Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Real World

It all started with a hole.

I'd always been obsessed with the end of the world. Or maybe it was just the lack of responsibility, the ability to hide away and do nothing but survive, as if that was enough for a successful life. As work was getting the best of me, and the people who were meant to keep me up were just dragging me down, this little obsession grew into an overwhelming hobby. So I started making a shelter.

You couldnt really call it a shelter, though. It was a hole. It had some support beams and some garbage carpet I'd driven past one day on the way home, and decided to take. It was filthy and smelly and stupid, but it took me weeks just to dig the hole, to reinforce the tunnel.

The first rainfall it collapsed.

Not just the tunnel, but the whole garden. We went from a grassy field with swings and a slide to this muddy hole 5 foot down and exposed to the elements. My family cried looking at the mess. My Mom looked devastated. But this just strengthened my resolves.

I had gone in half-hearted, as I had with everything in my life up until that point. And this half-heartedness had not only ruined whatever it was I was trying to create, but also, everything my family had worked so hard to cultivate; a nice garden; flower-beds surrounding it; a quaint stone wall to edge it off; a play area for the kids. I had not only ruined the weeks I'd worked on this, but the years my family had put into that garden. Only the apple-tree survived my ruin.

Before that moment I was only hurting myself. My time was worthless, I told myself in my head, so what does it matter if it fails. What does it matter if its made of stolen wood and compacted dirt. What does it matter if there's nothing really behind it, no science or math or thought. Maybe it'll collapse on me. Hopefully.

But seeing my families distraught faces, it tweaked that hollow in my chest.

So, I did some research. When I wasnt at work (and, to be honest, often when I was) I research basic architecture. I didn't watch films, but educational shows about tunneling, and the occasional black and white 'escape from the PoW camp' themed film. Anything that would give me ideas. Gone were the fantasy or sci-fi books my escapist mind hungered for; now it was basic physics, carpentry, construction. I spent months just... reading. Watching. Thinking.

No one had repaired the garden. No one had the heart. It was the dark spot in the extremes of all of our periphery just haunting us. 'This is what your son has become', it whispered to my Mother. 'A waste of space, good for nothing', it said to my Nan. They hoped by not mentioning it they wouldnt have to deal with those thoughts they had whenever they looked me in the eye and saw... nothing.

With a spade and a pick I set out, in all my free time, to try again. I made canopies to help stop water getting into the delicate areas, and rather than just tunnel downwards like some game of Minecraft, I expanded outwards. I went down 15 feet, a massive opening almost the length and width of the garden itself, before I'd even considered what I was going to put in there.

I looked at that empty hole. I stared long and hard, night after night. I wish I could say I saw my life, hollow but full of potential and hope, but my life was still black and stormy. I still struggling with work, and my friends, if I could still call them that, had barely noticed when I stopped going out with them, stopped showing up online, stopped sending them messages they never replied to anyway.

I didn't see my life in that hole, but that hole had somehow became my life. When I was at work, it was all I thought about. When I was at home, I spent all my time, tweaking and perfecting every inch of it.

My research went further. Construction recommendations for an underground bunker. Wood or steel, iron or tin. Where did I have to place support beams, how did I distribute the weight, and what sort of oxygen intakes did I need to survive?

I dont know what apocalypse I was preparing for. The world was fine around me. There was no real war. No virus spreading the populace. No.. anything, really.

It took months to get the raw materials. I went through three construction designs before picking one that worked, even made scale models to make sure they would work. The last time I put this much effort into anything, I was learning my ABC's in preschool (and I still struggling with my R's).

And the work was hard. I used more sick days in those months than I ever had before. Sometimes I was hurt, sometimes I ached, but sometimes I worked through the night and time just caught up with me. I think I slept every few days, and even then I dreamt about laying foundations, installing mounts, embedding support beams.

Nobody came to visit me. Or to see what I was doing. My Mom would bring me water and ice when it was hot, warm tea when I was cold, and a close hug when I could do nothing but cry and shake in the corner of my hole. Only she seemed to understand why I was doing this, and even then it was tenuous. I couldnt talk to anybody about it. How could I? I was that weirdo with the hole. I was always dirty. I was always tired.

But when I saw it, I smiled. For the first time in.. well, too long.

Loading the dirt back into what remained of the hole was the single scariest thing I'd ever done. At first I was so gentle, every creak and moan made me stop, made my eyes water, made me want to throw the whole thing in and leave it as it is, pristine and unchallenged.

But I didn't. And slowly, over the course of days, I loaded that dirt in shovel by shovel, until the only thing remaining in view was the top of the entrance chute, the opening that led to the ladder that led to the small compound underground. Climbing down there for the first time was like being born again. The tight ladder tunnel, the thud when you first set your foot on the metal floor, the archway, and then the room, as wide as the garden and equally as long.

I wish I could say it changed my life.

But it certainly changed my garden.

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