Sam’s story

This is a short story I wrote in June 2014:

It may be that no-one outside will ever read this. There may not even be anyone outside to read this, but I still feel I should set it down, so here it is. This is my story.

My name is Sam and I am 13 years old. I live with my mother and my father and my 10 year old sister Dizzy in the hut where I was born. It’s quite a nice hut, with two sleeping rooms as well as a separate living room.

My day starts at first light with breakfast, which is usually porridge but occasionally we get a special treat of eggs and toast, or even honey. Then the work begins.

My favourite work is on the farms. There’s always plenty to do, and it’s mostly under the daylight, which is warm and bright. There’s the plants to tend and trim, all green and crisp. We’ve got lettuce, peas and beans, and turnips and carrots that sit under the earth. They all need tendering and watering, and it’s important because it gives us the food we eat. There’s also the bees which live in the hives at the back, against the wall. They buzz and it’s nasty if they sting you, but they’re important because they pollinate the plants and give us honey.

But my favourite is the chickens which cluck at you when they see you and run around like mad things when you collect their eggs. Dizzy and I have given them names like Maisy and Daisy but Mum says we shouldn’t get too fond of them as we’ll be sad when they are killed for feast-day.

There’s also the waterworks, which I’ve been old enough to work on for the past year. It’s important because it gives us all the water we need to drink and wash and bathe, and for the plants which would die without it, but it’s complicated and I don’t understand everything about how it works. It’s not as much fun as the farms, but it is quite something to see the huge tanks that run underground, brimming with water shimmering in the dim light, and the steady drip from the condensers that keep them topped up.

Then there’s the mines. Work in the mines is tough because the rock is hard to dislodge with just a pick-axe and it’s dark with just flickering candlelight to see where you are. But I know that it’s important too. There are two mines now, North and South, and there’s talk of opening up a third mine soon. The North mine is the deepest and the oldest, running nearly 200 paces to the face, deep in the rock. I work in the South mine which is now nearly 100 paces deep, but I don’t work on the actual face for more than a couple of hours at a time as I’m not old enough yet.

About a half-year ago, the rock that we were digging suddenly changed from the usual grey to a pinkish colour. The change was quite abrupt, and everyone got really excited, but now we’re ten paces further on and nothing’s changed, which is why there’s talk of opening up another mine.

After work, and after the evening meal with my family is done, I sometimes sit with my friend Aden under the tree between our huts. We lay back on the grass, looking up at the sky, as the light fades around us, and Aden will tell me about his work.

Aden is older than me, which means he’s old enough to work on the power plant that supplies the electricity, and even climb up into the sky to work on the light itself. It’s dangerous as the sky is hundreds of paces above us, and people have dropped off the ladders and fallen to their death on the earth below. But it’s vital because, without the light, we’d all be plunged into darkness, the plants would die, and then we’d die without any food to eat. Aden is privileged to be trusted with such important work, and he takes it very seriously.

Once he’s told me about his work, Aden will talk to me about the things that the elders are discussing in their meetings, where they make the big decisions that affect us all. The big talk now is about whether to start a third mine, or whether to stick with the two mines we’ve already got. One faction thinks we should concentrate on the South mine, where I work, because the discovery of the pink rock must mean that something is out there, in that direction. Others think we should increase our chances by digging out in as many directions as we can.

It’s a difficult choice, because we’ve really got no idea what’s out there, beyond the rock walls that make up our cavern, and the hundred or so souls that live in it. Some say there could be others like us in other caverns just beyond the reach of our mines, and that one day we’ll burst through into another cavern and meet a whole load of new people. Some even talk about a ‘surface’ with free running water and plants as far as the eye can see, lit by a ‘sun’ that works all by itself, without electricity, and a ‘sky’ that goes on for ever. But others talk about the rock going on for ever and ever in every direction, with no-one out there at all.

Maybe there really is just us, all alone, but I don’t think that can be true. What makes us so special? And how did we get here in the first place? That’s why I’m writing this, because I think one day, even if it’s long after we’re all dead, someone will find our cavern and this letter, and find out who we were and what we tried to do.

Pretty straightforward →