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Chapter One - not a day at the Beach
 

Whatever they tell you, it's a lie. Bank on it. Except there are no more banks. No coin of the realm. No dollars. No pesos. No rupiah.  No Euros. No Yen. No rubles. Nada. Nein. Nyet. Zippo. Zilch. Nothing! Do I sound pissed? You better believe I'm pissed! Yanked out of Paradise with only my board shorts on - if I didn't have my knapsack I would have probably died. No more sleeping in the bed at my mom's home on the hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean waves coming in at Windansea. No more mother's cooking cuz she got cooked. Never freaking again! Damn right I'm pissed and all those fat oafs that got us into this state can go to Hades in a hand basket and soak up the scorch for eternity.

You wanna know what pisses me off? Don't play stupid! You know it. You live it. You survived it. Up to now, you survived it. You come back and talk to me tomorrow and then we got something going. Until then, shut up and listen and I will tell you my story. It's your story too but you're still dumbstruck and can't mouth the words. Some of you can't even think the thoughts and when a glimpse of "history" shudders through your shattered brain, you jerk your head out of the way like a beaten dog from its so-called "Masta Sir."

Let me pause for a few seconds. Just the facts. Pull the emotion in. Keep you under control. Save your energy for the fight. Which one, you ask? Most of them don't have names anymore. They run into one another too quickly.

No person, no government, no entity knows how the end began. Rumors of war had circulated for years as demonstrations and fire fights and civil wars would break out at various locations throughout the world before they were briefly quelled, only to have the winds carry the turbulence to some other part of the globe. Throughout the world minimum wage workers were revolting against the greed of their billionaire employers. The former paid taxes so that they could benefit from government medical care and food stamps. The latter railed against the government programs and bribed the officials, so they paid no taxes as they acquired more things. Ubiquitous as bird flu, the battles became frequent in occurrence and engorged with participants. On the side the vultures waited patiently. Watching their meals, waiting their time. 

Facts, alternative facts, network news, Internet fake news, outright lies and fabrications wove different stories. Enough truth in each story to make it impossible to sift out the mendacity and follow the credible narrative.  My father, dead since five years and he visits me in my dreams, said that when the Politicians and Bureaucrats of the United States are such practiced, compulsive liars, who can ever know the truth?

Some said the initial missiles came from the Middle East: Pakistan or Israel or Persia. Another theory, far-fetched, was that it was launched from a dormant volcano in the Philippines. Other sleuths said it was launched from the Sea of Japan, where the Koreas, China, Russia and Japan intersect. One of those theories postulates the Chinese wanted the Americans to destroy North Korea so they launched a missile from one of their submarines located near Kilju. It was directed toward Hawaii and although the American defense system destroyed it in the atmosphere, the American President, incensed by the assumed audacity of the North Korean dictator who he derisively referred to as Rocket Man, ordered a complete annihilation of that country. Another theory was that a Russian submarine fired the missile and for the same reason. No one with logic could ever explain why these countries would want their North Korean neighbor vaporized, but logic had long since deserted the world leaders.      

I mean world Idiots. Still others suggested that some drunken leader with his hands on the button fired the first missile just to see if he could do it, to see if anyone would stop him. Like an ambitious child testing his boundaries, testing his parents, his guardians, he swayed his mannish hips toward the button full of bravado and bluster. No one stopped him.

Needless to say, during its demise, North Korea rained destruction upon its southern brother and Japan and all degrees along the compass. This set off White Russia against Red China and the chaos flowed like a tsunami wave over the countries adjacent to them.

Simultaneous with this, or maybe shortly before or after, as often times inventors in diverse locations of the world are working on the same creative discovery, missiles escaped in the Mideast, in Europe, the Pacific and Africa. The dogs of war had been unleashed and why Australia was not spared and how the large cities of Africa and South America came under attack, no one ever explained, and it was never disclosed before world communications ceased. Numerous commercial aircraft were commandeered and flown full of destruction into the major cities on the planet. It was reported that hackers took control of military aircraft from various countries and directed them to destroy their own cities and military installations and infrastructure.

