That’s right, you heard right–here’s a free short story!
This is a brand new scene belonging to the world of The After War Series. If you want to learn more, the first book in the series will be free January 6-7, and the second book will be priced at $0.99. You can check it out here: Amazon. But for now, enjoy reading about the plight of the Priest.
Wake up. Breakfast. Lead morning mass. Visit the infirmary. Lunch. Meetings with management. Evening mass. Dinner in the cafeteria. Bedtime in my shoebox-sized room.
It’s been a year since we sealed the doors shut, and the two thousand of us with enough money—back when money held influence—settled into our lives underground. I was among the last to step foot over the threshold, as I stood beside the guards at the entryway in my full priest garb, letting the frightened mass observe that a man of faith would be joining them in the steel and cement bunker that was to become our home. “Bless you,” I said as their feet trod grass for the last time, offering a wide smile. My hair wasn’t so grey back then. It’s amazing what a year without sunlight can do to age not just the physical stature of a man, but also the soul.
Many of us who served in the military in some fashion, but the majority of the population came from other avenues of life. Property owners. Stock brokers. Pharmaceutical executives. They offer nothing to help with the general operation of the bunker. But that’s what they paid for, for men such as myself to make their lives underground as similar to the before-times as possible. In my youth, I served as an Army chaplain for a duration, and by the grace of God, I survived melees that saw my fellow man struck dead by the various machinery of warfare constructed to kill.
I am no stranger to death.
So, I have been trained in both warfare and to preach the Lord’s intention. It’s my words that carry significance, and it’s my words that people seek. At no time did my words carry more weight than after the first dreadful month below ground. We brought the disease with us, unaware of its existence, to flood the population to near drowning. In a matter of days—not months or even weeks—two-thirds of the population succumbed to the virus and fell ill. News was still carried over the airwaves at this time, and we learned the sickness was not limited to our bunker alone. War had broken out all over the mainland, yet it was the disease that was massacring the population faster than bullets could find them.
Praise God, I was spared. Our leader, Marcus Johansson, was also spared, and he called for a security detail to meet the rush of people who were storming the front gate, thinking their chances would be better outside. Twelve were killed in the melee before the crowd dispersed.
I led the living in prayer over the dead. I cried along beside them, for none of us were without loss. The morgue in the basement was not suited to deal with the influx of diseased bodies, so whole floors of living space were designated for burial. Corpses lined the rooms and hallways, the floors sealed, the ventilation turned off, and I led gathering after gathering before the stairwells and elevator shaft, consoling the masses and hiding my own trepidation.
Months passed, and life became as normal again as it might ever be. Food. Water. Shelter. We had more than enough. The gardens grew an abundance of corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and all manner of vegetables. The aquarium farms hatched a growing population of small fish, and the chicken pens produced enough eggs to feed twice our numbers. The gardeners had begun growing a colorful assortment of flowers, which were cropped into vases all throughout the bunker, to add a degree of color to the sunless interior. In the large entry room, which connected to the corridor to the outside world, the flowers were abundant. The room was nearly the entire width of the silo, and the ceiling was domed and painted to resemble a vivid blue sky with wafts of clouds. It was the closest thing we had to seeing the actual sky. But there was no grass underfoot, no warmth radiating from the paint.
However, we all fell into something of a happy existence. We were surviving. The disease had spared us, and the war did not claim our bones. Then our true tribulation began …
I am of sound mind now to know it was God’s plan for those events to unfold, and I have spent hours in contemplation of their meaning. The wells, deep in the recess, dozens of floors down—they burst. The mechanics managed to stop the influx of water, but with the lead foreman, architect, and the dozens of trained laborers all perished from the disease, the mechanics could not stop the next leak from occurring. An explosion quaked the walls, and the pumps gave out again. The lower level flooded in such volume that two men drowned before then could escape. The floor was sealed … but then the water managed its way up.
We were told the rushed construction of the bunker in the face of war was to blame, for it was designed to stop such an occurrence. Sometimes it took days, weeks, or even hours, for the water to claim another floor, one at a time. Why the waters rose, we will never know, for the already dead were blamed and cursed.
The gardens, they have drowned. All of these vegetables, bright red tomatoes, and the vibrant array of buds, all underwater. The flowers still in vases upstairs are brown and withered. The medical wing, it is gone. The hatchery has drowned, and the livestock moved to upper quarters. Over half of the bunker is lost to the rising tide, and our storage of filtered, clean water is running low. I know that it’s God’s intention for us to now venture out and face what’s left of humanity. He has placed these obstacles to test our resolve. For if he hadn’t, we would not have intercepted the radio communications all the way from Albuquerque just as our panic levels were at a peak. There is a settlement there. Running, fresh water.
We need water to endure.
We need new, fertile land if we are to survive.
Our radio operators have contacted the people of Albuquerque, and alas, they have sent us to the wolves. They will not allow our numbers into their fortification. They will not meet with our management to talk a truce. They are greedy demons, led by the devil himself.
For many nights I sat in solitude, mulling the prospect offered by Marcus Johannsson. “The way I see it,” the man told the conglomerate of ranking officials, “We don’t have a choice but to invade.” There are some of us with children, who are the most at odd with going to war. I have sat in the dark for hours contemplating my past and deciding my future. What If I had a child of my own?
It was the day before the proposition would be put to vote that I struggled the most with my resolve. I placed my mindset in the position of a parent. I placed myself in the position of the elderly and weak, and not just as a spiritual advisor. Plus, it had been years since I held a weapon. Can I do it again? Can I fight for my people; fight for my survival?
In the end, the answer came to me clear in my prayers. The Lord’s path is laid out before me, as it always has been, all I have to do is walk His trail. Death takes us all. We cannot escape it. So, whether by my hands or by natural causes, I will send men to meet their fate. If he is righteous, the Lord will welcome him into his kingdom. If his intent is infested by evil, he will be sent to the inner pits. And yes, many of our numbers will perish in the fighting. I believe in my heart they will be sent to a better place. Perhaps if I had a child of my own, I would think differently, think of the youth’s survival over all others. Perhaps …
Tomorrow, the gates will open, and I will lead my people in hymnal tune. We will see the sky again, feel grass underfoot. We are Templar knights of a new dawn. We will survive to see another day.
I hope you enjoyed the story! Again, you can read more about the Priest in The After War series: Amazon
All the best,
P.S. – Check me out on Instagram, it’s been me new favorite thing lately: Instagram