Smoky Mountains
Jason Crow

Chapter 11 – Keeping busy
Day 3.

“Do you want a glass of water, Uncle Adam?” I heard Ellie ask from the kitchen.

“No. I’m fine. Thank you,” I responded.

After we both cried for over an hour, we comforted each other. We had a long talk together about everything that had happened. I felt SO guilty for letting Ryan go out there and not protecting him. I couldn’t think straight right after we realized he was dead. Ellie was amazing and talked to me constantly. She assured me that it wasn’t my fault. We didn’t know what was happening, and I did everything in my power to stop it. That just wasn’t enough.

After a few minutes, I realized she was probably right. Although the guilt didn’t go away. It kept lingering in the back of my head. Ellie, of course, was also devastated by her brother’s death. But eventually, we both agreed we needed to focus on the problems and mourn over Ryan later.

I was also still digesting the voice message her mother had sent me. It was sent over a day ago, and the ending disturbed me the most.

“Hi, Adam. It’s crazy out here! I’m locking myself in my hotel room. I’m really hoping that you, Ellie, and Ryan are safe. Please call me or app me! The Wi-Fi here is gone, but my phone still has service. Please, Adam! It’s… Oh no! Don…”

That was it. I tried calling her the minute I heard it and again when Ellie was on the toilet. I also sent her over a dozen messages, but no response. I was fearing the worst but couldn’t tell Ellie yet. Not now.

Ellie came back into the living room. I saw her eyes were still red and swollen as she sat down next to me on the couch. She cuddled up to me and sighed deeply. I put my arms around her, and we just sat there, lost in our thoughts.

“What do we do now, Uncle Adam?” Ellie eventually asked.

“I think we need to make a list of things we need to do. Just to make sure we don’t forget anything. How about that?”

“Okay. I guess,” she responded glumly. “What time is it?”

I checked my phone and noticed it was already six pm.

“It’s already six. How about we eat something first and make a list after dinner?”

“I’d like that.”

“Great. Shall we make dinner together?”

The next hour or so, we were busy in the kitchen. Ellie acted less sad, and we actually managed to create an excellent Italian-style spaghetti together. We ate it at the kitchen table, cleaned up together, and went to the living room.

“Okay. I think the first thing we need to do is to find out what is killing everyone. Is it the air, radiation, North Korea?”

Ellie giggled at that last option.

“I can check online if you want. I mean… We’ve got WiFi now”, Ellie offered and smiled weakly.

“Good idea. Even though I don’t think you’ll find much online, it’s worth the effort.”

“Why not?”

“Well… According to everything I saw online up until now, the world has probably gone to pieces. We don’t know that for sure yet, but let’s assume it has. The internet is designed to withstand catastrophic disasters, so its infrastructure will probably be up and running. But platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and such all use algorithms to present us the right news and information. That algorithm is probably way too confused to do anything now. With almost two billion people logging on each day, and maybe half of them posting stuff, the algorithm expects a certain quantity of data. I’d be amazed if Facebook is still available right now. They’ll probably have all sorts of automated procedures in place for these types of enormous drops in data traffic.”

Ellie looked at me, confused. She picked up her phone and unlocked it.

“The app still opens,” she said. But after a few moments laid her phone back down. “It’s still working, but the last addition is over ten hours old. So…”

“There are other ways to get intel. I like the idea of you checking online. I’ll try the TV and see if the regular channels work now. Then I’ll check if the news stations are still broadcasting. I don’t think so, but we’ll have to check. That way, we both work on our most important issue at hand. I think that’s a great start.”

“Great. So do I. What’s next?” Ellie asked, obviously eager to help.

“I need to find a way to contact Uncle Robert. I’m assuming he’s alright in that fortified army base. But I think the only thing we can do about that is wait. And I don’t like that at all. But when we get in touch, we’ll probably know right away what’s going on out there.”

“Maybe I can check the control room? No offense, but I think I’m better with that sort of stuff than you,” Ellie said, looking apologetic.

“Ha, ha! None taken!” I laughed. “But it’s a good idea, Ellie. You do that.”

