Under the Caves
By CB Droege
At first, we were afraid.
It was not our first time down in the tunnels, but it was our first time descending so far, exploring so deeply into the mountain. Our ancestors had mapped these places in some distant past, and we had their guides, but still we were fearful. The darkness was absolute when we extinguished our torches, which we did whenever we stopped to sleep. Many of us had never been surrounded by such deep darkness that our eyes would never find their way. The world became black and still, and some had visions of things that were not there, creations of their mind in response to the nothingness before them.
Looking back, I’m convinced that there were no dangers at all, other than the ones we posed to ourselves in our paranoia or our incautious steps. If we’d known just what we’d find at the end of the ancient instructions on the maps, We’d never have worried so much about how long our pitch would last in this place, but I understand why our ancestors would have wanted to keep the nature of this place a secret. If we had known the treasures that lay here all these years, we would have come earlier, and it could not have saved us when it did.
For a dozen generations, our people watched for the signs depicted in the scrolls, the strange lights like ribbons in the sky, the altered colors of the sun, the spinning of the ancient dials. Many hadn’t believed before that day, that there was anything to the ancient scrolls. Some had even thought them mad ravings of some long-dead, sick person. But when the signs came exactly as described, many believed then, and nearly everyone descended into the caves as the instructions told.
It was weeks before the strange voice in the walls of this place told us that we could return to the surface, and the scouting parties who volunteered to go and look reported that nothing was left alive there. Every remaining person, animal and plant on the surface had been killed. Everything was covered in scorch marks, as though a great fire had swept across the land in multiple waves.
For now, everyone who still lives, lives under the caves, in the great, bright halls of the underground village. Food and water are plentiful, and there is little work that must be done, which makes some reluctant to leave, but the walls tell us that we cannot remain in this place indefinitely. We must rebuild our lives on the outside.
We will, eventually. For now, this is our home, and we are content to remain.
About the author
CB Droege is an author and voice actor from the Queen City living in the Millionendorf. Recent publications include work in Nature Futures and Daily Science Fiction.
Learn more at cbdroege.com
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