Post-apocalyptic Wasteland

It’s 50 years in the future, and the world is at war. Luckily, when the nuclear bombs dropped, you had a bomb shelter under your house to hide out in. When your monitors tell you it’s safe to go outside a year later, what do you find? Who is still alive? Have the plants and animals been affected by the radiation? What will you do now that the world has totally changed?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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207 thoughts on “Post-apocalyptic Wasteland

  1. krosrightboob

    If I had learned anything in this last year living underground, it’s one thing. Being alone is the worst thing anyone can be.
    You see, the world has been in chaos ever since we started running out of oil and natural gas, eventually everything got out of hand and that’s when the bombs dropped. Luckily enough I was working in my shelter under my house at the time. I wish I knew what happened to the rest of my family. They always laughed at me whenever I would prepare. If only I could hear my wife’s beautiful trill one more time…
    I was daydreaming of my wife when a crackling came on my ham radio. Blowing the collected dust off the receiver I pressed the button and said “yes, hello? Is someone there?” I blinked a few times, this is the first noise that has come out of that radio since the day the bombs dropped.
    “Yes, hello Mr. Reynolds, this is Chief master sergeant Jacobs with the U,S Army, we have been given the orders to announce to everyone that was on our list of call-in ‘safe’ that you may leave your bunker. Be careful, it’s like hell out there.” The voice stated. “That will be all.”
    I scrambled and thanked him before I knew he was gone. I can leave? all I could think about was that, maybe my family was still alive. I quickly stood up, looked around my small dugout bunker. The dust was collecting, the canned good were growing scarce, and my water was almost completely depleted. I grabbed any provision left and stuffed it all into a small backpack.
    As I was about to leave the bunker, I realized that I forgot the most important thing. I scurried back down the stairs and pushed my food storage shelf to the side, behind it, there was a small safe-lock chest. 2-0-7-7 I pressed and it clicked open. In the chest was my prized possession, a .44 caliber 9 shot revolver pistol. The “cowboy killer.” I stated to myself. I holstered it to my belt and headed back for the staircase out into the world, for the first time in 365 days.
    I opened the hatch and was immediately engulfed in warm, welcoming sunlight. I climbed out and took in the scenery. Taking deep breaths of fresh cool air. Just as I was losing myself I heard a rustling noise coming near me. I look over to see a figure running towards me. I readied my revolver and pointed it at the figure. I was about to pull the trigger when I heard a familiar voice say “Dad! I knew you’d still be alive.”
    It was my daughter. With tears streaming down my eyes I dropped the gun and hugged her. I didn’t want to let go.
    “Where’s your mom?” I said. She looked at the ground.
    “Mom is gone. These nice people up the road have been taking care of me for about 2 months now.” She said in a quiet voice.

  2. BaitedBreath

    Tomorrow. Tomorrow it would have been a year. It’s been 364 days, nine hours, and fifteen minutes since the air raid siren had split the peaceful autumn air. Nine hours and seventeen minutes since I’d gathered whatever few items I deemed precious and slammed the lead-lined doors in my cellar. A whole minute faster than my last drill.
    So yes, tomorrow would have been day 365 in my lead and concrete prison, drinking muddy water from an underground spring and counting down what had seemed a limitless supply of canned goods. But today, the Geiger counter didn’t tick. It was safe to go out now.
    As I cracked open the door, my first impression was “oh holy god sunlight hurts.” It had been almost six months since my self-charging flashlight had broken. I’d forgotten what light was even like.
    I fished a pair of sunglasses from my jacket. Why hadn’t I thought of that BEFORE I blinded myself? With my eyes properly protected now, I cast a fresh eye on the wonders of what the new world held.
    Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The crumbled remains of my foundations. There wasn’t even house debris left. The bomb had hit about twenty miles south of me. Had it really been so powerful that everything had been completely vaporized? I hefted my pack up on my shoulder. Everything looked like a dry lake bed. Cracked grey soil and a couple foundations.
    There! Finally, signs of civilization. Poking out of the dirt was the top of a melted car. That’s when it struck me. This was ash. The world had burned and ash was all that was left.
    Aaaand that’s when the ash zombie happened. A figure emerged from the crust atop the car, sucking in a deep, rattling breath.
    “WHOA!” I shouted, bringing my pistol up.
    “WAUGH!” the ash zombie replied. Definitely a woman. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!”
    Ash fell in sheets from her face. Well, she LOOKED alive. Not likely to eat my brains. I lowered my gun.
    “What were you doing under there? How are you even alive?”
    “Ash storm hit yesterday. I couldn’t get IN the car, so I got on top and punched a hole in the roof to breathe through. I got lucky. If the wind had been coming from the east, the car would’ve filled up.”
    “A-ash storm?”
    She looked me up and down. “Oh. You’re a bunker survivor. Figures.”
    “Yeah. This is my first day outside in a year.”
    “Ya got food?”
    “Some. Enough for maybe six months, if rationed right.”
    “Good.”
    She stood, patting herself down.
    I sputtered as ash hit me in the face. “If you don’t mind me asking, how’d you get caught in said ash storm?”
    “I was running,” came the simple reply.
    “Running?”
    “Running.” A high, keening wail suddenly broke the silence. My new friend froze, fear in her eyes.
    “Running from THEM.”

  3. C.S. Ember

    Sunlight. Blessed sunlight filled everything, filled her every bone and pore and brought light to her auburn hair. Tandy had been trapped in that catacomb of crumbling hope and desperate darkness for far too long. Her father had been… strategic. Yes, let’s call him that. The expansive shelter was nearly a mile into the ground. It was a bygone, he said, from a more dangerous time. He sometimes boasted that the president would have hidden down there if Cuba had gone through. She knew he was lying, but he was her father, and if he wanted to disappear after dinner every night for six years, expanding on what had once been a small bomb shelter, she certainly wasn’t going to complain.
    Well, she wouldn’t now.
    First of all, it was the reason she was alive.
    Second, he wasn’t.

    Suddenly, the white hot glare of the sun cleared, her eyes adjusting to the natural light they had spent a year yearning.
    Her heart dropped into her stomach, twisting. “What?”
    It was all gone. Gray earth held onto the crumbling stalks of vaporized grass, a silence so loud she swore she could feel the vibrations of the blast even now, a year later. The stream that had run past her house was a murky puddle, an echo of its former natural beauty. The trees were gone, or cut down like grain before a scythe. One had fallen onto her house, leaving it a broken pile of rubble. “No.” She said, horrified, her hands coming up to cover her mouth. Tears came to her eyes as all of her hope, that deluded fantasy that the world would be just as she left it, came crashing down around her. She wanted to look into that bright ball of fire and let it eat her sight so she wouldn’t have to accept that this was real…
    But it was.
    The clear sky stank of nothing, cleansed of everything good and bad alike. Her skin tingled, and she wondered if she was going to go mad, like her monitor had warned her would happen if she went outside too early. She wondered if she was going to grow limbs, or die some horrible, disfigured death. And as she wondered, she decided.
    She put one foot in front of the other, forcing herself forward into this new world she had been born into from the womb of her shelter, and hoped that she wasn’t the only one. Then, she paused, looking back towards it. “Nyla!” She yelled, her voice feeling raw and strange.
    A second ticked by.
    Another.
    Then, a small gray shape bounded out of the shelter behind her.
    No… she wasn’t alone, she thought, as the cat leaped into her waiting arms and they headed off into the nothing together.

  4. Emmy132

    It’s hard to pinpoint when things began to go wrong. Things had never been entirely right. There was no sudden change, no clear turning point, no radioactive virus or evil scientist or madman with a bomb. There were just everyday people. The people you might pass by in a supermarket or share a glance with when the bus is late again. But somewhere along the line, through years and years of propaganda and myth, these people started to turn on each other.

    Suspicion came creeping in like an early morning fog over the deceptively still ocean. Spread by those with nothing but power on their minds under the guise of concern for their citizens.

    The thought that something had to be done to solve problems that never really existed became commonplace. Behind the façade of ‘gosh the weather’s bad today’ and ‘oh isn’t she adorable, what’s her name?’ and ‘good morning, I see the garden’s coming on nicely’ was ‘well they’re putting a strain on public services’ and ‘oh the place is full of them’ and ‘there’s just not enough room’.

    Boarders began to shut. People deported. Families broken. Hatred spread. One by one other countries, kingdoms, continents followed and the world was split. And it was in the gaps that the hatred and fear and paranoia began to fester and spread, pushing the earth further apart.

    Trade ended, the readying of weapons began. And the dark words and feelings became armies and guns and bombs and then… nothing.

    It had been a year since the last bomb had hit. A year of silence and waiting and praying to gods you no longer believed existed. A year of hunger and thirst and darkness and isolation. A year of building to this moment where you were brave enough or desperate enough to step outside the shelter and see the damage. You didn’t want to think about what the outside world may be like. That was no longer your world. It was a world of chaos and burning and death and decay. But it was time.

    The burning light, the smell of death, the acrid taste in your mouth, the heat, and you’ve never experienced such silence. And though your senses are being bombarded in the harshest way possible, you feel nothing. Emptiness.

    And after everything, after the loss and war and desolation, you just want to feel. Anger, love, sadness, hope, something. You walk, hoping to stumble across some signs of life. Some chance that you are not alone in this empty world with an empty heart. You walk for miles and see nothing but the same bare landscape. You’re just about to stop, to give up, to resign yourself to nothing.

    And then the rain. Big wet drops hitting your skin and awakening something, or, perhaps, reawakening it. A moment of peace.

  5. JakeAlan

    January 2076
    I was just a child when the bombs fell. My parents had been prepping for doomsday even though I think they never even thought it would come. I remember watching the news on the day that would later be known as The Last Day. We had been stuck in another cold war with the soviets. However this one went differently. Their president died and one of his generals came to power. The first thing he did was drop an H-Bomb on our capital. That was the beginning of the end. My parents brought me down into out fallout shelter where I watched the end play out.
    First the bombs were dropped on St. Petersburg and Moscow. Than they dropped bombs on Austin and New York. Humanity’s last battle lasted not months or days or even hours. It lasted minutes. The whole thing was over in fifty six minutes.
    After that I adapted to the life underground. My sister was born here and my parents died here. However today was the day that everything changed. After twenty years I was finally going back to the surface.
    “Jack,” my sister Cynthia said to me waking me from my daydream “Are you sure you should be the one to go to the surface? You haven’t been so well lately.”
    “Yes,” I said “I have to be the one to do this.”
    “Will I get to go one day?” she asked “I have never seen sunlight.”
    “One day sis,” I said pulling on my boots. Despite the fact that radiation levels should be down I was stilling dressing as if they were high. Nukes weren’t the only weapons used. Chemical weapons were also dropped on almost every major city. Being I lived in Seattle I wanted to be safe.
    I walked over to the room where we kept our radiation suits. I slipped into one of them which was just about the right size. Finding one of the bug out bags I check it had all the necessities and then strapped it to my back. I pulled out two rifles slinging one of them over my shoulder and keeping the other in my hand. Then I pulled down a bullet proof vest. Finally I put on the radiation mask and hugged my sister.
    “I will report back over the com link,” I said
    “Be safe out there Jack,” she said to me, choking back tears. Taking in a breath of air knowing it could be my last, I opened the door and walked outside. The few memories I have of life before the war where few, but none of them matched this. I turned to see where my house used to be, but there was nothing there, only the metal top to the fallout shelter. All of the small houses on my street where leveled. I looked into the distance where I used to be able to see the Seattle space needle. It still stood but it was a burnt out skeleton of what it once was.
    Black clouds covered the sky letting in only slivers of light. Yet perhaps the worst thing was that I wasn’t alone. Something else was out here and It was very much so alive. Whatever It was It was out here and It was hunting me. Raising my rifle I spoke into my com.
    “Sis,” I said slowly turning around, realizing It was behind me “I am not alone.”

  6. TassleRonno

    One day, everything was changed. An unknown association used nuclear weapons against the world, and everything was destroyed in an instant. I was the only survivor, because I had created an underground bunker waiting for this moment. I was the only one left in the world. Depressed, and ready to give up, I put myself into a cryostasis chamber, hoping that it would fail in my sleep and end everything already.
    I awoke to the frantic beeping of the cryostasis chamber. The system was failing. I desperately wanted to stay and freeze to death, but something tugged at me that wouldn’t let me quit now. I pressed the button on the side of the chamber, and the door slide open. I fell out of the machine, coughing and shivering. I slowly rose to my feet, and stumbled to the stairs leading back to the surface world. I opened to door, and squinted my eyes… but everything was completely… normal?
    The world looked the exact same as it had BEFORE the explosion. No bombs, no destruction, it was as if nothing had happened.
    “Haha, there he is!”
    A annoyingly happy group of people stood behind me and walked up.
    “Wh-what?” I said stupidly.
    “This was all a huge prank, man!” said a guy from the back of the group. “There weren’t any bombs! We tricked you! Everything is normal!”
    “But… the war…” I murmured.
    “No war either!” The guy said with a devilish grin.
    “But I was down there for 10,000 years!” I screamed. “Was that all a waste? Is everyone I know and love dead?” The guy nodded solemnly. “Probably. But it’s fine! You want a pizza or something?”

    Fin.

  7. SkyFox

    AD 2340

    God stood, cleared his thraot and smiled.
    “We came. We climbed from our shattered belifs, from the instruments that tortued us. We are here.”
    A cheer rang out in the hall, echoing around the stones.
    “We do not have much time, for the humans are marching now.”
    Zesus stood, his eyes twinkling, his lightning bolt strapped over his sholder.
    “Then we shall fight!”
    The gods rose, Odion and Thor roaring for blood, Horus cawing, Cronus slamming his scythe into the stone. God held up his hand for silence and slowly they took to their seats.
    “If we fight, we well never have this chance again. You know of what the humans have.”
    Slowly God raised his hand, the stone cracking, something forcing its way through.
    “We would use human weapons?” Brahma cried.
    God nodded, his eyes sad.
    “They humans have used us, draining our powers. Even I am fading.”
    Zesus glowed with anger, the sky rumbling.
    Brahma stood quietly, hands shaking.
    “It is fitting the humans should die by there own hands.”
    Marduk grinned, and clapped Enlil on the sholder.
    “Let us begin.”
    The gods cheered, the room shaking, trying to hold the power within, until a quiet voice spoke.
    “Should we not give the humans one more chance?”
    The gods turned, their eyes bruning into the voice that had spoken.
    “The humans used our powers for engery,for they ruined this world we created, summoning us from the heavens and burning us with cold iron yet you want to give them another chance to ruin us? To enslave us for their selfish demands?”
    The slap of feet hit the asile, the swish of a cloak deafning in the silence.
    “I will not help, but I will not stand in your way.”
    The god left, rolling the rock from the entrance, and with a cry disappering a burst of light.
    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    The sensor beeped.
    Hestia stood, her l bone cracking with pain.
    Her eyes widened. Was this true?
    The sensor beeped again, and its cold voice echoed in the lonely cave.
    “Radition: Non existent. Outside temperature: 28 degrees.”
    Her eyes widned. After one year this could not be possible. Unless…unless.
    Hestia ran to the entrance, her legs shaking after her long sleep.
    Rolling the stone, the sunlught bathed her fair skin, momentarily blinding her.
    The earth was green.
    Green and lush and everything she dreamed of.
    A soft wind blew across the grass, towering trees hanging over her cave.
    Mountains towered abover her, sparkling in the clear sun.
    The breath went out of her.
    Everything was here..
    Mount Olympus.
    Heaven.
    Vallaha.
    Hestia fell to her knees and wept, wept for everything that had happened.
    A flash of light in the horizion and she saw a eagle flying towards her, lightnig crackling behnid it.
    The gods were home.

  8. Lastjedi

    As the heavy doors open to my tomb, my name for my bomb shelter, dust and dry air roll in. The heat is considerable, but all signs of humidity gone. The ground is all rock and dirt, there is barely foliage to speak of. Homes missing doors, windows blown out, the elements had their way with the surrounding buildings. What would appear to be a hairless cat runs by, multiple tumor like growths liter it’s back. The wind is strong blowing east.

    Bones of the long dead liter the broken streets and sidewalks. What used to be trees are gnarled and brown, large fungi like plants growing rampant around the dead husks. I walk into the middle of the road and hear shuffling as if something is walking towards me. What I see turns a pit in my stomach, it was human at one point but now missing skin and parts of the skull exposed. The eyes were a glossy white. Two holes where the nose should be.

