It has been roughly a year since the first effects of the EMP bombings were felt in my town. The first week, I moved back in with my parents, to be near them both for comfort and for safety. Soon enough, the break-ins started. Many people turned on their neighbors, stealing and fighting for everything. Four doors down, there was a brawl involving three families, all vying for a hoard of now-useless electronics. Seven people died - all for what? The hope that soon, those lifeless hunks of silicon would come back to life? Did they really think there was a magic fix to be had? As the month wore on, the situation got gradually worse. My family and I made a plan to leave and live on the trail for a while, at least until things cooled down. There was rioting in the streets on the day we were to leave. I tried to find my mother and father, my boyfriend, anyone. They were not at our meeting spot, and as the mob got closer, the chaos became overwhelming. I began to panic, and I felt like a great beast was chasing at my heels as I fled. I ran, with just my trusty backpack, to the only place I knew would be safe. The mountains.
Those first few months were grueling. At first, I saw many people on the trail, trying to survive outside the rioting cities. As the days grew colder, I encountered many bodies of the less fortunate. I somehow managed to survive, gathering enough food and water to make it by. I sometimes wonder why I was spared the misfortunes of serious injury and starvation, when so many others were not. I have so much to learn still, but at least I now have a place to sleep that is out of the weather, and enough food to eat each day. My home is in a small rock cavern fitting myself, my kit, and just enough head room to stand upright. When it is rainy, I can hear the rushing water from the nearby stream. It is fast-moving and quite clear, which is a blessing to my health. Even though it's no five-star hotel, my little neck of the woods feels downright cozy.
Now that a year had passed, the time was right for the ritual. At dawn, I awoke, gathering up the small hide pouch that I would need. I walked to the rocky outcrop just south of my new home, a place I visited often to help me meditate and think. I unrolled the hide pouch containing my improvised tools and dye, and took a long, deep breath. My ancestors had once participated in scarification rituals, and I was mentally preparing myself to do the same. I had stenciled and re-stenciled the patterns over and over with charcoal from the fire, carefully created these makeshift tools, and thought myself ready. I looked out across the valley below, and saw the circling form of a red-tailed hawk below. I breathed again, slowly. "I've been living on my own in the wild for a year. As my ancestors marked their memorable events, so shall I." I lifted my makeshift chisel to my shoulder and smoothly made the first cut. My stomach rose in response to the pain, and I nearly stopped there. I breathed again, and heard the familiar wind roar across the trees nearby. I let its sound caress my soul as I continued, my chisel echoing the swirling movements of the air.