I come from the Cave

Two populations, two races, two worlds. One lives in the bright sun, one lives in the darkness below.
In the Cave life goes on as usual. Men work in the mines, women work as teachers, architects or nurses, while some have the privilege of working in the above world as tutors.
Andrea was born different. Not because of her looks, but because of her tattoo, and her number. Without her knowledge, everyone's eyes are on her, everyone is watching. And as she begins her own tutoring job in the above world, she realizes her mission is far bigger than teaching chemistry to a rich boy from a rich family.

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2. Chapter One

“I come from the Cave” I told the Gate Keeper, before scanning my shoulder and registering my number.

“What do you want here?” he replied in a husky voice, the sound muffled by his mask. I could only see his green eyes, and a little bit of the dark skin that surrounded them. The rest was covered by the breathing mask that pumped oxygen for him.

“I want to apply for a job. – I said – a job outside the Cave.”

He scrutinized me further. I felt his eyes move from my face to my neck, down my chest and then stop suddenly as he saw the tattoo on my hip, visible only partially thanks to the short top I had worn today.

“What would you like to apply for?” he asked me, with new respect and maybe a little bit of wonder.

I smiled sweetly at him, before taking out my already filled form and slipping it to him under the glass sheet that separated us.

“I already filled out the job application. I am a tutor.” I said, before flashing my teeth at him again.

He looked at the name, and then at my tattoo again. Before nodding briefly at me, he gave me a hard look. What he saw seemed to satisfy him, because he didn’t object.

“Come back in five days, unless we contact you before. By then we will have found you a job, Cave Girl.”

I smiled once more, hatred flowing from me, and walked away towards the giant elevators, to go back home.

The elevators beeped softly, and the pressurized doors opened. People pushed past me, some ran inside. I waited for things to calm down, and then ran out at the last second, slipping through the closing doors.

The Cave stood before me, enormous, dark and welcoming. I started towards my home. The rock floors felt hard under my bare feet, and the stone almost cut the fragile skin covering my fingers as I passed my hands on the rock walls that made up the thousands of corridors. Kids ran past me, mothers chased after them, men walked by. All extremely pale, all with pulsing blue numbers on their shoulders. The digits pulsed along with our heart beats, going from black to blue and from blue to black, almost like the changing between day and night time. Not that I had ever seen that, but I had heard about it.

I passed a hand through my dark brown hair and took a turn, only to realize that I had walked into Kyle’s block. I smiled, and begun running towards his home. I only hoped he would be home, and not working in the mines. I eagerly knocked on his door, and waited.

“Dear, he isn’t home yet. It is too early” said a familiar voice from behind me. His mother was looking at me, a half smile on her face and a basket of freshly cleaned clothes resting on her hip.

“Oh, I am sorry Annie. I was hoping he’d be back already” I said, not bothering to hide the disappointment from my face.

“You and me both honey, you and me both. You want to come and wait for him inside? I have tea ready if you want some” she said to me, before walking past me and through the steel door.

I followed her, and stepped inside their home. It was simply furnished, which was one of the reasons why I loved it so much. The whole thing was incredibly small, only about twice the size of a home for child-less parents. The first room functioned as a kitchen and as a living room. The table stood in the centre, surrounded by a sofa on one side and a small stove on the other. The rock walls and ceiling were painted over with a pale green colour, to match their son’s exceptional eyes. Everyone down here had black eyes, but he had dark green ones that stared right down your soul. It was one of the reasons why I loved him so much. Annie went over to the stove and picked up the pot standing on it. She then grabbed two cups with a green motif on them and places them in front of me, followed by a bowl of brown sugar and a bunch of brown biscuits that smelled vaguely of cinnamon. I smiled at her gratefully and sipped the green tea she had just finished pouring in my cup.

“So, your mother told me you were going up today to apply for a job. You still wishing to tutor kids?” she asked me, looking at me from above her cup.

“Yeah, I just came back from up there. I applied for a tutoring job, and they said they would get back to me in five days. Is that what they told you as well?” I asked her. Annie was a tutor.

She nodded briefly. “Yes, they told me that too. But they found me a kid in less than twenty four hours. There is always a huge need for tutors up there. Don’t worry; you will have a job by the end of tomorrow.”

“I hope so. My father is getting tired of seeing me around the house so much” I said, blushing slightly.

