The Winter of 1902 in the American West

My name is Claire of Lune. I have two parents who care deeply for me and a younger brother who annoys me. We live in a log cabin far outside the town of Lune, and the town is far away from the city. We work hard all day to tend our crops or rebuild our stuff, but it is a life I like. Each person in the town has something special about them. Hick can chop down trees faster than anybody. Martha can seduce any man, as long as they’re unmarried. Old Man Roberts can read. I can tell some good stories.

Well, they say I do at least. I don’t think they’re that good in comparison to the story Old Man Roberts reads. He has a few books. They’re about long forgotten tales of heroism and bravery. He wants everybody to call him Gramps. I do.

Right now, my family is sitting around the fire. I’ve wrapped myself with a blanket, but I’m still cold. It’s freezing outside. I don’t like the cold or the snow.

I lean up against my father. He’s warmer than I. I say, “Will it warm soon, Father?”

“Hopefully not,” he remarks, “The crazies have a better chance of freezing.”

“Will they ever come out here?”

“Is there food?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Then they will as long as they’re still breathing.” I shudder.

The fire barely provides any light. The windows’ curtains are drawn, and we don’t have any candles lit. Shadows dance across the floors and walls. My memories of building our home are hazy. Everything seemed bigger back then. I was fascinated by the notches we had to make in order to fit together the logs. I was so excited to climb up the ladder and play in the upper loft. My brother and I still enjoy sleeping up there.

“You two should go to bed,” says my mother. She’s the strict one.

“Do we gotta?” asks my brother.

My parents do not answer his foolish remark. Instead, they stare at him with an emotionless gaze. He nods.

“Goodnight mother. Goodnight father,” we say together. I hug my father; I hug my mother. Then, I scale our rickety wooden ladder up to the loft. The floor creaks after every footstep I take, but I do not fear. We built this house well.

I lie down in bed and close my eyes tightly. I have the same problem that I always suffer from. My head does not wish to sleep.

I think of men and women stalking in the night like wolves looking for a wounded deer. They are hungry. Some don’t have a mind left while others do. The mindless ones are easy. My father learned to shoot bows from an Indian whose name was Joe. Joe still lives here, and he’s the best bowman I’ve ever seen. My father shoots an arrow through the heads of the mindless ones to put them out of their suffering.

Can a person suffer without a mind? When it cracks, does everything become bliss? I really don’t want to find that out for myself, but I imagine that they still feel something. Their flesh rots from their bones, but no bird or maggot eats the decay.

It’s the ones with a mind that I fear. They’re fine physically. They were mostly from the city. I don’t know if anything is still there, but many men, women, and children fled. They got hungry. When people are hungry, they want to eat just as much as the mindless ones. Those people go all about looking for food, and the smart ones go out here. We are farmers, so we must have food. The problem is that there was a blight. We hardly have enough to survive. Some try to take it by force, but we and the town have killed many single people.

“Richard,” says my mother, “What are we going to do?”

“What else can we do?” He sounds so sad. He’s always happy around me. “We should be able to make it through the winter. Then, we’d plant our food. Lune will stick together like it always has. The crazies will die off from the cold and hunger. Things’ll be hard. We’ll make it though.”

“We're isolated, but that doesn’t mean we’re invisible. Dorothy was found dead this morning. A mindless crazy got her.”

“Hush, they still might-.” His voice trails off into a whisper. They’re still talking, but I cannot discern their voices any longer.

I lie in bed and pray for sleep to take me. My arms and legs throb from my labors. My stomach grumbles unsatisfied by my meal. I want to have the bliss of sleep envelope my body, but the respite does not occur.