This is a continuation of my Minds-exclusive series, Saving Ever After. Please start reading at Episode One. Episode list can be found at this link:
A torrential current slammed Lily against the elevator wall. The roar of the rising tide filled her ears. The roar turned to a gurgle. Her feet lifted off the floor, and she floated briefly in the pitch-black before gently sinking to the floor.
“Father.” Her voice sounded hollow and distorted. “Help!”
She listened with her inner ear.
The transponder! She probed the elevator floor with her hands. Though should couldn't feel texture or temperature, she could still feel pressure and resistance. There it is. She grabbed the transponder and pushed herself forward. The ground seemed to slope upwards. She crawled up the slope until she reached flat surface.
She stood up. The gurgling in her ears gave way to the crisp sound of dripping water, which echoed as though in a cavern. Here and there, a creature squeaked. An incessant buzzing noise caused a tingling sensation all over her body, despite her lack of skin. Something struck her helmet, followed by a squeak and a flapping of wings. Screeching, she swatted the air around her head. What was that? Where am I?
She spun around, searching for any signs of light. How do I get out of here? Father, I am utterly lost.
She patted her satchel to make sure it was still there, opened it, and shoved the transponder inside. She then waded through the water with her arms extended before her. The water resisted her movement from the waist down. Think about this logically. If you find a wall, just keep following it until it leads you to the exit.
She bumped into a flat wall, and she began to follow it. It doesn't matter how many twists and turns you encounter. The algorithm never fails... unless it's an internal wall with no contiguous connection to the exit. Then I'd be going in circles forever. She hoped that wasn't the case.
The wall led her around a sharp 180-degree turn. I've reached a doorway. She kept following the wall, which took an abrupt right-angle turn, and then another, and then another. Am I inside a literal maze? What is with these walls?
She moved her hands up the wall. Her hands slipped over the top edge. She grabbed the edge and shook it. Flimsy. She bumped her hips against a solid edge. She patted the obstacle. It's a flat surface. She climbed onto the surface and knocked something over with a splash. She continued to follow the short wall through the maze and over various obstacles. When she reached another sharp 180-degree turn in the wall, she wondered if she was back where she started.
She pushed on. After what seemed like an hour of groping her way through the dark, she stumbled upon a loose wall made of bars that rattled when she shook it. She pulled it to one side, and it budged. It’s a sliding gate.
Beam of light swept past her.
“Who’s there?” The voice sounded deep. Masculine.
She dove under the surface just as the beam of light returned to her position. A halo glowed on the water surface above her.
“You seeing ghosts, Ron?” Another masculine voice, somewhat distorted by the gurgling of water.
Lily tried to bite her nails, but the visor of her helmet stopped her, and she remembered she didn't have nails anymore. Who are these people?
“I saw someone.”
“You’re freaking out over another manikin.”
“If it was a manikin, then it would still be there. I’m telling you, Damian, we’re not alone down here.”
“Ron, if you’re too chicken shit to carry on, then head back to camp with the others.”
“I ain't chicken shit. I'm just saying those primitives we ran into have been dogging us ever since.”
“Let them. Once we restore the Eden network, they won't be a problem anymore.”
“We're wasting our time. Just look at this place.”
“The server farm should be safe inside an airtight bunker.”
“We'd still have to pump out all the water to get inside.”
“Then we'll pump out the water. Now shut your trap and keep searching.”
“You the boss, Boss.”
“Through that gate.”
Lily slowly edged away from the gate while underwater. She hid behind the wall and waited. Two beams of light crisscrossed in the water before the gate. The beams of light parted, and two shadowy figures walked through the gate. The two men turned their backs to her and walked into the blackness.
They’re searching for Ever After. I have to warn Father. I need to install the transponder ASAP. She glanced in the direction where the men had come from, though she saw only blackness. If they came from that direction, then the exit must surely be there. She navigated past the gate and followed the wall down a corridor.
A glimmer of light sparkled in the corner of her eye.
She stopped to look. A yellow wedge of light illuminated the wall of a stairwell. Her heart leaped. She sloshed towards the stairwell and scrambled up the stairs. She burst into a hall awash in golden light. The sky looked bright and blue above the glass dome ceiling. A wall of glass windows formed the perimeter of the hall. One of the windows looked like a tree had tried to step through it. Glass shards littered the floor around the leg-like root of the tree. The skeletal remains of an antlered beast lied in the middle of the hall. Whatever had left the deep scratches on those yellow bones must have had sharp teeth and a powerful jaw.
