An abyssal, pitch-black tunnel stretched out before me. I was running down the metal tracks for a reason I did not know. My lungs then gave in to the poor dusty air so I stopped to catch my breath. I looked around, myself, trying to gain my bearings, but my headlamp only lit a mere 3 feet of my vision. Darkness. Darkness that you could almost touch. Darkness that you could almost taste and just stick into a jar. Darkness is what surrounded me.
"Mikhail!" a voice said that croaked and felt like it was almost forced.
"Mikhail!" the voice echoed, "…hail…hail…il…il."
I felt a cold chill go down my spine that made me shiver all of over.
Then, with all my might, I tried to sound as commanding as possible and yelled, "Who's there!"
Not waiting for an answer I immediately sprinted not knowing if I had just come that way. After running many meters I stopped and looked behind my back, hoping to spot the speaker.
"Mikhail," said the voice softly.
This time the voice was right behind me for I could feel it's ominous breathing going down my back.
I turned my head, and with as much courage as I could muster, I opened my eyes. A scarred, bloody man stood before me. His eyes were bloodshot, his arms were crooked, but at his belly….. his entrails hung out with fresh blood dripping from his stomach. As I stared I could hear the soft drip… drip of blood falling to the metal tracks.
"Andrei?" I said, as I realized who this bloodied figure was.
Then, suddenly, I woke. My eyes were hazy and blurry as I adjusted to the new light of my tent.
It took me a few seconds to remember who and where I was but then I said with a sigh, "Komsomolskaya."
"A dream", I thought, "Just a simple nightmare."
I then lazily sat up on my cot. The previous night I had not had a chance to look around my tent. An old dresser, that was obviously brought down from the surface, by a Stalker, was proportioned at the opposite side of the tent. On the dresser sat a polished, unwrinkled sheet of aluminum foil, which served as a mirror, and an old picture of my Mother who was standing in front of the Kremlin with a baby in her arms. That baby was, me.
Aside from the dresser there was nothing else in the old tent. As I proceeded to stick my boots back on all I could think of was the young guard, Andrei. To me his death was a gaping black hole in my heart. But to Dmitri and all the other guards Andrei's death was just another to add to the long list of the stations casualties. But still, I could not seem to get that face terror that Andrei had in death, off of my mind.
As I walked over to the dresser, to get some sausage that I recently bought for breakfast, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. At first I didn't know who that man was! A scruffy, shaggy haired man was shown before me. His eyes were sunken and tired which made it seem a certain hope was lost within that man. But if you looked hard enough you could find a small glimmer of joy, happiness and hope in those eyes.
Once I had retrieved my bag of sausages I mechanically snatched up my Kalash rifle, which was sitting next to my cot. Over many days of traveling with that Kalash I grew a certain bond with it. It was the most expensive object of value I had and it was also my only protection from the mutants in the tunnels thus I never took my eyes off of it.
Once I had gathered all my possessions, I lifted the flap of my tent and sauntered over to, what we called, the "great dome". The great dome, built before the disaster, was one of the few things that made my home station famous. It resembled a dome that was supported by columns. But the ceiling! The ceiling is what made it breathtaking! The ceiling was lit by big chandeliers, which we had managed to fix after the disaster, and was decorated with eight beautiful mosaics. Each mosaic depicted a great event in Russian history. For example, one of the mosaics showed a Victory Parade with Soviet soldiers throwing captured Nazi banners in front of Lenin's mausoleum.
As I entered the great dome I saw that nothing had changed since I'd left. All the mosaics were intact and the Hanseatic League banners still hung from the walls. The Hanseatic League, also called the Hansa or "the Ring" for short, was a group of trading stations that were all situated on the Koltsevaya line of the Moscow metro, which resembled a ring.
Komsomolskaya had joined the Hanseatic league for two main reasons. First, it would have been good for our merchants and second, we feared the Reds who were our neighbors. If we joined the Hansa, we would have protection from the skinheads and would have all the military grade ammo that money could buy.
After staring at the wondrous mosaics, I walked over to the huge bonfire that was set in the middle of the great dome. The bonfire was mainly occupied by old men, who were telling old tales to little children. Once I had found an open bench, I chewed on some of my sausages and listened to one of the stories an old man spoke of. He was haunting the children about the Station Park Pobedy and the stories of children disappearing there without a trace. I soon grew bored and listened to another story. Many old men were talking about a station, called VDNKh or Exhibition for short, was being attacked by mysterious mutants called the Dark Ones.
It was said that the Dark Ones had Telekinetic powers, which enabled them to "rip your mind in to". When I had just started to get very interested in that piece of gossip, my thoughts were interrupted by a guard, who had shouted my name.
"Mikhail!" the guard shouted, "Pyotr Aleksandrov wishes to speak with you."
I sighed, "Alright. I'll be with him in just a moment."
Pyotr Aleksandrov was our station's prime minister and was as skeptical and studious as all prime ministers should be. Pyotr rarely called for me so I knew it had to be important. And with that I set off to the prime minister's office.
As I entered the office, Pyotr looked more disturbed than usual. His facial lines of old age wrinkled up more as he pondered to himself. Pyotr took no notice of me as he took more sips of vodka and brooded. I finally had make a polite "ahem" before he took notice of me.
"Ah!" Pyotr remarked, "It's you Mikhail! I have called you to me on an important matter. A matter that requires your service."
"And what would that be, sir?" I asked.
Pyotr took a deep breath before answering.
"The Reds have been pillaging merchants who come to our station," he answered, "This, Mikhail, deeply angers me. Robbery is an act of war and if they make war on us they make war with the whole Hanseatic League!"
"We cannot let this continue Mikhail," Pyotr continued, "So I am sending you and Dmitri to go and negotiate with the Reds."
I sat on those words a while. The words, negotiate and the Reds didn't really go together. They would more likely execute me and Dmitri than come to a reasonable agreement.
I cautiously said, "But, sir—"
"I said, go and negotiate," Pyotr said hotly, "You and Dmitri leave in three hours. Dismissed."
I then, sternly stepped out from the office. Pyotr was putting me and Dmitri's lives on the line. The more obvious thing to do would be to set guard outposts throughout the northern and southern tunnels that led to the Reds but Pyotr felt that making outposts would pose as a counter-threat to the Reds. In truth it would not be a threat but an act of self- defense.
Three hours later, I met up with Dmitri and several other guards, who would accompany us. Dmitri and I exchanged grim expressions and boarded an rail car. We drove towards death and fate.