Dead ahead

I took the words “urban exploration” to their literal meaning. There wasn't a nook nor cranny that I wouldn't sneak in. Friends and family started worrying about me. They saw weirder and weirder photos scrolling past their feeds and the comments below revealed unease and worry. “Where are you going? Is it safe?” “What is that thing?” “Are these junkies?”

They were not junkies, of course. Not that I hadn't met people under influence, but they don't ever let you take their photos. During the day they are mostly decent people, working at the desk next to you and you are none-the-wiser. They were what they call themselves “The Guardians”. They take turns to guard spaces in the city that don't play by the usual rules.

Today I was down there below Surgeon street and I was trying to move the trashbin that was strategically positioned to obscure the entrance, but it wouldn't budge. A few moments later a skinny face emerged behind the bin: “Go away, the bin is here for...” he paused. “Oh, it's you. Can you slide in through here?I bolted the bin in place because I think they must have sniffed us out. Damn cops.”

I squeezed with some disgust behind the filthy bin and descended the makeshift ladder. The air smelt of mold. The Guardians were gathered in a circle, conversing quietly. “Where are the days when we were squatting empty buildings in plain sight? We could help people back then: there were community meals, free lessons, parties. Now we're gathered here, underground, like rats” I heard the oldest one say, a bald, skinny man in his mid-50's or so. “There's no point in reminiscing the past, Peter” remarked another one, younger, muscular, with reddish hair and short beard. “there's reason to believe they're onto us and they've been more aggressive than ever, at least since we've gone underground”. He let a long breath of air come out as if he didn't want to say the rest of the sentence.

“We have a lot going on down here. We could go down as terrorists for most of it if not only for helping that young mother and her baby. They're illegally here and since they passed that law that conflates immigration with terrorism” he let a tired sigh out “I can't even talk about it. How many are you ready to risk your lives?”

“Fuck it I still remember how it was before and I do curse myself for supporting this oppression for 8 hours every day. Somebody has to fight. Somebody has to die. Might as well be me.” Peter said without a hint of hesitation. This seemed to energize the group. The whispering between them grew louder.

I attempted to whisper something myself to the woman next to me but before I could, my field of vision blanked. It felt as if the movie of my life suddenly faded to white. A fraction of a second later, a loud bang. My ears hurt. When I regain some kind of sensory input I hear loud voices and the sound of rubber clanking on plastic. Clubs on shields.

“Grab whatever you can, and charge!” Peter's voice was heard, louder than ever, and echoing on the cavern walls. “We're dead ahead, anyway”.