Heaven Below a Scorched Plane

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Chapter 5

Sometimes I make fun for myself by sleeping somewhere strange or off-putting. The first time I did this I slept next to the door, and upon waking up spent what must have been a full hour trying to reorient myself in the dark, not having completely memorized the layout of the room. I guess the idea was to unnerve myself, but it becomes harder and harder to do so as time goes on. There's just nothing to be afraid of in here.

Well, I mean, that's not entirely true. It's possible that maybe the iron door will crack open eventually and leak in enough radiation to kill all of us. Yeah, the chances of it happening are so infinitesimal that it almost warrants no thought, but at least the idea is a little unsettling.

That's the only goal in here: trick yourself into being scared of something that will never happen to avoid thinking about the scary stuff that is definitely going to happen. Well, more specifically the scary fact that nothing is going to happen.

Well, anyway, there was a point when I made it a habit to sleep near the door every once in a while, and this wasn't that far into things so most people's schedules were about the same, give or take. I was about to nod off, when I heard someone softly walk in, slowly and in intervals, as if they weren't sure of themselves and would leave at any time. I heard what I figured was the person slapping their hand against the door, and then they started whispering. Usually there'd be a light buzz from the lights, but here it was dead silent, and the words pierced the quiet with such clarity that even from thirty feet away I could clearly make it out.

It was a woman. She asked the door to please open up for her. There was a pause and I heard another slap. She begged the door softly to open, to let her through, to let her see her child. Her son had been at school when the warning came, and they ended up in different bunkers. He was too young, he needed his mother. As she continued on her delicate voice cracked up, became shriller as her requests fell on deaf ears. Her voice became louder as she coaxed the door to open, to release her into the world so she could see her boy. I heard another bang on the door, louder, and she started offering the door favors, anything it wanted if only she could leave and see her son again. Whatever she did next I don't know. The sounds made were indecipherable, and I dared not speak up.

Now that I think about it, I had a pretty good idea which school that kid would have gone to, it wouldn't have been too far from mine if he was in elementary school. I had actually been to school the day before the Earth was scorched, and I remember them saying there wasn't easy access to a bunker from the school itself. I hope I heard them wrong and that her son managed to get to a bunker. I hope that the school district mobilized fast enough. If they did, I imagine her son would be in a bunker with people from my school, maybe even my friends. Maybe even her.

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