The Secret Bunker Trilogy: Who Will Be Left To Hear Earth’s Final Screams?
On a day-trip to a disused Cold War bunker, Dan Tracy makes an incredible discovery which could threaten the very existence of life on Earth.
The key to human survival lies in his own genes and those of his twin, who was thought to have died 3 years ago.
Chapter Part One
In The Beginning …
Beyond the great, iron doors I hear the ghostly wail of sirens. I’m familiar with this noise, from school, when watching old films about World War Two and the London bombings. Only this is here and now, and I’m on holiday in Scotland with my family – surely this must be part of the exhibition? I’ve never seen my dad so scared – he’s terrified and has grabbed Harriet around the waist to get her away from the doors. His face is grey – I swear, it’s actually grey – and I know from the decisive way that he moves that this is no joke, it’s no false panic – he’s genuinely frightened.
It’s overcast and grey outside and at first I just assume it’s the clouds. But the darkness in the skies has a solid, dark quality – it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. As the blackness sweeps through the sky, it shuts out all light. It’s a darkness that I can hardly comprehend – even at night there’s always some light thrown off by street lamps or passing cars. But this darkness has a finality about it – it’s not to be questioned. Suddenly, the heavy iron blast doors, which at first seemed set and fixed, begin to groan and move very slowly.
Dad had literally propelled Harriet down the long concrete corridor – a combination of pushing and almost throwing her – but this is the action of a man who is the most scared I’ve ever seen anybody in my life. It’s funny how you notice these things at times like this. In films, people act scared and make all sorts of shouting and screaming sounds. But in real life being scared is a feeling – a terrifying sensation that is played out in silence, not in the exaggerated shouts of a movie. And it has consequences too.
As the blackness dominates the sky and casts its deathly shadow over the entrance of the bunker, I see Mum running towards the closing doors – and I know that it must be too late. Today I must face my worst fears – I am going to see my Mum die horribly in front of my own eyes, then the same thing is going to happen to me and everybody that I love.
I can’t really remember why we decided to holiday in Scotland. Things have a habit of coming out of nowhere when you live in a big family. One minute Dad has a great idea then David knocks something over at the dinner table. Dad curses, Mum tells him off (does she really think that we don’t hear those words at school?) and Harriet gets covered in whatever it was that just went flying. And out of the brawl and mayhem that follows, somehow we manage to discuss Dad’s great holiday plan, and before you know it he’s on his laptop, entering the competition.
Yes, this wasn’t a conventional holiday. We couldn’t afford a normal holiday. Dad had given up work two years ago ‘Because I’m so old!’ he’d joked with us at the time. In actual fact, it was all my fault. I’d had what the teachers referred to as ‘difficulties’ at school. These ‘difficulties’ involved hushed conversations between teachers, worried chats long into the night between Mum and Dad, and regular visits from a very unusual man called Dr. Pierce. I remembered him because he wore a brightly coloured tie which had an unusual, metallic logo embossed on it at the bottom. That struck me as rather strange for a man who was called ‘Doctor’. It all ended with me staying at home to be educated.
‘Home ed’ they called it. Basically it meant that, for me, everything that I’d experienced between the ages of five and fourteen was now over. I got up after Mum had gone to work and when I did get up, Dad was there. Dad, who’d gone to work before I left the house for ever since I can remember. Usually he was in his pyjamas, with a cup of tea at his side and working on something at his laptop. Most days I joined him at the kitchen table about 9 o’clock. They let me sleep in later because I lay awake at night. I don’t know why that was. I was tired, and I wanted to sleep … but I couldn’t. So I was awake until well after midnight usually. I enjoyed the world at that time of night, it was quiet and demanded nothing of me. I love my family, but sometimes, in the middle of the night when the rest of the world is asleep, I could inhabit that silence forever.
I preferred ‘home ed’ because I got to see more of Dad, but I still missed Mum during the day. ‘Home ed’ was funny, because very little education took place. I just did what I felt like doing most of the time. And I got along fine like that. All that anger from being at school just seemed to go. In fact, sometimes it was hard to remember what had caused me to get into trouble in the first place. I could remember the rage and the fury – I could remember lashing out at those kids – but I couldn’t remember how I’d got from how I am right now to that state where I was so out of control. And I was out of control at school. It’s scary to feel that way. But now I feel totally calm, and I can’t picture what would make me get that way again. So most of the time during the day it was just me and Dad in the kitchen. And Nat of course, but Nat wasn’t actually in the kitchen with us.
