Best Laid Plans

Best Laid Plans

A Story by CMBryan
"

Thoughts from the last man left in the bomb shelter.

"

Loneliness, at one point in time I had believed, that I had understood that word. There was a time in my life the word conjured certain images in my mind's eye. A man without a wife, a mother without a child, maybe standing alone in the desert, and other such images. These days I think I truly grasp the meaning of those words such as loneliness. I can't help but feel human language needs a word that can describe much more fully the meaning of true isolation. Something about the word loneliness does not fully convey the feelings of being completely alone for seven long and quiet years.


Fifteen years ago, I entered this godforsaken tomb under then Reztek Corporation's re-population program. Allow me to explain, when I entered this place the world stood on the brink of a inevitable nuclear war the likes of which were sure to topple civilization, crush society, and extinguish humanity as we knew it. In their infinite knowledge the great minds behind Reztek built a state of the art re-population facility, a glorified bomb-shelter to be sealed for forty years with all the tools necessary to sustain life and create it. There were thirty of us all together, fifteen men and fifteen women. I had naively thought of myself as some sort of astronaut bravely taking those first steps into the new world.


Sometimes I wonder if the bombs ever actually launched, perhaps they had averted the war and we were forgotten through some cruel twist of fate. Maybe the folks over at Reztek had been monitoring us, saw what happened down here, maybe they just decided the best thing to do was to seal the place up and let nature take its course then forget the whole thing as if it never happened. If that's the case I couldn't really blame them.


Over there is the garden room, it is the life blood of the colony. There we, well I actually, grow all the food for the colony. Its also where the body of my wife is buried. We weren't actually married, the term Reztek used was mate. We had been chosen for each other based entirely upon our genetics. In truth she hated me and I hated her. For the most part the lovemaking between us was cold and she at times seemed unattached. Which is not to say there was no passion between us, our mutual hatred for each other would occasionally spark something primal. A base desire hidden in the back of the mind mixing anger and lust, these times were enjoyable. As the years slipped by me though I find myself missing her more and more. As a marriage ours would have been loveless not unlike many of the marriages I have seen in my time. Like many of these I have witnessed we would have had our moments. This thought comforts me, and is why I now refer to Margo as my wife.


Like so many other marriages she had turned to another man. Which I would like note is very much against the rules set for us by the wise men at the Reztek Corporation. As I think back I suppose that's really where all the problems began down here. My Margo with that b*****d Ben Cortman... and as I stated before we had rules down here. Never stray from your mate for jealously can tear your colony apart, page twelve paragraph two, line five of the Reztek Phoenix Program training manual.


Years passed. Over time I've managed to forgive her. I can't understand her rationale, but I do understand weakness. She wasn't in her right mind. Truth of the matter is we had failed several times to have a child, a point she held against me. It wasn't as though it was my fault though, oh no, it was the stress. Did I not have reason to stress? Above ground everyone and everything I had ever known and loved was dying in some sort of nuclear holocaust, and below ground I was to spend the next forty years of my life with a woman who did not love me. Despite this mutual stress we both shared, after four years we did manage to produce a pregnancy. It was unfortunate when she miscarried. After four years of trying and she miscarries, yet another point she held me accountable for. It was right about then she turned her eyes to Doctor Ben Cortman.


As much as I hate that man for what he had done, I can see how my poor Margo turned to him. He had been our doctor through the pregnancy and looking back on it I could see how he may have become something of an emotional crutch for her. However, all this does not excuse what they did.


We had rules down here.

Their complete disregard for the rules set forth for us by the great and wise minds at the Reztek Corporation was the turning point for me. After the betrayal from my dear Margo and the good Doctor Cortman I began to see things more clearly. I began to see what was really going on down here. Upstairs, mankind was getting its ticket punched and down here we were flying in the face of morality and decency. What had we really been put down here to do other than f**k? Maybe if while we were at it we were curing cancer or maybe solving how we got into the position of needing a re-population facility in the first place and how to avoid the next time around. If it was mankind's time to go then who were we to say otherwise. This place had become a monument to lust and debauchery.


