A tale of a society facing its extinction and how it might arrive and perhaps be survived.
Enjoy David Stevens
For millennia since the great rising, the city has existed as the centre of commerce, for all of the people. Yet for as long as the city has beat to the rhythm of life, it has accepted, though not openly, the threat of an attack. Life pulses away as the years flow by, much as it has since their time began.
Much has happened through the passing years, mighty tunnels have grown, extending to form a network some thousands of miles long, through which life moves, always traveling, ignoring though the threat that forever exists. As time passes the potential defenders have developed, building their strength, in anticipation one day of the prophesy and its decreed attack.
Soldiers by their very nature require a ridged structure in which to exist, officer’s command their lower ranks, receiving their own directives from more senior generals, the generals receiving their orders from still more important authorities. Politicians decide the policy of life on behalf of the people, and so exists the fundamental chain of command, from the most senior, down through to the lowest of the low.
Not a single officer does or ever will exist in the city’s defences, generals have never been evolved, and as for politician, they cannot exist without voters. The people that inhabit the city of the Rising, are unanimous in their dedication, loyal beyond question to themselves and their duties, and equal in all but physical structure, what need have they for the politicians and decision makers.
Since the beginning of time the argument has existed to be defended and opposed by each of the factions with equal vigor, the argument might only be settled at the commencement of the attack, yet it exists, mainly amongst the soldiers whose duty it will be to protect the city, its tunnels and hidden places.
Some claim that all will materialize in silence, striking a mortal blow at the city itself, before expanding their damaging influence into the more desirable tunnels. Others insist that the enemy will be certain to announce its intent and arrival, with a series of explosions, and pounding drums. Both could be right; or equally they could be wrong.
They are Coming.
All watch with growing concern, as in silence the enemy infiltrates their strong holds. Alas they are restricted by the laws of life, constrained in their ability to defend by excision, these small resilient growths of a power base, that are insinuating themselves in to the very fabric of the city, and its tunnel world.
Only at the chosen time of the actual attack are they allowed to react positively, to strike back at the intruders, to wage total war against the interlopers. Then and only then are they free to swarm at and seek out the destruction of the evil choking vileness, which so obviously threatens to eradicate their very existence.
A short distance from the cities mighty pulsing walls, hidden within the depths of the tunnels, secreted from sight, wait the soldiers. Quietly, expectantly they watch, anticipating their call to battle. Each military cell knows that they will sometime be called to account, whether it is in their short life time, or in their descendents does not matter. Only the fact that they wait and are ready to engage the enemy matters. That they are eager to be the ones, shows in their hovering about, milling together, preparing for the coming war. Equally they are eager to be patient and leave the coming battle for their descendants to fight; they can be the ones that battle for the right of all to survive, it does not matter, only being prepared matters, the days pass as the threat grows.
Even in war, whether it be a war of direct action or of the more secretive covert type, there are still the unwritten laws of civilization to obey. It is these requirements of law that the enemy has secretly utilised, these laws that they have abused in their endless and unceasing encroachment of the people of the risings homeland. By the requirements of their own laws, the enemy knows that so long as the war does not actively start, then they can and are able to encroach in to the city and its surroundings. This they have done and will continue to do for as long as they are able to, prior to the actual day of the attack.
At key points around the city and its immediate tunnels, lounge harmless looking invaders , in shape they are short and stocky, as a people they are called Blockers; they prop themselves against walls blending into vital supply routes, commanding junctions with their non-hostile build up of passive strength; placidly they wait, growing larger and more determined all the time.
Patrols pass by these innocuous gatherings, ignoring them completely as they seek out the first signs of any direct assault. One such patrol had finished their duties and was headed back to their cavern barracks, when from beneath their feet and growing rapidly there came a dull rumble. Quickly the rumble expanded until it threatened to swamp out all normal sounds. Calmly stand the guards for this is not the first time that they have felt the assault of a minor, but deep felt quake in their home land.
