The Fallout Kingdom (New Content as of 2AUG17)

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is my first story and it's currently in progress. It's a post-apocalyptic tale about a lone traveler. Let's find out where he travels together...

Submitted: July 15, 2017

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Submitted: July 15, 2017

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ThE FALLOUT KINGDOM

by B.J. MILLS

He drank alone, the darkness of the cool room he sat in surrounded him, making him aware of the dampness in the air.  The harsh, Irish whiskey sloshed in the cup as he grabbed it, raised it to his hot, chapped lips, and drank over and over again.  The whiskey burned the cracks in his badly dehydrated lips, but it calmed his nerves as the warmth quickly migrated from his mouth to that special spot deep in the pit of his stomach.  His intense feeling of anxiety faded away as the whiskey lit his soul on fire, causing him to feel whole again for the first time in a great number of consecutive sunrises.  It was good, he decided.

He tilted his head yet again to polish of the last of the whiskey in the glass, ensuring that none was wasted and that he drank every single drop of the precious, golden liquid medicine.  He felt the drunkenness taking hold of his body, quietly easing his mind for the moment.  He watched a tiny, brown cockroach scurrying across his stainless-steel tomb as he drank, rethinking the life he’d lived in forced solidarity for the last two years, seven months, eighteen days, and a handful of hours - but who was really counting anyway?  It wasn’t as nice as the ranch in Texas he grew up on, but the metal box buried one-hundred and twenty feet below the barren crust of the earth above him had served its purpose well.  After hours of drinking and contemplating his situation, he decided that this was still better than certain death.  After all, as lonely and depressed as he had been while loathing in grief and anger, he was still alive.

He ran his dry tongue over the roughness of his badly chapped lips, tasting the whiskey again, enjoying the subtle hints of the aged oak barrel and the sweetness of the grains used in the distillation process.  His alcohol induced high left him flying in happy clouds of near infinite joy and supreme bliss.  However, he knew this new-found pleasure would eventually fade in to a raging headache, the blending of the headache and loss of bliss leaving him as empty as he was when he started drinking.  He could already feel his temples trying to beat their way out of his skull with a pounding that could only be described as the pedal of a bass drum thumping away at a metal concert.  But it didn’t matter in the end; the alcohol already flowed through him, removing all inhibitions that would stop him at this point.

He snatched the bottle from the table angrily to pour himself another drink.  He tipped the bottle to his aluminum cup, filling it just below the rim, carful to not pour it on to the table so he could continue to ration it.  The cockroach he saw earlier had found his way to the top of the stainless-steel table he was sitting at.  He studied it closely for a moment, amazed at the survival tenacity of the tiny creature, and then violently crushed it underneath the weight of the glass whiskey bottle in his hand.  He read somewhere, probably grade school, that cockroaches would be the only creatures to survive the end of the world.  He quickly decided that was bullshit as he stared at the goo underneath the glass vessel in his hand that used to be a roach.  If a whiskey bottle could end its fragile life, a nuclear bomb certainly could, too.

As he drank at the table, he looked around the shiny metal room which he affectionately named Casa de la Bunker, and glanced at each object in it, wondering how many times he had seen them in the past.  The room itself wasn’t large, only about twenty feet by twenty feet, but as small as it was, it held most of his worldly possessions.  Directly in front of him was an aluminum bookshelf which spanned the distance from the floor to the ceiling and held nearly a thousand books and magazines, most of which he had already read over the last couple of years.

To the right of the bookshelf, sat a well-worn matching tobacco brown leather loveseat and recliner, threadbare and roughly formed to the shape of his body.  The recliner and loveseat sat on adjacent walls, separated by a barn wood end table adorned with an antique lamp with an Edison bulb.  The eclectic lamp was almost certainly an impulse buy from his late grandparents, the stained glass and lead-bead lampshade casting a warm, low light throughout the room.  The matching coffee table sat dented and scuffed from years of use and abuse in front of the loveseat and recliner.  A large book of Edgar Allen Poe short stories and poems sat on top of it, covered in a light coat dust.  He started reading it a month or so ago, but his ability to concentrate had dwindled as the days dragged on, causing the book to set unopened on the table for a significant amount of time.

