Narcolepsy Nights #3916: “The Last 5 Minutes”, Part 3

(<- To Part 2)                                                                                (To Part 1 ->)

_ _ _ _ Date: August 31, 2136

_ _ _ _ Time: 04:22:16 pm pst

_ _ _ _ Location: Old Los Angeles

_ _ _ _ Population: 34, 313

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. Section 13. Cameras 12 … 22 … 23 … 26 … active.

_ _ _ _ Warning: Bunker Power levels at 27%

Static filled the screen, then transitioned to an out of focus image. The camera lens adjusted. It was a dark hallway, just like the one the twins had been hoverboarding in before, only this time – no one was there. The camera went black.

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. Section 13. Switching Camera: 23.

There was no motion, but a voice could be heard. “Max! Why are we back down here, again?”

“I dunno, I just thought … y’know, we could get in some last minute practice before the competition.”

“I think we’re pretty good already.” Mary said as the light from the twins flashlights lit up part of the hall, indicating they were headed in that direction. They had followed Mr. Brown’s order without question – until now – and it had been hard on them. “Yeah, but better safe than sorry, right?”

“Fine, whatever. Loser washes dishes!” Mary shouted, jumped on her board and howled as she blasted down the hall. Frustrated, Max jumped on his board after her. One by one the cameras switched, following the twins further and further down the complex. Finally, they stopped outside of the large, steel door on the thirtieth floor, out of breath. Rather than going inside, Mary fell to the ground across the hall. “What? Too scared to go inside?” Max said, smiling at her.

“Um, no. There’s just nothing of interest in there.”

“Whatever. I’m gonna check it out.” Max turned and dashed inside, thinking Mary would follow him, but instead, she just blew the hair out of her face, took off her helmet, and rested her head against the back wall. While Max was in the small room making any funny computer sounds he could think of, turning and pushing buttons, Mary just rolled her eyes and laughed … for a moment ..

Then … she saw it.

They hadn’t passed the door before. In fact, they didn’t even look past it they were so caught up in the moment. But, now she could see what was there. Holding her breath, terrified, there was a skeleton, fallen to the ground with its clothes in tatters, leaning against the wall behind the door. Mary was frozen. she wanted to call out for Max, but couldn’t move. Finally, he peeked his head out the door making a weird face at her, “Whoooo, beep, beep! You’re missing all the fun -” But his voice trailed off.

The look in his sister’s eyes was unmistakable. He slowly turned until he could see the light from her flashlight reflecting off the deep, dark sockets where once there were eyes. Max freaked out, shouted and fell down. Without so much as thinking, he turned and ran. Mary just stared at him in horror. “Max? MAX?” She shouted – but he was almost at the end of the hall. “He left me? YOU LEFT ME! YOU JERK!” She screamed.

“Shhh … c’mon, hurry,” Max said, whispering. Mary was still angry with him, but not as angry as she was terrified of the skeleton. Slowly, she pulled herself up. As she leaned forward, her flashlight fell to the ground and she let out a little yip. Putting her hand over her mouth, she quickly looked up to see if the skeleton had moved. But, it had stayed right where it was, only this time, she saw something silvery shining from the ground next to it. Squinting her eyes and leaning a little more forward she could see what it was …. a key!

“Mary, c’mon!” Max whispered again.

“Hold on a sec, I found something!” Mary replied, but Max couldn’t believe his ears. Biting his lower lip, he slowly crept up toward her, hoping to grab her and run. By the time he reached her, she was on her hands and knees with one arm outstretched, inches from the skeleton. Max watched as she pulled on the key over and over again. “It’s stuck!”

“Let it go, dude!” Max said.

“No. Hold on. I think I can … almost .. ungh!” Mary grunted as she fell back, the key coming loose as the skeleton’s head popped off and rolled toward her. Seeing the skull, she screamed and lunged forward into the open room, her brother close behind. “What the heck did you do that for! You almost got us killed!” Max cried out.

“Look! I got a key now, too!” Mary said, holding it up in the dim light of her flashlight.

“What! You mean all that for a stupid key?”

“Stupid! You took the first one! This one’s mine! See? It’s just like yours!” Mary said. Max thought for a moment, staring closely at her key, then pulled his out from under his shirt. Side by side, the keys were identical. “Hey, you know what this means, right?”

“Yeah, we got matching keys!” Max replied.

Mary sighed. “No, dummy. We can both open the locks on the wall.” Mary said, turning around to put her key in. Max smiled and took his key off from around his neck, “Oh yeah, cool!” The twins put their keys in the key holes and turned, pulling hard on the wall, but it wouldn’t budge. After about 5 minutes of trying, Max said, “Well, this sucks.”

“Yeah, I was hoping there would be something cool inside.”

