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

stranger-477586_1920

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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Suicide For My Soul

My suicide was an awakening. I expected to die, but instead only my soul did. I awoke on the bathroom floor, blood everywhere and not knowing what had happened. There was no chance to reflect as straight away a female voice give me instructs I had to obey. I tided up, washed, dressed and packed a rucksack. Stepping outside, I left home for what might have been the fifth time, only I could never go back.

The owner of the voice was waiting for me and she compelled me into another world that exists under ours’. I learnt a lot about death and life in that first month. My Giver kept reminding me how lucky I was that a vampire had answered my death call. Apparently, anything can come to you in those first moments afterwards. She often joked that she’d fought off a zombie and a demon for me.

Now six months later, I’m on my own and learning to love the world, as she calls it. If none of this had happened, then I wouldn’t have gotten my second chance at life. This realisation comes to me as I jostle for space getting on the Underground. I jam myself into the already packed space. Someone elbows me in the ribs and someone else steps on my toes. The doors hisses shut and the train whizzes off.

Nirvana plays loudly from my IPod and I’m comforted by the familiarity of it. A part of me wonders if it’s right to listen to the music of my last human months. My mental stability is better and I’m less emotional. Still, maybe I need to find some new music to suit this new life. The realisation won’t leave my thoughts. It gives raise to so many other questions demanding answers. Including; if I had known that my suicide would lead to this would I’ve still done it?

A bag catches my shoulder. The owner mutters an apology, but I don’t hear it. My raised arm starts to go numb. I let go of the strap and study the greyness of my skin. Scars crisscross the surface looking like cracks in porcelain. Was I really that fragile once? I pull down the sleeve of my hoodie and look around. No one else has noticed me. And why would they? London only contains two types of people the residents and the visitors. Either have time to deal with each other or anything else. They are too frantic trying to get from place to place, doing what they believe they need to do and keeping London ticking.

We stop at a station and people switch places with each other. I grip the strap and stand my ground. The doors shut and we are off again, plunging back into the noisy darkness. My stop is next, but actually, I enjoy the press of bodies against my own. It brings some warmth back into my skin and reminds me that my new form is alive.

Sunlight

Web dug whilst I sipped the water we shared. Unexpectedly, his pickaxe bounced back in his hands. As the sound echoed through our tunnel, the flicking torchlights from our helmets lit up a red brick wall. Studying them through goggles, Web tapped timidly with the pickaxe point and the grey concrete crumbled away. He smiled, but in the torchlight it looked like a wicked slash on the side of his face.

Raising the pick, Web brought it crashing down as I grabbed my spade and ducked out of the way. I heard the familiar sound of metal on brick and turned to see large cracks forming across the surface.

‘It didn’t break,’ Web’s voice shouted above the ringing.

He raised the pick again; the blade edge glistened in the light. He dropped it with a sudden swing and a mighty roar left his mouth. Web had perfect aim and hit the same spot as before, but the bricks didn’t fall. I crept to his side and we studied the wall once more.

‘Seems pretty sturdy,’ he muttered.

I nodded, ‘Do you think on the other side is….?’

He eyed me and frowned, ‘They say it feels warm and the soil’s lighter.’

‘Still, this might be the first wall,’ I said, clinging to my hope.

‘Right. Stand back.’

I scuttled to the side as Web raised the pickaxe and then brought it down harder than previously. He swung with all his strength, whilst screaming. The point of the pick stuck and Web threw all of his weight behind it.

‘Stop! I smell something!’ I cried.

I grabbed his shoulder and foolishly tried to pull him backwards. Web was like an angry bull; all his muscles were tense, his feet were glued to the floor and red blazed in his eyes behind his goggles. Also, his breathing was steady and mine was coming out in gasps.

Web dropped the pickaxe, his body stayed tense, ‘is it gas?’

I sniffed, trying to catch the smell again now the pressure was on, ‘I’m not sure.’

‘Better not risk it,’ Web replied and pulled up the mask he had around his neck.

I did the same. Fitting the simple breathing device on and quickly pinching the side to save me from breathing deadly air.

Web pulled some of the chipped brick away from the hole and pressed an eye to it.

‘Do you see anything?’ I asked, my words muffled and breathy.

He shook his head and pressed his shoulder to the wall. Then he signalled for me to do the same. We pushed together and the wall gave way, causing us to fall though. Everything was shaking and I could hear so many sounds at once. My breath caught and then my body found the ground with a loud crack.

 

‘Ty? Ty, hear me? WAKE UP!’

Pain…excruciating pain…all over. My body flickered back to life and my brain went into over drive with the sudden flood of pain signals. I screamed.

‘Ty, you’re right. Come on, talk to me.’

I felt cold hands on my head, fingers pulling off my goggles. I tried to open my eyes, but the world stayed dark. Something warm brushed across my cheeks and suddenly there was light burning into my eyes. Sluggishly, I drew my left hand up.

‘Hey!’

Hands shook me and I wanted to throw up. I rolled over and pain roared in my right shoulder. I still made it though and started gagging.

‘Oh, no, don’t do that!’

A hand snatched down something that was across my mouth as I heaved and vomited. Fire burned in my throat and every mouthful of air stuck in my lungs.

‘You okay? Lie down….’

Strong hands grabbed me, pulling me back down gently and then they were on my face once more, pushing something back over my mouth.

‘Don’t shut your eyes, stay awake.’

I mumbled something as my head started clearing, the pain dulling down and things coming back into forces.

‘I should put your shoulder back.’

‘Don’t….’

‘Sorry, mate.’

