"It came hurtling out of the blackness of space until it smashed into the atmosphere of the third planet from Sol. Only a few other recorded natural disasters marked close in it's destruction. The CA-CRV-5 asteroid impacted into the vast empty expanses of eastern Russia. Large enough to hold its mass together as it burned its way through the dense air, it was the size of the old Twin Towers of New York City before they fell on September 11, 2001.
Around the world seismograph needles jumped and danced as the earth literally rang like a harshly struck bell. It would be over a decade before the first organized expedition set off the find the crater. The astronauts and cosmonauts stationed on the ISS in low earth orbit were able to film the impact and the after effects. Their bravery and sacrifice helped the shattered remnants of their governments move survivors towards areas where survival would be more achievable." Excerpt from "Rang Like A Bell: A Survivors' Memoir of the CA-CRV-5 Asteroid Impact, by C. Thomas Unger, Published 2056
My father never talked much of the early years after "the Day." The more I find out, the less I blame him. Civilization, most of it, collapsed with days of the impact. Whole regions, inflamed by fear, panic, and looking for some one to blame, ignited into a frenzy of war and slaughter. People survived anyway they could.
There were small lights of humanity in the enveloping darkness. My father was fortunate enough to stumble through one of its gates one evening in the middle of a raging thunderstorm. More dead
than alive, he was nursed back to health by the young woman who would eventually become his wife and my mother.
My father was accepted into the society of survivors that had saved him. He brought a skill of tinkering and engineering solutions to problems that seemingly could not be solved. The fact that I write this by a salvaged LED light and not by firelight or candlelight is a testament to his skill and ingenuity.
Not long after my my parents' marriage, I was born. I was one of the "After." Today, looking back, I now truly realize how fortunate I was to be in the place and community of my birth. As I grew up, I noticed that no one wanted to talk about the early days after the impact. I began to collect little stories and mementos left behind by the members of our society as they passed. What started as a little girl's collection in an old shoe box with pictures, letters, and locks of hair began to grow.
I soon realized that these treasures and memories needed to be shared. We had lost so much as a people. I believed that we must not forget the past. My continuing search only spurred me to ask my father more penetrating questions. Sometimes he politely acted not to hear me. Other times he sternly admonished me to stop asking questions and sent me to bed.
At different times growing up, I would awake to the sounds of my father sobbing and my mother soothing him. Other times I would find them sitting at the table holding hands, not speaking a word. The soft candlelight reflected in the tear streaks down their cheeks. My father would pick me up, sit me on his lap and gently rock me until I would fall asleep again.
Paper was precious in those days, but, flowers were even more so. My father would make flowers from paper by intricately and magically folding it until would look like a picture of a flower that was called a rose. He called it origami, something he enjoyed as a boy.
I knew that my father had his own mother and father, a Lee and Dianne McBride. He had four other siblings too. An older brother Linder, an older sister Ruth, and two younger brothers, Donald and Joseph. He had even carried a picture of all of them through the terrible After years. It was the only thing he had left of them. It had been taken during a trip to what was called a "zoo."
I have never met my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins on my father's side. He did not know if they were still alive or dead.
As I continued to grow older, my father finally encouraged me to find a way to display all the things I had collected. I started in a corner of my father's workshop. Soon, I had a wall in the new library that our society had built. People from outside our area began to hear about the young lady who was remembering the lost and forgotten.
My mother would gently chide me for not having a real vocation or work area to help the community. My father would say to her, "Em has found her own path to helping others. Let her walk down it more."
My own mother passed after a lingering illness when I was eighteen. In my sorrow and grief I poured myself into my work. I began to travel around, collecting more things and information about the lost and forgotten.
It was during what became the last year of my father's life that I found an old cassette tape player and recorder. It had a microphone and several blank audio tapes. There were even batteries that had been recharged by another tinkerer like my father. My father was excited to see the old recorder. He gently ran his worn fingers along its smooth plastic and metal edges. His eyes misted a little and he spoke that his parents, when they were my age, used to have lots of audio tapes and that they would make "mix tapes" for each other.
"Music...", my father intoned. Then faintly his fingers began to drum rhythmically on the table top. I sat there, awed at his reverie. When he was done, I asked him what he was playing.
"I was playing the drum beat to the song 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' by an old British rock group called Def Leppard." He chuckled at my lack of recognition.
I reached out and took his hand.
"Dad, would you speak into my microphone about those first years and what you remember of the Before?" His eyes filled with tears. He turned and looked out the window, his hand covering his mouth. We sat there for several minutes. Finally my father turned to me, smiled a little smile and said, "We need to eat first."
I made dinner rather hastily, burning the bottom the biscuits. My father did not even notice. He was already beginning to prepare himself to travel those dark paths he wanted desperately to leave behind him. I cleaned up the table and refreshed his water glass. I then hurried to my room and grabbed my newly developed interview kit. It largely consisted of a standard list of questions that I asked everyone. It was their name, age, date and place of birth. The next questions dealt with where they were when the impact happened and how they dealt with the aftermath.
When I was reaching for the door handle of my room I realized that my hands were shaking. Was it from excitement, fear, or dread? Was my father some monster who survived by doing horrible things to other people? My father never got physically angry and rarely ever raised his voice. Why?