Stamps: Emily Mitchell



Secret Nuclear Bunker

By Emily Mitchell

The place where they work is in the middle of field in Essex, near a village called Kelvedon Hatch. A bunker sunk into a slight rise in the ground, something the locals call a hill. It is insulated with layers of gravel and three-foot thick concrete walls. To enter it, you have to go through a small brick building with a poured concrete veranda – the government’s best imitation of a country cottage. This is camouflage. It’s intended to make the facility inconspicuous, to help it to blend in with the nearby farm houses and towns. Of course, it does also have two gigantic radar antennae sticking up from behind it. These are painted red with white stripes.

Inside the cottage you enter a long sloping hallway, and then go through a pair of gigantic blast doors, which, when Mitchell first arrives, he finds both terrifying and fascinating. They are so solid and heavy; they are built for forces that operate on a scale where the human body is negligible as a dead leaf, a puff of wind. He cannot imagine this world, but he feels its supernatural presence haunting reality, hovering just beyond the quotidian, signaled by the fact of these doors. Each day when he passes through them he shivers, his veins flash-flooded with something cold and electric. One day as they are coming in to work together, Newton sees him shake the chills from his limbs and says, What’s wrong with you? I don’t know, Mitchell says. It’s a feeling I always get coming in here, seeing those things. You know the old saying about someone walking over your grave… Newton nods: Yeah, them things are pretty impressive he says. Pretty hard to ignore.


Emily Mitchell lived for many years in Islington.


“Secret Bunker” is part of the Stamps project. Click here to learn more >>
It’s an excerpt from “Fighter Plotter,” a short story originally published in Indiana Review. The bungalow depicted above formed the original entrance to the bunker in Essex.


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