I really have a knack for making things hard on myself.
Let me explain. My name is Rachael. We'll leave it at that for now. I'm 27 now, and I'm a pretty athletic girl. I climb rocks, or at least I used to, I hike and swim. I've got longish red hair. Most people say I'm pretty good looking. Okay, I guess I'll have to admit it for this to make any sense: my then-boyfriend Gary and I were into fetish things. Leather. Restraints. You know the drill. Nothing too serious.
We'd bought a little cabin in the mountains. Eighty-odd miles as the crow flies from the nearest big city. We were staying there. It's secluded, cozy. Perfect spot to get away from it all.
Perfect spot for my new life, now that the world's changed. But I digress.
I have, er, a favourite armbinder. Look, this is embarrasing okay? Just let me finish. I had it custom-fit by a rather well-known fetish shop in the city. It's made from two layers of leather with a kevlar weave sandwiched inbetween. They picked that up from some military auction or something. Can't be cut without special equipment; usually they use a laser. It's a single-sleeve, goes from my wrists to my elbows, but it also has straps around my thumbs so it can't change position. Another strap goes from the top of the sleeve up my back, where it splits into a V and goes over my shoulders. The shoulder straps loop around my arms and connect behind me with the back strap so I can't pull the thing off. The whole sleeve cinches up with laces, like an arm corset.
Of course it's impossible to get out of, that's the point.
Anyway, there's a belt with it too. It goes around my waist and has a loop in the back that gets pulled taut around my wrists, pinning them at the base of my spine. There's a second strap higher up that wraps around under my elbows. A flap zips over the laces, making them inaccessible when the straps are done up. The belt, wrist strap, elbow strap, and shoulder straps all lock in place. Yes, with padlocks. Hardened, cryo-treated military-grade padlocks from some Israeli company. The whole ensemble is finished in serious black leather and gleaming nickel-plated metal. It's beautiful; a work of art.
So, to the point I guess. While we were at the cabin Gary decided to make a run into town for supplies. We'd run out of beer - a catastrophe at the time - and by the time we finished tallying up all the other odds and ends we wanted he had a pretty substantial list. I got it in my head that I didn't want my arms that day. We decided - well, mostly I insisted - that I would get strapped into the armbinder while he was in town. Yes, it was dumb. But the route to town was an easy drive, and it was a beautiful crisp sunny day. What could go wrong?
I'm getting to that.
I decided to make the rest of my clothes fairly practical so I could go out if I wanted. So that morning I was wearing a tight pair of jeans, a light black tank top and my 8" hiking boots. That turned out to be a pretty lucky decision. Gary laced me into my personal prison, drawing my elbows tightly together behind my back. I loved it. It's not like a weapon or a torture device at all, it's more like... being held, cuddling in bed, after a particularly good, er, session. Sorry, I can't really describe this well. Anyway. Just for a little extra restriction he looped the waist belt through the beltloops on my jeans. With four innocuous sounding clicks of four padlocks the thing was secured in place. My arms were going nowhere. Did I mention it can't be cut?
Gary took the keys into town with him. Not that they would have helped me anyway, I can't reach the locks. But just knowing they were gone intensified the whole experience. I was still completely mobile except for my trapped arms so I just hung around and relaxed. I walked up to the lake and sat in a lounger on the dock for a while. I had a nap in the hammock. Incedently it's really hard to get out of a hammock with your arms strapped away behind you. I was having an amazing day. It was an incredible feeling; not even sexual really. Just bliss. Tranquility.
Gary'd made me a lunch after he strapped me in - he'd set a sandwich on the edge of a dresser so I could eat it without my arms, and left a drink for me on the table with a big straw, god bless him - and after I'd eaten I went outside again. It was too nice out to be cooped up in the cabin. Not sure what I should do with myself next, I stood out on the balcony and scanned the deserted road to see if I could spot him coming up the mountain. That's how I happened to be looking in the right direction the explosion came. Yes, that explosion. It was that day. I saw the whole thing. I didn't know what happened at the time but the mushroom cloud looming over where the city was supposed to be made things pretty clear. Who could have predicted that?
I was not in a good state for the rest of the day. Gary had been killed already or was laying in the city, dying there. I was trussed up and helpless here with a dwindling food supply, surely doomed, and for all I knew my armless self was all that was left of the human race. I won't dwell on the hours that followed. I spent the night sitting on the dock willing myself to jump in and end it, but never even had the motivation. I peed in my pants because I had no way of pulling them down, and I just didn't care. I cried a lot. You can't wipe your tears away with your arms tied behind you. Like I said it was pretty grim.
