Subject: Adam and the Phoenix – Chapter 6 Nothing in this story is true and Atlanta has not been destroyed by terrorists. Any resemblance to actual places, persons, or events is coincidental. This is the inaugural Nifty submission by this writer. The story is complete. Adam and the Phoenix, Copyright 2020 Art Carda. All rights are reserved. Do not duplicate or distribute in any form without express permission of the author. Day 6 — Saturday — morning Adam awoke to screaming as Eric thrashed. “No!” he howled again and again. Adam carefully rolled closer and pulled him into a hug as Eric sobbed. “Eric, you’re OK. You’re with Ryan and Adam and we’re here with you. It’s OK buddy. You’re safe and everything’s OK.” Eric’s nightmare changed to quiet sobbing as he gained consciousness, “Adam, they’re dead! Sarah and my mom are dead and I’m all alone! My whole family is gone and I’m the only one left. What am I going to do?” Adam held the sobbing Eric and rubbed his back while speaking in a calming voice, “Eric, I know it’s hard and I wish I could make this pain go away. Ryan and I are here and we want to build a new family with you. We can’t replace your mom, dad and Sarah. Ryan lost his family too, and he wants you to be his brother. We both love you and we’re going to take care of you if that’s what you want. “I had a really bad dream that I was at the Georgia Aquarium with Sarah and my mom and I watched them melt into nothing and die when the fireball hit. It was so horrible and I miss them so much. I really like you guys and I want us to live together, but you might not want me around if I’m going to wake up screaming from bad dreams.” “Eric, you never, ever need to worry about that. Both you and Ryan have gone through a very traumatic experience, just like PTSD when people go into combat. Bad dreams are no surprise and I was already planning for both of you to meet with counselors and talk it out. I’ll always be here to listen and I’ll try to help you but after going through this experience I think it would be good for both of you to talk with a professional. We’re all experiencing something profound and life-changing. I’ll probably make an appointment for myself. This is as serious as breaking a leg and we’d all agree to see a doctor if we had a broken leg. Losing your family is much worse than a broken leg and we could all use help from professionals. Just know that I’m going to love you and take care of you no matter how many bad dreams you have. OK?” “Thank you for helping me Adam. Every day since the explosion I keep hearing my mom’s voice when she told me to go to your house if I was ever in trouble. She didn’t just tell me that once — she told me that many times. We didn’t see you that often so I don’t know why she said it so much. Maybe she knew something terrible would happen someday.” “I don’t know why either but I’m glad she told you that. You’re right, I didn’t see her often enough but I considered her a good friend. I liked your dad but he was usually deployed so I didn’t get to know him as well. I wasn’t your official godfather but that’s how I always felt around you and Sarah. I’m going to do my best to take care of both you and Ryan. I can’t replace the fathers you both lost but you can think of me as your favorite uncle. I can be `Uncle Adam’ or something. I promise that I’m going to do everything I can to help you both and something like bad dreams would never change that.” Eric turned to Ryan with an embarrassed look. “Ryan, I’m really sorry that my yelling woke you up.” “Dude, this morning it was you and tomorrow it might be me. I have bad dreams every night since the flash. Like Adam said, we’ve been through a lot and I still have things to work through about my parents. I loved them but I was so angry with them because they had screwed up their lives and were screwing up mine. I’ve wanted to see a counselor for a long time, especially when I realized I was attracted to men, so I’m really glad Adam wants us to see counselors. I think it will help me a lot and it might also help you.” “Guys, I wish we could leave here today and get to our new place. We could start making new friends and you could both start working with counselors to deal with some of this. Until then we’ve got each other. You both can talk with me about anything and I’m not going to judge you. Being emotional or having bad dreams is completely normal after what you’ve experienced. There is nothing wrong with you at all and nothing will make me stop loving you both. Now, would you both like some oatmeal again?” Eric nodded enthusiastically. “That sounds really good. I don’t want to sound ungrateful but I miss adding sugar and milk.” “That’s two days in a row with good ideas, Eric. I forgot that I have a full box of little coffee-creamer servings and plenty of sugar. I’ll just bring them down and you can fix it up however you like. I like my oatmeal plain and just assume everybody else does as well.” Ryan looked over. “Why don’t I ever see you drink coffee if you have that stuff? Don’t you like coffee?” “Oh, I love coffee, probably too much. Honestly, I just didn’t want to waste the fresh water so I’ve been drinking beer. We could still lose tap water or electricity at any time and it’s not safe for utility people to go outside to fix things right now. If we lost water then we couldn’t wash the sheets or towels, and we couldn’t take showers. We would quickly smell pretty bad — especially with you guys coating each other with jizz all day long. Losing electricity would be bad because we’d be in the dark, the