Under

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The underground world had been closed for so long because it hadn’t been needed. Some sections had been turned into tour routes for those interested in history and ghost hunting. It was never thought that the space would ever be required again.

Then the outbreak happened. It was pushed off as a simple disease before levelling up to a world sweeping plague. Millions of people died but they didn’t stay in their graves.

The government repaired, improved and kitted out the underground cities, factories and farms once more. People moved in, coming not just from the country above but from others as well. Builders had to construct new sections and everyone had to pull together to survive.

The world above become ravaged by war and death, disease ran wild and people returned from the other side, their bodies reanimated, their hearts and brains nonfunctional.

Anybody who died in the underground world was thrown out the steel doors and just left there. Burials, prayers and rites no longer had a place and the families could only hope their loved ones stayed dead.

 

Down Under There #WriteNowPrompt

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I hurried to work as snow began to fall and passed another dug up road in my way. Wondering if it was some kind of London law that roadworks always had to be going on, I squeezed passed the plastic barrier.

The vibration of a drill going through tarmac went straight into me. Heavy, grubby men in yellow high visibility vests and hideous matching hard hats crowded the scene. They were calling to each other then one turned to me before I could escape.

‘Can’t ya see the signs there, mate?’ he shouted.

‘I’m late,’ I yelled back.

‘It’s there for a reason!’ he spat.

‘You tell him, Jack!’ one of his colleagues cut in.

Trying to ignore them, I walked quickly but the lights at the cross road change to red and I had to stop. Looking back as cars whizzed by before me, I saw the man pushing the barrier tighter into place but nothing could stop a Londoner in a hurry.

The drill stopped, my ears continued to ring and I turned my back on the diggers. Concentrating for a gap in the cars that I could run through, I felt the ground began to shake. It was just the drill starting up again or that claw plough scooping soil.

The shaking carried on then there were mighty rumblings and rocking motions which almost threw me to the floor. Everything felt tilted and unstable as if an earthquake was happening. I somehow saved myself by spinning and grabbing some nearby railings.

Deafness and dizziness flood me. My legs didn’t want to work and they didn’t seem to belong to me anymore. Panic was controlling me but I couldn’t do anything other then cling onto the railings and shut my eyes.

The earthquake subsided and I heard the distant voices’ of people crying, screaming and shouting as all hell had broken loose. I felt wobbly as if I had just got off an extreme roller coaster. My legs felt numb but I found them again and stood up. I kept my fingers weaved through the railings, just in case.

In the middle of the road, pushing outwards from the hole the workmen had been creating was a huge crater. Torn up tarmac created a jagged line around the edge and dust was spiralling upwards.

A back cab was teetering on the lip of the crater and a dazed cyclist was sitting on the road wondering where his bike had gone. Crowds of people were pushed back on both sides of the pavement and all the morning rush hour traffic had halted.

‘Did anyone fall in?’ a workman questioned.

There was an unsure mumbled from the crowds.

‘Help us!’ a woman cried in a French accent from the back of the taxi.

A human chain was made and the cab was pulled back from the edge. The doors opened and a family tumbled out alongside the Muslin taxi driver, they were all in shock but glad to have escaped.

‘What you got there’s a sinkhole!’ a fat, red faced America man called out.

The word echoed in my head and I just had to get a closer look. Creeping forward, I looked down into the huge hole that was almost taking up all of the road. Through the dust and debris there seemed to something down there. Was it the London Underground? Or some other forgotten Victorian structure?

‘Stand back there,’ said a man and I turned to see the worker, Jack, who had told me off before.

‘There something down there,’ I pointed dumbly out.

‘We’ll take care of it. We are experts. Stand back there,’ Jack add as some other curious people came towards the edge.

I set my briefcase down and despite my expensive suit, I knelt tried to see what had been revealed. I saw a ceiling and wall of a cavern and it didn’t look man made. Things were still settling so it looked fogging. I could hear rubble falling and perhaps running water but there was the echo of other traffic from the surrounding roads.

‘Mate!’ Jack shouted, ‘I won’t tell ya again! get back!’

He grabbed my shoulder and tried to haul me back but I twisted out of his grip.

