Mobius: Eyes Above the Clouds- Chapter 16
It was about a week after that primary flight up to elevation that we as a whole crew went up together for the first time. We took with us parachutes- a pack slung across our backs, holding onto a folded tarp that would pop out at our command, catching the air and suspending us under multiple strings while we floated down effortlessly back to Earth. Samuel Alcott, our Copilot, was the inventor. The man had originally created something not too far off, but its purpose rather meant to record the direction and strength of wind. When a particularly strong storm came through, he noticed the structure his invention had been mounted to had been torn from the ground, but luckily let down with little damage. From there, he refined the design to be able to carry a person in a similar fashion. After something working was in his hands, he went to my father in hopes of selling the design for profit for the mission.
My father would not so easily look at such an offer from a man such as Samuel without making his own counter offer. My father learned that Mr. Alcott was the son of a meteorologist, following in his father’s footsteps. Lorraine had, at some time, been revealed to be less than perfect at keeping a heading, let alone looking out for unfavorable conditions. Samuel, on the other hand, could read a compass, a map, even the wind to look out for peculiar weather systems that we might encounter. He was offered a position as Co-Pilot, finally filling out our team. The only thing that was to be proven was the efficacy of his invention.
Daniels predictably went first out the door of the flying craft, his hands on the straps of the pack. I can still remember the sound of the flapping wind tearing at the door. We had chose to fly above a large lake, just in case something were to go wrong. A ship rented by my father was also below to fish us out of the water, regardless of what would come of us. The speck that was the captain disappeared into the deep blue below. Not a few seconds later, the wide tan cloth opened up, catching him as predicted. It took some imploring to get certain others out, but at the risk of Samuel emotionlessly pushing them out, they decided to head out on their own. I still remember the stony look from his as my feet met the air. After that… I believe my being almost entirely left my body, giving me just enough control to release the cloth to guide me down to my rough, soggy landing on the lake below.
More of the obnoxious headlines of our successful flights hit the papers soon after that particular mission. They called us daredevils, reckless, and most strikingly, faithless. My father took the chance to finally show his face again to the public, at the town hall. They had to put up tall fences and panes of glass to stop the throwing of trash and rotten fruit and vegetables.
He posed the question that if Mobius were simply ordinary rather than extra ordinary, if they think less of it. If it was simply existing rather than watching, would people give it a second thought when they saw it above? If it ran on instinct rather than logic, would they care to know why is goes where it does? Not a single answer came, but rather indistinct cries and anger. My father returned to our home without another word. He remained in his room for the next week, until it came time for us to depart. He said a final goodbye, a wish of luck and strength to me before I was driven off to the long strip of land where we would lift off from.
A bright light shone in my vision. I shuddered myself awake from my half-dazed state. Babir had gotten his little torch working. The glass lens covering the bulb was dotted with droplets of water. “Turn that off.” Chase complained.
I shifted to one side, pushing myself off the wall. My bare back stuck to the slick flesh behind me. Alice was to my right, dressed down in just a tank top and small, form fitting short pants. Among our bits of damp, discarded clothes, the other’s legs were stretched out in sleep. I felt a sudden heaviness in the pit of my stomach. I crawled and stumbled on my hands and knees to where the light was shining off the dirty water. I released the contents of my digestive tract into the slop, arguably doing little to make the damp worse.
“Again, Sami?” Daniels spoke up, his voice heavy.
I held my abdomen. I was ravenous and nauseous at the same time. “How much… how much…” I held back another urge as the snot trailed out my nose. “How long, been here?” I said with a loud snort.
“Who knows?” The captain said again.
“Captain.” Babir spoke up. The dark man pointed his light up to the ceiling, waiving his fingers through the beam.
“More white stuff.” Daniels groaned. “What did you call it?”
“Its worse than I have suspected.” Babir finished.
Daniels pushed himself up, pulling his button-up from across his legs. He strung is over his shoulders, leaving it flapping open over his undershirt. “Mr. Dunn, were the rations on you?”
“Yessir.” The cook replied with a shifting groan. He rolled back and forth on his back, pushing the ruined pack to the captain. Daniels rolled it over, getting access to the flap. The shiny metal plackets glistened with dampness. Daniels caught me off guard by tossing the first to me. I propped myself up, realizing that I had been crouched over Joseph’s legs.
