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Every unopened door had the potential to change Seren’s life when she opened it. At least she had that to look forward to—and there was little enough to look forward to in the Domain, where everybody was just existing until death to pass a generation so that another generation could do the same, and yet another after them. Well, that wasn’t for her. She wanted to see to the stars and to learn new things.
A long shrill noise ripped through the dark metallic corridor. Seren froze.
The noise ceased as abruptly as it had begun, leaving silence once again to slice the intervals between her heartbeats. A few tendays before, another noise had echoed through the halls of the Abandon, the great dark area enclosing the inhabited Domain, but it had been so distant that she had never found its source. This was close. Very close.
Seren fought the urge to run from whatever was ahead of her, to hide in her bed and cry for the security she once had with Ariel. But her mother was dead. All that was left were the morose people of the Domain with their dull eyes that watched to make sure that she was not different from them.
Seren was different.
She took a deep breath and entered the dark tunnel. Her lamp was too weak to shine far, but at the edge of the light two doors faced each other across the corridor.
With no idea what she was looking for, she eased forward, studying the pairs of doors--all closed like the first two--that faced each other at regular intervals. The arched doorways were framed in pale, silvery metal, and the walls were a dark, lustrous blue. She loved the colorfulness and elegance she had discovered in the design of the Abandon. The change in color from the gray-green walls and copper accents of the level just below delighted her.. Where her people--the followers of the Holy Adora--resided, the black trim and maroon walls had come to seem dull and oppressive over the ten thousandays of her life there. Otherwise, this place looked just like the rest of the Abandon. The side corridor ended several doors down from where it branched off from the gently curved main corridor.
Seren’s maps revealed that each level consisted of a number of concentric corridors that were separated by bands of rooms. Narrower corridors radiated out from the center like spokes on the wheels of the small wagon that the Temple’s cleaning woman, Petrin, pulled around behind her. Each level had a smaller diameter than the level below. Did this conical pattern eventually reach a single point at the top level? One day, Seren would find out.
Whatever had caused the noise--perhaps a malfunctioning door--was not apparent.
Seren touched the cold blue wall at the far end and tried to imagine what was on the other side. Corridors like this one intrigued her because they were at the outer edge of her world. In none of the levels she had yet explored had she found any way beyond this outer wall. Three levels down, a solid door had blocked the entrance of what should have been one of these dead-end corridors. She had found no way to open or bypass it and had given up. She had not forgotten. Any passage left unexplored might hold something she could use to escape from the Domain.
Or it might lead her beyond to the stars that she had believed in ever since Ariel had first told her about them and had pulled from beneath the neck of her robe the Startail, a silver earring with a ten-point star at the lobe and a long tail that curved up the outer edge of the ear. A multi-colored, faceted crystal glittered in the middle of the star. Seren wore it around her neck on the same thick string that Ariel had used before she died, although sometimes she removed the Startail, clipped it on her left ear and admired its elegance in the mirror.
So, here she was, trying to find her way to the stars, and all she could find were dead-ends. She turned back, setting little eddies of ancient dust into motion. The hem of her short maroon robe bounced rhythmically off her calves and avoided most of the dust, but the old pair of soft shoes she wore had long since become filthy. Her shadow escorted her--now dancing at her side, now disappearing behind as she raised her lamp or let it swing at her side. When she had first begun to explore the Abandon, the great dark area from which the Adoran people had long ago retreated, her shadow spooked her as everything had,
Susan McElheran has been a science fiction fan since the age of twelve, when she read Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin and received an Edmund 3” reflector telescope for her birthday. Eventually, she graduated with a B. A. in political science from Portland State University. She still can’t figure out how that happened.
Oregon was home for most of her life, but several years ago she moved to the high desert in Prescott, Arizona. Accompanied by George and their joyful four-legged companion, Sadie, she enjoys hiking among 1.7-billion-year-old granite boulders and outcroppings that are the bedrock of the region.
Her poetry and stories have been published in various journals, newspapers, anthologies, and even a gumball machine that dispenses poetry.
Susan owns The Old Sage Bookshop in historic downtown Prescott, and when time allows, she works on her writing, which includes another science fiction novel.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 258
Paper Weight (lb): 11.4
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