Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Community - free short stories

Joe Saxton, while looking for his birth certificate in his mother’s attic, had found a rather strange map. The paper had started to yellow showing its age. Joe figured it was probably made in the early 50’s based on its appearance. There was not very much to go by on the map; only a few scribbled notes near some of the landmarks. He sat down and examined the map closer wondering what was at the ‘x’ in the center. Joe smiled wildly as thoughts of a gold filled chest raced through his mind. Then, of course, reality set in. Joe reasoned that since the map wasn’t really hundreds of years old, it was probably not a map to an old pirate chest. However, curiosity over the mysterious ‘x’ had hooked Joe. He decided that he would just have to find the ‘x’ and uncover whatever it held. Unfortunately, none of the markings on the map looked even remotely familiar. He showed the map to his old wrinkled mother. She was unable to see the map clearly because her eyes were failing quite fast. Her old jumbled memory could not recall any map being in her attic. Joe’s father had died last year so it was not possible to ask him of the map. Joe called his sister — no luck, she did not remember any map either. Fortunately, it was Saturday, and Joe had a bit of time to kill. Perhaps the local library would have some information on the markings. Joe jumped in his jeep and jetted to the library eager to find out where the map led. He had no idea where to start so he showed the map to the old lady behind the counter and explained where he found it. She studied the markings for a minute and then said she knew what one of them meant. Joe’s face lit up with excitement as the librarian explained that the mark she recognized was an old mill that was about ten miles North of town. It was just enough infomiation to go off After a quick trip to the hardware store to pick up a compass and a shovel, Joe was on his way to find the mill. He had written down directions from the librarian and figured he would flid the rest of the landmarks as he went. Within fifteen minutes, Joe had found the old abandoned mUL It was nestled in the woods with a small creek rumiing next to it. Joe pulled over and found a shady spot to park his jeep. His excitement began to peak when he looked around and found another landmark. This time it was a rather large rock that had a particular shape. It was drawn on the map exactly the way it appeared embedded in the ground. With the two landmarks, Joe was able to get his bearings and orientated his direction. The distance between the two landmarks gave Joe an idea that he was fairly close to the ‘x’ on the map. He grabbed his shovel and compass from the jeep and headed Northwest from the mill looking for the next clue. Within twenty minutes, he had found another of the landmarks that was right next to the ‘x’ on the map. He began looking all around for anything that might indicate the exact spot indicated on the map. “It has to be right around here somewhere...” Joe muttered, searching the general area. Pushing aside some thick brushes, Joe found a rather large boulder blocking an entrance to a cave. It was embedded into the ground slightly and had brush and grass growing all around it showing its age. “This has got to be fie ‘x’,” thought Joe. He grabbed his shovel and attempted to pry the rock away from the entrance. Straining to the max, Joe popped the hickory handle on the new shovel. He fell back on the ground with the top half of the shovel in his hands. “Dang! That puppy is sure heavy!” Trying with all his might, Joe could not move the heavy granite chunk. He sat down next to it exhausted and breathing heavily. After resting for a moment, Joe got an idea. He quickly made his way back to his jeep and pulled out his emergency towrope. “This should do it.” He drove back to the cave entrance with his jeep easily climbing over the rough terrain along the way. Once he was back to the cave entrance he strapped the towline around the big rock and attached the other end to his tow hitch. “Here goes nothing!” he exclaimed while putting the jeep into first and hitting the gas. The line laying on the dirt jumped to attention as the jeep and the rock locked into a tug of war match. Slowly the boulder began to budge from its earthly embedding. Once it tipped over far enough, it just fell to the side revealing a small entrance. “Well, what do you know? It worked!” Joe exclaimed excitedly while jumping out of his jeep. He quickly unhooked the towline and grabbed his flashlight. The hole was not too much bigger wide than a couple of people. He shined the light into the darkness but could not see much of anything. Crawling through the entrance, his hands got dirty and covered with cold mud. He kept crawling deeper down into the side of the mountain. After about fifty feet, he began to wonder if there would be anything at all in there. Eventually, the tube shaped cave opened into a much larger cavern. Joe looked back up the entrance where he had come in at and could not see any daylight at all. His little flashlight flickered trying to fight the darkness. He began searching the cavern looking for the treasure that the map had alluded to. Unfortunately, he found nothing but some weird-looking bugs and a few rocks. Then he found another