Post Classifieds

The Dome

Fiction Submission

By Kristina Mehegan; For the Clock
On February 12, 2018

The Dome

Kristina Mehegan

For the Clock

kcmehegan@plymouth.edu

 

Ryn had chosen the window today. She usually stood near the center of the train car – that way she had her choice of exits and no one pushed her – but today she elected to stand by the window. She was in a hurry, and she thought she might have a better chance of getting out before the merciless door snapped shut if she were closer to the exit.

She looked dully out at the gray platforms as they whizzed by, or, when they shot through a tunnel, at her own thin face in the dirty glass. Pulling her long, black braid over her shoulder, she braced herself against the window’s blue plastic sill, into whose textured surface old gum and insects had been mashed together until they were a kind of greenish-black rubber.

The train’s brakes screeched, and Ryn clutched the window sill. She looked out the window as the gray concrete and ickering uorescent lights of the platform slid into view. The tan benches against the walls were still speckled with bullet holes; huge advertisement posters were torn and spray-painted with dissenter symbols; ugly rust-brown stains still spread in wide areas over the oors and walls.

Most of the train stations were still like this. No one had bothered much to clean up since the Civil Con ict three years before. They had left these signs in remembrance of the fallen civilians, the warriors, the heroes – but they went ignored most of the time.

“Somerton,” came the scratchy electronic voice over the intercom as the train slowed to a stop. No one moved, but the automated doors of the train car opened with a wheezy hiss.

A man stepped into the train car. He was a tall man with sandy hair and a long tan coat. He looked around stoically at the tight-packed compartment, but no one looked back, and he took a step forward to position himself in the only free square foot of space: next to Ryn. His arm brushed hers as the train jolted forward again.

She eyed him out of the corner of her eye. He was ddling with his government card, swiping dust o its glowing screen and scrolling down a long line of text. It was just a dget, and one Ryn was familiar with; she was sure the man was not really reading. You could not nd new information on the cards – the only thing that displayed before noon was the morning message, which, even then was nothing new.

Ryn glanced down at her own card, which was tucked between her index and middle nger, and she tapped it restlessly on the glass, willing the train to speed up. The display screen flashed at her indignantly, off and on, the morning message’s greeting blinking on the display. Ever since the Civil Con ict, the messages had not changed much. But everyone still had to carry the cards. There was nothing anyone could do – no buying or selling, no eating, no working, no living or dying – without government cards. Ironic, since there was not any government.

When the brakes screeched again and her stop came into view, Ryn straightened and prepared for the stampede.

“Dome district,” said the electronic voice.

Half the people in the car rushed for the exit, some of them pushing past her so violently her head was almost slammed into the window. They crammed their bodies as tightly against the door as they could without smothering anyone, until it nally opened with it usual wheezy hiss. Everyone spilled out like noodles from a bowl. The man who had been beside her stepped out, and she slipped out behind him just before the door slid shut.

She hurried across the platform toward the exit. People were bustling all around her–men and women, young and old, in stained pants, and black shirts, their hands brown and callused, most of them missing a few ngers, teeth, or a whole limb, some with scarred faces, some who leaned on sticks. Here, underground, this was what people looked like – a bunch of Frankenstein’s monsters, big and angry and stitched together.

They were all heading towards the tunnel from which the train had come, next to which there was a huge door labeled “ENTRANCE #153N.” Below that, “PRACTICE, PARTICIPATION, PERSEVERANCE: THE THREE P’S OF LIFE.” Except someone had spray-painted over the huge block letters and corrected them with three slightly more candid P’s. But the underground people did not see them; they scurried to their underground jobs in the factories, mines, and sewers just as they had done three years ago. She had to zigzag between them to join the ranks of the few who were heading for the stairs.

Ryn was an aboveground worker, technically. The identi cation patch on her government card said that she was a public health o cer, cleared to work in city hall. That was the great irony of it all – there was no government, no administration, no orders.