“Maybe you can check the lab? That’s your cup of tea, isn’t it?”

“That’s an excellent plan, Ellie. Maybe there’s some lead in there about what’s going on. I know Uncle Robert always keeps detailed logs on his computer. So I must check that too.”

“Anything else?” Ellie asked, yawning loudly.

“Well. The most important thing is to gather intel and setup coms. I think we’ve got that covered. Maybe we need to check the crops room in case we’re here for a long time and need fresh food?”

“I guess you’re right. Put that on the list, and we’ll do that after the other stuff is done, okay?”

“Right. I think we’ve got it then. Maybe a cleaning schedule? You vacuum, and I clean the toilet?” I giggled.

Ellie started smiling, which reminded me how much I liked to see Ellie smile.

“We’ll manage. Remind me to set the temperature down when I find it on the control panel tomorrow. When we ask SHIVR, it seems it’s a temporary setting that only lasts an hour or so. Otherwise, we’ll keep walking around in our underwear,” Ellie said and kept smiling.

“Ellie? There is one more thing we need to talk about,” I said with pain in my heart.

“It’s about mom, isn’t it?”

“Well… Yes. I can’t reach her in any way. I tried calling and messaging her through her a lot of apps, but there’s been no reply.”

“Oh,” Ellie responded, not showing too many emotions.

“This doesn’t mean anything, Ellie!”I quickly added. “Maybe the cellphone network went down, her battery is dead, or stuff like that. I’m sure a big, international hotel like the one she stays in has contingency plans for such events. She’s probably in the shelter in the hotel.”

“I hope you’re right, Uncle Adam. She’s an independent woman and can take care of herself. Let’s hope for the best.”

That was a pretty mature reaction. I wondered how good or bad her relationship with her mother was. Or maybe she was just done crying for now.

“Let’s do that. What do you wanna do now? Watch a movie? Go to bed? Have a drink?” I laughed.

“I saw some books on the shelves over there. Maybe read some in bed?” Ellie asked shyly.

“Fine with me. I assume you’re sleeping in my room tonight?”

“You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not! And you’re not the only one that’s sad. I’m glad to have some company now too. But I’m taking a glass of whiskey with me.”

“Can I have one too? I’m afraid I can’t sleep, and maybe that’ll help me sleep,” Ellie asked with the same puppy eyes as Ryan did yesterday.

Damn! Yesterday… the day everything changed. Seems like an eternity ago.

“I guess one glass won’t hurt. I’ll go look for a book too, pour the whiskey and come to bed, okay?”

“Thanks, Uncle Adam,” Ellie said as she hugged me firmly.

As I walked into the bedroom, I noticed Ellie wasn’t there yet. I put her glass on the nightstand on her side of the bed. As I walked over to mine, I heard the toilet flush.

I crawled in and looked at Ellie doing the same. I held up my glass, and Ellie took the hint. She took her drink, and we toasted.

“To Ryan,” Ellie said, tearing up.

“To Ryan,” I said, swallowing that lump in my throat away.

“AAHHH,” we both said practically at the same time after our first gulp of whiskey.

“Damn! How can adults drink this shit?” Ellie asked, coughing loudly.

“In a few moments, you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Then you’ll know,” I laughed.

“Ohhh. You’re right!” Ellie said after a few moments.

A little later, we were sitting up against the headboard of the bed, reading. Eventually, I polished off my glass and poured myself another one. I glanced over at Ellie, and she smiled at me. I poured her a little bit too, figuring it wouldn’t hurt her too much to drink a little more than a full glass of whiskey.

After I finished my second glass, I looked at my phone and noticed it was almost ten. I looked over at Ellie, and she had closed her book already and was polishing off her glass.

“I’m tired. Let’s sleep, shall we?” I asked.

“I guess I can sleep now. So, yeah. Uhm… Uncle Adam?”

“What is it, Ellestar?”

“I… Uhm… I hate to wear clothes in bed. Do you mind if I… You know, take them off?”

