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Blind Fish: Lost in the Tunnels ~ Year Three: A Death in the Park

Marc had expected a profound disruption to the community when they discovered the Dome and opened the tunnels to the mine. He thought in their eagerness for escape everyone would rush for the precipitous falls and half-light of the caves until food production was ignored and babies began to wail in the forgotten Park.

"Oh my god, Marc," Stephanie said when he told her of his fears. "Are you totally bananas? You think I'd let go of Malcolm and worrying about his future to sneak around in an old mine?"

"I know people are desperate." Marc tried to substantiate his suddenly silly sounding fears. "I just thought it might have been just as well if Jared hadn't cracked the wall."

"Well, it doesn't matter now. Life is back to normal and no one's even paying attention to the mine."

Stephanie was right. Gauri had been interested enough to go below with him and Jared, but she'd made few recommendations about what could be done in the mine now that their early exploration was drawing to a close. Karl and Mary, no one was surprised to see, didn't care what went on outside their own projects, and Jen and Haruki were busy with their children. Enisa had been all for charging into the depths to find their way out, but that turned out to be dinner table talk and she had never pursued the idea beyond Katie's infrequent statements.

Thinking of Katie, Marc sighed. Like many who begin a sexual relationship, he was just starting to think of his connection to Katie in a more permanent way when she became pregnant. Suddenly she was friendly, but remote. Stephanie had noticed. She'd kept her glee to herself, but at least she could set aside the fears she'd begun to have that Marc was drifting away from her.

"Maybe we should start making some maps of the tunnels," Marc said finally.

"You could ask Natsuki." Stephanie turned to lift Malcolm from the floor although Malcolm was large enough now that his weight was a burden.

"What do you mean? What would Natsuki care about that?"

"You don't know? I'm surprised. You always keep up on what's going on. Natsuki has been going into the mine."

Stephanie claimed she knew little more about it, but Marc slept uneasily. He couldn't help but feel like he'd missed a vital turn in the community, that around him something worse than the Donner party, more glacial in pace than Easter Island, was starting to tighten.

Nearly two days had passed before Marc had a chance to ask Goro about Natsuki, but at the question Goro hefted their child, gave Marc a wide-eyed look, and went to the roller coaster carts that were their train.

That's weirder than normal, Marc thought.

Perhaps Marc would have been able to follow up on his misgivings if Melissa's boy, Ryan, had not become sick.

Norman's death was a tragedy for the community, but he'd prepared them well by constant references to his age and the state of his heart. Melissa had no such warning. She was a more than attentive mother, and she leapt at every cough, or worse, perceived slight. She took to telling people that she believed in attachment parenting, but Marc had heard about that before. Insecure mothers on the surface had been years building up the myth and although people played along, everyone knew it had much more to do with the mother's feelings than those of the child. No one had ever seen Ernst alone with his child, although he was allowed what Kim smirkingly called supervised play. Melissa used a sling Gauri had designed in the early days of Ryan's infancy, and then graduated to a stroller someone had abandoned in their hurry to leave when the Park's doors closed. Soon she was walking with the child and holding his hand, rather unnecessarily, and everyone remembered the public fight over whether the child should be taught to swim.

"My baby will not be going into that filthy lake," Melissa had stated at one of their nightly meals, much to the secret humour of the table. "What if he drowns?" Ernst had been surprisingly firm in his rebuttals, but no one was shocked when Melissa's wishes had triumphed.

"Haruki's been over there all day." Ernst was beside himself with worry. "Can you come by and check on how things are, Marc? She's not a real doctor anyway."

"Neither am I, Ernst." Marc pulled on the shoes that Kim had made from the vinyl she'd taken from the carnival rides. "These are excellent shoes, by the way. You should get Kim to make you guys a pair." Too late Marc remembered Kim and Melissa were not on speaking terms.

Marc didn't have to be a doctor to realize that Ryan was not long for the world. His face was white and his eyelids fluttered while Haruki gently prodded his ribs. His breathing was fast, like someone had trapped a bird. Melissa looked on, fear and anger warring on her face.

"Is he going to be OK?" Ernst had taken Marc aside to ask but the fraught look he received in answer was little comfort.

Marc sat on the porch until Haruki finished her examination and then caught her as she was leaving. "What do you think?"

"The baby is not well." Haruki was abrupt but she possessed a curious notion of tact.

Falling in beside her as she walked back to her and Jen's house in the museum hotel, Marc tried again. "How do you think the baby is going to be?"

Only when Haruki turned to him and he saw her tears, did Marc realize why Haruki was so eager to get back to her own child. "He will die. Likely before the passing of one week."

The formal delivery of the news notwithstanding, Marc stood in the middle of the fake town's main street and thought once again about how they never visited each other in their homes. Mark and Stephanie lived in the house next to where Norman had lived, Karl and Mary were down by the lake, and Jared and Kim had moved into a place they'd built near the edge of the forest.

