Chapter 1- life after death.
In the beginning, when we first awoke we could see nothing. There was of course very little to see, there was no artificial light inside the room and without windows we could see nothing of the world outside our cold, dark cell. In fact at this time we had no way of knowing if there even was a world left out there.
There was a figure moving close to me, I couldn't see him, yet I felt his presence approaching. A hand rested on my shoulder, frozen to the touch, barely alive.
'Alex, the others are beginning to wake up now, can you move yet?'
I tried to respond but my voice had not yet returned, I attempted a hand gesture to indicate this when I realized I couldn't yet move my limbs. His voice became distant then my senses drifted away once more, my mind and body alike, fading into the torrent of icy darkness.
I do not know how much time passed but when I awoke the second time I could see shapes moving and the room had been partially illuminated by a fluorescent tube suspended from the ceiling. My hearing had improved and I was now aware of the whirring and beeping of our life support systems. Although I was still too weak to remove the apparatus from my chest and abdomen, it was beginning to feel increasingly uncomfortable as my nervous system was now almost fully functional. My eyesight was improving by the second and blurred shapes were now morphing into clearer images of the machinery surrounding us, and indeed the people who now surrounded me.
In what seemed like just a few seconds someone had injected something into my chest. I could feel the heat as it penetrated my respiratory system seeping through my veins and arteries it felt as though I was on fire. Then they pulled the network of tubes from the opening in my chest and simultaneously the burning sensation intensified until it reached its agonizing climax. I tried to scream but there was no air in my lungs so instead the reflex to breathe in overcame it and then I inhaled for the first time in fifty two and a half years.
'Good to have you back with us; you have been drifting in and out of consciousness for about a week now.'
The burning had now ceased and my breathing was getting easier. My body was still trembling a little. Somehow the voices around me began to sound familiar and I searched my memory desperately as to some clue as to where I was and how I came to be there. The face above me was that of a man, in his late thirties, Caucasian; with dark eyes wearing a concerned, yet calm expression.
'Don't try to speak just yet Alex, I don't know how much you can understand what I'm saying to you but I can promise that you will feel much better soon. You were cryogenically frozen along with the rest of us half a century ago, we are in a nuclear bunker. You are safe. We have all survived the nuclear holocaust and owe our lives to the technology you see in this room. This is a lot to take in, I know, but there really is nothing to be afraid of.'
Although his words were clear and concise my mind would not allow me to absorb them, I am unsure as to whether this is because I didn't believe him or because I was terrified that it might be true. Now fully alert, my physical discomfort now seemed overshadowed by pure fear.
The human psyche has an incredible way of protecting itself from those things that it finds too painful and horrifying to accept, and I can only assume that is what happened when it occurred to me that this was all a ridiculous dream and I erupted into hysterical laughter. The spasms in my fragile chest and vocal cords sent a wave of intense pain through my upper body and a surge of blood stained mucus spewed from my nose and mouth.
'Please, calm down, you are going to make yourself ill. I will have to sedate you again if you do not relax.'
His words would have once more been written off in my mind as a figment of some elaborate dream or hallucination had it not been for the very real pain in my throat and the taste of blood in my mouth. The last thing I wanted now was to spend any more time drifting in and out of this bizarre situation, I then made the decision to try to accept what this man was telling me. I certainly wasn't going to laugh at him anymore, that really fucking hurt.
Soon after, I was helped to my feet, I was surprised to find how quickly the sensation had returned to my legs and yet, walking was no easier than I had anticipated. Like a frail geriatric, uncoordinated and trembling, I was taken through into a small, dimly lit room. Immediately I noticed how quiet it became as the monitors and machines disappeared behind a heavy metallic door. A young woman in her early twenties who had green eyes and a kind face helped me to dress. The sensation of soft fiber against my skin was comforting. I was now dressed in a white tracksuit top and blue khaki pants identical to hers. She was smiling the way a doting mother smiles at her child and spoke with an equally maternal manner.
'Michael will be back soon, he will take to the gallery where he will show you some recorded information, he's been awake far longer than us and he forgets how difficult it can be when we first wake up, so if it gets too much just tell him you need a break, ok honey?'