As one they tumbled floor wards, cast about, thrust and bounced from the tunnel walls, as their world turned a double somersault, casting them about as the sea of our world, casts a piece of floating board. One poor unfortunate guard found himself physically thrown upwards until his flight came to a splattering and sudden halt; he collided with a jagged, solid, roof, dead he fell once more to the floor. Boom, Booooom, echoed the beat of the invading Blockers drum, Boom, BOOOOM, it called as it sought out the faithful, it demanded their attention, calling them to war, it called the hidden of them into sight.
Throughout the city skulking particles of a hidden army join together, as one they closed off various routes and attacked the innocent as they take command. Boom, Boooom, beats out the war anthem, amidst the silent screams of a terrified populace.
Not a single call to arms had been made; but as one each of the twelve million defenders had risen from their resting places, conversation and arguments had been forgotten; the war had finally arrived. Soldiers flooded from their barracks, they charged through passages, following some unwritten but pre-ordained plan for the coming battle. Passageways that have been already blocked by the invading hoards were circumvented, some of the warriors fall away from their companions, they engaged the fortified positions of the enemy, but the main bulk of the forces continued onward to the city.
Encircled the people of the city have been driven before the invading army, eventually they have drifted together corralled at one of the junctions, at the heart of the city, thus the invaders used the inhabitants to create a living blockage. This use of the innocent combined with their own spies and infiltrators had succeeded in sealing the city centre completely, halting the flow of normal commerce and life.
Within seconds the ground trembled, the walls shook and the city toppled. All around the invaders cheered in silence, aware that the first steps of their invasion were taken. A single earth shattering explosion occurred; it floored invaders and the defenders alike. Eventually the dust and floating particles settled, revealing a besieged world. Defenders halted their defense; confused at the sudden eruption, and its following earthquake. Attacking forces gathered themselves once more; again they besieged the captive city. The defenders forced entry into the tunnels, desperately seeking out their waiting silent enemy. Hacking ineffectually at the swarms of foreign beings which lined their tunnel walls, the battle moved on a stage.
From wall to wall; thousands of Blocker soldiers wait for the cities defenders to assault them, resistance could be expected shortly, but as one they waited, silent and inoffensive but equally deadly. For all that are involved in the fatal battle knew their place in the scheme of things to come.
With regimented discipline the defenders face the wall of Blockers; silently they assess the initial invasion and its damage causing ability. Not a word or a signal was given, and yet the battle commences again and as one. Thousands of defenders engage millions of Blockers. Realisation that the enemy had infiltrated their ranks far more efficiently than had been believed possible stood in front of them for all to see. Row upon row of in-animated Blockers waited patiently as the hoards of desperate defenders fell on them. Not a single weapon was raised by the Blockers in their defense of themselves. Thousands were cut down by the active assault of the defenders. Only to be replaced by millions more.
The wall of passive Blockers had spread for as far as the defenders could see, but with desperation they fought onward. In three other places similar battles were fought, desperation filled and fired the defenders, for they, like their enemy, realised that the battle could last only a few brief minutes, before their life and their surroundings begin to crumble, forever.
Light floods the city, exploding in a brilliant flash from above the corralled citizens; fear engulfed them as the light flashed from walls to ceiling, and back to the walls once more. Never in all of the histories of the people had such lights occurred. They knew of course that their lands are occasionally prone to, they even expected to feel the dim throws of a mighty earth tremor, but never have any ever been witness to such a brilliant and blinding flash of electrifying light.
Their progress halted, the defenders watch as the flashing light exploded through the very centre of the Blockers, carving a narrow passageway, through which the defenders might swarm. Battle re-commenced as the flash of light died, silent cheering could be felt from the defenders, obviously they had witnessed one of the secret weapons of defense that their legends foretold could or might emerge to help them fight and save their world.
Locked within the confines of the city, the captured people felt the first fear caused pangs, which were yet another step in the Blockers ancient strategy. ‘Our air, our air,’ could be felt thought wise as it passed from one person to another. ‘Our air is gradually reducing!’ The atmosphere was already feeling different, more clogged; verging on the stifling. As one their minds scream out their fear, reaching out to the cities guards, adding a warning of the dire state that they and their world was fast degenerating into.
Far to the south was located one of a pair of ancient cities, each city had the same name; each played the same role in the people’s survival. That of regulator to the flow of their life force, both are now under siege. Neither city could purify their lives; all trade with the cities beyond the boundary was halted by the Blockers unprovoked attacks.