Deprivation was taking place throughout the world. Except for the disciplined forces of Germany and Russia, government armies would mutiny and change allegiances at the offer of supplies and shelter, for money and even gold became worthless as people realized that only tangible property had any value in the new system of barter. Spontaneous armies would sprout from nothing, from maybe a cell phone flash mob, and then everything within their circumference would be stolen destroyed and ravished. They would stoke themselves with words and deeds and victims and eventually they would feed upon themselves. 

Of course the fringe of the religious and ethnic groups populating the world were slandered in the mainstream and smaller stream media as being bent toward destruction of the planet. The reasoning went that they all had their own Eden to aspire to and they wanted to rid the earth of the devils. It was said that they considered themselves as the Righteous and they wanted the Day of Judgment to come sooner, while they were still alive, rather than later, when they were dead. I cannot vouch for their logic, for the kernel of it has never been explained to me but I know this earth does not bound the beliefs of religions.

I just report what was done, what was said.  Of course there were the suicide bombers; people that would blow themselves up in a crowd of infidels, believing they would go to their Promised Land and the devils would go to their Hell. One of the more bizarre attributions was to a frenzied neo-Nazi Presbyterian group located in the Scottish Highlands.  But as a CNN Anchor stated, before they went off the air and Internet: "They may have torched a pub in Thurso, but I doubt any of them could find their way out of the British Isles sans guide."

Before their slow disappearance, the Internet and Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and the satellite communicators bandied these and multitudinous thoughts across the globe as to how it began and how it was going to end.

Most of the atomic bombs, the hydrogen bombs and the nuclear bombs were ripped asunder by intercepting missiles, exploding in the atmosphere, their warheads cascading to the earth with minimal immediate damage. The fallout, the radiation, took several months to affect more misery on the populous. It was the biological creations, sent over by aircraft or transported across land, or released from drones that had lifted off submarines cruising off the coasts, that inflicted the greater part of the destruction of the species. The biological deaths were quick and painful, seemingly born of the same test tube. Death impended a fortnight after the virus took hold of the person. At first they would become fatigued for several days until they could no longer lift their limbs. Their skin would become pallid as the virus was crowding out their bone marrow and it could not produce sufficient red blood cells and hemoglobin. Their immune systems became overwhelmed and finally too weak to fight. Pustules would sprout on their legs and arms. Their white cell count would diminish and they would start coughing at the onset of pneumonia. As their platelet count went down into the low 20s they would bleed and bruise to the touch. Unable to even hold their head up, they would collapse to the ground and soon die. The disease was named Rampant by one of the major medical centers in New York City and had no cure. Everyone in that medical center died within two weeks of the first patient.

Internet videos showed the City overrun with rioting and looting people and then about a month later the videos ceased. On the Internet there was now only a still photograph of the Statute of Liberty.

We had discussed the inevitable for several months as the dominoes slowly fell across the continent. It was only a question of 'when' and of which manner of death each of us would experience. More people embraced some sort of religion. Many fled south to Mexico with the hope of delaying their exposure. Some killed themselves with pills or drug overdoses or the usual weapon. Sensualists smoked and drank and fornicated wildly to the ridicule of the religious.

I, myself, had joined the Marine Corps on my seventeenth birthday as age restrictions had been lifted and young and old were encouraged to come to the aid of their country. The training was good, but the equipment was archaic and pulled out of warehouses, as the East Coast elite had gathered all the new stuff for their soldiers. In San Diego, our civic and military leaders told us we had about a year before the descension and that our military personnel would protect us as best they could.  We troops smiled glumly at that proclamation. We were the last hope of "America's finest city."

Then Boston and quickly Chicago turned into swarms of people and cars and chaos as the inhabitants tried to flee . . . to where? Myriad pictures of their death grappling with one another sprang up on the Internet.  There was no trace of the armies. Where had they gone? Rumors flew that the individual soldiers had left for their homes and families--wherever that might be. But no State National Guard, no organized police agencies, no nothing! Then the cities disappeared. Satellite images showed rubble all about with no signs of life. It looked like a Hiroshima at ground zero or like tornados had torn through the areas.

 D.C. was next and when the smoke blew off the city to reveal Nothing, we assumed any survivor there was living underground in the shelters built during the Cold War. The Pentagon was a giant hole.