‘I cave explore for a hobby,’ I said, angrily, ‘and I’m telling you there’s something down there.’

‘All right, let’s take a look,’ Jack said and knelt down beside me.

He took out a torch. I grabbed my phone and put the torch app on. Together we used the light to show what was below us. At first it seemed to be hard, discolour brown walls but then we saw stalactites and stalagmites, growing up and down in what seemed to be a vast cavern.

‘How can this be under London and no one know about it?’ I muttered.

‘There’s lots underground that people don’t know of,’ Jack explained, ‘but I never seen anything like this before!’

I nodded, ‘it looks like a Yorkshire cave or something like that…’

‘Well, nothing can be done about it right now,’ Jack spoke, ‘have to be investigations and all that. I’ve got things to do now, got to make sure no one gets hurt and sues us.’

Jack left and got busy with securing the scene. More barriers were being set out and people were slowly moving on. Car horns were beeping loudly as was typical of road rage London drivers who had been stopped for more then five seconds. Ignoring everything else, I carried on staring down into the cavern.

I wanted desperately to go down there. The urge to explore put fire in my veins but I had no equipment, no map of the layout and who knew what dangerous were hidden in there?

I couldn’t help myself! I got up and searched for Jack. Picking his form out from a group of yellow jacketed men. I went over and waited till they stopped talking and noticed me.

‘Jack? A word?’ I said.

We stepped away from the others, our backs to them and our eyes looked towards the crater.

‘I want to go down there,’ I said in a low voice, ‘I need to see what’s there. Please, help me.’

‘I can’t, mate,’ Jack said and scratched his dark hair under his hard hat, ‘regulations and all that.’

‘I know, I know,’ I hissed back, ‘but please? This would mean so much to me. Like a dream come true! The first person to explore under there, it would be just…just…’

‘No. It’s not happening!’ Jack snapped back.

I licked my lips, thinking hard, ‘all right,’ I said, ‘I can give you money. As much as you want. I’m a rich businessman. I own companies here and in China. I could give you a million pounds right now if you let me go down there.’

Expressions began to cross Jack’s face and a fight seemed to happen as he battled to do the right thing. He balled up his fists, shuffled his feet and was trying to weigh everything up.

‘I shall write you a cheque and a contract write now,’ I said and sort out my briefcase.

I went over, opened it and withdrew papers and a fountain pen. Kneeling on the floor again – my suit was ruined anyway- I began writing things out, using my briefcase as a makeshift desk.

‘I don’t know about this…’ Jack said.

‘Don’t worry about it. I can sort out any problems later. Here’s my details on this card. Here’s the million pound cheque and this is a basic contract, saying you have agreed to let me down there for payment. My life is in my own hands, you have no responsibility for what happenings down there etc, etc.. I shall sign it here and you, sir, sign there.’

I held the fountain pen out to Jack. He took it with a shaking hand and signed his name. Then I folded the contract with my business card and the cheque in the middle and handed the lot to him.

‘Now, do you have any spare clothes and equipment I can have?’

‘Yeah…put what do I tell ’em?’ Jack said and nodded to the other workers.

‘Tell them, you know me and I was your boss on other job,’ I said quickly, thinking on the spot, ‘tell them, I have all the training, clearance and expertise needed to go down and take a look. Say isn’t it lucky, that Doctor Gideon Charles was passing! We’ll have this mess cleared up faster now!’

‘Doctor?’ Jack muttered and looked at the paperwork in his hand.

‘Of science,’ I explained, ‘not the medical kind. Now, can we get down there?’

‘Sure thing, boss,’ Jack said with a huge smile and I guessed he had just seen all the numbers on the cheque.

Soon enough, I was dressed in some spare blue overalls, a high visibility vest, a white hard hat, a powerful torch and was rigged up to go down on a harness and rope.

‘I’ll be coming with ya,’ Jack said.

I nodded, ‘best thing to do.’

Slowly we descended whilst the other workers peered down at us and also shone torches to guide us. They created spotlights along the wall and the cut away edges of the ceiling above. The rock face was rough, natural with stains of hundreds of years of water and built up of features.