“Guess the wall thingy’s broken.” Max said, pulling his key out. Mary just sighed. She grabbed her key and her board, and careful not to go near the skeleton, the two kids moved out of the room and walked toward the exit. “I wonder what the keys do?”

“Guess we’ll never know! Besides, we got a tournament to win and you got dishes to wash!” Max said, laughing and pointing at her. “I don’t think so – YOU lost!”

“Last one out does the dishes!” Max shouted, jumping on his board and zipping off.

“Hey, hold on! Creep! That’s not fair!” Mary shouted back, following closely behind.

_ _ _ _ Date: September 1, 2136

_ _ _ _ Time: 04:14:11 am pst

_ _ _ _ Location: Old Los Angeles

_ _ _ _ Population: 34, 313

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. City Square. Municipal Cameras Active. Camera 89 Active.

Robert bicycled past the decorations and all the celebratory spectacles that had been laid out for that Founder’s Day as quietly as he could. It was his first time being on an ‘adventure’. The statue of the Founders stood in the center of the town square, one of the founders holding up a sword like the torch from the Statue of Liberty. He smiled and giggled as he sped out of the city.

_ _ _ _ Time: 04:58:11 am pst

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. Bunker System Active. Section 13. Cameras 12 … 22 … 23 … 26 … active.

_ _ _ _ Warning: Bunker Power levels at 10%

Robert laid his bike against the wall outside the large, broken concrete doors. “Man, she’s gonna be so surprised to see this!” He said, barely able to contain himself. Robert walked in slowly. The twins hadn’t done a sufficient job telling him all of the details and he was beside himself with joy. “Why did they lock off the restricted zone anyway? This place is so cool!” He whispered out loud. Quickly, he lifted a recorder near his mouth and pushed a button, “Uh, um, this is … this is Robert Brown, 1st Professor of Old Los Angeles. I am scouting the underground building the twin … scratch that … I am scounting the underground building I saw in the distance. Ahead of me are two, large stone doors. I will now do a preliminary investigation before Amy … darn it! Dr. Lao returns home and we conduct a more thorough investigation. Maybe I’ll even find her the perfect gift for our wedding today!”

Robert clicked the switch off, smiling proudly to himself, and entered into the old, decaying, foreboding building.

_ _ _ _ Time: 06:58:11 am pst

_ _ _ _ Location: Old Los Angeles

_ _ _ _ Population: 34, 313

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. New Living Center. Municipal Cameras Active. Camera 342 Active.

The twins rushed out of the tall skyscraper, boards in hand, wearing their team shirts. “Mary, stop! Where are you going!” Max said, rushing after her, out of breath and still trying to pull his clothes on with one hand, his board in the other, and toast between his teeth.

“I dropped it! I have to get it back!”

“Dropped what?”

“My KEY!” She cried. Max caught up to her, grabbed her arm and said, “Whoa! Hold on … your what?!”

“You know, the key I found, in the bunker! I must have dropped it when I rushed after you!”

“Wait! You drug us out of bed at 7 in the morning, on the day of our big competition, for that stupid key? Jeez, here, if it’s such a big deal, have mine.” He said, struggling to get a hold of the chain from under his shirt.

“No, Max. You don’t understand. That’s YOUR key. I want MY key, too!” Mary practically had tears in her eyes.

“Why?”

“Because … it’s our good luck charm, you know? I just – I really want to win this so much and … ” Mary’s voice trailed off as she started to cry. Max put his arms on her shoulders. “Wow. I didn’t realize it meant that much to you. Hey .. don’t cry. It’s okay. We have plenty of time. Let’s go get your key and then we’ll win this thing, together!” Mary threw her arms around him. The only person in the world who could understand her was her brother – and just when she needed him, he came through. The two rushed off on their hoverboards toward the restricted zone.

The screen went to static … then it went dark.

_ _ _ _ Time: 06:59:19 am pst

_ _ _ _ Signal intercepted: Location: Jet 1. Status: In Transit.

“ROBERT! ROBERT! Are you there? PLEASE, ANSWER ME?”

Suddenly the camera turned on and it was Amy, aboard the hover jet she had spoken about. She looked frantic. Turned away from the camera, talking to someone off screen she said, “I – I don’t think it’s working?”

“Maybe he’s not there?” A male voice said from out of sight.

“No – it’s not even 7. He’d be making eggs right about now … he’s GOT to be there!” She replied. Turning her head back to the screen she said, “Robert? ROBERT!? Please, it’s imperative you answer me! That symbol the kids have … it …”

But the screen went to static.

As it flickered back on and off for a few seconds … it was clear, Amy was frantic and she was holding up a book with the same symbol the twins had found on the left page … on the right was a picture of a nuclear explosion.

The screen went dark.