    What appears to be a human heart beating exposed on it’s chest like a great gross growth. The smell of death permeated from it like a great cloud. It walked up and put a hand on my shoulder, not sure whether I was frozen by fear or disgust. It’s outstretched hand revealed exposed muscles and tissues that you would imagine skin covering and bony growths appearing up and down the length of it.

    “You’ve got your skin and all your parts” it rasped.

    “Excuse me–” I said but my words came out as a whisper.

    “Careful, most folks would find you tasty” it’s laugh a raspy guttural sound.

    It limped away past me in the opposite direction still chuckling. I looked high in the sky, the sunlight blocked by a great dreary sheet of dirt that the wind seemed to constantly kick up. The rusted and decaying husks of motor vehicles found every few feet blocked any direct paths to walk. I walked in the direct where my decaying friend from early went off to thinking that perhaps he was heading to a settlement or town or a place full of people that maybe wouldn’t eat me as he suggested.

    Shouts and screams filled the air. I ran in the direction of the horrible sounds. What sounded like an animal’s roar vibrated through the air. A bloodied humanoid form came running in my direction.

    “Run you idiot run!” the form said just before collapsing in my arms.

    Upon further examination it was a person who also suffered from the same condition of my decaying friend from earlier. When I looked up a saw a large black reptilian creature with greenish eyes looking at me, it looked like some terrible lizard but the size of a tank. I felt more than saw it raise one of it’s great clawed legs and swipe at us. Everything turned black, I felt warm thick liquid all over my face and chest. Unimaginable pain filled my senses.

    War killed us and the planet is wiping what is left like a disease. We have failed. Human kind has fallen…

  9. kmc53

    Nothing.
    Nothing but darkness and solidarity remained.
    My family, my friends, my neighbors…. All gone. I tried pushing harder than ever to try and lift the broken bookshelf that pinned me down like a lion pins down a deer before viciously devouring it.
    At last I used what was left of my strength to finally push the bookshelf away from my ribs, and slid out through the side. I stood up and wiped the dusty remains of my home off my jeans.
    The radiation hurt my bones like a bitch, I wont lie.
    I clumsily tripped my way to the door, and then I realized there wasn’t a door. There was nothing but rubble and broken walls. How far was the explosion anyways? I realized I knew nothing about atomic bombs and just continued to make my way out of the nuclear fallout.
    At last I escaped from my home (or at least what it used to be), and made my way to the end of the street, or at least what was left of the street. I made my way around the corner and spotted a pack of dogs feasting their irradiated mouths into the stomach of my neighbor, Rosie.
    That’s when I heard the cry. The cry I dreaded with my entire heart.
    I followed the faint sound, clenching my hands together in hopes that it was no one but a sheer hallucinogenic effect from the radiation. It was not.
    I finally reached the screeching cries, and I had never hated to be right as much as I hated it at that moment. On the solid concrete, covered in blood, was my mother, and on the other side of the street, were her legs and feet. Two mongrels were already gnawing away at her thighs.
    “Help me, Jane. Please.” She cried.
    But I knew that there was nothing to do.
    There was nothing I could do to help her. All I could do was stare at my dismembered mother, and try not to look at her bloody intestines that the flies were already feasting on. I could not bear to see the eyes of the woman that cared so much for me. I could not care the same way. Not at this time.
    “I’m sorry, Mother.” I whispered under my breath as I took a step back, and then another step. Before I realized it, I had left my dismembered mother behind the road, her screams pounding in my ears as the neighborhood pack of dogs tore her face into shreds.
    There was nothing I could do, but run.
    Nothing.

  10. Amanda

    “Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul
    And sings the tune without the words
    And never stops at all.“
    Emily Dickinson

    Two minutes , the clock ticks and ticks and tick and ticks. Two minutes until I see what’s out there, What survived. If anyone or anything survived in the little town of Stowe, VT. The last thing I remember of the town was the changing of the tree’s. The old Aspen tree right next to grandma and grandpa’s house , That’s the tree i’m picturing. I can still feel the bumpy bark that completely protected the tree from whatever harm it was hiding from. Kinda like this bunker has done for me. The leaves that turned a reddish orange was my favorite part about it . I took millions of photo’s of that tree last year.

    If my phone didn’t die that would be the only thing I had left to look at. Damn that really sunk in. Once I get out there I have no one. Grandma and Grandpa were out shopping for groceries and they never made it down here. What if they are alive ? No, I can’t put hope in my heart. All it will do is tear me down and destroy me again. I waited for 2 months in counting . From September 23 to November 23. I waited I marked the days and no one came. I can still feel the vibrations of the siren that rang so loud that it would scare a vicious lion. The panic in my heart and the determination to get to safety was astonishing but yet horrendous. Of course I heard of nuclear bombs. Who couldnt , who didn’t ? Even a deaf man would know that they had fallen. I knew that we were at war with every country known to man , but I didn’t expect for this.
    Especially from Hungary. Of all places. The irony of it all is that one day I planned to go there. Sure I’m only 16 but I was saving. Ever since that day I heard the song “ Budapest” by George Ezra how could I not dream to go there? The images on google were incredible , the lights, the house , the people. All Beautiful. How could something so beautiful do something so ugly? I guess Mom was right when she said “ Beauty is skin deep”. How i dreaded the idea of being all the way here in Stowe while mom was in california. Six bombs were launched : One in Canada , Two in Washington , and 3 scattered around vermont and New york. The magnitude of those bomb must have flattened the whole state , no the whole country.

    Beep beep beep , I’m clear for release. I push on the top doors that shut me in this solitude for 12 months and 24 days. The first thing I feel is the sun. But it’s not the same it burns . It no longer gives me the stultifying heat that I always longed for September – May. The air is thick and no longer fresh. It take a moment for my body to understand how to function on this new type of oxygen. The ground is dirt .I begin to walk and look. It takes me about 5 minutes to find where my grandparents house was. Five minutes. I remember running to the bunker and counting the steps:

    1 I ran around the Aspen tree and the leaves trailed behind me

    2 I passed the garden that my grandmother broke her back to plant so that her backyard could look alive

    3 I passed the lazy old cat with the different colored eyes. The right Green , The left a dark black.

    4 My grandparents house, where I spent my school year and learned everything I could

    5 The bunker.

    I begin to follow the path to see if the Aspen tree somehow survived , some how. When I count the fifth step I stand in front of a corpse. My hand slowly rubs against the tree and the bumpy bark is gone. Now its bare , unprotected, , alone. The branches curl up as if to find safety or warmth at the trunk of the tree. I stare at the tree for a small moment , no for a large moment , then I see a reflection of myself. The bunker never protected me at all. I was alone and unprotected. Left in a dark room with 4 walls and some canned food for a year. I curled into corners to protect me from the truth , the idea that I would have nobody– That I had nobody. Im just as burned and destroyed as this tree.

    Instantly and uncontrollably I fall to the ground. I feel the pressure and pain , the sticks and glass and anything else that this dirt floor has collected. But It doesn’t compare to the agonizing pain , the truth. I am alone. In a world that has or had 7 billion people , or not; I am alone. The first tear rushes down my face like the first droplet of rain. And as soon as the first drops , so does the second and the third and now my eyes are endlessly letting out tears. My screams shake the ground and my heart has ripped into millions of shreds . There is no relief until slumber tells me that i’ve had enough. That I was going to destroy myself.

    When I wake up I’m awaken by a owl. Wise and hopeful as my grandmother says. She always told me a riddle.

    Be like the owl and fly .
    Hoot like the owl never give up or let situations see you cry.
    Be hopeful like the owl and fly even when you don’t know where the sky ends.

    Never did I understand this riddle. I guess it was never time for me to understand. But now I do. See I was never suppose to look up to the owl , but instead be the owl. Be the hope and the outspoken , and the fearless. I knew that this was from my grandmother herself. Dead or Alive she wanted me to have hope , that I wasn’t alone. That I can fight this. So I stand up , and I walk to a horizon. I don’t know what i’ll find , who , or when. But like the owl i’ll land where someone needs hope.

  11. RaisinBrand

    War. War never changes.
    In the year 1945, my great great grandfather, serving in the army, wondered when he’d get to go home to his wife and the son he’d never seen. He got his wish when the US ended World War II by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    The World awaited Armageddon, instead something miraculous happened. We began to use atomic energy not as a weapon, but as a nearly limitless source of power. People enjoyed luxuries once though the realm of science fiction. Domestic robots, fusion powered cars, portable computers. But then, in the 21st century, people awoke from the American Dream.
    Years of consumption lead to shortages of nearly every major resource. The entire world unraveled. Peace became a distant memory.
    It is now the year 2077. We stand on the brink of total war, and I am afraid for myself, my wife, for my infant son.
    Because if my time in the army taught me one thing: it’s that war, war never changes.

  12. wheeler04

    (too late but the idea just came to me)

    THE LIGHTHOUSE

    The Lighthouse, the nickname for this building on Fifth Ave, which stands on a small island which was once Manhattan Island. The once luxury hotel/office building was being secretly renovated into an above ground bomb shelter, able to withstand a nuclear attack. New York City was chosen for the site over Washington DC since the federal government was disbanded and the US was turned over to the AmeriEuro Government Corporation, which was headquartered in the old UN Building. The plan was to transfer the government officials, along with other prominent people, here safe from the impending nuclear threat. However, like most plans, Fate stepped in and changed the situation. A button was pushed, launching nuclear missiles, which in turn caused other buttons to be pushed, launching more missiles. Soon the whole world was engulfed in nuclear waste, leaving only a few pockets of civilization scattered across the globe.

    Surprisingly, the Lighthouse withstood the attack, despite not being completed. The exterior protective shell was operational and at the first notification of nuclear disaster, it sealed the building cutting off all contact with the outside world. Fortunately, Life Support and all power stations were also operational and the Food Lockers were full. The areas that needed attention such as the living quarters and farming areas, had to be finished by the personnel on board when the Lighthouse became operational.

    The holocaust came on Loyalty Day, Sunday, July 4, about fifty years ago. Loyalty Day, a day which everyone’s to gather at different venues across the country and listen to patriotic speeches and pledge their loyalty to the AEGC. Our local gathering was a few blocks north of here in Central Park. All of the leaders of the Corporation were in attendance, along with thousands of citizens of New York City. The attack came as the fireworks display began, which further confused everyone concerning the severity of the situation. By the time the officials made it back to the Lighthouse, the building was already sealed, leaving the salvation of our country in the hands of the hundred or so workers inside.

    The surviving crew were made up of a balance of professions; medical personnel, scientists, engineers and construction workers. There were no politicians and no one cared. The jobs that were not covered by experienced workers, such as crop growing, were left to those who were willing and able to learn these professions. Everyone worked together to survive this ordeal, including of course…Harold and I.

    Harold and I were high schoolers, working weekends as janitors at the Lighthouse. It was good pay and easy work. We were best friends in school and are still best friends. We were on duty the day the world ended and continued on as janitors afterwards, along with helping out “on the farm”. In the evening, or what is perceived as evening, Harold and I would come up to the Observatory and gaze out at the city. The clouds, glowing with radiation, provide plenty of light to view the landscape. When the artic glaciers melted, the east coast was flooded. The Hudson and East Rivers overflowed to leave us on an island of about four block square. All the buildings around us were reduced to a heap of radioactive waste, leaving us alone as a beacon of life.

    The Communication Office have established contact with other survival groups. It’s impossible to ever meet them since it won’t be safe to venture outside for possibly another fifty years, however it’s uplifting to know there are others out there. We share stories of survival, medical information and items of interest to those who are still inclined to be religious. However, one topic that always comes up and is never answered is “How did this happen?” Everyone wonders who pushed the first button. No one seems to know. Yet, those who do know will take the secret to their graves…

    …“won’t we Harold?”

    Harold ignores my comment and continues to gaze out the window. However, since we are alone I press him again.

    “What was that you said to me fifty years ago?”

    Harold mumbles something inaudible but I know what he said.

    “Oh, that’s right. It was ‘I wonder what this red button is for’, wasn’t it Harold?”

  13. cosi van tutte

    One more for the fun of it….

    ***

    All I really wanted to do was play a good game of chess on my computer. That’s it. That was my great plan for the day.

    Then, I got a pop up ad for a war simulation game.

    See? I know better than to mess around with pop-up ads. Last one put three million viruses on my computer.

    But I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Those click bait boxes usually sound like click bait. You know, things like: Click here to grow fabulous hair on your awesome chest! or Click here to become a fabulous manly man! or Click here to win a fabulous date with awesome Jennifer Lopez on fabulous St. Tropez Island!

    See? Don’t those just sound like spam?

    This one, however, was different. There were no flashing lights or razzmatazz craziness. Just a simple black and green pop-up ad: Do you want to play a game? Click here for War Simulation For Practical Purposes.

    So, yeah. It sure sounded legit to me.

    So, yeah. I clicked on it.

    It was not a good idea.

    It was a bad idea.

    The worst.

    Ugh.

    ***

    So, I’ve been stuck in this bunker for the last three years, fighting off tedium and the stir crazies. I keep telling myself “Let’s give it one more day.”

    So, yeah. I’m calling it.

    I’m gonna go out there. This is my big day! Whoo-hoo me!

    Sure. It’s probably awful and gruesome above ground – rife with dead bodies and whatever fallout looks like.

    But I need some real air. No more of these recycled x 300,000 air. So, I’m hoping for the best. Whatever the best may be.

    I’m gonna go up there.

    I have to.

    I have all of these great computer games on cd down here, but no computer. I’d accidently left it under my bed three years ago.

    I sure hope it still works.

  14. Critique

    May 4, 2066 AD

    The day the air quality monitors registered a tolerable level above ground Colton and I donned our hazmat suits, double checked the monitors inside our helmets and went to work opening the hatch. We chafed to escape but were apprehensive at what we would find.

    A year underground with our neighbours Colton, his wife Nadine, two preteen daughters, and my wife Angelina and our two teenage boys had taxed our relationships to the extreme. We used vapor guns sparingly in our cramped quarters – about every four weeks – to get rid of waste material. Several months back Marshall, the girl’s cat, leaped in front of my active gun and kapoof! Vanished. Nadine and her girls ignored me after that which escalated an already intolerable tension.

    Then Nadine confirmed what we already suspected. It wasn’t a recurring flu – she was pregnant.

    My boys went ballistic when I said they couldn’t go above ground with Colton and I. It was a tough call – they were beyond ready to spread their wings – but safety came first. We had everyone suit up and put on helmets as a precaution. We had to be prepared for anything.

    It was midmorning when Colton and I cautiously opened the hatch and were showered with clouds of sooty ash. That didn’t stop us. We climbed out.

    Outside we stared dumbly at the scene around us.

    A desert of empty black stretched in every direction.

    No sun. No blue in the crimson sky.

    Eerily silent.

    The neighbourhood had disappeared. No sign of life –a sterile landscape.

    We ventured forward and as our boots sank into a blanket of black powder, we discovered a major problem. The slightest movement of our feet created billowing blinding clouds of ash that took forever to dissipate.

    “Stu, should we try the vapor guns?” Colton stood next to me his voice hoarse through the headsets.

    “Let’s do it.” I said. “On the count of three.”

    A few blasts of the guns proved ineffectual.

    “We need the…” I started. “Solecopters.” We said together in one voice.

    It took us a few hours to ready four Solecopters and hoist them outside. We allowed the boys to come this time.

    “We stick together okay?” I commanded. “We don’t know what we’re up against and we need everyone focused and alert. You see anything you report it immediately.”

    The Solecopter’s top speed was 250 mph and there was enough stored energy in each of them to fly for eight hours.

    During the first hour my boys, Linden and Paul, chattered nonstop – elated to be free from the confines of the shelter. Three hours later the chatter had long since ceased, the sky had deepened to the color of old blood, and we had accomplished little.

    With a growing sense of dread I made the decision to turn back.

    Panic shimmered in the air, the mood heavy inside the shelter.

    “We’ll go out again in the morning.” Colton, his lips tight nodded as I spoke. I looked at my sons. So young. So earnest. “I want you boys to come.” They nodded solemnly. “We need your eyes and ears. We’ll split up and report back here.”

