When the door of Vault 101 opened, my entire world was turned on its end. If you can imagine- no, you cannot imagine all the security and naivety bred within the confines of the metal walls being destroyed, fleeing out the gaping hole left in the absence of the door, the door that we had seldom seen and couldn't comprehend opening.
Our understanding, ever since we were children, of what laid on the other side of the vault door was vague, and in some ways that exacerbated the fear we felt of what the world had in store for all of us. It was unknown and unknowable, but the metallic coffin we were born, raised, and would someday die in was safe, it was the one constant in a world of chaos and the lynchpin of this safe haven was the door.
So, life in the vault was boring but with good reason and we appreciated that without even thinking about it. When James and his son left the vault, it obliterated the comfortable mental and physical construct we had built up. However, I had always, in the most sacred, hidden and sublime fibers of my conscious longed for something other than the dark hallways and the same people day in and out, stretching from now until the banal conclusion of a meaningless life. A life lived only for the sake of staying alive.
Perhaps it was the inseparable curiosity of humans that led me to the vault vestibule that fateful day. Perhaps it was the aforementioned subconscious longing for meaning in a life destined for nothingness. Or, perhaps something that I could never know and never would, but nonetheless on the morning of August 17th, my life took a turn for the meaningful. I remember it vividly
The vault was in complete disarray; James' departure was the most cataclysmic event in history of Vault 101. However, the previous night all I knew was that I was not going to be sleeping well after a day of arduous manual labor. And in fact I didn't, I was up with the type of insomnia where staying awake is the most soul grating thing there is, and there is no position in which you are even remotely comfortable. Not wanting to upset my wife, I adjourned to the Vault-Tec couch in our Vault-Tec living room. It was not comfortable, but nothing really was in the Vault.
I laid down, staring up at the blank ceiling listlessly looking for something that I knew I wouldn't find. Idly looking around the room, I paid attention to the heartbeat, so to speak, of the Vault. The fans that circulated the air, the pumps that moved water through the Vault's miles and miles of piping, it was a deep sound that penetrated every activity of your life, for every experience of your life is in the Vault. It was easy to overlook, but I was able to tune in, so to speak, to this omnipresent song of the machine that protected us. It was calming, the only lullaby that could coax me to sleep.
I was awakened by my apartment's buzzer going off. Instinctively looking at the clock, I saw the clock read 9:30 before rushing to open the hatch, admitting my friend Robert. He was breathing heavy as if he had run to my apartment. I can't think of a reason why anyone would need to run, or rather anything someone would need to run from, in the Vault. Naturally, I knew something was amiss.
"Robert, what's the-" I began. He cut me off.
"James- he opened the vault door... radroaches- running loose in the corridors..." he was practically stammering. I told him to sit down.
My wife, hearing the commotion, came out of the only other room in our apartment. She looked so beautiful- even in the bland gray Vault Tec pajamas, her soft features contrasted sharply with the sullen lighting and harshly manmade Vault- her sleepy bewilderment so out of place in this increasingly dire situation.
"What's going on?" Punctuated with a yawn, my wife vocalized the question that was bordering my conscious. I shrugged, made an exasperated expression and turned to Robert. Something he had said piqued my interest.
"Robert, you said that James opened the Vault door?" I didn't even feel like asking how, or why, or with what intention, because frankly there was no way of knowing, I figured I'd stick to the facts.
"That's what they're saying. I didn't see it myself, but they say that James left the Vault." My friend was regaining his composure. I frowned, I had no idea what I was going to do I just know I needed to see the outside. I needed to peek into the unknown, to see and to understand what this Vault, the dwelling that had claimed the spark of life that I had never known, was or was not protecting me from.
My eyes lingered, momentarily, on my friend. I turned to my wife and spoke,"Hon, get dressed, we have to go see this." She shrugged, sighed and returned to the bedroom. Within five minutes, we had left our apartment.
I knew it was dangerous. Some fragment of my primary education reminded me that emergency procedure, used in times I would imagine such as these, stated that all residents should remain in their rooms should some catastrophic event happened. I continued anyway, dragging my reluctant wife with me.
Once in the foyer, I stood, staring at the corridor leading to the door. My wife stopped me and asserted herself.
"Alright Tom, we've come this far, now you owe me an explanation. What is it exactly that you're trying to accomplish?"
"Mary, look, I don't, or didn't know until now. I'll spare you my life story, we don't have much time. I want to leave the vault." There was a second of conversational silence. The ambient commotion of the Vault continued around us. My wife stared at me.
"We've lived our entire lives in the Vault. It's not perfect, but it's far better than the hell that the doctor just marched into- why leave now?" She was right, nonetheless my resolve was absolute.
"We're never going to get another chance. I don't want to live a life just for the sake of survival- I want to find some kind of meaning, and I don't know if it's on the other side of the door but it never has been and never will be in these walls."
More silence. I could tell she thought I was insane, and I probably am. She pleaded with me.
"Look, this is crazy. We should just go back to our quarters."
I had made my decision. "It's our only chance, don't you see? We're getting out of here, just like the doctor. I'm not going to let them stop us."
In the argument I was having with my wife, I didn't notice James' son pass behind us, headed for the door. I heard shots, the two guards that would've killed us before they let me fulfill my ambition were dead on the Vault's concrete floor. I grabbed my wife by the arm.
"Now's our chance- let's go."
We ran for the door. I scooped up one of the guard's 10mm, I figured it wouldn't hurt to have it on the other side of the vault door. Mary was mesmerized by the sight of the two dead guards, her eyes fixed on the crimson flow from the heart of the second guard making its unyielding advance on the gray expanse. I had made it a few steps before I looked back at her.
I realized at once that she was totally against me on this. The Vault was her home, and I suppose her unlike I was content in the safe banality of a home, a prison. She stood there, frozen in time. I saw her mouth move to form "I'm sorry-" but didn't hear the words. She turned and walked, hands in the air, towards guards that were now pouring into the foyer. If ever there was a time that I wished I could turn back it was now. However, I was moved to the Vault door- the decision was no longer mine. In a second, I yelled to her.
"I'm coming back for you!". I turned and ran from the love of my life, the first of many rapidly disappearing luxuries afforded to me by life in the Vault. Turning from security, I ran towards the unknown that I had feared but was suddenly compelled to. A world open to my conquest.
Once in the chamber containing the massive vault door, drawn completely open, I sealed the door behind me. I took a brief moment to breathe, and turned to my fate.
It wasn't too late to turn back, but I walked forward. I walked to the precipice of my new life, knowing full well that the first step I took from the vault would be absolution, the point of no return, so to speak. I walked forward.
My first step onto dirt. It was soft, natural, beautiful and humble there on the ground but the first experience that was never had or felt inside the Vault. I couldn't know if this was the right choice from step one, but I knew that it was the decision I had made. I took step two.
It became easier from there. I didn't look back, but walked forward, straight into the light at the end of the small cave that housed the entrance to Vault 101. There was a door, rickety and wooden by the looks of it. Wood was rare in the Vault, and I'd never dreamed of a piece of furniture or a door made out of it. I mused that there was a lot of new revelations and an overwhelming amount of unfamiliarity by Vault standards waiting on the other side of this rather minor discovery. I pushed on it and walked into the most brilliant light I had ever beheld.