Dak tinkered with the bomb components for nearly two weeks, trying to look industrious while actually making very little progress. His own lack of knowledge helped in his ruse – he had never made a bomb before so any serious attempt was largely guesswork anyway. But Michael was getting impatient, and now Lin was beginning to pay the price for the delay. He’d gotten strong hints that if there was no significant progress soon things would get rough for Lin. Now Michael stood next to Dak’s workbench and gazed out over the valley where the korba beans grew.

“Once we overthrow the tyranny of First City we will ascend to our proper station, establish a more just and beneficent world – a world where all citizens are immortal, not just the elite few.” It seemed Michael was in political speech mode, though he didn’t bother to look at Dak as he spoke. “There will be no more Governor. No more Special Forces. No more Hospice.” Dak said nothing. Michael wasn’t making conversation, he was laying down an ultimatum. All the workers were now under cover of shade doing light manual labor. Field work was only done until mid-morning, and in the late afternoons to avoid the brutal heat. Michael shifted, half turning toward Dak. “The weeds are getting out of hand in the korba beans.” Dak froze – the wire held between his fingers and thumb began quivering, echoing his own tension. “I might need to send someone out all day tomorrow for weeding.” He flashed Dak a smile then turned and headed back to his central yurt.

It would not take more than a week or two of field work in the full sun to kill Lin. Dak grit his teeth, angry and frustrated. He could delay no longer. Today Dak would do his best to actually cobble together his first explosive.

It was just a small bomb, for testing purposes. Michael had enough materials in store to build two or three test devices and still have plenty for the main event – the bombing of the pumping station that cooled First City’s nuclear power plant. The entire population of Hel gathered on the hillock overlooking the midden fields. At the far end a loose pile of scrap was barely visible.

Michael nodded to Dak – it was time.

Dak squeezed Lin’s hand, then set the tip of one of the wires to the positive post of the battery. There was a slight spark and almost instantly the scrap pile at the edge of the midden field exploded. Startled gasps of the crowd settled into an uneasy silence, broken only by the sound of one of the few children who started crying. Then Michael started clapping, loud and slow, as he took several steps forward, awed by the display. Others joined in, echoing their leader, until everyone was celebrating enthusiastically. Dak stood still, taking congratulatory claps on the back in silence.

“After our great victory,” Michael said stepping over to embrace his bomb maker, “then you and Lin will be given the Nano Juice. You will become like unto me, an immortal.”


“We have to go now.” Dak whispered to Lin as they lay on their mat. He knew it would not be easy. The constant guard outside the yurt was simply their most immediate problem. If they managed to get away simple survival on Kepler 11 d would be a daily struggle. But causing a meltdown of the First City nuclear plant was insanity of the first order.

“How? Where will we go? First City?”

“And go to Hospice?” He let a grim laugh escape. “I’m not ready to be recycled just yet. We’ll have to strike out on our own.”

She pulled him close. “He’ll track us down.”

“He’ll certainly try.”

As soon as Dak crawled from the yurt Barry Skogg challenged him. “Yo, Dak, where you going?” At three in the morning Barry looked none too alert, but he was quickly ramping up to speed. He scrambled to pick up his walking stick, should a weapon be required.

“I need to take a crap,” Dak informed him.

Barry looked from the midden fields to Dak to the yurt, obviously weighing his options. It could be risky leaving Lin unwatched. But Dak was his primary responsibility. “OK. I’ll go with you in case there are any jackals out there.” They called the mid-sized night predators jackals – the closest Earth analog anyone could think of.

“Thanks.” Dak did his best to make it sound sincere.

They passed the rising form of the composting solar toilets, Dak’s latest brilliant idea – still under construction. Soon the pits would be a thing of the past.

Luckily for Dak he was able to pass some waste. He cleaned as best he could and then headed back toward the village. As they passed the solar toilet a figure slipped out from the shadows, struck Barry from behind. He let out only a dull, “Uh,” and hit the ground in a heap. Lin let the stone drop from her hand as Dak stooped to check the man.

“I think he’s dead.”

Lin sucked in a quick breath. “I didn’t mean to kill him.”

Dak handed her Barry’s staff then riffled through his pockets. Then he stripped the man of his shoes, shirt, and pants. He left him only his undergarments. Hel had taught them both some very harsh lessons. Leave nothing useful behind.

“Let’s go,” he said as he rose. There was no time for any passing ceremony. He simply gestured toward Barry, as if in apology. With that they struck out to the southwest, away from Hel, away from First City, away from everyone and everything they had ever known.

© 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

  15 Responses to “Escape From Hel – a Life In Hel story”

  1. I hope they make it…

  2. This is very intriguing; i’m already sucked in and would gladly know more. Not sure if this is the first time Hel has made an appearance, but there’s certainly a whole lot of possibilities. You have described this place rather well-I like the use of familiar (to us) technology, which makes it believable.

    • I was remiss in not posting links to previous Life in Hel stories. I believe this is the third. They are not a series, just occasional escapees from my mental process of while mulling over this world. I try to make each story a stand alone. Not sure they always work out that way.

  3. A very grim existence you’ve painted here, Jon. I like how you closed the scene, cutting all ties. Survival is better that way. Well done.

    • I expect they will make contact in the future, both with First City and with Hel. They face a hard life, being outcasts from both now. But Lin is tough, and Dak is one smart cookie, so if I were a betting man… ;)

  4. This is an intriguing world you have created that I want to know more about. Great set up, but you now have to write more chapters.
    Adam B @revhappiness

    • More stories (not necessarily chapters, as this has yet to evolve into a novel) will crop up. I’ll modify the post and add links to the previous Life In Hel stories. My oversight this time around.

  5. Can’t wait for the rest…suppose I’ll have to, though. –Susan

  6. Oh I hope they make it! It’s sounds like a very hard and cruel existence on this world – I’m waiting for the next installment!

    • It is a very harsh and cruel world they live on. While I am not serializing this, a story set here, and with these two main characters does pop up now and then.

  7. Is this considered flash fiction? Seems more like a short story…

    • Well, it’s flash according to my definition, which is a story of 1000 words or less. It is part of a set of stories I’ve posted here and a world that is still churning around in my head.

  8. What Justin said is exactly how I feel about the story – intriguing. Fantastic descirptions and though you closed this one quite well, there’s still an air of suspense, and a need to know more. Great work Jon!

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