It was the first day in four months where I used my day for myself. I should have taken an easy day. A reporter doesn’t get weekends. You’re always on call. I felt it was important to learn more about my new home. I looked up, seeing the cavern ceiling bathed in lights from below.
A few RoofSide settlements, as they were called, grew like barnacles between stalactites the size of upside-down skyscrapers. Tiny housing blocks carved into the rock or built up with reinforcements. The settlements were dangerous and prone to collapse.
You’re house hanging a thousand feet over a city was never a good idea. Not many people lived there. Always in conflict with UpTown for property rights to slags of granite.
I sat on double-decker bus. The District number ten painted on its red chassis.
The bus was headed towards the centre of the District’s MidTown.
The PillarTowers rose up to the ceiling of the immense cavern. The titanic structures built with endless additions looked like trees with sprawling fungi growing horizontal. Metal and cement built up and spread out from the Pillars. Strips and boardwalks in spirals or levels rising all the way up to the cavern ceiling. Businesses, firms, diners and hundreds of people’s livelihoods hugged the side of the Towers. Lights flashed in waves with the thousands of neon signs and passing vehicles.
A projection played wolves climbing across the buildings, leaping and bounding as if they were there.
A garden of corporate spires surrounded the PillarTowers. Dozens of buildings reached towards the ceiling. Some dark, some chrome, some white, some gothic, some classical it was an apocalypse of bad taste and conflicting trends. Constant flux of tear-downs and rebuilds.
A belly dancer the size of a skyscraper gyrated against the side of one spire. Projected onto the side of a hundred small businesses or firms.
I spun a pen in my hand, writing down the street names that I couldn’t pronounce properly. Thane Dujhaladin Avenue and Fifth SpikSpekSpite. It was a new world. It was terrifying.
And oddly exciting.
I had been Exposed a year ago.
We turned on to a freeway and flew over a deep crack in the earth. A curved bridge across a bottomless chasm. The glow hit my face as I peered into the District’s DownTown.
Layers and levels of businesses, housing blocks and rail systems. All hugging the jagged edges of the canyon and crisscrossed by bridges and railings. Hovercrafts zoomed through the air on whirling blue MagLifts. The Subway system flew by through tunnels and open air stations. The deeper you plunged, the darker, the more impoverished, the more violent the world became. It was like a doorway into hell.
The Underground was the size of Tokyo, New York, London and Shanghai all rolled into one. It was massive, endless and bottomless. The entire ugly monstrosity was built into the hollowed out stone of the Rocky Mountains stretching from Alaska to California.
Millions upon millions of individuals all just trying to survive in this dark realm. According to the stats I researched, only about 27% percent were human.
And I was a new reporter here. I was a reporter in my old life, in the Normal World. Now my boss was a Goblin in a pinstripe suit and pointed blue shoes.
The bus pulled up to a historic site. A courtyard where the Goblin Clans forced out a splinter group of Dwarf nationalists in the 80s. I was staring at the brochure. I didn’t notice the girl who walked up beside me. The 80s were a time of reform and often destructive changes in the Underground.
“Ugly, isn’t it?” she said.
I looked up at the bronze statue. The three goblins in trench coats and carrying machine guns stood over a broken Dwarvish anvil. They raised their weapons. I could almost imagine their cackling triumph. It didn’t look at all noble or inspiring. Maybe that’s the point?
I turned to the girl and froze.
Her tiny heart-shaped face was hidden in a huge mess of thick black hair. She seemed so small, but her big brown eyes seemed to fill me up with everything I had been missing since my Exposure.
“Hi,” I said.
She laughed. “Hi!”