dehumidifier would stop and it would be even more like a swamp in here, and we’d lose our ability to know what’s happening outside. Even if we lose utilities we won’t go hungry and we won’t be thirsty but our time down here could be a lot more unpleasant than it is right now. Anyway, that’s why I’m not making coffee until we get out of here or they tell us the tap water is safe. I’ll go make some oatmeal and I’ll see if we have any juice options.” Adam used another frozen orange juice tube and gathered the other items. On a whim he grabbed a small bowl and added a handful of chocolate chips from the freezer so the boys could add some to their oatmeal. Just like at Hogwarts, he thought. He turned on the radio and learned the radiation levels were declining at the expected rate so officials thought the first evacuations could start after another week of reverse quarantine. The tap water was still OK for laundry and showering but consumption was highly discouraged unless no other options were available. There was some mention of isolated looting but anyone involved was overcome with radiation sickness after a couple of days and incapacitated. As Adam feared, many children had been home alone after school as parents left work at the time of the attack. Multiple children contacted authorities requesting help and some emergency personnel had voluntarily made limited rescue şişli escort runs to a handful of houses to retrieve sick children. These runs were infrequent and only a small number were made. Adam knew many people around him were slowly dying from radiation or starvation and there was nothing he could do to help them. He turned off the radio and carried breakfast to his little family but he was now profoundly depressed. Ryan smiled as he saw the chocolate chips but then noticed Adam looked upset. “Thanks for bringing down breakfast. Are you OK? It looks like something is bothering you.” “Thanks Ryan. Yes, I made the mistake of listening to the radio and I’m now depressed because we’re surrounded by death and suffering with no way to help people. Many people are stuck in homes without food or fresh water. A lot of them won’t make it and they can’t be helped. It’s not that I feel guilty because we’re OK, but I’m just very sad because so many people are in trouble. When my kids were little we couldn’t leave the house for five days due to snow and ice from a winter storm. That stuff usually melts the next day but temperatures stayed below freezing for almost a week and nothing could melt. Our steep driveway and all the roads had a sheet of ice so nobody could drive. Governments in the south don’t waste money on snowplows and salt trucks because they’re seldom useful. We had plenty to eat and drink so it was no big deal. The kids thought it was a five day party. I’ve always thought people should be prepared to take care of themselves for at least a week. Natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, epidemics, earthquakes and even volcanic eruptions can happen any time. I didn’t expect a nuclear bomb but was still prepared for one anyway. People just can’t expect the government to immediately take care of them during tough times — people need to take care of themselves for a while inside their homes until help can be organized. People just assume they can always get food deliveries or drive to the grocery store whenever they want so they’re not prepared. We could last down here for several additional weeks if we just had more fresh water.” Eric got a wretched look and was fighting tears. “You’re right. I think about the kids who rode my bus and I know a lot of them are home alone until 6 or so every day until their parents get home. They won’t have any idea what to do and nobody can help them. They can’t call for help and they can’t use the TV for information. Lots of families don’t keep more than a few days of groceries in the house so they’re screwed.” Adam continued, “You both lost family members who were downtown. I absolutely lost some good friends and customers who would have been down there at 5:00. Many people died instantly from the fireball or the blast. But there could be a million people sheltering from fallout right now and many of them won’t make it because they weren’t prepared. I’m really sorry I’m making us all sad but every once in a while it hits me that we really are in a serious situation. I’m glad I planned ahead for emergencies like this, and I’m really, really glad you’re both here with me. I wish we could help others but it’s just not possible.” They finished their oatmeal with little enthusiasm and after their chores, Adam gathered them again on the couch. “Guys, I want to apologize for getting everybody depressed earlier. Have you ever heard the term `survivor’s guilt’? Sometimes people surviving a catastrophe feel guilty because they lived while others died. That just happened to me and I don’t want it to happen to you. Speaking just for me, I’m alive because I planned ahead. I have a freezer full of food, a box of freeze-dried food they claim lasts 25 years, and I always keep a lot of bottled water, beer and soda for emergencies. When this happened I had the knowledge to do things like fill every container I could find with fresh water for drinking and cooking, shutting down the HVAC, sealing the doors and windows, and so on. I shouldn’t feel guilty because I planned ahead and had knowledge. Eric is alive because he listened to the news and followed their directions. When he used up his resources he took the advice of his mother and came here. Eric shouldn’t feel