This flash fiction is inspired by this image. It's also a continuation of a story I did in which a woman in a post apocalyptic city- known rather ironically as Sanctuary- discovers that there is far more to her supposed safe haven than she ever could have imagined. You can find that story here if you're interested.
The birdsong almost brought her to tears. Living so long underground, with only occasional glimpses of blue sky and limited contact with nature, she almost felt overwhelmed now. But time was of the essence and she dare not tarry long. It was only a matter of time before her absence was noted, and then there'd be no going back. She dare not go back anyway, though, right? Not after what she'd seen. She had no choice now, she told herself again, hoping that sooner or later she would actually believe it.
Unbidden, her thoughts trailed back to her ill-advised foray into the undercity, that vast labyrinth of maintenance tunnels and access shafts underneath Sanctuary. She had quickly become lost, venturing deeper than she ever had, and a wrong turn somewhere had taken her to a place she had rather not seen. The green hue, the tanks of bubbling liquid with their human occupants, and worse- the piles of bodies, naked and discarded almost as if they were refuse. Many of them with cables attached to ports in their necks. It was all too horrible to imagine, and if she hadn't seen it herself she'd never have believed it.
What was happening under Sanctuary? Somehow she had escaped discovery, had stumbled off through flooded tunnels, seeking a way back to familiar areas. Instead she had narrowly avoided patrols of armed men, and heard mutterings about an unauthorized intruder, so clearly something was amiss. Most likely she'd tripped an alarm somewhere. Before long the nature of the tunnels had changed, and she realized that she was no longer within the margins of Sanctuary. She suspected few before her had come this way, and once again mentally cursed herself for her curiosity.
Now she was free. Or as close to free as perhaps she had ever been? It was hard to know, given the discoveries she had made- would it be better to go back, try to pretend she had seen nothing, hope she was not discovered? Or should she take this opportunity, flee while she could, and hope for the best- alone and friendless in the great outside? She stood there, on the brink, with the sun warming her skin and the trilling of the birds all around. The wind ruffled her hair playfully, and she could smell the water, the air, even the trees and greenery of the nearby shore. All she need do is swim there, melt into the trees, and she'd be gone. But where would she go?
Everyone had heard the tales of safe havens, of scattered communities that rejected the strictures of Sanctuary and the other big cities. Supposedly there was one not far away, a few days' hike at most. Could she find it, and if she did, what would she have to offer? Yet what choice did she have, in the end? To be discovered, or if someone realized what she had seen- that would not end well.
She heard sounds from below, and looking down the way she had come, she could see lights flickering. They had found her. Or soon would. She had no choice now- descend the shaft and flee again through the tunnels, or make her play. The sounds were getting closer- she could hear voices now. And something else- a mechanical voice, not speaking so much as emitting signals and electronic chatter. A tracker drone.
She could see the lights below her now, could sense something- the drone probably- starting to ascend the shaft. It's metallic gibberish increased in intensity. With a prayer on her lips she dove, and gasped in spite of herself at the cold water. Then she began to swim.