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Five Lies

One Truth

By AphoticPublished about a year ago 14 min read
2
Five Lies
Photo by Pranjall Kumar on Unsplash

~~~The Last Window~~~

The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. Now he is dead in there and she is afraid to even glance toward the door that now hangs permanently ajar.

That was what he had always called the monitor that displayed an image of what lies behind the walls of the shelter. “The last window to the outside world.” He would say.

He watched the screen obsessively, desperate for even the smallest sign of change from the grim nothingness that had become of the old world. He would be in there for hours, talking to someone who wasn’t there.

She had always nagged him about taking her outside to see it for themselves. There had to be other survivors out there somewhere, right?

He would always shut down the idea without a pause. “It’s too dangerous, Anya.” He would say.

Then she would ask, “how do you know if we don’t see for ourselves?” From there, she would get the silent treatment and have no further questions answered. Still, she tried time and time again to get more out of him. It got to a point where he could sense when she was going to ask and shut her down before the words even left her lips.

He stopped letting her look at the monitor when the questions became too much for him, stating that her curiosity would become a liability at best and a death sentence at worst. She had too many questions and questions led to snooping around and snooping around led to an early grave.

Anya had never been outside the bunker. She was conceived and birthed inside, or so she had been told. The only proof she had that there even was a world outside the shelter was that monitor, old and dusty as it was. Probably unreliable, she thought.

Now she stared at the forbidden door that led to that world she’d dreamed about for as long as she could remember. Nobody was there to stop her now if she decided to open it. She could go outside whenever she wanted now, couldn’t she? What did she have to lose anyway?

Anya was no stranger to death by now. Her mother had fallen very ill six months ago. Cancer, her father had called it. It didn’t take long for her to succumb. When she passed, Anya was there to witness it. Her father showed her what to do in case the same ever happened to him.

She thought about the incinerator in the other room. She would have to somehow get his body into it and turn it on without any help. She couldn’t even bring herself to look at him, let alone drag his corpse to the furnace and watch it go up in flames. At least he wouldn’t be heavy. He had grown frail over the past six months since the death of Anya’s mother. He scarcely ate, even more scarcely spoke, and barely slept. He just hunched over that damned monitor all day long, fiddling with a radio and scrawling frantically in his journal like a madman.

There wasn’t much food left in storage. Maybe enough to last another year if Anya rationed it right. Her parents would reminisce longingly all the time about the luxuries of the old world that she had never gotten to experience. She was grateful that she had nothing to miss, but also burning with an insatiable curiosity of what was behind the door.

She glanced at the other forbidden door, the one to her father’s room and saw him slumped awkwardly in the chair, arms limp at his side. She quickly looked away again, wishing she hadn’t given into her curiosity. She would have to face him eventually, but for now there was another task—one that she actually looked forward to.

She would open the door to the outside.

~~~Outerworld~~~

It took Anya a long time to weigh her options. She could take care of her father’s body and give him a proper send-off, or she could distract herself from her grief and finally see the outside for herself. She had thought a lot about the things her parents had told her about the old world, but she eventually gave in to her strong desire to see it all for herself. She had been cooped up inside the bunker since birth and desperately longed for a change of scenery. Plus, she didn’t want to stay inside where her father’s lifeless body was any longer.

There were many locks on the door, but none of them required a key from the inside. Anya’s parents had trusted her enough. She took a deep breath and a moment to prepare before she finally jerked open the door, revealing the outside world she could only dream and read about before.

She stumbled backward, immediately blinded. It took a while for her eyes to adjust to the light, but when they did, she was awestricken.

What had appeared on the monitor to be nothing but barren red wasteland as far as the eyes could see, was an endless sea of beautiful green. What the screen depicted as bare grey stumps were lush, leafy trees. In the last window to the outside world, the skies had been darkened by thick, black clouds. That was not the case at all as she marveled at the rich, cloudless blue sky. She inhaled a deep breath and couldn’t help but laugh from the beauty of it.

At first, she was burdened with confusion. Then anger. All that time spent locked away in that bunker, wasting. Why had her parents lied to her? Did they even know? Why had her father been so eager to shut her down whenever she brought up leaving the shelter? She felt betrayed completely.

