Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Burning: Part Four

Continued from Part Three

Down in the city, the casino finally opened. Wine, beer and spirits flowed freely. Most of the people from the city turned up, along with many from neighbouring towns, despite the unusually strong, hot wind that made travel difficult. These travellers wondered briefly about the small cluster of trucks abandoned at the top of a large hill, but soon forgot as they enjoyed their games of roulette and blackjack.
As the wind built up, the empty trucks on the hillside were overturned, and sent rolling down the slope, leaving a trail of broken glass and debris as they fell, finally crashing violently to a halt in a densely populated suburb, where the fuel tanks erupted noisily into a fire which was spread rapidly by the hot wind.

For forty days the winds crushed plants and animals, the breath of life replaced with the burning hot wind of a supernova. The dust and grit which rained from the sky grew hotter and larger, boiling lakes and rivers, smashing doors and windows, leaving no hiding place for the people of Tellus. After forty days the dust settled, but the heat and radiation remained.

Inside the bunker, everything seemed to be going well while they were counting off the days. By the time it had become easier to count the weeks, and counting the months had been seriously considered, the occupants were frightened, bored, and tense.
“Your god’s forgotten us, hasn’t he?” Khem challenged angrily.
R’Leef merely looked up wearily.
“Hasn’t he?”
Khem’s mother put a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm him. He glared at her, the light from the fluorescent strips above him glinting menacingly in his eyes. She shrank back slightly, withdrawing her hand.
“Sorry, ma,” Khem said, reaching out to take her hand.
She smiled up at him.
“No, you’re right,” Zalbeth said. “We’ve been abandoned. How long do you suppose it takes a god to destroy the world? It only took him a week to make it!”
R’Leef stood up, struggling to keep his patience. “Don’t you think I’m scared too? He asked. “Don’t you suppose I get bored down here? Lonely?” R’Leef looked from one to the other. “Well?”
After a brief pause, Khem spoke. “It’s your fault!” he cried. “It was your stupid idea! You locked us all in this dungeon! You and your so-called god!”
Then the bunker, heavily insulated as it was, trembled violently. Tables shook, cupboards fell over. There was a loud rumbling sound, punctuated by the noise of plates and bottles smashing. The lights went out. One of the women screamed.
Khem looked around, waiting for his eyes to adjust, but they never would. With no windows and all the exits tightly sealed, the darkness was complete.
There was another rumbling sound, muffling the noises of frightened animals above him. Fear took over Khem, and he sank to the floor, and wept.
“I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “Sorry, dad. Sorry, God. Please put the lights on! Please!”
A single circle of light danced on the floor in front of him. Khem’s tears of fear became tears of relief, and he began to laugh nervously.
“Get a grip, Khem,” Uax said.
Khem looked towards his brother, silhouetted behind the torch beam.
“It’s just the animals getting upset,” Uax continued. “Come on, we need to get the back-up power running.”
Khem looked at him, feeling worried and slightly foolish, and nodded. He started to get up just as an aftershock struck; he stumbled, clutching wildly at the nearest person for support. R’Leef grabbed his hand and helped him to his feet.
“Thanks,” Khem said, sheepishly.
“You’re welcome.”
“Sorry,” he added.
R’Leef nodded at him. “Can we get enough power from the back-up?”
“Not as much.”
“Will it keep the crops growing?”
“To give the same amount of power to the crops will mean having emergency power only down here.”
“What about the animals?” Zalbeth asked.
“Same thing, I think,” Khem said. “And we might have to lose the freezer.”
“That should be ok,” she said. “If we keep it closed it should stay cold enough – depending how long we spend in here, of course.”
“Do what you can,” R’Leef told Khem. “Keep the livestock happy and the plants growing. We can manage on emergency power and candles.”
Khem nodded.
“Have faith, everyone,” R’Leef said. “God was with us when we started this little adventure, and there’s no reason he should abandon us now.”
“I believe you,” Uax said.
The others nodded in agreement.

Keeping their little world within the world running smoothly on emergency power kept the bunker’s occupants busy over the following weeks, but the cold and dark soon wore them all down again.
“How much longer do we have to sit down here in the dark?” Khem was first to voice their frustrations.
R’Leef didn’t want to be in the bunker longer than necessary, and he certainly didn’t want another argument with Khem.
“I think we can afford to take a little peek,” he smiled.
R’Leef put down the book he had been reading and went with Khem to the far end of the bunker.
“What are we doing?” Khem asked.
R’Leef keyed a code into a small panel beside one of the generators. The panel slid open, and he pulled out a small plastic dome, beneath which Khem saw small wheels and some electronic circuitry.
“A probe,” R’Leef explained. “It’s radio controlled; I’ll control it from here, and we can see the world outside on the monitor.”
He opened the lift doors, and sat the small probe inside it. Khem switched the lift to exit, and they both turned to the monitor behind them. The view faded in – the lift doors. After a few seconds the doors slid open, and R’Leef moved the probe out of the lift shaft. At least, he tried to, but before it had moved more than a few centimetres the view on the monitor crackled, and died.
“Damn,” Khem whispered.
R’Leef sighed. “Bring it down,” he said.

Concluded in Part Five


UKSteve said...

Originally all the stuff about power failures and surviving in the dark was expanded, but at some point I figured that all these intelligent engineers and scientists would probably have worked out that a solar panel of some sort might be quite efficient in a supernova situation. So some of that got dropped, even though this version of the story doesn't make any mention of solar power.

I guess that's what happens when the latest version of your stories gets hidden away in the loft...

Ed Raby, Sr. said...

You know -- I like this story and the idea of alegorizing or twisting the OT accounts into a sci fi plot. Hmmmm. Gives me a few ideas. Great story so far .