After the End of the World

Sarah Donnelly looked at the exit door to her bomb shelter and sighed. She sat on her wireframe bed next to boxes of bottled water, food rations, and survival gear. Her shotgun rested on her lap. A calendar taped to the concrete wall had all the days crossed out for that month as well as for the previous five.

Several newspapers also lay next to her bed. One headline said, “Bizarre Solar Flares Extending Towards Earth Baffle Scientists.” Another one said, “Doomsday Scenario if Solar Flares Reach Earth’s Atmosphere.” Still another said, “Rioting and Looting Worldwide as Cosmic Flames Engulf the Sky.”

“I guess now’s as good a time as any,” she said to herself.

Gripping her shotgun, she walked to the exit and turned the metal wheel to unlock the door. Clanking sounds echoed throughout the room as she pulled it open.

Sunlight spilled in from outside, blinding her. She rubbed her eyes, then looked up into the cloudless blue sky.

The neighborhood looked the same as it always had. Everything seemed normal.

She walked through her backyard and went into her house through the back door. After going through all the rooms, she saw that nothing was missing. Then she put her shotgun inside the gun safe in her bedroom and walked out the front door.

She didn’t see anyone around at first, but then she noticed her neighbor Marie watering her garden.

“Hi Marie! It’s so good to see you!” she said as she approached.

Marie turned to look at her with a calm, blank expression.

“Where have you been?” Marie asked her in dull, flat monotone.

“I was in my bomb shelter, Marie,” Sarah said. “Don’t you remember me telling you about it? I had it installed right after the crisis with the solar flares began. But it looks like everything turned out ok.”

“You should go to the community center,” Marie said. Then she turned and went back to watering her plants.

“Uh… yeah I’ll do that, Marie. It was nice seeing you.”

She walked further down the road and saw Tina and Tommy Chambers riding their bikes towards her. Sarah waved at them.

As they got closer, she saw that they both had calm, blank expressions on their faces. They stopped next to her in the street and turned their heads to look at her at the same time.

“How are you kids today?” Sarah asked.

They looked at each other, then back at Sarah.

“Where have you been?” Tina said in a dull, flat monotone.

“I was in the bomb shelter in my backyard waiting for the crisis with the solar flares to be over. I told your parents about it and said they should get one for your family, too. Don’t you remember any of that?”

“You should go to the community center,” Tommy said in the same tone of voice as his sister.

Then they both pedaled away before Sarah could respond. She watched with confusion as they disappeared down the street.

She walked for another few minutes until a police car pulled up next to her and stopped. The officer rolled down his window and looked at her with a calm, blank expression.

“Oh my, it’s Billy Marstettler!” Sarah said. “Your mom told me last year that you were going to the police academy. It looks like that worked out well. How are you?”

“Show me the palm of your right hand, please,” Billy said in a dull, flat monotone.

“The palm of my what?”

“Show me the palm of your right hand, please.”

“Uh, ok,” Sarah said as she held her hand up for him to see.

He looked at it, then reached up to press a button on the walkie talkie attached to his bulletproof vest. He said something into it she couldn’t make out. As he did, Sarah caught a brief glimpse of a peculiar mark on the palm of his right hand. It was a circular shape with tendrils emanating from the center. It reminded her of the images of solar flares spiraling towards the Earth she’d seen in the newspapers.

When he finished speaking into his radio, he said, “You must go to the community center. I will take you there. Please get into my car.”

“Everyone keeps telling me that. Why do I need to go to the community center?”

“Please get into my car.”

“Not until you tell me why I need to go there.”

“Please get into my car.”

Sarah stepped backward as she stared at Billy’s blank, unblinking face. 

“Actually, I think I should go home now. I’ll go to the community center later, ok?”

Sarah turned around and headed back in the direction she came. After walking for about 30 meters, she looked over her shoulder and saw that the police car was following her. She started running. The car sped up as its lights turned on and its siren started to blare. People filed out of their homes on both sides of the street to stare at her as she ran. They all had the same calm, blank expression on their faces.

“Please get into my car,” Billy said through the car’s loudspeaker. “Please get into my car.”

Sarah ducked into her backyard and sprinted over to her bomb shelter. She rushed inside, pushed the door shut, and turned the wheel until it locked. She backed up until she fell over onto her bed, then sat there staring at the door, panting.

A few moments later, someone pounded on the door. She heard Billy say from outside, “Please open the door.”

His voice was cold and emotionless as he continued pounding, “Please open the door. Please open the door. Please open the door.”