I've never been in their homes, Marc thought. Am I the only one?

The increasingly strained looks that Goro gave Marc were dismissed as the entire community became concerned over Ryan's condition. More worrying than the child's death, to those who had kids of their own, was the chance a virus had somehow passed unnoticed amongst them and was going to jump now that the children were young.

Marc's main worry, and he believed he shared that with Ernst, had to do with Melissa's mental state. She'd stopped coming to the nightly dinners some time before, and if Marc were honest, so had many of them. Karl and Mary were far enough away that they had an excuse, but Stephanie had told him that Mary would likely never forgive him for destroying the bible. Jen and Enisa were regulars, but Katie, he was disappointed to note, had little to do with the dinners since her pregnancy had become obvious. Jared was always busy with projects of his own, but with Gauri if not Kim, he was always there.

After dinner the next night, when Jen and Haruki had already left, and Stephanie had gone with Malcolm and Gauri to see Melissa, Marc asked Jared about it.

"Do you think the dinners have served their purpose, Jared?" Marc felt absurd bringing such a question to Jared, but he hoped an engineer could see the pivot of a problem invisible to a historian.

"It was Norman, wasn't it, who first decided we would do them?" At Marc's nod, Jared continued. "He was thinking it would get us over the hump of being trapped down here." Jared waved overhead to the cameras in a now familiar gesture. "I wonder what he would think now."

"What do you mean?"

"We've got kids now, Marc. Ties to the community and all that."

"You mean we have a community down here already?"

"We've got nowhere to go, unless we find a way out in the tunnels . . ."

"What about Natsuki and the mine?" It finally occurred to Marc that Jared would likely know what was happening in what many had come to consider his tunnels.

"She goes in there sometimes." Jared looked towards the lake. The sun, stalled in its path by early evening, flickered off the water as Karl and Mary went for their nightly swim.

"Why? What's she looking for?"

"All that any of us used to want. A way out." Jared's eyes were bleak and Marc asked him no more.

It wasn't until everyone was on the roller coaster and all six cars were moving that Marc remembered that the last time they'd gone to the forest together had been a celebration of Jared's opening of the tunnels. The bundle in the foremost car, and the rocking of Melissa's unsteady head, were a brutal reminder that their latest reason was not nearly so festive.

Ryan had died less than two days after Haruki made her sombre guess, and with the rest, Marc feared for Melissa's mental state. Mary had become a great support, and was even now riding with her while Ernst looked unhappily on, but Marc knew of no cure for Melissa's sudden loss. Her crying could be heard at night and it was a testament to the seriousness of her bereavement that they'd waited four days before broaching the topic of burial.

"I'll talk to her," Ernst had said, but it was Mary who spent more than an hour in an argument everyone could hear from outside finally convincing Melissa that her child needed a Christian burial.

He almost groaned aloud when he heard Mary's demands, but he was as happy as Ernst to have someone else take on the burden.

"You should have called me," Stephanie had complained when she heard Marc's concerns, but Marc was worried about the fragile nature of their own relationship after his "dalliance," as Stephanie insisted on calling it, with Katie.

"Mary handled it fine," Marc grudgingly admitted, even while he worried there was more to Mary's support than he could see on the surface.

At the funeral Marc pulled at the weeds that had sprung up around Norman's grave and the three blank markers that showed where they'd buried the skeletons they'd found in the Park. The new grave for Ryan was tiny, and Marc's hand crept to Malcolm's as Ryan's body, wrapped in a sheet, was laid in the ground. Melissa was crying in great heaving sobs and Ernst was awkwardly patting her, looking as though he wished someone would take over the job for him. Goro was standing alone with his daughter Asake, Marc suddenly noticed, and looking around, he realized that Natsuki wasn't present.

When Mary pulled out her book, Marc recognized the binding as Stephanie's work from the museum. He glanced at Stephanie who grimaced with understanding. Mary began to read and Marc recognized traces of the bible in her words.

"And although I walk in the secret passages underground I shall fear no evil," Mary began while Marc's memory strove to find the words he'd been taught amongst the revision of Mary's no doubt faulty memory.

She said she was going to write the bible again. I stand corrected. Religion is a lot harder to kill than I thought. Marc turned his mind back to Mary's sermon.

"The fifteen hours of the machine day sun shall preside over the people, and with the shadow of the night comes darkness, and it is the darkness of the cave, but all is light before god."

Marc waited until he was home with Stephanie and Malcolm and they had bid farewell to their old friends and hugged Melissa before he asked Stephanie the question that had been burning in his mind. "She actually did it? She actually wrote the bible? Or a bible?"

"She's doing her best. Call it a work in progress." Stephanie grinned at his concern and Marc tried to control his curiosity.