Directly behind the table he sat at was a small kitchen, adorned with all of the normal kitchen amenities you would expect in doomsday bunker.  It held a sink, counter, small refrigerator, a two-burner stove, and an in the wall, a garbage disposal unit, fueled by the destructive power of fire. 

To his left, was the gym.  When his grandfather built the bunker during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the room was intended to hold several sets of bunkbeds. But as his children grew and moved out and had children of their own, he had the foresight to replace the bunkbeds with gym equipment, fully aware that physical fitness played a huge role in the mental trials and tribulations one would suffer while sealed in the bunker in the event of a catastrophic event.

The gym wasn’t top notch, but it did boast a treadmill, weight bench, squat rack, and 400 lbs. of plates.  Although 400 lbs. seems like a large amount of weight, a man will get strong with the absence of everything but books and a gym, both of which he used often to pass the time and to occupy his mind.  If nothing else, the time in his prison had made him a stronger and more intelligent man.  He decided that was good.

Behind a small door on the left side of the gym lie the bunker’s only remaining bedroom and is where he spent a lot of time sleeping to recover from working out and as a mechanism to pass time.  In fact, he probably slept more in the last couple of years than he had in his entire life combined.  And even though the room only held a small walk-in closet, twin bed, and an on-suite bathroom, he felt peaceful there and always woke refreshed.  He constantly woke angry due to circumstance, but definitely rested.

To his right, sat the most important room in the entire shelter: The Supply Room.  A couple of years ago, the room was abundant, full of water, dry stored vegetables, freeze dried meats and milk, various types of jerky, Meals-Ready-To-Eat, medical supplies, several cases of whiskey, and several cases of cheap red wine that had had aged surprisingly well and tasted wonderful.  But what was once a roadmap to his survival, was now as barren as the earth that laid above him.

As the thought of an unfruitful storage room slammed in to him like an 18-wheeler at full speed, he glanced down at his cup again and saw it was running as dry as the storage room.  He decided the near emptiness was unacceptable, reach for the bottle, fumbled, and knocked it over, spraying the alcohol all over the table and floor.  “Dammit!’, he exclaimed out loud, “Ain’t enough of that shit in the storage room to being with.  ‘Specially if I’m wasting it like that.”, he grumbled.  He righted the bottle and filled his cup again, more carefully this time, fully aware his intensely impaired state would catch up with him sooner or later.

He put the cup to his lips again, sipped the whiskey, and immediately realized that sooner had come way before later.  His stomach wretched with sickness as sweat began to pour down his forehead and back.  He felt his mouth filling with water, his bloodshot eyes tearing up, and knew a release was moments away.  His body was physically begging to get rid of the liquid he had poisoned it with and he heaved heavily, vomit and sputum filling his month.  He tried to swallow the gross mess, but he swiftly jumped up knowing the attempt would end in failure.  He staggered toward the kitchen, made it, and projectile vomited the liquor in to the sink, spewing bile in-between the fingers of the hand he had clamped over his mouth.

He grabbed a towel and wiped the vomit from his hand and chin and then tossed it in to the incinerator.  The tears were still streaming down his face and he brushed them away with the corner of his hand as he looked at the mess he made in the sink through blurry eyes.  The water supply was too critically low to rinse it out now, so he’d have to figure out a way to clean the stomach contents out of the sink tomorrow.

He leaned heavily against the concrete counter and tried to regain his balance.  The queasiness returned momentarily as the wretched smell of liquor infused puke invaded his nostrils, consuming his balance.  He wasn’t sure if he needed another release, so the counter became his temporary refuge.  He heaved again, but was able to contain the toxic mixture of bile and booze in his body this time.

“Can’t go wasting it that way, either”, he grumbled as he wiped a bit of vomit from the corner of his mouth with a bare hand.  His quantity of bottles had dwindled well below his comfort level and he decided that no matter what, he wouldn’t vomit again that night.

He took an extra moment to steady himself before stepping towards the main living area.  His attempt to walk in a straight line failed him and he found himself grabbing the doorframe of the kitchen to keep from crashing in to the floor.  He laughed out loud to himself at his high level of intoxication as he stumbled back to his seat at the table, ensuring to keep his hand on the wall the entire time to maintain his balance.

