Tomorrows World

©I bent over her. ‘We don’t think anything of the sort. Freddie is scared, and so am I.’ I looked up as Freddie joined us. ‘We started together, and we’re going on.’

Sounding brave was one thing, but we were anything but. A variety of faint intermittent creaking noises and the constant dripping of water echoed from somewhere up ahead, adding to the terrifying atmosphere that surrounded us. My torch would not work, and neither did either of the others. The cell phone wouldn't light up either. Everything powered by battery stopped as we stepped onto the other side of the crater. With the comfort of the lights gone, the walls of the tunnel seemed to close in and tighten their grip on us. We huddled closer together.

Gabby banged her knee. ‘Would one of you make some sense of this – pleeease?’

‘I think you may have been nearer to the truth about gas,’ I said. ‘Whatever caused our sickness affected our breathing, our stomachs, and our balance. I could swear my feet seemed to leave the ground for a moment.’ I stopped to catch my breath. ‘Have you also noticed our voices sound different as though coming from a distance – not so much an echo but I can hear my own voice a fraction of a second after I speak.’

They both nodded. ‘Must be the acoustics here,’ I added and thought no more of it.

‘My ears are still buzzing,’ said Freddie.

We sat for a few moments, frightened and disorientated, each with our own thoughts. Mine included the need to get away in case the horror we had just endured, returned.

‘Let’s get going,’ I said. ‘We should move as quickly as possible.’

‘I suppose,’ answered Gabby in a soft voice. ‘I’ll follow you.’

Her voice sounded hesitant, and that reminded me of something she had said earlier. Helping her with her pack, I asked. ‘What did you mean, I know what I saw?’

‘Something,’ she replied, holding on to my wrist. ‘Something came through some light shining down from the roof of the tunnel, and then it disappeared up as the light faded. You must have seen it, right?’

Her voice was shaking, and in the dark, I could make out the whites of her eyes. I shook my head. ‘I saw nothing, Gabby. Are you sure? What was it?’

Her voice trembled. ‘A hand. I’m sure it was a hand,’ she said, softly. ‘It came right down from the roof in a faint shaft of light, as far as the elbow – I know it did.’

She pulled at my sleeve. ‘Peter, I swear I saw it. It was a faint outline, but I know it was a hand.’

I was sure Gabby must have seen something, but maybe a hand was all in her imagination. Enclosed in the darkness and wary about our surroundings certainly added to the worry of finding a missing brother. Had he endured our experience too? Was he still alive and had some unknown entity captured him? With nothing to see and only the sound of our heavy breathing, it was hard to think clearly.

‘Well, let’s be extra careful from now on,’ I urged. ‘If there is anything ahead, Freddie and I will sort it out.’

Freddie mumbled incoherently and picked himself up from the old motor he had been sitting on. 

I still felt strange. Whatever affected us was gradually fading away apart from the feeling of being light-footed.

‘Come on, let’s see what’s up ahead.’ I stood and started walking slowly toward the end of the tunnel. After five minutes, with arm outstretched, I touched the wall. To one side I found a set of iron rungs that led up to a metal cover about twenty feet above. A thin ring of light shone down on the rungs.

‘That’s where the light came from. Now do you believe me?’ said Gabby.

‘I didn’t say I disbelieved you,’ I answered. ‘I’ll go first, and Freddie can follow me.’

‘So are you in charge now?’ asked Freddie.

It was evident his moment of indecision and insensitivity had wounded his self-pride. I was taking away his last hold on seniority.

Before I could answer, Gabby came to the rescue.

‘It makes sense for Peter to take the lead. He studies Physics and Astronomy so if anyone can make sense of any of this, it will be him. Don’t let’s argue. We have to look after each other.’

I said nothing and started to climb each rung to the top. There, I placed a hand on the metal cover. ‘Obviously, this is an inspection cover of some sorts.’ Before giving it a shove, I noticed that the rungs were smooth and relatively clean as was the bottom of the cover. Maybe I was a little paranoid but the absence of cobwebs or dirt around the rim, or red rust on the footings, sharpened my senses once again. I decided to keep this to myself. Gabby was already a nervous wreck, and Freddie was still feeling ill.

The cover moved up and slid quite easily to one side. A few brown leaves floated down in the shaft of sunlight. Again, I said nothing. I couldn’t hear any traffic but knew we had traveled no more than a couple of hundred yards or so since entering the tunnel in Rathbone Place.