The big man rubbed at his face with the flat of his palm. I sat back and tore open the top of the pouch with a loud crinkle. The insides smelled of beef fat and stewed vegetables. I folded the edge into a V-shape and tilted it towards my mouth. The ration was slimy and mushy. I took a big of a mouthful as I thought I could manage, coming across a stringy piece of beef, likely the only one. I swallowed and passed the rest of Joseph.
Daniels tore into his own, shoveling the white porridge into his mouth with his three middlemost fingers. Others began to stir, including Alice, who hastily draped her clothes back over her chest.
Richards glanced up at her and back to the food passed into his lap. “Thank you.” He muttered. “Sengupta… perhaps we do not need the light- to save it.”
“You are right.” Babir nodded, wiping his hand on his pants before clicking at the switch on the side. The chamber once again returned to murky blackness.
Alice rustled with her clothes beside me. “I hate this place.”
“We best be out of here soon.” Chase said.
“How is your back, Chase?” Richards asked, concerned.
“Then-” Daniels announced. “As soon as we have eaten, we will be moving. This is not a terribly pleasant place, I agree.”
Joseph crumpled the wrapper beside me. “Thank you for the food.” He replied.
“We’ll get some proper, hot food in us soon it seems, big guy.” The captain reassured. I heard him crumble his own.
Mary scoffed. “You are sure optimistic.”
“If not, then what?”
“Be realistic.” She huffed. “Anything.”
“Mrs. Dunn.” Daniels growled. “I should hope you’re not losing faith in my abilities to lead these people. If I cannot inspire them to keep moving, then we can call it quits right here.”
The end of his gushing was followed by silence. “I will follow you, Captain.” Joseph broke the silence.
“That’s what I like to hear. I believe we should move before we get comfortable again with our full stomachs. Sengupta, take the lead- but only get the light on if we can’t find the way.”
“Yes, sir.” Babir complied. The others grunted as they returned to their feet. Joseph’s hand felt its way to my shoulder, urging me along.
I found myself following after the the sound of the irregular footsteps ahead of me. I could still feel Joseph’s presence behind me, as well as at least two others. Our slowed, dazed marching took us in what seemed like a straight line. My forehead and the back of my neck gathered up sweat, little by little.
There was a sudden low wind, warm, that crept by our feet, tickling the still damp socks under our boots. “What was that?” Alice, two people ahead of me, squeaked.
“Wind?” Richards commented. “Or yet another anomaly from this strange creature?”
“A warm air.” Babir said. “As if… warmed by the creature.”
Daniels cleared his breath. “Could we be close to an exit, Sengupta?”
“I have… a suspicion.” Babir replied, clicking his light on. The tube was still covered in bits of the while fungi, as it continued deeper.
I double checked behind us to make sure everyone still remained. Chase was just beside Joseph, holding onto his shoulder. Daniels came up from behind and shoved his way past us to continue onward to Babir. “Let’s get a move on, then.”
The pace sped up at Daniels took the lead, using the light now to his advantage. I noticed it was dimmer than before, and gave intermittent flickers. The captained seemed to ignore it, only fixated on the path ahead.
The bitter odor of the tunnel filtered out my nose, and I felt suddenly as if I could breath better. My ears popped as well, and I realized that my hearing had at some point gone out of focus. I sensed a low whoosh somewhere in the distance, followed by more wind, somewhat colder this time.
The incline grew, and we were forced to continue up on our hands and knees to maintain traction. Babir was the first to mount the final, steepest bit, followed by the captain.
“Eureka.” I heard Daniels say, just over the sound of rushing wind. I reached the others, out of breath, but reinvigorated by the fresh air. Inside the wall was a long, narrow crevice lined with stiff hair-like growths, looking out to a black sky of sparking stars.
“Good riddance.” Mary cheered half heartedly. Chase flopped down with the help of Joseph.
“I knew I spotted a separate entrance into this creature.”
Babir leaned forward, making contact with the bristles. They were thick and only slightly rigid. “Interesting…”