With chattering teeth a woman quickly picked the lock and opened the door into the house that stood before her. Just like she had done countless times before.
She was in a hurry this time though, a blizzard had just started outside and she needed shelter. As she closed the door behind her, she got the snow out of her clothes.
She looked around inside the house, it was pitch black inside. She couldn't see anything before her. The woman got out her flashlight and looked around. She was lucky this time. It seemed like the previous inhabitants left in a hurry, as there was still wood for the fireplace.
The woman smiled and ignited the fire, after which she sat down, happy. The fire illuminated the room and made a pleasant crackling sound, in contrast to the howling wind of the snow-storm that's raging outside.
She looked around. It was quite an old house, made from wood. Except the fireplace, which was constructed from stone. Above it were a pair of antlers. There was a large couch in front of the fireplace, she took place in it.
As she sat down, she thought about past times. How long had she been doing this? It must have been over three years. Ever since the Last War happened. She remembered it very clearly, all the terrible news... But that was long ago, in fact it seemed like an eternity.
The woman sighed, she was starting to get hungry. She opened her large backpack and got out a can of tomato soup with meatballs, her favourite. She put it beside the fire and waited for it to get warm.
Meanwhile, she got to business, she had a job to do. She went upstairs, inside the bedroom. The place were most people stored their valuables, she knew.
She was lucky this time, she found: jewelry, several cans of food that hadn't expired yet and most importantly, rechargeable batteries. Practical for survival, but also the main currency in this post-war era. The woman felt relieved. She could easily trade all of her findings at the black market.
She went downstairs again, to see if the soup was boiling. As she went down, she heard a man downstairs. "Come down, you thief!" He screamed. He must have heard her.
Seeing no other option, she put her hands up and went downstairs. Maybe the man would understand her situation? She showed herself carefully as the man was holding a bolt-action rifle.
"What were you doing in my house?" He said.
The woman sighed. "Look, I am going to be honest with you, I thought this house was abounded and..."
The man rolled his eyes. "You thought it was abounded? Why would there be fire wood here then?"
She shrugged. "It isn't the first time I found an abandoned house in this state, I swear, I would never steal from a house with living inhabitants." She showed the valuables she stole and put them on the ground. "There, you can have them back. The law describes that you can only scavenge from dead people or from people that went missing... I try to follow the law, whenever that is possible."
The man looked confused. "Well, thank you for being honest at least. But why would you scavenge in the first place?" He asked. "You seem fit and young, you could be a lumberjack, a hunter... A guard in Jokkmokk, perhaps? Why weren't you in the Old Swedish Army, actually?"
The woman pressed her lips together and got out her insulin pen. "Because of this." She said. "This is the reason why I don't earn enough money. I need insulin to live... And with another job I wouldn't make enough to buy it, even at the black market in Bodø. My diabetes is also the reason why I wasn't in the army, besides being perfectly fit."
The man sighed. "So you were forced to scavenge then?" He put down his weapon. "Well... That changes things. Why don't you have a seat? I think we started out on the wrong note."
The woman hesitated. "Sure, it's not like I can go anywhere else in this weather." She answered eventually. The man put down his weapon and sat down, the woman took a seat beside him.
The situation felt a little uneasy, but eventually the woman opened her mouth. "So, what's your name actually?" She asked.
"I am Sven... What's yours?"
"Esther." She replied.
"Well, I feel like our introduction went wrong, nice to meet you Esther. I heard you speaking about law, you follow the law of Jokkmokk, then?"
Esther nodded. "I've lived there all my life, before the war even. I saw how that little town changed... More and more people came to live there, mainly older people and refugees from Kiruna. Also those who weren't drafted by the war... Or dodged the draft."
"So you saw how the parliament got erected then?"
"Yes, it was very weird. You know, the building the parliament is in? It's the former Ájtte Museum... The exhibition there was scrapped years ago, however. But when the new government was erected, they did what they could to renovate the museum into a parliament."
"Interesting but there's something that I can't wrap my head around. They say that the New Pacifist Anarcho-Syndicalist government wants to take care of everyone... Yet here you are, scavenging on your own for insulin."
Esther sighed. "That's correct, they don't have a supply of insulin... They only have that in the black market over in Bodø and it's expensive. So I am forced to scavenge, this is the only legal business that will get you enough money... It's risky after all."
"That sounds rough." Said Sven, a bit unsure of what to say.
Esther nodded and thought for a moment as the room grew quiet. "Why do you live here actually, Sven? I am sure they would be happy with strong men in Jokkmokk."
He pressed his lips together. "I chose to live here in seclusion, ever since my wife was killed in the Nuclear Strike of Kiruna things haven't been the same... How can people be so cruel towards one another? Old men have literally bombed the world to shreds, using young people as their weapons. It made me sick, sick and tired of dealing with people. I just wanted to be on my own... Maybe I could go back. But I am not even sure if people would accept me back into society anymore. I've been gone for years"
Esther shrugged "I am sure people would be willing to help you out. Times are rough, people need help. So I am sure that the people in Jokkmokk will accept you. They really aren't that bad, or at least less bad than and cruel than the people in Bodø"
Sven thought for a moment. "Perhaps you are right. I was a coward before the war, I hid from the draft... But perhaps it's not too late to change, even if the world has ended."
Esther smiled. "Indeed, it's never too late to help others. I am sure people in Jokkmokk will be grateful."
The two continued sharing stories for the rest of the night and ate dinner together. The next day, the blizzard had ended and you could finally see the trees outside again. The ground was still covered in snow, but at least the snow was on the ground and not coming out of the sky anymore.
Esther smiled to Sven. "Are you ready to go outside again?" She asked.
He nodded. "I am, thanks with the help of a lonely scavenger."
Esther laughed. "Is that how you are going to call me?"
He smiled. "Yeah, that's your name now."
Esther looked around and pointed to the nearby road. "Well, let's go. Jokkmokk is a long way from here."