The other two were right behind me. ‘Okay, let’s see exactly where we are,’ I said.

Around me was a shrubbery that, together with a small wooden shelter, hid us from a small grass park surrounded by some trees. I knew the place well. We had come up in Bedford Square, opposite the British Museum and Library. It was a place I used to sit and read many times after visiting the library. Something wasn’t right, though, but at first, I thought it might be to do with the strange feeling I was still experiencing. Not bothering too much about our surroundings, I was glad to breathe fresh air. 

‘We should clean ourselves up,’ said Gabby, joining me. Her long red hair was a mess and trails of puke stuck to the legs of her jeans. ‘We look like a collection of tramps.’

Concerns over our appearance evaporated a couple of minutes later as we stepped from the shrubbery and out onto the footpath. My mind could not believe what my eyes were seeing. My legs buckled, and I collapsed to the path, speechless. Was I daydreaming? Around us, there was a surreal world of futuristic surroundings. The park was as I knew it to be, but the buildings that faced the square, apart from one or two, had been replaced by tall multi-colored glass structures that rose thirty or so storeys above us. Most were brightly lit by the sunshine but appeared empty of people. At the far end of the park, I could just make out the roof of the British Museum across Bloomsbury Street. What was immediately noticeable was the deafening silence. It was as though the city was asleep. Everything was still. The scene reminded me of an apocalypse movie but without any destruction. The faint whisper of a breeze and occasional rustle of leaves added a dark and mysterious atmosphere to the world we had arrived in. As I took it all in, I was sure of what had happened to us.

‘Oh crikey, Peter, where are we and where is everyone?’ Freddie turned slowly in a circle, his mouth wide open and a look of sheer terror on his pale face. There was an edge of panic to his voice. ‘Why is it so quiet and where is the traffic?’ He took a deep breath. ‘I think I’m going to be sick again.’

‘Take it easy, Freddie,’ I said, trying to sound calm. ‘Let’s get out of the park and look around. We must try and find a safe place so we can make sense of all this.’

Gabby was shaking, her eyes wide with fright. She grabbed my arm. ‘Peter, what the hell is going on?’

I’d spent many hours studying for my Astronomy exams and reading extensively into Einstein’s theory on Black Holes. Scared and unable to fully comprehend our experience, I was excited beyond belief.

‘We’ve somehow traveled through time,’ I answered. ‘I don’t know how but I can’t think of anything else. Part of me says we should go back, but I don’t fancy being ill again – that’s if we can go back. I think we should decide what to do after finding somewhere to hide.’

They both looked stunned, even though I was confirming what they must have realised. I led the way along the path to the park gates and out into the street, or what used to be a street. Gone were all the traffic signs and road markings. Instead, the entire area, including pedestrian areas and entrances to buildings, was now covered with what looked like asphalt. As we crossed to the buildings, the smooth black surface below our feet felt like a hard sponge substance. Wherever I looked, I saw no litter of any description. As far as I could tell, we were alone. Plane trees stood in a perfect row along the front of the office blocks that stretched away into the distance, rustling leaves from the trees breaking the eerie silence.

Freddie frantically tugged my sleeve. ‘Look – over there by the big tree – up in the air.’

We stopped. A faint buzzing sound came from the direction he was pointing to. It was a small drone like craft hovering high in the air.

I felt a chill run up my spine. My shock and excitement were giving way to imagined terrifying visions of the unknown. ‘Someone is watching us,’ I said. ‘Let’s get out of here.’

We started to run. Gabby raced ahead with Freddie’s tall, lanky figure following. ‘Head for the river,’ he shouted. ‘We’ll be able to find a hiding place there.’

I swung my backpack up onto my shoulders and started to trot. At the front of the next building, there was a long glass showcase window with double doors. Behind it, there were many rows of desks. It appeared to be a huge office but with no-one in sight. My reflection showed a tangle of unkempt black hair that was covered in dust. I stopped and quickly brushed myself down. Then, in sheer panic, I froze.

A door at the far side of the office opened and a smartly dressed woman – a secretary, I guessed – came striding along an aisle toward me. Apart from her gray suit, the most prominent memory of her was two bright blue eyes and the smile. It was cold and emanated from a pure white face. It never changed. Unnerved, I turned and ran after the other two.

‘She was strange,’ I told the others after catching them up. ‘She just smiled at me all the time. I should have waited, but I panicked. We need to speak to someone.’

