Fantasy & Sci-Fi
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
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
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
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.