Epilogue - complete text.

The human population of the Earth had been reduced from over seven billion to about seventy thousand original SDC survivors. This was further reduced to less than fifty thousand by the end of the northern hemisphere’s winter in May 2016.

The additional loss of life was due to several causes.

The very young and very old and the disabled survivors had little or no capability to look after themselves when they found themselves alone. Most such people died shortly after the initial onslaught of the contagion in the summer of 2015. The only ones to survive long were those lucky enough to be found quickly by able-bodied survivors prepared to take care of them.

Many of the initial survivors just could not bear to live without their neighbors, friends or loved ones. The more resolute died quickly by their own hand. The others just gave up on living and usually died more slowly and painfully from disease, lack of sustenance or just loneliness and lack of the will to continue living.
Some survivors died from accidents. They were often undertaking unfamiliar tasks in order to improve their new life. They had to be much more self-sufficient than they had ever been before. In many cases, these accidents would not have been fatal if help had been available.

Some had died from common diseases that, with the help of modern drugs and medical care, would have been easily curable.

Finally, the winter had claimed many victims who were unable to learn the skills required to keep themselves warm and obtain an adequate food supply in the cold climates of northern latitudes.
Unlike all other times of stress in previous human history, few people had died as a result of violent attacks by other human beings, individually or in groups. Wars were not possible with so few people to fight them. Murder was almost a thing of the past, when competition for available resources was unnecessary.
Many survivors had made a major effort to find others like themselves. Their success or failure depended mainly on luck, on the population density of the area where they lived and on the creativity and effort they had put into the task.

By the end of winter, survivor groups from two to twenty were common and there were some larger groups. The clock had been turned back more than ten thousand years, based on the size of the human communities.
In North America and Europe, most survivor groups had succeeded, at various levels, to adapt modern technology to make their lives more comfortable. Most common was the use of diesel and gasoline generators to provide electricity and the use of cars and trucks for transportation.

There was a major question as to how long this would be sustainable, without adequate knowledge about how to maintain and fix the required machines, or to produce replacements for worn out parts. Given the wide availability of replacement machines and their slow deterioration when not in use, this was probably a longer-term issue. It was also uncertain as to how long the roads would be useable when there was no one around to maintain them.

The use of radio to communicate between the more technology-adapted survivor groups had led to connected groups of more than a thousand survivors in both North America and Europe.

Eighty percent of the survivors were in the strongest and most self-sufficient age group, from twenty to forty. This is also the prime child bearing age. This fact, together with the reduced availability or need for birth control, led to a significantly increased rate of pregnancies wherever men and women had got together. These factors were enhanced by a common perception of responsibility to procreate among many of the survivors. Almost thirty percent of the women were pregnant by the end of the winter. From May 2016 to the end of the year, almost seven thousand new babies were expected.

The future of the human race looked assured, at least for the short term.

The big question was what would happen to the level of civilization in the longer term.

How much of the early twenty first century human knowledge and technology could be retained? How much of the knowledge and sophistication of modern life could be passed on to the next generations? Would the small size of the human communities and their very low density be able to support anything but a basic survival existence for future generations?

These questions would only be answered by the passage of time.