A dystopia is an unpleasant (typically repressive) society, often propagandized as being utopian. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction states that dystopian works depict a negative view of “the way the world is supposedly going in order to provide urgent propaganda for a change in direction.” And Webster’s Dictionary states that it’s, ‘an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.’ Here’s my attempt at dystopia.
The stories that our elders pass down to young ears isn’t one to frighten but one to educate and tell of when there were days of hope. The days of light and life were now gone and the new plague of night and despair was upon our town. When my father was younger, society had options to vote and make decisions about how the country was to run. There were no food or water rations, people had jobs, and there was something called the internet that was entertaining, educational and horrific. Then one day the lights went out. My dad would always make this grand gesture with his hands over his head, close his eyes, ‘Boom, darkness.’ The world was at war with the country and those who had the means went to an underground building. He explained that as they were making the descent into the darkness he could feel the vibrations and muffled banging and crashing sounds from the earthen walls.
The bunker that my mother and father choose was the only one deep enough to survive. Not even the politicians survived their circus of destruction. My mother died giving birth to me. I never got to meet her but the bunker became a close family unit. As a unit, the people decided that there wasn’t going to be a council of any kind and only one individual would help guide us through restarting our lives and civilization. We all know now that was a mistake. There were rules that had to be followed or face the consequence of exile among the newly deformed creation of beasts outside of our tunnel. The leader had seen them once when he had gone to the surface to see if there were any survivors so the adults had believed him. He risked his life searching for other lives. They were wrong.
- No one leaves the bunker without a partner, this is to ensure safety and that at least one person makes it back alive to give testimony.
- Must have a valid reason and a signed permit to leave the bunker.
- Guards are allowed to intervene when safety is involved and will not adhere to the laws of our bunker.
- Tunnels are assigned to teams of men and are released from duty when complete. If the tunnel is not complete because of age or infirmary you will be put to peace to enjoy eternity and a new family is assigned if there are no heirs.
- Marriages are arranged by the leader for the young at the age of 16. There will be one discussion with the guardian of the bride/groom of possible matches but the final decision is made by the leader.
- New Brides must produce an heir in the first year of their marriage. If no heir is produced, the marriage is terminated and the women work in domestics.
- Children will be given to the care of the elders for learning and training at the age of 3.
- Murder, theft, nonconsensual sex is not allowed and punishment of crimes is by death.
- Any celebrating is prohibited. Holidays, birthdays and celebrations are decided by the leader.
These rules are subject to change by the leader of their term of service. These are to keep our life underground not only safe but also to ensure survival during this age of darkness.
My youth was an enjoyable one until it was time for me to marry. I begged my father not to make me marry anyone and that I was in NO WAY ready for a baby to look after. He didn’t want me to marry either and tried his best to have permission granted for us to go to the service. The conversation with the leader was unfruitful. I was to marry next month to a boy a year older than me. We have spoken only a few times in passing but not enough to know each other.
In my lifetime the leader has put to death 17 people, almost one person a year. There was no trial just an explanation for the supposed crime that no one ever saw that led to the death penalty. The leader would refer to us a family but we were only like children, to be seen and not heard. He would reward for good behavior and punish for bad. We had living quarters without families but he had an underground palace. His guards would wander among us with an air of entitlement but we all knew it was to eavesdrop and report back to the leader. No one but the leader has been outside for more than 15 years.
‘Father, PLEASE don’t make me marry. Is there anything that can be done?’ I pleaded with my father.
‘The leader would not move on his decision. He offered an option to marry him instead which would give you special privileges.’ I only made a face at that counter offer.
‘What about going above ground to find other societies?’ I asked with hope.
‘He said no, and that’s why we are digging more tunnels in hopes to find other survivors.’
I went to open my mouth and argue with my father but I could see his feelings of failure was over him. I kissed him on the forehead, ‘I love you, daddy.’ I went to my room. There I made sure my curtains were closed and crawled under my bed and cried into a pillow. If a guard were to hear me my father would be questioned. I laid there for hours trying to figure out my situation and how to better everyone’s life. I couldn’t start a revolution underground, we would all be slaughtered. I would much rather take my chances on the surface than to live like this anymore. My father could possibly be put to death but only if he knew what I was going to do. I made my decision now I need to plan.
I watched the guard’s routines around the stairwell to see what if any daily maintenance was required. I remembered my father telling me that the surface doesn’t have a key lock, just that a person would need to be strong enough to lift the hatch door. After supper that night I went to bed as usual but instead of going to sleep I pack a bag of essentials. Clothes, soap, water, oats, and a picture of my mother and father. The bag was small enough to fit under my dress and tied to my leg. That’s one good thing, the girls had to dress modestly so our bodies were covered at all times. I will leave in the morning or what we were told was morning.
After the bell sounded, I got up, dressed, and went to have communal breakfast with my father. We talked normal breakfast chatter and what I was learning from the elders. I wished him a safe day at work and I loved him and we separated. I walked through the corridors and when asked where I was going or what I was doing my reply was, ‘I’m looking for my future husband to formally accept him in marriage.’ This got me all the way to the stairwell without any problems. The guard at the front was a little more difficult.
‘Sir, I heard a young woman crying down this way,’ I pointed down the hall I just came through. ‘I hope someone hasn’t hurt her or disobeyed our leader.’ He eyed me for a minute as I started walking the opposite direction. I could hear footsteps walking away from me and turned to see the guard walking down the tunnel. This was my chance. I scrambled up the ladder. Halfway to the top, I heard someone yelling at me. My foot slipped and I lost the bag that was tied to my leg but not my grip. I held on tighter to every rung of the ladder until I hit my head on the hatch. The guard that was in pursuit of me was coming fast. I turned and pushed but nothing happened. I threw my shoulder into it launching myself up when the door gave way.
BOOM, LIGHT! I couldn’t see anything. At first, I thought I had died, that the guard caught me and threw me back down but no. There was actual light. There wasn’t a plague of darkness and after my eyes adjusted there wasn’t any mutant humans or animal. After I got help from the town’s people that liberated the people from below I learned a great deal. It did go dark for about a month after the war. People held safe in their basements. A societal structure was rebuilt to mimic what was before with safeguards in place now. There still isn’t any electricity or internet but jobs were being performed and no arranged marriages. Come to find out the leader of our underground bunker life was actually a criminal cult leader that went into hiding. He lured people in with the promise of safety, shelter, and provisions. He is now on trial for the deaths of all those people along with the guards that helped carry out such punishments.
My father and I were welcomed back into the world and were given our home back. I didn’t marry and now I’m even able to be a teacher. That’s the one good thing about being taught from a young age. I was considered an educated young woman and was given the job that paid in goods. Now, we are all living back in the light and in hope.