I awoke to the sound of harsh voices, a man and a woman were arguing and I gave it my best to appear asleep as to listen for what they had to say.
‘We can’t keep him hear’ said the man
‘Oh quiet, he’s sleeping, don’t wake him. He looks so peaceful, like a child’ replied the woman,
‘He probably is a child, that stubble on his face is still soft...there isn’t enough food for him anyway—not to last the month at least’
‘Yep. That’s how long they’re saying we have to hold out, or face being poisoned by the radiation’
‘Shit...a month. What are we going to do for a month in this hole? Count matches? Is there no other way out, another passage?’
‘No. It’s just the hatch above’
‘But where will we wash? Where will we...you know, do our business?’
‘In the corner. We won’t wash’
‘Oh that’s fantastic. In the corner, like a bear. Fucking great, Michael. In the fucking corner!’ the woman cut herself off with the breaking of tears and there was a short pause.
‘Oh, come now, Lily’ said the man, ‘we’ll be out before you know it’
‘A month, Michael! You fucking come now. We’re fucked. There isn’t enough food the three of us and if we open that hatch at all then we’ll all be exposed to the radiation’.
‘Well...who says we have to open the hatch?’
‘Who says we have to open the hatch?’
‘What are you suggesting?’
‘I think you know’
‘Why not? There’s a war on, people have to take extra measures to survive’
‘There’s extra measures and then there’s extreme measures. I won’t be part of it. I refuse’
‘So you’d rather die down here?’
‘I would. I’m ashamed of you. Suggesting such a thing. We have to keep our humanity’, there was another pause,
‘Fine, we’ll leave him. What time is it?’
‘I don’t know. We don’t have much battery left on the clock so I turned it off. We should only use it every now and then. Why do you ask?’
‘Mmm, so am I. Should we wake our guest? He’s been out for some time, he must be hungry now as well’
‘Yes, wake him’, and with that I heard a quick shuffle of feet followed by a sharp nudge on my shoulder, ‘Hello? Time to get up’. I rolled over and faced the woman, Lily. She was pretty, which surprised me as her voice held nothing in the way of the impressionable or other emphatic character to it. She had red hair too, that is what I noticed first, deep red hair.
My surroundings were that of a small, dark room, lit by a strange, dim panel on the ceiling, there was the damp smell of sweat and urine in the air. Every sound was deadened by what I have to come to discern as the thick insulation of cement and led that lined the walls of the bunker in which I was situated. To my left stood the man, Michael. He appeared to be taller than myself, and occupied a slouch that seemed to be a more personal habit rather than an adaption to the crowded shelter. It reflected everything about him: his voice which held a gravelly, stifled tone to it, and the way he walked, great elongated strides. He had hair like straw and his eyes, a dim grey that fixed me with a cold, hungry stare whenever they set upon me. His voice was gruff and held a knowing arrogance that seemed to mirror his broad, muscular build. Under Michael’s grey watchful eyes I sat up and felt a draught of dizziness. I steadied myself by gripping the mattress. Lily took a hold of my right hand to comfort me,
‘Is there anything you need?’ she asked, in a caring tone,
‘I’d very much like some water’ I replied. Lily looked silently at Michael, indicating for him to fetch the water; he replied with an indignant scorn and huffed as he turned to fetch the water. Lily gave me a kind smile and I returned a sheepish smile as I looked away. Michael dropped a bottle of water at my feet and turned away without a word to the other side of the bunker. Lily shot a sharp look at Michael, unscrewed the bottle lid for me and placed the bottle carefully in my hands. I smiled and nodded my thanks at her before emptying the bottle. The quick rush of the cool liquid was a great pleasure and I could feel it in my body, swimming around my mouth, trickling down my gullet and landing with a satisfying slosh in my stomach. Lily laughed,
‘Feel better?’ she asked, smiling, I attempted a laugh and nodded to her, ‘My name is Lily’ she added, and then nodded at Michael ‘He’s my brother, Michael. Don’t mind him. He’s just a bit stroppy’ she laughed again. Michael shot her a dirty look to which she rolled her eyes,
‘My name is Thomas’
‘Hi Thomas, welcome to The Bunker’ and she gestured to the ceiling where the hatch was, which had ‘The Bunker’ painted in a crude lettering around it.
