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By Jeh’s count, it had been about four months since the end of the world.

There were no calendars in the shelter. Mother said they were records of the sinful, wicked Earth that had now been destroyed, so they didn’t need one.

But Jeh kept track of the days herself, and as best she could tell four months had gone by. This meant that her birthday had passed and now she was 18, and that the time had also passed when school started, or at least when it would have started.

Another reason Mother said there was no need to keep track of the days was they had no idea how long they’d all have to stay in the shelter. “It could be a few months or it could be years and years and years,” Mother reminded them during evening prayers. “The important thing is that we’re ready.”

That was what shelter life was about: readiness at all times, along with the dissatisfaction of never being quite sure what they were getting ready for.

Nobody but Jeh quite seemed to mind not knowing. Sometimes, on the few occasions when she and Seth were alone and could talk without Mother around, she’d dared broach the topic, but he always shrugged and said some variation of the same thing:

“It doesn’t matter how long we’re down here. Whether we’re above or below, the important thing is always just that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be.”

“You’re just saying that because Mother says that,” Jeh replied, and Seth looked at her with some combination of shock and confusion.

“Of course,” he said. “Why else?” Usually at that point Jeh would stop trying to argue. She loved Seth, but she knew he’d never really understand why she was unhappy. It was never in his nature to ask questions about the things that mattered most.

There WAS a clock in the shelter; in fact it had once been a cuckoo clock, although the bird hadn’t worked in years. Mother had no need to keep track of the days but she needed to know the hours to make sure they stayed on the schedule she created.

Every day it was the same: wake up, prayers, breakfast, prayers, chores, self-defense, foraging and survival training, lunch, prayers, study, confession, penance, prayers, dinner, then an hour of family time in the chapel and, finally, just before bed, more prayers.

That was the schedule they were supposed to go by anyway. Most of the time Jeh refused to do one thing or another and then Mother gave her extra penance the rest of the day instead, although since Seth always did any extra work that she hadn’t it didn’t make much of a difference.

And after all, with the world ended there was only so much Mother could do to punish her—except maybe turn her out of the shelter. She’d threatened to once or twice but Jeh didn’t believe she really would.

The shelter was a insulated, hidden, cut off entirely from the world, and Mother said it was impossible for anyone else to find. She compared it to a time capsule, a place where they kept all of the good things that the new world would need after Heaven rendered its final judgment. Jeh thought of it more like being a fish in a bowl, going round and round in a small world that you never really understand.

At night, in the chapel before bed, Mother would preach to both of them about what was going on aboveground:

“War, Famine, Plague, and Death are loose on the world,” she said. “The Antichrist will soon sit on the throne of a One World Government through the United Nations. Satan’s armies are ready to occupy every city. Crime, poverty, fornication, witchcraft, homosexuality, abortion, and sin are everywhere.”

She read these things from a spiral notebook that she kept by her bedside to transcribe the visions from her sleep as soon as she woke up. At night all the lights in the shelter were turned off except for one, and the three of them huddled around that lamp and Mother’s big chair as she turned the pages one by one, reading the shorthand that only she could decipher. “All over the world there are false prophets turning people astray. Earthquakes and floods happen every week, and there are wars and rumors of wars, and famine means half of the world have become cannibals while the other half starve.

“Families have turned against families, wives agains husbands, brother against brother, and every person in every nation is ready to rise up to destroy the other, or else has fled to look for some safe place somewhere that they’ll never find.”

“Are any of them coming here?” Seth asked, his voice a taut. Mother was quick to reassure him.

“They can’t find us,” she said. “Nothing impure can enter this space. Unless we bring it in ourselves.”

And Seth nodded, evidently satisfied.

Most nights Jeh said nothing to conversations like this. Anything she said would only have provoked more trouble, so she held her tongue, although she worried that Mother might know what she was thinking anyway.

Mother was supposed to know everything, or at least, everything that her visions allowed her to know. Every night in pendik escort her sleep she saw and heard all things from every corner of the world. Or so they’d always been told.

