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Tendal reached out to the flickering wall lamp and tapped it with the back of his knuckle.
“It’s begun.” His mother gritted through her teeth.
Still shivering under her wool blanket, he noticed the veins on her cheeks were much bluer than usually. Maybe it was the halogen lights casting a strange hue? They were flickering a lot lately.
Normally the lights cast a warmer hue, as they were the UVRay kind so they could get Vitamin D in the depths of the earth. He observed her with more intensity. The soft skin of her tender features looked as grim as his father did, only a week ago. A glance over at Monal confirmed his suspicions. Their mother was going to die.
“She is so pale.” Monal’s lips quivered.
Her eyes did not stray from his mother.
“She is passing isn’t she?” Monal spoke again, voice shaky, her hands muffling the sound even more by cupping her face. This was overbearing—loosing both parents only weeks apart—but Tendal had to be strong. For Monal… and for himself.
His throat tightened.
Could he be strong enough? Brave enough? Man enough? His Adam’s-Apple slightly bobbed as his right eyebrow began twitching. He hated to admit it. They were about to lose another loved one… they would truly be alone.
“Yes.” He swallowed.
Tendal went to stand by his mother. He couldn’t just stand over her, so he knelt beside her and attempted to bring her comfort.
“Let us pray.” He lifted his arm out to his sister. “Come Monal. Let’s pray she is no pain as she stands before her King and Saviour.”
He clenched back the stinging in eyes. Bowed his head, his sandy blond hair sweeping over his eyes, and held desperately onto his mother’s hands.
“Lord, we are so thankful to You. We are thankful for the mother you have given to us. For the time she has been granted to live with us on this earth. That she was able to teach us of Your ways, to guide us to You, and pray for us continually…”
A tear threatened the edge of his eyes as he repositioned himself. Gripping her hands towards his tight chest. He kissed her cold hand and held his breathe. Gather yourself together man! Keep it together…
Monal tucked her streaked auburn hair behind her ears and sucked in a large breathe. She let out at a soft moan and sniffles suddenly followed.
He looked at his sister. Her grey-blue eyes full of light only an hour ago, looked so dark and drab. Like the dark storm clouds he once remembered as a small boy. A memory gone forever—almost lost forever…
They were broken.
There was no hiding it. The future appeared bleak—dark. The earth… so wretched. His deep blues eyes pinched in pain. His head sulked lower towards his chest.
He tried to continue, “Thank you Father. I pray she is found in Your Grace and you may say to her, Come in….” His voice cracked.
Ignoring how immature it must have sounded, he continued, “…come in, my good and faithful servant.”
He gently placed his mother’s hand on her chest. His mother’s eyes were bright still. But he knew she was dying. Tendal realized she was acting exactly how his father died. They only had a few moments left. It is a slow death but one that ends quickly. It creeps in and kills suddenly. Like the bombs that changed their life.
When father died, mother said it was from exposure. Of course, they were the last ones to come down into the Fallout Shelter. They let the kids come first, to make sure it was still safe. They heard the explosions. They felt it rumble above their heads. Then, their parents entered.
Everything happened so fast. Tendal was only 8 years of age and Monal was 7. He thought it was a dream. He never realized, 10 years later and they would still be here—in the fallout shelter. With both parents—he couldn’t say the thought in his mind. He had to focus… she wasn’t gone yet.
He peered back into her eyes. Deeply musing about everything she meant to him, to his future, his past… Why did they come to the fallout again?
It was built on a piece of their property in the back towards the North end. It was cleverly hidden over a car garage his father worked in everyday.
Tendal never thought they would ever actually have to use it. He always wanted to play in the fallout—knowing it was there—but was scolded with even the mention of it. Tendal suppressed the laugh that wanted to come out. I am such a fool for wanting to laugh at a moment like this. He always laughed at the most seriousness of times. Now, really wasn’t the time.
He lowered his eyes deep into his mother’s again. She turned her head slightly and stared intensely towards him. Or, through him. It made him feel uncomfortable at first. As if he was caught doing something wrong. He blinked and urged her with his eyes. What mother? What is it?
“Son. It is time. You must leave the shelter and seek help. Our supplies are low. Energy is stopping. You will not survive here any longer. Maybe…” She coughed. Her breathe was so laboured. Tendal leaned over her and kissed her cheek.
“Go ahead mother. We are listening, “ He forced out.
Something wet streamed down his face and started to soak his mother’s shirt. He didn’t care. His world was breaking.
Monal scooted closer and bent her head near them. She started to rub and stroke their mother’s hair. Her way of comforting their mother. He loved his sister even more for that small gesture.
The light flickered again. It paused longer than normal. Everything went black for a moment and a dull, humming light rattled out after. His mother’s eyes enlarged.
“You must leave. You will only get sick staying here. You must…” She didn’t speak again. Her lashes fluttered lightly as she breathed her last breathe. Then, her eyes shut softly.
Tendal and Monal sunk beside her quivering and weeping. Grasping onto each other’s shoulders. Monal’s nails dug into his skin sharply. He stood. His whole body stiff. Anger, fear, anxiety raged through him light a lightening bolt hitting every nerve.
There was silence as Monal wiped at her face and Tendal clenched his fists.
“Mother is right.” He rubbed off his salty tears with the bottom of his shirt. “We need to leave.”
“We—we can’t!” Mona blurted out gasping. “You don’t think she is serious. How can—Father says that they will kill us if we leave. That the air will kill us!” Her soft round eyes were blood-shot and her features sullen as she peered up over her hands.
“If we stay, we will die. There is nowhere to bury the dead. As it is, the smell is getting worse each day. We can’t stay. I’ve used all the resources I could to bury Dad. It wasn’t enough Monal!”
Monal could only nod.
He knew she didn’t want to go. But what other choice did they have?
The lights flickered them into a pitch black darkness again. Searching to find the wall lamp, he spread his hand out like and eagle into the air. When he found it, he rapped it with his knuckle. It blinked and buzzed back on, spreading it’s fake sunlight across the space that once was called “home.” Though it was not as bright and cast an unnatural shadow on everything that surrounding them.
Tendal began to rush around searching for things to bring with them. Bags, dried food, water, filter’s—they would need a lot of those. They would need enough to carry them through. To where?
He couldn’t think of that now. His mother said to leave. She always knew what was best and he was going to trust her. The lights flickered again.
He looked at Monal, “Hurry, we need to leave soon.”
A sudden urgency flooded through his soul. They were leaving this sudden grave. There was no choice. They would soon be in darkness. They were leaving the safety of the shelter—the comfort of their parents and all they provided for them—forever.
What was the future?
Tendal didn’t know but he would face it with courage and strength from his Lord and Saviour, Jesus!
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