I had, until now referred to Michael in my mind as 'the doctor' and had felt insecure and overwhelmed by his presence. His authorative demeanor contrasted too severely with my own sense of vulnerability. For some reason his Christian name gave him a more human identity. I had no doubt at all that this warm young lady had been introduced at this time in order to offer me comfort and prepare me for something that I would find deeply disturbing in the hours that followed.
I wasn't wrong. Seated In a darkened room opposite a large plasma screen I had a far deeper sense that something terrifying was about to be shown to me. Michael sat adjacent to me clutching some documents and video -audio disks in clear plastic sleeves. He said nothing as he placed the first disk into the device and selected 'play' from the menu. Immediately the screen came alive. Images flickered before my eyes, jumping from scene to scene random and arrhythmic raw and unedited. Fragments of news reports and interviews with politicians and world leaders followed each other. The president of the United States looked notably exhausted and agitated. He addressed the world with feigned confidence and false certainty when he stated that no kind of nuclear weapons would be used in world war 3. Ironically, the disk then skipped to footage of men in protective suits preparing war heads and explosives in some factory of death in the Middle East. I felt sick. The second was the most terrifying image of all. It had been filmed by satellite orbiting the earth, and showed a huge ring of thick black dust and debris emitted from a continent which was unmistakably the USA. Followed by a similar explosion in Western Europe. For good effect someone had later added an 'estimated death toll meter' in the lower right hand corner of the screen, it climbed by about 30million per tenth of a second. Four minute warning my arse. I was suddenly very angry; they had blown up half the planet and decided to shoot a video of the event from space. Had the plan always been to freeze a few of us to wake up fifty years later and watch movies about it? Bastards. Why the hell was I here anyway? This wasn't life, this was living hell and I was pissed off at whoever's bright idea this was to keep us here. I wasn't going to sit through any more of this sinister side show. I knew the next disk was bound to show the aftermath of the explosion and I didn't think I needed to see an unrecognizable dessert of a planet with occasional snaps of people rotting with nuclear cancers who had been unlucky enough to survive the initial blasts. I leapt to my feet and stormed towards the door, Michael said nothing I don't think he was surprised by my reaction. I raced through the 'Frankenstein laboratory' I had awoken in .They were busy waking some other poor bastard up from the deep freeze and they didn't notice me.
I found myself alone in a long narrow corridor it was lit overhead by the same fluorescent tubing that was in the 'cold room' as it had become known to me. To my left there were doorways, the same uninviting metallic doors, unmarked and all locked. Along the right side of the corridor ran cylindrical pipes around ten inches in diameter and below them a series of vents at nine foot intervals noisily circulating air. I noticed that the ceiling was arched like that of an underground rail network and the walls were decorated with ceramic tiles. The designs were colorful but it did little to subdue the eeriness of the place. Ahead were a set of double doors. Not solid like the metallic ones but rather a semi-opaque like heavily frosted glass. I could see light through the doors. As I approached it became noticeably warmer and I could sense a slight dampness in the atmosphere. To my amazement, as I approached the doors opened simultaneously to reveal something so incredible I almost buckled at the knees. Bright white rays of warm light fell upon my face and warm, sweet smelling air tickled my senses. The atmosphere was so rich with oxygen that it rushed to my head and I felt a surge of energy and almost ecstasy.
It was dome shaped and a good acre in diameter. Lush green foliage covered every last square foot. It was like a giant enchanting bottle garden complete with small streams that ran like capillaries from a larger channel of water flowing through the centre. Every type of plant and tree seemed represented in this botanical masterpiece, a scattered rainbow of color and form. Fruit and exotic flowers scented the air. The unmistakable buzz of busy insects filled my ears and so taken I was with the beauty of this place I almost forgot the horrors which lay the other side of those doors. Something about this place captivated my thoughts in such a way that I could not stop staring at the beauty surrounding me .I could not move from where I stood. It had created a vacuum in my mind as overwhelming as I could not stop myself absorbing every part of it. That experience of total awe is something that will never leave me, it would send a tingle down my spine and a bring lump to my throat for many years to follow.
I was annoyed to be interrupted by the now familiar sound of Michaels voice from behind me.
'Wonderful, isn't it?'
