Parched by Nick Romeo

++++++“I think I have just enough fuel in the generator so we can watch the five o’clock news,” Mark says while he adjusts the rabbit ears. His boots echo from the steel flooring and walls as he makes his way to the couch. He picks up his bowl of noodles. “Still warm. Great. Now for some protein.” Mark picks out a freshly killed roach from a plastic container and stirs it into the bowl.
++++++Sarah Lincoln appears on the TV screen wearing her usual bright pink plastic fallout suit with a matching gasmask. “Hello fellow survivors. It’s day 583 in the contaminated zone. The weather for today is warm and sunny again. The expected high temperature will be around 131 degrees, with a low of 128. Wind from the North will be sustained gusts of .01 miles per hour. Humidity is around 100%.” She shifts the microphone to her left hand and continues. “Now I have the privilege of announcing the winner of the monthly poetry contest.” She holds up a plaque with a gold nameplate and purple ribbon in the center. “Chuck Brown of Sector 3 – the winner,” Sarah shouts and holds the plaque above her head. “The poem is entitled, ‘I miss Lot 17.’ The rhyme and meter is unlike anything submitted so far. We also appreciated the deeply spiritual significance.” She passes the plaque to a person off-camera, then someone hands her a reddish tinted palm-sized glass jar. “The prize is this jar of protein gathered from various animal carcasses found in the free zone – a €3,000,000 value.” She passes the jar back to her helpers.
++++++“Wow. Doesn’t that look delicious?” Mark comments after he finishes chewing the roach and noodle morsel.
++++++“Next I’m going to interview two of the locals here who have a wonderful tale of surviving for another week.” A very thin couple stumbles into the camera frame. They both are pale with open sores covering their body. The woman clutches her dirty tattered blouse to keep it from sliding down. She holds her hand just below the neckline covering a necklace pendant. The male has a leather satchel slung over his sagging flesh. They both tremble.
++++++“Why are they shaking so much?” He pours a tall glass of dark brown colored water. A few chunks slide into the glass. “That’s the last of it. Do you want some? Here buddy, let me split up my share.” He reaches behind the couch and feels around on the floor. Mark reveals a glass in his hand, rubs off some of the dirt, places it on the table, and pours about half on the contents from his glass. “Drink up. Like I said, that’s the last of it.”
++++++Sarah Lincoln steps in between the couple. “This is Norma and Harvey – locals in the area. They both waive at the camera, barely raising their shaking arms above their waists. “So how is it in your neighborhood? Has the crime rate decreased since The Rosewood Foundation began air-dropping food and supplies?”
Harvey steps forward and lowers himself to speak into the microphone. “Thanks for talking to us today. You’re even more lovely in person.” He folds his arms across his chest, trying to stabilize himself.
++++++ Sarah puts her hand on the side of her gasmask, “Aww, you both are so cute.”
++++++ “We haven’t seen a care pack in awhile. The last drop landed in the water, and there was no way any of us were going in there. There’s a lot less fighting lately, since about half the population is gone. I don’t know…”
++++++“Thank you, Harvey. Let’s ask your beautiful wife the same questions.” Sarah holds the microphone near Norma’s mouth.

++++++Norma calmly pats the pendant on her necklace and stares at a distant point above the camera. The camera zooms in on the pendant.
++++++ “Does this item you hold have any significance?” Sarah questions.
++++++ Norma holds the pendant out for everyone to see. Still staring out past the camera, she slowly answers, “This is the finger of my daughter Phyllis. She passed away saving me and my husband. We are no longer without.”
++++++ “I am so sorry Norma and Harvey,” Sarah mentions.
++++++ “This is the finger of my daughter Phyllis. She passed away saving me and my husband. We are no longer without─” Norma repeats.
++++++ “Ok everyone, this is Sarah Lincoln signing off for Seared Finesse Satellite News. Have a great d─”
++++++ Norma grabs Sarah’s wrist and bites, while Harvey seizes hold of her gasmask trying to pull it off her head. Sarah twists, knocking Norma to the side. Harvey wraps his arms around Sarah’s neck, picking her up off the ground. Sarah flails her arms.
++++++ A man with a baseball bat hurdles into the scene. He is dressed in a black radiation suit and wears a gasmask. The word “PRESS” is affixed in white letters on the chest of his suit. He hits the couple repeatedly on the shoulders, back, stomach – anywhere he can land a blow. They both fall to the ground then the black clad man continues to beat them, taking turns between the two.
++++++ “Wow, I just love live TV. Don’t you?” Mark laughs as he finishes the last of his water. “We’ll have to look for more tomorrow. You didn’t even touch your drink. Do you mind if I have a sip or two? Hey, are you asleep again?” Mark slaps his friend on the shoulder and a roach crawls out of the eye socket. Mark snatches the roach and places it in a plastic container.
++++++ The camera centers Sarah from the waist up, with the view of the beating kept in the background. Mark can only see the blood-stained tip of the bat lifting, and then lowering. Sarah speaks louder to cover over the pounding sounds. “This is Sarah Lincoln signing off for Seared Finesse Satellite News. Stay tuned for another episode of Celebrity Bunkers, up next. As always, ‘We honor the fallen in the Ten Minute Fourth War, and of course, he who pushes the button first laughs last.’ Have a great day.”

Nick Romeo is a multidisciplinary artist, musician and writer. Nick lives in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with his wife and cat named Megatron.

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