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I must have fallen into a deep enough sleep in the car, because Mitch had to
punch me in the arm to wake me up.
“C’mon, Zane!” He yells, breaking out the driver’s side door like escaping a prison
cell after a long captivity. It couldn’t have been a long drive, maybe twenty minutes, but
it was enough time for Mitch to build up a bomb of excitement, and for me to, well, pass
Mitch invited me to go boating with him and his parents for the day. I figured it
would give me something to take my mind off all the AP homework I was supposed to
be working on. I’m not very smart, I’m just determined, and that determination has
gotten me a 3.5 GPA for years. Mitch, however, is just the opposite. He’s technically a
genius, but he’s so lazy sometimes it’s hard to tell. His GPA hovers around the 3.0 area,
and he doesn’t even try, a fact that can send me from zero to sixty on the anger scale in
about three seconds. Along with that, entering our junior yea, I’ve been a Junior varsity
swimmer, which Mitch has been Varsity basketball for two years already. So while Mitch
is an athlete and a scholar, I’m a try hard with medium success. Despite this, we’ve been
best friends since we were brats. We both enjoyed the same movies, music, books, and
classes, so we get along perfectly well.
I get out of the car, and it hits me; the humidity, that is. It’s the hottest it’s been
all summer in Wisconsin, somewhere around a hundred degrees. I couldn’t wait to get
into the lake just to cool down. We came to Lake Michigan, because, as I said before, it’s
only twenty or so minutes away from our houses. Mitch’s family has taken me boating
before, but I had a feeling today would be the most fun day out of all of them.
“Help me carry the life jackets into the boat.” Mitch commands, throwing me a
few. I take one look at them and laugh.
“I’m not wearing a life jacket, there’s no way I need one.” I laugh. Mitch gives me
a sour look.
“Zane, it’s the law. You and I both know you’d be fine without one, but if your
caught without one-“
“Oh, he’ll be fine.” Mitch’s mother entered the conversation. “He’s a swimmer,
and it’s a stupid law. Bring it, but Zane, you don’t have to wear it.”
Despite everything I said about Mitch before, he’s also a rule follower, whereas I
am not. If it’s a stupid rule, I can pretty much promise I’m not following it. I’m told often
that this is a generally bad way of thinking, but nothing bad has ever come from my rule
We got on the boat about five minutes later, and drove out after a few minutes,
Mitch’s mom asked if we wanted to stop and swim, which we agreed to do.
“Alright, here we go!” yelled Mitch, as he jumped off the boat, still wearing his
life jacket. I had to laugh. If Mitch was going to play it safe constantly, and never take
risks, he was going to have a very boring life. I thought it was impossible to have an
adventure if you followed the rules.
I was still thinking of this as I ran towards the back of the boat, intending to jump
off with a running start, when on my way forward, I slipped, and hit my head on a meal
beam connecting a cover on top of the boat in case it would rain. There was a bright
light as my head connected with metal, and I can feel something wet starting to drip
down my face; feeling like somebody smashed a warm water balloon on my head. It’s
only after I register that it’s blood that I feel my body crash into the water, and start to
sink towards the bottom, not having the energy myself to push me up. I feel a small
hope that Mitch would pull me up in a moment and yell at me about not wearing a
jacket, but his hand never comes. Only more water, and more darkness, and then,
nothing at all.
I wake up, and the first thing I notice is that it is cold. I look around, thinking I’m
in the hospital, and my own and Mitch’s family would be visiting me within a few hours.
Instantly the reality hits me, not even giving me a chance to rest. What if I had been in a
coma for years, and they had given up on me? Before I know what I’m even doing, I
reach towards my forehead, and feel wet bandages. Obviously, these have been applied
in just a few seconds, with little, care, and only maybe fifteen minutes ago. I know now
that I’m not in a hospital, because looking around the room, I get a sinister feeling.
The room is all grey, with a few tables set up. I realized that these tables were set
up for other people, and judging by the stains on the ground, they were also injured.
