The Harvest Moon is perhaps the most celebrated full moon in the lunar calendar. It is simultaneously self-explanatory and full of limitless story and tradition. We are barreling toward the Fall equinox. The leaves are about to change and the pumpkin armies are amassing. Enjoy this season brimming with the warmth and promises that endure us through any coming hardship.
Aporia Blog Editor
stock photo courtesy of istock.com
Life in a bunker can make a girl go crazy if she doesn't get ahead of it and stay busy.
I never really bought into the whole preparedness craze that swept through the country in the years before the war. David was the one who insisted on pivoting our savings and discretionary budget into what he mirthfully called our "home beneath the loam", and since he brought in the money and supplied the dad jokes and typically asked for nothing in return I ended up not only humoring him on the endeavor, but also convincingly feigning interest when he got excited about the bunker planning and fell wallet first into the “prepping” subculture.
David spent months before the groundbreaking scouring the internet and message boards in an attempt to compile the perfect shopping cart of survival gear, dried foodstuffs with an absurdly long shelf life, and a layman's library of post apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI survival guides. He rented an excavator through a company that installed septic tanks before the doomsday craze but was quick to pivot into the new survivalism market, and he started bidding on shipping containers at first with some idea of cobbling them together into some sort of underground Hilton, but ended up opting for one of those “made-to-order” 3D printed concrete home companies that let you e-mail a CAD file and get exactly what you designed for pennies on the dollar as long as you were willing to sign a structural stability waiver.
In the spring of 2028, we broke ground in our backyard and dug a pit to house what any judge in the world would consider grounds for divorce. I’m pretty sure that David actually classified the entire thing as a greenhouse when he lied through his teeth to get the zoning permits, but he grinned the whole time like he'd gotten away with something.
I told the neighbors we were putting in the base for an in-ground swimming pool every time they complained about the noise. In retrospect I really should have considered what my exit strategy would have been once summer rolled around and I wasn’t inviting any of them inside the privacy fence for a dip, but I was too embarrassed by the entire endeavor to think about anything so forward-thinking as consequences and I made damned sure that the neighbors saw me buying pool floaties and plastic buckets of chlorine every once in awhile.
Every time he came to me with some new system or component for the bunker he was obviously excited about, I gave him the same deadpan look of annoyance I’d given him the time before. I’m not proud of this, but I learned early on with this project that he KNEW it was nuts and if I acted recalcitrant enough he’d end up adding something into those online shopping carts of his to placate me and give him leeway to do whatever crazy ass thing he was considering next without the associated wife-guilt.
This is how I ended up with a summer and fall wardrobe, a top-of-the-line crafting cut-out machine, and enough rings, necklaces, bracelets, and lockets to electroplate a chicken.
Like I said...I’m not overly proud of it, but I like stuff and David likes doing stuff so it seemed like a good compromise.
If you want my honest opinion, I was convinced he would lose initiative on the whole project when he saw how much effort was actually going to be involved. Even when he busted out the spreadsheets to make sure he quantified the relative shelf life of various canned goods and started bagging his own desiccant pouches to put in the buckets of rice, I was anxiously awaiting the next distraction that would pull his attention away and hoped we wouldn't be bankrupt by the time it snared his interest.
Of course that didn’t happen. He finished the bunker in our backyard, destroying the lawn, my community reputation for telling the truth, and our credit rating in the process. To add insult to financial injury, the world promptly ended three weeks after the cement dried, and now we’re bunker people.
Now, every day is an exercise in repetition.
I wake up and start on the daily chores required to maintain life in the end times, giving my David a sweet kiss before I tie my hair back and get busy.
In a lot of ways, the end of the world made me a much more dutiful wife than I ever was before entering my mole-man period. I finish the chores in record time each day, as experience and muscle memory make the tasks go faster. Each day kind of blends together because one thing bunkers are not known for is having a lot of natural light, and you’d be amazed how important the sun actually is to marking the time. Modern technology can do a lot, but a digital clock doesn’t hold the same kind of visceral truth as a ball of fire a million miles above.
The first chore each period of wakefulness is the hygiene requirement. Water is supplied to the bunker through a bizarre new age condensation tubing rig that David found on a DIY site called Instructable, which means that every 4 hours you generate 2 new gallons of potable water, and if you want to have enough for an honest to God shower you have to skip rations for almost 16 hours to have enough in the tank. We learned early that if you can only afford one shower a week, then daily attention with a wet washcloth is the only way to keep the smell at bay.
