Chapter One (year 2061)
I sat on the bench and closed my eyes. My face was placed towards the sun, I could feel its warmth on my cheeks. I breathed in deeply. Then I breathed out, and then in again, deeply. I repeated that a few times, but then I heard footsteps. I knew it was Steve approaching me. He stood in front of me, blocking the sun, and leaned over. He placed his lips on mine, and kissed me. When we were done kissing, I smiled and opened my eyes. "Hey, you," I said. He sat next to me on the bench. "What were you doing? Mediating?" he asked.
"I was just enjoying the sun and the fresh air. You know, the air is much different under the ground," I answered.
"So it's true, isn't it? There really is a bunker?"
"I told you a million times already, Steve," I answered impatiently. The bombs may fall at any moment now. My dad, and other presidents of the states belonging previously to United States of America, have been preparing the bunker since the first bombs were thrown down on Africa by Russia. Everybody knew there was nobody left alive on this continent, as well as in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. What's left of the world is North America, Europe and China. None of us knew anything about South America, but I assumed they were gone, as well. Now all of the sides were in possession of nuclear bombs. It scared me as nothing else had ever scared me before. Not even when I heard about destruction of Africa back when I was ten years old.
"The bunker is gigantic," I continued. "It spreads under Washington and the terrain of Virginia. It has four levels. The deepest is out of bounds for me, but I saw the first three. We are going to sleep on the first level, and the second is for food and all the art and books we could have gathered."
"How many people will be there?"
"Hundreds," I answered. "I could sneak you in," I added. Steve shook his head.
"You could save more. So many more. Instead, you decided to have secret level, and store books and paintings? Instead of human lives?" Steve asked.
"You don't understand. We have to preserve what humanity accomplished. We have clothes and paints, and computers. And we can't have too many people knowing about this. This will cause anarchy. Steve," I stopped and took him by his hand. He wouldn't look at me, so I took his head in my hands and forced him to look me in the eye. "You can't tell anybody about this. Promise me. Okay? Nobody can know," I said. Steve shook his head in disbelief.
"I promise," he answered. I signed with relief.
"So, you believe me now?" I asked. "That there is a bunker and that the bombs are going to fall?"
"I think I believed you about the bunker, I was just teasing you," he said. "And the bombs… there are rumors. All around, at work, at school. On the streets. People are scared, Em. Everybody's talking about the end of the world. So, I guess, your parents are right after all. The end of the world is… a vivid possibility."
I let out a silent moan. I didn't realize up to this point that I myself lived in denial about the bombs. If even Steve believed it, Steve who was always criticizing every theory my father had, and dismissing it all as "bullshit," "propaganda" or "conspiracy theory." And now he believed it was real. Somehow this made it real for me.
"Okay," I said. I tried to keep my voice steady, and even snuck a smile in there. "Let's go see it," I added. I stood up, Steve did the same. He snuck a little kiss, took my hand and we went to see the bunker, where I was going to sleep for the next 20 years, waiting for the bombs to fall and for the radiation to subside. Then… who knows what would happen then.
"Dad, please. Please. Don't throw him out. He's going to die out there. Please."
"What do you think this will look like? I will give up one bed for a cat? I will save a cat's life rather than a human being?" my dad asked me. I was sitting on a bench of a capsule that was going to be my bed for the next 20 years. When the first bombs fell this morning, I took my already packed backpack, and a very stressed and unsatisfied Fluffy, and ran to the car, as I had been instructed by my dad over and over again for the past weeks. "It's began," I texted Steve when I was in the car, waiting for my dad "Go into that bunker. Now!"
Fluffy wasn't too happy about being locked in the car. He was going around checking all the seats, and then trying to escape through the windows. I put out a syringe, prepared for this moment, and caught my cat by the tail, just as he was checking the steering-wheel with his paw. He wasn't happy about my grabbing his tail, so he thanked me by scratching my hand. I didn't let go of him. I took him in my arms, and put the syringe in his body. He left three more scratches on my hands and arms, but I managed to sedate him. Then I put him in my backpack. I knew my dad wouldn't never agree to a cat in the bunker, so I had prepared this plan long before. When inside, maybe he would be too afraid to open the bunker, or maybe I would manage to hide the cat long enough. Then, I would convince my parents it was a great idea to put Fluffy-cake in the bed with me.
Now I was sitting on the bed and swinging back and forth, with a still asleep cat in my lap. I was crying so hard, my words were barely recognizable. "Please, dad, please just put him in with me," I managed to say between sobs. I wasn't crying for Fluffy, not only for him, anyway. I was crying for the world that was in ruins above us, for the shaking Earth, for all the humans and animals alike, who were being murdered right at this moment. Hundreds of people were already asleep around me, but we were waiting for my mother, who got caught up at the hospital. Only a few people were still awake. These were the presidents and chancellors of the states, guards, engineers and computer geniuses, as I called them. Steve was not any of those, and my parents didn't approve of my relationship with him, so he wasn't allowed in the bunker. Like another billion people.
I started shaking and stroking my cat even harder. This was the only thing that kept me from going insane, the stroke of my cat. My dad probably realized that, too, for at last he allowed me to go to sleep with Fluffy on the side of me. "Thank you," I managed to say, but I kept on crying.
"Emilia, you need to go to sleep, now!" my dad said.
"What about mom?" I asked. "I can't go without mom!"
"You have to," he answered. Just get inside that capsule, and close your eyes. We'll set this for you.
An engineer approached us, and my dad nodded his head at him. "She's ready," he said to the engineer. No, I'm not, I wanted to scream, but I just swallowed and kept on swinging back and forth. "Please, lie down," my dad said, stroking my head. "I'll see you in 20 years." I took a deep breath and nodded my head. Neither my mom, nor Steve were in the bunker. I had to believe they would come. I didn't have another choice.
I lay on the bed, and felt my cat being placed next to me, by the hips on the right side. I closed my eyes.