The Case of Arthur Stapleton

by Franc

Preface

Arthur Stapleton is a man obsessed with the destruction of his Midwestern town in America. He builds a bunker and warns the rest of the townspeople, but they refuse to believe him, until one day, when they are in his bunker a horrrible explosion makes them think otherwise. Soon, they must struggle to escape the bunker alive!


"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality."-Edgar Allan Poe

Historically, there have been innumerable cases of people in this world that have exceeded any common form of logic and are forever insoluble in nature. There is a transparent difference, between fiction and reality that has been established, but it is vastly misunderstood. Verily, the singular narrative that I refer to is about a peculiar man who had failed to distinguish the main difference, between that fiction and reality or at least this was the logical conclusion. The man that I describe is named Arthur Stapleton, a mild-mannered person, who was a social recluse in the town. His immediate family had been one of the original settlers of the town that had come to the area in the late 19th century. The place that I shall disclose as the origin of this remarkable story is a subterranean bunker, under the auspices of the Midwest town in America known simply, as Silvis.

The year was 1955, the heightened period of the Cold War. It was ten years after the end of World War II and the threat of nuclear invasion by the Russians was a palpable feasibility. The constant news on the radio of this eventuality had begun to unsettle many people throughout America. While the majority of the citizens had decided to carry on with their lives, there were others who took heed to the specific warnings and had built underground bunkers for shelter. Arthur Stapleton was one of those indicated individuals, who built this underground bunker afterward. However, his need for safety would become a haunting obsession that would cause his ultimate demise. Arthur Stapleton was a widower and had no children or had no chosen benefactor.

One day he began to devise and then construct an elaborate subterranean bunker in his backyard that would be his safe refuge from the nuclear bombs that he feared. The notion of a nuclear invasion was no laughing matter to him and the menace was inevitable. Thus, he stacked countless provisions for the duration of the possible war and had warned his fellow neighbors to do the same. They had refused to adhere to his foolish warning and thought that he had lost his mind completely. No one else had bothered to build a solid bunker, as Arthur Stapleton had done. Within a year, he had finished that underground bunker and upon one day, he said his goodbyes to the other townsfolk inside the bunker. He had invited them to see the bunker and how magnificent it was in structure.

They had gathered for a simple tour not knowing that they would be trapped in the bunker with Arthur Stapleton, without a plausible escape. Among the five guests invited, who were somewhat acquaintances of Arthur Stapleton; none would ever imagine the fathomless and unforeseeable terror they would succumb to, upon that unforgettable day. Let me introduce you to the unfortunate participants of this story. First, there was Mr. and Mrs. Scheffler, owners of the only grocery store in the town. Second, there was Mr. Goldman, the mayor of the town. Third, there was Mr. Wilson, a professor. Fourth, there was Mr. Jackson, a black mechanic and former soldier. And lastly, there was Mr. Tucker, a salesman. They were all invited to the spectacle that they had presumed a jest and foolishness, but an unpredictable incident would trigger the events that suddenly occurred.

Within the hour, a horrible sound had struck the earth above them. It had strongly reverberated and caused the bunker to tremble forcefully, as if a massive explosion had happened. It was enough for the entrance and exit of the bunker to collapse totally. There was an immediate confusion among the guests of Arthur Stapleton, and each one of them had a different reaction and presupposition to what had befallen them. The only obvious thing that could not be disputed was the fact that they were all trapped, within the solid bunker, without a radio and form of communication to the outside world. The chambers of the bunker were several, but they were tightly sealed off, by the dirt and boulders that had fallen on the ground. Intrigue soon would become a frantic desperation to escape, as the ongoing situation evolved into uncertainty of what had struck the earth above them. The mayor Mr. Goldman had attempted to calm the uncontrollable fears of the guests, but it was impossible, because the fear of the unknown had already begun to consume their thoughts swiftly.

"We all need to be calm and coherent. Surely, there is a logical explanation for what is happening, my fellow townspeople."

"A logical explanation, such as what mayor?" Mr. Scheffler queried.

"Yes, I would like to know that also!' Mr. Tucker said.

"Whatever it is, we are trapped here, within this bunker!" Mr. Jackson uttered.

"Was it a tornado?" Mrs. Scheffler inquired.