    Nadine sat white faced on a mat weeping softly, her arms tight around her girls.

    My wife’s eyes wide with fear, were glued to my face.

    “It could be a long day tomorrow, let’s get some sleep. This is just the beginning.” I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.

    My inner voice reproached, “Or is this the end?”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This seemed so real when I read it, that’s what is so frightening about your story. Ash to ash, dirt to dirt. dust to dust. Will they ever learn? I doubt it.

      1. Critique

        Thanks Kerry. Frightening business the fine tuning of bomb making with revenge and power behind it. Hope the next prompt is on the lighter side.

    2. Bluepen

      Good stuff. Clean, clear and concise. Needs a bit more tinkering on the technical side. Focus on ICMBs and space based platforms orbiting the planet and not quote unquote bombs. That technology has been obsolete for a century in 2066.

  15. Diana9573

    When the bombs hit, all I heard was the ringing in my ears. All I felt was my twin sister digging her fingernails into my arm. All I remember before that was my twin sister, my best friend, and I playing in our tree house that settled in a tall sycamore in the front yard. As we basically flew out of the tree, my mind started racing. We are twins. We do everything together, and therefore, I can’t be whole without Whitney.
    When the alert went off, I still couldn’t imagine what was going on. I remembered my mother’s faded message in my head, “I highly doubt this will happen, but I was strictly instructed to tell you guys that if and only if a bomb were to go down, all shelters will automatically go on lock down within thirty seconds of the alert.” she had said.
    Then I heard something. It was probably the countdown starting in my brain, but I couldn’t even hear myself over all of this chaos! Chaos! It had just sunk in that this was really real and that it was chaos!
    “Whitney!” I yelled over the six foot distance between us. I could hardly see her because of debris that was flying everywhere. “Right here, Brittany!” she replied. As we were running, she clamped her hand in mine.
    She was slowing down. As we neared the shelter, our parents had worried expressions on their faces and were motioning behind us. I didn’t know if it was because the doors were going to close any second now, or what? They didn’t give up. They kept persistently motioning behind us. Whitney had just looked back and she also had the worried expression. “Whitney!” I cried “What is it?”
    “What’s the matter, Brittany,” she asked “Don’t you think we will always be friends?” . I didn’t have time to answer her before a piece of glass hit her in the neck.
    Most of the time in the shelter was spent sobbing over the loss of our family member. This led me thinking. How am I going to live without my sister? My best friend? My only friend? I felt as if my world was falling apart. Inside of me, and outside of me. The last thing I saw on that humid summer day was my sister lying motionless on the ground.
    Life after the bombing was terrible. Once leaving the bomb shelter, there was no one left. The bombs have left no mercy for the people I had grown up with and had loved so much. The only animal in sight were turkey vultures. Don’t ask me how in the world they had survived. They were dining on carcasses like it was the end of the world. Because guess what? It was!
    The only thing I saw for miles was the large sycamore tree that Whitney and I were in so long ago. Gazing up at the wise-looking tree, I did something I had been dreading for quite some time now. Thinking of Whitney, I replied “Yes Whitney, we will always be best friends,” For a split second, I saw Whitney waving at me from the highest branch.

    ————————–

    This is my first time posting. I’m in sixth grade and I love to write. My dad and sister both write stories on here and I thought I’d like to try as well.

    1. chandra_wd_writer

      Great start! I am a beginner here too, so I can’t critique much. I loved the opening two lines. I felt the ending was good too. Minor feedback: you may try formatting the paragraphs with one more extra line when you write next time.

  16. sprattcm

    Smoke and ash lingered in the air, stinging and acrid, burning his lungs with every breath. A useless gas mask, its cartridges clogged and spent, lay carelessly tossed on the seat of the battered humvee beside Lieutenant Rick Higgins. Infernal eddies of sooty flame danced across the scorched landscape on the mad whims of nameless demons. High above, stretching from horizon to horizon, an impenetrable veil of ominous clouds kept a damp chill in the air.

    As Lt. Higgins patrolled along a ridge overlooking the vitreous crater of an errant drone strike, flashing light on his dashboard warned of an approaching drone. He stopped, killed the engine, and listened intently for the high pitched buzzing that often announced the imminent strike. The light blinked with increasing urgency.
    Higgins snatched his rifle from the seat and slipped from the cab into the ditch, angling into a fissure in the crater. He heard the buzzing of the circling drone and searched the sky for a glimpse of the tiny craft. He caught sight of it high and to the east, banking slowly in a wide searching circle. Higgins stood carefully, wary of presenting too much of a profile, and put his rifle to shoulder.

    It struck before he could put the damn thing in his crosshairs. The drone banked sharply toward the humvee. In an instant, it made a strange high pitched report as the tiny onboard railgun caused his truck to erupt into a ball of fire. The shockwave threw him backwards into the fissure and knocked him unconscious…

    Justice woke abruptly from another terrible dream. One of the Keepers noted his stirring and ordered sedation while it methodically disassembled and reassembled Justice’s memory. The impassive machine replaced the dream of the past with a vision of the future.

    A warm, fragrant breeze caressed a field of genetically engineered grain. The grass rippled and undulated beneath the gentle, yet irresistible force as swarms of imported insects tended to the robust crop. In the distance, nearly beneath human perception, the low thrum of a terraforming installation pounded like the throbbing of the planet’s new heart.

    The sense of a word so old it was new began to take shape. Home

    Noting hormonal surges in another of its charges, the Keeper shifted its attention to another restless survivor. It teased apart the sleeping human’s turbulent thoughts.

    Kyle…I was known as Kyle! I remember…a high buzzing noise. Buzzing and fear. There were others with me – children. MY children. Sarah. Loren. We ran. I have to get them to safety! We need shelter before…

    Sorrow’s body went limp as the Keeper flooded it with a cocktail of chemicals created to facilitate the reprogramming of the few remaining humans in its care. The Keeper efficiently and precisely wrote a bold vision of humanity’s future and wove it into the neurons in Sorrow’s brain.

    The sun slipped into the sea as Sorrow sat on the rocky barren shore. He tended the tidal plants that harnessed the furious power in the waves in the day, but the evenings were his own.

    “Father!” the girls screamed as they ran toward him along the rugged beach.

    Sorrow jumped to his feet and threw his arms around his children, Hope and Charity.

    Sorrow smiled.

    1. sprattcm

      Smoke and ash lingered in the air, stinging and acrid, burning his lungs with every breath. A useless gas mask, its cartridges clogged and spent, lay carelessly tossed on the seat of the battered humvee beside Lieutenant Rick Higgins. Infernal eddies of sooty flame danced across the scorched landscape on the mad whims of nameless demons. High above, stretching from horizon to horizon, an impenetrable veil of ominous clouds kept a damp chill in the air.

      As Lt. Higgins patrolled along a ridge overlooking the vitreous crater of an errant drone strike, flashing light on his dashboard warned of an approaching drone. He stopped, killed the engine, and listened intently for the high pitched buzzing that often announced the imminent strike. The light blinked with increasing urgency.

      Higgins snatched his rifle from the seat and slipped from the cab into the ditch, angling into a fissure in the crater. He heard the buzzing of the circling drone and searched the sky for a glimpse of the tiny craft. He caught sight of it high and to the east, banking slowly in a wide searching circle. Higgins stood carefully, wary of presenting too much of a profile, and put his rifle to shoulder.

      It struck before he could put the damn thing in his crosshairs. The drone banked sharply toward the humvee. In an instant, it made a strange high pitched report as the tiny onboard railgun caused his truck to erupt into a ball of fire. The shockwave threw him backwards into the fissure and knocked him unconscious…

      Justice woke abruptly from another terrible dream. One of the Keepers noted his stirring and ordered sedation while it methodically disassembled and reassembled Justice’s memory. The impassive machine replaced the dream of the past with a vision of the future.

      A warm, fragrant breeze caressed a field of genetically engineered grain. The grass rippled and undulated beneath the gentle, yet irresistible force as swarms of imported insects tended to the robust crop. In the distance, nearly beneath human perception, the low thrum of a terraforming installation pounded like the throbbing of the planet’s new heart.
      The sense of a word so old it was new began to take shape. Home

      Noting hormonal surges in another of its charges, the Keeper shifted its attention to another restless survivor. It teased apart the sleeping human’s turbulent thoughts.

      Kyle…I was known as Kyle! I remember…a high buzzing noise. Buzzing and fear. There were others with me – children. MY children. Sarah. Loren. We ran. I have to get them to safety! We need shelter before…

      Sorrow’s body went limp as the Keeper flooded it with a cocktail of chemicals created to facilitate the reprogramming of the few remaining humans in its care. The Keeper efficiently and precisely wrote a bold vision of humanity’s future and wove it into the neurons in Sorrow’s brain.

      The sun slipped into the sea as Sorrow sat on the rocky barren shore. He tended the tidal plants that harnessed the furious power in the waves in the day, but the evenings were his own.

      “Father!” the girls screamed as they ran toward him along the rugged beach.

      Sorrow jumped to his feet and threw his arms around his children, Hope and Charity.

      Sorrow smiled.

  17. starrywater23

    The plants have grown, as I always predicted they would. Massive, unbroken, wild in the face of mankind’s destruction.
    And, strangely enough, musical.
    Sound enveloped me as I emerged from my fetid shelter, the walls coated and permeated with years of sweat and tears as I saw my glorious country bombed by the infidels. The sands beyond the city had fused into planes of clouded glass, glinting in the harsh sunlight.
    The nuclear power had destroyed our atmosphere, and the sound of my breath being processed by the apparatus was as loud as the voices around me.
    The plants did not speak any language known to man, and I stopped to listen to them. I could not tell if they were speaking so quickly I could not comprehend, or so slowly that it would take centuries to understand a single word. Were they speaking the language of the stars or of the insects?
    Whatever it was, it was beautiful, washing over me like the singing of angels, or perhaps Elvis.
    Hardy blue blooms glistened in the too-bright light, and they were tacky to the touch. My interaction aggravated them, and they chittered at me, disrupting the song. I quickly drew my hand back, sweating beneath the heavy cloth, and backed away slowly.
    To my surprise, the plants allowed my escape, and their song continued.
    I returned to my shelter and shut the door. This was no longer my world, no longer quiet and chaotic and human.
    We had destroyed it and given it back to Mother Nature, and her children were beautiful.

    1. dsherman

      This seems to evoke Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, and some feelings from the Dark Tower by Stephen King. Am I close? I wish there was more to this.

  18. Reaper

    No One to Save

    It’s an old story that is no less true for us than it was in the past No one thought they would actually do it. How many times have you heard it? Even if we only think of the last two hundred years or so?

    No one thought they would put Hitler into power. No one thought they would drop those two bombs on Japan. No one thought they would napalm villages full of innocent people. No one thought those tanks would keep going over the students. No one thought the towers would fall. No one thought Trump would actually get the nomination.

    Now, fifty years after that last one, add one more. No one thought they would actually push the button. No one thought they would drop the bombs.

    When purifying flames fell from the sky, well, it was, oddly enough, mostly nonagenarians like myself who survived it. Upper-middle class old men who inherited houses from grandparents that were almost rich during the red scare. Men with forgotten fallout shelters hidden beneath our family homes. Some of us added some upgrades in the months before the end though.

    When my monitor told me it was safe to go outside… well, I was, to say the least, surprised. How could the air be pure after only a year? I checked the instruments though, and they read true. So I unsealed my subterranean domicile and went outside.

    It is amazing how nature, absent the cancerous influence of man, can take care of herself. She burned off all that crap we were using to kill her, and she did it using our own flames. When we set fire to the planet she used it to turn that pollution into choking smoke.

    Then the plants took over, and I could see how they had grown. With no human hands to cut them down the trees were giant. Even the rose bushes were overgrown, taking in all the toxic smoke and creating clean air. With so much to filter out they overwhelmed the land.

    The herbivores had grown to match the plants, and they wandered the land with almost no fear. The predators were mostly the same size, but they were faster, meaner. Their teeth and claws were sharper, they hunted in packs and killed without mercy. Huh, Darwin was right, and sometimes he worked fast.

    So, that was what I stepped into. A world from the past, brought into the future by our own careless callousness. This was our planet now. I wondered if there was anyone left to share it with. Not that there would be any repopulating, not at my age. Someone would be around for that though, right?

    I was wondering about such things when I heard a report. It was loud, especially in a world with no freeways. Then I felt the pain spread through my chest, the blood oozing down my chest. I looked over my shoulder, to see the twenty something that ended my life.

    No one thought humans would stay the same after we ended the world.

    1. Teserk

      I appreciate the message: everything changes but us. Rather depressing, actually.

      Only problem I can see is the speed at which all of these changes happen. One year? I can suspend belief that the plan growth is accelerated because of weird radiation interactions, but a shift in the size of the herbivores and predators is harder to swallow due to pregancy times, etc. Random mutations would not be uniform. These two things make this rapid evolution a near impossibility. Sorry – this is very nitpicky. The overall message of the piece is sound. 🙂

  19. IWTBW002

    Fifty years later, in the morning, it doesn’t matter, the monitor yammers to Ashlin, who sits before a desk tirelessly in the stark darkness. “It’s finally safe after fifty years . You can go outside now.” The robotic sound echoes in the nuclear bomb shelter, casting off strange obscurity and confusion. Ashlin thinks hard about the monitor’s perfunctory words, about what happened fifty years ago, and about why and for how long she squeezes herself in this crowded room.
    Nuclear bomb, death, hunger, solitude… Each of these words seems detrimental to any ordinary human being who would be solely aware of one third of the life cycle on the earth—–living. The other two thirds, which are birth and death, stay sealed in the world of nuclear bomb, death, hunger and solitude. Ashlin squints her eyes and listens to the heart beating against the soft chest.
    So, it isn’t that bad right. Supposing all of this suffering as an exam to test her courage, she has done well and arrived at the end. But is it the “end”? The question gnaws her heart and lingers in her mind. What will she find out when she walks out of here? Aliens or her “fellows”? And what difference she would make? Funny that she still hopes to be saved by someone of her kind after all these years of endurance. Ashlin takes a big breath. The suffocating warmth of the carbon dioxide sucks the energy. Her flaccid limbs drop on the chair lifelessly. Beep! Ashlin immediately feels the tension, old habits from the old days, drawn up to her mind and throbbing madly. The blast passes her eyes closed. The blood dripped. The people died so quickly that she remembers nothing and knows nothing to remember. The monitor beeps again. A flash of red light helps Ashlin to glimpse at her face in the mirror: the hairs fell off and reveals the white scalp; her dark blue eyes are eerily wild like an alien; her cheekbone protrudes; the wrinkles spread on her face like a severe skin disease. This image strikes Ashlin with horror and self-disgust. Youth is effaced by what? Adulthood, maybe. She can’t be that old.
    But she is definitely older. Ashlin ponders. The monitor beeps again, a friendly reminder that the battery is at the lowest point possible. What a dutiful friend! Ashlin has developed a special feeling for this monitor friend who so far only spoke to her once. But still! She clenches her fist but soon the fatigue caused by hunger lets her loose.
    She climbs through the tunnel up to the top. She opens the lid and jumps out. Her face jerks and a strange smile emerges on her tight-joined lips. The cold water just gobbles down every single cars, houses, corpses, lights and streets. It slips into the underground now. It draws on this artificial land world like a blanket is drawn over an exhausted person. The water is blue and dark. The yellow sun’s shadow disappears when the waves come. So this is what my world has become. Ashlin begins to think mighty hard about something that gnaws and bothers. However, the clarity of thoughts would not come to her easily.
    The aquarium. The last place she had been fifty years ago. Is it a riddle? Why the aquarium,? She shakes her head mighty mighty hard as if she is trying her drag her belted heart loose. The cold water. The exam. The solitude. The death. The nuclear bomb.
    Maybe I am old now, Ashlin thinks with a tiny voice, too old to understand the meaning of the world. The monitor beeps and the screen blacks out like a switch of the light that sends the earth into a deep slumber.

  20. cosi van tutte

    I’m hiding behind this pile of rocks. It’s a good hiding place. I like it. I’m glad I found it. No one else noticed it. Not one of them. Just me. Me. Me. Me!

    I hide and watch. I watch for one of them to come out of hiding. They won’t see me. They don’t know that I’m hiding up here behind these rocks.