Jeh was no longer sure that her Mother’s visions were true; or at the very least she was sure that Mother was not telling them the entire truth about them. She was also very sure that Mother didn’t know everything that was happening. For example, Mother didn’t know the things Jeh did after they were all supposed to have gone to bed every night.

No matter what she said, she couldn’t know…

Mother finished her sermon and Jeh dutifully mouthed prayers alongside Seth. It was just the three of them, alone together, waiting until the time came when a glorious new Eden waited for them outside. “How much longer?” Seth would ask most nights. Mother always said the same thing:

“Soon. Soon.”

The clock on the wall ticked, but the little cuckoo bird inside never came out. Jeh wanted to fix it, but Mother told her to leave it be.

“You’ll just as likely break it more if you try,” she said.

“Anyway, the world’s problems aren’t yours to fix.”

***

Originally it was Dad who built the shelter and explained to everyone what was going to happen. Because the visions came to him first.

It all started when Jeh was five years old and Seth was eight. Fixing up the shelter, helping to stock it, helping to plan for the time ahead, had been a part of growing up in their family. The shelter was like a third parent for them, the constant one, the reliable one, almost as important as Dad himself.

The structure was an abandoned civil project from 60 years ago, meant to hold hundreds of people for weeks during a war and made mostly out of the stripped shells of disused buses, buried in a hillside and later neglected until everyone forgot it was here.

Even the man who sold Dad the property didn’t seem to know about it—and neither had Dad, until the visions told him where it was and how to get inside.

But making the shelter ready for all of them—cleaning it, furnishing it, reinforcing it, stocking it with food, water, medicine, sanitation systems, tools, bedding, batteries, chemical lights, air filters, fuel, solar panels, weapons—had been up to them.

“This is our ark,” Dad always said. “There’s not going to be a flood, but we still have to get it seaworthy.”

In those days, Jeh had believed it all. Dad’s faith was hard to say no to. When he believed, it was enough for everyone.

Then Dad died. His visions hadn’t warned him about the cancer, apparently. Jeh hadn’t been sure what would happen then—to the shelter, the plan, the family, any of them. What kind of future could there be now?

Mother had stayed in her room for three straight days, never leaving, never eating, never speaking no matter how many times Jeh stood at her door and asked if she was all right.

One morning she finally came out and told them that everything would be good again, because now the visions were coming to her. Not from Heaven, the way Dad always saw them, but instead from Dad himself.

He was going to guide them all from the next world, she said. That was why he died, so that he could learn everything from the other side and make sure that the family was really prepared.

“Your Father so loved the world that he gave his only begotten self, so that we who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life,” she explained, sitting in her big chair and reading from the notebook for the first time, her eyes shining and her hands shaking but her voice low, steady, sure.

Seth believed every word of it, Jeh knew. But Jeh had demanded to see what Mother had written and read it for herself. Frustrated when she couldn’t decipher Mother’s shorthand, she soon gave up.

They finished the shelter just the three of them; the core of the it was a six-sided bunker separated into three rooms–a kitchen, what was meant to be a living room but which Mother instead converted into a chapel, and a bedroom where Mother slept.

A dozen smaller rooms connected to that, two on each side, one of them a bathroom they all shared and two of the others extra bedrooms where Jeh and Seth slept separately.

Most of the rest of it was storerooms, all of them stacked so deep that it was impossible to see. Only Mother knew what was in all of them and how much of everything they had.

There were other rooms too, places where Mother taught them things: how to hunt, how to plant, how to make tools and clothing and shelter, how to protect themselves. There was no telling what kind of world they’d find when the time finally came to leave. They had to be ready for anything.

The shelter had been designed for over a hundred people, but only for 30 days at most; it could keep the three of them alive for years and years, Mother said.

As she lay awake on her cot trying to sleep that nigh, Jeh thought about that word: “Years.” It had a weight down here maltepe escort that it had never had up in the normal world. She felt her mind bow under it.

