Where's Your Brother?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


a story about a mother, two kids, and a grandfather living in a bunker after the surface of earth has supposedly become inhabitable.

Submitted: May 09, 2018

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Submitted: May 09, 2018

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Where’s Your Brother?

“... and they rode off into the sunset.” Henry closed the book in his lap.

“What’s a sunset?” Benji asked.

“I don’t know. Grandpa saw one once, he said they’re beautiful.”

“Beautiful like Mom?”

“Sure, beautiful like Mom.” Henry sighed. He pushed the book aside and laid back onto the cot. “I’m gonna get out of here someday, and I’ll take you with me. We’ll find sunsets and princesses and castles.”

“But Mom says that we can’t leave.”

“But Grandpa is old and wise, and he says that Mom is lying.”

“But Mom says that Grandpa’s head is full of cotton.”

“Well, Mom is-”

“Mom is what? Kids, get out from under there. For god's sake, Henry, stop dragging your cot under the stairs. Benji baby, come with Mommy. Let’s go make some dinner.” Mom held out her hand, beckoning for Benji. He ran to her, his tiny feet quietly hitting the concrete. Henry groaned at his sibling’s obedience and rolled over.

At the dinner table, Henry (unsupervised) quietly carved pictures into the wooden table with his steak knife while Mom ran around like a headless chicken - a typical routine at dinner time.

“Dad, please tell me those aren’t the same clothes you wore yesterday. Just because we live underground doesn’t mean you can live like an animal” Mom shouted to Grandpa over the sound of her ripping open a box of freeze-dried asparagus.

“I’m surprised you even noticed I was still alive, let alone what I’m wearing, Junebug.” Grandpa responded as he shakily lowered himself into the chair next to Henry at the dinner table.

“It’s hard not to notice the crazy old man - and stop calling me that ridiculous name.” Mom snapped back. Grandpa smiled as Henry mocked Mom by mouthing her words and flailing his steak knife around.

Benji was at Mom’s heels, running back and forth across the kitchen. Eventually, Benji noticed Grandpa and Henry at the table and decided whatever they were whispering about was more interesting than carrying food. Mom held out a plate to her left, and let go assuming Benji was there to take it. The plate shattered on contact with the concrete floor, throwing asparagus through the air. Before she could open her mouth to yell at Henry, Mom heard a faint sound come from above her almost simultaneously with the sound of the plate breaking. She stood perfectly still, staring up at the ceiling.

“Mommy? I'm sor-”

“Benji, honey, please be quiet. Dad, did you hear that?”

“Hear what, sunshine?” Grandpa asked as he shakily turned to see what Mom was staring at so intensely. The sound of a dog barking suddenly seeped through the concrete. They all froze, partially out of fascination but mostly out of fear. Then, like thunder snapping them back to reality, a gunshot rang through the air.

“Oh. My. God. Grandpa!” Henry shrieked. “You were right! Mom that’s a living breathing actually-real human being up the-”

“Henry! Shut up!” Mom yelled. “You’re going to get us all killed! All of you, follow our drill! Now!” She started frantically running to check the front door. Benji beelined in the opposite direction to the grab the gas masks out of the closet, then into safe room. Henry lingered behind, looking back at the ceiling and Grandpa.

They followed the drill they had rehearsed hundreds of times. Grandpa stumbled after them into the safe room. Mom ran in behind them, turning to use her entire body weight to push the iron door closed. She pulled the barricade down and snapped the lock shut. She slid down to the ground, her back against the cold metal door. Eventually, Benji fell asleep in Grandpa's lap, and Mom began to cry.

“We're going to die down here.” She croaked through tears. Henry, usually a rebel against his mother, experienced a moment of weakness hearing his mom cry. He crawled over to her and hugged her, resting his head upon her chest. “Oh, Henry. You're getting so old. I really need your help around here. You can’t keep fighting with me on everything...” She sighed. Henry didn’t respond, and finally drifted to sleep in his mother's arms.

A few days after the noise, the family had returned to their normal routine. However, the air felt different; they were all a little more aware of their situation. Henry put aside most of his teenage angst to try to help his mom, and Benji (basically replaced by Henry in helping mom) began to spend more time with Grandpa. Mom continued to worry and yell a lot.

One day, as he was gathering dishes from around the bunker, Henry stumbled upon Benji and Grandpa reading the journal. Tattered and worn, the leather-bound book was riddled with Grandpa’s notes and drawing from before and during the disaster. Henry immediately recognized the book, which was in Benji’s hands, and he ran over to snatch it away.

