The lights were brighter than usual, their glare reflecting off the T.V screen as I lounge comfortably on the couch.
“He’s not even cute,” My mom complains from next to me as we watch The Bachelor. I laugh at my mom’s comment, there’s something comforting in her words.
“It’s not like you’re going to be the one dating him,” I chide her, nudging her side playfully with my elbow. A shiver runs down my spine and I instinctively pull the blanket on my lap higher. Something isn’t right. This scene feels so familiar and right, but something in the back of my mind is screaming that it’s wrong.
I’m pulled from my thoughts as the breaking news interruption comes on the screen. My blood turns to ice as I take in the screen. The female newscaster looks panicked and pale, her mouth moving so fast that even the best lip readers wouldn’t be able to tell what she was saying. The text scrolling along the bottom of the screen threatens the return of my lunch.
NUKE LAUNCHED FROM RUSSIA. HEADED FOR CHICAGO.
It reads in bold letters. My mom isn’t laughing next to me anymore. She’s almost glued in place as we both realize what this means. The sound of a door slamming upstairs is enough to unfreeze my limbs, and I manage to turn towards the stairs. Thundering footsteps bound down the stairs, quickly revealing my father, flushed and out of breath at their bottom.
“Dad?” I question, my voice cracking on the single word. He says nothing as he rushes into the room, grabbing my mother’s and my arm.
“We have to get to the bunker,” He urges desperately. His words are almost drowned out as the shrill cry of sirens pierce the air. The almost deafening sound is enough to jarr my mother from her paralysis, and she jumps into action. She wrenches the blankets off our laps and discards them on the floor, the footstool our feet were just resting on is quickly shoved aside as I’m being dragged to my feet by both parents.
“Mom?” I question fearfully as tears start to form in my eyes.
“Your father is right, we have to get to the bunker.” she replies sternly, pulling me and my father to the back door.
“What about shoes?” I ask hurriedly as the back door is roughly pulled open, and the sound of the sirens somehow manages to get louder.
“No time!” My mother shouts to be heard as we start sprinting towards the bunker. The damp wood planks of my back porch are quickly replaced by the soaked soft dirt and grass of the back lawn. The long untrimmed blades get stuck between my toes, as mud quickly takes residence on the arches of my feet. I’m gripping my mother’s hand so hard that it will leave bruises, but I don’t think she cares at this moment. The bunker is quickly coming into view, and yet that sinking feeling in my stomach is only getting worse.
I make it to the bunker just a few steps before my parents do, and start to unlock the door, never letting go of my mother’s hand.
“Hurry up and get in there!” My mother yells at me over the ever growing sound of sirens. No sooner does she say that, I get the door open and move to go inside. As soon as my feet touch the frozen metal of the bunker, my mother’s hand is ripped from my grasp.
“MOM!” I yell, immediately whipping around, panic starting to rise to new highs. The sight I’m greeted by isn’t one I recognize. It’s like the world is burning. The trees and grass are disheveled and dead, the dirt a crisp and dried husk of what it once was. The houses that lined the block are all in different states of burning, a few are just ash. It’s the sight of my parents, that makes me take a step back. Their clothes have caught fire and the cruel flames are slowly spreading upwards, desperate for fuel to feed the destruction. The door of the bunker starts to shut, and I unfreeze.
“Mom take my hand!” I plead trying to brace myself against the door, tears already streaming down my face, “Please get in here!” I reach my hand out to her as the flames reach her neck, blisters starting to form almost immediately. She doesn’t say anything only shakes her head no and pushes me back into the bunker. I stumble back a moment, before I rush towards the rapidly closing door.
“MOM!” I yell again, as the flames completely engulf her form. All I see are flames consuming everything I once knew and loved, no house or bush left untouched. And then the door slams, throwing me into complete and utter darkness.
“No!” I yell, sitting upright in bed, gasping for air. Sweat covers my skin, as I struggle to remember where I am. The comforter lays bunched up on my legs, as my breathing slowly returns to normal. I look to my right at Mia, her hair is already skewed in unimaginable angles, her eyes remain closed as I’m finally able to calm myself down.
“I guess she’s not a light sleeper,” I mutter to myself, pushing the hair that’s plastered to my forehead away from my eyes. Suddenly Mia sits bolt upright, gasping for breath, looking around the room frantically like she’s lost.
“Hey, it’s okay,” I try to comfort, laying a hand on her shaking shoulder. As soon as my hand touches her shoulder she flinches away from my touch, her head quickly whipping towards me.
“No!” Mia yells, her eyes frantic and full of fear.
“Hey, Mia, it’s just me,” I try to soothe raising my hands up in front of me non-threateningly, “I’m not going to hurt you, you’re safe here.” At my words Mia seems to calm down, and realize she’s no longer stuck in her nightmare.
“Sorry, sorry I’m-I’m sorry,” Mia mutters breathlessly, as she slowly starts to lose some tension in her shoulders.
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for, everyone has nightmares now and again,” I dismiss her apology, waving a hand in front of my face for emphasis.