    It’s a good hiding place. And it’s mine. No one else’s. Not theirs. Mine. Mine. Mine!

    Shh. Shh. Shh, my heart. I hear a sound. A shy sound, a small sound. A gentle, quiet creak sound.

    The sound of an opening door.

    I duck down a little lower and watch.

    Ahh-ha! I see them. Lovely crunchy them. Coming out of the ground, coming out of hiding. Coming my way. Yes. Yes. Yes! Come closer and closer and closer to me me ME!

    I am hiding. They don’t see me. They don’t know that I’m hiding behind these rocks. Hahahaha! Soon enough, they will know.

    Come to me. Me. Me!

  21. UnclePizza

    All I wanted was to be left alone.

    After my wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver, I left Albuquerque and bought a place in the New Mexico desert. It had belonged to a survivalist who built it back in the 2040’s and spent the rest of his life there. He was serious about survival – the place was practically a bunker, much of it underground. He’d drilled a deep well, rigged the place for wind power, and added five 1,000-gallon propane tanks as well as two 500-gallon gasoline tanks. There was also enough dry storage space to stockpile a few decades worth of food.

    Lucky for me there’s not a huge market for survival bunkers in the middle of the desert, and I picked it up for almost nothing back in 2057. I think that was ten years ago, but I’m not sure since I’ve pretty much lost track of time.

    I had all the tanks topped off when I moved in, and then spent the next month making supply runs, bringing in food, tools, gunpowder, you know, the essentials. Finally, I was able to park the truck in the shed and sit still. It was quiet and I was alone, except for the ghosts of my wife and daughter.

    Then, about two years ago, I was outside changing the tire on one of the ATVs when the world ended. I might not have even noticed, but I happened to look up at the sky and saw all of those contrails. Some heading inland, some heading out. I wasn’t certain they were nukes until I noticed the wall of smoke over the horizon where Albuquerque was. Or, more accurately, where it had been. Good thing I had a bunker, I thought.

    Last month I figured it was safe to venture outside. At first I planned to stay put, but something made me charge the truck’s battery, top off both tanks, and strap a few 55-gallon drums of gas in the back. Who knew how far I’d have to go to find another person to talk to.

    It took all day to get to Roswell, and when I got there the place was deserted. Except for the skeletons. People and animals apparently just dropped where they were when the radiation overcame them, and I guess the insects took care of the rest. I suppose we got one thing right – the insects survived.

    I drove along the empty highway into Texas and then northeast into Oklahoma. It was the same everywhere: the larger cities were just piles of ash and rubble, and the smaller towns were desolate. Nothing but empty buildings, abandoned cars, and skeletons. Lots and lots of skeletons. Eventually I had to head back home before I ran out of fuel and food, and the last man alive made it back to his bunker with five gallons to spare.

    All I wanted was to be left alone. But I never knew how painful loneliness could be until now.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, UP!

      Sorry I haven’t been posting comments lately. I am still around. I’ve just been working on one of my off-line stories and messing around with my new blog.

      Anyway! I really liked this story. I could just visualize the silence and loneliness. I imagined there being no wind as he was driving. I loved the description of the bunker. That was one serious survivalist. 😀

      And just so you know, great last line. 🙂

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks Cosi. The first and last lines came to me in the middle of a busy work day but I didn’t have time to write. So, I wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget like I so often do. Then all I had to do was fill in the middle after work LOL

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks Beebles. I had a longer version that I trimmed down to meet the wordcount. I know we’re casual about that here, but now I’m wishing I’d posted the longer one as it had a bit more depth. If I can find it maybe I’ll update the copy on my blog.

    2. Teserk

      Great job evoking the emotions. It’s true that often the reality of what we “want” once achieved is very different than our expectations of what it would be.

  22. thejim

    I was thankful I had shielded the bunker so that the EMP did not take out my entire electrical system and kept my small droid-bot safe. I sent him out for the weekly radiation readings. I waited for his return; I knew it would be the day. It has been almost a year and a half; thank the lord I was far enough away from the original blast. Just to be safe I waited an extra 3 months before I popped the lid on that sardine can. It took me almost 5 years to finish the bunker and I completed it in the nick of time.

    The readings appeared on the remote panel and it was even better than the day before. The rad levels had dramatically decreased in the past few months. I decided to venture out and see what is left of life.

    I never could get the camera on the droid-bot to work so I was not sure exactly what it would look like out there. I knew that since the bomb exploded in the sky, it created an air burst which decreased the fall out significantly. I never knew who launched it or for what reason.

    I slowly opened the lid of my sub terrestrial sanctuary. I had donned a pair of self-adjusting goggles from my pack as to not have the sun’s rays cook my eyes. I had imagined that the concentration of protective ozone had been depleted and it would be unable to block harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth’s surface.

    When I stepped out, I was in shock I looked around and I could not fathom my new world. It was not scorched and burnt up as I had imagined nor was it anything like the predictions or what was depicted in the movies. It was a brand new world as if overnight the entire world was beautiful and reborn. I walked out on the plush grass I could see animals grazing in the distance and they did not even flinch when they saw me. The air was uncontaminated, with each breath I felt more alive it was like purification, I could actually feel myself feeling better.

    I walked for a while till I came to a grove of trees. I pulled down from a tree a large apple it tasted wonderful. It was so good I grabbed a few more. It was if I could feel the nutrients giving me life. As I kept walking ahead I saw two people a man and a woman sitting under a tree. I approached them and said hello. They just smiled and just looked at me. I offered an apple to the woman she took it and with the first bite the juice flowed out of the corners of her mouth. Then a loud voice came from above.

    “Who so dares to eat from the Tree of knowledge? Who is this, who has tempted you and given this unsanctioned fruit to you?”

    The woman pointed at me.

    “He is evil and a snake among men. I banish you to the depths of Hell and Hades.” The loud voice thundered.

    So basically that’s what happened. Since that day I have been down here ruling the place. You know the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, all that. Been down here for what seems like forever. Oh I see you’re almost out, waitress can you get, ah… What’s you name again?

    “Lizzy.”

    Yes, Could you get Lizzy here another bloody mary.

  23. Teserk

    And now for something completely different…

    ——

    When the bomb dropped, I headed immediately for my bunker. I’d completed it none too soon, it seemed. I practically dove in headfirst and slammed the door shut behind me. I threw the bolt lock and sank back against the wall.

    My eyes swept the small room. How long could I hold out here? While the space was comfortable—complete with lazy boy, big screen, wet bar, and full movie and game collection—I was woefully short on consumables. My meager supplies consisted of two bags of Doritos, a couple of Slim Jims, and a 12 pack of Code Red. If I had known this would happen so soon I’d have at least made sure the bar was stocked. How was I going to survive until the emergency was over?

    The door shook as the harbinger of doom pounded on its outer surface.

    “Come on, Vince. Open the door.”

    There was no way I was opening the door. To do so meant subjecting myself to the horrible beast without. It would be my certain death. No radiation suit in existence would be sufficient to save me. I’d rot in here first.

    “Vince. You’re being childish.”

    Childish? I was NOT being childish. It wasn’t childish to lock oneself away with the comfort of my games. It was pure survival.

    “Vince it’s only for a week. Surely you can handle that.”

    A week? Surely SHE failed to understand the nature of this nuclear disaster. The effects of the initial blast may last for a week, but the fallout…the fallout would last for YEARS.

    “Vince, you open this door now!”

    “Can’t do it, Jillian. Nothing you could threaten could be as bad as what awaits me out there.”

    There was a guttural cry of frustration, and then the sound of a foot striking the portal.

    “Fine! Fine, Vince. You sit in your man cave and cuddle up with your controllers. Get real comfy with them, ’cause you’re not getting any from ME for at LEAST a month.” She kicked the door a second time and left, swearing up a storm the entire time.

    Her threat gave me pause. A month celibate versus a week with the mother-in-law? I settled into the lazy boy and snatched up the X-box controller. I’d gone twenty-five years before I’d met Jillian. What was one month now?

    I still had Lara Croft.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        What’s so funny about this, I’ve had two of them. The first one could blow on a tray of ice cubes and melt them with one puff. The second could blow on them and freeze them solid. What was I thinking off? Oh, for a man cave when I needed one. I’m clear away now unless my second wife turns into one of them. Gad!

  24. Beebles

    Fair warning. Rude words and scenes of a gross sexual nature. Too long too. apart from that, enjoy.
    ——————————————————
    ‘Cynthieeeaaah!’ Brian stood on the doorstep, arms open wide, the gesture accentuated by the bottle of scotch in each hand and the corpse infested ruins to either side.

    ‘Hi Brian. L…lovely to see you.’ Cynthia stood in the remains of the door, tall, emaciated. She wore a tattered cotton dress and pinny. Her bare arms and legs were punctuated with moist sores.

    Brian limped up the steps of the porch to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek with his bleeding skinless lips.

    ‘Look at you, Cynthia,’ he said suggestively through three good teeth, ‘still with some of your hair left.’

    She patted the silver spider’s nest on her head and giggled self-consciously.

    ‘S…So you found us then?’

    ‘Wasn’t hard,’ croaked Samantha, pushing her husband inside, ‘Yours is the only house in the street still standing. You ok? You seem a bit nervous.’

    ‘Oh, just I … I haven’t entertained in a while. Come in.’

    ‘Where’s Ted?’ Brian asked, picking at his surviving fingernail.

    ‘H…he’s in the parlour.’ She turned to Sam. ‘I did tell you about Ted, didn’t I?’ Sam nodded.

    ‘I love what you’ve done with the house, Cynthia.’

    ‘Oh, thanks. Ted put the tarpaulin up where the west wall used to be. Keeps out the worst of the dust. Upstairs is still off limits. Must fix the steps.’

    ‘Whoa! Fetch me a noose, Cynthia,’ Brian called from the next room, ‘There’s a nigger in ya’ parlour!’ He laughed raucously before descending into a fit of coughing.

    ‘Yes, I’m afraid Ted went that colour about a week ago. He’s started to whiff a bit too,’ said Cynthia from the doorway.

    ‘Here ya’ go Ted!’ Brian tossed a bottle of whisky onto the cadaver’s lap. ‘Found a case unscathed in the supermarket.’

    ‘I’ll get the dinner.’ Cynthia shuffled to the back where the kitchen used to be, now just a concrete floor open to the sky with an open hearth in the middle. ‘It’s only tinned ravioli, I’m afraid. I hope you don’t mind.’

    As they sat at table, Brian poured them all generous mugs of scotch. He topped them up regularly as they ate the ravioli from hot tins.

    ‘A toast!’ he slurred. ‘To the nuclear … to the nuclear weapons that kept this country safe. To the nuclear family and friends. To maintaining traditions. As long as we maintain our nuclear traditions, we’ll make this nation great again!’

    The women murmured a response and chinked mugs as Brian emptied his.

    ‘Have another one, Cynthia.’ Brian leaned across the table unsteadily with the bottle.

    ‘Oh, Brian. Are you trying to get me drunk?’ she giggled. She twisted a finger in her hair and came away with a chunk.

    ‘Beautiful woman like you deserves spoiling.’ Brian leared at her. Then screamed as Sam’s shoe connected with his leg under the table, breaking through the suppurating skin to strike the bone.
    ‘Oh, I meant to tell you, Cynthia,’ Sam whispered over Brian’s howling, ‘I bumped into the Hendersons.’

    ‘They’re alive? I didn’t know.’

    ‘Oh no. I ran over them in the hummer. They were lying in the road. I thought they were speed bumps. I hadn’t seen them in ages,’ – she blew on her ravioli – ‘I didn’t realise how tall Ginger had got. Almost as tall as Frank. It was difficult to tell though, ‘cos the hummer had taken off Frank’s head.’ Cynthia vomited onto the floor.

    ‘Sorry, I’ll clear the tins,’ she said wiping her mouth with her three fingers. ‘I have some rice pudding, if you’d like?’

    ‘Divine,’ Brian slurred, ‘I’ll help you.’

    They clawed their way into the kitchen. Sam sat at the table picking at the blackened skin on the stump of her wrist. She could hear Brian’s laughter and Cynthia’s giggling. She’d known, even before the war, that Brian fancied Cynthia. Now Ted was dead and the world had ended. She felt a tightening in her chest, unsure if was emotion or the cancer. Then Brian and Cynthia screamed at once.
    Sam rose unsteadily from the table and struggled to the kitchen.

    Brian’s trousers were round his ankles. There was a look of agonised astonishment on his crusted face and an oozing red stump where his manhood had been. Cynthia leaned over the table in front of him, skirt up round her waist and Brian’s offending organ on the floor between her legs. Her sunken eyes were screwed shut. Sam was sure it was only the alcohol that prevented Brian from passing out.

    She howled in anger.

    ‘For Christ’s sake, Brian. I’ve never been so humiliated! Here we are, the only two women alive and you want to screw the one who isn’t your wife!’

    She dragged herself to the front door, weeping from every part of her body.

    ‘I hate you Brian! You’ve ruined everything!’

    Brian sank to his knees. Through the pain, he crawled after her, leaving a trail of blood on the splintered wooden floor. He reached the front porch in time to see his wife’s fragile form disappearing up the street, shrouded by clouds of white radioactive dust.

    ‘Hey, it wasn’t only me!’ he screamed after her. ‘We had a lot of help from the North Koreans.’

  25. sudhiriyer

    Nov 01, 2070. 10:33 pm

    There are no countries anymore. The much dreaded Orwellian prophesy has seen light of the day. Political boundaries that existed earlier have been wiped off in the wake of the last 5 decades that saw birth of coalitions that spanned continents. The world has always been in s state of war for the past 30 years. It worries me that these words I had read in Orwell’s master fiction – 1984, as a boy, are today being penned down in my diary as reality. Bullets, Guns, marching soldiers are no longer the sight of a battle or war. War of the current day comes with no forewarning. It blinds you by surprise and you don’t live to realise that. At least most people don’t. The world is being nuked. There is no US, Russia, India or China but just nameless coalitions. Common people like me don’t know who is with whom, who the good is and who the evil is. I have lost my identity. Passport, Social security numbers are all just another piece of waste paper. The Internet has been banished from the face of the world. We have gone back in time a 100 years. Books are no longer published, and what remains in print have either defaced with age or have lost relevance. It is believed, from rumours, there exist 4 coalitions now warring against one another. We don’t know who they comprise of and which one does this land upon which I stand fall under. The future, if there is such a thing as future any longer, is….

    Nov 12, 2070. 05:40 am

    I can say its summer because it’s bright outside and my watch says 05:40: At least the Sun hasn’t turned away from this planet. I am writing after almost after a month. The night of my last diary entry had us under attack. I left my sentence incomplete as I had to take cover. A Nuclear bomb was dropped not far from where I live. Temperatures soared high, the roof badly damaged but I stayed put here in the bomb shelter built under my house. I have been living on canned soup and dehydrated vegetables – the only investment that made sense in the past 10 years was food stock and I stocked in abundance. Barter had come back into play and food sold for almost anything you wanted in exchange and it fed you too. The radiation monitor is Red, which means the air outside is highly toxic for direct exposure. I wonder how many more days I will live this way.

    Dec 01, 2070. 02:00 pm

    Just woke up from slumber. Canned soups, canned veggies, sprouting potatoes – Enough food left to last me an year. Radiation monitor shows Amber. Hopefully, it’s not too longer before I get to go out.

    March 01, 2071, 08:00pm

    I feel sick. Last night I heard another loud thud at a distance. I am hoping it’s not another Nuclear attack. The Radiation monitor shows Amber still. Had there been another Nuclear attach, it would have been Red. It’s a waiting game now. I wonder what the neighbourhood is up to – if there is still a neighbourhood.

    April 23 or 24, 2017. Unsure of the time.

    The wall clock has stopped. Not sure of the date and time. Is it April 23rd or 24th today. If it had stopped 3 days ago, then it must be April 24th today. It’s not important anymore. Radiation Monitor still amber. A latent optimism within me tells me that it’s a lighter shade of Amber. But the practical self in me shouts out that it’s not calibrated for shades of amber.

    Perhaps 2 months later.

    Radiation monitor Still Amber. Only 12 cans of food left. If I have to die I might as well die of radiation than of hunger.

    30 days later. Sometime in July.