guilty because he made good choices and will live. Ryan is alive because he’s cute as hell and I was staring at him as I drove down the street. He was just lucky. Ryan shouldn’t feel guilty because he’s really cute and he’s really lucky. Sometimes people are just lucky and that’s what happened to Ryan. We can’t help the other people in our neighborhood right now. If there was a safe way we could help our neighbors I know we would all do anything we could. If we had been hit by a tornado instead of a nuclear bomb I know we’d all be out rescuing people or sharing our food — we’re all good people. But right now, the radiation exposure from going door-to-door to help people could kill us so that’s not an option. Once we leave here we’ll find ways to help other people who survived. I don’t know what we can do but I know we’ll all try to find ways to help other people. My point in this speech is we can’t feel guilty because we lived. We can’t have survivor’s guilt. Our choices allowed us to be here today. We’re healthy and we’re going to survive this and we’ll try to help other people when it’s possible. Am I making any sense? Are you guys OK with what I just said?” Eric looked up with tears. “I was so scared when I was alone but I tried to do what they said on the radio. I might have been OK alone with more food and fresh water but I just didn’t have enough to make it. I made good choices, especially the choice to come here for help. I don’t feel guilty but I’m really sad thinking about friends from school who won’t make it.” Ryan latched onto Adam. “I didn’t do anything except get blinded by the flash and tackled by you. Over the past year everybody at school was getting bigger and more attractive. I thought of myself as a scrawny, ugly duckling that nobody would ever want so I can’t believe you thought I was cute. I’m glad you tackled me and saved me but I still don’t see why. I admit that I feel guilty because I didn’t save myself like Eric and I didn’t plan ahead and prepare things like you. I was just lucky. There is no good reason I get to live while other kids will die. It’s just not fair and it bothers me.” “Ryan, this is absolutely something you’ll need to discuss with the counselor. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You didn’t cause that bomb to go off and you didn’t cause people to die. It’s easy for me to say that people should have food stored but the reality is a lot of people just don’t have the money to do that. Lots of good people get food stamps and run out of food before the end of the month so there’s no way they can store extra food in a pantry. Some people just don’t have the financial resources sivas escort to be prepared. You already said your aunt didn’t keep food in the house and you only drank tap water. Well, if you had been home instead of out running then you’d be in the same situation as Eric, except you wouldn’t be here alive. Maybe fate decided you deserved a break. You have nothing to feel guilty about.” Ryan sniffed and squeezed harder. “You’ve done it again. You’re so good at making me feel better and I really appreciate it. I love you both and I’m glad we’re making a family together. When we get moved I want to help people. I wish we could help people now but you’re right. We can’t go outside and people are on their own for another week. I know you said it’s bad to drink when you’re sad but I really feel terrible right now. I think we should learn about some different beer, have a Pax and play video games. We can’t help anybody outside this house today but we can still cheer up each other.” “You’re right. Drinking is not the way to handle problems. But in this case we’re stuck in this swampy basement with nothing to do. We can eat, sleep, play video games and get intoxicated. That’s about it. Oh, we can have sex, but you can’t do that all day. Well, you can, but your dick will get really sore.” Adam sent the boys to the big beer refrigerator to find something new to try. Eric looked up at a shelf. “Adam, can we watch the movies on this shelf?” “Eric, you’ve done it again just like asking about oatmeal. I forgot all about those movies and I have dozens of them. The Xbox One can play movies so we can watch anything you guys want. Some are old from when kids lived here but some I picked up from discount bins over the years because I knew they were good. There are also some classics in there. Have either of you ever seen Stanley Kubrick’s movie `2001, A space odyssey’? It recently turned 50 years old. I suggest we watch it tonight after dark and after having an edible and Pax. It’s not a horror movie or spooky, but it can be intense and should be fun. You’re welcome to look through them all, but I’d like to watch that one while we’re stuck in here.” Eric nodded. “I’ve heard about it and have wanted to watch it because I like science fiction. Is there anything up here we can’t watch?” “No, although I might put some in context before we hit play. You’ll find `Up in Smoke’ by Cheech and Chong. That’s another movie where we’ll have an edible and the Pax first, but we’ll talk about it before and after the movie to put it in perspective. It’s set in the 1970’s and they smoke pot all through the movie. Just keep in mind that the pot wasn’t as strong back then and this is a comedy. Most current pot strains have been bred to produce a lot more THC, and that’s what gets you high. Let’s say you pour a beer into a 12 ounce glass. Now take another glass and pour in 12 ounces of whiskey. There’s a huge difference in alcohol percentage and the glass of beer can be