Yet if anyone asked, she would tell them she was on her way to work.

She started climbing the stairs. A public health o cer’s job was never done in a bombed out city, where radiation oated through the air and vibrated from the ground, invisible as oxygen.

The man from the train was just ahead of her on the stairs; she recognized his sandy hair and pink, weathered ngers. He walked far too slowly, but there was not room on the stairs for her to pass him.

“Comrade, can you walk more quickly?”

He didn’t turn.

“Comrade! More quickly, please!” she called.

He took one glance behind him. She got a glimpse of his face for the rst time – blue, droopy eyes, the scars on his cheek puckered like an unironed shirt. He did not speed up.

At the top of the stairs was the familiar door. It was unlabeled and blank but for a scanner, whose red light blinked slowly and languidly in contrast with the panicked ickering of the uorescent lights. The man pressed his government card against the scanner, and the door clicked; the red light ashed a bright green. He pushed the door open and it slammed shut behind him, right in front of Ryn’s nose.

She muttered an expletive, pressing her own card against the scanner and pushing the door open in one angry motion. She strode through the door onto the dusty street, into the blinding morning sunlight.

The sky above the towering steel buildings was a brilliant blue against the jagged black skyline, and the chilly winter sun a orded almost no heat to the wind-whipped streets. She at once wrapped her thin jacket more tightly around herself and walked toward city hall, which had once stood in the epicenter of city, a mighty, neoclassical xture of government power. Now, the building was spread out on the road, a mass of rubble, a huge, gilded dome cracked on the ground in the center of it all.

The man from the train was a few yards ahead of her, heading towards the dome. His long tan coat apped behind him, and his sandy hair looked pale and golden in the sunlight. She paused, watching him go. She had never seen him around the streets. She thought she knew everyone who worked at city hall – it was her business to know. She shaded her eyes with her hand to get a better look, and she saw him stop in his tracks. Dust swirled around his legs like a ghostly mist as he turned to look at her.

She started to walk toward the dome, watching him curiously. His stance did not change, but she could tell he was following her with his eyes. She was going to sweep past him and make for city hall. She didn’t have time for introductions. She was late already.

“Hey.”

The man spoke as she passed. She didn’t stop.

“Hey!” He was following her now; she could hear his footsteps behind her on the gravel.

“What do you want?” she asked, without stopping.

He said something, but his words were claimed by the wind.

She glanced back at him. He was only a few steps behind her, and she realized at this proximity that he was younger than she had originally thought, but the scars on his face gave him the weather-beaten look of a much older man.

“Are you going to the dome?” he shouted over the roar of the wind.

“What’s it to you?” she called back.

His lip curled at the moniker. “I would reconsider heading for the dome.”

She paused, and he stopped right in front of her, mere inches from her face.

“Why?” she said.
“Are you going that way?”
“Who wants to know, comrade?”
“You need to stop it with the comrade bullshit,” he said. “Whose rules are you following? And you need to stay away from that dome today. Trust me.” He smiled, the corners of his mouth pushing his scarred cheeks back.

“I have friends under the dome.” “That doesn’t matter. Stay away.” She took a step toward him, and the wind swirled between them, blowing his hair into his eyes and making her long black braid slap between her shoulder blades. Her eyes narrowed. “Who are you, comrade? What are you planning?”

“You’ll nd out.”

Blood rushed to her cheeks, and she reached out and caught him by the sleeve. “Tell me! What are you doing?”

He looked at her hand on his arm, then up at her face, pressing his thin lips together grimly. “I don’t know if you know this, public health o cer, but all government systems operate from underneath that dome.”

“What systems?”

“Everything. Government cards, withdrawal machines, transportation – all the automated systems.”

Her heartbeat accelerated. “And?”

“And,” he said, a glint in his blue eyes, “I’m going to go blow them up.”

TO BE CONTINUED...

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