I offered no response, I'm sure he hadn't expected one. I didn't turn to face him; I didn't want to look away from this garden of paradise incase it was no longer there when I looked back. His footsteps drew nearer and he reached forward and took my right hand as he stood beside me. I didn't resist.
'There's more Alex, much more. would you like to see?'
I found it difficult to imagine how there could ever be more than this, but the boundaries of logic and expectation had already been pushed so far beyond my imagination that I no longer dared to question anything.
Michael then lead me through a further three 'BioDomes'. Each one representing an individual environment. Michael explained that they all functioned on the same principle, artificial UV light to imitate the sun, a delicate balance of chemicals in the atmosphere and most importantly, the plants themselves providing one hundred percent of the oxygen we were using. In effect, it was a world within the boundaries of the bunker. A scale model of our entire planet meticulously recreated over three hundred feet below the surface. Something in Michaels pocket beeped loudly, he didn't bother to look at the device, just made apologies and left.
Once again I was alone. I spent the next few hours wondering through the domes, marveling at the wonders within these miniature worlds. In the peace and tranquility I was able to gather my thoughts at last, the trauma of the mornings events seemed far behind me. Barely a day had passed and I had been reborn into this whole new existence. It was difficult to accept that within the walls of this place so much was happening, life recreated by the very species that had conspired to destroy it. Another example of the human race screwing things up in their relentless desire to control everything they can and destroy everything they can't. Humans are fundamentally flawed in that their minds have become too advanced. Nature works because every animal has a purpose, its designed to fit in with the circle of life. Every animal is born to live, reproduce, and then die. It works perfectly: The food chain, the nurturing of young, survival of the fittest and evolution all part of the great design of life on earth. Then humans: we've overcomplicated the whole idea, dissatisfied with a life of simple pleasures like hunting, eating and copulating. We wanted to be bigger and better than any other species, we wanted to be in charge, we wanted to be god. So we discovered fire, construction, technology, education, medicine and the big one-the atomic bomb. So here we are desperately trying to preserve some tiny sample of life as it was, to cling onto the very last fragments of the wonderful planet that we all had some small part in the destruction of. My thoughts now turned to the others, there had to be dozens of us here and as yet I had seen only a handful and spoken to just two. It was time I returned to the bunker. The biodomes were designed to imitate nature and the UV lamps were dimming and they were slipping into an artificial night. I found myself wondering if anyone had thought of creating an artificial sunset or even stars. It was a nice idea, but romantic and impractical, I told myself to 'grow up' before heading back through the doors into the corridor.
Chapter 2 - The Community.
I hadn't known what to expect as I approached the large heavy door that lead back into the 'cold room'. Somehow it all seemed less intimidating than before. The space felt larger and less claustrophobic and I noticed that only two beds were now occupied. Michael turned to face me; he was standing over a young man who was still asleep, he was nude except for a small cloth which covered his genitals and his skin was blue, he looked dead. It now occurred to me why this room had brought me so much fear and panic it became clear as the same feeling of dread returned but this time it was accompanied by a clear memory: when I was nineteen my twin brother had been killed in a car crash, the phone call came at just after midnight. My father was working abroad and my mother was too disturbed to identify him. So early the following morning, two police officers had driven me to the city hospital. It was almost unreal seeing him there, in the mortuary. I had half expected it not to be him and that he'd come bounding home later that day asking what all the fuss had been about. He still looked like Jake, thick blond hair, square jaw and scar on his left cheek; only lifeless and blue just like this lad. I had to remind myself that these people were alive that that young man would be awake in a day or two, whereas Jake had been lost forever many years ago. Michael was closer to me now and staring into my face he had placed a concerned hand on my shoulder:
"Are you ok Alex?"
"Yeah, I think so. This room gives me the creeps though; I don't know how you can spend so much time in here."
He smiled, I liked his face much better when he smiled, and it softened his features. It was an innocent, childlike smile.
"It's my job, Alex. I have to look after these guys. Its not much fun most of the time, but its rewarding for us all here when we bring you back safely". He glanced across at a young woman dressed in a kind of nurse's uniform; she was seated at a desk. She turned to him and they exchanged smiles. It was clear that they enjoyed working together and shared mutual respect. She returned to her work as Michael guided me through a set of doors opposite the ones I had entered.