The Dark Line
It is dark down here. At first it wasn’t so bad, but over time, bit by bit, it gets to you. Each morning I wish to see the sun, the raw, orange, beautiful sun. I need to feel its heat on my bare skin, its rays glancing my face, fully warming me through to the core.
But I cannot… here the sun never shines.
I step over the rusted rails. After all this time without trains passing over them, they have fallen into disrepair, in places buckling with age. It seems the further you venture from our tiny pocket of civilisation here, the worse it gets. And in parts the tunnels are completely collapsed.Though it does not matter, we are trapped down here regardless. Above, clear of the tunnels, only death awaits. And none of us are ready for that.
The tunnel is illuminated by lights that hang still in the air that silently surrounds me. Shabby doors are built into its sides, leading to tiny homes carved from the earth and rock. This is where we live, our life, encased in every direction. It is monotonous, dull… bearable.
It is Thursday, and a half-collapsed station half a mile from my home, a weekly market is held, selling goods, mostly various types of mushrooms, maybe some scarce meat on a good day – if you have the money, of course, which I don’t.
On one of the stalls selling home-brewed alcohol is my good friend, Immy. She is in her late sixties, and unlike most of us, wasn’t born into this underground hell. She saw the sun, and the land, and the sea and all those other things I long to set eyes upon. She is also the wisest person I know. “Hey, Immy,” I say.
“Morning, you,” she says, her wide smile shining. “Your usual?”
I nod, “sure, why not.” She reaches under the table and grabs my special stuff. “Anything new?” I ask her.
“Apparently there’s a newcomer on the West Side…”
“How’s that possible?” I ask, my mouth open. The tunnels are blocked. The air is death beyond that. Newcomers, there is no such thing.
“Don’t ask me. The council are no doubt talking to him… or her in private. Who knows what they keep from us, the lies they tell us.”
Growing up, I’ve heard many of Immys’s tales, the brilliant things she describes from the Old Place. Each night I used to dream of it. Seeing the sun and moon, awaking into a new, better world, a place where I might actually live a happy life. Yet, I was born here, I know no different. This stagnant existence is what I call home, normality. It’s unlikely anything can change that.
But I keep my hope close to my chest. The news of a newcomer, that is the biggest hope there is, the biggest news anyone can hear in a place like this, simply because it poses so many questions. What does it mean for myself?
I think… there is another place, somewhere else aside from here… My mind fixates on the possibility of this. It is all I have thought about, a life beyond these tunnels, beyond this cavern of darkness I survive in. It surely is all anyone thinks about. “What do you think will happen?” I ask Immy.
She tilts her head. “Something, things like this don’t go away, even if they are just stories that prescribe false hope, people feel real hope. And hope is a powerful thing.”
“What will you do?”
“What I always do, watch, sit around, grow old. Things happen at their own pace.”
“I’d like to believe that,” I say.
“It doesn’t take much,” she lowers her head. “Don’t think more than you need to about this. Things come and go. These are just words for the moment. And words too are powerful.”
I thank Immy, bring her into a hug, and kiss her cheek. Then I begin my walk home, the same way I do each Thursday, through the dark tunnels. Only this time I have more baggage, more thought, more hope.
Only, I can’t decide if this is good or bad, or either.So, for now, I walk and I dream. And that is all I do.