Chapter 31 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

As Torrence and Maria entered the Asylum, they could hear the sound of Lynda's saxophone.

"There must not be anyone else here," said Torrence. "Lynda doesn't practice at this hour unless the house is empty."

"How many people live here?" asked Maria.

"Six people, and six cats."

Maria seemed interested in this, so Torrence gave her the grand tour. They strolled quietly through the empty house. Floorboards creaked. Several of the cats skittered away as they drifted from room to room. The mellow tones of Lynda's saxophone drifted along with them.

At three minutes after four in the morning, they climbed through the hatch and down the ladder to Torrence's room.

"Hey, this is really nice!" said Maria. "But it isn't really a bomb shelter, is it?"

"It sure is," said Torrence proudly. "The walls are made of reinforced concrete, fourteen inches thick, and lined inside and out with lead. I just put this wood paneling stuff up so that it would look nicer."

"What's all that stuff?" Maria indicated a large pile of cardboard boxes in the corner.

"Food and water supplies."

"Ugh! That stuff must be really old!"

"No, it's all fresh, I bought it just a few months ago. You see, when this shelter was originally built, it was stocked with food and supplies, but it was all stuff like cannisters of crackers. When I moved in, I got rid of it all, since it was unappetizing thirty years ago and inedible now.

"Then I figured, if I'm going to live in a bomb shelter, I might as well have a few supplies on hand. I mean, what if The Big War really comes? Wouldn't it be a bummer if I managed to survive down here but then didn't have any uncontaminated food on hand?"

"Yeah, I guess so, but..."

"So I went out and bought a bunch of freeze-dried stuff that will stay good for years, and a whole lot of bottled water."

Maria shrugged her shoulders. "Seems like a lot of trouble and expense to me."

Torrence looked down at the floor, and smiled a tight-lipped smile. "Well, I guess I just believe in being prepared. Besides, I don't have much else to spend my money on."

The sound of the saxophone floated down through the open trapdoor and into the shelter.

"You wanna look at my sketchbooks?"


They sat on the carpeted floor. Torrence held the books and turned the pages, and Maria looked on, occasionally saying things like "That one's nice," and "Oh, I like that one a lot." Then, Bill came home. They could hear him scuffling about in the basement above them. After a short while, he began pounding away at some sheet metal with a large hammer. The noise was awful, and drowned out Lynda's saxophone music.

Torrence got up, climbed the ladder, and sealed the trapdoor. The sound became almost inaudible.

"That's another nice thing about living down here," he said as he turned on a light. "You can block off the noise from upstairs."

Maria looked at him with sleepy eyes. "Come back over here," she commanded.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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