When Nat Died
I was thirteen when Nat died. I don’t really remember it as an accident. I remember what people did, and how they reacted. And I remember the funeral most of all.
Nat was such great fun and the funeral didn’t seem to capture any of that life at all. Mum and Dad remember exactly what happened. I can see it in the sadness when they look at pictures of our family as it was. It comes in an instant, usually when a random photo flashes up on a laptop screen as it switches to screensaver. One minute, it’s almost as if Nat was never in our lives, like that place at the table had always been David’s.
But dead people leave a space. It’s not a physical space. It’s a part of our life that remains in a vacuum. And the smallest thing can let the air rush into that vacuum, filling it with life, memories and feelings, as if the person has never been gone. All it took was a photo and Nat was back at the table with us.
We were twins. I don’t think you’d know it now, because we weren’t identical twins or anything like that. Mum and Dad say ‘You were so alike’, but we look like two different people to me in those photos. And if Nat was alive now, I’m sure we’d be so different. For a start our personalities were opposite. And we wore our hair differently even at that age. I left mine as it was, Nat was much more adventurous. We were different even then. But always, we were twins. Until Nat was killed in an instant by that black car and our lives changed forever.
23 Hours After The Darkness Fell
I’m so hungry. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced hunger like this before. At home we always have snacks around. Dad nags us about eating our five-a-day or Mum has a go about ladling too much jam onto our bread. But most of the time, whenever we get peckish, there is food around.
I’m so scared now. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. It’s completely dark and there’s no sound at all. I don’t know where Dad and Harriet are, they were somewhere near David last time I saw them. I’ve shouted, but there’s nothing, just an empty echo from the long concrete corridor. All I have is a half-drunk bottle of water.
When we got lost when we were young, Mum and Dad used to say ‘Find someone with a uniform or wait by the ticket office.’ I was by the entrance when the darkness fell. If I had my mobile phone with me I could use the torch on it to see. I’ve tried feeling my way along the wall, but it’s terrifying walking into a complete blackness where you can’t see anything, not even shapes or outlines. So I did what Mum and Dad said. I waited by the entrance. If anybody comes, that’s where they’ll go. If only I’d remembered my mobile phone in the car, I’d have some light now. And Mum wouldn’t have got caught outside when the darkness came.
Somehow we moved from a glass of lemonade getting spilled at the dinner table to a holiday in Scotland. What Dad had been trying to say when this strand of conversation had taken its first breath of life the previous month is ‘Who fancies winning a holiday to Scotland?’ Within the mayhem of the spillage, a general consensus of opinion had been reached that Scotland might be a bit of fun and we’d never been there together as a family.
Since Dad had stopped working, money had been tight. It’s funny, nobody tells you these things when you’re young, you just pick it up from the strands of conversation and what you see going on around you. One minute you’re eating your favourite ice cream, the next minute you’re stuck with own brand Neopolitan. One minute Dad’s going to work in a suit, the next minute he’s showing you a video of a funny dog on Facebook, while he’s sitting at the table in pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt with a band’s name on that I’ve never heard of before. Apparently they were great in the 80’s.
We used to go on holidays abroad, and we’d all sit and look at the brochures together. We’d fly in planes to places that were far too hot for me and once, we even went on a ferry. Nat loved that ferry … See – Nat again, always with us but never there.
I’m not sure if I even saw the black car at the time. In my memory it’s there, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I’ve heard so many people talk about the accident.
I even have a newspaper cutting hidden in my old laptop case upstairs, but I haven’t actually looked at it since I put it there. I know that if I look at that faded cutting it will instantly transport me back to that day of the funeral, when that great, empty, immovable void just sat there before us.
When the final person leaves the house after the funeral, that’s when it starts for real. The silence and the coping – that’s when it really starts, not when the person dies. There’s too much going on after they die, you know they’re dead but there’s just too much happening. It’s only when silence finally descends that you’re alone with death. It’s only then that you find out how you’ll be.
