Mindset – Part One
‘I survived, is what I did. Five long months, and it could a been more, too, but for my head. I kept thinkin I needed to restock, but it was just an excuse for me to git. When you’ve been shut up so long… I mean, I had books and paints, anything that didn’t require electricity, but when you’re alone with your thoughts for so long…’
Cyril stopped talking, glanced up, ran his hands through his hair. They came away greasy, and his right hand still had the shake. He put it down, out of sight.
‘You were telling us about how it all began.’
‘Well, I don’t rightly know how it began, sir.’
‘But for you, I mean.’
‘I see. Well, I mean, I’d been preparing for a long time. I seen shows, you know, and at first I thought to myself, it don’t hurt to be a little prepared. Disaster relief, and all that. A few days, tops. A week. But then you get to thinkin, how long could it be? Got so’s I wanted a year’s worth, in the end, and I had it too.
‘I heard the news, you know, like, something had happened. It wasn’t very specific, just an explosion, issues with power. But by then, I knew all the code words. The people with “unusual symptoms”… they think we’re stupid, but I knew.’
‘This was in… March 2013?’
‘Yes sir. Now, as I was saying, I was prepared. Shuttered windows and reinforced doors are designed for your traditional attack, but they work just as well against you-know-what. Better, even. I closed everything up quick and hunkered down, ready to ride it out.
‘I was nothing if not prepared.’ Cyril ticked off his fingers as he talked. ‘I had tinned food, dry rations, a rainwater collector, water purification tablets, vitamin tablets… that’s an important one. They don’t never show that in movies, but scurvy’s one of your biggest problems, living off survival food. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I had dried food and salted meat.
‘You also need to think about what happens if the world doesn’t get back to the way it was. I had traps and snares, fishing line, seeds for plantin and tools for diggin. I could a started my own little farm, if I had to. I even had a greenhouse going in the back yard.
‘I mean, prepared. I had clothing, especially good boots. I had a good knife, nothing better than a good knife. A good flint stone, too. Then there was the weapons. I made sure anyone or any thing busting through my windows was ready to meet with a whole lot of pain. I had my Remington, with 500 shells, and two P99s and a Desert Eagle, with nearly 3,000 rounds at my disposal. I was not going to be caught short.’
‘So, you heard the news, and you entered your bunker.’
‘That’s right. I had a hand cranked radio, and solar power lighting and whatnot in there. I listened every day… well, every day until the broadcasts stopped.’
‘When did the broadcasts stop?’
‘Only about three days after the news. I figured I’d ride it out for a while, told myself to lay low, and for a time, that’s what I did. I could hear ’em, though, at night, day, hell, all the time. That horrible growl. I wore earplugs most of the time.’
Cyril scratched at his face, rubbed his hands on his jeans, and shifted in his chair, trying to get comfortable. But, he realised, it wasn’t the chair, it was the eyes, staring at him. After all that time alone, he found it difficult. Hell, he’d never liked people eyeing him.
The man paced up and down before him, slowly, turning on his heel every now and then. He seemed to be taking his time. Cyril shifted, hid his hand again. He didn’t like people seeing it shake.
‘Were you on any medication during that time, the five months you were in the bunker?’
‘No, sir. Even if I was, where’d I a got it from?’
‘I mean, were you supposed to be on any medication?’
Cyril scratched his face, thinking. ‘You know, I can’t say. I think there might a been something.’
The man stopped talking to Cyril, faced the others, the ones with the eyes, held up a piece of paper. He was talking about medication, some strange-sounding drug. Cyril’s attention faded, and he stared at his hands. His thoughts drifted back to that time. Horrible, in some ways. So lonely. But then, a lot less to worry about, particularly in the way of keeping people happy, them always demanding things from you. A voice intruded on his reverie.
‘I was asking you to describe what happened next.’
‘Oh, right. Well, not much to say about the time inside. I read, worked out (I had equipment for that too), made bad food in hundreds of different ways without ever really gettin it to taste any better. I listened for any broadcasts, cleaned my guns, tried to ignore the sounds from outside, made—’
‘Can I ask you about the sounds you say you heard? What were they like?’
Cyril bristled. He hated being interrupted, but decided to let it pass. ‘I could hear ’em despite the earplugs. They were like a wet growl, you know. Human, but not human. You must have heard them, you’re still here. I still hear ’em, from time to time, in my sleep.’
‘Human, but not human.’
‘That’s what I said.’ Cyril was beginning to get annoyed with this man. His nice suit, shiny shoes, the way he acted all superior. Asking questions like he was talking to a child. Cyril scratched his face again, tried to sit still, tried to ignore the eyes.
‘Now, Mr Dumont, could you please tell me what happened at the end? When you decided to come out? I’d like to hear about that in great detail.’
Cyril sat back, rubbed his hands on his jeans again, and started talking.
next: MINDSET – PART TWO
more by RICHARD SHURY
Richard is a big fan of science fiction, but dabbles in other genres. For more short stories and longer self-pulished works by him visit Richard Shury.
For his articles on the issues of our time, or just day-to-day musings visit his blog rashury.co.uk.
photograph by Ryan Tauss