Walking along the shoreline of Sunset Beach as the sun seemingly sinks into the ocean is a humbling experience.
It’s as if the entire sky is a canvas of shifting colors dripping down, down, and down, until there’s nothing left but a black background splattered with glittery specks of starlight.
Sunrises are just as magnificent.
It still amazes me that I have the privilege of being able to see both the rising and the setting of the sun from the same spot.
During the colder months of the year you’d expect the beach to be deserted like it is now, but it was kind of eerie this past summer without a soul around. Lonely too.
The beaches I was accustomed to in the before-times were always full of screaming kids firing stinging sand in your direction as they’d run toward the building waves only to turn tail and scamper away laughing when the curling foam crashed over their tiny toes.
The smell of salt water mixing with coconut scented sunblock filled the beach air while different radio stations fought loudly to be heard.
A hop skip and a jump away, you’d be on sensory overload between the fresh caramel popcorn and cotton candy smells blending with sausage sizzling away next to the best damn pizza in the world.
Your ears would nearly bleed from the amped up boardwalk sounds, the carousel calliope music of the merry go round a sharp contrast to old-school classic rock blaring from the direction of the roller coaster.
Underneath it all was the constant hum of families frantically squeezing every drop of fun they could out of their vacations and always, the sound of seagulls screeching.
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The seagulls still screech, although there are a lot less around these days.
“Still plenty of fish in the sea though, right Mal?”
All those years of surf fishing as a child paid off. I tried to convince the Kid to come with me so I could teach him how to catch dinner but he stayed back at the tower with his nose in a book. I don’t know how he could see through that unruly mop on his head and I wish I’d stop thinking like some kind of parent, it was starting to freak me out.
Mal was stretched out on a large piece of driftwood staring down a seagull who’d landed on the other end.
He never bothered the gulls for some reason, I guess the feral cats down here got used to them quickly, maybe they had some kind of peace treaty going on. There was a lesson in there for the world governments only it was too late.
After hiding my fishing pole in the abandoned gift shop I scooped Mal up for the short walk back to the tower.
He knew he had a fish dinner coming up and he purred soft in my arms, the only sound other than the surf pounding the sand.
I never expected to miss noise.
Generally, I liked the quiet. I always had, and now it somehow made the end of the world as we knew it a bit easier to deal with, like I could pretend I was on my own private almost-island while the rest of the world went on around me, and it soothed me.
That soothing feeling usually lasted about five minutes.
I don’t regret leaving the citified part of my little state and making my way to the Atlantic Ocean.
The good old Fire Tower Museum was a perfect fortress.
The bed I’d put together at the very top of the tower wasn’t that bad either. I could literally see for miles when I was lying on that bed.
Although sometimes I had to fight with my spoiled cat-brat for the better view, Mal usually preferred to curl up by my feet.
On those extra chilly mornings, I’d awaken to find he’d crawled underneath the covers with me to steal my body heat but I didn’t mind, it was mutually beneficial.
Even with the addition of the Kid, temporary though it might be, the tower was big enough to give us our own space.
All in all, I couldn’t dream of a better place than the Victorian town of Cape May if I had to survive.
And oddly enough, I want to survive.
“Now if I could just convince you two cranky houseguests to get along,” I said to Mal as he stared at my mouth making words.
He let out a loud meow as he placed one paw, claws in, softly on my cheek.
“Sorry Mally, I mean our one cranky houseguest.”
He purred loud and long at that, satisfied with my answer as we walked up the ramp to the tower, dinner in hand.
To Be Continued