That's why I did what I had to do.


It wasn't easy. There's nothing easy about murder. It was not easy quietly shaking each of them loose of this mortal coil. It was not easy covering my tracks until there was only a few of us left. It was not easy to look into Margo's eyes, as I squeezed the life from her body. It was not easy surviving when the remainder of us turned on each other.


The nursery... the nursery was not easy.


Pity, I never got the chance to kill the good Doctor Cortman. Indeed his death would have been the only I would have found satisfaction in, The only one that would have come easy. Oh well, it had been a decent show and I remember it well, it was a late night. There were only about ten of us left, we had spent the morning discussing who the killer may have been. By no act of my own, suspicious eyes had fallen on our good Doctor Cortman. Oh Ben, if only you could have seen your face as the mob descended upon you, armed with the tools from the garden. Your screams of terror were like a great symphony to my ears. In retrospect, it is a shame I didn't record it.


I found no enjoyment in my task, I feel I must be terribly clear about that. With the exception of the good Doctor Cortman, I took no joy in any of those deaths. I am not a degenerate and I am not a psychopath. I'm not even insane, no certainly not that. What I did was an absolute necessity. We had no right to come down here to this damn hole and try to dodge the fate God sent down to us. Mankind deserved what was coming to it. Human history is littered with debauchery, violence, ignorance, greed and all the other ills that have plagued man since the moment we first pulled ourselves out of the primordial ooze. No, I was only guaranteeing it ended here with us. No more will children feel the pain of a scorned parent's rage, no more will lovers feel the burn of jealousy, and no more people starve in the streets. With any luck we were the only creatures in the universe and with my actions I have stamped these blights from existence.


In retrospect, perhaps I acted with a bit too much haste. There are twenty five years left until those doors open. Twenty five lonely years. Perhaps I could have enacted my plans a few years later, it gets terribly quiet in here. Alone, my voice echos throughout the sterile white halls. How I miss the voices. Even if I didn't care for the people I miss hearing them talk about their boring lives, their insignificant prattle. Sometimes at night, I swear I can still hear them. Perhaps as I sleep their specters still wander these halls, still going about their business as if they never died. Some nights I dream of dying and joining them and continuing on as if nothing changed in the spirit world. I wonder what their souls would do to me if I were ever to join them?

I wonder what will happen in twenty five years when those doors open, if I live to see it. I often ask myself what will I do if I'm not the last man on earth. What would happen to me if these doors open and mankind still there, arms open and ready to accept me back? Could I even bring myself to share the company of another human after my attempt to wipe the human race itself from existence? Will somebody demand answers for what happened down here? Frequently I conclude that I won't bother to find out, when the door unlocks I think I'd rather just reseal it.


We were the best of the best, the finest achievements in genetics mankind could produce. Our numbers included some of the greatest minds I have ever come across. It is terribly unfortunate that we only got eight years into the project before we succumbed to violence.


So much for the best laid plans.

© 2010 CMBryan


Author's Note

CMBryan
This story takes place in the Anthrax in the Pantry setting, which is a series of post-apocalyptic stories I write along with Dr. Robert (he's a user here look him up if you like).

This story in particular had been accepted to a now defunct magazine for publication. However the magazine folded before anything ever became of it. So now I'm putting it here for all of you.

I'm always looking to improve my pieces, so if you notice anything or have any ideas that would help make this a stronger story please let me know.

All comments, as always, are appreciated.

