The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. Although I had only known her father for a short time before she was born, I had grown to love him as a brother and felt similar affection as if she were my niece. Annetta was one of 10 kids born inside the bunker, the majority of us had not been outside in 11 years, the man we called “Captain” was the only one who was given access to the main gate. He had a single window inside his office, as if he were rapunzel stuck in a tower he used this window to retrieve information and supplies from his contact in the Community.
Almost 12 years ago my sister Emily and I were escaping the new world order when we ran into Michael and his brother Scott. After escaping together we stumbled upon a sheet of paper, instructing us to head to a warehouse, if we made it inside we would be promised a new life. Although hesitant at first, we made our way to the warehouse, and upon entering we quickly heard the sounds of laughter and cheerful banter. People were alive, they were happy. We made our way down a long hall when a large cat-like creature appeared and pushed Michael and me away.
“Katie!” “Michael!” Our siblings screamed for us, but they were stopped by an unknown man, he quickly pulled them into a room, stating there was nothing to be done. The cat pushed us outside and I feared it would try to attack, but once we were off the premises it let us be and went back inside. I wanted to curl on the ground and cry, but Michael grabbed me and pulled me back towards the hilltop.
“We can’t stay here!” He screamed, “That man said we wouldn’t be allowed inside, but there could be soldiers around here waiting to kill us. If we keep moving we may be able to find another way.” I stumbled behind him as we made our way back to the woods, we hadn’t seen anyone since we left his hometown over a month prior. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since the soldiers began attacking, but I hadn’t seen any fires or mutated creatures for some time, so I felt we were safe for the time being.
Michael and I trudged on for another six months, we survived by staying close to streams, how lucky I was to be traveling with a former military brat. Although growing up Michael didn’t appreciate the tactics that his father used, he was thankful for the skills he now had. It was only because of his knowledge that we were able to identify edible foliage and berries, and while I didn’t trust any animal at first, we never got sick from the animals that he caught. It seemed the new power wouldn’t let their mutants run entirely wild, if we saw a flying wolf or a large echidna, we could be sure there was a soldier nearby. Any other animal would have been created by nature, not in a lab.
As we made our way into a new town, a piece of paper floating in the wind caught my eye. I grabbed it before it could flutter away.
“Michael! Look at this! ‘If you are reading this, you clearly have a knack for survival. If you think you have what it takes to live in this new world and contribute to our new society, head to the Holton warehouse, and inside you will find a group of us waiting. If you can make it inside you will find food, water, beds, and showers, do not fear if no one is there, we pick up survivors once a week and will be there soon. If you can make it onto the bus, you will be able to live out your days in a new Community, free from harm.’ It’s another warehouse! Maybe we can get inside this time!”
Michael looked apprehensive, “We could try…but I don’t even know where we are. I’ve never heard of Holton, at least the last one gave us a direction to walk in, and we don’t know how far this paper has flown.”
“I understand…but we have to try. We know now that the cats won’t kill us, maybe it didn’t let us inside last time because there were four of us! If we walk in just us two, we may have a better chance!” We hadn’t seen a creature for some time, and the fires seemed to have stopped. It was possible there weren’t any more soldiers looking for survivors.
“Katie…what will we do if we can’t get in?” He asked.
“We’ll keep moving! We’re alive because of you, we’ll find a way to keep surviving.”
He rubbed the back of his neck as he stared down, “Katie, I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I’m 21 and you’re what, 18?”
“How long do we do this? How long do we keep walking along these roads? My survival skills can only get us so far, do you honestly think we can survive another 60-80 years like this? If we were older, if we were closer to 60, I’d say sure who cares if we live out our days on the run…but will we even make it to 30 like this?”
“The boy’s right.” A man appeared from behind a building. He looked about 50 and had a military-like build, even his clothes seemed to show he was ready for combat.
Michael quickly pulled me behind him, “Are you a soldier?” He asked.
“Of sorts,” the man pulled off his hat and walked closer, “but not the kind you’re thinking of.” He gave us a crooked smile and extended his hand, “I’m Thomas, but you can call me ‘Captain’.”
Captain explained that although the Holton warehouse was nearby, there was no way we would be able to get in. “The cats turned you away once, that means you’re unworthy.”
“Unworthy?” I wriggled my way out from behind Michael.
“These…new soldiers. The madmen who created these mutant creatures, although I am not sure what kind of humanity they are creating, I know they’re looking to breed. The cats they keep at the warehouses are designed to sniff out ‘bad blood.’ It could be something as simple as having a vitamin deficiency, or as big as cancer, if the cat turned you away it’s because your body isn’t as perfect as it could be. And that note about ‘free from harm?’ It’s a lie, if you disobey or try to flee, you’ll be killed.”
