“What the hell is taking so long?”
“The eggs are too dry.”
“Do you have to eat so goddamn loud?”
Everyone should have taken that as a cue to tread carefully, but it wasn’t enough to keep the beady-eyed Info-Corp and the white-clad nurse from getting into it again over the spiritual implications of society’s fall.
The rest of the group watched anxiously while the two went back and forth.
“I’m not going to argue with you,” the nurse said numerous times, only to be pulled back into the debate by another snide remark.
“It’s idiots like you who get in the way of everything good in this world! You probably jumped for joy when everything went to hell!”
“Who’s the idiot?” the nurse scoffed.
Info-Corp crossed her arms with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Only one of us is going to hell, I’ll say that much!”
“Whatever,” the nurse said with a show of indifference.
“Why won’t you take an ounce of responsibility for what you’ve done?”
“I didn’t do anything!”
Info-Corp stood. “I have half a mind—”
Ken cut her off mid-sentence with gunfire to the ceiling. The deafening blast echoed through the cavernous space while bits of plaster and dust sprinkled down from the scarred dome, causing everyone to stop what he or she was doing and turn to see what the enraged police associate would do next.
Ken surveyed the mass of surprised, horrified people, just as stunned at what he’d done. He holstered the gun, took a few deep breaths, and then straightened his jacket. In an obvious attempt to redirect everyone from his explosive display, he said, “Time for a bathroom run. Who needs to go?”
At first, no one was willing to step forward, choosing instead to look among one another to see if anyone else would volunteer. Safety in numbers. George weighed the risk of grouping off with a loose cannon against showing weakness against a man who’d clearly let his limited power go to his head. Someone there needed to offer a show of strength, even if the move was a dangerous one.
Before he could talk himself out of it, he gave a nod, but he failed to disguise the fear in his voice when he said, “I could use a pit stop.”
With his company as a buffer, and with looks of relief washing over their weary faces, both the Mart school associates joined him.
No one else responded.
“Grab a light if you want to see where you’re going beyond the tunnel,” he said specifically to George. “The northern shuttle garage is a big one, and I’m not going to hold your hand through the dark while you pick a corner to piss in.” With a newfound huff of annoyance, Ken started for the south pedestrian tunnel.
George and the two others followed.
The sound of rain became prominent once they entered the tunnel. A drop of water leaking through the cracked ceiling landed on George’s forehead, serving as a sobering reminder of a future without social order. No structure meant limited sustainability, which in turn meant even their claim on the Food-Mart ensured only a finite supply of food and water. Even more, without the deviants’ cheap labor and their constant work on the ever-crumbling infrastructure, the fierce weather would destroy the integrity of their underground world sooner rather than later.
If they wanted to survive, they would need to find a new approach to their way of living. They would need to start from scratch. With so few of them, the prospect was daunting. Who among them had carpentry skills? George sure as hell didn’t. Did any of them know even the basics of farming, canning, or animal husbandry? Would their self-appointed leaders guide them to their demise before they even had a chance to gain a new foothold, or would the Food-Mart collapse in on them, a refuge turned tomb of cement and dust, before they could regroup?
Aftermath is available in Kindle and trade paperback.