Each city of Kilney was under unified attack, both at the same moment as the capital, although the city’s occupants witnessed the destructive infiltration of the Blockers, they to were bound by the ancient laws, bound to wait for a more positive show of direct force being used against them, then and only then, could they try to mount a defense of sorts.
Help for the cities had been dispatched, with the first silent rally to arms; even though the outer walls of Kilney were besieged, surrounded by Blocker forces, leaving a frustratingly defused and helpless force of defenders to struggle against the rising. Their defense had come too late for the inhabitants of Kilney one, for the Blockers had secured the city for themselves, capturing it intact. Thus they had been able to strengthen their strangulating hold to a point far beyond the dispatched defenders ability to rescue. Kilney one was lost forever. Kilney two was faring little better, its trade has been curtailed, it too was under siege, but its people still fought on.
Encouraged by the sudden and unexpected arrival of the secret weapon, which had somehow struck at the Blockers defences, the defenders re-surged their attack. From the direction of Kilney one there came not a single sound, only the silently but deeply felt appeals and warnings, from the captured citizens held within. Each of the defenders felt the power of the people’s warnings, felt their lack of air and desperation, each felt the growing effects within themselves of the deprivation, which this lack of air was fast generating. Desperation flowed: they fought on, eventually they hacked enough to clear a path through the un-resisting Blockers.
A growing weakness hampered their valiant efforts, desperation drove forward the desire to clear just a single pathway in to, first, and then out of their city, thus allowing the life beat to resume, enabling them to restore their lives back in to a steady rhythm once more. All around the defenders the air that meant life collapsed down into an un-breathable mush; used up, all of its beneficial goodness gone. Thus it distressed then hampered the battle, survival of the whole world seems unlikely, perhaps even a futile hope at best.
Desperation filled, on mass they screamed out a last cry for help, calling on their legends, praying for the assistance that those legends foretold might arrive. With a mighty flash, a single streak of brilliant blue light exploded once more in to the ranks of the silent Blockers, carving a pathway through them, leaving behind the charred and scorched remains of the destroyed invaders. With their battle cries being screamed from silent mouths the dispatched defenders enter in to the once captive city of Kilney one.
Spreading out other forces passed through the decimated ranks of Blockers, they hacked as they travel deeper at any and all that remained. They slowly recovered first their home city of Kilney one, then they move forward. Air had become of prime necessity to the defenders, for they unlike the Blockers, need its presence to exist. Tumbling their way into, and throughout the city, each defender an individual, but acting as one combined, they head for the main exit on the cities far side. In desperation they departed from Kilney one, intending to free and clear an air passageway to restore their airflow, hopefully to force life’s breathe into their city system, to restore the possibility of life for all once more.
Thousands of the defenders had died and were still dying, all through lack of clean, fresh, life giving air. Thousands of their bodies lay scattered amidst the remnants of the invaders, for the present they were to be ignored, as the surviving defenders came upon the last blockage. Stood passively before them were the main force of the Blockers, millions of separate, stubby entities, all joined together as one, they dammed up the main concourse, they created the ultimate blockage for the defenders to eradicate.
Faltering the defenders, defences collapsed. They had been beaten by the millions of invaders that wait infront of them, but more decisively, by the tactical removal of their air by the enemy. Death was now inevitable, no help had come; the legends were wrong, the problem was that the blockage still restricted the air flow. The world as they knew it was still dying, and there seemed to be nothing that the defenders could do to penetrate and clear the massive obstruction spread out before them.
Rocks tumbled from high above their heads, to crash into the fast collapsing defenders, triggered by a mighty tubular protuberance penetrating in to their home. Many survived the aerial invasion, but they could do nothing but watch. Mighty fires sprung up around the Blockers as the city slowly died. Still the tube entered, it reached nearly to the cities floor. Rock melted with the heat of the burning fires; below the watchers the city entered in to its last throws, it trembled, the ground erupted belching out its last dregs of life preserving oxygen, slightly reviving the less damaged defenders. Silently the Blockers watched, and waited, for they realise that their work was nearly complete.
