Sunrise.

Sunrise.

This is the last episode of the Underground series, if you need to catch up before reading click here.

My husband and I used to love watching the sun rise. It may sound strange to some people, but we’d get up at the crack of dawn and sit outside with a coffee watching the sun creep above the horizon. It was our moment. A moment where we could be alone together, enjoying a mutual love of our beautiful world. This sunrise was different. Rather than the usual pink-to-orange transition that we were accustomed to, this sun was moving from purple to blue. So by the time I reached my husband’s office, the sky was lit by an eerie turquoise glow.

I still hadn’t seen anyone, alive or dead. The world had become a wasteland, a dead expanse floating aimlessly in the galaxy. Probably still following the same orbit, unaware of the death it held.I’d traced the words on the knife sixty-three times, and could easily pinpoint the location of any of the letters, by the time I reached the office. I traced it one last time before approaching the building.

The glass was shattered, a constellation of crystals branching out onto what had been a flawless pane. Inside, a desk had toppled over, yanking wires from their sockets into a maze of veins and arteries, broken on the ground. I pushed open the door and walked into the deserted lobby. A half empty mug of coffee sat on the desk in Reception, ice cold, but not mouldy. It was as if someone had left it there only minutes ago. I shivered and traced the letters on my knife.

The floor was coated in a thick layer of slightly translucent dust. Green I thought, although it may have been the reflection from our distorted sunlight. My feet absorbed the dust, leaving little puddles of cleanliness in my footsteps. I followed the corridor I knew would lead me to my husband’s office, despite a heaviness in my heart which dragged down my every step and told me he wouldn’t be here. His office was empty. Part of the ceiling had crumbled onto the black plastic desk he’d bought to mimic glass. The computer had missed the blow by inches, but the water bottle he always kept to its left had not. Water sat stagnant on the table, not stopping short of the electronics which had fried long ago.

I sat in his chair. The smell of him was long gone, replaced by that of dust and burning. The colour of the chair hidden by the thick blanket of that other-worldly dust. It creaked when I sat down, unused to taking the weight of a human being. I took out the knife and turned it over and over in my hands. Examining every little mark, each tiny scratch. Replacing the knife in my pocket I gently pulled his desk drawer open and began scrambling through the contents.

Beneath the piles of drab paperwork was a tiny piece of notepaper that he’d torn from his diary. The date the bombs dropped was circled in green pen. Buried under that was a key. I picked it up and held it to reflect the light. I scoured the office for somewhere it might fit. Finding nowhere, I left and followed the lopsided sign towards Classified. This time I traced the shape of the key in my pocket. Each ridge and valley became a link to my husband. Something he’d touched, perhaps even more recently than he’d touched me.

The classified office was dark, door unlocked by the power shortage. I stepped warily inside, jumping as I collided with a misplaced filing cabinet. I reached my hands out and walked like I had as a child when I played Hide-and-Seek with my brother in the dark. My fingers caught on a door handle and I felt around it for a lock. Bingo. I slipped the key in and turned it, the door gave way with only the slightest resistance.

“What?”

A figure shouted and pinned me to the floor. Silhouetted by the light spilling from inside the room I could only see his size, and smell the rotting teeth carried on his breath as he pushed his face close to mine and whispered.

“What have we here.”

It wasn’t a question. He maintained his hold on my body with one hand while reaching the other up to deliver a slap that echoed through the building. My face burned. I’d survived these ten years, suddenly I lost sight of the point in any of it. The burning in my face and the pressure of the man’s fists on my shoulder consumed my thoughts. He moved his hands to my throat and began to squeeze. The corners of my vision blurred. Stars appeared in the centre, speckles of light peppered onto the canvas of the man’s shadow.

“Who is it Jonnie?”

John! The sound of my husband’s name jolted me to life as I realised who was holding me captive. Not that I’d be captive for long. I doubted I had long left. I had to signal to him that it was me – his wife! He’d saved me, he’d waited for me. He was here!

“She was my wife once. Just one more mouth to feed.”

He shouted over his shoulder to the other man. The pain in my heart was suddenly worse than that in my lungs. I gasped for breath but none came, it was getting harder to move or think every second. I felt for the knife in my pocket. Traced the letters. I closed my eyes.

Blood. People still bleed even after everything. Even though the sun is blue and the ground is brown and everything is dead. People still bleed to death. My husband did. I had no choice but to use the knife for protection, as he’d taught me to do all those years ago. I never predicted that I’d have to practice what he’d taught me, on the man I loved with every breath. I never thought I’d kill the man who owned my heart. I never thought I’d run from his body as blood spilled onto the floor in a river around him. I never knew the weird dust absorbed blood into itself.

The world wasn’t really over until then.

Advertisements

Outside.

Outside.

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!

 

Waiting.

Waiting.

This is part 2 of my ‘Underground’ series. If you need to catch up first, click here.

