Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The radiation levels following the Great Holy War of the twenty third century made living on the surface of the Earth impossible. Consequently, humanity moved underground. After millennia of self-sufficient, artificial environments, humanity lost all ties to the surface. Eventually, the sum on the “known universe” consisted of 50,000 humans, living in 800 cubic miles of subterranean rock. The very existence of the sun and moon, of the land and sea, of the sky and horizon, were all forgotten. Nothing else existed. That is, until an urban Expansion Project penetrated into the unknown.

“Okay, okay,” bellowed the governor as he entered the meeting chamber. “What’s so damn urgent that it became necessary to interrupt my sleep cycle?”

“I’m sorry, Governor,” replied the Secretary of Construction, “but there was an ‘incident’ in one of the mine shafts.”

“An Incident! What kind of incident?”

“Well, sir, as you know, urban expansion projects are typically limited to the X-Y plane, where the ambient rock temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the Limestone Expansion Project is moving in the positive-Z direction, where the rock temperatures are generally lower. Although expanding in this direction will have higher recurring cost, the lower construction costs tunneling through the softer limestone are too significant to ignore.” The Secretary sensed that the governor was losing patience, so he cut to the chase. “Anyway, sir, late yesterday, the exploratory mine shaft broke into an extremely large chamber.”

The governor snapped to attention. “What’s that you say? A chamber?” A wave of spontaneous thoughts raced though his mind. Could there be other life forms in the universe? What would that mean to their society? Chaos, unrest, revolt, the end of civilization? This could be very bad news indeed. “Was the chamber natural of artificial?”

“Unknown, sir. It had its own light source. Initially, the light source was hundreds of times brighter than anything we have in the City. However, after half a cycle, it became significantly darker. We were able to send a team through the shaft. They say there is a large semicircular light on the ceiling and thousands of diamond lights surrounding it. They say they cannot see the walls. They estimate that the chamber is hundreds of miles in diameter.”

“That’s ridiculous. No chamber can be that large. What do your engineers say?”

“They are at a loss, sir. But, there are a few eccentric scientists that claim that the universe physically ends several miles above our heads. These scientists say that the Earth is just a solid spherical ball with nothing beyond.”

“That’s the stupidest idea I ever heard. The rock extends forever in all directions. Everybody knows that.”

“Of course, sir. But there are also crackpots who say that man once lived on that spherical surface, but was banished to the ‘underworld’ because of a great sin.”

“Ignore my earlier statement. Now, that is the stupidest idea I ever heard. How can anyone live on a sphere? They’d fall off. No, I suspect that the positive-Z direction contains evil beings. They probably blind their prey with the bright light, and then attack them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eat their victims while they’re still alive. Recall your men immediately. We must seal the shaft before it is too late. In the morning, I’ll meet with the full Senate. We must pass a law that forbids expansion in the positive-Z direction. And for now, we must all pray that the gods will forgive our blasphemous behavior, lest we all perish.”

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