“Yes I do, I woke you up didn’t I?” Mia questions, attempting to push some of her unruly hair out of her face.
“Nope, I was already up. So like I said nothing to be sorry about,” I smile smugly at her. Figuring we’re both going to be up for a while I scoot myelf back a little bit so my back is resting against the wall, sort of acting as a headboard. I pull the comforter up a bit from where it had fallen, before Mia follows suit and lays back with me.
“Wait, then why were you up?” Mia questions, after a bit of silence, looking over at me curiously. My smile fades and I shiver thinking back to the nightmare that had me gasping for breath not too long ago. I let out a breathless laugh before I answer,
“Like I said everyone has nightmares now and again.”
“Ah,” Mia sighs as she draws out the single word. We sit in silence for what feels like an hour before Mia laughs. It’s a joyful laugh that has no reason to be as happy as it is.
“What are you laughing at?” I ask my curiosity getting the better of me.
“Look at the two of us sitting in a bunker, at who knows what time of day or night, awake instead of getting some much needed sleep. All because we both had a nightmare.” Mia’s laughs cut off the rest of her rant, and I look at her still not getting the joke.
“You definitely need some more sleep,” I chide her, shifting on the bed a bit. At my words Mia’s laugh quickly dies out and her smile fades. Before I can even ask what I did Mia speaks up,
“I would if I could.” Her tone is somber, and I immediately feel bad for taking the joy out of it.
“You know you’re quite the heavy sleeper,” I point out trying to take her mind off the nightmare that woke her up.
“Oh?” Mia questions her interest peaked. “And how do you figure that?”
“Well I happen to know for a fact that-” I falter, not wanting to tell her I woke up screaming,
“That?” Mia prompts now pointedly looking at me.
“That when I woke up, I may have knocked something really noisy over and you stayed sound asleep.”
“Oh did you now?” Mia asks clearly skeptical, her eyebrow is raised expectantly at me and it takes a surprising amount of effort not to break down and tell her the truth. I never was too good at keeping a straight face when I was lying.
“I did.” I reply indignantly. I pull the comforter a little higher up so it covers a bit of my torso, the cold of the bunker is starting to get to me. A headache is starting to form and I sigh, hoping to get back to bed before it gets any worse. “Anyway we should probably try to at least go back to bed. We really need the rest.”
“...Yeah we should.” Neither of us says anything as we scoot back down on the bed. The comforter is a bit of a challenge as it seems to somehow have tangled and twisted in on itself. After at least a full minute of fighting with the blanket with Mia sitting next to me I hear giggling.
“What are you laughing at?” I huff exhaustedly as I continue to try to untangle the mess of a blanket that lies on top of us.
“Nothing,” Mia chuckles, obviously trying to fight the laughter that’s building up on her side of the bed. I sigh exhaustedly again, before I turn my attention back to trying to figure out how in the world the blanket got as messed up as it did.
The longer I try to untangle the blanket the louder Mia’s laughter grows. After another two minutes, I can’t ignore it anymore. “You find this funny huh?!” I exclaim, angrily throwing the blanket down mostly on top of Mia.
“Hey!” she exclaims startled, her laugher dying down a bit.
“Then you untangle this mess, I’m going to bed!” I roll over facing away from Mia, and cross my arms over my chest. “I don’t need a fucking blanket anyway.”
“Oh come on don’t be like that,” Mia comments from her side of the bed, as the rustling of the blanket picks up again. Her hand is on my shoulder as the rustling dies down, and I huff in annoyance.
“Just because you couldn’t get the blanket untangled doesn’t mean you have to pout.”
“If I can’t untangle a blanket how am I supposed to be able to make it out there?” I mutter, letting my arms uncurl and rest on the bed.
“Easily.” Mia answers back without hesitation, letting her hand fall from my shoulder.
“What do you mean by that?” I ask, rolling over to face Mia, a smug smile playing on her lips.
“Just because you can’t untangle a freaking blanket doesn’t mean you won’t make it out there.” Mia says seriously, gesturing towards the bunker door. I sit there for a second, still not understanding what she means. That look must be on my face because Mia sighs, before sitting up slightly and looking me in the eye.
“Look, everyone is good at something. We’re both pretty good at running for example. The skills you have to untangle a blanket are, admittedly, lacking but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to say... scavenge for food out there.”
“So you’re saying I may be terrible at getting blankets untangled, but I could be good at scavenging or other survival skills?”
“Exactly!” Mia exclaims somewhat happily. We sit together for a bit, both of us mulling over our conversation, before I speak.
“We should get back to bed, I’m still exhausted.” A yawn makes its way through just as I finish my sentence and Mia scoffs.
“Okay okay, bed time it is.” The adrenaline from the nightmare has long since dissipated, and I find it difficult to keep my eyes open.
“Hey Mia?” I mumble, as my eyes seem to pull themselves closed.
“Yeah Miss Mystery?” Mia’s reply is slightly muffled behind my back, but the fact that she answered brings a smirk to my face.
“Thanks,” and the tiring walk from the day catches up with me once again letting me fall back into a hopefully nightmare free sleep.