Something of a Prologue
Have you ever had one of those days, or weeks, or months, where something or someone triggers some type of fantasy to form unbidden as you go through your life? One of those that just linger for a while then fades away to the background, only to resurface again at some later date, even more detailed than its predecessor was. I would like to think that we all have had them at one time or another. Then without warning something triggers it back again. You are doing something that requires little thought directly, so your mind starts to wander.
I’ve been in that situation many times throughout the years. Whether it was mowing the yard, sitting a midnight watch while in the service, while working on a machine for hours on end, or just sitting out on the deck smoking a cigarette, watching traffic go by. Little events around your life shape these little fantasies, add to them, and reinforce certain parts of them. They continue to grow of their own accord. This is one of those little fantasies.
It began back in the seventies when I was in the service. Sitting watch one of those nights in the Antarctic Ocean, on an Icebreaker delivering supplies to the stations there. The midnight watch was always the best in my opinion, it was quiet and there was almost no one around to bother me at those hours. The cold war was for all intents over, there was still some minor sword rattling. The Vietnam War for those of us here was also over. My childhood memories of emergency drills in school were still fairly intense. Get under your desk, stay away from windows, and don’t look at the light. Movies were finally getting scary with better special effects. Shows like the Twilight Zone and The Outer limits, had started to fuel our imaginations; there were a lot of those ‘what if’ questions floating though our minds back then.
We were sitting off of McMurdo station, at the time the largest station in Antarctica. Might still be, I don’t keep up on it anymore. But I was sitting there between the radio room and our Amateur Ham Radio Station, occasionally chatting with some operator half way around the world, or answering some message from some other ship on the radio. I was just off of the quarterdeck of the ship watching the snow softly fall, looking at the lights from McMurdo, when the shelter came to my mind looking out at the station. I went into the Radio room and grabbed a pad of paper and laid out my bomb shelter, we didn’t call them Fallout shelters back then.
A select few of us crewmen were taken on a tour of the station. I was included for only one reason. Some of the scientists that had travelled down there with us liked me. I still don’t know why, well actually I do, I was the radioman they came to when they wanted something sent out, a message to a wife, or a report to a university. My watch was the only one that always had some form of communications going. Back then there were few satellites, we still were sending a lot of messages by Morse code, or by teletype machines. Keeping communications was hit-and-miss most of the time. Radio signals were not all that great of a way to keep in touch at the bottom of the world. God thinking about it now, I feel real ancient suddenly.
Anyway, I was the one guy they went to when they wanted a message to get to someone. I used regular military channels when I could, fishing boats or Ham radio operators, when I couldn’t go through regular channels. It didn’t matter to me; I always managed to get their messages out. They always knew where and when to find me and they would. We often chatted at length because of the time for one thing, and because I would always listen to them intently and ask questions, trying to learn whatever I could from them. It seemed funny to me at the time, the sailors on the ship didn’t want to associate with them, because they were snobs. They didn’t want to associate with us because they thought we were assholes who treated them like shit. I didn’t care one way or another at the time. I talked to anyone and everyone; they seemed to respect that about me.
The tour was the birth of the story that goes with the shelter. Meeting some of the scientists at the station, listening to them, hearing their thoughts on the buildings there and what they liked and disliked about this or that, also about how they dealt with the different people they had to live with during the cold winters down there buried under the snow, unable to leave the buildings for months.
Now my mind is wandering again. So back to the story, although I have to admit some of those late night conversations were rather interesting. But my shelter was born that night, taking some of what I had seen on our tour of the station, and my imagination I had it almost completed by the end of my watch that night. Over the years it would come back at different times and I would add this or that. It never really stopped changing; it just slightly grew from the original design just to accommodate later thoughts. I have to admit though a lot of those changes included the tunnels to the different places. We just didn’t have things like solar panels or wind turbines back then. All that really changed was what was inside of the shelter. As technology changed, it changed what was in it. What really changed the most was when they started having lotteries. It made a lot more possible. It started the real ‘what if I won’ idea that we all seem to have at times.
As I said the story began on that tour and has been changing like the interior of the shelter has. The part of it that struck me later is all of the characters in it are based on people that I have met throughout the years and their personalities have led to them being included in the story. I may not have been friends with them all, but there was something about the way we talked, that made me remember them all through the years. Some are still friends others have gone different ways.
So let’s go for ride shall we. I have to admit that for those only interested in the story, you probably want to skip the first chapter. The first chapter is strictly on the shelter construction, layout, and possibilities for stocking it. The actual story starts in chapter two. However, if you do that, you might want to look at the last page of the first chapter for the image of the shelter so you can at least get an idea for what it looks like before you get lost like Bob did on his long nights.