The most disturbing part was the door, which looked almost ancient, and had claw
marks all over it, as if something was dragged out of the room.
I consider jumping up and leaving, but I have no idea where I would go. I had no
idea where I even was. I was the only one in the room, and I had no idea where anyone
else was. The door creaks open, and I’m paralyzed with fear. I know by now no doctor
would be coming in or out of this room. All those stories of children, even teenagers,
getting abducted and touched come to mind. Is that where I am now? Or am I about to
be tortured and killed?
As I expected, the person who entered the door was not a doctor. He was at least
six five, and was definitely a giant. He looked like something out of WWE. He was
wearing a grey, skin tight suit, which covered all but his face, which was covered in
scars. He gave me a look of loathing, and then walked over to the table where I laid.
“Making me deal with this s*** before I get supplies.” He mumbled, then grabbed
my arm and started to drag me across the room, to the door with the claw marks. Panic
reached me. Where ever this door led, I knew I didn’t want to go near it. I start fighting
back, but it’s like punching a wall. The man doesn’t even flinch, so I begin to grab onto
other tables, which he yanks me away from.
“Knock it off, you little s***!” He yells. There’s no way I’m going to stop. I grab on
the door, and my own nails begin to make their own little claw marks across it. I drag as
long as I can, before I look inside the door. I see a chair, and a table next to it, which
contains what looks like torture devices. Scissors, a drill, a scalpel, and a torch. What
started as a panic attack now seems to be fight for survival. I see a long, metal pipe lying
on the floor. Adrenaline kicks in and I find the strength to break away. I grab the pipe
and smash it into the man’s chest. He grunts, but otherwise looks unharmed. My mouth
hangs open in an O of surprise, as he laughs.
“What the hell do you think this suit is made of, boy?” He reaches out and grabs
the torch, and I do the only option I have left. I run out the door he came in from, and
lock it from behind, leaving him in there. I run out the room with the tables, tripping on
one. I pick myself up, and notice my hand is also bleeding from the fall. Great.
I sprint out of the room, running down a hall. It’s a barren hallway, with nothing
inside of it besides a lone chair and a window, and no other doors except the one I just
left from, which I had no intention of returning to. I look outside a window, and I see
darkness, and a few lights. Wherever I am, it’s dark outside, and a few lights by houses
Small ugly houses. A building with torture devices and heavily built guards.
Where the hell am I? I grab the chair, and smash the window. I run out of the window,
cutting my leg on the broken glass. Blood starts to pool in my shoe as I run, and I run in
between two houses. I hear a strange sound, like water rushing, but not quite like it. I
look up after I realize the sound is coming from above, and what I see just blows my
mind. I see water, suspended above the city, as if some force is holding it there. I look
around in panic, wondering where I was. Tears start up in my face, and I can feel myself
break down from fear and exhaustion. I look around the area again, and see houses, and
a few buildings that look like public gathering areas, such as a church, a giant, grey
building (which I assume I was just in) a building that says Meeting Area, and once more
I see houses. This time looking, however, I notice a sign. I start walking towards it, which
sends jets of pain shooting through my leg where it is cut, but somehow I manage to
walk towards the sign. I stand right in front of it, ready to reap my reward for the painful
walking it took to get here, and I read.
The underwater city.
I read the sign again. Then a second time. I read it maybe four more times before
I even consider this outrageous possibility. I look up again, and see fish swimming
towards the light a house is giving off. They stop at the bottom, and then swim away. It
takes all my will power not to yell out, or go completely insane.
“HEY!” A voice yells I start running, but fall, and realize how much blood I have
lost. The sound of footsteps comes closer, and I realize that they are too soft to
be threatening. As I lay on my back, a girls head enters my lie of sight, and again yells
“Hey!” at me.
I know I can’t get up, and I feel myself shutting down. It takes all the energy that I
have left for the day to get the words out, but I look her dead in the eyes and say
Then, for the second time in a few hours, I pass out once again.
