The End of the World, As We Knew it

End of the World, As We Knew It

By Wendy Jean

Chapter 1 - End of the World

I was in bed when it happened. I slept through the asteroid strike. Not too surprising, as it happened on the other side of the world.

When I woke up the clock radio was talking about the billion plus dead, and the approaching cloud about to cover the world. It could have been worse they claimed, it wasn’t a dinosaur killer.

“Great” I thought, “End of the world and I slept through it”. I took the time to get dressed and go outside. There were people standing outside my small rural neighborhood, waiting to see what would happen. The neighborhood was surprisingly quiet. Maybe it was as it should have been, there were only about six houses and we knew each other pretty well.

My brother in Law Ernie wandered over from next door. “Hey Chuck, what are you going to do?”

“What can we do. It’s like when my Granddad was told to duck and cover as a kid. Damn if I can figure out where to go.”

Ernie had brought a portable radio, which was chattering in the background. Suddenly the chatter stopped, followed by an announcement, “And now, the president of the United States.”

“My fellow Americans, The Earth has had a major disaster of unprecedented proportions. A small asteroid, only a few hundred yards in diameter, has hit inland China. The impact crater is estimated to be 10 miles wide. If this had hit the ocean none of us would survived, but we have a chance. This strike has created a dust cloud, which is smaller than original predictions, that is englobing the Earth. It will be here within a day. My scientific advisors predict torrential rainstorms, those in low lying areas are advised to go to higher ground. The national guard and military are mobilized to render relief where necessary. I have been advised to recommend all those not is a flood area to stay put, and stay indoors. Do not panic, do not leave your homes unless you absolutely have to. Help your neighbors if you can, and stay calm. Together, we will get through this.”

“Europe has already taken the brunt, as has most of Africa. Asia, well, we shall see. Reports are very sketchy. We will get through this. After the wave passes we will try to help the survivors elsewhere in the world, but for now we must prepare.”

“God bless and protect us all.”

“Well,” said Ernie, “guess there’s time to pucker up at least.”

Crudely put, I thought, but accurate enough. “How are you on groceries?” I asked. He chuckled, “You still got those three cases of MREs you bought from me last week?”

“Yeah, but I never thought I need them.”

“You want to shift over to my house?”

Ernie and I were both part time survivalists. It was more of a joke however, as neither one of us had anywhere to bug out to. Both of us had secured our houses pretty tightly however, making modifications our neighbors had kidded us both about over the years, and had made sure we had the means to keep them. Among them were several snipers nests (though we never called them that in public). Ernie had lost a wife and I had lost a sister the year before, but before the cancer she had wanted bigger digs, so they had added a few rooms, along with a safe room for tornadoes he put his gun safe in. Ernie’s collection of guns was much larger than my modest collection of shotguns, rifles, and handguns. Hey, for Texas it was small. The gist of it was both of us has fairly large houses, as our families had been neighbors in the past and shared an oil field. The oil was gone, but the money remained. Not huge amounts, but enough to support our little hobbies. Ernie knew about my other hobby, but since I did not rub his nose in it, and we had had my sister in common we were good friends.

We had built our two homes in the country, then sold a few lots to allow for neighbors. It was a nice little community about 50 miles north east of Dallas. It was not a town, not even a post office, just a cluster of people who were friends.

We both had privacy fences with huge back yards, but we had chain link fences and a gate between our houses. Weird, but we thought it was a good idea at the time, and so it was. We had always had an agreement to look out for each other’s property, and I liked my sisters company. I hauled everything that was of consumable and defensive value over to his house, and we settled down to wait.

We didn’t have to wait long, the damnedest front I’ve ever seen came rolling in and the world grew dark outside. The electricity cut off shortly after. Since we had propane tanks (several each) and wells we weren’t too bad off. I was very happy I hadn’t gone out for groceries, it was deadly out there. It was pitch black, with lots of lightning, and you could see things hanging from the clouds when the lightning flashed. I prayed we wouldn’t have to use his safe room.

We settled down, and waited.

Chapter 2 — The Dark Ages

It was still black outside, and the rain was getting colder and colder, when there was a knock at the door. Ernie went to the sniper nest upstairs while I waited behind the steel door.

“Yeah?” I yelled over the rain.

“It’s Brian, and your other neighbors.” I knew Brian and Annette, they lived on the other side of my house. They had several young children I waved at now and then. It was cold out side, so I unlocked the door and stepped back, gun at ready.

“Open” I yelled. The door opened and there stood Brian and his family, along with Ted and Betty with their two teens, Alex and Stephanie.

