UNDERGROUND… Today’s Dark Sci-Fi HyperShort by Ethan Lawrence #hypershort #story #idea @MightyMegaCom @scyfy

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As usual, my brother kills it with another HyperShort. This time… under ground.

UNDERGROUND by Ethan Lawrence

The air was rank and stifling, what little there was to breathe.  I hardly noticed it anymore but today it bothered me.  When it rained topside it brought down all the fresh filth from the city.  I used to miss rain.  Now I cursed it.  The Underground issued facemasks but no self-respecting survivor wore them.  You couldn’t hear right with them on and down here it was important to hear what was coming.

“How many more minutes, John?” asks a little boy standing next to me.

“Just a couple,” I tell him for the tenth time.

He just smiles.  Maybe it’s because everyone believes me down here.  I was tall and lanky and my face was brown as the algae growing along rounded walls of the standard New York sewer pipe we stood in.  But this group had been following me for years, listening to my advice, and they trusted me with their lives.  But it was just a few more minutes in this miserable place and then we would go topside, no longer living like sewer rats, back to the world of the living again.  Maybe calling us a “group” is too kind.  We are more like zombies.  That one word seems to describe the lack of sensation I feel every day after living on the edge for so long.  But I always do right by my people.  Only our survival is important.

“Just waiting for the signal, everybody.”

Suddenly, the tunnel opened up into a pumping chamber.  I could feel the slow roar of the pumps before I heard them.  These stations were common drop-off points for re-supply and other pickups.  Not too deep for government topsiders. They could bring a load of supplies down and be back to the surface before dinnertime.  I hadn’t seen the surface in twenty-four years.  None of us had.  Some had never seen real sunlight.  I squinted as I entered the chamber.  It was lit with fluorescents like most substations this close to the top.  I removed my goggles, blinking away the red shadows burned onto my retina.  Vats of nuclear waste being reconditioned by bacteria gave everything a dark green glow.  In the chamber stood a small man wearing a facemask.  Something about him, the way he glanced behind me, the way he shifted his weight from boot to boot told me he was impatient.  That was a bad trait down here.

“Is everyone here?” He asked.  “Are you all ready?”

I nodded.  “Is it really safe up there?”

“It should be after all this time.  I’m here to assist you in your transition.”

Someone once said: “To forget the past, you first have to remember it.”  Twenty-four years ago we did the unimaginable.  Nobody knows who started it, but the nukes began to fly.  In a matter of hours, it was all over.  Picture a trash pile that people just keep dumping on, until there is nowhere left for the trash to go.  Earth was at the bottom of that trash pile.  The only things here were the poisoned survivors, fighting it out in the sludge like devils and demons warring over Hell.   A few of us moved underground, into pipes filled with refuse to escape the radiation.  The rest, mostly government officials, remained behind to clean it up, one city at a time.  Now, they are finally done.

The masked official gestured.  “Follow me.  It won’t take long.”

Piles of debris clogged this sewer section as we followed him toward the surface.  We could see caked feces and grease, electronics, dead animals, and parts of human bodies.  But the best way to survive below is to pretend you’re already dead.  It lets you focus on what’s ahead.  As I walked, I felt – maybe for the first time – really alive.  As I suddenly felt the sunlight on my face, the strange sound rising above cheers was my own laughter.  For the first time since I could remember I was terrified and I relished it.

©2014EthanLawrence

Ethan Lawrence has served on the writing staffs of the TV series The Pretender, Murder in Small Town X, Fearing Mind, So Weird and SyFy’s acclaimed series Eureka.  He has developed web series for Generate Management/Alloy Entertainment such as Full Metal Alchemist and has sold TV pilots to NBC, ABC and The Gold Company.   He wrote the screenplay Hellraiser 5 for Dimension Films, Nevermore for Propaganda Films, Downloader for Stuart Gordon/Red Hen Productions, Mortal Velocity for Warner Bros. Studios, Creepers for Papa Joe Films (based on the David Morrell New York Times bestseller Creepers) and wrote the feature film Asylum for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios/Hyde Park Entertainment.