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Home and Bunker Network – Christine Schott

Home and Bunker Network

Fiction by Christine Schott

Cheery Female Narrator: Today we’re on sunny Hilton Head Island, where Tammy and Scott have just received their papers allowing them to move out of the refugee camp and into a place of their own.

Scott (wearing a Hawaiian shirt to match the sea, visible through thick glass in the background, lounging on a concrete bench with his arm around Tammy): We are so excited to be shopping for our dream home. We’ve been on the waiting list for three years, and now it’s finally our turn.

Tammy (clapping her hands): I can’t wait to see what Andy and Martin have to show us!

Andy (entering with Martin and extending a well-manicured hand to each in turn): Scott, Tammy, good to see you. So, as you know,  you have a budget of 350,000 bits, and with that budget in mind, we’re going to show you three houses I’ve picked out for you, and Martin’s going to walk you through the renovations he would make on each one.

Martin: Shall we get started?

Tammy and Scott: Yes!

Scott (driving, speaking to Tammy): So you told Andy that you want something really modern. All this time I thought you were a traditionalist.

Tammy: Maybe, but do we really want to do a lot of work on this house?  I want something a little more turnkey. I’m ready to have my own bathroom again. Watch that pothole!

Scott: That was a big one, wasn’t it?  I wouldn’t mind a fixer-upper. I’m a handy guy.

Tammy: You say that, hon’, but you know you’ll never actually do anything. I think if we could get something that was constructed in the last couple of years, that would be ideal.

Scott: Honey, we can’t afford Post-War.

Scott (back on the concrete bench by the water, nudging Tammy affectionately with his knee): Tammy and I met about fifteen years ago at a barbeque, and then we just happened to end up at the same refugee camp when we were heading downwind of the fallout. We started seeing each other again, and when I found out we could get a bigger tent if we were together …

Tammy (laughing): He’s such a romantic.

Scott: We’ve been together ever since.

Tammy (back in the car): You gave Andy a long list, Scott. What would you say is your biggest priority in a house?

Scott: I think…a bunker.

Tammy: Why a bunker?

Scott: It’s like a man cave on steroids. Wouldn’t you feel safe if we had a bunker?

Tammy: Not if you turned it into a man cave.

Scott laughs.

Tammy (leaning forward to peer up through the windshield): I don’t know about this neighborhood, Scott. It looks like nobody lives here. Watch that pothole!

Scott: After three years, I’m fine with not having neighbors for a change.

Tammy: Is this it?

Scott (checking a slip of paper on the dash): That’s the address.

Tammy: Oh, my.

***

Authoritative Male Narrator:  Is your family safe?  Do your windows lock?  Do you have a bolt on your door?

Doe-Eyed Mother (holding a solemn toddler, both labeled in small print reading “Paid Spokespersons”): I thought we had everything covered. I never knew what a risk 

we were taking until the looters broke in.

Authoritative Male Narrator: Don’t trust your family’s safety to locks and bolts. Trust SafeGuard Theft Deterrent System.

Doe-Eyed Mother: The next time the looters came, we were ready.

Masked Reenactor grabs a windowsill and triggers a cascade of blue sparks. He makes inarticulate gurgling and shrieking sounds as he falls to the ground, electrocuted.

Doe-Eyed Mother: Nobody’s going to hurt my babies. Not now that I have SafeGuard.

***

Andy (walking down the barren lawn with Martin): So…whaddya think?

Tammy (stepping gingerly out of the car): I don’t know.

Scott: It looks kind of…shabby.

Tammy: This from the guy who wants a fixer-upper.

Andy: So, this is a 1987 two-story Colonial Modern. I have to admit, it’s a little scorched on the outside—

Martin (cheerily): Nothing some paint won’t cover!

Andy: —and I think you’re really going to like the price: 170,000 bits.

Martin: That would leave you 180,000 for renovations.

Tammy: It’s going to need it. Is that a hole in the roof?

Martin: That, Tammy, is a skylight in the making.

Tammy: I don’t want a skylight. Skylights aren’t safe—you know, drones dropping who knows what.

Martin: Even better. We can patch that up and save on installation costs.

Andy: As you’ve noticed, this is a pretty unpopulated neighborhood, so the place isn’t a high-priority target, but all the same, let’s not stand around asking for trouble. Let’s head inside.

