“Nothing,” is what he told the Council, “will get me moving from my own house.”
And he never moved, even although the officials from the Council had pleaded and threatened the old man and his wife.
“We have an excellent apartment in a town three hours from here,” said one man in a uniform.
But the old man told him to get out of his house and never darken his door again.
There were letters – which were burnt – and court orders – which were nailed to a door in the old Council offices.
Some of the others had stayed, meaning he and his wife weren’t alone.
It was only a matter of days before the electricity was shut off, but he had already thought of that possibility and had rigged an old generator (something he had learned in his days of national service) to keep the lights on.
He found fuel for the generator in basements of the deserted blocks in the middle of town. Water was another matter. He first lived off the bottled water in the deserted store at the corner of the street. But soon that ran out, and so some days he would have to walk a good distance to get water; carried home in either in a bucket, or in old cans.
There were no muggers in the area, no one had bothered to hang around to steal from those who were left. Some hardy animals came sniffing about and sometimes they even chased the old man – but in general they both felt safe.
The summer of the following year, the windows on the blocks of houses across the way started to be smashed by the growing plants and trees. Nature was taking back its own and it meant the old man had an ever-present battle with the jungle that was forming at his front door.
He still managed to get some radio stations on his old Bakelite model but there was always the constant crackling – something he had grown used to.
When his wife took ill there was no one close to help her as the last doctor had moved on several months before. The old man realised that his wife was too sick to travel and so, he did the best he could. This was enough for a few weeks, and then one night she smiled at him and was gone forever.
He had to take her to an old burial area on the edge of town and, given that there were no undertakers, he buried her himself.
He could see the odd lights dotted here and there, meaning there were still people in the vicinity, but he never met anyone, anymore; the loneliness was his greatest enemy.
One morning, when he was rummaging in an old tower, which he’d plundered many years before, he found an old bottle of vodka.
That night he sat on the rooftop drinking his vodka, and with each glass he drank to absent friends, and each time he mentioned his wife; “to my greatest love,” he would say.
He watched the glorious summer sunset paint the buildings, and jungle, in several shades of red. In its own way it was beautiful, more beautiful than the city was in its younger days.
And he raised a glass to the strangeness of life and to the devil tower he could see on the horizon.
“To that evil animal which took everything from me, to Chernobyl.”
And he drank his vodka back quickly.
bobby stevenson 2017