Christmas in the Apocalypse

“I found some!” Scott banged on the metal door with a wrench, placed there for that exact purpose.

Metal hinges creaked as the door opened.

“Cool! Bring it in.” Libby held the curtain aside and helped Scott drag his bundles in from the tunnel.

“It isn’t exactly what I was looking for. I was hoping for a tree, but had to settle for trimming a hedge.”

“This will do just fine.” Libby held the cedar branches to her face and inhaled. “Mmmm… heavenly.”

Scott shouldered one of the bundles and Libby followed him, dragging the other down the narrow hallway.

Scott gasped when they entered the common room.

“You like it?”

“I do! You did all this?”

Libby dropped her bundle and sat down. She slung her prosthetic leg onto the tabletop with a loud CLUNK.

“What else am I going to do? I got plenty of time on my hands.”

The room flickered with candlelight and the low glow from the fireplace. Elegant murals covered the walls. Outdoor scenes, with flowers, trees, and water, with a bright sun shining above. Even in the greyscale tone of charcoal, Scott could see the colors of the flowers and feel the sun’s warmth.

Libby stood and pulled the knife from her belt. She cut the cords holding the bundles together.

“This is the final touch,” she said, “You get to help me put this together before the others return.”

An hour or so later, Libby and Scott stood back to admire their work.

“It’s perfect.” Scott put his arm over her shoulders.

The bundles of cedar boughs Scott had brought back stood in the corner of the room, lashed together to form the shape of a tree. He had hoped to find a small fir tree, but the hordes were thick that day, and he hadn’t been able to travel far. He had found a holly bush and managed to take some cuttings from it before the mutants forced him to retreat. A wreath of holly and cedar hung on the wall next to the entrance.

The makeshift tree glittered in the firelight like the trees they remembered from their childhood, adorned with clever decorations Libby had fashioned from discarded materials– computer components, wire, bits of broken glass and the like.

After the bombs fell, everyone had been too busy surviving to worry about frivolous things like holidays. Nobody spoke of it, but they all missed the way things had been.

Libby handed Scott a small cloth-wrapped bundle. “This is for you.” It was a hat, crudely knitted from strips of cast-off fabric. “It’s not very good. I need more practice.”

“I love it. Thank you.” He grinned. “It just so happens, I have something for you, too.” Scott pulled a flat box from his jacket.

Libby’s eyes widened. “No way! You actually found these?”

“Yeah, I took a detour to the school. I thought you could use these. We need more beauty in this world.”

The pastel pencils and oil paints were exactly what Libby needed. She whirled around the room, admiring her murals.

“I’ll be able to finish these, and so much more! Thank you!” She flung her arms around Scott’s neck and hugged him hard.

“Anything for my best little sister.” Scott beamed. He loved to make her smile.

More residents of the underground shelter straggled in. Some who had left that morning didn’t return. Those that did, came to warm themselves by the fire in the common room and admired the Christmas tree Scott and Libby had built. One left a skinned squirrel beside the tree. Another, some canned goods. As the day wore on, the pile of food and supplies grew. They gathered it all together and made a feast for all to enjoy.

Libby stood at the head of the table to make a speech.

“In ancient times, when the sun went dark, people pooled their resources to create a big feast. They celebrated to keep spirits high and gain strength to survive the harsh winter to come. They brought evergreen boughs indoors to try and capture some of the life force that still existed, even when the rest of the world seemed dead. Some people didn’t survive, but springtime always returned. These are dark days. But even with death all around us, we find hope in the love and support of our family – our human brothers and sisters.”

Libby raised her glass.

“Have faith, my brothers and sisters. Our springtime will return one day too.”

Copyright © 2019 Mandy White


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