She let her anger melt away as she felt the heat of the star on her skin. She rolled in the plush grass and delighted in breathing in the fresh air. She became overjoyed when she spotted a fruit-bearing tree nearby. Magnus fruit, she had learned from one of the books in the bunker’s library. Most of her time had been spent reading over the years to the point where she read every book in the place at least twice. One of her favorite books to study was the Forager’s Guide, which had almost every known plant listed with a description.

Magnus fruit was oval and bright pink when at full ripeness. It was described as a sweet and juicy fruit. She had always wondered what it would be like to have fresh fruit. Now she could know. She hurried to the tree and began picking the ripe fruits. When she had amassed a decent pile, she sat against the tree’s trunk and bit into the first fruit. It was the greatest thing she had ever tasted. A flavor she could never imagine in her best dreams. Before long, she had eaten more than her fill of the fruit to the point that her stomach began to ache.

The ache reminded her of what she had left in the bunker. As angry as she was at her father, she at least owed him the decency of a proper send-off. With a full belly and the warmth of the star in the sky on her skin, Anya drifted off to sleep.

She jolted awake with a start when something came thumping down on her head. She felt the sight of impact with he hand and felt a sliminess. Startled, she pulled her hand back to examine it. When she spread her fingers, the slime stretched between them. She gasped when she looked at the ground and saw that the Magnus fruit had gone sour. She turned to examine the tree to see that it had begun to rot. She heard another thud and whipped her head in the direction of it. Another fruit had fallen, its stem coming loose from the rot that was softening the fruit’s flesh.

