Chuck and Curtis argued about everything. Chuck would make a rational discourse completely based upon facts such as radiation decay, or calories burned per hour by the average twenty year old male or the infallibility of numbers.
Curtis would rebut with happenstance, conjecture, and conspiracy theories all framed within a compassionate appeal to Chuck's emotional side. In short, their arguments would devolve in to "Yes" "No", "Says you" and "No I'm not but what are you?".
This time, the argument was about how many days we had been in the shelter. Chuck kept a record based upon his regular readings of the ampere hours of the batteries combined with number of recharges thereby deducting the number of hours divided by twenty-four to determine that we had been underground for roughly seventeen days.
Curtis on the other hand, used a stop watch countdown function on his iPhone which featured a big eyed Japanese character holding a time bomb, depicted as a big cannon ball with a fuse, set to go off after fourteen days. Curtis was not sure when he started his "time bomb" app, but was sure it was the day after we cleaned out the toilet but before he and Chuck argued about who was going to drink the last orange soda.
I intervened and determined it was an average of the two which meant it was time to look around and check the radiation readings.
Chuck retrieved his survey meter and a large flashlight while I got my shotgun and another flashlight for backup. We carefully untaped the door and opened it up a crack and took a reading. There was nothing more than background radiation ("If it has been calibrated correctly" the ever positive Chuck added).
The smell in the stairwell was awful which we attributed to the four or five bags of waste we had tossed out. I pointed the flashlight up the stairwell and said to Chuck,
"Well, here goes" I said, but then paused, "What if open up the door and everything's fine. No war, no fallout, no radiation, no end of the world. I know I'm going to feel dumb".
"Yeah, but what if you go up there and that room is full of radioactive brain-eating zombies? Huh? What are you gonna do about that?" said Curtis behind us.
I rolled my eyes and Chuck and I headed up the stairs while Curtis stayed behind. We reached the top landing and paused. "OK, here goes" said Chuck.
He carefully turned the door knob and opened the door a few inches. Then the smell hit us. It was the smell of death.