Parts of LA fired up in the autumn heat as the third world communities overran Beverly Hills and other decadent enclaves. Reports said the raggedy armies had overrun the National Guard and were heading north toward Silicon Valley and San Francisco.  They apparently wanted to pitch a last battle against the one per centers before the viruses or bombs obliterated them as well as their intended combatants.

We were now Dresden. We were now Baghdad. We were now Aleppo. The progeny of the dead of the first two metropolitan bombings now lived in our country, the survivors of the third city had been knocking at our consulates, or arriving here in shipping containers at the ports of New York and Los Angeles. The American Experience of subjugating the aboriginals we condescendingly called Indians, of enslaving black people to satiate the pockets and penises of the southern planters, of bringing in cheap foreign workers to bolster the corporate bottom line that filled the pockets of the decadent wall street barons, had come full circle and the new technologies allowed a small cabal to promote chaos on the Earth. The masses of the earth were in their revolt and it was now time to pay for the sins of our fathers.

A distant part of my memory still hears the cell phones beginning to ring on the beach and the tsunami siren going off high in the hills of La Jolla. It was my eighteenth birthday, Christmas Eve and I was on leave from Camp Pendleton and down at Windansea Beach for a surf. At the time I wondered if it was another false alarm, or if the destruction that had affected myriad areas of the country had finally come to San Diego County. When the giant mushroom cloud appeared south over San Diego and the Naval Station on Coronado Island, I began to worry.  A minute later, when a second mushroom cloud appeared beyond the hill to the east, apparently over Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, my worst fears were confirmed.

I paddled my board to the shore when I saw the mushroom clouds rising. I was a full-on surf rat long before and during my military stint, but I knew immediately what was happening and yelled at everyone to get out of the water, off the beach and to find shelter. Most people looked at me like I was crazy. I dropped my board and grabbed my knapsack lying on the sand and slung it over my shoulder.

My father built our home in New Mexico with help from some Apache Indians and some Mexicans from across the border. One hundred fifty years before they had been at one another's throat. Now they tolerated one another, intermarriage and all that stuff. As I speak this I'm sure their ashes are all dancing together in the New Mexico desert. On the wall of the main room was a large blown up photograph of the beginning of the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion at the White Sands in the 1950s. He enjoyed looking at the picture. Frequently when he was viewing it and drinking some Pacifico cerveza, he would mumble,

"Idiots, bunch of Idiots. Loco."

He said that such a cloud would wreak death and destruction in its path and the only way to escape was to go underground with a prayer and a lot of luck.

I had moved here with my mother and brother when I was thirteen and was enthralled with the sea. The beach was filled with people I recognized. They knew of my late father's marijuana strains and they had begged me for some of the weed, but I had none. They laughed at me and with me as I tried to herd them to some shelter. I knew these people. They were my friends from way back. I told them I never used, but they always shook their heads and laughed because of my pedigree. They hoped soldiers like me would save them. I knew better.

"Chris, get out of here and find some shelter if you want to survive!"

He laughed. "So what?" he murmured.

I ran to Sally. She had been in my classes at La Jolla High.

"There's death coming over that mountain so run!"

She laughed and thought I was joking around or that I was high on some home grown. They all thought we had much more time before having to deal with oblivion.

I shouted across the beach and up the small cliff to the parking lot, "Everybody find shelter this is for real!" No one paid attention. They just looked at the clouds moving toward us. It looked like innocuous rain clouds moving up from Mexico.

Again: "We have to all get out of here!  Now! Everybody! Run!"

Neither Uncle William nor the surfers and other beachgoers paid any attention. They stood there, waiting for the water drops. When they failed to drop, they stood in awe, mesmerized, watching the clouds moving in our direction from the east and south. The wind started blowing harder and there was a sucking sound, getting deeper and louder and then people started to run toward their cars or bicycles or the houses along the street above the beach. Some ran into the ocean with their surfboards. Mass hysteria began to sweep the crowd. Except for one older longhaired surfer who was sitting under the surfer's palm frond shack on the rocks above the ocean. His eyes were closed and he was in peace.

