I get a really strange sensation as I walk through the bunker. I can recall enough of my tour over forty hours earlier to know that the basic shape and layout has been preserved.
For instance, when I exit the medical area, I can tell that it is in the same position as it was earlier, because the chapel is directly opposite as I step outside.
Everything is exactly where it should be. But it’s like a scene change in a play. As if somebody came on stage while we weren’t looking and made the place look completely different. It’s so modern and high-tech now.
If you’d taken the basic concept of the original Cold War bunker, redesigned it for 200 years in the future, that’s what I’m looking at now. It’s light and bright, the air is fresh and dry, and all of the old-fashioned equipment, posters, wiring, pipework and paintwork has gone.
Whatever happened here, it is like no technology that I recognize. And believe me, I know my tech! It has literally transformed the inside of the bunker, but it did so without a single builder, plumber or electrician. Which is probably a good thing if the ones we use at home are anything to go by.
Kate and I are now sitting in what was previously – only hours earlier – a fairly basic café. It was where we were supposed to have met our hosts, though we never made it in the end. Neither did they, come to think about it. We’d been on our way, when David and I remembered the laptop deal that we’d done with Mum and Dad earlier. Five minutes each on Mum’s laptop using the free wireless connection in the café.
So instead of making directly for the café, Mum had left us all near the entrance with Dad, while she headed back to the car to grab the laptop. And my phone, I’d left that in the back of the car, too. If we were near the entrance, we’d see our hosts when they entered the bunker, so that seemed like a pretty good strategy at the time.
She’d only been gone a few minutes when the sirens sounded. At first we thought it was just something to do with the Secret Bunker. A bit of novelty for the tourists perhaps. But it was very obvious that this was for real. The sirens were outside, for starters. Previously we’d just heard them on the Cold War films that were showing in the cinema area. Red lights were flashing throughout the corridors too. And the announcement system gave it away as well: ‘All personnel operational. This is not a drill.’ That’s when Dad knew it was for real, at about the same time as the bunker doors began to close. It’s when he tried to take us deeper into the building. It must have been instinctive, whatever was going on outside, this bunker could offer protection. And that’s when I last saw Mum. And that terrible blackness outside. What was that? I know the Scottish weather can be bad at times, but this was much more than just a terrible storm.
There are a lot of things happening like that at the moment. So sitting with Kate now is an opportunity to get things straight. The café before the darkness had been decorated ‘Cold War’ style. This is still basic and functional – it isn’t a fancy restaurant or anything like that – but it is a lot fresher and much more modern. And the food looks great. So I sit down with Kate, tuck into my food and wait for her to begin.
The process, whatever it was, seemed to be over. The doctor had made a few final brisk swishes of his hands across the screens and they shut down. His manner told her that this was not the time to be asking questions. Particularly questions such as ‘What happens next?’ or ‘How will I know when it’s time?’ Besides, she wouldn’t remember any of this until the device was reactivated.
The doctor moved to another console on his desk, tapped a few areas as if he had done this many times before, and there was a slight, glowing pulse from the device buried in her neck. Instantly, painlessly and without warning her mind went blank. She would have no recollection of these events. She would be transported to a local hospital where she would be placed overnight in a ward. Hospital staff would look confused by her arrival until the man accompanying her showed them some identification. Their acceptance of his obvious authority would be instant, there would be no questions, no arguments, just a complete and thorough execution of his instructions.
Once placed in the bed, the device in her neck would pulse gently, unnoticed by the hospital staff. As suddenly as her memories disappeared, they would return again, only they would not be complete, now they would be made up only of selective recollections. Virtually everything would remain intact – she would recall everything about her life, her childhood, her family – everything would still be there. Only details of the arrangement with the doctor and his organization had been suppressed. They were not needed right now. They might be recalled later, but for now all that she would know is that she had woken up in a hospital after fainting while giving blood.
Her husband would be on his way. For the man who accompanied her to the hospital, this was over for now. Without speaking to the woman or the hospital staff, he left the building. He had been in this hospital before, with this woman, three years before. Nobody even noticed him driving off in the black car.
Earth looked so calm from space, but within the darkness, there was inevitable devastation. This was unavoidable.
Planes started to drop from the skies, their pilots so surprised that they barely had time to register what was going on before they were overcome by the blackness.
Vehicles hurtled off roads, trains failed to stop when they reached their destinations and ships sailed on aimlessly at sea. All over the planet there was death, destruction, carnage.
It had to be this way. Thousands, maybe even millions of lives were lost that day.
Conditions were set up as well as they could have been to avoid as much of this as was possible.
There was really only one thing that could have made this the preferable option. And that was preventing the annihilation of all human life.
He was thinking about Trudie again. Unseen by him, there was a faint, pulsing glow from a device that had been placed in his neck. As if recalling a memory that was locked deep down in his mind, he suddenly knew what to do. He had received instructions from another place. He had been trained for this, this equipment, this entire workstation was familiar to him.
He was not aware of what had just happened – it was not painful, there was no sensation at all. It was just the seamless fusion of thoughts that were not his own with his own consciousness. He couldn’t even tell that it was happening. He knew however that he must activate his screen and check the outside perimeter of the bunker. This was simply a routine activity, at this stage of the operation all life on the surface would have been placed into stasis. He didn’t question or challenge this, he just knew it to be so. He now had to perform this routine security operation. Standard military procedures. Secure the perimeter. He didn’t expect there to be anything on the screen, of course. After all, how could there be?
The only life on the planet was in this bunker. This was the base from which the entire operation was to be managed.
It was impossible to avoid the effects of the darkness, all life had been subsumed by its force. So why was it that there were two human life forms showing up on the screen and they were just outside the main blast doors?