True to his warning, we walk for a long time. We stumble a little here and there, and our radars alert us to a wide chasm, which we skirt around carefully, but for the most part, the terrain is level.
Hours pass and I’m beginning to feel a little uneasy. We’re really far from the Hive now. We’ve spent many hours hunting and hiking, and it’s going to take us just as many to return home.
I have no idea what time it is, exactly, but the temperature has steadily dropped, telling me that it is now night in the outside world. Our walk also has become more and more treacherous as we encounter frequent patches of ice.
“Where exactly are we going?” I finally ask Sol. I’m starting to feel tired and now whatever surprise he has in store for me no longer seems so appealing.
“I think we’re getting close now. Hang in there.”
We continue on, doggedly. Sol is silent as he searches for whatever it is he’s trying to find, and I continue to grip his hand, though my mood is growing darker and darker.
Suddenly, he startles me with a cry “Yes! It’s over here!”
I notice a change in my radar. A strange object seems to be several yards ahead and to the left. Whatever it is, it’s tall, very tall. Perhaps a giant stalagmite?
We approach it, and I gasp as my hands touch metal. It’s some kind of large, vertical cylinder. Man-made. The surface is smooth and ice-cold, but marred with patches of rust. I can practically taste the metallic tang of it as I run my hands over the mysterious column.
“What the…what is this thing?” I ask, breathless. “Some kind of ship?”
“Close,” Sol replies, and I can hear the boyish smile in his voice. “It took me a while to figure it out when I first found it… but it’s a chute…a sort of elevator…”
He pauses for dramatic effect. “To the surface!”
My blood runs cold. “Does… does it work?” I whisper.
“I haven’t actually used it yet,” he informs me. “But I found the control panel and it still seems to function.”
When we fled underground we came down in elevators similar to this, but giant ones made for large groups of people. Afterward, they blew them up and sealed the holes so no one could ever go up to the surface again. This one seems small – as though made for only a few people.
“If it’s still working, does that mean someone is still using it?” I ask, dread creeping into my bones. What if this belongs to a non-Hive person… someone bad?
“I don’t think so,” Sol assures me. “The panel was caked in dust when I found it. I think it’s just been forgotten.”
It’s so strange to touch a portal to the outside…to the life I once had, though I know it doesn’t really exist anymore.
“So, what do you think?” Sol asks, squeezing my hand.
“It’s amazing,” I say, smiling.
“No, I mean, what do you think about going up there?”
My heart stops.
“To the surface?”
“Where else?” he teases back.
“But, the radiation. It’s dangerous!”
“It wouldn’t be for very long. And besides, we’ve all gotten tons of radiation already. The Hive says our live spans will probably be shortened because of it.”
This is true, and something we’ve all had to come to terms with. Still, it seems unnecessarily risky to expose ourselves to still more of it.
“The sun should be rising soon,” Sol says, gently. He pauses. “I thought we could share it together.”
My breath catches in my throat. And suddenly I realize that experiencing another sunrise is worth risking all the radiation in the world. “Yes,” I whisper. “Let’s do it!”
© 2012 Tania del Rio
This article was written by Tania