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Friday, May 30, 2014

When do you want your world to end?

Not often is a person given a choice like I am offering above. But that's today's question: Do you want your personal SHTF event in the summer or in the winter? Either way, I'll give the perspective as we find it here in the Upper-Midwest of the U.S.

Your first choice is Summer.

What a great time of year to live in Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or North Dakota – right? The summer days are long; typically June and July have more than 15 hours of real daylight this time of year. And that doesn't include the hour or two before sunrise and after sunset. So much daylight will make your travels easier if your cars don't run, and you're stuck on foot or bike or horseback. You can see any form of trouble for almost 18 hours a day. Cool!

But, there's a downside to all that sunshine. Remember, I'm taking away ALL power. That includes your electricity. Gone is your refrigeration you depend on to keep your limited amount of fresh food fresh. Some of the smells you'll have to deal with as the temperature rises will be unimaginable. Have you ever smelled warm rancid bacon? How about spoiled fruit when the maggots have arrived? Yeah, these smells are going to be prevalent during the summer.

There's another catch in choosing the warm sunny months to start your dystopian adventure. July and August can get hot...and with the heat comes humidity. Have you ever tried to sleep in a hot box with no air moving through? The sweat builds on your abdomen and slides down your ribs. And there is just no way to get comfortable. What little clothing you will wear, will stick to you like glued on sheets of soggy paper. And you'll always be hot and sweaty and uncomfortable. At least until winter arrives.

Thus, your second choice: Winter.

Last winter we endured about 50 days where the air temperature fell below zero sometime during the day. Personally I witnessed a -35 degree morning. At least ten days last winter the temp never rose above 0. When it wasn't bitterly cold, it snowed. And it snowed a lot! I mean a whole bunch. If I remember correctly we had almost six feet of snow. The season's total was right around 70 inches. Almost a foot and a half more than normal. So when it wasn't cold, it was snowing.

And let's not forget about wind chills in the winter. There were numerous days where it was considered down right dangerous to be outside this past season. Actually, that happens every year up here. A point where exposed flesh can freeze in as little as ten minutes (five in extreme cases). That's going to cut down on your ability to travel and forage for food during those periods.

Perhaps you'll make a nice fire and sit quietly inside most of the white months. That's a good idea. Who doesn't like a nice warm fire? Again, there is another downside waiting for your sanity. It's called cabin fever. Maybe you know it as stir crazy. No matter what the name, it's awful. Slowly, a little bit each day, your sanity erodes. To the point where you don't know what day, or season, or even year it may be any more. Better hope you have friends holed up with you. Otherwise you're going to be having a nice long conversation with yourself.

In my debut novel, WWIV - In The Beginning, our end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it event occurs in August.  So for that novel, I chose summer. Book two (Kids at War) takes place almost six years later, beginning in late April/early May. Book three (title yet undecided) will take place in fall, some 12 years after the event. The options are limitless for me. I can take anyone and place them anywhere I choose, during any season of the year. And all they have to do is try and survive.

As time moves forward, everything will become more difficult for my characters. At first, there will still be a little gas and some running cars. Six years after, not so much. Sixteen years after whatever happened, happened, none will exist. Food will diminish almost daily too. Eventually, in the not so distant future, if you want to eat you'll either have to kill it or grow it...or both.

Seasons will be important during these dark times. It may be the difference between life and death.

Reminder: Beginning next time (for at least the summer months) I will be posting once a week. Look for a new subject every Tuesday beginning June 3rd.