Jo sat down on a fallen tree. She had not had time to think since the journey over to Britain. So much had happened, so much excitement and drama. It was good to finally sit down and process it all. She had wanted an adventure well and she certainly got that. She laughed to herself. Never in her wildest dreams could she of imagined the journey that had led her to this moment. She thought about all the stories that Verity had told her on the boat. On nights when the sea was calm, they would sit together and Jo would ask Verity questions about how life was before.
She wondered what it must have been like then, when the world was full of people everywhere. Her mind could not quite fathom the sheer number of people that you would pass in a day and back then, people did not even take notice of each other, not in person, not unless it was someone they knew and even then Verity said unless it was someone you knew really well, people would often pretend they did not see each other to avoid having to make small talk.
Verity had described how just before the lights went out, the media was such that things that happened in every country were broadcast everywhere across the world, how at any second in time, people could connect to the internet and talk to each other, even if they were millions of miles away from each other. People spoke to each other on video on the other side of the world. It took seconds to send an email full of words and pictures to anywhere in the world, travelling through the air. Jo tried to comprehend how that was even possible. What a strange concept. Where were these words and pictures in between leaving one computer and arriving at the next? Did they physically move all the way to the other side of the world, or were they copied and recreated at the other side? Verity said that these things became so every day that people stopped seeing the wonder in them.
Jo made Verity tell her about her day to day life before she was travelling. Verity described getting up, driving to the gym to exercise indoors every morning before driving to work. Verity described how she had always enjoyed driving in her car with her music on, thinking about things, or just driving singing along. Work was something that everyone did but few people enjoyed. Verity left because she found her job mundane, most people did, but most people did nothing about it except complain often, people found a comfort in complaining to each other about their boring jobs but kept doing them anyway. People were living these lives that they thought they had to, but a lot of the time they were not sure why.
At weekends Verity would visit family and friends, go for walks, go for lunch or dinner or shopping, she enjoyed going to the cinema, Jo would have loved to have done that, the clips from movies on her mother’s hard drive had entranced her. There was something magical about them. To think that people spent millions of pounds making a movie a couple of hours long where everything was make believe, where actors played parts as though it was their real lives, where they built sets and made costumes to recreate real life so that they could tell a story.
She loved hearing about concerts and music festivals, places where thousands of people went to hang out all weekend, camping in mud to listen to hundreds of bands playing music. Verity described the music festivals as one of her favourite places to be, because for two days, ordinary life did not exist there, all there was were your friends, the strangers who would be your friends for just one day, dancing and singing. Nothing else, no stress, no worry, no normality, everyone just did what they felt like doing. It sounded amazing. Verity had managed to get a guitar and had it on the boat with her, she used to get Sam to play it, it was so moving when they were all sitting there in the dark, the waves crashing all around them, the stars shining, the sky looming like an enormous silent crowd of people, everyone listening to Sam playing guitar and Verity singing softly. Jo loved music, she did not just hear it, she felt it, she could feel the fingers strumming the guitar strumming something inside of her, she felt the touch of the musician. It gave her such a familiar feeling when she heard a beautiful melody; it was like remembering a long forgotten childhood home. No matter what was happening and how scared she was, the sound of music comforted her, it made the world turn a pace or two more slowly.
Jo remembered when Tori had played the music in the bar that had been in a playlist called “hip hop music”. Now that was something else entirely. Jo could not help but bouncing to that music and it instantly made her smile and laugh. What a happy moment, dancing around that bar with Tori, feeling young and silly and suddenly not in the middle of life anymore, the worrying, the fear dispelled for a time, transported to another life, where everything was just simply sublime. If she could have watched it back, it would have been like a moment in one of those movies. To think that people could have done that at any time before, to think that people could go to clubs and dance all night, Jo wondered if there would ever come a time in her lifetime when that would be possible again. Perhaps somewhere in the world people were still doing that.
Jo felt a little melancholy about it all, a bit like the way she felt about her mother. She missed a time she had not experienced, how could that be? She saw how wearied everyone was by what had happened and by all the people they had lost and she wondered how everyone could have let it happen? Would it all have happened anyway? Verity had said and they now knew that the oil running out did not have to be the end of everything, there were many other sources of energy, but governments and corporations could just not seem to let go of using the oil. They fought wars over it; they spilled it in seas; fumes from using it killed people. Scientists and innovators and inventors and entreupeneurs had developed other energy sources that could have fuelled the whole world had they spent all the money they did on trying to covet the oil on developing these things and making them available for everyone to use. Verity had said it was all about money.
Money; another thing Jo just could not understand. Before the lights went out, most people thought it meant everything. They spent their whole lives trying to earn it so that they could spend it or keep it in a bank. It was just paper thought Jo, an illusion, how could people possibly need billions of pieces of paper, but then Verity had said in the end, it was not even on printed paper, it was in banks, and only there in computers, only really there in theory. The money that people owed, that countries owed did not really exist. It was all to do with credit and lending and interest. To be honest, Jo could not quite get her head round it. Every time someone tried to explain it to her, she got lost. She was never very good at that type of maths, the type where to Jo it all seemed imaginary. Jo could only really understand things that were actually there, not all this algebra and letters representing numbers and interest rates and all that. Jo liked to keep things simple. Except perhaps when it came to talking or thinking about the concept of the world and the universe and being alive; then she could go as deep and as complicated as anyone and that was why she loved talking to Verity so much.
Verity said Jo was a philosopher. They talked for hours and hours on the boat about everything – life, existence, religion. Religion – another thing that was beyond Jo’s comprehension. She could understand the concept of God and some kind of divine power or person that created and ruled everything. What she could not understand was why people thought that there could only be one understanding of it. How people could kill each other because they believed the version of one prophet or another. Often it seemed from what Verity said, they even believed in a lot of the same things, the same god perhaps, the same son of god, but they fought over the particulars, over which book that was written was the right version. It seemed to Jo that no one could really know what the right version was, therefore all versions could potentially be true, so why did everyone not just accept that and let people believe what they wanted to. Verity said, and Jo agreed, that it was no matter what religion people believed in, there were good forces and bad forces in the world and all that mattered was what people choose to focus on, whether people choose to fight for the good side of their souls or the bad side. What matters is not whether someone is a Muslim or a Christian, a Buddhist or a Hindu, a Jew or a Mormon. What matters is what you do, what you say, what you think. What matters is whether you are kind or cruel, whether you help or hinder, whether you love or hate. People of all religions do all of those things, people from all countries do all of those things.
It seemed to Jo like there was a kind of rivalry between the people of different countries and different religions. People thought that the colour of their skin, the country they were born in or the religion they followed defined them and gave them some kind of sense of righteousness over people from other countries, colours or religions. Jo thought that was very sad. Now there were so few people left in the world that every time more people appeared, it did not matter one bit where they were from or what they looked like, what mattered was that they were alive and that there might still be hope for us all.
Jo somehow wished that the people then could see how things were now. She wished they could know how much they were about to lose. She wished they could all know that in the end, when everything else is gone, when the earth is either flooding or burning, when people are dying in their thousands, when you are not sure whether you are going to live another day, when a great wave comes, all that matters is the people around you. The people you love, your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends, strangers, people who might help you, the people you choose to help or not. All that matters is whether they are alive and whether they are suffering.
Jo wished she could go back there and tell them what would really matter to them when all is lost, tell them to look around at what they have and appreciate it, because one day soon, everything would be different.