Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Rattle

The bunker door stayed open all morning and afternoon. They had a lot of stuff to carry in - food, clothing, medicines. And those were the basics. Their little community had expanded since last year which meant they had more help with the move. But it also meant more mouths to feed.
All these thoughts ran through Kavi’s mind as she ran a finger down her checklist. As the leader of their community, she had a million little things to do. Oh, had someone remembered the Vitamin D lamps? They would not last the winter underground without some form of sunlight. And what about the movie reels? The books?
Nothing in and Nothing out. That was their motto. Once locked inside, they had no way of coming out for 3 whole months. Not that they would want to.
A million little things left to do. Sighing, she got up and walked to the door. Outside, the a weak sun shone, as more people walked towards the bunker, carrying odds and ends. After 7 glorious years of normalcy, they’d all gotten complacent. Smiles had become wider and easier. Hope had blossomed and babies had been born and raised without the ugly shadow of the “Fiends” looming over them.
But last week, the farmers had reported that their crops were dying. The next day, some kids had stumbled upon an entire flock of birds lying there, in the middle of the road. With broken beaks and cold, dead bodies.
The community elders held an urgent meeting. They’d learned to read the signs of an oncoming attack. Kavi agreed with them. It was time to go back into the bunker. They were approaching Winter, and that’s when the Fiends woke up.
“Hurry, guys, we have barely 2 hours left,”
Now where was her daughter?
“It’s not fair! I don’t want to live in a stupid bunker.”
A little boy, barely 5 stood there, clutching a bag of toys and looking upset. “The anger of the innocents”, thought Kavi as she kneeled in front of him.
“Hey kiddo, I know your parents have told you all you need to know. Now, I will not lie and say this will be fun. But we’re all doing this to be safe. To stay alive. You understand that right?”
The boy nodded at her, tears in his eyes. He knew all about the Fiends. He’d listened the horror stories. About their long, bony bodies and scaly skin. And the sound they made when they were ready to attack. What word had his mom used? Rattle. That was it! Rattling like a snake about to strike.
A group of girls ran by, clutching books.
“Hey, has anybody seen Shilpa?”
“No ma’am. Last we saw, she was in the store, getting some eggs.”
Kavi frowned. What was the delay?
“Answer your phone, goddamnit!” she muttered, as more people entered the bunker.
An hour flew by as final trips were made. Almost everyone inside already. Except Shilpa.
“I’m going to go look for her!” Kavi announced. “If I don’t come back within an hour, close the bunker.”
“But ma’am, we ca-”
“End of discussion! We are almost out of time, and I will not have my people exposed!”
She grabbed her gun and ran out to the main street. Maybe Shilpa was at the house. Worth checking.
And that’s when she heard the first rumble. She looked east at the fields. At the sun setting over them, melting into the horizon.
And then every so slightly, the sagging rows of wheat trembled.
A telltale odor of rotting flesh hit her nose. Oh shit! They were here!
Behind her, panic hit the bunker. There was a mad scramble as people rushed through the narrow doorway.
The rows of wheat shook again. Then something very large and quick parted through them, hidden under the upper stalks.
Someone screamed. Children cried, like they do, when they sense something bad about to happen.
GODDAMNIT where is she?
“SHILPAAAA”, yelled Kavi. She ran up main street, hollering her daughter’s name.
“SHILPAAAA!!”
The rumbling got louder. Sounded like at least a dozen of them were charging this way.
“Mom!”
Kavi whipped around. A young girl, barely 11 came running towards her. From the fields.
“Mom, I’m so sorry! But you hav-!”
“Shilpa there’s no time! Into the Bunker now!”
“But Mom, listen, I found the eggs!”
Kavi half dragged her daughter back up the road.
Less than 50 feet away, something dark and reptilian stood up, towering over the crops. Scaly skin, mottled and green. Eyes she’d seen in her darkest nightmares.
“Don’t look at it, just go!”
Mother and daughter raced up the street when the first rattle broke the air. Like a snake about to strike.
Something larger than the first one leaped and landed 10 feet away. Another loud rattle.
“Runrunrurnrunrun!” screamed Kavi. “RunnnnnnnShilpaaaaa!”
The bunker doors. Almost about to close.
“Mommmm!”, sobbed Shilpa. She’s inside. OhthankGod she’s inside
Five more steps. Four. Three. tw-
Kavi tripped and fell on her face.
The smell of burning flesh hit her nose.
(THIS IS HOW I DIE! THIS IS HOW I DIE! THIS IS HOW I DIE!)
Strong arms pulled her inside. The doors closed with a loud clang as the first attack came on the other side. Something monstrous struck the door then retreated. Loud, angry rattles tore through the night. Shilpa shrieked as Kavi scrambled up and punched in the code. The alarms went into place as a giant timer lit up above the door. 92 days, 14 hours and 35 minutes.
They were safe. Nothing in and Nothing out. THEY WERE SAFE!
The door shook again occasionally for the rest of the night. Uneasy silence reigned inside the bunker as Kavi limped around. Assuring everyone they were secure. They’d built those doors to last nuclear attacks; she repeated endlessly.
In the wee hours of the morning, Kavi found Shilpa in her little cabin. Staring at the ceiling with red, puffy eyes.
“Oh honey, what’s wrong? Are you hurt?”
Shilpa shook her head.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come looking for you before. I should have been more watchful.”
“Mom?”
“Yes, darling.”
“Eggs mom.”
“You hungry? I can make you an omelet, real quick.”
Her daughter looked at her strangely. Then turned away and huddled deeper into her little cot.
Kavi blinked. What was going on?


She understood 2 days later when the screaming started in the middle of the night. Awakened from a deep sleep, the smell of burning flesh hit her nose. (Eggs). And then she heard the rattle.
EGGS!
The timer ticked away, 90 days, 1 hour and 42 minutes. Nothing in and Nothing out. That was their motto after all.


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