“...You said they’re looking to breed. Meaning Scott and Emily, they’ll be forced to have children, children who are in peak condition.” Michael looked horrified. Scott would be lucky to have kids with Emily…but if she were forced…I’d kill him myself.
“You’ve got the right idea kid, but we can’t keep standing around like this. Although they’ve eliminated or gathered most of the people in the area, they still do random patrols for stragglers like you. Not to sound cliche, but, come with me if you want to live.”
Captain turned around without waiting for our reply, feeling a little numb I mindlessly followed him. Michael was right, we couldn’t keep surviving like this, so who cared if this man killed us?
Captain brought us to a military bunker that was mostly hidden underground, his office was the only visible piece, camouflaged as a small shack with a single window, but no door to the outside.
“Those wackjobs aren’t the only ones who have scientific advancements. The bunkers of the past were only meant to last five years, this one can get us 15. We have bunkers throughout the country and spies placed within each ‘Community,’ that’s what they’re calling the place they took your siblings.” Captain continued to explain as we made our way through the tunnels. “We’ve managed to create an electric field that when activated, covers everything within a mile radius. We’re not sure how long this will keep us safe, but for now, we seemed to have gone unnoticed, and none of the other bunkers have complained so far. The only problem is, it needs to be deactivated anytime I go out to look for survivors.”
Inside the bunker were 50 other people, some had tried to enter the warehouse but were turned away, others had run into Captain before they ever knew about the warehouses. The bunker was powered by geothermal energy which allowed us to have a greenhouse, have a constant flow of air, and maintain a refrigerated unit. We learned that there were Communities around the country, all looking to create a new human race, there was talk that any children born within these Communities would be subjected to experiments to further their agenda.
Captain assured us that we would be free before the bunker became unlivable. He had his own spy in the closest Community who throughout the years would bring us the latest information and some new supplies. After a few short months Michael fell in love with a woman named Malinda, she helped him maintain his sanity, but it didn’t last long. Malinda became pregnant rather quickly, and while Michael was over the moon, Malinda didn’t survive childbirth.
He spiraled into a depression, leaving me and a new mother named Casey, to care for his daughter. Captain took Michael under his care and trained him to use the radios used to connect to other bunkers, and to activate and deactivate the electrical field whenever Captain had to leave. It wasn’t until Annetta had started cutting her first tooth, that Michael finally remembered he was a father, and that this beautiful child was the only thing remaining of Malinda.
As years went by Captain stopped going outside, and his spy came less frequently. The Community rulers stopped sending buses to warehouses, and would only send out soldiers twice a year to check for survivors and enemies. Michael began bringing Annetta with him to Captain’s office, letting her get small glimpses of the outside world. As we reached our 11th year within the bunker, we began to feel the reality of what was soon to come. Within just a few years we would have to make a decision, live out our days until there was no more oxygen, or take our chances with the outside world.
“Auntie Katie,” Annetta shook me awake as I spaced out on the ceiling.
“Yes my dear, how can I help you?” I gave her a quick squeeze and a kiss on the forehead.
“Daddy’s been nervous lately.”
“What do you mean?”
“He said for my 9th birthday he wanted to give me something big. Something more than just an extra helping at dinner.” Annetta leaned in close and whispered in my ear, “he wants to go outside.”
My eyes widened, “Well, that’s an awfully big present. Did Captain say it was okay?”
She bobbed her head up and down, “Captain said it was time for all of us to go outside. Mr. Charles will be coming soon to tell us what to do.”
“Who’s Mr. Charles?”
“He’s the man that brings us extra food.”
The spy. He still brought us meat twice a year, but only Captain and Michael had seen his face.
“Daddy said Mr. Charles will be coming inside, but he’s nervous.”
“Don’t worry Annetta, your dad and Captain know what they are doing. I am sure everything will be alright.”
A few weeks passed until it was finally time for the spy to arrive. We had a week left until Annetta’s birthday, if the plan really was to go outside on that day, we didn’t have much time to prepare. As far as I knew, Michael and Captain had not told anyone of this plan, how could we prepare everyone in such a short time?
As we sat in the communal hall for dinner, Captain, Michael, and a cloaked man burst through the doors.
“Attention!” Captain called, “After more than 10 years living in this bunker, it is time to be set free! Today I have with me my closest confidant, and a spy within the Holton Community.” Captain stepped aside and let the cloaked man come forward.
