Today Los Angeles burned.
We’re alive. None of my friends died getting out, and most of our animals made it too. Very little else made it. The house is probably gone. The solar panels and atmospheric water generators are gone. The city of my adolescence, the city where I went to school and had my first drink and my first date and my first heartbreak are all gone too.
Or in the process of going. It’s still orange on the horizon. The year has been so dry, I’m not sure how far the fire is going to spread. Came down from the north, and it didn’t make sense to go south to more dry city, so we fled east.
Made it to Redlands, stopped in a park. Not sure if I’m hallucinating, or if I can still see the red of the flames on the horizon.
Maybe I’ll feel like talking about it tomorrow. Sky says I should shut up and get some rest. I think I will.
I’ve considered this might be the last record of our little colony. In fifty years, there might be no more trace of our little struggles to survive than this book filled with scribbles. If we all die tomorrow, I hope the acid-free paper of this journal might survive in the rainless climate here, protected from the wind by the shell of this RV, until some explorers stumble upon it and free it from the rot. What will they think of me when they read it? Will they even look long enough to care?
We struggled, we fought, we lived. Damn anything man or nature throws at us.
We don’t know what it was, even now. Chances are it was a little of both. The modern energy grid is so full of safeties, particularly in California. We’ve got layers and layers of failsafes, so much so that even during major earthquakes (like Northridge a few years back) we avoided huge fires or other big disasters. The city didn’t burn then.
But that was with a million people actively working to prevent something from going wrong. Not a whole city full of buildings that were simply abandoned overnight, left running right where they lay. We might not ever know what caused it. Maybe something blew over and sparked. Maybe pressure built up in a refinery or something. Maybe the HPI left a few napalm explosives on a timer for us.
It was early in the morning. I’d only been in bed a few hours when Cloudy Skies came banging on my door, saying that she smelled smoke. I didn’t even bother to get dressed, just ran outside to look, as naked as she was. She was right. Even though the sun wasn’t fully up, I could see the billowing cloud, putrid black smoke with flickers of orange. I couldn’t tell exactly what was burning; I only knew we didn’t have much time.
We didn’t have nearly enough “get out of dodge” supplies packed, we weren’t ready for anything like this. Maybe we should’ve scoured the city for anything that might cause trouble, or maybe doing that would’ve taken all our time and still not been enough. Whatever. Hindsight.
We’ve kept the cattle-truck near the ranch, and I sent Huan with Sky to get the herd loaded as soon as possible. Sky would drive the truck along the Ten and out of town, waiting on the highway itself as soon as she was out of the densest city. So that was two of us gone.
The others weren’t even up yet, though I yelled and screamed and pounded and eventually they started making their way downstairs. I explained the situation, and took charge. Only Sky had completed enough of her practice to actually know how to drive a truck, and Joseph couldn’t drive at all.
Of all we had, what couldn’t be replaced? Joseph’s data. I put the unicorns on that, cramming everything they possibly could into the nicer RV. We'd packed it for an escape more than a week ago, and the dry food was still inside. At least it was freshly fueled, too. When they were done, or when I gave the signal that the fire was getting close, Moriah was to drive it and Joseph was to ride out along the ten to meet Sky. Two more gone.
That left Oliver and me to deal with the necessities of survival, at least more than whatever we’d kept in the RV. We would load it into Sky’s pickup truck, which Oliver would drive. We briefly considered using the other RV, but in the end decided we could always find another one if we wanted, and that being able to get over rough terrain might be more important. That would leave me with the medicine truck.
We had maybe ten minutes before we saw the first flickers of flames. Perhaps an hour before the smoke started getting thick, a sure sign that we would have to evacuate quickly. Of all of us, only I had lived here, and had the luxury of any personal belongings. I brought my journal, my laptop, my new outfit, and my keepsakes from home. We filled the back of that truck with MREs, so cold from being frozen before that they burned our mouths and hooves whenever they touched them. Once we had the pickup stuffed, we covered it with a tarp, tied it down, and Oliver was out.
I was the last to go. I could see the flames flickering from house to house in the near distance, roaring out of apartment windows. Gas lines exploded with regular force, sending up roaring mushroom clouds into the morning sky. God, I didn’t know fire could even move this fast.
I could see my transmission tower out the window as the cooler truck started. I’m sure inside that loft room it was still transmitting the summons to Los Angeles with the promise of community, food, and safety. It burned. I didn’t stay long enough to watch it burn, but somewhere in my soul I just know it did. All these months without irrigation had already dried much of the city to kindling.
