It was the first time anyone had gone outside in almost a thousand years. Of course people left their homes, but they were still inside the Spire then, it really did not count as outside if you could not see the sky, did it?
"Hey Mason," I heard somebody call my name. I turned and saw Heather, her curly auburn hair framing her freckled face.
"Good luck," She told me as I pulled on the thick leather gloves that were supposed to protect me from who knows what. All of the research said it was July outside, and should be fairly warm, but no one was going to let me take any chances, despite the fact that no one thought I was coming back.
"Thanks," I smiled back, knowing her concern was not genuine.
"I've a lot of money riding on you coming back alive," she said as she picked up the antiquated helmet from the nearby table.
"Figures," I mumbled as I pulled the synthetic fabric hood up, covering my almost jet black mane of hair. I then took the offered helmet. "It's not my fault I won the lottery." I retorted.
"Yeah, but it is your fault that you did not have a job yet. If you had, you wouldn’t have been in the lottery to begin with.”
I knew she was right, but there was not much I could do about it. I set the helmet atop my head and began to pull it down when another voice, this one much older, called my name.
“Mason, wait!” Timothy shouted from across the courtyard. As he got closer, his stringy white hair flopped down into his face, and he brushed it away tucking it into the collar of his faded gray t-shirt.
“Timothy, did you find anything?” I asked him, my heart falling as I watched him shake his head.
“No, I couldn’t find anything in the records as to why we’ve been locked in here for so long.”
“Ladies and Gentleman,” A voice came over the loudspeakers, being broadcast into every office, every factory, and every home. Every streetcorner also held a speaker, for moments just like this. Everyone said it was the voice of Khan Ruelo, the Mayor of the Spire, but no one had seen him in three years, and it was rumored he was dead. Despite the rumor, the disembodied voice began again, “Ladies and gentleman, it gives me great pleasure to announce to you today that we are taking the first steps towards discovery. We have been trapped inside the Spire for far too long, and with the strides that Mason Arvantis is about to take, we embark in a new age, an age where the sun will not only shine upon the outside of the Spire, but it will shine again on our skin! Where the wind brings with it more than re-circulated air and where the rain is more than overly filtered water. Please join me in wishing Mason good luck.” With an audible click, the speakers were turned off. Slowly, a cheer went up and people beginning to chant his name.
“You know Timothy, this is not quite how I expected my life to go,”
Heather interrupted, “Then you should have gotten yourself a job.”
“Shh,” Timothy hissed, “as I was saying, no one seems to know why we are in here, so I really can’t tell you what to expect beyond what I’ve already told you.”
“Thank you for checking again,” I smiled at Timothy, for what I thought might be the last time.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Heather said, pulling something out of her backpack.
“Take this.” She handed me a large knife, the blade perhaps a foot long. “I’m counting on you coming back alive.” She said, attaching the blades sheath to my belt. It felt light against my left hip.
“Thank you,” I said and pulled the helmet down. It did not seal to anything, but with it on, every inch of my skin was covered by something, two layers in most places. The curved plexi-glass in the helmet was old and had begun to discolor, but I could still see well enough, and I made my way to the airlock’s inner door. I took a deep breath and opened it. No one expected me to come back, which is why Heather had bet on me, last I had heard, the odds were twelve to one that I’d be dead. They expected me to check in over the video feed in the airlock at sundown, had even told me I could sleep there for the first night, but, they wanted me to survive outside for a week. Peering into the airlock, I saw crates full of provisions stacked against the far wall as well as what appeared to be a hard-shell weapons case.
I stepped through the door and turned to wave at Timothy, who was already gone. He was sure I was not going to make it. Instead, Heather waved back and winked at me. I closed the door and walked over to the control panel, grabbing the oxygen tank from the wall as I passed it. I lifted the helmet again, and, turning on the oxygen as I had been instructed, pushed the sequence of numbers that would activate the airlock and ultimately, open the outer door.
What seemed like an eternity passed as I stood there, breathing from a plastic mask that smelled of sweat and many years of disuse. I should have blown the dust off of it, I thought to myself as I tried to hold back a coughing fit unsuccessfully. I almost missed the loud hiss that signalled that the outer door’s seal had been breached.
Ok, here goes nothing, I thought to myself as I stepped towards the door, and pulled it in towards me.
I had been told that the sun was bright, but I was not prepared for how bright it was, and I stood there blinking, trying to get my eyes to adjust to the new world before me.