As a thirteen year old I never even thought about death. Why would you when you’re thirteen? I’m not sure I’d even think about it much now if it wasn’t for Nat. Of course, I’d see it in films and cartoons, I’d read about it in books. But that’s not really my life and it seems so far away. Always so far away until the final moment of innocence when my twin’s blood spattered across my favourite t-shirt and I heard the last gasp for life as Nat’s limp body hit the concrete in front of me.
A Lucky Win
So, Dad was entering another competition to win us a holiday. ‘Somebody has to win,’ he’d say ‘And it might as well be us!’ Then Mum would chime in with some wise catchphrase like ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it! Honestly, it was like they wrote the script before each day started, how did they come up with this stuff, seemingly off the top of their heads?
Usually we entered competitions in magazines or on the back of cereal boxes. Sometimes we even crowded round Dad’s laptop to figure out some daft question in a Facebook contest. But I remember this one because it was different from usual. It came via email, directly to Mum.
Now, this is where I should explain, we’re a modern family and we all love our tech. Who doesn’t, this is the 21st Century after all! So when Mum got the email, she forwarded it to Dad. ‘Hey Mike, I’ve got some holiday competition from one of my web sites, do you want it?’
‘Can you forward it to me Amy?’ asked Dad, and after a few taps from Mum on her keyboard I knew that the transaction was complete because Dad said, as if completely out of the blue five minutes later, ‘Thanks’. The funny thing is, we all knew what he meant by this stray acknowledgement An onlooker from 100 years ago would wonder what on earth had just happened.
This is just how modern families operate, the unspoken fusion of tech and relationships when human interaction can slip seamlessly from words to typing to reading and back to words again – and everybody’s still in the loop.
Now, Mum was always a deleter. It was pretty well the only time she’d cuss. I think it was because she’d taken on more responsibility at work since Dad stopped to stay at home with me, and she was pretty sick of emails by the time she got home. So, about 10 minutes after she’d returned from work every night, she’d sit down with a cup of tea, open her laptop, scan her emails, cuss a bit then whack the ‘delete’ button much harder than was required. ‘She’s going to wreck that button!’ I’d think to myself.
‘Sorted!’ she’d announce, then she’d relax and become ‘Mum’ again, like deleting those personal emails was revenge for everything she’d had to do at work all day.
That’s why I noticed this email in particular. At the time I just assumed that she’d had a better day at work. But now I can see it was something more than that. Anyway, Dad got the email and within seconds of him opening it and asking if we all wanted to go to Scotland, we were tapping away at our keyboards trying to find the name of a disused Cold War nuclear bunker in the South of Scotland. David got there first, he messaged the link to Dad to check it, Dad announced ‘That’s the one, never heard of it!’ and that was the holiday sorted. Well, almost – until Mum nearly ruined everything by ending up in hospital!
The Empty Ward
The woman sat on the bed with a briefcase at her side. She was browsing something on a digital reader, but it was quite clear that she was just distracting herself, because when the man entered the room, she closed it immediately. She was expecting him, and although she knew him already, she was clearly uneasy about something.
This was a strange place. It had the feel of a hospital, but it didn’t seem to have any patients. There was an antiseptic, clinical feel about it, the beds were neatly made and in rows. There were no curtains between the beds here though, no radios on the walls, nothing extra or decorative.
As the man pressed the pen-like gadget against her neck, and the tiny device entered her bloodstream, it struck her that this was almost the same as a military hospital.
A Last Minute Panic
I didn’t even know that Mum gave blood. Not until we got a phone call saying that she’d fainted and they were keeping her in hospital overnight. Dad went into a bit of tirade at that stage. The funny thing about Dad is that he would rant away like something had bothered him, when it was obvious to everybody in the room that actually he was just very concerned and worried about whoever was involved.
So while Dad was moaning about Mum’s great timing and how it was going to mess up the packing and our early morning departure, me, David and even Harriet really knew that he was just worried sick about Mum. It was that script thing again, as if nobody would finish off his lines if Mum wasn’t there.
‘I’m going to have to leave you guys here for an hour,’ he started, ‘Nat, can you look after …’ There it was again. A simple mistake, but Nat was back in the room again.
Hospitals always meant terrible news to me. Of course, in most cases they’re places of healing. People who have the most terrible illnesses and problems enter those buildings and most often leave them cured, healed or in greater comfort.
