Author: R. J. Erbacher
Bruce moved across the monotonous landscape with ease. Not quite desert. More powder than sand but not really either. All beige, all flat. Featureless. Except for the wall. The diminished gravity and PowerDrive suit made walking relatively muscle free. The internal atmosphere of the suit was as comfortable as the outside environment was toxic. He’d been walking for hours.
The wall began to come into standard view. He had switched to optical focus several times and had not been able to gauge the elevation and the thin shimmering gas vapors coming off the land made the expanded image seem fuzzy. Now as he approached, he was staggered by its massiveness. The height of the wall was probably taller than that of a small apartment building. He couldn’t tell the thickness but something that high and weighty had to be almost as wide. Looking left or right revealed the uniformity of the wall into infinity in both directions, off the bend of the horizon, precision straight.
Finally, Bruce stepped to within an arm’s length of the wall. It had the look of a structure that had been standing for eons in time yet still had the perfect texture of new construction. The color was the exact bleakness of the landscape and appeared to be the same material but whereas the ground was pliable, leaving footprints as he walked, the wall was solid and unimpressionable as he touched it. An excavating pick he took of his belt did not even make a scratch in the surface as he raked it across the base. Next, he tried the laser cutter with the same results. He ran his gloved hand along the surface as he moved to the right. There wasn’t a crack or niche or depression or blemish. After a minute of pacing, Bruce found what looked like a barely noticeable micro seam and followed it up with his eyes. Stepping back, he managed to encompass the completion of the form in his vision. The individual bricks that made up the wall were symmetrical squares which were about the size of the house he grew up in, back in his hometown.
Questions began to swirl in his head. Who or what had built the wall? Why? Was it an impenetrable fortification to keep something out? If so, what the hell was it they were protecting themselves from? Or was the wall built to keep everything on the inside from leaving? And if that was the case, what was so terrible back there that needed to be contained? Then as Bruce peered down the length of the unwavering straight wall he wondered if he was on the outside – or the inside?
“Well, I didn’t come all this way for nothing.”
There was an obstacle and the obstacle needed to be surmounted.
Removing the hard-shell pack he carried on his back, he began assembling his tools. Grappling claws that would adhere to virtually any surface with extenders that could be connected, rigging him with a variety of climbing angles.
Bruce was about to plant his first step up when he hesitated as a horrible prospect confronted him. What if he reached the summit and the other side was the same open expanse as what was on this side? He would be on the edge of a wall that delineated two realms of nothingness and therefore served no purpose. The operation would be a futile exercise. And by extension, everything he was efforting would be meaningless. The perplexities of existence seemed to hang in the balance.
He pondered the wall.