“Look, “ Brian said, “We’ve pulled Ernie and your legs about the survival thing, but we are getting desperate. Any chance?…”

As I stood there door open I understood what they were saying. “Come on in.”. If need be, I would argue with Ernie later. As it turned out, it wasn’t necessary, the kids would have convinced us even if they hadn’t been friends and neighbors.

It only got nastier outside. The rain lasted several days, but eventually it turned to ice. We stayed indoors, and huddled for warmth. Now and then we would light the fireplace, but there wasn’t enough wood to keep it lit, so we conserved it as long as we could. The space heaters and propane kept it bearable. After 5 days it started getting lighter, and the rain reduced somewhat without actually stopping.

Ernie was the leader, and I was second in command. Everyone old enough was issued a gun, which brought us up to 9 armed people and two children 2 and 5, and two teenagers, 13 and 15. Of the two teenagers Stephanie seemed to be handling it the best, even though she was the younger of the two. She looked grim, but she did what she was told while her 15 year old brother went into panic attacks. There went my stereotypes. Everyone looked scared all the time, tempers were frayed, but Ernie was a natural. He had way of making people comfortable and staying in charge without seeming to.

We checked on on the other 2 houses. One had apparently been wiped out by a twister we never knew was there, I’m going to miss Frank and Kathy, double damn shame because she was 7 months expecting. Tina, the other homeowner, wanted to stay put, but appreciated the check up. I left her a FMS walkie talkie so we could stay in touch.

We had had an incident where strangers tried to break in. A group of three guys thought they could out gun us. No one on our side was hurt but the home invaders were left frozen out back, with us waiting for the ground to thaw. No one knew who they were, but everyone was very somber after that, and it tightened the ranks considerably. Even more so when we went to check on Tina. It was pretty ugly, but she survived. I’m really glad those three didn’t make it. We gently brought her home and left her with the other women for comfort. Stephanie may have been 13, but she stepped in taking care of Tina. She helped Tina a lot, emotionally and physically.

We kept turning on the radio but it remained ominously quiet, with a few stations too far away to receive clearly. We’d turn on Ernie’s generator an hour each day to keep the fridge cold, allow the furnace to work and recharge batteries. The space heaters helped, but we had to conserve our propane too.

One day, after about a week, there was light showing through the clouds. The sleet had stopped, which surprised me. I figured this was going to last a lot longer. Actually, I didn’t really expect to survive, but it was worth the shot.

“Chuck, take Ted and Brian and do a little recon. We need to see what’s going on out there.” Ted was a bean pole, about 6 foot 2 to my 5 foot 9, while Brian was very wide and a inch less. I still outweighed Ted a bit, but all of us were loosing weight, those MREs were going to have to last from all appearances. We rationed them pretty tightly.

Their wives, Annett and Betty, didn’t look to happy with the order, but they didn’t argue. Both of them had shared kitchen duties, while Ernie worked as the commissar, making sure our supplies lasted. The three of us put on disposable rain ponchos (which weren’t going to be disposed of anytime soon), put bags around our guns, and went out for a short walk into the sleet and snow on the ground. We checked on our neighbors houses, when had been ransacked but not severely damaged. Some idiots had stolen the TV and microwaves, but the two families had had their heads on straight and brought their food, blankets, and anything else they could carry over when they moved in. It would have been a lot worse if there hadn’t been plenty of trash bags.

What we saw was pretty bad. The next neighbor over was two miles away. We found old man Tombs in the front yard shot to death, I’m guessing Dorthy was in the house when it burned to the ground, we couldn’t find her. I took some comfort in knowing his grandkids had gone home to their parents in Dallas, and I was really glad we had invited those three to meet their maker. There were a few pigs and a milking cow still alive, which I viewed as nothing less than miraculous. We fed and watered them, and decided to check on them daily until we could get something built at our place. We would salvage the lumber from what was left the barn and stall. Old man Tombs had built well, which is why these critters had survived so far.

Then another miracle happened. The sun came out.

Chapter 3 — The Minor Plagues

It was still cold, but things started to thaw. I shuttered to think what it would have been like if it hadn’t been July. The nights were even worse. When 3 woman and a baby showed up in a car breathing on fumes, so we allowed them to use my house. Tina had decided we were the only safe place going, and stayed with Ernie. Ernie made it a point to be extra gentle with her, and she seemed to appreciate it. I think both knew it was going to be a long time for Tina to recover, but she wanted to put it behind her. I think knowing the three guys were never going to bother her again helped, a little, as well as knowing that Ernie had contributed on two out of three.

But that was when we started having the other problems. The temperature didn’t raise at once, but it did creep up past freezing, and the smells started. We had gathered all the bodies as far away as we could, including the ones in the houses, and did out best to bury them, but it was hopeless.

