Life after SHTF will be fraught with peril. Though you are fortunate to have survived the onset of the dark days, no matter how well prepared, how trained and how tough you might be things will only ever be a hair’s breadth from mortal danger.
The potential for injury, death or conflict exists in a hundred previously harmless actions. Each of them waiting for the slightest lapse in concentration or luck to plunge an unfortunate soul into chaos.
Below you will find a list of such instances any luckless prepper may encounter in their darkest hour. Enjoy perusing this morbid list of mortal perils, and let your fear guide the way to ever more vigilant preparation.
A Shocking Turn
After the storm finally passed you gather the kids, spouse, dog and gear into the family SUV to head for grandma and grandpa’s house.
After winding your way through the rubble patch that used to be your hometown, picking you way down barely recognizable streets, you get out to clear a large piece of sheet metal from the road. A listing power pole finally yields under the strain and crashes to the ground.
A live power line, sparking and smoldering drops to the pavement only 10 yards away. By some miracle, you avoid electrocution, and contemplate this as you get back in your vehicle and reverse down the street.
The Fridge is Out
It has been 2 weeks since the lights went out after the explosion at the power plant sent your county back to the Stone Age. There is little chance of getting power and supplies to your small village.
Your generator and heavy duty power bank were ready for just such an occasion, though; you wisely invested in dual redundant sources of electricity to power you mini-fridge keeping your life-saving anticoagulant medication cold. If only you had enough to run the AC…
After returning from a jaunt to check on your sister and niece, you return home to find the quiet buzz of your mini-fridge gone silent.
Fear clutches your chest; you check the power bank; green. It appears the cheap mini-fridge gave up the ghost, and the inside does not feel even passably cool. You feel dread simmering in your guts as you see your medication has turned murky.
Learn how to live without a fridge here.
You said enough is enough when even the police riot squads started retreating on a daily basis. You knew this would happen. Two parts economic death-spiral to one part political upheaval, sprinkle with broiling heat, stir, and bam: complete societal meltdown.
On the way out the door you grab your BOB, toss an extra pack of jerky into the backseat of your wagon to replace the supply you habitually nibbled out of your rations and grab the cat. Over the river and through the wood to your retreat cabin you go.
You contemplate the situation on the long, easy drive up the knobs to your cabin. How awful, the things people have been doing to each other.
The desperation, the rioting, the anger. People who can are fleeing the cities in droves, smaller towns basically closing their borders, for all the good it has done them. Whispers of “Civil War 2.”
You see the top of the camper before your small cabin. As your car crunches to a stop over the gravel and twigs a man comes out of your cabin. The sneer he wears complements the camouflaged rifle he has leveled at you nicely.
The Woods are Dark and Deep
You weren’t sticking around to see how much worse things would get. There weren’t even that many people sick. State Police and Federal agencies blocking all the roads out of town. “Risk of contamination.”
Sure, you knew people were getting out. You have friends the next town over and you decided to take a 3 day hike through the forest to reach them. You used to play in these same woods when you were a boy.
Tent and sleeping bag, pack and pistol and you are off on the trail. You’ll be laughing about this with your buddies before the weekend is out. Only the trail ran out two days ago.
Your compass says you are heading west, but you are starting to doubt it. You didn’t bring a map; you cannot miss the interstate, once you hit it you’ll just need to go north a little ways.
After day 4, your food is gone. You have some water left in the bottle from the pond you passed, but your stomach is starting to cramp angrily. You don’t know where you are, and the needle on your cheapo compass only dances, mocking you. If you think you’ll be able to bug out to the woods, think again.
You never wanted to live here. You told your wife you wanted to stay out of the city. She insisted, you resisted and finally, invariably, you capitulated.
You have plenty of time to ponder the decisions you’ve made as you sit in silence following the screaming match in the car. You drum your fingers on the wheel as you sit in gridlock; another something or other protest has snarled traffic in every direction.
The chanting and hollering has gotten steadily louder; and the intersection you see a wave of black-clad, masked people hauling banners, sticks and little torches. Not torches. Bottles. Molotovs. They start climbing on cars, smashing windows and pulling drivers out of their vehicles. Several are set ablaze.
