Updated: Oct 23, 2021
The winter had wiped off the existence of more people than anyone could have possibly imagined. This was no regular winter; it was a nuclear winter, following a war that our country lost. Of the few of us that did manage to survive, we had become a competitive lot. Because food was scarce, people had even resorted to killing. Not me.
My mother was the very first person to lose the battle - her speech started slurring, she developed cabin fever, she became delusional, and one day, just like that, she dropped dead while trying to walk to her bed from the sofa. My father died almost a fortnight later. He got shot by another man when both of them were trying to secure for themselves what was apparently the last loaf of bread available in the entirety of 18 neighborhoods. Survival of the Fittest, I guess.
When you are 14, and you lose your parents because of painful reasons, where you are nothing but an innocent onlooker, you either give up, or you choose to go ahead with a heart of steel, and I for one decided to live. So I left my home with nothing but a bag - it had a Swiss knife that belonged to my father, a cardigan that belonged to my mother, and a picture of them in front of Mount Poroshiri. I had to live on for them. I wandered across as many streets as I could while it was still day, and made sure to find a place to spend the night. Most of the houses being devoid of their owners, it wasn't hard to accommodate myself at night.
I had become a nomad, perhaps even crossed a couple of cities, the population barely touched hundred in each of them. I didn't know what I was looking for, maybe a solution, maybe a better tomorrow. I ate whatever (and whenever) I could find in the refrigerators of the houses where I spent my nights at , although I knew they were expired products for certain.
One fine morning, when I was setting out to another alien land, I could see a tree half adorned with tangerines - it amused me because it felt difficult to fathom that anything could grow in such harsh and barren conditions. But it had been a few days since I had last eaten, and if I went by for a few more, death was certain. So I collected a few tangerines. But food being scarce, a man watching me from a distance suddenly pounced on me. I still don't know what took over me that day, but I clicked open the Swiss knife, and slit the man's throat after a couple or so slashes.
As I waited to cross the road, with the tangerines in my bag, a murder of crows stood at my feet - perhaps the trickling blood fascinated them. It took me a while to register what I did to that man. Survival of the Fittest, indeed.