“Ernie, this isn’t good. I’m not a medic, but if this goes on we’re going to have medical issues.”

Brian spoke up, “We had better be going through the medicine cabinets.” In reward for speaking up he got the job.

A couple of the guys had cobbled two outhouse during the dark time, just to keep busy and in case. We had plenty of water, and were able to keep the interiors of the house relatively warm. Jamie, the little two year old developed bad diarrhea, followed by several of the older kids. One by one we all got sick, it was pretty bad. Someone remembered a recipe of rice and syrup, it probably saved Jamie and her older brother, Andrew’s life. Who knew Karo was a medicine?

My household with all the invited squatters didn’t do much better, but one of the folks in the neighborhood had a large supply of syrup, that and a large supply of Imodium AD seemed to help. Eric’s supply of MRE’s was a lot larger than I had known about, so we had enough for over a year. Apparently it was the one thing my sister approved of. Thanks sis, I miss you always.

People were getting out more, the further we went the worse it was. The ice slowly melted and the ground turned to slush. The creeks, which were a fair distance away, were still awesomely flooded. It was still very cold, but it hadn’t gotten below freezing in several days. They were starting to melt in earnest.

Now and then we would see other groups of people driving by, but we avoided each other.

The ground became soft enough for digging. Nasty work that, but we did manage to get our dead under several feet of dirt. The banditos we piled together, while our friends each got their own space with rock engraved as best we could. We were crying when it was done. Ernie managed a few words. He wasn’t any good at it, but they were enough.

When we checked the AM radio as part of the routine a station was back on the air.

Chapter 4 — Civilization

“A state of martial law has been declared for anyone receiving this broad cast. Army and National Guards are going through the neighborhoods gathering the dead, and where possible restoring services. Power plants are coming back online as fast as can be managed.

If you see a unit of the National Guard or Army do not fire on them, as they have been authorized to respond with lethal force. You are required to obey their orders. They are there to help. Death tolls were high, but it appears the worst has passed. If you need relocation transportation will be provided. Looting is not permitted, and violators will be shot on site”.

Then it started repeating.

“Well, help is on its way,” Ernie said. “Ted, you get a group of the guys and start stashing the MREs and the extra guns in the hidey holes. Looks like the government is coming to help.”

Annette looked very nervous, “But they are coming to help us, aren’t they?”

“Maybe so”, Ernie said, “but many times governments help themselves first. We survived so far, let’s keep it that way.” The last was said with a breath of cold vapor expelled into the air. Warm can be relative.

A week went by, with the weather still cold but not below freezing anymore. It was the beginning of August, I was not looking forward to winter. News broadcasts were resuming. What had happened to the United States made the depression look like a minor issue. Our part of the country was pretty bad, as we were not equipped for the winter conditions we faced. A loose estimate was the US had lost one third of its population, and there were more bad times ahead. Crops were totally gone, but there was some hope that something could be grown. Anything edible was fair game, such as dandelions. People who had grown pot in hydroponics setups were given amnesty and now had new jobs, but it wasn’t even going to be close to enough. Hydroponics became the new agriculture of choice.

I was helping putting up the new green house when we heard the trucks. “That would be the help they promised us.”, I said.

A group of solders in bio suites, some of the suites looking very worn out. A captain jumped out and Ernie and I approached them, careful to keep our guns down.

“Careful with those. We have already had some unfortunate incidents. I’m Captain Andrews. We are doing reconnaissance and dead collection. How many survivors?”

Ernie looked uncomfortable, “10 adults, and 5 kids, 3 locals didn’t make it, and 3 other figured they were Mad Max before we explained it to them.”

It was the Captains turn to look uncomfortable, “We have had to explain that a few times ourselves. I take in they are in the pile.”

“Yep, sad to say. The company they have is too good for them.”

“Yes, there is a lot of that going around. Do you need transport?”

I spoke up, “We have enough provisions for several months, if it is OK with you we’ll stay put.”

Captain Andrews nodded, “Good, but keep that quiet. No need to turn in an inventory. Things are going to get rough on the food front all over. It has been suggested I confiscate any hoarded food stuffs.” He looked as if he had bitten into something nasty.

Ernie smiled, with a look of relief on his face. It disappeared at the Captains next words.

“Can you handle more survivors? We think we’ll have electricity back in a month or so, but there is a back log of refugees. We could use help on that front, and you still have 3 empty houses that seem habitable.”

“The owners are staying in my place at the moment, but I’m sure we can make room. Understand, the homes are still owned. We are going to need supplies of our own.”