2010-09-30 12.10.162010-09-30 12.22.15
Cape May NJ ~ A Sort Of Truce
When I realized my big bad intruder was nothing more than a scared lonely thirsty kid my girl-genes kicked into gear and I felt all protective-like. Even worse, I felt sorry for him. I hate that.
“So kid, where you from anyway?”
After I pried my cat off his face my conscience kicked in, next thing you know we’re leaning against a counter full of old WWII relaxation paraphernalia drinking some of my preciously low supply of Acme iced tea. I was starting to wonder if a Nestles bar held it’s flavor for more than half a century but it would be a desperate day before I smashed the glass to get at it. Fuck the apocalypse, I still had some manners.
Malcontent was suspiciously watching the kid from the spiral staircase winding up the center of the tower. He was waiting for any excuse to pounce on the poor kid again. I think he was just paranoid from chewing on too much catnip.
“Stop calling me that. And why are you being so nice to me? I just tried to rob you!”
He scratched the top of his head and pushed his broken glasses back up his nose sniffling.
His hair was a mess of dirty-blond-snarls. He reminded me of a golden-retriever and I squashed the urge to pat his head.
I wasn’t usually accused of being nice so I was wondering the same exact thing.
Why was I being so nice to the kid who followed me back from town?
After hiding out in the woods a few hours he’d tried to break in when I was sleeping in the Dayroom near the top of the tower. Well, not so much break in as stand outside pounding on the door shouting.
I don’t know why this place was left empty, it was the perfect place to hole-up during an apocalypse. A strong fortress and I could literally see for miles. The old display telescopes from World War II worked fine, if I was going to survive, what better place than a WWII Museum housed in an actual Fire Tower.
“Well for one thing, you refuse to tell me your name. I mean really kid, I get the whole stranger-danger thing but the times they are a’ changing and you’re way too young to even get that reference,” I sighed, ” besides, I was raised right, I’m always nice to losers.”
“Hey! I’m not a lose-”
I cut him off mid-word with a wave of my hand.
“Ok ok, calm down kid, I’m just busting your chops. Lighten the mood? You know, just, uh, kidding, so to speak.”
The poor thing was scared out of his mind and I couldn’t blame him. Things were pretty scary these days with more people dead than alive. Getting information was next to impossible and people, if you saw any, were either scared and suspicious or fucking assholes of the violent kind.
Malcontent poked his head out from between the steps of the spiral-staircase and meowed loudly.
The sun was beginning to peak over the ocean, if we weren’t going to sleep then Mal wanted to eat now.
“Get that thing away from me!!!”
The kid hunched over, covering his face.
When Mal had leaped onto him earlier after he entered my sanctuary, he’d left a few scratches and knocked the kid’s glasses off. They were already broken and the concrete floor didn’t help much.
Now I was starting to feel guilty, not a very useful emotion in an apocalypse but seeing this kid so shaken up and frightened half to death by a little ball of fur, well it didn’t take a genius to figure out this kid’s been through some serious shit, what with the end of the world and all. And I did, on the rare occasion, long for some conversation with someone who gave me a little more than a meow.
Though going by the kids track record so far Mal had him beat on the verbal portion of this little pop quiz life had sprung on us.
Watching this stranger who could have been my younger brother in another life I realized my mind had made itself up without including me in on the decision making process.
I grabbed my recently-adopted cat by the scruff of his neck and held him while he purred loudly. He knew I was going to feed him, he always read my mind. I was hungry myself and looked at the kid, thinking about my meager pantry.
My stomach rumbled loud and Mal shot out of my arms looking like a Halloween-cat.
The kid shrieked and I felt a reluctant-maternal-tug on my rusty-heart-strings.
I had a feeling I was gonna regret this.
“C’mon kid, there’s a McDonalds a few miles away, let’s go see if we can scrounge something to eat.”
“Don’t call me kid!”
“Oh joy,” I whispered to Mal as I leaned down and filled his bowl with cat crunchies, “this is going to be all kinds of fun.”
cape may sunrise

