Short Story: Pacifica

May 14, 2125, 3:25am. Sirens blared throughout sector K136. Mordecai’s eyes flashed open. His groggy haze was quickly replaced by terror. He ripped his blankets off and sprinted through the narrow doorway into the bedroom-turned-walk-in closet. The blankets piled on the small cot on the far side of the room rose and fell peacefully, rhythmically. Mordecai shook the small lump in the blankets gently and waited a moment for a response. Aside from a slight stirring, he received very little reaction. The sirens doubled in time, signaling the approaching, inescapable danger. Mordecai’s heart raced and he shook the little girl harder. No reaction. Starting to panic, Mordecai scooped the bundle of blankets into his arms and dashed into the hallway.

The sirens continued to blare as he slid into the four-person compartment bunker in the far wall of the living room hallway. He dropped to his knees, cowering over his little sister, bracing for impact. The ground rumbled. Mordecai covered his head with his arms, the way he had been trained to for as long as he could remember. His entire body tensed, fully expecting its metal encasing to warp. He squeezed his eyes closed and muttered, “I love you” in Pacifica’s small ear. The sirens became one faultless, shrill tone. An ear-splitting boom cut through the air. Silence. 

The world seemed as though it had slowed. Trembling, Mordecai relaxed his rigid body. He slowly liberated himself from his tight fetal position. He sat back against the cool metal wall of the compartment bunker. Cold sweat trickled down the back of his neck as he attempted to get his breathing back under control. Now lying on the cold floor of the bunker, ten-year-old Pacifica stirred restlessly. Her eyes opened and she grimaced uncomfortably. As she took in her surroundings her eyes widened, realizing what had happened. Her eyes began to pool with tears.

“Come here,” said Mordecai, his arms outstretched, “it’s okay.” Whimpering, the three-foot-tall girl climbed into his lap. Mordecai pulled her into his chest and sang a gentle melody to the unusually small girl 

The first three years of Pacifica’s life were perfectly normal. She was born in the hospital sector, like all babies, and weighed a healthy 7 pounds. She was brought home less than two days after being born and in the following years grew quickly, both physically and mentally. By the time she was 14 months old, she was running around happily in the Grey family sector, K136. She was a curious kid and she kept their parents on their toes with her constant movement. She wasn’t too much of a trouble maker, but she enjoyed the big reactions their parents would give her whenever she did anything.

While learning to walk, she had discovered how to open sector K136’s automatic doors and loved to play in the long, sterile corridors that made up district K. The neighbors loved her and so everyone pitched in to look after her. The airlock at the end of the hallway, beyond sector K140, was never considered a danger to her. Then came October 13 of 2117. Pacifica toddled at full speed down the hallway in a game of “you can’t catch me!” giggling all the way. After crissing and crossing the numerous hallways she began to grow bored with her game. She glanced around the hallway looking for something new to amuse herself with. The bright green flashing light beside the airlock caught her eye. Excitedly she wandered over to the button and, reaching up as high as she could, poked it with her small finger. 

The airlock doors whooshed open. She peered inside the airlock and, noticing a second flashing button, toddled inside. Elana Grey, their mother, rounded the corner just in time to see her one-year-old daughter’s blonde pigtails disappear behind the iron doors. Shrieking, their mother tore towards the door hopelessly watching as Pacifica toddled out the second set of doors, into the noxious atmosphere beyond. In a flash,  Mordecai and his father were by her side, as she desperately pounded the open button on the airlock. They were always told a full-grown human being couldn’t survive five minutes outside the safety of the closed-off city. The airlock doors flew open, “Stay here!” Mordecai’s parents shouted as they rushed outside, simultaneously slamming the first door closed and opening the second. Mordecai pressed his forehead against the glass window of the airlock as he hopelessly watched his parents run after his little sister.

His mother tripped and collapsed just as his father scooped up Pacifica and dumped her in the airlock. He kissed the top of her head before closing the door and running back to their mother. The inside door of the airlock whooshed open and ten-year-old Mordecai raced in to find his little sister passed out on the floor. He hit the panic button on the wall and carried Pacifica into the safety of the corridor. Within a minute, specialists in radiation poisoning were whisking her away. Mordecai sat alone, stunned, against the wall of the corridor. He knew he would never see his parents again.



October 27, 2117. A buzz through the speaker box on the wall signaled the arrival of someone at the door. Mordecai peeled himself off of the couch. He opened the door to meet a tall, middle-aged woman holding a bundle of blankets in her arms.

“Mr. Grey,” she said chipperly, “your sister has been cleared to return to your sector.” She gently handed the blanket bundle to him. He peered inside to see his baby sister, sleeping peacefully. “Because you are now the head of your household you will be tasked with caring for your sister. Pacifica was exposed to fatal levels of radiation while outside. She may face numerous side effects in the future including stunted growth, loss of cognitive reaction, and muscular degeneration. If you have any questions or notice any of these symptoms developing, please hit the medical call button on your sector control panel.”

Mordecai didn’t respond. 



Now, holding his little sister in his lap, he was haunted by the knowledge that he hadn’t been able to give her all that she had deserved. A tear slipped out of his eye and landed softly on Pacifica’s head. 

“It happened again didn’t it?” she said sobbing. 

“It’s okay,” Mordecai whispered. He knew that she was more worried that she hadn’t woken up to the sirens than the fact that they were going off.

“I’m losing my ability to react, Mordecai, that’s not okay!” she sobbed into his shoulder, “Why did the Cleanup Act have to fail?”

The Cleanup Act took place in 2080. For once, Earth’s countries set aside their differences in order to clean up and preserve the Earth. It started off smoothly but things quickly started to go wrong. Three of the U.S.A.’s collection barges disappeared,  thousands of solar panels in Africa were destroyed, and 100 acres of freshly planted saplings were trampled in Europe. A meeting was called in the United Nations in order to identify the culprit of these attacks. No one confessed. The meeting fell into chaos. Everyone blamed everyone else for their lost assets. Over time, even the strongest alliances were broken. Eventually, the U.N. was disbanded. The grudges political leaders and entire countries held against each other became threats which transformed into full-blown chemical warfare.

The Earth was left stripped of its resources. The surface was a barren wasteland. Where there used to stand tall trees, the ground was cracked and patched. Where great rivers flowed, sporadic puddles now lay. Humans now relied on expensive, complicated filters and lab-grown food in order to survive. The bombings continued in a daily cycle although many had forgotten their reasons for hating each other. They lived in an unrelenting world of fear and consequence. As long as the citizens could get into their compartment bunkers and stay there until given the clear by authorities, they would survive. 

Mordecai wiped the salty tears from Pacifica’s face.

“Do you know why mom and dad named you Pacifica?” Mordecai asked.

“No,” Pacifica choked.

“Because they knew in their hearts that someday you would be able to stand on the beach and splash in the ocean without layers of ridiculous protective gear or fear of attack from the other people in the world. You still have a long life ahead of you. If we stay hopeful, we may just change our ways,” Mordecai said.

Pacifica closed her eyes and leaned against her big brother’s chest, imagining what it would be like to stand on the white sandy beaches she had only seen pictures of. Sitting there in the cold bunker, she could have sworn she heard the waves crashing on the shore, the squawk of a gull, and felt the warm kiss of real sunlight on her cheeks. She smiled just to herself, knowing that her parents had been right.