Hey kids, here’s my response to this week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt, Signal. Stay tuned at the end of this post for a list of other bloggers who participated this week to see how they interpreted the prompt!
The harsh, incessant beeping of his alarm clock woke Brandon out of a deep sleep. He rolled over and slapped his hand on the alarm, hitting the snooze, even though he had every intention of getting up immediately. His first response was just to make the noise stop as quickly as possible.
Opening his eyes and becoming more conscious of his surroundings, he flicked the switch on the clock to off. No need to hear that noise again in nine minutes.
Brandon got out of bed and began his day as he always did. He had a routine. Rarely did that routine change. In his mind, he knew it would be easy to allow himself to become stagnant. He could get lazy, if he were so inclined. But he also knew it was important to maintain his regular lifestyle and keep up with those regular chores that would be so easy to ignore. For him, laziness would have been the beginning of a slippery slope into insanity.
So he didn’t just brush and floss each morning. He made his bed. He got dressed. He made breakfast for himself. He brewed a cup of coffee.
There were a lot of things he had learned to go without these days, but he was so grateful that he didn’t have to go without coffee. Was it the warmth? Was it the taste? Was it the caffeine? Whatever it was, that first sip did more to wake him up than 100 alarm clocks could ever do.
Once his morning routine was completed and his breakfast was eaten, Brandon sat in his favorite chair, set his mug on the table, and reached for the book he was currently reading. It was one he had read before, but he always enjoyed rereading The Stand. He felt it was oddly appropriate after many of the things he had seen and experienced.
Brandon was pulled out of the fictional world of Stephen King by a faint popping sound. It wasn’t loud enough to be startling, but in the silence of the moment, he easily detected the abnormality of the noise. Looking up, he realized that the light shining behind the window blinds was a little more dim than usual.
Placing his book next to his now empty cup, Brandon stood and walked toward the window. Pulling up the blinds, he wasn’t shocked by the sight that greeted him. One of the light bulbs, meant to simulate daylight, had burned out and would need to be replaced.
Switching out a light bulb wasn’t a part of Brandon’s plan for the day, but he welcomed the opportunity to have something to do. Changing the bulb only took a few minutes, but it was a decent change of pace.
In spite of that, it was in moments like this that he decided he missed genuine sunlight. He missed fresh air. He missed the feel of rain. He even missed seasonal allergies. Being underground for the last three years of his life had caused Brandon to miss a lot of things.
He allowed his mind to wander… To think about spending time with friends and family. To think about how nervous he had been to ask Savannah out for the first time. To think about how excited he was when she agreed to marry him. To think about how heartbroken and angry he had been when she was killed by a drunk driver.
In some ways, there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t give just to have that time with his late wife back again. But after all was said and done, he was glad that Savannah had not been around to see the world as it descended into chaos. Although, how incredible would it have been for them to share this bunker together.
Being closed off from the outside world was all for his own safety. He knew if he tried to climb back out, he would be exposed to the disease that had decimated the world’s population. After all these years alone, he had no idea if exposure would have any affect on him. Maybe he would be immune. Maybe the virus had died out naturally. Maybe it had evolved and would cause immediate death.
For all the things that Brandon missed, leaving the bunker just was not worth the risk.
Glancing at the clock, he saw that it was already 11:37. Had he spent that much time reading before the light bulb blew? Had he spent that much time lost in thought about what the world might be like today? With less than half an hour before the one thing he looked forward to each day, Brandon opted not to return to his book and walked into the communication room.
This part of his daily routine was the only part that made him feel anything close to excitement. He powered up the radio and waited for noon to arrive.
It came at the same time every day, but it was never the same. It was a radio transmission that came from somewhere, though Brandon could never figure out where. Even if he thought he had the proper equipment for tracing where the signal was coming from, he would have no clue how to perform such a task.
The fact that the transmission was always different gave him hope that humanity was still able to carry on somewhere in the world.
Brandon kept journals, writing down everything that was said during these daily transmissions. Those journals went back for more than two years. It would have been more, but he didn’t even discover those daily messages until he had already been in the bunker for more than six months. Sometimes the messages were nothing but numbers. Sometimes it was a song. Sometimes it was male voice. Sometimes it was female.
He always looked forward to whatever it was he would hear each day. And he always tried to respond, but the signal always died before he could be heard. So he always wondered if there would actually be someone on the other end to hear him.
The hands on the clock pointed straight up and the radio crackled to life. A woman’s voice came out of the speaker. A voice that Brandon could have sworn was Savannah’s. He knew it couldn’t be, and that his mind was just playing tricks on him since he had just been thinking about her before turning the radio on.
“It’s been so long,” the voice began, “and the world is so different now. It’s not what you think. You can’t imagine what’s happening. You won’t let yourself.”
Brandon frantically wrote in his journal, desperate to keep up with every word she was saying.
“Every day is the same, isn’t it? How many times have you changed that light bulb?”
At this, Brandon stopped writing. He just stared at the radio’s speaker. How many times…? Gotta be a coincidence, he thought. But, in that moment, he realized he had changed that light bulb before. The same one… dozens of times.
His breathing quickened as he reached for the microphone. Pressing the button, he frantically called out, “Who is this? Where are you?” He had so many questions, but this is all he could get out before the woman continued speaking calmly.
“I know you’re confused. I know you’ve suffered so much. It won’t be much longer. I promise. I love you, Brandon.”
Brandon stood so suddenly that the chair he was in flew backward. He was nearly to the point of hyperventilating, but he managed to whisper Savannah’s name into the microphone before the radio indicated the signal had again disappeared.
He stumbled out of the communication room. He felt lost. He was suddenly questioning his very existence. Slowly, he walked toward a locked door, behind which was a ladder leading up to a locked hatch. Standing at the base of the ladder, Brandon looked up and placed a hand on the nearest rung.
Remember to come back each Wednesday to see the latest weekly prompt and then share your link if you decide to write something inspired by that prompt. Thanks to everyone stopping by to see my take on this week’s Sunday Scribblings prompt. And thanks to everyone who participated this week!