The steps stretched to eternity. Jason pondered them, willing his feet to walk up the winding steel steps which circled ever higher into the blinding sun. It was safe beneath the earth, at least that’s what he had always been told. In all honesty, the underground metropolis where he lived seemed anything but safe. Down below was too comfortable; it was what mankind had always dreamed of. Robots patrolled the streets in white uniforms deterring crime and maintaining peace, providing for and maintaining the city. Yet something was missing, some freedom to do what you wanted without being watched, or guided to the appropriate choice. He shook his head this was his chance he couldn’t lose it. He took a small step forward, squared himself, and began to ascend the stairs.
The Stair-way creaked, groaning as he wound his way along. He didn’t look up anymore because flakes of rust seemed to shower him with every step, finding their way into his eyes. Instead he stared down at his feet, trying not to let fear overtake him, as the ground disappeared further beneath him, until it sank into pitch blackness. He wished he could look up, but the relentless shower of debris falling on his head and shoulders prevented him. Instead he imagined himself getting closer to his goal, the sun almost touching him, as he immerged from the ventilation shaft. Suddenly he stopped, something, a sound. He listened, straining his ears against the silence, but was met with only the sound of the wind. He turned looking behind him, but there was only blackness. Shielding his eyes he looked up, light streamed down even stronger now, but he was still only halfway to the top. Then he heard it again, a strange whistling sound, almost like what he had heard on the old VICast movies his father had kept hidden. They had shown him brief glimpses of the outside, and some type of flying creature. He thought for a moment, birds, that’s what they had been called. He smiled hopefully; maybe he would see one, flying high in the distance, a mere speck in the sky.
The higher he went the darker it seemed to grow now. He wondered where the light had gone, thinking back he remembered his caretaker telling him that the earth circled something called a star, which lit the earth for only a small part of every cycle. He hurried now, only a soft orange glow was still visible at the very top of the stairs. It seemed like an eternity, but when he finally looked up again the last ring of stairway had opened up into a crimson sky. He felt a rush of emotion over-take him, this felt like a mad thing to do, coming to the surface. Reaching for the railing with a shaking hand he scrambled to the top of the stairs, bursting out onto a concrete platform.
He trembled with the exhaustion and thrill that assailed him. The sky was changing to deep purple now, but he could still see just a tiny glimpse of the sun disappearing in the far distance. Warm air whipped against his skin, and a sweet, salty, scent crowded his senses. Nervously he approached the edge of the platform, looking down he saw a vast body of water, which crashed into the jagged cliffs beneath him. Above him, strange winged creatures circled over-head. To all sides sheer rock walls surrounded him. There was nowhere to go. Slowly he walked to the back of the platform, put his back to the wall, and sank down. He watched as the sun slowly disappeared, and darkness began to steal across the horizon. It was tantalizing, to be out in the open, but there was no way off the platform. Heavy, tears swelled in his eyes, spilling onto his cheeks. It would be okay he thought, to die here, in the open, outside where humanity had first walked, under the sunlit sky.
The night passed swiftly, and when morning came, the platform was deserted. A heavy steel plate covered the stairway entrance, and blood was visible on the concrete. The wind still bore the same smells, gulls passed overhead, and the ocean waves bore hard upon the rocks. There was no sign of the man who had passed the night listening to the sea, and birds. Maybe he had been taken back, deep below the earth, or had rushed past his adversaries, and thrown him-self over the cliff, and into the water below. Off in the distance a sailboat could be seen anchored in the bay, its white sails stark against the bright blue of the ocean and sky. Perhaps he had, in the first glimpse of daylight seen that beacon, and made the choice, to live.
A short story