What if that seat came with a price? You get to go on, but you have to throw the switch. Could you do it? Could you justify this act somehow? Someone is going to do it, but the price of survival is you taking the action yourself.
Would you weigh the consequences? Would you feel like a lottery winner, or prefer to move on with everyone else.
This little snippet explores this choice. I hope you enjoy it.
Lieutenant Scott Davies pulled the Humvee up to the bunker and parked. He left the keys in the ignition and the door open.
Captain Rhodes stood beside the airtight door the Navy provided to the project. “Scott.”
“Let’s get inside and monitor the phone. Close the hatch behind you.”
“We still have time, Scott. I want to breathe the air and listen to the night sounds.”
Byron put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I understand. Secure that vehicle and make it quick.”
“Why? Who’s going to steal it?” He removed the keys and locked the automobile.
Byron never answered, having headed inside. Scott followed, but left the hatch open.
“You take the south button, I’ll take the north,” Byron said. “We will place our hands on our buttons and the commands will be press, turn. Execute your move immediately, no countdown. Understand?”
“Yes, Sir, but–”
“But what? We have our orders.”
“Maybe the phone will ring.”
“We’re already thirty seconds overdue. Hand on your button.”
“My sister and her husband are out there somewhere, you know.”
“They’ll never know what happened. None of them will. You trained for this moment, and volunteered for it I might add. Failure to execute is considered treason.”
Scott placed his hand on the south button. At Byron’s command he executed the moves exactly as practiced. “It’s just another drill, right? The phone will ring and we’ll have to stand down, won’t we?”
Byron pointed to the countdown clock on the wall. Ten minutes. “Not this time.”
Scott headed back to the hatch.
“Where do you think you’re going? We have supplies for two months then the shuttle will come.”
“Byron, I respect your rank, but we have ten minutes. I want to hear the insects one last time. Feel the cool night air, look at the glow of the city lights on the clouds.”
“Alright, I’ll go with you. Do you think we’re wrong tonight?”
“Orders. We follow orders, don’t we?”
“Politics, religion, drugs, global warming, it all ends tonight.”
“I get it. No more terrorism, no more suicide bombers, whatever. I sat through the same training you did. No more butterflies, flowers, tigers, or anything else either.”
“The sea will mostly survive. There are some remote islands that will be untouched. Those are the ones we’ll inhabit once the orbiter decides it’s all clear. They’ll send a shuttle, Scott, I promise.”
“Do we even want them to? Maybe we’d be better off to wait outside with everyone else. How much time left?”
Byron peeked back inside. “Eight minutes.” He leaned against the bunker wall and looked up. “I wonder how many people are looking up at that moon right now, completely oblivious.”
“Lovers, children catching fireflies, old couples rocking on the porch.”
“Terrorists, smugglers at sea, fanatics, zealots.”
“That’s the point though. We can kill the people, but not the ideas. People are going to disagree over some things.”
“Yeah, but according to the big brains, not anymore. Defending our way of life is no longer sustainable. Eventually we won’t be able to keep ahead of the arms race. That’s why they poured everything into the orbiter and the seed bank.”
“Who got to choose entrants onto the orbiter?”
“You can’t worry about that stuff tonight. They made tough decisions, and we’re taking tough actions. The reboot of Planet Earth starts in… three minutes. We have the rest of our lives to debate whether it was a mistake or not. Come on, Scott, let’s get inside.”
They went inside and Byron sealed the hatch. “We have books, games, and food downstairs. Maybe we should get to it.”
“Who decided what was appropriate to survive in the new regime?”
“I don’t know, man. You have to accept some things as fact.”
“We could still stop it, you know.”
“This is a one shot deal. We can’t wait around for debate, then do it later. This is happening and there’s nothing we can do.”
“But we could, Byron. We could.”
“It requires two of us acting in concert, and I’m not acting.”
Scott slid open a tiny slot and looked through a foot of darkened glass.”
“What are you doing?”
“Taking the last look at everything. Art, literature, music, that all dies too.”
“Remember your training. We’ve had a year to wrap our minds around this. There’s meditation space downstairs, and it sounds like you could use it.”
“And I will, but I’ll see this first.” Scott wiped zinc oxide around his eyes and face. “The brains are doing the same thing as the terrorists you know. They’re forcing their will upon everyone else.”
“I’ve had the same thoughts, and I don’t want to see it. I’ll meet you downstairs. Do you want me to microwave a burrito for you?”
“No. I went to a nice French restaurant before I came here, and put it on a credit card. It’s not like they’ll ever collect.”
“Looks like you’ve found some acceptance in all this. No more West Nile Virus.”
“Political campaign season.”
“Split shifts, required overtime.”
“Sounds like you’ve found some comfort. Besides, you can always remind yourself that you were just following orders.”
Lisa here again. If you’re enjoying this year’s Macabre Macaroni, there are more of them available in the sidebar. The category is “Short Stories and Vignettes.” Craig also produced several books of this stuff and at 99¢ each they’re a steal. You can find those on his Amazon Author Page.