This is the way the world ends:
It’s an election year in the United States of America. The eastern seaboard hums with the typical activities, the population mopping their brows as October finally takes the edge off a hotter, and longer, than average summer.In Boston, 19-year-old college student Ashlyn Mae Chandler is ahead in her vocal performance undergraduate program, having stayed summers in Massachusetts to study rather than returning to her native London. In New York, her best friend Rowan Leigh Mills plods toward a degree in computer science at a more grudging pace, juggling school with the typical distractions of a young man just past his 20th birthday and the endeavor to get a foot in the door of the industrial music scene as a DJ.
Meanwhile, to much less national attention than the presidential race, Toronto-based Aeon Biomedical Technologies prepares to attend a yearly emergent technology conference in Manhattan. Aeon is the star in the lineup’s crown. At the conference, they will unveil a nanotech protocol that promises to change the face of medicine: a better road to dangerous invasive procedures as well as treatment of debilitating and terminal conditions. Testing in chimpanzees has shown nothing short of miraculous results, and for the New York convention, they will be introducing audiences in the states and around the world to the first human patient.It’s radical, and Aeon is braced for the backlash of the morally anxious, but she’s desperately ill, and without the small hope of this experimental treatment, her parents know beyond doubt that she will die.
Initial preparation for treatment is going well, and everything appears to be proceeding precisely according to plan.
It's just another average Saturday morning in New York City. Rowan Mills and his best friend, Ashlyn Chandler -- visiting from her university in Boston -- crashed late and a little drunk on the cheap, shitty bed in his cheap, shitty basement apartment while his cheap -- albeit, not shitty -- roommate Jason Ortham went out for a much more colorful night of clubbing. As far as they knew, that night had been unexceptional: torrented horror films, Mario Kart, and the latest tracks developed in Rowan's solo EBM project, Involuntary Machine.
They didn't know what was happening at Javitz.
Ghosts in an Altered State
Though he'd driven the route dozens of times in the borderless hours of the night, the road between New York City and Emmitsburg, Maryland had never stretched so long. But half a tank of fuel would get them out of the city, and at that moment, neither Rowan nor Ashlyn could think of too much beyond that.
The bosom of home, at least for Rory -- though the Mills' house had been a second home for Ashlyn for many years -- could offer safety or tragedy. With no way to contact his parents, or anyone else, no news, no internet, they had only hope and homing instinct to guide them into the harbor.
Mortality of Memory
Ashlyn's beloved paternal grandparents had called Emmitsburg home for decades. In fact the reason for Ashlyn's erstwhile American summers, their house had hosted the two teens countless times in the years after Ashlyn met Rowan at a summer camp and the friends became swiftly inseparable. After what they'd discovered in Rowan's childhood home, Ashlyn was not eager to encounter a similar scene with her own blood on the walls, but they nonetheless needed to know.
After their first tentative explorations of Emmitsburg's empty streets, Rory and Ash decided to climb to higher ground. The hill with the old radio aerial standing tall at the top had long been one of "their" places, and there was a great view of the town and surrounding landscape from there, especially if one climbed up the tower a bit. Which neither of them had ever done, ever, of course. That would be extremely unsafe and irresponsible.
A Nature Too Strange
Do we change or stay the same outside of the context of our ordinary worlds? Does it matter, if nobody is there to witness the effect? Access to Jake's radio array gives the duo a wider range of information about what's happened beyond their immediate area, but news from outside is sparse and grim. Rowan and Ashlyn do their best to focus on survival and some semblance of moving forward. Hey, at least ever store is 24-hour when it's just you and a crowbar.
The Shadow in the Noise
Jake's hunt for survivor's finally turns up a steady voice on the radio, as far away as he's been able to project his signal so far: transatlantic.
Lost in a Snow-Filled Sky
Winter closes in on what remains of the west coast, bringing cold days and new versions of familiar landmarks. Ashlyn Chandler is 20 years old at the end of the world.
A Dark Wind Blows
Throughout the winter so far, Rory and Ashlyn had settled into something like a comfortable rhythm. Comfortable, at least insofar as the apocalypse was concerned. They'd even found some time to make their own real fun, playing D&D with Jake over the radio and trying out increasingly ambitious food preservation techniques with the waning bounty of the area's slowly withering produce. Winter would soon yield to spring, and then they'd have to start thinking about some more sustainable practices for their new-found existence and ongoing survival.
Unfortunately, the season wasn't the only thing changing outside of the four walls of the Mills' house.