Sunday 18 October 2015

Decidophobia (fear of making decisions) - #Octobophobia short story

The announcement has been overdue for months.

“You’ve tested the radio,” The daughter says to her father.

“I’m testing it again,” The father replies.

The noise is irritating her and setting her off. “There hasn’t been anything for weeks. It’s broken.”

“The system’s down, that’s all. “

“It’s broken,” she says and walks away from the room.

The whirring of the generator and the static of the radio are too much for her. She goes to the area of the bunker that’s been cordoned off to give her some privacy and lays down on the campbed. She tries to think of somewhere else.

Anywhere else. Anywhere on the other side of the door.

She tries to sleep.

The father tinkers with the radio still and tries not to think about his wife. Tries not to think about everybody else.

The food won’t last forever. They both know that, but he has a more realistic idea of how much is left. He knows how quickly it will realistically work out. He hates to see her hungry, but if there’s one thing he can do while they’re stuck down here, it’s to keep her alive.

They don’t have much privacy or space, but they have some. They have some dividers for their own spaces, but they can always hear each other.  That’s the bit he finds the most difficult. They’re cut off from everyone else, but they are never entirely by themselves either. Instead, he knows that he irritates her now more than any human being ever has, even while he knows that she loves him.

He tries not to think of the door.

Slowly, he goes through every frequency on the radio, testing both ways. He repeats the phrases as he does and waits for responses.

Like he does every day. For months now.

The daughter eventually stands up and walks to the bunker door.

“What are you doing?” The father says to her.

“The radio’s broken,” she says. “We’ll go crazy if we’re down here.”

“What if it isn’t safe?” He says.

“Then we’ll… we’ll…”

“This is why we wait for the announcement.”

“What if the announcement never comes?”

The father doesn’t say anything. All his answers have fallen apart. They’ve been down here too long.

“We need to leave,” the daughter says, weeks later.

“We can’t,” the father replies.

“What do we have if we stay here?”

“What if it isn’t safe?”

“We don’t have a choice,” she says. “We’re running out of food.”

“No, we’re not,” he says. “There’s still enough.”

“We’re running out of options, then.”

“Then that’s enough to keep us alive.”

She nods. “Keep us alive, yes. But this isn’t living. This is just waiting. We don’t have a choice. We need to go outside and find out.”

“We might die if we do.”

“We will die if we don’t.”

She looks at the door. “It won’t take long,” she says.

“We cant,” says the father.

She walks up to the door. “We don’t have a choice.”

“Of course we do.”

“We don’t know how bad it is out there.”

She smiles sadly. “We may never know.”

The father pulls back, nervously.  He watches her for a moment, then sits at the table where they’ve been eating the same four meals for days.

“I know,” he says.

The daughter stops. Her hand just in front of the door handle. “Really?”

“Yes,” he says. “But if we go out… if the radiation is bad…”

“Wouldn’t you rather know?”

“…we can fix the radio.”

The daughter shouts now. “We’ve tried fixing the radio! We’ve been trying for weeks to fix the radio! There’s nothing!”

He hangs his head. “We should wait. We don’t have a choice.”

“There’s always a choice,” she says.

“But taking it may kill us,” the father responds.

She steels herself and then places her hand onto the door handle. The metal, like the door, like the walls, like the table, like the campbed, is cold.

“Don’t do it!”, the father shouts.

She holds her hand on the handle. All she needs to do is push down and then pull.

That’s all she needs to do.

But she hesitates.

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