White stinging liquid pulsed from within the tube, which had so violently invaded the cities centre. Blockers and defenders alike retreated from the engulfing spray. Fires that had burned so fiercely, dimmed and then died. Before the surviving defenders, the Blockers wilt, their silent attack driven backwards by the fast spreading, free flowing liquid. Those that did not retreat quickly enough, were absorbed, their stubby bodies turning firstly to jelly, and then in to a pouring yellow liquid, eventually to be absorbed in to the yellow out flowing river. Strength returned to the defenders though gradually, as the river swirled around them; harmlessly. Air arrived from where they knew not, but arrive it did! Revitalizing the defenders, it helped to recreate some of the normal flow of life. They swam with the flow as they always swam, heading outwards from the city, gradually their free ride came to a halt as the liquid was absorbed into the city’s walls and floors.
Deposited by the now vanished flood; replaced and carried forward by the normal flow the defenders faced a much depleted army of Blockers. Their formations lacked the regimented order and precision of their previous blocking. Still it contained a threatening quality, which had to be removed.
Faintly, from behind, the defenders heard a single solitary Boom, which seemed to emanate from the city’s floors and walls. Air pulsed in to the tunnels swelling and refueling their strength. Revitalising their hope, creating a belief that life just might return and remain as it had always been, steady, reliable, regular, onward flowing and unified into one aim, to survive.
James Layman, sat; stiffly seated upright on a brightly coloured tartan car rug, contemplating his life and its meaning, in a series of re-lived mental images. For thirty-two years he has worked and struggled his way through the myriad of twists, double dealings, and plain vicious-ness of a corporate industry. He has achieved each of his life’s ambitions, bar of course a directorship. For twenty-three of his working years, he has been married to Thelma; now with his thoughts firmly directed toward her and their life together, he sips at the wine, held between his fingers in one of her treasured crystal glasses.
She is gone; she departed his world in an unheard screech of rending metal, killed outright by the thoughtless actions of another road user. From the moment that the police car had slid gracefully in to his driveway, he had known; but still he had opened his door, even offering the two uncomfortable looking policemen a thoughtless glass of wine.
Devastating as the news had been, he had risen early the next morning, having slept only sporadically, he dressed in his normal business suit and tie, he had stepped out of his, their home in to the early morning crispness of a new day, only just avoiding colliding with the postman as he prepared to deliver a single letter, reaching out he took it from the postman and opened it.
Dear Mr J Layman
It is with deep regret that we have to inform you that with the take over of our business, the policy of employment has had to change. All personnel above the age of fifty (must without exception) accept compulsory redundancy. It is with regret that I have to inform you that you fall in to this category, and as such will receive a handsome retirement package, as befits your previous station within this company. There is no need for you to attend for work as of the 061\2013.
A B CRONFIELD. (M.D)
James had studied the signature for hours, attempting to place a face to the name, he had failed.
Two months had passed since he had first read the devastating contents of that letter. Two months and one day since he had lost his wife, his drive and his employment. In that two months there had been many times that he had read through the pages of his life; this was just another. Green grass, bordered by a thin, low, wire fence, encircled him, as he sat drinking his wine sitting upon a tartan rug. Overlooking a lazy flowing river, that meandered through his local park.
Years had passed, years in which he had dedicated his life to nothing but his career, always placing work infront of a family life, and then, when the time had come to start a family they had discovered that he was unable too. Callously he had returned himself to the drive of work, attending hundreds of functions, losing thousands of hours.
Wrapped in his world of work and home; he had always thought that his wife would be there to enjoy their private lives together, once he finally had retired. Work had called him he had justified to himself, she would wait in the wings, snatching her precious moments with him when and where she could, but all that planning, working and expecting was destroyed in a single careless second, leaving him alone and despondent.
With no direction he had wandered aimlessly through a bleak; dreary, pointless existence. Suicide had crossed his mind, but quickly he had discarded that form of end, but why? What life had he got, for that matter what future did he have, but no, he decided each time that the idea filtered into his thoughts. Not that, he could not stand to think of those smug bastards still with their jobs, laughing about his lack of courage, so he fought on, defying them all!