    30 days ago, I found an hour glass calibrated to record 12 hours. I have been using that to keep track of time. Its must be sometime in July. I have 5 more cans of food and some potatoes left which I can roast. Radiation monitor has started showing a tinge of Green. I hope to get out soon.
    Sometime in August, 2017.
    Food exhausted. Nothing left to eat. Radiation monitor is about 70% green. Its still unsafe to go out in the open. But I have resolved to step out today. It won’t be worse than rotting myself in a dark room this long.

    Later that day.

    I am back in my basement – perhaps, the only safest place in this land at the moment. I stepped out early today and what I saw outside sent shivers down my spine. It felt like I have been teleported to hell. It is barren, charred, not a sight of green. Carcasses lay all around. Bones scattered. I saw giant rats – almost the size of dogs – with terrifying blood soaked canines. It appears that there is animal or human life around upon which those giant rats were preying. I am not certain what they were or if I was hallucinating. My vision was blurred. I found a rabbit; its fur had gone black with soot. I took it with me and brought it here. There is very little water left so I won’t give it a bath. It sits on the cot, looking terrified. As terrified as I am but I can’t say if it’s terrified of becoming my food or of the world outside and looking at me with hope-filled eyes for solace. I am hungry and there is not a can of food left. What must I do? Where do I go? I stare at the rabbit and the rabbit back at me. The rabbit opens its mouth as if to yawn. It has canines? I saw canines. Who have I brought with me here?

    *****

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Really, really, really like this. The use of the diary and calendar gave immediacy and a great sense of time. Poor MC, poor rabbit.

  26. FEARxTHExGOOSE

    “Sarah, where are you? You need to come home now.”
    “Matthew, I’m at the office in Atlanta. What’s going on?”
    “It’s started Sarah, the end is coming.”

    Matthew wakes with a start in his cot, the voice of his dead wife still in his mind. It had been an entire year since she died in the war, and he still couldn’t forget her.
    He gets up and rubs his eyes, cursing under his breath.
    “She’s gone, you’ve got to accept that. Couldn’t keep her alive in real life, and you can’t in your dreams either.”

    With a sigh, Matthew begins his daily maintenance on the bunker he calls home. Changing out the air filter, and taking stock of the mountains of canned food he’s been living off of the past year. But as he is walking out of the food storage, something catches his eye. Something impossible on his monitor…

    C.B.R.N. Scan Complete. Survivability Chance: 95%

    Matthew walks over to his monitor and takes a seat in the old swivel chair.
    “It can’t be, it’s only been a year.”
    He pulls out the keyboard and his fingers become a blur as he runs a diagnostics check on the C.B.R.N. system to check for malfunctions. But once again, he is shocked.

    Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Defense System.
    Operating at 100% power.
    No errors detected.

    Matthew mouths the words, “No errors detected” and stares at the screen in disbelief. Just to be sure, he activates the C.B.R.N. scan once again. Again it reports a 95% chance of survivability.
    “Ninety five percent! That’s better than I could have possibly hoped for in years to come!”

    He wheels away from the computer and then sprints into the living area, stopping in front of an old chest. Throwing it open, he digs inside and withdraws an old map and unfolds it on the table. It’s a map of the United States and is covered in red dots. His finger hovers over a dot on the East Coast.

    Point of Impact. Atlanta, Georgia.

    “Atlanta, thats the closest bomb that fell to me. Would that be far enough?”
    Matthew reaches out and takes a pencil and some string and draws a circle out from the red dot. When he is finished, he looks down at the map and begins to rub his hands.

    “That puts me about 100 miles from the extent of the blast radius. If the fallout didn’t enter the jet-stream…”
    Matthew looks up at the concrete ceiling and imagines the sunshine on his face once again. He takes a deep breath and nods his head. “It’s time I take a breath of fresh air”

    He runs to the lead lined door leading outside, grabbing his hazmat suit and gas mask on the way. “I’d rather be safe than sorry because of that five percent,” he says with a grin. With a deep breath, he opens the door and steps out into the warm sunlight.

    1. Teserk

      Good energy. One possible way to improve: I’m wondering why he is only doing this thing with the map now. He would have had plenty of time during the year to calculate all of this stuff. I think he would be re-calculating now, trying to figure out what he got wrong before. But this is a minor thing. 🙂

  27. Lex Noël

    The hatched door creaked as I pushed it open. A cloud of green dust flowed into my once sterile bunker. I frantically began swatting my clothes to get the soot off of me, incase it had remnants of radiation. It’s unnerving being outside for the first time in a year.

    The dust settles and lying before me is a jungle of gargantuan trees. The trunks are as wide as a house and as tall as the Chrysler building. What the hell? From the sounds of the bombs exploding while we were in the bunker I expected absolute decimation. Not a lush forest.

    I hear the pangs of my daughter’s feet climbing up the metal stairs of the hatch.

    “Daddy! It is safe?” she asks excitedly. Before I can even answer, or stop her, she runs into the open air and spreads out her arms like a small bird. She lifts her face to the sun and closes her eyes, soaking it in. I’m thrilled beyond belief to see that the year in confinement didn’t break her spirit.

    “Easy now Lace.” I tell her. She lowers her arms and stares up at the trees.

    “Dad…where did these trees come from?” asked Lace in amazement.

    “Your guess is as good as mine, honey.” I say, walking out and standing beside her. “Wait here.” The nearest tree is only ten feet from Lace and I. I approach the base and look up into its canopy of branches. It would take thousands of years for trees to grow this large. How did a thousand of them show up in a year’s time?

    “Dale!” My wife, Lily, calls from the top of the stairs. “Dale! The radio’s working!” Grabbing Lace by the hand we hurry back down into the bunker. We haven’t heard anything in over seven months. We thought we were alone.

    “…plant life seems to have been affected by unbelievable spurts of growth. We have heard across the waves that there are now trees in North America estimating over 2,500 feet. There are forests of grass in the Europe well over 1,000 feet…” The man on the radio crackled through the speakers.

    “Well, that explains a lot!” Lace said smartly. I gave her a warm smile and tousled her hair with my fingers.

    “It explains the constant noise up above us,” said Lily. “I’m amazed the roots didn’t break their way into the bunker! Or the weight of the trees crush us by the size of them.”

    “…No word yet on how animal life has been affected by the radiation. Please stay within the safety of your bunkers until further notice…” The man continued. No sooner had he finished a loud clang rang from the top of the stairs. We forgot to close the hatch door.

    1. FEARxTHExGOOSE

      You took an unexpected take on the “nuclear apocalypse” scenario and you did so brilliantly! I loved the use of descriptive wording and overall it was fantastic! Well done!

    2. Beebles

      yes i felt slighlty ambivalent about the ending. then i had a think and imagined the door swining shut leaving them to the mercy of the giant fauna. has excellent borrower type possibilities and the incredible shrinking man. i reallly liked it.

  28. MikeGill

    The Last Man

    Adam still couldn’t believe that it had happened, even a year later. He had heard about the launches on his way home from work. Instead of going to his lonely one-bedroom apartment, he had turn off the highway and headed into the mountains and his hunting cabin. Or, to be more truthful, to his shelter he had built and stocked in the cave just up the hill side. For the last year he had lived off of canned foods and drank from the underground stream at the far back of the cave. Finding that stream had been a Godsend. He had enough fresh water to drink, a way to generate power (if not very much), and some place to wash away his waste. It hadn’t been a fun year, but it was still better than the dead static world his radio showed him.
    It had been a year, Adam reasoned, as he approached the metal door at the mouth of the cave. He knew there was no reason for bombs or missiles to have fallen anywhere near southeast Kentucky. There was nothing worth destroying close by. So, it shouldn’t be too bad outside.
    He’d come to the door like this every month trying to will himself to open up the door and see how bad it was. But each time he had talked himself out of it. At six months he managed to put his hand on the release before changing his mind. Now, he was worried about his sanity. The batteries that powered his lights were running out. The stream wasn’t strong enough to power them; it was barely enough to keep his radio working and the front door camera functional. He was determined to go out this time. Radiation would be better than darkness, madness, and more tomato soup. After a year, he reasoned, it shouldn’t be bad.
    He grabbed the release and pulled. Nothing happened. After so long, the lever has corroded some. He pulled with both hands and all his strength. With a horrible noise, the lock finally gave way. He pulled the door to him and dim light came from the cave entrance some 10 feet away. He walked toward the light. As he stood at the cave edge and blinked at the bright spring sunlight, he was, irrationally, reminded of Plato and the allegory of the cave. Maybe humanity needed to be unchained, needed a philosopher king, before it blew itself up, he thought.
    Everything looked normal, just like it had a year ago. Maybe he had heard wrong, he thought and there had been no missile launches by Russia and China.
    He went back down into the cave and got his radio. Turning it on, he scanned the airwaves for any sign of human life and caught a faint signal. He ran to the top of the hill in hopes of better reception.
    It was a news report.
    He heard reminders not to enter any areas that looked damaged. He heard a report of trade resuming on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. There was a call for workers to help haul goods around the hot zones near Cincinnati.
    Adam jumped for joy at knowing he wasn’t the last man on Earth.

  29. Bushkill

    (Been all kinds of busy lately. Feels good to write again … enjoy)

    The war started as most do, saber rattling and a host of “I’ll see your troop movement and raise you a Carrier group.”

    Unlike most rattling though, it didn’t stop there. The New-Egypt Empire, a conglomeration of North African countries and middle-eastern fiefdoms, had tired of bowing to outside influence. Having been booted from the table about space exploration, ignored in the colonization of the moon, and treated as a third world entity with regard to mining rights in the asteroid belt they reacted as most superpowers do when told to sit and play nice.

    The last news reports before all forms of communication in the bunker were lost spoke of planet-wide death totals eclipsing 90%.

    That report was 11 months ago.

    Our badges showed radiation as minimal in our shelter, but the monitors outside witnessed rampant degradation of life. The weather patterns were wildly different from past records and our tablets couldn’t make anything of the data.

    Nada.

    On Day 384, the threshold beacon on the monitor ticked into the green. It was safe to leave our cramped, but livable space.
    I was the first up the ladder.
    I was the first to breathe air not rammed through old filtration units.
    I was the first to see the sun, the real sun, in more than a year.

    It was oddly normal.

    Life was hanging on. Not like the bleak midwinter forecasts of the doomsayers, but actually pulling itself together and forging on.

    I guess Darwin is like that.

    I expected … What? Two headed deer feeding on the slopes behind my house? None. Perhaps I’ll find a corpse or two of still births. I figure if it’s got two heads it can’t run fast. Slow movers get eaten by faster predators. The deformed won’t live long enough to reproduce.

    There is plenty of vegetation that still clings to life, too, that, if not exactly flourishing, survived as best it could. I suppose being protected by hills from direct blasts kept the heat and fire from scorching them. And what did a magnetic pulse and bright light matter to a photosynthetic anyway?

    It is strange, though. There are many trees that are gone, blasted away. I can see the river as if it were a stone’s throw away and it glides through its course unchanged, careless of the machinations of men.
    There is enough detritus around that I can construct a dwelling of some sort. And the mountains were always good for stone. Stone would be reassuring for the others.

    I look over my shoulder as they climb out of the hatch and blink at the light, “Come on, we can make this work. Let’s start gathering some food and water to resupply.”

    They are uncertain, hesitant. When a squirrel bounds by chittering, their malaise is dispelled. Smiles, the first in a long time, steal away on their faces.

    It won’t be easy, but it can be done – has to be done. There is nothing else.

  30. igonzales81

    When the warnings first came, over every medium available, I was one of the lucky ones. My great grandfather had built the shelter in the early sixties, the last time that the bombs had come so close to dropping.

    Now it was time to find out what was left. I had no food or water left, and the antiquated air filters weren’t working anymore. If the world outside was a toxic, irradiated wasteland hostile to human life, well, that wasn’t much different than it had been before the war.

    I cracked the seals on the massive door and pushed it open. The air that rushed in was so warm that for a moment I thought it was all over. But after a moment, I realized that I wasn’t dead, that the breeze seemed fresh and almost…balmy.

    I took my first steps outside my small refuge, blinking in the bright sunlight. As my eyes adjusted, I saw I was in a forest. Tall green trunks festooned with massive leaves stretched before me, limiting sight to only a few feet. I rested a hand on the nearest tree, surprised to find that it didn’t feel like bark. It was smooth and regular, more like a stalk than a trunk.

    Then I heard the music.

    It filtered through the surrounding greenery, at once familiar and oddly out of place. It took only a moment for me to identify the strains of Def Leopard’s “Ramble On.” I followed the sound, wary and hopeful.

    When I came upon the source of the music, it was some sort of camp, with lounges and blankets spread around a smoldering fire. The music itself was coming from a small radio, beside which sat a man. He was tall and thin, with patched clothes and long, ragged hair and beard. Dark glasses hid his eyes, and a long joint hung from his mouth.

    As I stood there with my mouth open, his head turned slowly towards me. “Hey, man, didn’t see you there. Thought everybody was gone. ‘Sup?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Hey, you look wired,” he took the joint from his mouth. “Want a hit?”

    I was at a loss for words. I asked the only question I could put into words. “You have hash?”

    He laughed as if that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. “Look around, man. Hash is all we got.”

    It was then that I realized what the plants around me really were. “Whoa.”

    “Just gotta be careful, man,” he said, taking a drag. “Used to be others here. Don’t remember what happened to ‘em.” He shrugged. “But who cares, hey?”

    I was just about ready to take that hit, when something grabbed my ankles. I found myself dragged off my feet, thrashing and screaming, as a horde of pale figures with enormous eyes started beating the life out of me.

    The man stared at the scene, the look on his face one of sudden recollection. “Oh, that’s what happened.” He shrugged again. “Those morlocks’ll get you every time.”

  31. Bug934

    Fist time submitting here, wrote this pretty quick, was a fun topic 😉

    I spent the first month crying while binge eating all the chocolate I had, except for one bar. This chocolate bar has been staring me the face for the last eleven months. Right there on the top of the shelf that used to store the dried fruit. I ate that too. If I was smart I would have saved some of that. That didn’t happen, I ate it all. Today is the day I will eat that last bar of chocolate.

    I flung my legs over the side of the cot and let my bare toes graze the cold concrete floor. My eyes drifted over to the monitors, as they do every morning. It still has that green blinking light, glowing, taunting me. “I know shut up already”. I’ve grown accustomed to the hard echo of my voice bouncing off the walls, at least it doesn’t make me cringe anymore.

    Compared to my kitchen at home this one is a sad substitute. I had just installed granite counters, stainless steel appliances and gleaming maple floors. Then the bombs hit and I was only able to enjoy it for a week before the radiation levels started to rise. I should have spent that money on more chocolate.

    Carefully measuring out the half cup of water for my oatmeal, I tossed it in the microwave for a few minutes to heat it up. The green light is still staring at me, showing radiation levels have reduced enough to go out. I’m not sure if I believe it, it’s only been a year and I find it hard to believe that it could be true. It’s possible that the monitors are broken along with the water pump. I sigh as the microwave beeps.

    With each lumpy bite, I stare at the green light. I tap the video screens hoping that they will come on. They do not. I sit back in the only chair, a rickety wooden chair and wonder if maybe today I can find something out there that’s better.
    Can I even bring anything in,would be a deadly radioactive chair? I’m not a scientist I have no idea how this works. I was lucky enough to buy this house which just happened to have an underground bunker. Something I never really thought I would need, but now I’m glad I have it.

    Unable to ignore the green light any longer i wrestle into the yellow hazmat suit. The iron circular door at the back of the bunker hasn’t opened in a year and the lock takes a minute to open, but I get it. One foot after another I make my way up the ladder to the small platform at the top.
    This lock opened easier than the the other one, I close my eyes as I heave the door open, it’s loud metal crashes down. My heart is beating fast as I take one look above and see the most beautiful sight. Followed by a Worse one.

    The sky although obscured with dark clouds and a strange grey haze, is the most beautiful sight. The worse sight are the charred remains of house after house, the weeds growing out of control, and the rabbit who ran past who seems to have something growing from its side. My house is still standing, in almost perfect condition. I clamor out of the hole and make a dash for the back kitchen door. Inside I know there is more chocolate.

  32. UnclePizza

    Whistling past the prompt in the dark…

    Time to Split
    Ch 5 – Wednesday, 3:00 PM

    Rosie woke up and saw that it was light again. But she was still alone, and she was still scared. And she was thirsty and hungry and maybe even more thirsty than scared because she didn’t have anything to eat or drink yesterday. The man didn’t come back and nobody else came either.

