Read Shadows Online

Authors: Peter Cawdron

Tags: #wool, #silo, #dystopian adventure, #silo saga

Shadows

BOOK: Shadows
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Shadows

Peter Cawdron

 

thinkingscifi.wordpress.com

Copyright © Peter Cawdron 2013

 

All rights
reserved

 

The right of Peter Cawdron
to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by
him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act
1988

 

First published as an eBook
by Peter Cawdron using Smashwords

 

ISBN:
9781311458551

 

Silo Saga - WOOL Universe -
Hugh Howey

 

All the characters in this
book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living
or dead is purely coincidental

 

 

Shadows is a tribute to Hugh
Howey & the world of WOOL

Chapter 01: Dawn

 

Susan slowed as she
approached the final curve on the grand staircase, catching her
breath. She knew Charlie would be up there, sitting in the
cafeteria in the pre-dawn hours, watching the wall-screen, waiting
for sunrise.

With her hand
running gently along the smooth, worn metal railing, she took the
steps one at a time, pushing off with the accustomed gait of a
porter. Her thighs had a natural rhythm honed from almost eighteen
months shadowing a senior porter up and down thousands of stairs.
Her calves were toned and tight. She

d learned how to
take the steps with a gentle spring, giving her muscles a
micro-pause, something the mechanics never seemed to master even
though they had the longest haul up through almost a hundred and
fifty levels within the underground silo.

Her eyes cast over her
shoulder for a moment.

Beside her, the Great Fall
opened out, a void plunging through the center of their
subterranean world. For her, it was a waste of space, but the view
was impressive. With the night lights inside the shaft still
waiting for the automated switch to trigger the day, shadows fell
into the darkness. She had to admit, the helical staircase was
beautiful at this time of the morning, winding around the Great
Fall, peeling off on the various landings, revealing the illusion
of an ever tightening corkscrew as it faded beneath her. Some days,
the seemingly never-ending turns felt oppressive, as though they
were tightening around her, constricting her, but in the quiet of
the early morning, the swirling staircase had a beauty she found
intoxicating. With the sound of soft, rhythmic foot falls somewhere
several levels below, the stairs seemed to be alive with a
heartbeat of their own. Once the day unfolded, though, the
cacophony of voices and boots, the smell of sweat and grease would
once again transform the flower-like beauty of the stairs into the
crunching, grinding gears of a giant machine.

She always enjoyed this
final curve of the stairs leading to the cafeteria, the sheriff's
office and the airlock. It sounded corny, and she didn't mean it
literally, but there was something magical about seeing the grand
staircase come to an end. She realized most people looked down,
watching their weary boots trudge up one final flight, but her eyes
cast up at the majestic dome spread out above the fall, a cap
placed over the top of the great shaft. Like the spokes of a wheel,
golden bars radiated out from a spike in the center of the dome,
reaching down to the rim that surrounded the Great Fall. They were
set on a dull blue background, something that had faded with time
but was clearly a reminder of how the sky had once
appeared.

Susan had
never seen a blue sky, but like all the other kids growing up,
she

d drawn pictures of green meadows and cotton candy
clouds drifting through a warm, blue sky. She
wasn

t sure if it was instinctive or whether her younger
class simply copied the drawings of their elders, but greens and
blues were the colors everyone loved when scratching away with
recycled crayons. Those pictures were a distant memory now, but the
dome was a gentle reminder that once the world had held
life.

As far as she
knew, the dome was the only thing within the silo that had been
designed with aesthetics in mind. Everything else was functional,
and brutally so. The concrete was austere, rough and coarse,
lacking any finish. The stairs held worn tread marks, and
meticulous spacing, so much so one could march unthinkingly on with
barely a thought to the next step. Even their apartments were bare.
Susan

s mother had done all she could to give their concrete
shell a sense of home, but the smallest splash of color cost more
chits than they could afford. The dome, though, gave Susan hope
that there was something beyond the Great Fall into darkness
below.

Susan loved the last step.
There was something strangely satisfying about that last metal step
passing underfoot. She felt as though she had conquered the mighty
silo beneath.

She walked into the open
court leading to the cafeteria. A couple of cooks were talking,
working away in a well-lit section of the distant
kitchen.

