This is the segment of a project to tell the narrative of a location through fragments of primary and secondary sources that expound on its history and transformation over the decades. It’s an experiment on combining creative writing with other types of writing I trained in during my undergrad.

“What is this place?” GaL’s voice holds something between wonder and fear.

“There was a time when it was hope.” Her flashlight swings towards me, intent on blinding me.

“You’re doing it again.”

“Doing what?” A wry grin plays on my lips, knowing exactly what she’s going to say.

“Speaking in metaphor, like a twat.”

“Sorry.” I’m really not.

She huffs and keeps moving forward down the cramped passage we’ve been threading the last two hours. I’m being vague on purpose and I tell myself it’s because I want GaL to figure it out on her own, not because I fear the ghosts I’ll conjure by naming the place.

GaL is a few meters ahead of me, now. Her flashlight is bobbing in time with her stomping gait. She’s got on those larger-than-life boots she wears on all our expeditions. I don’t even know where she found them. She uses their heft to kick in a brittle piece of plywood that was boarding up the entrance.

“You coming or what, Old Timer?” Her body is halfway through the doorway as I catch up. I hold my light high over both of us to peer into the dark expanse. A thousand lumens barely beats back the oppressiveness, but maybe that’s just me. GaL doesn’t seem to notice or care as she scans the surroundings.

“How the —“ She’s kneeling down to examine the bunker door that’s been blown inward off its hinges. Her gloved fingers leave thin streaks in the soot and dust.

“Probably a concussive charge at short range,” I supply, trying to sound neutral. The blast marks and shrapnel embedded in the concrete walls and floors bears evidence to that.

“Holy shit.” GaL looks as though she has a new appreciation for ballistics. I nudge her forward, not willing to linger here, where the breach started.

“Come on, we have’t gotten to the good stuff.”

GaL shuffles forward, boots scraping loudly on stone. I flinch. Must be the silence amplifying every sound. I swear I can hear the blood rushing through my veins.

“You all right there, old man?”

“What?”

“You’re breathing kinda hard.”

“Oh, just had too much drink last night. I’ll be fine once we get the air scrubbers running again.”

“Typically DoM,” she mutters, kicking some debris out of her path. “You really think there’ll be any juice left in this place?”

“Definitely. It was built to withstand the apocalypse. Literally.”

GaL shakes her head at me, not knowing if she should take my words at face value. That’s always been an iffy decision at the best of times.

“This way.” I pull her by the sleeve toward my intended destination when she starts taking the wide open path straight through the middle of the complex. If memory serves, my target is not too far from the entrance, but we might as well be on an alien planet for how different the place is. In my mind’s eye, I keep trying to overlay what the place looked like the last time I saw it. Nothing lines up.

“Stop,” I say way louder than I meant to and GaL gasps, rounding her light on me again.

“What is your damage?” She grounds out, circling me with the dust speckled beam of light.

“Wait here a sec,” I reply, disappearing into an open doorway to my left.

The control centre is as antiquated as I remember it — all big. stolid switches and levers. The lights on the panels have gone dead, but that’s not necessarily a bad sign. This chunky tech is meant to withstand just about any worst case scenario, short of an EMP. The master switch has a panel all its own set in the middle of a wall covered in fuse boxes and levers. I’d be able to find it even if I hadn’t done a rotation through Electrical Systems Supervision and Maintenance what feels like ten lifetimes ago.

With a thunk that reverberates through my whole arm, I throw the switch. The electricity is back with a snap. Indicator lights flicker wildly as the whine of machinery spinning up fills the cramped room. Unsurprisingly, more than a few settle on failure red. Far away, I can hear the turbines churning away. I let out an explosive sigh, only now realizing I’d been holding my breath. The thought had occurred to me as we trekked here that the cops or some particularly adventurous scroungers might have gutted the whole system. It feels like some kind of victory that they didn’t. Then again, this place has always been some kind of miracle.

“What the hell is that noise?” GaL’s voice echoes from where I left her. It’s all gruff bravado covering her (not so) slight fear of the dark.

“Calm your tits, I’ll be out in a sec.” I flip open the box labeled “lights” in a dozen different languages and start flipping switches at random. The old industrial lighting takes forever to warm up and no doubt the wiring needs some TLC.

“Whoa.” GaL’s exclamation is barely a whisper as the lights finally snap to full brightness one after another. Their habitual buzzing is thunderous, no longer masked by the hubbub of people living.

Seeing the damage wrought by precision military action followed by years of neglect is a shock I definitely didn’t prepare myself for. Thankfully, GaL is too caught up in her own wonderment to notice. She Stumbles forward trying to make sense of what she’s seeing, which gives me enough time to recover. I’m smart enough not to give her reason to eat me alive.

“What the hell is this place?” GaL asks, turning on me. I don’t try to stop the cheshire grin.

“Welcome to BunkerTown.”