“You’ll know when it’s over,” he says.
I don’t respond, choosing instead to try and shake loose from my restraints. I woke up this way. He won’t say why I’m tied to a chair, only that he’s “protecting” me. He’s been preparing for something, though. The basement is filled with canned food and water. I’m ashamed I haven’t noticed until now.
“Son, can you please talk to me?” I ask.
He turns away, the overhead light bouncing off his freshly shaved head. He said it’s better that way. Less germs. What kind of father am I? How did I not notice this? My son is a lunatic.
“Please, son,” I say. “Please talk to me.”
“I’m not gonna hurt you,” he responds. “I promise.”
“I believe you. I just want to know what’s going on. What are you protecting me from?”
“It’s coming. The end. Any minute now.”
How do I respond to that?
He doesn’t give me a chance. He walks to his work bench and removes two yellow hazmat suits, two gas masks, a pocket knife, and an electric razor.
“We have to get you clean,” he says. “First, comes the hair.”
With a click, the buzzing begins. Before I know it, my head is bare. Moments later, he’s replaced the razor with a pocket knife.
“Next, come the clothes,” he says. Too many germs.”
He doesn’t even bother to untie me. He slides the knife under my shirt and begins cutting. He tears through it all, stripping me piece by piece until I’m as naked as him.
Tears begin to form in my eyes. Before long, I’m sobbing.
“I failed you,” I say. “I’m so sorry.”
He takes my head in his hands and moves my gaze to meet his. Through red, puffy eyes, I see him for the first time. My son. “I never put you first,” I say. “Even after your mother died. I didn’t know how. I sunk myself into work instead. You were of age by that point, too. I guess I figured you could handle it. I was so selfish.”
“Stop all that, dad,” he says, while wiping away my tears. “I hold no resentment towards you. You always provided for me. That’s why you’re here. I want you to live. You deserve to live. I love you. I hope you know that.”
“I love you, too,” I respond, slowly gaining my composure.
He lets my head fall and then walks back to put on one of the hazmat suits.
“Your turn,” he says, once his suit is fully on. “Please understand I’m not trying to hurt you. Don’t run. It’s coming any minute. We need to be down here. I’ve prepared the basement. Fortified it. It took some time, but I believe it will do the job. I know how this must sound. Please trust me.”
“Okay, son,” I respond. “I trust you.”
He takes the pocket knife and cuts me loose from my restraints. I stand slowly, regaining the feeling in my legs as I go. He gestures towards me with the second hazmat suit.
“I can dress myself,” I say, as I take it from his hands. Once it’s all the way on, I stand before my baby boy with no idea what’s coming.
“You must have a lot of questions,” he says.
“Yes, son, I do, but that’s okay. I said I trust you. Tell me whatever you want.”
“It happened six months ago. I was down here actually, looking through boxes for my old baseball glove. That’s when the ground opened up and this intense white light shot out. It was blinding. I had no idea what was happening.”
“I heard this deep voice repeating, ‘the end is near, prepare, the end is near, prepare, the end is near, prepare.’ Then the light died, the ground closed, and the voice stopped. That night, the voice came back to me in a dream and told me the three signs to look out for. The first was an earthquake. Last week in California. Then a tornado. Three days ago in Georgia. Followed by mass death. The bomb dropped yesterday. You saw it. Millions died.”
“Is that what this is about? The war?”
“This is bigger than the war. All those events happened within one week. When that nuke hit, our fate was chosen. The end is here.”
“Well, what do we do?”
“We wait,” he responds, before handing me a gas mask. “Judgment is coming.”
Joseph Finnegan is the founder of Nerdopotamus.net. His work has appeared in such places as FanRag Sports, ProWrestlingStories.com, Bleacher Report, and other places. Follow him on Twitter @JFinnegan45.
Image: Bernard Hermant