I spent the next two hours solidly dialling and redialling my husband’s number, with no more result that I got the first time. I spent a while crying after that, though if you tell anybody I’ll kill  you myself. At some point I got thirsty and went to our pantry to grab a bottle of water, changed my mind and poured a glass of wine. The den we’d built was a pretty impressive size, if you ignored the lack of windows or company it was a decent place to live. The biggest pantry I’d ever seen was at the back of the bunker, shelves stacked with non perishables – tetris style. Beside that was a small kitchen with a little stove and toaster which surprisingly, worked the entire time.I’d picked out the tiles for in here: a turquoise design with miniature birds perching on painted branches.

Once I’d got the wine I headed to the lounge area, dropping onto the soft brown sofa and pulling a blanket over myself. It was a nice lounge, all things considered, walls painted a pale sage green, to make the room look bigger. My husband had insisted we put a couple of mirrors on the wall to reflect the light and brighten it up a bit. There were a few photographs and paintings too: a picture of our wedding day, one of us with our parents, and for some reason, a painting of a ballerina in a white tutu standing on one leg. Book shelves lent against one wall, all of our favourite titles lined up neatly in alphabetical order. A stack of DVD’s sat by the television, a stack of CD’s by the radio.

I dialled my husband’s number again. Nothing.

I poured another glass of wine and switched the radio on. No signal, just that fuzzy sound you get when you’re out of reach of any stations. I slipped a DVD into the player and watched The Notebook and cried. I’d finished the bottle of wine by the end of the movie, and had dialled my husband around thirty-six times. I played around with the radio for a bit to see if I could find any signals, hoping to hear some news. Nothing. So instead I climbed the stairs to the outside door.

The door at the top of the stairs was a homely one, painted green with a little circle window in the top. I unlocked it.

I walked down the short passage behind it to the second door. This one was steel with a little panel which I slid up to reveal a tiny window. I unlocked it.

The third door was one of those huge sliding things you only ever saw in closed shops before. It was locked and bolted. Military grade apparently. Bullet proof. I’d pulled two metal beams down to hold it in place when I’d come in. I knew that behind it there was only a small gap not covered by earth, most of the door was beneath the ground.

I stopped.

My husband had said never to open that door unless the little green light was on. Right now, three red lights flashed in a circle. That meant it wasn’t safe. I walked away. Locked and bolted the other two doors and plodded, almost sleepwalking, down the stairs.

I dialled my husband’s number again but my phone blacked out before I’d finished punching the numbers in.I put it on charge and raided the pantry for chocolate, and just a little more wine. I picked up a book and stared at the words swirling on the page without recognising a letter. I put another movie on and cried into the blanket.

This night was the first. Eventually I stopped dialling my husband’s number. Stopped climbing the stairs. Stopped crying. Eventually it became a kind of normal. I’d read every book on that bookcase by the time that light went green.

 

Part 3 next Monday!

 

Going Under.

Going Under.

I was underground when the bombs dropped.

Alone.

My husband was out at work and called to say something was up. Up in the sky and on its way down I expect, that’s what happened anyway. He worked for the government, never told me what he did exactly. He came home from work one day and insisted we build some super advanced bunker beneath our house. Ridiculous really, I laughed and suggested he go on that stupid show about those people who prepare for the apocalypse.

I guess it wasn’t so stupid after all.

Anyway, the bunker was built with all this hi-tech equipment that set me on edge. My husband showed me how to work it all – just in case – and I didn’t pay that much attention. After all, what’re the chances of the world ending tomorrow? He spent the night filling the bunker with essentials, and some not-so-essentials, that annoyed me. He should have been spending the evening with me watching Eastenders on the sofa with a coffee.Last Eastenders I ever watched as it happens.

So I was on the phone and it cut out. Line went blank. It wasn’t so unusual, signal near our house is rubbish. That’s what you get for living in the country. But I was a bit freaked out. I followed his instructions, stupid as they sounded, and packed the Go-Bag he’d left beneath the bed. Flicked the news on while I packed, everything seemed normal but then I got another call.

My husband again.

He told me to go into the bunker and lock the door. I thought he was joking and laughed a profanity down the phone. You winding me up you ******? He wasn’t joking apparently, said he wouldn’t be home, he was needed at the office for containment. I should’ve told him I loved him, but I was doing this thing where I make everything a joke and wasn’t about to let my resolve crack.

Stupid.

I went to the bunker and locked myself in. It was a bit of an adventure until the bombs dropped. Three I reckon. BANG. BANG. BANG. I guess more of a boom? I don’t know, it was loud anyway. Break your ears loud. The kind of loud that crashes into your mind and sits there buzzing for hours… or days. Or forever. I can still hear that sound. I suppose I always will.

It took a while for my brain to start ticking over again after that. When it did I grabbed my phone from my pocket and dialled my husband’s number but there was nothing. No dialling tone. Nothing.  Just that slightly menacing silence that’s been my only company these ten years.

 

Part 2 next Monday!