She looked to where she had been sitting on the ground and all the grass had gone brown. Horrified, she ran back to the bunker and shut the door, locking it behind her. Perhaps her parents were right after all. It wasn’t safe out there.

~~~The Letter~~~

A while later, after Anya had calmed down from her adventure outside, she decided it was time to face her bleak reality. There really was something wrong with the world outside and she only had the provisions to last another year. What then?

Holding her breath, Anya stepped into her father’s room. The monitor still displayed the constant feed of a barren wasteland. A false image, she knew now.

She draped her father’s jacket over his face so that she didn’t have to see it as she dragged him to the incinerator. She was right about him not being that heavy. He had let himself go, withering away like a dying flower. What a horrible way to die, she thought. She kept her eyes squeezed shut as she carried him to the incinerator and slid him inside it. She could navigate every inch of the place with her eyes closed.

Once he was inside, she opened her eyes and removed the jacket from his face. “I’m sorry papa,” she said with a quivering voice. Tears leaked from her eyes, blurring her vision. As she wiped them away, she noticed something in her father’s stiff hand. She had to climb partway into the furnace to grab it. It was a folded note with her name on it. Her heart sank. She was terrified to read it, but as usual, her curiosity prevailed. She unfolded the letter.

Anya, I have been lying to you.

Since you were a babe, you have been made to believe that you were born inside of this bunker. That was the first lie.

You were born in a city called Dolten, far away from here, and though I love you as my own daughter; that was the second lie.

Your real parents were refugees. They, along with many others of your ilk took up residence in Dolten to escape the Cleansing. Your parents were killed on sight during a sweep of the city, along with all others that shared your likeness. The orders were to leave none alive. Your mother and I—your adoptive parents—discovered you in the floorboards of one of the houses on our second sweep.

You were crying from beneath them, which was what gave away your position. You were so small swaddled in your blanket. You looked so innocent. I made the mistake of calling in my discovery to request further instruction. I was given the order to end your life. “Leave none alive.” The woman you have known as your mother for all these years walked in then. She had heard me making the call from the other room and came to investigate the situation. When she saw you, she lowered her gun. I saw something change in her face that confirmed everything. We understood each other.

We abandoned our mission and stole you away, something that would guarantee a death sentence if we were ever found. We brought you here to this long forgotten military bunker and raised you as our own. It wasn’t long before your mother began showing symptoms. What she had—what I have—it eats our bodies from the inside out, our cells devouring each other until we become hollow shells. Our bodies become our own worst enemies and then we die. This was the third lie.

Your mother didn’t die of cancer nor is that the thing that will soon take me. There is a plague called Rotlif Disease. It was brought here by your people many years ago. At first, we thought we could find a cure and live in harmony together, but things went from bad to abominable rather quickly. Soon, we learned that there is only one cure to the disease. To eradicate every last carrier from the world, by any means necessary. That is why your parents were killed. They were carriers Anya. Which brings me to the fourth lie.

If you are reading this, then you probably have already discovered this by now. You were always so curious, asking so many questions that I never knew how to answer. How do you explain such things to a child? I suppose it’s easier when you don’t have to see their disappointment. The monitor in my room is not connected to a feed outside this bunker. It is a live image of your home planet. Your kind came here seeking refuge from the home that they destroyed long before you were born. It is not your fault that they carelessly brought their plague to this planet. It is not your fault that your kind poisoned us with their very presence. You are a victim too, Anya, forced to live a life in secrecy and captivity. All because your ancestors made poor choices. You are not responsible for their actions. But this brings me sorrowfully to the fifth lie.

We made you to believe that we could not go outside because the world was dangerous for us. As you know now, the world outside is beautiful. You cannot go outside because you are dangerous to the world. You are the carrier, Anya. It was you that gave the disease to your mother and I. If you go out there, you are condemning my people to suffer the same fate. But we were willing to suffer for you. Our people will not. They will kill you on sight.

We have been isolated here for years now, Anya. We have lied to you, tricked you into believing things that were not true, let you believe that you were our daughter, and forced you to live in isolation, ignorant to your true heritage. Sometimes I wondered if we did you a disservice by sparing your life. Other times I’m appalled with myself for even wondering that. Please understand that this was what we believed to be for your own good.

This is not how I wanted things to end. I tried to save you, but in the end I failed. I tried to find a cure, but there is not one. I’ve stopped eating so that you can continue my research after I am gone. You may live another two years or so with what provisions are left if you use them sparingly. If you leave, please do not go near my people. For your safety and theirs.I have been trying to make contact for years, but I have not been able to reach any of your kind. If you are reading this, then I have failed my mission.

While I do understand that you are not to blame for the actions of your ancestors, their blood is still in your veins and it carries with it a death sentence for our kind. Your ancestors should have never come here. It is they who have condemned you, not my people. We have only done what was necessary for the survival of our species. Your ancestors did what was necessary for the extinction of yours. That is why your home planet is dead. That is why there are no signs of life on the monitor. We gave your people a chance to leave our planet, but they insisted on staying despite our best efforts to make them leave peacefully. The only way to keep our planet from the same fate as yours was to eliminate the threat.

I have no regrets for saving your life Anya—my daughter—even if it cost me my own. I have left instructions next to the monitor for operating both it and the radio. I do hope that you find success where I have failed. I hope you can reach your people and find a home where you can flourish. Or even a cure for the Rotlif. I hope your kind has learned from their mistakes and can become a more caring, careful species in the future—if you are not the last.

Though there have been many lies told within these walls, there Is one thing that will always be true no matter what. I love you, Anya.

By the time she finished reading, there were tears and snot streaming down Anya’s face. It was a lot to take in. She was sure that the overwhelming compilation of different emotions would physically crush her at any moment. The last two lines she read over and over. There were several wet spots on the page from where her teardrops landed like a soft rain. She folded the sodden piece of paper, torn from her father’s journal, and shoved it into her pocket. She shut the door to the furnace and pulled the lever. She heard the whoosh of the burners and walked away as they did what they were built to do.

In a daze, Anya walked to her father’s room where the monitor still displayed that hideous image. She sat down and watched as the wind blew dust across the barren wasteland. In the bottom left was what she assumed was the date and a single word. Earth.

She reviewed the instructions her father had left for her and moved the microphone stand close to the edge of the desk. She fiddled with the dials according to the diagram, then pressed the push-to-talk button as instructed and moved her mouth close to the speaker. “This is Anya Stenov. I am an Earthen refugee trapped on Nima. Please, if anyone is out there, respond now.” She drew in a deep breath, released the button, and waited.

Short StorySci Fi
2

About the Creator

Aphotic

Horror|Sci-Fi|Fantasy|Poetry

Instagram🌅

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (2)

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  • J. S. Wadeabout a year ago

    Spectacular! You got me. I was trying to figure out what planet she was from, then boom. Perfect stroke. Earth. I enjoyed reading. Hope others do. Are you in a FB vocal group? If not, I’d loved to share this in one of several I’m in with your okay. 🥰

  • Tanya Collingsabout a year ago

    I love the unexpected twist. Your writing is a joy to read!

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