This is what happens when I’m tired and busy with other things, which right now is Space and Time, some birthdays, house fix-y stuff and editing.
The photo at left was the prompt. My first impression of this pic was it was too nice to be horrible. Then this story just came out of nowhere. I called it “Just in Time.” I share it because I have no time at the moment. —enjoy!
Just in Time
They left the shelter too soon.
For a full week they had huddled together in the dark of the cave, hungry and licking moisture off the rough stone walls. A few stopped speaking. A few wouldn’t stop speaking. They all listened to the constant boom of the bombs echo through the cavern and tried to not think about those still outside.
The silence was sudden and alien. The cave had no light where they were, and sound—even as horrifying as the constant explosions—was better than nothing. Now that it was silent the group of survivors turned their thoughts to what was next.
“I reckon the bombing is stopped,” Sam said. His voice startled the black nothing. Someone cleared their throat. Another voice broke the quiet, softer and feminine despite the hoarse edge that snagged the shadows.
“S-sounds like it. Should we try and get out? Would it be safe?”
Sam stood up. In the dark he could no longer tell which direction they had come in from. None of them were familiar with the cave. None of them had known each other before. They were just a bunch of panicked campers that made it into the caves just in time.
“I reckon it would. We should find each other and link hands.” He didn’t even know how many people were with him. As a former scout leader, he felt it was his duty to take charge.
“Everyone crawl towards the sound of my voice.” There was the sound of slow rustling as invisible people started groping toward him. A panic rose up inside of him as he thought of zombie nightmares from childhood, but he stuffed it into the back of his mind. He had to be strong. He had to lead. They may very well be the only people left.
“I’m right here. Keep coming…”
When the first hand touched him, he squeaked. There had been no contact between any of them other than voices. More hands reached out to touch him but he was better prepared.
“That’s it. Good job everyone. Are we all touching someone else?” They were murmurs of assent, and then someone kissed his hand. Their face was wet from tears. He hoped it was a woman.
“Is anyone left in the dark alone?” He called out loud in case someone had wandered farther away. They all listened again, still and waiting. There was no answer.
“Okay, everyone link up and keep your hand on the person in front of you. We’re going to crawl out.” He offered a silent prayer to the universe to send him in the right direction and started crawling.
The first light was a trick on their eyes. The black cleared from their vision like evaporating fog. They cried out when they realized they could see again and scrambled for the entrance. There were six of them. Two women and four men. One male was just a teen.
They spilled out of the cave and stumbled into the light. The world looked untouched. The sun was low in the sky and shone through the trees, turning the leaves to gold. The forest opened before the small group like a celestial path. They embraced as a group, falling to their knees and wept. They had survived. Whatever trials lay ahead, they would face it together.
The leaves rustled as a wind picked up, shaking them free to drift to the ground. Sam looked back up to the sun on the horizon, and then up to the sky where another sun shone down upon the group. The wind became vicious, a gale that tore the remaining leaves free. He looked back to the sun that hovered above the earth’s edge and saw it was distorting, flattening into a disk of molten light. He struggled to his feet. Like a moth to the flame, he stumbled a few steps toward it.
“Guys…” His voice trailed off. The rest of the group looked up and followed his gaze. The wind was howling now and sounded like a train rushing through the woods. Trees snapped before it as if an invisible hand was sweeping the world clean of forest and creature alike.
“Guys…” His voice trembled. “We need to go back in the cave.”
Mesmerized, none of them moved. The wave of heat overtook them. Sam fell back to his knees as he felt his face blister. He held up one hand in a feeble attempt to ward off the rushing doom, and then it was on them. None of them screamed, their eyes transfixed on the brilliance even as they sizzled in their skulls.
The last thing Sam heard was the solid, resounding rumble and boom of the final explosion. They had emerged just in time for the end of everything. As a group, they faded back to ashen darkness and scattered ahead of the radioactive winds.