tunnel connected to the cavern, this one bigger and not as slanted down as the entrance tunnel. “Maybe the treasure is deeper,” he thought as he started into the new tunnel. He no longer had to crawl but only slightly stooped as he walked deeper into the darkness. After a while, Joe stopped to rest for a moment. It was at that time that he thought he could hear voices in the distance. Joe was perplexed, “I must be going crazy. Nobody could possibly be down here.” He pushed on in the direction of the voices. They grew louder the deeper he went. It seemed to be multiple people speaking English and holding several conversations. It was difficult to hear exactly what they were saying with all of the echoing in the caves. Joe turned out his flashlight before approaching any further. To his surprise, a dim orange light came down the cave in front of him. “There must be another entrance,” Joe thought as he made his way toward the light and voices. Suddenly the tunnel opened into a giant cavern hundreds of feet across. There was a large pool of lava in the center of the room giving off an eerie orange glow. Joe could hear the roar of a nearby underground river flowing steadily. Back along the walls of the large cavern, he could make out dozens of people in small groups. There were men, women, and children doing various activities. Joe was astonished and did not know whether he should approach and make his presence known. Some of the people were sleeping under old tattered blankets. Others were cooking some kind of meat over the smaller lava pools surrounding the main pool. There were children playing and laughing in some of the side chambers. Overall, he estimated that there were at least 100 people down in the cave. Joe decided to try to find out what this gathering was all about. He turned on his flashlight and shined it towards the people. Immediately, there was a flurry of activity as many of the older gray haired men jumped to attention grabbing good-sized rocks in each hand. Others grabbed old crack barrel shotguns and 50’s vintage rifles. Some had old style revolvers. Joe was completely surrounded in under a minute. He dropped his flashlight and put his hands in the air wondering if he had made an awful mistake by making his presence known. “Back away from him. He may be a radioactive mutant,” one of the silver headed leaders cried. Everyone backed away slightly straining to see Joe’s strange clothes. “What is going on here guys?” Joe asked looking somewhat puzzled. “He is one of ours; he speaks English.” “Of course I speak English, we are in America. What are you all doing here?” “We are survivors of the war, son.” “What war might that be?” “World War III of course. Where did you come from and how did you find us?” “World War Ill? Don’t you mean World War II?” Joe asked. “No, we remember II, we came down here just before the third World War started.” “There has not been a World War III,” Joe stated with a serious look on his face. The crowd around him immediately began whispering amongst themselves and looked amazed at the news. “He is lying. There was a war. For all we know it is still going on. He could be an enemy spy,” the leader cried attempting to control his people’s emotions. “It is tme. I am not lying; there was no World War III. America has never been attacked,” Joe exclaimed trying to prove his point. “How do we know you are not an enemy spy, son?” “Well, I dunno... Here, look at my driver’s license,” Joe pulled out his wallet and skwed all of the people his license. “This was issued in 1998... What year is it?” “It is the year 2000.” The crowd around him gasped. “We cannot tell time well down here. The only way to gauge time is by our children. Many of them are adults with their own children.” “What year did you come down here?” Joe asked. “It was 1951 when we sealed the portal.” Joe’s mouth dropped open, “1951? You mean you all have been living down here for 49 years?” “Well, if it is really 2000, I suppose so. Many of our children have never seen the light of day.” Another one from the community stepped up, “Tell us, what is it like on the surface?” “Well... where do I start?” Joe spent the afternoon explaining what the world was like since 1951. Many of the people there wanted to return to the surface. Others liked their home and thought going up to the outside world was a bad idea. Eventually the leader called his people together for a feast in celebration of Joe’s arrival. The meal consisted of bats, insects, and several varieties of mushrooms. Joe did not want to be impolite, so he nibbled on the mushrooms and mostly drank his water. It was extremely clean tasting water purified by the natural aquifer of the rocks. The old man, who was their leader quieted everyone and spoke, “We must call a vote, for we as a people are divided by Joe’s arrival. Some of us want to leave and others want to stay. We have grown to love this place and call it our home. Many of us know no other place. It would be wrong for only some of us to leave. Our survival here depends on everybody’s help. All have jobs to do here and we have grown to depend on each other. We are essentially one large fitmily. Our children have manied and have children of their own. The continuation of this community depends on its members sticking together as one. Now it is time to decide on what it is that we really believe