Cosmo never had a single article on how to make yourself attractive to your man armed only with a wet washcloth, which is the type of thing I’d write a letter of complaint about if I still had a mailbox.
Next, a quick breakfast of canned disappointment and right back into the chores.
Trash is compacted and shredded, the fish are fed and a twenty minute session with the hand pump for the aquaponics setup is enough to cycle the tank water back into the trays for the next growing day. Forty minutes of strategic pruning of the lichen trays and lettuce plants for the daily roughage follows, and then the vegetables are placed in plastic bags and submerged in the same tank with the fish to keep them chilled for longer.
Next is probably the most disgusting part of my day, and the part that David had to work hardest at convincing me was necessary to keep us healthy over the long term. I swallow whatever bile has accumulated at the thought since the last time I had to do this and make my way to the worm farm.
Maintaining a proper balance of minerals, vitamins, and metals can be done in a few different ways when you can’t hit up a grocery store for different ingredients at the drop of a hat. Multi-vitamins are great and part of any preppers messkit, but as with anything else that is finite in supply they eventually run out and David knew there would be no way to replace them.
General run-of-the-mill topsoil actually contains almost all of the vitamins and minerals required by the human body, but eating dirt isn’t really something that is an option. Earthworms spend their entire existence burrowing through the soil, and in so doing actually absorb massive amounts of beneficial things into their own body. David set up a closed environment walled in by lumber and fed by our waste water and latrine, and there are whole generations of earthworms in that trough. Each day I have to pull about 30 of the things out of the dirt and start drying them under a heat lamp. And if that wasn’t cruel and gross enough, I then have to take the worms from the day before and grind them with a mortar and pestle until they’re literally powdered, and then sprinkle them over the food at meals like some sort of macabre all-spice.
After culling entire civilizations of earthworms, I do a full hour on the stationary bike to make sure the batteries have enough charge to run the lamps for the next 8 hours and to exhaust myself too much to dwell on what I’ve just done, then I take a well deserved break.
David earns another kiss around this time and I play a few games of solitaire to keep the noodle sharp in the midst of dark times. Sudoku was my go-to for the first few months, but eventually reality and mathematics began to lose their distinction in the wake of rapidly approaching madness and I had to eat the Sudoku book in order to gain its power.
The next few hours are usually spent on maintenance for the machines which keep the air circulating and fresh, and which also filter out a bunch of contaminants that we’re pretty sure are still in the air outside the bunker. There are systems in place that play terrifying alert noises when the air is getting stale or the system detects something toxic, and a bunch of “manual air-cycle” programs that replenish the air inside from a tank of the liquid stuff until the outside air is safe to breath again, but we haven't had to use most of that. The system itself may have been DIY, but the open source control software was made by nerds with porn addictions so it’s pretty sound.
Around this part of the day I typically wallow in self pity for a period of time and dwell on the sequence of events that led to our present circumstances.
Even though everyone had known for a while that the war was coming, when it finally happened it still caught the country by surprise. Not a lot of warning when the sirens went off, and communications were the first thing to go dark on us. The first bombs fell within hours of rush hour, so most of the country probably never even got a chance to make use of whatever preparedness strategies they had been able to cobble together. Thank goodness I had humored David and allowed him to build us this suffocating refuge from the bombs, or at least didn’t complain loudly enough for him to actually give up on it.
I was scared then. Nowadays I'm too bored to be scared, but at least I have my David to kiss whenever I want to.
I give him one more peck for good measure and let myself go insane for a few minutes before bedtime.
The urge to open the hatch and climb out is always the most overwhelming right before bed as I contemplate another day without change or flavor. We have no idea what the world outside is like; as long as the food lasts-we have to play it safe. Thankfully, David is there to stop me from going out whenever my itch becomes too great to ignore.
He's hanging there from the hatch like a guardian. Framed in the beautiful golden locket that I had insisted he get me as payment for putting up with his “insanity”, he looks back at me with that goofy face - a picture from our wedding day. I can't help but give that face another kiss. That face that keeps me safe in here.
I wish he hadn't gone to work that day.
Maybe he made it somewhere safe. Maybe tomorrow he will open the hatch and laugh at the girl married to his locket. Maybe tomorrow…. Maybe….
I hate the apocalypse.
Nicolas Sexton lives in Muncie Indiana with his wife Kristen and two children Declan and Malcolm. He is not currently forced to eat government cheese and Raman noodles, but does so anyway.
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