Tammy (following close on Andy’s heels): Would we be able to afford an armed guard?  Once we moved in, I mean?

Martin: Probably not with the scope of work that’s going to be necessary. But we can do you one better: we can put in SafeGuard.

Tammy (breathing a sigh of relief): Okay, I can live with that.

Scott (leading the way through the front door): Oh! This looks like your parents’ house, Tammy.

Tammy (laughing): It’s that bad?

Martin: Now, don’t judge it based on what it looks like now. It’s been unoccupied for years, except for a few random transients who couldn’t get into camps. But underneath, this is actually the best house in the neighborhood. You can see for yourself that the infrastructure is completely intact: the brick exterior protected the insides during the fire.

Tammy: We can see the infrastructure because there’s no extra-structure. There’s no drywall or anything.

Martin: We think that was most likely burned for fuel. But don’t worry: with your budget, you could drywall the whole place, and pay for expediting the materials so you won’t have to wait at the back of the ration line.

Scott: How many bedrooms?

Andy: Three bedrooms, two full baths.

Tammy sucks her teeth.

Scott: We won’t be able to afford the water for two baths, not with what we make at the plant.

Martin: Don’t worry, we plan to gut one of the bathrooms and turn it into a panic room.

Tammy: Oh! I’d love to have a panic room!

Andy: It would definitely be a good investment in terms of resale value. Now, if you walk through here you can see the kitchen.

Martin: We’d put all-new appliances in, of course. You wouldn’t be able to afford a gas stove, of course; nobody can anymore. But we think we could salvage the cabinets, so you wouldn’t have to pay the fee for imported wood.

Scott: What about native wood?

Martin: Since the Upstate burned, we’ve had to import the wood for our projects from Brazilaguay!

Tammy: I always think rain forest wood gives things an exotic feel, but if we can save these cabinets, they’re fine too, I guess.

An alarm sounds three blasts, interrupting the dialogue while the group continues to tour the house. 

Calm Female Answering Machine Voice: Homeland has issued an instability warning for the following counties: Brickstone, Callaway, Egerton, and Flag Landing. Residents should be on the alert for unusual activity between 4:00 p.m. and curfew. Incidents should be reported to the local Homeland field office immediately.

The three-blast alarm sounds again, then dialog resumes.

Andy: As you can see, this house has something else really good going for it. The previous owners didn’t knock down any of the interior walls during the early 2000s when open-concept was all the rage. They kept the smaller ‘80s-style windows too, and we can take out this sliding glass door and put in a nice metal one for you.

Scott (looking out the glass door): Is that a pool?

Andy: It is, unfortunately.

Tammy: What on earth would we do with a pool?  We couldn’t possibly fill it.

Scott: Does it ever fill with rainwater?

Andy: Not really, no. At least, not in the months when it’s warm enough out to swim in it.

Martin: We thought we might cover over it and turn it into…wait for it…a bunker!

Tammy: Oh, yes! Scott!

Scott: I think it would be kind of a shame to change it. Think about being the only folks we know with a pool. It’s like a…whaddya call it…a status symbol. Like when there used to be different makes of cars and everyone wanted BMWs.

Tammy: Don’t be sentimental, Scott. You said a bunker is at the top of your list! (To Martin) I’d feel so much better about starting a family if I knew we had a bunker.

Scott rubs his chin, still looking at the empty pool.

Andy: Shall we move on to House Number Two?

Tammy: Yes. Maybe one that’s not quite so rickety?

Martin: I told you, it’s not rickety! The issues are all cosmetic.

Tammy (laughing and patting his arm): Okay, okay. Show us House Number Two.

***

Frenetic Male Narrator: Are you tired of cooking over an unreliable camp stove?  Are you sick of paying more for your fuel than you pay for your food?  Then it’s time for you to try Microwave Solar!

Well-Dressed Young Woman: I used to be such a snob about microwaves. I thought they were only for college students. Then I saw a microwave cooking show with Amadeus Pan. And I thought, if Pan can do it, why can’t I?

Amadeus Pan (in a bright white chef’s costume): I’m Amadeus Pan, and I never cook a meal without my Microwave Solar. It has more power than a camp stove, costs less to run, and it works even when the electricity is out! (Holding up a laden microwave tray with a devilish smile.) Dinner by candlelight anyone?

