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Haven Or Hell? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Josh wakes up to the ear-splitting sirens and the urgently flashing neon red lights. He sighs out loud to himself as his bare feet, used to his warm, protective bed, slap down on the frigid surface of the cold tiles.

He rummages frantically through the disorderly closet, looking for his life-sustaining insulated rubber suit and his air-tight oxygen mask. He feels a cold chill assault his spine as he remembers his grandmother across the street, an invalid unable to prepare herself for the undersea shelters.

He pushes his mother's calm voice, gently chiding him to clean his closet, to the back of his mind. No, he wouldn't allow himself to think of either of them. It had been grossly unfair. The nuclear poisoning had taken them so quickly. At least they didn't suffer. Well-meaning friends had told Josh his parents were better off where they were now. The hard part was he knew it was true.

With a shuddering sob, a mixture of pent-up frustration and despair, Josh bolts off his knees and opens the air-tight vault, once known as the front door. Holding his breath, he sprints into the unwelcoming night smog. Dashing across the street to his grandmother's house, he quickly types in his access code.

He finds her on the floor, pitifully trying to inch her way to her suit and mask on the wall. With a terse greeting, he helps her put on her mask and suit and goes into his late grandfather's room, tearing his dresser drawers apart, burying his hands down into piles of cool clothing in a state of familiar disarray. His searching fingertips finally locate his grandfather's undersea shelter suit.

He dresses himself in the bulky attire and pulls the old-fashioned buckles tight. With a shaking hand, he turns the oxygen mask to "on." Josh runs back to his grandmother's room and turns her mask on as well. He picks her up and is shocked to discover how gaunt her frame has become.

Unbolting the front vault, he looks around at the waves of people flowing down the street. He and his grandmother merge with the milling crowd. They quickly become swept along toward the safety only the water can give.

They make the last cutoff onto the hovercraft that will take them to the descender, a large, elevator-type machine a few miles out. Josh's grandmother is whimpering in his arms but he can't find his voice to console her. As the dark, murky water closes over the top of their compartment, he stops his trembling body with effort and tries to regulate his breathing. He has to remind himself that it's okay, they made it and they're safe...this time at least. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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