He flopped down in to his seat, leaning deeply to the side as he grabbed the empty whiskey bottle, feeling the coolness of the glass in his hand.  He rubbed the bottle against his forehead and snatched up the aluminum cup which was still nearly full, whisky sloshing over his hand and down on to the table.  He bent down to slurp the whiskey off of the table before taking another long, slow sip and swishing the liquor around in his mouth to remove the unpleasant taste of vomit, feeling the burn of hot iron again as the liquid touched his split lips.

The bottle had done well to cool his forehead and the whiskey to warm his stomach but he still was somehow unsatisfied with his current condition.  Although he was fully aware of his high, he realized that the bust head was in control of him.  This angered him to the point of an unanticipated emotional explosion as he pulled the bottle from his head and sloppily flung it across the room, shattering it in to a thousand jagged shards on the corner of the aluminum bookshelf and leaving a slight dent in it.

He studied the shards and appreciated the dim light from the antique stained-glass table lamp shining through them.  As the beauty of the lit shards hit him, so did the need for sleep.  His anger subsided as quickly as it hit him and he firmly pressed his hands in to the stainless-steel table, pushing himself up unsteadily.  Off to bed it was, the shards would have to wait until later.

His room was only steps away but it felt like a mile as he lurched and swayed towards it.  He thought about the impossible decision that lay ahead of him, momentarily understanding that he was in no condition to contemplate it now.  He knew the decision could literally be the difference between life and death, and terms that are thought of in absolutes, should only be considered when the mind is clear.  He needed to sober up and get a good night’s sleep before he would begin to process the pros and cons.  Yet, as he hobbled towards his room, he knew that good sleep would not become of him because he would work his mind through the spirits and anxiety throughout the nights.  Inevitably, nightmares and daydreams would invade the space that was meant for sleep.  This, he knew to be fact.

When he entered his room, he found the corner of his twin bed with his clumsy, drunken hands and slid into it sideways, far too intoxicated to bother with the green wool blanket that sat on top.  The blanket was army issue and warm, but it was scratchy and not something he particularly wanted to deal with throughout the evening.

He closed his eyes and felt the room spinning uncomfortably around him.  He groaned, his stomach sickened at the offensive spinning feeling.  He laid there for what seemed like hours, but was only moments, before falling in to the darkness of his incredibly strong buzz.  Tomorrow would eventually come, and with it, a decision he had been dreading for ages.

 

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When he woke, his head pounded with a furiosity he hadn’t experienced before, the liqour and dehydration on top of dehydration taking a haughty toll on his already weakened body.  He could feel his heart beating through his temples, the false glee from the whiskey the night before foresaking him.  His head felt like a fresh farm egg being cracked in to a hot, oiled frying pan.  Apsrin, he thought.  He needed it now.

His lips were even more dry, and as he went to moisten them with his tounge, it stuck to the top of his mouth, as dry and arid as a vast African desert.  He roughly sucked his tounge trying to pull some moisture from it, but the deep tissue relented as there was no moisture to give.  But the dryness didn’t surprise him as he’d been rationing his water for a nearly a month now, allowing himself to drink only one sixteen ounce bottle a day.

The dryness of his lips, sunken and dark eyes, and dark, yellow urine all paid tribute to his rationioning scheme.  He knew he would eventually have to leave the safety of the bunker in search of food and water to survive, but for now, he would continue to ration what remained.

The bunker, inevitably, was still his most valuable lifeline.  Even though it was built by his grandfather to survive nuclear war from the Cuban Missle Crisis, he nevered figured the Russians would have any good reason to nuke a modest Nebraskan corn field.  Either way, his personal philosophy was always to be better safe than sorry, a true testament to the current existence of the bunker he’d been living in for so long now.

His grandfather was an extremely intelligent man, his christian values guiding him throughout the entirety of his humble life.  Although he may not have always seemed practical, his heart was always in the right place.  Most lessons he learned were from life in the military where he excelled and fought hard in both The Great War and The Korean War.  In fact, he remembered sitting “starry-eyed” and cross-legged on the floor listening to grandpa’s war stories.  Many times he’d have to stop in the middle of a story and step off so his grandchildren didn’t see the tears welling up in the corners of his eyes.  War is tough.