I cried, "Skip!" as I ran past him but he never opened his eyes and then I was closer to the large drainpipe opening from where the infrequent rainwater drained into the Pacific Ocean. I knew this to be my only chance for at least a little time of survival. I had been in this drainpipe numerous times past. My friends and my brother and I would lower ourselves through the street grates and into the drain pipe a half mile east on Draper Street and then move down the pipes under the streets and houses as we followed the sounds of the ocean. The Pied Piper of the Pacific calling us to herself.

The papers and dirt and rocks running ahead of the southern clouds were upon me and the stinging in my eyes and skin caused me to tear violently.  I saw the opening shading into darkness when I collided with another person and stumbled into the entrance, my knapsack dangling by my side

"Who?" cried the other person and I saw her getting up from inside the pipe entrance. Outside faint screams were heard inside the wind.

It was Stasia. She was twenty-one and in her fourth year of University. She had gone to the private school in town: Bishops. She was three years older than me.  When she was a senior, I was in 9th grade with my twin brother before he moved up to Humboldt to stay with our grand parents.  She was taller than me and probably weighed more than me. She didn't know that I existed but I knew her. She had been a cheerleader for Bishops and when they played La Jolla I would go with my friends to sit in the stands at the basketball games and watch her jump and cheer for the team. I didn't care who won or lost the game. I just liked to watch her jump and twirl and the way her small breasts moved inside of her white blouse and her tight buns firmed against her high cut cheerleader dress. She went out with a City lifeguard and I saw her surfing the lefts at Windansea with the older crowd. She was pretty good. She was watchable.

"Where are the others?" she cried and we both watched the cloud blow the shack fronds north, leaving only four strong eucalyptus posts in place. Skip was gone. Somewhere.

"They're gone," I said, "and we will be too if we don't move into the pipe."

She looked at me and all my past sightings of her scattered throughout my head in a jumble of incoherence. "Then move," she said and I ran with her behind me up the slope of the pipe. We had measured its diameter in the past when we rode skateboards and flexies down it. It was seven feet.

Darkness descended upon the outside and any lasting screams were subsumed by the cloud. We moved as quickly as we could up into the black of the pipe.

"Stop," she said, and she pulled out her car key ring and turned on a small flashlight attached to it. She handed it to me. It was a 24K Rolls Royce Car Key ring. Her Dad was a lawyer, family had money. Had being the past tense of 'has.' The sound behind us was a sucking sound, like those videos on youtube of the cyclones or hurricanes.

We hurried quickly up the pipe, our feet splashing in a small stream of water making its way to the beach. I knew where we were going but neither of us knew how long we had to live before death ran into the pipe. One hundred feet into it her light shone on a T-intersection in the pipe and I swerved the ninety degree right turn without hesitation, banging my shoulder against the cement as we rushed under the homes of La Jolla. We were moving further away from the entrance, but the sounds were coming closer. From both sides, as I could hear rumbling in front of us.  The water beneath our feet was growing in volume. Suddenly her light shone on an adjoining pipe five feet up from the base and off to the right. The entrance was halved at the top as it butted against the main pipe.

"What?" I said. I had never seen this in the two score of times we had gone up and down this pipe. "This is new."

"What is?" she asked.

"I don't remember this connection. I haven't been in here for three years so it must have been made since then."

"Where does it go?" she asked.

"I don't know," I replied, "but this is the only chance we have of survival. Something's gonna come up that pipe and overwhelm us and we can't stay in it to have any chance."

"How do you know this?" she asked.

"My grandfather worked with Atomic Bombs in New Mexico." She put her hand over mine and turned the light onto my face. I could feel her studying me. I could feel the heat in my hand where she touched me.

"You're one of the surf rats in the lower grades. Right?"

"Yeah," I stumbled, unsure if the heat that flushed into my cheeks was distinguishable from the beating that the cloud had given my demeanor. She took the light from my hand and turned it back to the opening of the adjoining pipe. She went up to it and I saw her push away the bottom of what looked like a thick cloth.

"Give me a hand," she said and I followed her and cupped my hands for her bare foot to saddle into and I lifted her gently up into the opening. She was in the room and she turned and shown the light back at me and reached down with her right hand. I threw my knapsack past her and then grasped her hand and she pulled me up to and past her. She was strong. Her muscles were long and lean and as I brushed past her our shoulders lightly touched and I thought this is what I could die for.