At least this time when I wake up, I’m in a nonthreatening environment. It’s a
small room, filled with pictures of a family, and a girl who looks to be maybe fifteen. She
has bright red hair, which looks like it could match the red couch I’m lying on. I hear
footsteps again, and as before, I get afraid. What if the guard came back? Then, once
again, I notice the footsteps are soft and light. The girl enters the room, the same one
from the photos, and, as I realize, the same girl from last night.
“Hey, you awake?” She asks.
“No, still asleep.” I reply jokingly.
“Oh, okay. I’ll come back later.” She began to leave.
Obviously this isn’t the smartest girl under the sea. I laugh at my own little joke,
and that’s what makes her realize that I was kidding, and am in fact awake. She has
strawberry red hair, blue eyes (like the sea, har har) and was a little shorter than me.
She had to be thirteen, maybe fourteen years old. I don’t know a better way to describe
it, but she has a “nice” face. Instantly I felt calmer, and I began to speak. “So, where am
I?” I say, and am surprised by how raspy my voice is. I sound like I just got back from a
“My house, where do you think?” She asks, and gives me a dumb look.
I start to get impatient. “That’s not what I meant.” I wave my arms all around me.
“There’s water where the sky should be. What’s going on here?”
She takes a seat. I can still feel my body ache, especially in my leg. I take a look at
my leg wound, which looks- ALMOST HEALED! How long was I asleep? I can’t even be
relieved about this because it’s just presented something else to be worried about. She
clears her throat, and I continue to stare at my leg in surprise. She clears her throat
again, and I realize that she’s trying to get my attention.
“How long,” I say through gritted teeth. “Have I been unconscious?”
She gives me another weird look, and I can feel the anger in me explode as I
begin to yell.
“Stop treating me like I’m a dumbass!” I yell, as she recoils in fear, obviously not
expecting this. “I feel off my boat, I was taken to some shitty hospital, where a man tried
to torture me, by the way! I almost didn’t escape there, and when I did, I see water
floating above me! Above me! How do you explain that?”
She stares at me a moment, then replies slowly, and as I can tell, with great
caution. “You’ve been asleep for about three hours, now-“
“Wait, wait, and wait!” I yell again. “I cut my leg really badly during my escape, as
far as I know, I might not even be able to stand; it felt THAT BAD! Why does it look like
it’s been completely healed over in three hours?”
She pauses again. “I’ll answer all your questions, as long as you calm down.”
I force myself not to yell out again, instead I say, “Don’t really have a damn choice
here, do I?”
“No, you don’t, now,” she begins, “As far as I could tell, you hit your head pretty
bad, and it knocked you out, correct?” I nod. “And you fell into the lake?” I nod again,
not seeing where this is going. “And you escaped from the Garda all by yourself?” I give
a look to her, and she realizes her mistake. “Garda is Irish for Guard.”
“Am I in Ireland?”
“Then I don’t care. Where am I?”
She pauses again, as if she’s taking the time to plan out what to say. “Nobody
pulled you out of the water.”
I try to sit up, but my head hurts and I fall back onto the couch. She hands me a
bottle of Tylenol, and that’s when I know this is come kind of joke. If I was in some
fantasy underwater world, they wouldn’t have Tylenol.
“This was gathered by the Mionlach, the Elite members of Faoi Uisce.” She stops
again, expecting me to blow up. I do not, and she continues. “These words are all Irish,
Mionlach means elite, and Faoi Uisce means Underwater.”
“You keep telling me this stuff,” I say, “But you still haven’t told me where the hell I am.”
She stops again, by now, this pausing before every speech thing is pissing me off.
“You sank underwater from your head injury. You are no longer on the surface. You
sank, and would’ve died, if a Garda hadn’t found you. You would’ve drowned. He brought you
to this city.”
“How far away from Milwaukee am I?” I ask, “That’s where I live.”
She pauses again, whoa; I’m totally taken by surprise by this new development of
pausing. “You are under the lake; this city has been underwater for years.”
