The Cloud (New Edition; September 2014)
by Richard Holliday
“Sonny, you there? Sonny?”
The sound of dripping water reverberated along the concrete tunnel. Putting down his tools, the man, Kal Donovan, called for his workmate again.
“Sonny, where are you?!”
He was getting concerned now. Where had Sonny gone? He was sure he’d been here just a minute ago! A surge of concern swept through Kal’s system but quickly dissipated; Sonny had almost certainly surreptitiously made off to lunch early yet again. Sonny had form for this; Kal sighed knowingly.
Kal didn’t like the claustrophobic space offered by the maintenance tunnel. A few inches of decades-old concrete were the only thing separating him from the millions of tons of damp, waterlogged soil under London. Maintaining the underground railway system was hard, dirty work. Skipping for lunch early wasn’t such a bad idea. Turning back, Kal chuckled to himself.
“Could’ve at least told me it was lunchtime, mate!”
The man walked back along the straight tunnel toward an open metal door at the end which grew in size with every step. Beyond this open metal door was a ladder that led up the twenty feet or so to the surface and the busy, buzzing streets of London.
It was odd, Kal thought as he ascended, his heavy boots ringing out on the metal treads of the ladder, that he’d not heard his friend making the same clattering, noisy journey. The sound was usually unmistakable in its reverberations
Sunlight, and a curled cheese sandwich, beckoned. Kal hoisted himself out of the anonymous doorway and onto the concrete and asphalt of the urban jungle beyond.
It was a hot July, and the city had been thronging with tourists. The Olympics were weeks away and already the mood of the city had changed for this great international carnival. The weather that day was clear, however on stepping out Kal immediately noticed a strange, unearthly chill hung in the air outside of the tunnel. Looking around, Kal noticed that there was not a soul in sight for hundreds of metres. The streets were completely empty.