It was the hospital chapel that I particularly noticed when Nat died. I didn’t know that hospitals had chapels. My thirteen year old self thought that they were made up of wards, lines of beds and filled with doctors and nurses. So much of what we think of these places is from TV and books. A chapel in a hospital makes perfect sense, I know that now.
After all, it’s where I first watched my parents crying helplessly as they clung onto each other trying to comprehend that Nat was dead. It was the first and only time in my life that they completely shut me out. It was like they had to go to each other first before they could come to give me comfort. I know now, the Chapel is the most important place in a hospital. It’s where people go to pray and beg, even if they believe there is no God. It’s where people who are ill go when they must come to terms with the end of life. And it’s where those who know loss must go, before returning to a home that is missing a child.
A Late Night Visitor
Often, as a child, things happen around you and you don’t get their meaning. You take them at face value, you see them as they are. One of the things that I’ve noticed since I’ve been at home more is that there is hidden meaning in most things. Take Dad’s ranting for instance. He says one thing, but he means another. And it’s the same with Mum and Dad. They have conversations, but they sometimes seem to mean a different thing from what I understand. Like a double conversation, as if the words mean one thing to me but they’re hearing something different.
So when Dad left me in charge of David and Harriet he was – on the face of it – going to see Mum after she’d fainted in hospital. But it felt to me as if something else was going on, something I just wasn’t getting. Dad wasn’t that long as it turned out. I think the reason he was most worried is that Mum had been away the night before. They always got crabby when they didn’t see each other after a while. She’d been away at some business meeting and had left to catch an early train long before I got up. Dad was cross that she’d given blood rather than coming straight home. Of course he’d never have known if she hadn’t fainted. And now she was in hospital overnight and we were travelling to Scotland the next day.
Sometimes parents seem to make life so difficult. All Dad had to do was get the packing done and pick Mum up from hospital on the way out in the morning. When he got home, Dad put Mum’s briefcase in its customary place by the front door, David and Harriet went to bed, and Dad got me to help with the packing.
I liked it since I’d been at home, Dad treated me differently. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was like I was an adult at last, he just chatted to me the same as he did with Mum, he didn’t use that kind of talk you reserve for kids, like you’re over-acting in a bad TV series. That’s why I was still up when there was a knock at the door.
It’s funny that a knock at the door means nothing at all during the day time, but at night or in darkness, it can take on such a different meaning. At night it can be threatening – or it takes on new urgency, like important news has to be delivered that cannot wait until morning. So when the knock came, at shortly after 11 o’clock, not only did it make me jump, we also just looked at each other while we registered what had just happened.
Dad told me to get ready for bed and to stay upstairs, and I felt a sharp change from his easiness in the minutes just before the night time interruption. I wasn’t much the wiser for what was said at the front door, it was just a series of mumbles preceded and followed by greetings and farewells. But there was something about the conversation that registered with me, not words, but a tone and style of speaking. It was only while I was lying awake in bed long after Dad had retired for the night that I finally realised what it was that had registered with me. That was Doctor Pierce talking to Dad at the door. So why had Dad said, after closing the door and re-joining me, that it was a wrong address?
In The Darkness
I’m trying to stay calm but it’s really difficult. None of this makes sense to me at all, it’s like somebody just turned all the lights out and now they refuse to tell me what’s going on. I don’t know what to do. If I try to move in this darkness, I might fall. Even worse I might get lost.
I’m desperately trying to remember the layout of the bunker beyond the heavy blast doors, but I can’t, and anyway it’s complete darkness, I have no light or sound to help me navigate. I’ve called for help until I’m hoarse and my water is gone now. I’m scared, hungry and alone. It’s ridiculous, but in spite of this I can think of no better strategy than to stay where I am. If somebody comes, they will either enter via the doors or try to leave using this route.
The thing is, I know there are lots of people still in there. So why can’t they hear me? And what happened to Dad and Harriet, they were pretty close when the darkness fell but now I can’t see or hear them? It seems crazy to just stay here, but I can’t think of anything better to do for now. And if death comes? Well, I was at Nat’s side when life ended, so I know what it’s like.
