Stories Told Around A Nuclear Campfire: Story 1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is about a boy and his experience shortly before going into a fallout shelter, and time shortly after emerging from the shelter a few years later.

Submitted: January 07, 2012

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Submitted: January 07, 2012

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I lay here in the dark, looking up at this dark, gray sky. The fire warms the left side of my face, whilst it cracks and hisses. Someone snores amongst the group, droning out the sound of the few crickets. I can see the light of the moon splayed across the ash that circles the Earth, high above in the atmosphere. I know the moon is round, but I can no longer see its shape. Once, I could see the moon and the stars, in a better time. That time feels so distant, like a dream. I remember the panic that ensued every time someone saw the blinking lights of a plane in the night sky over our city, exclaiming, “Bomber, get to the shelter!” And we would go to the shelter, only to emerge a few hours later, realizing it wasn’t really a bomber. That was only three years ago, but it feels like three hundred.

I hardly remember the time before the world was destroyed, except for the false alarms. There were so many, about four times a week we went into the shelter, waiting for the sound of the bombs destroying our town above. Until I was fourteen, the sight of “bombers” caused us to go into the shelter to escape from doom. Then, some scientist and others working for him, created a type of satellite outfitted with nuclear missiles that could be aimed so precisely, you could hit someone in the head with one. He sold them to every country that showed him the dollar signs.

We could see these satellites that were constantly circling the Earth. Occasionally the satellites would stop dead in their tracks, looming over the nearby capital. This caused us to cower inside of our city’s bunker, once for an entire week, until the satellite began to orbit again. After a while, like fools, many began to ignore the signs of eminent attack, believing that the satellite stopping was just another false alarm, and that nuclear war wouldn’t ever happen. But, our enemies launched countless other attacks on us, and us to them. They released a nerve agent in Times Square, poisoned the drinking water in L.A., and a terrorist group destroyed half of Britain with a nuclear bomb placed in locations throughout the country. So why wouldn’t we blow each other to shit? Why haven’t we done it already?

I was sixteen, a junior in high school, when it finally happened. We had heard the warning system go off from the sirens placed on poles that lined the streets. The high pitched scream threatened to blow up my eardrums, but luckily, that didn’t happen. I remember that it was a Sunday, and we had been on our way back home from church. My father looked around frantically for the signs that pointed the way to the shelter, even though by now he knew the way there by heart. On the way I saw cars in their driveways, and parked at the supermarket. I saw one of my friends shooting hoops in his driveway with his younger brother. I rolled down the window and shouted at him to get to the shelter, but he just waved me off. I wonder if he died right there, a pile of ash, with a mound of melted basketball beside him.

When we reached the shelter, there was only a short line to get in, which moved fairly quickly because everyone knew the procedure. We got inside and moved into the cafeteria area like always, and sat on the floor. I watched the door that was up a long sloped hallway. One of the men guarding the door started talking on the radio and told the rest of the people to back up, raising his rifle. Then the door started to close. I looked to my mother and father, who had expressions of shock on their faces. I saw Mr. and Mrs. Ferdall try to run through the rapidly closing door, only to be shot down in front of their eight year old daughter, whose face I saw, beet red as she screamed and cried, as the door sealed, she and many others still outside. The two guards walked down into the cafeteria with us, everyone staring at them. One of them sealed another door at this end of the entrance tunnel.

Not thirty seconds later, there was a rumble, the lights flickered and went out, and then turned on again after about a minute. We sat there completely silent for half an hour, as the vibrations of other bombs falling on other nearby cities shook the shelter. We were all assigned rooms, and anyone over eighteen was assigned a job. The sixteen other people from my grade who made it into the shelter and I were to finish our junior and senior years down here. We all went to the rooms we were assigned and sat in them, in silence.

Five years, there were enough supplies to support us for five years. But after three years they told us that we had to leave. Even though the shelter wasn’t even close to being filled to capacity, we were running dangerously low on water because of a leak in the water tank. We were told not to bring anything except the packs that were issued to us as we lined up at the door that leads outside. They told us we would be heading north to Lake Renan to see if the water was drinkable. It would take us three days to walk there.

One of the two guards pressed a button and a loud screech echoed down the hallway as the door slowly creaked open. Blinding sunlight, which we haven’t seen in a little over three years flooded into the hallway. My eyes adjusted and I was able to see the destruction that was spread before me. The shells of houses were all that was in place of the nice houses that were once here. As I walked out with everyone else I heard a crunch from beneath our feet. I looked down and saw half disintegrated bones, no doubt those who had tried to get in before the missiles were launched. My father nudged me ahead after I had stopped and looked at the skeleton that was smaller than the rest, and remembered the eight year old daughter of the Ferdalls.

We walked until dark and set up camp. Each of our packs had a bedroll and a blanket, as well as a fire-starter kit. I helped to gather wood from an old barn that was only half left, the other half burned very badly, and then a man, George Hedger who had lived four houses down from me, used his kit to start the fire. We all sat around it and each cooked the contents of one of the many cans that were provided in our packs. No one said a word. We finished eating and then everyone lied down.

This is where I find myself now. I lay here in the dark, looking up at this dark, gray sky. I can see other light coming through the dust and debris filled atmosphere aside from the light from the moon. The sun. It’s just starting to come up and I realize I haven’t slept. But, I don’t feel tired, in fact I feel wide awake. After about another two hours or so, I have no watch so I can’t be sure, people start to get up, and when the guards do, they walk around and wake up anyone who isn’t awake already.

That’s when one of the guards catches a bullet in the left side of his head. The blood splashes onto a woman’s face and she screams. My mother and father rush over to me and put their bodies on top of mine to shield me from any more gunfire. I look up just in time to see the second guard get shot in the neck. He fell to his knees, hands at his throat, trying to tide the flow of the blood, which in the cool morning air, was steaming. A man whose face I could not see ran for one of the guard’s guns, only to get shot as he grabbed for it.

I saw men running at us from all sides, all toting weapons. Then my mother is yanked off of me and my father shortly thereafter. My mother is pulled to my left and my father to the right. My father punches the man who grabbed him and he drops his gun. I watch as my father grabs the gun and tosses it to me. I’ve never shot a gun before, why did he toss it to me? He points in my mother’s direction just before he is shot execution style by a man who then turns toward me. I look to my left and see my mother who is, I believe, being raped by a large man with a scar across his left eye. I shoot.

The man with the scar’s expression goes from a mix of anger and pleasure, to one of panic. He heard the shot and then the ripping of flesh and slight crack of bone, and then checks himself for a wound, but finds none. The woman who he had been in the process of raping fell limp beneath him, a hole in the right side of her neck. He gets off of her and stands, buttoning and zipping his pants in the process. He then walks over to the dead boy, smoking gun still in his hand, and kicks him, and then he walks toward the man who had shot the boy’s father.

“You shoot ‘im?”

“Nah, he shot himself after he shot the woman you was fuckin’.”

“Bastard,” he said as he kicked the boys limp body once again.


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