in. Come, let us vote on our destiny.” With those words all the people rose and followed their leader into another room. Joe sat near a small lava pit wondering how these people could possibly want to stay down here. Half an hour later all of the people returned. All of them had a rather peaceful look on their faces. “Joe, my friend from the surface,” the leader addressed the newcomer, “we have come to the decision that we will not leave our home here. We have grown to like it here and cannot leave. We know no other way. Many of us are simple people. We would not be able to adjust to the complexity of your outside world. Our culture has grown to a point where we are no longer a part of your society. Even those of us who remember what it is like are convinced by your description that earth as they knew it has changed to a point where it is virtually unrecognizable. Please accept our decision as the way it is and do not try to change our minds.” Joe was amazed that these people did not want to come out of this nasty dark cave. He sat for a minute pondering their decision. “Joe, there is only one problem.” “What is that?” Joe asked waking from deep thought. “You know of our existence. There is a possibility of our discovery now.” “Oh, I won’t tell anybody you are here if that is what you mean.” “We can’t take that chance, Joe. Others would continually come after you once our secret is out. We do not wish to be further disturbed.” “Well, I can promise you nobody will find out of your existence,” Joe pleaded with a worried look beginning to form on his face. “Nobody will with find us because you are staying here, Joe.” “You can’t make me stay here!” Joe jumped up angdly. “Seize him!” the leader screamed. “No! !“ Joe yelled attempting to make a dash for the corridor. Several men quickly overpowered Joe and held him tight. “This is not right, you can’t do this to me,” Joe pleaded with the members while he struggled to break free. “People will know I am missing and will look for me.” “Joe, you will learn to like it here once you have been here a while. Tie him up!” “No... Wait!” Joe stmggled as they bound his hands and feet. “We must put him in the isolation chamber until he decides to join us,” the leader said motioning his people to take Joe away. “Wait, you can’t... Somebody help me!” None of the people questioned their leader’s wisdom. Joe was blindfolded and carried to another cave that was far from the large lava cavern. He did not see the path that they took him on and lost his orientation from the blindfold. The men dropped him to the hard cave floor and left. “Wait, don’t leave me!” Joe screamed, as their footsteps slowly became faint. Hours passed and the silence was deafening. At first, Joe screamed and yelled at the top of his lungs. However, nobody came to his rescue. His voice quickly became hoarse from his pointless cries. The ropes were tight on his wrists and would not allow him to slip out no matter how much he struggled. Joe searched the floor of the cave with his hands and feet still bound looking for a rough spot or a sharp rock. Eventually, he found a rough protrusion near the cave wall. Joe began rubbing the ropes furiously on the rock, slowly eating through the fibers. After he had become exhausted several times and rested accordingly, the ropes became thin enough for him to break free. He quickly untied his blindfold only to be greeted with total and complete darkness. He untied his feet and began to feel his way around the cavern. He began wandering aimlessly through the maze of passages in the pitch-blackness, void of light. After what seemed to be days, Joe came upon the community again. This time he did not approach them, fearing for his life. He waited hours for them to fall asleep, but there were always some of the people awake. After not having the day and night cycle for so long, apparently the people just went to sleep when they became tired. Joe was getting desperate. He needed to make his way across the cavern to the tunnel he came in from on the other side. He hoped that they had not moved the boulder back over the entrance. If that were the case he would almost certainly be trapped forever. Joe could not wait any longer. Since a large percentage of the people were sleeping, he decided to make a run for it. He got up his nerve and took off with a full speed sprint across the cavern stealthily avoiding the lava pits throughout. Almost immediately, someone began screaming quite loudly alerting the others to Joe’s presence. Shortly thereafter, all of the people stirred to their feet grabbing their weapons. “Stop! Don’t move!” someone yelled. Joe kept mnning as fast as he possibly could towards the tunnel. Unfortunately, several of the people opened fire and struck Joe with their marksmanship. He collapsed down in a pool of expanding crimson blood. He was quickly surrounded with lots of guns pointed directly at him. The last thing Joe remembered before dying is the strange orange glow on the faces of the community staring at his fallen body. If only he would have listened to the old man and stayed with them. The community members resealed the entrance to the outside world after their leader drove Joe’s jeep off a nearby cliff. Joe’s picture made its way to a milk carton side as a final memorial to his existence.


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