After Yellowstone, the surviving US populations fled to the walls North and South. There were clashes, and in the last news reports we saw piles of confiscated guns. But communications failed then, and global media, and the Americas and Europe became remote from each other. We don’t know what happened after that. Satellites began to become visible again, as the night sky cleared of pollution, and there was birdsong in the new silence. Unfamiliar birds nested in the unfamiliar trees. For a time, the sunsets were beautiful.
Then there was nothing beyond the immediate horizon. Nowhere to go, nothing to need, no visitors and no communications - nothing but distance. We closed the roads and worked in the fields and green spaces. Yachts became fishing boats. There were still some books, so we could learn without electricity, and in time we began schools for the sharing of essential skills. Homes became communal, because there was no warmth in living alone, and the strong survived. We re-learned the skills we had lost, and over time, survival became subsistence. We harvested brick and stone from buildings that collapsed, and learned from printed stories how to tame wild horses. Roads broke as the roots of encroaching forests pushed through the tarmac. We built our first windmills.
We made contact with our neighbours: they had more fields than we did, and grain to trade. We had access to the sea, and doctors, and expertise that they lacked - those books we had thought to salvage, and skills we had taught ourselves. At first, we were cautious, but we had learned co-operation by then, and we told each other that there was no place for mistrust in our new world. We became allies with our neighbours, even friends. We taught each other’s children. The plastic, the relentless tide of plastic, we took out of the sea and used to block the wide roads that led to the no-longer-known country to the East. Now, we were agreed, our domain would be what we could reach, spreading no further than a day’s ride, and we would decide our own future.
There came a day on which we began to make weapons in earnest. The party of riders came, from what they called “central government”, to offer us security and benefits and many other words besides, in return for a tithe. They spoke of trade, and a recovery, and an old power that they could harness once again, but sustainably this time. They spoke of recovery and rebuilding and lessons learned, and they carried weapons. We had almost forgotten guns. We took their guns from them, and their bladed weapons, and sent them away with the gifts of our peace - bread wrapped in old paper, and ale in repurposed plastic bottles.
We opened the museums, and the armouries, and some of the old mines, and re-learned how to work metal. The storms continued, and the heat, and the cold - and the new rainy season washed the land - and we began to see creatures that we did not recognise: huge beetles, colourful birds with unfamiliar cries, wild animals that we guessed had escaped from zoos. I remember that night we first heard wolves. We were sitting around the fire in the Central Marquee, and speaking about how we seemed to be reliving human history, but in our own time, and on our own terms. Many of us were reluctant to progress into the Iron Age. The wolves seemed to call to us from a world that we could lose again.
But the people with guns returned, and this time, they called us traitors. So we took their guns away from them once more, and we sent them away once more, and we turned our minds to defence. We began work on a wall, a high, flimsy wall, and behind it, far enough back, we built another wall, stronger, just as high, with watchtowers and walkways and arrow-slits and embrasures for cannons and machine guns. We built our two walls North to South, coast to coast, then set our weapons in place on the second wall, prepared them to fire, and forgot about them.
Then we got really busy. The call went out for plastic - plastic bottles, tubs, crisp packets, milk cartons, shampoo bottles, plastic bags, micro-plastic beads, body boards, surfboards, beads, footballs, souvenir action figures, fishing line, net, dolls, detergent bottles, soap dishes, water pistols, pegs for hanging up wet laundry, bottle caps, plates and cups, picnic cutlery. You know, the kind of plastic you can find on any beach, any time, anywhere. We had plastic - oh, we had an abundance of plastic. It came by the cartload.
So we filled the space between the two walls with plastic, and we held back more plastic, and we wrapped plastic in nets and floated it out to sea to store it because we had so much plastic. And when the people with guns came again, and attacked our outer wall as we had expected, the flimsy outer wall broke, and the plastic flowed out over them, engulfing them and their world in plastic recovered from our beaches, and we poured more plastic into the breach, until they could only approach us by wading chest-high through plastic.
And when we could no longer see them, we returned to the green spaces, and the forests, and the animals; to the world we had restored.