Claire wanted to jump up and run up the ladder as quickly as should could. "No", she thought, "I must be careful." She forced her hands away from her eyes as slowly as she could. Slowly, she lifted her face up towards the heavens to feel for sunlight, but felt only raindrops. Very faint light, so light she would not have noticed it before, filtered through the clouds and touched her eyelids. It startled her and hurt her head so she jerked her face towards the floor. Remembering one very important item in a locker in the back of the room, Claire darted towards it, retrieving a pair of sunglasses.
Sunglasses on, Claire pulled out the rain poncho and draped it over the backpack before lifting the pack to her shoulders. It was heavy enough as it was, raindrops would make it much heavier, not to mention ruin all the things inside. "My God is so mighty," Claire sang softly as she gripped a rung with her right hand, "so strong and so true," as she gripped a rung with her left, "there's nothing my God cannot do." Closing her eyes, she took a slow deep breath and raised her chin up to feel and hear what was above her. The rain had stopped. No light filtered through her glasses. Was it night time? Had she lost track of night and day in the deep bowels of her bunker where there was no day? She had no watch, no need to know the time. After all, she had no appointments, no lunch date, no job to hurry to. No one was expecting her.
"My God is so mighty," right foot up, "so strong and so true," left foot up. The bars were damp from the earlier rain so Claire wrapped her arms around the ladder and gripped the bars from behind. Falling was not an option, she told herself. "There is nothing," right hand, left foot, "my God cannot do," left, right, "for me." Slowly, up she went, counting the bars at each grasp of her hands as she listened to the pounding of her heart, which seemed to echo off the walls of the bunker.
Suddenly, Claire froze. She was more than halfway up, but something startled her, aroused her senses. Her skin prickled, her ears were alive with the sound. Familiar sound and feeling, but oh so very distant. Claire thought about how the deaf might feel when they heard sounds for the first time or how the blind felt the first time their sight was restored. She was neither, but had seen and heard very little in her time underground. While locked away from the outside world, alone in the dim light and then total darkness there had been no sounds from the outside. No cries, no knocking on the door, only the vibrations of the shaking earth. She had talked and sung to herself for a while, then grew tired of the sound of her voice. This day was the first time she had spoken out loud in quite some time. Claire tried to imagine what the color of the sky looked like, the color of grass, the color of roses, and the sound of laughter of little children.
It came again, the sound, bringing her out of her thoughts. It was the sound of a fresh breeze, which gently coaxed her on. A few more steps and the top of her head was at the surface. Here, the breeze was a bit stronger, just enough to blow a single strand of hair across her face and tickle her ear. "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, " she sang in a whisper, "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. And He will lift you up". Claire looked straight up and all around. The sky was dark. She could just barely make out the shapes of clouds. "Thank you God for lifting me up," she prayed as she took another step up, lifted her right arm out of the hole, and onto the ground. The damp, hard ground. Claire's eyes and nose were now out of the bunker. Her home and prison beneath her feet.
Fear now began to creep over her. She had been safe inside her bunker. Alone, isolated, in the dark, but most importantly she had been safe. Now that she had exposed herself to the outside world, was she safe? What was out here? Who was out here? Was the air safe? Was the water safe? Would she die the second she stepped foot outside? Maybe going out was a bad idea. Maybe she should go back in. "Wait a minute," Claire scolded herself, "who told me to go in the first place? Had Peter been safe when he walked on water? Yes, because Jesus told him to go. He only began to sink when he doubted." For another moment, Claire questioned whether or not it was really God who told her to leave. Perhaps she was hallucinating, perhaps it wasn't God. Perhaps. Clair looked down the shaft into the bunker. Perhaps she should have faith.
Dirt. Claire gathered a handful of damp earth and held it for a moment before refocusing her attention on the task at hand. One last step with her right foot, shift weight to exposed arm, step with left foot and thrust her body onto the earth above.
Laying motionless on her belly on the slightly damp earth, Claire shed tears of joy, tears of the realization that this was a new beginning. One of uncertainty, but definitely a new beginning. Several minutes passed as she collected herself, caught her breath from the climb. Claire took off the backpack, then slowly rolled onto her back. A feeling of doom began to spread over her entire body as she looked around her with her eyes, not daring to move. This was not the world she had locked herself away from. This was no longer the Florida she loved and called home. It was not the vacation capital of the world any longer. But, what had she expected? After all that had happened...she know it would be different... but this? This place was unrecognizable.