It was still dark. No streetlights were on. I was lying half on the sidewalk and half on the grass where I'd collapsed. A couple of men were walking my way. I struggled to a sitting position, and looked at them. "Is the world still over?"
One of them answered me. "Yeah."
They walked on. I started composing a diary entry in my head. Dear Diary, I thought. It's April 28, 2004 and the world has ended.
All right, not really. It still staggers on. There's no power, no infrastructure, no hope, but there's lots of people and we keep moving around just as if the world hadn't ended, as if it wasn't over. I'm not ready for this. I always told myself that the collapse of civilization was the one thing I couldn't be prepared for. But maybe I should've invested in non-perishable foods and bottled water, instead of stocks.
My friend came walking back. He wasn't really my friend, just a man I happened to be with the day the world stopped. I was surprised he'd come back. He had kind of the disheveled Jesus look, lean, with long ragged brown hair and a shaggy beard. He was carrying a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He said, "Come with me. I've got us a place to stay. And another car." The car we'd had run out of gas. I wish we'd stayed with it anyway. It'd've been shelter.
"Did you steal it?" I asked. I couldn't help myself.
A cigarette burned at the corner of his mouth, as he looked away, not answering me.
"Never mind," I told him. "I shouldn't've asked. It doesn't matter anyway. Thanks."
There was a cigarette in my mouth. I hadn't even noticed him giving it to me and lighting it. I don't smoke. I thought, Maybe I should start. What does it matter now? Then, What am I thinking? It's the end of the world. I'm already addicted to things I can't get, like food, and shelter. The last thing I need now is another addiction to feed. The paper at the lit end smoldered strangely, and I realized that in the dark, he'd lit the butt end by mistake. Well, that'd make it easier for someone else to smoke it later, I hoped.
I took it out of my mouth and handed the cigarette back to him. "I'm very sorry -- I don't smoke." He gave me a look that said, Why not? I just shook my head. "Save it for yourself."
He nodded and stubbed it out against a tree.
I woke up here. There was a great deal more to the dream, prior to this point. I vageuly remember making preparations before the world ended. This guy driving me and some others between little hamlets on a lake. Walking into a convenience store with another woman, looking to buy raisins. They had a dozen kinds of odd dried fruit and fruit mixes, like apples and persimmons, or dried watermelon, but no raisins. Meeting up with some of the people I was with so we could move on to the next hamlet. They'd just had a milkshake at an old=fashioned soda fountain, and then another milkshake, because it tasted so good. And it was the end of the world.
There was a terrible sense of melancholy to it all, of desperation overlaid with sorrow, and a thin thread of hope that maybe the world wasn't over after all. Maybe it'd come back.