You hear a soul-rending shriek of agony; someone is being burned alive, thrashing back and forth still belted in to the car ahead. Your wife stares in numb terror. You are boxed in, what should you do? Your thoughts are interrupted by the crash of a bottle on the windshield as a curtain of flame spills over the car.
You were lucky for years living on the coast, but finally caught a big one. A hurricane has turned 30 miles of once-pristine beach and coastal towns in to a water-logged nightmare of kindling.
Your block did not do too badly, and thanks to your family’s strong culture of preparation and mutual support you all have been weathering the aftermath pretty well. The generator helps too.
The night is ver humid, as it has been, and you awake to the sound of clattering chain and your dogs doing their level best to wake the dead. The generator! You chained it to a metal mount on its pad.
You shake your spouse to fearful awareness, grab you revolver and light and pad quietly to the backyard. You hear whispering and metal clinking suddenly stop. You were heard. You steel yourself, swinging around the corner, thumbing the switch on your flashlight as you raise your pistol.
There stand three males, wide-eyed and staring. One holding bolt cutters, another machete, and the last, a boy as old as your son, holding a shotgun.
No one is coming. Of all the times to break down; your little escape through the desert has turned into a veritable death sentence.
You packed plenty of water, but it is all gone and you are still walking when the sun isn’t perched on your other shoulder. You abandoned the little rolling cart to help you carry the water miles and miles ago.
No one is coming. Your water filtration straw might as well be a novelty one for all the good it will do you. Your tongue feels like cheap shingles. Your feet are leaded concrete. Thoughts curdle as dry globes scrape back and forth in their sockets. Your child weighs a millstone.
No one is coming. But they’d better, soon, or you and your line will end in the cursed and uncaring desert.
The Sting of Winter
You weren’t concerned. At first. The Scornstorm, they were calling it. A super blizzard. Oh well, a white and wintry retreat at your family’s lodge was just fine with you, even if your drunk uncle Greg was going to be there.
But the snow kept coming, and coming, and coming. The wind lashed the trees with dreadful force. Soon, “whiteout” would not have done it justice outside. Everything was a surreal, cottony void.
You weren’t worried, your dad and uncles were far territory loggers in their day, and positively religious about keeping the lodge well stocked with food and canned provision.
Plus, you were all here. Cold or no, the doughty men of the Doe clan could harvest as much firewood for the stoves as necessary. Then you heard the snap. It sounded like a rifle shot. Then another. Then a staccato groaning. Then the crash happened.
A giant tree met its match and split the lodge nearly in two when it fell. One of your cousins and an aunt were killed instantly. You lost a chimney and a stove, and in the hour since have forgotten that warmth ever existed.
You did not wait for things to get bad before heading out with your partner. The rains were intense, but you could still drive, the roads were still passable so long as you were careful.
But you had to avoid a couple of intersections. Then some cars bobbing in others. A few trees downed, roots stretching up to seemingly grab hold of the buildings.
Too late. The water is rising too fast. The chatter of the emergency alert is punctuated by the hiss of static over the radio. The wipers keep the time. Still it pours. You cannot stay here. You drive on. If you can make it across one more road you’ll be climbing out of town.
The road looks like a stream. A stream striving for river. You reverse. Running start. Giving the depth of the water your best scientific wild-assed guesstimate as to depth, gauge the speed, drop your Jeep into drive and gun it.
You don’t make it 30 feet. Your partner yelps as water shoves you sideways into the stream. You lurch sickeningly to the driver’s side before crunching into something under the water. You come to a halt, but now the water is pouring into the floorboards.
You return from a trip across town to check on your aging parents. Things have been a pretty tough row to hoe since the wildfires scoured half the county.
Your part of town was mercifully spared, but you know plenty of people who lost everything, and your neighbor’s brother didn’t make it out before the flames overtook his house.
The shortages are the worst, and damage to the water treatment plant means it is bottled or purified only for now. You worry about your parents in this heat.
Walking up to the porch, you find your door ajar and believe for a second you must not have latched it behind you. Then you see it as the door swings inward; the splintered wood, the dent from the boot. Someone broke in.
You pull your knife and move inside. Not a sound. Not a damn thing. Nothing looks missing, but a few drawers and cabinets were opened. You clear the first floor and head to the basement.