The answer to that immediate predicament came sooner than we thought. A motorcycle came hurtling around the corner up ahead without any warning. Another strange experience. No engine or exhaust noise – just flashing lights.  

‘Quick, I shouted, ‘down the side of this building.’

The other two, still in shock, stood holding on to each other under a tree. I had no choice but to stay. As it came closer, this strange vehicle without wheels glided through the air and slowed to a hovering stop, two feet above the ground, it's motor whirring quietly. The only thing I could really focus on were several large stubby fingers holding a silver pistol trained on me. Two piggy eyes stared at me from a pink face. A grotesquely fat policeman in silver material uniform sat eyeing me up and down but said nothing. A label on his jacket read ‘Supervisor.’ He pulled the trigger of the pistol and a wide beam of bright light played over my chest first, and then across the others.

His mouth opened and he spoke normally. My mind was still conjuring up visions of the woman I had encountered. ‘Okay, what are you doing here during curfew? Where are your ID tags,’ he demanded?

Before the other two could answer, I said, ‘Officer, this is my fault. I invited my friends out last night to a party and after, as we were coming home, we were attacked and robbed. The men who attacked us took everything including our ID. That’s why we’re walking back.’

‘Youths,’ he corrected. ‘Youths attacked you.’

‘Sorry, yes, youths.’

‘What district are you living in and how old are you?’ he barked.

As he flicked open a small tablet-type keyboard, I was distracted by two more vehicles coming toward us from the far end of the street. They glided to a halt next to us. Both riders wore the same uniform, their hands and faces were waxen white, and both could have been mistaken as twins. I assumed them to be some kind robots unlike the fat guy. They said nothing but stared at us. They reminded me of wax dolls, but their flesh seemed real – more pliable.

I thought quickly and made a guess. There had to be an area near the river. The last thing we wanted was to be picked up or looked at too closely. ‘River District, officer. I’m twenty, he’s twenty-one, and she is seventeen.’ I pointed to each of us in turn. ‘Peter McPhearson, Freddie Strange, and Elizabeth Knight.’

While I gave our names, he was poking a small electronic pad. ‘Do you know what your ID numbers are by any chance? You say they took your tags?’

We all shook our heads. Then I said, ‘Yes, they stole everything.’ Freddie opened his mouth and fortunately looked in my direction. I silenced him with a glare.

‘Typical. You middle-class youngsters today are nothing but a pain in the arse.’

Gabby was shaking uncontrollably. The shock of what we were experiencing was becoming too much for her.

‘Look, officer, Elizabeth has to get home. Her mother and father will be worried and so are ours.’ I indicated Freddie.

The officer stared at me for what seemed an age and put his tablet back into a compartment in front of the handlebars. ‘I can see you’re sensible young people, so I’ll give you a pass this time but In future,’ he warned, ‘you wear your ID tags or make a report immediately, or you’ll get picked up. If you do, your parents will have to pay one hundred hours work before they get you back.’

He placed the strange pistol back into a holster on his hip and then handed each of us a tag to put on the collar of our jackets. ‘Those will get you through – just the once so don’t try using them again. Go and get new half-yearly tags from your nearest station. Now – have you seen any of those damn Strays around? I know there are some hereabouts. There’s a cell waiting for most of them and for two at least, a visit to the factory,’ he said, running a finger across his throat and baring teeth.

I think all three of us shivered at the same time. ‘No,’ I said meekly.

‘Return to patrol,’ he ordered the other two officers.

With that, he waved us on and accelerated away in the direction we had come from, followed by the other two vehicles. I pulled Gabby and Freddie into a narrow alleyway and put a finger to my lips. Tears were running down Gabby’s cheeks, and Freddie was gasping for breath.

‘Okay, now listen. I know you’re confused and scared, but we need to understand what has happened.’

‘Are you joking? You’re all excited but I’m not, and neither is Freddie. I just want to wake up from this nightmare,’ cried Gabby. She grabbed the front of my jacket and pleaded. ‘Let’s go back to the tunnel, please.’

That was the one thing I didn’t want to do. There was no going back for me.

Freddie had remained quiet throughout and was breathing heavily. ‘We have traveled into another time, but we’re still at home. Is that right?’

I answered him but stared into Gabby’s eyes. ‘Yes. And Ben is somewhere here too. Imagine how confused he must be – even scared.’

‘Cool it, Peter,’ cut in Freddie. ‘We all want to find Ben. Maybe we could take Gabby back to safety and then return by ourselves, although I don’t like it here.’

