Left. Cordan’s left hand flashed out and slapped with a metallic clang on the nearest trunk.
Right. His right hand found the next pillar and deposited a small disc on its surface with a satisfying smack.
Hands worked autonomously, freeing Cordan’s mind to focus on the next footfall. The uneven ground under his feet sprouted large trunks at regular intervals. He ran as quickly as he could, as closely as possible to each of the pillars rising up in his path. They stretched, straight and gray into the blackness above. Cordan felt adrift in darkness; he saw only a few yards ahead by the light of his dim headlamp.
Endless hours of training made Cordan’s movements second-nature, natural. He flowed, more than ran. Each shaft received its share of his offering. Occasionally his foot slipped on the loose, dry dirt. The barren ground lacked any sign of animal, insect or plant. He cursed himself for being too slow and sped on.
The image of an orangutan came to his mind as his arms swung out from side to side. He’d seen a documentary on the creatures once. Still he pressed forward. He’d seen many things in documentaries, but they usually felt like fantasy. The world he saw on-screen had nothing to do with the world he lived in.His world was dark. Dark and harsh. They were the Caretakers who were required to keep the panels working. Down below, they had access to all the wires, all the connections, but they stayed in the dark. Once a year, chosen by lottery, a small group of workers would take a long ride in a secure elevator to the top of the panels. For a week they would clean and maintain before descending again into the darkness. The stories they brought back evoked rapt wonder and harsh doubt. How could such a bright, living world exist, supported by the black, lifeless existence below?
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