The Captain nodded. “Good, I’m sure some accommodations can be reached. I see propane tanks, is that part of it?”

“Yep, and we can use seeds if you can get them”

The negotiations continued for another 10 minutes. Mean while his men seemed to relax, seeing that there was no threat, happy to see families that weren’t heavily traumatized. They respected Tina’s desire to keep her distance. Evidently fighting civilians, even banditos, wasn’t what they signed up for. Before the Captain left he explained the old fashioned post office was back in service, or soon would be. The Internet would eventually return to our part of the world, but that was a low priority. Most of the infrastructure was intact, but getting people through the winter was top priority.

Things settle down to a routine. The budding romance between Ernie and Tina blossomed, with the occasional rough spot. Ernie learned how to approach her, she learned to accept his apologies with grace when he messed up and startled her. The other families moved back into their own homes, and I into mine, though we decided a militia needed to be formed. True to his word the electricity came back on, along with the phones. We still used our small FMS radios as walkie talkies, and set up a watch.

We were pestered by minor incidences, like people trying to raid our growing number of green houses. Ernie loaded some of the shotguns with rock salt, figuring lethal force for hungry people was not a good solution. Some of them were allowed to join the community. The captain brought 5 more families, raising our numbers to 41 people. He had them stand in front of Ernie while he explained this was Ernie’s show, and he was in charge. The few crates of MRE’s were appreciated, as it would take a little longer to get the greenhouses up and going for the new folk. More seeds were also provided, which were also appreciated. I didn’t know there were so many recipes for dandelion until the captain brought the cookbook along with those seeds. Why dandelion? They could be eaten after only a few days of growing time.

News on the radio and TV was not good.

The United States was working frantically to try to prevent mass starvation. Newspapers were in vogue again, though the internet slowly came back. No one had time to work on them like they used to, but it was assumed it would happen after the immediate emergencies were taken care of.

Politics was coming back, but it didn’t seem to reach the same level of nasty before. There was too much work to be done. Expeditions overseas were sent, the news was grim. At least 4 billion had died, with another 2 billion at risk. The EU was functioning, barely, but they were busy doing many of the same things the United States was. China, much of India, and a lot of the former Soviet Union were charnel zones, anarchy had taken over. Japan was struggling, along with Africa and Australia. The 4 horsemen had arrived in force and running rampant.

Anywhere there was a semblance of government was trying to figure out new ways of making food. Many were failing. South America seemed to be one of the bright spots. They had been hit least of all the major continents. They were exporting like crazy, and probably saved hundreds of millions of lives. It was something, but not enough.

In my part of the world however, it didn’t matter much. With many more mouths to feed we found several folks that seemed to think we were part of the government and owed them food without work. It was pretty tense, but we got through it with a few expulsions. In one case a mother and her kids were allowed to stay while her husband, who’s hobby seemed to include using her and the kids as a punching bag, was escorted not so gently out. She was remarried in 3 months. Winter came, and was as bad as we were afraid it would be. Over a million Americans died, but we kept building food infrastructure. Spring came, and the United States managed to produce a surplus. We were still a democracy, which surprised a lot of people. The constitution survived, twisted slightly as the government now hired (conscripted actually) anyone not doing something as important as making food. Food was legal tender just about everywhere.

Our little town (for indeed it had grown) now had a post office. We also had a militia of every able man and woman capable. It was a good thing, because that winter we had had several large gangs of violent refugees come to visit. It settled down when it became known we were not easy pickings. The army helped, but they were not there when we had to defend ourselves. New, simple houses were built from adobe, made extra thick in case it had to stop bullets. It was a bit stopgap, as adobe was not ideal for the current weather The single guys were put on the edges, and served as sentinels. We formed networks with other towns that were cropping up all over, as well as the large established ones.

Odd though it was, ours was becoming a pattern across the nation. I didn’t know that at the time, but small communities thrived, and absorbed a lot of the excess from the cities. The cities themselves developed agriculture centers. There were parts of the United State that were in the wild west era. Law and order did not exist there. Not that it mattered, as that was where the highest death rates were. A lot of small towns with any kind of industries were becoming the new manufacturing centers, and expanding. With no more Chinese imports and with all the deaths there simply weren’t enough hands for everything that had to be done. I had become almost slender, and had developed some muscle mass. This was true of everyone I knew. All the women had to take up their clothes. Several volunteered to help the other folks. They gripped about it, but I think all of them were pleased with their new figures, if not the hunger. We all had it lucky though, and knew it. Nobody was starving, and we actually had some creature comforts.

Meanwhile, Ernie and Tina had made it formal, Tina was going to be a mom. It was not necessarily in that order.