‘Don’t like it? We’ve only just arrived.’

Gabby wiped her eyes. ‘You’re the would be astronomer and physicist, Peter. Explain what has happened.’

‘I can’t, I answered. We must have passed through a wormhole type field or passage. That sick feeling we experienced happened as we moved into another time dimension, a fold of time if you like where future time and present overlap. As we stepped through that fold, we accelerated to what is now the present for us.’

‘Wormholes only exist in space,’ countered Freddie. ‘It’s only a theory anyway.’

‘Not anymore, it’s not. We’re here, aren’t we? Einstein had a theory. Maybe it was another kind of wormhole. Maybe it was caused by the explosion somehow. It really doesn’t matter,’ I answered. ‘We’ve proved that time travel exists. Let the experts figure it out.’

‘So let’s sneak back and get Gabby to the tunnel and then we’ll return.’ Freddie took Gabby’s arm.

Gabby pulled away from him.‘No. I guess I was scared but what Peter said makes sense. Let’s get to Pimlico or wherever that is now and find a place to rest. This all takes a lot of getting used to.’

‘I wonder what other surprises we’re going to find,’ I said. ‘Perhaps there are no cars anymore. That’s why there’s none around.’

Freddie picked up his backpack and swung it across his shoulder. ‘Why Pimlico?’

‘Because that’s where Ben would have headed,’ said Gabby.

‘It’s going to be a long walk back to Pimlico.’ I followed them. ‘If there’s a curfew, then the tube will be closed – that’s if there still is a tube.’

We arrived later at the Embankment, and my prediction was proved right. The tube station was no longer in existence. Some of the old government buildings were still in place, but mostly the structures were glass surrounded by neatly trimmed grass. There were hardly any flowers and noticeably, there were no posters or colored advertising boards. It all looked clean and tidy, and very dull. Further along, under Blackfriars Bridge – although it was now called Victory Bridge – we stopped to eat our packed lunches. Hiding behind a pillar, we made plans.

‘I think we should go home – or what was our home – and look for Ben there first,’ suggested Gabby. ‘I mean, he might have found somewhere to stay nearby. Maybe he’s waiting for us.’

‘After a year or so,’ said Freddie. ‘I doubt it. He’s got used to his new environment and moved on, I’m sure.’

Gabby gave him a stern look. ‘How would you know? You don’t have a brother.’

‘I’d like to know why there are sectors and why people are given a curfew, and what sort of transport system there is and what year we are in.’ I was more talking to myself than to the other two. I know we were concerned about Ben, and I could only imagine what it was like for him, especially as he was on his own. However, I was really excited and wanted answers to know more about what was happening to us, and more importantly, the world in general. The more we knew, the more we could understand. It might even help us find Ben.

I bit into a sandwich and noticed a movement or dark flash of something disappear behind another pillar close by. The hairs went up on the back of my neck. Suspicious, I kept looking at it while the other two continued to chat about getting to Pimlico and finding a place to sleep for the night.

‘We can use my credit card for food and room,’ said Freddie.

Gabby laughed. ‘You idiot. That card might be a hundred years out of date.’

We all laughed until Gabby screamed.

From behind each of the six pillars surrounding us, there appeared a young person, each dressed in combat type clothes but more menacingly, each had a gun or rifle.

‘Who are you and where are you from?’ asked the boy I had first seen darting behind a pillar. He waved his gun at me. ‘If you were sent to infiltrate our group, we’ll find out. Tell us who sent you.’

‘Who are you?’ countered Gabby angrily. ‘Do your parents know you’re running around with guns? You should be ashamed of yourselves.’

She started to get up, but I pulled her back. ‘Chill out, Gabby. They’re not friendly.’

Freddie held out a hand to one boy. ‘We’re strangers here, my friend. I’m Freddie, and that’s Peter and Gabby over there. We’re really pleased to meet you.’

The young man pounced, and before anyone could stop him, he was on top of Freddie, punching, and kicking. ‘Bloody Uppers,’ he shouted, raining more blows on Freddie’s body. Freddie hit back, hitting the boy several times.

I grabbed the boy, and a punch landed on my stomach, winding me. Another boy came to the rescue, pulling us all apart.

‘Don’t be so stupid, Rex. You know the penalty for assaulting an Upper. You’re a real idiot.’