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Featured Review

period (full stop), not comma, after "Loneliness"
no comma after "I had believed"
comma after "These days"
"Something about the word loneliness does not fully convey the feelings of being completely alone for seven long and quiet years." - This sentence is where you really got my attention.
"Reztek Corporation's re-population program" - interesting...
period, not comma, after "Allow me to explain"
comma after "When I entered this place"
"a inevitable nuclear war" - "an" - why inevitable?
comma after "infinite knowledge"
"a state of the art re-population facility" - "state-of-the-art" in this usage
period, not comma, after "bombs ever actually launched"
comma after "averted the war"
period, not comma, after "saw what happened down here"
comma after "nature take its course"
comma after "If that's the case"
Lots of dark hints here that something went so wrong in the shelter that it would make sense even to one of the people sent into it for it to be sealed and forgotten... Good for getting the reader's curiosity up, as long as the hints aren't stretched out too long and there is something to support those hints at the end.
period or semicolon, not comma, after "the garden room"
"There we, well I actually, grow" - dashes, not commas
period or semicolon, not comma, after "weren't actually married"
"We had been chosen for each other based entirely upon our genetics."- Unless this story is meant to have started in current era, this is silly. Not saying that your story is silly, just that the people IN the story who thought that we know enough about genetics now to make that kind of decision...
"the lovemaking between us"- If they actually HATE each other, that's not the best word for what they do together. Why not just call it sex?
comma after "between us was cold"
period or semicolon, not comma, after "passion between us"
"slipped by me though I find myself" - commas before and after "though"
comma after "As a marriage"
comma after "loveless"
"I have seen in my time" - do you mean "had seen"?
comma after "I have witnessed"
no comma after "comforts me"
You're over explaining, and doing so with things that aren't as interesting as some of the things you COULD be telling about.
comma after "Like so many other marriages"
"Which I would like note is very" - "Which, I would like, note is very"
Um... Making strict rules for people who dislike each other to be paired and then not allowing them to at least have the companionship of someone they DO like... That's a recipe for disaster. I'm not saying your corporation wouldn't do it anyway - you could mean "wise men" sarcastically - but realistically there would be serious problems for the entire society in the shelter as a result.
comma after "As I think back"
comma after "as I stated before"
comma after "from your mate"
"Above ground everyone" - comma after "ground"
comma after "through the pregnancy"
I'm losing interest in the story because of the emphasis on the narrator's unhappy pseudo-marriage. Not the sort of thing I ever have an interest in reading. Keep in mine your intended audience, though - could be that the people you want to like the story will be VERY interested in that part.
comma after "the good Doctor Cortman"
comma after "its ticket punched"
"down here we were flying in the face of morality and decency" - I think I strongly dislike this protagonist.
"If it was mankind's time to go then who were we to say otherwise" - comma after "time to go" - end sentence with question mark, not period
"That's why I did what I had to do" - So he does what? Kills everyone in the shelter - what could be the last remnants of the human race - because he's mad that the woman he hates feels likewise about him and chooses to have sex with someone she actually likes sometimes?
no comma after "into Margo's eyes"
Good use of repetition in the "it was not easy" paragraph
"The nursery... the nursery was not easy." - EXCELKENT use of restraint in description, instead of telling any details about killing the children.
period, not comma, after "I remember it well"
period, not comma, after "ten of us left"
"discussing who the killer may have been" - No, if there were only 30 to start with and only 10 are left, they'd have done more than just talk, and they'd have done something well before this. There would have been panic and paranoid accusations and someone would have tried to take matters into their own hands after the second death if not after the first.
period, not comma, after "no enjoyment in my task"
"I feel I must be terribly clear about that" - As far as he knows, he's the only human left alive, and he feels it important to point out that he didn't like murdering everyone in the shelter. In other words, he feels extremely guilty and knows that he never had any justification for his actions.
"I am not a degenerate and I am not a psychopath." - Um... Bullshit. - comma after "degenerate"
"no certainly not that" - comma after "no"
"the fate God sent down to us" - This is dodging responsibility
"and no more people starve" - "no more will people starve"
comma after "With any luck"
comma after "universe"
"perhaps I acted with a bit too much haste"- Y'think?
"twenty five years" - "twenty-five"
period, not comma, after "a few years later"
comma after "care for the people"
comma after "as I sleep"
"I wonder what their souls..." -end sentence with period, not question mark
"and mankind still there" - "and mankind is still there"
period, not comma, after "bother to find out"
comma after "When the door unlocks"
"the finest achievements in genetics mankind could produce" - Were these people genetically engineered? (If so, I'd say someone botched a set...) That's what this sentence sounds like, anyway.
"I have ever come across" - "had"
I'm not sure, having only read this part of the story, but it looks to me like the very beginning isn't the best place for all the backstory about the narrator's personal life. Work it in more gradually, so there's the mystery of how the rest of them died, and let the reader wonder if the narrator is really insane or just feeling the effects of prolonged isolation. (Okay, that would make him crazy anyway. But for totally different reasons.)
I'm glad I read this story, though. I like post-apocalypse stories, and this one has helped me clarify some of my own ideas.