I was best man. Tina was showing a bit, but she never looked happier, with a very pleased Stephanie as the brides maid, and a confused 3 year old Jamie doing flower girl with dandelions. Ted had thought of becoming a preacher once, which was close enough. There was a little wine and liquor, but no one really got drunk, as there had been reports of roving toughs in the area.

Chapter 5 — The Major Plague

Several years went by, I continued to share it with the three ladies and a little boy named Peter who called me Uncle Chuck. I was closer to being Dad, but I needed to maintain some distance. The youngest of the ladies, Frances, had decided I would be a dandy Dad, but so far I was in front of the race. No one had discovered my little hobby. Not surprising, as I had basically shelved it indefinitely, and I had some really great hiding places in my house, including a secret room. So did Ernie for that matter. Ernie became the unofficial orphanage, as Tina loved kids. Ernie and Tina's little guy had just turned 3. It came no surprise our little town was christened Ernieville, much to my former brother in laws chagrin.

Our original 5 houses were the heart of the community. Not too surprising, given that was the only good roads other than the main highway. The rest were dirt that turned to mud when it rained. The weather stayed unsettled, the Earth had cooled and it was going to take a while to recover. Fortunately the tech of growing crops indoors helped. Genetic engineered plants were also coming out, and a lot of the empty real estate left from the Great Death was used in growing things. Some exciting news about some major advances in stem cell research were surfacing. Most of the work had been done before the Great Death but had to be put off due to the emergency. People who had been amputees for decades were suddenly getting limbs back, a major boon to the aging Afghanistan vets. The middle eastern countries had suffered greatly, with a mortality of 80% or higher. They had enough problems trying to recover without causing problems. Israel, on the other hand, had lost about 22% of its population, and was trying to help their Arab neighbors develop their indoor food technologies.

“Did you hear the news?”, Frances asked when I came in from helping build a new machine shop. This building was going to be made from sheet tin, a new building material for us. We still used adobe on the inside for insulation. It got very cold in the winter around here.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“They think a new disease is coming out of China.”

I felt a beginning of unease. “Medical tech has improved a lot” I said. “I doubt we have anything to worry about.”

She shrugged, “Doesn’t sound like a big deal anyhow. It doesn’t kill anyone, but the women who have it are sterile.”

“Not good. What are the symptoms?”

She chewed her bottom lip. “That’s just it, there aren’t any. Well, there are, women stop having their periods.”

Cindy, Frances’s sister, chimed in, “So they can’t have kids?”

“Apparently not.”

Cindy shivered, as if from the cold. “That can’t be good. Doesn’t seem like those poor Chinese can catch a break, does it”.

It became the talk of the town, and then of the nation, then of the world. There were pockets of China slowly recovering and rebuilding, aided by Taiwan. Taiwan had declared itself China’s new capital, so far it seemed it was going to stick, since they were coordinating the massive relieve efforts on China’s behalf. The death toll in China due to starvation was horrendous, but there seemed to be progress, if slow.

The plague showed no respect for national boundaries. One theory is it had escaped from a lab in China, but it didn’t matter, as there really wasn’t anyone left to blame. If a human was to blame they had been punished, with overkill. There were more Americans left alive than Chinese in the aftermath of the Great Death. Our relief efforts brought it to America, where it spread like wildfire, moving to South America through the boarders, and shipping. Apparently men were carriers as well as women, but the only symptom was the shutdown of women’s menstrual cycles.

Our turn came when a carload of guys came through. They weren’t violent, they were looking for jobs, but we chased them out of town. Two weeks later several ladies noticed they were late, two weeks after that it was unanimous. The Little Death had come to stay.

All the women in my house became very depressed. I suppose there would have been suicides, but everyone was sure a cure was coming. The last child born was 11 months later, in a little village in Peru. The only thing that could be said nice about this damn virus is if a woman was pregnant when she caught it she would still have her baby, baring normal complications. Carol, Francis’s other sister, bucked the trend, marrying a sweetheart who had been wooing her and moved out. They seemed very happy together.

Chapter 6 — The Cure.

A massive world wide depression ensued among women. Even Francis lost interest. I won’t say it was a relief, she had pretty worn me down. I had resolved she would know me as I was before I gave in, and hope for the best. Looked like that problem wasn’t anymore.

People carried on, and there were still children after 5 years, but no babies. Men and women still chased each other, but the zest was gone. New marriages fell sharply, even in our town, and divorces went through the roof.

