I woke up a little after dawn, like I usually do, to fix my boys some breakfast and get ready for a trip to the market. Gregory took the carriage up to Milwaukee to deal with some business matters, so I was going to have to walk. I didn't mind. It was a warm morning, the kind that makes you want to lie in the grass with a drink and waste the day. The sun shone bright, like a golden medallion that's just been polished. Here and there a cottony cloud wafted across the sky, casting shadows on my lawn when they passed in front of the sun. The smell of grass and pine and bright flowers seeped into the house through the open screen door. Rustling branches and flapping wings when the birds chased each other from tree to shrub.

I heated the old wood stove with some fresh lumber, filling the house with a sweet pine aroma. Some people say the pine imparts flavor into the food, but I've never noticed it. Gregory never complains. I pulled two large fish from the icebox and began to prepare them. The heads came off with two quick strikes of my knife, the dull blade hitting the cutting board with a satisfying knock. I gutted, scaled, and filleted the fish, placing the meat in a pan as I worked and seasoning it with salt and pepper. The house was getting warm, I noticed, as I slid the pan into the stove and walked out onto the porch for air. By this time the neighborhood had started to awaken, stirred by the sun and the sound of the wind rolling in from the lake. We don't have many neighbors, but it's foolish to try and live outside the walls by yourself. Our little community does well enough in keeping each other protected.

I stepped in and pulled the fish from the oven before waking my boys. Jonathan, the older, 7 years old with a mop of messy blonde hair, rolled from his bed sleepily and rubbed his eyes. He's always been a deep sleeper, and he'd snooze half the day away if I let him. He shuffled across the old wooden floor of their bedroom, causing the floorboards to creak and moan. Ryan, his little brother, woke up from the sound and greeted me with an enthusiastic, "Hi Mommy!" My little man, charming as ever.

After breakfast, I fetched my old metal watering can from behind the house and filled it from the rain barrels attached to the gutters. The grass between my bare toes felt warm, and I giggled a bit as it tickled my feet. Insects flitted by in the shade next to the house, small red beetles called.....ladybugs? I always forget. The boys shouted and played in the front, chasing each other with small metal models of cars before the End. The sun burned high overhead as I watered my plants, lighting the day like a lantern. The smell of the fish from breakfast still wafted through the air, mixed with the pine from the stove and the grass.

As I watered, I couldn't help but let my mind wander. "I wonder if they knew there would still be colors after the end of the world? Everything is so green and blue and gold, but all the old movies Gregory brings home make it seem like the apocalypse would be gray. Of course, the filmmakers back then didn't know how the world would end, or when, or why. I suppose they couldn't know what the earth would look like either. Come to think of it, do any of us know how the world ended, or when, or why?"

I was snapped out of my ruminations by a cry from the front of the house. I dropped my can and ran around the corner, fearing the worst. Instead I saw Ryan, holding a long branch and laughing his little head off, with Jonathan next to him clutching his knee and sobbing quietly. Not so charming anymore.

I ushered the boys back inside and sat them at the kitchen table to work on their math. Their nanny, Amanda, was supposed to be here soon, and I still needed to get ready for my walk to the market. I walked into my bedroom and opened the closet. My favorite hat, an old straw brimmed one, was sitting in its spot on the top shelf. I took it down and was just about to put it on when I heard another cry from the boys. "What are they doing to each other now?" I wondered. I walked back out to the kitchen, and that's when I saw him.

A man. Old. Heavier. Bleeding. On the front porch.

"Boys! Upstairs, now!"

I grabbed my knife, still covered in fish juice, from the counter. Holding it out of sight, I shouted.

"Who are you? What do you want?"

"Please," the man pleaded, "I don't want any trouble. I just need to hide!"