She smiled at me, and took a biscuit between her slender fingers. I looked at her pale face, and saw the beginning of wrinkles around her dark eyes. Her hair was also starting to turn slightly grey in some area, even though she was only forty four. People, especially women, turned old quickly in the Cave. Some said it was the worry they felt every day for their husbands working in the mines, but I personally thought it was the lack of sunlight. It would have explained why they always looked young, no matter what their real age was.

Just when I was about to excuse myself, the door slammed open and Kyle walked in, his bag swung over his shoulder and sweat tickling from his eyebrow.

“Kyle!” I screamed. I ran towards him and jumped in his arms. With my head resting against his chest I finally felt safe. And he was still in one piece, which was incredibly good news.

“Hey, Andrea. What are you doing here?” he asked me softly, still holding me close.

I pulled away from him, and pressed my fingers against the scar running down the side of his neck and disappearing under his shirt.

“I just came back down from applying for a tutoring job. I told you I was going today remember?”

He smiled, memory suddenly coming back to him.

“Oh yes, of course! How did it go? Did they feed you the same five days lie they told mum?”

I laughed and then nodded.

“But of course they did Kyle! Don’t you know the Gate Keepers? The protocol is their Bible!” and we all burst out laughing together.

“Alright, I better get going back home. Mum is probably worried by now, and if you are back it means that dad is too!” I said, before standing on my toe to kiss Kyle gently on the lips. He kissed me back for a second, before I let him go, waved at Annie and left the home.

On my way to my own home, I kept touching my lips lightly with my hand, while pressing the other on my heart, which was beating slightly faster than normal. Kyle always had that effect on me, even though I had known him for years. I couldn’t help it, my heart decided to race against his every time we met.

My home door stood ajar, as always, and I pushed it open. My father was sleeping, or rather snoring, on the couch, while my mother sat at the table reading the local newspaper.

“Hey mum. What’s new?” I asked her, swinging my bag on the counter. My home was bigger than Kyle’s, but not that much. We had an extra room, and a slightly bigger living room. The extra room was my room. Parents with daughters got access to a bigger home; those were the rules of the Cave. My mother looked up at me, and sighed.

“Applied for the job Andrea?” she asked. I snorted at her, nodded and went inside my room. The rock walls were painted a sickening pink, that I had tried to hide with my drawings. It had slightly irritated our Guardian when he had seen them, but that had only made it more of a mission for me to cover those walls with them. There were drawings of Kyle, of me and Kyle together, of our families together for a picnic and drawings of animals and fairies and heroes. Those drawings were my whole world, painted on my walls.

I quickly changed into more comfortable clothes, and went back in the living room.

“Hey kiddo. How did the above world treat you?”

“Hey dad, you woke up! Oh, it was fine. The usual you know? Very bright, very perfect, very boring! How was your day down at the mines?” I asked, scanning his body for eventual cuts or gashes or burns. My eyes scanned all his scars, to check if he had any new ones. His old scars popped up on his incredibly fair skin like red stars in the night sky. They were hard to look at, or they were impossible to not look at, depending on their nature. Some he had gotten when he had just started out in the mines, he had told me. Others were from his later years, when he had been promoted and had tried to save others from pain or death. My father was a brave man, and his scars showed it.

He noticed me scanning every inch of his body, and smiled at me.

“Don’t worry Andrea. No new scars today. Haven’t had accidents in months. And Kyle too, no accidents in at least three months. You can sleep happy tonight.”

I sighed with relief. My men were safe.

“So Andrea, did they feed you the usual five days story?” asked my mother from the table.

“Yeah, they did. Even Annie said that they told her the same thing, and then found her a job in the next twenty four hours. So I am not worried. Plus, the guy saw my tattoo, and he looked pretty shocked!” I smiled sardonically.

“Andrea! I told you not to show off that tattoo more than necessary!” Screamed my mother.

I lifted my hands above my head like a wanted man who has just been caught by the police.

“Will you relax Viola? They didn’t see it all; she is going to be fine. You didn’t show them the whole thing right?” asked my father, concern creeping into his voice too.

“I did not show them my whole back dad. Just a little bit at the hip. I’m fine. Will you two relax now?” I asked impatiently.

Just then someone knocked on the door, before swinging it open without waiting for permission.

Our block Guardian stood in the doorway, towering over us. His suit made of a light plastic material the colour of the rock walls surrounding us covered most of his body, except for his gloved hands and booted feet. The mask on his face left exposed only his eyes, and the dark skin around them. The eyes stared straight at me.

“They want you up, Andrea Sterling, number 29999. They found you someone to tutor.”

I turned to my parents, a triumphant look on my young and pale face.

“See, I told you everything was going to be okay!”

 

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