About 30 minutes before the expected knock on the door, Felicia was rustled awake by Jay’s kiss on her lips and a “Good morning my love, time to get up”. She hadn’t really fallen asleep until probably 1 am, Jay still sorting through things in the other room. She didn’t recall him coming to bed, and he always awoke before she did, even when they still had the alarm clock. Felicia was glad this little ritual did not change, although she jumped with a start as she had just entered REM. She was dreaming of her childhood home, playing on the hammock slung between the willow trees. Her hands, balled into fists, found tears in her eyes and she wasn’t sure if it was the dream or the ungodly hour. Still dark and cold out, she shivered into the down comforter and wished she could bring it with her. Maybe just along for the car ride.
“Yes my dear” she called back to him in the other room a few minutes later, “ I am really up this time”.
The volcano had erupted about mid December, and Felicia thought sadly of her mother celebrating her birthday in the retirement home half way around the world. Felicia hadn’t been over to see her in more than a year. A massive underground lake of magma had been pooling under Austria, completely undetected. The recent years of extreme heat swings in small pockets of Europe had never been explained or even understood, although the solar flare activity had been pinpointed as the likely cause. The eruptions started small, then continued to increase in size and duration, lava spraying out and setting fire to almost all within a thousand mile range. A week later, as the world still reeled in horror of the utter decimation of most of continental Europe, the continuum of consequences and reverberations was only just starting.
China and the South Asia shelf had suffered a string of massive earthquakes that leveled or submerged most of the coastal and island regions by 100 feet. They generated tsunamis, wiping any other civilization in their paths. The swath of destruction stretched from Anchorage to Tierra del Fuego. A few inlets probably got missed, but by then the news had stopped being broadcast. In fact, virtually all public communication was halted. The cloud of volcanic ash had settled in the stratosphere, managing to reduce the global temperature pretty quickly. Phoenix had seen a white Christmas this year. Ash, but still white.
By the 26th of December, small mobile outposts started appearing at the corners of the major streets. Few people were driving because of the gasoline shortage, although utilities were being run on a conservative timetable. Usually somehow 2-3 hours of electricity and gas was available. The outpost Jay encountered when taking a walk that morning stood like a cross between an ocean buoy and a telephone booth, bright blue with a blinking light and door- a kiosk of sorts. On three sides, announcements were posted about utilities and rations and immunizations, and a small touch screen inside prompted the visitor for household information. Jay had decided to respond, and typed in the address of himself and Felicia. About two days later, a large box was delivered to the front door by some very stiff looking gentleman confirming his name and their resident count. The box contained stacks of canned tuna, some tomato sauce, a loaf of bread, a water purifying kit, and about 50 packets of ramen, pork flavor. The instructions were clear: Do not leave your home for the next 10 days. Close and seal all windows and doors. This is a city wide quarantine. There will be no public safety measures in place at this time. It was signed: Provisional Government of Sonora. Not State of Arizona, County of Maricopa or City of Phoenix.
Jay recollected something he had heard about a year and a half before. The Sheriff had been giving an interview, Jay's friend Lance was making a documentary on the Second Amendment. Lance wasn't a libertarian so much as an opportunist and videographer. Jay had been asked to carry the sound equipment, and he had overheard a conversation off camera between Lance and the Sheriff. He tried to flick back on the microphone, but the Sheriff had already unplugged. Jay hadn't heard everything clearly, but the baritone voice of the Sheriff had said "provisional government" and "Northern Republic of Sonora". At first Jay had thought they were talking about the regional unrest in northern Mexico with the cartel murders of most elected officials. Lance, his best friend of 20 years, had flatly refused to discuss it, saying, "Oh, just some post apocalyptic talk between two gun freaks" and turned on the Sat Nav. "Turn coming up in 500 feet, get into the left lane. Turn coming up in 100 feet, prepare to stop". Jay hated Lance's Sat Nav. It was programmed to sound like Schwarzenegger.
The knock came as expected, although Felicia had forgotten to keep her wrist watch wound and didn’t know the time. She had found it while sorting through her jewelry collection last night by candlelight, picking up pieces and reminiscing, or pocketing them carefully. Seth had instructed them to bring any pieces of dense silver or gold jewelry. She had found the Venetian gold bracelet her grandmother had bought on her honeymoon, realizing that Venice was completely under water by now. Then she picked up the box with the circle brooch from her other grandmother. Not a lot of gold, but 18 k as well, and a wreath of 20 little rubies and pearls. This she tucked into her inside jacket pocket. The golden locket featuring the face of her great grandmother holding her grandfather as a newborn was now around her neck. People she didn’t know, who hadn’t existed for a long time, and would never exist again. A strand of Tiffany pearls and a matching set of studs were put on, they might have some value down the road. She saw the golden band Jay’s father had left him when he had died, and wondered if Seth would make her turn it in. Slipping it over her ring finger she realized it fit just right and she left it on. After these few weeks, he had been as much of a husband as if they had already married.
Jay had managed to get some cat tranquilizer into Rhea and Izzy, and put the kitties in the carryon. They’d have no choice but sleep it off, there was no other room to move. Rhea lay on her back, paws pulled up around her face, belly everywhere, the ruff of her neck fur billowing like an Elizabethan collar. Izzy was curled up tight, her right paw wrapped around her nose and pulling her into a ball. They'd wake up at the compound, hopefully, with no memory of the drive.