A cold wind blew across the barren landscape, battering a lone, barren tree that stood on a small rise as a silent sentinel over the desolate scene. Life had been missing from the earth for some time now and was only just beginning to emerge from a long hibernation. Splashes of green dotted the countryside like the sprinkling of rain before a summer storm.
The soil around the tree moved, slowly cascading down the small incline to the valley floor. It stopped for a moment then moved again, shifting a little more this time. Something under the surface was reaching out, seeking the sun and the air. Finally the soil thinned enough to reveal glimpses of what was underneath.
The metallic door opened outwards and swung noisily to one side. There was a whoosh as the sterile air inside the container burst forth into the polluted atmosphere. For several minutes nothing happened. Clean air continued to swirl around the lonely tree, spreading life-giving air to its dormant tendrils.
A young woman stepped out of the pod, one hand shading her eyes from the glare of the day. She lifted the sunglasses in her other hand to her face, slipping them onto the bridge of her nose. What lay before her had left her devastated.
Three years. She had been locked up in that room for three years. It hadn't been against her will as such, but she didn't consciously agree to it either. There had been precious little time for conversations, or decisions, at the time of her incarceration and it left her father little choice but to drug her and lay her in the bunker unconscious.
But Ellie didn't want to leave her family. If they were going to die then she would as well. Despite what her father tried to convince her of, there was no point in her surviving the bomb if there was no one else waiting for her on the other side. Was life worth the price of isolation? She didn't think so.
Ellie took her first tentative step down the decline, feeling the soil slip under her shoes. She breathed in deeply the polluted air, coughing for a moment as her lungs protested at the foreign particles invading her body. Her father's concept of a post-war world was, so far, not very promising.
She took another step, and then another, until she reached the floor of the plain. Was there any point in going any further? Ellie turned around three hundred and sixty degrees, gazing over the plain to the far-off mountains in search of something that would draw her away from the relative safety of the bunker.
The climate was dismal and gloomy, and certainly not conducive to stimulating her curious nature. Unless the sun came out any time soon, Ellie was quite happy to stay where she was.
A gust of wind blew up some dust which caused her to turn away. Her eyes locked on the tree sitting on top of her bunker, studying its broken lines and damaged skin. Tucked away in the midst of the bare branches was a tiny green bud, looking as foreign in the harsh environment as her presence did. Had nature decided it was time to re-emerge?
Ellie knew she should take joy for this small miracle, but this wasn't the miracle she was looking for. She wanted her family, but she knew that was a miracle even God couldn't perform. Living a useless life alone was not something she was looking forward to.
“Is this it?” she called to the sky. Would someone answer her question? “Oh God!” she screamed. Ellie fell to her knees and cried. The three years of suffocating imprisonment had led her to this point, and had left her without hope.
A faint sound carried on the wind and was barely acknowledged by Ellie as she wept. The sound of incessant chattering sat in the background of her hearing until it burst forth in a cacophony of excitement. “You there! Ho!” a male voice called.
Ellie looked up and saw a small group of people approaching in the distance. “Ho!” she called back. She looked up at the sky and blinked. The extraordinary coincidence of these people turning up as she had pleaded for guidance made her wonder in God and the universe. In the hope that it wasn't a coincidence, Ellie closed her eyes and wished for her family. She begged, she pleaded and she promised everything, but when she opened her eyes and looked around eagerly she was to be disappointed. It seemed that coincidence had, in fact, been the only influence on her wishes.
The small procession was slow in reaching her, and it gave her a while to contemplate her next move. Would she go with them, or would she let them pass her by? Suddenly the bunker was important, as it was her only remaining connection to her family. Leaving would mean putting aside her past in the hope of a future.
“Hello there,” a middle aged man who wore the mantle of spokesman approached her. “Are you alone?” He looked around for signs of human life. “We're searching for survivors. Do you wish to join us?”
Ellie was about to say ‘no' when the group parted to reveal a tall, willowy dark-haired young woman standing by herself. When their eyes met Ellie felt the connection down to her bones. It wasn't something that she could put into words but it also wasn't something that she could ignore. No one had affected her like this with just a look. Her father had always said that everything happened for a reason. Had the last three years all been part of some divine plan for her?
“Yes,” she said as she shared a smile with the young woman gazing at her. “Yes, I will.”