The black car didn’t stop when it struck Nat at the roadside. Nobody even thought about the car at the time, everybody’s attention was focused on the bloody body that lay lifeless in front of us. It could have been invisible, a brutal force that came out of nowhere and took the life away from my twin without a care. It was only once the ambulance had been called – as Mum cradled Nat in her arms and a crowd of passers-by had gathered – that the question was asked about the driver.
All those people around, yet the only information that we could get about the driver was that he was in a large, black vehicle. Make unknown. Driver appeared to be a male. And it didn’t have number plates.
On Our Way
We finally set off on our journey to Scotland. Needless to say, we did win the competition in the end. We weren’t used to having that type of luck, but in this case it was pretty quick. It must have been less than a week between Dad sending off our entry and his announcement at breakfast that we’d won, and in no time at all, it was the day of the holiday. So, after a chaotic breakfast and a hasty packing of the car, Dad locked up the house, we all got in the car, picked up Mum from the hospital and we were on our way.
Mum seemed fine after her night in hospital. None of us needed any medical detail, so long as Mum was back in sight and we could see her and tell that she was okay, the whole incident was forgotten. Or at least for a while. When I asked her to show me where they’d taken the blood from her arm there was no mark. ‘I must be a quick healer,’ Mum had joked. But I didn’t think injections healed that fast.
The Grey Office
She couldn’t really feel the device but she knew that it was there. It must have been microscopic to enter her bloodstream so easily and painlessly, and she was uneasy about its presence in her body. But the man was blunt and dismissive, he had the manner of an impatient doctor.
The woman seemed to be wary of him, so held back the questions that she wanted to ask. When he stood up, it was clear that she was supposed to follow him. He took her through a long corridor. This whole building felt military – or governmental at least.
Nothing was there for decoration or pleasure, it was as if things were only around because there was a job to be done. Charmless functionality. She was taken to an office which instantly looked out of place in this building. A name plate indicated that this was the man’s office and it was full of high tech equipment. Still the office was grey and without character. It was as if the man had no need to show his personality here. There were no family pictures, no artwork, no attempt to create any life in this room.
This office was like nothing you’d see at home – these were not laptops and screens that you would buy in your High Street store. This was something completely different – almost as if they came from a different world.
It was clear that this visit was not yet over for the woman. But in three hours’ time she would wake up in her local hospital with no memory of these events. Her husband would be on his way to see her after she’d passed out when giving blood. That wouldn’t feel strange to her at all, she would have no memory of what had taken place earlier. Except there would be a lingering feeling that made her feel uneasy. She wouldn’t be able remember having given blood in the past 18 years.
The Holiday Highlight
David and Harriet didn’t really care what we did on holiday, they were just happy that we were all together, Mum was not at work and the garden seemed to be a place for great adventures, even in this terrible weather.
As part of the holiday prize we had a special visit organised. We didn’t have to pay for it, but we did have to turn up at a special time, so that they were expecting us. Mum and Dad were really excited about it, I wasn’t sure what to expect and David and Harriet didn’t care anyway. We were going to an old nuclear bunker which lay hidden in the Scottish countryside. According to Mum and Dad, it was a relic from something called the Cold War, when countries didn’t get on as well as they do now. From what I could see in the news, countries still didn’t get on that well.
Apparently, it was a huge concrete warren of tunnels buried under the ground, the size of a football pitch. At one time it would have been used as a shelter in a nuclear attack. These days, we didn’t need it any more.
A Glimpse In The Darkness
I wish I wore a watch, because I have no idea how long I’ve been here now. Never in my life have I known such impenetrable blackness. I used to be scared in my bedroom at night after Nat died, but even then, I could clearly see the objects in my bedroom, though you’d still describe the room as ‘dark’.
Something has been bothering me. I’ve been distracted by fear, hunger and the silence. But I keep thinking back to those last moments before the huge iron doors swung shut. David was right at the end of the long, concrete corridor, behind as always. Dad had propelled Harriet along the dimly lit concrete tunnel when he’d seen what was happening outside.
As I stood in the mouth of the doorway, glancing up towards Mum who was rushing towards the closing doors, I’m sure I saw something else. I’m doubting myself because I know I’m exhausted. But I’m certain she was with a child. The child was my kind of age and height, and had a familiar look. Like I’d known them once, but we hadn’t seen each other for a while. I’m sure it was Nat.