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the belly of the earth

From the novel Monopole [formerly Theodorus in Excelsis]

The rumble slows and then recedes, seemingly back into the belly of the earth. The people around Teddy pick themselves up and continue on their way, as though the sudden tectonic-plate shift had been an everyday occurrence. A few people remain lying in the walkway, either tending to their injuries or otherwise incapacitated by the pain. No one around the fallen pays them any mind.

Teddy crawls back to his feet against the side of a building’s external wall. Sweat pours from his face. He breaths are painful and panicked as he searches the crowd for evidence that the earthquake, or whatever it was, mattered to anyone. No one seems to care. His lungs burn as they breathe in the toxic air. Teddy then realizes that he’s leaning against the exterior wall of his accommodation building.

He slithers along the wall to the building’s entrance. He leans against the door until it slides open. Teddy falls into the silent space. The inner door opens and Teddy drags himself across the threshold into the lobby. The door slides closed. Teddy pulls himself to a seated position on the floor. He pushes himself against the nearest wall, leaning his back against the transparent surface. The masked passersby outside pick themselves up from the chaos and continue on their way. Teddy catches his breath, his head against the transparent wall. The lobby is quiet and well lit.

After a moment, Teddy wipes the sweat from his brow. After another moment, he scrambles for the ALLpod in his coat pocket and composes himself.

“I am Teddy Monroe,” he tells the device in between slow breaths. His demeanor conveys a sort of desperate matter-of-factness.

“That’s impossible,” the device replies.

“Mmmhhh,” Teddy grunts in frustration and then throws the ALLpod at the window-wall across the lobby. The supposedly unbreakable device shatters into dozens of pieces, each still functioning independently. The shards of the device levitate just above the floor of the lobby, a soft blue glow on each of the broken screens.

Teddy hears another distant rumble grow closer. The sound arrives swiftly, but does so less violently than before. Passersby brace themselves for the aftershock. It remains relatively mild. Teddy watches the lobby floor shake. The scattered pieces of the broken ALLpod remain wonderfully still floating above it.

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