Friday, May 30, 1997

The Colony

I had learned much of the strange culture during the few weeks that I had been there, and I suspected much more. Where, for example, all of the fruits of all their labours ended was quite a mystery. Here was a nation with incredible capabilities of production matched with a non-expanding society in terms of both biological and mechanical growth. The fact that their only pastimes seemed to be eating, sleeping and working, while never accumulating any possessions only broadened my confusion. I could only assume that they either destroyed it all or sent it to an unspoken of, hidden upper class.

At that moment, however, I was about to learn that everyone in the colony had an overwhelming fear of the outer world. In fact, none had even ventured near the outer walls where large windows of glass-steel had been set. None understood or even recognised the fear, but it was, apparently, a communicable affliction, for I was also beginning to feel that unreasonable terror.

In any case, the fact that I could even consider leaving the compound -- as my question had suggested -- startled the raving official so much that he stopped dead and collapsed without another word. At the sight and sound of this, the crowd of gossiping onlookers turned and fled, apparently having little care for their previously fearless leader. I had not, as of yet, seen anything of the exterior geography that horrified the inhabitants of this strange place, and so, stifling my growing dread at the prospect, I headed towards one of the major halls, from which I proceeded to the perimeter of the massive building. As I continued, the lunatics voice of fear roared commands at me from within the confines of my skull. I, however, still retained the strength and clarity of mind to deny them and continued in my determination to exit the colony.

I maintained my travels in this way for several days, beating back my rising terror, until I reached the outer ring of the complex. There were no residents here, all halls and rooms and corridors neatly abandoned. It was in these outer walls and passages that the fear became most intense and distinct, as palpable yet ethereal as a thick blanket of smoke. It was here that I almost lost myself in it, fleeing back to the others yet, in the most desperate moment, a flash of inspiration struck me, like a crack of thunder amidst a storm, and the thought that perhaps the fear was not mine but rather that of some malicious entity came to my mind. At that point, my head cleared considerably and, although the terror remained, it had become distant, beaten and bearable.

When I finally reached one of those great windows and my sight lay upon the outside world - the existence of which some of the colonists completely denied - I almost stumbled with surprise, I was so shocked at the vision which lay before me. I had previously held the understanding that all without was a desolate waste, merely broken earth and the remains of a civilisation that was once great, and perhaps that was the way it once was, yet at the time of my first viewing, it was nothing of the like. It was not a broken land with an angry red sun tormenting any who dared to visit its barren surface. It was the finest example of a verdant paradise ever to grace the vision of any man. Off on the far distant horizon, great white mountains soared up into the sky, like mystical spires, sharp and glittering, frolicking with the clouds. Before this wall of brilliant stone which appeared to mark the end of the world, rolling foothills entwined with a playful wind turned the grassy plain from the east into a storm wrought sea of rolling crests and whipping blades. Directly beneath me and spanning out into the west rose a forest of ancient trees, their gnarled trunks, and broad leaves immediately reminded me of oak. Butted up against the complex, its canopy reached to just below the level I was currently on, and its floor was a carpet of browned leaves and cushions of moss, decorated here and there with massive trunks and pillars of golden light. And the thing I noted last of all, before searching out an exit, was a sparkling crystalline blue along the eastern horizon, hinting at a huge lake or perhaps the sea. It took me a couple of days of hard searching to find a small air lock exit out of the complex and another full day to discover how to operate it but, at long last, I managed to open it, and leaping onto a nearby branch, I climbed down to the living earth and headed off - probably the first in millennia - into the great beyond.

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