City of Uranium
“The lever is stuck again.” said Cota.
“Let me take a look.” Bold replies. He makes his way over to Cota, adjusting his safety helmet where a small torch is mounted. The bright colours of their thick, insulated coveralls make it easy to spot one another. After a few minutes of grunts, clockwise and counter clockwise movements with a magnetic spanner, he pulls down the lever that had been jammed. Cota parks his ear toward the ceiling, a low frequency hum fills the tunnel starting from the northern entrance. A straight line of LED’s activated by the switch flick on, illuminating the fluorescent ground. They both sign with relief and look ahead of them at the endless pattern of tunnel stretching for miles.
“We should let them know this is the second time this month, that lever, and I should also get a pair of handy spanners like yours.” Cota smiles. The concrete tunnel absorbs the sound of their boots along the coated floor. They walk through the tunnel stopping at each power unit fitted with heat sensors, display panels with thin almost invisible LED’s, and a multitude of cryptic hazard signs. On a thin, transparent film they jot down the numbers on the displays. This is their routine check and has been for the previous ten decades, and through this Cota and Bold found comfort in their work with one another. They continue with the check for another half of a mile down the structure, the power units fitted every 2 meters on either side of the hollow arch.
Beyond the half while where they are standing, the architecture stretches into a labyrinth of multi-floor shafts, miles and miles burrowed beneath the surface of the land. Large passageways connect to smaller passages which then connect to inaccessible, sealed off rooms. These rooms walled off by thick layers of steel and clay, clearly with no possibility for entry. Each room is supported by spindly concrete arms that lead to more impenetrable door closures, and ends at numerous check points, one of the many where Cota and Bold are stationed.
Cota and Bold turn back around at the end of the half mile, blocked abruptly by a large steel door decorated with hazard signs. They turn around and make their way back toward the entry through which they came in. Bold pulls the lever, a heavy door soundlessly glides down form a space between the concrete sealing it shut. They enter a life which silently hoists them up toward the surface, passing meters of dark space.
Back inside their shared concrete chamber, they both glance through the thick glass window. Outside at the most southern point of the Earth, the wind is picking up bits of loose snow, moving it across some distance and depositing it onto the barren yet mountainous Earth scape. The sky is the colour of deep dark blue canvas.
“Like one?” Bold asks pointing to one of the sachets he is holding, about to tear it open.
“Sure.” Cota answers. Bold takes another sachet of mixed powder, opening and tipping each sachet into a metal cup. He reaches for the glass flask he prepared before their routine check, the steam of the hot liquid fogging his eye goggles.
Cota thanks him as they sit down on the edge of a bed and continue looking out the window. The increasingly strong wind outside throws snow against the glass, making just the smallest trace of sound.
©2022 Deborah Tchoudjinoff