In the Year 2037
The year is 2037, it has been 33 years since worldwide civilization collapsed. Things are in a worse state than you might expect. Population has plummeted. 80% of the population disappeared immediately, and governments were unable to maintain cohesion. They collapsed. There was a period of unrest, violence, and starvation that crashed the population further.
It was widely believed to be the end of the world. Those who believed in the rapture were crushed to be here, people who believed in the end times were ecstatic. At least initially religious groups helped unifier their believers waiting for the heavenly beings of their appropriate religion to descend.
But they didn’t.
The level of violence as the remaining humans scrambled to preserve and restart the critical parts of their infrastructure was self-destructive. In fear, mistrust, and desperation, military remnants, former politicians, religious leaders, new demagogues, and simple strongmen all led groups of followers in conflicts that destroyed the resources (human and technological) that would have prevented a plunge into the current dark age.
There should have been enough to go around. The remains of a world holding the population of the year 2000 should have been plenty for the population of 1800 to scavenge without fighting over scraps.
But it wasn’t.
The older generation still argues why. Was it simply human nature to fight for control of the most scrap and best facilities? Was it something in the ideologies of the old-world that poisoned the minds of it’s people? Was it the end stage of a conspiracy gone horribly wrong? Or worse, horribly right?
They can’t say.
The death throes of the civilized world were fierce. Radioactive craters mark the last days of a coherent government, when the United States, Russia, and China blamed each other for the disaster. Fortunately, not enough of the command chain was intact to launch enough nuclear death to finish the job.
Washington D.C., Moscow, and Beijing are all mostly destroyed. A few other cities were hit as well. In this country; Portland OR, San Jose CA, Denver CO, New Orleans LA, Lansing MI, Raleigh NC were all hit. Several military bases and smaller cities of no obvious importance were struck as well. Kansas City narrowly avoided complete destruction when the bomb fell in Olathe rather than in the city itself, but Overland Park and South Kansas City are wiped out.
Not enough cities burned to create a full nuclear winter, but the temperature has dropped several degrees on average.
People survived. Some roamed as nomads. Other settled in towns and tried to rebuild. Many were forced into slavery when the Fangs rose to prominence.
The area around a Fang city is generally deserted. Those who haven’t been caught avoid it to prevent becoming subjects. Beyond that, many small towns and sections of larger ones are inhabited, often as tributaries or protectorates of the nearest Fang city. It’s an odd mix of new and old culture as ancient production techniques are rediscovered while living in the shell of old-world housing.
Food is largely sourced locally, large-scale manufacturing is non-existent, communication options are few and unreliable, electricity is rare, and transportation becomes more scarce every year.
Free Riders form the backbone of trade along the major highways. Highways and railroads (where they can be secured) form the major corridors of non-Fang civilization. Living on a trade route is much easier than going it alone in the wilderness. Unfortunately, it’s also easier for those with ill-intent to find the people who have it so easy.