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His fingers clipped the petite copper ball out of the air. A flick of the wrist sent it spiraling between the sloping rafters of the low ceiling. The miniature sphere sputtered, falling short of the waterlogged asphalt shingles suspended above his head. Gravity eventually propelled it back towards Inner Earth. Before it hit the ground, Montgomery plucked it out of a mid-air spin with his calloused fingertips and wrapped it in a sweaty palm.
Repeatedly, he threw it into the air. Still, it never got a breath closer to the skies. Monte thought of ripping out of the ground - if only to drink up the natural atmosphere. Instead, he was left with stolen oxygen. It was constantly pumping through clanking valves. It was the only way to breathe within the soil-submerged dome; The Root, where they hid from the native lights of the second heaven.
Realism invaded his vision. It was an engrained logic; carefully worded by generations of scholars honored only with the knowledge inflicted on their bloodlines.
As he continued to toss the sphere, equations clawed into the mind’s optic nerve. It was as if he was an automaton designed to do nothing but pitch and analyze. Montgomery was reminded of childhood by the rhythm; Florence, his mentor and predecessor, and her sugar-fried throat violating his eardrums. When upward bound, twill fall down; with nine and eight, twill find the ground.
His jaw tensed. He pulled his thoughts away from the noise the trivial woman had called a song. It was the only way to prevent the animalistic chants and haunting screams. They had formed during a sleepless night of curious thought, and hadn’t left him since.
Dismissing the memories, he discarded the ball into a crate hidden beneath his cot. Monte twisted into a sitting position. He loosely rested his elbows on his knees and offered a noncommittal stare to the ground.
It occurred to him that his theories of up and down were disarrayed and taboo. Few people outside of shared veins even considered it, nonetheless agreed with any theory in particular. The importance of Aerovalves was common knowledge, but few people recognized their existence. Anyone could tell you the society was at the whim of machines that were supposed to be incapable of mistake. Not many realized they were created at the hands of human error.
It was inevitable. Eventually, one would flinch; a weak girder or a rotten rafter, a collapsed valve or a rusting canal. The Root depended on a myriad of pressure points. Any imbalance would let the world cave in.
“The Initiators dug their grave and buried us alive.” Monte thought of the words his sister had bitterly conveyed whenever they spoke of it.
He laid back with a defeated sigh, rusting cot springs screaming in protest. There was no way out. It was unchangeable, and therefore irrelevant.
It was just a concept, anyway.
Copyright © 2011 Miranda Wheeler
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