Suburbian Sound: Dead Or Alive
The camper drove through what was left of town and out of town. Mavis and Rachel were getting curious but were deep into thoughtfulness about what had happened in only the morning. Finally Mavis broke the silence.
“Hey Theodore… some of your food is getting cold. Where on earth are you? Where are we going?”
They looked at each other.
Still no response.
It drove them down the road, Route 11, and made a right turn at Shady Grove.
“The cemetery. Don’t tell me he set this all up in case he died and now his brain is a computer or something.”
All Mavis could do was shrug, her eyes wide with alarm.
They, more accurately it kept driving and turned onto a narrower road stopping at a mausoleum. Over the entrance it said ‘Theodoreria’. “Not funny.” “No.” Mavis agreed.
The doors opened. “I’m not getting out.” “Me either.” As they looked ahead the heavy door began to move opening in. They both sat up straight, looked at each other, at the entrance then jumped at the sound of a man’s laughter. “I’m still a-liiii-ive!”
“I’ll bet you’ll forget all about it when you see the place.”
A light came on and Theo walked to a doorway wide enough for the camper to fit through.
“OK. Going in.” Rachel nodded. Mavis already had her hand on the seatbelt.
Before they could unbuckle the vehicle began to roll forward through the entrance. They were automatically released and the doors slid open. As they walked away from the camper they heard the motor go silent, doors click-lock and turning they both embraced Theo although they felt more like knocking him on his ass for scaring them. The entrance doors closed. A wall opened to an elevator that took them down, not too far, to a lower room.
Both women looked around with mouths open. “You could live here comfortably. Theo this is unbelievable.” Rachel sort of nodded in agreement but she couldn’t stop gaping around. “I thought it might be best not being sure if there’d be any way to survive or how people would behave if we did. You might consider staying here. I know it seems like things are ok but you never know. Human nature as it is, someone might decide to make a profit while it can be made believing they can take it with them if it’s the end.”
“Oh, tsk.” Rachel pushed at him to knock him off balance just slightly while she asked, “How long have you been building this place?”
“Believe it or not it was originally a fallout shelter a former employer of mine had built back in the 60s when the world was getting nervous about WW3 with Cuba. He’d told me about it and brought me by one day to see it. I thought it was the coolest place. He left it to me when he passed along with a few other things. I’ve been working on it ever since adding technology. You know how I am about waste, conserving, saving the planet? I designed it for that ‘just in case’. Looks like it was a good idea.
Is that bag for me?”
The three of them set up his table, ate, talked, and enjoyed a couple of frosty glasses of pumpkin beer straight from the tap.
“I could use a nap… that was really good.” “Yeah, I feel like I could sleep soundly you know? But, I’d like to get some of my things.” “Me too, yeah.” “Get comfortable on these couches for now. Later on we can all head back out and bring back anything you’d like. I’d like to insist, I really feel it’d be safer if you stayed here. After all, this thing, the apocalypse, just got started; it’s just the kick-off. ”
“Sounds good”, Rachel yawned as she began to fade. “Later, we … hhhmmmhhm.” Theo looked from Rachel to Mavis who was breathing peacefully. He closed his eyes, opened them half-mast but lost the battle as his breathing quieted.
As far as they could see, tomorrow was going to be another day.
Suburbian Sound: Banking In An Apocalypse
As they pulled out Rachel turned to Mavis. “Have you been in the grocery store yet? When I walked passed it into Pete’s…” “Pete’s! He’ll like that.” “… Anyway… it didn’t look overly busy. Want to check it out before we see if the bank’s still standing?” “Why not. Theodore, you still here?” “You know I am! Swing by the store on the way?” “Yes!” They both echoed and Mavis laughed, “In stereo!”
There were exactly three cars in the lot as the VW ‘magic carpet’ camper pulled in. Being remote controlled it certainly seemed like it. “This should be fun. Let us out Theodore…” “You can do it yourself Mavis. See the raised button that says “open”? “Well duh…” She laughed out loud. “Yeah. Could’ve bit me.” Rachel turned to her left without asking and found one on her side. They walked into the store.
“Don’t you find it weird there’s no looting? Look at these shelves.” Mavis put her hand out as if to give one a gentle pat. “Eerie’s more like it.” Rachel’s expression was one of concern. “I feel like we’re going to be jumped by zombies… I mean has everyone suddenly found God and changed their ways? I shouldn’t have said that. This is a lot more serious than a blackout.” “A cataclysmic, cataclysmic event.” Mavis shuddered as she looked around. “Oh!” She pushed Rachel knocking her off balance then nervously laughed. “You’ve got me looking for zombies! This is real life, not the movies!” A moment of silence passed between them that felt timeless. “I guess it is nature in some way.” “The final way, an ending hopefully for a new beginning. People are still alive. Let’s say that.” Mavis nodded.