By morning I was doing no better. Now I was getting numb to the horror of what had happened. I went down to the cabin and managed to turn on our sole battery-powered radio with my feet. It gave no useful information, only reflecting the chaos that must have been going on everywhere, and quickly ran out of juice. Eventually, exhausted, I collapsed into the hammock and managed a few fitful hours of sleep. That didn't really help, but when I woke up again it was late afternoon. The sun was setting into the valley and long shadows pointed up the deserted roadway. I hadn't eaten and the belief that things were over for me was overpowering all my other thoughts. It looked bad.
I was into some pretty dismal brooding when one of those long shadows coalesced into that of a person. Still far away, but clearly a human being and clearly walking up the road. I couldn't make any details out yet - for all I knew it could have been some gun-swinging maniac bent on taking my cabin - but just seeing that someone else was out there gave me a little mental kickstart. As the figure approached, its familiarity became more and more evident...
Oh my god. It was Gary. It was really him. I'd spent the last two days thinking I'd never see him again but there he was, walking up the road like some saviour from the heavens. Okay, a lot scruffier. And pulling a shopping cart full of supplies by hand. The truck was long gone; Gary had been carjacked - I'd later learn the whole story of the few hours leading up to the bombs falling, the madness in town that even a day before no-one would have predicted - but the important point is that he'd dodged the biggest bullet in history. He'd seen the writing on the wall and managed to stock up before hitching out of town. We had enough to live on, carefully, for now, and enough to start over.
We did have a problem, but it turned out to be not insurmountable. The carjackers had taken the truck with Gary's keys still in the ignition. All his keys, including four certain Israeli-made padlock keys which were unique in the world. My keys. You can guess how happy I was when I learned of that little item. But the thieves were probably long dead in the smoking crater that used to be civilization, and Gary was here. We were going to make it.
So that's just about all there is to tell. The apocalypse came and we made it through. It's incredable how this buch of us came together on that day and just kept on going. We've all seen those movies where the bombs come and everyone starts knifing each other for canned beans or shoelaces but it just wasn't like that at all. We beat that scenario. But so much has been lost. It's been almost two years, and I'm damn proud of what we've done, but we're pretty much a tribal society here. No computers, no T.V., barely any communication with the rest of the world. No lasers. No diamond saws. No etching acids.
You see where this is going don't you?
Yes, I'm still locked in the damn armbinder. I wasn't kidding when I said almost nothing could cut it. It was tough material back then and we just don't have the technology anymore. I wore it through the apocalypse; I wore it throughout the rebuilding; I wore it to my own wedding. We threw everything we could at the locks, the straps, the buckles, hoping for some kind of weakness but it's as tough as it is beautiful. Yes, I still think that, even now. Luckily I've got a great support group here. Our community is fantastic, and Gary is the best husband I could ever have. Every now and then someone will put on a radiation suit and go on a foraging trip in the remains of the city. No one's ever found my keys, although we did eventually locate the hulk that was once Gary's truck. If my keys were in that blob of melted steel I can't imagine they'd be any good to me now.
You know what the funny thing is? It's been twenty-two months since the last time was able to scratch my own nose, lace my own shoes, or even have a good stretch in the morning. My arms have been safely locked away from me for longer than this society's existed. Sure I've had good times since then, but I've been through some downs too. Some black funks, where I fumed at myself for days on end, cursing my stupidity for insisting Gary lock me into the damn thing and regretting every minute since that fateful day. I think I'm over that now. But the funny, crazy, damn stupid part of the whole story is that I still love it. Even after all that I can flex my arms around, straining against the binder for all its worth, struggling away in utter hopelessness, and it still gives me an amazing rush. The binder always wins. It always will, and I know it.
If I had the chance to go back and warn myself, and not get locked into this thing on the day the world changed, I don't know what I'd do. I can't imagine the last two years without it. It's like a long-term, incredable tight embrace from a dearly loved one. I just don't know if I'd want to change that. Maybe my psyche has gone a bit off; maybe I've gone a bit strange since what we call the Reset Day. But then, who hasn't? This is how I am now. I do know if those keys show up, it's going to make things complicated. If it ever comes to that, I guess I'll worry about it then.
Rachael of the Freedom Peak Tribe, A.D. 2067
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