Short story about the nuclear war future or just a dream?
I still couldn’t believe what happened. Only hours ago I was sitting in a taxi on my way to the hotel. The driver was talking, or better, complaining about the high gas prizes and telling me that he was practically driving me for free. After finally finishing to complain, he turned on the radio and we listened to an old country song (not that I liked country music but it was better then listening to his complaints). The song was suddenly interrupted by an urgent emergency message which was nothing new to me, the New England fall always comes with some kind of a weather advisory regarding Tornados or Thunderstorms but this one was different.
Th speakers voice trembled and before he even started the sirens beside us on a big long pole started to wail.
This wasn’t good, I could feel how my stomach started to drop and small goose bumps are beginning to cover my skin.
“Could you turn this up” I asked the driver, who looked so startled, that he pulled over to the side of the road.
I don’t remember the exact words but after hearing: Nuclear war head; Milwaukee; 10min and may god have mercy with us, I was close to tears.
Why was this happening to me? I should have listened to my husband. He was angry that I decided to go on this business trip. ‘Not good being 4 month pregnant’ he said over and over again but I wanted to proof that I could do it, that pregnancy was not a disease which kept me from doing my work even though I had a high risk pregnancy.
Now I was 2000 miles away from him and probably wouldn’t survive the next 10 min of my life.
In a daze, I remember hearing the driver yelling at me ‘Follow me’ and pulling me out of the car. I didn’t know where he was running to, but at that moment I didn’t care, everything seemed meaningless.
I remember the sign beside the entrance ‘Emergency shelter in basement’ and before I realized it, a thick metal door closed behind me and I looked at several confused, panicked and tear covered faces.
This was 3 hours ago.
I was still sitting in a corner, holding my purse and couldn’t recover from the sound and tremble of the explosion which happened exactly 5 min after I entered the shelter.
3 more people entered after us and before the big rumble but since then it had been quiet, no knocking or ringing, nothing.
I looked at my digital watch. Nothing, just a gray screen without anything. Ding it, I thought, it is true nothing electronic works after a nuclear attack.
I had to smile, even though this wasn’t funny at all but I guess my question if really everything electronic would stop working was finally answered.
I suddenly felt weak, I didn’t eat since I left Hartford 7 hours ago and my body needed food to support my unborn child and the stressful situation.
I got up and looked around.
This movement woke up several other people around me, who were staring at floors and walls before.
I smiled at them and said: “Whats for dinner?“
Several people smiled back but more then half of them shook their head and went back to starring at the floor in front of them, their heads resting on their hands.
I didn’t care, I needed food.
This shelter was pretty big, not that I had ever seen one but it had an entrance hall with shower heads and a Geiger counter mounted on the wall beside them. After that, there was some kind of a living room if you wanted to call it that, which had several tables, chairs and bookshelf pushed against the wall and on the right there were two different sleeping quarters with bunk beds and on the left an industrial looking kitchen.
Kitchen had to mean food, so I walked into the kitchen and discovered the door to a gigantic pantry. At least a thousand cans, several hundred boxes filled with freeze dried food like ‘Spaghetti and Meatballs’, ‘Rice and Beans’ and more covered the back wall.
I scanned the rest of the stuff and found a box with Saltine crackers which I opened and removed several packages.
I returned to the living quarters and offered them to the people still sitting there in disbelieve. I took a package myself and sat back down as well.
After munching down several crackers I felt better, at least one problem solved.
I was wondering what my husband did right now, did he know yet what happened?
I told him that I would call him from the hotel when I got in, which would have been 2 hours ago.
Suddenly I felt like crying, I should have listened, I would be o.k.. I would be at home safe but again I got myself in trouble by playing the tough one, the ‘can do it all woman’. But who knows, maybe Milwaukee wasn’t the only city attacked, maybe New York was attacked as well, maybe this was much bigger and it wouldn’t have mattered where I was.
“What’s your name”
Startled I looked up and choked on my cracker. I started to cough and the man who just asked me the question started to look worried when I turned red and gasped for air.
“Are you o.k.?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m o.k.. I just didn’t hear you coming.” I responded after I stopped coughing.
His face seems to relax and he sat down in the chair next to me and I suddenly realized he was the taxi driver who got me here.
‘My name is Sandy and thank you for saving my life.” I said.
“ You are welcome Sandy. We were really lucky we were where we where, since the shelter was right around the corner.” he said.
“ I assume my taxi doesn’t exist anymore, so I won’t charge you for the ride. Isn’t that what I said on the ride here?” he grinned.
I grinned back, even though he just made me aware again that everything above us might have been blown to bits and burned up.
Suddenly I realized that we were lucky to be here but what would happen now? Was there any kind of procedure?
“Please listen up!”
I turned around. An old man, around 65 years old, with silver hair and fleece shirt, stood in the middle of the room and raised his voice.
“ This shelter is build to withstand a nuclear war and has food and water for at least 2 years. We should have a direct link to communicate with the Center of Disease Control and will take shifts in trying to communicate with the outside.”
A woman on the other side of the room suddenly started to cry.
“Please stay calm!” continued the old man “We are absolutely safe in here!” He tried to emphasize this by pointing both hands to the sealing and then the steel door.
“ Who would do such a thing to us? Nuclear war is crazy.” said a young man to the left of me. He was wearing a business suit and was nervously looking at the probably gray screen of his Blackberry.
I thought that was a good question, of all the cities in the world, why Milwaukee? Did they hate cheese, frozen custard or light beer?
Anyway, while the old man talked us thru the shelter layout and procedures, I looked around.
4 women and 8 men had made it here, the ages were between early 20th to probably late 60th of the old man and I assume his wife who sat tired in a chair in theft corner of the room.
I was tired too and shivering. It felt cold in here, the cold neon light and naked concrete floors and walls didn’t make it a cozy environment, even hospitals felt more inviting then this.
Hospitals, thats what kept me calm. I knew that falling apart might cause a miscarriage right here and now and thats not what I wanted or needed for that matter.
I doubt that a Dr. was between us 12 ‘survivors’ and I wasn’t sure how long it would take to free us.
Maybe we were buried deep below rubble, maybe they couldn’t even detect us, maybe Milwaukee wasn’t the only city attacked, maybe help would never come.
Now I started to panic. Sweat pearls started to form on my face and arms, my breathing was heavy and I felt nauseous.
Calm, you have to be calm I told myself. Panic doesn’t help, as my husband always said, freaking out doesn’t make it better.
I froze, there was a knocking against the door. We all stood there and didn’t move.
Who could this be? Survivors? Search and Rescue already. Zombies?
Yes, Zombies that was it, I guess I watched too many bad movies but I did have the urge to scream ‘ stop’ when I saw the old man moving towards the door.
Knocking again and I suddenly felt my vision fading.
“Honey, wake up”
Suddenly my vision started to come back and confused I could see my husbands face in front of me.
“ I knocked on the door several times. You have to get up baby, or you will be late for your flight.”
I slowly started to get up, still covered in sweat and nauseous.
Was it just hormonal panic or premonition? Was I really here or did I just faint in the shelter in Milwaukee?
What was going on?
Suddenly I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on this business trip.