“Quick, get Rose."
“Two times in one day? That's weird."
The boys huddled together, facing the screen, waiting for Rajesh to come back with Rose, listening inattentively to the woman asking her assistant to spray that Everlastant thing in the room. Finally they saw Rajesh and Rose running towards them, out of breath.
The woman was apparently angry at her assistant for letting the flowers in the vases dry up, but the boys couldn't have cared less.
“Hide her," Peter whispered urgently, “Or make her sit on the other side of the screen, where they can't see her, that'll work. Rose, if you will--"
“Ahem, may I have your attention, please?" The woman coughed as she adjusted the notebook on her lap.
“The High Council has to tell you something very important regarding your... stay... here."
“So the High Council is finally talking to us after days of requesting an audience, eh?" a blond-haired boy called Brandon muttered. A few of the guys laughed.
Another screen materialized out of thin air; it flickered to life. Eleven men and women sat around a table in hard, wooden chairs.
A smallish woman wearing a lime green cardigan and a pink skirt (oh, she looks positively ravishing, thought Rajesh sarcastically) cleared her throat and began speaking in a manner that made her look quite constipated.
“As you are all aware," she said in her nasal, British voice, “this meeting was called to inform you of the circumstances under which you have been living all this time."
She took a deep breath, gasping for air.
“Most of the human race has been destroyed by the outbreak of a nuclear war." The other High Councillors bowed their heads at this sentence.
“Now, since you all must be wondering, this is a bunker flooded with sunlight that is gradually dimmed, then evening is simulated, and then at night we need only turn all the lights off, creating the illusion of a full day. Of course it would not be possible to house you aboveground as that is in perpetual darkness because of all the radiation and debris. It is with great effort we have managed to keep the air here breathable, with comfortable temperatures." She coughed before continuing.
“The High Council has devised a plan to ensure the continuity of the human race." She looked at a middle aged man sitting at the centre of the table, who nodded solemnly.
“We have made all the people residing in such bunkers immortal, and none of you will try to get out. It is for your own good. We regret to inform you that you are the only surviving members of the human race."
There was an eerie silence for a few moments after that. Every passing second felt like hours.
And then there was pandemonium. A few of the Council members shot themselves, crumpling to the floor. They promptly jumped to their feet two seconds later. Chaos reigned long after the High Councillors had stopped talking. They had set their screen to Public Address so that the people in all the bunkers could hear them.
People were screaming, crying for their families. To live long was a blessing, but to live forever without your loved ones was a curse. The human race had long since understood the grief that came with immortality, through mere speculation alone. The fact that they had to live the rest of their lives here did not help.
“Shall I?" The woman asked the man in the centre, moving briskly towards a lever in the middle of a panel of red buttons. He nodded. She pushed the lever down.
They heard a faint buzzing, clicking sound, and then nothing.
Peter rubbed the wetness out of his eyes and looked around at Rajesh--he had tear tracks running down his cheeks. Quentin was sobbing into Winston's shoulder, who was staring into space with a blank expression, as if he hadn't yet registered the High Council's words. Kurt fiddled with his hands, the way he had when he was nervous at school. Brandon rocked back and forth on his feet.
He looked at Rose. She had her head between her knees, and she was shaking.
And he had nothing to say to her.
(To be continued...)