Frenetic Male Narrator: Don’t wait to try Microwave Solar! Get on your secure line and order yours now. But wait, there’s more! Order your Microwave Solar in the next ten minutes and you’ll get this exclusive microwave cookbook by famed chef Amadeus Pan.

Well-Dressed Young Woman: I just love it!

Amadeus Pan (rakishly, to the camera): I knew you would.

***

Cheery Female Narrator (speaking over a shot of Scott and Tammy driving down a wide, tree-lined road): We’re following Scott and Tammy as they make the long-awaited transition from refugeeism to home ownership. With a budget of 350,000 bits, Andy and Martin have their hands full trying to find this couple’s perfect home.

Scott (looking out the side window beyond Tammy):  This is more like it!

Tammy: I don’t know.

Scott: What do you mean you don’t know?  It’s beautiful! (Hopping out of the car) Andy, Tammy says she doesn’t know.

Andy (opening Tammy’s door): What are your thoughts, Tammy?

Tammy: I mean, it’s beautiful, but it’s so Pre-War. I mean, look at those enormous windows!

Andy: You’re right. This is a mid-2000s Modern, four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath.

Tammy: Andy! That’s extravagant!

Martin: But don’t worry: we’ve got a plan.

Andy: We sure do. This home is priced at 250,000, which leaves you only 100,000 for renovations. Now, we’d definitely take up every single bit of that budget, but I think it would be a great investment for you.

Martin: Let’s go inside. I just got the “all clear” from security on the corner.

Scott (leading the way again): It’s so bright and airy!

Tammy: Not safe. Not safe.

Martin: I know what you mean, Tammy, but like I said, we have a plan.

Andy: So, you see this place has the open-concept design that all the most recent Pre-War constructions have, but don’t let that scare you.

Martin: The first thing we’d do is brick up those front windows. We’d install a smaller window way up on that wall there for light and ventilation, one that wouldn’t say, “Loot me” like these do.

Tammy: Don’t stand in full view like that, Scott. Come over here.

Andy: Fortunately, the folks who built this place were old-fashioned tree-huggers, so all the original appliances are energy efficient and wouldn’t break the bank to run.

Scott: That’s good.

Martin: And we would also like to throw up a nice, solid wall between the living room and kitchen, and close off the side of the staircase so you have kind of a stairwell. That would be so much more blast resistant.

Tammy: I like that idea. That’d certainly feel a lot safer. Don’t you feel like a sitting duck in this big old space, Scott?

Scott: Not really. I mean, I used to live in a house like this.

Tammy (rubbing his shoulder affectionately): Don’t be sentimental, honey. You’ve gotta think practical now.

Scott (to Andy): But we don’t need four bedrooms—even if we have kids. What on earth would we do with them?

Martin (rubbing his hands): This is the best part of the plan! Since we’re saving on the appliances and such, we can put up another wall between the living room and den and run that wall upstairs. Then you could put a separate entrance on the back and rent out the east side of the house as a separate living facility.

Tammy (clapping): Oh, that would be great! We could get the list of approved families from Homeland and have somebody in here within a couple of weeks. Imagine the boost that’d be, Scott!

Scott: Is there a bunker?

Andy: Unfortunately not. But there is an unfinished basement down those stairs, and with the additional income from the renters, you could probably save up enough bits to convert it to a bunker within a year or so.

Tammy (breathless): What do you think, Scott?

Scott (looking around):  Seems such a shame to lose all that light.

Tammy (scoffing with affection): Oh, Scott, you really are a romantic.

Andy: If this doesn’t float your boat, we do have one more house to show you.

Tammy: Yes, let’s go!

***

Southern Housewife (opening a door and stepping inside): Oh, Lord, this is perfect!

Southern Husband: I like that a lot.

Cheery British Female Narrator: Dreaming of an island getaway?

Southern Housewife: Look, Nelson—the tap water’s so clear!

Cheery British Female Narrator: Want to find some seclusion that’s safe from intrusion?

Southern Husband: Yep, there’s plenty of  barbed wire between us and the locals. Feel good about that.

Cheery British Female Narrator: Then trust Island Fortress Travel for all your vacation needs.

Southern Housewife: You want to go catch us some fish to fry, Nelson?  They got a fryer and everything. Just like home, only better.

