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There’s no spiral and no staircase, and for those who are sentenced to work on this project there’s no way out.

Such as myself. I’ve grown nostalgic for the sky.

Nobody knows how long it’s been under construction. I remember when they lowered me down here, because I could still clearly see the first and only marker. It was made of a reflective alloy, maybe aluminum. Its purpose: to mark the tomb of the first prisoner to die during the construction of the pit. We still entomb the dead behind stone tiles, yet it was determined that because the pit is already an expensive endeavor, it would not be economically viable to pay for extra materials to mark each subsequent prisoner’s death.

Many have died since. I’m one of the oldest ones still alive — only Linus has been here longer, but he wouldn’t be able to say so. A piece of granite once came loose and struck his jaw while he was asleep, and he hasn’t been able to speak since. I’ll wake up and see him praying toward the top of the pit to the tomb of the first prisoner. It’s so far up we can only see it in the early morning when the sun’s hitting it. If we didn’t know what it was we’d think it was just another star.

Once a year the sun will align perfectly over the pit for a short while. It makes me wonder if I’ve died. A tunnel and light — until it recedes and we’re left in this perpetual phase of twilight and darkness once again.

Recent progress has slowed dramatically. Have we made it through the mantle? Nobody is around to tell us. They only send down drones which carry new excavation materials, food, and water. At this point we scarcely use our shovels. We break the stone, construct the wall, entomb the dead.

Going back to the surface wouldn’t mean anything even if it were possible. What I did to bring me here I don’t regret, and I imagine this is similar to what Linus thinks. I watch him while we rest. He sits away from us, grinding his food in the pestle and mortar he was forced by circumstance to hew out of the very granite which shattered his jaw. He breaks off a piece of bread, grinds it, adds water, then grinds more. After he finishes his meal he longingly runs a hand across the ground, then returns to work.

The further we dig the more the outer world spills in. The drones have started to broadcast daily reports of what’s happening on the surface. They speak of various injustices and transgressions, which create an image of a dark and hopeless world. We then learn about what our exalted Public Servants are doing to triumph over these evils, yet we know they are the ones responsible for our imprisonment down here. It is evident that they are no longer satisfied with having absolute power over us, it is now time that we are humiliated.

This caused Linus to turn further into himself. To block out the broadcasts of the drones, he has wrapped layers of cloth around his eyes and ears. He now digs with a renewed vigor. By losing his ability to speak, and forfeiting his sight and sound, he possesses a singular focus: escape.

Sometimes storms will blow leaves into the pit, which flutter and flicker down in the silhouettes of the newscasts. We take turns smelling the sweet hint of rain which clings to them. It makes me wonder that if something so pure can still exist outside of the wickedness up there, it may be possible that if we go far enough, we’ll come across something new down here. Past the stone, sweat, and turmoil which has become our world, there may still be salvation on the other side.

Elyn Turne

Twitter: @elynturne

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