Thursday, November 16, 2017

11/16/17

Upstairs
By David K Scholes


“Where are you off to suited up like that,” asked the bot.

“Upstairs!” I replied “for my mandatory annual visit.”

I didn’t mention that it was my very first trip. As a child it wasn’t compulsory for me to go up but as a young adult I had no choice.

The mile long trip up took just a few seconds.

Then I was there. On the planetary surface along with four other humans and our AI supervisor. I was briefly almost overcome by the sheer openness, the vastness that assailed my senses.

“We’ll take in the view from the closest of the mile high towers,” said the AI.

There was another equally short trip of only a few seconds to reach the top of the mile high observation tower.

The view was, for someone used to labyrinthine underground complexes and corridors, quite breathtaking. I knew enough physics to know I was not high enough to truly observe the curvature of the Earth, and yet it seemed as if there was just a little. Just my overactive imagination I suppose.

I had experienced 3D simulations, virtual reality trips and even temporary mind implants but it’s just not the same. None of these properly prepared me for the sheer scale of it all.

From the top of the tower we took it all in for what seemed like an eternity. Later we transferred from the tower on to the nearby, docked sub-orbital cruiser for a full planetary sub orbit. It was even more breathtaking. Again nothing below had or did prepare me for this.

Finally we finished our “upstairs” visit with a 1000 klick return trip in an overground electro-magnetic cruiser. Across rivers, lakes, down through ravines, threaded through mountains and across deserts. All things that I had read about and even experienced virtually, yet things that otherwise might just as well have been theoretical concepts. I wondered now why my selected parents had not allowed me to come upstairs as a child. At least once.

So far everything up here had looked to be on automatic with no humans present. Our AI guide just issued instructions to the robotic mechanisms.

Then it was time to go below again. My breathless fellow travellers looked relieved but I felt a slight tinge of sadness.

* * *

Unexpectedly I had trouble settling back into ordinary life back underground. .

“It happens,” said the robotic therapist. “It’s very rare indeed, but some humans have difficulty on returning underground. It’s more likely if you never went up as a child.”

“What’s the cure, Doc?” I asked.

“Until recently, I would have prescribed drug therapy combined with more frequent above ground simulations and virtual reality experiences, but not for you. Now, for cases like yours, we have started trialing an extended return to the surface approach.”

* * *

I went back up again with just two other humans, one of them our guide.

“It will be less of a scenic tour and more of a working arrangement,” said the guide. “Everything up here has been running pretty much autonomously. For decades there has been no permanent human habitation above ground. You are at the vanguard of change establishing a human presence up here again.”

About then it dawned on me. I was going to be up here for good. Whatever it was I had, they weren’t about to let me, or those of my ilk, return below to upset the apple cart.

I was so confident of this that as the guide showed me about my new habitat I didn’t even broach the subject.

It might one day be sad never to return underground even for a holiday yet looking across to the vast horizon I was truly untroubled.


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The author is a science fiction writer with eight collections of short stories and two novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, and Farther Stars Than These sites. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine.
He is currently working on a new sci-fi novella.


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