At the registers were two baggers, one being the store manager, assisting someone who’d come in for medicine and canned soup. Sam looked up at them both. “Welcome to Trader’s. Can I help you find anything?” Both women noticed the registers were closed. “We came in more out of curiosity not that we couldn’t use a couple of things”, Rachel said. “After this we were going to head to the bank to see what was going on there” she added distracted by the lack of clientele. “Wouldn’t you know I got a card in the mail” Mavis piped up, “a belated birthday gift. We were going to cash it if it matters.” “You can make a deposit. The bank isn’t certain what’s going to happen next but for right now buying and selling is at a standstill. We’re just helping each other out. They’ll keep your money in your account like normal. You should stop by. A teller will explain whatever you need to know.” “Thanks. We’ll pick up a few things. Can’t say there’ll be lines.” “If you want, go back to the deli counter and let Susan make you a couple of sandwiches. We also made salads, not as many as usual and roasted one or two chickens of course, made a super-hearty vegetable soup and grilled some salmon on the rotisserie. I’ve always wanted to see how it’d turn out. It’s fun to be able to use our deli section differently than normal. I can get creative and not have to skimp on ingredients. Always wanted to ignore those guidelines. It’s sure not the way I cook at home. Oh, forgive my manners, my name is Sam. Holler my name if you need anything.”
They left the store with fresh food for themselves and Theo. “It’s like having a personal caterer.” “Yeah.”
“Well Theo, onward to the bank.”
“Rachel’s blushing. Can you see it…?”
They headed to the bank.
At the bank Kate, a friend of theirs, was the only teller behind the counter with one out of the usual 5 branch managers / loan & account officers normally present each day running the branch. Both Mavis and Rachel had banked at Shawmut Savings since they were 13 and opened what had been called ‘Customer-In-Training Accounts’. She was so happy to see the two of them. “There haven’t been many people coming in. It’s been so eerie.” “Eerie is a popular word” Mavis looked at Rachel. “I’d said that about the market. We just came from there and wanted to stop by here before we headed to meet up with Theo.” “Theodore’s ok!” Kate’s eyes welled with tears. “No one’s left who worked here. The other two tellers used to carpool because they lived on the same street and the other branch officers lived in that new development. Those places aren’t there anymore. It’s like they were never built. You know… never existed.” Mavis couldn’t speak thinking about what could have happened and about what they’d been talking about the ground being disintegrated people though for whatever reason that didn’t make sense. It was something else. She felt it. Rachel leaned over the counter and managed a hug. “Maybe they went to stay with family and weren’t there when any of this happened. Maybe they’re ok.” “Does anyone really know what happened?” Mavis’ voice cracked as she composed herself. “Good point”, Kate swallowed back “what happened.” She shook her head as if to clear it, folded her hands on the counter, smiled at the two of them and said, For goodness sake… ahem… welcome to Shawmut Savings. How may I help you?” The three of them laughed through the heartache they all felt. Mavis cleared her throat next. “Ahem… I received a check in the mail and I’d like to make a deposit please. Oh and possibly a withdrawal.” “A withdrawal won’t be necessary” Joe the manager said as he walked up to them. “We’ll deposit your money as usual but I’d advise you not to take anything out. As far as I know there isn’t any currency exchange going on. Right now everyone’s just helping each other out and we’re trying to keep things running until we know what’s happening. Do we have your cell on file? If anything changes we can contact you directly.” “Sounds ok to me” said Mavis. We’ve been to Pete’s and the market and so far no one’s charged us for anything.” “Pete’s!” Kate chuckled. “That’s what I thought to call the café this morning when I stopped by to see if it was still there. I should let him know. He’d like that.” “We were there this morning too and Rachel had dubbed it. After all Pete’s running it.” Mavis and Rachel looked at each other smiling. “Huh. That’s what I thought to call it too.” They all suddenly got quiet and looked at Joe. “It’s just coincidence.” Rachel shrugged. “An interesting one”, Joe redirected, “but how do you feel about not making a withdrawal? Things have been calm but you don’t want to be victimized just in case.” Joe nodded to Mavis. “No, sounds good to me. Just deposit.” “You can take care of this from here Kate?” “Yes sir!” She smiled at her friends.
Back in the camper Mavis and Rachel talked about whether or not all of them calling the café Pete’s was a coincidence. “What do you think Theo?” “ I don’t know Rachel. It’s not that we wouldn’t be all on a similar wavelength with what’s happened, but what are the odds that all of you would’ve come up with it this morning? Then again, Pete’s a real nice guy and always took good care of the place. Maybe it’s just natural, what we all wanted to do anyway… I don’t know. Hey, you got food right? I think the next stop might be my place!”
