Author : Thomas Desrochers
Tara giggled and leaned over the railing of the walkway, peering down the cyclopean shaft. “You know,” she told Camus, “I bet that if you were to fall down this you would fall forever and ever and never even stop.” She trilled out a laugh again and kicked a can off the edge.
“Hey, silly,” Camus rasped in his failing synthetic voice, “Stop that. For all you know there might be somebody down there. How happy would you be if you had a can traveling some ludicrous speed hit you on the head?”
The young woman paused and considered this. She frowned and bit her lip. “I suppose I wouldn’t like that a whole lot.”
It was sad, Camus thought to himself, how Tara had the mind of a child and would always have the mind of a child. She couldn’t help it, of course. Nobody can help how they’re born.
It was sad.
“Right,” he affirmed. “You’d be pretty mad, I’d imagine.” He shoved his pry bar in the access hatch’s lock and pushed all his weight against it. It gave out with the shrieking typical of unhappy metal. “OK. I’ll go first, and then you follow me. Stay close, alright?”
“Yes, Cammy,” Tara chirped. “And be very very quiet so that the monsters don’t find us.”
“Right. Good girl.” Camus’s bad shoulder creaked and groaned as he crawled into the lightless access shaft. It was fairly roomy, he decided. For a coffin, at least. He kept crawling, listening intently to make sure that Tara was behind him and nobody else was ahead of him. If the map he’d found was right the shaft would go by some old store rooms. Hopefully they had food. He just had to find the right one, M778. He counted the rooms that went by under his hands and knees, feeling out the numerals: M772, M774, M776.
There it was. 778. And it was unlocked. Small miracles were better than no miracles, Camus thought to himself.
He undid the two bolts and eased the door down, revealing more black space.
“Cover your eyes, love,” Camus whispered back to Tara.
“Alright,” came the reply.
Camus switched on his headlamp. He played the dim beam across the walls, the floor, the mostly empty crates strewn about. It didn’t look promising, but it was worth a look. Camus eased himself down into the room and then helped Tara down. The two began to look through the refuse, searching for something edible.
Camus picked up a box. It was too light to hold anything, and he tossed it aside. “Yes?”
“Where are mommy and daddy?”
Camus paused a moment. “Mommy and daddy went into the sky, dear.”
“What’s the sky?”
“Above ground. They went above ground.”
“Oh,” Tara said. “Why?”
“Because they had to escape the monsters.”
“Oh,” Tara said. “OK.”
Camus picked up another box. He saw the wire attached to it too late. There was a snap and a foot long steel bolt smacked into Camus’s chest.
“Oh,” he said, grabbing his chest. Oil leaked between his fingers. Camus swore. Hydraulic fluid was rarer than food in this place.
“Come on, Tara,” he rasped. “Let’s leave. Before the monsters come.”
“OK Cammy,” she chirped. She held his rusting hand. “Are we going home?”
“Yes, love. We’re going to go home.”
“Can we braid my hair when we get back?”
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