Posted 8 Years Ago


7 of 7 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

period (full stop), not comma, after "Loneliness"
no comma after "I had believed"
comma after "These days"
"Something about the word loneliness does not fully convey the feelings of being completely alone for seven long and quiet years." - This sentence is where you really got my attention.
"Reztek Corporation's re-population program" - interesting...
period, not comma, after "Allow me to explain"
comma after "When I entered this place"
"a inevitable nuclear war" - "an" - why inevitable?
comma after "infinite knowledge"
"a state of the art re-population facility" - "state-of-the-art" in this usage
period, not comma, after "bombs ever actually launched"
comma after "averted the war"
period, not comma, after "saw what happened down here"
comma after "nature take its course"
comma after "If that's the case"
Lots of dark hints here that something went so wrong in the shelter that it would make sense even to one of the people sent into it for it to be sealed and forgotten... Good for getting the reader's curiosity up, as long as the hints aren't stretched out too long and there is something to support those hints at the end.
period or semicolon, not comma, after "the garden room"
"There we, well I actually, grow" - dashes, not commas
period or semicolon, not comma, after "weren't actually married"
"We had been chosen for each other based entirely upon our genetics."- Unless this story is meant to have started in current era, this is silly. Not saying that your story is silly, just that the people IN the story who thought that we know enough about genetics now to make that kind of decision...
"the lovemaking between us"- If they actually HATE each other, that's not the best word for what they do together. Why not just call it sex?
comma after "between us was cold"
period or semicolon, not comma, after "passion between us"
"slipped by me though I find myself" - commas before and after "though"
comma after "As a marriage"
comma after "loveless"
"I have seen in my time" - do you mean "had seen"?
comma after "I have witnessed"
no comma after "comforts me"
You're over explaining, and doing so with things that aren't as interesting as some of the things you COULD be telling about.
comma after "Like so many other marriages"
"Which I would like note is very" - "Which, I would like, note is very"
Um... Making strict rules for people who dislike each other to be paired and then not allowing them to at least have the companionship of someone they DO like... That's a recipe for disaster. I'm not saying your corporation wouldn't do it anyway - you could mean "wise men" sarcastically - but realistically there would be serious problems for the entire society in the shelter as a result.
comma after "As I think back"
comma after "as I stated before"
comma after "from your mate"
"Above ground everyone" - comma after "ground"
comma after "through the pregnancy"
I'm losing interest in the story because of the emphasis on the narrator's unhappy pseudo-marriage. Not the sort of thing I ever have an interest in reading. Keep in mine your intended audience, though - could be that the people you want to like the story will be VERY interested in that part.
comma after "the good Doctor Cortman"
comma after "its ticket punched"
"down here we were flying in the face of morality and decency" - I think I strongly dislike this protagonist.
"If it was mankind's time to go then who were we to say otherwise" - comma after "time to go" - end sentence with question mark, not period
"That's why I did what I had to do" - So he does what? Kills everyone in the shelter - what could be the last remnants of the human race - because he's mad that the woman he hates feels likewise about him and chooses to have sex with someone she actually likes sometimes?
no comma after "into Margo's eyes"
Good use of repetition in the "it was not easy" paragraph
"The nursery... the nursery was not easy." - EXCELKENT use of restraint in description, instead of telling any details about killing the children.
period, not comma, after "I remember it well"
period, not comma, after "ten of us left"
"discussing who the killer may have been" - No, if there were only 30 to start with and only 10 are left, they'd have done more than just talk, and they'd have done something well before this. There would have been panic and paranoid accusations and someone would have tried to take matters into their own hands after the second death if not after the first.
period, not comma, after "no enjoyment in my task"
"I feel I must be terribly clear about that" - As far as he knows, he's the only human left alive, and he feels it important to point out that he didn't like murdering everyone in the shelter. In other words, he feels extremely guilty and knows that he never had any justification for his actions.
"I am not a degenerate and I am not a psychopath." - Um... Bullshit. - comma after "degenerate"
"no certainly not that" - comma after "no"
"the fate God sent down to us" - This is dodging responsibility
"and no more people starve" - "no more will people starve"
comma after "With any luck"
comma after "universe"
"perhaps I acted with a bit too much haste"- Y'think?
"twenty five years" - "twenty-five"
period, not comma, after "a few years later"
comma after "care for the people"
comma after "as I sleep"
"I wonder what their souls..." -end sentence with period, not question mark
"and mankind still there" - "and mankind is still there"
period, not comma, after "bother to find out"
comma after "When the door unlocks"
"the finest achievements in genetics mankind could produce" - Were these people genetically engineered? (If so, I'd say someone botched a set...) That's what this sentence sounds like, anyway.
"I have ever come across" - "had"
I'm not sure, having only read this part of the story, but it looks to me like the very beginning isn't the best place for all the backstory about the narrator's personal life. Work it in more gradually, so there's the mystery of how the rest of them died, and let the reader wonder if the narrator is really insane or just feeling the effects of prolonged isolation. (Okay, that would make him crazy anyway. But for totally different reasons.)
I'm glad I read this story, though. I like post-apocalypse stories, and this one has helped me clarify some of my own ideas.


