(Hopefully) Compelling Fiction

 

The dawn’s early light has awakened Pat and Leslie… albeit a bit too late. Having slightly overslept, there’s barely sufficient time for a good morning kiss, getting dressed for work and a coffee shop stop.

As expected, the Starbucks visit is a quick in and out. Pat, back behind the wheel, enters the Capital Beltway… Interstate 495… and instantly observes, aloud, how the traffic patterns seem a bit lighter than normal… in fact… way too light. Leslie guesstimates their commute will take a scant thirty minutes, tops.

Pat switches on the car radio which is already in Emergency Alert System mode. It’s that godforsaken, eerie end of the world signal, which, unfailingly, manages to creep them both out.

However, on this ill-fated a.m., this is NOT “Only a Test.” The grim, TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY message follows.

Leslie, a journalism / communication arts degreed Editor of a News and Opinion Website and Blog, mentally rehashes the previous day’s news cycle… gallantly tries to connect the dots. Alas… that was yesterday’s world. But it doesn’t require much analysis to conclude that the madman has finally done it… Tweeted the world into an early grave. The global thermonuclear exchange is now in progress… if progress is even the operative word.

Pat, his PhD in nuclear physics, fortuitously, recalls a nearby, past workplace… a now mothballed military installation… complete with a lead lined, fallout shelter, no less! Putting the pedal to the metal, they race towards what could be their last hope for survival.

“Why oh why didn’t we move far, far away from DC right after Inauguration Day ’17? We had had plenty of chances, Pat! Sure as shit, DC is the #1 target of all of our enemies and our bodies will be reduced to radioactive ash.”
“What good would that have done? After all, there’s actually no place to live safely at a time like this. But Look! We’re not dead yet! I can see it, Leslie! There’s my old army base!”

Crashing through the multiple padlocked, chain-linked gate, they skid through the gravel to a halt. As they rush forth towards the main building’s doors, the dialogue becomes even more tense.

“Hurry Pat… I don’t want to die like this!”
“I know, my love, but… I’m not even sure the provisions we’ll need to survive are still stockpiled within. And worse yet, my old CO, Col. Jeffries… was a renowned stickler for security… likely deleted my password from the system, long ago… that is… IF there’s still electricity powering up the keypad, at all.”
“You mean we could easily die whether or not we are granted ingress…”

Leslie knows, fully well, that this last utterance is both the question and the answer.

One final hurdle does present itself. Luckily, Pat’s pocket knife easily strips the casing off each end of the severed wire and, with a spark… the two ends meet and the keypad flickers back to life. After Pat’s first two password entry tries get challenged by the same, flashing “ACCESS DENIED” LED response, the third try proves the charm. At last, the security system recognizes an ages old numerical sequence and… with the creaking hinges loudly protesting… the triple layered, blast doors slowly open wide. Leslie rushes inside, yet oddly, Pat does not follow.

“What are you waiting for? We must close the door, now!”
“We have a moral duty to look out for the welfare of others. They’ll be needing this shelter, too.”

Waiting until the very last minute, with a shared long sigh, they must concede that it’ll be just the two of them.

Now in Security A-1 lock-down mode, they stand beneath the garish neon glow. Feeling the dank chill in the air, they huddle closely and kiss tentatively… both sobbing as countless blasts proceed to “efficiently” roll up the outside world… bury their loved ones and lay waste to the Earth, that no one will ever know again.

They crouch to pick up their Styrofoam coffee cups off the floor, raise them upward to propose a toast. Leslie goes first…

“To whatever may remain of our Earthly tomorrows, even if there is only one.”
“To today… if there’s no tomorrow at all.”