Stories from Refuge – 37 – “My family is still up there, where the sky is.”

(c) Serjio74 | Dreamstime.com

(c) Serjio74 | Dreamstime.com

Refuge: an underground city built to save people from an apocalyptic world. But how will its people save themselves? Read the stories in any order, or start with the introduction at part 1.

Reconciliation Council report B-35, submitted anonymously
RY 100.8.24

I shouldn’t complain, I guess. I’ve had more than anyone else has ever had. I’ve seen the sky.

But my uncle always called me a complainer. —-, he said, you complain too much. Here we are getting out of these tunnels and all you can say is how you’ll miss your friends and you’ll miss your toys and aren’t you too old to be playing with toys anyway?

I almost wrote my name down there. I had to cross it out. I’ll get in trouble. The rest of my family will get in trouble. They’re still up there, where the sky is.

The sky is different than I thought it would be. We had a painting of the sky on the wall in our classroom, when I was little. It was a blue rectangle with white puffy clouds, big green trees that were a lot different from the plants they grow in the hydroponic section. That’s what I thought the sky would look like, a blue rectangle with lots of other bright colors.

I think the teacher got in trouble for putting that painting up, because when I walked by that classroom later, when we were sneaking down the tunnels in Section 19 to get to the hatch that opens up even though everyone says it doesn’t, I looked in the window and I didn’t see that painting anymore.

The real sky doesn’t look like that anyway. It’s huge, it’s all around you, you can’t get away from it. And it’s hot and yellow and dusty, and I never saw any clouds except when the dust storms started and then I had to wrap a scarf around my face and couldn’t look at the clouds anyway. There aren’t any trees, just this weird shrubby stuff that grows close to the ground, full of prickers that scratched me when I tried to touch it.

I was wrong, I guess, about having more than anyone else ever had. People go Aboveground all the time, just not many of them, and they’re not all people. We saw them.

We didn’t plan on seeing anyone up there, we thought we were going to pitch a tent and live on our own, out a ways where no one would look for us. But our tent got blown down and we ran out of water and we had to go look for help. There was a station near this big empty field, all white and crusty, even more awful looking than the sky. There was a little tent and some robots and a Commander. I was scared to death but my uncle said it’s okay, the bots won’t do anything the Commander doesn’t order them to and he won’t even remember that we were here. He took off his helmet and let us have some water and helped us with our tent. And sure enough, the next day when he saw us he asked who we were, because he didn’t remember.

A while later everyone wanted to move on, away from the salt field, away from where anyone could find us. Almost everyone wanted to move on. My cousin started ranting about the air being poisoned, even though she didn’t say anything about it when we were leaving. My uncle said the stories about poisoned air probably weren’t true, but my cousin got scared. I think she was just scared of the sky. When she decided to come back to Refuge I came with her.

I probably missed my friends, but I didn’t go back to see them. They would know I left and they might get me in trouble. My cousin, too. We didn’t go back to our living unit, so I had to forget my old toys. What I missed most of all was the ceilings above my head, solid and dark, pipes running along them and lights shining, white and clear and safe.

©2016 Michelle M. Welch

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