Ninety days had passed since the world changed forever. Life for Clinton had fallen into a routine, though not a normal one. He spent time every few days hunting or fishing, but mostly fishing now that the weather had turned warmer. He was also spending considerable time foraging for growing things to eat. He was certain his caloric input was lower than before, though not by much. He had no way to check his weight, but he had probably shed a few pounds. Overall though, he remained healthy and happy enough with this oddly secluded life.

He had a hunting rifle and a shotgun along with with a supply of ammo, but most of his hunting was done with a bow. Clint wanted to conserve his ammo for as long as possible. He brought a handgun with a box of bullets for it from his home in Asheville, but he considered this only for personal protection. He really enjoyed fishing and even the time spent hunting for night crawlers to use for bait. His property included a spring-fed pond about a thirty-minute hike from the cabin where he had been taking crappie and catfish without much effort.

To help occupy his time he spent hours taking meticulous inventory of every resource available to him. For instance, he knew exactly how much ammunition was available for each weapon, and he knew he had 53 commercial arrows on hand. While a few had been lost, most were recovered and re-used. The only thing actually in short-supply was paper. He started with a decent supply of notepads and pencils, but keeping a detailed written inventory, radio logbook, and personal journal was burning through his supply faster than he wanted and he wasn’t sure what he might substitute for paper.

His small supply of propane had been exhausted in the first week. Clint hated that because he really enjoyed his propane cooking stove that he used inside the cabin for cooking and heating water. Without it, he had to use his wood stove which often made the cabin too hot, or move his cooking outside to the fire pit. This worked well of course and wood was plentiful, but a few times he had smelled smoke from wood fires and assumed this indicated the presence of other humans on the mountain and was loathe to give away his location in the same way. But fire was necessary.

Monitoring the power generation was another daily chore. The two solar panels continuously charged a bank of batteries via a charge controller. These all appeared healthy though not wanting to take chances, the panels were wiped clean every few days. Consumption didn’t amount to much, the only real loads being lighting in the cabin, a small exhaust fan used sparingly, his ham radio equipment, and a few display panels that reported the health of these systems. While he had several low-powered HF transceivers available, he used only his Elecraft KX2 at ten watts RF output. The radio consumed very little current on receive, the way he spent most of his time on the air.

The antennas were all constructed from wire and supported by the many tall pine trees surrounding the cabin. Starting with a 1000-foot spool of 18 gage wire, about 800 feet of it remained available. These wires had been knocked down several times. Once during a violent storm and a few more times when some of the elevated radials were broken by what he assumed was deer or other critters. These were repaired by splicing the broken wires as this was another limited, not to be wasted, essential resource.

The lack of weather forecasting caused the most grief. Life would be better planned with some idea of what the atmosphere might deliver over the next 48 hours, a simple convenience taken for granted in better times.

As he considered all this one especially beautiful evening while dining on fresh caught catfish fried with wild leeks, sautéed fiddleheads, and hot sassafras tea, he couldn’t help but feel guilty. The last few months here on the mountain had been more like a getaway vacation than the end of the world. Outside this secluded bubble human suffering must be unbearable and reaching new depths with each passing day. Of course, he had no way to find out just how bad things had become. At least not without descending the mountain and reconnoitering the misery of city life, something he wasn’t yet willing to do.

That would change as news from near and far will soon be received via radio revealing just how bad things had become and dashing any hopes for a quick end to the evil that was tightening its grip on the entire planet.