Tom Bunker – Part One

As I write this I snicker to myself over the absurdity of it. Long have we humans used the written word, and although the point and purpose of it my differ from case to case, the truth of writing is that it be read. As I write this I hope someone may find it one day and still be able to piece together the rough scratchings into words and meaning. In truth I write this to keep that hope alive.

If you are reading this you probably want to know a little about me, or maybe I have been alone for such a long time that even the idea of a fictional introduction is enough to bring a smile to my face. I say fictional to mean an introduction of my true self to someone who does not exist, not to mean I am making up who I am. Though I do find it hard to know who to introduce, for who I am now and who I was before are different people in different extremes.

For the sake of clarity I will only introduce who I am now; so for the sake of good order I must therefore introduce what was before and what is now. I was born into a world ravaged by war. My parents told me of a society the world over, connected in ways they found hard to explain to me at the time. However this was not a joined up world of shared knowledge and freedoms. Rather it was a world of many views, each vying to become the one truth. As my parents told it, when words and bribery no longer worked, each view turned to war.

Taught to me as the Five Day War (for that is how long it took to destroy the world), the truth behind it was much longer. My father once told me the war had been building up over generations, long before he was even born. Tiny tensions had been left to fester and grow, exploited by those on the fringe to grow into cancerous lesions that needed to be removed. He would often talk of the cowardice of his generation in being too afraid to remove what needed to be removed. Always they looked for the peaceful answer, never knowing it would be their children who paid for this cowardice.

My mother of course had a different view. She agreed with the fact the war had been building for generations and even went so far to grudgingly accept that tiny tensions had been left to grow. But where she differed was with the idea of the fringe. The fringe were not a small set of outsiders, but were actually different countries with different values. The problem as my mother saw it was that no country would allow the other to flourish in peace according to their own values. Instead the order of the day was to impose your values on others and lambaste any who followed another path. The issue was not one of cowardice but one of acceptance, or the lack thereof.

Whatever the cause the end result was catastrophic. I never did learn what actually happened, but I do know some of the fallout. My parents lived in a world of sun, almost fresh air and a desire to be inside most days. I was born into a world deep underground, surrounded by stale air and with a desire to just once see the outside world. Of course going outside was impossible. It was reckoned that a healthy individual with a good set of lungs could last twenty seconds outside before having to inhale the air and die shortly thereafter. Sadly it was most likely you would be killed by the Scrappers within ten seconds, red faced and watery eyed.

In my early years I never heard of anyone trying to get outside, and I am pretty sure no one ever made it. I do of course acknowledge that children know very little of what happens around them, and my parents above many others tried to keep me protected from the world we now lived in. So it is of course possible that someone did make it outside before the Incident, but if they did the aftershocks were not so catastrophic.

I was in my early teens at the time of the Incident. A young woman I knew, by the name of Rachel, had become fascinated with art depicting the lush world outside. Of course we all knew those paintings were of a world that did not exist anymore; all except for Rachel. She convinced herself that we were prisoners in our little tunnel, either by choice or by ignorance. To her it mattered little which one was true, only that one was true. The world she told herself was lush and clean outside, and we should be making the most of it!

Free thinking was never really appreciated in out little tunnel. Well, actually, that statement is unfair. Free thinking as it pertained to the solutions of problems was actively encouraged. Free thinking of a disruptive kind, of a kind that would lead to people downing tools and dreaming of a better tomorrow, was often received with a beating and some forced time alone.

Rachel was the receiver of many beatings, many official, some not so much. She also spent years alone, only visited by people who tried to help her see the mad blanket she was wrapping herself in. After many years she was deemed cured and let back into the tunnel. I saw her once after release and I remember so vividly looking into her big green eyes. I expected them to be empty of hope, her passion fire all but doused. What I saw instead was a woman convinced, eyes burning with her won righteous fury. I remember telling my parents and being perplexed when all they did was nod in agreement.

It was only a few days after her being set free that she made her escape. I remember during the fallout people saying she could not have done it alone, and I remember only too well the accusing fingers being pointed towards me accompanied by sharp tongues. Given time I feel sure I would have received a beat down for helping her, even though I never did.

Time it turned out was something we did not have. The Scrappers found her, but they did not kill her. Instead they turned her into one of them, and she brought them back and into the tunnels.

Panic filled the tunnels, fuelled by the smell of blood and the screams of the dying. Connecting tunnels were collapsed in a bid to save a few at the cost of a lot. It was a horrible time to be alive and too young to be in control. I remember seeing my own father collapse a wall onto friends I had known my entire life, all in a bid to save his own skin, and mine and my mothers. I remember how badly that one action sat with me at the time, and yet I believe that me now would do the exact same thing.

Still, the tunnels were compromised. Food was in short supply, the electric feed was down and the heating system was being systematically destroyed. My father would often ponder at the actions of the Scrappers, always fascinated by how they turned Rachel into one. At the time I could not care less, but now that is another obsession I share with my father.

But I digress, and I find the act of living now pulling my attention away from the page. I set out to introduce myself and realise now I have not even stated my name. My name is Tom, and I live alone in a bunker.

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