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Cape May NJ~ The Beginning After The End
We huddled around the small fire trying to keep warm.
The power had gone out weeks ago.
There was nothing to do about it. Everything was at a standstill.
No power equalled no heat, no light, no anything really.
There was no way to contact anyone, no internet, no phones, land-line or cell.
No radio, no television, nothing.
No signal period.
No information, no explanations, no theories, nothing but speculation.
Even starting a car was hit-or-miss. Sometimes the battery would run and you could drive a few miles or so but the engine would sputter, the car would shudder and inevitably die.
And that’s assuming you were able to find a road that wasn’t cluttered with mostly dead cars.
Besides, it wasn’t like you could pull into a gas station and fill it up.
Most people had packed up and moved further inland but a group of us decided to stay closer to the coast, taking refuge in the abandoned bunker on Sunset Beach.
Hiding in plain sight and all that.
I had my eye on the old World War II Lookout Tower.
I’d been slipping out of the bunker alone when everyone else was sleeping.
I always got a touch of vertigo climbing the spiral stairway to the top but the view was worth it. I could see for miles from up there.
Not too long before the world fell apart they’d restored the old Fire Tower back to it’s original glory so there was all kinds of stuff to root through.
No food though.
Luckily for me, the group I’d latched onto leaned towards the safety-in-numbers theory.
I’m more of a loner myself so I knew this was gonna be my last night trading campfire stories with the small group of strangers I’d run into when I made my way down to the very tip of New Jersey.
Cape May was always considered a magical place. Ley-lines, ghosts, even the Jersey Devil was known to have made an appearance or two around these parts.
For whatever unknown reason, paranormal was becoming the norm these days.
Magic might be our only hope.
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Cape May NJ~ The Tower Secured
The only way out was down.
Problem was, I was scared of heights.
And it was a long way down.
Holing up in the old Fire Control Tower, set back a bit off the beach, seemed like a good idea at the time.
Too many people I didn’t know were living in the bunker on the beach itself.
Not that I knew too many people anymore, but still, I’d always been a loner before the end of the world and I wasn’t comfortable changing my loner-habits now.
There were too many changes already, I had to cling to something familiar even if that something familiar was nothing more than a personality-defect.
I’d just gotten back from a long walk into town where I scored some much-needed water.
It was like a ghost town and not just figuratively speaking; Cape May really was haunted.
I wasn’t worried about any ghosts though, it was the people left alive that scared me more than the people who were long-dead.
That is if you defined scared as pissed off and cranky.
But mostly I was just plain sick of running and so very very tired.
This was my tower and I intended to keep it that way.
Problem now was, somebody followed me back from town.
Whoever it was did a pretty good job of keeping themselves hidden, but I’d become more attuned to my surroundings. You never know, these days any little thing could quickly turn into a life or death situation.
The person who had followed me, and I was positive there was only one, probably wanted my water. Everything was in short supply but no way in hell would I give up my meager stash to some random asshole.
First I had to get outside so I could sneak up behind him. I’d gotten pretty good with the stealthy thing, he’d never hear me coming.
And since he’d managed to make it through the only door in the Tower, and I was up at the very top hiding those three lonely bottles of water I found, the only way out was down.
I hate heights.
Damn vertigo.
Guess it was time to find out if that escape-rope-thingy I made worked as good as it did when I first put it together.
My practice runs sucked but it was either climb down the rope or have a face to face confrontation with an unknown intruder.
I was grateful for the old gloves sitting in one of the display cases in one of the recreated World War II rooms. I discovered quite a little treasure of WWII artifacts in the abandoned Tower turned museum and the gloves would keep my hands blood-free. Hopefully.
The weight of the rope unrolled itself near enough to the ground to give it a go. I backed out the window and began to lower myself down.
I really hate heights.
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Cape May NJ ~ Meeting The Kid
“Hey! I know you’re in there!”
It was a male voice and by the sound of it he was still wrestling with the last remnants of puberty.
“Not anymore asshole.” I whispered to myself as I slid down my handy-dandy escape-rope.
I landed on my ass, biting my tongue to keep from hollering.
At least the sand softened my fall.
The kid was still hollering but it was getting hard to think of him as a threat when his voice kept squeaking.
Why did I have to deal with this shit now? I’d only been there a few days but it was mine and it was gonna stay that way.
This whole survival stuff was really getting on my nerves.
I didn’t want much. Hell, a cup of hot tea and I’m a happy little camper.
Instead of drinking tea I was sitting on my ass after rappelling down the backside of the old Fire Tower.
This is my home sweet home and it’s staying that way.
After slipping my leather gloves into the inside pocket of my jacket I took a quick glance up to remind myself how much I didn’t want to have to do this again.
I made a silent vow to re-enforce the warning traps I set around the perimeter of my little piece of safety if I planned on keeping it safe.I really didn’t have time for that now though, I had to take care of my unexpected company before he attracted more attention with his continued shouting.
“Hey!!! You up there! I know you have water, I saw you! Now gimme some!”
Yeah right, like I’m just going to hand over my water.
I slid against the natural curve of the Tower toward the front following his voice.
From the sound of it he was still downstairs. I had to make sure he didn’t try to go up the stairs or things could get sketchy.
I don’t mind fighting for what’s mine but the last place I wanted to fight is on a spiral staircase.
“Hey! I’m coming up!” He shouted up the stairs, his voice echoing through the tall circular tower.
I made it through the door soundlessly and saw he was on the first landing looking up into the darkness above.
“Hey! I know you’re up there! I’m comin-YOWWW!!!” His voice choose that moment to hit the highest note known to man as his shout turned into a screech.
Just out of my line of vision I heard a scuffle and my intruder tumbled down the stairs, landing in a heap at my feet.
Mal, a feral cat who followed me back from the beach one night and moved right in was now attached to the face of what looked to be a kid. He couldn’t be much more than 14 years old and he was howling louder than Mal.
“Help me! Get this thing off my face lady!”
I couldn’t help it, for the first time in recent memory, I started laughing.
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to be continued
AUTHORS NOTE: I flipped a coin and it came down on the side of Showoff, all that means is me telling you I took these photos in Cape may on a Mother/Daughter week, hence the me being a showoff because that damn phone takes some awesome photos! I’m a double showoff for bragging about my phone. Oh, and this is my end of the world story i’m working on, just sayin’…)

An old abandoned rail-car sits unnoticed, tucked away near the bridge at the edge of town.
It seems to be held together by nothing more than rust and spray-painted graffiti yet there’s a certain charm to it if you can see past the decay.
Life, at least what’s left of it, goes on as survivors rush by with whatever they’re able to grab on the way out.
I breathe easier once they’re gone.
As far as I know the entire town is abandoned.

I’ve always hated this town.
It’s dirty and ugly.
All traces of nature and beauty had been ripped away over the years, replaced by oil refineries, oil terminals and factories of all kinds.
Just another blue collar town interspersed with as many condos and thrown-together houses that corrupt money could buy.

I should probably feel bad that so many people are dead around me but I can’t care.
If I stop moving and let myself think too much about all the death I’ve seen I just might stop moving altogether.

There’s a part of me that’s tempted to stay put.
Maybe fix up that dilapidated rail-car and take up temporary residence there.

When I was a kid I read this book over and over, about some family who lived in a trolley, all fixed up and cozy with pretty lace curtains and throw-rugs but that was fiction and I was living in the real world, not a storybook.

The real world is harsh and full of misery just like me.

I’ve got a long journey ahead of me.
I refuse to sit out the end of the world in this god-forsaken town but I will stay one more night in the rail-car.

I’ve got to conserve my strength but with any luck, by this time next week I should be at my destination.
It’s a long walk from north Jersey to Cape May.

et cetera