Stalactites hung from the ceiling, some looking thick and strong, others appeared thin and fragile. Growing up from the floor were the stalagmites, looking like sharp spikes. Here and there, the two had actually met and formed a pillar.

We landed and I looked around in awe. It was breathtaking, so natural and fresh.

‘We could be the first ever people to see this,’ I whispered, ‘and to think it’s been undisturbed under London all this time…’

 

(Inspired by; https://todaysauthor.com/2020/01/21/write-now-prompt-for-january-21-2020 with thanks).

Underground #CCC

I didn’t like going into underground places. There was something about having soil above my head that made me feel anxious.

The wine vaults of the Abbey arched above me, holding back tons of soil. It was cold but pretty down here. Still though, the only thing I wanted was to be out of here.

I ran my fingers over the white rough plastered walls and all but crawled upstairs. Once out into the room above, I felt better. The ground could no longer cave in and bury me alive.

I was safe again.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/11/20/crimsonss-creative-challenge-54/ with thanks).

The Stranger

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There was a stranger waiting for me when I got off at the underground station. I didn’t notice him as the crowd was heavy and I was in a hurry.

The train left, rushing into the tunnel and people moved upwards to the haze of London air.

The stranger followed me, though I wasn’t aware of it then.

I walked out, into more busy crowds and made my way back home. I knew someone was following me soon after but I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.

At my apartment door, I glanced over and noticed him. I stopped, wondering what to do.

‘Carol?’ he called out.

He knew my name! but I didn’t know him. I didn’t answer. Would he leave me alone if I said no?  If I said yes, then what?

I had paused for too long, staring at him. There was something oddly familiar about his face and hair color.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, turning away.

‘Who are you?’ I asked sharply.

‘Your older brother,’ he said softly, ‘our parents had to give me up for adoption because they were teenagers when I was born.’

 

 

No Longer #3LineTales

Bob still couldn’t believe that underground train network was closed down as he started to turn off the lights. It had only been open a few years but its’ popularity hadn’t been able to save it when the business and economy had gone bust. Still he’d somehow held on to his cushy night watchman’s job, even if all he was guarding now were empty stations and tracks.

(Inspired from; https://only100words.xyz/2018/02/08/three-line-tales-week-106/ with thanks).

Still Alive

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Gift wasn’t sure how long the town had been abandoned as the records only went back fifty years. Crunching glass and fallen plaster under her boots, she entered what had once been a living room.

Looking through the breathing mask’s visor, she spotted the white flowering plant on the window sill. Smiling, she walked over and picked the plant pot up gingerly.

You’re safe now, she thought, clutching the plant, but you’ve got a big job ahead, flower.

Gift stepped outside and back into the war torn grey landscape. Hurrying towards the safety of the underground city, she hoped that one day she would be able to see the green surface world that she only knew from the legends.

 

(Inspired from Friday Fictioneers prompt; https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/3-february-2017/ photo by Roger Bultot thanks)

Abandoned (Part 2)

Pripyat, Ukraine, Chernobyl, Disaster, Abandoned

It was hard to see what the first building they came across was. April tried to peer through the mass of green and brown plants. Perhaps it had been a house? It looked small enough. The crew moved on, Gun reminding them about not touching stuff and that there mission was just to document the environment and air.

‘What does the reader say?’ April asked, falling into step behind Trigg.

He shot her look, which of course she missed due to the mask and helmet, then looked down at the needle.

April tried to see over his shoulder, but she still couldn’t make it out.

‘It’s got a little higher,’ Trigg explained.

Feeling uneasy, April looked around them. More buildings were growing up out of the vegetation and trees. It was hard to imagine that the city had once looked very different. Fallen branches, leaves and rumble crunched underneath their heavy feet. They walked slowly, each member of the group, but April, seemly getting on with their individual tasks.

After a few minutes, they came to a very large building that must have once been a high school. Whilst the others gathered on what once had been steps, but was now a level carpet of green moss and grass, April walked closer to the front of the building. She could make out no letters or signs, just the empty windows and was that sound beyond dripping water?