But it was these experiences that made him a tough, yet kind and fair person.  Humility was his strongest suite of them all.  He was a deeply valued member of the community, looked up to by many; the young, old, poor, and rich.  But even so, no one would ever look up to his grandfather as much as he did.  Having grown up without a father, his grandfather was his true hero and could do no wrong.  Not now.  Not Then.  Not Ever.

His grandfather, Nathaniel Graft, taught him everything he knew in life, from the good all the way to the bad – but mostly the good.  He taught him how to grow crops and how to colllect rainwater during those beautiful and picturesque spring thunderstorms that came as fast as they went.  He taught him how to talk to beautiful young women and he became so good at it that the teacher soon became the student and had to pull back these lessons so the boy didn’t wind up making poor life decisions.  He also taught how to start a fire with kindling and a flint, how to grow high-yield crops, and build the most immaculate forrest shelters.  I guess you could say Nathaniel Graft was a bit of a bushcraft genius.

Nathaniel learned much of what he knew through trial and error while killing Germans in The Great War and the Chinese and North Koreans at the Thirty-Eighth Parrallel.  He decided long ago that the best gift he could ever give to his grandson was the gift of power from knowledge gained through the hardships of tough life lessons learned.  Turns out, Nathaniel was more right than he would ever live to know about.

As he thought about his grandfather, his head pounded against the back of his eyeballs and his body pleaded for the pills that would bring him relief.  He finally found the strength to roll himself off of the scratchy wool blanket to retrieve his daily alotment of water and Asprin from his store of medical supplies.  He knew the Asprin alone wouldn’t be enough to calm his roaring, head-splinting skull pain, so he decided that he would pair the NSAID with some extra strenghth acetamenophen.  He also remembered the box in the corner of the storage room his grandfather purchased at a storage auction, the writing on the side said: Rehydration Salts, Oral, 1 EA.  It was a packet of drink mix that was practically Gatorade on stereroids, packed full of salts and electrolytes.  They tasted like salty shit, but they would work well against his headache. 

But even with the pills, water, and oral reydration salts, he knew his headache wouldn’t go away that easily.  It’d still be overpowered by worry and dehydration.  If his grandfather were still alive, he’d tell him to man-up and stop worrying about the inevitable reality of eventually having to leave the bunker to survive, but to acknowledge and embrace the adventure ahead of him, instead.  They never worried about death in Europe or on the Korean Peninsula, why should he when he has it infinitiely easier than he had it? 

In that moment, the realization that his grandfather was gone hit him like a derailed freight train hauling a load full of coal, iron ore, and othe combustable fosssil fuels.  For a moment, his headache completely subsided, the physical pain immediately replaced by intense grief.  He was gone.  He was fucking gone forever.  He would never walk the earth again, tell him animated war stories as he sat cross-legged and starry eyed on the floor, affectionately hug him, or teach him any of his other incredibly useful life lessons.  The tears welled up in his eyes and one escaped a corner and rolled down his cheek and disappeared in to his thick, bushy beard.

You live and you die, he compromised with himself.  Gone.

When Nathaniel passed silently in his sleep nearly three years earlier, the whole town grieved, but none as hard as he had.  He knew something was wrong when he got a call from an unrecognized Nebraska area code at one on a Sunday, a time his grandfather would normally be hosting the church lunch at his home.  It was a tradition he had carried on for years, continuing on after the passing of his late wife to honor her life.  The call was from one of his grandfather’s church members informing him of the terrible news.  They found him after he didn’t show for church and the congregation went to check on him.  Gone.

He vividly remembered the fiery pain that flowed through his body, the tears that soon followed, and the weakness in his trembling knees as the voice on the other end of the line softly offered his condolences.  “Fuck off”, was all he could muster in response to the news as he hung up the phone.  He immediately packed a bag and drove non-stop to the small, rural farm he spent a large portion of his childhood at.  He was hoping the man on the phone had made a terrible mistake, but when he got to his destination, he realized that there had been no mistake and he buried Nathaniel Graft on his farm, underneath the large oak tree by the river next to his late wife.  Up to that point, it was the worst day of his life.