Before I can call BS on her story, she continues. “A boat was traveling across the
lake, carrying an Irish man. He thought he was swimming toward the surface, but ended
up at the bottom of the lake. As I was told, he was a gambling man, and needed a place
to hide. He began to swim back and forth between surface and under, stealing supplies,
and built a house for himself. He continued to save survivors from shipwrecks and other
boating accidents and allowed them to stay in the city. He appointed some of the first
few to be Mionlach, or Elites. These people get supplies to survive here, like food and
“Then who was-“
“I already know what you’re going to ask, the man who picked you up was a Garda-“
“Guard.” She rolls her eyes at me.
“Why can’t you just speak English to me?” I ask, getting more and more annoyed
by this girl.
“I usually speak Irish, but the MIONLACH,” She put stress on the word, mocking
me. “Taught me English pretty well.”
“Okay. So the Garda did what to me?”
“He found you sinking towards the bottom, and he swam up there to rescue you.’
I start to laugh. “He didn’t rescue me, he tried to kill me!”
“He thought you were a government spy, sent to investigate the city.” She gave
me a funny look. “He was going to interrogate you.”
“Oh, really, I didn’t realize. That makes it all okay.”
She rolls her eyes again. At least she stopped pausing. “Do you want to go
She adds stress to the word “Home” as if it’s some alien planet. I guess for her, it
may as well be. But I have to think about it. I could live in this society away from society;
everyone thinks I drowned on the surface. But if I escape, my only reward would be
going back to working my ass off to look average. Down here, I could live an easier life. I
probably shouldn’t be so quick to accept what she’s been telling me, but I’ve already
seen the sign for the city, and the water being held above us. This raises more
questions for me to ask.
“How does the water stay there?”
“Nobody knows. If the Mionlach know, they’re not saying anything.”
“What about it?”
“Does it happen?”
“Never. People just gather water from above, treat it, and use it for drink and to keep plants alive.”
“How do you guys get oxygen down here?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I assume that there are trees around here, but I’m not sure how they’d live, since there’s little sunlight.”
“You’ve never seen trees?”
“Only in books.”
“Little to none filters down here, that’s why there are so many lights during the day, to simulate day time.”
“Is it possible to escape?”
“Yes, I could take you there at night, if you want to leave. You’d have to swim through all the way up to the lake, could you handle that?”
In an instant I remember something I overlooked before. In the room where I
woke up down here, there was a tank of oxygen and a mask. Now that I think about it, it
was probably used for the Mionlach or whatever to get supplies.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“Then I can take you in a few hours, when everybody falls back asleep.”
I have to think before I speak, unable to figure out how to phrase my next
question. But I find myself smiling as I ask the most difficult question yet.
“Would you like to come with me?”
She stares at me for a minute, and I with a sense of dread I feel that I just closed our deal. Instead she smiles back at me.
We spend the next few hours talking to each other. Her name is Emily, she is
fifteen years old, and spends her time reading text books (Stolen, text books) about
medicine and anatomy, since she wants to be a doctor. She asks me what I want to be,
and I reply that I do not know yet. Down here, if you want to become something, there’s
no pressure, you just study up and do it when you turn eighteen. Her mother is a cook,
and her father (to my surprise) is a Garda. I start to freak out, when she reassures me he
was on the surface, searching for someone who escaped the city. This gives me mixed
feelings. It was possible to escape. However, if I did, I would still have to hide from
them, as they would still be looking for me.
Around eight o clock Emily comes back into the room where I sleep, and tells me
it was time to go. I get up, and follow her out the door. Thinking about it, it was stupid
of me not to take my shirt off before I jumped into the water, as it’s just been cold, and
it’s gotten blood on it due to my stupidity.
I start to follow her, and I have to trust her completely. I somehow take comfort
in this fact, and I realize that she has to trust me to trust her. This brings me more
comfort, and I walk right next to her, marveling at the water directly above ourselves. I
tell her about the surface world, and how much fun it will be when she gets up there.
