Remember at the end of Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston (I just realized for the first time what a weird name Charlton is) sees the Statue of Liberty on the beach and he freaks out because seeing that let him know that they “blew it all up”? Something like that would be helpful. When we go outside, there’s no reason not to just assume that Placerville had been abandoned. There’s nothing that says “clearly the apocalypse happened”.
You could say that the air quality should be a tip off, what with the haze and the throat stinging, but it’s California right? There’s always a wildfire somewhere it seems, plus all the pollution. Maybe the fact that our phones had no signal should be a tip off, but we always have crappy reception out of the city anyway. When the phone in the clinic didn’t work, that doesn’t even really help us know that the world has ended because if the place had been abandoned, there’s no reason it should have worked, right? Same thing with the water.
Plus there’s this to consider. Have you ever been cryogenically frozen? It makes everything all fuzzy. Even when that pod opens up, it takes a long time to get your head in the game. It was probably three hours before I felt like I could even sit up. I don’t know how long it was after that before I was clear headed enough to wake up Martialla.
There’s a storage room where we found some half faceplate masks with a bunch of filters, I assume they used those when they were handling whatever chemicals you use to freeze old dead dudes. According to the back of the box, the filters will only last eight hours in “very dusty” environments, which I am going to say the death-air outside is. Going through six a day is going to eat them up pretty fast. There’s an unopened pack of one hundred and maybe thirty in an opened box. That’s three weeks if we’re both outside all the time.
Whoever was living here while we were on ice had stockpiled a huge amount of bottled water, no loose bottles but pallets like you see in a warehouse, where did they get those and how did they get them here? But out of that, there were only about three hundred left. Martialla says we’re going to have to boil them before we drink them even though they’re sealed. And even then she doesn’t sound super confident that it’s totally safe. Can you get by on two bottles of water a day? Assume we can, that’s ten weeks of water, give or take.
Food is basically nil. There’s a pile of unopened cans but there’s nothing inside them but black flakes of scrud. I thought canned food lasted forever. I guess not. We do have a plastic crate of assorted energy bars, two dozen or so, that seem fine. Which is mildly disturbing. Martialla said that some energy bars are just a solid brick of preservatives so they last a really long time.
She also said that as long as they don’t get wet, guns and ammo basically last forever. So the four handguns we found should work. The knives and clubs certainly will if it comes to that. I’m ninety percent sure I could shoot someone if I had to, but the image of that guy taking an axe to karate guy haunts me. I’m not sure I can stab someone. As we were going through the tedious process of boiling all the water and putting it back into the bottles, I started to have second thoughts.
I looked at Martialla as she stacked up water bottles on the counter in the break room “I’m starting to have second thoughts.”
“We need to find out what’s out there, you said so yourself.”
“I know, that’s why I said SECOND thoughts. We have no idea what we’re walking into out there.”
Martialla paused her work to look me in the eye “Right, that’s why we need to find out.”
I gestured “We have electricity here that is apparently apocalypse proof.”
“What good is that? What we need is food and water, whatever kind of geothermal rig they have going on here doesn’t help us with either of those things. I mean unless you want to play minesweeper, the computers’ electricity doesn’t help us.”
“There’s like fifty frozen guys back there.”
Martialla stopped to think for a moment “Cannibalism?”
I nodded “Cannibalism.”
She shook her head and went back to packing “Even if we knew how to thaw them out, I don’t know if you’d want to eat someone who was cryogenically frozen. They’re probably full of antifreeze or something.”
“What about water? If you turn up the freezer enough you get frost, right? Can we rig up something to make ice that we can melt for water?”
She gave me an appraising look “Can you? Because I am not an electrician or an engineer, I don’t know how any of this equipment works. I have no idea how to turn electricity into water. I wish I fucking did. I know you feel safe here Ela, but we can’t stay. All we can do here is waste the supplies we do have waiting for nothing.”
“Maybe we could wake someone else up, strength in numbers.”
“They’re all dead Ela, that’s how cryogenics works. They freeze you after you die because it’s bullshit.”
I held my arms out wide “How can you say that? We’re here! It worked!”
Martialla got a stubborn look “But the cell walls . . .” I made a disgusted noise and she moved on “Look, if you want to try and figure out if someone else was frozen while they were still alive and then how to unfreeze them, go nuts, but as soon as we get all this water ready to go,we have to move.”
“We don’t have to leave leave though right? We can explore and come back if we need to?”
“Sure, we can check out Placerville and come back here maybe but that’s about it. After that, we need to head for the highways. Using up all our supplies investigating the three-mile radius around this hole in the ground isn’t going to net us anything.”
“It just seems crazy to leave this place, it’s like a fortress!”
“I thought you were the one who was thinking everything would be fine over the next hill, now you want to hunker down? Make up your mind.”