In the year 2042, the world was annihilated in a storm of nuclear fire. Humanity, the dominant species of a dying planet, chose its own destruction over cooperation. My great-great-grandparents were two of the lucky thousand chosen at random to survive extinction. When the bombs fell, they and their peers were taken to The Bunker, a massive underground city built to sustain human life indefinitely in the event of nuclear war. The holocaust came and went and all communications from the surface world ceased. That was it. The end of the human race save for a small pocket living deep, deep below the ground.
The first Governor of The Bunker kept tabs on the surface, periodically checking radiation levels, air quality, and so on, but the equipment on the surface quickly fell into disrepair with no one willing to brave the wasteland to maintain it. The population growth quickly began to overwhelm the available resources of The Bunker. By the time I was born, the governor had instituted a strict, One Child policy. Second children were routinely executed by the governor's security forces along with their law-breaking parents. The orphaned first children inevitably became street rats, rebels, and criminals. Just after my seventeenth birthday, the war began.
A group of radicalized Orphaned stormed a security outpost en masse. Eighty seven people, including the entirety of the security garrison at the outpost, twenty officers, were killed. That was the first of many battles between the Orphaned, and the governor and his police force. With access to weapons, the Orphaned swelled in numbers until they included nearly a third of the Bunker's nine thousand residents. That's when the war found me...
"Quick, get inside, hurry!" Mom was sweating as she helped me crawl into the ventilation shaft in my bedroom. It was barely wide enough for me to squeeze inside and the cold air trying to push me out made goosebumps form up and down my body.
"Mom, please!" I cried quietly as she gently replaced the vent cover in front of my face, "You need to hide too! You and dad!"
"Shh…" she pressed a finger to her lips and peered into the vent, looking into my eyes past the louvers, "We'll be OK sweetie. You just stay quiet, alright. We'll be OK, I promise," I could hear gunfire and shouting outside the apartment. "I love you,"
Then she was gone. I waited in the vent, trying not to make a sound for what felt like an eternity. The gunfire grew and grew in intensity. The lights went out, replaced by dim, red emergency lighting. I heard shouting. Dad's voice? Then my brother Nathan's. Then my mom screamed a shrill, painful, scream that ended as abruptly as it started. More gunfire. Louder now. I heard glass breaking and loud crashes. Then the apartment went silent. Gunfire continued outside in the halls, more distant now.
I could hear footsteps, heavy, walking around the living room. Two? No, three sets of boots. I swallowed hard and tried not to breathe. I felt like my heart, pounding against the steel vent, would give me away. The door into the bedroom opened. I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath. My heart raced. My mouth went dry. It felt like the vent was going to squeeze me to death. Someone walked in. I heard three more steps. They ripped the sheets off the bed, flung the mattress across the room. I could hear furniture sliding across the floor and things breaking. Then a curse, more footsteps, going away from my hiding place this time. Then, quiet. I could still hear the fighting outside the apartment but it was growing more and more distant. I waited until the only sound I could hear was the ringing in my ears. It may have been an hour, or a day. I wasn't sure.
Eventually, when no one came, I carefully pushed the vent cover out, and shimmied my way out of the ventilation shaft. My room was absolutely trashed. Debris and broken furniture lay everywhere. My clothing had all been ripped from the closet, scattered on the floor and trampled. There were bloody boot prints all over the place too. I swallowed, and crept out into the living room. I saw my dad there first. He lay on his back near the front door. His head lay in a pool of blood. There was a large bullet wound in the center of his forehead. His eyes were rolled back and bloodshot. My brother sat slumped against the wall, three gunshot wounds in the center of his chest and his face covered in black and purple bruises. My mom was the worst though. She lay sprawled out on top of the kitchen table, her clothes were tattered and torn nearly off and her chest was a bloody mess of stab wounds.
I stood there in the doorway, staring. I didn't want to, but I couldn't look away. Tears welled in my eyes and still I just stood there and stared. I was one of them now. One of the Orphaned.
