Everything got so crazy toward the end that she wasn’t even sure …well, she wasn’t really very sure of much at all.
She wasn’t sure what caused that first serious spark of nuclear ignition, she wasn’t sure if whatever it was could be blamed on politics or just humanity in general, and most importantly, to her at least, she wasn’t sure if there would be any long-term survivors after it was all said and done.
What she was sure of was that she had to try to be happy every single day she was still alive, regardless of what her brain was telling her and what the world around her was crumbling into.
She hated not feeling in control, though, as twenty-something-year-olds did, making it that much more difficult to be positive in the most negative of situations. She hated it even more so now that she couldn’t even control the old basics, like her diet regimen or pre-work prep goals, if she wanted to. She hated not knowing what was going to come next, and she really hated not knowing who was still around from her past.
She hated that she couldn’t talk to anyone about it, also. She hated being alone. Death and loneliness, her two greatest fears, right here at her very feet. She really, really hated that.
However, what she hated the most was that urgent feeling like she was forgetting something. Not the feeling like she needed to be somewhere, or that she had something to do (what did she really have to do during a nuclear war?), but literally like she was forgetting something. The feeling was comparable to a distant memory barely grasping onto your mind, one that you have flashes of burning into your head and are terrified to lose, even if they are just nostalgic snapshots of someone else’s life.
Like that fading glimpse she had of the rustic auburn red and orange fall leaves, crackling quickly down the blacktop street when the wind picked them up high in front of a grey sky, and she felt amazing because she knew there would be a cup of hot cocoa and warm family conversations tucked cozily away in her home, with a front row seat view of the leaves from the window.
That was a memory that she was afraid to lose in all of this underground chaos, even though she couldn’t particularly place if that specific event had actually happened to her. The feeling it produced certainly did. It was like a missed connection, only with nostalgia and your own consciousness. It made her think of home, both the place and the person.
Knowing that she was on the verge of a well overthought mental breakdown, she stood up slowly and decided to try to eat something, what she assumed would be the hardest task since she got down here.
Walking over to the pantry door she glanced at her first month’s options: salted pork, canned tomatoes from her and her mother’s garden, a seemingly infinite amount of saltine crackers, and perhaps way too many containers of peanut butter and Oreos. She had the tools to make coffee, to boil water, to try and grow her envelopes of seeds, and to hunt down meat, though she wasn’t sure if either the water or the meat would be wise to eat even after being cooked, she hadn’t been properly taught the after effects of radiation on the environment in her lifetime, ironically.
She had much more toward the back of the closet-like space, like Vienna sausages and Spam, cartons of pre-made eggs, and even a few fresh loaves of bread and yeast to make more. She even had bags of rice as a staple , and bags of potatoes she was willing to try to replant, eating around the sprouts in the meantime. She had only packed the potatoes on a whim of her fiance, the boy from Idaho who needed his potatoes.
What in the hell was she going to do with all that? She really wished her fiance would have helped with the food prep, instead now she looked as though she turned to Little House on the Prarie era pantry packing (finding salted pork and a burlap sack of rice wasn’t actually that easy, thanks Laura Ingalls).
She remembered one lovely non-ashen day in which her fiance cooked her steaks and baked potatoes and poured drinks of whiskey while she was in her evening class, before they knew they loved each other and before they officially lived together.
Then there was that night where they stood next to each other by the warm stove and made homemade alfredo pasta, only to drink too many bottles of wine and in turn, lose the pasta, in anniversary celebration afterwards.
One of her favorites, one of the most simple food moments, was when he brought her a homemade sandwich and cookie for lunch while she was at work at the office, she could have quit her job and melted into his arms it made her so happy.
The feeling she got just thinking about him made her feel sicker than before, so sick she ran to the makeshift bathroom, instead of the food pantry.
There was no way she was going to be eating anything without him, she had enough mental strength to get her outside and on the hunt for him, she didn’t need physical strength anymore.
She glanced up at the small rectangle of glass she found to make the bunker a shade more normal, a makeshift mirror to figure out whether or not she was pretty enough to go outside and try not to get blown to pieces, searching for some sign of strength in her face that led her to believe she was ready.
What she saw, unfortunately, was herself, yet again, looking blindly to the side and adjusting her hair in the back, paying no mind to the real her waiting for a matching response. She, herself, continued to stare at the girl in the mirror fixing up her ratty tangled hair, losing patience quickly and clearing her throat.
‘Are we ready here? Do you think maybe you can look me in the eyes and we can go do this thing?’
The girl in the mirror stopped what she was doing and smiled delightfully, ‘I thought you’d never ask’.