She tells me she is scared that they will find her, and I reassure her they will not. I tell
her about Mitch, and how good of a friend he is, and will be to her. I suddenly feel
guilty. I left Mitch and his family, even though it was out of my control, to think I was
dead. This is the last straw that makes me feel the need to rush out of here.
She shows me a tube that leads up into the water. “If you get in here, this tube
will shoot us right up, and then we’ll be in the water, then it’s up to us.”
We both have the oxygen masks, and we get ready to get into the tube. A loud,
very rough voice stops us. “STOP!” A large man in grey, metal clothing runs towards us. I
recognize him right away- this is the same guard that tried to interrogate me.
I turn and face him, ready to fight, and yell over my shoulder to Emily, “Get in the tube!”
She gives me a sad smile, and throws her mask and tube away. “Sorry Zane, this is as far as you go.”
All the pieces fit together now. The same guard that tried to hurt me had red hair, and so does Emily.
Emily’s father started towards me, and I look around for a weapon, finding
nothing, I see I need to fight hand to hand. I stand in an old position that I was taught
when I was six, when learning karate. He charges me, and I get ready to defend myself.
When he slams into me, it feels like I just got slammed by a football player. I almost lose
my footing, but the idea of getting back to my friends and family keeps me on my feet. I
push back with strength I don’t know I had, and he falls back, dropping what looks like a
“Don’t grab that! Stand still!” He yells as he gets back up.
I immediately grab the nightstick. Duh. When somebody tells you not to do
something, you instinctively do it. I smash his head with the nightstick with all that I
have in me, not holding back at all. He falls backward, landing on his head, blood
starting to pool around it. I look at Emily, whose mouth is covered in an O of surprise.
“Why did you set me up?”
She instantly gets angry, and gives me the most hateful look I’ve ever seen from
someone. “You are not to leave. We keep all survivors from accidents down here. If we
sent them up, they’d let the world know about us, and we can’t let that happen.”
I see her reach in her coat as she stops talking, and I don’t see what it is until I
hear her insert the clip.
It’s a gun, and I don’t think for even one second that she won’t shoot me, just
based on the look I got.
Large, scary looking grown-ups I can handle. Not girls with a gun. I stare her right
in the eyes, and I wait. I wait to see the look in her eyes change from when her brain
tells her hand to fire and when her finger pulls the trigger. After what feels like days, I
see the light in her blue eyes change, and I duck out of the way right when I hear the
BLAM of the pistol. I don’t stop, I just run, two shots being fired and missing me by many
feet. Emily was obviously a terrible shot, but, if given the chance, she would try to keep
me here. I run into the tube and push the button, and, as an added bonus, I flip her off
for good measure while the tube flies me into the water.
There’s nothing around me, only darkness and cold. I start swimming up, not
knowing how far under I was, or how close to the surface I was getting. All I knew was
that I needed to go up. Up. Up. Up. The word seemed too impossible, I might drown
here, and my escape would’ve been for nothing. Up. Even if I get to the surface, they
could still track me down, or so I think. That’s what Emily told me, but she lied about a
lot of things. Up. I keep repeating the word during all my thoughts, and it keeps me
swimming. Soon I could see my family and Mitch again, but for now I had to keep
swimming. So that’s’ what I do. I swim for what seems like hours, my lungs about to
burst. Eventually I feel my head break the surface, and I look around. I see I’m not that
far from the shore, but I stop and float there a minute, just appreciating that the water
was BELOW me, and not being held above me. After a few minutes, I start to swim
toward shore. It’s sometime in the middle of the day, and people start pointing at me when I get to
shore, many ask me questions, such as how I came up so far away from the shore without being on the
beach to begin with. I ignore all of them, and walk down the street. Eventually I reach a pay phone that
survived the reign of cell phones. I dial Mitch’s number immediately. I don’t think of the police- they
would call me crazy. My family wouldn’t believe me. Mitch would be able to see. Mitch answers after
four rings, probably not recognizing the number.
“Mitch, I’m by the beach where we took off, and I have got a story for you.”