“Rachel’s face just went full blown red again.” “Just shut up you. Yes, Theo. Mush please.”
“Mush it is.”
Suburbian Sound: Theodore
Mavis took a step toward the vehicle then came to a halt as the driver’s door opened on its own. They looked at each other. “Oh c’mon… the apocalypse didn’t wipe out Candid Camera?” Rachel had no response. Mavis took a second step, then another toward the open door and noticed the panel around the steering wheel lit in deep red lights. Feeling a sudden surge of bravery she leaned in the door seeing a green light near what looked like a DVD player. There was a button beneath it. “Hey, this panel really looks… nice? I mean… wow, you should see this. Go around the passenger’s side and take a peek.” “I don’t know Mavis…” “No, it’s fine. I’ve been standing here – no problems, haven’t been disintegrated or anything. Maybe it’s remote controlled or… something. Go on.” “That’s encouraging.” Rachel gulped, yes actually gulped, as she took her first step to walk around. “Did you gulp? Are we in the movies?” Her jitters were sideswiped as the passenger’s door opened and she saw the different lights that made up the panel. “This is so… cool.” “Told you.
It’s like it was custom made.” “Ya’ think? Someone must be driving it. Cars don’t drive around on their own unless this is Maximum Overdrive for real.” “An apocalypse triggers something in machines, in electronics and they think for themselves… hmm… as long as they don’t decide to cut us up or run us over.” Rachel just dumbly nodded not taking her eyes off the variety of lights and that one button. “This green light… when did it start blinking?” “Why don’t we push the button and see what happens?” Mavis smiled. “Let’s get in. It might want to take us somewhere.” “Wants to take us somewhere? Do we know anyone who’d program a VW camper to take us somewhere? Yeah, let’s embrace it.” “Ouch, sarcasm much?” They both got in. The doors closed. “Wow, this is almost trippy except I know I’m awake. Theodore!” Mavis looked at Rachel breaking into a big smile and pressed the button.
The cover of what looked like a DVD player moved forward then slid sideways revealing a speaker. “Hello ladies! It’s me, Theo! How do you like the latest innovation in apocalyptic transportation? Now look above your heads. See that switch near the visor? Snap it on. To your left Rachel and your right Mavis, in the center of all those lights is a screen. It works like a camcorder. You’ll be able to see me like I can see you.”
“I knew it! I knew it! I said Theodore!” Mavis switched on the screen. “Well, what do you think!” “We were going to the bank” was all Rachel could manage. Mavis looked at her friend then at the screen. “It’s so good to see you! Where are you? How’d you find us? How did you do this?” “All in good time Mavis. I’ve been working on it for a while now. You know me, doing my best to be prepared just in case. I found you and Rachel through our cells. I’ve always had them linked; you know that. When you guys contacted each other I knew you were ok and thought I’d test out my baby boy. I’m glad I found you, or he found you.” “Aren’t vehicles supposed to be she?” “Hey Rach, still with us? Yeah usually but it just made sense to call him Van though he’s a camper. Camp just didn’t sound right.” “Like Van Halen or Van Morrison?” Theo laughed. Rachel raised her brows and sighed through the gripping amazement that another friend was still alive and they were in an automated vehicle of his design. “It’s good to see you and when will we really see you?” “Soon enough! Said you wanted to go to the bank?” “Yeah, Mavis got a birthday card in the mail more or less. We stopped in at the post office to see if it were still open… in operation.” “Yeah, we’ve been exploring around.” “Figured we’d see if the bank was still in existence and make a deposit…” “Or get it cashed and make a major withdrawal… or not. Pete didn’t charge us for coffee or scones fresh from the oven. They were gooood! Would’ve gotten one for you if we’d known… that was… is coming out wrong…” “So we really don’t know how anything is working right now.” “Well, let’s find out” Theo said as the camper slowly moved forward. Just tell me which bank and enjoy the ride.” “Van Peeples Savings”, Mavis looked at her cell and over at Rachel. “It’s not even 10 yet.”
Rachel checked hers, sat back and smiled. “You ok Rach?” “Yes Mavis. Couldn’t be better.” Still digesting it all she had a WTF expression on her face. Mavis mimicked the same as they both turned to look out the windows.
Suburbian Sound: Should We Get In?
Suing, disagreement of any kind all seemed so ludicrous now. “Coffee’s supposed to be hot” she gently said. “You feel like exploring Rachel? Why don’t we see what’s left and who’s still here. Had anyone relocated just in case, you know, of apocalypse? Hear of anyone?” “A few people on my street left to go back to their hometowns and be with their families. Each one told me they wouldn’t be back whatever happened and if I knew anyone who needed a place to stay if their houses survived they were open. Crazy. I took keys so no one’d damage anything.” Pete took cinnamon scones out of the oven. “Let’s have one, linger over coffee and then we’ll go.” “Sounds like a plan.” Mavis sipped her coffee again as they carried their scones. “Mmm. Perfect.”
