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An excerpt from: Alone In The Light

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Darkness - A Short Story (2010)

The Darkness

    Two men stood on the roof of a decrepit building, their bodies buried under several layers of clothes to keep them warm against the biting cold. The taller of the two looked through an aging set of field glasses exhaled through his balaclava as he focused in on the glowing light on the frozen horizon.
     “There it is again.”
     “Well, that’s nine of them. One every twelve hours.”
     “Well, that would lead me to believe that there is someone out there with resources to spare.”
     “Shit, Tom. That means there is someone out there. Period.”
     “How long has it been? Six months?”
     “Nine months without a single contact.”
     “And before that?”
     “We’ve only seen one other living person in eighteen months, John. I don’t think we can afford to not head that way.”
     “Well, then, let’s do it.”
     The two men jumped from the building top, slid down the snowdrift and grabbed their packs. Two overstuffed bags of supplies, food and ammo.
     The dogs were gone. Nine from exposure and the last three were used as food. It was heartbreaking for both men, but they had to live… had to move on. It had been over four years since the sun stopped shining. In one disastrous moment the Earth was plunged into darkness and chaos. Three asteroids smashed into the planet’s surface causing coastal flooding, death, destruction… and darkness. The debris and dust blotted out the Sun and for four years, the planet had slowly died. The plants were the first to go, followed soon by the livestock and animal life. Only humans had survived more than two years. After the third year, however, most of them had perished. Tom and John were members of a select few people who had made it this long. The last contact either of them had with another living human was a woman on the outskirts of St. Louis named Kim. She was on the verge of starvation and had mentally checked out long before their meeting. Six days after they had met up with her, she took her life. She couldn’t stand the perpetual night any longer, and meeting up with these two allowed her a moment of happiness… She told them she wanted to go out on a high note.
     Facing extinction, the two moved towards the clockwork flares. They were walking towards potential help. Someone was shooting off one flare every twelve hours for more than four days. Someone was either in serious need of help, or had a serious surplus of supplies.
     The two trudged along in the darkness and cold at the best speed they could manage. Lacking the dogs and more food, it was slow going. When the two had finally come to a range that the flares were no longer just a soft glow in the distance, they made the decision to answer back.
     “You know we only have four of these left, right?” Tom asked holding up his flare-gun.
     “Well, whoever is out there seems to have plenty… I think it’s a good risk.”
     “Fair enough.”
     Tom held up the gun and squeezed the trigger. The red, plastic gun popped and sent a bright, red ball flying into the air.
     They waited for only a moment until they saw multiple lights fill the distant sky. Whoever had been sending up the flares also had a stockpile of fireworks.
     “Well, it seems as though they’re happy to meet us.” John joked through his face mask.
     “And away we go.” Tom re-positioned his pack. “Lets just hope they have something good to eat.”
     They calculated that the source of the flares and fireworks was about nine miles away. A slow paced three-hour hike and they would be there. The two ignored the hunger they faced and marched onward into the void. What used to be lush farmland on the Midwest was nothing more a frozen tundra of night.
     As they neared the source of the flares, two men on snow machines met them.
     “Holy shit!” Exclaimed one of the men on the machine. “You can’t believe how great it is to see other people!”
     “I’d have to agree.” Smiled John.
     “Well, hop on, we’ll get you inside and warmed up.”
     The two men loaded their supplies onto the trailing sleds and climbed on behind the two strangers. A few minutes later and they came to a large concrete tunnel leading into the side of a mountain.
     “What is this place?” John shouted over the roar of the engine.
     “It used to be some government bunker.” The man shouted back.
     “No shit?”
     “No shit.”
     The men drove the machines into the large open door of the tunnel. As they shut off their engines, lights filled the room as an inner door opened. Tom and John felt true warmth for the first time in a long time. They entered with caution and excitement.
     Their escorts removed their goggles and masks and patted them on the back.
     “Welcome to the Ark.”
     “The Ark?” Tom was curious.
     “Well, that’s what we call it.” He turned and faced them. “My name is Aaron. And this is Michael.”
     They exchanged greetings and the men led Tom and John down into the cavernous, well-lit tunnel. Soon, they entered another, smaller door and were welcomed by the smell of bread and vegetation and human bodies. There were hundreds of people walking around and talking. They never expected seeing this many people, let alone in a large, building with heat and electricity.
     “Well, Tom,” Michael started. “What do you think?”
     “This is… surreal.”
     “Well, before we go any further…” he smiled and pointed down the hall. “You’ll find showers, and any bathroom products you may desire and a set of clean clothes right over there.”
     “I… uh, thanks.”
     The two men relished in the hot, running water of their showers. Forty-five minutes later, the two men were showered, shaved and dressed.
     “I haven’t felt this clean in… I don’t know how long.” John smiled.
     “No kidding.” Tom looked around, the fluorescent lights almost stinging his eyes.
     Their escorts and two others outside of the locker room doors met them as they exited. The new people were women and introduced themselves as Abigail and Sarah. They all exchanged the usual pleasantries and it was several minutes before Tom finally broke the question.
     “So… What is this place?”
     “Well,” Sarah smiled, “we call it the Ark. It was built in 1989 but kept secret. It was meant to be a bunker for officials and their families in the case of crises, but when the night came…” she shrugged, “the riots killed most of the so-called officials.”
     “Not to mention that this place was pretty rundown. It took us almost 6 months to get it up and running and the rest of the time since then to get it working as well as it is now.”
     “And you actually still have food?”
     “We have vegetables and bread from the grain. We have a few stores of dried meats and whatnot, but it’s not the same as fresh.”
     “Trust me, I know.” Tom smiled.
     They gave them a tour of most of the facility. Everyone they met seemed over-joyed and more than willing to greet the new people with open arms.
     “I can’t get over how well this place seems to be getting along.” John
     “Well, it took some getting used to.”
     “I can imagine.”
     “And you two are the first outsiders we’ve met in over nine months.”
     “Well, that explains why everyone seems so happy.”
     “Well, that,” smiled Abigail opening a door to a large, full industrial kitchen, “and we haven’t had fresh meat in so long.”

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