Posted 8 Years Ago


7 of 7 people found this review constructive.

Outstanding work. Perhaps one of your strongest works.

Overall story and themes addressed were good. The style I thought was perfect for what you were going for and to see into this man's head put a strong theme of mortality and mortality to the whole thing. I like how nothing is sugar coated. Its bleak, its grim, its honest.

Overall flow of the story however was a little rough. As I read through it, I noticed a few sentences that caught me u, like the openning statement. Punctuation must we focused on a little more as some comas were misplaced. However this wasn't so bad as to distract from the overall story.

Sustains
1.) Excellent use of atmosphere for the setting
2.) Humor came out very well with the referals to the corporation's rules and guidelines.
3.) Reads part morality tale - part guide to the corporation and it's bunker. Very well balanced.

Improvements
1.) Some sentences need to be reworked.
2.) Punctuation! Punctuation! Punctuation!
3.) Overall story seems to be lacking that spark of emotion you have in other works.

I really liked this work despite it's flaws. The balance between a man and duty was well thought of as well as the stress of the character assuming they were all that was left. The relationship protion was brutal and honest which i loved and the coldness in which the narrator executes the prose is phenominal.

Like I said before. Perhaps one of your best works. With a little re-editing, this is a class piece. Send me a copy and i will point out what I thought was rough with it.

Posted 8 Years Ago


6 of 7 people found this review constructive.


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Added on December 12, 2010
Last Updated on December 12, 2010
Tags: Fiction, Short Story, Post-Apocolyptic

Author

CMBryan
CMBryan

Kalamazoo, MI



About
Writing has been a passion of mine ever since I was a little kid. At the moment I'm focused on writing short stories and possibly a novella. I currently live with my wife and son in Michigan. more..

Writing