Sometimes things just change. Not for any particular reason – at least, not one anyone can understand – but perhaps because the Universe has shifted, or a God has smiled, or someone has taken a road less travelled. But when it happens, and it will – it makes a change, and one that is always irreversible.
The folks we are concerned with in this story were ‘Lifers’, that is to say, they were two children who had been born, grown and lived all their lives in the chalk caves and tunnels beneath Kent. When the inevitable happened: when the enemy (and you know who, I mean) had finally lost patience with the West – they sent their less than perfect bombs over in our direction. Some fell short of their targets, some flew on into the Atlantic – but one or two of the more lethal kind, landed where they were needed.
And with that came the long-time of darkness.
Those who could do so, moved into the areas beneath their feet. They spread through the tunnels and rooms which had been used as forts to deal with the threat of Napoleon upon this little island. This subterranean land had now become the only home that anyone had ever known.
At first the elders had told stories of the lands above, at least the way it had once been. They had talked of cinemas, and churches, of burger joints and buses. They had told tales of a million and one things that the new generations, the Lifers, could only imagine – and probably not very accurately, but just enough to whet the appetites of the two of whom we speak.
Ironically these two were called Eve and Adam, perhaps that seems strange to the readers, but in those days, in those tunnels, the Bibles and God were sometimes all people had to hold on to in the dark, so children were named accordingly.
Adam and Eve wanted to marry, which, in itself, was not the strangest of requests – what was different about them, was that they wanted to spend their Honeymoon in the lands above. There were those (as inevitably there always are) who said that those lands did not exist and had never existed – that, what was in the tunnels were all that life had ever been and to say otherwise was blasphemy.
In some parts of the lands beneath, people were punished or put to death to suggest that a better life lay above. Some folks were ever treated as insane. One man, who they called the new Marco Polo had written a book about his travels in the fantastical lands of the surface. The book changed hands secretly and for stupendously high prices -, and in most areas the book was either considered an illegal document or the crazy thoughts of a madman.
Adam and Eve had both read the book, and both had set their hearts on travelling through Polo’s journeys. There was talk of a great city above their heads, and according to the new Marco, it was known as The Angel Islington – he wrote that had witnessed, with his own eyes, a sign which said as much.
And that is how they had found each other; through a secret group which met in long forgotten caves, and who studied the works of new Marco Polo.
To be caught attempting to move above from their sector, meant years of incarceration or being locked in the dark-room until the air ran out. Both Adam and Eve were willing to take that chance, and they felt that following the tunnels would eventually lead to an exit above. There were also stories of folks who had tried and had spent years travelling the endless tunnels, until they died of madness or starvation. None of it was ever proved, but then stories were only used to keep folks in their place.
Eve and Adam planned to get married on the second week in the month of Abba (no one knew what the origins of the name were, but it was a favourite month to wed). Our couple played along with the story, that for their Honeymoon they were going to travel on the rail to the large cave called Dover.
However, after the wedding and after bidding farewell to their families, they had made their way to the upper, forbidden chamber where they had stored their escape clothes. They kissed each other, held each other tight, then put on their masks. They took one final photo – the one which they left behind for those who would come looking for them.
Nothing was ever heard from Adam and Eve again but there are still stories about them, stories that are whispered around the tunnels, stories that bring hope and fire to cold hearts – and perhaps one day I will tell you.
bobby stevenson 2017