I spent the next two weeks researching CMEs, never more thankful that we owned so many books. I found out that CME stood for Coronal Mass Ejection and that the electric grid, along with all the devices hooked up to it, had been destroyed.
Mr. Davis thought that the CME was actually an electromagnetic pulse bomb that one of our enemies dropped on us. Mom disagreed. The Russians would have just nuked us. The Middle East didn’t have EMP technology yet, and China had been so weakened by the recent fall of its communist regime that it could barely keep passenger jets in the air, much less a bomber.
Most of our neighbors—if you could call them that—left for warmer climates before the temperatures really dropped. They left for the corn farms in Illinois, the fertile soil of the Ozarks. Anywhere but Wisconsin, where the snow heaped up so high it could bury entire houses. We stayed because of Baby Number Six, and Mr. Davis stayed because he was a Stubborn Old Coot, and a few other people might have stayed because they realized the gas stations would be full of inaccessible gasoline.
We were huddled up by the fireplace one afternoon, after the mail run, when we heard gunshots from Mr. Davis’s house. Grabbing his rifle, Dad ran outside and was gone for at least an hour. When he came back, he was covered in blood and carrying a backpack full of bullets and firearms.
Mom panicked, struggling like an overturned turtle to get out of her chair. “Jonathan! Lie down. What happened? Were you shot?”
“Evelyn—it’s not my blood, Evelyn. Calm down.”
Meg started crying and ran to Mom. She’d never seen so much blood before.
Dad took off his parka and hung it on the doorknob. He’d wash the blood off later. “Someone broke into Ed Davis’s house. Ed’s dead. Thief’s dead. Everyone who didn’t have enough food to last the winter is getting desperate. We have to guard the house.”
“How?” Owen asked.
“We could make a bunch of traps like in Home Alone,” Brooke suggested.
“We should hide the food,” Mom said. “Put it in the basement. It’s cold there anyway. It’ll keep longer.”
Dad shook his head. “No, they could get in through the window well. Plus, the sump pump isn’t working, and it’s going to flood come spring. Maybe even sooner.”
“Maybe we could make a sign for the front yard that says, ‘no thieves allowed,’” Bennett said.
“Thieves don’t listen to signs, you idiot,” Owen snapped.
“Owen,” Mom said, in that tone of voice that meant she wanted to kill you. “Apologize to your brother.”
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.