Cold, he stood, packing the few plates and her glass carefully back into his bag, (he always brought her a glass, it seemed right somehow). With a revitalised step, he walked towards the car park and his waiting car, putting behind him once again his depression and self recriminations.
Green flashed infront of his eyes, racing towards him, even as a crushing pain exploded in his chest, and expanded outwards down his left arm in to his tightly clenched fingers. Gasping for air he tumbled, colliding with the green of the grass, his life once more flashed through his mind, closely followed by blankness.
With lights flashing and sirens howling the ambulance wove its way through the busy streets, heading for Accident and Emergency. The ambulance man administered cardiac massage to this un-known gent, and wondered if he would survive the trip, they had got to him inside of the critical first hour, the golden hour so he had a good chance; the heart beat beneath his fingers was slow admittedly, but still there.
Thoughts swirled through the semi conscious brain of James Layman. Breathe damn you, breathe! So he did, but why he wondered, and stopped once more. This is the way to death, this is welcome or it should be, but he took another breath.
Death is an elusive state, especially when everything and everyone is fighting for you to avoid it, try as he could, James found himself returning once more in to the bright lights, but this time he was not sitting on the grass, but laid on the hard padded surface of a hospital gurney.
“CLEAR,” was closely followed by a piecing jolt of sparking electricity.
“Anything?” Called out the same voice.
Rhythmically the heart monitor should show a steady thumping beat as the victims body fought on, all it emitted was a single note, a screech. The accompanying monitor implied to the watching doctors with its straight line message as it flowed across the monitor, that the patient was technically dead!
“Adrenaline, 10 milligrams.” Hurrying in that controlled, unflappable manner that all nurses are trained to emit, the resident A&E nurse drew up the required liquid for the doctor, handing it precisely in to his waiting palm.
“Clear.” The warning echoed through out the tiny cubical, as yet another jolt of electricity fired in to the static, dead body, laid beneath a pair of insulated discharge pads. Stimulated by the artificial impulses, the victims muscles spasmed as in life, lifting the corpse almost clear of the couch.
All eyes adhered to the flat screen monitor, waiting for a response, hoping that the room would soon be filled with the rhythms of a beating heart. Obstinately the sound remained static as did the monitors screens indicating line.
Smoothly the doctor approached the still form, placing the thin needle attached to the syringe directly above the victim’s heart. Tensing he slid the fine steel tip through the outer layers of skin, missing the bones that made up the rib cage, aiming for the heart.
Satisfied that he had positioned the point directly into the heart wall, he squeezed the plunger, injecting exactly 10 milligrams of adrenaline in to the static jellified muscle. Retraction of the needle needed less care than its initial insertion, once clear, the crash team once more went to work on the body, administering heart massage, forcing air in to his lungs, willing him to live.
Adrenalin is the body’s revitaliser, naturally produced it allows the body to carry on no matter how far passed its normal limits a person may have exerted him, or herself. In this context the doctors hoped that the adrenalin injection might cause the heart to be revitalised, in hopeful silence they waited, watching still hoping.
BEEP, Beep, echoed off of the walls as rhythm replaced abject silence, Beep Beep beat the sound of life. Glancing to his right the relaxing physician engaged his eyes firmly upon the wall mounted clock. Two minutes and fifty-eight seconds had passed since their first hasty assault had commenced. Exhausted, he once more thought about the time difference that existed between reality and the feeling of the battle, hours seemed to have passed, but the reality was only a couple or so minutes.
Disjointed thoughts flowed through James Layman’s mind, as with growing fear and wonder he surfaced from a deep dark pit, once more in to the bright world of life. Despair filled him as he reassessed his tenuous hold on life, and how once more it had pulled him away from deaths open arms.
Angels! He thought, as the bleariness of his partially closed eyes faded. Angels, maybe this is the after life after all, he thought.
“Hello James, feeling better? Don’t worry the pain will fade shortly.”
What pain he thought? Who are you? Where am I? With that he faded from the light, recessing in to pitch darkness.
Three days had passed since the first fear instilling pangs of pain had flooded through his brain. Three days of constant care, accompanied by total disturbance. Three days of poking and prodding by a sea of endless, different, but basically alike doctors. Eventually their questions, tests, and invasions of his privacy had ended.
