Going Underground

free write friday kellie elmoreThis week’s Free Write Friday prompt:

Let’s leap into the future with a time & place scenario. 

The year: 2063

The place: An underground bunker

She pulled me with the last bit of strength she had into the bunker. We stumbled and fell onto the floor. I was breathing heavily, my chest hurting as I greedily inhaled the oxygen. The door slid closed behind us, trapping an arm that was trying to prevent its closure. The sound of the wailing sirens were cut off, as were the cries of those who had not made it. I looked at Marla, distress in my eyes as I thought of those who were left outside.

“They had to close the doors. If they didn’t, none of us would have a chance of survival.”

As my breathing became easier, I became aware of the sounds that now surrounded me. Ragged breathing. Soft, mewling cries. People calling out names to see if their loved ones had made it. The lighting was dim but I could see that many were unsure of what the next steps were. There were people sitting on the floor with expressions of shock on their faces. Others were holding tight onto the children they had managed to bring into safety. We had theoretically practised this drill so many times: at school, at the workplace, on the day set aside each year for such an eventuality. We had seen images flicker on TV while occupied with the routine of our day. But nothing had prepared us for this. None of the laughter and gaiety was present that our drills brought on. This was no holiday. Instead the reality was slowly sinking in that we had been attacked, and that our lives would never be the same.

We had not believed that someone would fire the missiles that would destroy our city, our lives, and the habitation that we depended on for survival. We had trusted that those ruling our nation would ensure that war would be avoided. We had trusted that those in power would think of more than their own egos and their own desire to be proven right.

But now we had to believe. Someone had pressed that button. And we were here in this dim-lit bunker with those who had managed to reach the place that had been assigned to them. Marla and I got up slowly. We began to walk among these people we would be living with until the all clear to go outside again was given. Many ignored us; some looked at us with fear in their eyes. I was looking in particular for the one who was supposed to tell us what to do; the one who would guide us through the weeks of underground life we had to survive. I was looking for the answers to the questions that were beginning to come to my mind.

I was drawn to the big screen on the wall showing the flickering images of what was happening outside. Men and women were standing in front of it, watching with glazed eyes, the destruction happening in front of their eyes. Our enemies had not sent missiles to burn the buildings. Instead the weapons they had sent were insidious. I saw people gasping for air, sores forming all over their bodies. I saw the lawns and the flowers wilting and turning brown. I saw people screaming and clawing at their own bodies. Tears ran silently down my cheeks. Outside life was being squeezed out of the living and I mourned its loss.

I turned away from the screen, bringing Marla with me. We had to move on and get to the business of living. We had to move away from the habit that had been encouraged in our society: we had to move away from the screen that deadened our desire to move, to act, to live. We had to find out who was running this bunker. Where were we supposed to stay? Where was the water and food? Where were the animals that were supposed to be here already? Where was the soil and the seeds for planting? What jobs would we be assigned to?  Who was in charge?

We moved towards the entrance of another room and walked through the doorway. In here we saw some others who were also looking for some guidance. They had also left the crying and shell-shocked people in the greater room. Suddenly we heard the door close behind us, enclosing us in the small room. A hologram appeared before us, startling us with the following words:

“You have been chosen to lead those in this bunker. By entering this room, you have shown the desire to search for solutions. You have set yourself apart from the herd. It is up to you to ensure that this group survives life underground until it is safe to go outside again. By our calculations you will be here for a lifetime. You are the ones who need to ensure that humanity and all life survive.”

What do you think will happen after the hologram’s statement?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013

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45 thoughts on “Going Underground

    1. It is surely part of our responsibility, however, to ensure that humanity does not reach this point? If this situation were to happen it would be a culmination, I think, of actions taken over many lifetimes.

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  1. Wow! Well written Colline! Seems like the hologram was waiting for someone to take the lead and I am sure the solutions will be there. I just don’t like the sound of the “lifetime” calculations though. I do hope they find a way out one day. 😀

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          1. Agreed. I am thinking of a situation a few years ago when there was a stand-off for vehicles passing in a parking lot – ours and a new Rolls Royce. We were tucked over to the side but the driver of the Rolls waited in the same position until we moved over more. Hubby refused, telling me that the driver of the Rolls could also move over and go around us rather than waiting for us to move over more.

            I said that I knew he would not go around and that if we didn’t want car repairs, we better move over. Hubby looked perplexed and said that didn’t make any sense. That guy has a new Rolls, why would he want to damage his car? I said that he would damage his car and wouldn’t care if it was damaged, so we better move over. This was a game of power, not practicality. What mattered more to us? Practicality and avoiding the inconvenience of car repairs.

            Before we had been given enough time to move over, as expected, the driver of the Rolls side-swiped our car taking out the mirror. Hubby was shocked.

            For those who enjoy power, maintaining that power at any cost is paramount.

            How do we encourage others seeking to maintain power to prefer to become caring community members?

