In the bunker we wait. We eat the same things, we stare at the same ceiling, we drink the same water and talk to the same people every day.
It’s dark in the bunker, the electric lights are only put on for a few hours a day and we do what we have to by candlelight and torches. We don’t read much, because we’ve all read all the books. Some of us write, but after a while there’s not much to write about. It’s hard to keep a diary when everything’s the same.
It wasn’t always like this. We used to run around and play in the vaults under the earth. We played tag around the abandoned vehicles and hide and seek in the air vents. But now there aren’t many of us and we’re all grown up so we don’t play anymore. There are no more children.
We’re all girls here. All the boys went to another place. We were supposed to be let out when it was safe, but no-one ever came. They’re probably dead, or maybe they just forgot about us. All the old people that knew what was happening has died, and they were the only ones that knew how to talk to anyone outside.
So we sit in the bunker, day after day, and we watch the food supplies go down. We have a lot, so I don’t think we’ll run out, but it helps us pass the time. Days are measured in crates of soup, cans of coke and every week sees a case of wine. We’re old enough to drink the wine now, but nobody likes the whisky. We don’t smoke, because of the air. We don’t know how long we’ve been here now.
We’ve been in the bunker for a long time, the adults were around long enough to see us go through puberty and that was a long time ago, before they died. I suppose we’re the adults now.
Mary died last week. We found her body in one of the vents. She’d been stuffed in there and it was the dripping blood that alerted us. She’d been cut, or stabbed in the chest and seemed very pale. We disposed of her body in the usual way, placing her in the deep freeze in the very furthest corner of the bunker. There are other bodies there so she won’t be lonely. We read the words over her, but they don’t seem to have a lot of meaning. Not in the dark. We used to leave candles burning next to the dead, but we don’t have enough anymore. Now we know someone is a killer.
Death is not common in the bunker. We have plenty of food and water and we have each other. It’s hard to get lonely when you all share the same space. We used to have more privacy in the old days, when the lights were on all the time and the adults took care of everything, but now we don’t have light all day the shadows dance in the candlelight and no-one much wants to be alone. It’s scary in the dark but the candles comfort us.
Now there’s something in the dark and even the candles are scary. The flickering light makes the shadows move and it’s hard to forget how Mary looked as we pulled her from the vent. Her face was ashen and the wound in her chest gaped like another mouth, cruelly formed from between her breasts. It’s easy to imagine each shifting shadow is the culprit, reaching out with dark hands.
So we huddle together, we hug each other and some of us cry. We’re too old to cry, really, but it seems to comfort some of us. There’s not many of us. Only four. It was never a big group, and it feels smaller as we crouch in the light of the candles. We don’t turn on the lights at all. Some of us wanted to turn them on all through the day and night, but we don’t have the fuel. No-one wants to go to the room to turn them on anyway. We are all too scared.
Days pass like this, huddled in a circle of shimmering candlelight, eating cold food out of the cans that were close enough. Crying, sleeping, shivering and staring into space. We can’t look at each other because if we look closely, then we might see the animal behind the eyes and know that even our little circle isn’t safe anymore.
Jane is dead. We had all fallen asleep when it happened. When we woke up she was gone. There hadn’t been any noise, but we can see the drag marks where she was torn away from the huddle. She didn’t even scream or we would have woken up. The dark is even bigger, even more imposing and intimidating. We huddle closer and we can see that the meagre stock of candles we have left is running thin. Someone will have to get more, but we don’t want to move. Still, we can’t sit in the dark.
There are only two of us left now. We had decided that if we all went together then we could hold hands and accompany each other to the storeroom. Holding hands would mean that we couldn’t be separated, couldn’t lose another member. But, as we fumbled our way to the storeroom, we passed a dark passageway that leads to the sleeping quarters and I felt Anne’s hand tugged out of mine. Claire was in front holding the candle, she didn’t feel anything until I screamed. We shone the light down the passageway but we couldn’t go in. It was dark and felt wrong. It all happened so quickly we didn’t even have time to be scared, we just walked numbly to the storeroom.
We’re locked in the storeroom. We have plenty of candles and we’ve made the whole room blaze with light. The door is closed firmly, there’s no way in. Claire is holding tightly onto me and I’m tightly holding onto her. Even though we’re surrounded by tins and tins of food, we can’t eat much, but I’ve made Claire drink water and we try to nibble on things. Claire has her teddy bear. She’s far too old for a teddy bear but it makes her happy. I don’t need anything like that.
Claire asks me what we’re going to do. I tell her I don’t know. She sobs even more and the sobs make me angry. I stand up and shake her off me. I tell her we’re going to leave. It’s time to leave the bunker. She looks at me as if I’ve gone insane, but I haven’t. There’s only death in here and I don’t know what’s out there. It seems it’s better to take our chances out there.
We walk to the door, gathering up our candles and food. Claire won’t leave her teddy bear, even though I tell her she doesn’t need it anymore. She won’t let go of my hand. She clutches the teddy bear to her chest as we go to the deep freeze. We have to find out how to get out and only the adults know.
As we walk we hear footsteps and dark chuckles coming from the shadows. Whatever took the others is trying to take us. I won’t let that happen and I stand and raise the candle. I can’t see anything but I hear scurrying and another laugh.
We reach the freezer. The captain used to wear a key around his neck, I hope it’s the key to the door. We all know where the door is but we’ve always waited for someone to open it from outside, we never dreamed that one day we’d be opening it ourselves.
We search through the bodies until we find the captain. He is preserved by the freezer and his old face is frozen. The key is still there! It burns my hand as I clasp it, but I wrap all my fingers around it and won’t let it drop.
We’re walking quickly towards the door now and the footsteps are getting closer. We’re running and I feel Claire stumble. Her teddy bear flips gracefully in front of me and without thinking I snatch it up. I don’t have time to stop and wait for her and I look back over my shoulder to see her swallowed up by the darkness. I see a white face and a grasping hand claw at her as she’s pulled back. Her mouth is in a scream she never gets to utter as I see blood spray from her throat.
I reach the door and I fumble with the key. I’m frantic now as I can hear the running, slithering footsteps of whatever it is that killed Claire, whatever has been down here with us. Finally, the key fits into the panel next to the door and I spin the wheel. It is rusty and stiff with age but finally it spins. I fling open the door and blinding light fills the dirty passageway. I close the door and hear the frustrated howls of the thing.
I take my first steps outside.
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