The Bat Cave

By Jamie Lee Owen

They didn’t know what was happening, only that the world’s Heads of State were being escorted into an underground bunker. The rumour, spreading like a virus, was that the red button had already been pressed and the ‘elite’ of the world were rushing to save themselves leaving the rest of humanity to fry.

Tens of thousands flocked to the Ministry of Defence compound where, it was believed, the bunker was located. Children were crushed into the mud as the crowd stampeded to the chain link fence where armed guards fought them off. Rocks were hurled, tear gas spurted and the air filled with the cries and screams from both sides, in the frenzy of anger and panic. Some wailed, some screeched abuse, some threw themselves onto their knees in anguished prayer.

We knew what was happening. The rumour was true. The order to engage the ‘Red Button’ had been given. We had been issued with our passes to survival, permission to enter the bunker, nicknamed the ‘Bat Cave’ by the builders. It would ensure our safety until such time we were able to leave and resume rule over whatever and whoever survived the nuclear holocaust.

The bunker was, in fact, an underground city. Labyrinths of luxury apartments, leisure facilities, medical centres, restaurants, theatres and libraries. Surveillance suites, equipped with the very latest technology, monitored the outside world. We had everything we could possibly need for a long, long, stay.

For the first few weeks, we were all in a state of delayed shock at what we had wreaked on our fellow man, communal guilt held us all together in an uneasy friendship. As weeks turned into months fractures appeared in our community, often over the most insignificant and trivial matters.

The Prime Minister of Britland disputed the quality of the champagne with the Princess of Sportugal, resulting in a stony silence whenever they dined at the same table. Soon after, the Kings of Finway, Norwitzerland and Canapan began to row over who would take ownership of any surviving goldmines. As months passed into years competition grew over the proposed allocation of the oil fields, leading to the President of Amerussia challenging the Prime Minister of Saudi-India to a dual. Both men lost body parts and were hospitalised for several months. 

During the fifth year, the heads of the world’s armed forces stole weapons from the armoury and waged war in the corridors; the civil servants caught in the crossfire were recorded as collateral damage. The following year, Bankers were caught red handed stealing gold bars from the vault and were water boarded in the swimming pool.This was around the time that Crown Prince Azaloo of Arasia boasted about his stash of diamonds – the following morning his body was discovered stuffed in a locker. 

Sir Raymond Wandsbotham, Archbishop of Berrycanter, fell into a prolonged theological discussion with Pope Colin which lasted several days, after which they broke into the control room and smashed the monitors for the external surveillance cameras into smithereens, shouting that the only ‘all seeing eye’ belonged to God alone. For the final years of our incarceration we had no clue as to what was happening outside the Batcave.

The day the klaxon sounded the release warning, only a third of the original number waited, with trepidation, for the titanium plated doors to open. We had prepared ourselves for a dusty twilight, parched trees accusing us with skeletal branches and possibly a handful of ragged survivors, ill and starving. We were absolutely not prepared for the healthy looking, chattering crowd that awaited us on a perfect sunny, summer’s day.

‘How did you survive the blast?’ Boris Cameron, Britland’s Prime Minister, asked in surprise. ‘And who’s in charge here?’

‘There was no blast.’ someone called out.

‘No-one is in charge, we’re all in charge!’ others cried.

  President Oputin pushed forward.

  ‘I don’t understand.’ He said.’The order was given for a nuclear attack.’

‘It wasn’t carried out.’ A woman told him. ‘There was no attack, there was no nuclear blast. Those with the responsibility could not justify what was about to happen to our families, our country, our planet. The order was ignored: the button was not pressed.

‘But how did you manage without us?’ asked Frau Angelique of Germance, as she walked into the crowd. ‘What has happened to capitalism? Who owns the banks? Runs the economy? Manages business? Who controls the borders?

‘We shared the money between us, then put it back into the economy by spending it. Businesses are owned by those who work in them and the profits are invested in services like housing, healthcare, transport and run by the local councils. Border control is regulated so that any person who enters a country agrees to abide by the culture and rules of that country while they are there. Those who are uncomfortable with that are told to stay away.

‘Who is in government?’ asked Boris Cameron.

‘We didn’t need one so we sacked them all. The money we saved went into education and training.’

‘What about the armed forces?’ shouted the Head of NATO. ‘What’s happened to them?

‘They’re part of the emergency services now. They travel world wide to help with any disasters.

‘Does religion have a place in this new order.’ Asked Pope Colin nervously.

‘Religious freedom is for all, without any faith, or lack of faith, being superior.’

President Oputin held up his hand for silence.

‘You people have my utmost admiration,’ he told them. ‘Not only have you managed to survive for all these years, but you have managed to hold together a simple form of civilisation without the guidance of your superiors. I congratulate you on your endeavours but now folks, you can stand down. We’ll take it from here!’

From the back of the crowd a line of armed troops appeared and positioned themselves between the crowd and the Batcave.

‘Oh no you won’t!’ someone called out. ‘We almost paid the ultimate price for your lust for power; your greed for land and wealth; your injustice and your corruption. We’ve lived in peace and security through compassion and common humanity all the years you’ve been locked away and we’ve decided that we don’t want you back to corrupt and destroy what we’ve rebuilt without you!.’

The troops walked into us, pushing us backwards into the mouth of the Batcave.

As the door slowly creaked down, we began screaming.