Book Two: INTO THE OUTSIDE (series)
INTO THE YELLOW ZONE
By Lynda Engler
Tony burst in the front door of his family’s farmhouse, the sound of the squealing brakes of the school bus fading away as it left his street. His father sat at the kitchen table in tears, cradling his head in his palms as his elbows ground divots in the wooden tabletop. Sobs choked his vocal chords, only one out of every three turning into audible cries.
Tony fought the terror as icy fingers gripped his heart and squeezed until pain wrenched the words from his throat. He dropped his backpack to the floor. “Dad! What’s the matter?” He had never seen his father cry. Ever.
“It’s your mother. Her plane… she’s gone.”
Through his father’s tears, the details slowly emerged. The plane carrying his mother to see her cousin in Italy had crashed into the Atlantic. There were no survivors. Authorities suspected it was terrorist activity but did not yet know what happened, except that there had been an explosion onboard. Tony collapsed to the linoleum floor and sobbed. He remembered his mother’s face, her smile that cheered him even in his blackest moments. He recalled the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she made him faithfully each day and the candy she snuck into his lunch bag even though the school did not allow it. He heard her voice in his head, sometimes you just have to treat yourself to something special and not worry about what society thinks. The thought that he would never hear that voice again was too much to bear.
Hours later, he heard a horses’ whinny from the paddock, pulled himself up from the floor, washed his face in the kitchen sink, and went to feed the horses. From that moment on, he steeled his broken heart against the pain.
Growing up was supposed to be gradual, not a sudden gash in the fabric of time. Tragedy had ripped his life apart and he would never fully recover from the wound loss had left in its wake.
By high school, Tony was branded the weird kid. He was no longer the outgoing, personable boy his mother had raised. He had quit band and soccer, and stopped participating in any school events. Most of the friends he had before the terrorists killed his mother had given up on him as he became more and more reclusive, save a girlfriend who saw through his pain. He started insisting kids and teachers call him ‘Anthony,’ thinking Tony was too childish. Before and after school, he helped his father run their business, the Bellardini Horse Farm, especially as his father’s health began to fail. In his free time, he read his father’s entire collection of classic survivalist fiction novels from the 1980s, certain that the wars on foreign soil would eventually make their way to America. The survivalist books became his obsession. He needed to be prepared.
At his high school graduation, the kid in line behind him chatted as they marched toward diplomas and the real world. “I’m joining the Army right after graduation. Why don’t you too, Anthony? That way you can do something to end all these wars.”
“No, thanks, Martin. My dad needs my help. Someone has to care for the horses.” Anthony would have joined the army because he desperately wanted to stop the evil that caused his mother’s death. However, he could not leave his father to take care of the farm by himself. It had not been his lifelong dream, but he did not have a choice. His father loved that farm and those horses. Tony would do anything to help his father, for as long as he could.
He would make do with novels as his fantasy and running a horse farm as his reality.
Three weeks after graduation, Anthony’s father finally succumbed to the cancer he had been fighting for two years. Tony got the insurance money, inherited the horse farm and two months later in a quiet, civil ceremony, he married his girlfriend. His new wife, Louise, was recently accepted to Princeton. Louise studied to be a teacher while he worked the farm.
The hundred-year old trees that surrounded the secluded homestead hid the excavators clawing dirt out of the ground. It took another two years, but eventually the life insurance money allowed Anthony to build a nuclear and biological fallout shelter. Hidden beneath a twelve-foot deep, glass-bottomed pool that brought in light to the 4500 square foot luxury bunker were five bedrooms around a central great room, a kitchen, laundry, bathroom, library, and a huge hydroponics garden to grow fresh vegetables. The well that supplied their fresh water pulled from an underground river over a thousand feet below the surface. Anthony stocked the shelter with a ten-year supply of dried goods and toiletries.
“What the hell are you doing, Anthony?” Louise said through tears as she looked at the storage room in the shelter. She could not take her eyes off the shelves of toilet paper. “Are you crazy? I am fine with building this underground apartment; it’s pretty cool, and you know I love the library and the garden. If it’s what you want to do with your father’s money, it’s your choice. But are you really going to stock up for the end of the world?”
“Babe, please. I’m not crazy. Eventually the nut jobs are going to go too far, and all of humanity will pay the price. I don’t want to be right about this, but you’ll see. I will be,” replied Anthony.
Louise had loved Anthony from the first moment she met him, sophomore year in high school, but sometimes he had a way of persuading people that she did not like being pulled into. He stated his opinions as if they were facts and his complete lack of doubt made you believe him.
She might not have believed him, but she did not stop him, and they went on with their lives, with a huge survival shelter underneath their house.
Anthony and Louise’s neighbors never knew that the old farmhouse was largely unoccupied by the young couple. When not at school or working, they spent their time in the underground shelter, even sleeping in the large master bedroom below ground.
On the day of the Final War – because the whole thing lasted only a day – Chicago and Washington were reduced to a wasteland of rubble, shattered glass, flipped over cars, tumbling buildings, and monuments. Targeted, nuclear bombs fell on Seattle and Los Angeles. How the terrorists had been able to coordinate such a massive assault and carry it out with such precision was still unknown. It was not just the U.S. that was targeted. Toronto, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro were wiped off the face of the Earth. Chemicals poisoned major North and South American cities and Europe and Asia were almost annihilated. Whatever areas of the world were not targeted directly, died soon enough as the winds and rain spread the deadly chemicals around the globe.
The West had finally lost the Terror Wars.