When the world ended, out of all the things that were lost, music was the best and the worst. I feel horrible and elitist saying this, but when the lights went out and the grid went down, decades of anemic music suddenly died, and some of us were glad. Without electricity to power the smartphones and laptops and mp3 players and satellite radio, the watered-down, the inbred, the manipulative commercialized bubblegum pablum that was the soundtrack for latest great dead culture just disappeared. Lots of great stuff was gone, too. Maybe one day they'll be talked about in hushed, respectful voices, half-remembered legends, twenty-first century Buddy Boldens.
For awhile, for a long time, no one cared about music. Not even us. We chopped wood and looted gun stores and hoarded canned goods just like everyone else. We ate feral house cats and made meals of redhots and expired tins of sardines. We stole cars and left people to die. We stayed up at night ashamed and sobbing just under the threshold of earshot, because the only real sin was not being tough.
And then things stabilized a bit. Not much, but a bit. There were settlements. There was trade. There were places you could drink the water again. There were whores and dog fights. There were places for the faithful to go and be manipulated and exploited. It was almost like civilization.
I'll never forget the day we dug down deep into the wreckage of the university. It had, like everywhere else, been well looted. But we came with crowbars and sledgehammers and full bellies and tenacity, working for the sake of working, just the handful of us, not knowing what we were looking for or why we were looking, but knowing that something might be down there, maybe not something that would give us purpose, but something we might trade for a can or two of beans.
And we peeled away layer after layer until we found the door.
The professor, we called him that anyway, lay half rotted at his desk next to a half bottle of 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle and a tumbler in his skeletal hand. One of the shelves of his bookcase was filled with a selection of vinyl records. Steve put the whisky and the tumbler in his bag while I fingered though his selection. He wasn't an afficionado, but most of what he had was worth preserving: some B. B. King, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, a bunch of forgettable old hippy shit. Steve looked at me and I looked at him. The smart thing would be to trade them as firestarters, he said. Our eyes locked. We knew that neither of us would do any such fucking thing.
So that's how it all began.