23-Sandy

“I found it!”

Even deep in the back of the storage area under the kitchen, John’s muffled shout woke Sandy. She rubbed her eyes and sat up in her cramped little bunk and looked around to see most of John’s family in the other bunks looking pretty much the same, so she wasn’t the only one who’d nodded off. John had been looking for that stupid radio for most of the time they’d been down there it seemed, but how long had that even been?

Sandy looked down at her phone to see what time it was — or what day for that matter — and was shocked to see that only about a day and a half had passed since they’d all come down into the bunker when the shit hit the fan. She clicked the screen off and then unlocked the phone again to make sure it hadn’t somehow gotten frozen or something. The reception down here was nonexistent, so it wasn’t out of the question, but as she stared at it the time jumped forward one minute. So the clock appeared to be working fine even if they couldn’t get any reception.

How could all that have only been yesterday? She felt like she’d been losing her mind with guilt about leaving her mother alone, and that had only been yesterday morning?! Just one moment, one decision made with her hormones instead of her brain, and her poor mother was all alone, and she couldn’t even reach her to tell her she was okay.

Sandy suddenly broke into a cold sweat worrying that maybe her mother wasn’t safe. No, she couldn’t go there. She wouldn’t let herself go there. There’s a fire station right next door! Sandy thought to herself, knowing how ridiculous that thought was, but still forcing herself to think it actually meant something. The key to not completely losing her shit right now, she knew, was how well she could ride that balance between the logical and the illogical.

She suddenly felt so jealous of the Lundbergs. They had their faith in a God that she just thought was ridiculous, but if she could get just a little bit of that faith right now, it seemed like that would be such a relief.

She thought back to the way they’d all prayed yesterday — though the part about it being just yesterday seemed insane — but she’d watched the way they’d bowed their heads and closed their eyes as James had prayed. He’d ended with “… these things we ask of thee in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen,” and the rest of the Lundbergs had uttered their “Amens” and looked around at one another.

praying
Photo by Jacob Bentzinger on Unsplash

Sandy had felt suddenly guilty, like she’d been peeping in their window, so she looked away, but then John’s little brother Bobby — who couldn’t have been more than ten, maybe eleven years old — burst out saying, “This is so cool!” He was doing tiny little jumps of excitement as if he’d just come out of some exciting action movie and was acting out parts of it. She half expected him to start wielding an imaginary light saber or something, but then John’s oldest sister Franci snapped, “What are you, crazy?”

And Jennifer started in on him too, “Bobby! Do you even know what’s going on out there? Just stop it!”

“Children … please don’t fight,” James said meakly. “Let’s just try and figure out what’s going on, okay?”

“Dad, come on! We know what’s going on!” Franci said, almost screaming, clearly on the verge of tears.

“Franci, just listen — ” John said in a slow, calming voice. Sandy had never heard him sound so mature before.

“Stop it, John! Don’t try to calm me down, okay!” The pitch of Franci’s voice was getting higher and higher. “You saw it too! It’s that disease on the news! You all saw it!” She was looking around though, as if to check if they had in fact seen it too, but the second she saw Sandy, she lashed out, pointing at her, “And who the hell is this?!”

“FRANCI!” James shouted, clapping his hands to get her attention. “Stop it … just stop it.” He went to her and grabbed her, and she collapsed into his arms, sobbing violently. James held her up like that as her sobs got less and less angry, and all anybody else could do was just stand there, looking anywhere but at Franci and James.

Sandy had heard her own heart beating in her ears and felt the blood slowly leaving her face. The thought that all that had been just yesterday still made no sense to her. She yawned and stretched, then got out of the bunk and walked back to the living area as John’s pleased sounds came up from the storage area. It sounded like he was making his way back up to the main level.

When Franci had finally calmed down after her post-prayer freak out yesterday, and then passed out on the first bunk she saw, John had given them all the tour. He explained that the structure of the bunker was a giant cylinder. Though the floor was flat he said, “… it’s about 35% to 40% of the way up from the bottom of the cylinder,” he said, as he’d led them past the bunk beds — two sets of two on either side, just past the bathroom where’d they’d all been for their prayer — and into the living area with a small desk next to a TV opposite a couch.

“So we’re living in only about two-thirds of the whole bunker. The rest is all storage, all beneath us,” he’d said, as he continued past a dining table and chairs, through a small kitchen and then into a private bedroom at the end.

In the bedroom, he demonstrated the air pump, saying that the air was “super filtered, so if there’s anything bad in the air outside, it won’t get in” — though it was pretty obvious they’d just trusted the men who’d installed it. Sandy decided to keep her natural skepticism about this so-called “super filtered” air system to herself though.

The John had opened up a panel in the floor to show them just a bit of the storage beneath them, and Sandy realized that this was the “one year’s supply” John had been telling her about the first time he brought her down here. It was all down there — a whole year’s supply of everything they’d need: canned, preserved and dried food for the whole family, gigantic drums of water, batteries and a whole slew of other supplies. Apparently James had given John the task of making sure they were fully stocked years ago, and he’d taken it very seriously, taking meticulous inventory and creating shopping lists of stuff for James — or his mother before she died — to order, and John had continued that vigilance the entire time, making sure that anything that might be getting too old was replaced.

That first night after John’s tour, James had tried to distract them all with a big dinner — Last night, Sandy had to remind herself as she remembered it, not getting over that it actually felt like days and days ago. It had become painfully obvious well before than that nobody could get any cell reception down there, but talking about that over dinner, reminded John of an old radio he’d put on the shopping list years ago. He couldn’t remember for sure if it had actually arrived, but back then his mother was helping to, so she might have stored it. Even so, John grabbed a flashlight and lifted a panel in the kitchen then jumped down, and they’d been hearing him rummaging around down there basically ever since.

Finally just that one day later, Sandy wandered into the living area yawning, and saw an old, dusty radio appear out of a hole in the floor. It was a different panel than the one he’d gone down last night.

She was a little surprised to see that, but not very. It made sense of some of the sounds she’d been hearing during his brief re-appearances to eat or go to the bathroom or take a short nap. Then John popped up out of that same hole and lifted himself up out of it, sweating through his t-shirt. His proud smile showed his dimples. In the context of everything happening, Sandy knew her attraction to him should seem so juvenile and ridiculous, but hormones were hormones she thought to herself, as she sighed and smiled back at him.

“I got it,” John said as he put the metal panel back over the hole he’d just come through, then rolled a stretch of rubber flooring back over that.

“I noticed,” she said, still smiling back at him despite herself.

The rest of the Lundbergs wandered in as John put the radio on the small desk next to the TV. He plugged in the radio, then connected a coaxial cable running from the wall to some connection on the radio, and the sound of static suddenly filled the room. John turned the dial slowly, but it was just more static for what seemed like hours as Sandy started to hear her heart beating in her ears again.

Old radio
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Finally, the sounds of Tejano music came blaring out of the radio as everybody looked at one another, all kinds of mixed emotions clashing on their faces. They waited for the song to end, but as soon as it did, another song started up, and John looked up at James, silently pleading for direction. After a moment, James licked his lips and said, “Keep going. That station is probably automated or something.” So John continued to turn the dial — a little faster this time though — and everybody gasped as a voice came blaring out, the sound a bit crushed as if through a phone.

“… problem is, there’s still so much we don’t know about this disease. We’re told the military has secured an area, but then minutes later, they tell us that area has been completely overwhelmed with crowds of Rabid.”

Sandy silently mouthed the word ‘Rabid’ to herself, as if trying it out. Another voice, but much clearer — not over a phone like the other voice — said “Okay, wow. That’s uh … unsettling, I have to admit, doctor, but is there anything we can do until an antidote or solution is found?”

“Well, for now stay put, and stay away from the Rabid at all costs until a rescue squad can come through your area, and collect you to bring you to a secure location.” Sandy could see the looks of relief on all the Lundbergs’ faces, but she couldn’t stop thinking about her mother, feeling guilty for leaving her there all alone.

The voice over the phone continued. “The closest secure zone to the Salt Lake Valley is Hill Air Force Base, and as I’ve said they’ve been bringing people there from all over the valley in truckloads. Of course the plan is to —”

Sandy turned to John, grabbed his arm and whispered quietly, “Do you think they got my mom? Do you think she’s at Hill?” Franci turned to them shushed Sandy, so John directed her back to the bunks, but just the thought of that being possible filled Sandy with hope.

John looked positive, but cautiously so, “It’s definitely possible, right? You guys live on that side of the Valley. Unless she’s still at your house. She could be safe there too, right?” Sandy noticed John’s tiny sister Samantha had followed them out and was next to John tugging on his shirt. They both looked down at her as she was shaking her head ‘no’.

Sandy was completely confused. What the hell was happening? But John knelt down, giving Samantha with a grave, serious look. “What do mean? She’s not at her house or …?”

“No. They made her leave.” Samantha’s tiny voice was barely audible over the blaring radio from the other room.

“What is she talking about, John?” Sandy was suddenly frightened by all this. She didn’t understand what was happening. “She doesn’t even know who my mom is,” Sandy whispered urgently, “How the hell does she know where she is?!”

John stood up, clearly struggled for an explanation as Samantha just stared at the two of them. Finally John said, “Well. Samantha’s … umm … She just kind of knows things sometimes. She’s blessed.”

More out of desperation than belief, Sandy stared down Samantha. “You know where my mom is?”

Samantha said, “She’s okay. They made her go with them — the men in the truck.”

A shockwave went through Sandy. She was holding back tears of relief. It made no sense what this little girl was telling, but she wanted so much to believe it. Finally she asked Samantha, “Where is she? Is she safe?”

Samantha looked confused, and appeared not to know what to say at first, but finally she said, “They had to carry her out, because she was crying. She didn’t want to go, because she was worried about you, but they made her go with them. She’s very sad.”

Through welling up eyes, Sandy asked, “But is she okay? Is she safe?”

Samantha nodded and said, “She’s sad and scared. But except for that, she’s okay. There are lots of people where she is, but they’re okay right now.” Sandy grabbed Samantha and lifted her up, hugging her. She held onto the child for dear life, tears welling up in her eyes.

Squeezing the little girl, Sandy said a small, silent prayer. God, if you’re there, please keep my mother safe. You might even make a believer out of even me.

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Chad Kukahiko

Chad Kukahiko

Hawaiian designer / developer / producer / director/writer and professional slashy, Creative Director of Hustler Equipment & Director: Oceania of We Make Movies