Tunnels

The worst thing about darkness is the blinking. At first you don’t really think of it, you’ve blinked your whole life, so you blink. Something gets in your eye, you blink, and whether your eyes are closed or open it’s still dark, it’s all the same. You can walk around with your eyes wide open or closed and you start to wonder the last time you blinked, so you do. You can still feel the muscles, so it’s only the visual confirmation you’re missing. For a while you make a conscious effort, you blink faster, more frequently, just to be sure. Then you forget and you’ve spent hours with your eyes open. You force yourself to blink and it hurts. The dry crust covering your eyes forms a layer that shreds the inside of your eyelids. After a while, a couple of months, a few years. Of total darkness. The only time you know you’ve blinked is when you feel the warm trickle of blood running down your cheek.

It’s a pleasant thought, that blinking is really the worst part about complete darkness, truthfully it’s the most bearable. As it runs to your chin you don’t want to wipe it away, because it’s the only thing that’s left that reminds you of the light. When the door closed above us, we knew what we were letting ourselves in for; we thought we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. It was come down here with electricity or be in a world without light, ironic I know. At first it felt like a mildly terrifying adventure and I think there was an element of schadenfreude about the whole thing. The people above us were struggling as the lights went out, the darkness and fear engulfing them; whilst we remained safe, with the generator ticking over, the natural gas feeding our lights, our screens, our means of escaping the reality of what we’d committed to. I clearly remember how we got here, how I got here. It wasn’t like a film, where suddenly there’s a disaster and the heroes somehow find some ingenious way out. There was no military patrolling the streets with a plucky, but smart band of people outwitting them and everyone else in order to survive. We planned this for years, the formation of our thoughts congealing after decades of scientific scaremongering, random acts of terrorism, economic collapse, all the usual suspects building up in our heads and shaping our actions.

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I remember bathing in light. Once a day there was more sunlight than I could cope with, it drowned me, and blinded me, caused me pain, but then I got used to it and soon I longed for it. That hour a day in the light was what I lived for. I remember my parents making me promise not to speak or even hint of what I’d see in the above. They could sense the light was close, they’d even tried once, but the gasping panic turned them back. When I was young, my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so when I was six I did. I don’t know which was worse, the sheer light blindness or the dense darkness.

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Wrapped in blankets in the corner of the World War II pill box[1] staring intently at the hole in the floor, feeling safe. It wasn’t the thick concrete walls that did it, not the safety of knowing couldn’t be hunted by the outsiders. The safety came from knowing was hidden, those below in the tunnels would never be able to hear muffled heartbeat from under the thick layers. They say in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king, but sight burdens with seeing the horrors of a world where everyone else is blind.

Could hear them below crying out Sen, where are you? Come back, you’re forgiven. Held breath as their rasping voices came closer. Sen, we need you, the shuffling moved down the tunnel and the rasping croaked almost inaudibly Eat the eyes.

Lay back against the wall and a huge wave of guilt flooded, suddenly was on all fours retching over the truth of decision. The sound of it might bring them back, but it was beyond control. Grabbed at mouth to quieten the sound and hoped this moment of weakness wasn’t enough for them to find.

Seconds later saw them re-appear, this time silent in their approach and hovering below the hole in their ceiling. Grey mottled skin, sickening in the dim light offered by the gaps in the concrete. They grabbed the air above their heads wildly, but was too far above them. They couldn’t see the hole and its presence was no longer part of them. It had been how they’d all gotten down here generations ago, but decades of dark had slowly blinded the first and completely blinded the second. The light up there was too much for their eyes, and their minds, so they dug further down and buried it above them. Not I.

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There was supposed to be seven families down here, the seven daughters of Eve and seven sons of Adam. Dr Chu had sat our group down and explained the concept of human mitochondrial genetics. ‘Natural variation ensuring the future of the human race’ he’d said. ‘The science proved it’ he explained to us. Of course his family were essential to that variation. It all made sense, but there were ten families in our group. Any more than seven would be redundant, a strain, an inconvenience, scientifically detrimental to survival.

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Trickle it does, stream and strife and ebb in red. Squish and pop and down the hatch.

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The light should have helped, my eyes could see, my heart could hope, but my hearing, my smell, they stunted by comparison. Through a fissure in our cave I fissured with our world, into which the light shone from far above, hidden from the other families, our own private hope, a hope my parents couldn’t bear for themselves. ‘We don’t learn about a world we’ll never see’ we were told. I could see, but could never learn. They lied, we learnt, they lied.