Now out of pain he had been moved from Intensive Care, more commonly called I C U, and placed in to a general ward, where once again he found himself watching as an outsider, the hustle and bustle of the ward. People came and went, always in to much of a hurry to talk, that was all but one.
She, for his visitor was a she, stood five-feet and one inch in her stocking feet, dressed in a blue starched uniform, she sat on his bed and just talked to him.
Locked within the tunnels of their home the defenders face the final test of their secret war, the operation in hand consisted of mopping up each and ever single member of the Blockers army. No longer were they allowed, or tolerated to exist openly within the tunnels. Each chamber of the now thriving city had been swept clean of the enemy.
Unexpected as the liquid saviour had been, it had added slightly to the death toll of the city, having caused each of the dead, destroyed Blockers corpses to add to the general mayhem that their attack had left in its wake.
Eons had passed since the attack had first commenced, in which time the defenders had hacked and shifted each individual corpse, these remains they unceremoniously dumped it to the city waste disposal system. Gradually life had returned to normal, their duty done, the defenders of the city returned to their various barracks. Damaged sections of the city complex were being slowly repaired, nearly to their original state.
My life and the facing of it seemed to be less of a threat now, nor is it filled with a deep felt feeling of pointless despair, any longer.
SIX MONTHS IN TO THE FUTURE….
Retirement, blessed retirement. ‘Life’s not so bad!’ he thought, as he debated whether to get up out of the chair in which he had been seated for most of the morning. Alerted by its master’s stirrings, sensing activity lurking within those movements, the four year old German Shepherd dog raised its head up from the floor, taking in its most recent, and kindest master.
“Come on then old thing, let’s be off out for our daily stroll, the one that the doctors insist on.”
Eagerly the dog raced energetically across the comfortable room, to where it knew its lead was kept. Crisp, cool, healthy air greeted man and dog as they passed out through the front door of their moderate semi, into the fresh day. Two miles today, not bad, satisfied with his stroll James decided to fix himself a nice hot cup of coffee, and indulge himself with a relaxing read, for the remainder of the day. Feeling content, the dog flopped itself at its master’s feet and slept. James who had never thought of owning a pet before his heart attack, watched his companion out of the corner of one eye, and marveled at the animal’s capacity to rest.
He remembered the young fresh faced doctor who had patiently explained to him that his life style from that moment onwards must change, as they were sitting in the ward’s day room talking. He remembered the discussion twisting around to exercise, then it had come, the suggestion that had led to his newfound friendship with an animal. ‘Get a dog,’ he had said, ‘it will help, you will see.’ He was right, it had helped, now he had a reason to walk and he had a new type of responsibility.
The animal he had chosen bore a significant resemblance to himself, it to had been dumped harshly upon by life. It to required a reason to live, someone to care for, it had found fulfillment in James, and he in it.
Gone were the stresses and strains of his previous life, although he still thought dearly of his departed wife. Gradually, as time passed, the pain of her going had also diminished, but still he cried even though his entire reasons for living had changed. Even his interests had undertaken a rapid and permanent change of direction. Sometimes he found it hard to understand how he had lived previously; even a simple thing like his dog gave him a deep warm feeling of pleasure these days.
Tired after his daily exercise James felt himself falling asleep, next to him in the bright lounge, untouched, rested his cooling coffee, at his feet twitching in its dreams rested his dog. With a smile flickering across his features James closed his eyes and slept.
All is well, all is normal, rich pure oxygen flows freely throughout the tunnels, passing effortlessly in to the various cities that had need of its life giving energy. Another chapter in the People’s of the Rising’s histories had been lived through, written down and passed in to legend. Other than the odd minor skirmish the defenders rested, they watched and waited for another attack, one that might or might not come. Peace reigned once more.
James heard the resounding click of the front door’s latch as it snapped in to place. Opening his bleary sleep filled eyes he found himself looking in to the familiar eyes of his wife, as she returned home once more from a hard day on her ward.
“Hi darling,” he smiled up at her as she leant over to kiss his forehead. “You know what?” Said James :
“I DIDN’T KNOW THAT ANGELS WORE GLASSES!”