The linen draped over the opening was expensive, probably from one of the multi-million dollar houses that flanked the shoreline. Probably from a home like the one she use to live in. I saw that after the small opening the pipe was also seven-foot diameter and went back two feet before the space was blackness. Stasia went further in and shown her light and I saw the pipe turned into a rectangular box about twenty feet back and ten feet wide. She climbed over something, her light jumping about, and then her light shone up against a wall of gray concrete.

"That's as far as we go," she said, I could sense the disappointment in her voice and she turned back toward me with her light. Her light dropped down on a large mattress between us that was strewn with broad cotton blankets. Sheets. Bed clothes. Comforters. They were clean, as if recently washed.

"This is like a secret room for somebody with money. I wonder what house is above us?" I said. There were four or five rectangular wooden boxes strewn beside the bed.

"Is that a refrigerator?" Stasia asked when her light shone on a metallic grey cabinet. She moved over to it and touched it. "Yes! It's on. I can feel the sound." She found the handle and opened it. "There's food and drink in here."

"Is there a light switch in here?" I asked, searching the walls with my eyes and touching them with my hands. I didn't find one, but I felt some metal behind me and said, "turn the light here, would you?" She did and it shone on a metallic ladder built into the concrete and going up into a small hatch like a submarine.

"Probably goes to someone's house," she said and then she turned the light back down and it lit up a second room. "Go in there, will ya?" I followed her direction and moved over and into a separate room and saw in the shadowed light a toilet and a basin and a bathtub.

"What the heck!"

"What?" she asked and moved inside next to me. She turned the faucet on and water ran strongly out of it.

"This place is livable," I said, and I turned on the tub faucet and water pushed out. "We might have a chance."

"Maybe," she said as the sounds from outside the tunnel became louder as the wind was starting to rush through it, "it's coming for us." Her voice was weaker now.

"Shine your light on the entrance," and she did and I saw that the linen drape was secured into wire fastened around the top of the pipe. I moved over to it and she followed. I saw an indentation in the cement running inside the circumference of the circle and I touched it and found it was over an inch in depth.  I couldn't understand why it was there. The linen was doubled, tripled over into a thick blanket and it hung down over the entrance. It looked like it had come from a large dining hall banquet table. "We gotta hold this down and hope this stops something." I said.

She came next to me and we held it down against the concrete but the wind was getting stronger and causing it to flutter like a sheet in the wind.

I pushed the linen harder against the side and I felt something sticking out and I cried, "No." I had touched a hard object that felt like a handle and I pushed the linen aside and saw I was right.

"What?" She trembled with her words before she corrected herself, trying to hide her fear and I felt more fear because of her fear.

"There's a handle here," and I grasped it. It was sturdy. The wind was rushing past the linen in the pipe and menaced against our grips.

"Pull back the linen, will ya?" She moved it aside and the wind slid along the lower pipe and began to crawl against us and I grabbed the handle and pulled at it with all my strength. It moved easily across the entrance and to the indentation on the other side. I stopped the door at the indentation, leaving a small gap along the side.

"This place is built to perfection. That moved so easily," she said with more energy.

"This is incredible! Who made this?" Dirt and small water drops were carrying through the small opening.

"Yeah, surf rat. Somebody made themselves quite a little pad here." I reached into the cement indentation and felt a rubber seal. I pushed the door into it and it felt snug and the wind was held back and the sound disappeared but the rumbling in the pipe continued as if a freight train was running past us.

"This is a bomb shelter." I whispered.

"Quit whispering!" she cried and she moved back to the refrigerator. "This is crazy," she said, "crazy La Jolla." She moved her light around the small enclosure; "nothing surprises me about this freaking town!"

"And you don't have to whisper in here as if you're afraid of the boogeyman!" she shouted for emphasis. Her adrenalin was wearing off. She was edging into reality.

The pipe set at about a 5-degree angle upward. Halfway up the pipe were eight by eight-horizontal cedar beams with beautiful cedar planks sitting on them. A king-sized box spring sat on the planks and the corresponding mattress sat on the box springs.

"Who lives here?" I asked.

