Founder Effect

A Short Story by Shaunta Grimes

This story came to me after I read an article about how the 1% prep for doomsday.
Every story in this series is the first draft of a short story I wrote for The 1000 Day MFA program. I post a new story every Sunday. You can join The 1000 Day MFA on Patreon if you’d like to start your own reading and writing experiment.

Founder Effect

Let me start with the story we are taught from the time we are children:

When things fell to pieces, three families saw the world teetering on the edge of disaster. They pooled their resources and prepared. They were the Smart Ones. They bought a mountain and they built a Bunker into the side of it.

They filled the Bunker with things that would keep them in the way they were accustomed, when doomsday came. One day it was time and the Smart Ones locked themselves in with their families and their servants and their gold and a helicopter in case they had to make a quick getaway.

They paid in advance for a private army of soldiers to watch over them, in perpetuity.

Outside, at any given time, were men with guns, warding off the Bad and the Dangerous.

I grew up believing that these men, these soldiers, were the only thing holding the world back with its murder and rape and theft. Some nights I lay awake, tucked into my narrow drawer of a bunk, and I imagined utter chaos Out There. I pictured grotesque creatures with two heads and no livers, tearing each other to ribbons, and I was grateful for our walls and our locked door.

I’ve learned that the things I have to tell you, might shock you. But before I write them down, I want you to know something. We are civilized. We dress for dinner every night in buttery-soft leather processed by our servants, sewn with sinew and the finest bone needles you’ve ever seen. We use silver forks and crystal goblets. We eat our meat off of fine china.

I’ve learned that while eighty generations of my ancestors lived in the Bunker, there were wars and epidemics and for a while, human life was touch and go. In those years, the Smart Ones were lucky to be safe in our mountain.

But time passed and, I’ve been told, things happened.

The energy wars came to an end so long ago that they are ancient history. The final frontier was crossed, but not by us. On Earth, there was reversal, back through the Information Age and the Industrial Revolution and the Dark Ages.

And then there was a second coming. And a third. And finally a fourth, which stuck and brought a period of peace like the world had never known.

We missed all of that. We were so well hidden that it took two thousand years for someone to stumble upon our door. We heard them trying to get in for months. The soldiers will protect us, we told ourselves. The soldiers are fighting for us. When you finally breeched our boundary, I believe your shock was greater than ours. After all, we knew you were out there.

You thought you were opening a tomb.

Plenty surprised us, though. The sun was science fiction before we left the bunker. I had never seen a living thing that wasn’t a human being. I did not know what an apple was, the first time I saw one. We don’t have fruit. Or vegetables, beyond the few we are able to grow under the light of oil lamps.

The real trouble came when someone wanted to know where our oil came from. We didn’t know enough to lie, so we were brought here. And you asked me to write this account, to help you to understand. I wonder if you will.

Let me start here. We have three guiding principles: People are our greatest resource. Family sustains. Nothing wasted.

I have never seen anything like the waste here. You gave me a whole book of paper to write in. In front of me, an entire cup of pencils. They fed me more food for lunch than I could eat in a day, much less a single meal.

Even putting just one girl in a room that could fit two dozen feels wasteful beyond reckoning.

As far as I can tell, nothing is precious here.

Everything in the Bunker is precious. People are all we have. And family to sustain us.

We don’t waste anything. Or anyone.

Babies that are born too wrong to live, bless our community.

Old ones who are past living make the softest leather.

Anyone who does not survive, whatever the reason, sustains us.

We live in a concrete world. Do you understand what I’m telling you? We cannot dig. We cannot burn. Even if we want to waste our dead, the way you do, we can’t.

None of the food still sitting in front of me is recognizable. None of it looks edible. None of it smells like something I should put in my mouth. The meat tastes wrong.

I want to go home now.

If you enjoyed this story, give it some love with a heart. ❤❤❤

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Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes, is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation, and the original Ninja Writer.