Chapter 16

A June day was drawing to the middle of its huge longevity. The sun sometimes was peeping out from behind the clouds, sometimes hiding back again. A dense, fresh grass painted with bright green the former arable meadows stretched around. The cattle didn’t have to wander far away and the old man with his granddaughter easily kept their eyes on the herd.
Antony, long time ago sated with the popularity and got rid of it in another life, now turned his back to the sun. He was sitting on the collapsible tent stool he always carried on his shoulder when was at the pasture. For same purpose his granddaughter Miriam has the polyethylene pellicle in her bag netted out from horse mane. Now she spread it on the grass and was half sat on it. In this epoch, the newly started June even here, above the Arctic Circle, was the hot season. From the sun’s scorching rays they usually were covering themselves with wide-brimmed white hats, though this time, the teenager took it away and put in the bag. She did recline on the plastic film and exposed her face to the nearest star.
Although, in common, the girl now and again having rose on her feet, was adjusting her patched up old jeans, yellow long-sleeved boy-shirt and carefully surveying surroundings. Though the situation recently has become quiet, nevertheless the safety of their family was yet fully depended on themselves. The state still didn’t exist or, at least, they knew nothing about it.
Tony looked at the girl with an expression of man, who is a longtime postponing the start of work, but today he is ought to begin; there is no possibility for another delay. The old man asked:
“It’s serene, ha Mira? Maybe that’s an appropriate day to speaking about old times, what will you say?”
“At last, grandpa,” the girl declared like a person who finally lost her hope. “Because it seemed you forgot everything and that is why you’re not telling me.”
“If you think so, why didn’t you ask your mother and father to tell you?” her grandpa smiled.
“I’m too young yet for them!” the girl stated indignantly. “For to milk a cow or to shoot the machine-gun I’m enough mature, but for talking about the beginning of the bad times it turns out I’m not ready. There were too many dreadful events during the catastrophe and it’s too early for me to know about them, they’re saying.”
“They are right, but let’s try somehow to wade through that unpleasant period,” Tony grinned.
“You will tell me really everything?” Miriam wondered.
Tony pensively frowned, then shook his head and said: “I will tell you about those things, which helps you to understand how it started to happen to us.”
“Will it be the secret from mom and dad?” the teenager specified with curiosity.
“It will be secret exactly in that merit, in which my grandfather Victor was telling me about things my parents never talk with me. This is just usual between grandchildren and grandparents.”
“I understood,” the girl uttered.
“I believe, there is no need for me to tell you, why it happened?” Antony accompanied his question with peering look.
“Yes grandpa, I know that,” the girl assured him, “because of cars and plants the climate was gradually growing warm. Then transient weakening of the magnetic field of our planet occurred, which happens periodically in several thousand years. But this time it coincided with the solar storm and these, m-m, two events sharply increased the temperature on Earth. In result, the regions near the equator become almost uninhabitable. The innumerable hungry crowds that came from scorched lands swept off everything on their way. Also, the gas making factories were destroyed, which affected the civilization most of all.”
“Well done honey, you have perfect memory!” the old man priced his grandchild with proud, “I want just to add that actually no one knows the reason for global warming. Maybe it was really he cars, or maybe nature itself.”
Miriam was pleased with this commendation but still didn’t lose the topic:
“But mom and dad told me that−“ She began but the old man interrupted her: “Mira, I know what’re they saying and also their opinion, but the people at the end of the ice age, didn’t they also live during global warming? Though, they didn’t have cars.”
The teenager looked at him amazed. In response Antony has genially grinned and continued:
“So, frankly to say, we believed that we’re living almost in a Golden Age.”
“I heard that before, grandpa, tell me please when did you see the first time that… bad? How it did begin?” The girl interrupted him impatiently.
Antony looked at her and become silent for a short while before continuing his hank yarn:
“By that time I was a farmer and that saved us.”
“What saved?” Miriam watchfully stared at him with her green eyes.
“That I was sated with the life of a popular person. After retiring I tried to be the coach though unsuccessfully and after that, I left the city. Maybe my grandpa Victor accustomed me to village quietness, who knows? At least, he behaved exactly that way. As soon as he finished his career, he settled at the country: “Here the stars are visibly better,” he used often to say.”
“He wanted to see the stars because toward them is flying our ancestor Iase Bilikadze?” asked the girl.
The old man didn’t reply. Suddenly fallen in deep thoughts he just sadly smiled. Maybe he recollected his famous youth and in front of his mind eyes passed days have arisen. Though he didn’t stretch this journey into the earlier period, soon he returned in the present and continued his narrating. In spite of short abide in the old times, anyway he lost the train of his thought and owing to that resumed speaking with its rummage.
“Yes, that is, m-m, briefly to say, we all moved here, in the newly bought farm,” at last he caught the primordial idea.
“Mom and dad also weren’t against to live here?” the kid has specified.
Tony laughed. He tousled red hair of his grandchild sat near him and said:
“Their opinion of that time is unknown, they didn’t exist yet; your father was born here, like you.”
The girl chuckled and then on her oval, freckled face the bashful smile sparkled. For hiding it the teenager adjusted the lock on her forehead and also pony-tail.
“I understand,” she accompanied these actualities with serious appearance.
“Later, when I collide with crisis for the first time, your dad was going to marry your mom,” the old man explained.
“How do you collide? Was it very terrific?” Miriam was barely enduring when her grandpa will start the main story.
“No, in the beginning, I even didn’t grasp that. Similar irregularities there were earlier too. It was spring and I, as usual in that season, wanted to order the diesel fuel.” Tony started at last.
“What is “to order”?” the teenager didn’t understand.
The old man reflected on her words, heavily sighed, looked at grandchild with eyes full of bitterness and clarified:
“That is to ask what you need and when they would deliver it, you pay.”
“It is clear,” the girl articulate not so confidently, “and then?”
“They said that the fuel is over several days ago and they didn’t know when it would be supplied,” the grandpa answered her.
The girl engrossed in thoughts but wasn’t able to grasp what she heard. Instead, she stood up and turned to her business – surveyed the place around. Five cows of different ages, a bull-calf, four nanny-goats, and goat, also three horses – their family herd, was imperturbably shaving the field and wasn’t going to disperse anywhere. Since the livestock was there Miriam observed vicinages one more time. She saw nothing shady. Next, she sat by her grandpa again and asked the question, she thought out meanwhile.
“That’s what? They didn’t give you this diesel fuel, why?”
In response Antony several moments was combing his stubble, he even nodded a few times and when at last he comprehended what and how he wants to say, he said:
“Briefly, somehow I just bought the amount of fuel which I was able to procure, with purpose I wouldn’t sell the harvest, will keep it for our family. By that time your father learned something and warned me to do so.”
“Most likely everybody acted in that way,” Miriam tried to foresee.
“No. In our region it was only me,” Antony wasn’t able to hide the complacency. “Others had arrearages and not to sale the harvest for them would be meant the bankruptcy, that is, to lose everything… though, all in all, the result was the same,” He finished the phrase with a bitter sigh.
“Why that bankruptcy wasn’t dangerous for us?” the girl asked about another strange word.
The proud imprinted on old man’s face once more: “Because I, former famous football player, had many on hand, the quality of our life didn’t depend on the farm, though I was managing with that business also successfully.”
“So, we were in luck,” the girl concluded.
“What can I say, honey, in addition to other occurrences I have endured the fractures of both my legs,” the old man said with a crooked grin.
“Poor grandpa,” Miriam grieved sincerely.
Instead to react on this expression of compassion the old man remembered an absolutely different thing: “Mira, we’re carried away with our conversation, our herd already had grazed here and do you see where it is now? Soon it will leave our farm limits… fie, where I see limits?!” he added with grumbling.