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Me: Have you seen the news?
Lillian: You mean what’s happened at/what’s happened with ‘X’
Me: Yes, doesn’t look good does it?
Lillian: No, but it’s not surprising considering what’s going on with/what previously happened with/considering ‘Y’
Max: Perhaps we should take the kids out of school and go…

Over and over. Conversation after conversation, preparing little by little. Finding the others online, in person, like minded, like spirited, defiant.

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The Lord our Darkness
Hollow be thy name
Thy light be done
Thy light be gone
On top as it is below[2]

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We all kept our eyes, for a while; until our age came, until our sacrifice was offered. The eyes, a vestigial of our pre-tunnel days.

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They’re still there. Rocking. Sniffing. Plotting.

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The first time the group all met was in 2016. A little village in Norfolk. Quaint. We decided that the best way to test our metal, so to speak, was to have a camping trip. You aren’t allowed to wild camp in England, but Mr Morris knew the area well and assured us that he knew places out of the way so that nobody would disturb us.
‘Are you sure this is a good idea’ Lillian kept asking on the drive over. James and Lizzy were fast asleep in the back and in all honesty every time I saw them in the rear view mirror I had my doubts. Despite the conversations we’d been having over the last few years, we were in essence normal people, middle England would be our label. Surely normal people don’t meet up with a bunch of survivalists, and go camping illegally, in the middle of nowhere in order to discuss the end being extremely fucking nigh?
‘Yes’ I replied after each questioning intermission to the radio. ‘We need to do this or when it happens, we won’t have anywhere to go, no way to survive’.
After each reply she’d look out at the endless countryside passing by and up at the darkening clouds on the horizon. She knew that we needed to do it and I knew if it all went wrong, it would be my fault.

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Growing up in dark you know no colour. The feel of the sky is lost to a dream of words and ideas, the touch of the wind, the stagnant life of unfathomable meandering hope. In youth the secret was not to be trusted with me. My language did not know the meaning of hidden lies, truths wrapped around in the darkness other than our world. My parents had only me, only one hope, and one life to keep the burning sun from fading forever to humanity. For the first forever I learnt like the others, learnt of the other that was. Of the time that was before, but never was.

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Lillian and I first met at University, she was a in her third year and I was her lecturer. It was an open secret that lecturers and students quite often had brief liaisons. The thirst of knowledge spilling over into a thirst for the carnal flesh which covered the mind in a veil of passion. Usually a mutual benefit to both, top grades, amazing sex and a massage for the ego, but Lillian was not just good. At first she must have thought of me as the cool professor. I wore a leather jacket, boots, motorbike helmet sitting on the desk, sitting there oblivious reading whatever philosophy we were studying that term. But to her I was the archetypal bumbling professor; the façade easily broken, tumbling down like the walls of Babel as her clothes came tumbling down around her.

I remember the first time I saw Ted. I walked into the lecture theatre with some of the girls from my course. They weren’t really friends, just acquaintances really, but I knew them well enough to meet up for coffee before classes, the occasional after lecture drink, etc.…  Anyway, there he was, I could tell he was actually pretty nervous, pretending to be the epitome of cool, but really just trying too hard, but it was sweet in a desperate kind of way. Most lecturers are so full of themselves that they don’t even bother to try; wear whatever they find in their closet after their mothers have done their washing. Ted was different, I smiled at him, he noticed. In my next essay I wrote my number on a slip of paper and stapled it to the bibliography. I figured that if he was really interested in me, he’d by interested in what I read, not just what I wrote.

It started off just a simple relationship. I’ve had them before. I’d deliberately set my office hours for last thing, I figured only the most committed student would bother attending and most of the lecturers had already gone home by then. It made no difference to me as my work was my life. She’d arrive just as the scheduled office hours were about to finish. She said that it felt dangerous, wrong, exciting. It’d always start off in roughly the same way. We’d spend the first ten to fifteen minutes talking about what she’d read that day; perhaps we’d talk about what she was writing for the latest lecture, I’d help. Then she’d be grateful, always grateful and as a thank you she’d sit on my lap and give me a kiss on the cheek, her black hair covering us like a veil, her lips moving down to mine.

He was so easy to please, which made it easy for me, I’d had difficult before and it ended up messy. Ted was always going to be part of my future, either because of the grades or because of him. It was really down to how long he kept it easy. I’d told a few of my close friends about him, not the acquaintances on my course, we weren’t close enough and it would’ve been stupid. Even with the best will in the world, secrets fall like the walls of Babel when students have a few drinks.

My tenure and her graduation fell on the same year, she’d completed her MSc and we’d managed to keep it a secret for the couple of years it took her to finish and me to find another job. ‘Come with me?’

‘Of course’

So we moved. She continued with her research, safe in the knowledge that I supported her until she’d finished what she started. She never liked rules, she never liked the ethical confines of taking her research to PhD level. I understood that.

