Josiah hunched over his table, etching out his thoughts in thick, straight, penciled lines. The dim fluorescent lent the page a sickly white that obscured rather than illuminated the words. The crank-powered radio choked static and strained gasps of music.
The heavy scratch of No. 2 lead counted the seconds, the rustle of paper the quarter hour.
He wrote: “…the technological hubris of the corporate-political machine…” and “…the Icarus of genetic modification of these men without conscience or soul has sent us plummeting into the primordial sea from which all things came…” and “I do not know if we shall survive as tortured mutations or lobotomized pygmies or the wretched dregs of our own wrath.”
He had filled 13 other notebooks in the last month.
He kept precise track of the days in a separate journal worn out for the purpose. In it he inventoried food supply, water purification, sleep habits, weight loss. He did not shave or wash his clothes, except on the fortnight. The first was useless repetition, the second a waste of water.
Outside, the world was burning. In here, in his self-contained existence, in the three rooms that defined his reality, he survived. Above, wickedness and aberrations and horrors. Below, abnegation, asceticism, sterility, and order. He woke and wrote and ate and read and slept. He did his daily exercises. Sometimes he played solitaire. He cleaned obsessively. He survived.
The radio ran down. He did not bother to crank it back to life. He set down his pencil and considered the ladder.
Today was the second anniversary of his exile from what men called civilization. Last year, he had allowed himself five minutes above. He had witnessed the change a year made. He did not know if he wanted a second look.
He distracted himself with lunch, a few stunted carrots from his hydroponic and rice. His rice would hold out for years.He touched the ladder. It was dangerous to visit above. Even after a year, he still found himself reliving those few minutes above. He climbed. He opened the portal with heaving breaths and strained muscles. The sky engulfed him. He hesitated; slowly, he climbed one more rung and raised his head above ground.
He had buried his bunker in a field purchased for that purpose.
Green grass grew high about the entrance, wildflowers splashed haphazardly like paint by a careless artist. The wind rippled through the field, presenting a thousand impressionist variations a minute. The sky stretched upward and outward, a Pacific map dotted with a scattering of white islands. To the west, a coast of trees rose up insignificantly against the everlasting blue. To the south, the farm house still stood, solitary but not lonely, a mother waiting for her children. A tractor rumbled quietly nearby.
He blinked in the light and in the colors that reflected the light. Wind, cool and fresh, moved his stiff hair.
Josiah looked and studied. He shut the hatch and locked it. It took some time to re-acclimate himself to the stale air below. He wandered unsteadily to his bed, sat on the edge, and waited for his sight.
In his journal, he wrote: “I visited Above today. It still waits unknowingly for judgment. The Masonic order or the Jews or whatever current evil God has unleashed upon the world has blinded them completely to their fate. They are a soulless people trampled upon day by day. They do not even complain when their bones are broken! Wrath is soon revealed, but they are ignorant, idiotic, moronic.”
And he added, fiercely, “They actually believe it is spring! Lies, lies! It is all lies!”