“My dear Elina, look around; we are happy here. Why aren’t you?” Elina’s father strode down a dark, smoky hall, a curious frown sitting upon his face as he looked down at his daughter. Elina huffed and crossed her arms, glaring up at her father.
“Father, I hear these stories about the Above and yet no one who has told one has ever seen it! I want to see it, Father! I do not see how it could be so bad.”
“Elina…” Elina’s father placed a large, wispy hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “Our people have not been Above in many years. Our ancestors once roamed the lands, but they were quickly made uninhabitable by the Pale Solids. Many died or were taken prisoner by the Pale Solids before our ancestors fled to the Below, and that is where we now live. All of us our content, except you, Elina.”
Elina rolled her eyes. “Father, I will not be long. Just a minute! I just want a glimpse!”
“No!” Her father barked, causing Elina to flinch back. “Elina! Every one of us who has ventured to the Above has never returned! Do you not remember Halifer?”
Elina sniffed. “Maybe he enjoyed the Above and decided to stay. Elder Antha told me that her great-grandmother used to tell her stories about how beautiful the Above was and how she sometimes wished she could visit!”
“Then I will have to have a talk with Elder Antha, now won’t I?” Elina’s father turned down another smoky hallway. “Now quit this talk, Elina. I will not hear another word of it! You are not to go to the Above and that is final!”
The small girl clenched her fists and glared defiantly at her father. “Fine! But do not dare say anything to Elder Antha! I and the others quite like her stories, and I refuse to have her stop telling them!”
“As long as you stop this nonsense about going Above, I will not say a word. Deal?” Her father held out a hand.
Elina glared at the hand for a moment before sharply taking it and shaking it down once. “Deal.”
Her father smiled. “Good. I have work to get to now, so go on and play or listen to Elder Antha’s stories. I do not care which. Just make sure not to make any more fuss about the Above or you will be punished.”
“I won’t, Father!” The girl pouted. “You have no faith in me!”
“More like I just know you too well.” Her father winked and chuckled. “Goodbye now!” He gave a wave and walked away. Elina smirked.
“No, Father, I will not make a fuss, but that does not mean I will not see the Above…”
* * *
It was hours after curfew. Not a shadow was moving in the land, except for a little girl. She snuck from home to home, getting closer and closer to the exit of the Below. There was a lone guard on duty, and Elina knew she could get past him. His back was to her, making sneaking up on the guard much easier. She crept as close as possible but stopped when she heard a noise. She froze up and held her breath but quickly let it out as she realized the guard was snoring. No one ever left the Below anymore, she reasoned. Why would the guard have to be awake?
The girl grinned to herself as she tip-toed past him and through the exit. The path slowly inclined up…
Elina was getting tired. When was she going to reach the top? It felt as if she had been walking for eternity.
Maybe there was no Above. No one had gone and come back to tell the tale. Maybe there was a monster at the top who ate anyone who dared to leave the Below.
Elina shivered and glanced back. Maybe she should go back…
Suddenly, the tunnel began to get brighter. Elina stared around in awe. She had never seen such bright light! The colors of the cave were changing! She touched the wall, marveling at the changing colors as she moved her hand across it.
The tunnel grew brighter as she walked, causing her to squint. It was starting to get too bright! The girl let out a whine as her body began to ache. The ache only grew worse as the tunnel became brighter. Her body was on fire!
Elina let out a scream and ran, trying to find shelter from the light. She burst from the tunnel, still running with her eyes closed, when the world suddenly became darker. Elina stopped, opening her eyes slowly and glancing around. She looked up, noticing a giant dome looming above her. It blocked out the light enough that her body did not hurt anymore.
Elina was amazed! There were all sorts of colors in the Above! She couldn’t even name all of them! The dome above her was made of little oval-shaped things that hung from large poles that were attached to a larger pole. She recognized it as a “tree,” as Elder Antha had described it to her many times.
The Above was so beautiful! The pain was worth seeing this. But where were Halifer and Wrent and all the others that escaped to the Above? Maybe they were exploring somewhere else.
Elina began to explore and soon discovered that she could only stand in the darker shades of the things in the Above. Standing in the light caused extreme pain. There were bursts of pain as she ran from dome to dome and edge to edge of square shapes. They looked kind of like the homes she had seen in the Below.
She finally came upon a very large square shape. Elina quickly ran to a rectangular looking dome sticking out from the square and was surprised to find the doors open by themselves. She gaped for a moment before walking inside.
It was bright in the square but not so bad that there was only a dull ache in her body. There were many creatures about, sitting and walking and standing. Were these the Pale Solids that her father and Elder Antha had talked about? They didn’t look so bad.
Elina continued to explore, finding many hallways and many more doors lining said hallways. There was a strange smell in the square and she could hear a multitude of noises. There was beeping and crying and moaning…It began to wear Elina down. What kind of place was this?
She suddenly heard a scream and stopped, glancing at the door next to her. It was slightly cracked, allowing her to slip in. There was a Pale Solid lying on a bed, but it seemed to be darker than others she had seen. Another Pale Solid was near the first’s feet, talking soothingly to it.
“That’s it. That’s it, Mrs. Anderson. Just breathe and…Push!” The first Pale Solid let out another scream. Elina crept closer, wanting to see what was causing the creature so much pain.
“Push, Mrs. Anderson! That’s it! I can see him now! Just a little more! There!” Crying suddenly filled the room as the second Pale Solid lifted a squirming, little thing. The first Pale Solid stopped screaming and became much calmer. It was even smiling as it reached for the squishy thing.
“Can I see him?” The second Pale Solid moved closer to the first, showing off the creature, which Elina believed to be a baby Pale Solid. Elina moved even closer, trying to keep out of the way of the Pale Solids but still wanting a glance at the baby. She made eye contact with the baby and decided that it was an ugly little thing.
Elina moved to look away but found that she could not. She struggled, whining in confusion as she found herself immobile. The baby’s eyes seemed to draw her in, and Elina screamed as she realized she was being sucked towards the baby.
“Wait! Wait! Please, let me go!” Elina screamed once more as her body shrunk and sank into the baby’s figure. “Nooo!”
“Alright. Let me just get him cleaned up. I’ll be right back.” The second Pale Solid stood, the baby held gently in her arms. Elina shrieked as she was dragged along the floor with the baby’s movements. What was going on? Why couldn’t she move?
The Pale Solid’s arms moved enough that the baby was able to glance down as it looked around the room in awe. It made eye contact with Elina and began to cry again. The Pale Solid glanced down at the baby to see what had upset it and chuckled.
“Don’t worry, honey, that’s just your shadow. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It can’t hurt you.” The Pale Solid continued to sooth the baby, dragging Elina along as she screamed and screamed.
Nobody heard her.