Paula Shablo: Keys and Cake


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Keys and Cake

Paula Shablo

Dear Diary,

I’m far past the place where I can distinguish what is or is not a silly idea. I just want to say that there’s something distinctly comforting to me in carrying around this old-fashioned room key.

Is it silly? If so, I don’t give a damn. I like the key. I like the bold number of the room on the fob. It makes me think of times that were simple and peaceful.

It makes me think of kinder times, okay?

It has been years since anyone used keys like this. All the new, fancy hotels had key cards. So you know this place is old and probably it wasn’t all that popular. I’d venture that it was cheap, as well. But I don’t care. When I got here, I thought I’d have to sleep in the lobby, and instead, I found room keys, real keys that required no internet and no electricity.

It felt like a small miracle.

Even better—the water runs. Yeah, there’s no hot water, but I’m not complaining about a lukewarm shower. I’m just happy to be clean.

I went back to what remains of my mother’s house to see if I could get a sense of where she and Aaron may have gone. All I know for sure is, they are gone. The car is gone, and there were no bodies in the ruins of the house.

My heart is broken.

You have no idea, Diary, of what it was like to finally reach the place and find them gone. I had such hopes that all the destruction would be centered on the city and the suburbs would be safe.

There I go, being silly again. Right?

No one was safe. God alone knows what has happened to the world.

Leave it to me to steal a car with no radio. There’s a stereo system and a small collection of CDs in there. A little weird—no one has CDs anymore, do they? But whoever owned the car before it was abandoned at least had decent musical taste.

I say I stole it, but…well, it feels like I did, even though there was no one left to claim it. I haven’t seen another living person in days.

I steal a lot now. No matter how I tell myself that no one owns a thing, it still feels like it to me.

First thing I did was get a lot of meat from the grocery store down the road. Then I took it to the gas station and put it in the ice locker with the dry ice. I also got dry ice to put in my little refrigerator here.

After a couple of days it finally occurred to me that I could get a small generator and run a few things here. So now I have lights and the fridge.

I went in the other rooms—there are twenty—and unplugged everything. Conservation is the key, right?

I’m scared, though. I don’t want anyone moving in on me, you know? Who can I trust? So I only turn on the light in my own room, and I keep the curtains closed tight so no one will see.

I got a small barbeque and charcoal, and I grill meat in the lobby. Weird, huh? I worry that someone might smell my dinner cooking and come here, but I’m more worried about cooking in my room. It’s pretty small.

Every day, I put gas in the car and I drive in different directions, just looking. Sometimes I don’t get far; the roads are so damaged in places that it would be crazy to try driving on them.

I’ve found that a rough drive through empty fields is a better plan sometimes. I keep looking for my mother’s car. I have looked in parking lots. I have looked at houses that still remain upright.

Mostly, I have been afraid to get out of the car when I’m out and about. Getting food and clothes and other supplies is pretty nerve-wracking, if you want to know the truth. It’s like, I want to find people, but I’m afraid to find people. The only people I want to see are Mom and Aaron.

Why?

Because I don’t know who did this!

This country has been nuts for a while now, and for all I know, we did it to ourselves. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of options regarding trust, does it?

I mean, have you watched “The Walking Dead”?

Of course, you haven’t; you’re a book full of empty pages waiting for me to fill you up.

Well, I have, and you better believe me when I say that there are more people out there not to trust than there are who are trustworthy.

If there are any people out there at all…

That’s a shitty thought.

Look: I crept and crawled my way out of a demolished parking garage. I walked almost all the way to Mom’s before I got to the car. I have food and shelter.

I have a cool room key.

I can’t be the only one left alive—that’s ridiculous.

And—while I have no proof of it, I do not believe there are zombies out there, either.

But who the hell knows?

I didn’t believe anyone would actually drop bombs on us, either.

Anyway…

Today I drove out and around this cornfield. I didn’t even know anyone grew corn around here! You’d think I’d know things like that. Still, if it keeps growing as well as it seems to have done so far, I will be eating corn-on-the-cob soon.

Anyway, from the place where I stopped driving today, I could see an old barn. It didn’t look like much, but there could be useful things inside. I might go and have a look tomorrow. I wasn’t about to do that today and risk it getting dark before I got here.

I never used to be afraid of the dark.

On the way back, I stopped at a small grocery store, and guess what I found? A chocolate cake! I am going to put you down in just a minute and eat my dinner—a grilled pork chop, potatoes, and green beans, and a big slice of chocolate cake.

Damn the apocalypse and damn my waistline. I’m going to eat while the eating is good, because I know things aren’t going to last.

Maybe I’ll have two slices.

Good-night, Dear Diary.

Paula entered this story in a challenge on Vocal.com. Please click on the link and give this story a like:  https://bit.ly/2UBExDJ

Please visit Paula on her blog, https://paulashablo.com/.

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