The Cavern – Part 1

It was cold and dank at the edge of the cave and yet they still drove us onwards, metal chain ladders with rungs only wide enough for one foot at a time were swung over the edge. The pit lead down to a great open chamber and they had allowed us 24 hours to pack. No one had managed to escape – we looked too different. I tied a crate to the end of a rope and lowered it to some unknown below who removed it and I hoped would not be stealing it. I had a rucksack on my back and various bags hanging off of me, I’d trailed a small sledge full of the crates.

The ladder swung precariously as I climbed down, slippery from the moister, the weight of me and the rucksack meant that I was leaning back into the dark void, I could smell lamps burning and I wondered how long we would have light for.

The Nesu were not bad people, I knew why they were doing this but at the base I saw what was to be our home or more likely our living grave and the children clinging to their parents. I hated them then, and I hated being a Suma. All I wanted was to go home.

The cold of the rocks seemed to be drawing the warmth from my body, and I feared that I was at the beginning stages of the illness.

To my surprise I found my stuff and move off deeper into the cavern, in the flickering stinking yellow light I saw gashed smiles embedded in the glittering cave walls, a steady drip drip drip, sliced into my brain, it was not the regular tick of a clock that can be ignored. I wondered if that alone would send us insane. It was said our ancestors had dwelled in such places, I already ached for the sky.

The lighting was dim but the cavern floor was not as uneven as I had expected, my sturdy boots added their own echos to the slowly building cacophony of noise, every whisper, every word, bounced and rebounded and seemed to grow in the strange moisture ladened air. I realised that it was not as chill here as it was at the mouth of the cave but it was damp and still not what I would have called warm.

I saw families setting up home in little alcoves around the central chambers, I saw groups puzzling how to pitch tents on stone, others had blankets and that was all, I had my sled. I kept moving, Kramish would be as far in as it was possible to get. I spotted them and trundled my way forward, I was tired and my shoulders aches from the weight I was carrying. They nodded to me and I took note of the large crates they had stacked in the middle.

‘We are sending out teams to explore and map the system,’ Kramish said to me, a look of subdued fear made the eyes hollow, I nodded.

‘We hope for a way out,’ that much I felt was obvious, we could not live here.

I paused knowing it was not really my place but these were different times, ‘could we dig our way out? Did they let you bring tools?’

A sadness seemed to linger in the air, and then, ‘we have tools, not as many as we would like. There is a chance that we could scrap through to the outside world we have no explosives and couldn’t risk them even if we have the resources with us to make them.’ I nodded understanding and feeling the icy wash of foreboding in my stomach.

‘Jenleg will organise a scaffold to the roof and we shall find the highest point to work on, the area directly beneath will have to be devoid of our citizens.’

I sighed and looked around for a place to dump my stuff, Jenleg called to me and showed me the little recesses, natural formations of the cave that they had been setting up for the various teams. I started at the realisation that our leaders had known of this travesty for more than 24 hours I and many others had known. I turned, ‘how long have you known?’ I hissed.

‘Two weeks, there was nothing we could do so we prepared, to tell the population sooner would have caused panic and we need as many of us to survive this as possible.’ Jenleg said, ears dropping down with emotional shame. I nodded curtly but felt angry that I personally had not been warned that such a thing was about to happen. If I was honest I knew that something had been occurring – I had wondered if we would all be burned in our houses by a mob.

‘What of the illness?’ I grunted as I deposited my stuff, the floor here was cover in soft squishy matting, the sort we normally used for the gym.

‘The progress is still as slow as ever, we are setting up a lab over there,’ I followed the gesture and saw a small opening in the cave wall, a hum of activity could be heard form it. ‘But the Doctors are worried, we are all going to be packed in here, if they block the entrance then there will be little air circulation, there maybe none at all, of course if that happens it is game over anyway but if we can still breath we will be breathing each others germs, we will be in close quarters and the illness is not the only health problem we will have to face.’

I shuddered and wondered how they were going to keep control of the population. Things could get very nasty if panic took hold.

‘Sort your bed out and came for a meeting and job allocation, it is going to take them days to file our population into this stinking whole.’

I nodded mutely there was nothing to say, I had been awake for more than 30 hours, first manically packing and then walking at gun point to the cave, my muscles ached and I was hungry. Jenleg squeezed my arm and then muttered something about making me a cup of stim, I didn’t respond but set to work staking out my area.

Posted: Thursday, May 10th, 2012 @ 2:20 pm
Categories: Series, The Cavern.
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