Lost while on routine war games, two soldiers fall down a sinkhole and discover a sprawling underground civilisation.

“Can you move?”

Mezo was standing over me. His arm was dangling by his side, making the kind of involuntary movements only spinal damage could cause.

“Tin, we need to go. Get up.”

I stood, slowly, seeing stars burst into life. They looked beautiful and for a moment I thought they truly were stars, set against a sea of blackness with just the moon to shine alongside. But then I coughed and the pain jolted something loose in my mind.

The moon was too close. Too big. A hole, torn in the sky, with coarse edges strewn with dirt and leaves. It was big, but we were deep. Too deep to climb.

“How?” I started.

“You’re welcome,” Mezo said, trying unsuccessfully to work his rifle with his one good hand. “Last time I take bottom bunk.”

“Oh.” Mezo seemed happy with my single syllable answer/thanks/condolences.

“We’ve gotta get moving. We need to go,” he said again.

I nodded. Scooped up my own rifle and checked the action. I could walk, aim, maybe talking was a stretch, but for all intents and purposes I was ready and the better able.

“I’ve got point.”

“No shit,” Mezo said. “Lead on.”

We’d fallen into a tunnel. I wasn’t an expert on digging holes, that was what sappers were for, but I was pretty sure this wasn’t a big badger set. The walls were smoothed. Picking left over right, we set off and soon passed a timber support and I felt more confident.

A tunnel meant an entrance, and an entrance was the same thing as an exit back to civilisation.

“Tin, hold up,” Mezo said.

I paused, trying to make out anything up ahead. We were working off of the small light slung under my rifle, but the beam was designed for focus, not distance. Mezo slumped against the wall and I could hear him struggle to catch his breath.

“Take it,” I said, handing over my canteen. “Stay here. I’m going to check out ahead. I’ll be back.”

Aboveground Mezo would have joked. Dying Mezo didn’t and that scared me worse than the pitch black. I left him.

My ears let me know I was heading deeper. I thought about turning back, but back was Mezo and I didn’t want to return empty handed. Liar. I didn’t want to see my friend dead.

The air began to move. A breeze. A flurry. Soon I could feel it across my face, a human-scent, like the shanty towns that had sprung up around the bases on the surface. Too many people, not enough land.

The light cast by my rifle soon joined with the umbra of another source. The wind grew louder. I stepped forwards. Left boot. Right boot. The last tab I’d ever make.

The passage ended. A walkway began. One side was completely open, only a small handrail visible. The noise was immense. A cluster of fans, suspended amongst a light brighter than the Sun, screamed ahead, beyond the reach of the walkway.

I stepped to the edge of the rail. And I leaned over. And I saw them moving below.

Mezo would have joked they looked like ants, but I just wept.

Prompt originally posted by ICanIntoWriting on reddit and received 2 upvotes.

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