relaxing while the glass of whiskey could send you to the hospital. It’s similar with marijuana, but not quite that extreme. Pot has gotten a lot stronger over 40 years. You should each pick out a few movies and we’ll talk about them. There are some that I absolutely don’t want to see and since we all have to stay in the same room we all get to veto movies. I’m just glad it’s not a shelf of My Little Pony episodes or something.” They picked out a new beer and poured it into 3 cups. They all liked it and split another. Day 6 — Saturday — afternoon The boys were engrossed in an action movie and Adam was bored. He remembered his earlier idea to have finger food from the freezer today. The freezer was packed with unhealthy options for quick meals. After starting the oven he looked through the freezer and pulled out some mini-tacos, enchiladas, breaded shrimp, mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers, chicken nuggets, egg rolls and more. This would be like the ultimate unhealthy bar food. The challenge was organizing things by cooking time and temperature so some items wouldn’t be burned while others were undercooked. With a little planning he had things divided on different cookie sheets and he started cooking. He found several dipping sauces and loaded the first batch of unhealthy food on a large tray. The movie was ending as he descended the stairs with the party food and the boys were wildly excited by the unexpected party. After Adam put down the tray Eric threw his arms around Adam and became emotional. “Two days ago I was so sick that I really expected to die. I knew I was an orphan and all alone in the world. I never thought things could be so good only a few houses away. I was sick and starving and now we’re watching movies and having a party. Thank you so much for taking care of us.” The gratitude made Adam tear up. “Thanks Eric. I think all three of us are very fortunate to have found each other during such a terrible time. You guys start eating this while I fix the next platter.” The boys worked on devouring the first platter of food as Adam returned to the kitchen to load another batch. He planned to keep life as normal for them as possible. He hoped they could completely avoid using the dehydrated food but that might be overly optimistic. Adam managed to fix a sampler plate for himself before the boys cleared everything else from the platters. “Was that enough or do I need to dig through the freezer for more?” They agreed that they were good until supper and found a video game to play. Adam checked his e-mail and read the limited local news he could find. Authorities still thought it would be safe for their area to evacuate in about a week. Everyone would be required to leave the area and there was no estimate when it might be safe to return but it could be many years. Adam made a note to ask Eric about stopping by his house on the way out of town to get anything important like pictures he wanted to keep. They could easily last another week just on frozen food and he hoped the power and tap water would hold up. He had enough batteries for the radio and flashlights but life would be miserable without power. The water samples were improving but officials still discouraged consuming tap water unless absolutely no other options were available. He checked the weather map and was surprised to see a quickly approaching front with widespread rain almost upon them. No weather warnings had been issued and he hoped this was just an extended rain event that would help cool things down and wash away some radioactive debris. Adam checked the 2nd internet connection again and it was not only working, but it was much faster so he switched the network gateway to the 2nd circuit. This should give them more options and maybe even some streaming. He heard a rumble of thunder as rain hit the side of the house but the boys were engrossed in a video game and didn’t notice. Their shelter room had no outside windows so they sıhhiye escort would be in the dark if power was lost. He quietly grabbed a flashlight and made sure it was within reach. Naked men lack pockets, he mused. Just a few minutes later the lights flickered off and he heard a loud thunderclap. The lights were out but the video game, projector and his computer stayed running. The boys jumped up and ran over. “What’s happening? Why is the game working but the lights are out?” “Well, a storm is passing by and has knocked out the power, temporarily I hope. I have the electronics on a battery backup but the battery won’t last long with all this stuff running. Please shut down the game system and the projector to conserve the battery so we can keep the outside cameras working. We need to see outside the house. The network gear for the house runs on a huge battery backup in the office behind the house and could run for a week or two. We won’t lose the internet.” Ryan was calm but Eric looked alarmed and asked, “What’s going to happen, Adam?” “The power company won’t want to send a repair crew out with the danger from radiation but if we’re lucky this will be something they can reset remotely. The power companies have spent big money for remote switching equipment so I hope they can reset the circuit from an office. Life for us won’t be as pleasant without power.” Adam logged on to the power company website and reported the outage as he normally would. He hoped they could fix it or their next week would be miserable. “You guys know from living around here that it’s usually back on within an hour or two, so let’s give them a little time