Untitled and from the same world as this story


The wars had broken out and things were starting to look bleak. Back then, of course, we underestimated the extent of the eventual damage.

Henry was among the first drafted. I don’t think he agreed with it, but he wouldn’t have dodged. He swore he wasn’t scared and I believed him. I think he was ashamed at his lust for combat.

I’d been living in an apartment in the city with a boyfriend who paid my rent even though we always fought. Before our block was evacuated, he decided fate wasn’t on the side of our relationship. My uncle’s house was the only place I could go.

The mansion’s charms failed to delight me as they had when I was a child. I felt lost without the internet, which had gone down around the time of the evacuations. I spent my days drawing pictures and exploring the expansive property. At first, I was planning to stay for a few weeks, maybe a whole summer at the longest. Soon I lost contact with everyone from the outside world. It happened to everyone — the infrastructure attacks. My aunt and uncle started to take people in.

The first guest was a friend of the family. After setting her suitcase in the foyer, she greeted Cameron and Donna with a tight three-way embrace and shook my hand very hard. “I’m Barb,” she said. “Your hands are really cold! I hope the heat works around here!” And then she laughed like she’d just told a joke.

It didn’t take long for Barb to grow on me. She made life a little brighter.

By fall, we all acknowledged that the length of our residence was indefinite. Not that we talked about it, but our faces and voices were softer for it. There was still no way to know what was gone for good and what might come back.

Next to arrive were Glo and Cindy.  Glo was a friend of Barb’s and one of the most massive women I’d ever seen in my life. Cindy was Glo’s cousin, not as obese but still quite fat. Both bleached their hair. They showed up with cases of wine and drank even more than Barb.

For a while we were six: uncle Cameron and aunt Donna; me; Glo; Cindy, and Barb. Then Simon arrived, ringing the doorbell three times. Just that morning, Donna had told me I should feel free to welcome guests — we didn’t call them refugees — so I didn’t have to ask. I answered the door and found myself eye-level with an iguana perched on Simon’s shoulder. Donna didn’t introduce herself before pointing a finger at the beast: “that has to go.” Later I discovered that Simon only pretended to set it free. I also learned it was a she, and her name was Noelle, and Simon snuck dinner leftovers for her.

Not long after Simon, Bo, Dolores, and Lulu showed up. Bo came wearing a business suit. He said it made him feel like he was still a part of the world. Dolores was Bo’s daughter and Lulu was Dolores’s best friend. They were my age but didn’t want to hang out with me, at least at first. I wasn’t bothered by it: I already had a bunch of new friends, and soon enough, the boundaries that defined relationships would collapse so that it no longer made sense to speak of friendship.

Barb would always be my favorite but Glo and Cindy liked me just as much. They taught me that the best cure for a hangover is fattening food. We all lost our identities in time.