Thirty-Six lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. He had barely slept the night before, tossing and turning, he would have liked to have gotten out of bed, to pace back and forth in his small room, but he didn’t want to screw up this close to retirement and the rules were clear, everyone was in bed at lights out. Thirty five long years had finally led up to this day, the day that he finally retired. Soon he would be on the surface, sipping a cold beer and sitting in the sun. He’d only be on the surface twice, both times because there were some repairs that needed to be done and it was as beautiful as everyone said. No one worked unless they wanted, everyone was happy and soon, he would be one of them.
The alarm started blaring, Thirty-Six hit the button on the top of it and got out of bed, he couldn’t stop smiling, he could feel the excitement bubbling up in his chest. He wasn’t the only one to retire today, there were twelve others. He looked around his small room, taking it all in, it was after all, the last time he would ever see it. He felt a strange pang in his chest, one he hadn’t expected to feel today, fear, with a hint of sadness. What did he have to be afraid of? As soon as he asked himself the question he knew the answer. He’d have nothing to do on the surface, he wouldn’t know how everything worked, he wouldn’t know anyone up there, not anymore. Sure others he knew had already gone up, but that didn’t mean that they’d want to talk to him anymore. When he had been up there before they didn’t like his kind, but all that would change, now he’d be returning to the surface as a full citizen. He took a slow deep breath, he was being silly, he had worked his entire life, all for this moment.
Thirty-six walked down the corridor, people streamed past him in both directions, one or two smiled at him and a couple waved, they didn’t have time to stop and chat and everything that needed to be said to them had already been said the day before. He stopped outside The Bosses office and feeling that familiar fear in his chest, he knocked on the door. He had only been in The Bosses office a few times and each time it was because he was in trouble, minor mistakes luckily, nothing that warranted severe punishment, or worse, early retirement. The door opened revealing The Boss, he motioned for Thirty-Six to enter, “Good, you’re right on time. Please strip out of your issued clothing and change into the retirement gown that has been provided for you.”
Thirty-Six moved into the room and saw that some of the others had already arrived, two were still changing. Thirty-Six quickly stripped out of his work suit, ignoring the aches and pains through his body, and put on the thin white retirement gown, they would provide him with everything he needed on the surface.
“Thank you all for joining me today, you have all achieved something great. Each of you has reached the age of retirement. Since the founding of our great nation, your people have had a duty to us, to help us rebuild the society that your people destroyed. Your people brought the planet to the brink of destruction and it was only through a combination of luck and skill that we were able to save the planet. You’re people came to us and begged for our help, and despite how you treated us for thousands of years we, in our unending mercy agreed. And so the deal was struck, each of you would work for the first forty years of your lives, you helped keep the people above safe and content and you have all done your jobs admirably. Now for your reward, you will join them and become one of them, granted full citizenship rights, you have worked your way to freedom. The surface is a different place to here, you will be taught how to adjust and acclimatise to the world you are about to enter, a world of pleasure and luxury beyond even your wildest imaginations.”
The Boss turned and walked out of the office, gesturing for everyone to follow. It felt weird being in the tunnels with so few people, usually they were packed but by now everyone had arrived at their stations. The Boss lead them through the mazelike tunnels until he reached the red door, he opened it and stepped inside, the group followed. Inside the walls were draped with red fabric, in the centre of the room was a slightly raised platform, around which were waist high railings. “If you would all please step onto the elevator.”
The group stepped on, Thirty-Six could feel the rising excitement amongst them all. One or two were even holding hands, the sight of which made him feel a little uncomfortable.
“We thank you for your service to us, Please, enjoy the rest of your lives.”
With that he pulled a lever and the platform started to rise.
The platform moved slowly but steadily, above them the ceiling parted and allowed them to pass, once they were through it closed again. Up above there was the sound of grinding metal, then a beam of light shot through the darkness. The ceiling opened fully and the platform sped up. He squinted in the light and then they were outside in the fresh air. Thirty-Six looked around in confusion, this wasn’t what he remembered. There was no incredibly bright green grass, no tall trees, or beautiful flowers. The soil around them was a light grey colour, the only trees were twisted and bare of leaves. He took a few steps forward, then he started coughing, after a few seconds they all were. In the distance he could see something shining in the sun, it looked like a giant glass dome. He took a few steps forward, still coughing, it was getting worse and he was feeling lightheaded, the coughs tore at his throat. Thirty-Six fell to the ground, he tried to pull himself forward but he was too weak. The others were lying on the platform, a few had fallen still, blood coated the front of their white gowns. There was a grinding noise and a deep rumble, to his left he saw two men in all white suits rise from the ground, they were wearing the safety suits, the kind only given to those working in the most dangerous of environments. He reached out towards them hoping for help, for salvation. His hand dropped to the ground, the world dimmed and he was swallowed by the darkness.
The two men started grabbing the bodies and dragging them to the edge of the platform, they swung them into the natural pit, which was almost filled to the brim with corpses. Once the platform was clear they returned to their own platform and waited. After a moment it started to slowly move down, they’d undergo decontamination as usual, then they’d be free to return to their homes on the surface, their civic duties completed.