Ground Under

I’ll be honest. I’m not really sure where this story came from or why it seems to hearken so much to Of Mice and Men.

Whatever this case, this is your weekly dose of the 500 Club. The prompt I chose was simple. “Write a story involving an occurrence underground.”

Hope you enjoy it.

ground under

Lexi whipped her head around and glared at Clyde from over her shoulder. “Shut up,” she said in a harsh whisper. “Now.”

Clyde wasn’t bright. He kicked at the ground, his boot connecting with a loose rock that went skittering down the tunnel. It bounded off the walls and eventually hit a ventilation shaft, clanging loudly for anyone in the sector to hear. Lexi tensed and turned to face him.

“Clyde.” Hard pause. He smiled and looked at her face. “Clyde, sweetie, I’m trying to keep us safe. You know we’re hiding right now, right?” Clyde continued to smile, his eyes glazed over. “Clyde!” she whisper-screamed. He looked her in the eyes and nodded.

“Okay, then listen to me. If the patrols hear us, if they find us in the tunnels this far away from the plant, they’ll know we’re trying to get away. You understand? They’re not going to buy that we’re with maintenance or one of the work crews. They’ll run a scan on us–” she tapped the barcode tattooed on her wrist, “–and they will know. Do you understand?”

Clyde nodded, but Lexi could tell. “It means,” she continued, “that they’ll put me in one place and you in another. I won’t be able to be with you.”

A single, heavy tear traced the outline of Clyde’s cheek. “No,” he whimpered.

Lexi wiped the tear gently, her rough hands barely touching his face. “It won’t be that way–if you can keep quiet. Okay?”

Clyde sniffed.

“Let’s keep going. Remember to be quiet. Don’t kick anything.”

The tunnel stretched 3 miles to the east, about 50 meters underground, and then turned north and began to slope up. Lexi was hoping that the first outlet they came to would be so far out, so forgotten, that it would be easy to break the lock and slip out. She didn’t have any tools with her, but she was confident in her intelligence and her brother’s raw strength.

She guessed they had been hiking for more than 6 miles when they found an outlet. The smell tipped her off–a slight breeze and clean air. Not like the air in the tunnels or at the plant. Not like the air in the barracks. Night air. Cool, crisp and clean.

She found, to her surprise, that the gate wasn’t even locked. She swung it open and lead Clyde out into the moonlight. It was the first time she’d seen the moon in 7 years.

She saw the warden, too. He was leaning against a tree with ten or fifteen men flanking him. He smiled.

“You made good time,” he said.

She squeezed Clyde’s hand and felt him begin to shake. He knew the score. He wasn’t that dumb.

“I didn’t make no noise,” he said. “I didn’t kick nothing.”

Lexi turned to look at him and smiled. “No, you didn’t, sweetheart. You did good.” She cupped his cheek in one hand and kissed his forehead.

Then the warden’s men began to walk forward.