“Let’s move closer to them, then,” the girl offered.
Tony nodded in response. They stood up and went to their animals, meanwhile, as usual, carefully observing environs. Time to time old man was placing the binocular against his eyes. For the most part, that gadget was uselessly hanging on his chest. Miriam put her hands on the machine-gun, hanging against her belly. Approached to their livestock, they installed their sittings anew and nestled on them. Antony proceeded with his story:
“So, in several months, in autumn, the fuel disappeared ultimately and together with that the existence of agricultural machinery too. People failed to raise a harvest. The widespread famine has started,” Antony was telling unhurriedly.
“The famine?” the girl asked with concern.
“Yes. The transport that delivers food depends on gas and oil. The electric one wasn’t developed on a sufficient level, because in those times many people and countries were getting rich selling the oil,” her grandfather explained.
“That is, in that time stopped those cars, tractors, ships, and airplanes I saw in videos?” the girl concluded.
“Not all of them. Atomic-powered vessels and electric locomotives were hauling as before but it wasn’t enough already.”
Here to Antony’s voice, the hoarseness has added. He gave a cough and took the flask out from the bag hung on his shoulder. He offered it to the girl but when Miriam refused shaken her head, the old man sipped itself, after what he resumed the story:
“The transport is like bloodstream and the oceanic ships or trains are similar to veins and arteries. But didn’t you study that the blood circulatory system consists not only from them?”
“Yes, I did,” the teenager answered without hesitation. “There’re capillaries too, they are small and they’re here,” she spread her five fingers in front of her grandfather.
“Well done! You remembered it perfectly,” The old man praised her once more and returned to his narrative. “These capillaries are the trucks scurry about in the city day and night, delivering food in the stores; tractors and combines work at the farms raising and collecting the harvest. Just these means of transport became deprived of the power source, the capillaries had faded and without them, inevitable death was waiting for the whole organism.”
“And the main reason for that death was famine?” Miriam recollected.
“Exactly! It turned out that hunger is more basilisk than the cruelest war or deadly infection because there is no place, where you can’t hide from it, not in the trench neither in the quarantine.”
Here Antony grasped that he mentioned another word unfamiliar for the girl and had elucidated its essence:
“The quarantine is the place, where probably infected people are kept.”
“Understood,” the girl said, “I was supposing that the most dangerous are the armed robbers.”
Bitterly smiled Tony shook his head in sign of denial and continued his speech as if he wasn’t interrupted:
“Nobody wanted to work as a minister, worker, president, teacher, policeman, engineer or nurse. Everyone just cared to find some food for himself and his family. That was the reason everything had stopped operating, even that one what never needed oil or gas. The collapse of the civilization went on like a chain reaction. Do you know what that means?”
The girl was listening with full her concentration, she even forgot to examine surroundings, Tony also was carried away with dialogue.
“Yes, I did. Mom told me about chain reaction at the chemistry lesson,” the girl confirmed swiftly and then instantly asked: “but how the hunger managed to come in the farms or villages? Don’t we ourselves were growing the food here?”
“As it was said in one of the last TV show, the famine had reached even at the farthest nooks of Amazonia,” Tony informed her and significantly rose his index finger.
“Really? But how?” the child wondered.
“For to get there it was helped by the same refugees from the cities and places turned into deserts, who brought the hunger here, to us, you understand?” the grandfather asked.
“I see,” the kid began doubtingly, but then she continued more certainly. “That’s right! When we’re watching the movies, you, the adults, are sighing always, saying that now everything of this is out of order, decayed and scrubby. Thus, if there’re no more people in the city, then they could have to go somewhere, but where? Of course, they went toward us and other similar places. I had never thought about that before.”
Tony nodded to his grandchild, had leaned on his rifle and got up. Mira grasped that the time to make business has come. He promptly jumped up and joined to her grandpa in the surveying of neighborhood.