    She tried to play with Polly and Molly, but it was hard to talk and when she tried to sing she couldn’t. Her throat was so dry that it hurt even to hum. So she sat on the floor and wrapped up in the sleeping bag and watched the door. She sat for a long time and then her bottom started to hurt and her legs got tingly. So she stood up and tried to look out the window again but it was too high and she couldn’t see outside. When her legs stopped tingling she sat back down and watched the door again.

    The next time her legs got tingly she got up and walked to the door. She reached for the knob but then stopped. The man told her not to try to open the door. He told her that if she tried to leave then he would do bad things to her. And if she was gone when she got back then he would do bad things to Lisa. Besides, he said, he was going to lock the door anyway so don’t bother with it.

    Rosie stood with her hand almost-but-not touching the knob for a long time. She thought about how the man might hurt her. Was he waiting outside, watching? She got scared again and pulled her hand back a little. Then she thought about how hungry and thirsty she was and decided that she didn’t care if he hurt her as long as she could drink something, so she reached for the knob again. She stood at the door for a long time – fingers almost touching then pulling away when she thought of Lisa hurt. Almost-touch, back-away. Almost-touch, back-away.

    Finally, she sat back down on the floor. She did not want Lisa to get hurt, but she did want to see her. And Momma. She held Polly and Molly close, but they weren’t soft and warm like Lisa and Momma were. She looked at the door. Her tummy hurt. So did her throat.

    She got up and walked to the door again and this time she put her hand on the knob. She didn’t try to turn it, just squeezed it. Then thought of the man hurting Lisa and took her hand away. Then thought of her throat and touched it again. This time she tried to turn it. She got scared when it moved so she let go. And then the door opened. Just a crack, but it was open. Rosie felt like she had been in the room for a whole year, but now she could go out and find food and water. She hoped nobody would get hurt.

    ———————————————————-
    Full story to-date posted here.

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks Reatha. Funny thing is, I actually wrote this scene on Sunday, two days before the prompt came out, planning to work the prompt into it once I knew what it was. I can’t tell you how long I struggled with that until I finally just added those two sentences to the end. (I had to find something to trim to make up for them though since I’ve made a game out of having all my posts come in at exactly 500 words!) Once I finished I decided that the very last sentence even made for a better ending.

  33. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Fimbulwinter

    Taking my glasses off, I set Cresson Kearny’s Nuclear War Survival Skills aside. I took my nice chair, pushing the wooden one aside, and pulled it up to my desk.
    The tiny black and white picture on the monitor showed what it always did, what it always had since I’d gone down into the shelter. Nothing. A complete lack of any life: plant, animal, or human. Nothing but blankets of snow with more snow powdering onto it.
    I turned toward the “Animals of the Ocean” calendar hanging next to the desk and saw that the December picture of a seal wearing a Santa hat had begun to collect dust. The red ‘x’ I had made over December 31st in permanent marker now seemed faded and ancient.
    How long had I been down there? A year… maybe even going on two?
    I took the mouse and shut down the dreary video feed from outside. By double clicking the little card icon I turned the screen a bright green as a new solitaire game started up.
    Thank God for solitaire.

    Only a little way into the game a tiny, blue bordered pop-up window appeared at the bottom of the screen. If there had been internet down there I might not have clicked it. But, I did click it, and up came my video feed.
    A tiny shape moved in the distance. What exactly it was, I had no clue. The movement was too smooth for it to be a person, but that didn’t matter.
    In fact, nothing mattered except that something had moved.
    With the gigantic dark blue coat covering my entire body, my glasses on, and the words of Cresson Kearny sitting alongside the gun in my pocket, I stood in front of the metal door of my shelter.
    Will it even open? I asked myself, just standing there like some sort of puffy, blue coat hanger. It could’ve easily frozen with the weather the way it was.
    But right then was not the time to think about it. Right then was the time to actually do it.
    And, with that in mind I wrapped my gloved hand around the door handle and pulled. And it opened.

    At first I thought the wind would just blow me right back into the shelter. The snow blew into my eyes and nose. The combination of that and me physically being knocked back took my breath away immediately.
    That was why my attempted gasp at the sight of the little, red man in a wheelchair instead became nothing but my mouth opening and closing like some sort of fish. The gun he pointed at me looked old, but strong, like it could tear right through my large, blue armor. He spoke slow, and in a voice more mucus than actual speaking.
    “Who’re ya?” slurred in one garbled word through a pool of blood I now noticed sitting on his tongue. He leaned over the wheelchair and spit while I answered.
    “Whatcha up to? You been in there since the bombs dropped?” he croaked.
    “Yeah. I wasn’t sure about the… uh… radiation.” He gave a hearty laugh at this that I thought might have shown me a little of who he had been before whatever had happened to him had happened to him.
    “Ya got that right kid. Lookit me.” He held his arms out and showed off the blistered, red burns covering them. Then he abruptly dropped the gun to his lap and looked behind his shoulder. “Daisy! Come ‘ere!”
    Suddenly a younger teen girl also with a gun came stepping out from the snow farther away from my shelter.
    “Everything all right da?” she asked, eyes going from the wheelchair man’s face to mine throughout the sentence.
    “Yeah, all good,” he said, putting one of his hands on her shoulder, then he turned to me and held the other hand out to shake mine, “I’m Sterling,” he smiled a smile that wrinkled the thin skin around his lips, “this is my daughter, Daisy.”
    Daisy simply nodded her head at me as she put her gun into her jeans.
    “So, what’s your story?” I asked when we dropped our hands back to our sides. I was tempted to wipe it on my jeans in case something on his skin had rubbed off, but resisted since he was so kind.
    “You’ll get it soon enough,” he smiled still and folded his hand together, “if, that is, ya wanna go with us.”
    I didn’t even need to consider, anything to get away from the shelter. To be with other people. To play games besides solitaire.
    “Where are we going?” I asked, having to pull the coat a little to let the question be audible.
    At this Sterling’s smile grew and Daisy smirked. “Well, there ain’t much to do here, and we never been to Disney World…”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Really enjoyed the details in this, starting with Cresson Kearny and ending with Disney World. This could be the intro to a most interesting book.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Nothing like being optomistic in sight of all the ruin. At least he’ll have some company to surround him. I’ve read so many prompts on the downside this week, I’m thinking of going back to Fox News to cheer me up? What did I just say?

  34. chandra_wd_writer

    I hope you guys like reading it. A bit nervous about the ending. Waiting to hear your feedback.

    “Daddy, what is radiation? I want to see it,” asked my six-year-old daughter after she heard the evil-sounding word far too many times. Her questions, though at times were difficult to answer, provided the much-needed distraction from our obsessive survival thoughts in those initial weeks. My wife cleverly managed to make this a hide-and-seek game, and my daughter was determined to win. But it’s impossible to confine a kid to an underground bunker for long; after a week, she knew it wasn’t a game.

    “Daddy, what is radiation?” she would ask again.

    “The Sun is angry. If you go out, you will get burned,” said my wife, hoping the clever answer would satisfy my daughter’s curiosity.

    “Why is the Sun angry?”

    “Because someone scolded him.”

    “Why?”

    My wife saved the day with a funny short story about why the Sun was angry.

    The war was going on for two years. The only way to end it seemed to be by nuking the hell out of our planet. It was only a question of when. The only people who would survive the apocalypse were the people who started the war.

    To build a bunker was an expensive affair; moreover, in most of the countries, it was illegal. If found, we risked spending the rest of our lives in the prison; yet, my father had put all his savings into building a bomb shelter for my parents and us. He had powerful “connections” to say the least. As for me, I was trying hard to compete with the Artificial Intelligence bots churning out novels. I was barely making ends meet as an aspiring, human sci-fi writer—a rare and exotic hobby in the age of intelligent computers and bots.

    The scale on the radiation monitor was a scary red for the first six months before it started turning yellow; it took another six months for a bright green. Whether it turned green or not, we were to come out of the bunker as there weren’t enough supplies. I take the blame as I forgot to replace expired canned food in time. There was plenty of water, but we only had food for a couple of weeks.

    My daughter grew a couple of inches taller in that year, and her hair turned into a beautiful frizzy mess. She was excited that she could finally go back to school, meet her friends, play in the park, eat ice creams, and meet her grandparents.

    Well, that reminds me of my parents. Are they alive? Where were they when the bombs dropped? Why did I not call them on that day? Did they have enough supplies to last for a year? How about my mother’s health? These were the obsessive thoughts that haunted me every day when I was in the bunker.

    My parents lived two miles away from our farmhouse on the leisurely countryside. My father made a fortune by writing best-selling sci-fi novels before the AI bots started writing novels in the early 2050s.

    Initial few weeks were the most difficult. The uncertainty of what happened to our friends and family was disturbing, to say the least. Then the obsession about how we would survive when we go out of the safety of the bunker.

    Understandably, I planned to go out first before my wife and daughter. On that day, I woke up in the morning, gotten into the hazmat suit after I hugged my wife and daughter.

    The bunker door opened with a loud, screeching sound. Some dust, ashes, and a few heavy objects, rushed inside. I was safe as I was wearing a helmet and distanced myself. After the dust had settled, I climbed the ladder with shivering hands and legs while my heart was beating at its peak. The oxygen tank wasn’t making the climb any easy either. I paused for a moment before I finally mustered the courage to take the last step.

    All I could see were ashes and debris. Everything looked as if my eyes could see only see in grayscale. The sky, if what I saw was even the sky, was gray with a faint hint of blue. It only reminded me of how beautiful our confined life inside the bunker was. The landscape felt like it was straight from the hell, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted my daughter to see it. This wasn’t what I had remotely prepared for, even for my sci-fi imagination. The only color I saw was hints of green sprinkled randomly suggesting the mother Earth was springing back to life.

    Did my parents make it? How are we going to live? Who else have survived? Is the radiation level safe or the monitor gave a false reading?

    The frightening landscape immediately made me realize it was impossible to survive outside unless we get help. And I wasn’t sure if anyone made it in the neighborhood. How I wished I had more supplies for a year. Bunker seemed safer than the outside. But we had no option. At the most, we could live for a couple more weeks inside, and the thought of dying with hunger sent chills through my spine. For the first time in my life, I regretted that we brought our beautiful daughter into this cruel world.

    I finally closed the door and started walking carefully as I surveyed the surroundings in fear. Fear which I was never prepared to face. The deafening silence was scary. The only sounds I heard were from my footsteps.

    My parents lived two miles away, near the lake. In old days, I could see their house and the faint lights inside. It took me a while to figure out in which direction their house was. The door of the bunker came in handy to help me with direction. I remembered on the day when we installed it in our backyard and the direction it faced. I started walking in that direction, desperately hoping my memory was right, and praying my parents made it too.

    I knew the door to their bunker, and I knew the code to open it. But I wasn’t just sure if I could locate it with all the debris.

    When I finally reached the place, I punched in the code—fearing for the worst and praying for the best. The door opened with the same loud screech I heard two hours ago. I slowly went inside and knocked on the second door. After a few impatient, unanswered knocks, I punched in the code and opened the door.

    The bunker looked as if no one ever lived inside. I checked on the radiation monitor, and it wasn’t turned on. I checked the water and food supplies, and they looked as if no one ever used them for long. That confirmed my worst fears: my parents never made it to the bunker.

    I sat there weeping until I realized my wife and my daughter might be waiting for me. I had to get back to our bunker.

    I stood up and started walking towards the door trying to accept that my parents haven’t made it, and I will never know why. But it was strangely comforting to know that they never made it instead of living with false hope.

    That’s when I noticed a photo of our family on the wall. The five of us. A beautiful family. It was taken before the war started. As I approached the photo, I saw a few words written on it in my father’s handwriting.

    “Dear Raymond, If you are reading this, we are happy you survived it. You may need the bunker and supplies more than us.
    – Love, Dad and Mom”

    I sat there and wept hugging the photo. I don’t know for how long I sat there before I came to senses. I locked the bunker after I got out, and started walking back to our bunker.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Chandra!

      This was an excellent story. You built up just the right amount of tension, so I was rooting for him to find his parents.

      As for the ending, it feels like the right way to end it. I just hope he doesn’t let all of his parents’ supplies go to waste. 🙁

          1. Kerry Charlton

            A very realistic story with the parents sacrifice for their own family’s welfare. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same. I wouldn’t want to live in a world without much hope. Ithink you did a great job on this. The realism was excellent.

    2. sudhiriyer

      A touchy ending. I knew there was something coming at the end as I kept reading. You have nicely sketched the unconditional love of your parents toward you despite the calamity. Good job chandra_wd_writer.

  35. C B

    It’s 2066. I’m an old man now; nearly 100-years old. I have seen so many things over the course of my lifetime; but I never thought I would see the world come to an end.

    For the last year, I have been hiding in a bomb shelter on land that my family has owned for over 300 years. My father built this shelter back when we were worried about the Communists – in the 1950s. We never would have believed that our own government would drop nuclear bombs on its own people. But, sure enough, they did.

    The detection system on the outside of the bunker tells me that it’s safe to go outside – that the radiation levels are no longer dangerous – but I’m not so sure. Even still, I’m old man. What difference does it make if I die now?

    I slowly climb the set of stairs leading to the outside world. I open the heavy metal door and peer outside. It’s dark. The moon is noticeably absent and so is the wind.

    I don’t walk as fast as I once did; but I walk. I walk in search of life but there is none. I am the only one left.

  36. cosi van tutte

    Sorry if the language in this one makes your head hurt…. 🙁

    ***

    Well, I reckon Jimjam James and me’ve been down here for a while now. Ain’t all that sure of the time. But we’ve done have some good times down here. Jimjam, me, and a twelve hundred pack of brewskis.

    Thing is, though, the brewskis have plumb all run out.

    And that ain’t good.

    So, it’s all up to me to go fetch us some more of it.

    Jimjam ain’t happy about me goin’ for it. He thinks I’m gonna bring home some fishy moonshine by mistake. I did go tell him there ain’t no way to make that kind of dumb brain mistake. Ain’t even on purpose.

    He did also tell me to go watch out for them zombies. That was right nice of him, I think. But then he goes on to ruin it with insults. It ain’t true that I ain’t got a brain. I got brains plenty. I got so much brains I’m a zombie picnic basket. Family sized at that.

    Jimjam is all stuck down here on account of his headache. I tell him to stop shuckin’ insults and get some shut up shut eye. He yaks on a bit more, but he does it as he’s goin’ on to his room.

    Good. All that yakin’ and quackin’ will done to make his headache worse.

    And that ain’t a good thing at all.

    So, I grab my trusty old Forty-Niner Buster, unlock all them padlocks on the door, and hustle on outside.

    I ain’t gonna lie. It ain’t a dose of pretty out here. It’s a right ugly dustfest disaster. Ain’t no trees. Ain’t no houses. I did get so many worries. If there ain’t no houses, that mean there ain’t no stores? How’m I to get brewskis if there ain’t no more stores all around?

    I get up a hope that I’d be findin’ stray bottles in all the messes.

    It’s a right good one, that hope. I’m just so happy glad that I got to hope that one up. Instead of Jimjam thinkin’ it up and claimin’ credit.

    I walk and I strut and I stroll and I get back to just plain walk. Struttin’s plenty hard on my hips and strollin’ just done go kicks up too much of that gray sticky dust.

    Ain’t right sure which one way to go. No buildings and no trees makes it all seem same.

    Then, I did get see someone up ahead. Ain’t one someone. It’s a right good group of them. I go yak and wave at them.

    They did go turn around and oh blangdoozle it! Them’s ain’t people at all. Them’s all gray dust and rotted skin flakes. They all get to moanin’ and stumblin’ my way.

    Well. That ain’t good one bit at all.

    I get up a right nice hope that I can run out them. So, I’m gonna go do it a try.

    I’ll go on out for the brewskis some might other day.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is so much fun, favorite phrase, I’m a zombie picnic basket. I was reminded of Larry, Daryl, and Daryl from the very first.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hi Cosi, there’s a famous broadwat tune, “There Ain’t No.’ dad blasted, I can’t think of the name for it but I loved it as a kid so it’s somewhere in the 20th century, about the middle. I love the language, you know I do even though I done been taught to speak real proper like ….. ‘It’s more better.” Back to you with the song if I can find it.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Here It is……………………..

