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Learning from the Jungle

By Syraphia All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Romance

Chapter 1

Emmitt walks briskly along the street, watching people head in different directions. He should be in school currently but skipping today seemed like the best option. Pausing for a second, he checks to make sure it’s his bug out bag that he has with him. His father insisted on the heavy thing being taken everywhere these days. If he left it home again, he’d be in trouble but thankfully, that’s what’s on his shoulder.

“Skipping today?” A small chuckle brings his attention back forward and Emmitt frowns.

“I suppose so, Liam. Same for you?” His fellow football player chuckles, an arm looped around the shoulders of a girl Emmitt recognizes as one of the cheerleaders.

“It’s a boring ass day and it’s nice out here.” Liam laughs, looking at the girl. Emmitt lets his eyes wander while Liam’s distracted before snapping them back up to Liam’s face. “It was Lexi’s idea. She thought some fresh air would do us both good.”

“What about you?” Lexi questions with a giggle in her voice.

“Just decided that I didn’t need to be there today.” Emmitt gives a bland smile and shrugs the question off. “I’ve got a couple things I wanna do anyways.”

“Practice is at four, you best show up for that.” Liam smiles but somehow gives the impression that he’s sneering. “Wouldn’t want you kicked off the team.” Emmitt forces a smile to his face and gives a nod at Liam, despite the jealousy he’s showing.

“Yeah, that would suck.” Emmitt waves slightly to them. “I’m going to get going. See you at practice.” He begins off at a quick pace, wanting to put some distance between himself and Liam. The fellow football player needs some help in Emmitt’s opinion, considering how often he showed his jealous side towards the fact that Emmitt had gotten the better position on the team. Liam could be a pain in the ass towards him more often than not.

Slowing down once he feels he’s far enough away, he returns his gaze to the stores around him and considers where he needs to go. He sticks his hands in his pockets, strolling along as he passes by some of the stores. He passes by a shelter, glancing back to make note of it and its number, just in case before shaking his head. His dad’s made him far too paranoid. He steps into a store and eyeballs most of the merchandise before purchasing a couple items to put into his sister’s bug-out bag.

When he steps back out, he starts back up the street and pauses as he looks up. Others are already gazing up at the sky and Emmitt’s heart leaps into his throat. Leaving a trail behind it, there’s a rocket speeding down towards the city, and in the distance, Emmitt can see multiple others. He turns, locating the nuclear shelter visually before tearing off at a sprint right for it, brushing past stunned people.

His movement seems to wake a couple of them and he hears footsteps behind him as he charges into the shelter first. Another turn and he’s taking the stairs downward three and four at a time, taking it quick, deep breaths. It might be his last fresh air for a while. He rushes down and into the third room, quickly getting it set up for himself when the ground starts to shake. There are people rushing by his room but none seem to wish to jump in. He slams the door closed and locks it as the first screams echo down from the surface.

Emmitt puts his back to the door and his head in his hands. He’s thankful when no one bangs on the door to be let in and he turns his attention to his bug-out bag, placing it onto one of the cots in the small room before unpacking one of the radiation suits, getting it all set up for him in the future. How long that would be is questionable.

The lights go out after the ground shakes again and Emmitt stares at the far wall, wishing that another person had come into the room. The emergency lights that come on give a disturbing glow to the entire situation. At least he wouldn’t be alone then with terrible thoughts about what’s happened to his family. His sister keeps coming to mind, imagining Livia’s smiling face that morning when their father announced she was going to get a bug-out bag. Eventually, he gives in, digging out the hand-crank radio, quickly beginning to crank it.

“…eat… ian…” Emmitt scowls and cranks faster, trying to adjust the antenna with the other hand. “…Russian nuclear attack on US soil. There is word that they are claiming…” The radio feed buzzes out and Emmitt adjusts the antenna again as he continues to crank it. Hopefully it would build up a pretty good charge quickly. Otherwise, he might be in trouble. He suddenly realizes that there’s no sound because the station has gone dark and he switches the channel.

“—declared war with a nuclear attack on the United States! Get to a safe bunker if you’re not already there and pray!” Emmitt’s stomach drops through the floor. He’s really hoping his parents got to one of the bunkers or fallout shelters. The radio announcer continues however, speaking about US-Russian relations after the war in the Ukraine came to a head and the Russians had completely moved troops in without care for what the rest of the world would do.

Emmitt lets the radio sit beside him as the ground shakes more. Chicago is an obvious target for the Russians. The Navy training base is right to the north on the edge of Lake Michigan and though Emmitt wasn’t a Navy brat, he knew of plenty in his school that were. He wonders how many people he knows that are dead now outside of his family. Livia’s face comes to mind again, smiling brightly and happily.

Getting to his feet, Emmitt begins to pace the room, arms folded behind his back as he tunes out the drone of the radio announcer. There’s no way he’s going to be able to leave the fallout shelter any time soon, unless he’d like to risk getting radiation poisoning. Though it’s rather questionable as to whether or not Chicago had actually gotten hit with a major nuclear attack. His father had claimed that the larger East Coast cities and places would be much more lucrative targets for an attack.

