Monday, April 15, 2013

Prompt: Fan, Light, Sky, Export, Free, Tunnel (Use at least three of these)

Kayleigh coughed behind me. I paused my digging for a moment, waiting to see if her lungs needed a break. She panted, then slowed down to the steady, shallow breaths I taught her when we first started working the tunnels. When her pick started scraping again, I started too. There wasn’t anything to say.

My timer dinged, and I tapped my pick three times against the fiberoptic light strand that reached all the way back to Central. I listened for the two answering taps. “Okay, let’s head back, kiddo. If you hustle, we’ll get 30 minutes shuteye before reveille.”

Kayleigh was already wriggling in reverse, sliding back down the tunnel towards our bunker. The dirt bags under our feet supplied the weight to let gravity do the work for us, and after a long night digging, that was a blessing, let me tell you. Once you got going, it was actually kind of fun, like the carnival rides my ma used to tell me about before the Fallout. If they ever had a carnival ride down a rock tunnel barely big enough to crawl through on your elbows, down 300 feet of bare dirt, painstakingly carved with handheld picks and trowels.

My da started this project, along with three others in our bunker, and I grew up digging since I was old enough to climb and stay put. The whole bunker was in on the plan—there was no way to hide three tunnels and six diggers working through every night. We all traded, so no one worked more than two dark shifts in a row. In the past seven years, we hadn’t had an emergency callback, and we’d made good progress on all three tunnels. They were about neck and neck, of course it was a competition between the teams.

I heard Kayleigh’s dirt bag hit the fan, and I spread my elbows to slow my slide. I dropped down next to her, and we lowered our bags through the fan blades to the rock floor. I helped her drop down, then lowered myself, tugging the bladelock free before I dropped the last foot. We shoved our dirt bags under our bunks and fell in them still fully clothed. Better to get a little shuteye now, then shower and dress in the light shift. Tonight’s team would get breakfast smuggled to them and work covered till lunch, but it was still noisy after reveille, so it felt good to rest in the quiet tail end of the dark.

Kayleigh whispered, “You still awake?”

I grunted.

“You think we’ll be the ones?”

I didn’t say anything, just put my arm over my eyes.

“To break through, I mean. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“Go to sleep, Kayleigh,” I muttered. I did. And dreamed of sky.

Dogs in house:
Time writing:
40 minutes
April word count:


  1. Prompt: Fan, Light, Sky, Export, Free, Tunnel (Use at least three of these)

    I heard Williams drop to his belly in front of me. I followed suit. The tunnel around us rattled, its metal sides vibrating in the wind of the giant fan. Finally, the sound and the wind stopped.

    "How many was that?" I whispered, having lost count. The blasts of the fan where the only way we had to gauge distance in this dark. Although a poor gauge it was, with no real understanding of how fast we moved nor how often it blew. Still, it served to provide structure to what otherwise would be a timeless crawl in blackness.

    "Five," answered Williams in a normal voice. There was no reason to whisper, I reminded myself. Just because we were sneaking through the bowels of the sky city, it seemed like we should. But either they had infrared cameras and mikes down here that would show us up clear as day, with all our clanking crawls, or there was nothing and we were barely a blip amongst the industrial clatter.

    Williams started on again, and I followed. We curved through tight turns, then it seemed we descended.

    "I see light," Williams said.

    I bit my lip on hope, but needn't have. A few more shuffles and we were above a grate to the outside. Through it, we could see mostly automated vehicles floating past, on at least three traffic levels--probably many more. I reached back and pulled out my climbing gear. Now I'd see if Williams was as good as he was meant to be. He was probably thinking the same of me.

    1. Fascinating that we both chose the escape tunnel concept, and fan blades at that! Nice hook at the end -- as good as/at what?

      You wrote this well, as always. I'll suggest from some con panel discussion last year, that the Mission Impossible movement through the air ducts a) has been done and b) is wildly improbable. So if you fleshed this out, for instance, you'd want a clear rationale for why the tunnels were that large, strong enough to carry their weight, etc. I know you could do it! :)