"It could be an earthquake or even a tornado, as you are alluding to dear!" Mr. Scheffler interjected.

"No, it is an atomic bomb!" Mr. Stapleton declared.

"What are you saying, Mr. Stapleton?" Mr. Tucker had insisted.

"I know that what I am saying is unbelievable, but it is the absolute truth. I had warned all of you of the Soviet Invasion!" Mr. Stapleton answered.

"You don't expect us to believe that absurdity?" Mr. Tucker voiced.

"You may choose to believe what you want, but I have lived here for many years and each time we have had a tornado, the sirens have blared loudly."

"That is true!" Mrs. Scheffler replied.

"If it was not a tornado, then it must have been an earthquake of a great magnitude," Mr. Jackson suggested.

"Impossible, since we have not had one in the town's history," Mr. Goldman responded.

"Fools, I tell you that it was an atomic bomb. Don't you hear the strong winds howl?" Mr. Stapleton stated.

"But that does not prove anything!" Mr. Tucker interposed.

"You are the professor Mr. Wilson, and an educated man, who would know about these unusual things," Mr. Scheffler said.

"I can only offer a presupposition, and it might not be an accurate one. Nevertheless, there is the actual possibility that Mr. Stapleton is correct in his affirmation," The professor acknowledged.

"You can't be serious and expect us to believe what you are suggesting?" Mr. Tucker insinuated.

"If you allow me to respond Mr. Tucker, then I shall elaborate my point! All of you present know that I am English."

"What does that have to do, with what is going on here? I fail to understand."

"You see Mr. Tucker, I was there in London, during the heavy bombardment of the city and I can recall quite vividly, the horrible effects imposed, by the German bombing. This does resemble that haunting consequence I am afraid to admit."

"Let us not get carried away with our insinuations, there is a probable explanation to what has occurred," the mayor implied.

"I would like to know, what is that logical explanation, mayor?" The skeptical Mr. Tucker persisted.

"Whatever unknown phenomenon has transpired, it has trapped us here in this bunker," Mr. Jackson asseverated.

"What are we going to do? How are we going to get out of here then?" Mrs. Scheffler anxiously asked.

"You built this underground bunker Mr. Stapleton. You should know. Tell us!" Mr. Tucker grabbed Mr. Stapleton by the shirt tightly and threatened him.

Mr. Stapleton pushed Mr. Tucker away, "There is no other way. Even if we could escape onto the surface, we would immediately die, due to the instant exposure of radiation."

"Thousands of people died in Japan, due to radiation after the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was a soldier in that Pacific war," Mr. Jackson mentioned.

"If this concept can be applied to our present circumstance, then we are at a great risk that the radiation sooner or later will reach us inside the bunker," Professor Wilson acclaimed.

"You are fully aware of the impact of that powerful realization, Professor Wilson?" Mr. Tucker said.

"Indeed! I take no great pleasure or satisfaction, in disclosing that troubling revelation Mr. Tucker."

"You are as crazy as Mr. Stapleton. I tell you that this was not an atomic bomb!"

"Then what in the hell do you call it, Mr. Tucker?" Mr. Jackson wondered.

"An explosion of some nature that had ignited quickly!"

"What type of explosion Mr. Tucker? We are waiting for you to explain."

"I don't know, but it was an explosion!"

"It was an atomic bomb!" Mr. Stapleton said.

Mr. Tucker had reiterated, "Nonsense, it was an explosion of a natural cause!"

"It would have to be a collision of a major proportion!" Mr. Goldman uttered.

"Doubtful, since it would require a logical sequence of events!" Professor Wilson answered.

"But not impossible!" Mr. Tucker had responded.

"What if Mr. Stapleton is right? Why, do you reject the factible notion of an atomic bomb?" Professor Wilson said.

"What do you mean? How can you believe that absurdity?"

"I am no expert on the matter, but there is a possibility however implausible as it may seem that we have witnessed the dropping of an atomic bomb."

"How can you be certain of that Professor Wilson?"

"I don't exactly know that! But do we know what the government is hiding from us now?"

"Yes, as a former soldier, I can see your point professor!" Mr. Jackson had concurred.

"Let us just say for the sake of this argument, the Soviets have sent am atomic bomb. Why this secluded area? And how could the government or military, not have shot down the missile or bomb?" Mr. Scheffler asked.

