Another strange story from yours truly. Using the second image in a series created by the talented Michael MacRae.
It hadn’t even been a week. Only four days ago she traveled the tunnels with everybody else. She’d been on her own for damn near one hundred hours. Were they all dead now? She wasn’t, dead that is. No, Mya was very much alive, verging on hypothermic and starving, but alive nonetheless. Her dry lips cracked as she smiled and vaulted over a pile of debris that used to be a transport vehicle. Despite her physical state, she reveled in being out of the tunnels for the first time in her life. She did her best to not think about all the folks that stayed behind to help. Focusing on her breathing and the hunger pangs she pushed onward. The air was salty, if she strained her ears she could hear the waves crashing against the distant cliffs. Any minute now, she’d descend down onto the beach and they would be there waiting for the yearly donation. Were there others? Other colonies that survived the initial onslaught by hiding under their cities, by turning the sewers and subways into civilization. Humanity wasn’t meant to be subterranean nor aquatic for that matter. If there were others they had suffered like her.
The sun was fiery orange, it blazed on even as the horizon rose up to swallow it. She had missed the sun, but it was a love hate relationship, like most. For three years she dreamed about what it would be like, she longed to feel the heat and to see for miles. The surface was freezing, the rays of yesteryears sun couldn’t penetrate the smog. They had open spaces of course, natural and manmade caverns where they set up their homes and pretended that things would be ok. But it was nothing like this, even war torn and infested the surface was beautiful. Things were never okay, except for those who submerged. One visited them almost a month ago, with globes of water refills on her back and an uncomfortable looking harness that allowed her to survive. The plenipotentiary of the ‘subs’ as her people dubbed them.
Her name was Linour and she was gorgeous, dark brown hair and naturally tanned skin, the people eyed her with envy. Her playful brown eyes had a vivacity to them that had long since been absent from the tunnelers, her figure the fantasy of all. An embodiment of what they could never have. Only the youngest of the tunnelers was sacrificed to the ‘subs’, they said the implants were more successful for youth. But everyone knew it was because they were not as contaminated by the environment. Tunnelers grew frail and hunched from the who-knows-what that was released on the planet, over time their bones would weaken and they would be bound to a chair for life. Mya, was only 16, she could tell already that her health was declining. But the ‘subs’, they would fix her.
They knew a breach had been made in the tunnels, one patrol never came back. Then a second and third disappeared. Supplies were backed has they had been so many times before. Demolitions were set and the weakest were left with the triggers in the wake of the survivors to die as they brought the roof down on their hunters. They (the survivors) would go deeper or farther and set up a new façade of a civilization. Determined to push on, but running out of places to go. Mya was part of the forward scouts, which comprised the younger folks that could still run. They looked for safety in the network of tunnels and cave ins. Sinkholes swallowed parts of the surface leading to mostly intact buildings and rotten forests in the caverns. These were always regarded as bad luck, the tunnelers never lingered. Her group had found a collapsed apartment building in one of the cave ins, its many windows crumpled out of shape and lifeless. They decided to stay for a cycle. There was no night and day underground, the tunnelers adapted and went ten hours before resting. Shrouded in robes and shawls of coarse dark material they slept with swords and makeshift spears at hand, torches and lanterns extinguished. They slept in their grave.
Her friend Jaz woke her up with a shake, “Mya, be quiet, they’re here. We need to go now.”
Before she could respond the face of her childhood friend lit up in a flash and disintegrated. The heat from the alien weapon left a sunburn of sorts on Mya’s right cheek. A mechanical voice called out in the darkness.
“Do not run. Processing is mandatory! Stay where you are.”
They ran. Beams of bright light struck out at them and pain punctuated the darkness. If they were here already it means they had already passed the rest of the group lagging behind. All was lost. Mya grabbed her spear and sprinted for her life towards a random tunnel. The stench of loss was cloying. If everyone was dead, nothing mattered. That means the seven chosen would be too. She stopped only to set a trip wire and a small charge to alarm her if she was being chased. She found a smaller tunnel jutting upwards and scrambled up it towards the surface. She had to crouch the ceiling was so low, hopefully too low for them to care. Her alarm went off and she cried out, but there was dim light ahead she clawed for it and squeezed through a fissure. On the surface of Earth she wept.
The implant facility rocked in the waves, its engines sent stabilizing jets of air out in all directions to keep it one place. It took most of the brunt of the sea away, but Linour watched the amber spirits in her glass sway from side to side. They always allowed her one drink when she came back. The Krav weren’t necessarily cruel to her but they would end her life at the slightest hint of transgression. They were always in control, they followed earths elite to the bottom of the ocean, to the oasis built there by hyper anxious politicians and royalty. Fearing a loss in pressure, no fight was put up. The Krav society meshed with the submerged folks. Altering them with mutations to survive the deep sea, some even got the ‘gills’ one of the most invasive treatments, and one that indentured them to the Krav offensive. Those like Linour were sent out to the last known colonies to tell lies of a better world. To convince them to sacrifice their young and healthy, thinking they would have a better life beneath the sea. She shivered at the memories of the last sacrifice, splayed open and test tubed for the ever curious Krav to see how their virus affected that generation.
She had no idea what they were searching for, maybe they did this for fun? The Krav were humanoid, but had large elaborate helms hiding their features, with glowing blue visors that they may or may not see out of. Language projectors in their helm allowed them to communicate with the humans, but they spoke with one another by some other means. There was a theory that it was actually through manipulating the magnetic field and yet another that they were all the same. Linour would be summoned when the tunnelers contingent made it to the beach, she would walk out and impress them. The smiles on their faces stained her memory. Like a pied piper of doom she would lead them to the cutting rooms. She would make her exit and the Krav would get to work.
Mya made her way down the winding path of the cliffs towards the dark ocean. She could see a vessel bobbing out in the harbor. She waved out at it and shook in anticipation. She made it, she survived and would continue to do so. Like a siren of myth Linour appeared walking up out of the tide.
“Where are the children?”
“Dead. Its only me. The Krav found us.”
“You shouldn’t have came here.”
“What else could I do?”
“You could have died and it would have been better.”
“The Krav control everything. You’re, we’re nothing but their experiment. Their play things. If you’d like, I’ll kill you here.” Linour drew a small dagger from her belt.
Mya crouched low and feral with her spear. “You lie!” She lounged out with lethal grace. The sharpened spear hit home. Linour dropped her dagger and fell to her knees holding the haft of the spear jutting from her in both hands.
“Stupid, girl. They’ll be here any second now, they won’t let you do th-”
As if on que three Krav, landed on the beach. One of them crushing Linour before she could finish her warning. “You will come with us.” A magnetic force ripped the spear from her hand and the restrained her. With short bursts of energy from the packs on their back they landed back on the ship in the harbor. Mya cried.
They striped her and pushed her into a room with piping across the ceilings. “Bathe, you’ve killed our mouthpiece. Perhaps, you’ll do her job better.” The door shut behind them with finality. Warm water began to cascade from the ceiling, rivulets of dirt, grime and tears pooled around her feet. She bathed, she would survive.