“What’s that, Christian? Repeat it.” The stuffed puffin stared blankly forward, barely causing a reflection off of Tunny’s goggles. Tunny inhaled deeply through his gas mask. He put his gloved hand to his ear to try to hear the mutterings of the tiny puffin. Tunny listened
intently as the bird continued to sit lifelessly in front of him.
“Of course I can drink through the mask, Christian! I can’t risk taking it off anymore. The fumes are everywhere now- they’re spreading faster.” Tunny brought a crimson red and orange tea cup up to the nozzle of the gas mask and titled it back. The liquid gurgled as it funneled its way through the holes. Tunny smacked his lips together as he placed the tiny tea cup back on the deteriorating wood bench that he was using as a makeshift table. The crimson and orange of the cup contrasted against the dark interior of the bunker, somehow glowing from the little light the gas lamp provided.
“Well, must go replenish supplies,” he said, pushing himself up to his feet. The puffin slumped over to its side from the sudden change in weight, its lifeless eyes following Tunny to the far left corner of the bunker. Tunny tenderly began to pull on another pair of heavy, rubber industrial gloves over the pair he was already wearing. The gloves rubbed together and made a low-pitched, uncomfortable squeaking sound as he inched the second pair up his arm. The second layer of gloves produced a loud snap as Tunny managed to squeeze it up to this left elbow. He referred to these as his “urination gloves”- paranoia about the increasing amount of chemicals weighed heavily on him and he felt that this extra precaution was necessary, citing that “Even the pigs wore gloves so they didn’t get hooked on dope.” Tunny turned and grabbed a bucket from the far left corner of the small underground bunker after securing the other glove on his right arm. He hung it on a nail that was a little bit lower than waist level. He yanked down three layers of leather and rubber pants and undergarments, one immediately following the other. He urinated as quickly as possible and pulled up his multiple layers upon completion. Tunny lifted the bucket, now filled to the brim, off the hook. He gingerly place the bucket on top of a hot plate, glowing with heat.
Tunny began to walk back to the table where he initially retrieved the extra gloves. He removed them as they made a high pitched squeaking sound, like a piglet being strangled. He looked up at the wall; it was a tinted a dark shade of forest green and harsh gray through the lenses of his military grade gas mask. The cement blocks were covered in chalk doodles of monsters and explosions, remnants of what Tunny remembered of “The Disaster.” Stick figure drawings of a woman and a young boy and girl were amongst the monstrosities. The woman had long hair which Tunny had attempted to recreate the volume and lusciousness of it by rubbing the chalk against the wall. He was no artist. The woman has a slash over her throat and a dense circle mark over, what was meant to represent, her genitalia. The chalk markings over it were so dense that it nearly eradicated any existing area between her torso and her legs. The two children beside her had large X-marks over their faces. He did not spend nearly as much time trying to stay true to their actual human appearance as the woman. He kept them generic: a boy with a baseball cap and pants, and a girl with pigtails and a dress. The little boy, however, held something in his left arm. The figure was hardly distinguishable, just two circles with two lines sticking out from its side and a long pointy nose at, what could be assumed to be, its face. He picked the chalk back up and drew a diagonal line through six straight lines and let out a hefty sigh. He dragged his gloved hand over the figure of the woman he had drawn and stopped right over the dense circle he had created. “Forever and a day,” he whispered longingly.
He turned to look down on the puffin as he blinked back tears. The leather of Tunny’s pants chafed as he bent down to be eye level with the toy. “Hey, I know it’s not ideal, buddy,” he said softly, gently running his glove over the polyester fur, “But we gotta save the water supply. Every other day is fair enough.” Tunny smiled underneath the mask and propped the puffin back up on its behind. He looked into the puffin’s tea cup and saw that it was still filled with liquid from before. Tunny grabbed the cup by the mouth and promptly flung it against the wall. It shattered across the chalk drawings and ran down the wall. The shark with two eyes detached from its head began to bleed down the wall. Tunny grabbed the puffin by the throat and began to shake it violently,
“You ungrateful bastard! Do you think I’m happy that I have to drink my own boiled piss! Couldn’t even drink a damned sip, could you? You coward! It’s your fault we’re here! You didn’t warn me fast enough! You fucking think two days is enough time to prepare for The Disaster? You stupid bird!” He threw the stuffed puffin on the dirt floor and stomped on it three times with his steel-toed boot, grunting with each stomp. The bird contorted on the ground. It flew up a bit with each impact. Tunny started gasping for breath as slowly began to calm down. The puffin’s previously spotless white belly fur was now matted with dirt; its tail bent and twisted into its back. Tunny looked down at the toy through his big eyed lenses. He gently scooped up the puffin and coddled it in his hands. He brought the bird to his chest and swayed back and forth as he whispered,
“I’m sorry, Christian. My nerves are at their end. I’m lost. I need your help. I don’t know where I’d be without you. You’re my only friend. You are my world. Please don’t leave me.” He pulled the puffin from him. Its head titled slightly to the right and forward. Tunny laughed,
“I knew you’d forgive me, Christian. I love you.” Tunny coddled the bird in his arms as he walked to the corner. He held it tightly against him as he slide down the wall and sat with his knees up.
“I wonder what the world is like now, now that there is nothing. No grass, no sun, no people- nothing. But that doesn’t matter, right Christian? Because we have each other and you will always protect me,” he muttered into the puffin’s head as he slowly rocked.
A dog barked joyfully as it played in the sprinklers on his front lawn and tried to play tag
with the spurts of water. The sun reflected off the vibrant green grass as joggers thumped down the sidewalk with their iPods blasting motivational beats. A man wearing a sky blue polo and khakis walked over to his neighbor’s house and chuckled at the dog playing with the sprinkler system.
“Hey Bob!” he called out as he waved to his neighbor, who was sporting a similar polo and khakis, sitting on a lawn chair reading a paper.
“Hey there, David! How are you my good sir?” He asked as he shook David’s hand
“Doing well, Bob. Hey listen, have you seen Tunny recently? I haven’t seen him in a few days.” Bob shrugged and didn’t look up from his paper,
“Last I saw him, he was in the grocery store. He had two big carts full of stuff, not sure what he’s going to do with it all- not like he has a family, anymore.
“That’s strange. Hope he’s ok.”