"Yes, that makes no absolute sense to me!" Mr. Tucker interpreted.

"It does if the government had wanted to keep it a top secret," Mr. Jackson added.

"How?"

"By using us as guinea pigs!"

"What are you suggesting, Mr. Jackson?"

"The government chose our small town for an experiment."

"That is a fallacious accusation. How dare you insinuate that our own government would commit, such a ghastly barbarity on its people?"

"What if this is true?" Mr. Scheffler inquired.

"That is horrible! I shudder to conceive that idea!" Mrs. Scheffler muttered.

"Let us be coherent in our thoughts and find a way out of here!" The mayor urged.

"I don't care if our government or the Soviets are to be blamed, I just want out of here!" Mr. Tucker vociferated.

"There is no way out of this lone bunker Mr. Tucker. Don't you see the walls have tumbled?" Mr. Stapleton told him.

There was an eerie silence of intense disbelief that had permeated the chamber, with such a visible gloom the guests had perceived ominously. There was this undeniable sense of uncertainty and anxiety that would transform into heightened paranoia, within the hour. The daunting prospect of being trapped in the bunker would gradually begin to obsess their thoughts. They had resumed their discussion about the cause of the disturbing event at length, but no one knew the actual cause or origin. Controversy and more speculations had continued to occupy the discussion among them. Rational arguments were turning into hostile emotions of evident desperation evoked. Dissipation in their civility toward each other had as well progressed unfavorably. The umbral of the night was a frightening aspect of time, and it was the consumption of time that had unsettled them therewith. Each member of the guests was cognizant of the danger, but had no concrete idea of the extent of that perilous consequence.

As the hours had passed, the confined isolation had protracted and caused contentious confrontations. Everyone had an ingenious plan proposed for escape and was determined to effectuate that plan. However, the risk of the unknown elements of death and destruction had thwarted their yearning advance. There was sufficient suspicion to be dissuaded to attempt, such an unpredictable endeavor. This hopeless shadow of death had entered the bunker and the minds of the guests unbiddenly, who felt the bunker as a lethiferous sepelition. The realistic thought of losing oxygen had superseded the peril of the possible exposure to the gas and radiation above the surface. Mr. Stapleton the clever man who constructed the bunker was aloof in his comportment and had allowed the others to waste their effort, in their conjectures and intimations presupposed.

"There has to be someone who will come to find us!" Mrs. Scheffler remarked.

"Yes dear, someone will find us!" Mr. Scheffler comforted her in his arms.

"Who?" Mr. Tucker had asked.

"If this was an explosion of whatever nature, then the police or army will be searching for us," Mr. Jackson elucidated.

"You forget the fact that the solid walls of this bunker will drown out our clamor. And it will take a long time to remove the debris from the entrance of this bunker," Professor Wilson acknowledged.

"That despondent acknowledgement does not speak well of our chance to escape this drear bunker!" Mr. Tucker responded.

"We can't just do nothing and wait to be saved or worse die here! Action is required!" Mrs. Scheffler interrupted.

"We can try to dig ourselves out!" Mr. Tucker recommended.

"We would need shovels or pickaxes to dig!" Mr. Jackson iterated.

"Mr. Stapleton, you must have shovels in your provisions," Mr. Tucker spoke.

"Yes, but it will be pointless, since the rubble is impenetrable!" Mr. Stapleton had confirmed.

"We can't just do anything!" Mrs. Scheffler replied.

"I agree, but only if it is done together!" Mr. Jackson pronounced.

"Then let us begin at once!" Mr. Scheffler urged.

"But we must proceed with extreme caution. We don't want to cause anymore of the walls to collapse upon us suddenly!" The mayor had implied.

"And if Mr. Stapleton's unfounded theory is correct and the radiation and gas will leak into the bunker?" Professor Wilson warned.

For a moment there was a reluctant hesitation, until Mr. Jackson replied, "Whatever lies beyond these walls and on the surface above will ultimately reach the bunker. Do you not agree professor?"

"Indeed, nevertheless, that avouchment cannot be postulated with incontrovertible facts, Mr. Jackson."

"Incontrovertible or not professor, I don't think we have much of clear choice. We can stay here and wait to be found and risk our deaths, or we can attempt to get ourselves out of this horrendous bunker and live another day."

