Hoping you can help me with a science-fiction short story I read when I was about 12 (~1994). It was my first exposure to the post-apocalyptic genre, and still informs my love for it now, almost 25 years later.

It's about a group of boys (feel like they would be aged about 15), who set off away from their homes to explore. I think they live on some sort of fairly primitive settlement. Perhaps a secure compound or village.

They discover an old bunker, which they enter. They make their way through it passing signs which they cannot read (due to not bring able to read, or perhaps it being a language they don't understand). Eventually they get to a room in which some sort of warning lights or alarm goes off, but one of them continues forward. He awakens some sort of defence system, which kills him with gun/laser fire.

Unfortunately, that's all I remember.

The story was in an anthology, which I feel like might have been called '15 science fiction short stories for teenagers' but '15' may have been a different number, and 'teenagers' may have been a numeric age. I think Flowers for Algernon was also in the book. Maybe Harrison Bergeron too.

Another was an excerpt where a guy accompanied some sort of butcher who cut meat directly off the body of a giant organism whilst inside it, relying on a supersonic whistle to trigger the 'door' or exit to open - it finished with the butcher guy saying he'll not know until it's too late if the whistle isn't working.

  • If it is a short story where the cave had an AI computer, and the boy said "save me from the wolf", it could be a Berserker short story, but in that story no kids were killed. A Berserker ship in space was destroyed.
    – mrflash818
    Sep 10, 2018 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


OK, the book must be "The Puffin Book of Science Fiction" based on the other stories. That's the only book in isfdb with an excerpt from The Space Merchants (the "supersonic whistle"), Harrison Bergeron, and Flowers for Algernon in it.

Sadly, I don't know the story you want, but ruling out the ones I do know, it must be either

  1. Captain Courage and the Rose Street Gang
  2. Of Polymuf Stock

I can find nothing about the first one, but the second one does seem to be set in a post-apocalyptic setting, but reading about it, hmm, not real sure.

I am just going to say it's probably one of those two.

  • 2
    Brilliant work Organic Marble! It's not Polymuf, as I've got another anthology with that in, but it's surely the other one. Google searching, the cover of Captain Courageous looks like a bunker. I'll visit my local charity bookshop today to see if they have the Puffin book, or otherwise order on eBay. Will report back to confirm it's the one.
    – Cheesyboy
    Sep 11, 2018 at 8:19
  • Also, that isfdb is super useful! Wish I'd known about it before!
    – Cheesyboy
    Sep 11, 2018 at 8:28
  • 1
    @Cheesyboy if this is indeed the correct answer, you can click the checkmark next to it to accept it. This will reward the answerer and will show other users that this is what you were looking for. Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy, by the way. May I invite you on the tour?
    – SQB
    Sep 11, 2018 at 9:56
  • 1
    @Cheesyboy What did you find out? Is it the right story?
    – Alex M
    Jan 7, 2020 at 22:04

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