I heard him move, but felt nothing, until he started pulling. The pain shot through me, worse than before and I was sure death was coming. I screamed and flopped around on the floor, trying to get away. I felt a foot dig into my ribs and the pain reached a new height. My screams ripped from my throat then bounced back to me. I didn’t hear the sound of my bones clicking back into place or Web yelling at me till he’d slapped me twice.

I lay quiet, dragging in deep breaths, as the pain rippled and dulled away, leaving me feeling numb and cold.

‘Quit sucking all the air,’ Web snapped, ‘Control your breathing.’

I shut my eyes and began counting whilst thinking about each breath in and out.

‘We’re right,’ Web said, ‘We didn’t fall far, just brought shit down with us.’

‘Safe?’

He leant into catch my whisper.

‘I think so…Not sure about the air, but nothing’s moving.’

‘Want…up…’

I reached upwards, grabbing at nothing.

‘Wait,’ Web pressed his hand to my chest, ‘How’s your head?’

I paused, ‘hurts a little.’

‘Slowly then.’

He took my arms and sitting up, I curled into a ball and begin breathing deeply, ‘Sent…for someone?’

‘I can’t leave you.’

‘Can…get…out?’

He stood up and I watched him walk over to the hole we had fallen through. He brushed the wall, then started to climb. The soil gave away too fast and he was unable to scurry upwards. He jumped back to me.

‘Doesn’t look like it, but there must be another way.’

I held my hand out and he pulled me to my feet. I swayed and he grabbed my arm, ‘Whoa.’

‘I’m right,’ I replied, rubbing my painful chest.

‘Let’s move,’ Web spoke.

A shiver went down my spine as we started walking and I glanced around. The light from my helmet didn’t reach very far and I couldn’t make out a lot. The floor was covered with the rubble that had fallen down with us, but also there were white stones and strange impressions in the soil.

I tripped into something and looked down; there was a metal pole on the floor and bits of wood. I stepped around it and walked on, trying to have my eyes everywhere at once. Web was slightly ahead of me, feeling the brick wall with his hand. Then my light flashed across something and I had to turn my head back so fast that the pain started up again. I blinked quickly and then looked up; there was an outline of a metal shape in the space ahead of me.

‘There’s something…’ I pointed out.

Web turned and we walked over to the object. My breath was ragged and my heart beating in my ears. We got closer and saw that the shape was the back or front of a train. I reached out and touched the cold, dusty metal, leaving my prints there.

‘There’s a gap we can get through,’ Web called.

I watched him disappear down the side of the train, then followed him. My boots brushed against the wheels and I bumped into Web’s hand. He pulled me up onto the ledge and we stared around.

I’d seen places like this before; an underground train station. I was the third generation of my family to be born underground and had only heard of these things in fairytales. I took in the rows of blue plastic seating, the display boards with their yellow posters and the silent electric stairs. The place was so still, as if frozen in time.

‘Wow, check this,’ Web said and moved to a line of metal boxes.

I followed him and saw that there was a ticket machine and a vending machine. Web brushed the dust from the second machine.

‘There’s still stuff inside!’

‘Wha-’

‘Look, tinned drinks!’ Web grabbed me and pressed my face to the glass, ‘How’d we get in?’ Web banged a fist on the plastic cover and the sound echoed.

‘I don’t-’ the word stuck in my throat and I grasped my chest.

‘Ty?’

I doubled over, trying to breathe but not taking in anything.

‘TY! What is it?!’

I shook my head wildly and reached up for my mask. Web beat me, tearing the thing off and almost strangled me. Suddenly, I could breathe again, though my lungs were on fire. Web checked my mask and then pulled my head up. I had to stare into his different coloured eyes as he watched me breathe.

‘You good?’

I shook my head again.

‘The air….need…out…’

He grabbed my hand and pulled me over to an exit sign. My mask swung about my neck as he dragging me over to a flight of stairs. The next breathe caught in my throat and my mind filled with the wonderful idea of the freedom that the stairs could lead to. Web took me up them, though every breath had started to kill me.

My heart was hammering loudly as we reached the top. My whole body was trembling. We both saw the rusty gate barring the way at the same time. The hope died, my shoulders dropped.

‘I’m sure we can break through,’ Web said, walking over to the gate and considering a very rusted patch.

‘Think….safe?’ I whispered.

Web shrugged, ‘my great-granddad was the last of the sun-seers… He said, it was the idea of seeing the sun again that kept him alive for so long. But he knew the radiation would still be there.’

A hacking cough grabbed me and I stumbled backwards into the wall. I clutched my chest and then started scratching at my throat.

‘Stay calm!’ Web shouted, ‘I’ll get you out.’ He threw himself at the gate, only to bounce off it. ‘Break damn you! Break!’ he shouted and began kicking the sides.

I sink to the floor, the cough racking through my bones and then I vomited again. The sound of the gate shaking echoed in my ears. My cough faded, leaving me feeling better. Then my torch light caught what I’d thrown up……

‘Wed?’ I crocked, but he didn’t hear me, the gate had given up the fight.

In slow motion I saw the gate fall with Web on top of it and suddenly I realized that if he was injured, we’d never get out. I screamed his name and stumbled after him, only to trip and fall on to him.

‘Ouch,’ Web moaned.

‘You…hurt?’ I asked, pulling myself up.

‘No,’ he replied and got to his feet, ‘Do you smell that?’

I shook my head and put a hand on my chest.

‘Come on.’

He pulled me up and we walked into the main station. I doubled over. The pain in my chest increased as the poisoned air effect my lungs. Web yanked me over to a sliding metal door and with a few sharp tugs he opened it. A sudden fear hit my stomach, but then clean air floored passed me. I took deep breathes and tasted the rich, untainted air on my tongue.

Web snapped his mask down and started doing the same, ‘God, that’s good,’ he said.

I nodded and walked out into the sunlight.