            As I swim through broken glass in my blog, resisting the urge to escape from exploring these concepts, I wish someone would share this answer! 🙂

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            1. People such as the one you describe are not going to give up the power they have – especially if they have had the taste of it for many years. In addition, our society does seem to reward those who are competitive and aggressive – those who do not exhibit these traits go unnoticed.

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  2. Your story is full of suspenseful surprises as well as hope.I found myself sharply inhaling, covering my mouth and saying “Oh My God!” And your response was right on to the first comment. Could not agree more!

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  3. I agree with Mark. It does beg for a second…and third and fourth chapter 🙂 But you know me…I love getting you to write. You do it so well! So it’s your fault lol.
    This was like watching a movie. Your imagery and storytelling are so complimentary of one another. And you depict moments so very real as though they should be. Like people calling out to see is their loved ones were there. Moving.
    Thank you

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    1. Thank you so much Kellie. You are such an encouragement to me. What I try to do is put into words what I see in my imagination – and sometimes the little details are important.

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      1. I agree with Kellie here, Colline. The calling out to loved ones was haunting. I could see your writing as a film in my mind. This, for me, is the kind of writing I enjoy reading. You have made it an experience.

        Keep writing, Colline. You are definitely perfecting the craft. Thought about publishing, yet?

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  4. What a frightening scenario. A lifetime in a bunker with people you didn’t chose for company could lead to all kinds of unexpected consequences. Will you write some more?

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  5. That is one big scenario you have created Colline, back in the olden days as I know them , you would have been called a futuristic fiction writer, sadly today I feel your story maybe classified as foretelling the future of our technological age.
    Well written.
    Ian

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  6. What a compelling story! One of my favorite lines is – ‘We had to move away from the habit that had been encouraged in our society: we had to move away from the screen that deadened our desire to move, to act, to live.’
    It’s a line which implies that we aren’t completely faultless in the situation we now find ourselves. As for what happens next, I’ve no idea! Hopefully, we’ll not make the same mistakes which led us here. Also hopefully, you’ll write more so we can find out!

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      1. Yes, the ‘habit that had been encouraged in our society’. We would like to believe we have free will and will choose the independent, altruistic or humane path in life. However, there is always the small matter of personal survival and the survival of those you love.

        This ‘habit’ known as socialization begins soon after birth. The molding by ‘habit’ to guide someone to become a member of society who will fit in. Very powerful. Very cultural as well. Each culture has its own norms that guide ways of being in the world.

        This is most likely the most difficult thing to change in anyone, don’t you think?
        We are taught to ‘passively’ accept these cultural norms. If we try to oppose this teaching, we are swiftly corrected. By the time we are adults, we do not often question how or why we have come to believe certain things.

        When we do, we find ourselves alone, an outsider. Group pressure has a strong influence. Way to change this…strong leadership, growing mass of the converted.

        The human condition does not lend itself well to remaining alone.

        Oh Colline, do write more. I would buy this novel. I want to see what these characters will do!

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        1. Oh I agree. Socialization through education, the media, even the films that are created for us to watch. There are bodies that determine what it is that is suitable for us to see, to read, and even to eat. It is a hard mould to break out of especially as it is wrapped around us from the time we are very young.

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  7. Hey Colline, could you continue writing this story? I’m intrigued.
    Hmmmm…I don’t know what happens next, but I want to know. Please write more!

    As I was reading, I thought of two recent docs that I watched. One doc was ‘The Flat’, a third generation Jewish man struggles to understand and find meaning in the actions of first and second generation Jewish holocaust survivors. The second was a doc about journalism in war zones, the journalists who have covered them and the impact these witnessed experiences have had on them.

    In your story above, as the big screen reveals what is happening to those left outside the bunker, I desperately wanted those watching to turn away from the screen. What use is it to see and connect with what is happening to those you can’t help?

    Those images will burn in your mind forever.

    As I write this, however, I realize that without reported witnessed events, exposed with accuracy, change is not likely. I also realize that it is very difficult for many to accept certain truths. Seeing is believing. What you don’t see or experience can ultimately be refuted.

    Perhaps this is merely essential survival skills.

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    1. I wonder sometimes, Darlene, whether people become immune to violence and painful death by watching so much of this on TV. Seeing it on the screen also distances us, I think from the reality. If we were to see such things first-hand, they would have more impact I think.

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      1. I agree. One of the journalists covering a war zone said that she was daunted by the fact that people in North America were uninterested in what was going on in other countries. She would try to speak of it and others would change the subject.

        I think people don’t want to hear about anything catastrophic, ugly or horrific. It is easier to turn away and disconnect. Yet, many want to view these things on film or from a distance.

        I wonder if, we have created a community of passivity, by allowing others to ‘witness’ atrocities by film and giving them the false sense of security .that these things do not affect them and they have escaped harm. In a sense, this seems to be a form of ‘relief’ that we have escaped harm.

        Perhaps imaging how to help others seems too overwhelming. Perhaps potential for depression is a factor as well. If we don’t try to help anyone, then we don’t have to feel down when it doesn’t seem to help. And there is this small matter of cultural conditioning and group pressure, as well keeping everyone in line.

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