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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 126: Beam 105
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The ascent to level nineteen the next day was uneventful. Reaching the top, Beam glimpsed some of those giant rodents he still thought might be capybaras, but with the horde behind him the animals fled quickly.
Once they had settled into an apartment and had supper delivered, Bron said, “I don’t know whether the people are going to keep following.”
“Oh?” Beam replied, waiting for more.
“Well, we all know, or think we know anyway, that there’s an outside. We’ve lived on the outside, and recognize that these are caves underground. The very fact that we’re underground tells us that somewhere above us we’re going to come out onto the ground, under the sky. We might be wrong about what that’s like, but we’ve been on the surface of several worlds so it’s likely to be like one of them. But it’s not the same for these people.”
“Because,” Sophia suggested, “they have always lived underground, and they really don’t know that there’s an outside, or anything about it. We tell them that when we get there, it will be different, but so far we keep going up and everything stays the same.”
There was that, he realized. Level nineteen was no more like the outside than level twenty had been. They were ascending toward something the people could not imagine; they could not really build expectations on what they could not imagine.
Of course, they were eating well. On the other hand, every day they were called upon to climb another level. There was no, what would you call it, stability? They had become nomads. They had been nomads before, and Beam had introduced them to homes, lives with stability, even fundamental education. Now they were nomads again. He claimed that they had to move, that their stable world was threatened, but the only evidence he had of this was a couple of rogue mining moles and some glitches in the pest control systems. He believed it was going to get worse, and that ultimately it would not be safe to live here. He could not prove that, and indeed he knew that Bron and Sophia believed him because, well, because they believed him. The others? He was pushing his credibility. He had covered something between a quarter and a third of the climb, which meant they had farther to go than they had gone, and already they had encountered complications. The question was how to keep them going.
Of course, he reminded himself, he had no obligation to keep them going. If they didn’t want to come, they didn’t have to come.
Maybe it was time for a pep talk. He didn’t do pep talks.
Maybe it was time to tell them the situation as he saw it, and let them decide what they’re going to do.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #401: Characters Hiking. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: