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The Bunker

by Kimberlain O'Driscoll, MBA, M.Ed 6 months ago in Sci Fi · updated 4 months ago
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It's a hot summer day. Phil decides to take a nap in the old bunker his grandfather built during the Cold War. He discovers that nightmares sometimes follow you to the waking world.

The Bunker


Kimberlain O’Driscoll

Phil paused to wipe the sweat off his forehead before finishing off the last small strip of grass in his backyard. The lawnmower was old, and burned oil, but it still ran. He could have purchased a new one a long time ago, but this mower belonged to his dad, and as long as it still ran it would be a reminder. His dad had passed away seven years ago. He inherited his childhood home and this old mower when his mom succumbed to cancer last fall. He, his wife Ellen, and their 11-year-old daughter Jennifer were renting an apartment at the time. Although Ellen wanted to sell the house and buy something closer to her parents, he couldn’t. Everywhere he looked there were reminders of his mom and dad, and the shadows of his own childhood which were always happy memories.

It was a hot day, even for an Indiana summer. After shutting off the lawnmower and putting it away, Phil decided to find a cool place to sit down, have a beer or two, and maybe even take a short nap. Ellen and Jennifer were at the mall. This meant he had some time to himself before Ellen added new tasks to his honey-do-list. Phil went into the house, grabbed a few beers and headed to the old fallout bunker in the backyard. Long before he was born, this house belonged to his grandparents. During the Cold War, his grandfather had this bunker built in case of a nuclear war, but it could also be used as a storm cellar. There were a few times when he, his mom, dad, and older brother waited out some pretty violent storms. If he remembered right, the old checkerboard was still in there somewhere.

The steel door to the bunker was heavy and although it was oiled, it creaked some as he opened it. The door was old, and old things tend to complain when moved. As Phil entered, a rush of cool air washed over him, sweeping aside the heat from his skin. It felt good. He turned on the light switch. Three incandescent light bulbs encased in small cobweb covered metal cages lit the interior with a dim yellow glow. There were more lights, but all the other bulbs had blown a long time ago and were never replaced. There was however enough light to see by which was all that mattered. The bunker wasn’t that large. Space wise, it was about the same as a midsize moving van. The walls were rounded. The structure was shaped like a cylinder, which always reminded Phil of an oil truck. There was a small sitting area, six fold-out bunk beds which were built into the back wall, and a lot of junk. Over the years, the bunker had been used mostly to store things that really had no more use but were kept anyway. Layers of dust coated everything and there were plenty of cobwebs. The only item that wasn’t old and dust covered was Phil’s hammock which was suspended from cords attached to a metal frame. He settled back on the hammock, popped open a beer and sucked it down. He closed his eyes, took in the cool air and the quiet, and before even reaching for the second beer, drifted off to sleep.

Phil woke sometime later in total darkness. He made his way blindly to the light switch and flipped in on and off a few times. Nothing happened. He figured the power must’ve gone out from all the air-conditioners being used that day. He stumbled around, knocking things over as he moved toward the door which he was certain he left open, but it was now closed. The handle seemed stuck and had to be muscled to get it to move. The door wouldn’t budge.

He pressed his back against it and used his legs to push as hard as he could. The door moved a little. In the small amount of light that crept in through a tiny, exposed gap, he saw clouds of floating rust suspended around the hinges. He knew that wasn’t right. He pushed a few more times before finally opening the door large enough to crawl through. The brightness of everything surprised him. It was late afternoon when he took his nap. It should have been darker, not brighter. The air carried an acrid smell that he couldn’t quite describe which left a metallic taste. Phil used his hand to shield his eyes and waited for his vision to adjust. As it did, life as he knew it ended.

Everything was burned. For as far as he could see in every direction there was total destruction. The houses in his neighborhood were shattered with little remaining above the foundations other than scorched timber and debris. Rusted, and burnt out wrecks of cars were scattered haphazardly with many on their sides, and a few flipped onto their roofs. The grass which he had only just finished mowing, was gone, replaced with dry, cracked earth that blew loosely in a near silent wind.

Phil’s heart raced as panic swept over him. “They finally did it. They dropped the bomb!”, he thought. He ran to what was left of his house. Phil began to call out. Nobody answered. He recognized their car which what had once been his driveway, or what was left of it. Ellen was home when this happened. He called out again. He called out for Ellen. He called Jennifer. Still nobody answered. There was virtually no sound. No people, no birds, and barely a wind. What he did hear were flies. Clouds of them swarmed like dust funnels and they covered almost everything. He began to sort through the rubble that sat where his house used to be. He found a piece of wood that may have been the handle of a shovel or even a broom. It was hard to tell now. He used it to poke around and move pieces of debris. He tried to brace himself for what he might find. When he did, it wasn’t enough. He suddenly stopped, frozen in an overwhelming sense of heart sickened horror. He began to tremble and the tears which he had tried to hold back stung his eyes as they flowed freely.

The charred remains of a person lay sprawled under a piece of torn sheet rock. There was no way to tell who it might have been except for one small detail, a heart-shaped locket. It was actually the locket that he noticed first. It was a gift from him to Ellen when they were still dating. It wasn’t very expensive, yet it took weeks for him to save up for it. The locket was supposed to be silver, but it turned out to be nickel with silver plating. Normally, you’re supposed to put photos or something inside the locket, but it never occurred to Phil to do such a thing. It didn’t matter, Ellen loved it just the same. After Jennifer was born, she placed a small photo with Jennifer on one side and Phil on the other. She wore it every day. With shaking soot covered hands, Phil slowly reached down to pick up the small piece of jewelry. It lifted freely from Ellen’s body which fell to piles of blackened ash where she was touched. The locket was discolored from the heat and very little of the chain was left. He held it tightly in his hand kissed it and wailed hysterically.

“Phil, are you in here?”. Ellen’s voice woke him from his nightmarish dream. Still filled with emotion, Phil jumped up quickly, and raced to her, wrapping his arms around her tiny frame, nearly crushing her. He was crying uncontrollably, the images still fresh in his mind.

“Are you okay honey?”, She asked.

“I had a horrible dream. It seemed so real. I dreamt that you were…”. Jennifer came running out from back door of the house. Phil smiled and even made a small laughing sound as he waved to his daughter and thought of how much he truly loved them both. He wiped the tears from his eyes.

It was then that he saw soot on his hands, and realized he was still holding the scorched locket. He stared at it dumbfoundedly and looked from the locket he was holding, scarred, and burnt with a fused latch, to the one Ellen still wore which was fresh and shiny. Jennifer was screaming something. In his mind numbed state he could only make out the words “TV”, and “the news”.

A sudden flash of light nearly blinded him. They all stared in terror as a fire infused mushroom cloud rose in the east, and a wall of superheated air raced their way.

Sci Fi

About the author

Kimberlain O'Driscoll, MBA, M.Ed

My stories come to me in the form of vivid dreams. The challenge is in putting them to words. I'm medically retired, ride a Harley, and have five ferrets who keep me very entertained.

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