Science Fiction Fiction

I lost count of how many days we are down here. I also lost count of the fights that have been ever since we're here. The struggle for food is something I've grown used to by now. I've come to appreciate the music made by a couple of people, even when the guitar isn't tuned anymore. I've even come to appreciate Kevin's beard. What I haven't come to understand is his indestructible optimism. Or, how he calls it, his determination. He doesn't accept our faith. He appreciates it for the time being, but he won't accept that this is our life now. Until we die at a much too young age. 

I remember very well when a baby was born. We were only down here for a few days, maybe a week. We are lucky to have found shelter relatively close to Dijkzigt. It was in the time where the stations still helped each other. And to be honest, the doctors still do what they can today. The baby didn’t make it. The mother was inconsolable. The father most likely as well, but he drowned his sorrow by sleeping with someone else. It was my first real taste of human immorality. The savage part of human nature came a lot sooner than at least I expected. Groups were formed. Solidarity only existed within these groups. Only a few were able to interact with other groups without this ending in trouble. These people were called the traders. 

I hated this development. I never wanted to commit to a group, I was against it all. But Kevin told me we had to, were we to live relatively safe. He decided to side with the misfits. At first I didn’t understand how a group of people who were outsiders before, would work together. I very well realized that we were outsiders as well. But because we all knew how it felt to be left on the outskirts of society, we knew how too cope. Kevin would have been an excellent trader. He simply gets along with everyone. But he refused the role. People listen to him when he speaks. He gives good advice, I have to admit. But he rarely speaks. To the others I mean. He talks to me a lot, when we try to get some sleep. He wraps his arms around me, kisses my hair and shoulder, and starts talking. 

He talks about leaving this place. About going back to the surface and start life all over. But it’s not a dream to him, he means it. Lately, he started to wander around the tubes, looking for an alternative way up. No one is allowed to leave the station. Some brave people have done this in the early days, raiding the station for food. These people are very ill now. It’s not that we are kept prison here by the people making sure that no one leaves the station. It’s for our own good. Life is dark out there. Dark and toxic. And it will be like that for a very long time. Kevin knows this. But he believes we can live a happy life up there soon. All we need is the sun to break through the dust and ashes. I’ve heard the stories and the estimates. It’ll take years. 

At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to last here. That I’d lose my mind. People have killed themselves here. But strangely I found that I adapted to the situation rather quickly. What I still haven’t adapted to is how people can be so cruel in this dire situation. We see this in other groups. Our group is fairly civilized. I think Kevin knew this would happen. When he first left for his walks through the tubes I wanted to join him. But he insisted I stay behind and I was terrified. Not of him not returning, but of what the others might do to me when he was gone. He is very respected. I had no idea what they thought of me. They let me be. One day I received a book form someone, so I had something to do when he was gone. No one expected me to do anything. The sparse advice he gave was enough for the group. And I benefited from it. 

A few days ago he came back from his walks with a grin on his face. He told everyone that fortune was to come our way. Everyone smiled back and everyone thought he lost his mind, me included. That night he held me very close. I knew what that meant and shifted my body so he could do his thing. We pride ourselves that we can have sex unnoticed. Or, maybe we only tell ourselves that no one notices. But he pushed me back, while I felt how he smiled against my shoulder. “I found a way out Kim.” he said. “It leads to the Turkish restaurant upstairs.” 

I froze. Had he been outside? That would mean that he would have been exposed to radiation. I’m not sure why that would have been an issue, everyone down here has been exposed before we got here. But extra exposure was something we were all afraid of. I felt his lips on my collarbone. “Don’t worry,” he hushed. “I only took a quick look, I haven’t been to the surface. It’s dark out there. So very dark. It’s empty and deafening quiet. But soon, I feel it, soon the sun will shine again. And then we’ll leave this place.” 

“But the radiation…” I started. 

“Yeah, the radiation. And you don’t think that leaked through the ventilation systems? Sure, it’ll be much higher out there than it is here. But I’m not going to stay here. As soon as the sun breaks through, I’m out of here. I rather live a few years in happiness and in the light, than in misery and darkness.”

“How are we going to live?” 

“You’re joining me then?” 

“Ah…” He got me there. 

“We’re sort of living here as well, don’t we? If you want to call this living. I call it waiting. And the wait is nearly over. Maybe we can walk to the Castle and live there. How about that, my queen? To live in a castle, imagine that!” 

I knew he meant the football (soccer for you Americans, we both are not) stadium that was called The Castle. It was in the way that he spoke that I actually believed we could do that. My body relaxed and I moved even closer to him. “Hey and imagine, to live in a place where we don’t have to pretend Max isn’t watching us having sex.” In a previous life it would have put me out of the mood, but I let him and I enjoyed it. I hope Max did as well. 

Today is the day. We silently pack our few belongings. I leave the books behind. It’s a legacy for the people here, a reminder of a time much better than this. I silently follow him. No one seems to follow us. They are used by him wandering around and it was weirder for me not joining him that joining him as I do today. He told me that we would be seeing the sun today. I had no idea how he would know that, but once again he sounded very convincing. Through a narrow shaft we push ourselves upward. There’s a large ventilating fan at the end of the shaft. He stops and peaks through the blades. “I knew it.” He mumbles. He orders me to go back a little and he starts pushing and pulling at the ventilation device. I know I should be scared, but strangely I’m not. 

With a loud noise he pushes the fan to the floor and pulls himself out. He coughs violently and I close my eyes. Yes, this was a terrible idea after all. But what is done is done. When he holds his hand in front of me I take it and let him help me pull myself to the surface as well. Here we are, side by side in an abandoned Turkish restaurant. It’s plundered. Kevin walks to the shattered window and calls me over. “Look,” he says. “Through the cracks you can see it, the sun.” 

I look but I don’t see it. My eyes have adjusted to the darkness of the tunnels and I can’t say the restaurant is much lighter. Kevin walks towards the door, onto the station. The sliding doors to the outside world are opening and closing constantly. They probably have all these weeks and the thought slightly freaks me out. I expected dead bodies here but there are none. I think that even freaks me out more. There is a box between the sliding doors that keep them moving. Kevin quickly jumps outside and I follow him. He points up to the sky. “There, do you see it now?” 

It’s dark and cold out here. The silence is indeed deafening. Ashes are still falling from the sky. But between the dark clouds in the sky I can see it. An orange light. A few rays manage to penetrate the dust. I cough heavily. I end my cough with a sneeze and look back up again. Kevin hasn’t stopped looking to the sky. We stand there saying nothing and stare at the sun trying to shine a light on our planet that has been destroyed by the dominant species. I don’t know how long we have been staring. But after a while Kevin takes my hand and leads me over the tram rails. We take the stairs down, into the neighborhood of Spangen. I’m surprised that the buildings are mostly still standing. I have no idea where the people are who lived here. Maybe I don’t even want to think about it. 

I know that what we’re doing isn’t going to last very long. I can feel the radiation by now and I’m sure so does he. But we walk here, holding hands. We’re alone. But the sun is still there to keep us company. We walk towards the stadium as if we are going to see a match. But we’re not. We’re breaking in and look around. We make a living area and a sleeping area. We run around the field like children. We make figures in the ashes. We have no idea how to survive. We know we won’t survive. Maybe that’s what is making it easy. 

The next morning I realize what it is that makes this all worthwhile. I find Kevin standing on the main stands of the stadium. He managed to find coffee and gives me a cup. He continues to stare to the sky, to the orange light in the sky. It’s become lighter outside. I can see him smile at the sun. The sun has found a way back to us, even if we don’t deserve it as a species. And who are we to keep away from her? 

March 24, 2022 23:28

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