The young man cuffed his nose and looked around at his companions. ‘Bloody Uppers, Zeke, I told you.’ He sniggered and stared at Gabby. ‘Mummy let you out to play with the boys, did she?’

Gabby was dabbing Freddie's bloody nose. Angrily, she turned on them. ‘Whatever your problem is, it won’t get sorted while you beat people up. You should listen to Zeke. At least one of you has some common sense.’

The group of Strays closed in around us. One of the girls shouted, ‘Let’s give them a good going over, Zeke.’

‘Quit it, Pearl. The first thing is to check them out.’ Zeke clicked his fingers, and another one of the boys handed him a tablet, much the same as the one the police officer had. He held it up and waved it over each of us. ‘Well, well, well. Tags are temporary and issued today. Okay, so how come you Uppers are walking around and not in your daddy’s Cube?’

I disregarded the remark. ‘Look, we need to sit down and talk,’ I said. ‘What I have to say is so way out, it will be hard for you to believe us but we don’t belong here. We live in another time.’

They all laughed although I noticed Zeke was nodding at Pearl.

‘Yeah right, you come with us. While we decide what to do with you, you can tell us what we’ll find hard to believe. Let me warn you that should any of you give us trouble you’ll be punished. We’ll leave a note for the enforcers so they can find you and take you to the State Employment Control. They’ll place you in a shop or office job and make sure you stay there. It’s like being in an open prison.’

Zeke could not have been more than fifteen, but I got the impression that he was well educated. In fact, neither he or his gang acted like they were violent or meant any real harm. All of them had put away their guns. Pearl lowered her gun last and signaled we should follow her.

‘You come with us and do as we do, and if one of us whistles, you drop and hide until we tell you to move,’ whispered Zeke. His voice echoed under the bridge as we got up.

I whispered to Freddie and Gabby. ‘Let’s do as they want. Maybe they could have met or seen Ben. We need to gather information and Zeke looks as though he’s in charge. This is some sort of resistance group by the looks of things. We’ll have to try and find out as much as we can.’

Gabby shook her head. ‘You have to find out how we got here. This is so strange.’ She thought for a moment. ‘I don’t suppose we could be hallucinating after feeling ill in the tunnel.’

‘Hardly,’ I said. ‘Try suggesting that to Freddie.’

 ‘Hurry up and stop talking.’ Zeke interrupted us and urged us forward. ‘We follow the river until we get back to Red Sector.’

‘Would that be near Pimlico?’ I asked. ‘Is there such a place anymore? There’s another one of us lost around here, and we need to find him.’

‘Never heard of it but you’ll see when we get there.’

I am sure I caught Zeke giving Pearl another funny look as I said that. Maybe they knew something. We carried on until we reached Lords Bridge and there was a short whistle from Pearl, up front. We all ran down some steps toward an old disused wooden pier and hid behind the embankment wall.

‘Okay, now listen,’ whispered Zeke. ‘The Rambler will arrive shortly. When I say, we all run across the airway to the stop area. Two doors will be open and then close quickly unless we get there from here in seconds. When you reach it, you jump in and lay on the floor. Leave the rest to me.’

‘I assume you are talking about a bus. What about the driver?’ I asked.

‘I know you Uppers have your own transport but are you dumb or what? There is no driver – it’s voice instruction operated, or it stops in designated places when the laser unit hits a waiting passenger.’

There was another whistle. Pearl was standing at the stop as the rambler slowed to a halt.

‘Come on – go!’

I ran with Zeke across to the middle of the vast black ‘airway’ and almost fell into the vehicle before laying on the floor. Gabby landed on top of me, gasping for air. What I could see of the rambler was the top half of a molded glass shell supported by metal side walls. There were no seats, just a metal floor.

‘Red Sector,’ shouted Zeke.

‘Red Sector – five minutes and fifteen seconds – check,’ replied a soft female voice.

‘Correct.’ Zeke rolled over onto his back and poked me in the ribs wth his toe. ‘This is how the working classes are treated. We don’t even get seats – we stand – while you lot get your own Cubes and Floaters.’

From outside there came the sound of a siren. Immediately, Zeke and the Strays grabbed their guns.



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This chapter is gripping. You've created a whole new world which is powerfully contrasted with the tunnel. I like the idea that there might be some tension around leadership. Then there is the conflict between the levels of the population. Would someone reveal they didn't belong by asking about drivers when everything is so strange and one wrong word could put them at risk? Just a thought. Love the world you are creating and the story.