Chapter Four

Myytti Navigation

Previous: Chapter Three

He was hand-drying their plates and setting them on the shelves above the sink when she returned, fully dressed. When he caught sight of her, he smiled and held his arm out. Unable to resist, she slid up to his side.

“You look good doing housework,” she said.

“It can’t be helped. I’ve been single for a long time,” he said, kissing the top of her head as he folded her into a hug.

She lingered there, appreciating how things had developed with him over the long, dark winter. He had given her something to look forward to, softening the grey rainy days that seemed to last forever.

It wasn’t that she hated the rain, but she missed the sudden downpours of the Midwest. She missed the thunderstorms and the uneasy energy before them, full of grasshopper and cricket song. It was different in the Pacific Northwest, where it constantly drizzled without getting anyone too wet.

“Your bulb’s just burnt out,” he said.

She glanced at her light above them, seeing it had gone dark.

“I’ll replace it when we get home,” he said.

“Eh. Power probably went out,” she said.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she fished it out. When she turned on the screen, it greeted her with a notification that she had lost her connection to her provider. The service in her cabin could have been better, but she usually had at least one bar.

“That’s odd,” she said.

Confused, she wandered out the door and around the cabin to her generator with him in tow. She struggled with the old thing, and when it sputtered to life, she cursed in surprise and pinwheeled backward. He caught her in time before she fell to the ground and steadied her.

Back inside, everything had returned to life, confirming her suspicion that the main power had gone down. That happened regularly, enough not to bother her, but if her phone lost connection to her carrier at the same time, she couldn’t shake the feeling the problem was bigger than her power lines. He watched as she turned on her stereo in the living room and flipped it to FM radio. As she spun the dial, she glanced over her shoulder at him as only static came through her speakers.

“What is it, pulu?” he asked.

“There’s nothing,” she said.

She flipped it to AM and repeated her search, coming up with more static.

“What do you mean, nothing?” he asked.

“Everything that requires power . . . is out,” she said.

“What would do that?” he asked with a furrowed brow.

“The only thing I can think of is an EMP,” she said.


“An electromagnetic pulse,” she said. “They happen naturally but are usually minor. Usually, they don’t affect power grids. Usually. The other possibility is a weapon.”

“A weapon?” he asked.

“Yeah, like a nuclear attack, or I guess they could just do an EMP strike without a nuke,” she said.

“You know a lot about this,” he said.

“I watched Terminator way too many times as a kid,” she said.

“I don’t know what that is.”

“I would be way more panicked if you weren’t here, you know that?” she asked with a smirk as she turned off her stereo. It was true. He brought a little levity to the situation by knowing absolutely nothing.

“I don’t see any reason to be worried. You know, my family doesn’t even use electricity at home,” he said. “But, I have a whole tank of gas at the station. You have plenty of food. We will be fine.”

“We were going to have such a nice day,” she said.

“We can still have a nice day. Come on. Let’s go to the station. We can get some of my things and some extra gas.”

“I’ve always wanted to see where you live. I thought it’d be under different circumstances, though,” she said.

He laughed as they made their way outside to her old Isuzu and climbed in. She turned the ignition, letting out a massive sigh of relief as the engine rolled over. The aftermarket CD player even retained the correct time.

He ran his hand through her hair, pushing it from her face. His touch reassured her, calming her mind. There was no flaming ball of fire, and as far as the hemlocks were concerned, everything was exactly the same. The birds continued their cheerful little songs as the sun continued its ascent toward noon.

“I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. My little home isn’t much,” he said as he sat back and tugged his seat belt across his chest.

“That’s not the important part,” she said. “I just want to get to know you a little better.”

The roads between her cabin and his station were quiet, but the drive was short enough that she was unsurprised they saw no sign of anyone else. His driveway was a crescent gravel pull-through, and his station was a small building no bigger than six hundred square feet. In his yard sat two tanks, one for gasoline, the other for propane. Parked off to the side, she noticed a larger truck, newer than the one he drove, one with state plates. Thinking back on it, the truck he drove every day had special plates, but they didn’t designate it as a state vehicle.

“Have you been driving your own truck around all this time?” she asked, pointing to the second truck.

“That thing is too big,” he said. “Also, it uses too much gas. I hate it.”

“You don’t pay for gas, though,” she said.

“That doesn’t mean I should waste it. I like my truck, just like you like this thing,” he said, referring to her aging SUV.


“Well. Welcome to my humble home. You’ll soon realize why I spend my time at your cabin,” he said.

They crossed the yard, and after unlocking a heavy padlock on the front door, he led her into a small front office. A large, flat paper calendar covered his desk, the type he’d tear the month off once it finished. On several days, written in blue ink, were what appeared to be appointment details. The last week of the month had a line drawn through it labeled “trust harvest.” She didn’t know what any of it meant, but it surprised her there was enough work around here to keep him busy beyond the little things he did when she rode with him.