Anywhere a civilization existed was working the problem with little success. One of the problems was the population crashes of all the countries, those that could still be referred to as such, were a mess. There were pockets of high tech, with larger areas of medium tech, but food was still a problem. A few farmers were trying to gear up for true farming, but the weather was still unpredictable. They were heavily subsidized by our government, which meant if the worst happened they would not loose their farms. The big consortiums had the same problems, but the current climate tended to favor smaller operations, since the manufacturing had also taken a major hit. There simply wasn’t enough people.

Our supply of MREs had long since exhausted, but we had large tracts of greenhouses, and a few hydroponics setups. I never figured I would be a farmer, but it was a community effort. Things weren’t great, but we were doing OK. A lot of the former necessities weren’t anymore, such as computers, which had been dying in a steady pace with no replacement parts. Cars were still being produced, but the sleek versions of the past were just that, in the past. Silicon Valley was back in force, a lot of electronics plants were coming back on line, but where the problem used to be not enough food it was now not enough people. Everything was scaled back, focusing on the really important stuff. LED lighting, for example, took off in a major way, as it was both energy efficient and useful for hydroponics and green houses.

We now had a library. It was fairly modern, with several cherished computers and internet. The community was slowly growing, Ernie and I had owned a large chunk of the lands, and was able to keep the numbers of people down to a manageable level. Still, we were up past 500 people, most of whom had a good roof, electricity, and a lot of basic comforts. The militia started becoming picky about who joined, but it was still the majority of the community. Walking around with a gun holstered was the norm, even for women.

I was coming in from setting up a new green house. Lots of walking along with a mostly vegetarian diet had done wonders for my build. I was never going to be bulked up, but there was very little fat left. Now and then we’d get meat, but it was something I’d dream about. I guess we are lucky any farm stock left, we had grown it considerably from when we’d gotten the first animals from Tomb’s farm. We were even able to pay his kids back, by setting them up when they decided to move into out little town. It was still rough around the edges, with a lot of dirt and gravel roads, but Ernie had decided to take a hand in planning it early, so as we developed we would have decently wide streets later on. Knowing where the future tech would go had its advantages.

Francis was very excited when I came in. After my hugs and greetings from a very enthusiastic 7 year old Peter, Francis presented me with the small local news paper.

“They found it”, she exclaimed.

“Found what?”, I responded, confused.

“The cure, they found a cure!” At that she threw herself onto my lap and kissed me like we had never done before, with Peter running upstairs to his aunt screaming “Uncle Chuck and Mama are kissing! Uncle Chuck and Mama are kissing!”, leaving us alone in the living room. The sounds cut off abruptly, but no one came down to check. Guess Aunty Cindy was doing her part.

It looked like the application for fatherhood was back in force. I held her, looking into her eyes. We kissed again, longer this time, with me holder her tight. Damn, that felt good. But first things first.

When we disengaged with her murmuring “I love you Charles Sanders.” I knew we had to talk. I had put this off for 7 years, but it was time.

“I love you too Francis, but there are some things you really need to know about me.”

“What, you’re married”, she giggled playfully.

“No. but it is the reason I’ve never been married. Do you know what transgendered is?”

“Oh God! You’re gay!?”, she exclaimed, looking horrified.

“No, this isn’t about sexual preference, at least not directly. It is about how I feel.”

She was looking a bit angry, a bad sign. “And how is that?”

“Like I was born the wrong sex. I should have been a woman.”

Now she looked confused, “I’ve heard of that, but how is that not gay?”

“Simple enough, I’m not attracted to men, I am a man, but I’ve always felt uncomfortable with who I am.”

There was still a bit of anger showing. Careful Chuck, I thought.

“But how can you feel like a woman when you are a man?”, she asked.

“ This isn’t about logic”, I said, “It is about who I am. How I feel.”

Tears started flowing, and she rushed up stairs. Damn, that went well, I thought. I was pretty agitated myself, but I picked up the newspaper. Details were sketchy, but apparently the virus had been isolated several years ago. Basically it shut down the ovaries, without affecting hormone levels. It also managed to hide in most cells of the body. It went on to state the virus was very unique, and very compact. General consensus was that it was made from scratch. If it had not been so terrible it would have been an act of genius.

A few minutes later Peter came down, looking a little scared and confused.

“Why is mama crying?”

“She found out something about me she didn’t like.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“It’s not something I’m going to tell you. What did she do when she got upstairs?”

“She and Aunt Cindy are talking”

Well, I figured once it was out it would be all the way. Damn. Peter sat on my lap while I read the newspaper to him, and tried to explain what it meant.

Dinner was a strained affair. Several years ago one of the entrepreneurs in our little town started making pasta, which was a huge success. Since a lot of processed food manufacturers had either gone out of business or scaled way back there was new niches for people to start up new businesses.