"We do now," she replied and she whispered into the darkness, "for how long?" I said nothing about her whisper. We were going to be close for an indeterminate amount of time and I knew from past experience with girls that some things, unknown things, undreamt things, can set them off into a whirlwind. Better to leave the whirling outside. Don't bring the storm in here.

"What else is in here?" I asked and she shone her light onto the wooden boxes. "Teak," I said. "Like a boat." I use to ride out to the islands with my buddies in their Boston Whaler. Boards stacked in their bags. Wetsuits hanging from the canopy. Wool caps pulled over our heads with the old school Pendleton jackets and cargo pants. We had to leave early, early morning to get to the Outer Reefs and the ride was always cold. They were bigger and older; I was the young rat. We called the Islands the "Sans." San Clemente. San . . ta Catalina. San Miguel. San . . ta Barbara. I was reminiscing on the trip two years past to San Clemente Island and beyond to Cortez Banks, where that Navy jet spun over us about twenty feet off the water, where . . .

The clanging of glass from the opened refrigerator brought me back to the present world. "Hey, rat? You gotta drink if you surf down here, right?" Her voice was exhausted and she held up a green bottle with Riesling lettered across the front and an opener that she had struck against it.

"Sometimes," I ventured.

"Well. Not water tonight." She pointed her torch onto a five gallon water container beside the frig. "This is too monumental for that. Get two glasses from that cabinet hanging off the side." She moved her light onto a teak cabinet hanging beside the bed and I moved over to its open shelf and picked out two wine glasses. "I got an idea of who might have lived here, but I don't want to think anymore." Her voice was trailing off.

"Bring em over here." A whisper. One she probably gave to her boy friend when they were drinking after a dinner at the Club. I did. I always did what girls told me to do. Never mattered much. I was into the ocean. She was my lady. Maybe if a mermaid washed over my long board on a stormy day I might have lost my virginity. But it never happened. She had taken out the cork with a screw and she poured each of our glasses half full. "Drink, my friend. It helps with the tears." She tilted her head back and took a large gulp of the wine. I followed suit. The alcohol burned. But I had been burned before. "Again, Ra . . ." She stopped. "What's your real name?" She shone the torch on my face.

"Fluke."

"How do you spell that?"

"F L U K E."

"And you pronounce it how?"

"It rhymes with kook." She looked at me with tired eyes and let out a small laugh. "How old are you?"

"Twenty."

"You look like you're fifteen." It was too dark for her to see my face flush, although I felt like Rudolph Reindeer.

"I'm eighteen," I admitted and her energy seemed to escape with her laugh and she closed her eyes slightly and said,

"What's your first name?"

"Jack."

"Well, Jack Fluke. My name is S T A S I A. It rhymes with Asia. And my last name is Cervantes. Stasia Cervantes."

"I know," I said.

"Really?" She was actually surprised and briefly came alive again.

"Yeah. I seen you surfing and at the basketball games. You were a cheerleader."

"I was all those things and more." Her listlessness engulfed her and she slowly pushed her head back and drank the rest of her glass. "Listen. Jack. I'm so tired." She stopped for several seconds and it seemed like her heart was barely beating. It seemed like she was dropping into hibernation.  "I'm so stunned by all this. I'm going to sleep on this side of the bed with these covers." She motioned to a side and slid over to it and fluffed up a pillow, all the while her torch moving about the enclosure. "Here." She gave me the light. "You do what you want to do with this."  She pulled the covers tight over her neck and turned her head away and whispered, "Now you can whisper. I will wake up when I wake up. O.K?" She spoke so softly and so deliberately that I thought she might be passing to the other side.

"All right, Stasia, Asia. You sleep over there and I'll take this side. Good night."

No response. "I'll see you in the morning. O.K?" I needed a response from her. It took several breaths of mine before I heard her faint,

"Night you." And she was down and rapidly out and I was left to myself.

