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Everyone was saying that this was the worst winter they could remember. It certainly wasn't the coldest, but in January alone we'd gotten more snow than the past five years combined. The snow banks were as high as a man's waist; sometimes they were nearly as high as his chest. This made for miserable driving, and a deep-running sensation of dread in any sensible person. The snowmobilers were happy, as were the children. It was the first time in years that the winter-folk could run rampant in the desolate Wisconsin Northwoods.

But winter-folk are not of right mind by any means. The children's joy was forgivable, for they knew no better--but any full-grown adult who was not miserable, who had not resigned himself to staying in bed for days at a time or setting the living room aflame and nursing a stiff drink as the fire spread throughout the house--well, that man was of highly questionable sanity and by all rights should just build himself an igloo with a two-snow-mobile garage or at the very least go live in his ice shack and stay the hell away from me.

No, I was a right-minded individual and could care less for any place buried in three plus feet of snow. And anyway, the dull ache in my right ankle told me that the worst was yet to come. I locked myself in my tiny apartment with a stack of books that I'd been meaning to get to, innumerable LP's and mix tapes, an inherited guitar, packets of Ramen noodles, cans of vegetable soup and a stockpile of rye whiskey. Anything that reminded me of the harshness of winter was thrown out the window, down into the streets to be ran over by passing cars.

By the time February came to town, January's lack of below-zero temperatures was made up for in spades. The first two weeks of the most miserable month of the year were marked by record lows, Antarctic windchills that would freeze a man's blood. In a matter of days, the whole of Northern Wisconsin was transformed into Victoria Land. Minnesota was trapped under the Ross Ice Shelf and hundreds were dying per day from the most brutal cases of hypothermia and pneumonia the world had ever known. By the end of it all, a number comparable to the combined populations of Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay had caught their death of cold.

I couldn't wait for it all to be over. I was sleeping twelve hours at a time and never saw the light of day. I had convinced myself that the end had finally come; that there was no Gnab Gib--the universe had simply stretched too far and was dying a slow, painful and lonely death. It was only a matter of time, anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, but I was certain that all life on planet Earth would be gone by the end of the decade and that the rest of the universe shared the same fate. The New Ice Age was upon us. The Final Ice Age, where men's hearts would freeze, shattering while trying to pump that last bit of warmth and life through the body. Even Hell--if such a dreadful place existed--had frozen over, Satan forever locked solid in place with an infinite amount of fear in his eyes. He had lost the war, but it was no matter. God had fled the scene, leaving all his creations to die alone.

This was the type of madness that I had succumb to, trapped prisoner in my tiny one-bedroom apartment. I wasn't sure if the rest of humanity still existed or not. For all I knew Washington had pressed the button and I was the only person left. Me and the roaches and whichever pigs hadn't frozen to death, kept company by shadows burnt into walls. How I wished that I had bothered paying my cable and phone bills and that I could hear the warmth of another human voice, for my own had grown weak. If only someone would knock at my door, pop in for a quick hello and maybe a drink. But such things do not happen in the dead of winter, and such things especially do not happen when the bomb has been dropped and most of the life on the planet was no more.

So on the coldest night of the year I worked up the courage to explore the bitter winter landscape. I put on my thermals and several layers more, laced up my boots and set off. I was the greatest of the Antarctic explorers, armed with a compass and a flask of Jim Beam. The streetlights were still operational but the town seemed otherwise dead. Cars and houses looked abandoned. Storefronts were boarded up. It seemed my most horrible suspicions had been confirmed. I was lost in the post-apocalyptic version of a ghost town with particularly finite means for survival. And even so, what did it matter? I could raid the stores for canned goods and liquor, but what was the point? Surviving means nothing if you're alone, and I was sure there was no Eve to my Adam.

But alas, downtown, a light shone through a familiar window, as bright and beautiful as the North Star guiding the wise men to their savior. I climbed a creaky set of stairs and at the top I knocked loudly at the door marked Apartment 2. It was answered promptly by a drunk-and-getting-drunker friend, the first human I had seen for weeks. The place felt warm and inviting, and inside I was greeted by a small group of friends playing drinking games and listening to black metal. I was shocked but relieved to find that I was not the only living soul among the legions of dead. "How many other survivors are there, do you know?" I asked as I fished for a cigarette. The group laughed, as if I were merely making some kind of joke, but someone responded, a black-haired girl with clover eyes, saying that we were the only ones she knew of, that she suspected other colonies within a day's walk, but these suspicions were insubstantial and it was up to our little group to take charge of rebuilding and re-populating, however futile it might seem. I wanted to be filled in on all the nasty little details, find out what sparked humanity's last (and shortest) war, how anyone survived ... But there would be time for that later. I poured myself a drink.

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