Cindy kept looking at me with knowing eyes, but no one seemed inclined to bring the subject up.

As the weeks went by news of the vaccine came out, and it wasn’t good. Apparently the vaccine was 100% effective for girls before they hit puberty and men, but for women and adolescents of childbearing age it was 19% effective. Good news for 9 year old Jamie, but bad news for the human race. We had already lost over three fourths of the global population. The 38% the United States had lost was harsh, but we survived as a nation. We could not take another hit like without consequences. And we had already lost 5 years of babies.

Apparently even in cases where the vaccine wasn’t effective it rendered the virus non contagious. Twas little comfort for the women, but at least we could obliterate this virus in one generation.

Chapter 7 — A New World

Major Andrews came by on his normal rounds. He had been visiting my house a lot, he and Cindy seemed to be working their way towards something.

He came bearing gifts. Cases of vaccine, one kind for men, another for women, and yet another several varieties for the kids, apparently separated to age and not gender. It was delivered to our relatively new doctor/dentist, and was mandatory for everyone. There would be no refusing this vaccine, if necessary it would be administered by force.

Several news items came out, the clinic that had perfected regeneration now could replace woman’s ovaries. This would have been great news, except that it was only 20% of the women who had the transplant were cured. Apparently the virus would reinfect the ovaries of most woman. It seemed to hide in the female DNA, and no amount of efforts would eliminate it totally.

Major Andrews approached me after the delivery.

“I’ve talked with Cindy.”

Damn, I knew this was coming. “And?”

“She has told me about your problem. Or condition, or whatever.”

I still wasn’t bitting. “And?”

“There is a pilot program I would like you to consider. You are familiar with Wesley Clinics work?”

A light was starting to dawn, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. “Who hasn’t. Limb and organ regeneration was invented there.”

“The government is willing to pay for sex changes done there. The results are excellent. This includes any cosmetic surgery needed, but given they can grow pretty much anything needed there, no one will be able to tell you were ever anything other than a woman. It doesn’t matter what you biological age is, the new organs are adolescent. Preliminary research seems to show some natural life extension benefits. It is painful, since the new hip bones and back bone modifications are fairly intrusive.”

“There is a price however. Any recipients are required to have as many babies as they can physically handle. They can give the babies to sterile couples, or raise them themselves. If you choose the later their would be a government stipend, but it would be minor.”

“Another program is also coming out, using ovaries that have not been implanted we are offering surrogate services for sterile women. Apparently they can gestate babies, just not make eggs. This is fairly expensive, and genetic diversity is a problem, but if a woman can afford it they are will clone her personal ovaries. They will be still used by other woman, so the cost is somewhat offset by the government. This leads us to another program, if you were transitioned you could also offer eggs for surrogacy, as well as women for whom the vaccine worked.”

“The government will provide special training doctors scattered across the country, along with the necessary equipment to help local women have children. I'm going to see if your town doctor is qualified and interested after this.”

“Think about the program, we need fertile woman desperately.”

I did. The home situation had settled down. Francis was talking to me again, and there was something different about our relationship, some portal had been passed. Apparently she and her sister had decided not to spread the news far and wide, and the Major was also discrete.

Francis had the vaccine, and the results were she was still sterile. However, this did not mean she could not have kids. I had shown her my secret stash of womans clothes, which had turned out rather funny. Everything was loose, as in hanging like a tent. Even my feet had seemed to shrink some. That which did not hang simply fell off. The fact it had sat in storage 8 years had also not been so kind to my old clothes.

We became very close. We talked. And eventually, we made love. When she saw that did not change who I was she agreed. We were married soon there after, Jamie was the flower girl, and Peter did his part.

We took a train together to Wesley Clinic. Peter cried when we left, but he accepted staying with his aunt, who was now formerly engaged to Major Andrews.

To say the transition hurt like hell was a understatement. They were also not kidding when they talked about the cosmetic surgery, but then, I don’t think it would have been referred to as such during the old days. About half my body was replaced, from the hips down was all new, along with my arms, modifications to my ribs, and substantial parts of my face and throat, brain surgery to feminize my brain for proper menstruation, not to mention my hair. They decided my kidneys and pancreas weren’t healthy enough, so out they went. I was a early entry, and they had pulled out all the stops. They didn’t replace my backbone, but it was modified to female specs. Apparently a mans backbone is missing little pieces on the vertebra that interlock to support the weight of a baby, if I had tried to have kids with my old backbone it would have collapsed like a brittle stick. The DNA was still mine, mostly, but the X chromosome was added on the new parts. Where possible genetic improvements were made, whole catalogs of diseases were eliminated from my future, such as arthritis or osteoporosis.