This surprised me a lot, and I had to let that sink in for a moment. But that was a slight problem, though. I wasn’t thinking too clearly anymore because of the whiskey. I’ve always been a bit of a lightweight when it came to alcohol.

“You let Ryan sleep naked,” Ellie quickly added to her defense.

“You’re right, Ellie. But the deal I had with him was that I could be naked too and that we both kept our own ends of the bed.”

“Great! I can live with that,” she said, and I could see her hands moving under the sheet.

Moments later, her panties dropped on the floor, and she was fiddling with her top. She’d pulled up the bedsheet to hide her breasts from view, but that didn’t seem to work too well. I decided to give her some privacy, so I turned a bit on my side to face the wall and started taking off my boxers.

The movement beside me had stopped, so I turned back on my back and looked at Ellie. Obviously, her tank top had come off, but she modestly kept the sheet up, covering her breasts.

“Much nicer,” she said with a slight smile on her face.

“I agree. I hate wearing clothes to bed too,” I added.

“You know… In the last months or so, Ryan tried sneaking peeks at my naked body. Like when I came out of the shower and stuff. I didn’t let him, though,” she said softly, and I saw a tear forming in the corner of her eye.

I extended my arm and stroked her hair. Ellie took it as an invitation and nestled her head against my shoulder. It was against our agreement, but I figured to let her be in these difficult times. What harm could it do after all?

“After that little booger figured out it wouldn’t work, he started showing off his own nude body to me, hoping that would somehow work. He had a very nice body. Cute penis too,” Ellie smiled up at me. “Now I hate that I didn’t show him, you know,” she trailed off.

“Well… He was in a very curious phase of his sexual development,” I said, trying to sound scientific and mature.

“I guess you’re right,” Ellie responded, cuddling up even more.

“He asked me if I knew how to masturbate…”

Ellie pulled her head back and looked at me with a big smile.

“He did? Typical Ryan,” she laughed. “What did you say?”

“Well, considering he confided in me to help him, I decided to show him how it’s done. He just came out of the shower, and I… Well… You know…” I said, blushing, realizing the booze maybe made my tongue a bit too loose.

“You showed him. You didn’t just tell him how it’s done?” Ellie asked with a bit of unbelieve in her voice.

“Yeah… Well… He was naked. I was wearing only a bathrobe… So yeah. It was easier to just show him.”

“Wow,” Ellie giggled. “Knowing Ryan a little, he didn’t leave you alone after that, did he?”.

“You’ve got that right. Last night we did it again,” I said, immediately regretting saying it.

“What? In here?”

“Well… Where else?” I noticed I got hard from the memory of Ryan’s tight body.

“Oh boy. Well… He CAN be manipulative. So I guess it’s not that weird you did this.”

“I know I shouldn’t have. But he was curious, came to his gay Uncle about it, and got no one else to go to with it. Letting him find it out on his own was just not done, you know? Maybe he’d end up with some creep he found online,” I said, primarily to myself. “And you’re right. He did have a nice body and an adorable penis.”

“Well. Don’t be sorry. I think you did the right thing. Too bad for him he died a virgin, but at least he had an orgasm before he died.”

Ellie cuddled back against me and gave me a firm hug.

“I miss him,” she said softly but didn’t cry.

“I miss him too, Ellestar.”

“You’re the best Uncle in the world, you know that?”

Now it was my turn to be surprised.

“I don’t. Why’s that?”

“Well, you helped us out the best you could. We don’t have a dad. Our mom is probably gone, or at least out of the picture for a long period, and you take us in as if we were your own kids. And on top of all that, you taught an underage boy how to masturbate!”

We both started laughing at that. It was a way for us to release the tension of Ryan’s loss.

“Yeah, well… I can’t help you with that last part, you know? I’m gay, so don’t you ask me how it works with girls,” I laughed and kissed her on her head.

“Don’t worry, Uncle Adam. I’ve got it covered.”

“Thank god!” I said, overly exaggerating.

“Good night, Uncle Adam. I love you,” Ellie whispered as I felt her body relax under my arm.

“Night, Ellestar.”

End of Chapter eleven

Copyright 2021 – Jason Crow
All rights reserved

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