Lots of concrete and steel won’t ever burn. I wonder, if I return in a few months, how many of the buildings might still be standing, massive steel and stone skeletons to be colonized by tumbleweeds and wildflowers. How many are going to topple in those flames? Will any of the history survive?
Thank god for Cloudy Skies and her inhumanly early rising. If we’d woken to flames at our door instead of smoke, we might not have survived. Or we might’ve escaped with nothing but burns, to crawl away as dying refugees.
I don’t think it will swallow the whole state. Winds won’t help it forever, and it’s too dense in places. Go a little further north, and you hit greener and greener country. South, though… I wonder just how far that fire might spread.
We’re not going back. Not for months, anyway, and not on hoof. We brought everything we could, everything that couldn’t be replaced.
I couldn’t watch my city burn. I could barely drive through the tears when I left, and the wind whipped the smoke up into billowing clouds that made it hard to drive. The Event has taken everything I’ve loved away. My friends, my family, my body, my identity, and now my whole city.
Joseph called the HPI on our communicator. They say they had nothing to do with it, said they don’t have anyone within 300 miles, and there’s nothing they can do to fight a fire that size. I believe them about that last part, anyway.
Goodbye to the city I loved. Goodbye to the not-wide-enough streets, to the buildings with their history, the familiar sights and smells. Goodbye to Union Station, the auto garage, and my crappy apartment. Goodbye to our mansion and all the work we did to make it a home. Goodbye to the garden half-grown and the fences. Goodbye to the stray dogs that would’ve eaten us if they could, and whose barking sometimes kept us awake at night. Goodbye to the radio stations and the strange runes.
Goodbye my friend, city of angels. Thank you for keeping me safe these last three months. If I’m your last child, I’ll keep your memory. It can’t be heavier than the burdens I’m already carrying.
We refueled this morning using my homemade siphon. At least all our vehicles run on diesel; looks like most of the supply is still stable. While Cloudy Skies and the others watered the cattle and let the chickens out, Joseph, Huan, and I went to find another truck and get it retrofitted for pony use. We had to pick up some new tools too, since mine hadn’t made it out of LA. Came back in mid-afternoon with a standard cargo truck, one of the ones with the nice, livable cab. Not sustainable, mind, but at least it has a toilet and a fridge and a bed. Enough.
As she seemed the most adept at learning new vehicles, Moriah was the one I gave the crash-course on trucks to that afternoon. She wouldn’t need to do anything really but drive in a straight line and relatively slow speeds, so it wasn’t hard. We’ll have to stop and have me take them down one at a time if we encounter narrow roads or steep inclines or something. Whatever.
She wasn’t happy to switch out for Oliver as RV driver, not when Joseph spent most his time there. To our great surprise, he gave up gaming (though none of his consoles had made it, his laptop had, and he apparently had tons of games on that too.) But he didn’t even bring it to ride passenger with Moriah. Curiouser and curiouser.
I saw the letter Cloudy Skies wrote in here. I bet she’s not happy, if she’s not as overwhelmed by the fire as I am. We talked before our caravan started driving again in the afternoon, and she wanted to ride with me. She knew she couldn’t, but she didn’t want to be alone. We didn’t have enough ponies for that, of course. Oliver would be alone in the RV, she’d be alone with the cows, and I’d be alone with some drugs. So it went.
Used CB to keep in touch, and drove until one of us (Sky) got too tired to keep driving. Stopped for a meal of our last fresh greens in the RV, then Sky and I came in here to share the truck’s cab while the other ponies share the RV. Wonder if it’s normal to cry this much. Everything’s better with friends, even being sad. Maybe especially.
We should stop at a Toys R’ Us tomorrow. See if we can get a copy of Monopoly.
The bed isn’t very big, and I don’t think Huan will be able to share it with us. He doesn’t mind though, because he’s such a good dog. Yes you are! Yes you are! At least… somebody’s not completely lost it. Thanks for being here for me, you big dumb mutt. Alright, alright, I’m sorry! You’re not dumb! Get off me… damnit, don’t step on the laptop.
Here’s praying tomorrow is better.
The HPI told us during our meeting yesterday they needed us to meet with some force, possibly a pony, coming in our direction. I wonder if that pony caused the fire. I wonder if they died in it.