Since the Bombs Fell: Six

Continued from One, then Twothen Threethen Fourthen Five.

Finn’s entrance into the fallout shelter was therefore not a graceful one. Their imminent pursuers, his rescuer’s voice, and her near-pushing him in order to secure the door befuddled him. Patrick was better at instant decisions; perhaps he would know what to do and wouldn’t be walking at near-gunpoint to a foreign elevator shaft.

Perhaps.

Finn stumbled again. “We ‘ave to get b’low,” his companion said. She activated the elevator, then gestured to enter once its heavy cross-doors opened. Finn nodded and went first. She followed, turning a key in the wall and pressing a red button.

They dropped to a chorus of pained and rusting gears. Patrick’d be able to fix those, Finn thought. And the entry. Thinking of his brother worried him. Even one leg down, the rash young man might go looking for Finn if he didn’t return. Muties made the surface dangerous, yes; but there were ways to get back if Finn needed. Not all the train tunnels lay in ruin nor all the rooftops proved unsound, he knew.

They stopped. The door ground open to reveal a dim and untidy living area. The layout resembled Finn’s, albeit in greater disrepair. He made a mental note to thank Mary, should he see her again, for insisting they fix up and clean their post-apocalyptic warren.

“Home sweet home,” she’d said, once things were in order. She’d smiled that charming smile of hers, the one she’d borne since Mother’d first noticed Mary wasn’t -as Father said- “Quite all there.”

After exiting the elevator, his companion sealed the door and punched at the filtration system. It whirred like a hoarse donkey, but worked. She then began extracting herself from her breathing gear. Finn shrugged and did the same with his. He felt this an odd game to play with a stranger; making himself more vulnerable, piece by piece. If she wanted to kill him, however, she could have shot him back at the hospital.

He set his breathing system on the counter. His helmet followed suit. He turned as the woman did the same, her auburn hair falling sweaty and loose. It rested in a disheveled braid and framed a pretty but scowling face.

“All right, then,” she said, setting her helmet next to his. She rested her right hand on her hip and studied him. Then her eyes widened. “Finn?”

“Aye,” Finn answered. He smiled a crooked half-grin at his former girlfriend. Of course she’d been skulking around the hospital; they’d first met there. He’d been a patient and she a surgeon. “An’ how you doin’, Livvy?”

Olivia Green could not reply. She looked at Finn again, who wished he’d shaved before surfacing. “Where …Where’s Patrick?” Olivia gasped. “Oh, no! Where’s Mary?”

Finn waved a calming hand. “They’re fine, though waitin’, I’d wager.” He smiled fully. “Would you like to go to them?”

THE END

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

 

Let’s Stay in Bed Today

Snow1

“Snow! Snow-snow-snow-snow-snow! Mikey, snow!”

Small padding thumps descended the dirty stairs and crossed the short space to Mike’s sleeping head. Their accompanying arms pushed, insistently, at his body. Mike groaned and rolled from the thin camping cot. Cold, solid boards against his back completed his abrupt awakening.

He cracked open an eye to acknowledge the bouncing child. “No, Tommy, not snow,” he croaked, squinting.

“Yes, snow, Mikey!” Impatient toddler legs ran back across the room and up to the thick, semitransparent Plexiglas at the end of the tunnel. Mike turned his head against the floor. Tommy was pressing his face eagerly against the plastic, to see what he could never clearly see.

Good thing Dad has the access key to the door, Mike thought, then swallowed. Though, it hasn’t worked out with Dad not being here now. He pushed the thoughts away quickly, and groaned again. He stretched his hands up till they nearly brushed against the splintered boards just above his reaching arms.

“Mom! Mom-Mom-Mom-Mom!” Tommy stumbled down to push at the sleeping woman, instead.

“Mmm?” she queried.

“Mom, snow! Can we go play?” Mike sat up to watch from an obliging elbow, amused, as his brother leaned over her. Tommy’s tiny nose barely touched their mother’s. He breathed in her face expectantly.

“Mom, Mom! Mikey says it’s not snow, but it is. Can I go play?”

Her eyelids fluttered, opened. She made out the blurry, impatient face and sighed. “Oh Tommy, sweetheart. Come here.” Pulling her arms from their sleeping bag, she lifted them to either side of her crouching son.

“No, Mommy!” He pushed her arms; sat back. “I want to play in the snow! Open the door!”

“I can’t honey. I can’t.”

“Yes, you can! Make Daddy come back and open the door!” Tommy started crying, punching at her arms and bouncing on her body.

Mike quickly heaved off the floor, stooping; came over, stopped Tommy’s arms. He lifted his flailing, sobbing brother against the low ceiling.

“I’m so sorry, my Tom Thumb, we can’t. We can’t.” The tears ran slowly down their mother’s face. She sat up and reached out her arms still, wanting to hold her son.

Mike bumped against the roof boards, straining against the angry child. “Hey, Tommy,” he said, on inspiration, “Did you know snow is really cold?”

Tommy stopped resisting. “Cold?”

“Yes, very cold. Remember?” Mike saw he had Tommy’s attention. Tiny mental wheels were turning as Tommy’s face scrunched in the dim lighting. Mike loosened his grip and they sat together on the dirt-covered floorboards.

Mike continued. “Remember when we played in the snow and you got wet and your fingers hurt? They were red.” Tommy stuck a finger in his mouth, remembering.

“But I want to play,” he spoke, plaintively, around the finger. Tears ran down their mother’s face.

“I know,” Mike said. The muffled silence filled their ears as Tommy thought.

“I’m sorry, mommy,” he whispered, finally hugging her. She sniffed, wiping her nose against her shoulder, trying to smile.

“I love you, Tommy.” Together, they rocked. Their slow-moving forms slowly swept the shushing sleeping bag against the floor.

“Come help me make breakfast,” she offered. He nodded and moved to the side. Carefully, she peeled her legs free and hunched upright. They padded over to the wall of shelves.

Mike sat, watching them open the cache in the floor, pulling out the cans, hunting for the opener. Then he turned again to the end of the tunnel; the only source of natural light, watching the swirling, dancing storm of particulates drifting by.

 

Particular