Filament lamps struggle to life, as a button with worn off indentations spelling out ‘SURFACE’ depresses into the wall and the restricted access elevator ascends through darkness.
“I heard on a radio interview that our generation will be the ones that struggle with it most.”
“Because we remember what the world was like before, what outside felt like, as it was meant to be.”
The elevator groans and creaks as both workers ascend into the desolate surface growth. Long sturdy cables stretch into the darkness above and below, yanking them into the inevitable devastation of the surface.
“I’ve also heard that they’re thinking about reopening the tunnels.”
“They wouldn’t do that, not after the last disaster with the whirknits.”
On cue, the creatures of the tunnels wail in response to the passing of the rickety elevator. Out of sight, yet still terrifying, the several layers of mesh and grating fail to convey a sense of safety; despite the news promising a 100% success rate in whirknit exclusion these days there are always tall tales of the occasional child or elderly person disappearing, and never quietly, or without entrails of evidence left behind.
“Nothing is guaranteed, these days anything could happen. There has also been talk of other colonies reaching out to each other.”
“You know that’s not true, surface gossip, the agreement was that each colony keep to themselves, larger groups of humans are dangerous together, keeping us separate keeps the conquerors from plotting, the predators from thinking we’re worth the catch, and each other against disagreements. Separation is necessary.”
The cables twang and screech, yanking the two clumsily to the top, or what used to be considered ‘ground level’ although these days were is no such concept, lost to the years of descent into the earth. Rather than expose the shaft to the environments outside and their countless creatures dying to get inside, each gate was slowly extricated from its locks and replaced with haste.
Conversation had a habit of dying out on sight of what was once the planet that defied all odds. Scientists used to question the earth’s positioning in the grander schemes of things, the idea that should the earth be positioned slightly differently life wouldn’t have been sustained as it had been. These questions eventually died out too, along with the majority of the scientists, and the media harvesting what they could, and the consumers of such nonsense.
In fact, not much is left.
“It never gets any easier to look at, does it?”
Peering out over a hill, the lift opens up to the view of a ruined city in the distance. Binoculars reveal streets laden with corpses, human or otherwise, slowly regressing back into mother nature’s lifeblood. Skyscrapers hail in comparison to the mutated trees and plant-life scaling and surpassing the once-impressive feats of human engineering. The occasional creature leaping or flying from surface to surface can be seen in all it’s hideously graceful glory, having command of the city in it’s entirety. Undulating appendages drip mucus and aromatic honeys, luring in the unwise, or recently the willing, to a gruesome and agonisingly slow death.
The elevator shaft hums with the screeching of the unseen, as if laughing at the outcome of their destruction.
“I feel no better, knowing we haven’t left safety, we’ve simply passed the boundary between below and above. The only differences being the species of things wanting to feed on our remains up here.”
“That’s enough, be quiet. I need silence, just for a moment.”
Revealing a battered mp3 player and some mouldy speakers from a deep coat pocket, the sounds of birds and trees rustling in a lazy wind are sent out into the silence, populating the empty space.
Closing their eyes, the two humans, escaping their grimy lives of darkness and fear try to replace the still trees with images of bark and leaves. Substituting the grey and purple organic masses masquerading as things once arguably tree-like, only ever moving to dart and impale food, for non-sentient bouquets of brown and peaceful greens.
“I know, we all are.”
“It’s time to go back, our absence will have been noticed. If we aren’t back by the next tectonic movement we’ll have been written off as whirknit meat.”
“We’ll be back soon though, yes?”
“If we must.”
With this assurance, the mp3 player and speakers are sealed in a bag and stowed in a sunken shipping container not far from the elevator’s entrance, promising to sing of the past whenever it’s needed.
“It belongs up here, I don’t need the reminder down there.”
And so they return again to the depths below.