The tunnel workers had been working on overtime status for months. Finally, after all the useless meetings and the glowering 'pep' talks by
the Generals in Charge, they were nearing the end of the job. The new line would allow ever-faster transport between the great eastern hills and the
vast mountains and deserts of the southwest continent. Much was made of the decision to skirt the neon-lit cities above in the desert, but in the end
it seemed expedient - their electromagnetic signature and oddly negative psychic imprint, felt by all within miles, was worth avoiding.
Most of the engineering and tunneling work had come off without a hitch, but there were strange reports coming in from some quarters; workers
murmuring about foreign voices being heard in their heads, telepathic signals coming in from beyond the tunnel walls, lyrical sounds but sometimes
harsh and grating. The usual governmental compartmentalization precluded much discussion but the lunchtime gossip circumvented that. Some One or
Some Thing was on the other side of the crystalline walls...
Some workers had gone missing; their disappearances were reported to the usual authorities but no further information was ever forthcoming. In the
end, it didn't matter much; their families were told they 'died in service to their country' and the usual full military honors were given. With
millions of tunnelers working, some deaths were to be expected; it was just stranger, somehow, when the bodies were never found. Some thought that
the disappearances were rumored to be the design of the generals, who wanted everyone just a little bit afraid of the surface, afraid of what was up
there; lest anyone go and check for themselves. Others laughed at the thought, that anyone would ever want to go up into the blinding light, and the
incessant solar radiation, just to investigate; it was well known that there was nothing important up there, and was not for a patriot or an honorable
man to question. The gossipers were usually ridiculed into mute submission.
Soon, the entire project would be complete, and the workers could rejoice! Honeycombed chambers had been built under the massive city-states above,
preparing for the day when the sinkholes would collapse them, bringing centuries' worth of food down into the hatcheries and finally ending the
incessant vibrations filtering down through the earth, the head-hammering sonic insults that plagued so many and interrupted their sleep. Whatever
'they' were, up above, they had no right to interrupt the colony building, the endless digging, and 'they' had to go. It was a simple matter of
expedience; the donation to the food supply was a welcome bonus and would feed billions of hatchlings.
Ancient history reported that some of 'them' had been captured over the eons; found languishing on the ground, seemingly dead or dying; disgusting
creatures with soft exoskeletons, hardly worthy of the name; two legs, two legs!!! and astonishingly, no muscles to speak of. They could hardly even
carry half their weight, can you imagine!?! The geneticists were at a loss to understand how such a weak creature could exist, much less function in
society, and much care was taken to see that no genetic contamination happened between 'them' and the colonies in the grand canyons below.
The day of reckoning was nigh; the final bombs were set; everything was readied, checked and double-checked. Sentries had been posted lest any
sabotage or invader ruin the carefully planned final assault.
Communique from Citizen #QR342, Section 17-ZED:
Our knowledge of what happened next is insufficient to determine exactly what occurred. A category 20 Earthquake on the CavernBuilder's Scale, far
more intense than ever before encountered, completely shattered the People's Houses and Storehouses, the Monuments to Victories Past and Progeny
Future. Immediately after the Great Earthquake, a Great Wind occurred, and after the horrific tornadic blast, lasting seemingly hours with a force
never encountered before in history, all was lost; only a few survived its fury, fewer still were willing to talk about the Great Massacre.
One clue only remained, a psychic recording of a shrill blasting noise heard after the Great Earthquake but before the Great Wind... it is reproduced
here in phonetic resonant detail, in the hopes that some historians of the future will be able to determine the cause of the disaster and plan future
attacks on the monsters of the surface with greater deadly success; it went thusly:
I believe it's a great contribution to the contest. I actually had to restart and read from the beginning again once I detected the subtle character
shift. Nice twist. If you can make me go back two paragraphs, and make me read your story again, then it's imbued with just enough content to make
me think "WTH?"
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