Thrashing for a moment, she kicked off her blankets. She’d expected life in the shelter to be cold; after all, they were underground. Instead she found that it grew unbearably hot at times, the filtered ventilation not working fast enough to relieve the buildup of body heat. She’d taken to sleeping naked in a bid for relief; Mother said it was indecent, but Jeh suspected she secretly did the same thing.

Thoughts of life before the shelter already seemed distant, vague, the product of someone or something else entirely. It had been four months, she reminded herself, but what if that was all wrong? What if we’ve been down here longer than we think? What if we end up staying down here forever, like a turtle that’s gotten lost inside of its own shell?

Often on nights like this she thought about daring to climb up out of the shelter and open the main door. She could leave now, go up that ladder, and come out underneath the stars and the wind and the cool night breeze…

Unless there were no stars. No trees. No cool winds left. Maybe everything really was like Mother said: ruined, overrun, at war, destroyed a little more each day.

Jeh didn’t believe it…but she didn’t quite NOT believe it either.

Sometimes, in the dark, she imagined she heard the echoes of noises from the world above: bombs, guns, people screaming, monstrous things slithering and stamping and crawling over the Earth…

Tonight she just heard the shelter’s usual noises; the ticking of the broken clock, the empty suck of the vents that kept them all from suffocating, the busy hum of the generators. When Jeh felt satisfied that she could hear nothing amiss, she sat up and swung her feet over the side of the cot. Wrapping a blanket around her nude body, she went to the sliding metal door separating her room from the rest of the shelter and slid it open the bare few inches it took to squeeze her slender frame through.

The shelter was pitch black without the lights; only Mother controlled when they were on or off.

But Jeh had memorized the layout years ago; as a girl she’d even practiced walking through it with her eyes closed. It was no challenge now to meticulously make her way in the dark.

First she came to the door of Mother’s room, pausing to listen. The sound of Mother’s distinct snore was audible over the air vents. When she was confident that Mother’s sleep sounded deep an profound, Jeh slipped away again.

Seth slept with his door propped open a few inches; he said it helped with the claustrophobia he sometimes got at night. That didn’t make any sense to Jeh—they were still 25 feet below ground, doors closed or not—but it made it easier for her to slip in, so she didn’t complain.

Once inside she eased the door shut behind her. The small click as it slid into place woke Seth, and she heard him hold his breath in the dark as she risked rushing the last couple of feet to his cot. “It’s me,” she whispered. “Scoot over,” she added, and then almost before he’d moved she dropped her blanket and slid underneath his. “Jesus fucking Christ, how can you stand to have all of these blankets on you on a night like this?” she said.

“Don’t take that name in vain,” Seth whispered back. Then, “What time is it?” “One in the morning. Mother is asleep. For fuck’s sake, you’re wearing pajamas too?” “And you’re not,” Seth said, pulling back to put as much space between them as he could on the small, military surplus cot. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Well now neither can I.” “I guess since we’re both up we might as well make the most of it,” Jeh said. And before Seth could object she twined her arms and legs around him again and laid her head down on his chest.

The sound of his breathing—deep, steady, his body humming like a well-tuned machine, was assuring. When she was younger she’d had similar feelings when she listened to the inner workings of the shelter. Now the only thing that gave her the same feeling was listening to Seth, and only sometimes.

“I miss you,” she said after a while, speaking so that his nightclothes smothered her words and they wouldn’t carry between the two of them.

Shifting on the cot, Seth said, “We see each other every day. We’re two of only three people left in the world.”

“You know what I mean,” she said.

And then she put her hand on his crotch and gave it an experimental squeeze, pleased to discover that he was already halfway there. “I miss really being with you. The way we we’re meant to.”

Wriggling, Seth tried to pull away. “Come on,” he said.

“Don’t squirm. It’s unattractive.” She tried to pull him in for a kiss—his face was rough with stubble these days but he seemed reluctant to let it grow into a real beard. He turned away before their lips touched.

“What’s wrong?” she said.

“This kartal escort isn’t right,” said Seth, sitting up so that the cot springs made more noise than she liked.

Jeh wrapped her arms around him from behind and laid her head his back. “It’s natural,” she said.

“It’s a sin.”

