Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Dawn Rising

By Sue Simpson

The still muted orange swirled and mingled with the gentle hues of mauve and lilac. A tentative sun rose almost shyly from the valley between two mountains, its golden rays weak and still unmatured flaying out to light up the hazy purple heather. The scene flaunting the intrinsic perfection of nature's dawn.

Baxter turned away, he must dress and prepare for the days work ahead, yet still the sunrise pulled him back for one last glance. This was his way of stamping it upon his retina so that the beauty of the sunrise burned brightly in his memory. He was terrified of losing the ability to recall the Sun; he gazed at it for long moments every morning. It was as much a part of his early ritual as his shower or his shave.

He heaved a great mournful sigh as he was pulled from the past and brought back to the glaring reality of fluorescent lighting and beyond that eternal darkness.

Baxter was not sure if his memory of the past was a blessing or a curse; the children flocked round him begging to hear tales of the 'abovers' as the old people were called. Bax had been twelve when the nuclear war had destroyed the earth and the few lucky enough to be given shelter had scurried beneath the ground into the subterranean bunkers that were the starting pegs of the new world. He had witnessed the atrocities of war as they reared their head. He had been one of the chosen to take shelter. Baxter kept the children captivated with stories of life above ground. The children of the new world inched towards him on their bellies fearing to miss a word of the enchanted life that the abovers had lived. He described for the hundredth time fresh air and the feeling that one derived early on a Sunday morning when you took into your lungs a huge breath of brisk morning air, and then exhaled to the melodic tolling of the church bells calling the holy to worship. He told them of toffee, and chocolate cake fresh baked and eaten still warm, of bonfire night and Christmas. He explained what it was like to swim in a river warmed by the blazing sun. He felt the sting of tears as he reminisced about the smell of sweet hay waking him on the night when he had waited in the stable for his pony, Bliss, to deliver her first foal. How he had felt very small when his father's strong hand had shaken him awake to tell him that he'd slept through the whole event, and that Bliss had someone she would like to introduce him to. Bliss and her foal, Starlight, had both perished in the holocaust of the final war, along with most of his friends and family. Only Baxter his mother and father had been spared due to his fathers expertise in physics; he had been needed for the emergence of the new world.

Baxter at the age of thirty six was the last of the abovers left. They had all died off, many of them fairly soon after the end had come. Some lasted longer, but disease had been rife. In the early days before the new world had formed conditions were appalling for the abovers. Many just didn't want to live any longer.

One of the chosen had been an eminent scientist and geneticist of the old world, his name was Franz Schultz. He had achieved many great advancements in the fight against disease and hunger as the new world developed. However what was acclaimed as his greatest triumph soon became his worst nightmare. He had killed himself in disgrace one night when he could no longer look at the products of his creation.

Professor Schultz had created an innovative serum. It was said this serum would enhance and speed up the natural process of evolution, and would enable the new order to better cope with life underground.

Everybody was vaccinated with the serum. It was hailed a great success. Eyesight became eighty percent improved. People could now see perfectly in the dark. The body produced massive levels of vitamins. This meant that such conditions as scurvy, which had run rampant through the people who had not seen sunlight for years, cleared. These conditions were, within a short period of time, obliterated. Joints remained supple and failed to stiffen if huddled for long periods of time when mining out the tunnels. Most important of all the changes was the fact that gradually the need for oxygen was reduced.

Professor Schultz was proclaimed a hero. Thousands of years of evolution had been condensed into a matter of months. However the pedestal that Franz was elevated on began to revolve, and soon it was spinning out of control. There were those who had warned caution, but initial testing had far exceeded their expectations. It was decreed that the entire colony be vaccinated.

The first child to be born after the mass immunization was little Helen Jenkins. Baxter had come to know the Jenkins family well. Like all parents to be, they were excited and impatient for the birth of their first child. The pregnancy had progressed well with no sign of distress to either mother or baby.

The delivery was perhaps a little longer than would be expected, but word had it that you could hear the screams of Mary Jenkins all the way to sector seven when her baby was finally placed in her arms.

The child was sightless. White depressed orbs lay where the eyes should have been. After all there was no longer a need of sight in the darkness. The evolutionary process hadn't taken into account the fact that an advanced lighting system had been installed throughout the new world. The nose of the child had become elongated and rounded. A perfect implement for burrowing. Legs and arms had receded into the body. The new streamline shape of the child's torso was white and smooth. the skin had no pigment, for no sun would ever shine on it. Many such children had followed. The spawn of the new world. Baxter had seen creatures like them on the surface, albeit much smaller and thinner.

They had been called Worms.

Baxter took one last look at the beautiful sunrise tattoo emblazoned on his chest, and then put on his shirt; another day was about to begin in Utopia.