before we get concerned.” The storm got stronger and they heard heavy rain hitting the house with occasional rumbles of thunder. The boys looked glum until Ryan perked up and grabbed Eric’s arm. “You know what still works? The lube and those latex sleeves. You want to join me?” Eric nodded enthusiastically as they rushed to the bed. “I like the way you think, big brother.” The house was silent except from the sounds emanating from panting boys and the masturbation toys squishing up and down on their dicks. “Ryan, I can’t stop thinking about all the times last year when I had boners that wouldn’t go away and I didn’t know about doing this. What a sad waste. But I plan on making up for it. This thing feels so good!” The minutes ticked by and Adam became increasingly concerned about the power situation. Without power, the food in the freezer would spoil and their only option would be the ’25-year’ dehydrated food. While they wouldn’t go hungry their meals would be much less fun. He also worried about neighbors sheltering without a dehydrated food option. Two loud groans heralded the conclusion of the masturbation distraction. Without electricity there were few other things to do and Adam was out of ideas. He heard the sound of a large truck on the street and this caused the video system to alert. He glanced at the monitor and saw two power company trucks race by. Ryan asked, “What’s going on?” “Two power trucks just drove by and they were hauling ass. My guess is a circuit tripped from the lightning and they can’t reset it remotely. It’s probably on a main branch line so they know it’s affecting a lot of people who are already just barely hanging on as they shelter. I’d also guess they sent two trucks just in case one broke down to guarantee both techs can get back safely. They use a really, really long special insulated stick to reset fuses on top of certain poles to restore the power. If all goes well they’ll only be outside the trucks for a minute or less so they can head back to safety. Those guys are heroes for going out to fix this.” Suddenly the lights came on and the dehumidifier rumbled to life. They cheered in relief, especially Adam. This could have been bad and he wondered if he could reduce the risk. He decided that as he removed things from the freezer he would replace the empty space with bags of ice from the ice maker. The ice couldn’t be used in drinks but could keep things cold in the freezer a little longer if they lost power. “How does Chinese food sound for supper? I saw some walnut chicken that looked pretty good.” Both boys concurred and cleaned the toys while Adam climbed the stairs to start the rice cooker. Day 6 — Saturday — evening Adam carried a large bowl of rice along with the walnut chicken down the stairs. He suggested they all have an edible before eating so it would kick in before they started `2001, A space odyssey’. “It’s not that you need to be high, but a lot of people watched the movie high in theatres when it was released in the 1970’s. Some parts may really freak you out.” Adam had a modest serving of the walnut chicken and the boys demolished the rest including every grain of rice. They organized the pillows to be comfortable for the movie. While loading the dishwasher Adam had an inspiration and made a huge batch of popcorn and carried it downstairs. They sat in the dark with bowls of popcorn as the movie started on the big screen. The boys were sometimes confused but mostly riveted. They discussed the details long after the movie ended, debating the meaning of the monkeys, the obelisk, the limitations of early special effects, how the jogging sequence on the ship was filmed and much more. Adam was glad they watched this movie because it kept everyone distracted after the scare from losing power earlier. The boys wanted to watch a second movie that Adam had seen several times so he moved to the computer as the movie started. The news from their area was essentially unchanged. The radiation levels were declining at the expected rate, the public water system was still unsafe for drinking but slowly improving and the projected day they could emerge was unchanged. Boring but good. He purposely avoided the human interest stories because they were depressing. Mainstream news organizations were futilely trying to tamp down public calls for retribution but the public voices broke through via social media and alternative sites. People demanded action. Public consensus supported the complete annihilation of the responsible country after publicly announcing a very short window prior to the attack. People fled entire countries as rumors spread about potential targets. The idea of completely destroying the homeland of those responsible was gaining support. The greatest objections came from adjacent countries which could be downwind but their concerns fell on deaf ears. He sent a note to the power company thanking the crew for restoring their power. He explained how critical the power was to their food supply and his appreciation for their efforts. Adam noticed the movie was over and things were quiet. He wasn’t surprised to see the boys asleep especially considering the stress of the past two days. The teens were cute but also laying sidewise on the bed leaving no room for Adam. He grabbed a clean sheet from the dryer and spread it on the couch. They went to sleep every night without blankets and usually kicked off any sheets but he still wanted something soft and sanitary between his skin and the nasty couch fabric. He fell into a contented sleep without any bad dreams.