Originally Posted: 12 Jul 2013, Titled “Reception”
We walked into the registration office and were reminded of better days. The building must have been some type travel agency or something since of all the posters on the walls were of far off destinations and smiling happy people in bikinis. I tapped Becca on the shoulder and pointed at the picture of the couple on the beach in Aruba. Her eyes crinkled in a smile. In a different lifetime, Aruba is where we had our honeymoon.
Besides the posters, the rest of the past was a distant memory. Leaned against one of the walls behind the former travel agents’ desk were several white boards with lists of occupations and the number of people who were currently performing them for the community. I assumed that the boards were placed prominently for travelers to examine in order to quickly determine if their skills were marketable here or not.
Unusable computers and monitors were stacked carefully in the back corner in the hopes that the power would one day be restored. In their place on the desks were large notebooks full of lines and lines of handwritten text. As we stood there waiting to be seen, I tried to think what I could possibly offer to the community. It was great that Rebecca would be able to get a job, but I hadn’t been unemployed since I was a kid. My expertise had earned us a lot of money, but what good was that now? We didn’t even really have any form of currency because most of what we had was tied up in stocks and mutual funds. Hell, with the collapse of the government, our power grid and banking system, we were essentially destitute. What was I going to do?
The boards stated plainly that all the non-skilled jobs were taken. Dishwashing at the restaurants? Nope, ten people were already doing that. Trash collection? Four people signed up for that. I mentally scratched my head as I looked at the list. Firemen, police, wait staff, seamstresses, cooks, weapons manufacturing…huh? I didn’t even think about that last one, but two tick marks indicated that someone had. There were five vehicle mechanics listed, but all the vehicles we’d passed on the way down from Chicago were out of fuel and dead beside the road. Without a way to deliver fuel, those guys would be out of a job soon too. I began to get nervous as I thought about the options available to me.
Another young girl, this one probably eighteen or so, waved us over. We sat down and waited for her to finalize a few notes about the man whom she was working with a moment before. A quick glance at the pages revealed that they listed the names of the hopeful residents, what their pre-apocalypse occupation was, what they could offer to the community now and a note section about the candidate’s usefulness. There were also a lot of names with solid lines drawn through them. I mean more than three-quarters of the names on the page. Crap, I thought. My palms began to sweat. How the hell was I going to sell myself to this girl so we could stay in Virden?
“Alright,” she said. I was startled when she spoke because her mask was large enough that it covered her entire chin and it looked as if she talked without opening her mouth. “Welcome to the safe community of Virden. I’m sure either Sam or Phillip briefed you on the way over about the town’s policy. We don’t allow freeloaders or people who can’t provide for themselves, but if you’re granted residency here, we have plenty of housing available and we even have ration cards for food and other essentials. First off, what are your names?”
“I’m Charles Jackson, Chuck, and this is my wife Rebecca,” I said as I wiped my palms across my jeans.
“Ok Chuck and Rebecca,” the girl said as she scribbled our names into her book. “What did you do before we got nuked and the world went to shit?”
“I was a school teacher,” Rebecca blurted out. Clearly she wanted to stay as much as I did, even if it was only for a week or so.
“Oh good, we need school teachers. Excellent.” More scribbles in the book. “And you Chuck, what did you do?”
“Well, I was a financial advisor…” I faltered. The pen stopped scratching.
“Oh,” she said as she looked up from her book at me.
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