Survival of the Fittest Chapter 3

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Source Lost Gardens of Heligan

Widespread panic engulfed the city. To the public, the government and emergency services were no more. Law and order no longer existed. I saw some of the best of humanity, but mainly the worst. My journey home took me towards a plume of smoke. As I got closer, I could feel the air become polluted and the blistering heat beat down on my exposed skin. As I turned a corner my eyes widened in astonishment. Truro police station that once stood proudly was consumed in flames. A sign that the only person who will keep me safe is myself.  The more I traveled, the worse I saw. Looting was everywhere. I saw patients being evacuated from hospital by relatives and loved ones as it was being raided by gangs looking for strong drugs. I witnessed one guy running out with a pillow case full of medication. As he reached his car a police officer stopped him. He had one hand extended out in front of him and the other clutching a truncheon, positioned above and behind his head. I couldn’t hear what was being said but at the time I assumed the officer was subduing the thief to retrieve the medication. As he moved closer, the thief turned around and dropped to his knees. The officer was towering over him, any minute now the officer would lower his truncheon and arrest the man.

The truncheon was never lowered, well not gently. The officer struck the thief in the back of the head sending him tumbling to the ground like a tower of Jenga blocks. Lying motionless, the officer collects the pillow case, clearly distressed that he had just taken a life. He walks to a badly damaged people carrier. Inside appears to be his family, two children, a boy and a girl, his wife who is in shock, looking at her husband like he is a stranger who has stolen a family. In the front passenger seat is an elderly woman, I assume it’s his mother. Her head is down, she is resting, which is good, she didn’t see how far her son had fallen, how far he was willing to fall to protect his family. Little did he know the decision he made would cause his family to implode from the inside.

I make my way home. Entering the house, I bypass what is officially my living room, but has been converted into a gaming room. A 70 inch smart TV sits proudly in the middle of a glass unit housing all types of games consoles from the Sega Megadrive to the new Xbox One, all with a single controller. The contents of the unit is worth thousands of pounds, and in any other circumstances, I would be packing it away to keep it safe, but I’ve seen enough end of world shows to know that it is now worthless. I head straight to my bedroom. This room is completely different to my living room. Inside is a standard single bed with a simple designed duvet and single pillow which looked like it desperately needed to be replaced. As sad as it sounds, my room was not designed to entertain others. It had a bog-standard bed side cabinet to hold my mobile at night and a simplistic alarm clock. In the corner of the room were the boxes of canned food, ready to be moved in an instant. A chest of drawers positioned under my window as expected, stored my clothes. The areas in my room I was most interested in were the bottom draw of the chest of drawers and my closet. In the draw were ‘brushstroke’ camouflage clothing. In my closet is a back pack you would expect to see a soldier carry, consisting of extra clothing, MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) with self-heating packets, extra power bars and chocolate and high energy drinks. In addition to that, it has essential items such as sun protection, first aid kit, emergency bivy, fire starter and fire kit, a flashlight and sunglasses. Also in my closet were walking boots and my two bows accompanied by a healthy supply of bows both standard size and shorter ones. I wasted no time in gathering my items and putting them in the car. As I closed the boot I heard faint screams coming from one end of the street. People were in danger, who needed help. I had to filter them out. If I was to survive this, I had to concentrate on my own safety. I wouldn’t be able to save everyone. I got in my car and left my home for good. I wasn’t sad to leave it. I didn’t need a moment to reflect on the good times I had there, because there wasn’t any. I’m not saying this to receive some sympathy, it’s just I never invited any one to my house, I never had any parties or poker nights like sociable people did. The interactions I had were with the online community. The house was a necessity to provide shelter and comfort, that was it.

I avoided the main roads and the A30. The journey I had planned would take me 40 minutes with good traffic. My destination was a place I had visited many times. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, famous for its beautiful botanical gardens that was forgotten and lost after the first world war. It has a magical jungle area filled with subtropical tree ferns, gardens featuring giant rhododendrons and camellias. But most important of all, a highly productive vegetable garden. Created in the 16th century by Henry Hawkins, the estate was developed by himself and his descendants. A couple of centuries later and after two World Wars the house was converted into flats and sold, without the gardens, which fell into a state of neglect, lost to nature. After Jack Tremayne, who was the last of the Tremayne family to own the house died, the house came under ownership of a trust, one of who, John Willis, who decided to restore the garden to it’s former glory. I know this isn’t important, but for me, I wanted to know who to thank for helping me get through whatever was happening out there. Whilst exploring through the mass undergrowth, they discovered a brick wall with a door which lead to an old greenhouse and then the lost garden. The idea of finding the doorway, hidden by nature, leading you into a world of wonder stuck with me throughout my childhood. It was always in the back of my mind. My theory was if the country was slowly destroying itself, your everyday man and woman would want to be with loved ones. They would gravitate towards a group or organisation that appeared to be in control. Strength in numbers and all that. It is highly likely that they would stay at a shelter or large building with ready to eat food and water. Your average person does not know how to grow their own food, how to hunt, knowing what wild berries or mushrooms are ok to eat and which ones are poisonous. Heligan would be the last place they would think of going. But to be sure, I stopped at every sign that directed people to the gardens and removed them. Out of sight, out of mind.

I arrived at the entrance to the attraction. As expected no-one was there. I hid my car so not to attract any passers by, making a mental note to create a camouflage sheet to cover it once I was settled. I walked around the entire gardens to ensure I was the only one here. The surroundings are clear. I close my eyes and allow my other senses to fully appreciate where I was. I made my way to the vegetable garden to continue where the previous gardeners left off. They left me a plethora of vegetables to eat. Potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, squashes, hell they even had a lemon tree with lemons the size of my fist. Now vegetables like broccoli, asparagus or strawberries will spoil in a matter of days of being picked. I’ll enjoy them as long as they keep growing and until the seasons change. But onions, apples, potatoes. If stored correctly they can stay fresh for months. Onions can last up to a year if they are wrapped in paper and kept inside a refrigerated area. The apples, if kept somewhere that is around 4 degrees Celsius, can last as long as six months. Each vegetable needs its own specific form of storage to stand a chance of staying fresh, which requires time. Luckily life decided that I no longer needed to work to pay my way anymore, therefore, they had my undivided attention. I let the animals free. All apart from the cows and chickens. I wasn’t a meat eater. I didn’t label myself a vegan or vegetarian because I wasn’t strongly opposed to people consuming protein. It’s a necessary part of a balanced diet, I just didn’t like the taste, or texture for that matter. But milk and eggs will prove essential to help me survive the winter.

I moved into the steward’s house. It’s far enough away from the road to avoid any passersby from seeing any light or hearing any sound. The house is a quaint, charming cottage with slate tiled roof and a front conservatory overlooking the never-ending acres of grass and woodland. Inside is a simplistic fireplace, which, with some slight adjustments will most likely by my new oven. The rooms upstairs were converted into storage rooms. You see, when Heligan was open, the steward’s house was a café. They would sell sandwiches and cakes along with teas and coffees. Now it was all mine. The first year is going to be enjoyable in regards to food. By the time I run out of what I have, I will have taught myself how to bake new cakes. Life will be good, but for how long?

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