We’d come to a series of hatches that seemed to be manually locked from the other side. One after another, we tried them cautiously and moved on, and it was starting to get a little wearing. I was pretty sure were were on the right level, after how far down we’d had to go, and Lindsi’s map agreed with me, but finding a way out of the maintenance passages was proving a lot harder than I’d hoped. A lot harder than she’d hoped, too. Eventually, she sat back at an intersection that gave her room to lift her head, and looked to me.
“Look… do you think you could check the other side of the wall for me?”
I can try, I guess, I told her. It made sense, I could get through no matter what, but I wasn’t so sure I could find her again when I needed to come back. You stay here?
“You bet,” Lindsi said, stretching her legs out. “You can’t follow me if I move on, can you.”
I don’t think so.
“I’ll be right here, then,” she told me. “I could use the break anyway.”
I nodded. Okay, here goes. And I turned around, crawled back to the nearest hatch, took a deep breath — and crawled through it.
The first thing I noticed as I was standing up was how dark it was. The second thing was… well, how dark it was. I shouldn’t have been able to see so much as my own hand in front of my face, but I could, as if there was a light somewhere that only illuminated me. It actually made it more creepy, not less. I locked my hands together — I felt real, at least to myself — and slowly turned around, being careful to set my feet just right so I turned 180 degrees, back towards the hatch.
I could see that, sort of, and the wall it was set into. It looked almost ghostly, shaded in greys with a kind of wireframe edging. I stared at it, then looked at my hands again. Still real, for whatever value of real I counted as. What was this? What did it mean? Was I standing inside a second wall that had been built over the hatch for some reason?
I figured I’d better test that. I didn’t want to take my eyes off the hatch, but I also really didn’t want to walk backwards into the darkness. Maybe I couldn’t touch anything or be touched by anything, but knowing that intellectually didn’t really make the idea any less scary. I took a step backwards, then another, glancing over my shoulder as I did. As far as I could tell, nothing changed: I’d got further from the hatch by all of two paces, and everything else except me was still pitch black.
What’s happening? I asked the air. The Ship couldn’t talk to me, I didn’t think, and Lindsi couldn’t hear me from here, but it was more comforting than it should have been to hear my own voice. It reminded me where I was, what I was doing, and that Lindsi was counting on me. Step by step, I kept walking backwards, looking around.
After I’d got maybe ten, fifteen rather short backwards paces from the wall, I twisted to my right and noticed a bright shaft of light, perfectly sharp-edged as if there wasn’t even any air to diffuse it. It seemed to be… well, no. It was weird. I kept one foot pointed towards the vent as I stared at it, trying to work out what was going on. All the shapes were cast as if there was a single light source high up, but the shadows pointed a whole bunch of different ways. It was like parts of the Ship had just stopped existing, without affecting anything else around them!
As I watched, a person in a smartly cut but rather drab grey jacket stepped from the blackness into the light without seeming to notice anything unusual, walked through it, and was gone again. I wanted to call to her, but I knew she wouldn’t hear me. This was getting creepier by the second…
The Fused by V. L. Bending is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.