The World That Is
Ellie hugged her daughter closer to her as the truck sped off. This was, apparently, as close to a settlement as the driver dared go. Maybe they were dangerous around here. She had wanted to find out more about his veiled references to threats, but she knew that questions like that would make for questions from him, ones she wasn’t keen on answering.
Knowledge. The people in the Arc were always going on about knowledge. She’d grown up around it. But at some point, sat near the back of a stuffy classroom in a stuffier school, she had realised that knowledge wasn’t knowledge without experience. “Of course, we don’t know what it’s like out there now,” her teacher had said in passing. They weren’t even entirely sure why they were in the arc. What sent them there was as much of a mystery as why their predecessors had been chosen. Something had gone wrong, they knew that.
Ellie had never thought about the outside world until that day, but she had known, even then, that she wanted to see it. She hadn’t told anyone- you just didn’t go around saying things like that. The Arcologists who went exploring outside were at best seen as eccentric.
She wasn’t bright enough for science, which ruled out exploration missions. She got married, and never told her husband about how she would look up at the electric lights of the arc and wish for windows to the outside. They had children, a boy, then a girl.
She wasn’t a scientist, but then came the day she was given an assignment cleaning what she was told was a medical facility. They did some kind of surgery. One look in through the wrong doorway was all it took. Whatever they were doing, there was something off about. She didn’t need a medical degree to know that.
She couldn’t explain to her husband why she wanted to leave- she knew he would try and stop her. And she had only seen women on the beds in…that place. She gathered up her daughter, some warm clothes, and a few possessions and somewhere in the night she got to one of the airlocks. It was unattended- who would want to go outside?
All the way here she had been counting the time. He’ll be waking up now. He’ll see that I’m not there, now. He’ll go looking for me, now. He’ll raise the alarm, now.
And now she was standing in front of…something. What on earth was it? All twirling metal. The paint had mostly crumbled and faded, but it looked like it had once been brightly coloured. She stared up at the sign. “Crazy Mouse?” she said aloud. Her daughter stirred a little and snuggled deeper against her. Well, at least there looked to be a shelter for the night right in front of it. She pushed open the wooden door, pushed the chair she found against it once she’d closed the door behind her, was relieved to find a space under a table. They wouldn’t see them. Wouldn’t find them. Maybe. If she was lucky. At least they had somewhere to sleep tonight.