Drawing: a bowl with flames coming out, in front of a fresco painting and marble columns, with a torch leaning against one of the columns. Caption reads: "I have to light a torch from a brazier?"

Atlantean short story by Iris Carden

I made it to 16 before my parents told me the truth. We’re descendants of demigods, and our ancestors lived in Atlantis. Some of our family still lives there.

I’ve got a pretty strong bulldust detector, but strangely that their story actually came across to me as true. I never felt like I fitted in. But then, the name like Electra Delamades, and being Australian-born kid who was called a “wog” in the playground my whole school life, probably contributed to that feeling. Maybe I really believed my parents, but maybe I wanted to think I was something special, not just someone who’d been bullied for a long time.

Anyway, once I turned 16, my parents told me all Atlanteans, at that age have to go home to learn about their special abilities and their destiny. “Do I need a submarine or something to get to Atlantis?” I’d asked. No. There were numerous underground tunnels to get there, from every continent on Earth. Atlantis was at the bottom of the ocean, but you didn’t have to get wet to get there.

They took me to the entrance, and told me the door would only open to Atlanteans. It looked like a cave. I walked through a fairly big open cave, which wasn’t deep enough to get dark, and at the back, hidden behind some largish boulders, so it was out of sight, but not inaccessible, was a door.

I turned the door handle and went through. There was a long tunnel, mostly dark. From what I could see, it had marble pillars along both side walls, with frescoes painted on the walls. It looked like it belonged in my Ancient History textbook. The part of the tunnel near the door was lit by a fire in a big pot. Beside it was a long stick with cloth of some sort wrapped around one end of it, and it smelled like some chemical, maybe kerosene.

I actually said out loud what I thought: “I’m supposed to light a freaking torch from a brazier? I’m meant to find my way with fire, in a tunnel where there’s limited air? This is insane!”

As soon as I said it, both the brazier and the torch simply vanished, and the tunnel was lit by modern LED lights. At the end of the tunnel was a lift. It took me down, I don’t know how far, but it was a long way. At the bottom of the lift was another tunnel, with the frescoes and columns, but also with a moving walkway. The tunnel went on further than I could see, so I was glad to get on the walkway. It seemed like hours, and I was wishing for a toilet stop when it finally reached its end. And there, beside the next lift was a toilet cubicle. Exactly what I was looking for.

After the necessaries (and yes, I did wash my hands) I got into this second lift and went up. Again, I don’t know how far up I went, but it took a while.

It opened out on to what I imagine an ancient Greek city would look like. Lots of white marble, lots of statues and columns, fancy fountains, and a smooth roadway. I considered knocking on the door of one of the buildings along the road, to ask where to go. As I was thinking, a girl in a flowing dress walked past, carrying a tray of round bread loaves.

I told her I was looking for where ever I go to find my talent and destiny. She answered in a language I didn’t recognise, and pointed further down the road, which ended in what looked like a temple.

I thanked her and walked on towards the temple. Entering, I found a very old woman, with wild hair and strangely glowing eyes, hunched over some kind of rift in the earth, with a vapour coming out over her.

She spoke the same language as the girl with the bread, but strangely, now I could understand her.

“Electra, daughter of Atlantis, you have a great and wondrous future ahead of you. I see through the mists of time.”

Something didn’t seem right. “All a bit over-the-top don’t you think? I get the drama, but seriously?”

Suddenly the vapour disappeared, the woman looked now like a neat and tidy librarian, hair up in a bun glasses on over quite normal blue eyes. She still wore the flowing robe, so clearly that was the normal clothing here.

“Well done, Electra,” she said, in perfect English. “Of course, you already know your power, don’t you?”

“I call out bulldust.” I answered.

“Yes. You see through lies and illusions. Whatever is in front of you, you see the truth behind it.”

“So my destiny?”

“Is very much up to you. I suggest you think about places where your skill is useful. You could do well as a journalist, or a police officer, or a scientist, or even an archaeologist or historian. I don’t recommend politics, advertising or public relations, because you wouldn’t cope with the lies involved.”

“So that’s the wisdom I came here for.”

“That, and the knowledge that you can come back here at any time. Our library contains everything ever published in the world, including many things published by being copied by hand before the invention of printing. Our scientists have better equipment than any in the world above. We gather and store knowledge. You have access to that knowledge. You also have the option to leave the world above permanently and come home here.”

I thought about it for a while. In fact I stayed a couple of days, sleeping in an inn for Atlanteans coming down from the surface. I explored. I met people who worked there. I even wore one of those flowing dresses. I actually felt like I belonged. No-one called me names, or treated me like an outsider. I was just one of many young Atlanteans coming home and learning my heritage. I especially loved the library. Sure, it contained a lot of rot, being everything ever published, but there was a lot of knowledge in there as well.

I made my decision. I was going back up to Australia, to finish highschool, and to do an information studies degree. Then I was going back home, my real home, to work in that incredible library, and help sort truth from lies.

While you’re here…

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


    1. Bulldust was a very common term here in Australia when I was growing up. (Now, people tend to use an alternative.) Bulldust is a kind of dust noticeable in the more arid parts of the country when it’s picked up in dust storms. I would also love that map.


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