As the other side of the world began to panic, Betty and Gabriel were prepared for what was to come. For years, they had been building an underground shelter on their property and had been filling it up with supplies of water, canned goods, batteries, toilet paper, and anything else that they would need to survive for an extended time.
Gabriel was driving home from the construction site where he worked and overheard a news broadcast that talked about a deadly virus that was spreading quickly across the East. Within days, China and Russia were completely consumed. The newsman stated that the virus was airborne and would reach the shores of North America within seven days.
Gabriel and Betty made some last-minute purchases, then headed to their shelter. Gabriel had purchased four heavy-duty sea cans, (a weatherproof cargo container used to ship items overseas), and he buried three of them underground. The fourth housed a gas-powered generator and fuel containers and was attached directly above the other three.
The three buried cans were joined in a U-shape. Each one was fitted with electricity and filtered air. Access to the underground bunker was located inside the one above ground. A tightly sealed hatch, like those found on the exterior of a submarine, was mounted on the floor of the container, and inside was an aluminum ladder.
As the couple descended the ladder, Gabriel held tight onto Betty’s waist to support her. She had recently found out that she was pregnant and already beginning her second trimester. They wanted to ensure that this virus would not affect them or their unborn child, so they saw this as the perfect solution. In their minds, living in the bunker would keep them safe from the virus.
They had enough supplies stored underground to last for at least the next five years if necessary. Gabriel contacted a friend of his in the military and got a great deal on a bulk shipment of MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat). Each package had a shelf life of five years. A water filtration system provided the bunker with running water that they used for cooking and bathing mostly. They also had a one-year supply of bottled water.
With Betty already in her fourth month of pregnancy, they also were sure to purchase plenty of medical supplies and baby needs such as diapers and pablum. Betty planned to breastfeed the baby for the first little while.
Once they were settled in and double-checked their inventory, Gabriel returned to the surface once again to fire up the generator. Once per day, he would return to add fuel and check that it was running properly. Betty always remained below in the bunker.
The big day came for the arrival of their newborn baby boy. He looked so tiny inside the hands of his proud daddy. Gabriel could not get over how much he resembled Betty. They had the same blue eyes that could reduce an angry man to tears with just a stare. They decided to name him, Ethan, which meant, “strong”. He would need to be strong to get through living a life underground.
Ethan seemed to grow up so quickly. Life without seeing the outside world did not seem to affect him since he did not even know that there was a world outside of the steel walls around him. He was a happy boy, now two-years-old and full of life. His little laugh made all his parent’s problems go away in an instant.
Ethan’s curly blonde hair was thick and was down to his shoulders before he turned three. His mother would trim the bangs and thin it out slightly, but they did not want him to lose his curls completely and let the back grow out. Gabriel would play with him all day while Betty began reading to him in the morning and the evening.
Time was becoming irrelevant now. They had lost track of how many days, months, and years that passed, but estimated it was nearing four years. This was mostly based on Ethan’s growth. Even when Gabriel climbed to the surface to check on the generator, he had no view of the world outside. The container was completely sealed with no windows or light shining through.
Even though Ethan seemed unaffected by the solitude of this metal fortress, Gabriel started noticing changes in Betty. Her once vibrant skin was now pale and sullen. She was on-edge about a lot of things as well. He could see his wife’s anxiety building daily and felt sorry for her even though she continued to claim that everything was fine. Gabriel admired Betty’s strength and wished there was something he could do for her.
Several more months had passed, and Betty’s condition continued to worsen. She was hallucinating; convinced that creatures were running around the bunker at night while they slept. She claimed that they would whisper in her ears as she laid in bed. Gabriel watched in sorrow as his wife fell victim to life in seclusion. Many nights he would lay silently in bed pretending to sleep as she murmured with unintelligible speech.
Ethan began asking questions to his father as to why his mommy is crying all the time. He was still too young to understand, so Gabriel told Ethan that his mommy was sick and needed to be left alone for a while, but he also let him know that she loved Ethan very much even if she did not show it like she used to.
A few days later, a loud crash could be heard on the surface above their bunker. Gabriel told Ethan to stay in his room while he checked it out. Once Ethan was tucked away in his room with the door closed, Gabriel opened the hatch to the surface. A blinding beam of light blasted his eyes and he toppled back onto the floor of the bunker. Betty began to scream, and Ethan cracked open his door slightly.
A shadow suddenly hovered over Gabriel, temporarily shading his eyes from the intense light of the sun. Once his pupils were able to focus, he saw the silhouettes of three men standing above the entrance. One held out a hand and mumbled something. Gabriel was still in shock, and his mind was unable to comprehend what was being said at first, then the words became clearer.
“Sir, it is okay. We are here to help,” the stranger said.
One of the men began to lower himself into the bunker entrance. He wore camouflage and a helmet. He introduced himself as Major Kassinger, a member of the National Guard. He told Gabriel that the virus was no longer a threat. It had been eliminated for nearly a year already, and they only decided to check out the sea can when someone reported hearing a motor running inside and saw smoke exiting through the rear of the container.
Major Kassinger called for a female officer to help calm Betty when he noticed her condition. He recommended that Gabriel get her into therapy as soon as possible. Gabriel nodded his head in agreement.
The door to Ethan’s room opened more and Gabriel called him over. Ethan covered his eyes at the intensity of the light and ran back into his room. The major handed Gabriel a pair of sunglasses from out of his pocket and said, “Here, try these.”
Gabriel slipped the sunglasses over Ethan’s eyes and led him out into the bunker to introduce him to the Major. One-by-one, they climbed the ladder into the outside world for the first time in nearly five years. Betty was brought to an ambulance nearby and was given a sedative to calm her nerves.
When Ethan stepped outside for the very first time, he was in awe of his surroundings. He began feeling the grass beneath his feet and looked with wonder at the birds flying playfully above his head. There was so much to take in all at once, and Ethan found it overwhelming. He continuously asked his father, “What’s that?” until he eventually faded off into an exhausted slumber.
In the weeks to come, Ethan walked with his father around the town, taking in all the new sights. Betty was brought to a hospital where she was being treated for Cabin Fever following the long stay underground. She did show signs of improvement after the first two weeks, however, and Ethan was able to visit with her.
When she saw Ethan walk into her room, she widened her arms and Ethan ran into them. She wrapped her arms around him tightly, kissed his face repeatedly, and apologized for the way she had acted. He told her that it was okay and gave her a big kiss on the lips.
From that point on, they began to get their lives back to normal. Gabriel went back to work in construction and Betty stayed at home with Ethan, home-schooling him. The news reports claimed that with the combined efforts of scientists worldwide, plus the treaties signed by many of the world leaders, our planet was finally seeing peace again for the most part. Many rebels laid down their arms and picked up tools to help rebuild fallen villages. Borders were once again open to all travelers following a brief screening to ensure that no further pandemics were spread. People began to realize that the more they work together, the quicker problems could be solved.
Gabriel and Betty learned something as well; they preferred life in the sunshine instead of a life in a shell.