"OK. At first she said she was going to hypnotize people and get them to tell their bible experiences or whatever. Did she do that?"

"Oh, yeah. You were likely busy with something"-for some reason Katie's smooth limbs came into Marc's mind-"but Mary has been interviewing as she calls it. She went to everyone."

"Everyone? Surely not you?"

"Don't be so surprised. I dated that religious guy and went to church as a kid. Also," Stephanie spoke quickly to forestall Marc's expected words, "did I really have a choice? When the man I love composted her bible, the least I could do is help her with another one."

Marc conceded Stephanie the point. "But that isn't the bible. What she read today. Where did that come from?"

"I don't know," Stephanie mused as she went upstairs to obey Malcolm's imperious wail.

Marc went to Gauri the next day to ask if Mary had interviewed her and found, to his consternation, that she had.

"But you're a Hindu. What could you possibly know about the bible?"

"Don't be obtuse, Marc. It doesn't become you. Just because I am Hindu doesn't mean I know nothing about Christianity."

"OK. Sorry about that. I just don't understand it."

"Try this." Gauri was gleeful at the look on Marc's face. "Mary didn't ask me about the bible. She asked me about the Hindu stories."

"What the hell?"

"Exactly, Marc. Even about hell."

More confused than ever, Marc went to Jared and Kim and bounced Ferris on his knee while he received a similar report. "I told her what I remembered," Kim said simply, "but Jared just jerked her around."

"I wouldn't call it that." Jared grinned from the corner where he was working on a machine dinosaur he'd built from what looked like soda cans. "I told her things I thought should be in the bible. I never read it anyway, but I told her some stuff, you bet."

Jared's face was turned towards his work, but Marc could guess the look that was on it.

Finally, Marc went to Mary. "I heard you were coming." Mary spoke flatly, and for the first time Marc saw how beautiful a spot her and Karl had made from their lakeside cottage. Maybe Stephanie and I should move away from the town too. "How could you hear that? I just made up my mind." Marc hated the combative nature of his and Mary's conversations.

"You've been talking to everyone about my bible ever since the funeral. I guessed you'd be here sooner or later."

Karl listened in the background, Marc noticed, for when he came up from the lake he immediately busied himself in the garden.

"It's amazing what you're doing, Mary. It really is."

"But?"

"Well," Marc reluctantly admitted she was right, he still had misgivings. "How do you even know you have it right?" Marc tried to tack, knowing a firm hand on the tiller can tip a boat that's unprepared for a full gale.

"There is no right." Mary thrust her shovel into the ground with her statement and Marc felt rather than heard it sever a root. "The bible is the word of god. Given to people-"

"Given to man. Isn't that the quote?"

"Written by men, or else they would have said given to people." Mary tilted the shovel and Marc watched with her as a squirming mass of roots and soft earth spilled from the hole. "Given to us to make our lives better. To teach us how to live and care for one another. That is the message of Jesus."

"What about that old testament stuff about killing your children and having slaves?" The question was irresistible now that Marc had a sense of what Mary had done.

"Sit here." Mary gestured with the shovel to the garden chairs that Karl had made from twisted branches and some dirt flew onto Marc's shoe. "I'll tell you what I plan, although you have no right to it. I'll tell you that too."

Marc acknowledged his lack of fit with a nod.

"As you know, the bible was put together a long time ago and is filled with inconsistencies and downright corruptions. It is the word of god, but being a part of the earth, and contaminated by people, or in this case we can say men, it's been changed. God wrote the first bible, or rather guided the hands that wrote it, although I wish he'd paid more attention to who compiled the various parts. He can guide my hand just as well. God knows we're in the Park. He knows you destroyed his holy word, and you'll be lucky if you don't burn for that, and he's aware we need another. I'm writing another, one hopefully inspired by god."

"So why would you need to interview everyone then? Shouldn't you just write it straight?"

"The original writers talked to the people around them. They had to in order to get that much of the culture of the time into the book. I'm doing the same."

"You're amazing, Mary. I wish I'd trusted you from the beginning."

"You saw an old woman on her knees and your mind stopped working. I think it's better this way."

Karl sat heavily on the chair next to Mary. "Hot day," he exclaimed, and Marc and Mary acknowledged the joke.

"One more thing, Marc." Marc had been about to leave but he leaned back again. "I'd like to interview you."

Mary waited for Marc's confusion to crest and then recede before she added, "I want to know about the Donner party and the South American Rugby players. I want you to tell me about Easter Island."

Marc understood finally. "I'll do it, Mary. Anytime." Turning back to his garden, Karl smiled that the earth between them had been smoothed over and patted down.

Mary and Marc watched him dig and once again Marc felt the urge to ask them about their relationship. Wasn't that living in sin?

"He's a good man." Mary seemed to read his mind. "I'm lucky to have him."

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