Our group had gathered within the storage room of the grocery store. The bearded man had introduced himself as Carter, the owner. Carter’s group consisted of twenty people, including his pregnant daughter, Bethany, and her husband Nate. “I can’t believe it,” Carter sighed in disbelief, shoving his hands into his pockets and pacing back and forth.
“We couldn’t either, our pilot declared engine failure and a few minutes later we were on the ground.” Xavier told our host his story, “And then we were saved by this friendly passerby.” He turned and gave me a thankful smile, new hope appeared in his eyes.
The amount of hope that filled this room now was unimaginable. When Lauren and I first entered by ourselves, Carter’s group was silent and dismal. But when the others finally came in, they were overjoyed at the possibility that other people had survived this nuclear ordeal. I was always amazed at how happy people became when they were reunited with other humans.
Bethany sat on a large sack of flour, rubbing her large belly, having an in-depth discussion about space travel with Ryan. His youthful imagination brought smiles to the faces of Carter’s survivors, whether they be false smiles or true, they were necessities.
“What happened before the explosion? Was there a warning?” I asked Carter after taking a sip of the coffee he had given me.
He shook his head, “Barely, the war sirens went off for about five minutes. I called out to the customers over the intercom to make their way to the back of the store.” He nodded his head back at Bethany, “My daughter was here, she works here, but Nate wasn’t.”
I looked over at Nate, who was now standing with his hand on his wife’s shoulder, also listening to Ryan intently. “He wasn’t?”
Carter shook his head again, “No, he works about five miles away, at his restaurant. He was on his way here when the sirens started and he somehow managed to make it.” He chuckled, “The boy’s a determined little guy.”
I continued staring at Nate, he was now laughing at something Ryan said. There was no way he could have survived out there. I smiled and nodded at Carter, “Thank you for the coffee.”
A pile of paper towels sitting stacked against the wall was calling to me; I went over to took a seat. I took a deep breath and sat down. The mystery of Nate’s survival was bothering me. There was just no way he could have survived out in the open.
“Hey,” Lauren broke me from my thoughts. “Are you alright?”
I nodded, “Yeah, just reflecting. Trying to come up with a plan.” I looked around the room again, “This place isn’t big enough for thirty people to survive.” I acknowledged Bethany. “Thirty one.”
Lauren made a sound of agreement, “Well…I guess we’ll figure it out as we go along.” She smiled, her glasses rising with her cheeks.
“That sounds like it will work for now.” I put my head back, “Maybe we’ll be able to find somewhere underground within the next few days.”
She sighed, “I sure am going to miss the sunlight.”