Previously: As the world comes to an end, Lyra and Alice decide to forgo life in a bunker for one last grand road trip of the country.
“I still think we’d be better off going to a Fleet Farm or something,” Lyra grumbles, sliding shut the door to their transport.
Frowning at her, Alice slings an empty backpack over her shoulder. “You have no sense of adventure.” When Lyra raises her brows, Alice sighs. “Yeah, okay, fine. But you have to admit, raiding the Mall of America during the apocalypse is significantly cooler than going to a Fleet Farm.”
“Maybe. I bet they don’t have as many canned goods, though.”
Alice yanks on an automatic door until it creaks open, then leads Lyra down a hallway. “We can stop by a grocery store on the way out of the city. For now,” she grins, spreading her arms wide, “behold this shining monument to American consumerism.”
Stepping into the atrium, Lyra takes in the barricaded storefronts, surrounded by glittering piles of broken glass. Trash, scattered out from toppled garbage cans, litters the floor, and Lyra feels renewed gratitude for the air filter in her Envirosuit as she watches flies buzz around rotten food.
“It looks like shit,” Lyra remarks, stepping carefully over a putrefying burger on her way to the map. She ignores Alice’s eye roll and scans the list of stores. “We should probably start with the outdoor supply store, yeah?”
“Or we could start there.” Alice points to a different part of the map, and Lyra squints to read the label.
“They have an amusement park? In a mall?”
Alice nods, eyes sparkling behind her visor. “I bet if we switch on the back-up generator, we could get the rides to work. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“Super fun. You know, until we die.”
“Is that really something to be concerned about at this point?” Alice counters.
Lyra sighs. “Fair enough. Lead the way.”
“Okay, so the water slide is definitely a no-go,” Lyra says. “Water’s completely shut off; I can’t even get anything to come out of the bubbler. Any luck with the rides?”
Leaning against a food stall, she watches Alice mess with the control panel. “Almost got it …” LEDs flicker on as the Ferris Wheel groans to life. “Hell yeah!” Alice shouts, pumping a fist in the air. “I figure this one’s got the least chance of killing us. Plus, the view will be nice.” She pulls a switch, and one of the passenger cars comes to a stop at the bottom, swaying slightly. “Hop on.”
Lyra settles into her seat as Alice leans over the railing on her tiptoes to flick the switch again. “The view is nice,” Lyra admits as they begin their slow ascent. She tries to picture how it must have been before — the shifting sea of families and tourists below, the sounds of rushing water, distant screams, faint carnival music. She wonders if there are any rollercoasters in the bunkers. Probably not, she supposes. It would be impractical to make a chamber with a high enough ceiling, not to mention the power needed to keep it running. Maybe there’s some multi-billionaire out there with a private bunker and love of amusement parks, but that’s worse than not having any at all. The point of frivolous things is to make people happy, and it seems wrong to have something so very frivolous that gives joy to so very few.
“The outdoors store is probably going to be pretty picked over, huh?” Alice sighs, interrupting Lyra’s thoughts.
“Yeah, probably.” Lyra tilts her head up to look out of the glass ceiling. The sky burns a rusty red with the setting sun. “Do you know what might still be intact, though?”
“Jewelry stores. I think we should just take, like, all of the diamonds.”
Alice snorts. “Just loose diamonds or rings and necklaces too?”
“I mean, definitely some actual jewelry, but I think it would be hilarious to run around with pockets full of loose diamonds, don’t you?”
“Cause they’re worthless?” Alice asks.
“Exactly!” Lyra laughs, a little crazed. “Cause they were never really worth anything, we just made it up, and now it doesn’t even matter anymore, right? I bet we could get more trading with a can of SPAM than a fistful of diamonds.”
“Wait, oh my God, can we go to the SPAM museum after this?”
A smile tugs at the corner of Lyra’s mouth. “Sure. We can go anywhere you want.”
Join us next week for another installment of this term’s apocalyptic roadtrip serial: “Almost Heaven”! Missed a chapter? Catch up on lawrentian.com