Shortly after the funeral with full military honors, he packed his bags and headed back home to Texas.  He had only driven about ten miles down the dusty gravel road from his grandfather’s farm when the Emergency Notification System aired on the country music station he was listening to alerting him to the ongoing events that would change the course of history and the fate of mankind forever.  Unsure if the notification was a prank or not, like the oration of H.G Wells’ “War of the Worlds” on the radio, he pulled a heavy u-turn, gassed his Chevy truck, slide sideways on the dust and gravel, and hauled ass back to the farm.  He forgot about the bunker until he got there, and then he grabbed what he could with what little remaining time he had and sealed himself in.  The bunker is where he’s been ever since.  Old Casa de la Bunker.

The powerful throbbing in his head brough him back to the present-tense , his 6’1” frame hunched over with his quivering hand shielding his eyes from the light and making him look much smaller than he actually was.  He was lean, muscualar, and in quite good shape for being locked away in his subterrainian habitat for so long.  His physique, strength, and endurance were better than they’d ever been, something he credited to a protien packed diet, boredom, and his grandfather’s insight for putting a gym in the shelter.

He had masculine facial features with an angular jawline and a cleft ching hidden beneath a thick brownish-blonde beard.  His eyes were covered by matching colored eyebrows that made him look mysterious, yet indefinitely intrigued.  His eyes themselves were a sort of dark blue that reminded you of a coming storm, yet drove women crazy.  But the truth was, he had always had a way with women, successes that were due to both his grandfather’s lessons, his ruggedly handsome looks, and charming personality.

He made his way through the bedrooom, in to the gym, and then the main living area before the smell of alcohol and vomit invaded his nostrils involuntarily causing a gag so strong that he vomitted again.  He tried to cover his mouth with his hands but it was useless.  The vomit spewed through his fingers and mixed in with the glass shards that littered the floor.

He dashed for the storage room, flung the door open, slid inside, and slammed he door beginde him to escape the wretched smell.  He breathed heavily as he wiped the vomit off of his hands and on to his pants.  The smell of vomit still lingered in his nose as he frantically fumbled for the light switch.  He found the switch, flipped it on, and noticed the blood that was in the emesis on his hands and pants.

“I’ll never drink again”, he muttered between dry heaves, “This shit’s gonna kill me one day”.  He was lying to himself and he knew it, but saying it alound made him feel better about his situation.

As his eyes adjusted to the light in the storage room, he took visual inventory of what was left.  There were fourteen stainless steel shelves, most of which had already had its supplies exhuasted.  What did remain was thirteen cases of water, one case of Irish Whiskey, two cases of merlot, a box of beef jerky, four cases of MRE’s, eight empty vegetable bins, and sixteen packets of freeze dried beef, chicken, and pork.  He had used very few of his medical supplies so he was good there.  Either way, he didn’t have much time before he had to venture from the safety of the fallout shelter, and he knew it.  He could feel it deep in his bones.  Time was non longer a luxury he could afford.

He grabbed the medical bag, unzipped the top, and removed a black, waterproof hardcase he kept his pills in for safekeeping and to keep them from getting crushed and wet.  He flipped the plastic latch that kept the lid shut and thumbed through the alphabetical packages of pills.  Once he found the asprin, he stopped, changed his mind, and skipped straight to the “v’s”.  His brain felt like it was about to burst through his skull and he knew asprin wouldn’t touch the pain.  He hrabbed a package of Vicodin, ripped it open, mixed rehydration salts, and took the pills.

“I’m fucked”, he said before pounding the rest of the water and electrolyte mixture.  “Time’s almost up for me.”

He turned the lights to the storage room off and slid down to the floor, feeling the coolness on his butt and back as he leaned against the wall.  He impatiently waited for the opiod to kick in and as soon as it did he would get up, clean up his alcohol fueled mess, cleam himself up, change his clothes, and do it all over again later that night.

His name is John Graft and he’s a member of an extremely elite group of global inhabitants.He is one of a minority of survivors of the worlds first nuclear apocalypse that gripped the world in its radioactive plum and would eventually be known by historians everywhere as “The Fallout”.


© Copyright 2017 B.J. Mills. All rights reserved.

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