"I prefer the latter, if I had a selection!"

Thus, they began digging through the hardened rubble that had collapsed and trapped them with their shovels unearthing, as much soil and rocks that they could. They spent countless hours in this task, but in the end, they had failed to advance much in their desired evolution. The men were extremely weary and demoralized, with their obvious failure to clear the exit of the bunker from the debris. They had spent endless hours digging and digging with hands and shovels, but to no avail.

Thereafter, they had ceased their effort and returned to the center of the bunker where Mrs. Scheffler was at. She was with Mr. Stapleton, who refused to participate. He was more concerned with his self-preservation than what the others were doing. This refusal was not forgotten by the others, when they had returned. The men had realized that it was difficult to achieve their objective. They would have to unearth enough debris to even be certain of a possible escape. Even so with the pace they were going that would take weeks or months to finalize. The question was did they have enough time to spare? Only time would dictate and answer that question regrettably. They were all hungry and thirsty and had been within the bunker, for the totality of six hours. Their cognition and physical strength were attenuating too by the minute. This unbridled despair witnessed with the plan that had not come to fruition had confounded their rapid thoughts. Optimism had started to be overwhelmed, by the negativity of their unspeakable ordeal. They sat around a marble table to eat and drink in the chamber, as they had discussed their fainting options and possibilities. It was only a matter of time, before the radiation or gas would reach them, if Mr. Stapleton was correct in his audacious assumption of an atomic bomb. No one had initially resigned themselves to the inexpressible reality of being trapped in a bunker originally, but as the hour passed, this was no longer an outlandish culmination to dismiss so lightly.

Therefore, the conversations that were shared among them was trying to understand what was truly occurring up above them. Had the world as they had known altered dramatically? Had the town and the townspeople that they were fond of had been obliterated from the map of the earth? If so, then what was to become of them, if they had escaped onto the surface above? These lingering questions were impossible to disregard with a casual incredulity. After all they were human beings and not machines fabricated, without emotion or introspection. Human instinct had compelled the animalistic perception and behavior of man previously, but since humans had begun to depend on their human intellect and sagacity, this indomitable trait was only useful in one valuable aspect, survival. It was precisely the dreadful instance of that significance that was to be soon displayed, with our distressed guests. The limited sounds from above were restricted to inaudible voices or utterances unspecified in nature. The temperature of the bunker had started to decrease and the oxygen had as well. The collapse in the entrance of the bunker had reduced the temperature and the oxygen considerably. That startling contrast was a severe discernment of the horrific truth they had been confronting, since their detachment from the outside world. They often had pondered, about the world they left behind and what had become of it, since the loud explosion had shaken the earth. It was uncomfortable to be seated at a table and attempt to eat and drink, when they were struggling with surviving.

The next day they began to dig and once again, they had failed to advance much, but their compulsion to escape the bunker was becoming an unyielding madness that could not be repressed so facilely. Days soon became weeks and weeks to months. They had enough oxygen tanks to allow them to live and enough food and supplies to continue. Once again, they began to dig and dig, until they could dig no more.

One day during this tedious and tiresome process, Mr. Scheffler had died, due to a heart attack as he was digging. Poor Mrs. Scheffler was inconsolable and horrified, with the death of her beloved husband of forty years. Then, there was only five remaining guests alive. The question was who would be the next to die? Mr. Scheffler's death had disconcerted the others, but their determination and will to survive forced them to continue to dig. Mr. Scheffler's dead body was buried in a solitary chamber that was a mound of hardened soil. The next person to die was Mr. Tucker, who had not awakened that morning five days after the death of Mr. Scheffler. He was found dead in his sleep. It was uncertain of what he had died, but Professor Wilson believed it was probably exposure to gas. If that was the case, then all of the remaining survivors were in danger of suffering the same death as Mr. Tucker in their sleep. They had agreed to sleep in the main chamber, as they had feared the fumes of the gas reaching them. Instead of six individuals in the bunker, there was then four human beings.

