By Brandon T. Madden
[A camera sits on a tripod in the middle of a concrete room. The room’s walls are lined with a few pallets of food, a few guns, and a library of books stretching eight feet tall. Adjacent from it rest a mattress and a few free weights scattered on the floor along with stacks of old newspapers. An elaborate vented system clings to the back wall as the only means of contact with the outside. A man stands in front of the camera. He’s wearing boots, blue jeans, a Detroit Lions winter jacket, and a snow cap. Behind him is a steel door, sealed and securely locked.]
[The man speaks.]
First Log: The beginning of the end.
Hello, this is David Bartleby. It’s one hour till midnight, or at least by my calculations it should be one hour till midnight; I could be off plus or minus five minutes. It won’t matter much anyway if I’m off by five minutes or an hour. I’ll be safely guarded while the outside world falls prey to the horrors of Y2K. But I guess I’m rushing to the conclusion. If this is the last log of civilization, I might as well give you a synopsis of how we got here. Some of the neighbors think I’m crazy, which I shrug off, because what do they know? If only I was able to have convinced my wife, but she eventually sided with them, saying that this nuclear bunker was a waste of time, saying that the Cold War was over; we won and the Soviets lost. So what? That won’t stop the computers from launching all the nuclear bombs. Once that clock hits midnight and the computers enter the date 00/01/00, it won’t recognize the date, the software will crap out, and then boom. Everyone is dead. Everyone is predicting the end, but I’m the only one that took the action to do something about it.
But that’s the current condition of this country: it isn’t because of the immorality or the rise of the welfare state; it is that we’ve become a country of sheeple who blindly follow whatever someone with authority says.
[The camera jostles as Bartleby picks up the camera and moves towards the library of books. He picks one up and points it to the camera. The book is titled Dr. Lipshitz’s Guide to Self Renewal: Ten New Diseases You Didn’t Know You Had]
This man is a genius. Dr. Lipshitz’s talks about how the attitude of caring about pop-culture and not true issues of our time is an attempt to shelter ourselves from reality. He says that is why people are more depressed and anxious because they willingly try to keep themselves as sheeple. But not me, I’ve read his works and have lived by his words.
[Bartleby picks up another book and points it to the camera. The book is titled Dr. Lipshitz’s Guide to Self Awareness: The Fifteen Things You Should But Shouldn’t Do.]
This one is one of my favorites and is like my Bible. I’ve had Janice read it twice, but I don’t think she’s really gotten it. It’s because of this book I’m such an avid reader and well informed citizen. I mean take this for instance, as an adult you should and need to go to work to earn a living, but you shouldn’t go to work because of all the carbon emissions your car is producing. By not going to work you can’t make money, but by going to work you create more acid rain, global warming, and help grow the ozone gap.
I mean the man’s a genius, he has a PhD and everything, and I’m sure he has a bomb shelter too.
[Bartleby places the books back on the shelf and walks back to the middle of the room, placing the camera on a tripod]
So that’s why I’m here in my safe room, while the others are outside at their parties. I’m a firm believer in being self-aware. That’s why I read the local paper’s like the Detroit Free Press, but also national ones like The New York Times, and what remains of the news between CBS, NBC, and ABC.
I like the local news the best because it tells me exactly what is going on near me, so I can know what to prepare for. Janice tries to convince me to watch less of the news and actually go outside. She says that the world is not as bad and as violent of a place as it seems.
But the news just proves my point on how dangerous the world really is. Life is more dangerous now that the Soviets are gone. I mean just yesterday I read that more children are getting abducted in safe neighborhoods than in unsafe neighborhoods. The same article went on how the safest neighborhoods are more likely to house pedophiles than the unsafest neighborhood. For Christ sakes, anyone of my neighbors could be one of these scumbags.
It’s not like when I was growing up when you could go out till late at night with no worries.
I mean I don’t have any children to worry about for that purpose; why would I want to have a child grow up in a world where he or she couldn’t go outside? I mean if it wasn’t a pedophile neighbor, it would be acid rain or global warming. It’s just not like it used to be. The 1950’s, now that was the time to grow up in. Detroit was still considered the Paris of America, you could find jobs and careers out of high school, crime was low or petty at best. It truly was the best time to grow up and live in.
Of course, I was born in the 60’s, so I really wouldn’t know, but from what I heard, it was much better then, than it is now. Hell, the Lions at least won games back then. My neighbor, Steve, thinks that they’ll never be a team worth rooting for, but I say that he is a non-believer.
[Bartleby looks around and then gets closer to the camera.]
Just between you and me, I don’t like Steve too much. He’s one of those pseudo-intellectuals who thinks just because he went to college and got a Masters that he is so much smarter than us working class folks who went straight out of high school to work for the auto-plants. But what does he know? He went out and got dial up internet and then put his money towards Apple stock. What good will that be when the world ends? I’ll tell you, nothing. He should have used his money like I did, built a bomb shelter and bought a camera so he can remember what it was like before the world changed forever.
I think he’s the one that convinced Janice to go out to the party.
[Bartleby notices the camera is low on batteries as its red light starts flashing. The time indicates on the camera 12:05]
Oh Christ. It’s already New Years. I know the builders of the shelter said you wouldn’t hear or feel anything, but I really didn’t think it would be so silent. Well, this is the new world, I guess, welcome to whoever is watching this. The battery is dying out so—
[There’s a loud thud on the door. Bartleby jumps and quickly walks off screen. Rummaging can be heard in the background. There’s another knock on the metal door. Bartleby reappears on screen with a loaded shot gun. He walks up to the door.
“Who is it?”
“You can’t come in,” he shouts. “You’re contagious.”
“The bombs didn’t go off, dear. Armageddon is postponed for another day.”
It’s silent for a moment as Bartleby puts down his gun. He opens the steel door, snow races in. The figure of Janice is barely caught in the screen.
“Come back to the party with me. Steve was talking about how people’s perceptions are distorted by the media.”
Janice disappears from the shot. Bartleby stands by the door for a second, looks back at the camera, then proceeds out of the door.
The room goes black and the camera turns off. No battery.]
Brandon T. Madden has recently been published in various undergraduate, graduate, and professional journals, including The Red Cedar Review, The Offbeat, Outrageous Fortunes, S/tick, and the River and South Review. In 2011, he published his first novel, V.S.A.