The World Within Us

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"There are only two possibilities: yes or no."

I remove my hands from the lever, turning to Alice, who has placed her hands back into her pockets, her twin lever cold and untouched while she stares morosely at the giant steel door.

"To open the door or not to open the door. If we open it, we might die right away from radiation poisoning if the radiation isn't gone. If we don't..."

Exhaling slowly, I sink to the ground closing my eyes, trying to imagine what the world outside might be like now.

At the time of the apocalypse, we were a small team of scientists experimenting with sustainable enclosed living systems in an old laboratory in an underground bunker, our government funding barely approved each year, but somehow we scraped through. To save money and time, we moved our families in with us.

When bombs from the unexpected war pummelled the ground above us, we held our children, stunned and grateful to still be alive. And while everything outside was surely destroyed, our system survived, sustaining us as we went along with the lives we've always led since we moved underground.

Our cycling system adapts to the number of people and animals in the bunker. Each existence--every movement, every excretion, every exhalation—powers it, fuelling the lights which help our fruits and vegetables grow, sustain our chickens, and keep our water and air recyclers working. Any additional power generated is stored for backup. We are alive and well.

Yet those of us who have lived in the world outside before the war often long for the warmth of the sun, the feel of grass beneath our feet, the expanse of open fields, and the cool morning breeze of a new day coming.

When do we go out to reclaim and rebuild it? Do we do it now while we are still young and strong? Or enjoy this safe and encapsulated world we have built till a critical part of our machinery breaks and that decision is made for us, just as it was, for the world outside? More importantly, is there still a world outside, or is it gone? We will only know when we open the door.

"We have to stop doing this," Alice says.

"I know." I take her hand and she pulls me up to my feet.

Jade runs toward me with her latest painting. It is a colourful landscape of a world she has never seen—red skies, an expanse of blue and green with tall black-stemmed trees and pink and purple leaves so thick and magnificent, they reach the sky.

"Look, Mama!" she says. "Come and see!"

I follow her to the children's play room. Jade places her painting facedown on the scan box and in a second, the whole room is transformed into her painting.

Alice watches from the door, her face lit with joy and marvel. Her eyes meet mine and we nod to each other. It has been decided.

About the Author: 
Christina Sng is a poet, writer, and artist. Her flash fiction has appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Grievous Angel, and New Myths. She is the author of Elgin nominee, An Assortment of Sky Things, Astropoetry, and A Collection of Nightmares. Visit her at http://christinasng.com.