The wind howled, battering the thin walls of Casa Lane with more and more snow. Chill seeped in through the various cracks in the walls, through the seals that no longer held the windowpanes as securely as they once had, under doors - the house was barely warmer inside than out.

The warmest spot in the house was the basement. Figures, wrapped tightly in blankets and the thickest clothing they could find, huddled around what once was used as a kiln. Now, it held a fire, kept fed by various scraps that they had found scrounging outside during the day.

Daytime...during the day, the furious snowstorms died down to almost nothing. Sometimes they could even track the sun, through the thick cloud cover. The storms always came back at night, though, battering the already-dead world.

Daria Morgendorffer looked at the flames inside the kiln contemptuously; she remembers it was just two or three months ago (grasp of time was starting to slip away from them all) when fire had claimed her mother, her father, and millions (if not billions) of people.

Days after, the survivors of Lawndale thrashed their way through rumor after rumor. Nuclear attack seemed to be the most popular option, even after Daria had pointed out that a nuclear attack would have flattened Lawndale in moments, instead of making it burn to the ground over a course of a few hours.

Ted had suggested it could have been intense sunspots - he cited an incident in the 1800s where unusually heightened sunspot activity had overloaded telegraph wires across the United States, and that nearly every home in Lawndale (nearly every home in every first-world country, to be exact) had similar such wiring. Every item that relied on a microchip was dead - no MP3 players, laptop computers, automated coffee makers, pacemakers, automobiles manufactured in the past 30 years - none of it worked. The smaller items had died quietly, whereas the larger items combusted rather spectacularly.

That was how her father had died. She hadn't found his body in the house after the fire had finally died down (she suspected her mother had died instantaneously at the computer - people had mentioned computer monitors exploded when the event happened, and Daria had found her skeleton with pieces of glass embedded in the skull and ribcage), so she took three days to examine every burnt-out wreck on the highway leading to downtown Lawndale. She found him late on the third day, sitting in the burnt-out Lexus that bore his license plate. She gathered his bones and buried them next to her mother's.

She looked to her sister, Quinn, sitting next to her. Quinn hadn't escaped the event unscathed: she had been talking to Sandi on her cell phone when a tremendous shock passed through the device, burning the shape of the cell phone into her cheek and damaging her ear to the point of total deafness. Quinn had struggled to crawl out of the house after that, but inhaled a lot of smoke before she could escape. (Being low to the ground meant she didn't take in a lethal amount of smoke, but her voice had had a harsh rasp to it ever since).

Ted DeWitt-Clinton was the third and last person keeping warm in the basement. His house had caught aflame as a result of being too close to another house which was already a raging inferno, catching his parents unawares. (The DeWitt-Clintons had no electronics and little wiring in their house, so were unaware that a disaster was happening until they burned alive). Ted himself was working on the yearbook at Lawndale High when the event happened. The school was built tough; a few fires broke out there, but they were all contained.

The high school actually became the new home of most of the refugees of Lawndale. Daria and Quinn, and later Ted, shied away, since they had heard too many rumors of Li descending into paranoia and general insanity. They had to be careful during their daily scrounging, or one of Li's scouting teams would take them into custody (which meant slavery, if not outright execution).

Quinn had asked her why it had gotten so cold several weeks ago. "Quinn, if what happened here happened everywhere, which it probably did since we haven't seen any rescue parties at all, well...think about what happened here."

Daria thought about it herself all the time. Nine out of ten buildings in Lawndale had burned to the ground, and this was just a small city. She figured that three-fourths of all buildings on the Earth had burned down, and most likely every major city had been annihilated as well. She had read once that scientists had calculated a nuclear winter lasting over two years if the United States and former Soviet Union had a massive nuclear exchange - and a massive nuclear exchange would only destroy about a quarter of every building in both countries, leaving every other country practically untouched. Massive fires burning everywhere on every inhabitable continent meant that Punxswatawney Phil would be disappointed for many years to come, Daria suspected.


Daria shoved the thought out of her mind. Jane and Trent and Trent's band had gone to Fremont for a gig, and they were sure to have survived there.

It was what Daria told herself to make it through the day.