The door was opening!
The radiation counters outside had calmed down to a reasonable level over the 50 years that the remaining humans had been living in bunkers, surviving only because they had learned to recycle everything and keep the birth rate exactly equal to the death rate. It hadn’t been easy, but it was done. No one was completely sure that the gadgets still worked, though, so everyone who could climbed into suits and hoped they wouldn’t have to wear them for long.
Today was the day the rest of the world became a reality. Today, if the counters were right, they could head out towards the other bunkers. They’d been talking to these people for years, but no one knew what they looked like.
About half of the people waited behind the blast door. Those who were suited up stood in the airlock, waiting nervously. The mayor slowly pushed open the door to the outside and everyone winced. The sun was brighter than anyone had imagined.
The mayor stepped tentatively through the door, holding a just-opened counter saved for this day. It agreed with the other counters; the radiation level had come down enough to be safe. The rest of the group crowded out when she waved them forward.
They stood on a small hill overlooking miles and miles of emptiness. Grasses and grains grew everywhere. Small trails indicated animal life, but no human had stepped foot on this earth in half a century.
The mayor took off her helmet and took a deep breath. Tears coursed down her cheeks. “It smells green,” she whispered. She took off the rest of the suit and stood in the wind, laughing and crying.
The others soon followed. Once they were free of the suits, they touched plants, picked up dirt and crumbled it between their fingers, and splashed in a small stream they discovered at the foot of the hill.
The blast doors were opened and the rest of the survivors emerged. One picked a flower and held it to the sun, marveling at the colors and texture. The world was new again; perhaps this time humans could avoid trying to destroy it.
I gave Barb Black this prompt: Sandman