‘What happened?’ I asked
‘Oh’ Lily took on a troubled expression and her voice became deeper ‘well I heard the Siren and I looked out the window to see what was going. I saw some black planes fly over head and saw the hospital explode’ I became tense,
‘The hospital was bombed?’ I asked her, disbelieving,
‘Yes...then I saw you being thrown. You must have flown about ten metres before hitting your head on our wall. Then I sent Michael to get you and when he came back in he said that we had to go into The Bunker because of the radiation’
‘Yes’, snapped Michael ‘and you’re welcome, by the way’
‘Right, of course thank you, I didn’t mean’ – Lily interrupted me by placing her hand on my arm,
‘Don’t mind him. Like I told you, he’s a bit stroppy’, and she smiled at me again. I smiled back at her, it was impossible not to, her face cut to a line of beauty that one might not find anything similar to it. So unique I found her. I was instantly besotted by her. ‘Do you remember anything?’, Lily asked. I stuttered and fumbled around words, which made her laugh. ‘Good with words, you aren’t you’ she joked, I laughed again.
‘No, no. I still feel a bit dumbstruck from the...well, the bang’, this was partly true, but I sensed myself becoming increasingly nervous around her, ‘The last thing I remember doing is opening a letter detailing my collection this Saturday’, Lily murmured in agreement,
‘I got one too, so you must be eighteen, yes?’, she asked, I nodded,
‘Yeah’ I looked around The Bunker again, ‘So why do you have this all set up down here?’ I asked. Michael snorted,
‘Well, you see, Thomas’ – he said my name with a snide hiss – ‘it’s in case of a fall out. You know, kind of like what’s happened now’ he fixed me with his cold, grey stare again,
‘Oh stop being so bloody childish, Michael’ Lily fired at him, ‘Sorry, Thomas. I did warn you’
‘It’s okay, but I’m only interested as to how one comes to have a bunker under their house’, I replied, I spoke mainly to Lily and did my best to ignore Michael’s stare,
‘Yes, of course. Well, the whole street got them’
‘One under every house?’
‘Yes, the Rose Party came to power and built these into the cellars of houses on the same street of any important buildings, Town Halls, prisons, courts, police stations, fire stations—hospitals. Do you remember what it was like when they came in? Six years it’s been, hasn’t it?’
‘Six, yes’, I vaguely remember sitting at home watching the News at Ten on BBC—it was the only way I could stay up a bit later—and all I seem to remember is riots and the face Party Leader, Timothy Luxton. I did not remind Lily of this fact, I preferred to let her look proudly around The Bunker in peace. ‘Do you happen to know what time it is?’ I asked aloud to the room and with that Lily picked up a small, silver box and pressed a button,
‘It’s ten o’clock—in the evening’
‘Is it still Friday?’
‘Yes. I suppose we’ll miss our enrolment tomorrow morning’
‘I suppose we will’ I replied absently.
‘Oh gosh!’ Lily exclaimed, she grabbed something to her side and thrust it into my hand, ‘have some chocolate, you must be feeling rough. Chocolate always makes me feel better’
‘I couldn’t’—I started, but Lily held a hand out to stop me,
‘I insist. You’ve had a rough day’
‘That’s the last of our chocolate ration, Lily’ spluttered Michael
‘And you’re wasting it on a stranger!’
‘Well, that’s okay because we have a little while to get to know each other, now that we’re stuck in here for month’ she urged my hand, ‘go ahead, Thomas’ I passed the chocolate back to her,
‘Perhaps it would be better saved for another time’. Lily retreated with her chocolate and placed it carefully on a small wooden table to the side of the camp bed that she was sat upon.
Michael stood by his camp bed on the other side of the room, scowling about the place, his eyes flicked from Lily to the floor then to me and then back to floor again, over and over. Lily walked over to the back wall and picked up two tin cans,
‘What’s it to be, gents?’ she asked us, ‘Tomato or Oxtail?’ she smiled and tilted her head slightly to the side. She was lovely.After a helping of cold Oxtail soup, chosen by Michael, we retired to our beds. I lay awake for some time that night trying to arrange my thoughts. I still could not remember what happened between receiving my letter and waking up in The Bunker, so resigned to staring into the thick black around me. After a while, I heard the tell-tale signs of Michael and Lily falling asleep and strained to filter out Michael’s snoring to focus on Lily’s soft breathing. It helped me drift into sleep.