They stood outside surveying the town and decided to walk in the direction of the post office. Inside were workers sorting through whatever letters and packages were there while tossing out all junk mail. Rita looked up from behind the counter. “I’ve always wanted to do this” she grinned. “I’ve never liked having to deliver junk mail to folks. If you wait a minute I can go check to see if you’ve got anything here.” Rachel spoke up. “Sure why not. I can put it in my backpack. It won’t weigh much I’m sure. Want your mail Mavis?” “First mail of the apocalypse. Why not.” Both of them had gotten bills and Mavis a belated birthday card. With childish glee she tore it open. There was a check for $150 from her aunt on her father’s side. “Want to see if the bank’s still standing?” “Yeah, let’s make a deposit. Where was the bank?” “Wait, before we go.” Mavis walked to the trash and threw away her bills. She held back the cover for her friend. Grinning wide Rachel tossed her bills in as Mavis let go. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
They walked in silence as the parched ground continued to crumble with each step. “That is kind of eerie, the sound the road makes. Think we’re walking on neighbors and friends?” Rachel stopped dead in her tracks. “Makes you feel like you don’t want to walk. I wish you hadn’t said that. What an awful thought!” “Yeah, you’re right but it’s not dryness from being heated or anything. It’s something else. Maybe dehydrated buildings?” The two women gingerly taking steps continued on in silence. “I’d feel better if I were driving. Any of your neighbors leave you a spare car?”
Just then a vehicle rolled along beside them. They both stepped back to let it pass but it rolled next to them like a dog would walking along side of its owner. Mavis turned and gasped. It was a Volkswagen camper, modified and covered in painted daisies. There was no driver! How was the vehicle moving at all? Rachel followed suit her mouth in wide-open surprise. It rolled to a stop. They looked at each other. “Should we get in?”
Suburbian Sound: Around The Corner
As she walked through the streets, yes she could still tell they were streets, she saw houses, places where houses used to be, and if she kept following this dusty road she should come through to… there it was! The market was still there, next to that a café and down a little further, across the street the post office was still standing. So far she hadn’t seen anyone else other than herself. “Probably had sense enough to get out of town… well, if it were an apocalypse there’d be no where to go per se. The only thing would be to be with people you want to be with and keep your fingers crossed.” Somehow put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye wasn’t all that funny anymore.
“Where to? Wouldn’t mind a coffee even if I have to make it myself.” Into the café it was.
She pushed the door and the bell tingled. To Mavis’ surprise there were others there, more than she expected. The assistant manager was working the counter, a couple of women with their children having breakfast, a couple more people sipping coffee, but no one on the internet that she could see.
“Mavis!” She turned to see Rachel waving to her from the back. As she approached the table Rachel stood to give her friend a big hug. “Can you believe all this?” “Do you know what all this is?” “Look.” Rachel held up a few page morning edition of the local paper. “APOCALYPSE” was the headline covering half the front page. “So the paper’s still alive.” There wasn’t all that much information except those who were working that night had gotten word from others who’d survived that’s what it was. “Well, no one really knows, have made an educated guess that’s what it was and seeing there’s not much else to say the headline takes up most of the page. Is there a sports section? Funnies?” “More likely to be obituaries” Rachel chimed in. “Want a coffee? I’m buying.” “You’d think they wouldn’t be charging until we all figure out what’s going on and if money still means anything anymore.” “They’re not charging. Why do you think I’m buying?” They both laughed as they walked to the counter but then Mavis became solemn, “We probably shouldn’t be laughing.” “How about being happy we’re alive. Surviving an apocalypse! Think of the stories we’ll have for our grandchildren.” “If we can have children! Remember that movie “Threads”? Thanks to the fallout humans couldn’t reproduce.” “Fallout? No one dropped a bomb. This is different.” Mavis tapped her cardboard to-go cup against Rachel’s to make a toast. “Yeah, you’re right… here’s to being alive then!”
“Oww! That’s hot!”
“You’re not going to sue me are you?” Pete hollered over the counter. The café erupted into laughter.
The parched ground crumbled with each step. But there hadn’t been an apocalypse. It didn’t make sense. She’d just spoken to her friend on the cell. When she’d gotten home last night there were trees, a sky with dark storm clouds, was that it? How’s an apocalypse supposed to work anyway? The world hadn’t ended. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to. Hey! Hadn’t she seen in movies there were survivors of the apocalypse? Her thoughts became stunned realization – she’d slept through it. Can someone do that?
She looked around at the now arid desolation. “Well, I’ve always wanted to see a desert.”
The prompt for this week is:
…the parched ground crumbled…