Johanna Reinhardt is alone at the outpost when it happens. The Machines have shut down, her husband is gone, and—imperceptibly, but surely—sound is disappearing from the world.
What might disappear next?
A dreamlike tale from the post-apocalypse.
Johanna looked up from picking the blackberries as the warm hum of the Machines cut off. She froze, gloved fingers clenched around a cluster of berries, and listened hard at the resulting silence. She waited for a few moments, staring ahead at the spiny bush. After a few moments, she ran back to the house, berries forgotten. The Machines hadn’t come back on.
She flung open the door and flew down the basement stairs to the controls. Even after flipping the circuit breakers, performing a soft-restart, the silence loomed, filling and overwhelming. Dumbfounded, she stared at them, and emptiness flooded her ears.
How could this happen? No, more importantly, what could it mean? Their duty was to keep the Machines running. If the Machines stopped—what was happening to the City right now?READ MORE
The radio. She ran back upstairs, into the cramped living room, and switched on the light. The dial was set to AM 5113, the only station that could reach them out here, so far away from civilization. Mostly it played safety messages and advisories for travelers, but later in the evenings, around the time Kaden would return, the Classical Hour would start. She had wanted to bring her piano, but moving it over this terrain was simply out of the question. Instead, she listened when she could, and her mind did its part by walking her fingers idly in her lap from time to time.
She switched the radio on. No sound. Nothing at all, not even static. She adjusted the volume to its very highest, and even risked pressing her ear against the speaker, but only nothing came out. She opened the back and checked the batteries—the batteries were fresh from last week, she’d put them in herself, but sometimes things could shift—yes, they were all aligned, firmly tucked into their slots.
She backed away from it and cupped her hands to her face, like she always did when she was thinking. Before, this might have been only temporary, or even a delusion inside her head. But that there wasn’t any Alexander Lee advising City travelers, no Alexander Lee advertising the City Academy, no Alexander Lee at all, at this time of day…
She left the radio switch on, just in case, then went to collect the berries. She tried not to think about how they might have to last.COLLAPSE