Almost. I set my wine glass down and moved over to my knapsack and unzipped a side pocket and reached in. My hand brought out my clown fish. Leaf. He had been with me for ten years, even in the Marine Corps.  I had always slept with him and I always carried him down to the beach with me. He was my baby blanket. My solace. My love. I carried him to my side of the bed and tucked him beside a blanket. I slipped a towel from my knapsack and pivoted the torch to shine on the other room. I crawled past her and moved into the bathroom and put some water onto the towel. The hot water faucet actually had warm water! I moved back to my side of the bed, past the sleeping Stasia. The perimeter of the light beam passed her face and I realized the dirt and blemishes on her skin only accented her beauty. There was a small tear on her cheek below her right eye and I felt a shiver in my spine. She saw our future.

I moved to my edge of the bed. I wiped my face clean. Then my neck and shoulders and chest and then my hands and arms and around my back. I followed with my thighs down to my toes. The towel was quite grimed. Then I removed my pajamas from my knapsack, removed my swim trunks, and pulled on my PJs.

I sat down on my side of the bed and picked up my glass and sipped it. I had no affinity for it. My parents had liked wine. My parents had liked weed. I liked the ocean. That was my high.  I took a sip and listened to Stasia breath. I wondered how long we would stay in this secret hiding place. I wondered if we would begin to suffocate in here, if the pollution from outside would seep in while we were sleeping and asphyxiate us.

I wondered if the hatch could be opened to let us out, or to let someone else in.

When I was a boy - ha! When I was eleven, my parents sent us to cotillion classes down at the Club in Albuquerque to learn how to dance formally. The girls would wear long dresses and us boys would wear suits with ties. It was chaperoned and all very proper. Waltz. Fox trot. Some rock and roll. Dancing with the kids. And there was this girl - Whitney Divine. She was taller than me. Most of the girls were taller than us lads. She chose me to waltz with her and half way through the Strauss she moved herself right up close to me and held me tight with her hand on my shoulder. Some of the fellas called her "Mt. Whitney" because she had incipient breasts that mounded behind her blouse. She placed these right up against my upper chest, because she was taller than me, and as the dance progressed I could feel the warmth grow in my trousers and the firmness in my member and I got more scared as she swayed me into the music.

The song ended and she gradually released me, a catch and release fish, and she slyly smiled at me as I stumbled away to my smirking friends. That was my initiation into the power of a woman. My brother just rolled his eyes the way he does about most things. I he is still alive. Please God, please.

I took another sip of the Riesling and felt the buzz. I slid back into the bed and nudged my head against Leaf. My beautiful beloved Leaf. Light of my life, holder of my secrets. I turned off the torch and the darkness was almost overwhelming. I crawled under the covers and allowed my legs to be near hers.  I imagined we were in a coffin buried in the earth. The freight train was still passing through, the vibration more present than the sound. It seemed like a filter was in our coffin as the smell of debris was attenuating.

I lay there with my eyes open wide and then suddenly the only sound was the refrigerator motoring with a small hum. The vibration of the cement walls ceased and the blackness became starker. I lay there longer, I'm not sure how long, cuz time had no quality in there, and then the refrigerator stopped making its hum and it was like being alive without any senses. Sans eyes, sans ears, sans taste, with a little smell, but surely sans San Diego. I grabbed my Leaf and held him against my face.

I realized my only tethers to this world were Stasia's quiet breathing and the heat from her body. My life had changed forever with the outside events. Unfamiliar territory. Probably no family left. I know no beach friends left. Unless they were as fortunate as us. Highly unlikely. And I was in bed with a beautiful older girl that I had never spoken a word to in my life, and I knew that I loved her. And she had no idea I existed before this, this . . .  What do you call the apocalypse once it has gone down? 

Once she slipped away from me toward her edge of the bed and some of the covers went with her and for a minute I felt I was slipping away into the depths of the ocean, the depths of despair and then suddenly her legs jumped spasmodically, from an apparent dream, and they kicked my thighs back into this world and the rest of me followed. I remembered Mt. Whitney and the fear and attraction she had drawn from me. I wondered what the morning would bring. Would there be a morning? If so, how would we know there was a morning? Dare I go to sleep and off into a dream from which I may never wake?  Or maybe this was a dream and I would later wake in my bed with my mother making breakfast before school. But this is the first time Stasia had ever appeared in my dreams.

Maybe I could stay in this dream for the rest of my life?

 

 

 

click to read in Chapter Two

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(c) 2018 James C. Weaver