This is part 3 of the Underground series. If you need to catch up before reading click here.
The light went green on December 1st. I’d aged ten years, and obviously so. Wrinkles had dug themselves into deep valleys under my eyes as my skin has slowly lost its elasticity. I was a shadow of myself, sunken and greying. Disintegrating. I was refreshing myself on Dickens’ “Great Expectations” and had filled half of it with scrawling annotations around the edges of the words. I had become Miss Havisham. Stuck in a moment with no concept of time. No husband, children or hope for the future. I was a ghost.
I was drinking a mug of black Tea when the little alarm bleeped to inform me of the green light. I’d ran out of milk a few months ago. I dropped the mug. I ran into the bedroom and grabbed the Go-Bag I’d packed ten years before, cramming food and medicine supplies into it to replace those I’d used up. Grabbing the set of keys, I took the stairs two at a time and scrambled to unlock each of the doors. The last door stared at me for a long time. Outside was freedom, unknown freedom. Potentially unsafe freedom. Perhaps there was nothing outside at all. I went back downstairs.
I finished “Great Expectations” on December 9th. I don’t know what day, I lost track a couple of years in. I popped the book into my bag and rummaged through a storage box for my long-neglected mobile phone. I’d run out of wine a while ago, so poured myself a glass of water while I waited for it to charge. I dialled my husband’s number. Nothing. Still nothing. Maybe there was nothing outside, but there wasn’t anything here either. I had a sudden image of my rotting corpse strewn across the sofa, dissolving into the fabric. I climbed the stairs.
I unlocked the first two doors and glared at the last. I ran my hands over the panel. I stroked the button which would unlock the final barrier. I pressed it.
The door made a grinding sound, humming over while it considered opening. I bit my lip and waited, clutching the little knife my husband had given me before he left. I ran my finger over the engraving of his name. The door moved slowly upwards, tantalising and terrifying. I followed it with my eyes. The floor was a cracked mess of brown, covered in debris and rubbish. The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon in a purplish glow. The house across the street had been reduced to rubble, crumbling into the earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.
I stepped outside. The streetlight was bent over at an angle, lamp itself smashed into the ground with its glass glittering with the rising sun. My house had been opened up, half removed and buried in the ground, abandoning the other half to a bare nakedness. Our road sign was blackened and bent over, as though averting its eyes from the ruined landscape. I took a deep breath and walked toward the rusted car which stood a few feet away from the bunker’s entrance. The door was glued shut from years of loneliness… I probably couldn’t have driven it anyway.
I walked towards the junction and traced the lettering on the handle of the knife. The world outside was blanketed in silence but my footsteps crunched on the dead earth beneath me, like an invader. I began to tiptoe. I lowered my breathing to a quiet breath that barely brought me enough Oxygen. The air was thick and foggy, dusty orange particles filling the air. Levitating in it where gravity should have dragged it to the ground. The colour had been sucked out of everything. The junction was filled with the stench of burnt metal. Cars melted into each other in the centre as though forfeiting a game of Tetris that had gone horribly wrong. There were no bodies.
I took a left. My husband’s office sat at the end of this road, a five mile hike. I took a sip of my water and plodded slowly toward the end of the road. Embracing the feeling of those letters engraved into the knife. Hoping and praying although I was almost certain that nobody was listening to me.
Finale available on November 21st!