The part that had really me scared turned out to be no big deal. My old skin was, well, old, and didn't match the new skin on my various grafts. I wasn't looking forward to being skinned alive so it could be replaced. The new skin had been modified genetically so it healed much faster and didn't scar easily, and with anesthesia it was replaced in one session and healed in several days. They didn't bother with hair follicles except where it mattered, but they matched the colors with new hair on the bottom with the top, as I had opted for. They even gave me new nipples (which surprised me), saying I would grow full breasts in time as an adolescent would, and it would give my back more time to heal. The nipples were feminized and enhanced, the odds of breast cancer were greatly reduced, and they would respond naturally to the estrogen now flowing through my system.

Given my ovaries were going to be used by a lot of women, special attention was paid to make sure they would produce genetically perfect eggs. It was hoped the hit on genetic diversity we would take would be offset by this. It was almost inevitable that half brothers and sisters, without their knowledge, were going to marry and have kids of their own at some point.

I spend 8 months there, with Francis at my side, her stomach swelling with our new child. Her ovaries and my testis in vitro, what could be more romantic? I wound up three inches shorter than I started, and almost 60 pounds lighter. My balding gray hair was now a brilliant red, hanging above my shoulders. I had to grow it the old fashion way, so it was going to take a while. Replacing my facial bones was no fun, but it was worth it. Ernie would not have recognized me if we hadn’t sent pictures. He was quietly spreading the word to those who would need to know, but we were still friends. Tina was terrific, I will treasure her emails always. A lot of women were planning on using my eggs to have kids when I got back.

We made it back to Ernieville in time for Francis to have our baby. The clinic kept my testis so I could have children from other woman as a courtesy.

Three years later, I have had two babies. I am keeping them, just as Francis is. It is hard work being a mother, but it is the kind of work I was longing for. Francis and I are still married, we short circuited a lot of laws by doing it as a man and woman, but slowly the laws are catching up with the new realities. Ours is not a totally monogamous relationship, as both of us are very heterosexual. It appears my interest in men changed with my body and mind. But we are in love, and are working around the problems. We have had two kids through Francis together. Ernie and Tina are helping where they can, both Uncle Ernie and Aunt Tina love kids. Given the brood they are growing it is a good thing. It is also fortunate we both have large houses. We are family.

Chapter 8 — The Rebirth

The mood of the town had changed, everywhere you see woman with big bellies and babies. Laws have changed a lot, abortion is now illegal, but any girl in a family way has full funding for her and her child, with many people willing to adopt if she doesn’t want the child. They are willing to adopt the girl too for that matter, people who kicked their daughters out of their homes because of a pregnancy tend to be shunned as child abusers. The stigma of single motherhood is gone, a single pregnant woman is very desirable with the single guys.

Laws concerning rape and spousal abuse have also become much harsher. Anyone assaulting a pregnant woman is lucky if they are arrested. The new techniques of lie detection, being reliable, means men are not convicted on a woman’s word, but if he is guilty he will go away. Most convicts are offered a different choice though, clinics have sprung up all over. The number of woman in the world are growing, as is the population. In many places polygamy is now legal, but in general a woman tends to have more legal rights. Places that never considered woman more that property are changing, and in some parts of the world that are less than democratic, lotteries exist where men are forced into transition. These seem to fading though, it is expensive and only creates a form of gentle dissension the world has never seen before.

China and India are recovering. Their populations will recover eventually, they may even be better places to live without the crowding. Relief efforts continue. The giant crater has been filled in with water, and was named Lake Change.

TG men and woman are almost totally gone, since they have the option to leave their misery behind. The free government programs have continued, with the major cosmetic surgeries I was offered being reduced somewhat. They are still available, but you have to buy them now. That is not to say a transitioned man is left looking like a man in a dress, but the extremes I went through have been reduced. I have to say though, I feel young. I don’t think I felt this good at 20 years old.

All of this is temporary of course, eventually a balance will be reached. Attitudes change slowly though, and many things will never be the same. China used to leave baby girls out to die, now they are precious, to be treasured more than boys. All children are now precious, everywhere. Child abuse is on the decline, and when it happens, it is prosecuted.

It is interesting to see the change in people attitudes toward the space programs. Every country that can afford one has one, and technique and know how freely shared. They still take second place towards the rebuilding, but there is a determination that the Great Death will never happen again.

It isn’t paradise, there was too much death and misery. But when there are children laughing and playing everywhere, and there is so much to be done, it feels good. Maybe we’ll get there yet.

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