“This isn't for babies!” He yelled. Benji and Grandpa looked up at him, Benji’s eyes welled with tears.

“Henry, he can see.” Grandpa said softly, reaching out for his journal.

“No, he can't. It's supposed to be our thing!” Henry snapped back, folding his arms over the journal. Benji buried his face in Grandpa’s shoulder.

“It's okay Ben, let's go play a game, ok? C’mon” Grandpa slowly pushed himself onto his feet using the arms of his chair. Benji got up, grabbing his hand. They both walked away, leaving Henry with the journal. He looked down at the mysterious book, which had predicted the fallout and contained hundreds of pages of observations, studies, and blueprints. Mom said most of it was science fiction and conspiracy theories, but to Henry it was gospel.

That night, Henry lay awake hugging the journal to his chest. The fact that Grandpa had developed a friendship with Benji infuriated him - he was supposed to be the one Grandpa passed his wisdom onto. He had always dreamed of him and Grandpa leaving the bunker together, saving humanity and protecting Mom and Benji. On top of that, the events from the other day practically brought his dreams to life; if a gunshot went off, someone must have fired it. The surface did have living people. Mom still stuck to her pessimism and refused to acknowledge the possibility of life outside of the bunker.

Suddenly, Henry realized what he needed to do. He would have to be brave enough to leave the bunker and investigate the noise in order to regain Grandpa’s attention and make Mom realize her fault in keeping them down there. He shot out of bed, carefully slid the journal under his pillow, pulled his jacket on, then tiptoed down the hallway past shelves of canned food under dim fluorescent lighting. He opened the supply closet and carefully unhooked his gas mask from the wall, and pulled it on over his face. He briefly looked up at the photo of Mom and Dad on the wall, then closed the closet door.

Faced with the first door, Henry began sliding and turning the locks on the first door. He tiptoed through the vestibule - the space between the door to the bunker and the door to the outside. Once he was faced with the final door, Henry stopped. He tightened the straps of his mask, zipped up his jacket, and took a deep breath. He shakily reached out for the barricade on the door, slowly curled his fingers around the metal bar and pushed it up and over its hooks. He kept the bar in his left hand, presumably as a weapon, and softly pushed the handle down and pressed the door heavy iron open with his right hand.

With his first glimpse of the outside world, Henry stood for a moment, frozen in time. The lights hovering in the sky - the stars from Grandpa’s stories. Deafened by his own heartbeat, his eyes darted around the terrain he could see from the doorway. A few tumbleweeds, some bones, the skeleton of a car.

“Henry!” Benji snapped. Henry gasped and spun around, falling backwards away from Benji.  The door was propped open against Henry sitting in the doorway.

“What the hell?!” Henry yelled, but his words came out muffled through the mask. “Why are you following me?!” Henry snapped as he scrambled to his feet “You don't have a mask!”

The metal pipe, dropped in the commotion, was caught in the door as Henry scuttled back into the vestibule. He grabbed Benji’s wrist, who was whining in protest and confusion, and used his free hand to push the door to the bunker open. His plan vanished, the only thing that mattered now was getting Benji safe. He could be annoying as all hell, but that was his baby brother. As Henry yanked on his brother’s arm to force him back into the bunker, it happened.

Before either of them could react, the sound of a deafening gunshot rang out. The stranger got through the door (conveniently propped open by the metal bar), and immediately fired at them. The possibility of gaining an entire bunker of supplies was incredibly tantalizing to this stranger. Definitely worth killing for.

One second Benji was right next to Henry, the next he was on the floor. Henry’s vision through his mask was obscured by blood. He slowly looked down at his brother and was overcome with incredible dread. He couldn't move. That was his brother... dead at his feet… all his fault.

The stranger fired again and missed, snapping Henry back into action. In a blind panic, he stumbled into the bunker. Once inside, he began weakly pulling and locking the door as his mother appeared next. She pushed him away with one hand as she pulled the barricade down with the other. She pelted him with questions as he stumbled backwards and fell onto the floor.

“What the fuck were you thinking?! Who the hell is that? What were you doing?! God, just go hide with the others!” She screamed. Her older son began hyperventilating and crying. Mom moved over to Henry.

“Oh god, is that blood? What happened? What were you doing?” She asked.

“Benji...” He croaked through sobs.

“What?” She whispered, pulling his mask off.

“I'm sorry...” He mumbled.

“Benji?!” She turned to the hallway and yelled for her son. The only response was Henry’s sobbing. She turned back to him and her eyes glossed over with tears.  “Where's your brother?”

 


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