Charlie had been driving for three days averaging four to five hours during the height of the day choosing to conserve his fuel and energy and focusing his efforts on those times when the slowly dying sun was able to muster the brilliant pinks and oranges that had become associated with the heat of the day. It was a lie of course, there was no heat anymore, only a cold frozen existence overshadowed by a brilliant sky perpetuating the illusion of some long forgotten time when sunsets were more than just the deepening ink of night. His family and a number of others from the upper Midwest had banded together and survived the hundred year snows managing to maintain a semblance of order and structure to their lives. Of course they were not alone, many of the major suburban areas had died away unable to sustain themselves, but there were communities scattered across what had been the United States that had heeded the warnings, had made the preparations, and continued to thrive. In fact in another two days he would reach the community that had grown up outside of what had been New York City.
The thirty or so remaining communities had learned to trade and support each other in a loose barter system that had developed based on mutual need. Sure there had been years of strife, anarchy, roving bands of “pirates” but the ever increasing cold and deterioration of stockpiled supplies had finally led to their extinction. It was a group outside Atlanta that had brought the satellites back online syphoning power from the nuclear power plants in that area and using scavenged technology from what had been a digital news provider, CNN for short although the acronym didn’t seem to fit. As much as anything else the ability to communicate had saved humanity in North America, similar stories and loose networks had sprung up around the globe, but the physical distance between them had precluded any significant interaction, in a real sense mankind had returned to the age before transoceanic travel. With the exception of those communities scattered around the equatorial line everyone endured a perpetual winter punctuated by a brief thaw in what had been the summer months, only the most southern communities still had access to running water and the shrinking bounty of the sea. Of course none of this had anything to do with Charlie’s current run.
In the Midwest, they still harvested huge crops from the ice caverns that had been converted to thermally heated greenhouses producing crops year round. The crops were flash frozen and traded across all the communities, this load was headed to the Northeast in exchange for a load of iron. In the past two decades that community had finally mined deep enough to begin exposing the superstructures of the Manhattan skyline and what for all intents and purposes was an endless supply of “raw” materials. Finding one of the many rest points carved along the side the ice highway reminiscent of the twentieth century rest areas Charlie pulls over. He doesn’t have a frame of reference for the traditional rest area, but each community works together to maintain these areas for the drivers that keep them connected. Activating the heating element in his body suit, he steps out into the darkening twilight, the shimmering crystals of the night sky sprayed above him never cease to take his breath away. He sets the snow brakes on the long haulers and checks the tie downs, there wasn’t much snow anymore any moisture produced in the temperate zones rarely made it this far north, but the winds still blew incessantly and would topple a load not properly set.
Back in the cab he sets the thermal regulator to sixty degrees allowing himself a few extra heat units this close to his destination. He tries to remember the stories his grandfather would tell when he was still a small child, grand descriptions of flowing streams, great lakes, fields of wheat and corn undulating in a warm summer wind. Stories from a time when people traveled all over the world, swam in the oceans, and you could drive your own personal transport anywhere you wanted to. Charlie knew his grandfather had never experienced any of these things himself, but the stories had been passed down from generation to generation and his grandfather told them with a passion and relish as if he had lived them. Charlie had every intention of doing the same if he ever had the opportunity and savoring that thought he begins to drift off dreaming of the raven haired beauty waiting at the end of this journey, Vitvitskia, named after some long ago place that no longer exists. He was sure it was paradise and beautiful beyond comprehension, didn’t it have to be? He had never seen anyone quite like her; honey colored skin, deep black hair, piercing blue eyes, high cheek bones, and taller than most of the others in her camp, he had promised himself to one day speak to her, entertain her with tales from the ice journeys, tell her the stories of his grandfather hoping to catch even the briefest of smiles and in his dreams she dances in the moonlight her diamonds sparkling in the night as she turns and beckons him forward…