Past his office was a kitchen and bedroom, where she poked around while he packed a duffle bag and two rifles. He lived sparsely, which didn’t surprise her in the least. His fridge sat nearly empty except for some cheese and summer sausage. He kept his kitchen tidy, and his cupboards were populated mainly by the dishes she had sent home with him.

“You’ve lived here nine years, Tapikka?” she asked as she peeked inside his bedroom closet. There hung a handful of black t-shirts and more of his forest uniform. She pushed past the black and green, searching for anything else as she realized she had never seen him in a pair of jeans.

“Yes,” he said as he zipped the duffle on his bed.

“You don’t own anything except for some clothes and albums. What did you do for fun before we met?”

“Sat on the porch and drank coffee,” he said. “Walked in the woods. Listened to music.”

“That’s it?” she asked as she followed him out the front door, where he refastened the padlock.

“It was a quiet life,” he said.

“Holy shit, that’s an understatement,” she muttered.

He tossed his things into her rear seat and loaded several canisters of gasoline into the back.

“I watch a lot of trees grow, pulu,” he said as they got into her SUV.

“That’s it?” she asked as she started the engine and headed back down the state road.

“Sometimes I give out tickets,” he said.

“For what?” she asked with a grin.

“Fires during burn bans. Hunting without licenses. Those sort of things,” he said.

“All these months, and I’m still learning things about you,” she said.

“I suppose so.”

Once home, she pulled out whatever fresh ingredients she worried might spoil and then wrapped her fridge in a heavy quilt. He watched in curiosity as he chopped the pile of vegetables she’d given him. Once satisfied with her impromptu insulation job, she joined him and separated a head of lettuce.

“Your fridge looks cozy,” he said.

“There’s no point in using the generator to keep it running,” she said. “But we might as well keep it as cool as we can for as long as possible. I’m not going to chug a gallon of milk tonight.”

“Curdled milk is good in pancakes,” he said. “It’s how my mother uses it up.”

“Good to know.”

She leaned into his side as they worked together on dinner. She wished she could have seen him as a child; he must have been adorable, however many years ago that had been. She didn’t even know how old he was—she had never asked. Right then seemed as good a time as any.

“Can I ask how old you are, Pikka?”

“Sure,” he said.

“How old are you?” she asked with a snort.

“Older than you,” he said.

Before she could pester him further, he leaned down and kissed her, this time on her lips. She understood what he was doing but hardly minded. She didn’t fight him. Instead, she let him work his magic on her, his rough lips a nice distraction from whatever was happening outside her cabin.

“Pikka, you’re drunk with romantic power,” she whispered when their lips parted.

“I love the little sounds you make when we kiss, pulu,” he said

“Hush you,” she said, returning her attention to the vegetables as the tips of her ears burned.

Sä teet mut tosi onnelliseksi,” he said.

Tunnen samoin,” she muttered, ducking her head. If she made him happy, as he confessed, he made her ten times that.

“See, you remember Finnish well enough. We should use it more,” he said.

“Would it make you feel more at home?” she asked.

He chuckled as he found a bowl, dumped his cubed vegetables into it, and set it in front of them on the counter. He patted her hand, his long fingers light on hers, before taking his knife to the bell pepper she gave him.

“Nothing will make me feel at home other than being at home,” he said. “If I needed to feel ‘at home,’ I wouldn’t have stayed here for so long.”

She tilted her head back and forth, considering his words. Not only had he been living far from home, but he had also been living an extraordinarily simple life. It was unthinkable to her. It almost seemed like time had no meaning to him.

“I suppose,” she said. “So, what should we do tonight?”

“Sit on the porch and drink coffee?” he suggested.

“You really aren’t bothered by any of this, are you?” she asked.

“I’m comfortable in the forest, pulu, with or without power,” he said.

He set down his knife, skimmed his hand across the small of her back, then grabbed her by the hip and drew her into his side. She nestled against him as she continued her busy work, her hands quivering almost imperceptibly. As the moments went by, the shaking grew more noticeable until she finally grasped the edge of the countertop and closed her eyes tight.

“If you’re afraid, it’s fine,” he said.

“I just wanted to live here and relax, Tapio,” she said. “To leave all the stress of my old life behind. When I told my friends I wanted to unplug, I didn’t mean it literally.”

“That’s a joke, right?” he asked.

She let out a theatric groan, one even he couldn’t take seriously, and leaned her weight into him. He felt like her rock, stable and immovable despite his thin build. As long as she tethered herself to him, nothing could wash her away.

She was sure of it.

Myytti Navigation

Previous: Chapter Three