Charlie had
his back to her. In the dim light, his silhouette was apparent
against the vast wall-screen. There was a light on in the
sheriff

s office. Next to that lay the imposing vault of
the airlock, sealed by a three-foot thick metal door. The door was
made from steel plates and must have weighed a ton, being
meticulously set on massive steel hinges set into a bulky metal
frame. Other sections of the silo might decay and fall into
disrepair, but that mighty door was built to last a thousand
years.

Susan tiptoed, trying to
hide the squeak of her boots on the marble floor.

Charlie had
stacked three pots upside down on the table in front of him, the
largest at the bottom. He

d positioned a
plastic breadboard on top, with two forks stuck at each end and a
piece of glass taped between them. From the shape, it looked as
though the glass had been taken from a pair of reading glasses.
What on earth was he looking at? He squinted as he peered through
the prongs, staring at the wall screen.

Susan slipped
her hands over his eyes, saying,

Surprise.

She could feel his cheeks
rise as he smiled. She kissed him on the side of the
neck.


I thought
I

d find you up here.

Charlie
turned to face her, saying,

Morning,
Susan.

Susan sat on the bench-seat
next to him. The sheet metal was cold to touch.


What

s
this?

she asked.


It

s not what you think.


At the
moment,

she said, trying not to laugh.

I

m not sure what to think. Are you inventing some
kind of exotic new cooking style?


It

s for observing the stars,

Charlie
confessed.


The stars!
You know what Mac thinks of that. If he catches you up here looking
at the stars he

ll get you posted to
the Mids, or worse, Down Deep.

Charlie slid to one side on
the bench seat, gesturing for her to take a look.


Don

t bump anything.
It

s aligned perfectly.

Charlie shifted over,
making plenty of room for her. She pulled her dark brunette hair
back, tucking it behind her ears as she closed one eye and peered
through the prongs of the closest fork. The chopping board had been
set on a slight angle, and she dared not touch it in case it
slipped off its precarious perch.


You are such
a weirdo,

she said.

What am I looking
at?

For his part, Charlie
laughed. He was looking sideways, across in front of her at the
clock hanging above the cafeteria serving line.


Look in the
center, line up the two forks and look right through the middle.
Make sure you

ve lined yourself up
so you can see through the top of the prongs.


I still
don

t know what I

m supposed to be
looking for. There

s no
stars.

Charlie
rested his hand gently on her shoulder, saying,

Keep
looking. Be aware of your peripheral vision on either side. Tell
me, what you can see?


Ah, the
board and the forks are obscuring most of my view. I
can

t see anything other than clouds.


Wait for
it,

Charlie replied.

And ...
Now!


Oh,

Susan said, her voice dropping. A
star appeared between the prongs of the forks. In the low light,
the star looked beautiful. There was a slight twinkle, something
she

d never noticed before, making the star appear as
though it were a diamond.

How did you
...


Three
minutes and fifty six seconds,

Charlie said,
writing something on a scrap of paper beside him. He ignored her.
She doubted it was intentional, he was clearly excited.

Susan sat back. Her hair
had slipped forward, falling over the side of her face. She swept
her hair back behind her ears again. This time she pulled a small
band from her pocket and pulled her hair into a ponytail, listening
as Charlie spoke.


I

m not sure if the flicker is real or just an
artifact of the screen's resolution, but the stars seem to
sparkle.


Beautiful,

she said, taking another look. Susan
felt clumsy, and had meant to utter a coherent sentence rather than
just one word, but she really was astonished by the sight before
her. She never thought she'd see anything on that accursed screen
that she could call beautiful.


They move,
Sue. And it

s not random.
It

s by the same amount every day. All the stars move by
the same amount. It

s as though
they

re all somehow connected, and yet I don't think they
are. I suspect this is an illusion based on our limited
perspective.

Susan
didn

t know what to make of his comment. She looked down at
the metal table. Scratches and bumps marred its surface, revealing
generations of use. Susan doubted anyone else had ever looked at
the stars from this table in quite the same way before.


I

ve got to get this back in the kitchen before
the morning service starts or Chef James will get
cranky.

Charlie
pulled the forks out of the board and started dismantling his tower
of pots. Susan could see deliberate scratches etched into the table
where he

d lined up his experiment from one day to the
next.


Does Chef
James know about these?

she asked, her
fingers running along the circular etching.


Shhh.
They

re needed to ensure precision.


If you get
busted,

she said, unable to complete her sentence, not
wanting to think about what could happen.

You know how
dangerous it is to question. Questions lead to doubts, doubts lead
to the airlock.

BOOK: Shadows
6.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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