Habitat

Larry thinks we’ll need more sunlamps for the bunker.

“Think about how long we could spend down here,” he says. “Maybe months. Years. You know how you get every winter. Imagine years underground.”

The bunker—“security condo” is what the company calls it—was something Larry brought up once KritterKapers hit a million subscribers. We’d seen this story about rich people converting old missile complexes. Larry said, “Hey, with what we’re making off Emma’s hamster videos, we should consider it. Ride out the zombie apocalypse in style.”

It started as a joke, but then he kept listing things that could happen. “Wildfires, floods, nuclear attacks. I mean, none of that’s likely,” he’d say. “But you never know.”

Now here we are, listening as a salesman explains air filtration systems and hydroponic farming. The display unit has fake picture windows programmed with scenes of Paris, Mount Everest, the Amazon. Its one real window overlooks an indoor playground where Emma rocks slowly back and forth on one of the swings.

“My kids watch KritterKapers every day. They’ve got the toys, the T-shirts, all of it,” the salesman says. “And you know, Emma wouldn’t be the only celebrity here. We have several athletes, a couple actors. Of course I can’t reveal their identities. But you might meet them at some point.”

He winks at me, probably sensing that I’m the holdout. I usually am. I’d been against letting Emma start her channel. I hadn’t even wanted to let her have hamsters in the first place. All I could think about was my Lemondrop, who ate her own babies when I was six. The vet said that can happen if the mother feels frightened or insecure.

The first time one of Emma’s hamsters gave birth, I checked the cage right away the next morning, and all the babies were missing. I thought here we go, another Lemondrop situation. But no. Emma explained that Queen Annabelle had only tucked them inside her cheek pouches, to carry them to a warmer spot. She’s full of information like that. I don’t know where she picks it all up.

“It makes sense,” Larry says. “If we can afford to keep our family safe from, you know, whatever, it makes financial sense to do it.”

I look out the window at Emma. I sometimes wish I had a little pocket in my mouth, to carry her around safe.

“Absolutely,” the salesman says. “You never know. Which reminds me, let me show you the shooting range.”

***

Once we’ve signed the paperwork we board a golf cart that takes us through the dark tunnels back up to the surface. The ride seems longer going up than it did down. I picture everything above us, the schools and parks and grocery stores, crumbling and deserted, while we survive beneath. Will we be grateful?

Larry recaps the sales pitch for Emma. “Pets are allowed. There’s a movie theater and a pool. You can even go to school here. But that would only be in an emergency. Probably we’ll use it as sort of a vacation home. How many of your friends have taken a subterranean vacation?”

She waves her tablet in the air, trying to get a signal. Probably anxious to check her likes and views.

The steel doors slide open, and all I can see is white sunlight. Oh no, flickers a brief, irrational thought. It already ended. But my eyes adjust, and the world comes back little by little. Mountains, sky, saguaro—it’s all still here. And yet it feels like we already said goodbye to it, like the scene before us is a memory. I want to jump out of the cart and touch the ground, to make sure it’s real. But Emma thrusts her tablet in my face and says she’s recording, so I smile and welcome the viewers to another beautiful day.



Katie Burgess’s writing has appeared in The Rumpus, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Reductress, and elsewhere. Read more at katieburgess.fun.

Categories: Fiction

Daily Drunk

Shawn Berman runs The Daily Drunk. You can follow him on Twitter @Sbb_writer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *