Fresh air


Prompt by u/jpeezey:

While cleaning, you move a carpet in your basement and find a hidden manhole cover. Curious, you open it with a crowbar, and surprisingly the air coming from it doesn’t smell nasty. Actually, it smells… fresh.


Under the carpet was a manhole cover. Eliza had no idea why it was there. The carpet had been there before she moved in. She pried the thing open with the crowbar she’d just found under a shelf. She turned up the brightness of her headlamp. Tiny metal ladder steps lead into a dark abyss.

There couldn’t be anything really dangerous under the house right?

Her shoes clanged on the rungs of the ladder. One creaked, but it didn’t fall. Finally, she felt the ground again. Now fully engulfed in the darkness, she could actually see by the light of her headlamp. She adjusted her breathing cap. There could be extra dangerous toxins down here. She inhaled. Weird. She breathed again. Could it be? She didn’t take off her cap, she wouldn’t be the first one to die due to rash judgement. Instead, she took out her pocket air tester. A beep as it turned on.


Was it a mistake? Was her equipment faulty? But no, she felt it herself when she breathed. How in the hell was there fresh air down in the basement?

She slowly followed the dark tunnels. Her steps echoed. She kept watch of her air tester and didn’t take her cap off just in case. The further she went, the cleaner the air got. The tunnel never had any side ways, but there were plenty of turns to make up for it. Eventually, she came to another very long tunnel going in one direction. At the very end of the tunnel, was a light.

She quieted her footsteps in case there was someone there, but she couldn’t contain herself enough to go slow. She all but sprinted to the source of the light and then-

The tunnel opened up. She skidded to a halt. It was an enormous cave. A cave lit up by warm yellow light. Grow light. It was filled with green. Not the hardy crops she’d seen in the few fields there still were, not the bitter vegetables grown under grow lights in the small facility she’d visited once. These were real proper plants.

Trees, ferns, moss, flowers. She didn’t have to take a glance at her air tester. She flung her mask off and inhaled. The rich forest scent she’d missed so much. Soil after the rain.


She took off her shoes and leaped onto the moss. She revelled in the feel of it under her soles. She touched a tree with her hands. She hadn’t felt a proper tree since she was a little girl before they left for the colonies.

She wondered what type of tree it was. She didn’t recognise it. It’s bark was smooth and white in places and dark brown in others. The moss had a strange star shape she didn’t remember either. But there were many different plant species, and she had still been a child when they left.


Who made this ‘garden’? Someone must have, but why would anyone keep quiet about such an accomplishment. They’d been trying to grow plants here for years, and only a very select few hardy ones that still had to be genetically modified would grow.

Could these plants be native? There weren’t any plants here when they arrived. After being swayed by advertisements filled with the most beautiful landscapes, they left the ship to a barren wasteland and no way home.

She sunk down on the moss and leaned against the tree. It was three times as wide as her. It must have been dozens of years old, hundreds even. How was that possible?

The lights flickered. They made a buzzing sound. None of her lights made such a sound, and the ones in the vegetable lab didn’t either. Old technology.

Were they not the first to colonise this planet? Now that she thought about it. The houses were already here when they got there. They’d assumed the colonising company had built them…

She shifted, no longer feeling comfortable. Her foot bumped into something hard under the moss. She lifted the moss to look underneath. There was a plaque.

We’ll never be eradicated.

There was a click next to her ear. Something pressed against her head. It wasn’t quite clear from the corner of her eyes. Heavy breathing sounded from behind.

“Curse the invaders”

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