Everything I Know About Shelter

I put out a call for writing prompts on the twitters, and one friend gave me the above title and a six-minute limit. The results:


I know that Shelter protects me. My room is the smallest in a house of small rooms in a world of small houses. My mother calls it economical, that there are a lot of families who live in our community and that since everyone values privacy so much then we had to give up the space to build walls and doors.

I have no window, so I step outside. A relative term. Overhead, pipes and girders run like grand rivers, branching off to feed and support other tributary tunnels. I know they are essential, that without them we would freeze and choke and be crushed by the earth above us.

I want to walk out the front door. The real front door—the big one, the one with multiple gates inside each other, where airtight trucks full of workers or soldiers will vanish for days, or forever.

I know that I cannot leave Shelter, because there are women and men with guns who would rather murder a thirteen-year-old girl than risk a containment breach.

I know that I cannot leave Shelter, because even if I managed to get past those people with guns, on the other side of that airlock is an environment filled with ways to end my life before I could take four steps.

I know that I cannot leave Shelter because even if I managed to live past those first nervous steps, the grass won’t be green. The dirt won’t be brown. The sky won’t be blue.

I know that I will never see those things in my life, because the first thing everyone learns growing up: Shelter is not on Earth. We, in these tunnels and pipes and tiny houses, are the only people on a planet of poison and death.

And I know we weren’t ever supposed to be here.


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