There were all in such a pitiful condition and the provisions were depleting by the day. At around the second week of their confinement in the bunker, they began to become delusional and unhinged. The thought of murdering one other to save themselves was constantly on their minds. Oxygen, food and water were scarce and evaporating. In the evening they had learned that Mr. Jackson had murdered Mrs. Scheffler, so that their oxygen could be preserved. It was a brutal murder committed afterward, and Mr. Jackson was the sole culprit of this despicable action. The rest of the others had discovered this abominable act and approached him. He had a gun in his hand, and it was the same gun that had killed Mrs. Scheffler.

"Mr. Jackson, you are a murderer. You killed the innocent Mrs. Scheffler, but why in God's name why?" Professor Wilson demanded an explanation.

"Because she was the weakest link to our survival. Perhaps I am crazy and have lost my mind, but can you blame me for wanting to survive. We hardly have any food, water and more importantly oxygen left. Is that not a good enough reason to murder professor?"

"As a Christian man, it is a great sin Mr. Jackson, but who am I to judge your heinous crime?"

"He is a cold-blooded murderer, but God has no bearing in what is happening here. I tell you both that the only culprit here is the United States Government, for allowing the Russians to invade our land of the home and the brave!' Mr. Stapleton had declared.

"Shut up! You don't know what you are saying!" Professor Wilson had uttered.

"I believe Mr. Stapleton now. The government had decided to allow our little town to be the guinea pigs, for an atomic bomb. I even think it was them, instead of the Russians!"

"For heaven's sake think Mr. Jackson what you are expressing!"

"I have professor. There is no other alternative, I tell you!"

He had pointed the gun at Professor Wilson and ordered him and Mr. Stapleton to dig. It was at the exact moment in time, when a strange sound could be heard coming from the debris. An obstreperous noise was heard and it was an earthquake that had opened the ground above them. It appeared they were going to be finally rescued from the hideous bunker of hell. Sensing that if the exit would be opened and they would escape, he knew he would be implicated in the murder of Mrs. Scheffler, Mr. Jackson shot Professor Wilson in the arm. The professor fell to the ground and was bleeding. Mr. Jackson then threatened Mr. Stapleton, but Mr. Stapleton had foreseen the connivance of Mr. Jackson and pulled out a gun that he had in his jacket and shot Mr. Jackson in the head killing him instantly. He tried to assist the professor as he had laid in the ground bleeding from his gun wound. However, when the tunnel exit to the upper surface was visibly seen, he rose to his feet and told the professor that he would not allow the Russians to capture him. Thus, he put a bullet to his head and shot himself dead.

Professor Wilson was the last remaining person, who had survived the living nightmare of the bunker. He had ultimately escaped, by valiantly staggering out of the bunker on his feet. When he reached the surface, he stood in absolute shock and horror. What the professor had witnessed with his eyes was the total destruction of the town of Silvis. There was nothing left, except the terrible image of death that was encompassed, by a large black mass of ashes and radiation. He was in a profound delirium that he could not see clearly what was transpiring, before his amazed consternation. The houses and buildings were entirely annihilated. He had walked street after street, among the dilapidation, until he fell to the ground fatigued with the loss of blood.

When he awoke the next day, he was in the bed of a hospital room alone, in an unidentified location away from Silvis. Apparently, he had survived his gashing wound and hellish trauma. He had been found by military soldiers, who were searching for survivors. When asked how he survived, he told them that he had been in an underground bunker, with five other persons, who perished in the bunker of Mr. Stapleton. The town that was believed to be secure was in fact destroyed in the end. Mr. Stapleton was correct in his belief, and it was no misunderstanding or falsehood. When the professor had read the local newspaper, he saw that what had happened was indeed a massive explosion of an atomic bomb launched, by the Soviets. This strong provocation meant only one foreseeable thing war.

The aforementioned delusion of Arthur Stapleton was not only credible, in the existence of his overactive mind, but within the reality of the others, who died inside the bunker. Seldom do we find a definite answer, for those isolated incidents that have been created from an unhealthy obsession to differentiate reality from fantasy. The case of Arthur Stapleton was a prime example of that unhealthy obsession to believe passionately, in a world that seemed a fantasy and not reality. It was a dimension of time that the others had started to believe as well, but never imagined the horrific confirmation of that inhospitable veracity in the words of Arthur Stapelton.

Rate this submission

Plot:
Dialogue:
Characters:
Wording:

You must be logged in to rate submissions