Another shake and Emmitt looks up towards the ceiling, taking in slow, deep breaths. His father and his mother and his sister keep appearing before his eyes, whether they’re open or closed. The drone of the radio announcer suddenly dies away and Emmitt is left in silence, standing in the middle of an empty room. If he has to stay in here alone for a week or more, with just a radio for company, there’s no way that he’ll stay sane. Not with the regrets running through his mind.

He takes a seat on the cot that he’s designated as his own, putting his head in his hands. He hadn’t ever been able to bring it up. The last thing he wanted to be was a football player. He might have the build and the muscles for it and seemed dedicated but it was the last thing he really wanted to be. His father had pushed for it though, only happy when his son was involved in some form of sports that he approved of and seemed to be headed towards being some sort of professional athlete, specifically a professional football player.

However, Emmitt had always been more focused on other things, more into the sciences and writing. He had a fondness for computers in general, enjoying the idea of many types of activities that his father scorned as ‘nerdy’ and, in a particularly bad fit, as ‘un-masculine’. To have his father disapprove of him so much felt like it would’ve been the end of the line, and it was bad enough when he had found the technology books and a couple writing magazines. That conversation had been pretty terrible and he’d had to say something about class and other students.

There was no way in hell he was going to bring up the idea of being gay to him. As it was, he seemed rather disapproving in the best case of anything LGBT related. In the worst case, homophobic is a very mild term for the some of the vileness he’s heard come out of his father’s mouth. He supposes that if everything had gone to hell in a hand basket, he wouldn’t have to worry about ever telling him. Or the rest of his family. Or friends.

Emmitt gives a loud groan, shoulders caving in and back curving downward. He had been trying very hard to avoid thinking about the possible loss of the rest of his family. Attempting to clear his mind, he sits there in the silence. His breathing is loud in the enclosed space, the only sound to be heard in the room. Then he pauses before looking up, eyes scanning slowly over the top of the room, looking at the ceiling. It’s silent. The ground isn’t shaking.

Straining his ears, he listens to the silence, trying to pick anything out. It feels like the attack is over and Emmitt looks at the radiation suit. He could run out in it. Make a run for his home and the shelter there. At least he wouldn’t be alone. Or he could find out that he’s much more alone than he’s prepared to be. He wouldn’t find his sister there. Livia had gone to her middle school. The school shelters are some of the best and as long as she was quick enough to get there, she would be fine. And their father had trained them well for this situation.

He sits and listens for a while before there’s a slam into the door of his shelter. It makes him jump up and stare at the door in horror. There’s another slam and Emmitt realizes that it’s someone outside the door, pounding on it. Emmitt rapidly pulls on his radiation suit before stopping short of putting the helmet on. Whomever was outside was likely radiation poisoned and by opening the door, it might be able to spread into his safe haven.

Emmitt jams the helmet on as another slam hits the door, barely hearing the human cry for help on the other side of the door. He couldn’t just sit around and wait for the person there to die, despite the fact that he can’t recall if coming into contact with an irradiated person could cause him problems. His panic is overwriting all of the things his father has taught him and he stops, shutting his eyes and taking another deep breath.

No, the answer is no, but he would have to use the shower just inside the door, make them strip off and shower before getting rid of the clothing that would have some form of radiation on them. Emmitt takes a deep breath and unlocks the door, pulling it open a crack. A shocked face greets him, a set of wide, brown eyes above a facemask and head tucked into a hood.

“P—Please.” Emmitt stares at the other male on the other side of the door.

“Shower.” Emmitt scowls at his sudden inability to speak. “The shower’s inside the door, toss the clothing, wash off and I’ll have a new set.” The male seems to look shocked, looking at his hoodie.

“I—I can’t wash this off?” Emmitt’s eyes travel to the sweatshirt. He recognizes the emblem for his school before Emmitt pauses.

“Right into the shower to get the radiation particles off.” He glances towards the stairs just to see an open hole towards the sky. And in the sky, there are more trails with rockets attached. As the first explosion hits the ground, he grabs the other male by the front of his hoodie and yanks him into the small shelter, shoving him into the shower area. He shuts and locks the door as the ground trembles and shakes from the second attack. With his back to the door, Emmitt slides down to the floor as he listens to the groan of part of the shelter and the distant collapse of the stairwell.

The water’s already running when Emmitt gets to his feet and locates the Geiger counter. It buzzes and snaps as Emmitt quickly begins to scan the area. The radiation appears surprisingly low and Emmitt wonders where the other man had come from that he wasn’t horribly injured. A glance into the shower shows a pile of wet clothing and Emmitt feels assured of his safety. He pauses before quickly turning away, checking the radiation suit for any extreme amount of particles on it.

There’s not enough to make him wary and he slips the suit off, dropping it beside the door and doing a search for another set of clothing. He finds some junky clothing in one of the shelter bins, the storage container dusty from disuse. Emmitt places the clothing out onto another cot and takes a seat on his, hands tented under his head.

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