One day, we'll all go, I remembered Dad's voice, We'll just pack up what we can make a life on the surface. He had been on the Bunker's science staff. I remembered him trying to convince the governor that the surface would be livable again. I remembered him losing his job because of it. They had called him crazy. I remembered his stash of supplies then, hidden.
I darted across the kitchen, trying not to look at my family anymore, and found the loose floor panel. I pried it open and tossed it aside with a clang. There it was. A big gray duffle bag, covered in dust. I yanked it from its hiding place and opened it. There were weapons inside, a security submachine gun and handgun, and an old hunting rifle with wooden grips from before the great war. I took them out and made sure they were loaded, then checked the bag again. It was full of canned food, freeze-dried ration packs, purified water, medical supplies, ammunition, and even a few toiletries like toothpaste and soap. I ran back to my room and grabbed what clothing I could find that wasn't covered in blood and tossed it into the bag then threw the strap over my shoulder, and steeled myself.
The tears had dried now, leaving a salty film on my face. I washed them away quickly in the bathroom, and left the apartment. The halls were dark, just like home, with red emergency lights bathing the Bunker in an eerie glow. I knew I needed to get to the governor's office. The Bunker entrance was close by, according to maps I had seen. The way I figured, the battle would distract everyone and, with any luck, I wouldn't see anyone along the way. Even so, I crept along quietly, my head on a swivel and my gun at the ready. Dad had taught me to use it. How to aim, and how to squeeze a trigger if I ever had to. How to clean and maintain a weapon. He had been preparing me for this my whole life, I realized. I reached a corner and heard voices. I peeked around carefully and saw two security troopers in full gear searching the lifeless body of a young man wearing ragged clothes. An SMG just like mine lay in the blood next to him. I swallowed the lump in my throat, checked that my safety was off, whirled around the corner and squeezed the trigger. I didn't let go until the gun stopped bucking with recoil. My ears rang as the deafening gunshots stopped. The two men in the hall had been reduced to a bloody pulp by the hail of bullets. I lost control and wretched at the sight of them. Sweating, and shaking, I quickly searched the bodies for ammunition, reloaded my weapon and darted further down the hall. My stomach was still in knots and my breath was coming ragged and shallow. I had to go, I had to get out of this hell.
As I approached the large open doorway to one of the main community areas, I could hear more fighting below. It was a large, three-story space with a ceiling that had once simulated the sky on a sunny day. It was dark now, bathed in the same faint red light as the rest of the Bunker. I was on the upper level and I crept around the periphery, staying low and close to the walls. I watched the battle unfolding below, on the ground floor. A squad of security officers in the middle of the long chamber were being beaten and bludgeoned and torn to pieces by rebels armed with kitchen knives, hammers and a random assortment of other tools. Another squad was engaged in a heated firefight with a group of rebels three times their number. A third squad burst into the chamber from a doorway on the second level and mercilessly mowed down the rebels that were beating their comrades on the ground floor. The entire chamber was filled with acrid smoke and the stench of fear, and sweat, and blood, and death.
I hurried along to the opposite end of the chamber and left as quietly as I had come. I had to be a ghost, or I would doubtless be caught. I found an exit and darted through into a completely black corridor that ended in a T-intersection up ahead. I crept along, hugging the wall as best I could. I heard voices, footsteps. I looked back and forth and heard a second set of footsteps behind me. There was nowhere to go. Panicking, I dropped to the floor, pressing myself as tightly into the corner against the wall as I could and trying to protect my head. The two sets of footsteps entered the corridor at the same time. There was a brief pause, a wordless roar and then a deluge of gunfire opened up just over my head. Several sets of boots sprinted past me in the dark. I heard bodies drop to the floor. I felt their blood spattering over me and tears running down my face. Bullets whizzed past and ricochets bounced off the walls and floor. I felt a round bite into the back of my shoulder and I stifled a scream, though I probably would not have been heard over the din anyway. I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed myself tighter, tighter into the wall, trying not to move, or make a sound. Then someone fell on top of me. A man. I could feel the stumble of his beard against the back of my neck. He did not move, or breathe. I could feel his hot blood seeping through the back of my shirt. More boots sprinted past, more gunshots, around the corner this time. Shouting. Cursing. Then, silence.