          There Ain’t No Bugs On Me’

          There ain’t no bugs on me
          There ain’t no bugs on me
          Juney bugs come in the muddle of June
          Bed bugs come any ol’ time but he ain’t gonna stay
          Squito he flies high, squito he flies low,
          If ol’ mosquito lands on me, he ain’t gonna fly no more.

  37. Kerry Charlton

    A bitter- sweet story of glory gone astray. Somehow, most of us think of going down in flames with chorus’s of angels singing. Instead, two boys feast on a dead cat, the vice president is insane and the president, well, he is resigned to the fate of the 38. You captured the sinking mood of the masses, perfectly. My hat’s off to you, John, a master wordsmith.

  38. Pete

    Marla arrived with her family. Hair tossed, spun across her face like a net. The drones were falling from a plum darkened sky, the screens zapped black and every major city on the planet had erupted in chaos.

    But even without the dire newscast and network warnings there was no reason to scramble. My father had prepared years ago, and the result was a nearly two thousand square foot bunker he’d surgically cut into the old rock quarry with the same precise engineering he employed whether at work or toasting bread.

    Marla caught me staring at her and I blushed. Even on the verge of annihilation I couldn’t believe my luck. And I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her track meet legs and those sparkling eyes, brown or amber depending on the light, like the bourbon in the bottle hanging loosely from her father’s hand.
    The analysis changed in the days leading up to launches. Countries siding with each other like sports teams.

    There was no pageantry to sealing ourselves in. Mom and Mrs. Callahan cried. Dad took a business approach to the procedure. Testing generators and air capacity. Mom brought plants with us, food packets and water was already stored.

    Of course Marla was devastated. She had so much to lose. Marla had friends, boyfriends, a world that bent and obliged for the beautiful. All of it was about to be wiped out. Gone. I wiped a hand over my hair and suppressed a smile.

    “Hey Marla.”

    She rolled her eyes, turned away. She sat curled in a chair for weeks. Only the glow of the auxiliary lights on her shoulders. Cold shoulders, she wouldn’t speak to me or anyone. She missed her oculus. Her automation pilot. She sulked, wilted without the sun, her bronze skin paling, her blonde hair darkened.

    I read. Slept. Not much changed. Down here it didn’t matter that I was Elliot Hartwell, stumpy son of the crackpot, nerd extraordinaire. Status had been obliterated by those sweet, sharp, nuclear warheads. Only heroes remained.

    “Oh my god what are you doing? Get off of me!”

    I would need some time. And that was fine, nothing like a romantic nuclear winter to bring us together. My father stayed busy, tinkering with the network, monitoring reports of other survivors. Mostly AI, but he was sure there were others like us. And I may have tinkered with the results until that drunk Mr. Callahan stumbled in one night and asked what it was I was doing. Well, poor Mr. Callahan, gone mad by drink and depression, we had to lock him in the holding cell my father had the good forethought to build.

    Dark, day-less months with Marla sulking and my comfort. She let me massage her feet, circles, up her calves but only to the knees and absolutely no further. The younger children had growth spurts so food was rationed. I sustained life on love alone.

    Then Dad discovered something in the network, intelligence, things breathing above. Soon we could prepare to surface. I kept this news from Marla to prevent false hope. She continued to thaw, letting me take her hand, tolerating my company. Only a week before surfacing, two weeks before my seventeenth birthday, I finally kissed the soft, full lips of our Homecoming Queen. My world was beautiful.

    Surface Day reared up like a cockroach. Marla bit her lip as we took the passage, squeezing my arm with fear. Dad warned of radiation and fallout, of soot and debris, but even my father’s normal calm was replaced by a boyish hope. I yearned to stay in the darkness, to stay hidden with my Marla. But the test were out and the levels were safe. Against my will we broke into the light where I knew everything would change.

    The world had survived. The grass shimmered and the leaves flickered from strong branches of healthy trees. That stubborn star had broken through the dust. Marla took off, shedding her fear and doing cartwheels in the field. Mother and father kissed. The kids laughed and we heard the call of birds not far away.

    A village. Two miles up a grassy highway. Shelter and food, boys with broad shoulders who’d lost their shirts in the apocalypse. Dad hopped right in and humanity took hold. I cursed the nukes, watching Marla, a flower in the sun who would never cast another glance my way. A town would be rebuilt and status reclaimed. Again I was Elliot Hartwell, nerd, dork, a chubby, broken-hearted survivor.

    Oh well, I thought, grabbing a book and finding some shade, we’d always have the thermo-nuclear fallout shelter.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Pete!

      Poor Elliot! 🙁 He came so close to getting the girl of his dreams.

      And, this line cracked me up: “…boys with broad shoulders who’d lost their shirts in the apocalypse.” because I just imagined them all looking like Taylor Lautner from Twilight. 😆

    2. jhowe

      This was full of good descriptions, technical tidbits and nicely placed tension. But the real story was the blooming romance. I found myself wringing my hands hoping the two would make it, but alas, the inevitable won out. Really good.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I don’t give up easy on budding romance. All the nerds I knew in high school, the girls paid them no notice until they ran large companies, strings of race horses and some the rare of the rare, polo ponies all six in a row. So I’m not giving up Pete, see if you can squeeze a sequel into a coming prompt. A fine write here.

  39. ShamelessHack

    Dead.
    All dead.
    We had such hope, such promise–as a people, as a race.
    But now we are done, finished.
    The whole planet has been decimated by war, greed, and avarice and the stupidity of our leaders.
    We have been base, arrogant, and are now reaping what we have sown.
    Everywhere is dusty ochre devastation.
    Everything, everyone is gone.
    I crawl to the top of a smoking dune and look up into the darkening sky.
    The small blue star that is the third planet from the Sun twinkles on the horizon in the twilight.
    If creatures live there I wish them well.
    I hope they’re not like us.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Since there are four million planets that have potential for life, it’s a wonder we haven’t seen more distant explosions in the midnight space. A beautiful twist at the end. Sort of a Twilight Zone theme.

  40. dustymayjane

    Not a sound was heard. Not a whisper not a cry.

    The planet I knew, is no longer. I knew why.

    The light outside my safe harbor is dim.

    For now, life seems quite grim.

    I bravely step from my underground home, apprehension in my lips.

    Do I dare to dream that a new world may exist?

    Fifty years have past. A solitary and lonesome endeavor.

    To my left a barren horizon goes on forever.

    To my right I see rubble. Remnants of man’s destruction.

    Which way to go, what do I look for, no instruction.

    Is the atmosphere safe? I see but only a mile.

    A breeze lifts my hair and it makes me smile.

    I’m quickly reminded of the lake, I go in that direction.

    Hope fills me with youthful anticipation.

    It must still be there, I can smell it’s sweet freshness.

    I am led by my senses to it like a temptress.

    I put regret and sadness behind me.

    My lonesomeness rapidly turning to glee.

    I’m ready to face my future. What will it hold?

    I will find life, if I may be so bold.

    In the distance I see a spec of familiar,

    a sparkle of blue reflections not far.

    The skies began to clear, dissipating the haze.

    The song of a bird floats by on the breeze.

    I see a winged pair flying high.

    They approach overhead and swiftly by.

    Returning, they circle me as if to speak, ‘This way.’

    I gladly follow, nearly giddy “I’m coming!” I say.

    They’ve led me to life, I utter a gasp.

    Before my eyes lay the lake from my past.

    The rustle of leaves and grass reach my ears.

    It was like nature’s song, not heard fifty years.

    I couldn’t recall anything more beautiful.

    I rush to the shoreline, its view’s bountiful.

    I hesitate, is it safe? Wanting so badly, I struggle to my core.

    But then I see a movement on the opposite shore.

    Her caution apparent, her senses are keen.

    Hopefulness intrudes while filling a canteen.

    Across the water, I raise my hand in hello.

    She stands and responds in turn, her mouth forms an oh.

    She begins walking in my direction, the distance soon breached.

    We meet on the edge of the lake, both of our arms outreached.

    We cling to each other. No longer alone.

    We’ve survived the apocalypse, the future our home.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This is remarkable in it’s approach as a complete story in it’s own right. I doubt this was an easy write,m it wouldn’t have been for me. The ending is smooth as glass anf joyfall.

  41. thatbillguy

    Samuel shoved the heavy blast door all the way open and I went light blind as my eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness. A peaceful breeze replaced the stale, mechanically scrubbed atmosphere. The air was damp and smelled of brine and fish, but was nonetheless pleasant. I inhaled and savored the sensation in my lungs. I didn’t know if this would be my last breath. I didn’t know if there was enough radiation present to ravage my body and send me to a bloody, suffering end. But in that moment of bliss I didn’t care. We lived in that damn bunker for a year after the bombs dropped. A year and a day would be more than I could stand.

    Sunlight cast an otherworldly glow into the dark corridor leading to the surface. The first rays crept deep into the long hall, illuminating the top of the ladder that led down to the survivor’s tomb.

    There was an expectant tension hammering in my chest, the uneasy restraint I held over my desire to run blind back into the world.

    As my eyes fully adjusted, I saw Samuel just standing there, eyes closed face pointing to the sky. At first I thought something may have happened to him, that the worst of our fears about what was left of the outside world was true. I moved closer. The rays lingered on his thin wrinkled skin, and a small easy smile sat on his dry lips.

    “Feels wonderful, doesn’t it?” He opened his crystal blue eyes and looked at me in that way of his that lied about his age.

    “It does,” I said. “I’m nervous, I have to admit.”

    “Don’t be nervous leaving hell for heaven.”

    I wanted to share his optimism. I wanted to go back to a life where privacy and variety was a thing to be had. In the back of my mind, squirming beneath the euphoria was doubt and fear of what might lie beyond the safety of our prison.

    “Shall we?” He asked, indicating the small set of steps leading out with a presentational flourish.

    I nodded. Samuel darted up and out and I followed close behind.

    “Well,” he said, “that explains the salty air.

    I pushed past him. My jaw dropped and my eyes opened wide. The neighborhood was covered under with vegetation. Our sand covered yard was thick with prickly weeds and other grasses. Stranger still, a few hundred yards out, was the ocean.

    “Where is the rest of… the West?” I asked.

    “The San Andreas fault line must have given up… that means some of the bombs fell closer that I would have expected.”

    “There doesn’t seem to be anyone else around,” I said.

    “We’ll check the other shelters later, but first let’s tell everyone.”

    “Can you? I don’t want to go back in there. Not right now,” I said.

    He smiled and turned away, stopping for a brief moment to look over his shoulder. I stood there and smiled back. The wind picked up and my hair billowed out around my face.

    –TBC

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Smooth writing on this, lots of personal feeling revealed and extremely authentic. The world came from the sea and it looks like it might go back with the global warming. A refreshing story in the middle of the doom and gloom, stories here, including mine.

  42. Kerry Charlton

    THE COMING OF AGE

    The war had started small enough to contain when the ‘Fat Boy’ in North Korea, reigned terror on Japan with an atomic missile barrage on Tokyo in 2031. The United States retaliated with carpet bombing North Korea into the sea, Forty million people were affected, ones not killed from the explosions, wandered what was left of the streets and country side, dying by the tens of thousands from radiation poisoning. Unicef parachuted suicide packages by air to the North Koreans who were brave enough to use them..

    At that time, China declared open war on the United States and Great Britain. Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii slipped into a watery grave from the Q-Z bombs, each with the power of a hundred Hydrogen bombs. Russia launched three hundred and seventy multiple war head nuclear missiles. toward America in a hail Mary effort to annihilate the United States.

    What the Russian and Chinese didn’t know , was what real warfare was all about. Giant reflectors, a quarter mile wide had been constructed three hundred miles above earth using a stealth design and in total secret , by the U.S. Air Force. Focusing rays directly from the power of the sun. lasers could be generated at an unheard of temperature of seventy three thousand degrees, shooting through space at the speed of light and vaporizing anything smaller than the Kremlin. Two lasers would be needed to melt the center of Moscow in a matter of ninety seconds. .

    The President of the United States threw the laser switches, and thought,

    ‘Four hundred and fifty two million Russians will vaporize in a matter of ninety minutes. Thanks for the hundred years of nightmares‘

    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, General Winston Peabody Hammerdrill had gathered his family in Colorado, a mile deep in the control room of the U. S. Air Force Command Center. A working city of fifteen hundred Air Force and top civilians were buried deep inside a mountain with provisions enough to last four years. Winston’s wife of forty three years, Alice May, his two daughters and their families stood with him as all communication systems shut down along with the nuclear alarm system.

    Within 48 hours of the first alarm, radiation surrounded the Colorado mountains .with such intensity, measuring instruments were unable to calculate it. The general issued a broadcast to forty seven hundred souls that joined him in the buried city,

    “To all personnel, it is our understanding that any sign of life on the exterior of this mountain range, has ceased to exist. At the present time, our instruments can not measure the radiation level that exists outside. We are equipped to sustain life in our present location for at least four years. I know many of you have loved ones across the country and the world. However no communication system exists to our knowledge.”

    As the general put the mike down, his aide, Colonel Tony Francisco asked him a question,

    “General, how bad is the radiation level?”

    “Between the two of us Tony?”

    “Yes sir, of course.”

    “The highest measurement our instruments are able to make, leaves a time span that is estimated to clear the atmosphere.”

    “And what is that length of time, Sir?’

    “Four hundred years, give or take a few.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, my goodness, Kerry, what a situation. I fear whatever planning is really being done, it won’t matter at all if this actually happens. Lots of great details, like the suicide packages.

    2. jhowe

      2031 huh? I’d better start living it up. Really good details about how the situation escalated so quickly. It’s not unlikely that the “Fat Boy” would be involved at the start of such a thing.

  43. animallvr682

    Alone

    For three days I’ve been staring up at that screen wondering what to do. Was it correct or was there a malfunction? I had run two systems checks and everything was green. But still. The readings were saying that the radiation outside of my shelter were within safe levels. It had only been a year since the bomb fell just a half mile away. I didn’t trust the readings. I would have to go outside with my Geiger counter and check for myself. But I hadn’t left my shelter since the warnings of possible nuclear bomb drops had gone out. I’ve been alone in this shelter ever since. Well, me and the cat.
    As I stand in the airlock, pulling on my radiation suit, I wonder what, exactly, I’m going to find when I open the hatch. Will my house still be standing? Not likely. Will there be other people nearby out exploring the area? Will there be any people at all? The last radio transitions I had picked up were 6 months ago. The news had not been good. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of nuclear bombs had been dropped over the US. The nations of the world were destroying each other. What remained?
    I checked one last time to make sure the inner seal of the airlock was closed correctly before moving to stand at the bottom of the ladder to the hatch. It was a 40 foot climb, but not that difficult. Boredom had led to me staying in shape. Exercising gave me something to do.
    I reached the hatch and braced my back against the wall of the tube that lead up to it. I pulled open the bolt that locked the hatch closed and took a deep breath. “Here goes nothing.” I pushed the hatch up.
    Dirt puffed up and there was a soft clatter as something fell free. I laid the hatch back and looked up at the sky. It was late morning and the sky was that perfect blue of a clear spring day. I felt a tear roll down my cheek. It had been a year since I had seen the sky.
    I looked around the hatch as I climbed out. Charred would, broken tiles and melted glass littered the ground. I was glad for the iron plate in the soles on my heavy boots, protection against punctures. I looked up and my breath caught. All I could think was, “My God, it’s a wasteland.” There was nothing as far as I could see. Nothing but scattered debris from destroyed homes.
    I just stood and stared around, wondering at the complete destruction. But the more I looked, the more I saw. Here and there were hints of green. Faint, but there. I looked more closely at the destruction around me and saw what I had missed at first. Little shoots of green were pushing up through the charred remains.
    Remembering why I was there, I pulled the Geiger counter from my bag and switched it on. The readings had been right. The radiation levels were in the safe zone.
    Looking around me again I started to plan. The first thing I need to do was clear away as much of the debris as I could from around the hatch so I could come and go without tripping over anything. Then I needed to clear enough ground to start planting. While I had enough rations to last me another 5 or 6 years, fresh foods were always better. A nice ripe tomato sounded wonderful.
    I looked off into the distance. I wanted to leave this place, find people, find a new home, but I was safe here. I didn’t know what was out there. I didn’t know if there were packs of feral animals out hunting for food. I didn’t know if there were pack of feral humans out hunting! For all I know, there were zombies out there. It was much safer to just stay where I was.
    Surviving the apocalypse had been difficult enough. I didn’t need to add unnecessary dangers into my life. Maybe someday someone would find me. But for now, alone was safe.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Not a bad idea for your MC. Place yourself in his shoes, what would you do? I like this concept story, forces the reader to think, what would I do? Interesting concept. Have the reader jump into the story and finish it to suit his particular needs.

