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A Special Occasion
The room was dark. Very dark. So dark that all other senses became hyper tuned so everything became louder, your skin became sensitive, and your nose could pick up the tiniest musty scent. This was almost every hour of his life. He couldn't dare spend electricity and oil down here frivolously, since the nearest power source shop was miles away. The only glow came from the ghostly glowing handles from an alarm clock which was slowly ticking away. The handles struck 7:00 am, causing the alarm clock to ring to signal him to wake up. He was already awake, but liked to use the clock anyway, to make it feel more like home. He got up from his cot and walked down the dark halls. He didn’t need light, since he knew these corridors so well. He put on his suit and came to the door, turned the handle, and stepped out into the cold, lifeless world. He tightened the gas mask and started walking through the barren wasteland, stepping over frigid, deadly dirt. The year was 1970, exactly eight years since the Cuban Missile Disaster had taken place, and thrown the world into nuclear war.
The man walked slowly, since he had to limp on the rifle he carried with him. These long walks to the market gave him time to ponder over things, but often he would think of the events that transpired years ago, with his wife and loving family. Images rushed back of their beautiful little house. He remembered driving back after work to find his two adorable little children, running up to hug and kiss him. He remembered lowering the paper to answer the request of his son, asking if he can watch TV. He remembered sitting down to have a lovely dinner of roast chicken, cooked by his lovely wife. Eventually he pushed down those thoughts when he caught sight of the shop. Then he remembered the war, how president Kennedy had told them that everything would be fine. But everything was not fine.
He had decided to build a bomb shelter, just in case something were to happen. The family lived on happily, though. Then however, it all changed when the Cuban Missile Disaster happened, and the submarines had let loose the missiles which destroyed multiple major cities in Florida, which had unleashed full nuclear war. He remembered hearing on the radio that a captain Vasili Arkhipov would've stopped the missiles from going out, if he had been on the ship, but sadly he had not, having suffered some symptoms from a previous nuclear disaster aboard another submarine.
The man remembered hearing the sirens for a missile strike one day. Him rushing inside and gathering his wife and children. Them running to the nuclear shelter. Opening the doors, and had entering and was about to let them in when the missile landed. The boom that followed the explosion was tremendous, and blew the door shut, blocking the door from entering. He remembered stumbling back with a thud, then getting up and pounding and screaming on the door as if by some magic the door would open and let them in safe and unharmed. It didn't work out that way, however.
The man sighed as he finally reached the city. It was terrible, the streets were filled with foolish people who had wandered out into the outdoors unprotected. Even after eight years, the radiation burned through their skin, leaving them either stumbling lacerated and delusional across the streets, or quietly sobbing in the alleyway. They were not let inside the buildings, they were thought to spread foul energy.
These ridiculous ideas were spread by the Pumists, the prevailing religion in this age, since many people had given up on their other religions, their god had been cruel to them. The Pumists believed that an old tyrannical god had sent down rains of missiles to terrorize the people. This old god died, and was reborn from his ashes as a good and gracious God, and would help humanity rebuild. It was quite a silly concept, at least to the man, but it kept the people happy. He entered the Market building, where he was confronted by two guards wearing hazmat suits. They recognized the special symbol he had been required to paint on his gas mask, so he was permitted to enter the building. He walked into the huge building, which housed the Market. The market itself was very small, and was not signified by money, but by barter. The man walked up to the shopkeeper who sold canned food, and offered some fresh, non-radioactive dirt that he had dug from underneath his bunker.
The shopkeeper graciously accepted the jar of dirt, since safe to use dirt was gold here. The man walked out of the building, carrying a couple of cans of beans and vegetables. He knew these were good cans, it was only a couple months expired, he had seen worse. As he walked, he remembered reality. He was always trying to cover up what the truth was. He remembered now, his drunk, abusive wife, who never appreciated anything he ever did. His little asshole children, always whining and complaining about every single thing. He remembered sitting down for dinner and eating toasted bread and butter for dinner that his “loving” wife prepared for him. They never respected him building the bunker, they called him paranoid.
Then, when the sirens called out their alarm, his family begged him to let them in. He was having trouble deciding, but as it turns out, the bomb made the decision for him. He finally reached home. He took off his hazmat suit and helmet and hung them up on a hook. He lit a torch and decided to have one full can of beans today, because after all, it was exactly eight years since all of this happened, it was worthy of a little celebration.