Some weeks later the radio traffic began to grow and it was now possible to work several different stations along the east coast each day. The buzz was that power had been restored to many areas though there were reports of scheduled, rolling blackouts. In Raleigh, the power would be on for eight hours every other day. This would no doubt be welcome relief for the survivors in areas where it was even temporarily available. Electricity would permit water pumping and lift stations to resume their operation as well as permitting fuels to be drawn from underground storage. This seemed like good news. Things must be improving.

And then a few days later, on what Clinton thought was a Friday, a couple of AM broadcast radio stations began operation. He could easily copy the station in Greensboro and another in Knoxville. These were serving up much needed information though it became apparent these weren’t live broadcasts, rather, they were recorded messages played in a long, continuous loop. He settled-in for what would be a nearly two hour listening session that did a good job of filling in the blanks and outlining the situation, though there wasn’t good news.

The United States had suffered military attacks from enemies outside the continent and simultaneous attacks from within, though no enemies were named. Washington, DC had been destroyed by a nuclear missile attack with more than a million people assumed dead there. Travel would not be permitted in that area for the foreseeable future. The federal government had been effectively liquidated and the nation was being divided into multiple regions though not along state lines. The message said this was being done to improve efficiencies in recovery efforts and to permit local areas to make their own decisions based on various situations.

It was believed that Washington, DC was the only area of the country to suffer a direct nuclear attack, though more than a dozen NEMP events had taken place. These “nuclear electromagnetic pulse” weapons were nuclear bombs detonated at high altitude over several regions at almost the same time. The impact of these were damaged or destroyed power lines and power generation equipment as well as the damage or destruction of most exposed solid-state electronics components. The results varied by region and was determined by the altitude of the detonation and the type of ground cover in the impacted areas. Some automobiles parked in underground garages were unaffected, though most autos manufactured after 2000 would have been damaged.

The message warned of additional food shortages as crops had not been planted in time this year to produce any significant yield and the provisional governments across the country would soon meet to discuss mandatory rationing of food.

Clint assumed this meant the distribution of food from either government warehouses or other storage facilities as his on-air conversations with hams around the area confirmed long ago that all the retail establishments had been looted and destroyed. There was no food to be rationed from the Piggly Wiggly and this made him curious about where the government might keep stockpiles of food as it was something he never even wondered about.

You go to the store every week and pick up groceries… Not anymore.

The news about the loss of life was as sobering for what it didn’t say. Losses weren’t being reported in numbers but in percentages. It was estimated that more than thirty-percent of the nation’s population was lost during the first 90 days following the event. That was staggering. If you assume the population was 300 million, then as many as 90 million Americans had died. And the news said fifty-percent loss was expected by the end of the first year. Damn. 150 million dead would make casualties from all US wars combined look like jack squat.

At that news, Clinton switched the radio off. He needed time to process what he had just learned. The destruction was stunning to consider, but he was more overwhelmed thinking about the necessary recovery efforts and suddenly lost all hope that the nation would ever recover from what had transpired. And then he began to think how things wouldn’t get back to any kind of normal in his remaining lifetime, even if he lived to be an old man in this cabin. Surely it would take a century to set things straight. After a long pause and a few tears he switched the radio back on in time to hear the Martial Law announcement.

There was a lot said about no travel zones and hours when citizens were permitted to be in the streets and there were a few new regulations related to dealing with dead bodies. Despite the macabre instructions, the most chilling thing he heard was that ownership of all private land had been rescinded and the entire territory claimed now to be government property. His hundred acre refuge on the side of the mountain, paid for in hard earned cash many years ago, was no longer his. It belonged to the provisional government. While this was the least of his worries, it badly bothered him. If they can do this, what can’t they do he wondered?

Wanting a more local update he was tuning around on 75 meters just after dusk that evening hoping to catch someone from the ham radio club in Asheville and wasn’t disappointed. The chatter was more upbeat than he expected it to be though having power, even on limited days was better than nothing. When the roundtable conversation got to him, he had a few comments about the apparent collapse of industrial farming and then he asked what was happening with the elderly population in nursing homes around the area. After a few seconds of silence his friend Lewis replied, “Uhh, Clinton, there aren’t any old people anymore. I don’t know anyone over 60 who is still alive down here. Sorry, I thought you knew?”