Deciding, she was wrong, April turned back and watched the men, digging around in their rucksacks for equipment. In her head set she heard Gun giving orders.

‘We need soil samples from these spots,’ he declared as he waved a plastic map in the air, ‘and air tests alongside them. If we find any water, we take samples of that too.’

‘What about animals or…humans?’ someone asked.

April guessed from the slightly nervous tone it was Babble. She picked him out, standing slightly away from the others on the left, in a faded blue suit with big baggy arms and a slightly wonky helmet. The glass visor on his mask looked slightly misty.

‘There shouldn’t be anything but us here,’ Gun spoke, ‘and if there is note it, but leave it alone. That’s not we are here for.’

‘Are we going to spilt up?’ Joe asked.

‘Not this time. Too easy to get lost and too dangerous,’ Gun explained, ‘we’ll start here, head towards the centre then come out again and go back.’

‘Sounds like a plan, boss,’ Nook cut in.

Gun carried on giving orders and make sure everyone knew they jobs. Finally, he got around to Nook and April. She had been walking back and forth in front of the building, trying to see further inside. However, the walls and roofs had fallen in blocking off what might have been classrooms and offices.

‘April get over here!’ Gun snapped.

April jumped and hurried over as fast as the heavy boots and difficult body suit would allow. Coming to stop between Nook and Gun, April thought she heard soft sniggering in her ears.

‘Guard duty here is extremely important. You need to stay visual at all times and report anything you see. Don’t just shot it. Remember the Code,’ Gun said in a low serous voice.

‘Right Boss,’ Nook rumbled back.

‘Don’t go wandering. There’s nothing worth salvaging here. It’s still all contaminated and we can’t risk bring any of that back.’

‘No problem,’ April put in.

Gun turned and addressed the rest of the crew with that statement. He ended with, ‘let’s get to work!’

Nook moved and began patrolling the area, drawing his gun as he did so.

April reached for her’s, finding it against her hip in one of her belt’s pouches. She took it out, barely feeling the weight of it in her leather gloved hands. She checked it then felt for her knife at her other hip. Feeling it there, she dropped her arms and began pacing in front of the building, her eyes darting everywhere and her ears listening for any other noises.

The minutes ticked by and April felt like they had been there a long time, though really it had only been about ten minutes. Gun hustled the crew along and they moved to the next marked spot on the map.

Coming to stand at what might have been a supermarket once, April clutched her gun tighter. The lack of bird sounds was really getting it her. It was well known that animals would go nowhere near the worse effected areas long after the third world war ended. Even now that was proving to still be the case.

She tried to recall things she had read and heard in the briefing about Pripyat. Beside from a little history about the original nuclear disaster and then the second one triggered by the war, she couldn’t remember anything else. She shivered and decided she had lost her interested in the place and wanted to go home.

The crew moved, leaving little green flags behind them at the marked spots, so anyone who came again could see where they had been. They arrived at the centre and April felt better that their mission was almost complete. Tall buildings rose on all side of them, battling with the trees to be seen. April felt a slight tugged to explore some of the buildings, the eagerness of seeing what lay within, but she stood her ground. She watched the four men taking all the samples. Gun and Trigg looking at the reader and talking softly about it whilst further away Nook walked slowly around them all, eyes glued to the ghost buildings.

‘We’ve got everything,’ Joe’s voice came loudly through.

‘Let’s pack up and move out. This place gives me the creeps,’ Gun added.

A muttering of agreement followed.

April sighed deeply and went to put her gun away, but a disturbing noise from behind her stilled her movements.

Abandoned (part 1)

Pripyat, Ukraine, Chernobyl, Disaster, Abandoned

The first thing April noticed was the lack of sound. It felt unsettling. She looked around taking in the tall green leaf trees and bushes that almost hid city. Breathing heavily through her mask, she wondered if the communication system had broken again. She reached her gloved hands up and felt for the mic at her throat.

A crackling stopped her searching fingers and she heard Trigg’s voice muttering. She turned and looked over her shoulder, frowning. He was only a few steps behind her, looking through his rucksack. He pulled out a toxin reader and then announced he had found it.

