Aug. 24, 2017
As they bounced past the old gas station they saw a jumper sprint out of the forest, leap over a rusted out station wagon, and disappear in the woods again. This, now normal, sight triggered a deep memory in both of them that finally allowed them to understand their moods. Today was the anniversary of their arrival. “The Rise of the Birds” they had called it, jokingly. It helped to laugh but they never laughed for long. They had endured far too much, it felt wrong to smile. For sixteen years to the day they had lived with this nightmare and they still had no idea why.
They were so lost in thought they almost didn’t notice the loud whirring sound that was starting to overpower their engine. From the passenger seat she reached out and grabbed his arm and he pulled over, squinting down the road, listening. There was a large open field to their right and dense woods on their left, no living creatures in sight. The whirring grew louder and louder until, with a flash, something passed over their heads. They watched, half in amazement half in horror as a giant metallic dish slowed to a stop in the air above the field, lights flashing brilliantly in blues and purples. It lowered to the ground and the whirring faded. Suddenly snapped out of his stupor, the driver turned the key but nothing happened, the truck made no attempt to start. They sat together, trembling, as part of the disk lowered to the ground making a door and a ramp, then the whirring stopped completely. For the first time in sixteen years they weren’t alone, but they so desperately wanted to be.
The weeks passed and the couple slowly resumed their usual schedule, stopped looking over their shoulders constantly, and stopped asking questions that had no answers. They had settled back into their blissful complacency they had adopted to get them through this new life so many years ago. He was strolling through the woods one day that fall, admiring the leaves and watching for any signs of a den being set up near their home. It was important to make sure no one tried to move in; the lizards had a tendency to be extremely territorial and would constantly attack them. He chuckled to himself as he realized how territorial they, themselves, had become. There are no neighbors in the apocalypse.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw some light reflect off the trunk of a tree, sending bright flashes of light through the branches. It wasn’t until he had a flashback to the sun glinting off of cars as he walked the streets of his old city before he realized how out of place that was. He startled then turned to the tree. It was a normal tree but hidden along its trunk was a slender metal pole, topped with what appeared to be a periscope. It turned silently left and right, setting its gaze on him for a few moments then quickly sucked itself downwards into the ground, turning up its eye to slide effortlessly through the leaves. He rushed forwards and brushed away the leaves around the tree to reveal a hole in the ground among the roots with a metal tube in it. The lip of the tube extended just above the surface, enough to keep dirt out but remain hidden. He stared down at his find, stunned, then took off in a sprint for home.
She came to him while he was rummaging around in their shed throwing aside hammers, pickaxes, old boxes, looking for the shovel he knew to be hidden somewhere under the mess. She watched silently for some time until he tossed an old hunting rifle to the side. It landed on the corner of a red metal toolbox and the old decrepit firearm unintentionally misfired through the shed wall and into the woods. She dove out the door then stormed back in, heart racing in a fury.
“What the hell are you doing?” she screamed at him, now huddled on the floor trying to figure out what happened. He glanced up at her and sighed.
“Sorry, I have to show you something! I need the shovel! Go get the flashlight!” he ordered excitedly. They had learned long ago that fighting was useless and she could tell that something had him very agitated, especially since the shovel was hanging on a rusty nail on the left wall just where it had been for the past decade or so. She walked to the house and grabbed the flashlight, tested the batteries and grabbed a few backups from their supply, then casually walked back to the shed. He was standing in the middle of the floor messing up his hair and staring at the mess he made. She clicked on the flashlight and pointed it straight at the shovel and said cheerfully, “ready?” He looked at the shovel, sighed, snatched it off the wall and said “follow me.” She moved aside to let him push past her and followed him into the woods. In his haste he had failed to mark the exact location in his mind and he started to wander around feverishly, checking various trees and muttering to himself. She hung back after a while and began watching him closely, becoming worried about his state of mind. Just before she was about to ask him to call off the search he straightened up from the tree he was examining with a huge smile and beckoned for her to come closer. As she approached he turned on the flashlight and shone it proudly onto the metal hole in the ground.
She squinted at it for a few seconds then shrugged, “I give up, what is it? A drain?” He beamed at her.
“When I walked by earlier there was a periscope sticking out of it, looking around! Then it saw me and disappeared down this tube!” He made a sucking noise with his mouth to animate the disappearance. She stared at him blankly, unsure of what to think. Uncaring of how she felt, he picked up the shovel from where he had dropped it and began to dig.
“What exactly do you expect to find?”
“Someone is down there!”
“What if they’re not nice?” He stopped for a second; pondering the possibility that this was a bad idea.
“If they’re not nice they already know we’re here, they’ll come for us anyway.” He said, then went back to digging, satisfied with his rationale. She sat down on a fallen tree and chewed her lip.
“There has to be a door somewhere, give me the flashlight.” He wiped his brow with the back of his hand then picked it up and tossed it to her. As he dug deeper and deeper she wandered around, poking and prodding the ground everywhere she could while staying within earshot of his shoveling. She figured a shelter underground couldn’t be that big and must have an entrance close by.
Hours later, as the sun began to set behind the hills to the west, she returned to the tree to find him standing in a six foot deep hole with the metal pipe jutting up through the middle like a flag pole.
“It just keeps going!” He was beaming, clearly excited by the find.
“Look, it’ll be dark soon, we’ll come back tomorrow.” she said sympathetically, worried he would be upset with the prospect of giving up for the night.
“Yeah, no door huh?”
“Oh, yeah I found one three hours ago but you needed the workout so I kept quiet.” He chuckled and tossed the shovel out of the pit. She reached in to help him climb out.
“Maybe we should bring some rope tomorrow,” she grunted as she pulled him up. He agreed and they gathered the shovel and flashlight then headed home, holding hands as they walked they began to hum their favorite song.