Now that you’ve settled in a bit, you’re probably wondering what the big flat screens in 770 are for. Dad said they were called ‘computers’, and they were how everything worked before the Cold. You can read all about them in 000, if you’re interested. They were put into The Collection to play the music library, and something called films which were stories acted out and recorded. But the fuel they used stopped working when the Cold happened, so now they’re basically useless. Mum called them ‘museum pieces’.
I guess, if you’re older than me, you already know some of this. Maybe you remember before the Cold. I was a baby when the war happened, and Sanna wasn’t quite born, so the world has always been this way to me but my parents used to reminisce about how things were. How everyone could be warm whenever they wanted, and food grew easy, and you didn’t have to test for water acidity before you drank it. Mum said there was no ash in the air, then. Sometimes she sat on the end of my bed at night and stared out of the observatory dome. When I asked her why, she said she was remembering stars. She told me stories about animals that lived in the sky – a lion, and a giant crab, and a bear. They didn’t fly, they were made of starlight. Did you ever see them, Theseus?
She stopped telling stories after Dad opened Yellow Hat’s briefcase. A lot of things stopped then. We stopped stopping. One day here, another there, never staying long enough to help people. Barely staying long enough to trade for food.
Dad stopped sleeping. I don’t mean insomnia, I mean at all. His skin went very pale and his eyes went very bloodshot. He couldn’t stay still, always tapping his foot or drumming his fingers. He muttered constantly, until Mum screamed at him to shut up, just shut up. After that, he whispered. I think the whispering was worse. Like rustling pages, turning over too fast to make out the words. At least when he was talking I could hear what he said, even if it didn’t make much sense.
He talked about the Cold, how it didn’t come from the war. Or it did but the war wasn’t really started by us. He said something from behind the stars made us turn the world into ash and ice. Kaiwan was just waiting for humans to die out, enjoyed watching it happen slowly. He told Mum the people in Yellow Hat’s settlement were already dead but they weren’t allowed to stop. That’s when she screamed at him.
A few days later the front door opened onto the deck of a metal ship, tipped crazy by pack-ice. Dad walked out into the dark, barefoot, and didn’t come back. Mum waited twenty-four hours. Then she turned the handle.