I remember “the incident” like it was yesterday.
I was walking home from pub trivia night. I was standing on the sidewalk a little buzzed, and waiting for the right moment to jaywalk when it happened. There was a flash of light in the sky bright enough to blind me. My vision cleared just in time to see a massive mushroom cloud on the horizon.
I screamed and started running in the opposite direction. Behind me, I heard a low rumble. It got louder, and I felt the air begin to warm around me. I jumped a fence, stumbling into a nearby backyard. In the center of well manicured grass there was a hatch. It was open. A hand popped out and beckoned me inside.
I ran to the hatch, nearly tripping over a garden hose. The roar was deafening, and the air was so hot that I was hardly able to breath. I jumped inside, falling and crashing onto a hard, concrete floor as a sheet of bright orange flame swept past the little circular opening. I moaned and my vision tunneled.
The last thing I saw was a man rush past me to close the hatch.
“Holy shit,” I muttered. “You look just like Sam Neill.”
Even after all these years, I’m still amazed that I not only had the good luck to stumble upon the bunker, but that the man inside it was acclaimed film, television, and stage actor Sam Neill. I don’t know what the odds of such a thing happening are, though Sam and I tried and failed to calculate them a few times since the explosion.
Once the shock of surviving a nuclear holocaust wore off, I was actually excited to share the bunker with Sam. We had beds, blankets, light, heat, and enough food and water to last us 75 years or so. The bunker was state-of-the-art, and even had a little computer terminal that monitored the level radioactivity outside. Sam said the house and bunker weren’t his, and was evasive when I asked him how he ended up there. I didn’t push the issue. He was Sam Neill after all, star of such famous films as In the Mouth of Madness and Event Horizion. I wanted to make a good first impression with the guy.
We quickly found that we both enjoyed each other’s company inside that little grey box. Sam was soft spoken and polite. As those first tentative days passed, he was kind enough to answer many of my questions. Most of them were related to Jurassic Park. I remember laughing as he told dirty jokes he learned from Jeff Goldblum to pass the time while I heated up cans of pork and beans over a camp stove.
In time we grew to be great friends, and later, we became something more. Brothers? By the end of the first year, we would spend most nights laying in our cots sharing our deepest thoughts and dreams with each other as we tried to drift off to sleep. We told each other things about ourselves we’d never shared with anyone else. Not family or parents, or even lovers. I cried and told him that my father never taught me how to swim, and about my deep regret that I’d never get to complete my exhaustive Wiki on entry on the unpublished erotic fiction of Gene Roddenberry. Sam’s voice trembled a little when he talked about getting a green light to star in a Napoleon biopic just before the world became a scorched, lifeless wasteland.
Things began to change in the winter of our second year together.We started to run out of things to talk about. Topics started repeating themselves. God knows we both tried to hold things together, but we were drifting apart. Those long days and nights of deep conversation slipped into awkward silence as we stared at the hourly radiation readouts from the terminal, and desperately searched for something to say to each other.
It was during one of those silences that our relationship hit its breaking point. We were enjoying a light afternoon snack of freeze dried peas and some tang, and Sam was telling a story about Anna Paquin getting dysentery on the set of The Piano. It was one he’d told at least fifteen times before, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I laughed like it was my first time hearing it. When he finished I opened my mouth in a preemptive strike to fill the oncoming silence.
"Uh huh. It’s a shame you’ve never won an Oscar."
I regreted the words as soon as they left my mouth. It just came out. My back was to Sam, but I could feel his stare searing a white-hot hole just between my shoulderblades. I spun around, an apolgy aready clumsily spilling out of my mouth.
"Sam I didn’t-"
He waved his hand dismissively.
"It’s fine," he said.
But it wasn’t fine. I could see it in his eyes.
Things were never the same after that day. I stood helpless as Sam pulled away from me. He was quiet, brooding, and moody. He began to complain that I didn’t straighten the blankets on my cot often enough. He accused me of eating too much of the food.
"Come on’ we’ve got enough food here to last us into our late 90’s," I said.
"That’s not the point," Sam said. "It’s the principal of the matter."
"Sam is somehting wrong?"
"Are you sure? What’s wrong?"
"Nothing," he said, and went back top scibbling in the diary he started shortly after the Oscar comment. It hurt to know that the personal, deep thoughts he once shared aloud with me are now relegated to that little notebook. They were locked away from me forever.
Five years we’ve been down here now, and the gulf between us grows wider with each passing day. The hours pass quietly in silence, except for the occasional djssatified huff when I leave my dirty silverwear in the sink after a meal. I want to reach out. I want to fall at his feet and cry and beg for his forgivness, but I do not. Too much time had passed. Things can never be as they were.
According to the readouts from the terminal, it will be many years before the radiation levels are low enough for either of us to leave this place. Even if we could, what would we find out in the blasted wastes that lay on the other side of the hatch? Until then, we are stuck down here together.
Help. I am trapped in an underground bunker with Sam Neill, and it’s not fun anymore.