He pulled down his hood and showed the face of a 40-year-old man. He was clearly trained for the military, but he was dressed as one of the mutant handlers I had seen many years ago. “My name is Charles Heberon, Thomas and I have been working together since I was 18. After just a couple of years of being in the military, it became clear that something was going on. Certain soldiers were having secret meetings, and more labs began popping up in various locations. I was able to infiltrate this group and began monitoring their movements. For a decade they created mutant creatures and created a plan for a new world. Their goal is to create a superior race, they have already begun to experiment on humans. Almost 12 years ago they set their plan into motion, starting with the U.S., now that they feel they have full control of the country they are going to move on to the world.”
The hall suddenly filled with panic. Parents clutched their children, I saw fear in everyone’s eyes as we began to wonder what this meant for us. Annetta ran over to her father, pushing past Charles and Captain.
“Daddy, what does this mean?”
Michael smiled down at his daughter and pulled her in close. He swiftly stood back up and stepped forward, “Everyone, please remain calm. I know this sounds scary, but Charles has a plan.” He nodded and motioned for the spy to continue.
“I understand your fears, but this is the moment we have been waiting for. Those in charge feel they have everyone under their control now. Before they set out their plan here, they sent soldiers to various countries. They have been waiting this whole time for the next phase. They will need to fly into these countries undetected, and they will need to take down each country’s government before they can take over the citizens. Due to this, they will be taking 90% of their animals, and a large portion of their soldiers and handlers with them.”
“But what about the other 10%?!” Someone yelled out.
“We have spies throughout the country, they will be able to control the animals that we have here.”
“Why now! Why fight back now! Why didn’t you save us before, my family is dead! I watched as my mother burned alive! Why did it take you so long to do something!” Casey was on her feet screaming, tears rushing down her face.
“I understand your confusion, and you’re right to be upset. However, at the time they outnumbered us. Over the last 10 years we have been gaining more soldiers on our side, and have continued to make our own scientific advancements.” Charles pulled a small mouse from his coat pocket, “This is a venomous mouse. It has been mutated to move faster than the human eye can move, we have thousands of these, more than the soldiers who will be left behind. This is just one of many of our creations. If need be we can also use these mice on the mutated creatures, one bite from this mouse is enough to take down 30 elephants.”
Mothers held their children close, pulling their feet off the ground.
Captain stepped forward, “Do not fear! These mice will only attack those we command it to. We need to move quickly, Charles and the others will start by taking down the soldiers within each Community. The ring leaders have already set out for their destinations, that is why Charles has come to us today.”
“The Communities are no longer what they once were! Everyone who lives within one will be guaranteed safety.” I took a quick glance at Michael, he nodded with a smile, Emily. “Those who are within the Community are those who are still struggling to adjust, or have not shown to be useful in the outside world. We will free them as soon as we can, our issue lies with those who have left. About two years ago, every Community started releasing families, giving them new homes and developing towns. Their plan was to never keep them within the Community, their ultimate goal is to return to life as normal, just with a ‘new and improved’ civilization. The soldiers who guard these towns will be next, however, we cannot guarantee that they were always soldiers. Some of these individuals may have become a soldier after being recruited, we will not be able to tell who is and is not on our side. Therefore, all soldiers will be killed, without question.”
My heart suddenly dropped, there was no way my sister had become a soldier. But what about Scott? What about the family members of those who live in the bunkers?
“After we are finished with the soldiers, we will move on to the townspeople. We will give them a chance to explain their situation. If they have left the Community there is a possibility they will not give up their loyalty, or perhaps they will fear the consequences if we do not win. There is also the chance that some of these families only did what they had to to survive, and will willingly join our side. Until we know, however, each family will be locked away.”
“What about my sister!” I screamed out, “My sister, there’s no way she would join their side. Please, if you find her, let me meet with her first. If she’s outside of the Community, let me speak to her. Please, if she knows I’m alive, she’ll come to our side.”
I knelt on the floor and began to weep. “Katie,” Michael walked over and wrapped his arms around me, “I’ve already talked to Charles, we need to leave right away.” I jolted up and clung to him, I looked back and forth between the men.
“Michael is right,” Charles said, “He told me the warehouse your siblings went to, I have spoken with my contact at their Community. Scott and Emily are part of the townspeople, Scott is set to be the new mayor, Emily is in charge of the town’s finances. If you want to be there when our soldiers move in, you have to leave right away. Michael has assured me they only took these positions to stay alive, but if they show any hostility, we will not hesitate to execute them.”
“My sister is not the enemy, I will prove it to you.”