“Says who?” “Everybody you could possibly ask.”

Leaning into his ear, Jeh whispered, “Well how many people is that now? Everyone else is dead. Or doomed, I guess; dead soon if they’re not already. You said so yourself: We’re all that’s left.”

“You don’t believe that though.”

“But you do. And you believe we’re supposed to leave the shelter someday and go out to remake the world. Well how else are we supposed to do that?”

She began fiddling with the buttons on his pajama top. This has been the argument that had convinced him to relent to her the first time, but since then it seemed to have lost a little of its hold on him. “Dad and Mom couldn’t possibly have meant for us to do this,” he said as Jeh ran her hands over his naked chest.

“Dad is dead. And Mother doesn’t get to decide anything. She just has to do what Heaven tells her, and obviously that’s for us to rebuild the world together when this is all over. It’s going to be a new Eden for us, isn’t it? ‘He created them male and female, and blessed them, alike.'”

The springs of the cot squeaked a bit as she clamored her naked body on top of his and leaned in again for a kiss. This time he didn’t turn away.

“Besides,” she said, whispering against his lips now, “I can’t sleep and I’m lonely and I’m frightened, and anyway I love you, and I know you love me too.”

She sat lower, so that her cunt rubbed against the bulge in his pajamas. Seizing his wrists, she guided his hands to her rounded behind and let him squeeze, nodding her encouragement.

“That’s right,” she said. “‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion.'”

“I don’t know what that means,” Seth said.

“I’ll show you,” said Jeh.

He half-jumped when she reached down and took his cock out, but he offered no real resistance when Jeh pulled his pajama bottoms off and threw them away.

Next Jeh pulled the waistband on his shorts down, and then she wrapped her hand around it more fully, testing to feel for that special pulse against her palm. Then, extending her tongue, she licked him up and down, rubbing the grain of his skin against her lips. The sweet, inviting taste of her brother’s body filled Jeh’s mouth, and in spite of herself she moaned.

Seth grunted deep when she slid the tip of him into her waiting mouth. It felt heavy on her tongue, but it only took the smallest prodding to make him go wild, and within seconds he had dribbled a bit, spilling salty warmth across Jeh’s palate.

Very, very slowly, she swallowed him up, opening her mouth wider to make more room, wrapping her lips around it as tightly as she could and massaging Seth with her mouth. In the dark, to himself, she heard him saying over and over: “Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god…” And of course that was a perfectly normal thing to say. Except that in Seth’s case she knew that he was actually, really praying.

Ignoring it, Jeh slid her mouth over and down her brother’s cock again, bobbing her head and letting her tongue dribble all along the underside. The bedsprings tightened underneath them, and she cradled his balls, careful not to squeeze them too hard. He responded by jerking upwards in a motion that almost choked her.

“That’s good, Seth,” she said—or tried to say, talking was difficult even when her mouth was only half full. “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father.”

Seth could only manage a moan in return. The darkness of the shelter closed around them, like a curtain drawn over the world. Feeling Seth’s hips move and feeling his fingers through her hair, Jeh imagined that nothing existed except for their two bodies.

This is the way the world ends, she decided: not with a bang, not with a whimper, but burned away by the heat of their two bodies together, until it was just the two of them in the blackness of space forever. That was the only paradise that Jeh wanted to imagine. That was Heaven to her.

As usual, Seth took her by surprise, the warm gush and the salty, slightly bitter taste of his cumming filling up her mouth almost all at once. Seth twisted and wriggled and Jeh pushed herself down all the way on him, letting him squirt in her throat and then, so that a minute later when she released him his cock was dripping with spit and her mouth felt like a hot, satisfying mess.

“Mmmm,” she said in the dark. And then: “Don’t you feel better now?” “I feel…” Seth said, but that was as much as he could manage. Nodding in the dark, Jeh gathered him up in her arms.

“Shhhh. I know,” she said. “‘We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.’ But don’t worry about that now; just sleep.”

“If Mom catches up…”

“I’ll be back in my room by the time she wakes up. You can rest now; I’ll keep watch.”

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