The room I was sitting in could have been mistaken for any normal American living room. No one would ever guess that it was nestled 5 stories underground. I wasn’t interested in the decorations though, because for the first time in 5 years, I was looking into the eyes of another human. He was very thin, with red, curly hair and dark blue eyes. He wore a bracelet transmitter that displayed his vitals. The name on his shirt read M. Wedford. His voice was gruff when he spoke.
“Whats your name?” he asked, his eyes questioning.
He sat silent for a moment staring at me, his eyes wide with disbelief.
“How?” he asked.
“How did I survive or how am I not a crazed monster?” I responded, leaning forward.
“Dealers choice,” he snipped. I sat quietly for a moment, letting my head hang before responding.
“I have no idea. When the bombs fell, I was hiding with my family. I watched them change, and I didn’t,”
images of my wife and daughters flashed through my mind, playing like a distorted reel of film behind my eyelids. I sat silent for a moment before opening my eyes and looking up. Matt was staring at me. I continued talking.
“After they were gone, I just started walking. I had a few things at the house in case of emergency, food and water and such,” I wasn’t about to tell him about my ‘condition’. At least not yet.
“You’re Matt, right? I saw your name in a military bunker outside Cedar Bluffs.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” he said, his body relaxing a bit. “You military?” he asked.
“I’m an accountant. I found the place by accident while looking for supplies at the depot.”
There was a long silence between us that hung in the air before he spoke again.
“You look like s**t. Maybe you should clean up a bit. You’re getting my couch dirty,” he smiled lightly and chuckled. Hearing someone laugh revived a part of me I thought had died long ago. I felt happiness again. I looked at the dirty spot on the couch underneath me. And then I laughed. I laughed long and hard, and Matt laughed harder. It dawned on me that I was probably the first person he had seen alive as well. After we composed ourselves, Matt spoke again.
“I’ll show you where the shower is. After you clean up, we can get to know each other better.”
“You trust me just like that?” I asked, confused. He smiled and responded.
“Oh, hell no. Just like you don’t trust me. But I’ve been alone for 5 years, so what the hell, lets enjoy it while it lasts. This way,” he motioned for the door. I smiled and nodded, and walked through the door into the hall.
I sat on the floor under the first shower I had in 5 years, reveling in the warm water that cascaded over me. The water was coming out clean and clear, but pouring off of me colored brown and black. I was trying to wrap my head around what had happened today. After 5 years, I wasn’t alone anymore. This man, whoever he was, was untouched by the surface all this time. I thought about how far I had come, all the hell I had faced and survived. Was it all really over?
The whole room shaking gave me the answer I didn’t want. Somewhere above the bunker, there was an explosion. It was large enough to rumble all the way down here. The next thing I heard was banging on the door.
“Michael, get out here now, man!” I flung myself out of the shower, not bothering to turn off the water, and swung the door open. Matt was standing there in a huff.
“Something just happened,” Matt said in a panic.
“Yeah, no s**t,” I replied. “Whats going on?”
Matt through my pack that he had taken at me as well as a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt. He pointed below my waist.
“You might wanna consider covering that up, we got company.”
I hadn’t even realized I was still n**e. I spun around and put on the clean clothes and slung my pack on. Matt handed me my shotgun.
“How are they getting in?” I asked.
“There’s an old maintenance shaft that leads up to the surface. something collapsed the shaft near the top, and motion sensors started going nuts.”
We began running towards the living room.
“If there’s a tunnel leading to the outside, how did you not get affected?” I asked.
“The hatch is pressure sealed. A large enough force on the outside would break the seal, allowing an evac team to get us out in case of critical system failures down here. And whatever that explosion was did the trick,” Matt was huffing as we hit the blown hatch.
We aimed our guns down the long hallway, a single overhead light shown in the dark, swaying slightly. We watched for any signs of movement. It was eerie quiet, and the tension was thick as butter. We stood there for what felt like hours watching this hallway. Without warning, several brutes were charging from the darkness.
Matt and I unloaded everything we had, the boom of our weapons in the cramped rooms deafening. We held off as best we could, but there were too many of them. Matt’s voice broke over the gunfire.
“I’m out!” he yelled and ran for the door to the elevator. I swiftly followed. He latched the door behind me as I passed through, brutes slamming hard against the door a millisecond later, and he ran to the computer terminal.
“S**t!” he yelled, “The damn blast knocked out my connection to the relay. It’s gonna take me a minute to see if I can restore connection,” he started typing frantically.
“What can I do?” I asked, loading the last 4 shells into my shotgun.
“Brace that door. It won’t hold forever. Move anything you can in the way,” he shouted over the banging. I moved quickly, moving a large console in front of the door. As I did, I watched a bolt in the frame come loose and rocket across the room. It wouldn’t hold much longer.
“How’s it coming, buddy?” I asked frantically.
“Don’t rush me, guy!” he responded. Another couple of bolts popped loose from the door. “There!” he shouted as the elevator roared to life again. Then the door gave way.
The console stopped the door from opening too much, and I fired my shotgun point-blank into the skull of a charging brute. The force threw it back against the others, buying me a moment to take aim again. I fired my last shell as the elevator hit the floor.
Matt was standing at the open door to the hall that lead to the elevator, screaming at me. “Move your a*s!”
I retreated through the door, a brute hot on my trail. I passed through the door and pushed it closed, locking it in place. Matt was already at the door to the elevator room. As he watched me run toward him, he swung it closed, locking me out.
“What are you doing?!” I shouted through the door, a brute banging on the door behind me.
He was sitting at the lift control inside. “Sorry, pal, this terminal is broken, which means I gotta climb outta here,” he stood. “And we both know without a distraction, those damn things will get us before we make it to the surface. Unless they have a meal first,” he busted out one of the ceiling panels. “Sorry pal. Survival off the fittest and whatnot.”
“You son of a b***h!” I shouted as he disappeared into the shaft above. I shook the door, trying to open it, waiting to hear the door behind me give under the brute’s power. I dropped my pack and pulled it open. Inside wat the 9mm I had greased up. It was still jammed. Out of sheer desperation I pulled on the slide, trying to break the jam free, shouting at the fact it wasn’t working… And then it clicked hard and come loose. I pulled the slide a few times and slammed the clip home, chambering a round. I stood and faced the vault, waiting for the door to come free.
I took aim, listening to the brute banging on the door, trying to get at me. BANG! The door snapped free of the frame and the brute pounced through the opening. Then 2 more followed him in. They stared at me for a moment, howled and charged.
I pulled the trigger.
To be continued…