You might have thought.

I have the suspicion that I am the exception that proves the rule. I don't wear the dress much these days, since now, after TEOTWAWKI, I make my living digging in the dirt. Really, an apocalypse is a fine time to be wearing a ball gown, a day plowing behind two big draft horses isn't.

You see, I used to joke about this. On our summer trips, when everyone else is wearing practical clothes, REI and LL Bean, I was wearing a princess dress. Any time I could get away with it. Many summers, this was most of the time. A rainy summer, not quite so much. Getting in and out of a canoe with a long dress that's been draggled through the mud - NOT my idea of a good time.

No one expected things to devolve so fast. I suppose that was true throughout time; Nero was probably surprised, near the end of Rome, as well.

It started with such a small thing. Another pandemic. The swine flu, later called H1N1, was such a tempest in a teapot, we had stopped taking the warnings seriously. We all got masks, and stored water, and went along. The more paranoid, or perhaps the more prepared, loaded up their trunks with food and camping gear. the WHO became the governmental version of the boy who cried wolf.

World Health Organization notwithstanding, the bug that got almost everyone was the one with no warning. It looked so harmless, until people started collapsing in grocery stores. First a mild flu, then they all looked like they were getting better. That was the point where they all went out and started infecting everyone else around them. The relapse was the doozy. Collapse, coma, convulsions, death. Over 90%. 90% of six billion people. At least, that's my guess. In North Ontario? Nowadays, there are about 11 of us, within a days walk of each other. That, once again, is the limiting factor.

This is the strange danger of going off the grid. I was off at the lake, three days since I'd been shopping. No telephone or television to tell me to phone home, connect with the real world. The ball gown was an accident, a joke.

I paddled across on a dare. Grace, you wear the ball gown out here, but I'll bet you wouldn't wear it into town. So I took the dare. Headed off, paddling, wearing a ridiculous lavender ball gown. Sleevless, with a sheer layer of silk, and petticoat to make it full. The skirt kept catching the wind, until I figured out how to tuck it under the gunnel.

The landing was strangely quiet. I was off in my own head, so I don't know to this day whether there were any dead bodies in any of the parked cars. So many parking lots, across the continent, that's all there was.

My first clue was a car, oddly parked. Or rather run off the road when it's driver succumbed. I didn't stop to look, since I've seen this before on the road into town.

I parked near the door of the only grocery store.

I'll never forget the feeling I had, when I saw the bodies piled up. The local paranoid gun nut, (right all along, he was) had gone down and more or less barricaded himself in. And proceeded to shoot anyone who tried to get food.

I heard the click of his safety coming off.

Then he met my eye.

I still say the dress was the only thing that saved me.

I didn't know it at the time, but even more women than men had died in the pandemic. Mr. Barricade hadn't seen a woman alive in several days, and apparently many in his situation were starting to worry that they might never see one again.

He stared at me. Because of the plunging neckline of the dress, it was fairly obvious that I was not a guy in drag. You think guys stared at your cleavage back in the 20th century. Modesty has made a rapid return.

So I backed away again. Turned around, and started to look more closely at the small town, which often looked like a ghost town, anyway.

Nothing was moving. No one. No cars on the road. No activity.

So I went back to the car, and turned on the radio. Nothing. Static. I started to cry. Since then, I don't think I've cried once. The well of my tears dried, with the enormity of what I've seen.

I don't think I can bear to go into the details of how I finally got more information about what had happened, from the only living person in Blind River. You would be surprised what you are suddenly willing to trade when you know you are running out of food.

But still. That princess dress. I bartered for some supplies, but more importantly, seeds and tools. I drove slowly back out to the lake, thinking about how to start preparing. A place that goes down to -35 in the winter isn't somewhere I'd choose to homestead. The operative word in the previous sentence is choose. So I started planning a greenhouse at that moment.

I don't wear the princess dress much any more. I still thank the gods and goddesses that my husband and daughter were out at the lake, and that the pandemic had burned itself out before I went into Blind. Two days earlier, and I would have carried the plague out to our little refugium on the lake, and we would all be like those poor souls in the cities.

Gone, gone, gone.

thank you, cassparadox, for helping me get past the writer's block.