Michael and I left with Charles after Captain set forth the plan for everyone else. Everyone would remain in the bunker until the closest town had been cleared. When we finally left the bunker I nearly collapsed, the are around us had become overgrown, the sun beat down on my face, and fir the first time in over a decade, I was able to breathe in fresh air.
Michael and I were given a self-driving vehicle, and a soldier to protect us. He put the town in which our siblings were staying and the vehicle sped off without further instruction. We were told to be on the lookout for those dressed in black and red, as they were the enemy, anyone wearing gold or blue was on our side. Within two days we had reached Newton, we passed many Community soldiers on the way, their bodies laid out along the road. A few of the bulletproof lions had also fallen victim to the mice, but most of the mutated creatures seemed to be under the spies’ control. As we reached the center of the town, the vehicle came to an abrupt stop.
“Lieutenant Smith, I am here to escort your guests.” A man dressed in a blue uniform approached us as soon as we opened the vehicle doors. “I have soldiers blocking the mayor and his family from leaving.” Family. “We have been given orders not to take them into custody until a Mr. Michael, and Ms. Katie has spoken with them.”
“Excuse me?” I squeaked, “Are you saying Scott and Emily are together?”
The soldier looked confused, “Of course. We have locked the entire family inside, they are unharmed.” There’s that word again, family.
The soldier motioned for us to follow him, and brought us to a large home, one I could never have even dreamed of living in. The men guarding the house stepped aside and unlocked the chained door. As one of the guards pushed the door open, a burly man came rushing over.
“How dare you lo-” The man started screaming in the guards face, but quickly stopped as he turned to me and Michael.
“Scott?” Michael whispered.
“Michael? Michael? Michael! Emily! It’s Michael!” Scott had clearly aged, you could see his time in the Community had worn him down. He seemed too stunned to know what to do, his rage at the guard had subsided, and while he was excited for just a moment, he quickly dropped to his knees and began to sob. Michael rushed over to his brother and cried with him. Neither were able to get a word out, they simply sobbed into each other’s arms.
“What’s wrong? What do you mean Michael?” A woman stepped through the door, a baby boy on her hip.
“Emily?” I gasped. Her eyes darted to me, without a word my sister passed the child over to a guard and pulled me in close, crying into my shoulder. Her breath was ragged, and her wails began to drown out the noise around me. She never said a word, she just cried until she finally collapsed. I had grown so numb, I wasn’t even sure how to react.
My sister. She was alive, and a mother.
“Take her inside and fetch her some water,” a guard commanded.
Two soldiers quickly carried her into the house, Scott took the child that Emily had passed off and ushered us inside. I watched as the guards laid her down on a couch, and three children quickly ran over.
“Mommy!” The little girl yelled, “Daddy what happened to her?”
Scott placed his hand on her head and brushed her hair back, “She’s alright Katie, she was just overwhelmed.” Katie. Scott turned to us and ushered the children in front of him. “I would like to intro-”
“Wait!” Michael yelled, “Before you go any further I need you to know that I too have a child. Her name is Annetta, her mother is already dead, I do not want anyone else in her life to die. If you would like to meet her…I need you to promise these guards you are on our side.” Michaels face was red, and he looked nervous as he awaited his brother’s answer.
Scott sighed and turned to the nearest guard, “My wife and I”
“Wife?!” I exclaimed.
“Yes…wife. We have done what we can to stay alive, if you can guarantee our safety, we will follow your lead.”
The guard nodded and turned towards the door, “I will report back to command, you may carry on with your reunion.”
Michael began to weep again as the realization that our siblings would be safe finally set in
“Brother please, we will have all the time in the world for tears. For now, let me introduce you to your niece and nephews. This little one is Tyler, he is eight-months old, Katie here is five, James is seven, and Michael is nine.”
“Annetta! Annetta is nine as well,” Michael beamed.
“Well then,” Scott smiled, “I’m sure they’ll go from cousins to best friends in no time.”
Emily awoke a few hours later, little Katie was obsessed over the fact that we had the same name. Every time Emily would look at the two of us playing, she would tear up. I was okay with seeing her cry, but I could do without her constantly pinching me.
“I just need to see if you’re real!” She would yell.
After about two weeks, Captain brought Annetta to us and then began another round of constant crying, although it mainly came from Scott and Tyler. We spent as much time relaxing as we could, all while knowing that soon the new order would hear of this mutiny, and would return to fight for control.
“We will win,” Captain assured me.
We will win.
To read the first part of this story featuring Scott and Emily, click here: https://vocal.media/fiction/the-community-heax1t0xcp