Still, a part of me feels deathly afraid as Sol activates the chute, and the old machinery chugs to life with a deafening cacophony of whirring and chugging. What if the thing breaks down halfway to the surface? What if the top has been sealed off by debris? That elevator could easily become our coffin and no one would ever, ever find us.
But I’d be with Sol in my final moments… and that gives me some comfort at least.
That’s worth risking everything for. I never thought I’d ever witness one again, and it didn’t even cross my mind that I might miss it when I made the journey underground in a hurried panic with the other members of the Hive. It wasn’t until I was sealed in cold darkness that I realized I never got to say goodbye…to the sun.
Sol and I wedge into the elevator, which is actually much narrower on the inside than I expected. This is actually only meant for one person, I realize. Our bodies press tightly against each other within the canister and I can feel Sol’s heart beating as rapidly as my own. “Ready?” he asks. I nod, and though he can’t see me, he can feel the motion of my head against his chest. “Ok, then.”
He presses a button and I let out a cry as the chute zips upward with a strong magnetic force making it difficult to move. After our slow, careful progress all day, this sudden rush of speed feels frightening and reckless.
I squeeze my eyes shut as we cling to each other, fearing the worst. This could very well be the end if something goes wrong.
The trip seems endless, and I wonder if the chute will ever stop. How deep are we underground? What if there is no surface anymore, just an endless cavern that reaches to the sky? Eventually, though, the canister slows to a gradual stop and then jerks slightly as it reaches the surface. At least, I hope it’s the surface.
“Maybe we should put on our gas masks before we go out,” Sol says.
“No,” I say. “I want to experience this fully, even if it kills me.”
His arms are still wrapped around me, warm and strong. “Ok.”
He presses the button to open the door, and I hear a hiss as it slides open.
The first thing I feel is a rush of cold air, so pure, so clean, it makes my lungs gasp. “It’s so… fresh.” Sol echoes my thoughts, his voice barely above a whisper. He squeezes out of the canister and then helps me out.
“It could still be toxic,” I say, but I realize I don’t care if it is. It’s the most amazing air I’ve breathed in years. I guess all the dust from the wars has settled.
The next thing I notice is how quiet it is.
It feels like we’re the last two people on earth.
“Look, we made it just in time. The sun is rising!” Sol says, his voice boyish with glee.
I grab his hand and we run out onto the surface, giddy as children, and stop, breathless, to bask in the growing light.
We can’t see it. Like everyone else, we were blinded by the nuclear flashes, but I can feel the orange and yellow spreading across the sky, caressing my face. I can taste its caramel warmth on my tongue, smell its citrus color.
And then I feel Sol’s arms wrap around me again. “Happy birthday,” he says softly. And his then his soft lips are on mine. All my senses explode and mingle in bursts of light and happiness, and I run my fingers through the curls of his hair, like rays of sunlight through wispy clouds.
His kiss is the sunrise, my Sol, my sun, my soul.
We pull apart and I can feel his warm smile reflected in my own.
“We could just stay up here, you know.”
“The radiation would get us eventually,” I muse, and turn my face toward the white-hot, toxic sun, cradling us in its deadly light.
I stare at it with open eyes and laugh.
© 2012 Tania del Rio
This article was written by Tania