Cheery British Female Narrator: Island Fortress Travel. Just like home, only better. (Abruptly doubling her speaking pace.)  Island Fortress Travel guarantees the reasonable safety of all destinations as of the date of booking. Any vacations to destinations added to the Homeland travel ban after the date of booking will be rebooked for a small convenience fee. Fortress Island Travel is a subsidiary of Live Where You Want Resettlement Corporation, Ltd.

***

Scott (rolling up his tinted window and putting his hologram ID tags back down his shirt): Well, I have to say I appreciate the security in this neighborhood. Let’s see. Here it is: number Seve—(address bleeped out).

Tammy: Wow.

Andy (coming to meet them, his hands opened expansively): Tammy, we thought this one might appeal to you, but we hope you’re going to like it too, Scott.

Scott: It sure looks solid.

Andy (leading them up the gravel yard): This is a brand-new construction, only two years old, two bedrooms, one bath.

Tammy: Only two years old! Andy, don’t mess with me. Can we afford this?

Andy: It’s priced at 349,900.

Scott (whistling): Right at the top, huh?

Martin: It’s right at the top of your budget, yes, but it’s also right at the top of the list in terms of features and resale value.

Andy: All gravel yard—nothing to attract Zika mosquitos or ticks, drains fast when the floods come through. Cinderblock and concrete construction, as you can see. (Gesturing at features as they step inside.)  Reinforced doors, shatter-proof windows, low-flow plumbing and energy-efficient appliances, of course.

Scott (arching an eyebrow at Andy): Bunker?

Andy (holding his breath and making them wait): There is a bunker. Yes!

Scott:  Nice! Still, it’s a little soulless, maybe?

Tammy: We’ll put up posters or something, honey. Think about having kids running around in here, snug as little bugs in a rug.

Martin: Basically, this is completely move-in ready. And if, in a few years, you want a bigger place, you would have no trouble reselling it.

Tammy: Whatchya think, Scott?

Scott: What would you do with that extra hundred bits from our budget, Martin?

Martin (laughing): With a hundred bits, I’d buy you a six-pack and a synthe-cheese pizza and then I’d kick up my feet and consider it a job well done!

Andy: Okay, so you’ve seen the houses, you know the reno’ budgets, and you have our number. Give us a call when you’re ready to make an offer.

Scott and Tammy (shaking hands as Andy and Martin leave): We will! Thank you!

Cheery Female Narrator:  Which house will Scott and Tammy choose?  The 1980s Colonial lone ranger?  The Pre-War open-concept badly in need of updates?  Or the smaller, New Construction at the very top of their budget?  Find out, coming up.

***

Authoritative Male Narrator: Are your phone lines secure?  Do you know who’s listening to your private conversations?  Did you know that someone falls victim to identity theft every four seconds?  OneLine Secure Phone Services is here to protect you.

Older Gentleman (labeled “Not an actor”): Ever since the web went down, I’ve had to do all my business over the phone lines. One day, I got a call from my bank. Everything was just gone. I never knew they were listening in. 

Authoritative Male Narrator: OneLine Secure Phone Services can save you from that call. A OneLine phone line is affordable, quick to install. And most importantly, it’s safe.

Older Gentleman (smiling and chuckling): I’m not really tech savvy, but OneLine walked me through everything and showed me what buttons to push. And I haven’t had any problems since.

Authoritative Male Narrator: Put an end to worrying about unsecured phone lines. Make one final call on your old line, and make it to OneLine Secure Phone Services. Call 1-800-ONE-LINE That’s 1-800-O-N-E-L-I-N-E.

***

Cheery Female Narrator: Tammy and Scott have seen three places they might call home. But which one will they decide is just right?  Will they pick—

Calm Female Answering Machine Voice: We’re sorry. The service on this station has been interrupted. Please do not panic. The interruption was most likely caused by a power failure, and will be corrected shortly. If you suspect an act of terrorism, please call Homeland immediately. If you suspect an imminent natural disaster, please shelter in place. If you hear sirens, explosions, or gunfire, please head to your family bunker. If you do not have a bunker in your dwelling, please go to the innermost room of your house and close the door. If you do not have a house, please shelter under a mattress or heavy-weight sleeping bag. Do not panic. Help is on the way.


Christine Schott teaches literature and creative writing at Erskine College.  She holds a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Virginia and will graduate from Converse College with her MFA in creative writing in August 2020.