Chapter 1

It's been almost a year since the change. I still don't know exactly what happened and definitely not how but I decided to leave a record of what I do know. My name is Steven Alvin Lewis, Sal for short. I am, I think, twenty-seven, a college graduate and a native of California. When I left college, I got a job with a large company working in California. After three years, I received a promotion but it involved moving to Tampa. That was difficult as I was a dedicated surfer. The Gulf of Mexico does not offer a lot of big waves. However, the water is warm and the people were friendly. I was enjoying a new place and making friends. My job was going well and I enjoyed the work.

Then, the change occurred. I remember it well. It was a spring day in 2011. I got off work early to close on the purchase of my first house. After the closing, I went for a ride to the beach to watch the wavelets. In the last year, I had found that there weren't waves, not really. I got out of my car and was walking the beach.

The next thing I knew, I was blowing sand out of my nose and mouth. I couldn't figure out why I was on the ground or what had hit me. As I glanced over at the ocean, I noticed that the waves were big, like at home. Glancing back the other way, I was shocked to not see my car or any other car. There were no roads! Worried, I went over that way away from the water. When I got closer, I could see that there was a road there, but it looked old and in poor shape. I looked back at the water still noticing the large waves and wondering. The benches that had lined the parking area where my car had been were gone. My clothes were the same. I felt the same, except for the sand. I looked up and down the coast and saw no one and no buildings! This wasn't right. When I started walking on the beach, there was a pier about one hundred yards below me. It wasn't there! I was beginning to shake because there was something very wrong with the situation. Looking away from the water, I could see mountains in the distance way off. There was no way; there weren't any mountains in Florida! What was going on? Where was I? How had I gotten there? Realizing that I had a serious problem made my legs weak and I sat down on the sand suddenly. It was quiet. I said aloud, "Sal, what has happened? Where are we?" Since I was talking to myself, I did not have any answers that were helpful.

As I looked around some more, it looked like there were some old buildings to my north. I based this upon the fact that the water was, it seemed, to the west and the buildings were to my right. If I weren't facing west, there were other problems. I decided to move and went toward the buildings. The buildings were very old and run down. I saw, to my shock, that they were homes and that there were homes on the other side of the road. All of them looked deserted for a long time.

There was nothing like this in Florida and the waves looked awfully big for the Gulf since there were no clouds in the sky. Without a storm, there shouldn't be waves.

I walked over to the water and put my hand down so a wave would just wash over it, the water was cold! I was very confused. I decided to go over to a house and check it out. The first house was a smaller house. A little bit of the roof was still standing but, for the most part, it had collapsed. I prodded around in the wreckage and found a shovel made of metal and fiberglass. I had seen one very much like it at the building store two days ago. The blade was rusted but it and the handle were sturdy. I used the shovel to move aside pieces of house. I found a desk. At least, I think it was a desk. Beside it were the remains of an office chair. The fabric or cover was gone but its skeleton was there and could be recognized. I delved around on the desktop and found a piece of a newspaper which showed March 17, 2011. "That was yesterday," my mind shouted! I wondered how the newspaper could look so old. It crumpled when I lifted it and, even the date, was no longer readable. How could day old newspaper get so old looking? How can the houses fall into disrepair like this? Where were the people??

My mind was numbed by these questions, particularly, the last. The streets were grown over and the houses were falling down. This did not happen overnight. I decided to find a place to sit and think things over.

"Okay," I said to myself. What do I know and what can I logically surmise? I know something happened which was probably violent. Today was March 12, 2011. It was late afternoon though the placement of the sun did not agree with that conclusion. I had my clothes and the contents of my pockets. My car seemed to be gone. The buildings around me seemed to be deserted and had been for a long time. I had my Blackberry! I pulled it out. No signal was received! I tried to call '911" without success as it couldn't find a network. Now, I was worried. Finally, to top it all off, I hadn't seen a person or heard any signs of humanity. Where had the owners of all these houses gone? Why was the newspaper so old it crumpled when I tried to pick it up?

I decided I needed a plan and a list of needs or goals? First, I was going to be hungry in an hour or so. Food sounded like a primary issue. Second, I needed a place to sleep though the weather at the moment was warm. Third, I needed to find out where I was. Fourth, well, I wasn't sure what that should be yet. I also needed more information. That, I realized, was my primary need.

The more I thought about it, the more moving inland made sense. Shops and people were inland and some sort of shelter was anywhere. So, I started walking away from the ocean along the old road carrying that old shovel. It would help me to dig if I needed to do that. It still troubled me that everything was so run down but there wasn't anything I could do about that. After a while, it just became scenery. I came to an intersection at which my road crossed a much bigger road. Now, I had to make a choice. Either I turned left and went north or I turned right and went south. I don't think it mattered but I went north. I could see what looked like larger buildings in that direction. I continued on my way walking out in the middle of this larger road. I could see some wear areas along it like something used it in a consistent manner for travel. I looked at those spots but saw nothing that I could discern. Tracks were tracks. Then, I saw the dog.

