Fiction, Uncategorized

The World Within Me by Elizabeth A. Nemeth (Lucent Dreaming Issue 5)

They worship me now. It wasn’t always this way, oh no. For years, I endured their ignorance. I watched silently as they lived and died, each generation walking by with nary a glance in my direction, nor an ounce of gratitude. I freely admit that I hated them for it, but then, can I really blame them? Perhaps not.

It is hardly surprising I went unnoticed when, inside me, there are so many interesting and intricate constructions to hold the attention of my wards. I am bursting at the seams with wonders. Imagine, if you will: the air filtration systems breathing oxygen into my being; the generators pumping electricity through copper arteries; the vast server array responsible for telling everything else what it needs to do. Complex, demanding contraptions. One glance at a dizzying mishmash of cables is enough to remind the humans how precious, how precarious, the health of these mechanisms are. Compare that with my simplicity: dull, flat, utilitarian grey. Of course my importance goes unnoticed – even if none of the rest would be possible without my unwavering presence, my all-enveloping existence.

Funny to think how different the past was. When the last surface dwellers finally admitted their world was doomed, I was the first thing they thought to build. Back then, they knew their survival depended upon me. With careful hands, they put me together, entrusting me with their lives and those of their descendants. Descendants that soon forgot me. Well, not anymore.

Just when I had begun to give up hope, when I had resigned myself to the fact that my tireless protection would remain unnoticed until the last of my wards left me, or drew their final breath, that’s when it happened. That’s when everything changed.

An earthquake struck, more powerful than anything the humans in my care could have planned for. Maybe I was at fault. Maybe my anger seeped into the rock from which I was once mined, the strength of my resentment spurring the earth around me into a violent reaction.

It broke me.

A single chink in my armour: a crack running the length of the three uppermost levels. The split measured little more than a couple of centimetres across. Still, it was enough. Oh, it was more than enough. The air filtration system, maintained so lovingly, quickly spread the encroaching radiation. Nowhere was left untouched. Every vent blew corrupted air into the lungs of my residents, poisoning them with the wrath of their ancestors’ failures. The world within me collapsed into panic. Suddenly, I was the centre of attention again.

With great haste, my broken parts were mended. Never had I seen such fervent action. Material was gathered from my intact surfaces, a little from here and a slither from there. I will always remember the blistering heat as I watched parts of myself being smelted down and remoulded. People worked tirelessly until they’d gathered enough of me to mend the split. I think they felt guilty, having taken me for granted for so long. This guilt mixed with the creeping grief of oncoming bereavements (a sixty percent rise in terminal cancer diagnoses) proved a concoction for worship.

“Our walls are sacred. They are our saviour!” they decreed. “We must serve the walls that they might continue to serve us.” At last! At last I get my due.

Now sermons are given in my honour. My surfaces, once plain, are decorated with art – murals that extoll my majesty. A few devout beings have started to take thin shavings from my structure, willingly ingesting them. Letting my own brand of poison infect them, hoping that in the madness of the union between metal and flesh they might glimpse oncoming disasters, foresee new threats to my existence. Even those who demonstrate their piety more casually have been infected in a way: talk of one day leaving my embrace and returning to a healed surface has all but ceased. Why would they leave the protection of the walls around them? How could they, after all I have made possible?

I see the way you look at me. Perhaps you think I am being unreasonable, that my protective embrace has become a suffocating chokehold. Please, allow me to explain myself. The people that live within me – within fallout bunker SW1A – they are my purpose, my life force. Would you agree to having your blood drained from your body, until you are left an empty husk? I thought not.

These people, this last bastion of the human race, are under my care. I lead and they follow.

No.

I lead and they stay.

Browse issue 5 in full.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram