2018-11-16 16:20 fiction flash-fiction Benjamin Brood

Town Below

After they'd gone below they wondered how long they might stay there. One generation or two? More? Everything above would've been taken care of by then, surely. People would have to fix things. It would take time, obviously. But there was no choice, one way or another. Do or die, really. Until then the town would continue as it always had. But deeper below. There would be artificial light that mimicked the sun. The town square, on a summer's day would still be green and grassy, children playing around the bandstand, the town elders sitting in lawn chairs, a couple barbecuing, dogs chasing one another.

Their last meeting in the town hall was bittersweet. But the new town hall, directly beneath them a few hundred meters, had been reproduced exactly. Even the flaws were recreated, like the cracked baluster. And they knew, the next morning, they would all be gone from the surface of the Earth. There would be no announcement, nothing official. Shops would be closed.

Initially they were anxious that others would worry about them — the neighboring town for instance. What would they think when they drove through tomorrow and there was nothing but silence? What would their dark, abandoned town at night, devoid of lights in the windows, mean to those passing through? A warning perhaps. A statement. Better that the town be burned to the ground, as if struck by some uncontrollable wild fire, several citizens suggested. No, the mayor responded, we have abandoned the surface, the silence should be worrisome, it should be portentous, it should make them stop and wonder 'What have I done to cause this? What have I done wrong?'

And so, early in the morning, they lined up with their suitcases in front of the old barber shop. In the back, past the big, swiveling chairs, and the rarely painted wall covered with photos taken over a hundred years, the cramped wooden staircase led down to a heavy, modern door secured with huge metal bolts. One by one they went through this door, until the last of them, the mayor, entered and sealed it behind himself with a resounding clang.