The comfortable looking home was just outside the village limit. That was starting to be less uncommon. People had been more and more willing to move out from the safety of the towns for at least twenty years now.
Without warning, the front door flew open, and a child came racing out of the house and into the morning air. The summer sun was just rising, but the temperature was already in the mid-seventies. Several birds had been searching the lawn for food. They took flight as the intruder disrupted their quest. The child paused briefly to stare at the birds since they were still such an unusual sight.
The girl was wearing faded jeans and a red tee shirt, which had no designs imprinted upon it. Her long blonde hair was braided, and almost reached the top of her jeans. She wore a thin belt with a cellular phone clipped to it, and had a small backpack on. With excitement in her step, she quickly moved to the side of the house and grabbed her bike. Leaping onto it, she tore off down the road.
The bike was red, like her shirt, red being her favorite color. The paint job on the bike was new. However, if you looked closely, you could see that the bike had been welded together in several places. It was clearly the metamorphosis of several cannibalized bicycles. Michelle was not bothered that her bike was as not as new as it looked from a distance. She had never seen a new bicycle and none of her friends had either. In fact, it was generally assumed that there had not been a new bike made in over a hundred years.
The road she traveled was compact dirt with some small ancient patches of broken asphalt that had worked their way to the surface since the last time the road was graded. She loved to ride her bike into town. She would usually go a full half hour out of her way to ride down Bell Street. Bell Street was the only street on this side of town that had recently been resurfaced, and the first one that Michelle had ever seen where the road was made of new concrete. Her parents told her that over time all the streets would be like that.
Michelle loved to ride on it because it was so smooth and she could go much faster. Her grandma had told her how all the roads had once been cement, but that had been before everyone had died.
On this trip, without even a second thought, she took the quick route to town and gave up the ride down Bell Street.
Today was her grandmother’s birthday and she was determined to be the first one to wish her a happy birthday. She could have called her, but she wanted to do this in person. Even at her age, Grandma Amy had made sure to come and see Michelle on all nine of her birthdays.
As soon as she got to the house, she raced up the stairs and without even knocking raced in. “Grandma, it’s me!” She gleefully exclaimed.
Her grandmother was in her chair, reclined with the feet up listening to music that was coming from a small stereo and originated at one of the two radio stations that were broadcasting.
“Michelle, come give grandma a hug.” The elderly woman said while holding out her arms.
In truth, the term “grandma” was not completely accurate. Michelle was actually Amy’s oldest great granddaughter.
The young girl gently approached and said “Happy Birthday, Grandma.”
“Thank you, sweetie, you’re the best for remembering.”
“Was I the first?”
“The first what?”
“The first one to tell you happy birthday.” The girl said with some sarcasm in her voice.
Laughing, Amy replied, “Yes you were.”
“Good. I was going to have mom help me make you a cake today, but I don’t think I could’ve found one hundred and forty-five candles.” Michelle admitted.
“Even if you had, you wouldn’t have had enough; I’m now one hundred and forty-six.”
“It sure is” the old woman admitted.
“Is it true that back when you were young, people didn’t live that long?”
Amy explained, “That’s true. Normally people only live to be about eighty. That’s how it was then, and how it’ll be for you too. Other than the few of us that are left, there won’t be anyone else living this long.”
“So I won’t be able to be as old as you are? I only get about eighty years?”
“Eighty isn’t that bad, I was just over eighty when I had my first baby.”
Together they giggled at the crazy fact.
Michelle rested her head on Grandma Amy’s shoulder. She missed the days where she could climb up into that same chair and they would sit together for hours, but she had gotten too big for the frail old woman to hold.
As they sat together, Michelle’s eyes moved to the shelves with all the photos on them. There were pictures of her mom and dad, as well as some her great-grandfather, and of her grandma. Most of them, however, were of Michelle and her brothers and sisters and their many cousins. As much as she loved her family, these were never the pictures that Michelle enjoyed when she visited. The ones she was interested in were the ones from long ago, the ones of her great grandmother. She especially liked the one of her sitting in the pilot seat of the powerful looking military helicopter, dressed in her flight suit.
Her favorite thing in the world was to sit here with this woman and listen to the stories from long ago. Even the pictures in books and on computers, could not compare with hearing her grandma describe how people had lived a hundred and thirty years ago.
Hearing about the busy cities, dangerous freeways, amusement parks and traveling to exotic locations was exciting. However, it seemed that these ideas were as crazy as some of the outer space TV programs she had seen about aliens invading Earth.
Her parents had taken her to Denver last year. It was not the same as her grandmother’s descriptions as to how the cities had been. It was cold and empty feeling. All the tall and once proud buildings seemed dead in this ghost town. They had been alone with the exception of a hand full of people scavenging for usable items. The only other evidence of people she saw was the thousands of skeletons that seemed to be behind every door that they opened.
It had been a very interesting trip, and it certainly had made the global destruction seem more real to her. However, she had been glad to get home and did not want to visit a city ever again.