Turning fully, April watched the rest of the crew preparing to move on again. The six large men who had either been standing or sitting, seemed to move as one and gather their rucksacks up.

April patched herself through to Trigg.

‘I can’t hear anything,’ she said.

Trigg looked up at her, ‘did you get sand in your speakers again?’

‘No. I cleaned my mask before we left. Come over here.’

Trigg pulled on his bag and went over to her. Together they stood on the ridge looking down at the city once known as Pripyat. They could just make out the collapsed roof tops of the tallest buildings and what seemed to be a Ferris wheel in the distance. A gentle wind ruffled the trees and above them the dark blue sky was growing with grey clouds.

‘There’s nothing to hear,’ Trigg said in a low voice.

‘I know there’s been a lack of animals since we got here…but I thought with all this green we’d at least hear birds,’ April responded.

Trigg looked down at the device in his palm and pointed a finger from his other hand at the screen. A small red arrow was waving between an arch of numbers. April’s eyes read it, but her brain didn’t understand it.

‘There’s still radiation. It’s low here, but further on it’ll get higher,’ Trigg explained.

‘Is everyone ready?’ Gun’s voice called through both their headsets.

A rattle of positive voices replied from the rest of the crew and with a wave of his hand, Gun started walking. The other men fell into place behind him. Their metal boots easily making work of the rough nature taken over ground.

‘Don’t take your helmet off,’ Trigg hissed.

‘Huh?’ April replied.

‘You didn’t all ready did you?’

‘Of course, I didn’t. And I won’t. How dumb do you think I am?’

‘Very,’ Trigg muttered.

April whacked him on the shoulder, ‘I’m not!’

‘Hey! You can have your lovers tiff later, come on,’ Nook cut in.

They both glanced at him, taking in his big grey body suit and black mask, then looking away.

Trigg moved first and walked passed him to catch up with the others.

‘Knew bring a girl would cause trouble,’ Nook added, ‘you gonna stay there or come?’

April tried to shake her head, but the mask and helmet made it difficult to. With a sign, she gripped a last look at the long abandoned city below and trudged over.

Nook pushed her in front of him and April began struggling her way through the jungle like scene. Keeping focus on Trigg’s rucksack with the bright neon orange stripes, she wished she could pull her knife and cut back some of the foliage. The rules which she knew off by heart, rang in head and she started muttering them under her breath.

‘Always wear your mask, gloves, suit and boots. Plan everything down to the last detail and know what you are doing. Keep someone in sight of you at all times and make sure someone can see you. Take only what you must. Leave everything else untouched. Note all discoveries. Don’t cut, damage or kill plants and animals on the surface. Don’t look directly at the sun.’

‘Do you really believe that?’ Nook scoffed in her ear.

Ignoring him, April switched off her mic. She then stepped over a fallen tree and found herself on what once had been a road. She stopped looking both ways and saw to the left the burnt remains of a small car.

‘Document that,’ Gun’s voice sounded in her ears, though it wasn’t directed at her.

She started walking over, but Nook grabbed and spun her. April slammed into Trigg’s side.

‘Keep a hold of your little lady, hey,’ Nook rumbled.

‘She’s not mine!’ Trigg snapped back and pushed April passed him.

‘What’s going on? Quit it. This isn’t a place for messin’ around in,’ Gun growled.

He came in-between them, but Nook and Trigg had already stepped away from each other. Quietly, he gave them both different tasks then went back over to Len who was jotting notes down on a crumpled pad of paper. He totally ignored April.

Leaving the men to it, April walked down the road. The stillness of the place still unnerving her.

 

To be Continued…

 

*These characters were originally from the story Obsolate and Plane, published last month; https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/obsolete/ I really like them and am seriously thinking about writing a dystopia novel with them.

**This story was inspired by The Daily Post’s daily prompt: Abandoned

 

Obsolete

Aerospace Storage, B-52'S, Bombers, Military, Jets

April pulled the mask down from her face and took a deep breath of dry, hot air. Small, loose strands of her dark blonde hair escaped and brushed against her red round cheeks. Her sharp blue eyes scanned the abandon desert scape, taking in the metal shells that had once been aeroplanes. She heard the sound of sand grains gritting across each other and the plane hulks, but beside from that there was nothing else.