A chunk of ice forms where your stomach used to be; your stash is gone. Every last can of food and bottle of water. Every battery. The only thing they left was a plastic flashlight, a lone box of .22 ammo and a radio. This was not random. You were targeted. Someone knew what you had. Someone talked.
The crush of people around the National Guard tent is outrageous. Everyone jockeying for what little food and clean water they have to hand out. Order vanished in a tide of desperation. If only these people would calm down. No such luck.
Curses are hurled as a fist finds a nose. A scuffle breaks out as two uniformed soldiers move in to break it up. Suddenly the tide of bodies reverses. A man screams “Gun!” Shots ring out with an oddly tinny pop. You feel a sharp impact in your thigh and searing pain rip into you. You fall feeling oddly cottony.
People stampede left and right. You are stepped on and tripped over, but your only thoughts are on the bright crimson flow of blood rushing rapidly through your soaked jeans on to the pavement. Your thoughts become muddy as you remember your tourniquet.
You still cannot get over the shock of it. You were walking into town to try and barter for a few things, nothing too important. You heard the van rolling down the road behind you but it wasn’t going fast, nothing out of the ordinary.
You didn’t see it edging over toward the sidewalk. You didn’t see the panel door cracked. You sure felt the burly arms drag you into the back, though, and the lurch as it sped away. After that, you felt the first few thumps from the sap and then everything went black.
Now you are in a concrete room with a bare bulb dangling on a wire illuminating a thin, moth-eaten blanket and a bucket in the corner. You have been stripped to your underwear. Your mouth is dry and vision is swimming. It is hard to think through what is probably a mild concussion, courtesy of a few ounces of lead shot. You have not heard or seen your kidnappers since.
Not a Drop Fit to Drink
You overextended. You know that now. A hard push out of town after the worst of the chaos ebbed saw you and your spouse make it deep into the forest. Summer in the Deep South is no joke, and you packed plenty of water in both of your BOB’s, your careful selection of ultralight minimalist gear saving every possible ounce for more precious water.
Oversight or accident saw you lose or forget your water filter. You have pushed hard for over a day now without water. You have days to go, and cannot turn back and risk what you left behind. Your only source is a pond so murky you cannot see sunlight pierce it.
Your head is crackling with pain from dehydration, and cramping has assailed both of you. You know it is a bad idea, but desperation has the final say. You know you won’t make it another day without water.
As you dip your water purification tablets into the cloudy murk, you grimly contemplate what diseases and parasites await that first drink. Now you must race against time before they incubate, sickening you and your partner.
Not Like This
To say numbness is the only thing you can feel would be trite, and not wholly accurate, considering the tidal wave of grief that is about to blot out your soul gathers itself on the horizons of your psyche. You were so careful. You trained. You prepared. You took every precaution so this wouldn’t happen.
And still they lay here. Wooden and cool. Your loved one just another casualty in an ever-rising tally of the dead, brought low by the disaster. Devastation and death is all that is around you. No one, not even a stranger can spare even a glance. Already you feel the threads of despair clawing at your mind. Where will you go? What’s the point?
Maybe it was bad luck. Or a bad call. Maybe you were stupid to try. Maybe your number just came up like all the other victims. Doesn’t matter now. You prop yourself up against a chunk of concrete. Your limbs are heavy. Your lungs struggle to draw air.
You feel tired. Not quite. Beyond tiredness. A fatigue that is coming on to stay. At least now you can let go of all this. You ran the race. You did your best.
As darkness closes in, you are gripped with a shivery thought about your friends and family that may yet survive. Will you be found? No one will know what happened. Soon you’ll be just a corpse, pondered and pilfered by any other survivors that come this way.
You wonder about eternity with your last dregs of consciousness. Is Heaven real? You’ll find out in about 15 seconds.
The Key Takeaway
Survival after any major disaster will be difficult, and fraught with danger. Though you might emerge from the onset unscathed, the aftermath with hold many surprises in store.
If you can maintain your edge, stay vigilant and resist complacency, you keep the worst of them from happening to you. Use these scary vignettes as motivation to make sure you are prepared for other, lesser events that might follow in the wake of a big one.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.