smoothly. I think it is still all generated by rotting food, solar panels and windmills. The backup batteries are so good too, there is never a pause. Must be getting old, poor thing. Seizing up or giving up. It’s been keeping us warm for over 30 years. State of the art at the time, but now I imagine there are far better systems. Out with the old, in with the new. Now the municipality has an excuse to retire it, so it will get recycled or just rust.

Shit, my face looks like a war zone. I haven’t shaved in a week. I don’t want to scare the children and show up at the gym looking like a woodsman.

I haven’t been in that gym since that graduation after my retirement. I had plans to go back every year, but Max got sick, and I lost touch with colleagues, and the students I taught found some other favourite teacher.

It wouldn’t be the first time we used the gym to house people. There was that flood in ’34. Who would have thought there would ever be a flood here? We don’t even have a stream or the sea nearby. But the rains came. A rain bomb, they call it now. More rain in 48 hours than we typically get in a year. Washed out most of the town and killed the power. People came with food parcels, blankets to share, games to play.

It wasn’t pleasant, but it was fun. Almost festive. But then I was in the thick of it, organising and cheering people up like no doubt some clown will try to do for us.

Things have been quieter the past few years. Some of these young kids have no idea how to deal with this stuff. They are living in a better world, for sure – one that can absorb the shocks much better. They are sheltered. It’s good for them to suffer a little tonight, to camp out with their neighbours, to rough it a bit. I bet they are all disconnected from reality, zombies out on the web. Like I don’t waste my life surfing and streaming. Maybe that system needs to come down.

If I’m going, I might as well bring some things with me. Food and some books. I bet these young people don’t think to bring anything but the shirts on their backs. I can bring extra. I still have my shopping cart somewhere.

Those chocolates Sam gave me, I haven’t opened them. Why he always gives me things, I’ll never know. I tell him, don’t waste your money on me. They are good chocolates too, the real stuff. The kids will go apeshit over these.

I may still have some of the writing journals my students produced. The Wizard. I never liked the name, but it was decided in some contest. Each year the students worked hard to produce a university-level journal. Excellent writing, and art too. I bet these kids will get a kick out of it. Maybe even some of their parents and – oh god – grandparents were contributors.

Maybe they will remember me. Of course they will. I haven’t forgotten any of my teachers, even the bad ones, and that was over 50 years ago. They are all long gone now.

Wilna messaged that the shuttle will be here in 20 minutes. I told her I could walk, but if I take all this stuff, better to take the shuttle. I should take my pillow too. Who knows if they have the disaster room stocked up? I should bring some for others too. They don’t know that this could last for days.

Here’s the shuttle already. “Hold on! I’m coming. Here you, help me with this stuff. No, I can walk. I’m not dead yet.”

Want the audio version?

Bubble and Squeak by Peterson Toscano · Naughty Kitty

Peterson recorded this story on his podcast, Bubble and Squeak. We recommend listening to the whole episode but this story starts 5 mins in. Thank you for giving us a shout out Peterson!

Credit: Peterson Toscano

Avatar photo Peterson Toscano South Africa http://www.petersontoscano.com View all posts
More from Peterson Toscano
Related posts