    2. jhowe

      This was well done and very believable. It seems very probable that others took shelter from the bombs so I think the MC will find people eventually. Hopefully not the zombies or feral humans.

  44. ldelzer

    Creaaaaak

    Hands, don’t fail me now.

    My government designed, thick, black vault door crept open and I weakly extended my slender arm out the door. I studied my hand in the dim, new light. How did I get this old? My ninety-three year old skin was wafer thin and nearly translucent in the morning’s glow. I felt every bit of my ninety-three years, and then some.

    Even though we had modest means, my husband purchased the best shelter he could. The lonsdaleite storm shelter was incredibility strong. ‘Tis fortunate that Project Adam would happen here.

    We knew this strike was coming and that World War III would destroy mankind. I picked up the golden locket that is always hanging from my neck and kissed it. My dear, late husband’s final triumph was near.

    I peered upwards into the sky and all I saw were thick, dark clouds shaped into streaks. The clouds moved quickly across the sky and were black, gray, and brown. Funny, I never knew the sky could be brown. There was an erie, red glow of light in the sky.

    All around me were stacks of dead vegetation. Turns out plants find it hard to convert light into sugar when most of the light is gone. My nonagenarian eyes failed to discern differences in types of vegetation in the bizarre, nuclear fallout light.

    Feet, don’t fail me now.

    My thin legs shook as I climbed out of my shelter. That shelter saved my life, and possibly humankind’s existence, but it felt more like a tomb.

    I need to find Wallings.

    Heart don’t fail me now

    I lived through 911.
    I conquered World War III
    I murdered my husband during the Nuclear Winter.
    And my body is dying.

    I must make it the 248 feet to my farmhouse. I must contact Wallings at CI. I’ve come so far, but my body is dying. Dying so quickly.

    Body don’t fail me now.

    The trip to the old house was nothing less than torture. Each step felt like my last step. My mind raging while my body screamed in pain. I crept into the house and found The Phone. My husband told me about The Phone right before I murdered him.

    “Wallings?”
    “Yes.”
    “I have done everything my husband directed. I have your package.”
    “I am sending a container. Do you understand the consequences?”
    “Yes.”

    The container instantly arrived and I knew what must be done. The container didn’t have room for all of me. I grabbed a knife. Only part of me could go.

    “Wallings? I am commencing the procedure.”
    “10-4”

    Hands don’t fail me now.

    With one quick movement, I eviscerated myself. I opened my very aged uterus and pulled out the hybrid. My husband’s Magnum Opus lay wriggling and crying in the container. The Hybrid would withstand Nuclear Winter.

    I love you. Godspeed, my son.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I am totally in awe about this. The visuals are stunning, the purpose magnificant and the courage, beautiful. What a ride to read.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a great sample of what should be a much larger story. I want to know so many things now, especially about murdering her husband. Good job!

    3. jhowe

      This woman could be the new kid’s great great grandma, but I guess she’s one old mama. Very intriguing and fun to read. There’s a lot going on here and I think you’ve got the makings for a really interesting project.

  45. ReathaThomasOakley

    (Set in the past, rather than the future)

    After the apocalypse

    I am Leonora, I am alive,
    words I learned at my mother’s knee,
    before the bad time came. She was
    wise, she prepared, so I can say,
    I am alive. In the final year of peace,
    the women, drawing upon wisdom
    passed down from the dawn of time,
    secretly consulted oracles, searched
    for signs, found messages in raptor
    feathers, in dregs of tea steeped from
    leaves plucked at midnight, under a
    waning moon, believed the ancient
    warning of the fire next time,
    whispered in their daughters’ ears,
    I am Analetta, I am Hester, I am Rosella,
    I am Leonora, I am alive.
    When the fire came the women turned from
    light, from sun, dug deep into Mother Earth,
    found sanctuary in the dark. There our
    mothers survived, until they died. We
    fed upon their final gifts, upon their flesh,
    we lived. Now the time has come to
    leave this refuge, to claim our legacy, to walk
    again among those who sought our demise.
    I am Leonora, I am alive.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Reatha, this story is crying for a new title….. “I Am Woman”. It is a powerful tale you spin. Helen Reddy knew, Joan Baez knew and Peggy Lee. Congradulations on a fine piece of writing.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Kerry. Crazy times in my corner of the world, out of state guests this week, new parts installed next week. Hoping to use recovery time to write, write, write.

  46. Trevor

    Word Count: 584

    Abandoned

    I wince as sunlight hits my eyelids for the first time in months. Tears come to my eyes, but not just because the brightness stings my corneas. The Earth I once knew was no longer there. The soft green grass is replaced with hard, barren dirt. The sky had gone from blue to an ugly grey. All the beautiful plants and animals were now wilted weeds and dried up skeletons. It was enough to make me scream. I’d wanted for so long to be able to leave the bunker—and now that I was out, I wanted to retreat back into the confined space and forget about the ugliness I had witnessed.

    Suddenly, I saw it. The first sign of life. It was at a distant, but I could tell it was another human being. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, in some way, another person had survived the Apocalyptic storm that had destroyed the world I once lived in. I cried out, but the fellow survivor couldn’t hear me. So I ran. I ran toward him. As I got close enough to recognize the human, I gasped in surprise.

    “Miles!” I screamed. My old friend turned to me with a surprised look. Before he could say anything, I wrapped the man in a tight, emotional hug. When the catastrophe that led to Earth’s demise began, I went into my bomb shelter anticipating the demise of everyone on the planet. My warnings to everyone had fallen on deaf ears, so I expected everyone I knew to perish. But here was Miles, my closest friend, alive and well despite the world being in ruin.

    “Miles….how are you here? How are you alive?” I asked. Miles didn’t reply at first. He just kept a shocked look on his face. Slowly, Miles reached out and took me by the hand. “I have to show you something. It’s important.” His voice sounded cold and distant. I had grown used to my friend’s stoic tone, but this sounded different. More….cold.

    But I didn’t think much of it then. I let Miles lead me across what seemed like miles of empty ruins. The sun beamed down on us, forming drops of perspiration on my forehead. Finally, we reached a large pit in the middle of the barren field. It was about the same size as a baseball stadium. As we approached, I noticed several other people. As soon as I saw the dark cloaks they wore, I tensed up. Something was wrong.

    “Miles…what is this? Who are these people?” I asked as I tried to stop. But Miles forced me to keep moving as the hooded figures approached me. One figure, who appeared to be the leader of the group, grabbed my wrists roughly and was soon joined by his followers. I tried to fight back, the strength of the cloaked gang was too much for my underdeveloped muscles. I screamed for Miles’ help, but all he gave me was a weak mumble.

    “They said they’d let me go if I did this.”

    The cult then dragged me closer to the edge of the pit. I had no idea what they were about to do to me, but I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant…or painless. But there was one sight that would haunt me for the entirety of the cult’s ceremony. Something that hurt me much more than anything those hooded psychopaths could do to me.

    The sight of my only friend in the world, running away, abandoning me.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Bitter cold it is. What kind of friend is that? A tiny bit of back story would help the reader. Are these captured people being used as food or fertilizer? Something like that, a veiled reference would make the ending even more powerful.

  47. igolfnbird

    Unbelievably the calendar says it is July 4, 2066. When the whole world went crazy I was 42 years old. I have been cooped up in my basement bomb shelter for the past year since the nuclear bombs were dropped. Today is both independence day and my 50th birthday.

    Although my monitors reported that the air is now safe on the outside, my mind conjures up all sorts of visions about what might be lurking outside my shelter walls. As I pace back and forth, struggling with the notion of opening the door and stepping into the light of day a sudden rapping on the outside of the shelter, sends chills down my spine and causes me to jump a couple of feet.

    Now, I really don’t know what to do. Do I just hunker down and hope that the person rapping on my shelter door goes on their way? Is it someone from the enemy? Is the war over and someone is simply trying to pass along an “all clear” message?

    Another bang on the door, but this time with more vigor prompts me, with shaking hands to open the locked door. After being closed and locked for a year, the rusty hinge grudgingly and loudly squeals, but the door finally swings open.

    Standing in the doorway is a man…a large man, who is wearing short pants and carrying what appears to be a big leather satchel. He smiles and stretches out his arm, handing me a brightly colored envelope. With a slight smirk he says, “I’m sure you have been waiting for this” and then turns and walks away.

    With trembling hands, I open the envelop and withdraw the papers from inside. In bold, red letters it reads, “Congratulations on turning 50, from AARP!” It is then that I realize what an unbelievable dream I had just experienced.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Now, that is funny. Didn’t realize a giant pun was on the way. Now I can have lunch and not give a crap about working the rest of the day.. “When you’re being had, it’s nice to be had well.” My motto for the week or longer until it slips my mind.

  48. Kinterralynn

    The West Entrance

    I was eleven the day we went down the steps to Conspiracy, an underground town built by the men and women unwilling to believe their government would keep them safe.

    The entrance to the surface was deadlocked and guarded, but no one ever tried to go back up, it was in the bylaws

    “No doors to Conspiracy shall be opened before the Quinqagenary Eve of SkyFire.”

    As children, we were told stories of the world above us and how it had been destroyed by the greed and arrogance of humankind. Long before the bombs had dropped, the planet had begun to wither, its resources ravaged by those who thought there would never be an end. We were taught how to raise crops using ancient tools and the waters of an underground lake. The lighting was all by firelight, no electrical or battery powered tools.

    The caves that had been mined heavily for their precious minerals had become my home. It was where I grew up, married, raised my children and saw the birth of my first grand-child. I was fifty-one years old when the Quinqagenary Eve of SkyFire came around.

    Every soul in Conspiracy gathered around the twelve story tall doors of iron and steel, anticipation and excitement showing on the faces of the young and dread showing on the faces of the old. My heart jumped to my throat as the door began to rise, groaning and straining after fifty years of being locked tight.

    Pale sunlight splashed across the packed dirt floor of the tunnel and children reached for it, giggling and marveling over the warmth that came from outside. People scurried about handing out dark glasses as the light brightened and a wisp of fresh air slipped in the dank stale air of the cave. I couldn’t help myself, I breathed in deep, revealing in the scent of green and earth and I hastened towards the door only to be stopped by those who had guarded the doors,

    “We must send out scouts to see if it is safe.” He touched my shoulder, “You are one of the few remaining who remember what once was.”

    “Yes, yes I am!” I shouted remembering glimpses of blue skies, and automobiles and people carrying around electronic devices and talking into them. It had been so long that tears sprang to my eyes as the memories became bolder and stronger.

    “Please, oh please just let me be the first!”

    The guard, a man in his thirties shook his head regretfully and tried to push me gently back to the crowd standing in awe at the entrance. I stepped forward anyway, defying him, daring him to stop me and knowing he would not.

    These were not military soldiers, they were boys I had helped teach and guide over the years. The guard let out a huff and took my hand and led me to the entrance and we stood there and looked out at what the world had become… and I smiled.

    1. frankd1100

      Excellent! Felt myself being drawn along through time and tunnels, leading upward to the moment when the sun and fresh air streamed through to welcome you back. A pang of hope for Mother Earth at the end?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved the ending, especially ….”and I smiled.” That’s all that needed to be said. Your description of living below ground was stark and disturbing, as it should have been.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Great job creating a believable world, however when I read, it was in the by laws, my first thought was, cock roaches and buerocrcy will survive anything. I also liked the final sentence.

    3. jhowe

      Very nice. All along, I was hoping the world would be fine when she emerged, and that appears to be the case. Well done. The only flaw was a minor arithmetic thing: I counted forty years and not fifty.

  49. cosi van tutte

    It is the day after the end of the world and the world is silent.

    No phone reception. No internet connections. No one on the radio to speak fear or hope into me. No one on tv to distract me with petty arguing or glistening celebrities.

    I think about going outside. Then, I think about radiation poisoning.

    I stay inside.

    I stay inside, but I worry about the air that I’m breathing. Is it safe? Is it contaminated? How long will it take me to find out? How long before the radiation sickness kicks in?

    Will I ever be able to leave?

    Will my food supplies last?

    How long before I run out?

    If I ration my food, how much time will that buy me?

    And water…Well. I have plenty of water. Gallons and gallons of water lining the back wall. But it won’t last forever.

    Am I completely alone?

    If I go outside, I can search for other survivors. I can find more food to stash away.

    But I would have to go outside.

    I’m not ready.

    I’m afraid of the devastation waiting out there. The heavied silence. The mushroom cloud’s lingering stink.

    I’m afraid of finding out that I am completely alone. As long as I stay in here, there is hope. There are brilliant daydreams of survivalists like me hiding in their shelters and wondering and hoping and waiting.

    I don’t want to lose that hope too soon.

    I will wait another day.

    Another week.

    Another year.

    And then…We’ll see

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A wise MC you created here. Wait and see. The lonelyness you describe is terrifying. The lack of knowing what chances you have is worse than the faith. Reminds me of the film, “On The Beach.” You did a perfect spread on the MC’s thought processes.

    2. jhowe

      The agony of not knowing is well done here. You didn’t need to mention why or when or how, just that it is, and that’s all you needed.

  50. jhowe

    I look out at the cheering throng and raise my arms. It’s what they expect. The ancient loudspeakers crackle and distort as I speak, a sea of blank faces amid the filth stare in anticipation. The generator coughs, the fuel almost gone. I motion to my vice president and he pours gasoline into the small engine, spilling most of it. He laughs as his pants get soaked.

    “Did you see that, ladies and gentlemen?” I say into the microphone. “Your leader, if anything shall happen to me, just dumped a large percentage of the remaining gasoline onto the ground.” The crowd cheers. A few women giggle as an old man pulls down his pants and dry humps the air.

    “It was one year ago today when our sustained period of contrived peacetime ended with the dropping of the bombs.” More cheers, more whistles. “We had been lulled into false complacency; tricked into thinking the world was safe.” I hold up my hand to quiet the elated crowd. “No one anticipated it. No one took precautions, except me. I hid from the destruction, as I did every night, in my bunker. Not hiding from the bombs, no. I too did not predict such an act. I hid for other reasons. I hid from you!” As one, they cheered, ten thousand strong.

    “You see, ladies and gentlemen. I abhor you all.” I held up my hand again and waited for the ovation to end. “Does anyone among you remember how to write your name? Can anyone recall how to cook a meal? The answer, of course, is no.” The people nod and smile, because they somehow know not to cheer when my hand is up. I’m tired of the cheering.

    “Something happened to your brains. Something awful and unexplainable. Who knows how long you have to live. The supermarkets are now empty, the animals are growing scarce, nobody knows how to grow anything, except me, and I don’t give a shit.” I raise both arms and let them cheer. My eardrums begin to ache. The vice president lights himself on fire, the crowd now in frenzy mode. The fire spreads and the generator blows up.

    Silenced, I back away. The people roar as the fully engulfed vice president launches himself from the stage. The people in the first few rows catch him and pass him around over their heads, shouting in pain as their hands are scorched. I run out the back alley. Two boys are feeding on a dead cat. I keep to the back streets, ignoring the outstretched arms and the calling of my name. “Thaxton, Thaxton, Thaxton,” they shout in unison.

    I reach my street, and cut through overgrown yards until I make my way to my house. I throw open the camouflaged entrance to my bunker and pull the hatch closed. I light a candle and descend to the living space. I gulp the last of the water and feast on the remaining pack of crackers, now very stale. Above I hear the bunker door being rattled and then there is pounding, something large and heavy. It’s time to deploy my exit plan, my grandfather’s .32 revolver. I keep it wrapped in a towel on a shelf that once contained what I thought was an infinite supply of canned goods and bottled water. I hold the gun in my shaking hand as the hatch door is ripped from the foundation.

    My mother used to tell me, study hard and one day you’ll grow up to be president. She was right, she was always right.

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