Charles sat in the living room, prodding the artificial leaf sprouting from the garden in the middle of his mom’s apartment. It was very difficult to maintain actual plant life without sunlight, and there wasn’t much sunlight a half of a mile below sea level. The fake plant was squirming from Charles’s boredom as if it was itching itself when his mother Lily walked into the apartment.
“Hey sweetie, I’m home!” huffed Lily.
Not amused, Charles continued dribbling the banana leaf. Lily peered over at her only child as she unloaded the groceries into the cooling chamber. The large steel door closed with a hiss and a temperature appeared on a screen above the fridge.
“Charles how was your school session?”
The boy looked up from his herbology and glanced at his mother.
“Mom, is it true that people used to actually go to school with other kids?” asked Charles enthusiastically.
“Yes Charles, students would go to school together, but it was a lot harder to learn. It was filled with distractions and there was very little personal attention for the kids,” replied Lily.
“I think I would like it. I think I would like old school,” Charles said.
“Yeah, you might have,” Lily said, glancing down at her shirt.
“Why do I go to school on a computer? Why can’t I go to a classroom with other kids?” Charles inquired.
“Charles, the new education modules are much more efficient! You get to graduate a year early!” Lily responded.
The words hit Charles like a feather on metal. Charles often found himself wondering, like many before him, about his own existence and its circumstances. He knew why his broken family lived underground, yet he still wondered why. He could comprehend how humans had built his home with their machines and technology, but he still wondered how.
Charles got up from the couch and walked over to the kitchen. The kitchen was much more impressive than its cousin from the 21st century. Even lower-middle-class families like that of Charles and Lily had large silver machines with buttons and touch screens. It looked like the control room of a spaceship. He pressed a blue button with a raindrop on it and a metal claw descended from the ceiling, picked up a glass and held it under a shiny silver spout. Charles watched the machine work like one would watch the inside of the clock; everything that happens in front of you makes sense, but is still mesmerizing. On top of his slight hypnosis, Charles felt resentment towards the machine, as if its quality of being necessary was in question. The spout filled the cup seven-eighths of the way and carefully lowered it to the countertop.
“Enjoy,” rang an electronic female voice.
Charles took the water and sat at the kitchen table. Lily brushed off a crumb from her shirt and looked over at Charles, biting her fingernail. Charles slammed the glass down on the table, spilling water onto the teal surface.
“Mom, I can get my own water. I can read my own books. I hate machines!”
The fiery youth pushed away from his seat and walked out of the apartment. Lily watched on as her only child left his home for reasons unknown to explore the dangers yet contained in the world of their underground community. After she was certain he would not return for some time, she let go, buried her face in her hands. Aside from the water machine letting out the occasional metallic clink or hiss, the dungeon-like dwelling fell to an eerie silence.
Excerpted from a larger piece.