It was a big dog and looked unkempt. He or she looked at me and growled. I stopped walking. The dog started toward me stiff legged. I realized that it was not very friendly and seemed to have concerns that I wasn't friendly either. I was now glad I had the shovel with me. It wasn't much of a weapon, but was way better than nothing. I held it in a threatening manner and shouted, "Go!" The dog back off. It was time for me to keep going. Finding a safe place suddenly seemed like a really good idea. I wasn't interested in becoming dog food. The dog followed me but I didn't feel it was thinking thoughts other than, "Let's not let supper get away."

We continued on for about a mile with me leading and the dog trailing about one hundred feet back. The situation was not making me comfortable. At some point, I would have to find a place away from dogs. I figured the dog was not the only predator in the area and that it might have help. Now, I was trying to walk watching my step, looking over my shoulder at the dog, watching right, left and front for other problems. This was not fun!

I kept going and kept looking for a place. I was careful not to speed up as I didn't want to provoke a charge. At the same time, I was becoming worried. There were no usable trees and, so far, I had not found any enclosed shelter. I also worried about becoming cornered. I kept going. I was coming to a large open area. Probably, it was a mall of some type. I went over to it. There were walls here. At least, there were places that I could defend. Then, I saw it. There was a piece of second story still existing and getting to it would be difficult for a man and, I hope, not possible for a dog. I went to it and quickly climbed up. The dog seemed to realize what I was doing but started too late to stop me. It jumped to get up where I was but could not. After trying a few more times, it gave up and I could see it walking away after a few minutes headed back to the road and easier prey. I looked around. I was on a piece of a second story that had a small sheltered area and was only about twenty feet in a rough square on each side. I checked around it and saw no sign that it had been inhabited.

I decided then and there that I had a base for some period. I still needed water and food but, one step at a time. I had watched my former shadow leave so felt fairly safe. I did not see any other animals. I climbed back down. I chipped at a couple of places to make it a little easier for my next time. Now, I started to really look around at where I was. I was correct. It was a mall of some kind. Further ahead, in the direction that I had been going was another large cross street. I decided to go through as much of this area as I could hoping that I could find out more about where I was and could find food and water.

I went to the corner hoping to find road signs of some type and did. The sign said "La Jolla Blvd" which supported my supposition that maybe I was in California. Another sign showed "Pearl St" which told me nothing. I started roaming around the area looking for food, water and information or anything else that might be useful.

In my home base, the ground floor had a corner area that contained a desk. This suggested a business. I went through the desk and found nothing helpful, then I thought of the trash can. It was under the desk and also somewhat protected. I found verification that I was in the San Diego area. I did not know it well but, now, I had a location. At the back, I found some coat hangers that I grabbed hoping I could use them for something. I went through the desk carefully. At the back of a drawer was an old road map. It was five years old to me but it would help me locate where I was and where I would go. Finding nothing else, I took my finds back to my base and left them there. I set out again diagonally across both streets. I found what probably was a store and a number of plastic containers which I took since they all had lids which fit pretty well.

What I didn't like was everything looking dry. I knew that much of southern California was dry and what I was seeing proved it. I decided that a dry, hungry camp would have to work and that, after studying the map, I would head to water. The ocean was nice but you can't drink it.

It was late afternoon and I was heading back to my base. I had found a little bit of water which went into one of my plastic containers after I had a long drink. It wasn't great but it was wet. As I returned, I gathered brush and small tree limbs for a fire. I carried a cigarette lighter though I didn't smoke. I also carried a small pocket knife though I feared it would be too small to be of much use.

I got to my base and threw my fire wood up and clambered up there myself. Clearing a small area in front of the covered area, I set a fire waiting to light it until dusk. While I had some light, I took out the map and looked it over. There were a couple of parks but there was nothing to indicate there was water at either. I decided to check them out and then head north where I did see what might be a small lake. We'll see. I needed to get to an area with water and food or I would soon be in trouble.

Over the night, I appreciated my fire for its comfort. I could hear growls and howls in the distance but saw no lights that might suggest people in any direction.

The next morning, I started out hungry. I drank the last of my water which wasn't that much in the first place. As I walked, I tried to watch for things that I could use to help me. I also looked for some food. I found some berries. When I got close to them, I realized they were blackberries. I picked and ate and then loaded my larger container. I continued easterly until I came to a park like area which was probably the golf course on the map. I had a slight hope that there would be a creek of decent body of water there but no luck. I moved more northerly for the next area. I almost missed it because it looked little different from anything else. Again, no water was there either. I now moved north and a little west along the old roads trying to watch for landmarks that might give me a hint. Then, I saw what had to be the spot. There were some decent trees and more lush grass. I slowed because I could hear some noise of animals. That made sense since this was a water location.

I came up to it watching for anything that might be a problem. I came up to the water's edge and looked around again. It wasn't much of a watering hole but was better than nothing. I cupped water with a plastic container and then stopped. I saw movement about fifty feet away. It was, I saw, a person! He or she was trying to be inconspicuous moving back into the grass and out of sight. I put down my shovel, added more water to the cup, and slowly walked over toward the person. She was female, rather pleasingly so and about my age. However, there was a long angry cut down the outside of her left leg.

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