Taking in another forbidden breath, April began to climb down the outside of the tunnel shaft. Gripping tightly on with her gloved hands and focusing on the pale grey concrete surface framed between the rungs, she went down, slowly. The rusty ladder creaked, but held her too small nineteen year old body weight as she placed foot after a foot on each rung. She glanced down at the last few steps and thought about jumping. The image of Cal twisting his ankle last time quickly changed her mind.

Her heavy metal and leather boots hit the sand, causing a small dust cloud. She turned and pulled her mask back on. The planes, which hadn’t seem so daunting from ten foot above, now took on a different form. They rose above her and April felt threatened by their giant emptiness. She sidestepped and wiggled out of the rucksack that was too tight on her back. Holding it, she looked through it and checked the items inside.

Above her, came the sound of more boots clumping on metal. April looked up and saw through the cloudy protective screen, two people standing on top of the shaft. One waved to her then began descending. April waved back. Dropping her eyes back to the inside of her rucksack, she made sure, for what had to be the hundredth time that the tops of her water canteens were on. Feeling they were, she fastened the straps and slung the backpack on again.

Not wanting to look at the decaying planes, April watched Trigg, who was the same age as her, came down the ladder. He was fast then she had been, more confident in his feet. Soon, he was beside her and they were staring at each other through the cumbersome masks. She watched him press the mic button and heard his voice hissing in her ear.

‘You took your mask off, didn’t you?’

‘Just for a few seconds,’ April responded back, ‘it doesn’t do any harm.’

Trigg shook his head, ‘beside from the fact that everyone is going to know. I can see it fogging up from here!’

She sighed deeply and looked away as he tugged off his rucksack.

‘I’ve a got demister…somewhere,’ Trigg muttered.

‘Joe’s almost here,’ April pointed out, watching the older man coming down the ladder.

Trigg held out a small plastic bottle with a spray top on it. April quickly took off her mask and let him spray it. She held her breath.

‘Problem?’ a voice crackled through the speaker.

‘No,’ Trigg replied back, ‘just condensation. April was breathing too hard.’

April bit her lip and held back a nasty reply. She put the mask on and took a deep breath of filtered air. Looking out her vision was now clear. She focused on the planes, disliking herself for it, but knowing she couldn’t meet Trigg’s or Joe’s eyes now.

‘You okay?’ Joe asked.

‘Yes. It was nothing,’ April said quickly.

Trigg reached out to pat her shoulder, but April dodged him and began striding across the sand. She left deep footprints behind as she approached the first plane. It was a small two person craft and looked like it had been over salvaged all ready. April remembered it from last time and walked past it.

Over the intercom, Trigg called for her to slow down, but she ignored him. Gun was the leader on this mission and the only person April planned to fully listen too. However, he had been late and so was the last to come up. Plus, she was the only woman on this eight man crew. So, she had to stay strong.

Coming to stop beside a discarded plane wing, April turned and saw Trigg and Jo trailing behind her. In the distant, there were two figures standing at the bottom of the ladder, another two at the top and one man climbing down. She looked away, out across the plane graveyard and wondered what they’d find today.

 

To Be Continued…

Lurking

Underground, Train Station, Train, Subway

 

Cole hated waiting for the train in the Underground. There was just something sinister and not quite right down here. He side stepped closer to a business man reading a newspaper. There was safety in numbers right? His eyes drifted to the tube tunnel and the dark areas surrounding it. Was that a flicker of a shadow? He stared hard at the spot, but saw nothing further.

He looked at the man’s newspaper and saw that raptor attacks had gone up by twenty-five percent over the last three months. A grainy black and white photo of a raptor was under the headline. He turned away, swallowing loudly. The man ruffled the newspaper and Cole felt eyes drifting to him. He turned, looking back into the shadows.

He wondered how true all the myths were and if monsters did now lurk in the darkness of the Underground. A train rattled in, stopping at break neck sped in front of them. The doors opened with a hiss, but as Cole got on he swore he saw a long tail flickering back into the shadows.

 

 

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