My name is Jackie, and it’s not so bad living here. Seriously. At least, I don’t think so anyway, but I guess it’s hard to say. Then again, I’ve never really been anywhere else. I’ve rarely even been below Floor 12. My parents won’t let me. They say things get bad down there, so I have to stay up here, on the higher levels.
Don’t get me wrong; I mean, I wish I didn’t have to. Things get kind of boring, walking the same halls every day. I’m always trying to find something new to do, but it’s kinda hard when you’ve lived your whole life in the same tower. Sometimes I’ll wander up to the rooftop, where we have the gardens. That’s where all of our food comes from, so we all take turns planting and harvesting. I don’t mind the work, actually, unless it means pulling carrots. Those suckers are really hard to yank out of the dirt.
When I think of it, it’s actually kind of annoying having to go to the rooftop, and not just because of the work. It’s really more about what we have to pass by as we head up there. So, the top level of the Tower is Floor 1. None of us are allowed inside, so every time we go up the stairs, we’re forced to stare at that big, golden number—the number “1” that sits on the locked entry door. I really wish I knew what was inside, but you know, nobody’s allowed in. Instead, we just have to pass by every few days when it’s our turn to work the gardens. You might as well string some candy in front of my face and tell me I’m not allowed to eat it.
Of course, you can’t just pick vegetables all day. That gets boring quick. Besides, most of the time I’m in school. Well, school’s probably too strong a word for it. We meet most days of the week in the library on Floor 6. Our teacher, Mrs. Bloom, tries to lead class the best she can. It’s just too bad our books aren’t great. A lot of them are about to fall apart, and most of them were scavenged from the lower floors. I’m not talking about something like Floors 13 or 14. I’m not even talking about Floor 21. I mean the books were taken from way down below . . . like, as far down as Floor 30.
I know, right? I can’t believe it myself. That’s what we have the Scavengers for, though. Without them we’d never get new books or supplies. They’re pretty much the bravest people in the Tower. They say that anyone who makes it onto a scavenging team is the type that could have been a police officer or even a soldier before all this happened. I mean, that makes sense. They wear all that riot gear, and it looks like they know how to fight. Sucks, though, since as tough as they are, every once in a while we lose one of them. That just goes with the territory of being a Scavenger.
Point is, life is only livable because of them since it’s not like we’re rolling in things to do. Sometimes I’ll sit around in the lobby with the other kids and watch movies on the Blu-Ray player, but that doesn’t always work. For instance, if it’s a really cloudy day, then the solar panels on the roof will die out, which always sucks for everyone. If we want light then, we have to burn candles, and we don’t have many of those. Then again, we don’t really have lightbulbs, either. Well, we have a few. Want to take a guess where we get those from? Yeah. Scavengers. We get everything from them.
I kinda always wanted to be one. Who wouldn’t want to be? They get to see stuff from a long time ago, before we had to live on the top of the Tower. Speaking of that, nobody really talks about the Before, and I’m not even sure how much anyone knows about it. I guess it makes sense to think that once upon a time we lived on the lower floors. Maybe even the ground . . . if there is a ground. I’ve never met anyone that’s seen it, not even the Scavengers, and they’ve been farther down the Tower than anyone.
When you stop and think about it, I mean, our lives don’t make sense. We couldn’t have always lived up here, right? It gets me pretty antsy thinking about it because, I mean, this is a tower, so we had to have come up the stairs at some point. Didn’t we?
I don’t know, and thinking about it gets me frustrated. When I’m in this kind of mood, I go to the rooftop and look out. You can actually see other towers rising up in the distance. Some aren’t even that far from ours. I stare at them, and I’m just like . . . is anybody over there? Is anybody looking back at me? Does anybody know or remember we’re trapped in this place?
Or are we all that’s left?
After I’ve gotten myself sufficiently depressed, I’ll stare over the edge of the roof, trying to see how far below I can look. Thing is, it’s impossible to see much. This tower just vanishes into the Darkness. Nobody, and I mean nobody, even knows why. It’s just blackness down there.
Oh, about Floor 12. Yeah, that’s where the Creep really starts. The Creep? It’s this . . . gunk. Super-disgusting stuff that you shouldn’t touch because it makes you feel weird, and the lower down the Tower you go, the more you see it. It starts to cover the walls, and it’s kinda gross. It’s really slick, like saliva, and it looks all muscle-y. Almost alive. Good thing you don’t have to worry about it when you’re higher than Floor 11. Still, I wonder what it is. We all do. I know that when you touch it, you can start hallucinating. I did once. Well, okay, I’m lying. I’ve touched it a few times when I’ve been on the lower levels, which is why my parents made the rule that I couldn’t head down there in the first place. I mean, I don’t pay attention to them, but I get why they don’t want me going that far below into the Tower. The Creep makes you see . . . things. Shadowy things. Sometimes they’re right in front of you, but most of the time, they’re in the corner of your eye. They say that by Floor 21, you don’t even have to touch the Creep to hallucinate, which is a total trip. Must suck to live down there.
Still, I wonder. I wonder about this all the time, actually. I wonder about what’s below Floor 21.
Jason Luthor has spent a long life writing for sports outlets, media companies and universities. His earliest writing years came during his coverage of the San Antonio Spurs as an affiliate with the Spurs Report and its media partner, WOAI Radio. He would later enjoy a moderate relationship with Blizzard Entertainment, writing lore and stories for potential use in future games. At the academic level he has spent several years pursuing a PhD in American History at the University of Houston, with a special emphasis on Native American history.
His inspirations include some of the obvious; The Lord of the Rings and Chronciles of Narnia are some of the most cited fantasy series in history. However, his favorite reads include the Earthsea Cycle, the Chronicles of Prydain, as well as science fiction hits such as Starship Troopers and Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?