_ _ _ _ Time: 06:59:59 am pst

_ _ _ _ Signal: Lost.

The screen flickered through some images of the municipal square, the new residence area, and the school room. Nobody was present.

_ _ _ _ Time: 07:22:03 am pst

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. Bunker System Active. Section 13C-12. Cameras 70 … 72 … 73 … 79 … active.

_ _ _ _ Warning: Power levels at 3%

The screen was dark. This camera was on the ground among the rubble with only a faint light flashlight shining from somewhere above it. ‘Click’ “This is Robert Brown. I’ve made it to the 11th floor. This looks nothing like what the twins described. I think – I think I’ve taken a wrong turn. I’m trying to backtrack my way through but I’ve reached an open door with a key lock on it. It leads to a small hall with a closed door at the end. I’m going to try that to see if it leads me back somehow. … Ow! Darn, stupid jacket. Let go of the -”

‘SLAM!’

There was silence.

_ _ _ _ Switching Cameras: Activating Feed: 79.

From a distance, the camera could zoom in on a window in a door that was clearly several inches thick explaining the lack of sound after it closed. Part of Robert’s jacket could be seen coming through the door jam, the pocket wrapped around the door handle on the outside. Behind the window, Robert was beating frantically and yelling-

But there was no sound.

_ _ _ _ Warning: Bunker Power levels at 0%. Signal Lost.

The screen went black.

_ _ _ _ Date: September 1, 2136

_ _ _ _ Time: 08:05:16 am pst

_ _ _ _ Location: Old Los Angeles

_ _ _ _ Population: 34, 313

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. Section 13. Cameras 12 … 22 … 23 … 26 … active.

The camera zoomed in as the twins carefully slid into the small room behind the massive, steel vault door, trying not to go near the now headless skeleton. Frantically looking around the floor, Mary tried to find the key, but without any luck.

“Um, Hey, I know where your key is.” Max said.

“What? Where?” Mary asked, jumping up. Max pointed at the computer wall with his flashlight, “Looks like it didn’t come all the way out when you pulled on it.”

“But – but I swore I put it around my neck … or … at least .. I thought I did. Oh man, the chain came off the key, but … it stayed there.”

“Whoa… spooky.”

“Whatever. Let’s just get out of here,” Mary said, reaching for her key.

“Wait, dude, let’s see if the box opens this time. After all, keys’ gotta open something!”

“C’mon Max, we gotta go.”

“You know, for good luck?” He said, nudging her with his elbow.

“Okay, one more time.” She replied, smiling back at him. Only this time, as Max put his key in, almost as if by some deep connection between the twins, they synchronized their breathing …

They turned from looking at each other, smiling, to looking at their respective keys …

They breathed once more …

And turned the keys at the same time.

‘CLICK’ There was a deep, rumbling sound, barely audible to the twins, but nothing happened. Max was struggling to pull on his key, hoping the wall would open this time. Mary shook her head. “It didn’t work.”

“Aw, man. Bummer.”

“It’s okay. We have our good luck charms. Now we can go -” But Mary was cut off. This time, the rumbling sound was louder. She slid back in terror, dropping her board on the desk so hard that it cracked the plastic piece making a loud smashing sound. “Oh no! My board!” Mary and Max rushed to pick it up, checking it out. While they looked it over, the camera slightly changed focus. Just past the board, on the desk, underneath the broken plastic was a dusty, dark, hard to see red button that had been pushed. There was a faint, dim light shining in it for a moment, but before either twin could see, the light faded out.

“Man, glad your board’s okay.” Max said.

“Yeah, me too, but … but what was that sound?”

“Founder’s Day fireworks, duh!?” Max said laughing.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Mary said. “Race you out?”

“You know it!” Max replied.

But, this time – the camera did not switch. It did not follow them. It stayed focused on the button. For a brief second, there was another rumble, and the small, red light within the button shined brighter than before.

_ _ _ _ Time: 08:15:31 am pst

_ _ _ _ Motion Activation. Bunker System Active. Section 13. Cameras 12 … … …. … …  … active.

Max and Mary emerged from the old, fallen apart, concrete building. “Hey, check it out!” Max said, looking up at the sky. Mary raised her head to see what he was talking about, and in the distance, there were multiple pillars of smoke all leading to the blue skies above. At the top of each was a bright-white, burning light. “What is that?” She asked.

“Founder’s Day fireworks! See, I told you!”

“Those are awfully big to be fireworks, don’t you think?”

“Nope. This is a special Founder’s Day.”

“What’dya mean?”

“‘Cause we’re gonna finally win the hoverboard competition and then you and me are gonna’ be heroes!”

“Oh Max, you’re such a goof.” Mary said, leaning her head on him and smiling, “I’m so glad you’re my big brother. I hope we’re always going to be together.”