He made it easy for me, we fell for each other in the most unconventional of ways. The world we created, the towering cliffs that separated us, the Chinese wall he understood, there was some things no language can explain. Some motives. Some objectives. Some finalities that only a feeling can portray. We needed to move. Eyes aren’t always beneficial.

The eyes of the world would one day see her.

Be in awe and shattered like the Towers of Babel.  

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Tick ticktick. SEn WE know. We hear All. We Sm3ll all. We Feeeel All.

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My parents told me I lived well by old rules. Safe. Freedom?. Safe. No hunters for children to fear. We had the spiders to eat, the temple to learn, the books to recite. The lessons. Of the old time. The families. The hope of 1000 years when the lid on heaven would open and allow us angels to return. When the shafts of light would bring us back to the Promised Land. The land the elders promised us. I couldn’t tell them. We felt at temple. I felt her, she felt me and we shared with He. The three a unity of safety and death. The damon diadema grew fat on the land, everything grew fat on the land, the land swelled in our absence. The natural virus that decimated the planet had decimated the Earth, a rose by any other name is not the same if that name is a lie. It was never ours, Gaia knew that, she just neglected to inform the virus that ravaged her, but as the chosen ones we would return. Flying on the wings we would be given when the scourge had been eradicated completely. These were the lines. The first to learn. 

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Waited for the outsiders to come. Waited for hours. Days. Weeks. Waited for the kin to go. Waited for hours. Days. Weeks. Waited for nothing. No change.

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wE fynD H3r..>>

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The trial in the woods was a success, they didn’t need to know about Lillian’s work; they were right, that was all. Dr Chu was happy to lead; we were happy to let him.
The way he made the cull was brutal; as brutal as middle England can be, we weren’t barbarians. There were six families he’d decided were genetically required, that left four. The goal was resourcefulness and dedication – how much can you bring to the table in the shortest amount of time. All four families were given 1 month to pay as much money into an account as possible. That account was for the shelter, food, supplies, hardware. The winning family got a place. The others lost it all. You’ve got to ask yourself. If you truly believe it’s all going to end and you have a possible out, how much do you invest? All your eggs in one basket? 80-20 split? 50-50?

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It’s in the rain. It’s in the water. It’s attached to the H2O. It’s latched itself onto the very hydrogen in our atmosphere. A master of evolution replicating over and over with oxygen as its fuel. A biological fire that we must consume.

What do you mean?

The catalyst. The mutating agent. It’s raining, don’t look up.

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And then there was darkness.

Revelation 6 King James Version (KJV)

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?


[1] In May 1940, the directorate of Fortifications and Works (FW3) was set up at the War Office under the direction of Major-General G. B. O. Taylor. Its purpose was to provide a number of basic but effective pillbox designs that could be constructed by soldiers and local labour at appropriate defensive locations. In the following June and July FW3 issued six basic designs for rifle and light machine gun, designated Type 22 to Type 27. In addition, there were designs for gun emplacements suitable for either the Ordnance QF 2 pounder or the Hotchkiss 6pdr gun (designated Type 28) and a design for a hardened medium machine gun emplacement.
There were also designs for pillbox-like structures for various purposes including light anti-aircraft positions, observation posts and searchlight positions to illuminate the shoreline. In addition, the Air Ministry provided designs of fortifications intended to protect airfields from troops landing or parachuting. These would not be expected to face heavy weapons so that the degree of protection was less and there was more emphasis on all-round visibility and sweeping fields of fire. Many of these were later reinforced.
Embrasures were available precast and factory produced to standard designs, but as these were in short supply some embrasures were improvised from brick or concrete paving. Embrasures were frequently fitted with a steel or concrete-asbestos shutter. From March 1941, some pillbox embrasures were fitted with a Turnbull mount: this was a metal frame that supported a medium machine gun.
The degree of protection offered by a pillbox varied considerably: the thickness of the walls and roof generally varied from just 12 in to 3 ft 6 in (0.3 to 1.1m) or more although the commercially produced designs were often much thinner. In March 1940, General Brooke carried out penetration trials and recorded that a 25 mm anti-tank gun could easily penetrate up to 2 feet (60 cm) of reinforced concrete. Despite such results the thick-walled pillboxes were designated as shell-proof, whereas the thinner-walled pillboxes were designated as bulletproof.
Internally, pillboxes are generally cramped and spartan. Some internal concrete shelves and tables were provided to support weapons and some were whitewashed inside. Only the Type 28s provided a little space — sufficient for a few home comforts. In later years, some were adapted for the threats faced during the Cold War, through the digging of tunnels to make them suitable as fallout shelters.

[2] Chu, R.,  The Creation (Original Press; March 10, 2039)

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