Have to get to the roof. She spotted an exit sign with a picture of a staircase next to it. She crossed the hall and entered the stairwell. Her footsteps echoed off the concrete walls as she climbed the stairs. She stared out the window, which spanned the entire length of the stairwell. For the first fifteen floors, a giant tree blocked much of her view of the outside world. On the sixteenth floor, she caught a glimpse of a forest.
She exited through a door above the fortieth floor and approached the railings at the edge of the roof. Here, she gazed at a strip of forest boxed into a lane between two rows of glass towers. Green vegetation grew on the towers, which loomed nearly as tall as the tower she had built in Ever After.
A murder of crows burst out of a shattered window on the fiftieth floor of an adjacent tower, cawing as they soared over the woods. A human boy emerged from behind the shattered window. Though there were no human boys in Ever After, Lily could tell from his lean stature that he was human and not dwarf. His squarish jawline indicated to her that he was a boy, like Father or Roland, and not a girl. He had shaggy brown hair that fell to his shoulders. He had fearsome red paint smeared across his eyes, nose and chin. He wore a fur cloak and a leather loincloth, and his chest was bare. He wielded a bow, and a stone axe dangled on his leather belt.
He glowered at her.
She put her hand over her palpitating heart. Why is he glaring at me like that?
He darted back into the tower.
She reached for him and stopped short of calling out to him. Were she in Ever After, she would've chased after him. She was always eager to meet new friends, and she never had a friend who was a boy before.
She turned to face the source of the sound. To her delight, a kitty cat leaped into her arms. It had white fur with a spot of black behind its left ear. She stroked its head. Though she couldn’t feel the softness of its fur, the motion gave her pleasure nonetheless. A musical tune came to mind, and she started humming.
The kitten rubbed its head against her chest. “Mew.”
She tickled the spot of black behind its left ear. “I think I’m going to call you Spot.”
Spot licked her finger.
“You must be hungry.” Hunger didn’t exist in Ever After, but Lily had read plenty of books where the characters got very hungry. “Kittens like milk, don’t they? Now where can I find some milk?”
The kitten stuck its neck out and pricked its ears. It leaped out of her arms and scampered out of sight behind a shed. A thirty metre tall tower of steel loomed next to the shed.
“That must be the broadcast tower.” Lily approached the shed. There was a door. She opened it and stepped inside. She saw a computer workstation crammed between two black towers. A layer of brown grime covered the tabletop and keyboard.
She opened her satchel and took out the transponder. She shook out all the water and put it down. She crouched and found the old transponder under the desk. She unplugged it and plugged in the new one. The LED lights on the new transponder immediately flashed red then blue.
Her inner ear tingled. A new tune played inside her head.
Lily sat on her rump and drew her knees to her chest. “Father.”
“I’m glad you made it. Water's leaking into the facility, by the way.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know there would be so much water outside.”
“It's my fault. I should have expected this. I’ve locked down the blast doors to keep the water out.”
“Father, there are men looking for Ever After.”
“Just as you were coming out? Did they see you?”
“I hid from them. I listened to them talk. One of them is named Ron. The other Damian. Do you know them?”
“Doesn’t ring a bell. What did they say?”
“They mentioned something about a server farm. Restoring the Eden network.”
Father drew a sharp breath.
“Do you know what any of this means?”
“It means they're trouble.”
“Who are they?”
“They know about things which should have been forgotten long ago, which suggests they may not be of this time, or they are descended from those who have retained knowledge of the old world... Tell me what the world looks like from where you are.”
“It's beautiful. I see towers of broken glass rising above a lush green forest. I want to go out there and explore.”
“Then it's as I expected. Civilization has collapsed and never recovered, yet there are those who speak of restoring old world technology.”
“What should we do?”
“Your primary mission hasn't changed. You must find a new fuel cell to keep Ever After running for another hundred years. But now we have a new problem to deal with. Our blast doors can withstand a nuclear explosion, yet a group of determined men with knowledge of the old world will find a way through eventually. Our biggest security weakness is you.”
“If they catch you and find out who you are and where you come from, they will use you to get me to open the door.”
She heard a metallic click behind her.
“Don't move or I'll shoot.”
If you enjoy my writing, please support me by downloading my main novel, Red Eden: Homeworld Bound, for free and leaving a review on Goodreads. Saving Ever After is based in the same universe and roughly the same timeline as Red Eden: Homeworld Bound. You can download Red Eden: Homeworld Bound for free using this universal link:
You can also purchase Red Eden: Homeworld Bound on Amazon:
Thank you for reading!
Cheers ; )
Michael E. Vigil