“Oh, man! There’s no WAY we wouldn’t be. Remember, that’s what mom and dad said just before they died – ‘Always take care of your sister’. And, today, we’re gonna win the tournament and then … live happily ever after, just like in those books.” Mary didn’t say a word. She just looked up at the beautiful lights in the sky, smiling, dreaming about the future . . .

_ _ _ _ Time: 08:32:44 am pst

_ _ _ _ Switching Cameras: Activating Feed: 79

Robert was beating steadily on the door until slowly, he lost hope. Falling down into the door, the tears in his eyes were visible. He was breathing hard. … So hard in fact, it was clear … the room was sealed. The camera focused in and out … watching. A few minutes passed …and Robert slid down, beneath the view of the window. As he slid down, he lifted his hand up and placed a small object in the window, kissed it, and disappeared.

The camera zoomed in …

It was a ring. A simple, silver band …

The screen went black.

_ _ _ _ Date: September 1, 2136

_ _ _ _ Time: 10:43:01 pm pst

_ _ _ _ Location: Earth

The Earth was white. Text began running across the screen:

_ _ _ _ Status report: missile launch: 09:17:42 am pst. File Archive AX[Z!17#3. Status: Missiles Fired: 22,110. Status: Automated Global Defense System. Missiles Fired: 37,312.

_ _ _ _ Date: September 1, 2136

_ _ _ _ Time: 10:43:19 pm pst

_ _ _ _ Location: Earth

_ _ _ _ Total Population: 0.

_ _ _ _ Signal Integrity: 0 signals detected. No camera signal available.

The screen turned dark once more.

It was quiet. There were no sounds to be heard except for an empty, dark wind coming from nowhere. Suddenly, a small light appeared on the side of the monitor. The Satellite sprang to life.

_ _ _ _ Diagnostics Check: 23huu459fi$%#juk#hkjbn23#jfkkfjs ….

This continued on until several screens were full. Then  – the text vanished.

_ _ _ _ Date: December 15, 2527

_ _ _ _ Time: ERROR … unable to calibrate

_ _ _ _ Location: Earth

_ _ _ _ Population: 0.

_ _ _ _ Signal Integrity: 2% signal detected. Motion Activation. City Square. Municipal Cameras Active. Camera 89 Active.

There was static followed by shaking and then more static until the signal disappeared and the monitor went black.

_ _ _ _ Warning: Satellite Power at 1%. Critical failure imminent. Shutdown commencing in 0:07:00.

The screen suddenly flickered again, more static, and then came to life. The camera was near the ground. Everything looked like brown desert. There was obviously some structure supporting the camera as there was some shade. It was daylight, but the stars were visible in a very dark blue/blackish sky. The camera panned around.

Flickering … static … darkness.

_ _ _ _ Warning: Satellite Power at 1%. Critical failure imminent. Shutdown commencing in 0:06:00.

Suddenly, the screen flickered again as the camera sprang back to life. The motor gears ground together as it struggled to turn. Suddenly, it stopped.

There was an image in the distance. The camera focused. Sticking out of the sand was the sword from the Founder’s Statue. There was a wind, some dirt blew by, the screen went in and out of static, and then, there was a glimmer like metal. The camera zoomed in again. At the base of the sword, protruding out of the sand, were two, broken, old, and clearly disregarded hoverboards. Part of the faded radioactive symbol on each of them could still be seen. Hanging from the broken frame were two keys, side by side, held up by the deceased hoverboards like a swimmer desperate to keep his head above water.

The camera went to static, and then back to the desert scene, zooming in on the keys.

_ _ _ _ Warning: Satellite Power at 1%. Critical failure imminent. Shutdown commencing in 0:05:00.

For five minutes, the clock counted down.

For five minutes, the last images of the world that was once home to the human race was that of two, lost twins, whose love and passion to take care of one another was embodied by two, simple, small keys. …

Two, simple … and very plain keys that seemed so small in the vast wasteland of humanity’s remains, yet held the power to destroy the entire world.

_ _ _ Warn … War … Warning: ..

There was static

_ _ _ _ Power at 0% … 0% …. 0% …. 00:00:01.

The screen went black. The lights from the satellite turned off. Its solar panels folded in. And, like the dark planet below it, the satellite continued its infinite journey, forever destined to circle the world it was tasked to record, always holding the final images of the final moments of humanity’s days when the tombstones of two, very innocent and kind children, the best hope that humanity had to progress forward, were marked by the decaying last pieces of human technology and two, very small … very simple … silver keys.

-DK (aka Xenohart) … for JJ … always and forever … eternity and beyond … no … matter … what!

(<- To Part 2)                                                                                (To Part 1 ->)

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