I allowed myself a long, shaky exhale. My back and shoulder throbbed. I pushed the body off of my back and got unsteadily to my feet. I reached back to where the bullet had struck and my hand came away red, though I didn't even know if it was my blood or not. I continued to the corridor intersection. The fighting had moved in the opposite direction from where I was headed. Relieved, I ran, as fast as I could, toward the Bunker's main entrance. It had not been opened in over a hundred years, but I hoped against hope that it would work. I reached a long staircase going straight up and climbed, still clutching my weapon in one hand, the other hanging limp at my side. At the top of the stairs, a massive steel door blocked the way into the entrance chamber. To the right, a smaller door stood open with a sign that said, 'Administration' flickering above it. I went inside.
I was sure this was the governor's office. The place was ransacked and picked clean of anything of value that was not bolted down. At the center of the room, stood a large round desk with a computer console built into it. I went over to it and breathed a relieved sigh when I saw it was still functional. I set my bag down on the desk and began searching the terminal for a way to open the door. A file caught my eye as I dug into the system. It was labeled, 'surface analysis records'. I opened it, expecting to see a log of files sixty or more years old. The file at the top of the list, however, was labeled with yesterday's date. I opened it and my eyes began to scan across the data. Normal. It was all normal. Oxygen levels, radiation, temperature, everything. Normal. Livable.
"What are you doing!?" I heard a gruff voice growl from the door. I gasped and grabbed for the handgun in my duffle bag, pointing it at the door with my one good arm. I cringed at the pain the sudden move sent through my other shoulder. An older man in a tattered suit stood there, unarmed, studying me with cold eyes. The governor. I was sure.
"You," I said, my voice coming out weaker, and smaller than I expected.
"Get away from there," he barked, stepping toward me.
"YOU DID THIS!" I shouted, "YOU KNEW!" Before I knew what I was doing, I had crossed the room and squeezed the trigger. The bullet punched through the governor's chest and sent him sprawling to the floor. Before he had a chance to say anything, to do anything, I had emptied the magazine into his face, leaving nothing but a red smear across the floor. I was hyperventilating. My hands shook violently and tears streamed, unhindered, down my face. He had known all along that we could leave. Why? What was the point of all this? I screamed and began kicking the body as hard as I could. He had killed them all. Everyone that had died in this stupid war. All that blood was on his hands. I began sobbing uncontrollably. I felt ribs crack. I started stomping down on his lifeless chest, letting all my anger and frustration out. I felt it cave in beneath the blows. I wished that he was still alive to feel it all, to experience hell with the rest of us.
Finally exhausted and sobbing I turned away from the bloody mess that had been a man, and returned to the computer terminal. I found the door release, and activated the protocol. I heard an alarm blare outside the office and stepped out to see the massive steel door sliding slowly open. I walked out into the entrance chamber and it slid closed again behind me. Another alarm and a hiss of air filled the room as the atmosphere equalized with the outside. A second giant door groaned and screeched, and finally slid apart, revealing a dark, rocky space beyond. I adjusted my bag on my shoulder, tossed my weapon inside and proceeded to climb the cavernous tunnel up, up, up. After climbing for what felt like forever, I reached an old rusted overhead door meant for vehicles, with a pedestrian door next to it. I turned the handle on the smaller door and pushed. After the rust on the hinges cracked, it swung open and a blinding light washed over me. I took a deep breath of the cool, crisp air and let it fill me up. I stepped out into the sun and for the first time in my life, I was free.
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Hey Adrian, I really like this dystopian short story. At first it reminded me a bit of the "Snowpiercer" plot, but yours took a turn where the outside land was hospitable. I don't have much constructive criticism except that you may want to break the paragraphs down a bit so it reads easier. This is a personal preference however, so feel free to disregard. Great work! - Jasmine
Thanks a lot for reading! Glad you liked it! I'll take a closer look at my formatting on my next one! Hope you get a chance to read some of my other stories too. =)