The idea was to get a randomly generated Title, mine was Lost Eschaton (I had to look it up. Means the end of the world, end of time, or climax of history) and write a less than 2000 word story supporting that title . I hope that this little story fits in with the idea, and I hope that you enjoy, please comment so I know how I went wrong!
There is junk everywhere. Stacks of outdated newspapers lean against a tower of decaying photo albums. Are those….Yes. All of her old high school trophies were underneath the window, behind the pile of winter coats. Broken electronics were scattered across whatever empty floor space they landed on.
“How did it get this bad, Martin? I can’t...he was never like this before Mom died…”
Tiffany stood in the kitchen, peering over the bar at the war zone that her childhood living room had turned into. When she had agreed to help her brother clear out the house after moving their father into a nursing home, she imagined reminiscing with him over the good times they had in the house, perhaps crying over a forgotten piece of jewelry that her mother had left behind, definately getting drunk at the end of the day, but she was beginning to think that the bottle of whiskey that she had stashed in the trunk of her car was going to need to be cracked open before she could even process the amount of work that needed to be done. Her brother had planned ahead though, benefits of living five minutes away from Dad instead of five hours, he knew what he was walking into and was on his second beer. It was nine in the morning.
“Yeah….this all started about three--no wait, Sarah had just gotten pregnant with Jenny---so yeah, four years ago? He was so worried that people were listening in on him or something. Paranoid sonovabitch. You invent one superlaser and you start to think everyone’s out to get ya.”
Martin’s laugh was a tight, forced thing, as if even the air didn’t want him to kid himself anymore. His normally perfectly styled hair and pressed clothes were nowhere to be seen, exchanged for heavy bags under his eyes and paint spattered t-shirt and shorts. Tiffany couldn’t help but grin when she eyed the bright pink and purple flecks. Hazards of having two daughters under the age of eight. Pastels everywhere.
“Speaking of, where is the rest of the brood? We are going to need more backup. Any chance you can call in some of your Marine buddies. OH! How about Jason? Jason’s hot. He seeing anyone?” Tiffany grinned over her shoulder as she started putting the large moving boxes together, she could at least start shoving appliances from the kitchen out of the way.
“Jason is very happy with his new boyfriend. Stop hitting on him. Sarah and the kids will be by later after the fairy princesses have their naps, but Trent should be here any minute. He just got his Driver's license. Be appropriately impressed.” No sooner had he said it than Tiffany heard a car door slam in the driveway. Her adopted nephew shuffled into the house, gave a cursory glance around at the chaos that was the living area, and seemed to deflate.
“Hey Trent, why don’t you help me in the garage. That’s where dad kept the heavy stuff, and I’d rather get going on that before the sun gets much higher and we roast in that tin death trap.” Martin finished off his beer and snagged the teen by the shoulder, shouting back at his little sister “Don’t let anything in there bite you. You know how Dad liked to tinker!”
Tiffany cleaned for hours. It got moderately better when her sister-in-law and nieces showed up, but if there is one thing that those two little ones did not like, it was getting dirty. To forestall the screaming fit that would erupt if a speck of anything tarnished their princess dresses, Sarah set the seven and three year olds up at the kitchen table with coloring books and a tablet streaming kid-friendly YouTube. Martin and Trent had made quick work of the garage, arranging for a local scrap yard to collect some of the larger items before they returned to the blissful relief of the air conditioning. With the house in a much more manageable state, the three adults and one teenager decided to tackle one last area.
Tiffany and Martin stood in front of the door. It was unlocked. It had always been unlocked. But Tiffany had never set foot on the staircase before. The Basement was Dad’s Space: Do Not Enter, By Royal Decree, Under Pain of Grounding.
“Ok, brother mine, go ahead. You know what’s down there, right? We gonna need to have Trent haul old computers out on his back?”
Martin slowly turned his head, looking at her as if she had suddenly sprouted whiskers, a tail and called herself Lassie. “The Hell you talking about? I’ve never been down there. I didn’t have a death wish.”
“You two are ridiculous” Sarah shoved her tiny frame between the siblings and opened the door, feeling along the wall for a lightswitch.
It wasn’t necessary.
As soon as the door opened, lights began to flicker, a generator hummed to life, and metal shutters slammed down covering every exterior window and door.
BIOMETRICS UNIDENTIFIED. SYSTEM LOCKDOWN INITIATED. STATE IDENTITY.
The voice that echoed out of the walls of the house was definitely their father, but much younger. Tiffany remembered that voice reading her bedtime stories when she was Jenny’s age. It shouldn’t be yelling like this.
STATE IDENTITY. INTRUDERS WILL BE TERMINATED. 45 SECONDS.
“WHOA! DAD! Um...It’s Martin...the person who opened the door is my wife Sarah…”
MARTIN: VOICE PRINT CONFIRMED. SARAH: IDENTITY VERIFIED. FOUR MORE INDIVIDUALS IN THE BUILDING
“SHIT! DAD, Don’t shoot. It’s me, Tiffany. The other three are the kids, Trent, Maria and Jenny. DO NOT TERMINATE ANYONE!”
TIFFANY: VOICE PRINT CONFIRMED. BIOMETRICS CONFIRM CHILDREN IN THE HOME. TERMINATION SEQUENCE CANCELLED. PLEASE ENTER THE WORKSPACE
“Oh, hell no. Nope. Not gonna happen. You two have fun going down into deathville. I’m taking the kid and we are going to sit and watch videos with the girls. You can deal with whatever craziness your father dreamt up.” Suiting actions to words, Sarah stomped down the hall, dragging a wide-eyed Trent with her. Tiffany and Martin peered down the narrow stairs. Only room to go down single file. An intense battle of rock-paper-scissors broke out, with Tiffany coming out the loser.
“Big bad Marine sends his baby sister to her death. I can see the headlines now.”
“Shut up, you won’t die. Dad liked you better anyway.”
At the base of the stairs was one of the most elaborate computer systems Tiffany had seen outside of NASA. Security cameras showed the exterior of the house, and a couple of warehouses and storage rooms that had even more sensitive equipment set up. On one screen, there was a countdown. 3 days, 7 hours, 56 minutes, 18 seconds. Right in the center of the console was a simple VCR, with a post-it note that said “Play Me”. Tiffany elbowed Martin, and he reached forward to hit the play button. The center screen came to life.
Their father was sitting in his recliner, holding his glasses in one hand, a bottle of scotch on the end table next to him as he rubbed at his eyes. With a deep breath, he looked into the camera.
I’m sorry kids. I’m so damned sorry. If you’re watching this it’s because the toxin got to me, and I’m no longer with you to explain. Your mother’s death was not natural. We had been working together to contain an airborne contagion that was manufactured on accident. By Our people. Our government covered it up, said that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Making fools of ourselves, overreacting. You know how it goes.
He paused to take a long swig out of the bottle at his side.
We were the last hope and we failed. I got so close, so close to fixing it and then my samples were stolen right before we found out about little Jenny. I’ve been working backwards ever since. I wish I could say that everything is ready to go. That all you have to do is call General Whats-his-face and you could save the world. But I can’t. I can’t. I don’t know how far the damage will reach, but there are enough supplies in the basement here that you can survive for about three months. God I hope you brought the little ones with you. If the lockdown was triggered, it won’t lift for three months. By then you should be able to survive whatever diluted toxin is left. And whatever is left of humanity by the end of all this.
With a last swallow of scotch and tears running down his face, their father reached forward and turned off the camera. Tiffany’s eyes were drawn to the countdown again, finally reading the heading:
PROJECT ESCHATON GOES LIVE
3 d: 7 h: 50 m: 20 s